Friday, May 30, 2014

Grain of the Week - 22 - Spelt Grain

When I first looked at the Spelt grain it looked very much like it's more popular cousin the wheat grain. In fact spelt grain is related to the wheat grain alright and it is also sometimes classified as a parent of wheat but more nutritious.

Spelt is an ancient grain grown as long back as the Biblical times in Mesopotamia and it migrated to the US only in the 1900s and while it was very popular and many acres were under cultivation but by the 1970s the grain was completely gone from the US. Wheat with its ability to be hybridized, modified and easier to process became popular and replaced spelt.

While Spelt with more fiber makes it possible to digest the gluten much easier. Whereas modern wheat which has been bred mainly to aid in the process of making bread contains more gluten and no husk. The husk falls off when the wheat is fully grown making processing easier. But this also makes it susceptible to pests. The spelt preserves its husk and thus more resistant to pests and hence devoid of pesticides and their like. Keeping the husk intack preserves much of the nutrition which has been stripped out of a regular wheat grain. Source: Read for more detailed information.

Spelt flour in increasingly becoming available all over the US. Seems like it can replace wheat flour in most baked goods. Free of GMO, hybridization and commercialization than its popular cousin - wheat spelt grain is pure and closest to an ancient grain as you can get.

Where Bought: MOM's Organic Market

Anybody have any interesting recipes to make with spelt?

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Kadai Paneer (Spiced Cottage Cheese Cubes)

If you are a news junkie like me this new story in the the Atlantic is a fascinating read - How Officials Tried to Censor One of the Biggest Stories in the World.

Moving on to the recipe, paneer is a popular among the younger set at home . Joining them I have started enjoying it too. I mostly make this low fat Paneer Butter Masala or Mattar Paneer. Wanted to give this Kadai paneer which is a slightly drier dish a try and we were not disappointed. The methi leaves add flavor as well as taste. Usually dried methi leaves or kasoori methi is added but I prefer the fresh ones or rather I usually only have them handy.

Add oil/ghee in a wide mouthed pan, season with cumin seeds. Add the roughly chopped onions and slit green chilies. Saute till the onions are starting to brown. Add in the grated ginger and garlic and saute for a minute more.
Add in the masala powders give a mix and then add in the chopped tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and let it cook till the tomatoes get mushy.
Add the chopped methi(fenugreek leaves) and coriander leaves and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add in the diced bell pepper and let cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add the chili powder and give a good mix. Add in the slightly roasted paneer and let it mingle with the spices for about 3-4 minutes and turn off the heat.

Preparation Time:20 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
Serves : 4-6
  1. 14 oz package of low paneer (cottage cheese) cut into cubes or triangles
  2. 1 onion cut into fairly big dices
  3. 1 tbsp grated ginger
  4. 4 garlic cloves grated or chopped fine
  5. 1 bell pepper diced the same size as the onions
  6. 2 ripe tomatoes diced
  7. 3-4 slit green chilies (I usually shake the seeds out)
  8. 1/4 cup packed methi (fenugreek leaves) I used 2 frozen cubes(optional)
  9. a small bunch of coriander leaves chopped (use as much or as little as you want
  10. 1/2 tbsp of coriander powder
  11. 1/2 tbsp of Kashmiri chili powder (or 2 tsp of regular red chili powder)
  12. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  13. 1 tsp of cumin powder
  14. salt to taste
  15. 1 tsp of oil
  16. 1 tsp of ghee/butter + 2 tsp of ghee (for slightly roasting the paneer)
  17. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  1. In a wide mouthed pan heat the oil and 1 tsp of ghee and when hot add the cumin seeds. Add the green chilies and the onions and saute till the onions are translucent.
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for a minute or two.
  3. Add in the masala powder except the chili powder and give a good mix.
  4. Add in the chopped tomatoes and sprinkle a bit of salt and let it cook for about 5-6 minutes till the tomatoes get mushy and broken down.
  5. Meanwhile heat a saute pan and add the 2 tsp of ghee or butter and place the cut paneer in one layer and let it roast on one side, flip and roast on the other. Slight brown sides are desirable. Set aside.
  6. Add in the methi leaves and coriander leaves if using and cook for about 4-5 minutes till the leaves are wilted.
  7. Add in the diced bell pepper and let it cook but some crunch is still left, about 5-6 minutes.
  8. Add in the chili powder and mix, followed by the slightly roasted paneer. Mix it into the masala gently. Let the cheese cubes heat through 3-4 minutes. Add more salt if required. Turn off the heat. Let sit for 10-20 minutes before serving.
  9. Serve with any Indian bread or rice.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Rava Upma - Cream of Wheat savory breakfast - How to make fluffy and soft upma

Poor Upma is nobody's favorite food. At least none that I known claim it to be their favorite food. But upma is not to be discounted that easily. When cooked the right way it can be a tasty breakfast or dinner item. When I was growing seeing upma on the table was grounds for some serious grumbling. DD & DD2 have resorted to the same sort of grumbling. But then our situations are vastly different.

In our home here South Indian breakfast items are only made during the weekend and upma perhaps makes an appearance probably once in a month. Still the grumbling goes and on and I have learned not to pay it any mind. DH on the other hand likes upma. Anyway I still agree there is a lot not to be liked in a upma. If it is cooked into a pasty mush or too dry then it is makes it almost impossible to eat.

After much trial and error I have almost found a fool proof way to make upma which is light and airy and still moist. Upma found in restaurants have a lot of oil and no wonder they are usually soft and but eating breakfast with that much oil does not sit too well. This one uses the minimum amount of oil and yet still yields a soft and moist upma.

The key is to dry roast the cream of wheat or semolina till it starts to turn a pale brown color here and there. Also to add the cream of wheat to the water only when the water is boiling hot.

Here in the US Cream of Wheat can be purchased in most grocery stores. This is slightly browner - perhaps has a bit more bran, compared to the purely white cream of wheat that is sold in Indian grocery stores. In the Indian store I prefer the coarser semolina compared to the fine one.

Roast the rava/semolina/cream of wheat till brown spots start to appear. Set aside. Heat oil in a wide mouthed pan, let the urad dal brown first and then add the cumin mustard seeds, curry leaves and green chilies.
Add the onions and saute till it starts to brown a bit. Add ginger and saute for a minute more. Add the required amount of water and let it come to a boil.
Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat and add the rava in a gentle stream while constantly stirring.
When all the rava has been added, cover the lid and let cook for 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Squeeze in the lemon juice and let sit covered for another 5-10 minutes before fluffing up and serving.

I learned a small trick from DH's aunt. She squeezes in some lemon juice just before turning off the heat and that gives it a different dimension to the taste. You could make a chutney to go with the upma but brown sugar, pickle, curd or even banana are all good accompaniments.

Update: I forgot to mention the water proportion (till friends gently reminded me in the comment section), which is another important component that determines the texture of the upma. As for the water proportion I use 1 portion of rava to 2 portions of rava/cream of wheat is what works for me. Try it once and adjust the water proportions accordingly.

Rava Upma
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:20 minutes
Serves : 4
  1. 2 cups of cream of wheat - semolina - white rava (water proportion 1 : 2)
  2. 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  3. 5-6 slit green chilies (seeds shaken out)
  4. 2 tsp of grated ginger
  5. seasonings - 1 tsp split urad dal, a pinch of cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves
  6. salt to taste
  7. half a lemon (optional)
  8. 1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (optional)
  9. 1 tsp of oil
  1. Heat a saute pan or kadai and add the cream of wheat/semolina/rava and dry roast till the cream of wheat starts to change to a slightly brown color. Take care not to burn. Keep stirring often so the rava at the bottom gets turnrd around and does not burn. Takes 10-15 minutes. Remove from fire and transfer to a plate. You can do this ahead of time and store in an airtight container for later use.
  2. In a wide mouthed pan (an Indian style kadai works best) heat the oil and when hot add the seasonings, urad dal first and when it starts to turn slightly brown, add the cumin seeds followed by the mustard seeds and when the mustard seeds pop add the curry leaves and green chilies.
  3. Add in the onions and saute till they become translucent and slightly brown on the edges. Add in the ginger and saute for a minute more.
  4. Pour the required amount of water and salt. Let it come to a boil. Do a taste and see if there is enough salt. Salt cannot be added later. Add in the chopped coriander leaves. (see note:)
  5. Reduce heat to below medium and to the boiling water add in the rava/semolina/cream of wheat in a gently stream with one hand while the other hand is constantly stirring to avoid lumps.
  6. Close the lid and in the same low heat let cook for 3-4 minutes. By this time all the water should have been absorbed. Squeeze in the lemon juice if using. Do not disturb it and leave it covered for another 5-10 minutes. Mix gently and it is ready.
  7. Note: Salt can be added after the upma is cooked but adding the salt and mixing it inside the upma will still work. As for the coriander leaves, I prefer them cooked if you like raw coriander leaves they can be sprinkled on after the upma has been cooked.

  8. Serve with brown sugar(karmbu sarkarai), pickle or even banana.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Grain of the Week - 21 - Arborio Rice

Indian recipes are rife with rice dishes. All kinds of recipes have been made with rice. You only have to click here to see how many different types of rice dishes can be made sweet and savory.

When here in the US the two most popular rice dishes are Risotto and Jambalaya. Risotto is actually a famous Italian rice dish and is made with Arborio rice. Arborio rice used to be grown exclusively in Italy and is named for the town of Arborio in the Po valley where it is grown. It is valued for its high starch content and the creaminess it brings to risotto. Arborio rice can absorb a lot of liquid without becoming mushy.

Arborio rice is also perfect for making rice pudding. It retains its chewy texture and is firm even after it is cooked.

When stored in a cool place the Arborio it is supposed to last forever. I know this for a fact because I have it for a long time without any ill effects.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Slighty Sriracha'd turkey meatballs with ginger soy sauce

My favorite condiment - Sriracha sauce is having production problems. The Sriracha hot sauce factory has been declared a public nuisance because a few people including a relative of a city council member of Irwindale,CA where the factory is located had filed complaints saying that the fumes emanating from the factory has caused asthma, wheezing, coughing, choking and other health problems. The fight is still on whether Huy Fong Foods should shut its door(our loss) to satisfy the city council which took the company to court to shut it down.

Well done California says Texas and other states who want Huy Fong Foods to move to their state. California it seems does not care about jobs, losing a good business and this elections with politicians fighting among themselves it is indeed a spectacle. Anyway while this brouhaha is going on I have learned a thing or two about this much loved condiment.

Sriracha for one, is not Thai like I had mistakenly assumed. Yes! Sriracha is a place in Thailand and chili sauce is used a lot in Sriracha but the people there might not recognize this condiment. Huy Fong, an immigrant from Vietnam made his own version of hot sauce and decorated the bottle with his astrological sign - a rooster. Sriracha is a combination of a puree of jalapeno peppers, garlic powder, salt, sugar and vinegar. The pungent smell coming from pureeing the chili peppers is the focus of the complaint.

I hope the problem will go away and a supply of my favorite condiment will continue.

When I saw this recipe for Slightly Sriracha’d Lamb Meatballs I wanted to run into the kitchen and make some right away. Anyway I was at work ogling at it during lunch time. It had to wait for the weekend. I had minced turkey to give these a try, and finally I made them and we were not disappointed. It was a big hit.

While I have cooked kheema stuffed parathas, kheema side dishes with both lamb and turkey, making meat ball dishes like this kheema urundai kuzhambu out of them is slightly rare. Making urundai or balls out of lamb meat is slightly easier than turkey because the lamb meat is slightly drier. If you have chicken or turkey mince just go ahead.

Add the onions, ginger, coriander leaves, pepper powder and Sriracha sauce to the minced turkey..
Mix everything together and make small balls and set aside.
Heat oil in a pan and when hot add the meat balls so they don't touch each other and are in one layer.
Cook the meatballs, by turning them around and they are browned on all sides. Set aside. In the same oil cook the onions.
For the sauce, heat a bit of oil and cook the ginger and garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the soy sauce, orange juice and sugar if using and let it come to a boil and turn off the heat.
Add the cooked onions and the turkey balls to the sauce.

What got me interested in this particular recipe was none other than Sriracha. With a name like 'Sriracha'd who can resist?

Slighty Sriracha'd turkey meatballs with ginger soy sauce
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:30 minutes
    For the meatballs
  1. 1 lb of minced turkey (or any mince of choice- lamb,goat,chicken...)
  2. 1/4 cup of finely minced onions

  3. 1 inch piece of ginger grated

  4. 1 handful of finely chopped coriander leaves

  5. 2 tsp of Sriracha chili sauce (if not substitute with chili powder or any other chili sauce)

  6. 1/2 tsp of black pepper powder

  7. salt to taste

  8. 1/4 cup of oil

  9. For the Sauce
  10. 1/4 cup of chopped onions

  11. 1/4 cup of soy sauce

  12. 1/2 tbsp of Sriracha sauce or as required

  13. 1/2 tbsp of grated ginger

  14. 4 cloves of garlic minced fine

  15. 1/4 cup of orange juice

  16. 1/2 tsp of jaggery or palm sugar(optional)

  1. Mix the minced turkey, minced onions, grated ginger, chopper coriander leaves, Sriracha sauce, black pepper powder and salt using the tip of your fingers to work everything together.
  2. Roll into small size balls and set aside. If the mince is too loose put them in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up.
  3. Heat oil in a flat bottomed pan and when hot gently place the meatballs in the hot oil. Cook on one side, should start to brown. Turn around and let the meatballs cook on all sides. (See Note:)
  4. Drain on paper towels. Add the 1/4 cup of chopped for the sauce to the same oil and let them cook. Set those aside as well.
  5. For the sauce, heat a tsp of oil and saute the ginger and garlic for 30 seconds. Reduce the heat to low and add the soy sauce, 1/2 cup of water, orange juice and sugar and let them come to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the onions and the meatballs.
  6. Note:When the meatballs are cooking in the oil, they tend to leave out water, raise the heat and let the water evaporate, lower the heat to medium and then continue to cook
Serve a on a bed of jasmine rice.
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