Showing posts with label Carrots. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carrots. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Carrot Almond Halwa

Sometimes it is only a mental block that keeps me from trying recipe variations. For instance, I am so accustomed to dairy-based Indian desserts that wrapping my head around vegan Indian desserts can befuddle me. A few years ago, I cooked lunch for a group of vegan guests. The appetizers, main dishes, salads and sides all were a breeze but I tripped up while planning dessert and  resignedly served a platter of fruit.

Vaishali's posts are doing much to help me make vegan versions of Indian desserts- she makes delectable vegan halwas of every hue with no dairy in sight. Using her gajar halwa as my inspiration, I made this version yesterday. To mimic the gritty texture of cooked-down milk/khoya, I used some almond meal.

Gajar Halwa That Just Happens To Be Vegan

(serves 4)
  1. Shred 2 lbs. organic carrots using a hand grater or a food processor.
  2. In a heavy pan, heat 2 tbsp. Earth Balance buttery spread.
  3. Saute the carrots until bright red.
  4. Stir in 1 cup almond milk and 4 tbsp. almond meal (or finely ground almonds).
  5. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture reduces and the carrots are cooked.
  6. Stir in 1 tsp. cardamom and sugar to taste (I only needed a quarter cup or so).

The taste of the gajar halwa was wonderful. It is light and nutty and something I will be making again and again, whether or not I have vegan guests.
I shared this halwa at a cook-out last night with a group of St. Louis food bloggers. We met in the incredible teaching kitchen of the Kitchen Conservatory (candyland for foodies), and I'm so glad Alanna put in the time and effort to organize this event. St. Louis has many creative and clever food bloggers. They do all sorts of fun things like keep bees and grow garlic and match shelter dogs to families!
If you are a food blogger, have you met other food bloggers in your city?
On The Bookshelf

I read more than my fair share of novels and magazines, but one of my favorite genres will always be non-fiction. They say truth is stranger than fiction and I certainly believe that based on the non-fiction I've read.

When written with humor and expertise, non-fiction books can give us a crash course in a serious academic discipline and connect abstract concepts in maths and science and technology with real life. I recently read The Drunkard's Walk by Leonard Mlodinow and it was a most entertaining glimpse into the role of statistics in everyday life. Another highly fascinating and riveting read was The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, which is a great detective story of a physician chasing a microbe (and sparking off the science of epidemiology) even though he did not even know it at the time.

This morning I awoke at 4 AM to finish reading Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, the real story of a family in the days following Hurricane Katrina. Eggers is a talented writer. The story is written so simply but the narrative is gripping and you get deeply engaged with the characters as the story progresses. I highly recommend this book.

There are two non-fiction books that I read in recent months that had rich and meaningful content but where the writing was unfortunately very jagged and rambling, in my opinion, which took away from the reading experience. These were Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen about one man's struggle to build schools in remote regions of Central Asia and Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, about the life and work of Paul Farmer in bringing healthcare to the most impoverished regions of Haiti. But these are the kinds of books that are worth reading, because they make me want to do something meaningful and with my life and stop making excuses already.

Next on the non-fiction list, I'm going to start with a  memoir called In Hanuman's Hands by Cheeni Rao; I read Kamini's stunning review of the book and checked it out from the library this weekend.

Have you read any interesting non-fiction lately?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Vegetable Bread Soup

Today's recipe is a Friday night fridge-cleaning special. I had several dried shriveled crusts and end-chunks of bread sitting in the fridge for a week. For a moment there, I was tempted to sigh and toss them out. But truthfully, food waste is the most regretful and avoidable thing of all, and stale bread, no matter how dried out, has infinite potential to be recycled into good food.

As a kid, my favorite part about going to a restaurant was the chance to start the meal with tomato soup, and it was not the tomato soup that was so attractive but the croutons floating on it.  These were deep-fried cubes of bread, and strictly rationed to about 4-5 croutons per bowl of soup. The taste of bread soaking in soup is still something I love, and that's how this soup came about.

Vegetable Bread Soup

1. Heat 1-2 tbsp. butter in a heavy pot. 

2. Saute in the butter until translucent and sizzling:
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed

3. Add 1 tbsp. flour and stir it in until toasty and lightly browned. 

4. Add the following, then simmer until vegetables are tender:
2-3 carrots, cut in large dice
2 cups tomatoes
2 cups water
a shake of dried basil
a shake of dried oregano

5. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Taste and adjust the salt, add some sugar if the soup is too tangy.

6. Add chunks of dried bread and simmer for a couple more minutes.

7. Serve with shredded cheese or a swirl of cream if desired. 

Fresh off the needles
A hostess gift for my downstairs neighbor who invited us to "burrito night" a couple of days ago- a bottle of wine wearing its own cozy hat and scarf. The pattern is here: chilled wine garb.

I'll leave you with a few links-

A post that made me gasp with admiration, "food as art": Naksha Bori

A post that made me LOL: Haikus on food you are ashamed to eat

In case any of you lives in Chicago and wants something delicious to do on Wednesday nights: Soup & Bread 

Oh, and I'm on twitter (username: Nupur_OHS), trying to be the silliest twit I can be! If you are on there, come say hello. 

Have a fantastic weekend!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Baking the Bookmark: Carrot Herb Rolls

The thrill of looking at new posts on the blog aggregator and the ceremonial bookmarking of recipes that catch my eye- these are my small pleasures in life, a happy way to spend some time in the wee morning hours as I sip my first cup of chai for the day.

I took some time to browse through my folder of bookmarked recipes recently, and stopped counting at 550! I'm only glad this is a virtual folder or I would have no space to put it. The first bookmarked recipe in my folder is this one, from August 2007 and the last is this one, from just a few minutes ago. So now I am a girl on a mission, to cook and bake through my bookmarks, to actually try out the recipes that I loved enough to want to save for another day. This way, I will either love the recipe and will have tried something new and good, or I'll just delete the bookmark and get on with my life.

I'm kicking off Project Bookmark with these Carrot Herb Rolls. Actually, many posts on that blog are worth bookmarking- gorgeous breads, useful baking tips- but these rolls caught my eye because carrots are a staple in my fridge and I was intrigued by the idea of these pretty yellow-tinged rolls. This is the first time I baked bread in months- I've been too busy most of this year. Plus, living right around the corner from a wonderful bakery where I can buy quality bread whenever I please only added to my lethargy. But the bags of flour stuffed in the freezer were mocking me, and I'm glad I tried this recipe, because it gave me fantastic results.

My only modification- I used cilantro instead of all the herbs specified in the recipe. Well, I made other inadvertent modifications such as not letting the flours from the freezer come to room temperature, so that when I added the melted butter, it solidified in clumps. Etc. Sigh. My point is that it is a forgiving recipe.

The dough puffed up very obligingly during the first rise:

And was quickly deflated with a few sharp punches...

I brushed the rolls with salt water before baking them, as suggested in the recipe. Here are my (ahem) rustic rolls, just out of the oven.

We enjoyed them as part of a light impromptu supper, using them to make sandwiches with pesto (left over from the pasta salad) and onion-green pepper omelets. I was completely delighted by the crunchy crust and soft inside of the rolls.

I put the remaining rolls in the freezer. Last night, we reheated them in the toasted oven (straight from the freezer) to use as burger buns and they were as good as new.

I'm sending these rolls to YeastSpotting.
"YeastSpotting is a weekly showcase of yeasted baked goods and dishes with bread as a main ingredient".

I have spent many happy moments ogling at beautiful baked creations, thanks to YeastSpotting, and it is my first time participating in this event.

Do you regularly bookmark recipes from blogs and websites? Do you just collect them or get around to trying them out? What's the last recipe you bookmarked and why? I'm just curious...

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Anybody out there? :)

[Hearing echoes of my voice in this poor neglected empty space]

What can I say? Time sure flies! Do people remember how to write rudimentary HTML after months of not writing any, I wonder? Is it like riding a bike?

Over the past several months, I have been writing SAS code instead of blog posts, studying and working as best as I can, and spending quality time with the needles and hooks. Somewhere along the way, I found the time to reach a milestone birthday- the big three-oh (YAY! I think.) For all those who left loving e-mails and comments asking how I am- thank you! I am doing well, busy but happy :) And for all those who could care less about me but want to know how Dale is doing- he is well. A little older and grayer around the muzzle, but much wiser, he says.

Am I "back to blogging"? Yes and no. I'm off to India soon for a vacation, and my schedule is still awry. The plan is to indulge in some guilt-free blogging, writing whenever I can about whatever strikes my fancy food-wise. Visits to India are always sensational in terms of food, and I hope to come back with some tales of meals shared with friends and family. I also intend to barge into the kitchens of homes I visit to learn some new tips and recipes from my favorite home cooks and share them with you.

*** *** ***

I made a quick bread this morning- an eggless carrot cake inspired by Shammi's recipe. I don't do much eggless baking, I realize, but I wanted to bake a sweet treat to take along on a visit to friends, and the family avoids eggs so it was a good excuse to give egg-free baking a try.


We hear so much about baking being an exact science and how you can't really get away with tossing in a bit of this and a little of that. All true- but this recipe is certainly an exception to the rule. I tweaked it merrily and got excellent results. Here's how I made it. Feel free to walk on the wild side and use "proper" buttermilk, yogurt, a vegan substitute or whatever you have on hand. My feeling is that this is a very robust recipe and will turn out fine.

The short-hand I use is: C refers to cup (8 oz), t refers to teaspoon while T refers to tablespoon.

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together 1¼ C all-purpose flour, 2 T powdered buttermilk, 1 t baking soda, 1 t baking powder, ½ t salt, 1 t ginger powder, 1 t cardamom powder, 1 t nutmeg powder.

3. Stir in 2 T ghee, 2 T canola oil and ½ C water.

4. Use a spatula to gently fold in ½ C sugar, 4 small to medium grated carrots, handful of chopped pecans and handful of mixed dried berries.

5. At this point, the batter was too thick and to be able to fold in everything, I added a splash of milk.

6. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a tester comes clean.

To my delight, the loaf rose beautifully and I got the prized crease on top of the loaf. Oh, the little things that make my day!

I barely waited 10 minutes before lopping off a slice to taste. This tastes like a cakey version of gajar halwa- simply delicious, and, dare I say it, less laborious to make. That's one more awesome recipe from Shammi.

Have a sweet weekend!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

All-American Carrot Cake

Sugar High Friday is one of the sweetest, most popular and long-standing food blog events. It is all about making sweet treats and sharing the joy. This month, our host, Johanna of The Passionate Cook wants us to go local. She says, "I want you to be on the look-out for a speciality that is local or regional to where you live..."

...Well, I am interpreting Johanna's challenge in a very broad sense: "where I live" is the United States, and so here I am, baking an All-American dessert, Carrot Cake!

Many food history sources suggest that the popularity of carrot cake began during World War II, when sweeteners were scarce and expensive and strictly rationed. Carrots were relatively abundant (often home-grown in victory gardens) and substituted as sweeteners in desserts.

Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, has been quoted as saying, "Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie." Indeed, the addition of carrots, and the replacement of butter with oil is helpful in convincing oneself that carrot cake is a healthy dessert. Carrot cake reached its height of popularity in the US during the health food craze of the 60s and 70s, providing company to other foods like granola! Today, carrot cake remains a popular American dessert and a diner staple.

This carrot cake recipe comes from Cooking Light magazine. It has an exuberant ingredient list- apart from the freshly grated carrots that give the cake its name, it contains two ingredients that, in the US, are synonymous with the term "tropical": pineapple and coconut. Crushed pineapple is readily available in supermarkets, but I suppose gently cooked fresh pineapple would work as well. The recipe calls for sweetened coconut flakes that are sold in the baking aisle of US supermarkets, but I had our Indian-style dry coconut shreds at hand, so I just used those instead. Cinnamom is added to the batter to provide a hint of spice. Pecan bits add some more richness and texture. Carrot cake is usually made with oil instead of butter, and here the oil is reduced to 3 tablespoons, which is very reasonable if you consider that it makes a large cake yielding 20 servings or so (other recipes for carrot cake call for 1-2 cups of oil). With all the carrot and pineapple, this cake will invariably be quite dense, and not as fluffy and airy as other cakes. It is, however, very moist and tasty.

Another hallmark of the carrot cake is a tangy cream cheese icing (or frosting, as it is called in the US). Usually, the "icing on the cake" is my least favorite bit- I find classic buttercream icing unbearably greasy and achingly sweet. But the combination of zesty cream cheese (and a little butter) with sugar was worth a try. The original recipe called for 3 cups (!!!) of powdered sugar, and I reduced it way down to a cup and a quarter. This resulted in an icing that was plenty sweet, but where the taste of the cream cheese was not drowned by the sugar. You can buy powdered sugar (also called icing sugar or confectioner's sugar) but I use it so infrequently that I just make my own, by blitzing granulated sugar in a clean spice grinder.

Carrot Cake

(adapted from this recipe from Cooking Light magazine, April 2007, makes one large sheet cake)ccake4
1.5 C AP Flour
1 C granulated Sugar
1 t Salt
2 t Baking soda
2 t Cinnamon powder
1/2 C desiccated Coconut shreds (or sweetened coconut flakes)
1/3 C chopped toasted Pecans (or walnuts)
2 large Eggs
3 T canola Oil (or vegetable oil or peanut oil)
1.5 C drained canned crushed Pineapple
2 C fresh grated Carrots
1 cup (8 oz/ 1 packet) reduced-fat Cream Cheese, softened
3 T usalted Butter, softened
1 t Vanilla extract
1.25 C powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with oil (or two smaller ones) and set aside.
3. Dry ingredients: Sift flour into a bowl. Add granulated sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon powder, coconut, pecans.
4. Wet ingredients: Beat eggs in a bowl. Then add oil and mix well.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir gently.
6. Stir in carrots and pineapple. Pour batter into the baking dish.
7. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is done: this is usually apparent from three signs- (a) a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean (b) when you press a finger gently on the cake, the surface springs back, (c) the cake leaves the sides of the pan. The cake will be quite dense, so don't expect it to rise very high.

8. When the cake is completely cool, it is ready to be iced. To make the icing, beat together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Stir in the vanilla extract and sugar and mix well. Spread the frosting evenly on the cake. Optional: If you have Way Too Much Time on your hands, as I did when I made this cake, you could decorate it :) I used some extra shreds of carrot and black poppy seeds to add a dash of color to the snow white icing.

This recipe is a keeper! The cake was moist and tasty, and the combination with the icing was fantastic! Plus, the generous size of the cake is perfect for bringing it along to picnics and pot-luck parties as a "blast from the past" dessert. I will definitely be making it again.

For all the little kids and all the big kids who are returning to school this week, here's wishing you a wonderful fall semester and a great school year!

For dozens of interesting specialty desserts from all over the world, check out Johanna's delicious round-up.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Q is for Quick Carrot Pickle

The myriad cuisines of India all love their vegetables! Veggies are diced and sliced, grated and mashed, stir-fried and curried into hundreds of vegetable dishes. In this series, the A to Z of Indian Vegetables, we take an alphabetical journey through the various avatars of vegetables relished in Indian cuisine. For each letter, we will make a tasty vegetable dish that illustrates one manner in which vegetables are savored in India.

The "Q" of Indian Vegetables
(Note: I had written this round-up and was a couple of minutes away from posting it, and very unluckily, blogger wiped it off and I lost the whole write-up! :( :( This is the painfully re-written version. If I accidentally left an entry out during the re-writing process, please let me know and I will include it right away).

The letter Q inspired twenty-three quirky Indian flavors!

First up, the only bona-fide English language Q ingredient that I can think of: the ancient seed, Quinoa. Quinoa is used as a grain, although botanically, it is closer to a vegetable than to a grain. Quinoa has remarkable nutritional value and it is worth the effort to get to know it. Here are two ways to enjoy quinoa, Indian style!

TC of The Cooker tells us that "Cooked quinoa doesn't have a distinctive taste of its own, which is a good thing as it means one is free to improvise." She marries the South American seed with traditional Marathi flavors to great effect, making a delicious dish of Quinoa with Goda Masala.

Suganya of Tasty Palettes talks about her experiments with quinoa and her efforts to use more of it in her diet. She creatively uses quinoa in the ever-popular dish, upma ("A savior for those women who have no idea what to cook for dinner") along with vegetables and a flavorful tempering to make some tasty Quinoa Upma.

Next, the quick-witted Cook of Live To Cook turns to a different language to find a Q fruit: it turns out the fragrant cantaloupe melon is Qawun kantalubi in the Arabic language! She cooks shredded cantaloupe, milk and barley into a creamy and delectable Qawun kantalubi kheer.

We now come to two rich and royal dishes from Northern India that are just fit for a queen!

Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi make an impressive tray of a layered rice dish called Qabuli. In their own words, "Qabuli is the poor man’s version of biryani. The meat is replaced with plant protein in the form of chana dal (split bengal grams), which has a sweet, nutty flavour and holds its shape while cooking. It is coated in yogurt and spices and baked between layers of rice, fried onions and mint for a one-pot meal. The saffron and rose water give it a wonderful aroma." You have to see this Qabuli to believe it!

Asha of Aroma/ Foodie's Hope makes a rich and creamy curry called Qorma. Asha tells us that, "Since Qorma in this recipe is Afghanistani,they mostly use yogurt as the base and add Nuts for more flavor.Either way,it tastes great". Her recipe uses a most unusual ingredient, the Tropical American tuber, Jicama, to make a flavorful and alliterative Qorma with Jicama.

Next up, Richa of As Dear As Salt sings an ode to India's very own cheese, the Quintessential Paneer and pays a tribute to it with some puffy, golden paneer puris.

Now for a dish that is not Indian but enjoys international popularity: the Quesadilla! This Mexican dish is made with tortillas (akin to chapatis), cheese (as the glue which holds the dish together) and a variety of fillings that can be tweaked to make a quasi-Indian dish. Here are a variety of quesadillas...

Swapna of Swad uses a savory filling of onions and mushrooms to make her Mushroom Quesadillas.

Neelam of Recipe Factory opens up a can of baked beans to make her Quick Quesadillas.

Manasi of A Cook At Heart makes a duo of Quesadillas, one with a spinach and cheese filling, spiced with taco seasoning, and the other with a filling of kidney beans (rajma) and lettuce.

Well, Q stands for Quick, and while I am all for slow-simmering, time-consuming recipes that are a labor of love, it is also nice to have a bunch of quick and delicious recipe in one's repertoire for those inevitable busy days.

We start with an array of Quick Snacks...

Aarti of Aarti's Corner gives us a healthier alternative to dep-fried potato chips and tortilla chips...indeed her fresh turmeric-tinged bright yellow Quick Popcorn, made with a whole grain (corn) is a nutritionally sensible snack.

Smitha of Andhra Food Network makes Instant Noodles with mixed vegetables and tomato, just like on the pack!

Dhana of Fresh Kitchen takes two pantry staples- chickpea flour and peas- and cleverly turns them into a duo of snacks, the first is a pancake (chila) with a savory filling of peas and carrots, and the other is a microwave dhokla with a bright green peas filling.

Coffee of The Spice Cafe makes a sweet tea-time snack in minutes- mixing condensed milk with desiccated coconut to make these adorable coconut ladoos.

Tee of Bhaatukli magically transforms a boring ol' can of tomato soup into some spicy and fragrant Tomato Saar with the help of some spices, herbs and coconut.

The next set of recipes is all about the Mango, Unquestionably the most beloved of all Indian fruits. This is the very season for mango mania, so read on for a quartet of quick mango pickles, and a duo of quick mango desserts...

Suma of Veggie Platter mixes tiny cubes of raw mango with a few select spices, then bathes them in mustard seeds and oil to make a devastatingly delicious Quick Mango Chutney.

Manasi of A Cook At Heart uses a tried-and-tested store-bought pickle masala mix to make a tasty Quick Mango Pickle in minutes.

Coffee of The Spice Cafe writes a drool-worthy account of mango pickles and goes on to share recipes for Two Quick Mango Pickles; both call for the same ingredients but one is uncooked and the other is cooked, resulting in two very different tastes!

And now for some quick mango desserts. Nandita of Saffron Trail teams up with a friend to make a cool and creamy Quick Mango Sandesh: slices of fragrant and juicy mango are sandwiched between some milky fresh chenna.

Sreelu of Sreelu's Tasty Travels shares a recipe for a fool-proof crowd-pleaser: her Quick Mango Cheesecake can be whipped together in mere minutes with delicious results.

The final category is just right for the summer months when the sweltering sun results in our quest for cool drinks and melt-in-the-mouth ice cream. Here is a slew of cool and refreshing quenchers!

Dhana of Fresh Kitchen turns to the orange mini-me, the kumquat! She turns the kumquat into a refreshing Ice cream: topped with fresh berries, it simply screams SUMMER!

Pooja of Khana Pina makes a beloved raw mango squash that just hits the spot on a sweltering day; her Panha blends cooked tangy mango and sugar with a touch of saffron and cardamom.

The final two drinks both use two summer favorites: lemon and watermelon...

Ramya of Mane Adige tells us of her memories of beach-side outings followed by a sweet treat. She recreates her favorite Watermelon Slush; icy watermelon juice topped with a luscious scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Aarti of Aarti's Corner takes everyone's favorite summer drink- lemonade- and gives it a spin; her Melon Lemonade is spiced with a touch of black salt to bring out the flavors!

We set out to prove that Q is an exciting culinary letter after all...and what can I say, except, Q. E. D.!!

Q is for Quick Carrot Pickle: Pickles!

Today, following the chutneys and the raitas comes the last of the tasty trinity of Indian condiments: the pickles! Like the other two condiments, a dollop of pickle on the side of the plate can magically transform a ho-hum everyday meal into a memorable one.

Pickles are a time-honored way of preserving vegetables for a "rainy day", for all those months of the year when fresh vegetables are not easily available. Indian pickles capture the flavor spectrum from salty to spicy to tangy to sweet, often all in one delirious bite. In India, pickles are made with fresh vegetables- cauliflower, carrot, chilies; with fruits- lemon, mango; and every permutation and combination of these. Pickles can be anything from pungent and garlicky to syrupy and sweet. Some pickles are made to be eaten fresh and only last a week or two (in household with strong-willed individuals anyway), others are made to last and get better as they age. Mango deserves a special mention in the world of pickles- for most Indians, the thought of mango pickles evokes a rush of memories- of hot summer days and lazy school-free holidays, and baskets of mangoes, and beautiful jars of pickles being laid out in the sun, and chubby little fingers stealing cubes of pickled mangoes when no one is looking. The four delicious mango pickles in today's round-up are testimony to the popularity of this pickle!

For all my love of pickles, and the unhealthy way in which I consume jars of (store-bought) pickles at an alarming rate, I have never tried making pickles at home. Until now! This is my first attempt at pickle-making, and I chose to use carrots. Colorful, crunchy and naturally sweet, carrots lend themselves very well to being pickled. I used a combination of two recipes in putting this pickle together: the idea of microwaving the carrots briefly comes from a pickle recipe from Tarla Dalal's Microwave Desi Khana, and the combination of spices comes from the iconic Marathi cookbook "Ruchira" by Kamalabai Ogale. The main reason why I never tried my hand at pickle-making before this was- I always thought of it as a laborious and difficult process. I was thrilled to see that this pickle came together in minutes! There are only two potentially time-consuming steps: (1) the cutting of carrots into matchsticks, which I did by hand (one could use a food processor with the right type of blade). (2) making the fenugreek powder: roasting fenugreek seeds lightly, cooling them, then grinding them to a fine powder. Be aware that this pickle needs to be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within 3-4 is not a long-lasting pickle (and tasty enough that you will never have to worry about it).

If one is interested in making long-lasting pickles to store for months and years, it is important to learn how to do it properly! Pickles that do not have enough salt/ sugar to retard microbial growth, or that are filled into improperly sterilized jars can be pretty dangerous if consumed. With a quick pickle (quick to make and quick to eat), you don't have to worry too much.

Quick Carrot Pickle

(makes about 1 and half-2 cups of pickle)
To be mixed:
Carrots, cut into matchsticks, 2 cups
Garlic, 1 clove, sliced
Red Chili Powder, 1 heaped tsp, or to taste
Fenugreek Seed Powder, 1 tsp
Turmeric, 1 tsp
Salt, 1 heaped tsp, or to taste
Lemon, 1, juiced
Oil, 2 tbsp
Mustard Seeds, 2 tsp
Asafoetida, 1/4 tsp
1. Mix all ingredients, except the tempering, in a microwave-safe bowl (glass is best, as plastic can leach into food).
2. Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add mustard seeds and asafoetida. Add the hot tempering to the rest of the ingredients.
3. Microwave the bowl on HIGH for 1 minute. Let it cool for 15 minutes, then place in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours. The pickle is ready to eat!
I was delighted at how properly pickle-y this stuff looked, with a thick spicy layer clinging to the carrot sticks! The garlic adds a great deal of pungent flavor, fenugreek adds a touch of bitterness and the lemon juice brings it all together.

I served the Carrot Pickle with some fresh-off-the-griddle Rajma Parathas, inspired by this recipe (don't miss the gorgeous picture on the post!) from the blog Talimpu, written by Raji. I wanted to try the recipe the minute I saw it: the addition of fresh tomato and cooked kidney beans to whole-wheat flour results in a protein-rich, fiber-rich paratha that also happens to be delicious! The method is very simple too, and this is how I made these parathas:
1. I soaked 1/2 cup of kidney beans overnight, then pressure-cooked them.
2. In the food processor fitted with a metal blade, I blended the cooked kidney beans (discarding excess cooking water), 1/2 cup tomato puree, cumin-coriander powder, cilantro and a sprinkle of salt to a thick paste.
3. I replaced the metal blade with the plastic dough blade. I added 2 cups atta to the food processor bowl and blended everything into a firm dough (adding only a few tablespoons of extra water).
4. After letting the dough rest for 30-40 minutes, I divided it into 12 portions and rolled each out into a paratha, cooking the paratha on a hot griddle with a few drops of olive oil.
The addition of soft cooked beans made the dough soft and delightfully easy to roll out. The parathas were also soft and tasty, and perfect for packing into lunch boxes and picnic baskets. The combination of the crunchy carrot pickle and the soft mild parathas was beautiful!

How do you serve this pickle?
1. A highly popular way to enjoy pickles is with parathas, as above.
2. Serve as a side with dal and rice, or a side dish with any Indian meal.
3. Spoon some pickle into a sandwich or pita pocket for a taste explosion.

Fellow bloggers have come up a spicy-tangy-sweet array of pickles. Here are some of my favorite finds, and I can't wait to try them all:
Two Punjabi Pickles from Musical's Kitchen,
Tomato Pickle from Saffron Hut,
No-Oil Lemon Pickle from Indian Food Rocks,
Lemon Date Pickle from My Workshop,
Mango Sweet Pickle from Aayi's Recipes,
Avakkai from Green Jackfruit,
Two-Minute Ginger Pickle from Vyanjanaa,

Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry
G is for Gobi Paratha: Vegetables in Breads
H is for Hariyali Tikki: Vegetables in Appetizers
I is for Idli with Vegetables: Vegetables for Breakfast
J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables: Restaurant Style
K is for Kati Roll: Vegetables and Paneer
L is for Lasuni Dal Palak: Vegetables and Lentils
M is for Malai Kofta: Dumplings
N is for Nargisi Kebab: Vegetables and Eggs
O is for Onion Chutney: Vegetables in Chutneys
P is for Pattagobi Pachadi: Vegetables in Salads

Monday, April 09, 2007

Green Blog Project: Methi and Basil

The Green Blog Project is a beautiful and meaningful event started by Inji Pennu of Ginger and Mango. The idea is to inspire food bloggers to grow produce in their own homes and cook with it. This time around, the Winter-Spring leg of the Green Blog Project is being hosted by Mandira of Ahaar.

I have been a silent admirer of the gardening skills of my fellow bloggers. I was awe-struck at the last round-up of the Green Blog Project. You see, I am sorely lacking a green thumb. A few years ago, my friend Revati gave me a trio of African violets as a birthday gift. Three weeks later, one succumbed to my poor care and I hastily relinquished the rest to V's care. In his hands, they thrived and grew and my poor gardening ego took a fall. Then, when I read the announcement for Winter-Spring round-up of this project, I was determined to participate in my own little way and give gardening a fresh start. In the company of bloggers who are far better gardeners, my two little herbs will look quite silly, and I was almost too embarrassed to write this post, but you have to start somewhere, so here I am. The following text is for gardening newbies like me and not meant for more experienced folks!

Methi (Fenugreek) Plant

I used a recycled plastic container as a pot. You need to drill quite a few holes in the bottom of the container for adequate drainage. I used "Scott's potting soil for seed starting". To give the plants a head start, I sprouted the methi seeds before planting them (take store-bought methi seeds, soak overnight in warm water, then drain and place in a damp cheesecloth for 2 days until you see sprouts emerging). Plant the sprouted methi seeds just below the surface of the potting soil, leaving some space between seeds. In my case, about a third of the seeds failed to emerge (a high infant mortality rate!) so plant a few more seeds than you think you need. Keep the plant by a window, keep the soil moist (without over-watering) and within a week or two, you will see saplings emerging! I watched the seeds grow with all the excitement and wonder of a 5-year old growing seeds in her kindergarten science project :)
Now, I find that as the methi stems are growing, they are keeling over from their own weight. Any solutions for that?

Fresh methi is one of my favorite herbs. I think it adds a wonderful pleasantly-bitter flavor when sprinkled on Northern Indian dishes. Baby methi, the kind I have, is hardly bitter at all, but very aromatic. I used some of this methi for two dishes already: I used it as a herb in some Paneer Kati Rolls and added it to potato parathas that I made for brunch last week. My dish for the green blog project is...

Gajar Methi (Carrot-Fenugreek Stir-Fry)

The combination of carrots and fenugreek is a popular North-Indian dish. Sweet carrots and bitter-ish fenugreek complement each other perfectly, and the contrasting colors make for a pretty presentation.

Method: Heat 1 tsp oil in a skillet. Add 1 tsp cumin seeds and 2 tbsp finely minced onion. Stir for a few minutes until onions are transluscent. Add 2 cups carrots, cut in small dice and 1/2 cup finely minced fresh fenugreek. Add a touch of turmeric, red chili powder, garam masala and salt. Stir-fry for a minute, then cover and cook for a few minutes until carrots are just tender. Serve hot with rotis for a delicious and healthy meal!

Basil Plant

I also have a little basil plant that is growing quite well. This, I started with a conventional clay pot and a seed packet. I planted the seeds right away, without any sprouting, according to directions on the packet. Other than the fact that the plants are crowded, this one seems to be doing well.
I'm waiting for the leaves to get bigger before I start plucking and using this basil. Come summer, I know I'm going to use it a lot in omelets, pasta, pizzas and salads!

My next gardening ambitions: to have a chili pepper plant and a curry leaf plant. Since I live in a small apartment with limited space, I am realistic enough to know that I can't grow large quantities of produce. Instead, I would like to grow those herbs and condiments that I use in small quantities, where store-bought sizes are too big for my needs and I could just pluck a few leaves when the need arises. Would anyone care to answer my questions:
1) Can you grow a chili plant from the seeds of store-bought dried red chilies? Any tips on doing that?
2) How do you obtain a curry leaf plant? Any reliable sources out there? Or do you ask your local nursery to order one for you? Do you think a curry leaf plant would survive and thrive indoors in a place like Missouri?
Thanks for the inspiration, everyone, and thanks, Mandira, for hosting! This is a wonderful learning experience for me.

Friday, February 09, 2007

C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam

The myriad cuisines of India all love their vegetables! Veggies are diced and sliced, grated and mashed, stir-fried and curried into hundreds of vegetable dishes. In this series, the A to Z of Indian Vegetables, we take an alphabetical journey through the various avatars of vegetables relished in Indian cuisine. For each letter, we will make a tasty vegetable dish that illustrates one manner in which vegetables are savored in India.

C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
Bazu, one of your guesses was correct: The C of Indian vegetables uses a beautiful orange-hued winter vegetable...the carrot! Desserts came early in this series, but of course we had to devote one post to the use of vegetables in Indian desserts. And carrots are the quintessential dessert vegetable, with their vibrant color and inherent sweetness. The two most popular veggie-based desserts in India are probably dudhi halwa and gajar (carrot) halwa. The latter wins hands down in my book, because carrots are inexpensive and ubiquitous, unlike the dudhi (bottle gourd), which is difficult to find here in the US.

If you are looking to be sneaky and smuggle in some vegetables into dessert, there are a number of recipes that lend themselves to easy modification. One is the aforementioned halwa, where grated veggies can be cooked in some milk and sugar and then mixed in with some khoya (milk that has been thickened almost to the point of becoming solid). The resulting halwa has the consistency of a thick pudding. Another dessert that is readily "veggie-fied" is kheer. Halwa needs khoya and kheer merely calls for milk or evaporated milk, making it the more low-maintainance choice. The links at the end showing recipes from other bloggers will give you an idea of how one can cleverly make an array of vegetable-servings-masquerading-as-desserts!

I have already made one version of carrot kheer last year. Since then, I have made it numerous times and it is a definite crowd-pleaser. For this series, I was looking for a variation, and came across the recipe for carrot-cashew payasam in one of my favorite cookbooks: Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan. Payasam is the Southern Indian counterpart of kheer. A combination of pureed carrots and raw cashew paste, it looked creamy and decadent and I just knew I had to make it for this series.

Carrot-Cashew Payasam

Adapted from Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan
(serves 4)
1. Soak 1/2 cup raw cashew nuts in 1 cup of warm milk for 20-30 minutes.
2. Grate 1/2 lb carrots, then saute them in 2 tbsp ghee for a few minutes until just-tender.
3. Bring 6 cups of milk to a boil, keep stirring and simmering until the milk reduces to half the original volume.
4. Meanwhile, drain milk from the soaked cashews (save the drained milk!). Place cashews and sauteed carrots in a food processor or blender and make a coarse paste, adding some of the drained milk as required for the grinding.
5. Add the cashew-carrot paste and 1/2 cup sugar to the milk. Stir well and cook for a few minutes.
6. Stir in 1 heaping tsp powdered cardamom and stir well. Remove from heat.

The verdict:
I did enjoy this kheer a lot, but the rich taste of the cashews was a little lost in the preparation, I thought. I also don't love the pureed carrots, preferring to leave them in the grated form. In the end, I keep going back to my old version of the carrot kheer. This recipe is worth trying, though: both variations of carrot kheer have their own unique taste.

How do you serve this dish?
This kheer is very rich, and best enjoyed chilled, served in a small bowl (katori). It can also be served warm, as a side-dish to some hot, puffy puris (fried flatbreads). You can get creative and try it as a sauce for some vanilla ice cream, but I have not tried that yet! Warm carrot halwa and ice cream are a classic combination, often served at Indian wedding receptions.

Fellow bloggers have come up with many delicious vegetable-based desserts. Here are some of my favorite finds:
Two classic Indian desserts...
Carrot Halwa from Kitchen Chick,
Beet Halwa from Green Jackfruit,
Two regional sweet potato desserts...
Ranga Alur Puli from Lima-Delhi,
Sweet Potato Kheer from Food For Thought,
And two very unusual veggie-based desserts...
Green pea and Chickpea Ladoo from Happy Burp and
Onion Kheer from My Dhaba

Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables

Sunday, September 17, 2006

SHF 23: The Surprise Inside!

No, no, I am still not done with my thesis...several more weeks to go, but I popped up from my hibernation to participate in one of my favorite foodie events, Sugar High Friday.

This month's SHF (#23, can you believe it?) is being hosted by the veggie evangelist, that champion of fresh and healthy vegetables- Alanna of Veggie Venture. Alanna has chosen the rather mysterious, open-ended theme: Surprise Inside!

So what surprise do I have in store for you?

This box contains a bona-fide dessert (sweet and rich and milky) which...SURPRISE...contains a full serving of vegetables. A nutritious vegetable at that.


Yes, this is a simple little carrot kheer. I am thrilled that I could sneak in veggies into the sugar high in honor of the Alanna, who sure loves her vegetables.

Kheer is a catch-all term for a bunch of stove-top Indian desserts. You barely need an excuse to make kheer: a birthday, a festive celebration, a family gathering is reason enough to make a big pot of this creamy dessert (it closely resembles rice pudding) to be scooped up by the bowlful.

In general, kheer contains:

  1. A milky base, generally dairy milk or coconut milk
  2. A main ingredient. The popular choices are rice, vermicelli pasta, lentils and vegetables such as carrot and bottle gourd
  3. A sprinkle of spices such as cardamom and saffron
  4. A garnish of nuts and raisin to add to the celebration!

The classic Indian carrot dessert is actually a much thicker pudding called gajar halwa but I love carrot kheer instead because it is easily cooked in 20-30 minutes. The only specialty ingredient required is cardamom; the other ingredients are pantry staples (or available at any old grocery store). The saffron, added for the delicate golden orange-yellow glow that it imparts to the kheer and for its prized subtle taste, is not required in this kheer. The copious amounts of beta-carotene in carrots give the kheer a lovely sunshine hue. Making kheer the traditional way requires a couple of hours of patient stirring to thicken the milk into the right consistency, but here I use evaporated milk to shorten the cooking time a great deal.

Carrot Kheer
(serves about 4)

4 large carrots (the freshest and juiciest you can find)
1 tbsp. butter or ghee
1/4 cup sugar (or more to taste)
1 cup milk (low-fat OK)
1 12-oz can evaporated milk (low-fat OK)
1 heaped tsp. powdered cardamom
Garnish: raisins and chopped toasted nuts

  1. Shred the carrots by hand (quite a workout) or using a food processor.
  2. Heat butter/ghee and sauté the carrots for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the milk and sugar, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
  4. Stir in the evaporated milk and cardamom, then cook uncovered for 5 more minutes. Taste for sugar and stir in more if required.
  5. Chill the kheer, then serve topped with nuts and raisins.

This kheer was made in St. Louis when I was visiting over Labor Day weekend.

I will be moving there in a few months, so One Hot Stove will soon come to you from the Gateway to the West, St. Louis.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Test-Driving my new Le Creuset

Early this year, I made a resolution to stock my kitchen with better cookware. One of the items high on my list was a heavy-duty cast-iron casserole. A few weeks ago, my friend Laureen stopped by, and came bearing a wedding gift in a big old heavy box. She must be a mind-reader, because that box contained my object of desire: a le creuset casserole, in the cutest yellow-tomato shape (complete with a realistic stem-like lid). creuset1

For someone who likes to cook and has been doing it for a while, I feel like I have a very poor understanding of cookware. Much of it stems from the fact that (a) I cook in a *tiny* kitchen with limited space for pots and pans, and (b) when I stocked my kitchen 5 years ago, I was under a tight budget and ended up getting one run-of-the-mill cookware set and then just using that for years. So I am starting to educate myself a little bit on cookware, and it turns out that cast-iron cookware is made by pouring molten iron into a mold (a centuries-old method of making cooking pots). The Le creuset variety is then coated with a layer of enamel, which means it does not require "seasoning" like regular cast iron pots do. The wonderful thing about cast iron pots is that they are nothing if not sturdy, so I totally expect to take good care of my little tomato and have it last a lifetime.

I searched around for a recipe to try in this pot, and came across one in a recent issue of Vegetarian Times magazine. It sounded like a delicious recipe (vegan to boot) and uses carrots (which I tend to under-use) and rubbed sage (a new addition to my spice rack). This recipe was part of an article on carrot recipes; I am dying to try out a carrot cake which was also published in the same article.

Tofu-Carrot Cacciatore

(adapted from "Vegetarian Times" magazine, serves 4-5)
1 bunch fresh carrots, peeled and cut into slices on a bias
1 green pepper, cut into large dice
1 onion, cut into large dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8-oz package Italian-style baked tofu, cubed
1 28-oz can tomatoes (crushed or whole peeled)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bayleaf
1 tbsp rubbed sage
salt and pepper to taste
1 and half cups dried pasta (your favorite shape)
1. Heat the olive oil. Saute onions and garlic till transluscent and aromatic.
2. Add the carrots, peppers and bayleaf and saute for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, sage, tofu, salt and pepper and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per package directions. Serve the cacciatore over the hot pasta.

I was very impressed with the way this stew turned out. The le creuset casserole browns veggies just beautifully. It held heat for a really long time and was a snap to clean. Thanks, Laureen, I will be thinking of you every single time I use this beautiful pot!