Showing posts with label Breakfast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Breakfast. Show all posts

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Idli, Dosa, Chutney: Brunch Perfection

V and I enjoy having friends over for casual gatherings on the weekends. Typically, people tend to meet for dinner on the weekends, but dinner-time is not at all my favorite time for entertaining. I'm an early bird who is up and about at 5 AM (yes, even on the weekends; especially on the weekends when there are so many fun things to look forward to). By 6 in the evening, I am pretty tired and crabby and not much fun to be around.

Brunch or lunch is my preferred social hour. You do your cooking in the morning, enjoy your friends and still have many more hours left in the day to relax or do something else.

A couple of weekends ago we had just such a gathering scheduled and I made my favorite brunch trio of idli, sambar and chutney. Our friends offered to bring along a dish. I always say yes to this gracious offer- potluck style equals less work for any one person. And I never worry too much about what-goes-with-what. We might end up eating some strange combinations of dishes but everything is always delicious. This time our pals brought over sweet french toast with maple syrup and juicy strawberries.

The camera candidly captured the table laid out with brunch- idlis, chutney and sambar. And a platter of cookies in the background for dunking into tea.
Pillowy challah french toast with sliced strawberries- brought over by our friends.
Idli, sambar and chutney is a trio that I have made so many times before (and posted so many times I've lost count), but never the same way twice! I keep tweaking the idli recipe to make them fluffier, fiddling with the sambar recipe to make it more like the kind from Udipi restaurants and varying the chutneys because there are so many to choose from.

1. The Idlis

For several years, I made idlis using recipes that call for idli rava. But there is such a difference between a good idli and a fantastic one- once you have eaten the latter you get spoiled for life. In my hands (meaning, there are surely ways to make the perfect idli with idli rava but I don't know what they are), the fluffiest idlis come about when you use a special variety of rice sold as idli rice- this rice is parboiled. My idli "aha" moment came last summer when V's aunt visited and I watched her make idlis with parboiled rice. Busy with baby and all, it was only now that I got to try my hand at it. If you have an electric stone grinder and if you have access to parboiled rice, you need to read these two posts from the The Yum Blog. I followed their proportion 1 (adding a fistful of poha for better fermentation), and followed all their excellent tips for grinding the batter. Even on that cold weekend, the batter rose gratifying well and the resulting buttery, fluffy idlis made me weep with joy. No exaggeration.

Update on March 18, 2012: In a comment on this post, Arch suggested that I try Vani's soft idlis. This weekend, I did and yes, this is an incredible recipe! The only difference is that I soaked the parboiled rice, ural dal and poha all together and ground them all together too. The idlis turned out soft and wonderful. So all in all, I think parboiled rice and poha make for successful idlis in my hands.

Idli stand- with molds to make 16 idlis at a time


2. Udipi Sambar

This time around I tried the Udipi Sambar recipe from Peppermill. A recipe from sweet beloved Miri; she is no longer with us but continues to be part of my life. Read her post for a lovely description of why this sweetish, coconut-laced version of sambar is beloved among those of us who ate at Udipi restaurants in Bombay. Here is my adaptation of Miri's recipe.
Udipi Sambar
1. Pressure cook 1/2 cup toor dal. Mash it well and set aside.
2. Heat a little oil in small pan. Add the following ingredients in this order and fry them, then cool and grind to a thick paste (in my case it was more like a wet powder).
  • 1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tsp. urad dal
  • 2 tbsp. coriander seeds
  • Few curry leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh/frozen coconut
3. You're ready to make sambar. In a large pan, heat 2 tsp. oil. Temper it with
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds 
  • 1 tsp. urad dal
  • Pinch of asafetida
  • Sprig of curry leaves
4. Add vegetables- I used chunks of red onion this time. Batons of drumsticks, carrot, baby onions, cubes of eggplant, pumpkin all work well. Stir fry for a few minutes. Add salt, red chili powder, turmeric, tamarind paste and jaggery to taste. Add a cup of water, cover and cook for a few minutes.
5. Now stir in the masala paste and toor dal from step 1 and 2. Simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavors and consistency before serving.

3. A fresh verdant chutney
I use a coffee grinder as my "mixie" and it works for the most part but the coconut chutney made with fresh frozen coconut never seems to be quite as silky smooth as I would like. The idea for using coconut milk instead of fresh/frozen shredded coconut came from Vaishali's post from many years ago. This recipe will give you beautifully smooth chutney in any old blender.

Cilantro Coconut Chutney
1. Blend together and scrape into a serving bowl:
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 chopped hot green chili (or green chili paste to taste)
  • 1/2 cup dalia or roasted chana dal (phutane in Marathi)
  • 1 mini can coconut milk (5.6 oz. or 2/3 cup)
2. Make a tadka or "tempering" with:
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. urad dal
  • 1 tsp. chana dal
  • Pinch of asafetida
  • Sprig of curry leaves
3. Stir in:
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh lemon juice
Anyway, this brunch was a labor of love and so utterly rewarding. Our friends had never tasted idli before and looked quizzically at these snow-white steamed cakes but a few bites later, I heard things like, "Why can't I stop eating these?".

That weekend was special for another reason. It was the first time Lila rolled over, leaving us speechless with delight. So that makes it two milestones- Lila taking the first step towards mobility and me making idlis that I am proud to share. That Monday, when co-workers asked the perfunctory question, "How was your weekend?", I could say with absolute sincerity that my weekend had been just perfect.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Baking Cakes in St. Louis

Apparently this year marks the worst allergy season in St. Louis. And don't I know it. It has been a miserable couple of weeks, and the reason for my unplanned absence from the blog. Experience tells me that I should grin and bear it, because luckily seasonal allergies are, well, seasonal, and they will go away in a few weeks.

I'm here to post a last-minute entry to one of my favorite food blog events, Novel Food, co-hosted by Lisa of Champaign Taste.

The book I chose is Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Perkin.


I've often spoken about my taste for simple and uplifting novels, and a reader named Arati recommended this book to me in this post- thank you, Arati, I enjoyed reading it.

This novel is set in a middle class home in modern Rwanda. Angel is a loving, nurturing woman who is raising five small grandchildren (after the unfortunate demise of both of her children) while also going through a hot-flash riddled menopause. She is a cake decorator by profession, and her specialty is elaborate custom-made cakes decorated in flourishes of colorful icing. As friends and neighbors drop in to order cakes from her, we hear about the stories of their lives- their hopes and dreams and secrets- as they fill out the cake order form while drinking a few cups of tea with Angel.

What makes the novel different from other books set in cozy domestic situations is that it is set in Rwanda, a country that has gone through terrible suffering in the recent past. Now, I am certainly concerned about issues like HIV/AIDS (euphemistically referred to as "the disease"), genocide and female genital mutilation ("cutting") and do my fair share of tsk-tsking about them. But these are distant problems for me and I can only think of them in abstract terms. In this novel, these issues get a human face as the characters grapple with them on a daily basis. The book gives a vivid description of modern life in Rwanda where ordinary folks are trying to rebuild lives after the genocide, and it provides a glimpse of the culture and mores of a country that I know little about, outside of the horrific images in the news.

The descriptions of the luscious and vibrant cakes that Angel makes for her clients are irresistible- at one point, I had the sudden urge to put the book down and do a web search for cake blogs just so I could feast my eyes on some beautifully decorated cakes. All in all, I highly recommend this book as a simple but meaningful read.

The cake I baked today is the exact opposite of the elaborate masterpieces that Angel makes. It is the simplest kind, a loaf cake to use up overripe bananas that were neglected in the past week. You don't have to be a professional baker to make this. It is a recipe that can be made by any home cook, even one who is living in a fog of anti-allergy medications.

A bag of spelt flour has been sitting in my freezer for several months, and I found a great way to use it in this vegan banana bread recipe from Lauren Ulm's cookbook. I adapted it slightly by reducing the amount of sugar and adding walnuts.

Banana Walnut Spelt Bread

(Adapted from the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook by Lauren Ulm)


1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Grease a loaf pan and line it with parchment paper is desired.

3. Mix the dry ingredients:
  • 2 cups spelt flour
  • 12 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. apple pie spice (or ground nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice)
  • 12 cup walnuts, chopped
4. Mix the wet ingredients:
  • 3 overripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork
  • 12 cup sugar
  • 12 cup oil
  • 2 tsp. molasses
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
5. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together gently.

6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean.

We tasted a small slice of the cake and it is delicious- fragrant, dense, nutty and filling. The rest of it will be sliced and packed so V can share it tomorrow with his cricket buddies.

I am so glad I borrowed the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook from the library; it has a dozen recipes that I can't wait to try, including several ways to dress up tofu in glossy marinades and a few different ways to make vegan "cheese" sauces.

Have a good weekend, and depending on how I am faring with my allergies, I'll come back in a few days with a couple of entries for Blog Bites: The Copycat Edition. I've been getting some fantastic entries and you still have a week to send in a post if you would like to.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Rice Cooker Upma

I was weighing the pros and cons of buying a rice cooker and did the sensible thing- I asked my wise readers to weigh in. My tiny kitchen space necessitates that all appliances go through a lengthy vetting process before being allowed in. When I asked about rice cookers, I was rewarded with dozens of great suggestions via comments and e-mails. The Cooker wrote in to say that you can make excellent  वाफे भरला (a Marathi term meaning full of steam) upma in the rice cooker. Ooh, that's just the kind of incentive I needed to go buy a rice cooker.

I tried it just this morning for a leisurely Sunday brunch, and she's right- the rice cooker makes excellent upma. All you do is make the tempering and get the vegetables started in a small pan on the stove top, then add these to the rice cooker with rava (cream of wheat) and water. Then walk away and come back to luscious upma wrapped in fragrant steam.

In Indian stores, you often find something called "roasted upma rava", which is coarser than regular rava and pre-roasted. If you are using the regular kind, roast the rava before you use it in this recipe.

Rice Cooker Upma
(makes 3-4 servings)

1. Heat 2 tsp. oil in a medium saute pan and add the tempering-
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
Pinch of asafetida
1 tsp. urad dal
1 tsp. chana dal
1 sprig curry leaves

2. Stir in the following and cook until onions are translucent-
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
Handful chopped cashews (or peanuts)
1 medium onion, diced finely
2 hot green chillies, chopped in thirds

3. Stir in 2 cups mixed vegetables, cut in small dice. I used carrots, peas and green bell pepper this morning; corn, green beans, spinach, potato, lima beans, cauliflower work too. 

4. Now turn off the heat and transfer the contents of this pan to the rice cooker. 

5. To the rice cooker, add-
1 rice cooker measure roasted upma rava (my rice cooker came with this measure; it holds 180 ml versus 240 ml in a standard US cup)
Salt to taste
12 tsp sugar
3 12 rice cooker measures water

5. Plug in the rice cooker and let the upma cook. It will shift to the "warm" mode when it is done.

6. Stir in the following-
1 tbsp. ghee/butter (optional)
Handful of minced cilantro
Handful of grated fresh/frozen coconut
Lime or lemon juice

7. Serve with podi or pickles and something crunchy, if you like. 



This was incredible! I don't make upma very often because I don't like the frequent stirring, and the rava clumping and clinging to my spatula, then forming little volcanoes and spitting steam on me. This takes the fuss right out of it. Brunch just got a lot easier.

On the Bookshelf
I took a break from reading a couple of non-fiction books and the rather heavy Pulitzer prize winners to read something more entertaining.

Tarquin Hall has written a detective novel and his character is India's Most Private Investigator, Vish Puri. The book is set in contemporary Delhi, with trips to Jaipur and Jharkhand. It is a quick read and an engaging mystery, capturing the frantic energy of urban life in India, and is written in typically Indian English (which I love, because I speak it), sprinkled with phrases like "outside food" and "thank you, ji" and "listen, na".

There are countless references to food, like when Vish Puri devours green chili pakoras against his physician's orders-
"...he sank his teeth into another hot, crispy pakora and his taste buds thrilled to the tang of salty batter, fiery chili and the tangy red chutney in which he had drowned the illicit snack."
A reader named Vijaya recommended this book to me in a comment on this post; if you are reading this, thank you Vijaya!

What's on your bookshelf these days?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Crispy Dosa

The perfect antidote to dreary foggy winter days? A classic South Indian brunch of dosa slathered with potato masala and dunked into eggplant sambar.

I had my eye on Shilpa's butter dosa recipe for some time. The story of the crowded restaurant that served these dosas was so vivid, and the batter is very interesting in the way it uses wheat flour and rice flour in addition to rice and urad dal.

I made the batter exactly in the proportions described in the recipe (using sona masuri rice instead of dosa rice), and now my biggest mixing bowl is taking up half my fridge and holding enough dosa batter for the next 10 breakfasts! Not that I am complaining, but for a small family, the recipe could be easily halved. Placed in a warm oven overnight, the batter rose beautifully.

Here's how I make my potato masala. Have you noticed how vegetables taste different based on how you cut them? I like using thickly sliced onions in my potato masala, and lots of them, for a high onion:potato ratio.

1. Heat 2 tsp. oil and temper it with
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. chana dal
1 tsp. urad dal
pinch of asafoetida
1 sprig fresh curry leaves

2. Add 2 medium-large onions, cut in half and sliced thickly. Cook until translucent.

3. Add salt, turmeric, minced green chilli and a small dab of ginger garlic paste.

4. Add 3 medium boiled potatoes cut in small dice.

5. Stir around, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.

6. Garnish with lots of cilantro.

The final ingredient for making proper dosa is the cast iron pan. I know a lot of people like using non-stick pans for dosas. Non-stick pots and pans do play a small role in my kitchen, but my dosa-making was revolutionized when I bought my heavy cast iron tawa. In the US, these are sold as cast iron griddles and are quite inexpensive and built to last a lifetime. They heats to a high temperature and distributes heat evenly helps to make beautiful crisp dosas (I also use them for rotis, parathas and thalipeeth). I wash the pan only with water and a little salt if required, and over time, it is more of a non-stick quality than any non-stick pan I have ever used.



And just as we finished eating this brunch, the sun came out of hiding. Dosa always leads to good things.

I got a sweet "Kreativ Blogger" award from Ruchikacooks. Thank you! So here goes, 7 random things I am reading/watching/doing.



1. I read a wonderful book last week- Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Sitting down to a meal no longer feels like a simple act, with issues of food safety, food politics, the environment and the consequences of our choices weighing heavily on our minds. I am struggling to work these complex issues in my head, as are so many of my blogger friends. There are many books written on these subjects, and I confess that the complexity of the issues sometimes makes me so weary and vaguely guilty that I avoid reading the books for as long as I can. And that's why this particular book, where Kingsolver writes about her family's year-long experiment with eating local, was on my "I don't want to read it so much as I want to have read it" list ever since it came out. Last week, I finally checked it out the library, only because it was the book of the month in an online reading group that I participate in. Well, I started to read it, could not put it down, and finished it in a day and a half! Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is written with such gentleness and humor, I would highly recommend it to everyone who wants to enjoy a great read while also becoming better informed.

2. A book that I am savoring in small bites, one chapter at a time, is Eating India by Chitrita Banerji. Thank you for the superb gift, Bong Mom. The book has essays on trips to different parts of India and tales of the cuisines the author encounters. The essays are transporting me to different lands and are a joy to read for anyone who loved Indian regional food.

3. On a whim, I decided that one of my reading goals for 2010 would be to read all the Pulitzer prize fiction winners from 1979-2009. We talked about 2010 resolutions at a work meeting; everyone's goals were to eat healthy and exercise while mine was to read more novels! The one I'll start next is March by Geraldine Brooks. I loved Louisa May Alcott's Little Women as a kid, and this novel is the story as imagined from their father's eyes.

4. I'm also doing some lighter "comfort food" reading with At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon. Does anyone know of other books that are light and uplifting, like the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency series?

5. V and I enjoy watching British mysteries on DVD. Right now, we are watching the Inspector Morse series (although I prefer his successor, Inspector Lewis myself) and the Rosemary and Thyme series, where the two gardeners Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme work in lush gardens that make my eyes swim and solve murders while they are at it.

6. My super-talented sister made my day by mailing me a huge package full of cute things she sewed herself. I got a custom-made knitting bag so I can tote my UFOs (unfinished objects) around town in style, another cute bag, a belt and an apron. Dale got this personalized scarf in tiger print! Whee, I love getting presents, and handmade ones are priceless.


7. Instead of directly donating money for Haiti relief, I did something that was more fun for me. I knitted a baby hat and donated it to an Etsy shop to be sold, with all proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders. Some kind person bought my wee tomato hat for 20 bucks!

If you want to buy something handmade for Haiti relief, please visit the Craft Hope Etsy shop (keep checking frequently, because cute items are added all the time and sold literally in minutes). If you are a crafter and want to donate an item you made, visit this page for details. I'll be making more items for the shop as well, as I get time.

Have a wonderful week, everyone! And if you made it to the end of this ridiculously long post, congratulations.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Standardized Granola

If you do something often enough, you end up being able to do it in your sleep. Here is a recipe for granola that I make very often and usually first thing in the morning, around 5:30 AM, so I can make it in my sleep, both literally and figuratively.

V chomps his way through so much granola that it would be criminal to buy the expensive packaged stuff. I started off with a fairly typical recipe years ago, and then discovered this oil-free recipe. We thought the oil-free version was so much crunchier and tastier than the other recipe- how often does that happen, right? I have recipes for chocolate granola, applesauce granola and peanut butter granola in my bookmarks folder, but this is the only one I make over and over again.

I wanted to note down my standardized version here for future reference. I photographed it right on my beat-up, blackened-with-use, much-loved sheet pan.

Sept09_10

1. Preheat oven to 325 F and lightly grease a full sheet pan.

2. In a large bowl, mix
- 3 heaped cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 heaped cup chopped nuts (walnuts/cashews/pistachios/almonds/pecans)
- 1 tsp. cinnamon powder

3. In a glass measuring cup, mix
- scant ¼ cup sugar
- dollop of molasses
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. water
Microwave for 30-50 seconds (keep an eye on it!) until the sugar dissolves into a syrup. Remove the syrup and stir in 1 tsp. vanilla extract (it might splatter so be very careful).

4. Add the sugar syrup to the oats/nuts mixture and stir well to coat them uniformly.

5. Spread the mixture on the sheet pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring 2-3 times in between.

6. Once the pan is out of the oven, immediately stir
- handful of dried berries
- handful of chopped candied orange peel
- 3 tbsp. wheat germ
- 1 cup store-bought cereal (I use honey nut O's...this addition of cereal is optional. I like it for the added crunch and texture).

7. Let the granola cool completely before storing it at room temperature in an airtight container.

Serve with cold milk in summer and warm milk in winter. I prefer drowning granola in chocolate almond milk myself.

By the way, the vegetable from the last post is called Zephyr Squash- it is a hybrid.

Sept09_8


Garden Dreamer guessed it right! To everyone who played along, thank you.

Canine Update

As promised, an update on Dale- here you see him sitting in the back seat of our car, catching his breath, heading back home after a long Sunday evening walk in Forest Park.
Car_Dale

With Dale, everything is a journey and a process. When we first got him home, he was traumatized by his neglect and abuse of his early life and terrified of anything new. Getting him into a car so we could take him places was an ordeal that involved kicking (from him), screaming (from me) and scratches all around- I'm trying to erase those episodes from my memory. Today, Dale is a changed dog. Now it has gotten to the point where he runs to the car and wants to be driven everywhere. He lords it over the back seat and sticks his head out of the window, ears flapping madly in the wind. Pets teach us so much, and Dale has definitely given us an important life lesson: sometimes, you need to give someone time and patience and after second, third, fourth chances, they will come around. Just because you are afraid of something at first does not mean you have to fear it forever.

If you are a dog lover, you simply have to read Dana Jennings' essay in the NYT about lessons from the family dog. But beware, his essays are so touching and beautifully written that you might start weeping helplessly wherever you are.

Currently reading...

books
The book right on top of the pile (29 gifts) is interesting in concept; the writing is just so-so. It is the story of a woman recovering from a debilitating illness whose spiritual adviser gives her an unusual "prescription" that comes from an African tradition. She is to give away a gift every day for 29 days with intention and thoughtfulness in order to see changes in her own life. This is a challenge I'd love to take on one of these days.

See you in a few!

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Quick Breakfast Fix

Raaga is hosting Weekend Breakfast Blogging this month with the theme Express Breakfasts. I wake up at all sorts of unearthly hours, and am usually famished by the time the normal breakfast hour rolls around. Usually, quick breakfasts in my home can mean oatmeal, eggs or buttered toast with a spicy chutney sprinkled on it. But in honor of Raaga's undying love for Upma, that's what I whipped up for her.

On the menu today is the popular Maharashtrian breakfast- tikhat sanja. It is a sibling of the upma, the lovely Southern Indian dish which resembles a risotto made with coarse semolina. A brief "Compare and Contrast" exercise between the way I make upma and tikhat sanja reveals that-
(a) Upma is a creamy mass while sanja is fluffier and "looser" (for lack of a better description!)
(b) Upma does not usually contain turmeric while sanja is brightly yellow with turmeric.
(c) Upma is made with traditional Southern Indian "tempering" that includes urad dal and chana dal; sanja uses a simpler tempering of mustard seeds and cumin seeds alone. Following my mother's footsteps, I spike my upma generously with minced ginger too.
(d) Both are wonderful with nuts tossed in at the "tempering" stage (cashews for the upma and peanuts for the sanja).
(e) Both make for hot hearty breakfasts using simple pantry staples.
(f) Both can be fortified with vegetables like potato, peas, carrots and itty bitty cauliflower florets. This makes both of these dishes perfect candidates for "breakfast for dinner" nights.

Today, my kitchen is as bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard so here is a bare basics version of tikhat sanja. The one essential for Maharashtrian "hot breakfasts" like poha and tikhat sanja, in my opinion, is a generous garnish of fresh coconut and cilantro, along with a squeeze of lemon juice. Luckily, I had some fresh cilantro at hand thanks to a little pot growing on the windowsill, so the recipe pulled together nicely.

Tikhat Sanja

2008_94

Ingredients:
1 C roasted Upma rava (coarse semolina)
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 fresh chillies, minced
1 ¾ C boiling water
1 t sugar
salt to taste
Tempering:
1 t oil
1 t mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 pinch asafoetida
1 sprig curry leaves
½ t turmeric powder
Garnish:
2 t ghee/butter (optional)
Juice of half a lemon
2-3 T minced cilantro
2-3 T grated fresh/frozen coconut

Method:
1. Heat the oil and add the "tempering" ingredients. Stir in the onion and chillies and fry it for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the roasted rava, salt and sugar and stir around for a minute more.
3. Add the hot water (carefully!) and cook on a low-medium flame, stirring often, until the water is absorbed and the semolina fluffs up.
4. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and ghee/butter, if using. Garnish with coconut and cilantro and serve right away.

Tikhat sanja tastes fine just by itself, but you can also serve it with some namkeen/mixture or a scoop of yogurt or a dollop of pickles.

For those who like a little sweet something with their breakfast, here's a giant cupcake for you. It is fat-free, sugar-free and fiber-rich. Contains 100% fiber, in fact :D

Cupcake1


Cupcake2


Cupcake3

Sunday, April 06, 2008

More Dosa Love

Srivalli's Dosa Mela ("dosa" is a family of Southern Indian crepes/pancakes and "mela" is a gathering or fair) has me all excited. I have two recipes to take along to the dosa mela today: my version of the classic Mysore Masala dosa and then, specially for certain people who can't get dosa batter to ferment, a simple goduma dosa, that needs no soaking, grinding, fermenting or any other form of molly-coddling whatsoever.

Eating out at a dosa restaurant is always a lot of fun. Generally, the menu is long but predictable and having a working knowledge of dosa vocabulary goes a long way in making informed decisions about what dosa to choose from the menu!

What to expect when you are expecting dosa to be served :D
Dosa: An airy pancake/crepe made with fermented rice-lentil batter
Rava Dosa: Instead of the regular dosa batter, this dosa is made with a semolina (rava) batter; it is a dosa that looks lacier and has a different taste
Masala: Normal usage: spice; in the dosa context, this is a spicy, turmeric-tinged potato filling
Sada: This refers to "plain", sans potato filling
Mysore: This is a beautiful city in Southern India. In the dosa context, it means that the dosa will be smeared with a spicy chutney (either a paste or a powder)
Paper: An extra-crispy dosa that is as thin as paper
Ghee: Indian clarified butter will be used in copious amounts in the making of this dosa

So when you read "Sada Rava Dosa" or "Paper Masala Dosa" or "Ghee Mysore Dosa" on the menu, you know exactly what they are referring to. South Indian restaurants specializing in dosas are becoming more popular in the US, thank goodness. In NYC, I highly recommend the gunpowder masala dosa at Chennai Garden (they call it gunpowder for a reason, trust me). In St. Louis, I am told that a restaurant called Priyaa serves dosas, but I have yet to eat there. Of course, if you live in St. Louis, you can be nice to me and I'll be happy to invite you home for dosas ;)

The Mysore Masala Dosa is not difficult to make but I will say that it a multi-component dish: you need to make coconut chutney and sambar (who ever heard of a proper dosa meal without those fixings?) and for the dosa, you need some potato masala (my recipe for the potato masala is exactly like Sailu's) and chutney. The chutney that I am accustomed to seeing in Mysore dosas is the powdered kind (podi). This is not difficult to make at home, but I chose the lazy way out and used store-bought MTR chutney powder. The recipe for the dosa batter comes from the booklet 100 Tiffin Varieties by S. Mallika Badrinath. This tiny and inexpensive booklet is full of good ideas and recipes (well, a hundred of them, as advertised). Apart from a bunch of dosa recipes, she has 2 "Dosa Bonanza" tables (one for the soaking/grinding variety and one for the ready-mix variety) which cover about 20-some dosas in the space of 3-4 pages by cleverly putting columns in a spreadsheet: name of dosa, ingredients, seasonings, method of cooking, yield etc. Very efficient!

Mysore Masala Dosa

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(From Mallika Badrinath's 100 Tiffin Varieties; serves 2-3)
Ingredients:
Soak together for 5-6 hours:
½ C Brown rice
½ C Sona masuri rice (or other white rice)
1 heaped T urad dal
1 heaped T toor dal

¼ C poha (flattened rice flakes)
1 t salt (or to taste)

½ t sugar
1 ½ T rava (semolina)

Method:
1. An hour before grinding, soak the poha. Then, drain the soaked poha and add it to the soaked ingredients. Grind everything together into a smooth batter.
2. Add salt and ferment in a warm spot for 12-16 hours or until utterly bubbly.
3. An hour before making dosas, stir in the sugar and rava into the batter. The batter should be easy to pour- add some water if it is too thick.

Make thin dosas, using the back of the ladle to spread the dosa out on the skillet. These thin dosas only need to be cooked on one side. When the top of the dosa is dry, sprinkle some (or a lot!) of the chutney powder and a little bit of the potato stuffing. Fold, serve, eat...right away.
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I think the little bit of rava makes this dosa extra crispy and delicious. This was such a wonderful meal!

For a gorgeous version of Mysore Masala dosa, check this recipe from Ruchii. What's more, she is from Mysore!

In case you are still hungry, here is the second dosa. You mix two flours, pour in water to make a batter and make dosas. Easy breezy but delicious. The concept of using atta (fine whole wheat flour) for dosa is completely new to me. I followed Krithika's recipe for Goduma dosa, and halved it to get just enough dosas for two, and one little dosa just for Dale (he loves dosa like you would not believe; sits and begs by the stove until I feed him some). I did not bother to let the batter rest, and made sure that it was a very thin batter. These dosas are unlike any I have made before, the batter pours on the skillet and turns into this lacy pattern as it dances over the hot surface.
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I served these crispy dosas with Indosungod's Tomato Carrot Chutney- a clever recipe that uses carrot instead of coconut.
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*** *** ***

In the past couple of weeks, I have been trooping all over town meeting food bloggers here in St. Louis. First it was a St. Louis Food Bloggers potluck, hosted by Stef. Just as expected, it was a wonderful event, with good company and great food. Among other goodies, I tasted these lavender-pear cupcakes, gawked at IronStef's creations and could not get enough of this gorgeous orzo with roasted vegetables.

My own contributions to the potluck: Ragda-Patties with the works, and Carrot Halwa (although those posts are old ones, and the recipes I now use have been tweaked a bit).
I was in a silly mood, and shaped the patties as hearts. It turned out not to be such a bad idea after all; the heart-shaped patties have better stacking properties and I could fit more patties per square inch on the baking dish!
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It turns out that Stef's husband, Jonathan, is a professional photographer. Here is a gorgeous photo he took of my date-tamarind chutney being poured onto a patty:
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Then, yesterday, I got a chance to have coffee with Seema, just in the nick of time as she relocates to India in a few days. It was wonderful to sit and talk with her and get to meet her family, including an adorable toddler. Here's wishing Seema good times in her new home and plenty of good eats in her new kitchen in India.

Meeting up with food bloggers sometimes results in funny conversations in real life.

When I told my friend M about the bloggers potluck...
M: A Food Bloggers' potluck?? Can regular people go?
Me: No, you have to be a food blogger or be married to one!
M: Oh :( loose associations with food bloggers don't count, eh?


And when my friend J (who has no idea about this blog) asked about my weekend plans...
Me: I'm going to have coffee with a friend...she is relocating to India and I want to meet up with her.
J: How do you know her?
Me: Umm...I met her online...


Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sweet and Salubrious

Back to breakfast! All the new-and-improved breakfast treats I tried so far this month have been savory, in a frank display of my personal preferences. But every once in a while, I do crave a little sweet something to go along with my morning chai.

Today's whole-grain tweak: Using whole-wheat pastry flour and almond meal for baked goodies. Whole-wheat pastry four is a low-gluten flour of finely milled whole wheat. I started using it only this month, and am I loving it! It is the perfect substitute for all-purpose flour in a variety of popular breakfast foods like pancakes, coffee cake, biscotti and muffins. Apparently, it works even in a decadent chocolate cake!

Almond meal is nothing but almonds that are ground to a flour. I got mine at Trader Joe's, but of course it can be made it home by simply blitzing down almonds to a fine powder. Nut flours can go real rancid real fast, so I store it in the refrigerator. Almond meal is becoming more commonly available because it is a useful flour replacer for those who are on a low-carb or gluten-free diet. Almond meal can be creatively used in all kinds of sweet treats like apple crisp, cherry clafoutis, lemon ricotta-almond cake and also in savory recipes like Kalyn's breakfast muffins.

In a bid to use up some buttermilk left over from this recipe, I used the proportions given in this Vegetarian Times recipe to come up with a simple pear and almond loaf. Grated pears add a beautiful moist and sweet touch to this cake.

Pear Almond Loaf

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Ingredients:
1 ½ firm medium Pears
1 T Lemon juice

2 large Eggs
½ C Sugar

Dry Ingredients (mix together)
1 ½ Whole-wheat pastry flour
¾ C Almond meal
1 ½ t Baking powder
½ t Baking soda

Wet Ingredients (mix together)
¾ C low-fat cultured Buttermilk
2 T Applesauce
2 T Oil
1 t Vanilla extract (or almond extract)

Almond slivers for garnish

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease/spray a loaf pan.
2. Coarsely grate the pears (you need about 1 cup), add the lemon juice and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat together eggs and sugar for several minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
4. Add the dry and wet ingredients alternately, a third of each at a time, into the egg-sugar mixture and mix gently.
5. Press the extra liquid out of the grated pears and stir them into the batter.
6. Pour batter into the loaf pan evenly. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the top is golden and an inserted toothpick comes clean. Let it cool before slicing.

Verdict: What a spongy and delicious loaf this is! The rich almond flavor was unmistakable. The loaf rose just beautifully and I got that coveted crease on top. The almond slivers did add a pretty touch and a great crunch to the loaf (IMHO) but they sure made it a challenge to cut neat slices. I found it easier to turn the loaf on its side and cut that way. Cut into thin slices or thick wedges, this is a great loaf to pack into a lunch-box or take along on a picnic, or to serve with your favorite beverage. Instead of pears, other fruits like apple or ripe banana would work just as well, as would chopped dried fruits like dates or figs.

This post is making its way to Raaga's blog, where pears are being celebrated as the fruit of the month!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Brunching, Munching

The quest for whole-grain breakfasts continues as I travel around the blogs learning some new recipes, tips and tricks.

First stop- Tasty Palettes: Quinoa Upma
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It took a long time for quinoa to become part of my pantry for the simple reason that it takes me some effort to make space for new foods! Going by the old saying, "When in doubt, make upma", I followed Suganya's recipe to the T. Again, I can't let my breakfasts get too healthy, can I? So I balanced the utterly nutritious upma with some spicy mixture on the side. Quinoa has a wonderful flavor; to me it tastes more like corn than anything else. It would be just wonderful in a soup, like in this recipe, or in a salad or these croquettes. If you have tried and liked quinoa, would you care to tell me your favorite way to cook it?

Second stop- Holy Cow: Golden Delicious Adai
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Vaishali, you had me at "golden"! Again, I used brown rice for this recipe but otherwise followed it closely. A couple of hours of soaking the dals and rice, and then I used the food processor to grind the batter for this adai, which made it very easy to blitz some cabbage leaves, ginger and curry leaves into the batter in the last few seconds of grinding. This nutritious adai made for a quick and light supper. Guess who loved this adai and kept begging for more? Dale, that's who! He seems to have guessed that the recipe came from the kind, animal-loving Vaishali.

Third stop- Mane Adige: Oil/Butter/Ghee-Free Aloo Paratha
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Most paratha recipes call for a good amount of fat in the dough and for cooking the paratha on a griddle; this Sanjeev Kapoor recipe adds a bit of milk and yogurt to the dough and makes it possible to cook the parathas with no more fat at all. I made the dough as directed, and used low-fat versions of both milk and yogurt. This time around, I used lightly spiced purple potatoes for the filling.
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While the purple potato parathas looked pretty enough, it was not such a great idea after all! I found that purple potatoes are quite mealy and I did not really like the way they tasted in the paratha (too powdery, somehow). I will sticky to waxy potatoes for paratha filling in the future.
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But the exciting thing is that the oil-free business works like a charm. I used the rest of the dough to make plain phulkas- they browned beautifully without a drop of oil, and puffed up on the cast-iron skillet with no coaxing at all. This one stayed puffy for several minutes while I abandoned it to go find the camera and record it for posterity!

And for dessert- Jugalbandi: Chocolate Peanut-Butter Cake
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Their post made me weak in the knees and I became quite obsessed with trying out this recipe. Finally, on Monday morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn and starting pulling out baking ingredients from the shelves like a woman possessed. Baking (and eating) chocolate cake on a Monday morning- am I living on the edge or what? :D
It is a wonderful recipe, and I finally got to use my stash of whole-wheat pastry flour. The frosting is to die for! I had two minor gripes with the way I made this cake (I made a 8x8 sheet cake instead of cupcakes). First, I think using the apple cider vinegar that I used had too strong a taste of its own, because I could taste it faintly in the batter. Next time, I will use white vinegar instead. Also, I over-baked the cake just a tad, and it became quite crumbly as a result. But all in all, this recipe is a keeper.

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Dale is almost back to his normal energetic self these days. I never thought I would be so happy and relieved about being dragged unceremoniously through the neighborhood again. The first item on his agenda every day: a visit to his buddy Tony, who runs the newspaper stand on the corner. Tony has a big heart and a deep love for the four-legged denizens of the neighborhood, and the dogs love him right back. Dale has this hilarious habit of jumping up at the counter to say hello to Tony...
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...and he proceeds to beg for demand treats. Tony keeps a few different kinds of treats at hand, and Dale is not shy about pointing (I kid you not) to the fanciest ones!
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*** *** ***

I'll leave you with a feast for the eyes: A beautiful photo-essay from A Life (Time) of Cooking, on eating off banana leaves in India.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cara's Buttermilk Bread

Another edition of Myamii's Taste and Create is upon us. The premise of this event is that she randomly pairs up the participating bloggers, and they taste-test one recipe from each other's blog. It is so much fun to scroll through a blog and look for something delicious to recreate.
This month, the luck of the draw paired me up with a blog that is new to me: Cara's Cravings. This cheerful blog has a little bit of everything. Cara has interesting categories like Less-Guilt Desserts (we could all use a few more of those!) and Stuff I Really Should Not Be Eating (we all do our own guilty pleasures, don't we?)

After a great deal of clicking and scrolling and book-marking, I settled on a recipe for Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Bread, which in turn is Cara's take on a Honey Buttermilk Bread from Baking Bites. I always enjoy trying new bread recipes, and I was excited to try this one because it would be my first buttermilk bread and the first that is made in a loaf pan. Besides, this fits in nicely with my theme this month of trying more whole-grain breakfast foods.

Today's Whole-Grain Tweak: Whole Wheat Bread. I tweaked Cara's recipe by making it 100% whole-wheat. A potential problem with all-whole-wheat breads can be that they don't rise as well as ones made with all-purpose flour or bread flour. To try and make a lighter loaf, I added vital wheat gluten to the bread. Wheat gluten is available as a packaged powder in health food stores and places like Whole Foods. For more information about using gluten in whole grain breads, please take a look at these posts.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Bread

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(Source: this recipe on "Cara's Cravings")
Ingredients:
Sift together in a large bowl
4 C white whole-wheat flour
1 T vital wheat gluten
1 t fine salt
Mix together in a small bowl
1 t yeast
pinch of sugar
1/4 C warm (not hot!) water
Mix together in a medium bowl
1.5 C low-fat cultured buttermilk (warmed)
2 T honey
Method:
1. Let the yeast bloom in the warm water for 5-10 minutes.
2. Stir the yeast mixture into the buttermilk mixture.
3. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients gently, stirring with a wooden spoon. Knead everything together into a supple dough (takes about 10 minutes of vigorous kneading).
4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let it rise for 1.5-2 hours, until doubled in volume.
5. Knead the dough gently, fold into a rectangular loaf and place seam-side down in an oiled standard loaf pan.
6. Cover and let the dough rise for another 45 minutes or so. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F.
7. Brush the top of the loaf with beaten egg (optional) and bake for 45 minutes or until the top is browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
8. Let it cool on a rack before slicing.

Here is the loaf, fresh from the oven:
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V took one look at it and said, "Wow, that looks like it has come from a factory". I was perplexed by that statement. I mean, I want to make bread that looks like it came from a *bakery*, not a factory! Poor guy, he explained that he meant that it looks so "perfect" (which has more to do with the loaf pan that my own skills, but I am happy anyway).

For ideas for sandwich stuffings, I turned to the ever-creative Musical, who is known for filling sandwiches with anything from beans palya to an eggplant-mushroom stir fry. For this lovely loaf, I chose this delicious chard-mushroom stir-fry). Now that's what I call a sandwich!
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The magical addition to this simple chard-mushroom stir-fry is the Kerala-style garam masala that is added at the end of cooking. Musical divulges the secret formula for this masala in the ingredients section. I can tell you that it is a very special spice blend indeed. A few days ago, Musical surprised me with a goody bag filled with the most incredible foodie gifts and this Kerala-style garam masala was one of them. We fell in love with it right away. I have used this spice mixture in a simple egg and mushroom curry (we licked the saucepan clean) and a pulao of corn and fresh methi leaves (cooked in a little bit of coconut milk). It is heady stuff!

Cara made Spicy Cauliflower Soup from One Hot Stove. Many thanks to Myamii for hosting this enjoyable event.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Idli Dosa Love

I am big on breakfasts, and strongly believe in equal opportunity for breakfast foods- so you will often catch me serving them for lunch, tea and dinner as well. This month (or what's left of it), I decided to give some thought to including more whole grains into breakfast. I do love my so-not-whole-grain poha, sabudana, rava dosa and baguettes, but let me add some whole grains to my repertoire too.

Today's whole-grain tweak: Brown rice in idlis and dosas. The idli-dosa family of breakfast foods has got to be one of the most strongest contenders in the "nutritious meets delicious" department. There is something about the whole ritual of soaking rice and lentils, grinding them, fermenting the batter and churning out fluffy idlis and crispy dosas that is just very fulfilling. Makes me feel like a real proper cook :D

Until a month or two ago, the biggest challenge for me was the grinding of the batter; I had to manage with my KitchenAid food processor. Just for the record, the food processor was able to gring soaked rice and urad dal (separately) quite well, but was an utter failure when it came to grinding soaked parboiled rice. I would bite my lip nervously every time I made batter wondering if today was the day when my delicate machine would decide that it was not built for such arduous tasks and die on me. The best way to grind these batters at home is to buy one of those heavy-duty wet grinders (developed and manufactured in India) that are uniquely designed for this purpose. But you know what- they are quite expensive and I was quite sure that one was never going to fit into my budget at this time. Then I got one of these wet grinders as a gift! V's cousin bought a newer, smaller version and generously let me have her wet grinder. This is one impressive machine. A huge metal drum with a stone floor holds two huge grinding stones (scroll down in that link to take a look at them). Start the heavy-duty motor, and even the most unyielding dal and rice is churned into a buttery paste.

One of the first recipes I tried in the wet grinder was Jugalbandi's Whole-Grain Idlis. Yes, I finally have some gorgeous rosematta rice in my pantry.
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Some time ago, I whined in a post about not being able to find rosematta rice around here. Two kind souls responded: my friend Madhu came over with rosematta rice for me to try and the one and only Linda mailed me a beautiful glass jar of rosematta from far, far away! Now this is when you soberly realize what a lucky girl you are- when even your petulant whining leads kind friends to help you.

I followed Bee and Jai's recipe except that I skipped the 2 T of cooked rice/poha/soaked bread. I like this recipe because (a) it combines brown rice and parboiled rice (the latter, although not technically a whole grain, does retain a great many of its nutrients, if I understand correctly), (b) makes a small batch of 12-15 idlis which is nice because most idli recipes are designed to make enough idlis to feed a small village, (c) includes a tip for soaking the rice and lentils in filtered water and not chlorinated tap water (I never thought of that!).

The batter fermented beautifully without the need for any interventions such as the surreptitious addition of fruit salt :D. I am lucky in that respect; fermentation has never been a problem in my present kitchen. Still, whenever I ferment something overnight, I do tend to worry about it and obsess over it. The first thought as I cross the hazy land of half-sleep is, did the batter ferment? It is enough to jerk me wide awake and get me to stumble in the darkness to the kitchen and check on the bowl of batter. A whiff of the sweet-sour aroma of fermented batter and a look at the bubbling mass in the half-light, and I am able to heave a sigh of relief.

Here are the idlis, served with huli (now updated with a link to Latha's secret family recipe for vibrant huli powder). See all those holes that the yeasty beasties so obligingly made?
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And if steamed whole-grain idlis feel a little too healthy, you can always find creative ways to convert them into a guilty pleasure. Exhibit A: fried idli. Idlis cut into 4-5 slices, then fried in a T or so of oil until crispy.
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Now that I have the wet grinder, I am like a kid with her new toy- can't stop playing with it. Here's another recipe I tried: Ashwini's Mushti Polo. Her engaging write-up tells us the origin of the name of this dosa. Adding poha (flattened rice flakes) to dosa is something new to me. I did follow the recipe exactly, except to use 1 C brown rice and 1 C white rice in place of 2 C white rice. I figured, with the white poha being refined, I would add some brown rice and split the difference in terms of whole grains. It has worked beautifully for me every time I sub brown rice for white rice in a dosa recipe. Next time, I will try all brown rice in this recipe.

The poha really helps the fermentation along, and this was the laciest and airiest dosa I have ever made in my life. It was great in the lunch-box too! I served this with pearl-onion sambar and parsley chutney (the normal coconut-cilantro-green chillies chutney but using parsley instead of cilantro because it was what I had on hand).
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Poha dosas are very popular in the food blog world:
Sharmi's Atukula Attlu looks incredibly spongy and uses sour yogurt or buttermilk to help the fermentation along.
Shilpa prefers to call her poha dosa Masti Dosa- that's how much fun it is to make and eat!
Namratha's Set Dosa comes with a great story of how that name came about.

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Mandira, the talented blogger over at Ahaar, just wrote a cover story for Khabar, monthly Indian-American magazine published from Atlanta. Click to read the story, "The Call of the Kitchen". Congratulations on a beautiful article, Mandira. She was kind enough to interview me for it, although I am well aware that I absolutely do not belong in the list of accomplished cooks and writers featured there.

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Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and wishes for our puppy. We love this dog something awful and you have no idea how grateful I am for the wishes he gets from folks near and far.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Royal" Burji...

...hits the spot in this lazy Sunday brunch. Burji is simply Indian-style scrambled eggs; "royal" because it contains a spice mix with a regal name.

It started when Bhags posted this simple dal called Bachelor tadka. She braved a "queue of shoes", smelly socks and mountains of unwashed clothes to fearlessly obtain this recipe for us, so the least I could do was give it a try. The other intriguing feature of this recipe was an ingredient called Kitchen King Masala. I started to think that this was some sort of brand name, but a little investigative work via Google revealed that it is actually a generic name for a particular blend of spices, and that several brands sell their versions of this Kitchen King masala. I wonder who came up this spice blend; the name "Kitchen King" suggests that it must be a fairly recent invention. In any case, I bought myself a packet of Kitchen King Masala (Badshah brand is what I found). Badshah (emperor) and Kitchen King! If that isn't a royal combination, I don't know what is :D

2008_44Simply put, Bhags' bachelor tadka rocks. In no time at all, it has climbed right to the top of the list of "Things That Practically Cook Themselves And Keep Me Sane On Weeknights". The whole dal gets made in the pressure cooker itself, and the combination of the ghee tadka and the masala results in the most appetizing aroma as the pressure cooker hisses and whistles madly. This recipe carries an unconditional guarantee that everyone in the home will stop by the kitchen and ask that coveted question: "What smells so good?"


I must be the last person on the planet to discover Kitchen King masala; people are busy using it in all kinds of simple and tasty dishes like potato curry, egg curry, veg pulao, masala masoor and okra-spinach curry. For despite its majestic name, the Kitchen King masala is best suited as a multipurpose masala that is best used for throwing together tasty and impromptu dishes for everyday meals for us commoners. Like this spicy burji that follows.

Egg Burji


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(serves 2-3)
Ingredients:
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 tomatoes, chopped fine
2 t oil
1/2 t red chilli powder
1/2 t turmeric powder
1 heaped t Kitchen King masala
1 T ketchup
salt to taste
handful of minced cilantro
Beat together
4 eggs (could omit a yolk or two)
1 T milk
salt to taste

Method:
1. Heat the oil (medium heat) and saute onion until translucent.
2. Add red chilli powder, turmeric, KK masala and salt and saute for a few seconds.
3. Stir in tomato and ketchup and saute until the mixture is almost dry.
4. Lower heat to medium-low, then stir in the egg mixture. Gently cook the eggs, stirring once in a while, until they are barely set.
5. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

I served the burji with some whole-wheat tortillas for a satisfying brunch.
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Musical uses her surprise Arusuvai ingredient in the most innovative way. Take a look for yourself!

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The stinker Thinker. Dale ponders the meaning of life...


...and a minute later, ponders the inside of his eyelids.


Have a great week!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Weekend Stuff

Dale places a possessive paw on his new toy, a moose.
DaluMoosey

Moose-y has a head that squeaks when it is pressed, and Dale loves to carry it around in his mouth all over the place. We have a Halloween pet parade in our neighborhood in a couple of weeks, and I'm dying to get Dalu into a costume for the occasion (he looks miserable every time I talk about it :D...Dale prefers the au naturel look). Any ideas for a simple doggie costume for this handsome pooch?

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Some delicious recipes from fellow bloggers:

1. I love roasted cauliflower in all its shapes and forms. Susan, the Food Blogga, posted a Crispy Breaded Cauliflower recipe that made my knees go weak. The idea of dipping florets into egg whites and then into breadcrumbs, then baking them to a glorious crispy finish- I took that concept and tried a variation of it. I made masala breadcrumbs by whizzing together 2 dried-out old slices of bread, 1 t cumin seeds, 1 t ajwain (carom seeds), red chilli powder, 1 T olive oil and salt in the food processor. The only problem: I was not able to get very fine breadcrumbs. I then dipped florets in beaten egg white, rolled them in the masala breadcrumbs and baked them as directed.
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The result was so delicious and supremely crunchy. The coarse breadcrumbs did not stick on as well as they should have, hence the patchy look of the cauliflower, but this is totally worth a repeat. Maybe next time I will buy some panko (Japanese style breadcrumbs) and then spice them up. Of course, I also have to try out Susan's original recipe with the olive tapenade (there, my knees are going weak again).

2. For many months, I have been making my usual crunchy granola with minor variations. But I discovered an awesome granola recipe last week that is sure to become the new favorite. This recipe for small batch crunchy granola was shared by Anna of Cookie Madness.
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I did follow the recipe exactly as it is, only scaling it up to 3 cups granola to fill a full-size cookie sheet. Oats and nuts are tossed with a sugar-water-vanilla mixture, then baked at a lower temperature for a longer time. The result, I have to admit, is a lot crunchier than my usual granola, and it stayed that way over the several days that we enjoyed this granola. And one ingredient is conspicuous by its absence; there is **no oil** in this recipe. YAY!

3. Finally, a delicious treat that I always thought was too challenging to make at home, made easy by a fellow blogger. Besan ladoos are made from a toasted chickpea flour-sugar-ghee (clarified butter) mixture, shaped into portion-controlled treats by loving hands.
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Tee from Bhaatukli has shared an awesome recipe for microwave besan ladoo that takes all the effort out of besan ladoo-making. I followed her directions exactly and needed about 7-8 1-minute bursts in my microwave for the chickpea flour to get all fragrant and toasty. The last step, shaping the ladoos, is a workout that requires all the strength in your fist to get beautiful ladoos like Tee's. Mine were passable :) I took the ladoos over to the home of our friends. All four of us that were gathered there had not tasted besan ladoos for years and years, and the look of pure joy on our faces as we bit into these...priceless!

Have a wonderful weekend!