Sunday, February 11, 2007

A to Z of Indian Vegetables: An Invitation

Inviting all food bloggers to participate in the A to Z of Indian Vegetables on One Hot Stove: If you would like to play along with me, here are the details.
For every letter, make a dish with three criteria:
1. The dish should start with the particular letter.
2. The dish should have predominantly Indian flavors.
3. The dish should feature vegetable(s) in a prominent way!
Please note that old posts from a blog archive are not acceptable.
Mail me the permalink (URL) of your entry according to the following deadlines for inclusion in that letter. My E-mail ID can be found in the right side-bar. Get creative and enjoy! Thanks, Lakshmi, for suggesting that I invite participation in this series.

The schedule:
R: May 26
S: June 2
T: June 9
U: June 16
V: June 23
W: June 30
X: July 7
Y: July 14
Z: July 21
My post for each letter will appear on the following day (Sunday).

Weekend Jabber, and a Meme

Dale is taking the day off...he reminded me that even busy pooches need their break from modeling!

Introducing a new feature on One Hot Stove: A free, easy-to-sign-up E-mail subscription. This is for anyone who would like to like new posts delivered to their inbox. This system only sends out mails once a day, so it may take up to a day to get a new post. Your e-mail address is always safe and secure, no danger of spammers here! So, sign up if you wish! On the right side-bar, just below my profile, you can type in your e-mail address and click on "subscribe me".

I tried two new recipes from the bloggers last week: One was Chili Paneer from Hooked on Heat. What an easy and delicious dish! In my home, we get frequent cravings for "Indian-Chinese" and this was the perfect side-dish to a vegetable-noodle stir-fry. Next time, I will try it with tofu.
The other recipe was Carrot-Ginger Soup from What's For Lunch, Honey? It was the perfect way to use up a bunch of carrots left in the frig...warm, comforting and nourishing for a winter night. This recipe was part of JFI: Ginger. See the delicious round-up here, and many thanks to Rosie for hosting this JFI!

Karen of FamilyStyle Food tagged me for this meme:

Five Things Most People Don't Know About Me...
1. I love eating breakfast foods for dinner and leftover dinner for breakfast.
2. I love TV and hate movies. I watch one movie every year on average, but hundreds of hours of TV.
3. My all-time favorite sitcom is M*A*S*H.
4. Zoos depress me.
5. I wake up at 5:00 am every day.

Want to share 5 things most people don't know about you? Consider yourself tagged!

Friday, February 09, 2007

C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam

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.

C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
Bazu, one of your guesses was correct: The C of Indian vegetables uses a beautiful orange-hued winter vegetable...the carrot! Desserts came early in this series, but of course we had to devote one post to the use of vegetables in Indian desserts. And carrots are the quintessential dessert vegetable, with their vibrant color and inherent sweetness. The two most popular veggie-based desserts in India are probably dudhi halwa and gajar (carrot) halwa. The latter wins hands down in my book, because carrots are inexpensive and ubiquitous, unlike the dudhi (bottle gourd), which is difficult to find here in the US.

If you are looking to be sneaky and smuggle in some vegetables into dessert, there are a number of recipes that lend themselves to easy modification. One is the aforementioned halwa, where grated veggies can be cooked in some milk and sugar and then mixed in with some khoya (milk that has been thickened almost to the point of becoming solid). The resulting halwa has the consistency of a thick pudding. Another dessert that is readily "veggie-fied" is kheer. Halwa needs khoya and kheer merely calls for milk or evaporated milk, making it the more low-maintainance choice. The links at the end showing recipes from other bloggers will give you an idea of how one can cleverly make an array of vegetable-servings-masquerading-as-desserts!

I have already made one version of carrot kheer last year. Since then, I have made it numerous times and it is a definite crowd-pleaser. For this series, I was looking for a variation, and came across the recipe for carrot-cashew payasam in one of my favorite cookbooks: Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan. Payasam is the Southern Indian counterpart of kheer. A combination of pureed carrots and raw cashew paste, it looked creamy and decadent and I just knew I had to make it for this series.

Carrot-Cashew Payasam

Adapted from Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan
(serves 4)
1. Soak 1/2 cup raw cashew nuts in 1 cup of warm milk for 20-30 minutes.
2. Grate 1/2 lb carrots, then saute them in 2 tbsp ghee for a few minutes until just-tender.
3. Bring 6 cups of milk to a boil, keep stirring and simmering until the milk reduces to half the original volume.
4. Meanwhile, drain milk from the soaked cashews (save the drained milk!). Place cashews and sauteed carrots in a food processor or blender and make a coarse paste, adding some of the drained milk as required for the grinding.
5. Add the cashew-carrot paste and 1/2 cup sugar to the milk. Stir well and cook for a few minutes.
6. Stir in 1 heaping tsp powdered cardamom and stir well. Remove from heat.

The verdict:
I did enjoy this kheer a lot, but the rich taste of the cashews was a little lost in the preparation, I thought. I also don't love the pureed carrots, preferring to leave them in the grated form. In the end, I keep going back to my old version of the carrot kheer. This recipe is worth trying, though: both variations of carrot kheer have their own unique taste.

How do you serve this dish?
This kheer is very rich, and best enjoyed chilled, served in a small bowl (katori). It can also be served warm, as a side-dish to some hot, puffy puris (fried flatbreads). You can get creative and try it as a sauce for some vanilla ice cream, but I have not tried that yet! Warm carrot halwa and ice cream are a classic combination, often served at Indian wedding receptions.

Fellow bloggers have come up with many delicious vegetable-based desserts. Here are some of my favorite finds:
Two classic Indian desserts...
Carrot Halwa from Kitchen Chick,
Beet Halwa from Green Jackfruit,
Two regional sweet potato desserts...
Ranga Alur Puli from Lima-Delhi,
Sweet Potato Kheer from Food For Thought,
And two very unusual veggie-based desserts...
Green pea and Chickpea Ladoo from Happy Burp and
Onion Kheer from My Dhaba

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

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sweets For My Sweet!

'Tis February, and love is in the air. Aptly, the theme for Meeta's Monthly Mingle is Sweet Love. Not a problem at all. Because my sweet, unlike me, does love his sweets quite ardently. A little light bulb went off in my head when I read the theme: I knew just the dessert I wanted to make. It is the sweet treat that V loves at any time of day or night, and something he prefers even to a chocolate dessert: Lemon-Poppy Seed Cake. For all the years that I have known him, V has been rather loyal about his brunch and snack comestibles: either a walnut-raisin cream cheese schmeared bagel or a lemon-poppy seed muffin.

For an equal number of years, I have been planning to make lemon-poppy seed cake and just never got around to it. In truth, it is one of the simplest cakes to make: light and citrusy, with only the addition of the crunchy black poppy seeds and a slight tang from the lemon. Now, armed with a new set of baking dishes, I was all ready to make it. A quick google search revealed this recipe on Epicurious, taken from the book The Cake Bible, and I did follow this recipe exactly.

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf

Recipe Source: This recipe on Epicurious.
The method was a little different from the cream-the-butter-and-sugar step that I have started dozens of cakes with. Here, the dry ingredients, cake flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds, and lemon zest were mixed together. Then, softened butter and a milk-egg-vanilla extract mixture were added and mixed in to the dry ingredients. This was a breeze with my **new hand-held mixer**, an unexpected and very thoughtful gift from Alanna!
See anything funny in the picture?
The prepared batter was poured into a greased and floured loaf pan and baked at 350 degrees F. In 50 minutes, the cake was done (a little bit over-done actually). I then spread some lemon juice-sugar glaze on it and kept it overnight before slicing it.
The verdict: The cake itself was light and very tender, just delicious. The glaze, however, made the cake unevenly soggy instead of the moist result I was looking for. Plus, the glaze was too tart. Anyway, V loved the cake, and so did the colleagues that I compelled him to share it with. Meanwhile, I shall keep looking for a recipe that I like better. I remember seeing one in a Cook's Illustrated cookbook...I'm going to hunt for that one again.

Thanks, Meeta, for hosting this event...for finally inspiring me to make a sweet treat that has been years in the making!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

B is for Bharli Mirchi

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

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

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

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

Bharli Mirchi

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Weekend Dog Blogging, Weekend Jabber

Caught on camera!!
Dale is found on people-furniture...again! See that guilty look?
Go see all the puppies having their weekend fun over at Sweetnicks.

Also, today...

Happy Birthday, One Hot Stove!!

My wee blog turns TWO today. For the occasion, I tried, in my highly painstakingly and inexpert way, to give the blog a fresh coat of paint and a brand new banner. Many thanks to the unknown artist who knitted the beautiful Marathi thali, a perfect example of folk-art and creativity. If you would like to know the names and descriptions of the food on the thali, see the end of this post. Thanks to everyone who gave suggestions and advice, and more suggestions are always welcome. People are divided about the orange color of the banner background. I do love that shade of pumpkin, but 'tis true that a lighter color would bring out the color of the thali more. hmm...

You will notice that the drop-down recipe index in the side-bar is gone. In its place, I have made a new blog with links to all the recipes featured here: One Hot Stove Recipes. The Marathi recipes have a link of their own. I will add all the typical Marathi recipes there whether they were made in the A-Z series or not. It *is* the house specialty so it deserves a page of its own.

The blog birthday is also the time for me to thank everyone who makes food-blogging such a fun part of my life. First off, V, the un-fussiest (and most appreciative) diner on the planet and guinea pig par excellence! Family and friends who cheer me along (you know who you are). Fellow bloggers who inspire me and set standards that I can only aspire towards, and all the wonderful readers who spend precious minutes reading my words and leaving me feedback. It is incredible how in the short span of two years, food blogging has become, by far, the most fulfilling hobby of my life.

This is also the time for me to reflect on where I stand as a cook. In the last six years of cooking on an everyday basis, I sure have learnt a little bit, but have a very long way to go. This coming year, I will be working on some basic recipes that I have neglected so far: like how to make bread (Indian and otherwise) from scratch. Meanwhile, here are the top 5 things that I have learnt over the years that made the biggest difference to my ability and efficiency as a home cook. Surprisingly, I find that they have less to do with actual cooking methods and more to do with organization. I'll share my tips, and you share yours. Deal?

5 tiny steps that make a big difference in my kitchen:
1. Start on a clean slate: Nothing ruins the joy of cooking like a chaotic kitchen where you are scrambling to find anything and there is not a square inch of clean counter space. No matter how rushed I am, I take 5-10 minutes and completely clean the kitchen before I start cooking. That means doing the dishes, putting away stuff from the counters and wiping all surfaces down with a damp sponge. Then I start afresh, actually looking forward to cooking. It also helps to clean as you go along. Those few minutes while you are waiting for something to come to a boil are perfect for rinsing and putting away stuff, clearing vegetable peels, etc.
2. Wear a kitchen apron: I am dumbfounded at those apron-less chefs on Food Network...surely there was room in the production budget for an apron or two? Wearing an apron in the kitchen (a) saves your clothes from all kinds of food stains, (b) makes you feel more at ease to move around, knowing that clothes are safe and (c) puts you in Cooking Mode! I have to thank my mom for getting me into this habit very early. She also keeps me supplied with aprons, many of them beautifully hand-sewn!
3. Keep a running grocery list: Every time you use *any* ingredient, give a quick glance to how much is left, and jot it down if it is running out. It is so annoying to start making something and realize that you are out of a key ingredient. This is my preferred method for maintaining a well-stocked kitchen.
4. Organize the refrigerator: I have one zone in the frig reserved for prepared food (meal leftovers etc) which is a reminder to use them up or pack them for lunch. One small space is reserved for ingredients that need to be used up soon: partial contents of a can of tomato or coconut milk, half a cauliflower etc. This small tip really minimizes food wastage.
5. "The secret ingredient": In one episode of the TV sitcom Will and Grace, Will is making soup for his sick friend Grace. Grace's husband, Leo, is waiting for the soup to be made so he can take it home to Grace. Will says something like "The soup is almost finished, but look away for a minute, Leo, so I can add my secret ingredient...I don't want you to know what it is". When Leo rolls his eyes and looks away, Will leans towards the pot and blows a heartfelt kiss into it. Groan if you like :) but the infusion of love into a dish *is* the secret ingredient. I only cook for the people I love, and I definitely put my heart into it. All those times when I am tired and grouchy and not in the mood for cooking, I thrown down the apron and dial for a pizza or rip open a packet of instant noodles.
Now its your turn: Over the years, what have you learnt in the kitchen?

Stay tuned for the "B" of Indian vegetables, coming in the next day or two!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

JFI: Ginger-Lemon Rasam

This month's theme for Jihva for Ingredients, hosted by Rosie of What's the recipe today Jim? is the...herb? vegetable? spice? ginger. A knobby, gnarly, ugly root that is beloved by so many cuisines. Just the word ginger gives me a warm, cozy, delicious feeling. [It also makes me want to run and hide from my parents' crazy, over-sized, hyperactive Doberman Pinscher named "Ginger" but that is a story for another day]

Truly, ginger brings a lot to the table. My favorite way to consume it in vast quantities these days is via Trader Joe's triple ginger cookies, addictive little morsels jammed with fresh, ground and crystallized sugar. These are the only cookies in the world that I enjoy eating on a regular basis (apart from Parle G, that is).

Today, I am making the simplest preparation with ginger: what should be properly called a rasam-inspired ginger-lemon dal, for it uses more dal than rasams do. A simple lentil preparation with typical Southern Indian spices, it contains plenty of lemon juice and minced fresh ginger. With some freshly steamed rice, it makes a homely meal. By itself, sipped as a soup, it has magical properties: it can clear up sinuses, banish the winter blues, perk up jaded palates and warm you from the inside out.

Oh, and I also want to share my favorite ginger-related kitchen tip: peeling ginger with a small spoon. It really works!

Ginger-Lemon Rasam

(serves 4-5)
1. Soak 3/4 cup of toor dal for 10-15 minutes, then rinse it well and cook it on the stove-top or pressure cooker and set aside.
2. Heat 1 tsp oil. Make the tempering using: 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, pinch of asafoetida, 5-6 curry leaves, 1 dry red chili broken in half.
3. Add 1 tbsp very finely minced fresh ginger, 1/2 tsp turmeric and stir, then immediately add 1/4 cup diced tomato (fresh or canned) and salt to taste.
4. Stir in 1 tsp sambar powder and the cooked dal.
5. Add 2-3 cups of water to make a fairly dilute dal. Bring to a boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes.
6. Remove from heat, then add the juice of one fresh lemon and garnish with minced cilantro. Serve piping hot as a soup or a dal!

Thanks, Rosie, for hosting! I look forward to some great gingery goodness in the round-up!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Working on a new look...

Just a little note to say: I just switched to the "new" blogger, and over the next few days, you will see me struggling to change the look of One Hot Stove a little bit, just in time for its second birthday! I want to use the cute woolen Marathi thali as a header symbolizing the regional Indian cuisine that features so often on this blog. Like it? The fact that I know less than nothing about creating webpages is a little bit of a problem, but I am taking it all in stride and treating this as a learning experience. Please bear with me as the blog is under renovation, and as usual, all comments and suggestions are welcome!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A is for Aloo Gobi

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.

A is for Aloo Gobi: The simplest stir-fry (North-Indian style)
We kick-off the series with a crowd-pleaser. Aloo Gobi simply means potato-cauliflower, a combination of two beloved vegetables cooked together with some simple spices. The humble aloo gobi can be found on the menu of practically every Indian restaurant on the planet, although one might say that it is more of a North Indian style recipe, originally from the Northern state of Punjab. So aloo gobi is an example of a simple stir-fried vegetable dish, North-Indian style, and is homely enough for everyday meals, and loved enough to be served at a nice dinner.

There are dozens of recipes for making aloo gobi; in some cases, potato cubes and cauliflower florets are deep-fried (!) before being tossed with spices, in some recipes, you would add some tomato to the stir-fry resulting in a light curry. My version of aloo gobi is the simplest possible. It calls for very basic ingredients and not much oil. You do not need an extensive Indian pantry to make this dish: it only calls for 6 spices (from top to bottom in the picture): cumin seeds (1), red chili powder or cayenne pepper (2), turmeric (3), cumin powder, coriander powder (4 is a blend of cumin and coriander powder that I make at home but you can just use the separately ground spices as they are sold), garam masala (5).
The best part is that all these spices, except maybe garam masala, are available in just about any grocery store/ supermarket. And even garam masala is now available in many of the better food stores such as Whole Foods and spice markets such as Penzey's as well as Indian stores and International stores everywhere. You can make your own blend at home using a spice grinder too. The liberal use of garam masala is the hallmark of Punjabi cuisine.

You start making this dish with a little prep: Chop a small onion into thin slices, cut a cauliflower into bite-size florets and wash, peel and dice two potatoes into medium cubes. Then set out your spice bottles and we are ready to make some aloo gobi!

Aloo Gobi

(serves 4-5)
1 medium-large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, sliced
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder (cayenne pepper)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1. A wide saucepan is ideal for making aloo gobi as it has a large surface area for the vegetables to come in contact with heat. Heat oil in the pan on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir until they sizzle. This is called "tempering" the oil as the oil acquires a wonderful cumin flavor during this step.
2. Add the onion and stir-fry for a few minutes until onion is starting to brown at the edges.
3. Lower the heat and add in the spices from turmeric to coriander powder. Stir only a few seconds to get the spices coated with oil.
4. Add the potato and cauliflower and stir well to mix in the spices. Add the salt and garam masala.
5. Let the vegetables cook until tender. My usual method is to cover the pan and let the veggies cook in their own juices which are released due to the salt. The vegetables at the bottom of the pan get browned, and you keep stirring every 2-3 minutes to evenly cook the vegetables. If you feel like there is not enough steam building up and the vegetables are sticking at the bottom, add 1/4 cup of water. Insert a knife point or skewer into a potato cube to test for tenderness. Turn off the heat once vegetables are tender (do not over-cook).
6. Let the "subzi" (vegetable) rest for 10 minutes, then serve warm.

Variations on a theme: This is the simplest stir-fry and these are some easy ways to jazz it up...
1. Garnishes can take the dish to a whole new level. Minced cilantro is the easiest garnish for color and flavor. The other one is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice; this really brightens the dish. Both garnishes are added right after you turn off the heat after the dish is cooked.
2. Ginger makes a wonderful pairing with the vegetables and the spices. Take a knob of fresh ginger and peel it (I use the edge of a spoon to do this), then mince the ginger. Add one tsp of minced ginger at step 3 of the recipe.
3. Make this a mixed-vegetable dish by using only 1/2 cauliflower and 1 potato and instead adding 3/4 cup diced carrots, 1/2 cup green peas (frozen works great) and 3/4 cup of trimmed and chopped green beans.

How do you serve this dish? The traditional way is to (a) scoop it up with flatbreads like roti or naan and (b) eat it with some dal and steamed rice. But you can let your imagination run wild and eat it (c) stuffed into a pita, (d) on a salad bed (cucumber, tomato, radishes, chopped and tossed with some yogurt), (e) in a sandwich with a slice of cheese.

The humble aloo (potato) is beloved in Indian cuisine...and is combined with a variety of vegetables to make easy everyday stir-fry dishes. Here are some dishes made by fellow bloggers. You will see how each cook has his/her favorite combination of spices that go into a stir-fry :
aloo bhindi (potato-okra) from Creative Pooja,
aloo baingan (potato-eggplant) from My Dhaba,
aloo shimla mirch (potato-green pepper) from Arad-Daagh,
You can, of course, combine more than two vegetable for the stir-fry...such as:
aloo matar saag (potato-peas-spinach) from Food In The Main,
and you can leave potatoes out altogether and make a different combination, like this:
gobi-mutter (cauliflower-peas) from Saffron Trail,

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Weekend Dog Blogging, Weekend Jabber

Last weekend, we got some snow on the ground (fairly unusual for St. Louis, I hear), and our dog run (dog park) turned into a winter wonderland. We tried to take a picture of Dale standing still for a moment...
But Dale takes the "run" part of "dog run" seriously, and zoomed off in a blur of fur!
Don't forget to visit Sweetnicks and see all the pups at play!

And now for some a lot of weekend jabber...
A couple of days ago, I got the opportunity to attend a lovely tasting- for wine and sweets Valentine's day gift packages from Hollyberry Baking, a lovely little baking company right here in St. Louis. Hollyberry is known for their delicious all-natural home-style cookies, and this year, they are pairing their sweets with some amazing wines. It is quite the trend to pair wine with rich desserts but a bit unusual to pair wine with homely comforting desserts like cookies and brownies. It was fun to eat kid-at-heart treats with a grown-up spin of wine on the side. I also got to taste a St. Louis specialty dessert: gooey butter cake, which certainly lived up to its name by being very gooey and very rich! Click here to see all of Hollyberry's Valentine gifts.

Speaking of rich desserts, I hope all you chocoholics out there will visit David Lebovitz's blog and drool over the Chocolate by brand mega-round-up in four parts! I can see many recipes there that I am just dying to try out.

New recipes tried this week: only one, unfortunately, as it turned out to be a pretty busy work week: I made this Spanish Tortilla Loaf from an old issue of Vegetarian Times borrowed from the library. I do like the clean look of this magazine and it is always a fun read. Now here is the funny thing: EVERY SINGLE issue of "Vegetarian Times" that I have ever picked up in a public library (whether in NYC or St. Louis) has a few recipe pages missing because some unscrupulous reader tore them out! This has not been the case with any other food magazine. I can tell you that as a vegetarian, I find this quite puzzling and distressing! Anyway, I love the idea of the spanish tortilla (open-faced potato omelet). I followed this recipe to the letter (*very* unusual for me) and loved that it is one compact loaf pan that goes into the oven to bake in a bain marie.
The baking took 10-15 minutes longer than the recipe indicated but the result was delicious! I served the tortilla loaf in hearty slices with some roasted garlic salsa for a heavenly one-dish meal. This low-maintenance loaf will be perfect for a tapas party or served in little bites as an appetizer.

Check in on One Hot Stove tomorrow for the start of a brand new series: the A-Z of Indian Vegetables!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

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

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

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

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

Spinach Dal-Dhokli

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

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

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Weekend Dog Blogging, Weekend Jabber

Dale shows off his new scarf while lounging around at home on a cold winter day...

See all the puppies playing at Sweetnicks, where they gather together for weekend dog blogging.

And now for some weekend jabber...
I'm still going nuts over the JFI Coconut round-up: Last week, I tried the Brussels Sprouts stew contributed by Menu Today. Believe it or not, I only tasted brussels sprouts for the first time last month at a Christmas dinner at the home of a wonderful friend, where brussels sprouts were served in a delicate, creamy sauce. It was love at first bite and I knew I has to try cooking this cute little vegetable. The stew was just the thing for a crisp, cold night. Lazy as I am, I simplified the recipe by not pre-cooking or stuffing the brussels sprouts. I started by frying onions and tomatoes, then adding trimmed, halved brussels sprouts and simmering them with the coconut-spice paste. The result was divine, and very rich with the combination of cashews and coconut. What I really love about the recipe is the way a local vegetable that is not found in India has been adapted to Indian cooking with such great results.

Last Saturday, we enjoyed a very low-maintainance, informal and delicious taco night with two good friends. Now, I do enjoy spending long hours making food for friends and family, no doubt about it, but every once in a while, it is great to take the pressure off and take shortcuts shamelessly. I would call it Semi-Homemade if I did not hate that phrase with such a vengeance! :)
I bought two kinds of taco shells: hard crispy taco shells (before serving, just throw them in a warm oven for 5 minutes to freshen them up), and soft flour tortillas (before serving, wrap them in a paper towel and microwave for 15-20 seconds). I prepared two protein-rich fillings: One was a delicious recipe for Chili Pinto Beans shared by Susan of Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. Susan's recipe calls for pressure-cooking, making it the fastest way ever to get nicely seasoned beans on the table. The other filling was a mock chicken filling. I used Morningstar's meal starter chicken strips. The first time I tasted these chicken strips, I almost spat them out because they tasted too much like the real thing! I am not one for eating fake meat every day, but it is nice to use once in a while. I don't like that these chicken strips are pre-seasoned, though. Why call it "meal-starter" if you sell it pre-seasoned? Anyway, I sauteed some onions and peppers, and then stirred in the mock chicken, and seasoned with some oregano, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper and lime juice.

Next comes the tray of fixin's...the most fun part of the taco party. The fixin's I used: Shredded lettuce, minced cilantro, shredded Monterey-jack cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, two types of store-bought salsas (one a mild and sweet corn-chile salsa, the other a tangy and fiery habanero-lime salsa), and roasted peppers. Roasting the peppers is easy (not to mention more energy-efficient) in a toaster oven. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a small baking tray. Wash and dry 10-12 small sweet Italian peppers, then toss them lightly with some olive oil. Bake, turning once or twice, till peppers are soft and have charred spots. Cool, then slice into strips. The peppers were delightfully sweet and melt-in-the-mouth!
Apart from soaking the pinto beans and starting the pressure cooker, all the prep for taco night took me an hour from start to finish, including clean-up. What a divinely lazy way to entertain! Once the food is laid out, everyone just assembles their own tacos. If I were to complicate this party, I would have made margaritas, homemade salsa, some tortilla soup, nachos as appetizers and maybe a flan for dessert. But simple can be good too!

Finally, a feast for the eyes: Go look at the most beautiful food-blog photographs of December at the Does my blog look good in this? event hosted by Annie of Bon Appegeek.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

SHF 27: World Peace Cookies

For me, Sugar High Friday (SHF) is the sweetest event on the food-blogging calendar. Over the last couple of years, it has pushed me to try my hand at making some delicious desserts instead of taking the coward's way out and doing what I would normally do: buying a cheesecake at the local bakery or a tin of gulab-jamuns at the Indian store in Queens.

This month, SHF is being hosted by celebrated pastry chef and cookbook author (not to mention celebrated food blogger), David Lebovitz. The theme of the month, an appropriately crowd-pleasing one for the beginning of the year, is Chocolate, by brand. So, you make a dessert with chocolate, but discuss the brand of chocolate that you bought, and the reason you chose it.

And as luck would have, I was already dying to try out a chocolate cookie that calls for both bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder, and would be just perfect for this event. I first saw World Peace Cookies on the blog I love Milk and Cookies. Even to my sweet-tooth-less self, these cookies looked decadent and delicious. They are from the book Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan, probably the most popular baking book that was published in 2006. I myself bought a copy of the book for the most enthusiastic and competent baker in my life, my friend Laureen.

The premise of world peace cookies is that they are so delicious that a daily dose would go a long way in ensuring a happy disposition and maintaining world peace. Not a bad thing these days!

I heaved a sigh of relief when I read the theme of this SHF. Buying chocolate is all an entirely confusing business to me and I can finally expect some help. For instance, this is what happened when I went to the local gourmet food store. I found the baking aisle, and came face-to-face with a towering wall of chocolate bars and cocoa tins. I could see 4-5 different brands of bittersweet chocolate, and the most expensive one was almost three times as expensive as the cheapest. I am completely willing to pay the price for good quality chocolate, but is price really a good indication of quality in case of chocolate? I don't like the taste of Hershey's chocolate (to my palate, it has an unpleasant fatty after-taste), so that was out. After much hemming and hawing, I tossed a coin between two regular supermarket brands, Ghiradelli and Nestle, and opted for the Nestle bittersweet chocolate bar. So I have no reason for choosing this brand except that I could not stand there all day staring at chocolate bars.

Where cocoa powder was concerned, the major decision was whether to use natural cocoa powder, which is distinctly acidic and bitter-tasting, or Dutch-processed (alkali-processed) cocoa powder, which is darker and milder. In my own highly unscientific scans of blogs and web-pages, bakers seem to prefer Dutch-processed cocoa. However, all the various tins in the store contained natural cocoa. I suspect that this has to do with people wanting to buy anything that proclaims "natural" on its label. In the end, I bought the brand Valrhona which is certainly a very high-end cocoa powder if nothing else. It said nothing about the processing at all on the box, so I doubt if it is dutch-processed.

The recipe for World Peace Cookies can be found on several websites, including those of public radio stations and national newspapers and on various food blogs. I used this very detailed recipe provided by Anita of the beautiful pastry blog Dessert First.

The cookie calls for a very short list of ingredients, and is relatively simple to make. It does not call for eggs at all, resulting in a buttery shortbread-like cookie.

  • I started by setting out the butter to come to room temperature (took a few hours in this season). 
  • Then I used the food processor to chop the chocolate bar into little pieces. This is way easier than chopping the chocolate by hand, although the food processor made a frightful noise as it chopped the chocolate, and quite a bit of the chocolate ended up as chocolate dust rather than the small bits I was aspiring towards. It's all good (I think :)). 
  • Then I sifted the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together and set it aside.
  • The subsequent steps called for an electric mixer but I don't own one, so I just did it all by hand, first creaming the butter, then mixing in white sugar, brown sugar, some sea salt and vanilla extract. 
  • Then the flour mixture was gently mixed in. Boy, was the dough sandy and crumbly.
  • I formed two logs and put them in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Once the logs are ready, baking the cookies only takes minutes. The hard part was slicing the really started to fall apart, but I just patched together the pieces and moved right along. 
  •  The cookies are baked for only 12 minutes, and they emerge from the oven looking completely wet and under-done. But as they cooled, they did firm up and were just perfect in the end. 


World peace cookies are more chocolatey than almost anything I have ever tasted. I sent them off with V to share with his colleagues (it is unwise to keep these cookies around the house unless you are trying to put on a few pounds fast) and everyone seemed to enjoy them.

Next time, I will use these cookies to make a grown-up ice cream sandwich by sandwiching some very good-quality vanilla ice cream between them. I think the slightly salty, rich chocolate taste of the cookies would pair well with the cold creamy vanilla.

See the wonderful round-up here.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Weekend Dog Blogging, Weekend Jabber

Dale, the official mascot of One Hot Stove, is making an appearance today, after many months. He is settling well into his new home, and every weekend I'll try and show you a little bit of his new life in St. Louis. Dalu's favorite thing about the new home: the sunshine that streams in through the huge windows! Dale is a sun-worshipper, every morning he catches the first sunbeam that comes in, and follows it around all day, napping here and there. See that lovely tan he has acquired? :)

A convenient square of sun right by his bed...

After a while, it is too much work to hold up his head (who turned on the gravity??)...

Later, a nap in the patch of sun right by the radiator...two sources of heat on a cold winter morning!

Please go visit all the puppies at the Weekend Dog Blogging round-up over at Sweetnicks!

And time for some weekend jabber...

Everyone who loves coconut (or even likes it just a little) should definitely visit Ashwini, who did a brilliant job hosting the Jihva: Coconut event. See the round-up for over 70 delicious coconut-ty soups, snacks, curries, desserts and more! I was excited to see dozens of recipes in the round-up that I cannot wait to try for myself. I already made Indosungod's Eggplant in a buttermilk sauce and it was absolutely delicious, even with my less-than-ideal substitution of dried coconut powder for fresh coconut.

The explosion in Indian food blogs over the past few months is so delightful...for me, it is a peek into home kitchens from many different regions of India. This is the sort of opportunity that money cannot buy! Every week, I try and make a couple of the delicious recipes that I see on other blogs, Indian or not. A few days ago, I made Cabbage Rice using the recipe shared by Vani of Mysoorean. The recipe calls for cooking shredded cabbage, then tossing it with delicious "palya powder" (Vani's mom's recipe) and cooked rice. Simple and delicious! A regional home-style recipe that I will make often.

So, do you prefer the food of "India" or of "Bharat"? What's the difference, you ask? "G" from the new Missouri blog Vyanjanaa tells us in a great little essay.

Speaking of Missouri food blogs, I have added a little list of the "St. Louis and nearby" food blogs to the side-bar. It is a small but vibrant community! Actually, Alanna organized a little treat for the St. Louis-and-nearby food bloggers in October, a wonderful food-styling and photography workshop, which I managed to attend even though (a) I was on a blogging break and (b) not even living in St. Louis yet! It was very exciting to meet many of the local bloggers, and also to meet a much-admired food blogger in person, Kalyn, who was a guest at this workshop. Kalyn has written a synopsis of the workshop, in case y'all want to read about the fun that we had!

Finally, congratulations, Kalyn...her blog, Kalyn's Kitchen, won the Best Food Blog: Theme prize in the 2006 Food Blog awards! I am so happy for you!

Whew, that was a lot of yackety-yak on my part...but then, I have much to talk about after a long break. Hope you like the weekend jabber section, and enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Egg Pilaf

This is my entry to the Feed-A-Hungry-Child-Campaign, a group book idea by VKN of My Dhaba.

Egg Pilaf is one of my favorite comfort foods. And for a comfort food, it is prepared very easily and quickly! A blend of lightly spiced basmati rice and chunks of hard-boiled eggs, egg pilaf is a nutritious one-dish meal. Tossing in some nuts and raisins elevates it to a festive dish that makes ordinary weeknights special. The beauty of egg pilaf is that all the ingredients are pantry staples, so it can be put together even at times when grocery shopping is way overdue.

You can use any type of garam masala for this dish, whether home-made or store-bought, but my own favorite is my Mom's blend that is so aromatic that I call it Magic Masala. You simply take equal parts of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, say, 1/4 cup each cardamom seeds and cloves, and 1 big cinnamom stick, toast them together on low heat to coax out the flavors, and then dry-grind the spices together in a spice blender to a fine powder. I store the powder in a little airtight jar in the freezer and it tastes fresh for a long time.

Egg Pilaf

Egg Pilaf

(serves 3-4 as a main dish)
4 large Eggs
1 cup Basmati or other long-grained rice
1 large Onion
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Ginger-garlic paste (or minced ginger and garlic)
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Red chili powder (cayenne pepper)
1 tsp Garam masala
Salt to taste
2 tbsp Cashewnut pieces
2 tbsp Golden raisins
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp minced cilantro (optional, for garnish)
2 tbsp minced green parts of scallions (optional, for garnish)

1. Hard-boil the eggs: Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to a boil, then simmer for 12 minutes. Drain the hot water, then rinse the eggs in cold water. Peel the eggs when they are cool enough to handle and set aside.
2. Cut the onion into half from root to tip, then cut each half into thin slices.
3. Place 2 1/2 cups of water in a pot to heat.
4. Heat oil in a large pot, and stir in the cumin seeds. Add sliced onion and fry first on medium-high heat for the edges of the onion to brown, and then on medium-low heat till the onions are very soft and caramelized. Browning the onions gives them a rich, deep flavor, so don't skip this step.
5. Now add the ginger-garlic, turmeric, chili powder, garam masala, salt and fry for about a minute or so. Stir in the cashews and raisins, then add the rice and hot water.
6. Cover the pot and simmer until most of the water is absorbed and the rice is tender (test a grain with your finger).
7. Let the rice rest for 15 minutes, so that the water is completely absorbed. Then fluff the rice with a fork, and toss with slices of boiled eggs. Garnish with cilantro and scallions.

1. If you are watching your cholesterol intake, remove and discard the egg yolks and use only sliced egg whites.
2. Egg pilaf pairs well with yogurt raita (salad).

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Grub For Thought

One of my favorite things about our new neighborhood is the big, airy public library that is just around the corner (lucky lucky me). I was especially overjoyed to see the generous aisles devoted to cookbooks, including shelves upon shelves of vegetarian cookbooks. One of the books I have been reading over the new year is Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry.

Lappe and Terry define Grub as wholesome food that is good for the body and good for the food that is sustainably raised and locally procured. As opposed to mass-produced, highly processed food. The first part of the book talks about the principles that the authors believe in, and tips on how to incorporate "grub" into our kitchens. The second half consists of seasonal recipes.

Did the book tell me anything I was not already aware of? Well, not really. By now, the politics of food has been discussed in magazines, newspapers and on local radio, and most of us are already aware of "grub" in our own ways. I know that I certainly get angry when I think of mega-corporations taking over my kitchen. And most people I know do feel sad about living in times where a contaminated batch of spinach from one factory causes illness in five states across the continent. Still, at the beginning of the new year, the book was a reminder to cook and eat with consciousness.

Some tips and reminders from the book:
1. Our food dollars are powerful: we can use them to influence the world around us.
2. The extra time and money spent in procuring "grub" (rather than reaching for the closest mass-produced food product) is an investment in precious things: our health and the future of our planet.
3. The average American household throws 14% of its food into the trash (i.e., we waste nearly a sixth of the food we buy). So, wasting less food would be the first (and easiest) step towards a green kitchen.
4. Buy from Farmers Markets as far as possible, and try to buy fruits and veggies that are in season. How do you know what fruits and vegetables are in season? Here is where the book provided a great tip (if you live in the US): On the internet, search for your state's department of agriculture (eg. Google "Missouri Department of Agriculture"). The Department of Agriculture website provides a host of resources, like the locations of farmers markets, as well as harvest calenders.

Here, for instance, is the Harvest Calendar for Missouri:

Winter has lean pickings, but I am waiting for spring and summer and for a host of produce to come into season! If you live in St. Louis, don't forget to check out Veggie Venture, where Alanna has put together a tremendously useful list of several local food sources.

One of the recipes from "Grub" caught my eye: spicy barbecued tofu. I love eating tofu, but don't cook it nearly as much as I would like to. In this recipe, the tofu is pressed, shallow-fried to a golden brown, then drenched in a home-made barbeque sauce and baked to perfection. This is probably the tastiest tofu I have ever eaten, and I knew I had to share the recipe with you (my adaptation of it, anyway).

Barbeque Tofu

(adapted from Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappe and Bryant Terry)

served 2-3 as a main course

Prepare the tofu:
1. Pressing
: Start with 1 block of extra-firm tofu (I used Trader Joe's). Drain out the water and wrap the block of tofu in a clean freshly-laundered kitchen towel. Place in a plate/ bowl, and weigh down the tofu to press out as much liquid as possible. I did this by balancing an empty heavy pasta pot on the wrapped tofu, and placing 5 lb packets of lentils and flour in the pot. Press the tofu for 1-2 hours.
2. Slicing: Hold the block of tofu sideways, then cut into three slices. Cut each slice across one diagonal, and then the other, such that you get 12 small triangles from one block of tofu.
2. Frying the tofu: Heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a non-stick skillet. Fry the slices of tofu (in batches if necessary) to get them golden-brown on each side (takes several minutes).

Prepare the marinade: This can be done while the tofu is being pressed. A good barbecue sauce has such a complexity of flavors...this is what I used (with the original recipe suggestions in brackets).
Base: Canned tomato sauce 3 tbsp + soy sauce (tamari) 5 tbsp
Sweetness: Honey (maple syrup) 3 tbsp
Spice: Cumin powder 1/2 tsp
Acidity: Lemon juice (lime juice) 1 tsp + Apple cider vinegar 2 tbsp
Smoky flavor + heat: 1 dried chipotle chili (1 canned chili in chipotle sauce)
+ 1 tbsp olive oil to form an emulsion

Now, I entirely eyeballed the proportions of the marinade ingredients, and I would suggest tasting as you go along to find the right balance you like. In the end, the sauce was finger-licking good, way better than any store-bought BBQ sauce that I have tried.

Baking the tofu: Place fried tofu in a baking dish and pour the marinade over it. Cover dish with a foil and bake at 350 degrees F for one hour, turning pieces half-way through baking. The 12 pieces of tofu fit snugly in one layer in a standard 9x9 baking dish:

Tofu Tangram, anyone?

I served up the barbeque tofu with some smashed garlicky roasted potatoes (potatoes and garlic can be roasted in the same oven, while the tofu is baking). All in all, a delicious and off-beat Sunday lunch:

It was nice to start off the new year with some resolutions to eat and live better. But Alanna shares a cartoon depicting the resolution that beats all resolutions: Check it out!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007!

The table is set in anticipation of a year of meals big and small...

Wishing everyone a wonderful new year ahead! I hope 2007 brings abundance and joy to your table.

This is my entry for the January Centerpiece of the Month event: read about it here. It is a new event started by Janelle of Talk of Tomatoes.

This centerpiece: I bought two wine glasses back from the Czech Republic and found that they are actually too tall and unwieldy to be used to drink wine from. So here, I packed some daisies (stems trimmed short) into each and placed them on my tiny dining table as a fresh floral centerpiece. It brought some instant cheer to the room. One bunch of flowers is enough for two glasses.

The inspiration for tucking flowers into stemware came from an advertisement that I saw on the side of a bus in New York City, for this Margarita Bouquet.

These flowers lasted three whole weeks! I changed the water every 2-3 days and made sure that there were no leaves immersed in the water where they could decay. This helped keep this arrangement fresh for a long time.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Jihva for COCONUT: Eggplant Rasavangy

After four of the most stressful months of my life (all is well that ends well; I defended my thesis successfully), I'm back to my favorite activity: food blogging! I am all excited with ideas for the new year, and am thinking of making 2007 "year of the vegetables" on One Hot Stove, inspired by Alanna of Veggie Venture, by exploring different Indian styles of cooking veggies. What do you think? What would you like to see on One Hot Stove in the new year?

Meanwhile, I missed out on so many great foodie events during my blogging break, so I was thrilled when Ashwini came up with the excellent theme of COCONUT for the Jihva for Ingredients event orginally conceived by Indira. Much of the Indian landscape (especially the Southern half) is dotted by swaying, graceful coconut palms, and the coconut is entwined with everyday Indian food. How wonderful to celebrate this ingredient!

When I think of coconut, two sublime food experiences come to my mind. One is the tender coconut water that is sold on Indian beaches everywhere. For a small price, you choose a tender green coconut. The coconut-seller uses a mean-looking machete to hack away the top of the coconut, and then you get to enjoy some of the most sublime juice on the planet, sweet and rich coconut water, a real thirst-quencher. The other memory I have is, when I was a teenager in Bombay, most of the ice cream was from companies that sold princess-pink strawberry ice cream and bright green pistachio ice cream. In short, flavors that were only caricatures of the real thing. Then a company called Naturals came along and turned our concept of ice cream on its head. It launched a tender coconut ice cream flavor that simply took my world by storm. Nothing but some cream and sugar, and a lot of tender coconut bits that melted in the mouth. Naturals still has stores all over Bombay, so try some "TC" if you get a chance!

I have already raved about two of my favorite dishes starring coconut: the sweet fudge-y NAARAL WADI and the tangy, soothing beverage SOLKADI. But coconut steals the limelight even when it is used in a supporting role. In fact, this is how I love coconut best, for the way it transforms everyday recipes into something quite special.

So, today I give you: two dals with coconut. I eat dal almost every single day, and the addition of a spicy coconut paste to dal takes it to another level. One recipe is called Moong Dal Ghassi, a dal redolent with garlic, coriander and coconut. The other is a recipe I am blogging today, for Eggplant Rasavangy, a sweet and sour creation, rich with flecks of coconut.

As days go by, I am more and more obsessed with regional cooking, and this recipe is adapted from a cookbook that (in my humble opinion) is just an excellent resource for South Indian vegetarian cooking:
The book is called Dakshin (the word means "South" in several Indian languages), written by Chandra Padmanabhan. I happened to find it while rummaging through a bookstore, looking for an Indian vegetarian cookbook as a small wedding gift for a colleague. In the end, I have bought a copy for myself as well as several copies to give as gifts. The recipes are just a little bit involved, and I usually end up taking a few short-cuts through them. For instance, this recipe called for toor dal to be cooked on the stove-top until tender and not mushy. Me, I used a pressure cooker as I just cannot pass on the saving of time, fuel and effort. So my dal is mushier than the recipe calls for. The result of the recipes has always been spot-on authentic, though. The food photographs in this book are quite stunning. It is not easy to take photographs of 20 different curries (all shades of yellow and brown) but they pull it off with style. So, here it is: a dal with eggplant and coconut.

Eggplant Rasavangy

Adapted from "Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine From South India" by Chandra Padmanabhan

(Serves 4-6, Prep time: 30 minutes plus time for cooking dal)

1 cup toor dal (split yellow peas)
1 tbsp tamarind paste/ lime-sized ball of dried tamarind
1 large eggplant
1 large chopped tomato/ 1/4 cup tomato puree
1 tbsp jaggery/ unrefined cane sugar
salt to taste
1 tbsp oil/ ghee
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
5-6 curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp sambar powder
1 tsp oil
1 tbsp coriander seeds
pinch of asafoetida
2 dried red chillies (less or more to taste)
5 tbsp grated fresh or frozen or dried unsweetened coconut
2 tbsp chopped cilantro

1. Do the prep...(1) Cook the toor dal in a pressure cooker or on the stove-top and set aside. (2) If using dried tamarind, soak it in 1/2 cup hot water for 10-20 minutes, then squeeze out all the tamarind pulp and discard the solids. (3) Chop eggplant into small cubes. If using whole tomato, chop tomato into small cubes. (4) Make the masala paste by frying together the ingredients listed under "paste" and then grinding to a fine paste with a little water.
2. Heat oil in a large pot. Temper with cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add the eggplant, tomato, turmeric, sambar powder, tamarind juice, jaggery and salt. Stir well, cover and cook until eggplants are tender.
3. Add the cooked dal and masala paste. At this point, check the consistency of the dal. If you find that it is too thick, add half or one cup water (or more, depending on whether you prefer dal to be thick or soupy). Stir well and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with steamed rice.

Love coconut? Check out the JFI-Coconut Round-up where Ashwini neatly presents over 70 recipes for soups, snacks, curries and desserts, all featuring coconut!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Menu For Hope III

All year round, the food bloggers serve up a feast of food writing and food photography. They share old family recipes and new exciting finds. They invite you into their kitchens and to their table. Come December, food bloggers all around the world come together for their annual fund-raising event called "Menu For Hope". This year, Menu for Hope III has set out to raise money for the UN World Food Program. It is so fitting that those of us who appreciate food and are lucky enough to have never known hunger are trying, in their own small way, to help those who experience food as a daily struggle for survival.

How does it work?Many food bloggers have generously offered a cornucopia of wonderful gifts, including delicious treats, unique experiences, much-desired tools and gadgets and an armload of cookbooks. You choose your favorites, and bid on them, at 10$ for each raffle tickets. Remember, the more tickets you buy, the more your chances of nabbing the prize, and the more money we raise together to fight hunger. Now this is a win-win situation if ever I saw one!

The details:
* Go visit Chez Pim to see the wonderful prizes and note the codes of the ones you want to bid on.
* Go to First Giving to donate money and mention the prizes you are buying tickets for.
* Do it quick! The campaign runs from 11th December to 22nd December.

If you are desperately trying to come up with a holiday gift for a loved one who has everything, raffle tickets for Menu For Hope might just be the thing! Please share the love!

A brief update: One Hot Stove has been dormant for a few months. I have my final exam (the thesis defense) on the 19th of December. If all goes well, I will be moving to St. Louis the following week and will start blogging again (Whoo...hoo!). The stressful exam schedule has meant that I have not been able to put up a prize this year, but you bet I am going to bid on those amazing prizes that fellow bloggers have so generously donated! Please join us for "Menu For Hope"....the food bloggers are grateful for your support!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

SHF 23: The Surprise Inside!

No, no, I am still not done with my thesis...several more weeks to go, but I popped up from my hibernation to participate in one of my favorite foodie events, Sugar High Friday.

This month's SHF (#23, can you believe it?) is being hosted by the veggie evangelist, that champion of fresh and healthy vegetables- Alanna of Veggie Venture. Alanna has chosen the rather mysterious, open-ended theme: Surprise Inside!

So what surprise do I have in store for you?

This box contains a bona-fide dessert (sweet and rich and milky) which...SURPRISE...contains a full serving of vegetables. A nutritious vegetable at that.


Yes, this is a simple little carrot kheer. I am thrilled that I could sneak in veggies into the sugar high in honor of the Alanna, who sure loves her vegetables.

Kheer is a catch-all term for a bunch of stove-top Indian desserts. You barely need an excuse to make kheer: a birthday, a festive celebration, a family gathering is reason enough to make a big pot of this creamy dessert (it closely resembles rice pudding) to be scooped up by the bowlful.

In general, kheer contains:

  1. A milky base, generally dairy milk or coconut milk
  2. A main ingredient. The popular choices are rice, vermicelli pasta, lentils and vegetables such as carrot and bottle gourd
  3. A sprinkle of spices such as cardamom and saffron
  4. A garnish of nuts and raisin to add to the celebration!

The classic Indian carrot dessert is actually a much thicker pudding called gajar halwa but I love carrot kheer instead because it is easily cooked in 20-30 minutes. The only specialty ingredient required is cardamom; the other ingredients are pantry staples (or available at any old grocery store). The saffron, added for the delicate golden orange-yellow glow that it imparts to the kheer and for its prized subtle taste, is not required in this kheer. The copious amounts of beta-carotene in carrots give the kheer a lovely sunshine hue. Making kheer the traditional way requires a couple of hours of patient stirring to thicken the milk into the right consistency, but here I use evaporated milk to shorten the cooking time a great deal.

Carrot Kheer
(serves about 4)

4 large carrots (the freshest and juiciest you can find)
1 tbsp. butter or ghee
1/4 cup sugar (or more to taste)
1 cup milk (low-fat OK)
1 12-oz can evaporated milk (low-fat OK)
1 heaped tsp. powdered cardamom
Garnish: raisins and chopped toasted nuts

  1. Shred the carrots by hand (quite a workout) or using a food processor.
  2. Heat butter/ghee and sauté the carrots for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the milk and sugar, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
  4. Stir in the evaporated milk and cardamom, then cook uncovered for 5 more minutes. Taste for sugar and stir in more if required.
  5. Chill the kheer, then serve topped with nuts and raisins.

This kheer was made in St. Louis when I was visiting over Labor Day weekend.

I will be moving there in a few months, so One Hot Stove will soon come to you from the Gateway to the West, St. Louis.