Showing posts with label One-dish meal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label One-dish meal. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Cozy Kichuri Comfort

Sandeepa is hosting the Regional Cuisines of India event this month, and what theme could a self-proclaimed Bong Mom choose other than Bengali cuisine?

I have never visited Bengal, and know very little about Bengali cuisine, having lived all my life in the diametrically opposite corner of the subcontinent, but I do have two very dear friends who are Bengali. I turned to each of them and demanded sweetly asked for a home-style Bengali recipe to share on One Hot Stove. Here is the first of the two recipes.

This one comes from my darling friend Sutapa, who has been a close pal and confidante, acting as my multipurpose unpaid therapist for nearly a decade. She shared a recipe for Kichuri, the typical Bengali way of making khichdi- that medley of rice, lentils and vegetables that is made in its various glorious avatars in all corners of India.

Sutapa says, "Typically, this khichuri is eaten with eggplant slices fried in besan batter (which has a sprinkling of kalonji and red chilli powder) or fried fish (ilish) on rainy days. Also this is literally food for the gods since it is offered as "bhog" during the Pujas. Paired with tomato chutney and chaler payesh (good old kheer) for dessert, kichuri-beguni is a complete lunch on navami". Navami is a Hindu festival day.

Sutapa's Kichuri

(serves 6-8
1 C Basmati rice
¾ C Yellow Moong Dal
3 C mixed vegetables (Sutapa suggests using cauliflower, green beans, carrot, peas and potato; I used cauliflower florets, carrot, lima beans and potato)
½ t Turmeric powder

1 T oil
4 bay leaves (tejpatta)
4 dried chillies
2 t cumin seeds
1 inch piece of ginger, grated to a pulp
1 t cumin powder
salt to taste

1 t ghee
1 t sugar

1. Soak the rice in some water.
2. Roast the moong dal until golden and then soak in some water separately.
3. Heat a little oil in a pan and lightly fry the vegetables, with a sprinkling of turmeric, until they pick up a little color and are about half-cooked (they will finish cooking later). Set them aside.
4. Heat 1 T of oil in a large pot. Temper it with bay leaves, red chillis, cumin seeds and ginger and stir around for a few seconds.
5. Add cumin powder and salt and stir for a few more seconds.
6. Add the (drained) moong dal and stir for a minute.
7. Add 4 cups of water, cover and let it come to a simmer.
8. Add the par-cooked vegetables and (drained) rice, stir and cook, covered, until the water is absorbed and the rice is just tender.
9. Stir in the ghee and sugar gently. Do not overmix. Serve hot!

Vegan version: simply skip the ghee, or add a dollop of vegan margarine instead.

I served piping hot kichuri with some shallow-fried eggplant slices. One spoonful of this kichuri, and I knew I was eating something very special. The kind of food that nourishes body and soul. The kichuri is redolent with the flavors of cumin and ginger- spices that are warm and soothing. The very same qualities that I love and admire most in Sutapa. The only thing that would have made this meal perfect was if she was sitting at the table sharing the kichuri with me!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Roasted Squash-Onion Lasagna

No rambling today- just food, glorious food. This is all about a lasagna that is dreamy and cheesy. Lasagnas have many pros (crowd-pleasing, can be assembled ahead of time, one dish feeds a crowd, lend themselves to much creativity by way of vegetables, cheeses and sauces that can be used) and, in my mind, one glaring con (don't like boiling lasagna noodles). I got scalded some years ago while cooking lasagna noodles, and it has traumatized me for life.

Then I discovered no-boil lasagna noodles. This means that the dried noodles can be layered into the dish, and as long as you use a "saucy" sauce with enough liquid in it, the noodles cook as the lasagna bakes. In fact, because they cook in the sauce, they end up absorbing great flavor. And I can make lasagna on weeknights, which is very very exciting.

This is the 365 brand (store-brand of Whole Foods), in case anyone wants to know. They are thin noodles, and they fit perfectly into my baking dish- two to a layer.

Most butternut squash lasagna recipes call for pureeing the cooked squash, but I really wanted to bite into chunks of it, so I left it at that. The sauce here is a thin bechamel sauce (to allow enough liquid for the noodles to cook). Of course, one can use normal lasagna sheets (cook them first) and in that case, make a thicker sauce by cutting down on the milk.

Roasted Squash-Onion Lasagna

(makes 4-5 servings)
1 lb butternut squash slices (peel, cube, then slice)
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into quarters
2 T olive oil
6 to 8 no-boil lasagna sheets
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
4-5 T parmesan cheese
Bechamel sauce
2.5 T butter
2.5 T flour
3 C milk
1. Preheat oven to 400F. On a baking sheet, place the onions and butternut squash slices. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Bake the vegetables for 30-40 minutes, or until tender and starting to brown.
2. Meanwhile, make bechamel sauce using the proportions given above and using the standard method (eg. this or this). Season with nutmeg and set aside.
3. Once the roasted vegetables and bechamel sauce are ready, the lasagna can be assembled: Spread 1/2 C or so of the white sauce on the bottom of an 8x8 square baking dish. Place 1 layer of lasagna sheets on it. Add some roasted vegetables, cover with sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Repeat this 3-4 times or until the vegetables and sauce is used up. If you have had trouble with getting no-boil noodles to cook in the oven, try this tip (I forget where I read it): Soak the noodles in hot water for 5 minutes before layering them; that way they get a head start in getting re-hydrated and cooked.

Here is the last but one layer- vegetables:

And the last layer- sauce and cheese

4. Cover dish with foil. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes (uncovered for the last 10 minutes) or until the noodles are cooked through, the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is browning.
5. Let the lasagna rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Verdict: This was one delicious dinner! This is a savory dish, of course, but the combination of roasted onions, butternut squash and nutmeg gave it a remarkable sweetness- which, together with the dairy richness made it the perfect indulgence for a bitterly cold night.

This hearty lasagna is my entry to the Fresh Produce event hosted by Marta of An Italian in the US. The theme this month is Squash, which is one family of vegetables that are generally quite inexpensive and can be enjoyed in both summer and winter.

Butternut squash is so versatile; I have my eye on many delicious b'nut-squash recipes like butternut squash and brown rice risotto, butternut squash soup, salad and mac and cheese (!).

Want another helping of lasagna? Here you go:
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna from Two Fat Als
Pesto Mushroom Lasagna from Blog Appetit
Eggplant Lasagna from Cooking with Amy
Que Sarah Sarah Lasagna from What Smells So Good?
Mexican Lasagna from FatFree Vegan Kitchen

*** *** ***

To all those who enjoying keeping up with new posts in the vast world of Indian food blogs, here is good news: Sailu of the gorgeous blog Sailu's Kitchen has collaborated with a friend to bring us a brand new food blog aggregator called Taste Of India. Click through to see the latest posts among food blogs with an Indian slant. I have placed a link to it under the "Favorite Reads" tab on the right side-bar.

Have a great week ahead!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Quick "Bisibele" Bhaat

This week at One Hot Stove, it is "Q for quick"! So here is a quick post featuring my favorite quick meal. It maximizes flavor and nutrition while minimizing effort and prep time. Mixed vegetables, lentils and rice come together, and are flavored by tamarind and a ready-made spice mix. The whole thing virtually cooks itself in the pressure cooker and you are in for a treat!

Bisibele rice is a specialty from the Southern Indian state of Karnataka, featuring lentils, rice, vegetables and spices cooked together slowly and lovingly into a festive dish. In my quick khichdi, I use bisibele spice mix to approximate those flavors in a fraction of the time and make faux bisibele rice. Here's how...

1. Prepare 2 cups of mixed vegetables, cut in medium dice. Here, I have used green beans, frozen peas and carrots. Other vegetables that work well are zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, lima beans etc.

2. Prepare 1 tbsp thick tamarind paste. If you use tamarind pulp, the paste is prepared by soaking 1 heaping tsp of tamarind pulp in a couple of tbsp of hot water, then squeezing out the pulp and discarding the solids. If you are using tamarind concentrate, you can directly use 1 tsp of it instead of the paste.

2. Measure out 1/3 cup rice and 1/3 cup green (unhulled) split moong dal.

3. Have some ready-made MTR brand bisibele masala handy. It is available in Indian and international grocery stores, or in online stores.

4. Other prep: chop half a small onion.

5. Now, in the body of the pressure cooker, add 1 tbsp oil. Make the tempering with: 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, chopped onion, 5-6 curry leaves, pinch of asafoetida.

6. Saute for a couple of minutes, then add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp red chili powder, 2 tsp bisibele powder (or to taste) and salt to taste.

7. Stir in vegetables, dal, rice, tamarind and 3 cups water. Pressure-cook for the amount of time that you normally need for cooking rice (in my superhuman efficient cooker, it takes one mere whistle).

8. Serve piping hot, with pickle and yogurt on the side, if desired. Potato chips/ papads take this dish to a whole new level :) When I have time, I throw together a pachadi to serve with this khichdi.

MTR's bisibele masala is extremely flavorful and authentic (to the extent that I am able to recognize authenticity of Kannada dishes, at any rate). And no, they are not paying me anything to say this, this endorsement comes straight from the heart. Quick "bisibele" rice is stewy and soupy, and may not be much by way of good looks, but it is the one dish that I make time and again. It has sustained me through countless busy nights, and through rough times at work, and through times of illness. Last week, it fed V when he was unable to eat anything else after dental surgery. Now I have made it so many times, I can make it in my sleep!

Got a favorite flavorful quick recipe? If it has vegetables in it, and Indian or Indian-inspired flavors, you can send it in for the Q of Indian Vegetables!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Vegetable Biryani for a Crowd

B-I-R-Y-A-N-I. The very word conjures up images of a dish that is rich and exotic, redolent with spices and packed with "good eats". And so it is, a layered rice dish of Persian descent, introduced to India via Mughal cuisine. When I was growing up, Chicken Biryani was my Mom's specialty, a labor of love that took her all of Sunday morning to prepare and resulted in a delicious and heavy Sunday lunch to be followed by a sumptuous weekly siesta. This is her style of making biryani, Vegetable Biryani this time around. This is probably the most labor-intensive dish in my entire repertoire for sheer hands-on cooking time, and I allocate about 2 hours of non-stop work to its preparation. It just seems silly to make vegetable biryani for two, and I have adapted it to a larger scale that justifies the labor and feeds a crowd. If you are lucky, there will be leftovers, and biryani tastes even more delicious the next day!
I layer this biryani in a standard Pyrex 9x13 inch dish, which makes sense for many reasons. The Pyrex dish is sturdy and can go from refrigerator to oven to table, so I can make the biryani a few hours ahead of time, heat it until steaming hot, and serve right from it; and the size is generous enough to feed a crowd, say, at a potluck party. This recipe results in a mild biryani which hopefully will appeal to everyone regardless of their spice tolerance. Traditionally, biryani is layered in a metal pot and heated through until the rice at the bottom becomes crispy and delicious, but I am forgoing that for the convenience of using a glass dish. This might not be a dish for a beginner cook to make, but the truth is that it is far simpler than it looks if you follow the steps, so if you have a little experience with Indian cooking, give it a shot!

Here is the recipe, step-by-step...

Vegetable Biryani

1. Saffron-scented rice: Take 1/4 cup warm water or milk in a small bowl. Add 15-20 strands of saffron and leave it aside to soak. Take 2 cups of Basmati rice in a large pot. Rinse it three times to wash off the excess starch. Add 3 and a half cups of water and bring the rice to a boil, then simmer until rice is just tender. Turn the rice out into one or two large platters. Sprinkle with salt to taste, and mix in the saffron milk. Leave the rice to cool down, then cover and set aside.
2. Fried goodies: Peel one large or two medium potatoes, and cut into small cubes. Heat some oil in a non-stick skillet, and fry the potatoes until golden, then drain and set aside. To the same pan, add more oil if necessary, and then fry 3 onions, sliced thinly, until golden-brown. Then fry 1/4 cup each of halved cashew nuts and golden raisins. I prefer to shallow-fry these "goodies", but you can deep-fry them if you wish.
3. Vegetable Curry: I use my usual-suspects mixed veggies- cauliflower florets, peas, diced carrots and french beans. I like this combination for its easy availability and the pretty contrasting colors. Prepare about 4-5 cups of mixed vegetables of your choice and steam them until barely tender.
Then, make the masala paste by grinding together 2 onions, 2-3 green chilies, a few stalks of cilantro, 1/4 cup of mint and 2 tbsp poppy seeds. In a pan, fry the masala paste until fragrant, and then add 1/2 cup tomato puree, 1/2 tsp turmeric and 1 tbsp of a nice aromatic garam masala. Add salt to taste. Stir in the steamed veggies and fry for a couple of minutes.
4. Cilantro: Mince 8-10 stalks of cilantro and set aside.
5. Layering the Biryani: Now for the really fun part! Take a 9x13 baking dish (or equivalent) and grease it with some ghee or butter or oil. Start with half the rice, followed by some fried onions, nuts, raisins and potatoes, and half the cilantro, like so:
Then the whole of the vegetable curry, spread out as evenly as possible, like so:
followed by the rest of the rice, fried goodies and cilantro. Drizzle with some ghee if desired and you are done...Ta Da!
6. Cover the pan tightly with foil, then bake at about 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, until steaming hot, or store in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking.
7. Biryani can be served by itself, or with a simple raita or some yogurt on the side.
See you tomorrow, with the D of Indian Vegetables!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Waiter...there is some Dhokli in my Dal!

Three stellar food blogs- Cooksister, The Passionate Cook and Spitoon Extra, have come together to create a brand new food blogging event that is designed to be easy and all-inclusive. It is called "Waiter There's Something In My..." and January's theme, fit for the chilly season, is STEW!

When I read the theme, my first thought was, "Oh, Indian food does not have too many stews", and my second thought was, "Oh, but Indian food is ALL stews", for what else are curries and dals, but stews? Stews are a food that can be expansively defined as anything liquidy with big chunks of something in it, whether meat or vegetables or what-have-you. After much deliberation about whether to try a new exotic stew, maybe an African peanut stew, or whether to try a vegetarian version of "chicken soup with dumplings", I came full circle and settled on something familiar, comforting and low-maintainance, for those are the exact three qualities why stews are so well-beloved.

I decided to put a spin on a delicious Indian stew called Dal-Dhokli. It is a regional specialty, coming from the Western state of Gujarat. In the tradition of Gujarati food, it consists of a sweet-tangy-spicy split pea stew (dal) in which you cook little whole-wheat dumplings (dhokli). The result is a nutritious one-dish meal which has melt-in-the-mouth wheat dumplings swimming in a tasty protein-rich broth. I put a spin on the traditional version by adding chopped fresh spinach to the dumplings, which adds color, flavor and nutrition to this dish.

Spinach Dal-Dhokli

(serves 3-4 as a main dish, prep time: 45 minutes to an hour)
For the Dal...
1 cup toor dal (split yellow lentils)
2 tbsp roasted peanuts
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
5-6 curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder (cayenne pepper)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp tamarind taste
1 tbsp jaggery (unrefined cane sugar)
salt to taste
2 tbsp oil
For the Dhokli (dumplings)
2/3 cup atta (fine whole-wheat flour)
1 + 1/2 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
1. Soak the toor dal in hot water for 15-30 minutes. Rinse several times, then cook in a pressure cooker or on the stove-top until tender. Set aside.
2. Dough for the dumplings: Finely chop the spinach. Add the rest of the ingredients for the dumplings and knead together to make a firm dough. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and set aside.
3. Making the dal: Heat oil in a large saucepan. Temper with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida and stir for a few seconds. Add onion and stir until onion is translucent. Add ingredients from turmeric to garam masala and stir for a few seconds.
4. Stir in the tomato, cooked dal, tamarind paste, jaggery and salt and bring the dal to a boil. Taste and adjust for balance of sweet, salty and sour. Keep the dal simmering.
5. Now, make the dhoklis. Divide the dough into four parts. Using some extra flour, roll out each part as thinly as possible, then cut into diamond shapes, or any shapes you like.
Add the dough shapes to the boiling dal and cook them for 5-8 minutes, or until the dough is tender and cooked through.
6. Let the dal-dhokli rest for 5 minutes, then serve the stew piping hot, drizzled with ghee (clarified butter).

Dal-dhokli is a popular dish in the food-blogosphere. Check out these traditional versions from Luvbites and The green jackfruit. I found two exciting variations too: Dal dhokli stuffed with potato presented in a beautiful step-by-step manner on My Khazana of Recipes and mutter dhokli (dhoklis in pea curry) from Garam Masala.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Jihva for DAL: Mujadarah

Jihva for ingredients

Jihva for ingredients, a brain-child of Indira of Mahanandi is an event that celebrates Indian ingredients. This month's host, Sailaja of Sailu's Food, has come up with the far-ranging theme of DALS or lentils. Indian cuisine is blessed with a surfeit of dals of all types, and they are invaluable to my vegetarian diet.

For this month's jihva, I decided to take a break from all my favorite dal preparations and explore lentils from a different cuisine. Two dishes that came to my mind immediately were (a) Ethiopian Yemisir wat (lentils cooked with aromatic spices and typically served with tangy injera bread). (b) Mid-Eastern Mujadarah, a simple dish of rice, lentils and fried onions. In the end, I went with the latter. Other traditional lentil dishes include the Greek Moussaka (I tried making this once, and quite liked it) and the Italian Pasta e Lenticchie (Pasta and Lentils).

My inspiration for mujadarah came from a post written by Lindy, who writes the lovely blog Toast. Lindy praised mujadarah as a dish that is "much more than the sum of its parts". It uses few ingredients, all of them inexpensive pantry staples, and is downright delicious. How could I not try it? The one modification I used was: instead of using the lentils plain, I sprouted them for this dish, to enhance their nutritive value. The resultant mujadarah is a perfect combination of carbs and protein, a complete one-dish meal. The addition of the fried chocolate-brown onions, with their complex flavors, elevates this simple dish to a whole new level.


(Click here for original recipe. Thanks, Lindy! I owe you!)
1/4 cup olive oil (see note below)
2 large onions, sliced thin
1 cup brown lentils, sprouted
1 cup basmati rice
salt and pepper to taste
minced parsley/cilantro for garnish
1. Heat oil in a frying pan, then fry the onions on *medium heat*, stirring occasionally, till they are dark brown and aromatic (this may take 20-30 minutes).
2. Meanwhile, bring 5 cups of water to a boil, then add rice and lentils and simmer till both are cooked to tenderness.
3. Season lentil-rice mixture generously with salt and pepper. Stir in the browned onions, along with the oil. Leave covered for 15 minutes.
4. Serve hot garnished with parsley/cilantro.

Note: Extra-virgin olive oil tends to break down at lower temperatures than pure olive oil, so for this type of prolonged sauteeing, I prefer using a 1:1 mixture of extra virgin olive oil and pure olive oil, so as to get the flavor of the former and the frying characteristics of the latter. It still smoked a bit, but tasted fine in the end.

The verdict: You have to eat it to believe it! The combination of fragrant onions with the rice and lentils is absolutely heavenly. With gentle seasoning and the lack of other spices, the true flavor of the fried onions comes through. This goes right on my all-time favorites list. It reheats very well and tastes even better the next day.

Serving suggestions: I served mujadarah with Fage Greek yogurt. It would be also be delicious with a refreshing tomato-cucumber-radish salad. I can envision a delicious Mid-Eastern themed picnic spread with mujadarah, salad, pitas and hummus, with maybe some feta cheese to sprinkle on top.

Thanks, Sailu for hosting this event. The round-up of this event is going to be very valuable, with lots of new ideas to use dals in everyday cooking!