Showing posts with label Indian vegetables. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indian vegetables. Show all posts

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Radish as Comfort Food

It's a's a's a dal with features of both; a totally inauthentic recipe but so tasty that you should try it anyway.

I owe a great debt to food bloggers- really I do. It is very nice to learn how to make impressive desserts and elaborate dishes for special occasions. But the coolest thing is when blogs teach me fresh new ideas for everyday meals and different ways to cook the same ol' vegetables that end up in my crisper week after week.

Radishes were mainly a salad vegetable in my life until a few years ago when I noticed wonderful ways to cook them into a main dish here on Mahanandi and here on Aayi's recipes. Over the years, this radish dal has evolved in my kitchen based on those recipes and remains one of the greatest hits on the dinner rotation.

The trick here is to work quickly and not let the dal simmer for too long. You will be rewarded with radishes that are cooked long enough to soak up all the delicious flavors but that remain juicy enough to make every bite a treat.

Radish Dal 

1. Cook 12 cup toor dal and set it aside.

2. Start with the tempering
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 pinch asafetida
  • 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
3. Add 1 large bunch red radishes, sliced into coins or half moons. If the radish greens are attached to the bunch and if they look fresh, chop up the greens and add them too. White radish (daikon) will work perfectly well here too.

4. Add the spices:
  • 12 tsp. turmeric
  • 12 tsp. red chilli powder
  • 1-2 tsp. of your favorite rasam or sambar powder
  • 1 tbsp. tamarind paste
  • Salt to taste
5. Stir for a minute, then add 1 cup water and let the radishes cook for 3-4 minutes.

6. Add the cooked toor dal and more water if needed and simmer for 5 minutes.

7. Taste and make sure the balance of salt, spice and tangy flavors is just right. Let the dal sit for at least 20 minutes before serving and serve over freshly steamed rice.

I finally got around to making ghee at home, and a dollop of this home made ghee transforms dal-rice into something even more special. The picture shows what little was left after V and I finished eating.

Please check back on Monday night for the round up of Blog Bites 8, where it is all about one dish meals. Entries will be welcomed all weekend. I'll include my own entry in that post.

Have a great weekend, all!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Self-Saucing Cabbage Curry

I love low-maintenance recipes. The ones where I don't need to hover over the pan watching like a hawk, or stir the pot constantly until my arms muscles quiver in protest. Where I can put the ingredients in, say "see ya later" and come back to something good and tasty. This is one such recipe.

It uses cabbage, the inexpensive and unassuming vegetable that can be dressed up in a hundred different ways. The idea for a no-hassle way to coat the cabbage in a tasty sauce comes from this recipe that I found via Priya, when she sent it as an entry for Blog Bites.

Dry coconut powder and sesame seeds are blitzed to a powder (this could be made in a batch and stored as a pantry basic). This powder magically turns a basic stir-fry bhaaji into a luscious curry, by combining with juices released from the vegetables and creating a wonderful sauce.

I don't bother roasting the coconut and sesame before making the powder, instead stir-frying the powder for a couple of minutes. I don't add any extra water either, because salt draws out plenty of water from the vegetables. This recipe would certainly work with other vegetables too.

Self-Saucing Cabbage Curry
Adapted from this recipe from Healthfood Desivideshi, serves 4 to 5

  1. Grind 3 tbsp. dry coconut flakes/powder and 1 tbsp. sesame seeds into a fine powder and set aside. 
  2. In a pan, heat 2 tsp. oil.
  3. Temper it with 1 tsp. mustard seeds and 1 tsp. cumin seeds.
  4. Add 1 medium onion (sliced), 5 to 6 cups cabbage strips (about half a large head), 1 bell pepper (sliced) and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add 1 tsp. red chilli powder, 1/2 tsp. turmeric, 2 tsp. cumin-coriander powder and the coconut-sesame powder. Stir fry for a couple of minutes. 
  6. Add 1 chopped tomato, salt to taste and 1/2 tsp. jaggery/sugar (optional; do this if you like your savory curries to have a barely perceptible hint of sweetness).  
  7. Don't add water or cover the pan (but others have noted that the vegetables started to burn at the bottom so please take your own stove/cookware into account and adjust the method accordingly). Just let it cook unattended on medium-low heat for 12-15 minutes. 
Serve with rotis or yogurt-rice or dal-rice and some pickle on the side for an utterly satisfying meal.

Enjoy your Sunday and have a wonderful week ahead.

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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cashews Are the New Cream

Out grocery shopping this weekend, we spotted a mesh bag of the teeniest tiniest potatoes I have ever seen in my life. Some of them were only a little bigger than chickpeas! V's eyes lit up as he mouthed the words, "dum aloo".

So that is how recipe #32 is Vegan Dum Aloo. The inspiring recipe was this Alu Dum recipe from The Spice Who Loved Me.

There's quite a bit of butter and cream involved in the way most restaurants make this dish. Here, cashew paste takes over and contributes a rich and creamy taste and totally eliminates the need for any dairy products. Paprika is used to add a beautiful color and taste while keeping the curry mild. I chose to roast the potatoes with their skin on; the crackling roasted skin contributes a wonderful smoky flavor to the dish.

Here's my version of the original recipe:

1. The potatoes-
Wash and dry 2-3 cups of baby potatoes. Prick each one 2-3 times with a fork and toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast at 425F for 20-25 minutes (I used a toaster oven to save energy) or until the potatoes are fork-tender.

2. The paste-
a) Chop 2 medium onions in large dice. Saute them in a spoonful of oil until light brown. Let them cool down.
b) Soak ¼ cup raw cashews in hot water for 20 minutes or so.
c) Grind together the soaked cashews and onions to a fine, thick paste.

3. Heat oil and temper it with 1 tsp. each of cumin seeds and nigella seeds (kalonji).

4. Add 2 tsp. ginger-garlic paste, 2 tsp. kasuri methi, turmeric, red chilli powder, paprika, salt and saute for several seconds.

5. Stir in the cashew paste and a cup of tomato puree and cook the mixture together for 10 minutes. Add water as required to adjust the consistency of the curry to your own taste.

6. Taste the curry and add a pinch of sugar if it is too tangy. Finally, turn off the heat, add the following:
1 tsp. garam masala
the hot roasted baby potatoes
handful of minced cilantro

Let the curry rest, covered, for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend in. Serve with rotis (or whole wheat tortillas masquerading as rotis) or rice.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to write in very helpful tips regarding rice cookers on my previous post! Y'all are the best!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Less is More: Vegetables

Getting your 5 (or more) a day is easy and delicious when you find the right recipes...that's what I have been learning from the bloggers.

First up, a gorgeous and couldn't-be-simpler subzi from Arundathi. A mild hint of cumin and mustard allows the fresh colors and flavors of spinach and corn to shine through. Arundathi tells us that this is a recipe she carried with her as a student, and it is a nice reminder that such recipes are worth going back to even after the bare-bones pantry days are gone.

Spinach + Corn + Cumin seeds + Mustard seeds = Spinach with Corn

I served this simple and delicious spinach-corn with rice and bhindi ni kadhi from Coffee. This okra kadhi is a superb recipe. I was almost tempted to eat the spicy stuffing with a spoon! My attempts at frying the stuffed okra were quite fruitless this time around; the stuffing leaked out :D Next time, I might bake the stuffed okra before making the kadhi.

Next on the list, an irresistible radish relish from Anita. The zingy flavors of radish are paired with bright lemon juice, with red chillies providing heat and color.

Daikon radish + Chillies + Tempering + Lemon juice = Mujj Chatin

I probably committed a cardinal sin in using peanut oil instead of mustard oil in this recipe. I don't have mustard oil in my pantry and when I look at the bottles of toasted sesame oil, raw sesame oil, peanut oil, and two kinds of olive oil in my pantry, I feel like I just can't bring home another one, hence the substitution. The mujj chatin, just like every other recipe from Anita's blog, was spot-on! It turned a dal-rice dinner into something mighty special.

We come to another spinach recipe- I'm getting serious about eating my greens! This one comes from Nandita. Her traditional lunch series is my absolute favorite, sharing those most precious recipes that make up the taste of home-cooked food. Nandita says, "This is a fine example of typical Tamil Brahmin cuisine, where less is always more and the flavours of the main ingredient are relied upon to the maximum without adding strong flavours like onion or garlic." Less is always more, you say? I had to try this recipe for my event!!

Spinach + Rice flour + Urad dal + Red chillies = Keerai Masiyal or mashed spinach.

Nandita got beautiful results with her traditional stone pot and mashing spoon; I managed with my heavy-duty le creuset casserole and a hand blender. My only tweak to the recipe: I added some lemon juice at the end. You have to taste this to believe it.

I served the mashed spinach with steamed rice and a sesame potato stir-fry from Latha

Potatoes + Sesame seeds + Red chilli powder + Turmeric + Tempering= Bangala Dumpa Vepudu.
Nothing more and nothing less! When I sat down to enjoy this meal, I could not take my eyes off the beautiful colors on my plate- the jade spinach and the golden potatoes.

Sure, ginger/garlic/ any one of a hundred different ingredients could be added to each of these recipes, but the truth is that they taste perfect just in this minimalist state. Needless to say, all these vegetables are being packed to-go, straight to MBP: Less is More.

Entries are already trickling in and I hope you will participate too! If you have a favorite few-ingredient recipe on your blog, leave a comment and I'll try and make it for this event.

*** *** ***

...and for dessert, another cupcake. The recipe comes from the ridiculously talented Hannah of BitterSweet.

Enjoy the weekend. Here's wishing my American friends a happy Fourth!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Kohlrabi Sukke

Many thanks to all those who left me comments and e-mails asking if we are doing OK here in St. Louis. This region has been in the news lately because of the devastating flooding of the mighty Mississippi river and its tributaries. North of us, the swollen river breached levees/flood-banks and sent huge swatches of land under water. Many people watched helplessly as their homes were set adrift and tens of thousands of acres of farmland (that normally feeds much of the US) is now under water. By the time the river has come down to us in St. Louis, the damage has been done, the levels are under control (more or less) and we don't expect any flooding here.

All this leads me to wonder about the fate of our food supply this year. Flooding of farmland is a huge tragedy for farmers, and something that will affect everyone who eats, essentially. Last week, I was at the Farmers' Market and bought such wonderful local produce; I don't know about the coming months...

One of my finds last week was kohlrabi (called navalkol in Marathi). If I remember correctly, this vegetable was made only infrequently in my parents' home (usually as a raw koshimbir/salad) and I had never cooked with it either. I decided to tackle it one evening in the past week and decided on this Kohlrabi sukke from Shilpa's blog. If you want to fall in love with kohlrabi, this simple dish is it! Cooked kohlrabi is simmered in a flavorful coconut paste in this wonderful Konkani recipe. It is a recipe that is so typical of Shilpa's blog- home-style cooking at its very best. The kohlrabi that I bought had a nice top of fresh leaves, so I added them to the curry.

Kohlrabi Sukke

(Adapted from Aayi's Recipes)

1 bunch kohlrabi
1 medium onion, diced
1 t turmeric powder
1 t oil
1-2 t jaggery (unrefined sugar)
salt to taste
For the paste:
1 heaped t urad dal
1 heaped t coriander seeds
1 t oil
½ C grated coconut (fresh or frozen)
2 dried red chillies (or to taste)
¼ C tamarind juice

1. Remove the leaves from the kohlrabi. Discard any discolored ones, wash the rest very well and shred them finely. Set aside.
2. Wash the kohlrabi and halve each one. Pressure cook them. They don't need prolonged pressure cooking. One whistle was enough in my pressure cooker.
3. Pluck off any tough stems from the cooked kohlrabi and cut them into small dice.
4. Meanwhile, fry the urad dal, coriander seeds and red chillies in the oil. Then blend these into a smooth paste with the coconut and tamarind.
5. In a saucepan, fry the onion until it is translucent. Add the shredded kohlrabi leaves and turmeric and stir-fry them until they are almost tender. Add the cooked kohlrabi cubes, coconut paste, jaggery, salt to taste and a little water if required and simmer the curry for 5-10 minutes.

This dish is a wonderful example of coastal cuisine- using a freshly made paste of mild and creamy coconut, tangy tamarind and a few carefully chosen spices to cook flavorful vegetable dishes. I am sending this post to Suganya for AFAM: Coconut and to Sig for JFI: Tamarind.

*** *** ***

MBP Update: We now have one more giveaway associated with this event!! Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice has kindly offered to send a bottle of spice extract to each of three randomly chosen participants. The spice extracts that are being given away happen to be ones that I have tried and loved- Ginger, Tea Masala and Cardamom. Shipping of these will be restricted to the US. I have updated this new giveaway in the MBP announcement post.

Knitting Crochet Update:
When I told my friend Sujayita that I have started knitting, she said to me, "If you can knit, I don't see why you shouldn't learn crochet as well" and promptly sent me a crochet book- Stitch 'n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker (tee hee). Who am I to resist? Last week, I sat down and laboriously taught myself a few basic stitches from the book, and fell in love with crochet easily enough.

Here are my first two projects- baby steps towards becoming a bag lady!

Bracelet Purse: this is a cute pattern from Knotty Generation.

It is a tiny purse with one short and one long handle; the long handle slips into the small one and then onto the wrist as a bracelet.

It is just big enough to hold my keys and cell phone and go along on my wrist when I am out walking Dale. But my little hot blue purse had a near-death experience at the dog park the other day when a puppy thought it was a toy and snatched it from my wrist. I am happy to report that the purse survived and the poor puppy was chastised :D


I loved the pattern so much that I made three to give as gifts, including this one in "faded denim".

I also made a very big mesh shopping bag! It is a pattern that is wonderful for beginners, generously shared by Jill Chatelain. She aptly calls it the "Rust Goes Green" bag. Who needs paper or plastic when you have these nice reusable cotton bags?

Have a great week ahead!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Taste of Rajasthan

Allergies still are shaping the daze of our lives here in St. Louis, but today I managed to pull my act together. I cooked up a flavorful and spicy meal for this rainy, stormy Saturday night that we are spending in the comfort of home. I've been missing out on so many food blog events recently, so I am delighted to be able to send this meal to Padmaja for RCI: Rajasthan.

Rajasthan: a Northern state of India that I am not too familar with. Rajasthan evokes images of dry dusty deserts, harsh living conditions, camels and oases, and rugged beautiful people whose colorful and vivid way of dressing belies the difficulty of their lives. I have never visited Rajasthan but my parents were there last year for a conference. My dad, an avid photographer, sent me some incredible pictures from their trip. Here is one of them...

Maharashtra is home to a number of migrants from Rajasthan- Marwaris who are traditionally recognized as being astute businessmen and tradespeople. For instance, the master carpenter who my parents relied on for every project big and small was from Rajasthan (but in addition to speaking his native language, he spoke Marathi perfectly...not just any Marathi but perfect Kolhapuri Marathi). But the only typical Rajasthani food I have tasted was at a Marwadi wedding. It was a sumptuous lunch, and I will never forget being served daal-baati-churma with an entire katori (bowl) of ghee on the thali for dipping the baati into.

The recipes for this meal came from a book that I found in our local library. It is called Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India written by a restauranteur from California named Lachu Moorjani. The book is organized into a dozen or so menus, feasts from different (predominantly the Northern) states of India. The Feast from Rajasthan features bharwan mirch pakora (stuffed pepper fritters) as the appetizer, sufed maas (white meat curry) as the entree, achari baingan (eggplant with pickling spices) as the side dish, Rajasthani pulav (pilaf) as the rice dish, batia roti (flatbread stuffed with salt, cilantro and spices) as the bread, and rasgulla (cheese balls in syrup) as the dessert. Quite an ambitious menu it is, and I chose just two dishes, the rice and the eggplant, for our little mini-feast.

The eggplant dish calls for a tomato-onion filling that is sauteed with a delicious medley of pickling spices. This tangy and spicy filling is stuffed into long Chinese eggplants and they are pan-fried to melting tenderness. The rice is pretty much a standard pulao, but is cooked in stock to make it more flavorful, and with aromatic whole spices. The spices used in the two dishes are completely different, complementing each other and in cooking both these dishes, I made use of almost all of the whole spices in my pantry! This meal perfumed my home with such a wonderful aroma, one that managed to pierce through even to me, with my current state of near-anosmia.

Achari Baingan
(Eggplant with pickling spices)

(adapted from "Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India" by Lachu Moorjani; serves about 3)
4 long slender (Chinese/Japanese) eggplants
2 T oil
2 t oil
1 t mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 t nigella seeds
½ t fenugreek seeds
1 medium onion, diced fine
1 t ginger-garlic paste
3 tomatoes chopped fine (I used canned whole tomatoes)
1 t turmeric
1 t red chilli powder (or to taste)
1 t coriander powder
salt to taste

1. Start by making the filling. Heat the oil and add the four seeds. Saute them for a few seconds to temper the oil.
2. Add the onion and fry it on medium heat until soft.
3. Stir in the rest of the ingredients for the filling. Cook uncovered on low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is almost dry. Let it cool a little.
4. Prepare the eggplant by cutting off the stem ends. Slice the eggplant lengthwise leaving it still attached at the stem end.
5. Divide the filling into equal portions and stuff the eggplants gently.

6. In a wide pan, heat the oil. Place the eggplants and cook them on low heat, turning every few minutes, until the eggplants are cooked through and are wonderfully tender. I covered the pan in the last 5 minutes of cooking to get them completely cooked.

Rajasthani Pulav


(adapted from "Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India" by Lachu Moorjani; serves about 3)
1 C Basmati (or other long-grained) rice
2 C vegetable stock
1 small onion, halved and sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 cardamon pods, crushed
5-6 peppercorns
5-6 cloves
1 t oil
salt to taste

1. Heat the oil. Saute the onion and the whole spices until the onion is slightly browned.
2. Add the rice and saute for a minute.
3. Stir in the stock, salt (if needed) and bring to a boil.
4. Simmer until the rice is tender.
5. Fluff with a fork and serve. Remove the whole spices before eating.

Verdict: What a wonderful meal this was! I love stuffed eggplants from all regions of India, but this dish was very different from the mostly Western and Southern style recipes that I normally use. I am thrilled to have another stuffed eggplant dish that I enjoy. It was my first time cooking with these long eggplants, and their sweetness was a wonderful contrast to the spicy pickled filling. This dish is finger-licking good in that irresistible way pickled vegetables are. As much as I loved the eggplant with the fragrant rice, I loved it even more with roti. Next time, I might make a complete Rajasthan-inspired meal with this eggplant, rotis, rice and Rajasthani kadhi.

*** *** ***

So it turns out that these days I have a new obsession on my hands- I have been bitten by the knitting bug. Cathy taught me to knit last year and left me with a ton of knitting supplies, including yarn and a superb book. Now that summer is here and I have more time on my hands, I decided to give it a go. I am hooked (no pun intended)! Knitting is so therapeutic. At one point, I turned to V and said, "Isn't it magical and miraculous how two thin sticks can turn a ball of thread into all kinds of stuff?". He looked at me warily and I am sure he thought it was just the antihistamines talking :D

Here is my first complete project- a little paw print washcloth; I found a free pattern online here. I know this is the sort of thing that people make when they are eight and a half years old, when they just start to knit, but I am excited all the same. I couldn't stop saying "whee" as I completed each line without dropping a stitch.

Well, I have way more enthusiasm than talent when it comes to knitting, so there is no danger that this food blog will turn into a knitting blog, I assure you. But tell me, does anyone have ideas for a simple and fun beginner project?

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Mirchi ka Salan

Ever since I wrapped up the Indian Vegetables series, I have been slacking off as far as trying new Indian vegetable recipes is concerned. This is such a pity, because one lifetime is already too short to learn all the recipes out there, and I really should not be wasting time! This week, I tried an iconic dish from the city of Hyderabad in India. Mirchi ka salan consists of bell pepper strips cooked in a tangy sesame seed sauce.

The recipe comes from a "new" cookbook I have acquired: Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of India. I say "new" because although new to me, this book was first published in 1985 and is currently out of print! I read about this book on Anita's blog and knew right away that I wanted to read it and cook from it. Having no luck finding a copy in the local library, I used a gift card given by my darling friend Sujayita (yes, I am so spoiled!) and found a copy online. The recipe calls for green peppers (bell peppers/ capsicums). I used a mixture of green peppers and red peppers for this dish and was very pleased with the sweet and delicately smoky flavor contributed by the red peppers. It also made the dish quite colorful and festive. Of course, one could use any peppers that are available. Don't skip the lemon juice; from what I can tell, it really pulls the flavors of this dish together.

Mirchi ka Salan

(Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of India, makes about 4 servings)
3 medium-large green peppers
2 medium-large red peppers
1/2 C sesame seeds
1 t desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
2 T oil (I use peanut oil)
1/2 t nigella seeds/ kalonji
1 t mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
2 medium onions, chopped fine
2 green chillies, chopped fine
1/2 t red chilli powder (or to taste)
salt to taste
1/2 lemon, freshly juiced
1. Grind the sesame seeds and desiccated coconut into a fine powder in a spice grinder.
2. Cut the peppers into thick slices.
3. Heat 1 T oil in a heavy pan. Fry the pepper strips on medium-high heat until charred at the edges and slightly wilted. Remove them and set them aside.
4. Heat 1 T oil in the same pan. Temper it with nigella seeds, mustard seeds and cumin.
5. Saute the onion and chillies until the onions are transluscent (but not browned).
6. Add the salt, red chilli powder and sesame-coconut powder and saute for a few minutes.
7. Add a cup of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, simmer for a couple of minutes more, then turn off the heat.
8. Stir in the lemon juice before serving.

This is a delicious way to eat those nutritious peppers! The sesame seed paste gives a very pleasantly bitter, rich, grown-up flavor to the vegetables; very enjoyable. For a well-known classic, this dish came together in minutes. I would love to experiment with this recipe- using other vegetables to make some non-classic variations. I imagine some fleshy (for lack of a more appetizing word!) veggies like ridge gourds and zucchini would be delicious in this sauce. Other chillies like poblano peppers would also work beautifully, I think.

I wanted to make some piping hot parathas to go with the vegetable dish. Putting together a use-it-or-lose-it bunch of wilting scallions (also called green onions and spring onions) from the refrigerator and this recipe for Chinese scallion hot cakes, I improvised a scallion paratha. I made some regular roti dough and minced the green and white parts of the scallion. Then, using Gattina's beautiful pictorial instructions, I made the scallion parathas: roll out the dough into a medium circle, sprinkle with scallions, roll into a tube, coil the tube up, flatten and roll again. It helps a great deal if the scallions are very finely minced. Once griddle-baked, these parathas were flaky and delicious, a nice change from the usual plain paratha that I make.

***** ***** *****
My October article for the Daily Tiffin: Gifts from the Heart. Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weekend Stuff

Oh, the dog days of summer...Dale enjoys a frosty popsicle in an attempt to beat the record-breaking highs in St. Louis.

Book Love: Thanks to the recommendations shared by so many of you in this post, my summer reading is turning out to be a lot of fun. Priya, if you are reading this, I did get around to reading "Tiger Ladies" by Sudha Koul and enjoyed it very much. It is really an intimate glimpse into everyday Kashmiri life in peaceful times. I am currently enjoying Bill Bryson's "Travels in small town America" (Bee recommended Bryson's books). I did get started on Bapsi Sidhwa's "Cracking India" but it somehow did not engage me much and I didn't get around to finishing it. I still have a lot of the books on my list, and thank everyone for taking the time to point them out to me. To continue this conversation about books, I have made a page called Book Love listing some of the books that I have particularly enjoyed. I invite all you fellow bookworms to add your suggestions, comments etc. to this post if you like! A link to this post has been placed under Favorite Reads in the right column of the blog for easy access at any time.

It is award season here in the food blog world.

Many many thanks to Zlamushka, Madhuli, Bee, Lydia, Anita, Santhi, TBC, Raaga, Suganya, Mandira and Manasi for each giving me one or two of the sweet and encouraging awards listed above!

Finally, a recent experiment that turned out to be quite tasty...
Pav Bhaji burgers: the flavors of pav bhaji packaged into a handy portable form that is perfect for a lunchbox, picnic or cook-out.
1. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 1 medium onion (minced), 1/2 cup green peas, handful of minced green beans, 1 green pepper (minced). Cook in microwave for 4-5 minutes or until the veggies are soft (no need to add any extra water). One could add minced cauliflower or grated carrots here as well.
2. To the cooked vegetables, add 1 cup cooked mashed potatoes.
3. Season with salt, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric, red chilli powder and pav bhaji masala (all to taste).
4. Mix everything well, form into patties and grill/ shallow fry until golden brown on both sides.
5. The one pav-bhaji flavor missing in the patties is tomato, so be sure to serve the pav bhaji burgers with slices of sweet ripe tomato or a squirt of ketchup!

I'll be back on Sunday with something that is sure to give you a sugar high! Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mashed Potatoes, with Oriya Flair

Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine has come up with an event that is close to my heart: Regional Cuisines of India or RCI. Each month, bloggers come together and cook up specialties of one region or state of India. This month, the RCI event is being hosted by Swapna of Swad. The name of Swapna's blog means "flavor" and the flavor of this month is Orissa Cuisine!

For me, a large part of the experience of being an Indian is the humbling realization that it will take considerably more than one lifetime to know even the basic history, geography, culture and food of my land. I was reminded of this when the theme of Oriya (from Orissa) cuisine was announced. Apart from knowing Orissa as a state in the East of India, and a vague awareness of its landmarks such as the Sun Temple at Konark and Jagannath Temple at Puri, I am blissfully unaware of the cuisine and culture of this state.

What should I make for RCI: Orissa? Madhur Jaffrey came to the rescue (as she often does in my kitchen). Her wonderful cookbook World Vegetarian, contains a little section on basic mashed potatoes, and some really clever ways to spice them up and turn their creamy goodness into one of several kicked-up avatars. The use of mustard oil and mustard seed paste is a hallmark of the cuisine of Orissa, and one of Jaffrey's suggestions is to spike mashed potatoes with this piquant spice.

Because this dish is a simple side-dish, I chose to cook the potatoes in a jiffy using the microwave. Of course, one could cook them in a pressure cooker or simply on the stove. Mustard oil is an unfamiliar ingredient for me, and I don't stock it in my pantry, so I took Jaffrey's suggestion of substituting it with extra-virgin olive oil. Once I had made these mashed potatoes, I remembered a Bengali acquaintance making a similar dish one afternoon for lunch many years ago. She shaped the mashed potatoes into little balls and tucked them into a corner of each plate. It was a cute presentation, and because Bengal and Orissa share some culinary traditions (they are neighbors, after all), I chose to shape these potatoes the same way.

Mashed Potatoes, Oriya Style

(adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, serves 2-3)mashP2
2 medium potatoes (I used red-skinned)
1 heaped t mustard seeds
1 hot green chilli
1 T mustard oil or extra-virgin olive oil (I used olive oil)
salt to taste
1. Wash the potatoes well. Pierce each potato 8-10 times with a fork (to vent steam while cooking and prevent the potato from exploding)!
2. Place the potatoes on a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 2 mins and 30 seconds. Let them sit for 1-2 minutes, then turn over and microwave again for 2 minutes.
3. As the potatoes are cooking, crush the mustard seeds in a mortar and pestle to a powder. Mince the chilli and add it to the mustard powder. Add the oil to the mixture and let it steep while the potatoes cook and cool down.
4. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle (but still warm), peel them (you can leave the peels on if desired). Mash them, then sprinkle with salt and the mustard mixture.
5. Mix well and shape into 6-8 little balls. Serve at room temperature.

We loved this simple side-dish, with the soft creamy potatoes, the warm flavors and gentle heat from the chillies and the mustard, not to mention the dash of color added by the brown and golden flecks of mustard. V remarked that this dish tasted like "mashed potatoes on steroids", which pretty much sums it up! I don't know if this dish is authentic enough to be part of a traditional Oriya meal, but I think it makes for a very favorful side-dish to any meal. You can put it together in a matter of minutes, with basic pantry ingredients, and serve these spicy little balls as an unusual accompaniment to a simple dal-chawal supper.

For a beautiful array of traditional and modern Oriya dishes, check out Swapna's neatly categorized round-up

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Z is for Zucchini Kofta Curry

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 "Z" of Indian Vegetables
The letter Z inspired twenty-four zesty Indian flavors!

First, we take a tour of the Zany Zucchini Cafe. Our menu is diverse, the choices are many, but they have one thing in common- you guessed it, Zucchini, that mild and juicy summer squash!

Let's start with the breakfast menu. We have a choice of three savory dishes today. First up, Asha of Aroma/ Foodie's Hope serves up her Zucchini Carrot Adai, which is brimming with nutrition in the form of brown rice, dals and vegetables.

The second is another savory pancake prepared by Jyothi of Andhra Spicy. Her Zucchini Besan Puda is made with a instant batter of chickpea flour and shredded zucchini, with a touch of cumin seeds.

The third breakfast choice is a soft, spongy savory cake. Zucchini Tower is the lofty creation of Live2Cook of Live To Cook and is rich in dals and succulent zucchini, steamed in special molds.

All three breakfast choices come with a bowl of creamy Zucchini Chutney shared by Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine. The combination of hot-off-the-griddle dosas and steaming hot idlis with the cool chutney promises to be delicious.

Our lunch and dinner menu is very extensive, as you will see. For a classic Indian appetizer, we offer a crisp and golden Mixed Platter of Zucchini Bhajjis, courtesy Priyanka of Lajawaab.

As for the main course, we have something for everyone. If you are in the mood for something simple and home-style, Suma of Veggie Platter has a comforting Zucchini Tomato Pappu or dal that will warm you from the inside out.

Do we have any veggie lovers in the house today? I have a feeling we do! For you, Archana of Tried and Tested Recipes presents her signature Zucchini Zaaykedar Sabzi- a medley of juicy vegetables sprinkled with the choicest seasonings and baked to perfection.

For those diners who are calorie-conscious, we have just the thing for you too: Zlamushka of Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen dishes up her Zucchini Koftas- tiny bites of shredded cooked zucchini, rolled in crunchy sesame seeds and baked, not fried, then served with rice and a velvety curry.

We know that some people love their dairy, and for them, the perfect choice would be Zucchini Paneer Sabzi- a combination of crunchy zucchini half-moons and creamy paneer cubes, stir-fried perfectly by Musical of Musical's Kitchen.

Finally, for those seeking good old-fashioned restaurant style richness, we present Raaga of The Singing Chef and her Zucchini Capsicum Makhanwala- here, zucchini dances a tango with a medley of colorful peppers in a rich and creamy sauce that is delicately flavored.

Ok, now that we had our fill of zucchini, we have a lot more delicious food on display today. The next Z vegetable is colored the daintiest shade of purple- the purple yam or Zimikand. Suma of Veggie Platter cooks into a sweet and creamy dessert that is the color of pale lilac- go take a look at her Zimikand Halwa.

In a burst of vegetable love, G V Barve of Add Flavour uses five Z zutaten ("ingredients" in German) to make a vibrant and colorful dish of Mixed vegetables.

Then comes a Z fruit, the appetizing Zardaloo or dried apricot. Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi write a wonderfully informative post, then go on to share a vegetarian version of a traditional Zoroasterian dish- their creative stew is called Zardaloo zSali zSoy!

Coming to the Z spices...

First, a spice that has reached the zenith of expensive taste: Zafaran or saffron, the most prized spice in the world, more expensive than gold (weight for weight)! In Indian cooking, saffron is most likely to find its way into festive rice dishes and desserts.

Anita of A Mad Tea Party writes a beautiful ode to the precious Kashmiri saffron and shares a recipe for the most exquisite dessert- Zafraani Zamadud or yogurt made with saffron-tinged milk.

Dhana of Fresh Kitchen uses saffron to bring a delicate fragrance and flavor to her very unusual Zafarani Pulao, made with a harvest grain blend instead of rice.

Manasi of A Cook At Heart takes a cue from the latest Bollywood blockbuster and make a Zafrani Pulav- Amitabh-style, rich with raisins and nuts, and redolent with whole spices.

The next spice is actually a spice blend, and it has a definite zing to it: Zaatar is a flavorful thyme-based spice mix that is popular in the Middle East.

Nandita of Saffron Trail sprinkles zaatar between sheets of tender dough and turns out some flaky and golden Zaatar Flavored Parathas.

Saju of Chachi's Kitchen shares a wonderful recipe for making zatar, then uses it creatively in a Zaatari Salsa that she uses, along with roasted zucchini, in a creative chapati wrap.

Now it is the turn of a Z dish that is as non-ritzy and non-jazzy as it can get: the simple and rustic Zunka of rural Maharashtra. Sauteed vegetables are cooked with chickpea to make a simple and tasty dish.

Suganya of Tasty Palettes uses a trio of colorful peppers to put together her Zunka with Capsicum- go take a look at her gorgeous pictures jumping off the screen.

Madhuli of My Foodcourt uses tender and fragrant fresh fenugreek leaves to make this beautiful dish of Zunka with Fenugreek- and she has some interesting information about an alternative name of this dish too.

The next Z word stands for zip and is a big fat zero, as in Zero-Oil! Dhana of Fresh Kitchen tries a dish from a new no-oil cookbook, and her Zero-Oil Kebabs look 100% flavorful.

We end this last round-up with two words that represent that pizzazz which is the signature of Indian cuisine: the word zhanzhanit in Marathi, and the word zhaal in Bengali both mean uber-hot or ultra-spicy.

Aarti of Aarti's Corner pounds together roasted chillies, garlic and peanuts to make this unbelievable Zhanzhanit Thecha.

G V Barve of Add Flavour makes her Zhanzhanit Thecha with some fiery red chilli powder.

Finally, for a tasty tea-time snack, Aarti of Aarti's Corner tosses together puffed rice with lots of goodies and a generous dose of chillies to make a popular Bengali street food- Zhaal Muri.

Z is for Zucchini Kofta Curry: Ze End!

In January of this year, I found myself in a new city, recovering from a very stressful year, facing the end of a blogging break that had stretched to several months. After many years of long working hours and few days off, I suddenly had quite a bit of time on my hands while I was moving towards the next phase of my working life. Which could mean only one thing: time for a new series on the blog!

I knew exactly what I wanted to focus on. We are constantly being bombarded with findings about nutrition, and while so many of the studies remain controversial, one fact is simply undeniable: it is just a really good idea to pump up our vegetable consumption. Vegetables are almost magical- they are low in fat and calories, and simply bursting with naturally occurring chemicals that do wonders in the human body- fighting chronic disease and promoting healthier lives. The fact is, for most of the people on this planet, vegetables are simply unaffordable and inaccessible. For a well-to-do and well-fed person like me, it would be a shame if I did not take advantage of my privileged life and eat to keep my body as healthy as I can. And as I started to work on increasing my vegetable consumption, it made sense to start "at home", learning all that I could about the cuisines of India and their love for vegetable dishes. As for cooking by alphabet, it is just a silly whimsical way of going about my little journey. A way to amuse myself.

At the same time that I started this series, I completely over-hauled my method of meal planning. Earlier, I would decide to make, say, dal and rice for dinner, with vegetables as an after-thought. My new method is: Veggie-Centric Meal Planning. I keep my kitchen well-stocked with vegetables by shopping every weekend. When I want to plan a meal, I look at the vegetables that I have on hand and let the vegetables "suggest" a dish to me. Carbs and proteins are added to complete the meal. If I spy a cauliflower in there, I might (a) pair it with frozen peas and a small potato to make a stir-fry, then make simple dal and rice/ khichdi to complete the meal, (b) roast the florets, toss them with olives and caper, then make a spaghetti with soy meatballs and tomato sauce to complete the meal, (c) for a "special treat" dinner, make pav-bhaji. In the same way, peppers, onions and mushrooms could find their way into an Indian-Chinese fried rice (with some egg strips thrown in) or a Punjabi-inspired curry, or a pasta dish or a quesadilla or an omelet, depending on my mood and the time on hand. For 7 months now, I have been planning everyday meals starting with the veggies and I love it! It is not a very glamorous method, but it makes meal planning fun and easy, and it always works (for me). I vary the menu all the time, borrowing shamelessly merrily from all possible cuisines, altering dishes as I need to, to suit our taste and convenience. A couple of tips that I have found useful:
a) I keep a large box in the fridge for "odds and ends" of vegetables- a half of an onion, a wedge of cabbage that got left over from a subzi...these come in useful to fill out future meals and virtually eliminate wastage of precious veggies. For instance, one large head of red cabbage recently was served at four meals- as a "pachadi", with other veggies in a noodle stir-fry, in a "thoran" and a raw garnish for quesadillas.
b) I find that some vegetables- green peppers, green onions (spring onions), fresh herbs, fresh lemons go a long way in making easy dinners taste really good by adding a fresh note. I always try to keep these on hand.
c) Thursday or Friday nights, I plan a fridge-cleaning menu, trying to use up all perishable veggies and get ready for the shopping trip the next day. Some dishes- mixed veg pulao, vegetable noodles, vegetable soup- are just made for such occasions!

It seems that "Vegetable Love" is in the air. My Dad (I call him Baba) has recently started reading this blog...and I am sure he is quite amused by my enthusiasm about vegetables (I was a very poor eater as a child). He is a complete foodie, the sort who appreciates down-to-earth food- including fresh produce cooked at its seasonal best. As an avid gardener, he is fascinated by the biodiversity of fruits and vegetables we see around us. A couple of days ago, this is what he mailed me. In Baba's own words,
"I had been to the market this morning and bought some 'Kantoli', i.e. Raan Karli or 'Phagala' as they are called in Konkani. They make wonderful 'Kaapa', you know. We made that this afternoon. I'm sending you some pictures in case you are interested. The thin slices of the 'Kantoli' are shallow fried in rice flour to which chilli powder, dhane and jira are added with salt to taste.They make a lovely crispy dish which goes very well with Rice and Daal." (Dhane is coriander seeds, and jira is cumin this case, it is the powdered spices that are used).
This is what the kantoli looks like- a very unusual vegetable, small in size, with a prickly exterior.
Here is the fried kantoli:

Now, coming to my entry: Z came around at just the right time, at the peak of summer, when it is raining zucchinis in the vegetable markets! This is my contribution to the menu at the Zany Zucchini Cafe. I wanted to make something rich and festive for this last round. In my parents' home, a "party dish" that has always been very popular is Kofta Curry, with fried dumplings bobbing about merrily in a rich tomato-onion sauce. I hesitate to make it because the dumplings are made of bottle gourd and chickpea flour, and I don't really have access to bottle gourd. The fact that the dumplings are traditionally deep-fried puts me off even more.

Then, a few days ago, I was watching TV when I caught a commercial selling an As-Seen-On-TV kitchen product called the Pancake Puff Pan (nothing but a appey pan or aebelskiver pan or appam chatti or whatever you want to call it). Now, I don't know if you have seen these type of ads. They are very very smart ads: they sell a kitchen product that is billed as the latest and greatest invention ever. They demonstrate hundreds of uses for that kitchen product, and in the short span of 3-4 minutes, they leave you utterly convinced that the product is about to change your life forever. In any case, this ad showed a dozen different uses for the puff pancake pan- making mini ball-omelettes, and mini pizza puffs- that left me gaping with awe. A little light bulb lit up over my head, and I thought-hmm, I should try making my koftas in my appey pan. So, as you will see in the recipe below, I did make the koftas in the appey pan, with only a few drops of oil. Was the experiment successful? Well, the koftas that resulted were not perfectly cooked all the way through, and so could not be eaten just as they were. But, once they were added to the curry and simmered for a few minutes, they were cooked to perfection! This is definitely a method that I'm going to use from now on...I might have to work on it to determine the heat level needed to let the koftas cook all the way through. In fact, the next experiment is going to be- making the pakodas for kadhi-pakoda.

This time, I did not add any garam masala or other spices to the curry. I let the flavors of the coconut, poppy seeds and sesame seeds shine, and it tasted quite delicious to me. With all those ingredients, this is a very rich curry!

Zucchini Kofta Curry

(serves 4-5, adapted from the Marathi cookbook "Ruchira" by Kamalabai Ogale
1. Make the koftas: Mix 1.5 C shredded zucchini, 1/2 C besan (chickpea flour), 2 T minced onion, 1 t coriander-cumin powder, and salt, turmeric and red chilli powder to taste, and make a thick batter (you do not need water, the water from the zucchini is sufficient). Spray a appey pan with oil, then drop little spoonfuls of the batter into each depression.
Cook until golden brown on both sides. Set the koftas aside. This yields about 20 small koftas.
2. Make the onion-tomato base: Heat 2 t oil in a saucepan. Fry 2 chopped onions until lightly browned. Add 1 t ginger-garlic paste and fry for a minute. Add 2 C tomato puree, salt, turmeric and red chilli powder to taste and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Puree to a fine paste.
3. Make a seed powder: Toast together 2 T white sesame seeds and 2 T poppy seeds, then cool and grind to a fine powder.
4. Make the curry: Mix the tomato-onion paste, seed powder and 1/2 C coconut milk and bring to a gentle boil. Add some water as required to make a thick curry, then simmer it for 5 minutes. Add the koftas and simmer gently for 5 minutes more. Serve hot.

As you can see in the picture above, I served the zucchini kofta curry with fresh layered parathas, dahi kanda (sliced onions and minced cilantro dressed with yogurt) and a wedge of lemon. It made for a very enjoyable dinner!

I want to thank Lakshmi for suggesting that I convert this series into an event in the first place. Before she left that comment, I had no inkling that anyone would have the faintest interest in being part of this. Also, a big hug to Swapna for designing a logo for this event...I was so pleasantly surprised when she mailed it to me. The credit for the way things would shape up every week goes to the enthusiastic bloggers who sent in entries, whether they participated in one event, a few, several or *all twenty-three*, like the champions Asha, Bee and Jai and Suma!

I have learnt more about vegetables in the last few months than in the past twenty-some years. Writing the round-up every Sunday was also very stimulating as I tried to group the entries into an order that was informative and fun. My future Sunday mornings are going to feel very empty. A zillion thanks to the zany participants and the zealous readers who made this seriez so special for me! You galz and guyz are ze BEST :D

One last thing: many of you have been asking me, What comes next? Well, it so happens that I am starting a new job tomorrow (perfect timing, eh?), and life is about to get very hectic yet again. I have had my fill of hosting events for a while, with this weekly series and the behemoth RCI. For a few months, I will focus on the other things in my life- my job and my academic commitments and a little project that I want to do for my local community kitchen. I will keep blogging, of course, and participating in the wonderful events going on in the food blog world as much as I can. Wow, this has become a HUGE post, so I'll sign off now!

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
Q is for Quick Carrot Pickles: Vegetables in Pickles
R is for Radish Paratha: Root Vegetables
S is for Spinach Amti: Green Leafy Vegetables
T is for Tomato Red Pepper Saar: Soups
U is for Undhiyu: Regional Delicacies
V is for Vegetable-Cheese Sandwiches: Mixed Vegetables
W is for Wild Mushrooms and Walnuts: Fungi, Fruits, Nuts
X is for eXploration: Pattypan Squash Sambar
Y is for Yam Phodi: Vegetables as Themselves

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Y is for Yam Phodi

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 "Y" of Indian Vegetables
The letter Y inspired nineteen joyous Indian flavors!

Let's begin with the Y vegetables...

The first vegetable is the Yam! The terminology of yams can be highly confusing, but here is what I understand: As far as vegetables are concerned, yam is a common term for the edible tubers (swollen storage organs of a plant) that belong to a particular group of vines. Yams are starchy veggies, and generally pretty bland-tasting: they can be flavored in many different ways. The confusion arises because in the US, sweet potatoes (which come from another plant altogether, and have a sweet taste and are not as starchy and bland) are *mistakenly* called yams. In my book, sweet potatoes are sweet potatoes, and yams are yams :) and the two terms are not interchangeable! Otherwise, we would be calling potatoes "yams" pretty soon. But everyone has their own ideas about this, and we see some sweet potatoes sneaking in here (but we always welcome them; sweet potatoes are brimming with nutrients) :D

Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi use the "proper" elephant yam (called suran in Hindi) and make a traditional stir-fry from Kerala: cooking cubes of yam in coconut oil with mustard seeds and curry leaves to make this flavorful Yam Mezhukkuparatti.

Musical of Musical's Kitchen provides a sweet disclaimer, then goes on to combine nutritious sweet potatoes with fiber-and-antioxidant-rich black blacks into a beautiful stew of Yam with Black Beans.

Tee of Bhaatukli, in her own words, "advantage of the fact that Sweet Potatoes are called Yams here in the US" :) and cooks them into the most fantastic three-ingredient recipe ever: her Yam Caramelized in Jaggery Sauce take "candied yams" to the next level.

Aarti of Aarti's Corner cooks sweet potatoes with milk, sugar and cardamom into a creamy and delicious Yam Halwa that looks like a real treat.

You can always count on Live2cook of Live To Cook to come up with something unusual for this series! This week, she tells us all about Yampi, a yam variety from Jamaica. Here, the yampi is cooked, the leathery and rather formidable-looking skin is peeled off, and the yampi is stuffed into dough to make these crispy and inviting Yampi Paratha.

The next vegetable is one I never would have thought of: Yardlong beans! These bright green lanky beauties are widely used in Chinese and South-Asian cuisines. Laavanya of Cookery Corner turns them into a flavorful side-dish: her YardLong Beans Thoran has tender beans cooked with a tasty coconut paste.

We now come to an array of sunny and summery Yellow vegetables; the deep yellow color of these vegetables is a hint that these veggies contain a burst of healthful pigments.

First up, the Yellow Capsicum, adding sweetness and a splash of color wherever it is used. Asha of Aroma/ Foodie's Hope cooks them in a typical Kannada style to make a tasty side-dish, Yellow Capsicum Gojju.

Next come the gorgeous and rather unusual Yellow Beets. TC of The Cooker tosses cooked yellow beets with nuts, herbs and lemon juice to make a bright Yellow Beet Salad.

The last yellow vegetable is very much in season at this very minute: the Yellow Squash. Here are three exciting and innovative ways to cook it:

Cathy of My Little Kitchen cooks up a feast: she combines masoor dal, yellow squash and whole spices to make a flavorful Yellow Squash Dalcha, and serves it with Yellow Yogurt (Carrot Raita) and brown rice for a healthful and utterly satisfying meal.

Zlamushka of Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen makes something that looks like a work of art: her Yellow Squash Baked Boats consist of hollowed-out yellow squashed stuffed with a savory mixture of herbs and rice, baked to perfection.

Linda of Out Of The Garden uses the freshest squash possible: it comes straight from her mother's garden. Linda cuts thick juicy slices of the squash, then dredges them with flavorful sambar powder and fries them in pure ghee to make this elegantly simple ode to summer: Yellow Squash Saute.

The next vegetable is Yelimichangai, which means lime in the Tamil language. Tangy limes bring a burst of fresh flavor to so many Indian dishes. Raaga of The Singing Chef gives them the spotlight with her recipe for Yelimicha Sevai- a simple stir-fry of thin rice noodles perked up with fresh lime juice.

Hima of SnackORama takes up the challenge of the rather difficult letter Y and comes up with a whole Y Vegetable Andhra Thali. This plate contains an arraY of delicious home-style vegetable dishes: Yellow Squash dal, Yam curry and Yogurt Chutney.

The next Y food is cool and creamy Yogurt. It is highly prized in the Indian diet, especially during these hot summer months. Yogurt is often eaten by itself as a accompaniment to the meal, but can also be combined with vegetables with fantastic results.

Nothing is ever wasted in the traditional Indian kitchen: Suma of Veggie Platter shows a typically Andhra way to use up sour yogurt. Snake gourd is cooked until tender, then combined with whisked yogurt and a spicy ginger-chilli paste to make a tasty dish of Yogurt with Snake Gourd.

Madhuli of My Foodcourt shares a fiery recipe for a chutney that is as kicked up as it can possibly get: Fire-roasted green chillies are blended with cooling yogurt to make this tantalizing Yogurt Mirchi.

Dhana of Fresh Kitchen makes a crowd-pleasing dish: Crispy fried okra is mixed in with tempered yogurt and a hefty pinch of turmeric to make this gorgeous Yellow Dahi Bhindi.

The next dish is full of simplicity and goodness: Jyothi of Andhra Spicy mixes cooked rice, tempered yogurt and lots of fresh cilantro and a few crispy dried chillies to make an inviting bowl of Yogurt Rice.

Manasi of A Cook At Heart celebrates her first blog-birthday with a bowl of Yogurt Wadas- a cool and delightful treat in summer.

We end with two Yummy snacks, both a lovely shade of Yellow! G V Barve of Add Flavor makes a crunchy duo of Yellow Cornflakes Chivda and Yellow Jalebi.

Y is for Yam Phodi: Vegetables as Themselves

After months of cooking vegetables in all kinds of dals and curries; and combining them with eggs and yogurt and all kinds of other vegetables, this post is dedicated to celebrating vegetables in their own right! And lucky for you, since I just returned from a trip and am a little tired, this post will be a short one :)

For the letter Y, I turned to the one Y veggie I could think of: the Yam! I wanted to use the Indian purple yam, often called suran. Beneath a nondescript skin lies this gorgeous color, and the pattern reminds me of tie-dyed fabric:

This was the very first time I ever cooked yam, and I decided to go with Shilpa's recipe for Rava Phodi. Slices of vegetables are smeared with a tasty tamarind paste, then dipped in semolina/ rava and shallow-fried: the result is a crisp and delicious side-dish that can turn a simple meal of dal-rice into something quite special. This was the very first time I cooked purple yam, and I was expecting a rather bland and starchy taste. The truth is, purple yam tastes sweet and delicious!

Yam Phodi

(serves 2, adapted from Shilpa's recipe)
1. Wash, peel and slice purple yam to yield about a cup or so.
2. In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp tamarind paste, salt, chili powder and turmeric to taste, and a pinch of asafoetida. Smear each of the yam slices with the paste and set aside for 10 minutes.
3. In a small dish, combine 1/4 cup of rava (semolina) and salt to taste.
4. Dredge each slice of yam in the rava mixture and shallow-fry until crispy on each side.
5. Serve right away as a snack or a side-dish.

Here are some delicious recipes from fellow bloggers, featuring vegetables as themselves...
Phodis from Past, Present and Me
Sweet Potato Crisps and Chips from Jugalbandi,
Roasted Tindora from Towards a Better Tomorrow,
Simple Fried Eggplant from Salt and Pepper,
Oven Fried Banana Chips from The Spice is Right,
Tandoori Vegetables from The Spice Cafe,
Grilled Corn (Bhutta) from Manpasand,

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
Q is for Quick Carrot Pickles: Vegetables in Pickles
R is for Radish Paratha: Root Vegetables
S is for Spinach Amti: Green Leafy Vegetables
T is for Tomato Red Pepper Saar: Soups
U is for Undhiyu: Regional Delicacies
V is for Vegetable-Cheese Sandwiches: Mixed Vegetables
W is for Wild Mushrooms and Walnuts: Fungi, Fruits, Nuts
X is for eXploration: Pattypan Squash Sambar