Showing posts with label Peppers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peppers. Show all posts

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

mirSalan
(Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of India, makes about 4 servings)
Ingredients:
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
Method:
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!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Whole Enchilada

This is my entry for the monthly Jihva For Ingredients, an event that celebrates all the wonderful natural ingredients that form the backbone of Indian cuisine. JFI is the brainchild of Indira from Mahanandi. This month, JFI is being hosted by Nandita of Saffron Trail. Nandita has chosen a spicy theme for this month: CHILLIES!

Indian cuisine's love for chillies is legendary. Chillies lurk in every corner of my kitchen: the freezer contains "fresh" frozen green and red chillies, the refrigerator contains bell peppers, the pantry stores bottles of dried buttermilk-soaked chillies, and the spice box had a little cylinder of the hottest red chilli powder. Not to mention the fact that chillies have a place in so many of the spice mixes that I use everyday. However, for this month's JFI, I turned to another cuisine that loves and respects its chillies, and uses an astonishing variety of them: Mexican cuisine.

A word about nomenclature: How do you spell this word "chilli" anyway? This has confused me for the longest time. From what I understand (and wiki seems to agree), the most acceptable spellings are Chile (in North America) and Chilli (in the rest of the world). Chili is not the preferred spelling because it more commonly refers to the stew of the same name. Chilly is not the right spelling (it means "cold"). And what about the whole chilli pepper business: is it chilli or is it pepper? Wiki goes on to say that botanically, all chillies and peppers are basically chillies, and that pepper properly refers to our black "peppercorn" pepper. But in common use, chillies are often called peppers or chilli peppers.

Coming back to my Mexican-inspired recipe, here is why an enchilada is an appropriate entry for JFI:Chillies ...Enchilada comes from the verb enchilar (= "to add chilli pepper to") (according to Wiki)! In the simplest form, enchiladas are made by dipping tortillas (corn or flour rotis) into sauce, then rolling them up with some stuffing inside, and baking them with sauce and cheese on top. Enchiladas are messy to make, and messy to eat, and taste absolutely wonderful!

The chilli that I used for the enchilada stuffing is the Poblano Chilli which gets its name from the Pueblo region of Mexico. Poblano chillies are gorgeous- with their lovely shape (it resembles a tapered heart) and a sparkling deep green color.
chillies2Their taste varies from sweet and mild to moderately spicy, and you would have to taste them to figure out the spice level of the ones you have bought. Poblanos are often stuffed and deep-fried to make a classic Mexican dish called Chiles Rellenos. Another traditional way is to pair them with potatoes and use them as a stuffing for tacos. In my non-authentic-but-tasty-nonetheless recipe, I pair roasted Poblanos with kidney beans. Here is how I roasted them: (a) Drizzle chillies with 2-3 drops of olive oil each. Rub the oil all over. (b) Place chillies on a sprayed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F, turning once or twice, until the peel gets blistered. I used a toaster oven for this. chillies3 (c) Remove chillies from the oven and place them in a covered bowl. When they cool down, the papery skin will peel right off. Cut away the core and slice the chillies.

The salsa I am using today is a home-made salsa verde (green salsa) made with another Mexican ingredient: Tomatillos.
chillies1
These fruits resemble green tomatoes, however, they are more closely related to gooseberries (amla/ avla). Just like gooseberries, they are very tangy! The salsa is extremely easy to make (boil ingredients together, then puree) and contains no added fat at all. Tomatillos contain come pectin-like substance, and when you let the salsa cool down, it becomes a wonderful thick sauce.

I use store-bought tortillas for enchiladas, have not tried to make my own just yet. I prefer using ones made with corn for enchiladas, but when I opened a pack of beautiful blue corn tortillas (from Whole Foods, bought on Sunday) to make this recipe, I found that it was moldy (!!!). So I ended up using whole-wheat flour tortillas this time.

Salsa Verde

(adapted from Mollie Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, makes 2 cups, originally posted here)
Ingredients
6-8 tomatillos, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 hot green chilli, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper/red chilli powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 tbsp minced fresh basil
2 scallions/ spring onions/ green onions, minced (green and white parts)
Method
1. In a saucepan, combine 1.5 cup water and all ingredients from tomatillos to salt. Bring to a boil, cover partially and simmer for 10 minutes. Let it cool a little.
2. Process this sauce in a blender/food processor/immersion blender to get it slightly smooth (you can leave it as chunky as you like).
3. Let it cool down. Mix in the fresh herbs and scallions. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

Bean-Chilli Enchilada

chillies5
Ingredients
6 flour tortillas or 8 corn tortillas
2 C salsa verde (see recipe above)
1 C loosely packed shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
Stuffing
2-4 Poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, cut into strips (see note above)
2 C cooked red kidney beans
1 C loosely packed shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1 small onion, sliced thin
1/2 C packed minced cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
Method
1. In a small, mix together the ingredients for the stuffing. Be gentle with the salt, because cheese contains quite a bit of salt.
chillies4
2. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Take a square or rectangular baking dish and spread 1/3 cup of salsa all over the bottom of the dish.
4. Place the remaining salsa in a shallow container. Dip each tortilla into the salsa to coat it all over, then place some stuffing in it and roll it up like a cigar. Place it seam side down in the baking dish.
5. Once all the filled tortillas have been placed in the dish, pour the remaining salsa over the tortillas and sprinkle with the cheese.
6. Bake for 25 minutes or so, or until the cheese is all gooey and melty!

For best results, serve piping hot enchilada with a chilled beer, or your favorite juice on ice.
chillies6

I'll see you on Sunday, with the Z of Indian Vegetables!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

B is for Bharli Mirchi

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.

B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
After the quick and easy stir-fried aloo gobi, we are ready to take vegetables to a more festive level. Stuffed vegetables are beloved in many cuisines. From the Eastern European stuffed cabbage rolls to the classic appetizer of stuffed mushrooms, we do love hollowing out veggies and stuffing them with something delicious. The final dish is so much more than the sum of its parts.

In India, stuffed vegetables are a beautiful way to showcase an array of vegetables and prepare them for special occasions. There is something immensely satisfying about choosing the perfect vegetable, loving prepping each one by hand, filling it gently with some spicy goodness and cooking it to perfection. From the rich bharwa bhindi (stuffed okra) of North India to the nutty stuffed baby eggplants of many South Indian cuisines, there are dozens of recipes to choose from.

When I wondered what stuffed vegetable to make for this series, my thoughts jumped back to meals of my childhood, when I would be unfailingly delighted to find bharli mirchi being served for lunch. Bharli mirchi- literally translating as stuffed pepper in Marathi- is a dish of green peppers stuffed with a spicy potato mixture and fried to the point where their skin is charred and the whole pepper is luscious and juicy. Each bite is a delicious combination of succulent pepper and tasty mashed potato. It is truly a special dish for me, and this was my first time making it myself. I put together the recipe based on what I remembered about this dish from years ago, and at the first whiff of the heavenly aroma and the first bite, I was delighted at how much it tasted like the bharli mirchi of my memories!

Bharli Mirchi


peppers2
1. Prepare 4 green peppers by washing them, then making a long slit length-wise and pulling out the stem and most of the seeds and membranes, like so:
peppers1
If your peppers taper at the bottom, cut a thin slice off so the pepper can stand up.
2. Make the stuffing: Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan. Temper it with 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and a pinch of asafoetida. Add 1 medium minced onion and 2-3 minced cloves of garlic. Saute until the onion is just browning. Turn down the heat. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp red chili powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder and salt to taste. Stir in 3 large boiled, mashed potatoes and mix well to incorporate the spices. Continue cooking until the potatoes are heated through completely. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice and 2 tbsp minced cilantro. The stuffing has to be very well-seasoned for the final dish to be tasty.
3. When the stuffing is cool enough to handle, divide it in four portions and stuff the peppers gently.
4. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a deep skillet. Place the peppers, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of salt and then proceed to fry them on medium-low heat, turning every few minutes so that the skin on all sides gets charred. As the peppers cook, they release juices that can sizzle and splatter in the pan, so keep the skillet covered except for turning the peppers every few minutes. Don't forget to place them on their top and bottom so those sides get cooked too. It took me about 30 minutes to cook the peppers completely.
5. There you have it: Marathi-style stuffed peppers. Serve warm or at room temperature. They might not be much to look at, but they taste divine, and this dish is a must-try!

Variations on a theme:
This dish would be lovely with different kinds of peppers, such as sweet Italian peppers or the long tapering banana peppers. It would be nice to serve a platter of assorted stuffed peppers.

How do you serve this dish?
I love bharli mirchi with rotis or parathas. It is wonderful rolled up in any flatbread, basically. Bharli marchi tastes good hot or at room temperature, making it an unusual and delicious picnic treat.

Here is a round-up show-casing some delicious Indian-style stuffed vegetables from fellow bloggers :

Green Peppers stuffed with Kidney Beans from Lima-Delhi,
Stuffed Tomato in Makhani Gravy from Past, Present and Me,
Stuffed Baby Eggplants from Mahanandi,
Stuffed Okra from Aayi's Recipes,
Stuffed Ridge Gourd Curry from Sailu's Food, and
Mixed Stuffed Veggies from Spice is Right.

Any ideas for the C of Indian vegetables? See you in a few!