Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cauliflower Sabzi (Side)

Dec 7th 2010

When I think of Cauliflower, I can hear in my head many an aunty's voice " I got only english vegetables in the market today." Cauliflower, Bell peppers and the like are so called English vegetables by many a south indian ladies. In my mind, English or American or Indian, if it is a vegetable that tastes good, can be made easily, I treat them all equally in my home :)

Anyway, I love this vegetables because it is very versatile. It can be fried, boiled and used in curries and sautéed and used as sides. One step further and it can either be used slightly cooked/raw in salads or be baked as a casserole. Some argue that it does not have a distinct taste but I beg to differ there. I think it has a very distinct taste and actually absorbs other flavors well too.

This is a quick and easy dish that goes well with most south indian gravies mixed with rice. It can also be eaten by itself, rolled in a chappathi as a vegetable roll or mixed with some cheese and used a filling for a sandwich.

Difficulty level : Easy 

Time:  under 30 min

  • 1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
  • turmeric powder ( a pinch)
  • oil
  • mustard ( 1 tbsp)
  • urad and chana dal ( 1 tbsp each)
  • red chillies ( 2-3)
  • curry leaves ( a few)
  • salt ( to taste)
  • curry or sambar powder ( 2 tbsp)
Method de Preparation
  1. Wash and cut  cauliflower in florets.
  2. Keep in a microwave bowl, sprinkle sufficient water and cook for 5-6 minutes in gaps so the vegetable becomes slightly soft. Alternative is to cook covered but that causes it to become mushy.
  3. Take oil in a pan, add the mustard and when it splutters, add the red chillies, urad and chana dhal.
  4. Then add the vegetables and a pinch of turmeric.
  5. Saute without poking too much, stirring occasionally.
  6. Once the vegetables are mostly cooked, add the salt and curry/sambar powder. 
  7. Finally add some curry leaves and turn off heat.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Black Bean Macaroni

Dec 1st 2010

Having grown up for the first 20 odd years of my life with little or no cheese at all, it is surprising how much I care for it now. I love cheese and I love the Pioneer woman because she does use a lot of it! However she does use a lot of meat and others that I leave out or substitute with some vegetarian ingredients. (Please read PS right now) Or like in this recipe, throw in something totally unexpected.

This is a great make ahead dish, that you take to parties, also for large groups at home, or when you are home for the holidays. It is simple but oh so divine. If you leave the Black Bean burgers out of it, it becomes your plain jane macaroni. Add them in and you will not be disappointed, I assure you.

Difficulty level : Easy 

Time:  30-40 min


  • 4 cups Macaroni or any other pasta ( I have used Penne here)
  • 8 Tablespoons Butter (Salted Butter)
  • 2 whole Medium Onions, Cut In Half And Sliced Thin
  • 2 morningstar black bean burgers (Thawed and cooked in the oven per instructions)
  • ¼ cups All-purpose Flour
  • 2 cups Whole Or 2% Milk
  • ½ cups Half-and-half
  • 2 whole Egg Yolks, Beaten
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • ½ cups Grated Gruyere Cheese
  • ½ cups Grated Fontina Cheese
  • ½ cups Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
  • 4 ounces, weight Chevre (soft Goat Cheese)

Method de Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta for half the time of the package instructions or slightly more. Drain and set aside.
  3. Thaw and cook black bean burgers per instructions in the oven, keep aside.
  4. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet and then saute onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown and soft. Set aside.
  5. In a pot, melt 4 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 1 minute. Pour in milk and half & half, then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick. Reduce heat to low. Add salt & pepper to taste. 
  6. Beat egg yolks and drizzle 1/4 cup hot mixture into the yolks, stirring constantly. Stir to combine. Pour egg mixture into sauce and cook for another minute.
  7. Add cheeses and stir until melted. Add onions and burgers cut into small pieces and stir. Taste for seasonings and add more salt if needed. Add cooked pasta and stir to coat.
  8. Reserve and sprinkle some onions on the top, before you put it in the oven to bake.
  9. Pour into a baking dish and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until sizzling and hot. Serve as is or with any salad on the side.
PS:  I have recently learnt that a lot of cheeses contain animal enzymes which makes them non-vegetarian. I have also found that many brands make cheese without them, eg. Tillamook. So please read the label before you buy your cheese.

Confessions: I was super excited to try this recipe and when I eventually did, I went overboard and used 7 not 4 (yes, you read it right the first time!) cups of pasta.  It was a mistake, not intentional. Sheesh, you guys started judging me, I know. Hence the sauce looks lesser than in Ree's pictures. But I have to say one could get away with 5 cups easily and still have a pretty creamy macaroni.

SourceFancy Macaroni

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vazhakkai Poduthuval (Raw Banana Sabji )

Nov 30th 2010

Banana can be made two ways, one where it does not taste sweet , cooked when raw and must be eaten immediately ('cos it hardens and becomes dry with time), and the other where you allow it to ripen some and this tastes soft and a little bit sweet. In many south Indian weddings, ingredients are fresh roasted and added to this slightly ripe variety along with ground coconut. This however is a quick and easy dish that goes well with most south indian gravies mixed with rice. 

Difficulty level : Easy 

Time:  under 30 min

  • 3-4 bananas with slightly yellowed skin (peeled)
  • turmeric powder ( a pinch)
  • oil
  • mustard ( 1 tbsp)
  • urad and chana dal ( 1 tbsp each)
  • red chillies ( 2-3)
  • curry leaves ( a few)
  • scraped coconut ( 1 tbsp)
  • salt ( to taste)
  • hing or asafoetida ( a pinch)
  • Dosai Molagai podi/powder ( 2 tbsp)
  • Lime juice ( a tsp or so)
Method de Preparation
  1. Wash and cut bananas into small cubes.
  2. Take oil in a pan, add the mustard and when it splutters, add the red chillies, urad and chana dhal.
  3. When both slightly brown, add a pinch of asafoetida (hing).
  4. Then add the vegetables and a pinch of turmeric.
  5. Close partially for the first few minutes with a lid so the vegetable can cook (optional). Don't allow to cook too much as it will become mushy. Cover and cook only if the vegetable feels hard when you cut it.
  6. Once the banana is soft to your touch ( to remove any uncertainty take a piece out and squish with your fingers to check), add the coconut and the dosai molaga podi.
  7. Top off with salt and curry leaves and a little bit of lime juice.

Source: my friend Sangeetha

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mixed Vegetable Medley

Nov 23rd 2010

You know the times when you have just too little of each to make anything substantial? 2 carrots, 2 capsicums, one onion, a tad bit of tomato, barely a potato and maybe some peas? Head straight here to this recipe which is sure to use all of that and also leave you wanting some more :)

I should actually call this my one inch recipe, you will soon know why.

  • 1 inch square chopped green bell pepper (2 nos)
  • 1 inch cubed potatoes (2 medium sized)
  • 1 inch cubed carrots (2 nos)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 large onion chopped in 1 inch squares
  • peas (1/2 cup) - optional
  • Tomato ketchup or Maggi hot and sweet chilly sauce ( 3 tbsp)
  • salt
  • turmeric
  • chilly powder (1 tbsp)
  • garam masala (1/2 tbsp)
  • kasoori methi (1 tbsp)
  • oil
  • ginger garlic paste (1 tbsp)
Method de Preparation
  1. Take oil in a pan, add the ginger garlic paste. Once cooked add the chopped onions.
  2. On the side, cook the carrot and potato sprinkled with a little bit of water in the microwave  for about 4 mins (optional).
  3. Once the onions are done, add the carrot and potato, saute and cook well. Add salt and a bit of turmeric. If you have not cooked the veggies in the microwave, just cover with a lid and allow to cook some here.
  4. Once this is done, add the capsicum, saute some.
  5. Add the chilly powder and garam masala. Saute some more.
  6. Add the tomato ketchup (Maggi hot and sweet is even better) and allow everything to cook together.
  7. Add salt if needed. Season with kasoori methi and turn off heat.
  8. Serve with chappatis or with rice and dhal or just pack for lunch the next day.

Keerai Thandu Kootu [Spinach leaves/stalks curry]

Nov 23rd 2010

Time is off late a commodity that I value a lot. I am often having to challenge what is a priority to do with the one hour I get. Sometimes blogging time wins, sometimes it is a book, sometimes it is just sleep. Today, I am here, so let us get to business, and tomorrow is another day!

This is a simple recipe for a south indian curry that goes well with rice or on the side. I actually use the stalks that come with beet-root.  One can use either that or any other fresh spinach or the like.

  • Chopped and washed beetroot stalks +leaves ( ~ 2 cup)
  • Moong dhal - 3/4 cup in 3 cups of water 
  • Salt
  • turmeric powder (a pinch)
To roast and grind
  • grated coconut (1 tbsp)
  • pepper corns (1 tbsp)
  • jeera (1 tbsp)
  • urad dhal (1 tbsp)
To temper
  • oil
  • mustard (1 tbsp)
  • urad dhal (1 1/2 tbsp)
Method de Preparation
  1. Cook beet-root stalks/leaves in a vessel without closing it with water and some salt and turmeric till the stalks are soft.
  2. Cook in another vessel in the open (do not pressure cook) moong dhal with the required water with turmeric. Allow to cook to the point where it can be gently mashed when you press between fingers.
  3. In a tbsp of oil, roast all the ingredients listed till slightly brown, grind when cool and keep aside.
  4. Once 1 and 2 are done, mix together, add the ground mix, allow everything to come together. Add more salt if required.
  5. Season with mustard and urad dhal in a little bit of oil and you are done :)
Variations: You can reduce/increase the amount of peppercorn according to spice level. Reducing/Increasing amount of moong dhal will help you vary consistency.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Asparagus Paruppu Usuli (Lentil Mix)

Oct 24th 2010

Usuli is another south indian side-dish that is extremely tasty but often not made by our generation because it falls under that too much prep work category. Easy as it is, I have seen it being delegated to that "must-have-list" when mom or mom-in-law comes visiting.

I like this dish for the simple reason that the paruppu (lentil) mix that you add to your vegetable of choice can be prepped in advance one weekend when you have some time to spare and can be used another weekend when you don't have too much of that elusive time. Additionally it is a lifesaver when you have guests over suddenly. And it is a good way to get your vegetable and protein within one meal.

Difficulty level : Easy - Medium

Time: 30 min ( Prep Time), 20 min ( Cooking Time)

  • Thoor dhal ( 1 cup)
  • Chana dhal ( 1/3 cup)
  • Urad dhal ( 1 tbsp)
  • Red and green chillies ( 2 -3 nos each)
  • Asafoetida or hing
  • salt
  • Curry leaves
  • Turmeric powder
  • oil
  • mustard (1 tbsps)
  • chana dhal (1 1/2 tbsp)
  • urad dhal (1 1/2 tbsp)
  • Asparagus (a bunch)
Method de Preparation
  1. Soak the first three dhals together in water for about an hour. Drain for a 1/2 hour and then grind coarsely in the blender with the chillies, hing, curry leaves and some salt. This paste should be quite thick like hummus for example. Don't soak or drain for too long as then the dhal will end up becoming too soggy and will not separate out.
  2. Add a tbsp of oil to the paste and mix well and cook in a pressure cooker without the weight (meaning used a steamer) for a good 10-15 min until you see a lot of steam come out.  This is a good time to close your eyes and visualize how you would like to let out steam the same way! Turn off heat and allow both yourself and the cooker to cool.
  3. Meanwhile wash and chop the asparagus finely. Bend the asparagus and the point where you see it no longer bends and that is the part that needs to be discarded, however I uniformly just discard the last 1 inch or so. Use any other green vegetable here - beans, broccoli, Avarakkai, Kothavarangai etc. I especially like asparagus because I think the taste compares to the mother of paruppu usulis - vazhaipu paruppu usuli (Banana flower).
  4. Take oil in a pan, add mustard and when it splutters, add the chana and urad dhal and a few red chillies too if you like. Finally add a couple of curry leaves and add the steamed mix and separate it out into powder like consistency. If you are making more than what you will use at one go, at this point make separate packets and freeze once cooled.
  5. Cook the asparagus sprinkled with water and salt/turmeric and a little bit of oil in a pan. When you find the vegetable softened and cooked (~ 4-5 min) add the required amount of usuli to it and your paruppu usuli is ready.
  6. Serve this with rice and ghee or with any kind of Morkhuzambu.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chow Chow Sweet Kootu (Chayote Squash Sweet Curry)

Oct 23rd 2010

Chayote Squash is one of my favorite vegetables for a few reasons. It can be used in curries, as a vegetable and is something that is very usable in dishes for kids because it has a sweet taste of its own and does not need too much seasoning. Additionally it can be stored for more than a week and still stays good before cooking. This recipe you can say has its roots from my Palghat iyer background as it uses coconut and jaggery :) This goes very well with rice and podi or on the side with chappatis too. 

  • Chayote Squash -2 nos (cut in small symmetrical cubes)
  • Chana dhal - 1/2 cup
  • Oil
  • Mustard  (1 tbsp)
  • Urad Dhal ( 1 tbsp)
  • grated coconut ( 1 tbsp)
  • turmeric powder
  • salt
  • jaggery  or brown sugar ( 1 tbsp)
To grind

  • red chillies (1-2 nos)
  • grated coconut ( 1 tbsp)
  • jeera ( 1 tsp)
  • Curry leaves ( 2 nos)
Method de Preparation
  1. Grind red chillies, coconut, curry leaves and jeera and keep aside.
  2. Cook chana dhal and chayote squash in a pressure cooker with salt/turmeric and water (~ 1:3) slightly. Allow equivalent of 1 whistle. Alternative is to cook just the chana dhal in the cooker with just enough water and the chayote squash outside to prevent it from becoming mashed.
  3. When done, take the cooked mix out, transfer into a container and place on heat directly.
  4. Add the ground mixture and allow everything to come together. When you see the mixture begin to foam and bubble turn off heat. At this point, add the jaggery and it will dissolve on its own.
  5. Season in oil a little bit of mustard, when it splutters add urad dhal and finally the other 1 tbsp of coconut and roast till slightly brown. 
  6. Transfer carefully to top the dish like you will do if you are the chef on food network and enjoy!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kadamba Sambar ( Mixed-Vegetable Lentil Soup)

October 18th 2010

Sambar is to a south indian meal what bread is to American Cuisine, or cheese is to  Italian cuisine. It is kind of the main entree when you prepare a south indian meal consisting of these lentil soups - sambar, rasam and the like. 

Sambar can be made with many types of vegetables - onions, drumstick, potato, spinach, okra  (vendakka) etc. Kadambam means a mix. The first thing that comes to my mind is the Kadambam string of flowers that are sold that one would wear on their hair. It is a mix of orange, white flowers and some green leaves/stalks. I am somehow very fond of this highly colorful beautiful concoction. Similarly a Kadamba sambar means one in which you use many different vegetables and allow the flavors to all come together. You can use any of the above and add carrots, cauliflowers etc. Try to not add too many and too different types as you will not be able to savor the flavors.

This is served with rice and a side of any vegetable and of course some appalam/papadam or  karuvadam would be complete bliss!

Difficulty level : Medium

Time: 20 min ( Prep Time), 20 min ( Cooking Time)

  • Toor dhal ( 1 cup) cooked in the pressure cooker with water in the ratio 1:3
  • Tamarind ( a small lemon size ball)  or 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • Vegetables ( onions, capsicum, carrot, okra, brinjal) - cut in medium size about 1 1/2 cup
  • Tomates -2 nos - blend into juice 
  • sambar powder - 2 tbsps
  • Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
  • oil
  • mustard ( 1 tbsp)
  • urad dhal  (1 tbsp)
  • red chilly ( 2 nos)
  • curry leaves ( 3 nos)
  • cilantro (choppped into pieces) to season
  • Salt to taste
Method de Preparation
  1. Cook toor dal well in pressure cooker, and keep aside. Allow 3 whistles or equivalent.
  2. Extract tamarind juice by soaking it water, squeezing pulp, and repeat till water no longer turns brown in color. Easy way is to heat the tamarind in water for a  min in the microwave. This softens the pulp and allows you to extract the juice easily. This should yield about a cup or a 1 1/2 of tamarind water. Alternate is to use 1 tbsp tamarind paste.
  3. Take oil (about 2 tbsps) in a vessel, when heated, add mustard and allow to splutter.
  4. Add the red chilly and urad dhal and when slightly brown add the onions.
  5. Saute till half done, add the other vegetables.
  6. Keep medium heat and saute till well cooked. Add a little bit of salt and turmeric.
  7. When well cooked (squeeze vegetable to check- brinjal is the BLACK SHEEP here), add the tamarind juice.
  8. Allow to boil for about 4-5 min till the raw smell goes. In the meantime make the tomato puree in the blender.
  9. Add the tomato puree to the tamarind vegetable solution. Add a pinch of turmeric if needed and half the quantity of sambar powder.
  10. When tomato juice is cooked well ( raw smell goes - 2 mins or so), add required quantity of thoor dhal. [ If you are novice how do you know what is the required quantity? - Required quantity simply means adding enough thoor dhal such that the tangy taste of the tamarind is neutralized by this lentil, you can add 3/4 of the quantity mentioned above, take a quick taste and add the rest if required. Another hint is you will see the color change from a dark brown to more of a light brown as you add the dhal.]
  11. To this add the remaining quantity of sambar powder (take out any lumps) and required amount of salt and allow the whole mix to come together. About 2-3 mins. Turn off heat once you notice slight bubbles of heat in the liquid.
  12. Garnish with curry leaves and cilantro and serve hot with a rice and a tsp of ghee.       
Warning:  This is not a dish that is easy to master or of fixed proportions. I would try to make it at least thrice before you give up. Trust me once you master it, the taste and aroma will be worth it. And you will also start to notice the mediocre quality of sambar served in most Indian restaurants outside of India, don't say I did not warn you!

Variations:  You could add potatoes or cauliflower or drumstick too to the vegetables and skip the onions if you like.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Poori Masala

Sept 9th 2010

Poori - Masala is what you could call a classic. It is a snack/tiffin that kids are always very happy to come home to. And adults like my husband included still don't let go of their childhood favorite :)

This can very well be dinner or breakfast too. I mean who is to tell you when to eat what you like really?  The Chole recipe posted yesterday also go very well with these pooris. Without any further chit chat, let us get down to business.

Difficulty level : Easy 

Time:  40 min

Ingredients ( for Pooris)
  • 1 packet thawed Tortilla Land Flour or Rotiland Wheat Tortillas  (I get mine at Costco)
  • Oil to fry
Ingredients ( for Masala)
  • 5-6 potatoes cooked in pressure cooker with water and cooled
  • mustard seeds - 1 tbsp
  • urad dhal - 2 tbsp
  • chana dhal - 2 tbsp
  • green chillies - 3 t0 4 nos
  • cashews - 2 tbsp
  • ginger - 1 or 2 inch piece
  • hing - a pinch
  • curry leaves - 3 or 4 nos
  • onions -2 to 2 1/2
  • tomatoes - 1
  • peas - a cup
  • cilantro - a bunch chopped finely
  • water (if needed)
  • salt ( per taste)
  • turmeric powder - 2 pinches
  • lemon squeeze (optional)
Method de Preparation
  1. Put potatoes (unpeeled) in the pressure cooker with water and allow to cook well ( 3 whistles or equivalent). When cooled, peel, mash into big chunks and keep aside.
  2. Take oil in a pan, add mustard. When it splutters, add the urad, chana dhal. Add the green chillies (slit lengthwise) and ginger next (chopped finely). Finally add the cashews. Be generous here - throw in an extra few just in case :P
  3. When they all brown slightly, add the longitudinally chopped onions. Cook till translucent.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the peas. Add turmeric powder here.
  5. Cook well for a min or two and then add the potatoes.
  6. Add water if you like it watery ( like sago) else just add salt and allow everything to come together.
  7. When all done, season with curry leaves and chopped cilantro.
  8. Serve with pooris (tortillas) cut in 4 and fried in medium hot oil.
Chef's Tip:   You can skip the ginger and the lemon, based on your taste buds. You can add a little bit of water if you don't like the masala very firm. You can skip the tomatoes too if you like.

Confession: OK. I agree the pooris are not going to be round, but let us not be stereotypes here and think outside the box for a minute. Do we care more about the taste and convenience than about the perfect circle? We are not in geometry class anymore and can live with a bit of asymmetry, now can't we?

Source for Pooris:  Kavitha 

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