Showing posts with label Squash. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Squash. Show all posts

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quick Zucchini Dosas

In Spring this year, V and I became the proud custodians of a 12 feet by 5 feet garden plot in our local community garden. We were hoping for beginner's luck and dreaming of bumper crops of eggplant and methi but let's just say that I am thankful we have the option of buying our food. Between our rookie mistakes and the voracious squirrels, the poor plants did not stand a chance. There were plenty of hilarious moments, like when our more experienced garden neighbor pointed out that the one plant that was growing well and that we were watering desperately was, in fact, a weed. And then we had asparagus growing, which is wonderful, except that we had never planted any. 

V remains persistent in his gardening efforts and now he has been getting us herbs from the plot, and picking a modest amount of okra every day. We saved the okra for a few days and made a delicious gojju with it this weekend, using the incredible gojju powder sent by my sister's ma-in-law. 

Generous (and more experienced and successful) garden neighbors have been sharing their bounty with us. That's how we ended up with what must have been one of the biggest specimens of summer squash in the state of Missouri. Even after using it for a couple of stir fries, I had a large portion of this monster left over.

So one morning at breakfast, a huge heap of the summer squash was shredded and tossed with salt to draw out the moisture. Then I stirred in some salt, onion and spices, and enough chickpea flour and rice flour to make a batter, and made us some filling, savory dosas in a matter of minutes.  

You can use any summer squash or zucchini in this recipe, or cucumbers, or a combination of the two. I never bother to peel the vegetables unless the peel is too tough and stringy. While making dosas, I love to sprinkle them with sesame seeds for extra flavor and texture; this is the way cucumber dosas were always made when I was growing up. 

Summer Squash Dosas

  1. Shred the summer squash into a large bowl. I started with about 3 packed cups of shredded summer squash.
  2. Add a small minced onion, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, a pinch of turmeric, red chili powder or minced green chilies, and salt to taste. Add some minced fresh herbs like cilantro or chives if you have any on hand. 
  3. Let the squash sit for 10 minutes to draw out the water. You won't need any additional water for the batter because these vegetables have a very high water content. 
  4. Add scoops of chickpea flour and rice flour (in about equal amounts) until you get a pancake like batter. 
  5. Heat a cast iron (or non stick) griddle. Ladle batter into the center. Now, using wet fingertips, spread the batter around to a thin dosa. You can spread the batter with the back of a ladle but I find that wet fingertips work much better. With a tiny bit of practice, you'll never risk burning your fingers. 
  6. Drizzle oil around the edges. Sprinkle sesame seeds on the surface. Let the underside get brown and crispy. 
  7. Flip over the dosa and let the other side cook.
The dosas are wonderful on their own or with your choice of a dry or fresh chutney. We enjoyed them with peanut chutney. 

I'm excited to share some personal news with you: I'm 7 months pregnant. If all goes well, V and I will have a little one in late September. Summer temperatures have been off the charts this year in St. Louis (and in much of the US) and light meals like these are perfect for me.

Have a lovely rest of the week, everyone! 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pressure Cooker Risotto

My sister is flying in for a vacation from Bangalore, India in just three weeks and I am giddy with excitement. My head is spinning with mental lists of all the things I want to cook for her and all the places I want to take her- we will be meeting after 5 whole years. By the way, for those familiar with food stores in Bangalore, are there any foodie must-haves I should request her to bring along? She's been asking me if I would like anything from Bangalore and my favorite gifts are always of the food variety.

In preparation for her visit, I am eating down the pantry so I can restock it properly. I especially want to finish off the ingredients that I think of as "winter" ones and also use up obscure ingredients that are taking up precious pantry space. Yesterday, I found a package of arborio rice with a little over a cup of rice in it. I also found some nutritional yeast, an impulse purchase that I never got around to using. Pairing these pantry finds with some butternut squash and inspired by this recipe for pressure cooker risotto, I was able to make a creamy and comforting one dish meal in about 10 minutes of active cooking time. The nutritional yeast adds a complex cheesy flavor (perfect because I had no parmesan cheese on hand) and this dish happens to be vegan.

Around this time last year, I visited my friend Cathy in Maryland and she cooked me dinner after fabulous dinner. One evening she made a delicate butternut squash risotto perfumed with fresh ginger and garlic. With that taste memory resurfacing, I added fresh ginger and garlic to this dish with wonderful results.

Butternut Squash Risotto in the Pressure Cooker
(Adapted from this recipe, serves 3-4)
  1. Heat the pressure cooker with 2 to 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  2. Add 1 medium minced onion and 1 tbsp. each minced fresh ginger and garlic. Saute for a few minutes until the onions are fragrant and translucent.
  3. Add 1 cup (I had a little over 1 cup) arborio rice and toast it for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add 2 to 3 cups butternut squash, cut in small cubes. Stir in 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 3 cups vegetable stock, salt (only if needed) and pepper to taste. 
  5. Snap on the lid and pressure cook. Garnish with fresh herbs if you have some on hand.
This hands-off risotto is just as good as the one made with the stir-until-your-arms-fall-off variety. It might have been a tad overcooked mostly because my pressure cooker is sometimes too efficient for its own good. Next time, I'll rush to shut off the heat at the hint of the first whistle.

We filled up on creamy risotto and then went off to see the opening night of a hilarious musical put up by a talented group of medical school students. This week it feels like all the fun of Spring and Summer is finally kicking off.

* * *
The National Food Blogger Bake Sale is scheduled a few weeks from now, on May 14th 2011. With every brownie and lemon bar and slice of pie, this bake sale seeks to raise awareness and funds to end childhood hunger in the US. If you are interested in baking for this event, or just want to go snag a few treats for yourself, check this list to see if there are bake sales planned in your state and city.

Stef of the Cupcake Project is one of the hosts of the St. Louis edition of the bake sale. If you are in St. Louis, check her post to see how you can participate. I am planning to bake a couple of items- both with an Indian touch. More on that later. 

Happy Friday! Have a wonderful weekend!

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.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pumpkin Flan

This is what I made for Thanksgiving dessert- Pumpkin Nutmeg Flan, another long-bookmarked recipe that I finally found a muhurat to make. V is an ardent fan of flans and caramel custards of all types, so I knew he would love this dessert.

To keep it simple, I skipped the cookie topping in the original recipe.

The one technique that is used here is baking in a hot water bath or a bain marie. Read more about this technique here.

Here's how the original recipe came to be Recipe #35: Pumpkin Flan.

1. Pre-heat the oven to 375F.

2. Put a kettle of water to boil, for the bain marie.

3. In a large bowl, add

7 eggs
1 15 oz. can canned pumpkin puree
1 14 oz. can condensed milk
1 12 fl. oz. can evaporated milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground nutmeg

Use an immersion blender to make a smooth mixture.

4. In another pan, melt 1 cup sugar into amber caramel.

5. Pour the caramel carefully into a loaf pan. Add the pumpkin mixture and bake in a bain marie for 15 mins. Then turn down the oven to 350F and bake until set (inserted knife should come clean), 45 minutes or so.

6. Chill, then invert before serving.


One problem I had was that there was way too much pumpkin mixture- it would have overflowed the loaf pan. At the last minute, I had to grab a smaller bowl and set up another bain marie so as not to waste the remaining mixture. So if you plan on using these proportions, have 2 oaf pans, or one loaf pan and some extra baking cups ready.

Another thing I would do differently next time is to cover the pans with foil while baking to avoid a rubbery surface from forming.

The flan was absolutely delicious- with flavors of pumpkin and nutmeg, it was the perfect alternative to pie on this holiday.

To all those who celebrate it, Happy Thanksgiving! I have a very very long list of things that I am thankful for, but I'll only mention here my gratitude to the good folks who visit this space, share their love for home cooking and always have a kind word for me. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Bookmark Project: Cucumber Curry

My bookmark folder contains many hidden gems in the form of fantastic recipes just waiting to be tried. And I've managed to unearth one of them.

I was intrigued by this cucumber curry recipe the minute I spotted it. The cookbook that the recipe comes from (Madhur Jaffrey's excellent book 'World Vegetarian') is sitting right here on my bookshelf but I completely missed this recipe until I saw it on this blog. I make cucumber dosa often, but otherwise don't cook cucumber, preferring it as a raw salad vegetable. Cooking it into a curry is very new to me.

The curry, with mellow cucumber and coconut looked just right for summer. There is a mild spicy undertone from the chilli(es), but otherwise the fragrance is entirely that of mustard seeds and curry leaves spluttered briefly in ghee to release their aroma.

The curry leaves are the star of this dish, and the ones I used came from my own curry leaf plant. Before I left for my long vacation to India, I gave away all my plants and herbs, keeping only this most precious one. This plant sits in the kitchen window and I spend many anxious moments every week counting the newly sprouting sprigs. It started as the tiniest sapling given to me by an acquaintance but has grown inch by inch. While we were packing for the trip, my green-thumbed friend Julianne came by and kindly took the curry leaf plant away to her home to baby-sit it for the month. As she was getting into the elevator, V called to her, "You know, if you kill this plant, Nupur is never going to speak to you again". The poor thing! She sent me regular messages about the plant's health all month and needless to say, returned it to me in perfect condition.

My problem now is that the plant is growing tall but not laterally- I would love to have it branching out more and now just growing upright. Does anyone know how to accomplish this? Any advice from plant experts would be much appreciated. I "harvest" 3-4 sprigs of curry leaves from my plant every week and that is enough for my cooking needs. Even with just this one little plant, I have avoided buying many packets of limp curry leaves from the store, saving a bit of money and keeping the packaging out of the trash. Oh, the joys of growing your own herbs. I'm obsessed about getting a lemongrass plant next, and want to plant some mint and basil before July is over.



Just to contrast with my baby curry leaf plant, here is the one in my parents' yard in India. It is a curry leaf tree that is 3 stories tall! My parents are drowning in curry leaves. Meanwhile, I am sitting here and rationing sprigs of curry leaves, thinking, "If I use two sprigs today, I won't have any for the sambar tomorrow".

That big tree keeps giving off saplings here and there in the surrounding soil. I have friends here in the US who would give anything for these curry leaf babies that grow like weeds in my parents' garden.

OK, I got a little carried away there. Coming back to the recipe, the only real change I made was in using whole lentils instead of the split ones (masoor dal), because it is what I had on hand, and in reducing the amount of coconut milk a little. It is the very incredible-tasting recipe I have tried in several months. Now, it does not win any prizes in terms of looks; the lentils give the curry a dull muddy color, but this is completely worth overlooking. I highly recommend it. The delicate flavor is perfect for summer.

Cucumber Squash Curry


Inspired by the olan recipe on A Life (Time) of Cooking

¾ cup lentils (masoor), rinsed
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1 green chilli, finely minced (or more to taste)
Salt to taste
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon ghee/clarified butter
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves

1. In a pot, add ½ cup coconut milk, lentils and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 110-15 minutes or until lentils are barely tender.
2. Add the cucumber, squash, chillies and salt. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
3. In a separate small pan, make the tempering by heating the ghee and popping the mustard seeds and curry leaves in the ghee.
4. Pour the fragrant tempering and remaining coconut milk to the curry. Stir for a minute or two, then turn off the heat.
5. Add the lemon juice and stir. Serve with freshly steamed rice, with mango pickle on the side.

Since the curry is proudly made by curry leaves growing in my kitchen, I'm sending this post to Grow Your Own #31, an event that celebrates foods we grow ourselves.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sig's Butternut Squash Erissery

Anyone who reads this blog probably knows that I love "cooking from the blogs". I treat the food blog world as a virtual culinary school populated by the most talented teachers. It was quite natural for me to jump in and participate in an event called Taste and Create, hosted by Myamii at For the Love of Food. The premise is that she randomly pairs up bloggers, and they taste-test one recipe from each other's blog. What a neat way to learn from each other.
I do have my favorite blogs that I often try recipes from, but here was my chance to perhaps discover a new blog and its hidden treasures. As luck would have it, this month, I am paired with Sig of Live to Eat, a blog that I have been reading almost since it came to life!

Sig's blog is a unique blend of many fun-loving features, including reviews of Seattle restaurants (often eye-popping fancy-schmancy ones!), some talented mixology (I could use a gitatini right about now) and tastes of global cuisines. But this is what I treasure most about Sig's blog- her posts about the cuisine of Kerala, the Southern coastal state of India that is her native land.

"Heaven must be a bit like Kerala", says Madhur Jaffrey in her book A Taste of India, completely won over by the subtle and aromatic cuisine of this land; and reading Jaffrey's words makes me even more eager to learn more about Kerala's cuisine. Sig's recipes for classic Kerala dishes such as thoran and olan are exquisitely simple, bearing the promise of authentic home-style flavor. Most of Sig's vegetable recipes have been sitting in my bookmark folder for months on end and this was my chance to actually try one of them.

This being the season for butternut squash, I chose a coconut-based curry with a lyrical name, erissery. Butternut squash is folded into a silky paste of garlic, chillies and coconut, and then tempered with aromatics to make this festive dish which is traditionally part of the harvest feast of Onam. I was pleased to get a chance to use shallots in this recipe; that is an allium that I don't use very often.

Sig's Butternut Squash Erissery

(Source: this recipe on "Live To Eat")
2 C peeled and diced butternut squash
salt to taste
3/4 C grated coconut (fresh or frozen, thawed)
1-2 green chillies
1 clove garlic
1/2 t turmeric powder
1 t oil
1 t mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
1-2 dried red chillies
2 shallots, sliced thinly
2 T grated coconut
1. In a saucepan, place the butternut squash and add a cup or so of water, and salt to taste. Cook the squash until tender.
2. Meanwhile, grind the "paste" ingredients until smooth, adding a little water if required to make a smooth paste.
3. Stir the paste into the cooked squash and simmer for a few minutes.
4. In another small pan, heat the oil. Add the "tempering" ingredients (all except coconut) and fry until the shallots are golden. Stir in the coconut and fry until golden. Add the tempering to the curry, mix well, heat for a minute and then turn off the heat.

As Sig directed, I served the erissery with freshly steamed rice, papad and pickles. The erissery was everything I thought it would be- flavorful and delicate all at the same time, with the sweetness of the butternut squash contrasting with the rich coconut flavor and the heady aroma of curry leaves, garlic and shallots.

Hungry for more Kerala fare?
RCI Kerala Round-Up
Essence of Kerala

Thanks, Sig, for a "keeper" recipe! Sig made Mushroom Chettinad from One Hot Stove. Thank you, Myamii, for hosting this enjoyable event.

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!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Z is for Zucchini Kofta Curry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming to the Z spices...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Z is for Zucchini Kofta Curry: Ze End!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zucchini Kofta Curry

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

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

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

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

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

Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry
G is for Gobi Paratha: Vegetables in Breads
H is for Hariyali Tikki: Vegetables in Appetizers
I is for Idli with Vegetables: Vegetables for Breakfast
J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables: Restaurant Style
K is for Kati Roll: Vegetables and Paneer
L is for Lasuni Dal Palak: Vegetables and Lentils
M is for Malai Kofta: Dumplings
N is for Nargisi Kebab: Vegetables and Eggs
O is for Onion Chutney: Vegetables in Chutneys
P is for Pattagobi Pachadi: Vegetables in Salads
Q is for Quick Carrot Pickles: Vegetables in Pickles
R is for Radish Paratha: Root Vegetables
S is for Spinach Amti: Green Leafy Vegetables
T is for Tomato Red Pepper Saar: Soups
U is for Undhiyu: Regional Delicacies
V is for Vegetable-Cheese Sandwiches: Mixed Vegetables
W is for Wild Mushrooms and Walnuts: Fungi, Fruits, Nuts
X is for eXploration: Pattypan Squash Sambar
Y is for Yam Phodi: Vegetables as Themselves