Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cauliflower Peas Masala (Gobi Mattar Masala)

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables. It lends itself nicely to a lot of different curries dry and wet. It usually is paired with potatoes and my most favorite way to cook it, is this dry aloo gobhi. But this versatile vegetable can be cooked in a lot of different ways evidenced by quite a few of them on this blog. If you do a search on the side bar for 'cauliflower' you will quickly find out.

In the south while coconut paste or milk is used in a lot of curries but curd or yogurt is not commonly used like it is in the North. I always have curd in the fridge so adding to gravies instead of the coconut paste is appealing in lieu of the reduced work. So when I saw this recipe on Sailu's Food I wanted to give it a try.

Cauliflower Peas Masala - Gobi Mattar Masala
Preparation Time:20 minutes
Cooking Time:40 minutes
  1. 1 cauliflower cut into florets
  2. 2 cups of fresh or frozen peas
  3. 1 cup onion finely chopped
  4. 6 green chilies finely minced
  5. 2 inch piece of ginger grated
  6. 1 tbsp tomato paste or 1 tomato finely chopped
  7. 1/2 tbsp red chili power (adjust, mine is very spicy)
  8. 2 tsp turmeric powder
  9. 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  10. 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
  11. 1/2 cup of curd whisked
  12. 2 tsp poppy seeds + 8-10 almonds soaked in 2 tsp of water
  13. salt to taste
  14. 2 tsp of oil
  15. seasonings few fennel seeds + a pinch of cumin seeds

  1. Heat oil in a kadai or flat bottomed pan and add the seasonings followed by the green chilies and onion and saute till the onions become translucent.
  2. Add the grated ginger and saute for a couple of minutes. Now add in the cauliflower florets and let them cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Now add the powders - turmeric, cumin, coriander and red chili powder and mix it in.
  4. Add in the peas and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix it in.
  5. Make a paste of almonds and poppy seeds and mix it into the whisked yogurt.
  6. Lower to the heat to low medium and add in the whisked yogurt and salt into the cauliflower along with a 1/2 cup of water and let it slowly cook till most of the moisture evaporates. About 20 minutes.
  7. Note: Avoid the 1/2 cup of water if you want a drier curry and also add a bit more oil while cooking to avoid sticking.

Serve with rotis or parathas. We had them with some avocado parathas.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mango Smoothie with Chia Seeds

Why is parenting wrought with so many pitfalls? While our parents' generation just seemed to wing it without the psycho mumbo jumbo and most of us seem to have turned out alright I think. So why are parents today bombarded with so much advice in books and media about how to bring up kids the right way? If you think about it, is there really a right way?

Though I read all the parental advice columns and books for their entertainment value I don't pay them all that much attention. But can't deny that I don't feel a bit guilty after reading one of those columns occasionally.

So along comes a LOL article like this one - New Parenting Study Released and puts everything in perspective. If you are interested in LOL read the article ASAP.

Now to the recipe,
This chia pudding recipe via foodgawker was what set me on the search for chia seeds. Chia I read is also used in smoothies to give a protein and fiber boost in the mornings. Looks like chia is a recent super food and it is all over the health food blogs. I do not like drinking milk but smoothies are another matter altogether. I make them almost every other day and adding a spoon full of chia gave it that soft crunch which is very appealing to the taste buds. Chia gets that gelatinous texture after it has soaked in the liquid for some time.

So for those of you who have tasted falooda, soaked chia seeds feel very similar to the basil seeds in the falooda. I am not sure what the Indian word (I mean in any language) is for Chia.

Mango Smoothie with Chia Seeds
Preparation Time:15 minutes
  1. 1 cup of milk
  2. 1/2 cup of mangoes (I used frozen)
  3. 1 tsp of sugar or honey (optional)
  4. 1 tbsp chia seeds
  1. Beat together the milk, mangoes and the sugar in a blender.
  2. Add the chia seeds and let sit for about 5 minutes.
  3. Note: Do NOT blend the chia seeds with the other ingredients. If you do not like the feel of the seeds and still want to use Chia then blend it.
Perfect breakfast for those who want a superfood in the morning ;)

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Grain of the Week - 13 - Chia Seeds

I have been hearing and seeing a lot of recipes with Chia seeds. That is the beauty of this series. Gives me the opportunity to try these new grains and seeds. The first thing I am going to try is to make some pudding.

Chia seeds was the staple of the Mayans and Aztecs. High in fiber and gluten free today it is considered a super food good for athletes. Chia seeds are also used as a replacement for eggs as its texture becomes gel like when water is added. Source.

It is also a natural thickener and can be used to thicken jams and jellies without adding pectin. I am looking forward to trying smoothies with chia seeds.
Any interesting recipes with chia, please share in the comment section.

I got a very good suggestion from a comment(Spice) to indicate where I buy the grains I highlight here.

Where Bought?: Whole Foods

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bitter Gourd Poriyal (roasted) - not so bitter though

I like bitter gourd and so does DH. Whenever I see some fresh ones at the Indian store I can't resist buying them. The kids not so much but they usually eat it if the bitterness is not so obvious. Few weeks ago I bought a few bitter gourds and instead of a roast I wanted to make a tamarind based hot and sour curry. Normally I saute the bitter gourds before I add the tomatoes and tamarind. This particular time I added the tomatoes first and then the bitter gourd. Bad idea, the bitterness never left and how much ever sour and sweet (jaggery) went in the bitterness just would not go away. Lesson learned. Short cuts need to be avoided when cooking this vegetable. It has to be roasted for at least a few minutes in oil for the bitterness to go away. Just a few minutes generally does the trick.

I again bought bitter gourd last week but this time I was going to cook it in such a way that the rest of the family does not run away from it. So I followed a trick that a lot of people do to get the bitterness out. First slit the bitter gourd into 2 halves, sliced them into thin moons and sprinkled some salt and let it sit for about 1/2 hour. Squeezed the moisture out and then roasted it. This helps remove some of the bitterness.

Roasted bitter gourd is usually not as bitter and though DD2 complained finished what was on her plate. DD actually likes this.

Bitter Gourd Poriyal (roasted)
Preparation Time:30 minutes
Cooking Time:25 - 30 minutes
  1. 6 bitter gourds, seeds removed, split in half and cut into thin moons
  2. 1/2 red onion sliced thin
  3. 6-8 green chilies
  4. 2 tbsp thick tamarind pulp (1/4 tsp if using tamarind paste)
  5. 1 tsp chili powder if needed (I did not use)
  6. 1/2 tbsp jaggery
  7. seasonings: mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves
  8. 1 tbsp oil
  9. salt to taste + salt for the bitter gourd soaking

  1. Add salt to the chopped bitter gourd and let it sit for 1/2 hour or so. Then placing a few bitter gourds at a time in the palm of your hand squeeze as much water as possible from it. Set aside.
  2. In a wide mouthed heavy bottomed pan (kadai) heat half the oil and when hot add the seasonings, when the mustard starts to pop add the green chilies and onions.
  3. Saute the onions till it becomes translucent. Add in the bitter gourd pieces and saute till they start to turn brown on the edges (about 20 minutes). After about 10 minutes add the salt. Add more oil if sticking to the pan.
  4. Turn the heat to high and add the tamarind pulp and jaggery. Saute for another 5 minutes.
  5. Note:Longer the bitter gourd is sauteed, the crispier it gets.
Goes well as a side with any rice dishes.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Amaranth Seeds Chikki (brittle)

I have always loved chikkis. What exactly are chikkis? They are similar to peanut brittle but softer than a brittle with peanuts crushed a bit smaller but still crunchy. I first got hooked on to them when I was in a boarding school. There were three schools on the campus and there was this canteen which sold several different things but my favorites were these peanut chikkis and Kalpana Cake.

It was a boarding run by nuns and nuns made stupid rules. Boarders were not permitted to buy stuff at the canteen while the day scholars were allowed to. Don't ask me why, those were the rules. That rule did not stop us from getting some of our days scholar friends to buy us some or sneaking in ourselves.

These chikkis are made in memory of the chikki taste from long time ago. Not with peanuts but with Amaranth seeds. Making chikki is not all that hard. I have made them with peanuts. It seemed that using Amaranth seeds seemed like a good idea. Nutty and crunchy they are very similar to sesame seeds but without all that oil.

Roast the Amaranth seeds and keep it ready.
Make a sugar syrup of one string consistency. Add the chopped nuts and the roasted Amaranth seeds.
Pour the mixture on to a greased plate and cut into desired shapes.

Amaranth Seeds Chikki
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:20 minutes
  1. 1 cup Amaranth Seeds
  2. 1 cup sugar (I used raw sugar)
  3. 1/4 cup water
  4. 1/4 cup roasted almonds chopped
  5. 1 tsp of lemon juice

  1. In a slightly deep vessel roast the Amaranth seeds. The tall vessel prevents the Amaranth seeds from splattering everywhere. Roast the seeds till they turn slightly brown. At this point the seeds are completely roasted.
  2. Take sugar and just enough water to cover the sugar in a sauce pan. Heat till the sugar melts and forms a syrup. Continue heating the sugar till it reaches one string consistency.
  3. Note:I follow a simple trick when making sugar syrup so that crystals do not form on the sides. Squeeze lemon juice on the sides when the sugar syrup starts to stick to the sides.
  4. Keep a greased plant handy.
  5. Once one string consistency forms, start to move quickly. Mix the roasted Amaranth seeds and the roasted almonds into the syrup, stir to mix and pour the mixture into the greased plate.
  6. Let slightly cool and make cuts to form desired shapes. Let cool completely and break along the cuts.
  7. Will stay outside for close to a month.

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Grain of the Week - 12 - Wild Rice

When I started this search of grains little did I know that it will be the rice varieties that will surprise me time and again. While I had some idea that there were many varieties of millets that I had know idea about. Little did I realize the amazing variety of rice that is out there.

Wild Rice is this amazing thin and slim long grain black color rice which is perhaps the longest grain of rice that I have ever seen. I have tasted them in salads and cooked it for using in salads. Nutty and slightly chewy this rice is tasty.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Black Beans with Buckwheat - Hearty Soup

Last week after some freezing temperatures we finally got some balmy weather for a couple of days. Like the weather god could not tolerate that the day after a pleasant day in the 60s , some more polar weather set in with some high winds and the temperatures plummeted down over 30 degrees to barely above freezing. Another snow storm on Sunday resulted in 6 more inches of snow.

Just when I had decided that soup weather was out of here. My just recovering throat wanted something hot/spicy and soothing.

I have made this soup with rice as well. Though I would not recommend white rice. Brown rice, pink rice or black rice - any rice that does not mush too quickly will work. This time I decided to use buckwheat. Buckwheat is much lighter than rice and nutty as well.

Saute the onions, garlic and ginger. Add in the tomatoes and saute till the tomatoes are mushy.
If using buckwheat groats, toast it first.
Add the chicken broth, bring it to a boil. Add in the black beans followed by the toasted buckwheat.

Black Beans with Buckwheat - Hearty Soup
Preparation Time:20 minutes + overnight soaking
Cooking Time:20-30 minutes
  1. 2 cups of dried black turtle beans soaked overnight (soaks to about 4 cups)
  2. 3/4 cup of buckwheat groats
  3. 1/2 red onion chopped
  4. 4 garlic cloves chopped fine
  5. 2 tsp of grated ginger
  6. 1 cup of crushed tomatoes
  7. 1/2 tsp of cumin powder
  8. 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder
  9. 1-2 tsp of black pepper
  10. 4 cups of chicken broth of vegetable broth for a vegan version
  11. salt to taste
  12. 2 tsp of olive oil

  1. Cook the black beans till soft. I used a pressure cooker.
  2. Heat a stock pot or Dutch Oven and heat the oil and when hot add the chopped onions. Saute till it is translucent. Add in the garlic and ginger and saute for a minute more.
  3. Add in the cumin and red chili powder.
  4. Add in the tomatoes and let them saute and turn mushy, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile toast the buckwheat till they are nice and toasted, the buckwheat will start to change color. If using kasha which pre-toasted buckwheat, no need to toast.
  6. Once the tomatoes are nice and mushy add in the chicken broth and bring it to a boil. Add in the cooked black beans and the buckwheat.
  7. Let it simmer on medium high heat till the buckwheat is nice and soft. Add salt. By this time most of the liquid should be absorbed. Turn off the heat.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spicy Oven Roasted Fingerling and Baby Potatoes

Come On! Seriously! What did the humble potato do to deserve this treatment? Sorry! I know you are lost. Let me explain. I came across this news article and you would react in the same way too if you saw it provided you are potato lover yourself.

USDA apparently once again rejected the advances of the National Potato Council and would not budge. About what you ask? Potatoes are still excluded from the list of allowed fresh produce for the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women (SNAP). The reason being that including potatoes would exclude other "better" vegetables and fruits from being bought with the vouchers that the program provides to its participants.

Looks like the Potato Council could not win its case against the USDA and the potato not just the white but red, purple small, long, round all are still banned but sweet potatoes are not on the excluded list.

Funny right? Though I do not eat vegetables for just their nutritional value but here I am compelled to quote it. Potatoes have Potassium, Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6, Magnesium besides the starch. That is not something to sneer at is it? Where did I get the information - from the USDA website of course.

French fries are not the only way to cook a potato which is perhaps the worst way of cooking it and the one that gets the most mileage. They can be be boiled, mashed, roasted all with fantastic results. They are several tasty ways that potatoes are used in Indian cooking. India cuisine would be poorer without potatoes at least IMO.

The vegetable world would be so much poorer without potato among its midst. My favorite vegetable is still a potato, it was when I was young and still is today. I like other vegetables but my favorite always will be the humble potato.

Back in the day when I did not know any cooking but had a great book to read and nothing to munch on, these potatoes are the only ones that came in to fill the void. Peeled, cubed and roasted with some salt and chili powder, they were better than any snack. Can any other vegetable beat that?

No home cook leave alone those in the SNAP have the time and money to be making french fries. USDA in all its wisdom has not seen that. There are several other tastier and healthier ways to cook a potato. Denying them fresh potatoes is like sending these people straight into the arms of the fast food companies to get their potato fix.

Now for the Potato and Barbie Connection,
Do you let your daughters play with Barbie dolls? You should read this article. I tend to agree with these articles mostly because I cannot stand Barbie dolls. What did researchers find out? Girls who play with Barbie dolls - doesn't matter what kind of Barbie, curtail their career ambitions and fall into trap of women stereotypes. On the other hand girls who played with Potato Head thought that could do anything a boy could do.

All the more reason to get potato onto the menu. I know that previous statement did not make any sense but I like the potato.

Now on to the potato recipe,
This is a very simple recipe that could turn potatoes into very tasty snacks with minimum of work. Potatoes are naturally gluten free and provide the perfect food in many ways.

Toss the potatoes with the oil and spices and spread on a baking sheet.
Broil for 10 minutes and then turn and broil for another 8-10 minutes till crisp on the outside.

Spicy Oven Roasted Fingerling and Baby Potatoes
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:15 - 20 minutes
  1. 4 Cups of Fingerling or Baby Potatoes
  2. 2-3 tbsp of basting oil or olive oil + crushed garlic + any herb of choice
  3. 1 tsp of salt
  4. 1 tbsp of red chili powder

  1. Set the oven to broil
  2. Wash and scrub the potatoes and pat dry.
  3. Toss with the oil, salt and the chili powder
  4. Spread on a baking sheet and broil for 10 minutes first. Using tongs turn the potatoes around and broil for another 8-10 minutes more till it reaches the crispness you desire.
  5. Note:I used herbed basting oil, if you are using plain oil, use some smashed garlic + chopped herbs.

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