Sunday, September 28, 2014

Salmon Cutlets / Croquettes

I usually buy canned Wild Alaskan salmon at Costco thinking of the flaked salmon quick stir fry on a busy weeknight. The quality of the fish though canned is pretty good actually. Like everything bought in Costco you do not buy one or two cans you get about 6. So after the first few are over the rest languish in the pantry for months. Luckily the canned stuff does not get spoiled. The last time I bought some a few were sitting in the pantry and to use them wisely I made these salmon cutlets.

Cutlets vegetarian or fish is a well liked and is a much sought after snack item. If you are ready to deep fry this is actually a pretty easy snack to make. I have not tried baking these but I am thinking these are perfectly suited for baking because the insides are already cooked and only the outside has to crisp. The trick to come these from getting soggy or breaking apart is that the salmon/potato filling should be moisture free. While onions are a good addition for the taste I would avoid them here just because of the moisture they generate. Cooking the potatoes ahead of time so there is enough time for it cool down. This is better than the normal hurry burry way of holding the potatoes under running water to cool them down which makes the potatoes soggy and another reason why the cutlet does not hold its shape.

If you can get the Costco Canned Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon they taste good and do not have the strong fishy smell. Also there is nothing else in it other than salt.

Mix the salmon, mashed potatoes, ginger-garlic-green chilies minced along with the masala powder, salt and red chili powder.
Keep the egg wash and bread crumbs ready. Dip the shaped salmon cutlets in the egg wash first.
Dip the cutlet in bread crumbs next.
Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the cutlets till they are golden brown.
Drain on paper towels.

Salmon Cutlets/Croquettes
Preparation Time:25 minutes
Cooking Time:30 minutes
  1. 18 oz of cooked salmon (or any fish)
  2. 2 medium sized white or Russet potatoes
  3. 6-8 green chilies
  4. 5-6 garlic cloves
  5. 1 inch piece of ginger
  6. 2 tsp curry masala powder (optional)
  7. 1 tsp red chili powder
  8. salt to taste
  9. 2 eggs
  10. 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  11. 1/2 cups onions sauteed (optional, I did not add them) (See Note:)
  12. Oil for deep frying

  1. If using canned salmon open it and let it strain in a colander till all the water drains. Set it aside. If using steamed fish flake it and set it aside.
  2. Boil the potatoes and let it cool, peel and mash the potatoes till smooth.
  3. Mince the green chilies, garlic and ginger.
  4. To the potatoes add the flaked salmon, minced ginger,garlic and green chilies, salt, masala powder and red chili powder. Mix with a fork or use your hands. Check for taste.
  5. Heat a deep fryer pan or kadai with oil.
  6. Break the eggs and whisk it and keep the egg wash in a wide mouthed bowl. Take the panko bread crumbs in another bowl.
  7. Shape the cutlet into oblong or flat rounds. Dip the shaped cutlets in the egg wash first and then dredge them in the bread crumbs so the cutlet is well coated on all sides.
  8. When the oil is hot add the coated cutlets and deep fry till it is golden brown on all sides.
  9. Drain well on paper towels.
  10. Note:Onions tend to leach moisture so add them towards the end when you are just about to make them.
  11. Serve with tomato ketchup or tomato chili sauce with wedges of lemon and cucumber.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Plants for the Fall - 2014

For some who are tired of the heat and humidity of the Summer, Fall is welcome relief to cooler and less humid temperatures. For me Fall is a down season, all the changing color on the tress and the dropping leaves signal the coming period of cold and snow - weather that I will never get used to and just about tolerate till the warmer weather is near the horizon.

Monarch Butterflies?

Well anyway an exception to this gloom is the fall garden, planted towards the end of the summer the green is a sight that is invigorating and makes one forget for a while the approaching winter.

Greens like collard, kale, spinach , pak choi all prefer the slightly chillier weather that is typical of the fall. Planted towards the end of August they work their magic till the snow hits the area which for us is usually late Dec or early Jan.

Pak Choi

There are always exceptions to this rule however when some years we have had snow as early as Halloween. The frost works itself here way earlier than that but unlike the other plants that literally die during the first frost, the greens on other hand supposedly thrive and the leaves take on a sweeter note with the drop in temperature. I will know pretty soon.


Growing greens is the most easiest of all plants. They start producing literally in 2-3 weeks from the time you sow the seeds in the ground. If you trim the leaves leaving the young ones alone they produce for a long time.


Eggplants although nearing the end of the season seem to be still fruiting.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Grain of the Week - 39 - Muthu Samba Rice

Muthu Samba Rice the staple rice of SriLanka is one of the prettiest grains of rice you will ever see. Shiny and shaped like a tiny pearl (muthu in Tamil translates to pearl in English) it is very nice looking rice. But the praise from me stops right there. The rice has a distinct smell that is delicious or downright disgusting depending on the person.

My SriLankan friend told me that the rice is the smell of her childhood and it usually brought back good food memories for her. Her daughter and son on the other hand call it "poo poo" rice because of the strange smell. She gave me some rice to try, even before cooking just the raw rice has a distinct smell that is not very pleasant.

Remember the Red Samba Rice that I talked about a few weeks back? That rice on the other hand does have a faint smell when raw but after several washings before cooking it has a faint smell which is not overpowering and is very tasty.

Take a look at this article "Why does Muthu Samba Rice Stink?" and the comment sections which clearly shows that this is one of those things that you have to get used to.

As for the nutrition details, muthu samba is par boiled. What does parboiled mean? Parboiling is the process where the rice is partially boiled in its husk, steamed and then dried. The boiling process transfers the nutrients from the husk are transferred to the endosperm. This preserves almost as much nutrients as a brown rice. Back home parboiled rice is what we ate mostly. The problem here in the US, getting good parboiled rice.

White raw rice on the other hand (Basmati, Sona Masuri) are milled - the husk, bran and germ are all removed leaving only the glucose rich endosperm. It is then polished to get the shiny look.

Brown rice is the most nutritious with just the husk removed giving it a nuttier taste.

Source:Differences between Brown, Raw and Parboiled Rice

Tell me if Muthu Samba Rice for you is pleasant or unpleasant?

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Fresh Pink Eye Cow pea fritters - Karamani / Thattapayar Vadai

I heard on the radio this morning about street signs which are intended for reducing crime. This reminded me of small actions that people do that goes a long way in making the day better. A friendly wave from a neighbor, a car driver in front of you yielding to let you change lanes in heavy traffic or even just a smile from a stranger. All actions that cost the giver nothing but makes the recipient's day start much better. These actions all minor perhaps will make the recipient give it forward making a few others days a tiny bit better. Just saying.

What do you think went through my mind when I had some fresh shelled cow peas on hand? Usually it would be dosai and your guess would have been correct but this time it was vadai (fritters) that I wanted to give a try. These purple eyed peas are slightly nuttier than the black eyed peas and the fresh peas when boiled tastes very similar to boiled fresh peanuts.

Soak the fresh pink/black eyed peas for about a couple of hours. Soaking might not be required if it is just shelled and very fresh. The trick to making light and airy vadai is to not add any water while blending the batter. Do not make the mistake I made of grinding in a wet grinder, use the blender instead. This way the peas can be ground without any excess moisture. We had to add a small quantity of rice flour to the batter because of the excess moisture. We made these for Vinagayar Chathurthi and they served as a protein filled snack for the rest of the week.

Ingredients required for the vadai.
Freshly ground batter and ready for making vadi with onion mixed.

If you do not have fresh cow peas use the dried kind soaked overnight. Save couple of handfuls of batter to make dosais the next day. Mix with regular idli batter and make adai or dosai.

Pink Eye Cowpea Vadai - Karamani/Thattapayar Vadai
Preparation Time:25 minutes + (overnight soaking if using dried cow peas)
Cooking Time:30-40 minutes
  1. 4 cups of fresh shelled cow peas or 3 cups of dried cow peas soaked overnight
  2. 1/4 cup rice flour (only if required - see Notes:)
  3. 1/2 - 1 cup of finely chopped onions
  4. ginger 2 inch piece
  5. 2 tsp of cumin seeds
  6. 6-8 red chilies
  7. a small piece of asfoetida
  8. salt to taste
  9. 2 tbsp finely chopped curry leaves
  10. Oil for deep frying

  1. Blend the cow peas without adding any water (if required just sprinkle a few drops)
  2. When the peas are blended half way add the chilies, cumin seeds, asfoetida and ginger and blend the batter but still coarse, do not make it very smooth.
  3. When ready to make the fritters mix the salt, curry leaves and onions.
  4. If at this stage the batter is still watery, add some of the rice flour so the batter is stiff enough for the vadai to hold its shape.
  5. Heat a kadai with oil for deep frying when hot, shape the vadais and add them to the hot oil.
  6. Let the vadai turn golden brown, flip and cook on the other side.
  7. Drain on paper towels.
  8. Notes:
  9. Add the rice flour only if the batter is too watery.
  10. The onion should be added only when ready to drop the batter in oil. This will prevent the batter from becoming watery.
  11. Watery batter will make the vadai absorb a lot of water.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Grain of the Week - 38 - Indian Cowpeas

What we know as cow peas in India especially in South India is smaller and brown in color when compared to the Cow peas of Southern US which are much bigger and usually cream colored or white.

These cow peas are a much preferred legume for cultivation in the drier, sub arid regions of South India. The cow pea provides plenty of nitrogen to the soil and it is used intercropped with other cereal crops for the nutrition it provides to the soil.

Cow peas are rich source of dietary fiber and protein. It also contains potassium and iron which are required nutrients for the body. Cow peas is cooked in several different ways. The most popular recipe in the Kongu region is this way of cooking it in a kuzhambu usually with eggplants/brinjal. They can also be cooked with bottle gourd, bitter gourd.

Indian Cow peas - Black Eyed Peas

The broken cow peas can be used to make this lentil-rice dish called arisiyum paruppu saatham.

Par boiled cow peas can be used in salads and can be eaten as such. I had a colleague who ate cow peas and vegetables only for lunch - no rice.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Apple Crisp

I told you about the baking bug that bit DD2? That is when she baked this Blueberry Cake and these really easy Chocolate chip cookies.

That bug probably infected me as well, when on seeing some early season apples in the farmer's market I wanted to make some warm apple crisp. The apples where slightly yellow in color and with a name like ginger gold hard to resist. Look at the picture and tell me, aren't they the most good looking apples you have ever seen?

As Fall approaches apples are the only thing that makes me look forward to the shortening days, lowering temperatures and waning sunlight. As you see fresh apples in your farmers markets give these crisp before the apple season runs out.

Apple Crisp is special because it was perhaps the first baked goodie we ever made (DH made and I helped) some 18 odd years ago. The recipe was from this very friendly front desk lady at his office. They were made for Christmas that year. That was the crisp that came to my mind. Just a food memory not the actual taste. Don't ask me why looking at apples in the intervening year not bring the same craving. I told you the apples were pretty looking! The guy in the farmer's market also parted this nugget that they are good cooking apples.

I wanted the most easiest of recipes and I found in here. I used gur sugar which is unrefined cane sugar which makes the resulting apple crisp slightly darker in color when compared to using brown sugar.

In a bowl mix together the flour, salt and brown sugar.
Keep the apples sliced and ready. Add the sugar flour mixture to the apple.
Mix the apples into the sugar/flour mixture so the apples are well coated. Separate them into greased ramekins or a bigger baking dish.
In a mixing bowl take the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder. Mix them together using a whisk.
Cut the butter into smaller pieces, and add them to the flour and incorporate it into the flour.
If using a fork and spoon don't work, use the tip of your fingers to incorporate the butter into the flour so it resembles small granules.
Sprinkle the butter-flour mixture on top of the apples in the ramekin and baking dish.
Bake in a 350F preheated oven for 35-40 minutes till the top is browned and crisp.

Apple Crisp
Preparation Time:20 minutes
Baking Time:30-40 minutes
    Preparing the apples
  1. 3 Ginger Gold apples or Granny Smith Apples - peel, core and slice the apples into thin half moons
  2. 1 cup brown sugar /jaggery - unrefined sugar - gur
  3. 1 tbsp flour
  4. a pinch of salt
  5. Preparing the crisp topping
  6. 3/4 cup flour (I used unbleached white whole wheat flour)
  7. 3/4 cup brown sugar /jaggery - unrefined sugar - gur
  8. 3/4 cup quick oats
  9. 1/4 tsp baking powder
  10. 1/4 tsp baking soda
  11. 8 tbsp cold butter

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Prepare the apples first. In a bowl combine the flour, sugar and salt. Use a whisk to mix evenly.
  3. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Add the sugar and flour mixture to the apples and mix to coat the apples.
  4. Grease ramekins (if you want individual portions) or a square baking dish. Add a couple of tbsp of apple to the bottom of the ramekins or all of the apples if using a baking dish.
  5. Now get the crisp topping ready, in a mixing bowl take the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder. Mix them together using a whisk.
  6. Keep the butter cold till you are ready to use it, cut the butter into smaller pieces, and add them to the flour and incorporate it into the flour using a fork or a spoon or both.
  7. If using a fork and spoon don't work, use the tip of your fingers to incorporate the butter into the flour so it resembles small granules.
  8. Sprinkle the flour-butter mixture on top of the apples in the ramekin and the baking dish.
  9. Bake for 35-40 minutes till the top is golden brown and crisp.
Serve warm with ice cream or they are perfect as is.

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