Showing posts with label Soup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Soup. Show all posts

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blog Bites 9: The Holiday Buffet

Towards the end of last year, in a moment of temporary insanity, I declared that I would try 40 new recipes in 40 days and post about each one until the new year. It was a crazy and exhilarating experience. This year, I have better control over my impulsive behavior. Still, I am keen on making the best of what's left of 2010 and cooking and baking to my heart's content.

The rest of the year is packed with holidays so I expect most food bloggers will be churning out festive meals. And our last Blog Bites potluck was so much fun that I decided a good way to celebrate would be to host another potluck buffet.

I took a screenshot of the recipes bookmarked on my computer yesterday and this is what it looks like: there are about 55 recipes in here, and I'm dying to try each one. More are being added to this list on a daily basis, I might add.


Perhaps you too have recipes bookmarked from other blogs that are sitting around waiting to be made. This is your chance to try any recipe from another blog and bring it to the holiday buffet. You have almost 2 months to send in entries (yes, this is a double edition) and depending on how many entries arrive, I might do a string of round-ups or one massive holiday buffet.

The Rules
  1. From now until December 25, try ANY recipe from another blog. 
  2. The recipe has to come from another blog; that is the whole premise of Blog Bites, so please turn to other blogs for inspiration.
  3. Write a post telling us about the recipe you tried, with the following (a) A link to the recipe on the inspiring blog (b) A link to this post (the event announcement).
  4. Please write a post specifically for this event.
  5. Please do NOT copy a recipe word for word from another blog- that would be both illegal and unethical. Let's all give credit where credit is due.
  6. Please make sure your entry meets all the rules above. Then, send me the link (URL) of your entry at the following e-mail address: bukuresep AT gmail DOT com
  7. You can send in as many entries as you like.

I will kick things off with my very first entry to BB9: butternut curry soup inspired by this recipe from Not Eating Out in New York. This blog has a nice feature- it rates recipes by cost, health factor and environmental impact. If you live in or around NYC, you might be interested in the local food event listing in the left side-bar.

Coming to the recipe: For the last three weeks, ever since winter squash made an appearance at the local market, I have been buying one medium butternut squash every week. Each is large enough that I can cut it and cook it, and use it in two different dishes that week. So far, one butternut squash was made into soup and quesadillas, another went into chili and dal and so on- it is simply a wonderful versatile vegetable with a sweet buttery taste.

A whole butternut squash can look formidable- you look at it and wonder, how on earth am I going to cut this thing without an axe and without losing a digit or two? These two tutorials were very helpful, and now I've combined some of the tips to come up with a method that works for me, as follows:
  1. Cut off slivers at the top and bottom. 
  2. Stand the squash upright and carefully cut it down the middle into two halves. 
  3. Scoop out seeds and innards and discard (you can save the seeds and toast them).
  4. To cook, either use the microwave or oven. I use the former because it takes only minutes.
  5. Place the halves in a dish that will fit in your microwave. Pour in some water, to create steam. 
  6. Microwave for 8-12 minutes, a few minutes at a time until the squash is fairly tender. 
  7. Cool and store in the fridge until use. To use, peel (much easier now that it is cooked) and cut into cubes. 

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

1. Heat 2 tsp. oil and saute a large minced onion with salt and pepper.

2. Add the following and saute for 2 minutes:
  • 1 chopped tomato
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. Sri Lankan curry powder (or your favorite masala)
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder (optional, but the heat contrasts well with sweet squash)
3. Add cubed butternut squash (4 cups or so, half of a medium squash) and saute for 2 minutes.

4. Add 1 cup thick coconut milk and 2 to 3 cups water or vegetable stock. Simmer for 10 minutes. 

5. Blend the soup using an immersion blender. Garnish if fresh herbs if desired and serve. 

For something so simple, this soup has incredible flavor- you must give it a try. I served it with egg pulao. 

I'm looking forward to eating down my bookmarks by the end of the year, and here's hoping you will join me for this special edition of Blog Bites.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

Sometimes, a little vegetable goes a long way. I bought a modest wedge of pumpkin last Saturday, and sweet and nutrition dense as it is, it fed us three times over- I used a third of the wedge for pumpkin kaap (made the same way as these but using pumpkin slices instead of eggplant), a third for the excellent pumpkin dhansak from Nandita's blog, and the last portion for this soup.

The inky, muddy look of black bean soup is just a facade; underneath the surface is nothing but tasty goodness. Pumpkin adds a beautiful sweetness that sets off the earthy legume. As soups go, this one is fairly simple, with three main ingredients, pumpkin, black beans and tomatoes, and two seasonings, chipotle chillies and cumin. I debated about adding other ingredients like bell peppers and corn, but in the end, the simplicity is what makes this soup special.

The recipe below is infinitely flexible. If you don't have access to chipotles in adobo, use any chilli powder, or Mexican/taco seasoning or hot sauce instead. If you don't have pumpkin on hand, any winter squash such as butternut squash or acorn squash would be a wonderful substitute. Sweet potatoes would be equally at home in this recipe. For the stock, I used this homemade vegetable bouillon, a sweet gift from Alanna. It is wonderful stuff! 

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
(makes 6 generous servings)

1. Soak 1 cup black beans for 8 hours or so, then rinse then thoroughly.

2. In the body of a pressure cooker, heat 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil.

3. Saute 1 medium onion, diced, and 4 minced garlic cloves until fragrant.

4. Add the following spices and seasonings and stir for a few seconds-
1 heaped tsp. cumin powder
1 minced chipotle pepper in 1 tsp. adobo sauce (or to taste)

5. Add-
4 cups pumpkin cubes
Soaked and rinsed black beans
1 cup crushed tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock or water
Salt to taste, only if required

6. Pressure cook. Once the pressure is released, mash or puree the soup together, or leave it chunky. Adjust the consistency of the soup by adding water if necessary.

7. Stir in a large handful of minced cilantro and squeeze in some lime juice.

I loved the soup in its pure form, but you could top it with a dollop of thick yogurt or sour cream, some shredded cheese, or crushed tortilla chips.

I am sending this soup over to My Legume Love Affair. The 21st edition is hosted by Superchef @ Mirch Masala.

*** *** *** 
We enjoyed the soup with an unlikely side- pesto eggplant pizza. I had two dough balls in the freezer, and an eggplant lurking in the crisper, and just put the two together.

The pizza dough recipe is my new favorite- it is Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough posted here on 101 Cookbooks.

I made the recipe by hand and followed the instructions very closely. It is a strange recipe, in the sense that you use chilled flour and ice cold water to make the dough. The recipe made 6 pizza dough balls, and each is sufficient for an individual sized pizza- depending on the individual. I know certain individuals (who shall go unnamed) who can scarf down a couple of these in one sitting!

Another thing I learned was to place the pizza stone on the floor of my gas oven instead of on a rack. When baked at 475F, the pizzas were cooked to perfection (when I used a higher temp, the bottom of the pizza burned before the toppings were bubbly).

But, wow, the pizzas are incredibly close to what you get in "good" pizza places, like The Good Pie here in St. Louis. This recipe uses no whole grain, but for an occasional restaurant-style treat, that's OK by me.

*** *** ***
Last week, I undertook what has to be the quickest craft project ever. 15 minutes from start to finish. But it was 18 months in the making.

I had a large bolt of cotton fabric from Ikea, an impulse purchase which was sitting in a corner of the closet for more than a year. The big idea was to use it to make a tablecloth from it, and if there was fabric left over, to make some cloth napkins. But I don't own a sewing machine to make the hems and keep the edges from fraying and so the project was shelved, quite literally.

Well, your comments on this post were inspiring to say the least, and they spurred me into action. I did a web search for "no sew cloth napkins" and found this. An hour later, I ran into my next door neighbor in the elevator and asked her if she happened to own pinking shears. Minutes later, I borrowed her pinking shears and folded and ripped the bolt of fabric into one tablecloth and 16 cloth napkins. Ta da!

We had a dozen friends over for an Oscar-watching potluck party on Sunday night and I was so proud that we used regular plates and glasses (so what if they were all mismatched), metal cutlery and cloth napkins. No waste from disposables. It is the little things that make me inordinately happy.

Please keep sharing the green tips- I'm always looking for inspiration.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mushroom Soup with Potstickers

You've probably noticed that One Hot Stove has a new look. On Friday, I was in a mood to do some long-overdue renovation in this space, so I cleared out the clutter and painted the walls in pure white for the cleanest look possible. Now I think the look of the blog better reflects the way I want my life to be- uncluttered and simple. The biggest change is that I now have pages (like the recipe index, contact form, an About page) as tabs at the top of the blog. Thank you, blogger, for this great new feature.

Let me address a couple of housekeeping things:

(a) The search box at the top of the side-bar is the best way to locate a particular recipe that you are searching for. Alternatively, use the Recipes page (the recipe collection is still being updated) at the top of the blog.

(b) Some people report having trouble using the contact form; others seem to have no problem because I get mails through the contact form all the time. I tested it a few times and it seems to work OK now, but if you have trouble, let me know.

I looked at a bunch of contact forms and chose this kontactr one because (a) it sends mails directly to my inbox where I can respond to them quickly, which is not a functionality available with using, for instance, google docs to create the form, and (b) it was simple to set up unlike some other sites which required uploading files to the server etc. If you know of a better contact form, I would love to know about it. And I tried to remove the captcha requirement from the present form since that's the source of the problems, but it cannot be removed.

(c) Comments: I know many people leave a comment using the "anonymous" option because they don't have blogs or websites and so don't want to use the "Name/URL" option. In fact, the URL part is optional, so you can use that option and just leave the URL field blank. In the name field, you can write your full name, first name, initials, nickname, Internet pseudonym- whatever you prefer. It was brought to my attention that some people don't know that the URL field is optional so that's what I wanted to point out.

If the blog looks wonky in your browser, and if you have comments or suggestions about the way it looks, please let me know. I'm constantly looking for ways to make this space as functional, pleasing and user-friendly as possible.

* * *
Now to the most important issue on hand- food! Today's recipe is another simple soup. What can I say- we have soup weather, although it is not quite as soupy here as some parts of the North-East US. This soup came together in minutes from whatever I had on hand in the fridge and freezer, and we enjoyed it so much that I decided it was blog-worthy.

Life always needs back-up plans and I certainly keep a few back-up foods in the pantry and freezer, including a bag of frozen vegetable potstickers/dumplings (gyoza) from Trader Joe's. Potstickers are Chinese dumplings, cute little dough purses filled with vegetables or other fillings. More about potstickers here and here. In my freezer, the bag of potstickers patiently sits there for months on end, to be pulled out one evening for a dinner rescue mission.

This could not be simpler- vegetables are simmered in stock, seasoned with a chili black bean sauce, and the soup is finished off by cooking potstickers right in the soup.

This chili bean sauce (this brand is the one I happen to use) is the spiciest thing in my kitchen, which is saying something because I have things like habanero peppers and Kolhapuri chutney in my kitchen as well. But the chili bean sauce has a fiery and rich taste that adds incredible flavor to many of my Chinese-inspired dishes. Use only a small dab of it or you will have a coughing fit with every bite. This brand does contain MSG, but I personally don't have a problem with using MSG every once in a while, especially in such small amounts.

Mushroom Potsticker Soup


1. In a soup pot, add
3-4 cups vegetable stock/mushroom stock 
4-5 cups chopped mixed vegetables

I used sliced baby bella mushrooms, green onions (white parts; save green parts for garnish), a handful of frozen corn and carrots cut in small dice. Other vegetables would also work well, such as broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, spinach.

2. Bring to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are barely tender.

3. Season the soup with chili bean sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar to taste. Keep tasting and adjusting the seasonings, perhaps adding a tiny bit of sugar to balance out the flavors.

4. Add 6-8 frozen vegetable potstickers and let the soup come to a boil. Simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the potstickers are cooked through.

5. Garnish with green onions (green parts), cilantro and a splash of toasted sesame oil. Serve right away.

This soup was light, filling and flavorful all at the same time. You could add cubes of tofu to the soup to add extra protein. As long as you make sure to use vegan dumplings, this soup is suitable for vegans.

* * * 
A funny thing happened- I was reading Bong Mom's To The Market post (it is a wonderful read about Indian food markets) and remembered a post I wrote 4 years ago about a vegetable market in Kolhapur. I went back to read my post and what do you think I found hidden in the last picture on that page? Some Manila tamarind, which I was asking you all about here a few days ago. It was right under my nose the whole time and I had no clue!

Enjoy your Sunday; Happy Valentine's Day and I hope you get some of the sweet sweet love that's in the air.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Vegetable Bread Soup

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

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

Vegetable Bread Soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll leave you with a few links-

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

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

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

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

Have a fantastic weekend!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thai-Spiced Mushroom Noodle Soup

I feel like I am living in Sleepy Hollow. Does anyone remember Sleepy Hollow, the horror movie? I don't remember anything about it except that the village was perpetually swamped in a dense fog in that movie (oh yeah, and some headless guy was riding around in the swirling mist).

Well, St. Louis has been enveloped in a dense fog for days now, and in the middle of the sickly weather, V has a nasty cold of the sneezing, sniffling, hacking variety. Where cutting edge medical science can do nothing about the rhinovirus, the old-fashioned route of "food as medicine" often works, and we have been eating lots of soups and soupy khichdi lately.

Last night, I made up this soup as I went along and we were very pleased with the results, so I decided to write up a quick recipe here. With flavors borrowed from Thai cuisine, this pot of soup goes to the soup-and-salad challenge No Croutons Required where the theme for January is Thai cuisine.

The aromatic, soothing ingredient here is lemongrass; I have a pot growing at home that I bought from Bowood Farms last summer. A whiff of the sweet, citrusy aroma of lemongrass pierces though clogged sinuses and makes one go ahhh....



Thai-Spiced Mushroom Noodle Soup

1. In a soup pot, heat 2 tsp. oil and saute until slightly browned:
2 bunches green onions (white parts only)
1 10 oz. box of cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
2 small carrots, cut in small dice

2. Add 3-4 cups mushroom stock/vegetable stock/water and a tsp. or so of minced lemongrass (this post has great tips on working with lemongrass) . Bring to a boil.

3. Stir in a heaped tsp. of Thai red curry paste (or more or less to taste), 1 tsp. sugar and some soy sauce if the soup requires salt (taste first). Add a handful of dry (uncooked) udon noodles.

4. Let the soup simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the noodles are tender.

5. Turn off the heat and garnish the soup with the green parts of the green onions, cilantro and lime juice to taste.

This is such a slurpable soup! The noodles plump up with all the aromatic flavors, and add some heft to the broth.

See you in a few...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Creamy Spinach Soup

I spent a couple of hours this morning humming along in the kitchen, making soup and baking a cake for a friend who is recovering from surgery. Now, there are SO MANY recipes for both soup and cake that I have tried and loved. But I have this hopeless and maddening addiction to trying new recipes (searching for some hypothetical "perfect" recipe...I don't know), and sure enough, I found new ones to try this morning.

I wanted to use a nourishing vegetable such as spinach for the soup, and wanted something smooth and creamy in texture, and this recipe from Mark Bittman's blog looked perfectly simple and delicious. I was curious to see how green onions would work in the recipe. The only modification I made was to reduce the proportion of cream, add some flavorful parmesan and finish the soup with some bright lemon juice which did SO much to bring the flavors together.

The soup came together so quickly and effortlessly. I seriously HEART my stick blender- I've owned mine since 2001 and use it almost everyday. You can puree the soup right in the pot. The result was fantastic- maybe I will make this recipe again and again ;)

Creamy Spinach Soup

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Adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe, makes a BIG pot (10 servings or so), easily halved.

  1. In a large pot, combine
    8 cups water,
    3 tablespoons mushroom stock base,
    2 1-lb bags of chopped frozen spinach,
    2 bunches coarsely chopped green onions.

  2. Bring the mixture to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

  3. Turn off the heat, add
    ½ teaspoon nutmeg,
    salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Blend the mixture in the pot using a stick blender (or wait for it to cool and blend using a regular blender).

  5. Finish with
    1 cup heavy cream,
    ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese,
    juice of ½ lemon. Reheat and serve.



For the cake, I chose one of my own childhood favorites- marbled cake, with random swirls of chocolate and vanilla running through the loaf.
July09_19


I used this recipe from Martha Stewart. That page has a little video showing this cake being made, and the interesting bit is that the baker, John Baricelli, demonstrates how to get beautiful swirls in the cake by running a skewer through it (the swirling but is about halfway through the 9 minute video). I tried his swirling method but I'm giving away the cake intact so I really won't know how well it worked. That only means I'll have to make another one soon, strictly for research purposes!

Have a great weekend, everyone. We're going on a mini-hike tomorrow and we're supposed to have perfect weather (you better be right, meteorologists!) so I am excited.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Keen-on-Keen-wah Soup

The busy times are rolling again, but I just could not resist writing this quick post. This has got be the easiest soup I have ever made in my whole life: place stuff in the pressure cooker, let it hiss and whistle, open the cooker and eat. The hearty taste of quinoa, corn, carrots and onions gets a flavorful kick with the addition of some chipotle chillies in adobo sauce.

I bought a can of these chipotle chillies for under a dollar for this recipe several months ago, and placed the contents in a reused glass jar in the fridge. I use spoonfuls of it here and there with great results each time, and I have to say that it has been one of the most cost-effective ingredients I have ever purchased. Total paisa vasool (got my money's worth), as we say!

Corn Quinoa Chipotle Soup

2008_59
(Inspired by Lisa's quinoa soup; makes 4 hearty servings)
Ingredients:
4 C vegetable stock/water/combination of the two
1 onion, cut in small dice
1 carrot, cut in small dice
1 C corn kernels (fresh/frozen/canned)
0.5 C quinoa
2 t minced chipotle chillies + adobo sauce (or to taste)
salt to taste
fresh lemon/lime juice
Method:
Place all of the ingredients (except the lime juice) in the pressure cooker. Whether you need to add salt at all depends on how salty the vegetable stock is. Pressure cook (for approximately the time needed to cook white rice in your cooker). Stir in fresh lemon or lime juice into the soup and serve hot. Tortilla chips make a superb accompaniment!

By the way, if you don't have a pressure cooker, I don't see any reason why this recipe would not work on the stove-top. The reason I chose to use a pressure cooker is to save time and fuel and because this method needs no supervision- fill up the pressure cooker, turn on the stove and go find something else to do. The cooker will whistle loudly to remind you to turn it off.

Verdict: This is one delicious soup! It has no added fat, and packs a nutritional punch. It reminds me more of spicy Chinese corn soups than anything else. Next time, I will try a version with soy sauce and vinegar. One could play around endlessly with this soup, with any combination of spicy and tangy flavorings.

Another quick chipotle recipe: Stir a tablespoon or so of minced chipotle chillies in adobo sauce into 1 cup thick yogurt (low-fat yogurt placed in a strainer/cheesecloth for a couple of hours to allow the whey to drain out). Add salt to taste and some minced cilantro or minced green onions if you have any on hand. This makes a great dip for crudites or tortilla chips. We use it as a decadent condiment on bean burritos. All the panache of sour cream without tons of calories.

Have a good week. Posting might be slower from now on :) or perhaps I will write some short and sweet posts instead of the usual kahaniyan (stories)!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Simple, Warming Soup

For all the time that I have been cooking on a regular basis, I have been a one-dish kind of gal. No matter how much I would love to spend hours cooking up a delicious spread, life usually hands me about 45-60 minutes to put dinner on the table. No wonder then, that the most beloved recipes in my repertoire are the ones that combine grains and vegetables and legumes or eggs all together in one happy pot. I love the efficient nature of one-dish meals, and am always thrilled to find a new one that we love.

But this weekday dinner rule has changed somewhat in the past few months. I now focus on making two-dish meals. The second dish is one of three- a soup, a salad or a roasted/stir-fried vegetable dish. I use the terms "soup" and "salad" in their most general sense; the former would include a kadhi or rasam and the latter is some concoction with raw vegetables- as likely to be koshimbir and raita as anything else. The two-dish rule has resulted in many good changes: I can go easy on wolfing down the "main dish" and take second helpings of the side dish instead; it makes it much more likely that we will have enough leftovers for two complete lunches; and we get a chance to enjoy more servings of vegetables. Most importantly, these second dishes add nothing to my cooking time because they are the simplest of recipes that take minutes to put together.

So I am very excited that two blogs, Lisa's Kitchen and Tinned Tomatoes have started an event called No Croutons Required with a simple theme: vegetarian soups and salads.

Here is our simple yet exquisitely satisfying meal from a couple of nights ago. Grilled cheese and Tomato soup. To stretch the calorie-heavy cheese, we shred it rather than carve it out in hunks. We also stuff the sandwiches with shredded vegetables- this time it was onion, cabbage and a poblano pepper. I say "we" but I mean V- he makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches I have ever tasted. The cream of tomato soup contains no cream whatsoever except for a swirl on top; a less-than-successful attempt at food styling. In honor of one of the hosts, the soup is made with tinned tomatoes! Also because there are no decent fresh tomatoes within a few hundred miles of here at this time. I love tomato soup but don't like it when it is mouth-puckeringly tart, as tomatoes sometimes are. Here, a little bit of milk and some sugar balance out the flavors.

Tomato Soup

2008_38
(Adapted from "How To Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman, makes about 4 servings)
1. In a pot, heat 1 T extra-virgin olive oil.
2. Add 1 sliced onion, 1 diced carrot, salt and pepper. Saute until the vegetables start getting soft.
3. Add 2 C tomatoes (fresh or canned), 1.5 C vegetable stock (or water), 2 t sugar and 1 t dried oregano (use any favorite fresh or dried herb here).
4. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat, add 0.5 C low-fat milk, then blend the soup leaving it as chunky or smooth as desired. Serve piping hot.

More soup inspiration...
20 ideas for simple soups from the Washington Post blog that illustrate how soups can be rustled up from pantry staples.
Watching your weight? Eat soup! from Susan over at FatFree Vegan Kitchen.

*** *** ***

Here's one way to deal with bone-chilling winter weather: don your favorite jet-black fur coat* and bask on the comfy futon by the sunny window...
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*No furry creatures were harmed in the writing of this post. One furry beast did get a belly rub.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Warming Garlic-Onion Soup

Blog-related cooking is a bit slow around here this week. This is because I am doing a little pantry clean-up cooking. Somehow, over the months, so much food has gathered in my refrigerator, freezer and pantry, and some more comes in every weekend as I go grocery shopping. For the last couple of weeks, I have been cooking entirely from the food I already have in the house. Just because dried goods like beans and pasta and flours last for a long time does not necessarily mean that I have to hang on to them for years. It is also a lot of fun trying to come up with things to make from existing supplies and it has become almost a game for me. An impulse purchase of some jarred eggplant spread got mixed with some kidney beans and converted into bean burritos. Sprouted pulses stored in the freezer are being turned into khichdi before they are forgotten. Root vegetables bought in bulk are being roasted to make warm hearty side-dishes. A bag of sun-dried tomatoes that was languishing for months was made into a quick spread for some incredible grilled cheese sandwiches. It is all part of my effort to think 5 times before I buy anything new, whether it is food or something else.

St. Louis is going through some bizarre weather fluctuations. Last week, it was like deathly cold, then the weekend brought some Springtime weather, and yesterday the monsoons struck! I made this soup a few days ago when it was very chilly outside. Luckily, onions and garlic are always on hand in the pantry and they are just perfect for making some soup. I found this incredibly easy recipe for roasted garlic and onion soup on Haalo's blog. It calls for the simplest ingredients, and a short list at that. It practically cooks itself. It is very low in calories, and yet bursting with flavors. It is 100% vegan. What a winner! See Haalo's post for the detailed recipe with beautiful pictures.

Roasted Allium Soup

2008_11
(adapted from Haalo's post, originally from a Donna Hay recipe; makes about 4 servings)
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. On a baking sheet, spread 3 red onions (halved but not peeled) and a head of garlic (intact, only the outer dry skin removed and the root cut off). Toss with 1.5 T olive oil and roast for 1 hour or until vegetables are soft and browned.
3. Once the vegetables have cooled a little, peel and roughly chop the onions. Peel and mash the garlic cloves.
4. In a saucepan, combine 3 C vegetable stock, and the roasted onions and garlic. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
5. Blend to a coarse puree (leaving some chunky pieces). A stick blender is very convenient for doing this.
6. Season with freshly-ground pepper, salt only if strictly required (taste first) and the juice of 1/4 lemon. Serve hot!

What a flavorful soup this is! We enjoyed it with some bean burritos, but I can imagine this being a wonderful starter to a pulao or accompaniment to a toasted sandwich. With copious amounts of heart-healthy alliums, and sans cream and butter, this steaming bowl of soup finds its way to the Heart of the Matter event hosted by Joanna. The theme this month is Soup.

While we certainly enjoy a rich and cheesy soup every now and then, the soups I routinely make are very heart-healthy. For one thing, they contain copious amounts of vegetables and/or lentils or beans, both integral parts of a wholesome diet. When pureed, these add delicious thickness to the soup. Potato and rice can also be used to add thickness to a soup. I use vegetable stock for most soups, so I go very easy on the salt (usually not adding any at all). A splash of lemon juice or some fresh herbs and freshly ground pepper certainly add to the flavor of soups and make additional salt unnecessary. Instead of cream, low-fat milk is just fine for adding some richness to soups if at all necessary. Finally, to provide a finishing touch to the soup, one can use (a) a dollop of whipped yogurt instead of cream or sour cream, (b) a small amount of shredded cheese, instead of adding it to the whole soup, (c) toasted croutons instead of fried ones.

Some heart-healthy soups on One Hot Stove:
Ginger-Lemon Rasam
Mushroom-Miso Soup
Spicy Cauliflower Soup
Sweet Corn Soup
Tomato Lentil Soup
Tortilla Soup

Some incredible onion and garlic soups from other blogs:
44-clove garlic soup from Smitten Kitchen
Austrian garlic soup from Tea and Cookies
Garlic soup with poached eggs from The Wednesday Chef
Onion garlic soup from Recipe Junction
Vegan onion soup from Kaji's Mom
French onion soup from Coffee and Vanilla
English onion soup from Too Many Chefs
Belgian onion soup from Hot Knives

Bye for now! I'll be back with some...I don't know yet...let's see what else is hiding in my kitchen.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Me So Therapeutic!

One of my favorite things about living in the United States is the accessibility of ingredients from all corners of the globe. If the home cook so wishes, their pantry can be stocked with everything from chipotle to capers, tahini to tamari. I am taking my own sweet time getting to know and love some of these seasonings- and the joy that comes from hearing a distinctly foreign word, then taking the plunge and bringing a container home, picking it up and turning it around in my hands a little fearfully (hoping that the mere act of holding it will give me clues about how best to use it); until one day, when a recipe using this strange new thing becomes a "keeper" and the ingredient is now an old friend and certified pantry staple.

Miso has long been one of those food-words that I kept coming across but never quite understood. Until SusanV wrote a post about Double Mushroom Miso Soup that said, "Eat Me" rather boldly. It was time to get to know miso a little better. Miso is a traditional Japanese ingredient; a fermented paste of soybeans and grains. Like other fermented foods like idli batter and sourdough starter, it has that peculiar "assertive-yet-not-unpleasant" aroma (or perhaps "funky-yet-good"). For me, there are two reasons to get to know miso: (a) it brings wonderful savory flavor to food (the deep and hearty taste called "umami") and (b) it is known for its healthful properties, including a rich variety of trace minerals and vitamins. Read more about miso here and here.

So I took the plunge- bought a small tub of unpasteurized white miso (shiro miso, the mildest kind there is). Miso can be found in Japanese and Asian stores and in health food stores. I bought mine from the refrigerated section of Whole Foods. Although it is white miso, in practice it looks more brown than white. The trademark recipe that uses miso is Miso Soup and this was the very first thing I wanted to make.

From what I have learnt from books and blogs, here is the simplest way to make miso soup:
1. Heat some stock: it could be the traditional Japanese dashi made with seaweed and fish flakes, or, for vegetarians, any flavorful vegetable or mushroom stock (or made with seaweed alone).
2. Add vegetables of choice (or other ingredients like tofu) and simmer until cooked.
3. Add miso paste: Take some miso paste in a small bowl. Add some of that hot stock and dilute the paste, then add it to the soup pot. Reheat briefly and your miso soup is ready!

One of my favorite cookbooks, Laurel's Kitchen, says that traditional Japanese miso soups are composed of one main vegetable and two garnishing vegetables. The garnishing vegetables can be interpreted to include anything like cubes of tofu or lemon zest. Any vegetables like greens, mushrooms, zucchini will work fine. Unfettered by tradition, miso soups, of course, can be as diverse as the cook is imaginative. Some cooked brown rice or noodles would make the miso soup even more filling.

Mushroom Miso Soup

MushMiso
(makes 3-4 servings)
1. Heat 4 C of your favorite vegetarian stock (I make mine from "Better than Bouillon" stock concentrate) until it is simmering.
2. Add 2 C mushroom slices and 3 minced scallions (white parts) and simmer until the mushrooms are tender.
3. Remove a small amount of the hot stock into a bowl. Add 2 t white miso paste and stir it in to blend. Add the diluted miso paste back into the soup. Reheat for a couple of minutes and serve hot, garnished with scallions (green parts).

This soup is such a treat during winter! A cup of steaming hot miso soup just feels very nourishing and is very effective in banishing the winter blahs. During the cold months, I always feel like reaching for a hot beverage. All too often, that beverage is something caffeinated like tea or coffee. Miso soup can be easily made in single-serving sizes as an alternative hot beverage. Miso does have a fairly high sodium content, so you might want to use lower-sodium stock or dilute the stock with some water.

Want more miso soup?

Maki writes a beautifully illustrated and instructive guide to Traditional Miso Soup, including ways to make vegetarian dashi.

Jaden presents an illustrated guide to 10-minute miso soup.

Kevin has a dozen different variations on miso soup on his blog, including this Tofu and Wakame Miso Soup.

Finally, Elizabeth Andoh's beautiful essay about Mama's Miso Soup

Before December is over, I hope to make 2-3 more miso recipes, exploring it in ways other than soup. If you have a favorite way of using miso, I sure would appreciate knowing about it.

*** *** *** Menu for Hope *** *** ***

From today until 21st December, you have the opportunity to participate in the annual foodbloggers' fund-raising event, the Menu for Hope 4. $10 buys you a raffle ticket for one of dozens of mind-boggling prizes (expensive ingredients, must-have books, homemade goodies and so much more)...there is something here for everyone! Every cent of the money goes to a worthy cause, while the prizes have been donated by generous bloggers. Consider buying tickets as an unusual and thoughtful holiday gift for the people you love, and a couple for yourself too. You never know what you will win! Click here for all the details. Thank you for your generous donations.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Spicy Cauliflower Soup

Can you believe 2007 is almost over?! It is a little shocking to know that the very last month of the year is only a couple of days away (especially because I still catch myself writing 2006 as the year...I know...I am a little slow on the uptake). It has been a very enjoyable year for me, in terms of cooking. This year, much more than past years, I have had a lot more time to indulge myself in reading cookbooks, trying new recipes, and learning some new techniques along the way. A few days ago, I received a review copy of a cookbook that promises to teach me much more about home cooking.

The book is called "The Art of Simple Food" by Alice Waters. The tag-line of the book reads "Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution" and it is indeed a revolution that Alice Waters is credited with bringing about. A movement away from processed and canned (in more ways than one) food that was (is?) so heavily marketed in the country, and towards appreciating food for what it is really is- a joy, not a burden. To see an example of Waters' work, take a look at the Edible Schoolyard project in a school in Berkeley, California, where the school's curriculum revolves around working in the school garden; learning the sensory joys of cooking and gardening; tasting real food from an early age.

The back cover of the book lists nine fundamental guidelines that the book is based on. Simple statements like "Cook together", "Eat together" and "Remember food is precious" that seem so fundamental, but unfortunately, are not that basic in our lives any more. I read all those lines, and thought to myself: as a child growing up in middle class India, most of these principles were very much a part of our lives. It is good to be reminded of them from time to time.

What I really love about this book is that it does not teach you to cook ABC or XYZ so much as it simply teaches you to cook. Waters is a patient and methodical teacher, laying the foundation of cooking in the first part of the book and devoting the second half of the book to a bounty of recipes for every course of the meal. For instance, the section of cake elaborates on the principles underlying the conversion of flour, eggs, butter and sugar into an airy dessert, then gives a versatile cake recipe and suggestions for turning it into a layer cake, a sheet cake, cupcakes etc. Each recipe has ideas for variations, reinforcing the fact that once you know the technique and principles, you hardly even need a recipe to cook simple meals. Over a few years of regular cooking, I am learning principles of Indian cooking to some extent, but a cookbook such as this one is wonderful for learning some classic "Western" recipes. I often find myself flipping through voluminous cookbooks, gazing at lovely photographs but barely coming across even one recipe that I really want to try. This one does not have a single photograph of a prepared dish (some lovely ink illustrations are certainly found here) but I found a dozen recipes that I am very eager to try.

The first recipe I tried from this book is Spicy Cauliflower Soup. This is one versatile vegetable that seems to find its way into my shopping bag nearly every week. In this home, cauliflower seems to be cooked repetitively in a few favorite ways- some naughty, some nice, and then, the delicious but predictable roasted cauliflower. I have been meaning to try other avatars of this cruciferous beauty, and this soup jumped up as an unusual (for me) way of cooking it. Besides, I spotted it on the menu of Waters' Chez Panisse Cafe- it is very unlikely that I will be eating there any time soon, so here is my chance to taste a little bit of that place virtually.

This simple soup is jazzed up with familiar spices: the toasted coriander and cumin (I used a mortar and pestle to crack the spices) add a burst of flavor and texture. Turmeric adds a subtle tinge and warmth to the soup. The soup calls for any combination of broth and water. I never have vegetable broth on hand, and don't usually get around to making my own (don't use it often enough, basically). I used to just substitute water in recipes that called for stock, but have recently started using a stock base that I really like. It is a brand called "Better Than Bouillon" and they have several vegetarian bases. I must say the stock adds to the depth of flavor in this soup.

Spicy Cauliflower Soup

CauliSoup
(adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, makes about 6 servings)
Ingredients:
1 medium head of cauliflower, trimmed and florets coarsely chopped
1 onion, peeled and cubed
1 carrot, peeled and cubed
2 T olive oil
1 t cracked roasted coriander seeds
1 t cracked roasted cumin seeds
1/2 t turmeric
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt
pepper
1/4 C chopped cilantro
3 cups stock (see note above)
2 cups water
juice of 1/2 lemon
Method:
1. In a heavy pot, heat the olive oil and add onion, carrot, coriander, cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.
2. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, until the vegetables are very soft and the spices are toasted and fragrant.
3. Add the cilantro and cauliflower florets and stir for a minute more.
4. Add stock and water, bring to a boil, and then simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is tender. This took me about 15 minutes or so.
5. Use a blender (I use a stick blender) to partially blend the soup to a puree. If you prefer a coarser stew, just mash the florets with a wooden spoon and skip the blender. Stir in the lemon juice.

I served the soup with a delicious parmesan-crusted khakra-esque flatbread cracker. A crunchy accompaniment like crackers or croutons would go beautifully with this soup. Alice Waters suggests a garnish of yogurt, chopped mint and lime juice for each serving. I had no yogurt or mint on hand when I made this soup, but won't be skipping these delightful garnishes the next time I make this. I'm glad to have found yet another flavorful way to serve a beloved vegetable!

A hearty soup like this one is the perfect antidote to long dark winter evenings.
winter

For more tips on staying active and cheerful through this season, check out my November Daily Tiffin column: Brightening the Winter Blues.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Soup and Spirals

The weather here in St. Louis is starting to change...fall is finally inching its way here. A few nights ago, a sudden chill inspired me to root around for something warm and hearty for supper. The fridge was rather empty, but I had half a batch of pizza dough in the freezer. Together with pantry supplies like brown lentils and canned tomato, this light meal was thrown together in 30-40 minutes. The aroma of simmering soup and baking bread in the kitchen is so therapeutic at the end of a long day.

The inspiration for the pizza dough spirals comes from a two-sentence post for savory bread rolls on the blog The Casual Baker. The method is analogous to that of the sinfully delicious cinnamon rolls, except that these are savory little bites with a tasty mixture of garlic, olives and red pepper flakes tucked inside. You could use just about any "filling" here- like pesto or chopped sun dried tomatoes, or minced herbs, or just crushed peppercorns. If you are a fan of cheese, that would make a nice filling too.

Pizza Dough Spirals

pizzrolls

1. Preheat the oven to 425F.
1. Make the filling by combining 3-4 cloves minced garlic, 1/3 cup chopped olives (I used black Kalamata olives) and 1 t red pepper flakes (or to taste).
2. On a floured surface, roll out/ pat out the (thawed) pizza dough into a fairly thin rectangle. I used a half-batch of this dough to yield about 10 spirals.
3. Brush the dough lightly with olive oil, sprinkle the filling on it and roll up into one long roll.
4. With a sharp knife, cut the roll into slices. Place the slices cut-side down on an oiled baking sheet. Brush with more olive oil (optional) and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
5. Serve piping hot with some soup or just as a snack. It is a real treat to pull apart these crispy spirals and tuck into the fresh-baked bread.

The soup I made was an extremely simple Tomato Lentil Soup, essentially a tadka-less dal. Because I was serving the soup with these flavorful spirals, I did not load it up with other flavors. Otherwise, I would have added some garlic and red pepper flakes to the soup. There is barely a recipe here...but in case anyone is interested, here is the general method. It makes 3-4 servings.
1. Heat 1 t olive oil in a saucepan and saute 1 sliced onion until lightly browned.
2. Add 0.5 C washed brown lentils (whole masoor), 1.5 C tomato puree (fresh or canned), 2 C water, salt and pepper and let the whole thing simmer until the lentils are meltingly tender. Add more water if the soup feels too thick. Turn off the heat and taste the soup. Add some lemon juice or a sprinkle of sugar to balance out the flavors if necessary.
A garnish of fresh herbs would be delicious, but I had none on hand.

These fresh-baked spirals are my humble contribution to World Bread Day '07. Many thanks to Zorra for hosting this event. 2007 has been the year when I have really started to make breads- both our Indian flatbreads and other breads- on a regular basis, and it is such a rewarding experience each time! I look forward to plenty of bread-making inspiration in the round-up.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Supper: Curry Noodle Soup

This post is part of the 7 S series: Soup, Salad, Sandwich, Snack, Street food for Sunday Supper. These are light(er) meals for Sunday night; a tasty way to end indulgent weekends and get ready for a new week. A way to use the vegetable goodness brought home on Saturday mornings. A chance to try something a new recipe, a new ingredient or a new cuisine every weekend.

As you can see, I can't seem to stay away from my Sunday posting routine, and especially that of a series. So here it is, a new series with a simple and fairly open-ended premise: trying out new one-dish meals. Given that I am now a whole lot busier than I was during the A-Z series earlier this year, I expect that this one is going to be low-maintenance.

The first in the series is a soup from a wonderful new cookbook given to me as a graduation gift by my darling friend Laureen. She has that special knack of giving the most thoughtful and special gifts every single time. The cookbook is called Super Natural Cooking, written by a food blogger- Heidi Swanson of 101 cookbooks and Mighty Foods. In a world where it seems like a new cookbook is launched every minute or so, this is a very special body of work. While it has beautiful splashy pictures, it is completely unlike the usual glossy tomes- there is something very earthy about the colors and the paper that appeals to me. The central theme of this book is that it talks about "five ways to incorporate whole and natural ingredients into your cooking". It suggests specific and do-able ways to build a natural foods pantry, explore a wide variety of grains, cook by color (it is well-known that the darker the vegetable, the higher the level of certain micro-nutrients like anti-oxidants), know your superfoods and use natural sweeteners. Essentially, the books encourages the average home cook to look beyond the food in the supermarket and not be afraid to explore ingredients that may be nutritionally far superior. The Indian kitchen is already home to wonderful ingredients such as jaggery, millet, coconut oil and atta- the arrival of books such as these, touting these very foods, makes it more likely that they will be widely available in the US in the near future. This book is also encouraging me to look beyond ingredients that are familiar to me, and I hope to cook with quinoa, amaranth flour and miso in the coming months. Best of all, the recipes in the book are all vegetarian.

Today, I am making a simple and satisfying noodle soup from Super Natural Cooking. The new ingredient that I discovered via this recipe is udon noodles, a flat, beautifully geometrical wheat noodle that comes from Japanese cuisine and is cooked in a hundred different ways. I found a packet at Whole Foods.
udon1

I am slowly starting to discover, learn and love many cuisines from around the world, but Japanese cuisine remains mysterious and a little intimidating. While Japanese ingredients are being used in this recipe, the soup overall is an Asian hodge-podge, with the Japanese noodles and shoyu (a Japanese soy sauce), fragrant Thai curry paste and a complex blend of flavors- sweet, sour, spicy and salty. The soup does not call for vegetables, but I added some fresh green beans to make this a complete meal.

Curry Noodle Soup

(Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson, serves 2-3)
udon2

Ingredients:
4 oz udon noodles
2 T peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 t Thai red curry paste
1 C green beans, cut into bite size pieces
1 C tofu cubes
3/4 C coconut milk
2 C water
1 t turmeric powder
2 T shoyu/ soy sauce
1 T sugar
1 T lemon juice
Garnish:
handful of roasted chopped peanuts
slices of scallions/ spring onions
minced cilantro
Method:
1. Boil a large pot of water and cook the udon noodles until barely tender (they will get cooked further in the hot soup). Drain them and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil and saute onion and garlic until fragrant and starting to brown. Add the red curry paste and stir until aromatic.
3. Stir in green beans and cook until tender.
4. Add tofu, coconut milk, water, turmeric, soy sauce and sugar. Simmer the soup for 10 minutes.
5. Turn off the heat. Add lemon juice and cooked udon noodles.
6. Serve hot, garnished with peanuts, scallions and/or cilantro.

Heidi calls this a "slurp and slop bowl" which describes this noodle soup just perfectly! This steaming bowl is definitely a delicious soup for any season, but with its spicy kick and delicious addictive taste, it could also be called street food...I imagine that such soups are sold by street vendors in many parts of South-East Asia. Next time, I will try cooking the noodles directly in the soup instead of cooking them in another pot. The soup is "soupy" enough that I think this might work. It will save the time and fuel needed to boil a large pot of water, plus the noodles might absorb even more flavor. I loved the silky yet toothsome taste of the udon noodles and look forward to using them in some traditional Japanese ways. Anyone have a favorite recipe with udon noodles?

This big bowl of soup is my entry to the Second Annual Super Soup Challenge over at the blog Running with Tweezers.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

T is for Tomato Red Pepper Saar

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 "T" of Indian Vegetables
The letter T inspired twenty-seven tempting Indian flavors!

First, the T vegetables...

First, the ripe and red-tinged tomato, botanically a fruit, but used as a vegetable in the kitchen, whose antioxidant properties are much-touted! This new world fruit is a relatively late addition to the Indian kitchen, but has been embraced lovingly and whole-heartedly into Indian cuisine. Here are five tasty traditional ways that use the tomato as a main ingredient and not just an accessory to the recipe, plus a special bonus- one highly creative way to use the tomato.

Laavslife of Nuggets of our Life shares a favorite dish from her childhood- an aromatic Tomato Kurma just waiting to be sopped up with soft spongy idlis.

Aarti of Aarti's Corner shares two traditional Marathi tomato dishes- a spicy soup with an aromatic ghee tempering, called Tomatoche Saar, and a simple stir-fry with tomato, called Tomatochi Bhaaji, which would be a great side-dish for any meal.

Suma of Veggie Platter remembers the train travels from her childhood, memories of a delicious tomato dish that is eaten with puris- her is her lip-smacking recipe for some authentic Kannada Tomato Gojju.

The Cook of Live To Cook makes an unusual Northern Indian curry- her Bhagara Tomato has little tomatoes soaking in a rich spicy gravy of coconut, sesame seeds and peanuts.

Linda of Out Of The Garden beautifully illustrates the versatility of the tomato, and how a creative cook can use it to make delicious variations of traditional dishes. She conquers her culinary trepidation and whips up a superb batch of fluffy and tempting Tomato Dhokla, sandwiched with pan-roasted eggplant for a gourmet finish!

Now for three root vegetables: the first of which is the Turnip: an inexpensive and easily available root vegetable, that is often under-used. I confess that I have yet to buy and use a turnip! Here, G V Barve of Add Flavor uses not the turnip itself, but the turnip leaves to make a typical Tamilian preparation, a coarse chutney that makes for a flavorful side-dish- Turnip leaves thuvayal.

The next vegetable is a rather exotic one for me: Taro root, also known as dasheen. The huge elephant-ear leaves of this plant find their way into many Indian dishes, but today, here are two crispy ways with the taro root.

Suganya of Tasty Palettes shares her mother's signature dish- a much-requested (and I can see why!) sizzling platter of Taro Root Fry.

Sheela of Delectable Victuals is inspired by hash browns, but she takes this cooking method to the next level with her grated Pan-fried Taro Root that looks golden brown and perfectly delicious.

The last root vegetable is another tropical starchy root, the Tapioca or cassava. Sukanya of Hot N' Sweet Bowl uses it in her favorite sweet dish- her grandmother's recipe for Tapioca Puttu- a comforting sweet mash of tapioca and coconut.

Now for two T vegetables that are beloved in India, although they are harder to find abroad. The first is the Turiya, known in English as the ridged gourd. Its hard ridged skin conceals a juicy, delicious interior. Richa of As Dear As Salt shares an unusual and quick way to cook this lovely veggie- she stir-fries it with some store-bought taro leaf bundles (patra) to make a platter of Turiya Patra- sounds like the perfect weeknight dinner.

The next Indian vegetable is the teeny-tiny tendli (Hindi) or tondli (Marathi), also known as the ivy gourd- a veggie that resembles a diminutive cucumber. Here are five simple and tasty everyday ways to prepare this dainTy vegetable.

Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi team the tondli with the traditional Maharashtrian goda masala to make a smoky and flavorful Tondlichi Bhaji.

Tee of Bhaatukli also gives the tondli a typical Maharashtrian treatment, cooking it with a sprinkling of peanuts and chickpea flour to make Tondli Peeth Perun Bhaaji.

Raaga of The Singing Chef chooses a traditional dish from Konkani cuisine. A flavorful tempering accompanied by a dash of chickpea flour results in this savory dish of Tendlya Talasani.

Asha of Aroma/ Foodie's Hope makes a dish from Kannada cuisine- a gentle stir-fry flavored with aromatic curry leaves called Tondekai Palya.

Mahek of Love 4 Cooking blends tendli with rice and a few select spices to make a steaming hot batch of Tendli Bhat.

The last T vegetable is truly an exotic one for me: Trai Tao or Chinese red date. The Cook of Live To Cook writes a remarkable post about discovering a seemingly foreign food and ending up rediscovering an old favorite! Read on for the story and for her recipe for a sweet relish, Elandha pazha Pachchidi.

The next T food is a tiny and toothsome seed, Til or sesame seeds. With a nutty taste and a rich mouth-feel, sesame seeds find their way into many savory and sweet Indian dishes. Here, TC of The Cooker uses an assortment of nutritious veggies and shapes them into cutlets, then coats them with sesame seeds and bakes them into these irresistible Til Kobi Cutlets.

Now come a slew delicious T dishes from all over India and the world...

The first is an appetizer called the tikki, loved across the length and breadth of India, and also known by other names such as patties and cutlets (like the entry just before this); these are savory burgers that are generally pan-fried. The word "tikki" refers to the round, flat shape of these tasty morsels. Nandita of Saffron Trail makes an unusual combination of mushroom and potato, flavors it with nigella seeds, and shapes some sizzling hot Tikkis to beat the monsoon drizzle.

Next comes a Maharashtrian relish that is as fiery as can be: Thecha translates as pounded in Marathi and is nothing but garlic and chillies pounded together into a taste-bud tingling dip. Madhuli of My Foodcourt blends garlic, chillies, peanuts and salt into a thick Thecha that will set your senses on fire.

The next dish also comes from Maharashtra, a savory multigrain pancake called the Thalipeeth. Priyanka of Lajawaab takes the multigrain flour- bhajani- and turns it into beautiful golden Thalipeeth which would be delicious with the thecha from the preceding entry!

Then comes the magic number: Three! Dhana of Fresh Kitchen craves Indo-Chinese food, so she tosses together a trio of vegetables- capsicum, green peas and carrots- with staples like rice and soy sauce to make a hearty Three-Vegetable Fried Rice.

Next, Swapna of Swad is inspired by Mexican cuisine and whips up a batch of spicy, nutritious and filling Taco Soup.

Now for two T culinary techniques, based on special kitchen equipment.

The first is the tava or skillet. A rugged iron tava is tenacious enough to be handed down from generation to generation. Pooja of Khana Pina tosses some earthy mushrooms in a spicy semolina coating, then quickly fries them in a hot tava to result in this sizzling platter of Tava Fried Mushrooms.

The second is an oven, taken to the next level: the tandoor. This drum-shaped clay oven is not commonly used in individual homes; at one time, community tandoors were common in some parts of North India, and today, tandoor ovens can be found in restaurants. But tandoori cuisine, with its tantalizing taste, is often replicated at home with yummy results.

Saju of Chachi's Kitchen eschews artificial food colors, instead using a vibrant blend of tomato and paprika to make a batch of luscious Tandoori Cauliflower and Potatoes.

Mahek of Love 4 Cooking shares her recipe for some Tandoori Cauliflower made with a mouth-watering spicy marinade.

Let's end on a refreshing note; in this hot sultry season, here is a Tropical dessert that will serve as a tonic for the heat-weary soul. Coffee of The Spice Cafe combines cool coconut with zesty lime to churn out a thirst-quenching Tropical Coconut Sorbet.


************************************************************
T is for Tomato Red Pepper Saar: Soups

The traditional Indian meal features an abundance of dishes- there are crispy appetizers and steamed ones, salads and stir-fries galore, and all kinds of breads and rice dishes. One starting course that is an integral part of the Western meal is not really a big part of the Indian meal- the soup course. Even so, many restaurants in India often model themselves on their Western counterparts, and there will be a rather incongruous listing of soups at the beginning of most menus. You can almost be sure that you will find certain soups in the menu: tomato soup is a perennial favorite, for instance. With the wild popularity of Indo-Chinese cuisine in India, other popular soups are sweet corn soup and hot and sour soup.

India is also the birth-place of the mulligatawny soup, a British concoction whose name derives from the Tamilian term for "pepper water". Of course, all the Indian dals can be classified and served as soups; you could say they are "rasam for the soul". I have defeated many colds with swift and frequent gulps of fiery pepper rasam, or tangy lemon-ginger rasam or mild tomato rasam.

Well, this is not really soup season, but here it is: my favorite "soup": a Maharashtrian dish called saar. Saar captures so many flavors in every sip- there is a aroma of spice and heat from chillies, a richness from the coconut milk, and a wake-me-up tang from the tomato. Normally, there is a hefty dose of jaggery (unrefined Indian brown sugar) in saar to provide a wonderful sweet tint, but here I use red bell pepper for a fresh sweetness and a little smoky flavor, while adding a small amount of jaggery to round off the taste.

Tomato Red Pepper Saar

tsaar
(makes about 4 servings)

Ingredients:
Canned tomatoes, chopped, 2 C including the juice
Red bell pepper, 1
Onion, 1 small
Coconut milk, 3/4 C (use 1/2 C if you prefer a milder coconut taste
Jaggery, 1 heaping t
Salt to taste
Tempering
Ghee, 1 t
Cumin seeds, 1 t
Curry leaves, 5-6
Dried red chillies, broken in half, 3-4
pinch of asafoetida
Method:
1. Cut the red bell pepper and onion into large dice, In a saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions, red pepper and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Turn the heat off. Process the vegetables to a puree using an immersion blender/ blender/ food processor and return to pan.
3. Stir in the coconut milk, jaggery and salt and heat gently until barely simmering (so that the jaggery is dissolved).
4. In a separate small skillet, make the tempering by heating ghee, then adding the rest of the tempering ingredients. Pour the tempering over the vegetable-coconut mixture, stir and serve.

Variations
1. Make a traditional saar with only tomato, skipping the red peppers.
2. Make a vegan version by using oil or margarine for the tempering.
3. Using peppercorns instead of red chillies for a different type of heat.

Serving Suggestions
1. Serve saar as a soup!
2. Serve it cold as a spicy beverage or non-alcoholic aperitif.
3. Serve it as a side dish for a meal. I served it as an accompaniment to some egg pilaf.

Fellow bloggers have come up a spicy-tangy-sweet array of soups...

Rasam as soup...
Understanding Rasam from Gopium,
Pomegranate Rasam from Saffron Trail,

Two types of corn soup...
Breakfast Corn Soup from The Green Jackfruit,
Sweet Corn Soup from Aayi's Recipes,

More slurp-able ideas...
Mulligatawny Soup from Ahaar,
Tomato Soup from Past, Present and Me,
Red Masoor Dal from Bong Mom's Cookbook,

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