Sunday, August 31, 2014

Potato Cheese Stuffed Roasted Banana Peppers

It is back to school week here and reluctantly I start the beginning of the new school year. Gone are the lazy summer days where I can wake up any time and still be at work on time. The morning routine of packing lunch and getting breakfast ready at 6:00AM is back and I don't like it. I would prefer for Fall not to come around and the summer stretches endlessly.

The biggest problem when I get back from work and is a similar problem in most homes I am sure with school age children and working parents. I am tired, hungry and so are the kids and the other adult. Tiredness and the urgency to put dinner on the table at a decent hour reduces patience and in turn puts everyone on edge. A substantial snack at this time is what the doctor ordered. But where will the snack come from? It is at times like those that snacks like this are a god send. If the potato stuffing is prepared ahead of time and refrigerated this snack is quick to make. Having a few peppers cleaned and in the fridge is a huge help. The stuffing can go on a piece of toasted bread as well and broiled in the toaster for a few minutes.

I used long sweet pepper but any kind of pepper you prefer should be fine including bell pepper, poblano peppers or jalapeno peppers. If you are using a slightly spicy pepper make sure to control the heat added to the potatoes. Since I used sweet peppers which were not very spicy I added some chili powder to the stuffing. My hands burned after I slit and removed the seeds so be careful when you clean even peppers which are considered not spicy. You could also used pickled jalapeno peppers to season them as well if you want just the hint of spiciness.

Boil,drain, peel and cool the potatoes. Mash the potatoes using a potato masher.
Wash the peppers and wipe them clean.Cut the peppers, remove the seeds and the white ribs.
Flip the peppers with the cut side on the bottom, spray some oil. Flip them around and stuff with the potato mixture.
Now put both the halves together so the peppers look whole again. Broil on one side for 3-4 minutes and the flip and broil on the other side for another 3-4 minutes.
Now split the peppers apart, sprinkle the grated cheese and bake/broil for 3-4 minutes till the cheese melts.

Potato and Cheese Stuffed Roasted Banana Peppers
Preparation Time:20 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  1. 3 potatoes I used yellow potatoes (Russet potatoes will work but 1 will do)
  2. 10-12 Banana peppers or (4 bell peppers)
  3. 1-2 tsp of red chili powder or 3-4 pickled jalapeno peppers chopped fine
  4. 1/4 cup of finely chopped onions (purely optional)
  5. 1/2 tsp of oil
  6. Oil or spray for the peppers
  7. salt to taste
  8. 1 cup of grated cheese (I used pepper jack cheese)
  1. Boil potatoes either using a pressure cooker or on a stove top. Once cooked drain the water and let it cool, enough for you to handle. Peel and mash using a potato masher or leave it in small cubes. Totally up to your taste.
  2. In a saute pan heat oil and in the onions and saute till translucent. Add in the mashed potatoes, salt and chili powder. Saute till the chili powders and onions are well mixed into the potatoes. Set aside.
  3. While cooking the potatoes get the peppers ready. Spray the peppers with oil.
  4. Stuff the peppers on the cup side with the potato mixture, then put both the halves together and then broil them on one side for 3-4 minutes and then on the other side for another 3-4 minutes.
  5. Once the pepper is broiled on both side, split sprinkle grated cheese and broil/bake for another 3-4 minutes till the cheese is melted

Serve nice and warm with a tall glass of cold lemon juice.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Grain of the Week - 34 & 35 - Chickpeas - White and Brown

Chickpeas while not exactly a grain is legume that is inescapable in the Indian subcontinent. To tell you the truth I have never chanced upon the white chick pea at home. Even if I had eaten it, it must have been very rare that I don't remember it. It was mostly in a restaurant in orders of channa batura that I had seen them first.

White Chickpeas - Garbanzo - Kabuli Channa

The brown chickpea on the other hand was everywhere in several different forms. With the skin removed and split it takes the avatar of Bengal Gram/Channa Dal/Kadalai paruppu. In its roasted skin removed form it becomes dalia, roasted gram dal or pottu kadalai an important ingredient for coconut chutney and many other delicacies. In the roasted form with the skin on it is a popular snack. Apart from that as we all know brown chickpea used to make curries, flavored rice, sundal and many more. Not to forget the various culinary delicacies that are possible with the chickpea flour.

Brown Chickpeas - Kala Channa

There are 3 main kinds of chickpeas,
White chick pea has been grown in the Middle East and Turkey from about 7500 years ago. Kabuli Channa which are slightly bigger are grown in Afghanistan, Southern Europe, Indian Subcontinent and South America. The Black/Brown chickpea on the other hand is grown mostly in the Indian Subcontinent, Ethiopia and Mexico Source: Wikipedia

White and Black

In the US, garbanzo as it is called, the white chickpea enjoys cult status with its nutritional profile of being high in fiber and protein and mineral content. Hummus the Middle Eastern condiment which was rare even a couple of years ago is available today in all grocery shops in whatever flavor you want.

Roasted chick pea - (ready to eat) - dalia - pottukadalai

The black chick pea on the other hand is not that popular but is slowly gaining a foot hold. In my personal opinion, the black chick pea is much more tastier than the white one. But I cook the white chick pea far more than the black one. Chick peas has vitamins B-6, B-12, Potassium , Iron and Magnesium. It packs a nutritious punch in a small package. So whatever color of chick pea you choose be assured you have chosen a food that is good for you.

You do not have to make a curry to enjoy this bean, it can be enjoyed just boiled.

Some recipes that can be made,
Spelt Stew with butternut Squash and Chickpeas
Black Channa Chaat
Spinach and Chickpea Rice
Curried Chickpeas and Mango Salad
Two Chickpeas White and Black and Two Curries
Kala Channa - Black Chickpeas with onions and spices
Punjabi style Channa
Koshary - Egyptian
Chickpea Salad (with cucumber and tomatoes) fit for a SuperBowl Party!
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tomato Thokku Pickle - Spicy Tomato Preserve - Quick Method

To make tomato pickles right around now when Fall is fast approaching is like bottling some of the summer sunshine for later enjoyment when it is cold and miserable - provided it lasts that long.

While making tomato pickle is not a difficult it does require 1 1/2 - 2 hrs from start to finish. Who wouldn't like to get it done in half that time? Mom suggested using the electric rice cooker (and what a brilliant idea that was) to first cook the tomatoes and then proceed with the pickle making. This drastically reduces the time taken to make the pickle. Moreover you don't have to stand in front of the stove stirring the thing every few minutes for fear of it getting burned especially in the early stages of the cooking process when it is wont to stick to the bottom of the pan.

So here goes the recipe. Once you have this little idea in hand there should be absolutely no reason not to make it. Tomatoes are available in abundance this time of the year either from your own garden or in farmers markets all over. While I normally procrastinate because of the time involved, with this new and easy way I have made this pickle twice this month already.

You need to have an Electric Cooker or a Crock pot might work as well. Not having an electric rice cooker should not stop you. You can try with a pressure cooker. I used small cherry tomatoes of different colors because that is what I am growing this year. You can use any tomatoes you want.

What is Tomato Thokku?
For those of you who are not familiar with what thokku is - it is a condiment made with vegetables and they are in the form a paste rather than cut pieces. If you are familiar with Harissa the condiment made with peppers, thokku is the Indian variation of it made with different vegetables and very similar. The most popular thokku varieties are made with mango, tomato or another one like this again with tomatoes. I have also made them with bell pepper, a recipe saved by ammayee.

Thokku is also a neat way to preserve those excess summer produce. They serve as spreads for sandwiches (to tell you the truth once you use this you will never go back to another spread hummus included!), sides for breads and of course mixed with rice. The possibilities are endless.

Without much ado, let's go to the recipe.

Wash and dry the tomatoes, green chilies and garlic. Chop the tomatoes and transfer to an electric rice cooker with a tsp of oil and let cook for 20-25 minutes.
Mince the green chilies and garlic and set aside. Once the tomatoes have finished in the rice cooker the rest of the process can start.
heat oil in a pot and add mustard and curry leaves, add the minced garlic and green chilies once the mustard starts to pop and saute for a minute. Add the cooked tomatoes along with salt. Let cook, and occasionally stir to avoid sticking to the bottom.
After about 15 -20 minutes of cooking add the chili powder along with the rest of the oil. Keep the powdered fenugreek and asfoetida ready.
After another 5 minutes add the powdered fenugreek and asfoetida powder and a bit more oil if required. Cook another 5 minutes and by now the pickle should be ready.

Tomato Thokku Pickle - Spicy Tomato Preserve - Quick and Easy using Rice Cooker
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
  1. 2 lbs of tomatoes - about 5 cups chopped tomatoes (I used different kinds of cherry tomatoes)
  2. 5-8 green chilies (there is no fixed amount for this, use as many as you want)
  3. 6 garlic cloves
  4. 1 tbsp red chili powder (adjust depending on the number of green chilies used)
  5. 1 tsp of powdered roasted methi(vendhayam) seeds and a tiny piece of asfoetida
  6. 4 tsp of salt (or as per taste
  7. 1/2 cup or slightly more of sesame oil (nallaennai)
  8. seasoning: 1/2 tsp mustard seeds + a sprig of curry leaves (washed and completely dried)
  1. Wash and dry the tomatoes completely. Perhaps wash it overnight and let them dry on a kitchen towel. Once dry roughly chop
    the tomatoes.
  2. Tip the tomatoes into the rice cooker with a tsp of oil and let it cook till the tomatoes have stewed and most of the water has evaporated. (perhaps 20-30 minutes. I kept the lid on the rice cooker but if you have a bigger cooker and the juice won't splatter out, leave it open. This will reduce the cooking time further. Occasionally stir to avoid sticking to the bottom. Set aside.
  3. In the meantime using a food processor or blender mince the garlic and the green chilies together. Do not make a paste.
  4. *This step only after the tomatoes have been stewed. Heat a pot (I use a fairly deep one so there is no splatter), add 2 tbsp of oil, when hot add the seasonings.
  5. When the mustard starts to pop add the minced garlic and green chilies mixture. Stir for a minute.
  6. Add in the tomatoes with salt and another 1/4 cup of oil and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally. At this stage it does not stick to the pan much but it is good to stir now and then.
  7. You will see the oil separating from the tomatoes, add the rest of the oil if required and the chili powder, mix and let cook for another 5 minutes.
  8. Add the powdered fenugreek and asfoetida powder and cook another 5 minutes till it becomes a dark red color and the tomatoes start to leaves the sides and oil starts pooling.
  9. Let cool completely before transferring to a glass container. Will stay outside the fridge for 3-4 weeks and longer in the refrigerator.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Poached Eggs

Most times when all of us in the house are watching TV the remote gets a workout. The remote breathes a sigh of relief when it is MasterChef and everyone is glued to the TV. If you watch MasterChef regularly like we do you would have watched this one where they were cooking eggs. The contestants were told to make poached eggs. DD wanted to try making a poached egg after watching the episode and so did I.

We gave it a try. I would not say it was a smashing success but enough to make both of us happy. Seeing the contestants struggle on the show to make the perfect poached eggs we knew that it was not going to be easy. The process itself is very simple, just getting it right is the problem.

Swirl the water with a spoon and add the egg to the center.
Cook for 5 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon and serve immediately.

Poached Eggs
Preparation Time:5 minutes
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 1 tbsp vinegar
  3. 2 tsp salt
  4. black pepper powder or sriracha for taste
  1. Heat a sauce pan in which you wish to poach your eggs with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Add salt and vinegar to the water.
  3. Break the egg into a cup and keep it ready.
  4. Swirl the water with a spoon and pour the egg into the water.
  5. Let cook for 5 minutes with the lid closed. Do not disturb till done.
  6. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon.
  7. Serve with any bread of choice.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thin Crust Pizza - With Artisanal Baker's Dough

I am not sure what it is with pizza. It is easy to get anyone into good spirits just by mentioning it. I normally don't make pizza because it feels like a lot of work. I changed my opinion a tiny little bit when I tried this whole wheat pizza crust. While the crust is the hardest part of pizza making, getting the toppings ready and baking it is the fun part. Unlike store bought pizzas, in home made pizzas you are free to add the toppings you like and as much or as little as you want.

The crust when the dough is made at home is the best part of the whole equation. The same Washington Post Food Section which carried the blueberry cake also had the recipe for a pizza made with Artisanal Baker's Dough. Baking pizza has become something of a conquest for me in terms of challenge.

Take the flour in a bowl, add the yeast and salt.
Whisk the dry ingredients and then add the milk followed, .
by the oil. Use a fork or with the fingers mix the flour into the liquid.
Knead into a ball and transfer to a larger well oiled bowl. Place wax paper on top of the dough. Cover and let sit in a warm place ideally for 24 hours.
Get the vegetables ready by grilling or broiling them till almost cooked.
Place a desired size ball of dough on a floured board, I used a lemon sized ball and roll it out thin.
Dust the lined baking sheet with some corn meal, transferred the rolled pizza dough on it. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 6 minutes till the underside starts getting brown spots.
Flip the pizza so the browned side comes on top. Get the pizza sauce ready.
Apply the pizza sauce, arrange the desired topping and bake for another 4-5 minutes till the cheese is melted and the other side is browned as well.

The recipe is pretty simple and though the recipe called for fermenting the dough for 24 hours mine had just about 8 hours and it came out just fine. The fermentation replaces the kneading in this recipe so the longer it ferments the better is I guess. I used homemade pizza sauce and grilled vegetables as topping for the pizza.

Thin Crust Pizza - With Artisanal Baker's Dough
Preparation Time:20 minutes + 8-24 hours fermentation
Cooking Time:30-40 minutes
Serves: 5
  1. 3 cups unbleached bread flour
  2. 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  3. 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  4. 1 1/2 cups of 2% percent milk
  5. 2 tbsp olive oil + 2 tsp more for the bowl
  6. 1/4 cup of corn meal

  1. Whisk together the flour, salt and salt in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add in the oil and then the milk to the flour and using a fork mix the liquid into the flour.
  3. Knead the dough enough to make it into a ball.
  4. Oil a larger bowl, place the dough, apply some oil over the dough, place a wax paper and cover the bowl with a wet towel.
  5. Place the dough in a warm place for 24 hours. The fermenting that takes place replaces the kneading that is required. (I placed in the oven with the light on).
  6. Once you are ready to use the dough, separate them into required size and roll them out.
  7. Making the Pizza Sauce - Harissa flavored
  8. 2-3 tomatoes pureed
  9. 4 cloves of garlic minced
  10. 1/4 of an onion minced
  11. 1/2 - 1 tbsp olive
  12. 1 tbsp harissa or salt and any spice of choice
  13. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and add in the garlic and onions and saute for a minute. Pour in the tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes or so.
  14. Add in the harissa paste and cook for another 10-15 minutes till the tomatoes sauce has become thick and most of the water has evaporated.
  15. Making the Pizza
  16. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  17. On a floured board, place the ball of dough and roll out the pizza into desired thickness.
  18. On a Pizza stone or a grill pan, spread a little bit of corn flour and place the rolled out pizza.
  19. Bake on one side for 6 minutes, by this the underside should have brown spots.
  20. Flip the pizza, so that the browned side is on top. Place the toppings and cook for another 4-5 minutes till the pizza is done.
  21. Arranging the Topping
  22. Spray the vegetables with oil and broil in a toaster oven till they are partially cooked. (I used pobalano pepper, mushrooms, onions, jalepeno pickled pepper and smoked turkey slices.
  23. Spread pizza sauce on the browned side of the pizza, place sliced mozzarella cheese mingled with the roasted vegetables and bake for another 4-5 minutes till done.

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