Sunday, February 28, 2016

Cluster Beans (Kothavaranga) with Potatoes in Moong Dal

Cluster bean is a vegetable that has been in the periphery of my kitchen and peeking in only occasionally. Usually bought for making paruppu usili which is a delicious roast of blended dal and cluster beans.

This was until I grew some cluster beans out of curiosity last summer. Suddenly I had the freshest cluster beans and needed some recipes to use them up. I tried a few recipes that my mom had sent, all of them good. The one with peanuts became by far my favorite but before I had the chance to try it another time the season came to an end. Cluster beans freeze astonishingly well. So the excess that I could not use I froze which is coming handy now in the dead of winter.

Some of my favorite recipes with cluster beans or kothavaranga (in Tamil).
Cluster Beans (Kothavaranga) with Peanuts

Cluster beans in tamarind sauce - Kothavaranga pulikulambu

Kothavaranga Paruppu usili - Cluster beans and blended dal roast

To this list can be added this recipe. Neither a sambhar or a North Indian subzi but a combination of both, inspiration for which came from this recipe on Mayeeka.

In a pressure cooker heat oil and add the seasonings. Saute the onions, green chilies and tomatoes. Add in the spice powders and mix it in.
Add in the vegetables, the cooked dal and enough water.
Pressure cook for a whistle.

Using a pressure cooker is the fastest way to cook dinner on a weekday night and this was no different. I cooked the moong dal and then added it to the vegetables, but you can add moong dal directly and pressure cook with the vegetables too.

Cluster Beans with Potatoes with Moong Dal
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:25-30 minutes
  1. 2 Potatoes
  2. 2-3 cups of cut cluster beans fresh or frozen (I used frozen)
  3. 2 tomatoes chopped
  4. 1/2 cup of chopped onions (optional)
  5. 2 tsp of grated fresh ginger
  6. 4 green chilies chopped or slit
  7. 1 tbsp coriander powder
  8. 2 tsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
  9. 2 tsp turmeric powder
  10. 1 cup moong dal
  11. salt to taste
  12. 2 tsp oil
  13. seasonings: cumin seeds, asfoetida

  1. Cook moong dal and set aside.
  2. In a pressure cooker heat oil and add the seasonings. Add in the onions and green chilies and saute till the onions start to brown.
  3. Add in the tomatoes and saute till it gets mushy.
  4. Add in the coriander , chili and turmeric powders and mix it in.
  5. Add in the potatoes and saute for a minute or two and then add in the cluster beans and saute for a couple of minutes more.
  6. Add in the moong dal and 1 1/2 cups of water and salt and let it come to a boil.
  7. Place the lid and and let it come to a whistle and turn off the heat.
Serve with steamed rice.

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Cheese Grits (using Electric Cooker)

What exactly is Grits? Grits is made by cooking coarsely ground corn (maize) with water or milk. The coarsely ground corn itself is also called grits. What if I tell you that grits has become a big time favorite around our house? You should not be surprised.

Grits is not the same thing as corn meal. Grits has a much coarser texture than corn meal and both are not interchangeable and grits is not polenta either. Look for stone ground grits for the best taste.

Corn Grits and Corn Meal

Take the corn grits and water in a electric cooker and let it cook for about 25-30 minutes.
When the grits have cooked and the water is almost all absorbed add butter, pepper followed by the cheese.
Mix in the butter,pepper and cheese so it is uniform. Switch off the cooker.
Plate the grits with the spicy meat or vegetables on top.

I have been thinking about making grits for a long time now. DH who went to school in the South has mentioned it a bunch of times. Trying something new does not come easily. Anyway a friend gave me a bag of stone ground grits and it was sitting in the pantry for a couple of months and then one fine day I decided to give it a try. I have no idea why we hadn't tried it for this long. We had it for lunch with some roasted chicken and it was fantastic. Grits make for a perfect breakfast as well. We kind of prefer to eat grits with some spicy meat or vegetables on the side.

Once you have cooked plain grits, cheese grits cannot be far behind. Cooking grits is very easy. You can either do it on the stove top or in an electric cooker. Even when cooking in the electric cooker you need to stir it now and then so the cooked grits does not settle in the bottom.

The Cheese grits can be had for breakfast with a few jalapenos ;) on the side or just by themselves. Or plain grits cooked with milk drizzled with honey and sprinkled with dried fruits on top. Fresh fruits and some Greek yogurt would work great as well.

But the recipe we are going to talk about today is cheese grits. Extremely tasty. While grits with shrimp is the popular southern delicacy, I made some spicy minced turkey which was paired with the grits and Burrito style black beans. For vegetarians a side of black beans like this Burrito Black and Kidney Beans works great.

I looked up this recipe from Alton Brown but I did not use corn meal and did not cook it in milk. While it might be ok for corn meal to be cooked with milk I would recommend using water for cooking grits and then adding milk later in the cooking process if wanted.

Cheese Grits
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Roasting Time:25-30 minutes
  1. 3 cups of stone ground grits
  2. 12 cups of water
  3. 1/2 tbsp butter
  4. 1 cup of Parmesan cheese (or any cheese you prefer)
  5. 2 tsp black pepper
  6. 2-3 tbsp chopped jalapeno pickled pepper (optional)
  7. 1/2 tsp salt

  1. In an electric cooker add the grits and water and let it cook for 25-30 minutes till the water is absorbed and grits are nice and creamy.
  2. Every 5 minutes or so open the lid and stir the grits so that they do not settle on the bottom.
  3. When most of the water is absorbed add the butter, pepper, jalapeno pepper if using and cheese, give a good stir and turn off the cooker.
  4. Note: If serving the cheese grits all by themselves be sure to add the jalapeno peppers and more cheese on top while serving.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mushroom Masala Gravy (with Pressure cooker)

You must be wondering how a political junkie like me has not talked about the election once this election season. The thing is, the political circus is a little too much fun even for me. I can't stand any of them and it is better not to watch it compared to watching and screaming at the idiot box. In the words of Joseph de Maistre, lawyer, diplomat, writer and philosopher in French "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite" which roughly translates - Every nation gets the government it deserves.

Let's move on to the recipe,

Mushrooms are versatile and come in handy for a quick simple or grand meal. It is big favorite of DD2 and so I buy it at least every other week. While a dry mushroom pepper fry is the most quickest and easy way to prepare mushrooms and is by far her favorite, making a spicy creamy gravy as a side dish for some Indian flat breads is my favorite.

I was looking for a recipe for mushrooms gravy when I came across this recipe I had seen on Sindhi Rasoi. I especially like the no grinding part and using the pressure cooker. You can cook the mushrooms in no time.

In a pressure cooker, saute the onions, tomatoes and green chilies along with the ginger, add a cup of water and let it pressure cook for 3 -4 whistles.
Chop the mushrooms into desired shape and soak the cashews in water.
Once the pressure is released mash the onion - tomato mixture and add in the spice powders.
Add in the chopped mushrooms and mix it. Let it cook for about 6-8 minutes.
Blend the cashews to a smooth paste and mix it not the mushroom gravy, add salt and cook till the desired consistency is reached. Sprinkle the chopped coriander leaves.

Serve the creamy and also spicy gravy with any kid of Indian flat breads or rice or even toasted bread.

Mushroom Masala Gravy
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:30 minutes
  1. 1 lb of Cremini Mushrooms (cut into 4)
  2. 1 1/2 red onions chopped fine (about 2 cups of chopped onions)
  3. 5-6 green chilies chopped
  4. 1 1/2 cups of chopped tomato
  5. 1/2 tbsp of grated ginger
  6. 1/2 tbsp of kuzhambu thool or any curry powder
  7. 2 tsp turmeric powder
  8. 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder or (1/2 tbsp of Kashmiri Chili powder + 2 tsp of red chili powder)
  9. 2 tbsp of cashews
  10. salt to taste
  11. handful of coriander leaves
  12. 2 tsp of oil
  13. seasonings: cumin seeds

  1. In a pressure cooker, heat oil and when hot add cumin seeds.
  2. Add in the chopped onions and green onions and saute till the onions starts to brown. Add in the ginger and saute for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add in the chopped tomatoes and saute for a minute, add a cup of water and pressure cook for 2-3 whistles.
  4. Let the pressure release and use a masher to gently mash the onions and tomatoes.
  5. Add in the turmeric powder, chili powder and the kuzhambu thool and mix it in.
  6. Turn the heat to medium and add in the chopped mushrooms and mix it in and let it cook for about 8-10 minutes. The mushroom will release enough so there is no need to add any extra water.
  7. Add in the blended cashew paste and salt and mix it in and let it boil for another 5 minutes or so or till the desired consistency is reached.
  8. Add the coriander leaves and turn off the heat.

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Hand pounded Sona Masuri Rice

Back in my grandparents' house the rice that was cooked regularly was always hand pounded rice. The color was not pearly white like the polished rice but slightly off-white in color but not exactly brown.

So what is the difference between brown rice and hand pounded rice? Brown rice retains all of the bran and germ while only the husk is removed from either the raw or par boiled rice. Hand pounded rice on the other hand uses a stone pounder in a mortar to remove the husk and some of the bran to give a minimally polished rice. White rice is processed to remove all of the husk, and bran depleting the rice of fiber making it full of starch.

I chanced upon hand pounded raw sona masuri rice in my local Indian grocery rice. I bought it to give it a try and have been buying it ever since. Purely for nutrition purposes brown rice might be better compared to hand pounded rice. Finding brown sona masuri rice or ponni rice is not easy. I actually prefer the hand pounded rice over brown rice.

Cook it the same way you would rice. It does not turn to mush that easily and can be used for whatever recipe you would use white rice.

Cooking hand pounded rice
  1. Wash the rice in several changes of water till it runs clear.
  2. Soak the rice for about 20-30 minutes.
  3. In a pressure cooker, add the rice along with the required amount of rice and cook for 2-3 whistles.
  4. I use 2 - 2 1/2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice. The longer you soak the rice, the lesser water you should for cooking.
  5. You can cook the rice on stove top as well.
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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Indian Mixed Vegetables Fried Rice (no soy sauce)

Remember a few blog posts ago I was talking about Mindfulness? I was reminded of it again when I drove into oncoming one day last week. Not to worry, nothing untoward happened that time but it could have been bad. I had several things in mind, had an argument with DH and was driving DD2 to a birthday party. If you know DD2 she seems to live her life primarily for socializing. DH and I have become full time chauffeurs driving her around for her numerous appointments.

Well anyway this particular time I was driving her to a town that I am not too fond of driving to. The town seems to have been planned in concentric circles and a big jigsaw puzzle, so if you miss a turn, you are better off driving back to your starting location and starting over than trying to find your way. So on this day I was peering at the GPS specifically so I don't get lost and when I had to make a left turn, turned straight onto the direction of oncoming traffic and ended up going in the wrong direction. I quickly realized my mistake by it was too late, understood why someone honked as I turned.

With glares from some of the drivers, with some looking at me in astonishment and few others wondering what in the world I was up to, slowly inched my way forward in the wrong direction. Lucky for me there was no concrete median but only grass so I could drive on that till I reached the intersection where I could turn. With blinking flashers I reached the intersection where I could safely merge into the road going the right way. Phew! a few very but what seemed like very long embarrassing minutes on the road :(

The incident is mostly my fault for not paying enough attention to the road and also an example of not being mindful and also more importantly of electronic distraction, even the ones that are supposed to help. All is well that ends well. I decided to be more tolerant of drivers who make mistakes on the road, a few of them were tolerant and changed lanes to help me pass when I did a stupid thing on the road. I would like to keep in mind mindfulness and try pay attention solely to what I am doing. Drive safely everybody without distractions.

Now on to the recipe,

If you have ordered Fried Rice in an Indian restaurant in India not a Chinese restaurant, you will see that the fried rice has no color at all, it is white the color of the rice of course, speckled with vegetables for color. Spiced with just pepper powder the rice is flavorful all by itself. Mostly when I think of fried rice that is what I am thinking of but after living here in the US for a while fried rice has come to represent something else altogether.

Recipe in pictures,
Cook the rice and spread it out to cool. Cut the vegetables into strips and keep them ready.
Chop the green onions and have them ready. In a heavy bottomed, wide mouthed pan add oil and when hot add the green onions and saute till they are wilted.
. Add in the vegetables one by one till they are cooked but still crunchy. Add in the rice and mix it in.
Add in pepper powder and salt if required and mix it into the rice evenly and gently so the grains don't break.

That is pretty easy to make isn't?

Indian Mixed Vegetables Fried Rice
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:30 minutes
  1. 2 cups of Basmati rice washed and soaked for 20-30 minutes.
  2. 1 Green Bell Pepper cut into thin 1 inch strips
  3. 3-4 Carrots cut into strips
  4. 1 cup of French cut Green Beans
  5. 2 cups of thinly cut green cabbage
  6. 2 bunches of green onions chopped - green and white parts
  7. 1/2 tbsp of grated ginger
  8. 3/4 tbsp black or white pepper powder
  9. salt to taste
  10. 1 tbsp oil

  1. Cook the soaked Basmati rice along with 2 tsp of oil and salt. (I used a pressure cooker but stove top is fine). The grains should be nice and separate. Once cooked spread the rice on a platter to cool.
  2. In a wide mouthed pan heat the rest of the oil and add the green onions and saute till they are completely wilted.
  3. Add in the ginger and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the bell peppers first, saute for a minute or two, add in the beans and carrots and saute for another 4-5 minutes. Just enough the vegetables should still retain the crunch.
  5. Add in the cabbage and saute for 2-3 minutes more. Add salt. (remember you have also added salt to the rice.
  6. Add the rice separating them as you add them. Sprinkle the pepper powder and gently mix it into the rice. Make sure the rice is fully coated and if required sprinkle a bit more oil. Take care not to break the grains of rice.
Tastes good all by itself or add with a side of mildly spiced egg curry or paneer or cauliflower curry.

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