Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pot to Plate - Easy Zucchini Stir Fry

There is something about fresh vegetables that makes you want to cook. I was never a big fan of Zucchini but growing them is easy and fun.

They start tiny and in the space of a few days if not harvested tend to become really big and fat. That is what happened to me, delayed it by a few days and there were huge.

I wouldn't tell that Zucchini is a favorite vegetable of mine but they are a versatile and tend to fill vegetable void pretty effectively. How many other vegetables can you say the same thing about.

I am not really sure if there is any Indian vegetable that is similar to the Zucchini but I hear they are now available there as well.

Also those of you who are growing Zucchini here are a few recipe suggestions.

1. Zucchini Chutney
2. Bell Pepper and Zucchini Raita
3.Eggplant, Zucchini and Broccoli Lasagna
4. Fusilli Pasta with Zucchini and Onion

The recipe that follows is more of a suggestion than a recipe.

Easy Zucchini Stir Fry
1.2 Medium sized Zucchini sliced into thin rounds
2.2 tsp oil
3. salt to taste
4. 1/2 tbsp Spice powder (I used sambhar powder. Cajun seasoning, Ruby Tuesday seasoning, Black pepper or red chili powder should work as well)

1. In a wide mouthed saute pan, heat the oil and when hot spread out the Zucchini slices. Let them cook on one side.
2. Now hold the pan by the handle and toss the zucchini slices so the other side gets cooked as well.
3. When you are ready to take them out, I do this when they start to get brown spots on either side sprinkle the salt and spice powder. Toss them a couple more minutes and turn off the heat.

They are great as a snack or as a side dish.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cabbage and Poblano Pepper Stir fry over Quinoa

I was on hold for a good 3 months for the book "The China Study". There has been a lot of talk about this book and since it pertains to nutrition and diet naturally I looked for the book and put a hold on it at the local library.

The book is about the study done in China on different types of diet and their connection to chronic diseases. Just a caution, if you are rushing to your library to get a copy of this book be warned it is by no means an easy read. But the message it conveys is quite clear, a vegan or vegetarian diet can keep most diseases at bay. Duh! you say. It also goes on to say that the study also shows that a diet devoid of meat can even reverse cancer. Milk and milk products are also to be eschewed.

Reading this book does not necessarily mean we are going to being vegetarians cold turkey. Just that we are more aware that animal products should make up less than 5% of the diet.

Other than the occasional chicken and fish our household lives on a predominantly vegetarian diet but giving up eggs and milk is not going to be easy because it fortifies our diet with the required protein. Giving up yogurt not a chance but cheese maybe.

Speaking of milk, I have a bone to pick with Bittman's article here on what great good it will do to avoid milk - probably the only time I have a problem with what he is writing. When he says 90% of all Asian Americans are lactose intolerant, does he include Indians in that list too or is it the usual mistaken thinking that the huge Asian continent only has China?

Now on to the recipe,
What I try to do every week is to mix up the grains that we consume - rice one day, wheat one day, quinoa one day, pulses another and millets occasionally. The nutty, crunchy quinoa is a much loved cereal(grain?) around our house.

We prefer it cooked such that each grain is separate. Mushy quinoa is not much liked. A dry curry is what works perfectly with quinoa methinks.

Cabbage and Poblano Pepper stir fry
1. 1 Cabbage thinly shredded (cut the cabbage into 4 and cut lengthwise)
2. 2 Poblano Pepper 2 (seeds removed) and cut lengthwise
3. 1 tbsp grated ginger
4. 1/2 red onion cut lengthwise
5. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder (or black pepper if you prefer)
6. salt to taste
7. 1 tsp oil
8. Juice of 1 small lemon
8. Your favorite cheese (I used Emmentaler Swiss Cheese) (optional, leave out for a Vegan meal)

1. In a wide mouthed saute pan, heat oil add the onions and let them start to turn translucent.
2. Add in the poblano peppers and ginger and saute for 10-15 minutes till the peppers are soft and onion starts to caramelize.
3. Add in the shredded cabbage and let it cook uncovered till it gets soft. I prefer it soft, if you like it a bit crunchy don't cook as long. Add the chili powder,lemon juice and salt and cook for 4-5 minutes more.

Serve over cooked quinoa with grated cheese on top.

Cooking Quinoa
1. Heat about 3-4 cups of water till it comes to a boil.
2. Soak 1 1/2 cups of quinoa for 20-30 minutes and wash it 3-4 times till the water runs clear.
4. Take the washed quinoa in a sauce pan, pour the hot water over the quinoa and let it cook covered till all the water has been absorbed. (8-10) minutes. Turn off heat.
5. Leave it covered and let it sit for another 10 minutes or so. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chutney with seasonal greens (Manathakkali or Nightshade) & Painting the house!

This is what happened. Kids are visiting with their grandparents and I wrongly assumed that I'd use the time to do some stuff I always wanted but never got around and of course work on the blog for which I have ideas but never the time to implement them.

With kids out of the way, DH decides that he wants to paint the house. Let me tell you folks that is no easy job. Though we hired a company to do the painting, putting back the stuff and having people all over the house and the paint smell is driving me nuts. I secretly wish that we had never started this project (don't mention this to DH he will get on my case). On the positive side it is giving us an excellent opportunity to clean house and get rid of the unwanted stuff that has been lying around and it is indeed nice to have clean walls free of crayon art, pencil masterpieces and hand smudges.

To make the paint job a little easy on us there are a few things we could have done ahead of time.

1. Clearing out closets and getting rid of unwanted stuff long before the painting job even started.
2. Decide on the colors a few weeks before the paint job starts not the day before. (Roll your eyes but that is us folks who can't visualize colors and textures in the head).
3. Cook some food for the freezer (this is if you are like us and can't stand eating out every day especially if you can't or won't eat meat every day. We rediscovered that when compared to the huge Chipotle burritos that leave you feeling stuffed and heavy Taco Bell's tiny cheap burritos are not bad. Big and expensive is not always better.)
4. Preserve your strength to get the cleaning done. Unexposed areas of the house are going to expose the dust bunnies and it is not going to be a pretty sight.
5. The stuff, get rid of them as and when you are done with them. Do not shove them into closets and let them wait for a day they will become useful again. They never do. (The worst are the freebies given out at parties, fast food restaurants, useless junk that somehow takes up valuable space all over the house.)
6. Books, books and more books - I really have no solution for this. Get the heart to discard books once you are done reading. They collect dust, are heavy and honestly I do not have the heart to throw them away and hence without a solution.
7. Do not collect stuff. (Repeat this many times over and over in your head).

As we were going through our pain in dealing with accumulated stuff I read a timely article in the Washington Post - On the fourth of July, a declaration of (in)dependence that sheds light on the national problem of stuff accumulation.

Invariably everyone complains about lack of time but it is amazing how we manage to accumulate stuff. Don't get me wrong I complain about the lack of time and even the lack of time to shop and I still manage to accumulate stuff that I don't really need.

To escape from this I step outside into the 100F heat (we have been having a string of over 100 temperatures) but the cool green of my tiny kitchen garden provides me with much needed boost of energy and solace. As I got tired of eating out I was itching to cook something quick and easy but enough to satisfy my taste buds and these nightshade greens were perfect. These greens are by far my favorite kind and they looked ready for the picking.

If you need more information about these green read about it here and the recipe. The chutney I made the other is slightly different from the earlier one. I have been using this recipe for a while now and though are not all that different I like this one a little better.

Manathakkali or Nightshade chutney
1. 2 -3 cups of packed nightshade leaves (see note for alternatives)
2. 1/4 cup of red onions or shallots chopped
3. 1/2 tbsp channa dal (bengal gram)
4. 2 tsp of split urad dal (black gram)
5. 1/2 tsp of coriander seeds
6. a pinch of cumin seeds
7. 4-5 red chilies split and seeds removed
8. a 1/2 piece of tamarind
9. 2 -3 tbsp of grated fresh or frozen coconut
10. salt to taste
11. 1 tsp of oil

1. In a saute pan heat oil and add the chana dal and urad dal and saute till they are starting to turn brown, add in the coriander, cumin and red chilies and saute for a couple of minutes more. Set aside in the blender/mixer jar.
2. In the same pan add a bit more oil and saute the onions till they start to get brown on the edges, add in the leaves and saute till they start to wilt. Now add the tamarind, salt and coconut and saute for a couple of minutes. Let cool.
3. Let the blender spin and powder the dal first and then add the onion mixture and blend to either a coarse or fine paste depending on your preference. Add only a couple of tsp of water to aid the blades to spin.

Serve with rice the best or as a side for idli or dosai.
1. Mint leaves, methi leaves, zucchini or ridge gourd - all can be substituted for the nightshade.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cauliflower with fresh Green Peas and bell pepper

Last week was an exciting one for those of us in the Nation's Capital and the rest of the country as well I guess. Two supreme court decisions that the liberals(President included) never expected to go their way unexpectedly landed on their side. The healthcare law which I doubt is clear to even the architects of the law won expected victory. I was hoping the partisan supreme court will live up to it's name and strike down the law. My brother has convinced me that the law itself (which as I understand is an ode by the President to senator Ted Kennedy) is evil and not good for the country.

To top all of this action a severe storm with a weird name - "derecho" battered the region on Friday and left downed trees, power lines, water restrictions and a simple message from mother nature that those climate change deniers are simply clueless.

While we were lucky to escape with minimal damage I spent the better part of the storm uttering Arjuna, Arjuna under my breath (for those unfamiliar with why, it is a grandmother's tale that uttering the name will help protect from thunder) and sitting crouched with hands covering my ears and eyes closed. Dumb I know! Yes and according to DH I was like a scared dog which has its tail stuck between it's legs whimpering at the sound of thunder. There was hurricane force winds, non-stop lightening, rain and hail. After the day time temperatures of 104F the 2 1/2 hours light and sound show was simply scary.

While we are lucky to have power, there are many in the area who have a long wait for a few days in this sweltering heat to get their power back.

Now on to the recipe,
I have mixed feeling towards cauliflower, I do not like it half cooked and crunchy and neither do I like it mushy. It should be somewhere in between but fully cooked.
The recipe was inspired by this post I saw on Food for 7 stages of Life for cauliflower dosa, one of my favorite blogs with some amazing photography to boot. I made the recipe as a side dish for chapati so a bit gravy like. I had some fresh peas and that had to go inside.

Cauliflower with fresh Green Peas and bell pepper
1. 1 head of cauliflower separated into small florets
2. 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
3. 1 Green bell pepper ribs and seeds removed and diced into small pieces (purely optional)
3. 1/2 cup of onions
4. 1/2 cup of tomatoes chopped fine
5. 1 1/2 tbsp of minced garlic and grated ginger
6. 1 tbsp of coriander powder (I used fresh roasted and powdered coriander seeds)
7. 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder (or more depending on taste)
8. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
9. 1/2 of a lemon (optional, do not add this for a dry curry)
10. seasonings : cumin seeds and mustard seeds
11. salt to taste
12. 2 tsp of oil
13. 1 tbsp of coriander leaves (I did not add them)

1. Set a sauce pan with water and set to boil. Turn off the heat and add in the cauliflower and cover the lid for 5-6 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and set aside.
2. Meantime heat a saute pan with oil and add the seasonings.
3. Add the onions and saute till for a few minutes.
4. Add in the diced bell pepper and saute till the bell pepper is completely cooked. In between add in the ginger and garlic.
5. Add the coriander powder, chili powder and turmeric powder and mix it in.
6. Add the tomatoes and let them cook till they become mushy and soft.
7. Add in the drained cauliflower and the peas and mix it in well. Add the salt and cover, squeeze in the lemon (if adding) and cook for 5-6 minutes. If you want it dry do not cover.

Serve with hot chapatis.