Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tindora Masala Rice

For those who are in a rush for a quick meal on a weekday this is a recipe that is handy to have.

Based off this Tindora Masala recipe.

Tindora Masala Rice

1. 2 cups of parboiled Ponni rice (use any rice you prefer)
2. 2 lb of Tindora (or about 4 cups of cut Tindora) ends trimmed and slit lengthwise into 4 pieces
3. 1/2 cup (or 1 cup) of chopped onions or shallots
4. 5 green chilies slit lengthwise
6. 5-6 garlic cloves chopped fine
7. 1/2 inch piece of ginger grated
8. 1 tbsp kuzhambu thool or 1/2 tbsp coriander powder + 1/2 tbsp red chili powder
9. 1 tsp red chili powder (only if needed)
10. 3 small tomatoes chopped fine
11. 1 tsp turmeric powder
12. salt to taste
13. seasonings: 1 tsp cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves
14. 2 tsp oil + 2 tsp of ghee


1. Wash and soak the rice for about 20 minutes.
2. In a pressure cooker or rice cooking pan and oil and when hot add the mustard followed by the curry leaves when the mustard starts to pop add the onions and green chilies and let the onions turn translucent.
3. Add in the garlic and ginger and saute for a few more minutes.
4. Add the turmeric powder, masala powder and chili powder and give a good mix.
5. Add the chopped tomato and let it become mushy.
6. Add in the tindora, salt and let it saute for 6-8 minutes. Drain the rice and saute it along with the masala for about 4-5 minutes.
7. Now add the required amount of water for the rice and let it come to a boil. Check for salt at this time and add in a few drops of ghee.
8. On medium heat continue cooking till the water is 3/4 th absorbed. Close the lid and place the weight( or if cooking in a regular pan close the lid) and reduce the heat to just below medium. Cook for 8 minutes and turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Open the lid and fluff the rice.

Serve with raita of any kind.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Quinoa Cutlets with green chilies and cheese

We were at our neighbor's for a party and one of their guests was a lady a doctor. My neighbor is a heavy smoker and so was this guest. During the course of the conversation we got into the topic of smoking and it's ill effects and how she as a doctor should be more aware than most. Anyway her answer was 'Do as the doctor tells you not what she does'. Very good advice don't you think?

Once the Republicans announced their VP nominee Paul Ryan all of his beliefs and what he stands for has been analyzed ad-nauseam. Don't expect him to stand by his beliefs from a few years ago though. Once you get nominated your beliefs undergo a sea change so you are palatable to the whole country.

Shaped and ready for the oven

But one thing I know from what I have read is that his diet has not changed for a very long time. He does not eat fried foods even when he is pumping fists in fairs and diners where most nominees ask for votes while munching on heart stopping fried foods. Anyway he is known to maintain a body fat of 8-9% (whatever that means). He is also known to be very fit what with his P90X (I don't know what that means either) body sculpting workouts. "Having a piece of cake is just like having asparagus, as far as I'm concerned" is his attitude towards food. Nothing wrong with any of those.

Roasted green chilies

Ask him if government regulations should encourage people to follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly, he will be all over you about government intervention and too much government. But of course he does not have any problems with following the advice of the government researchers. What am I trying to say in my own convoluted way is what my neighbor's doctor friend said. Eat what these lean and fit Republicans eat and tried to avoid what they say regarding freedom of choice and the rest of the baloney.

If you are a political junkie and want to watch a few idealistic politicians on TV, here is a TV Show from Denmark - Borgen and here is the link to the episodes archived online.

Now on to the recipe,
We try hard to include all kinds of grains in our diet but it is not always possible. Besides wheat and rice it is not very easy mixing in other grains in our diet. Not that we don't want to but because it is always easy to fall back on those recipes and preparations that are well known and not too time consuming.

I don't have to rehash the benefits of quinoa, it can be very easily substituted for rice and I tend to use it as often as I can. I am also on the lookout for recipes with quinoa. I have been planning on making these ever since I saw this recipe for Chile Relleno Quinoa Bites. I did not have any polenta and was planning to use corn meal but leftover white rice from a previous night Chinese take out changed the plans.

Skipped the corn meal plan and decided to use the rice instead. Did not have poblano peppers either. The last time I bought those the recipe changed to a stir fry and ended up on top of the quinoa. I had some fresh long green chilies in my garden so those ended up in the recipe instead.

Relleno is stuffed chilies and this is not so I decided to skip that name and call them cutlets instead. These are great lunch box items and very quick to make. Don't forget to make some pickle raita to go with those.

Out of the oven and ready to eat

Quinoa cutlets with Green Chilies and Cheese
1. 1 1/2 cups of quinoa soaked for about 20 minutes and washed
2. 1 cup of cooked rice (preferably old)
3. 8-10 green chilies
4. 2 cups of tomato pureed to about 1 cup of pulp
5. 1/2 cup of cheese (I used cheddar cheese)
6. 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder (adjust)
7. 1/2 cup of bread crumbs (I used panko)
8. salt to taste

1. Sprinkle some oil on the chilies and let them roast in a toaster oven for 5-10 minutes till the skin is wrinkly, let cool and chop to tiny pieces.
2. Cook the quinoa so that it is nice and fluffy (see note:)
3. In a mixing bowl take the rice and the quinoa and use a spatula to mix them together.
4. Mix in the roasted chili peppers, cheddar cheese, red chili powder and the tomato puree.
5. Taste and add salt if required. Add the breadcrumbs, just enough so there is no extra moisture and the mixture can hold together.
6. Take a small lemon sized ball of the mixture, using the palm of your hand make them into round and them flatten them slightly so they look like cutlets. Place them on baking sheets lined with aluminum and sprayed lightly with oil. Brush the top sides with oil if you desire.
7. Preheat oven to 450F. Place them in the middle rack and bake for 15-18 minutes.
8. Serve with ketchup or pickle raita (see note:)

1. To cook the quinoa, see this post for Cooking Quinoa
2. For Pickle raita, whisk yogurt and add a tablespoon or two of tomato pickle and mix well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Shrimp Fried Rice with Indian Pickles( or chilli paste) and No Soy Sauce

I once saw Sanjeev Kapoor on Rachel Ray's morning cooking(talk) show. I usually have the TV blaring in the background and occasionally catch a sound bit or two. My ears perked up when I heard the tomato pickle, shrimp and fried rice all in one sentence. It has been a while but all I remember is the pickle and fried rice. Following that idea and using tomato pickle as the flavoring agent and a few other ingredients a very flavorful fried rice was ready in no time.

For those familiar with using pressure cooker to make rice, I left the heat on high and forgot to put the weight and when I realized most of the water had evaporated. I put the weight on and finished cooking the rice but an unexpected side effect each grain was separate and perfect for fried rice. I had also bought a new brand of rice, some brands make more rice when cooked compared with others. Don't ask me why but that is how it works. The next day I had a lot of leftover white rice and some fancy tomato pickles made from raw tomatoes.

If you do not have tomato thokku pickle on hand I figure any pickle would work or just substitute with any red chili paste you have on hand. This way I can also avoid using soy sauce.

Shrimp Fried Rice with Indian Pickles( or chili paste) and No Soy Sauce
1. 2 -3 cups of a day old refrigerated rice
2. 16 Shrimp medium sized
3. 1/2 -1 cup of sliced red onions
4. 4-5 garlic cloves minced
5. 2 tsp ginger grated (optional)
6. 1/2 cup of peas (fresh or frozen)
7. 1/2 cup of corn (fresh or frozen, if fresh roast first and then remove kernels)
8. 2 tsp of chili powder (if needed)
9. salt to taste
10. 2 tbsp of tomato pickle (recipes listed below)
11. 3 tsp of oil
12. 2 tsp of oil

1. Wash and marinate the shrimp with a tsp of chili powder and salt (about 15-30 minutes).
2. In a wide mouthed pan or wok heat 1 tsp of oil and add the onion and saute till it becomes translucent. Add in the ginger and garlic and saute for another minute.
3. Now add the peas and corn and let them cook for 5-6 minutes. Add in half the tomato pickle and mix it in well. Set aside.
4. In the meantime add in the rest of the pickle to the rice mix it well.
5. In the same pan heat the rest of the oil and cook the shrimp till it is just done.
6. Now add the rice and check for salt and add some salt if required.
7. Let it stay in the heat till the rice is heated through.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Swiss Chard and Jalapeno - Cheese Swirls

Three months is a way too long for summer holidays don't you think? This is a problem every summer when by the time August rolls around the adults are at their wits end to keep the kids engaged. Moreover 3 months out of school and they are bound to forget whatever they learned the previous school year with a school calendar set up for an agrarian society. We are clinging to it when none of the kids are working leave alone in the fields.

I ask DD and DD2 to do school work for an hour during the week. While they mostly do it, I also hear groans that they are the only ones who have to work during summer vacation. This might not be true because while I was at Borders looking at the workbook they were several parents doing the same.

Anyway not long ago President Obama proposed shortening summer holidays. I am all for it if they would lengthen the December Christmas holidays to gone on till mid-January so we could visit India during the winter months making it possible to escape some of the cold here and also take part in the Pongal festival which I miss dearly and have not been able to participate in for the past several years. President Obama here if you promise to implement this proposal you have got my vote!

Anyway it was one of those days and DD had her friend over so I handed over 2 sheets of puff pastry and the recipe for Cheese swirls which was on the package. We made do with what we had at home but a finer cheese would have been better.

This is one of those recipes that never fails to please and the variations are endless. If you have puff pasty sheets on hand this takes no time at all. My friend makes them with a potato-carrot filling which are also delicious.

Kept the kids busy and at the end they had a tasty treat to enjoy. For those of you who want the original recipe, scroll to the end.

Swiss Chard and Jalapeno - Cheese Swirls
1. 2 Puff Pasty sheets brought to room temperature about 40 minutes
2. 2 cups of finely chopped Swiss chard leaves (substitute with spinach)
3. 3 tbsp Pickled Jalapeno peppers chopped fine (see note:)
4. 1 Cup of shredded cheddar cheese (see note:)
5. 2 -3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
5. 1 egg + 1 tbsp of water


1. Boil about 2 cups of water which is salted and drop the chard leaves. Let them blanch for about 4-5 minutes. Drain the water and squeeze the excess moisture out. Chop them further if they are bit long.
2. Mix the chard leaves with the Jalapeno peppers and the cheese and set aside.
3. Beat the egg with a tbsp of water.
4. Preheat the oven to 400F.
5. Unroll the pastry sheet on a floured surface and with a roller roll it a few times gently (purely optional step, I did this to thin out the pastry sheet a little bit).
6. Brush the egg mixture on top of the pastry. Now sprinkle the chard - cheese mixture on top.
7. From the longer pastry (the recipe said shorter side, I used the longer side) roll the sheet inward like a jelly roll.
8. Slice them about 1/2" apart. Place them on a cooking sheet or baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with oil.
9. Place the cut side down about 1/2" apart and brush with the egg mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes till they start to turn slightly golden. Remove and let them sit for another 8 minutes or so. Best when eaten warm. Or slightly warm them in the toaster oven before eating.

1. If you want to use fresh jalapeno, brush them with a little oil and roast in the toaster oven, remove skin and seeds and use.
2. Replace any cheese of choice or use the ones suggested in the original recipe.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Green Tomato Pickle with Green Chilies and Garlic

Yesterday was an important anniversary day. It was India's 65th year of Independence. The day is usually celebrated by hoisting the flag, singing the national anthem followed by distribution of sweets. No parties or fireworks, but a speech from the Prime Minister after the flag is raised at the Red Fort.

OK, I saw this lady on the Chew (a cooking talk show) in a dress that looked like it was stitched from an American flag. In India that would be a crime, the flag cannot be flown on the buildings owned private citizens, business or on private cars unless the car carries a certain dignitary set forth by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

UPDATE: Looked I was talking about old rules regarding usage of the flag. Here is information about the amended Indian flag code. Thanks to the anonymous reader who pointed that out.

India is fast getting to be a mature democracy.Well wishes for the continued well being of the country and its citizens.

It was also the 100th birthday of Julia Childs. That indomitable cooking icon who perhaps showed the way for a lot of Americans that cooking is not tough and no technique is wrong or right. I like to watch her early shows where her enthusiasm for cooking and her endless optimism shines through. If you would like to catch a few glimpses of perhaps everybody's most favorite chef. Click here.

Now on to the recipe,
DD was practicing her soccer skills in the backyard and perhaps sent her soccer ball flying on to my tomato plants. The next day I found a bunch of green tomatoes on the ground. I had always wanted to try making pickles with green tomatoes but I don't have the heart to pluck tomatoes while they are still green. So this was the right opportunity that I have been waiting for. I also remembered seeing a recipe on NPR's Kitchen Window and used that as a guide.

For a slight variation try this recipe here.

This condiment is great as a spread for sandwich and a perfect spice paste for fried rice (recipe coming up next).

Green Tomato Pickle with Green Chilies and Garlic
1. About 1 1/2 cups of chopped green tomatoes
2. 6-8 green chilies chopped (I used the long variety) about 1/2 cup or so
3. 6-8 garlic cloves sliced
4. 4 tbsp of lemon juice
Spice Powder
5. 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
6. 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
7. a tsp of asfoetida (I used the block kind)
7. 3 tbsp of red chili powder (Indian kind which is not mixed with any other spices)
8. 2 tsp turmeric powder
9. salt to taste
10. seasonings: mustard seeds and curry leaves (wipe or dry the curry leaves of any moisture)
11. 1/2 cup of sesame oil (another 1/4 cup more if needed)

1. In a big mouthed pan or kadai heat half the oil and when hot add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop add the curry leaves.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes, green chilies and the garlic and let them cook for about 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile toast the fenugreek, mustard seeds and asfoetida for a few minutes till the fenugreek seeds to turn color. Add the mustard seeds a few minutes as they tend to roast faster. Cool and blend to a powder. (I use a coffee grinder for this).
4. Add the spice powder,salt and lemon juice after stirring the tomatoes and let them cook for about 15 minutes more. Add more oil if required at this point. (see note)
5. Add the chili powder and let it cook till the oil pools on the side.

Cool and preserve in airtight containers.

1. I add a bit extra oil as it keeps the pickle fresh longer out of the fridge.
2. Even if oil is added towards the end let it heat up for 5 minutes.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Masala Potatoes with Green Beans

There is one thing that is common in doctors offices in the US and India. What you ask? It is the waiting part. You sit around till your bum hurts and you are restless wondering why in the world the doctor's office can't schedule these thing correctly. But the similarity ends there.

We had gone to a dentist in India and waited around for 2 hours before the doctor finally saw us. A very pleasant and perfectly good doctor, known to the family she refused to collect fees. something that will happen only in India. The good thing for the patient is there is no time restrictions, no office times, no Saturday only sick patients, Sunday holiday kind of rules. The patient will be seen as long as the doctor is in the office. For those of us with family members as doctors know what this does to the doctor. They get home in the middle of the night and get pulled at all odd times. But as a patient you are able to meet the doctor any time of the day.

Contrast this to the US where the cost of care is several times higher and the doctor's office has so many rules that it is perhaps best to keep yourself armed with a manual. Add to this the rules by schools and colleges who require doctors signatures on forms before permitting the students to attend classes or participate in sports. August gets to be as stressful as it possibly can be.

DD shows up for tryouts at her school minus the doctor form. She had been away and the doctors appointment was a few days away. The coach refuses to let her tryout without the form. The doctor's office (the same doctor she has been seeing from when she born) refuses to sign the form because her most recent physicals were a little over a year old. The nurse also got a little nasty when I told her she was away and we could not schedule the appointment on time. She says in a high pitch voice that it is not their fault of course not, I did not suggest that.

Bottom line they refused to sign the form (which is very uncomplicated, just requires a few vitals that is all). The reason too few doctors and nurses and Saturday is just for sick patients. All this while there were barely any patients and the doctor was sitting around clicking on his blackberry. The thing could have been done in 5 minutes they would have had a very happy customer. Well this is the USA after all stickler for rules with nasty front office staff. What was I thinking, having lived here this long I should have known how things work. It was recent India visit that made even try methinks.

They helpfully suggest a walk in clinic, which I was already planning on if the doctor's office threw up it's usual road blocks. I knew this would happen and hence the plan B, just that the walk-in clinic opened a little later or we would have gone there in the first place.

The actual process took exactly 5 minutes but we still had to sit around for an hour. I have no problem sitting in the waiting room were there is something to look at at least. The bad part is when they lock us in the examination room and we have to keenly wait for the foot steps of the doctor to approach when mercifully this whole wait would be over. I usually feel like a prisoner who has no way out.

All is well that ends well. Whenever I make a trip to India and back I seriously miss the personal contacts that is possible there while here it is machines(pun fully intended) that we deal with.

Now to the recipe and it is a winner. No plan B required.
I turn to potatoes when I have run out of ideas or have a masala that I want to try out. This masala is nothing fancy but it would work great with meat as well as vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower or dried beans. I added green beans with this recipe for the crunch.

Masala Potatoes with Green Beans
1. 4 Medium sized potatoes, peeled cut and par boiled with salt till they are just about done
2. 1 cup of chopped green beans
3. 1/2 cup onions cut lengthwise
4. seasonings: mustard seeds and cumin
5. 2-3 tsp turmeric powder
6. salt to taste
7. 2-3 tbsp of chopped tomatoes

For the Paste
1. 1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped red onions
2. 3-4 cloves of garlic
3. 1 inch piece of ginger
4. 5 red chilies
5. 1 tbsp coriander seeds
6. 1 tsp cumin seeds

Roast the above 4-6 in a tsp of oil. Remove to the blender jar. Saute the onions,ginger and garlic till the onions start to turn brown. Cool and blend to a smooth paste.

1. In a wide mouthed saute pan heat oil and add the seasonings, followed by the onions and saute till they are translucent.
2. Add in the tomatoes and let them saute till they turn mushy.
3. Add the green beans and let them cook for 4-5 minutes. Add salt.
4. Add in the blended masala paste and saute for a couple of minutes.
5. Add in the cooked potatoes, gently mix the potatoes into the masala.
6. Let it saute for another 6-8 minutes till the potatoes are well coated. Check for salt and sprinkle some if needed.

Serve with any bread.

1. I had slightly overcooked the potatoes so they turned a bit mushy but this was actually good for eating with bread but if you were making it for rice or as a side dish keep the potatoes on the firm side so they saute and roast up nicely.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Snake Gourd with split val beans (Hyacinth beans)

July has been the hottest month since record keeping began in 1895 it was announced yesterday by NOAA. Just as records are being broken and new ones being set in the Olympics, heat records have been breaking all across the US this summer. While breaking Olympic records are a good thing, heat records though is scary bringing with more severe storms and drought.

Trees are being chopped down and forests cleared at an alarming rate to make way for ranching,farming and building houses. While this is common all across the world the rate at which farm land is being taken over to build houses in India especially TamilNadu which I saw first hand during the recent visit seems to be going over the roof. It is simply astonishing how in a plot of land where one small house stood is being converted to multi-floor multi-family dwelling. As DD noted there is hardly any trees to notice till we hit Kerala border.

Then if the population keeps increasing like it is predicted to, where is the land to grow food to feed the growing multitudes?

Well smarter brains around the world are perhaps thinking about how to solve this problem. I will stick to giving steps about how to make this recipe.

The combination of snake gourd and lentils is something I learned from this blog. Back then val beans or hyacinth beans were not readily available in the Indian grocery stores hence this attempt with horse gram.

Fast forward to today when all kinds of beans including val and horse gram are easily found. I found a bag of split val beans and some fresh snake gourd and proceeded to make this.

Snake gourd with Split Val Beans
1. 2-3 Snake gourd (about 2 cups when sliced)
2. 1 1/2 cups of split val beans
3. 1 1/2 cups of sliced red onions
4. 1 tbsp sambhar powder
5. 1/2 tbsp of coriander powder
6. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
7. 2 tsp of oil
8. salt to taste
9. seasonings: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves

1. Slightly scrub the outside of the snake gourd, split remove the seeds and slice into thin strips.
2. In a sauce pan or kadai combine with 1 tsp turmeric powder a tbsp of water and let cook till it is half cooked (should not be soft and falling apart).
3. In another sauce pan set the val beans to cook. They should be completed cooked and firm but not falling apart.
4. In a wide mouthed pan add the oil followed by the seasoning. Add in the onions and saute till they are translucent.
5.Add in the cooked snake gourd along with the sambhar powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder. Mix well and let cook for a couple of minutes.
6. Add in the drained cooked beans, salt and maybe a tbsp of water if too dry and let cook for another 6-8 minutes.

Goes very well as a side dish for any Indian bread.

1. The resulting dish can be dry or slightly soggy as per your requirement. Avoid water if you want a dry curry.
2. A slight crunch to the snake gourd makes it even more tasty.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

India Travels

Visiting India is not to just visit family but to rejuvenate the senses it seems. Pulsating with energy, always on the move, teeming with ideas and all set to take the world by storm if they have not done so already. There seems to be something happening almost every second of the day.

The optimism and the can do spirit is new. It was not always this way though, weighed down by self doubt and lack of confidence. The past decade has showed that India is capable of anything it puts it's mind to. If we can put aside the absolutely annoying traffic and pollution there is nothing that can stop the breakneck speed at which India is traveling.

The sad thing is that the price of everything is also traveling at the same breakneck speed. While I try to answer DD's question of why the paise is not used anymore, it seems pretty soon that the lower denominations of rupees will soon go out of favor. Rs. 1000 does not go far, leave aside the paise.

Summer Pool!

DD and DD2 having made the trip earlier than we did were well settled with DD2 begging to move back to India for good. DD on the other hand is clear that India is only for vacations. As for me the longer I live away from India the lesser I miss it every time I leave from there and the more I look forward to coming back home. It is the family and friends that I miss the most and well ...

Compared to India, US seems staid and unexciting but it feels good to be back. It is home after all for now.

So leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the streets we took a small trip to the Wayanad forests to a place called Tholpetty in the Coorg region. While the rest of India is reeling from the absence of the South West Monsoon, this region nestled among the forest got a fairly decent amount while we were there.

Waking up to the birds singing while the over night rains have drenched the emerald carpet was a pretty sight. Following the recent supreme court ruling the roads through the forest were closed and the animals well and truly in the forest away from prying eyes.

The food as usual was spectacular and I have come back armed with some simple everyday recipes learned from friends and family.

By the way have you been watching the Olympics? Amazing achievement by Michael Phelps should leave many of us speechless. Ryan Lochte the guy who was completely overshadowed by Phelps in the last Olympics, well you all know who he is. My favorite however is Kelly Ann Fraser Pryce the Jamaican Gold Medal 100m sprinter. Who is your favorite Olympian?

While I was away my garden was well taken care of by my neighbor and giving me a chance to enjoy some fresh vegetables as soon as I got home.