Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pan-Fried Potatoes

This is one of my entries for RCI: Maharashtrian Cuisine.
Fried potatoes. The one dish you can count on to be a crowd-pleaser. That you can conjure up from virtually nothing. Pan-fried potatoes, Marathi style, is a dish made with pantry staples- onions, potatoes, and a few everyday spices- cooked to golden brown perfection. The Marathi term for pan-frying is paratne, and potato translates as batata, hence the Marathi name for this dish is paratlele batate.

The flavoring in this dish, apart from the usual trio of salt-turmeric-red chili powder, comes from just two spices: coriander seeds and cumin seeds. This duo is used so often in Maharashtrian cuisine that I keep a coriander-cumin spice mix in the spice box, which makes it really easy to throw together quick stir-fries such as this one. To make the coriander-cumin powder at home, take equal amounts of cumin seeds and coriander seeds (I make small batches, using 1/4 cup of each spice). Combine them in a small skillet, then toast on low heat until aromatic and just a shade darker (be careful not to burn the spices). Cool the toasted spices, then dry-grind to a fine powder. Store in an air-tight bottle and use as required. For this dish, I look for organic potatoes with thin skins; that way I can simply scrub the potatoes clean and leave the skin on for extra flavor.

Pan-fried potatoes go well with just about everything- I love scooping it up with chunks of hot roti, and I love eating it with dal-rice and yogurt-rice. I have one memory of eating this dish as a small kid. It was when a bunch of neighborhood kids got together one summer evening and "camped out" in one family's backyard, lighting a fire to cook on. These pan-fried potatoes were made (by the older children) using ingredients donated by various moms, and we ate them with sliced bread. The combination tasted so good!

When I cook paratlele batate, I make sure that I'm the one serving it, because then I can put all the extra-crispy almost-burnt bits (the best part!) in my own plate...after all, it is the cook's privilege!

Pan-Fried Potatoes (Paratlele Batate)

(makes about 3 side-dish servings)
2 large potatoes or 3 medium potatoes or 6 small potatoes
1 medium onion
1 T oil
1 t mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 t turmeric powder
1 t red chili powder
1 t coriander-cumin powder
salt to taste
fresh lemon juice
minced cilantro
1. Prepare the vegetables: Cut the onion into slices. Scrub the potatoes clean, then cut crosswise into thin slices (if large or medium potatoes are used, you want to first cut the potato into quarters or halves lengthwise).
2. Heat the oil in a skillet. Make the tempering with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida.
3. Stir in the onion and cook on medium heat until the onion starts browning around the edges.
4. Stir in the turmeric, red chili powder, coriander-cumin powder and salt and let it saute for a few seconds.
5. Stir in the sliced potato, then leave uncovered on medium heat. Turn the potatoes every 4-5 minutes and cook until the they are crispy and browned.
6. Garnish liberally with lemon juice and cilantro and serve right away.

Other popular Maharashtrian ways with Potato, all three using boiled potato:
A festive meal: Puri Bhaji
A tea-time snack: Batata Vada
As stuffing: Bharli Mirchi

Sunday, May 27, 2007

R is for Radish Paratha

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 "R" of Indian Vegetables
The letter R inspired twenty-six resourceful Indian flavors!

First, the R vegetables. Let's start with a vegetable that generally comes in two shades: radiant white and rosy red or pink. With its pungent taste and sharp aroma, you can't miss the Radish!

TC of The Cooker uses the beautiful little Red Radishes and blends them with another R food, Red Rice, to create her own unique Radish and Red Rice Pulao.

Asha of Aroma/Foodie's Hope shreds a gorgeous snow-white Radish, also known as daikon, and blends it with flour and a selection of spices to roll out some tasty Radish Masala Parathas. Also check the post for a delicious radish chutney recipe.

Neelam of Recipe Factory also uses the large Radish as a stuffing for a tasty breakfast of Radish Parathas.

The next vegetable is the ravishing Red Bell Pepper, a sure-fire way to add a gentle sweetness and an explosion of color to any stir-fry. Sreelu of Sreelu's Tasty Travels pairs this colorful vegetable with some mild milky paneer and cooks them into a gorgeous Red Bell Pepper and Paneer Sabji.

Then there is the ruby-red Red Cabbage, with its perfect petals, crisp and tasty. Sajeda of Chachi's Kitchen uses the red cabbage in a beautifully simple way- Red Cabbage and Chilli Sambhoro is a traditional Gujarati side-dish.

Then comes a vegetable painted a verdant, refreshing green, the Ridged Gourd. The ridged gourd hides its juicy, melt-in-the-mouth interior under a thick fibrous outer covering. A Cook of Live To Cook cooks the ridged gourd with dal and spices to make a tasty and nourishing Tamilian Ridged Gourd Stew or koottu.

The royal purple eggplant is called Ringan in Gujarati.

Trupti of The Spice Who Loved Me uses the eggplant in an appetizing dish that comes from the Kathiawadi region, and is rustic and unpretentious in its preparation: Ringan No Ohloh or smoked eggplant.

Manasi of A Cook At Heart makes an unusual and perfectly tempting Ringan Curry, combining eggplant with tomatoes and some fresh fenugreek.

The ruddy sweet potato is called Ratala in Marathi. We have two recipes with this nutritious, delicately sweet tuber.

First, a creative twist on a crowd-pleaser. Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi take the Maharashtrian breakfast favorite, the poha, and use sweet potatoes to give it a splash of color and a nutritional boost with their unique version: Ratalyache Pohe.

Next, two recipes for a traditional favorite made with shredded ratala...

Tee of Bhaatukli combines shredded sweet potato with some powdered peanuts to make a quick stir-fry that is traditionally made on "fasting" days. I have to say: there is nothing austere about this vibrant and delectable Ratalyacha Kees.

Dhana of Fresh Kitchen discusses many ways to eat this nutritious and versatile vegetable, and then goes on to make one of her favorite comfort foods: Ratalyacha Khees.

Then comes an R fruit, the Raw Mango. While the ripe mango is wonderful to eat as a fruit or incorporate into creamy desserts and smoothies, the raw mango is used extensively as a vegetable/ accompaniment in everyday cooking. Priyanka of Lajawaab combines the flavor and nutrition of spinach with the tangy taste of raw mango in her own creation: Raw Mango and Spinach Vegetable.

Next, an R bean, an Indian pantry staple, especially in Northern India, is Rajma or kidney beans. These pretty beans are rich in fiber and protein and versatile in their culinary uses. Here are three examples of quick and appetizing meals with rajma...

Mandira of Ahaar uses her stash of canned kidney beans in combination with some vegetables, rice, nuts and raisins to make a festive Rajma Pulao that can turn a routine dinner into a special event.

Suma of Veggie Platter combines kidney beans with potato and dishes out this Rajma Aloo, a quick and easy curry that would be pair deliciously with breads like rotis and puris.

Mahek of Love 4 Cooking discovers taco shells, and uses them creatively in an colorful and tempting Indian-Mexican fusion dish: Rajma Tacos!

The next ingredient derives from wheat and is certainly a pantry staple in the Indian kitchen: Rava, also known as sooji, semolina, farina or cream of wheat. Rava is nothing but coarsely ground wheat, making it a whole grain and a nutritious addition to one's diet. Here are two easy and savory brunch preparations with rava...

The first rava dish is Rava Rotti where a thick batter of rava, onion and spices is patted onto a hot skillet and roasted to perfection. We have two versions of this specialty from Southern India.

Latha of Masala Magic gets to eat a Rava Rotti made with rava combined with onions and some spicy seasoning, with a touch of her Mom's love!

Vani of Mysoorean shares her mom-in-law's Konkani version of Rava Rotti, with a touch of coconut to make the batter even richer.

Traditional idlis are steamed cakes made with fermented batter that is a couple of days in the making. But what if you are in the mood for instant gratification? Rava Idli comes to the rescue!

Usha of Samaikalam Vanga shares her recipe for Rava Idli where you simply mix up the batter and steam some fresh idlis in minutes.

G V Barve of Add Flavour also has a recipe for Rawa Idli- this time, from a popular cookbook.

Next comes a R cereal that may not be well-known in more prosperous nations, but has sustained many drought-prone lands over the centuries: Ragi or finger millet. Ramya of Mane Adige celebrates this cereal with an aptly humble and down-to-earth preparation, boiling ragi batter into little dumplings called Raagi Mudde, which go well with any vegetable curry.

The next R word is a very useful method of cooking: Roasting! The use of dry heat is a time-honored method to cook food in a flavorful way. Here are two recipes that call for roasting...

Linda of Out Of The Garden roasts some eggplant to bring out all its juicy deep flavors, then combines it with dal to create this flavorful and unique Roasted Eggplant Sambar.

Sukanya of Hot 'n Sweet Bowl uses a combination of vegetables and brings them together with cheese to make a succulent platter of Roasted Vegetables.

Now it is time for an R street food! This is a category of foods that are near and dear to the heart and palates to most Indians; nothing is so satisfying as being able to recreate one's favorite street food at home. Here we have a dish called Ragda Patties, where the ragda is a curry of yellow peas, and the patties consist of mashed potato fried to perfection. Here are two recipes for recreating this classic in your own kitchen...

Richa of As Dear As Salt recounts a memorable meal of Ragda Patties made by a generous mom for a houseful of unexpected little guests.

Aarti of Aarti's Corner thinks back to nostalgic times of eating chaat in all the best places in the city of Pune and goes on to recreate her beloved Ragda Pattice.

Let's end this round-up with a sip of two restorative beverages, one is hot and spicy and the other is cool and sweet, but both are tangy and delightful!

Rasam is a thin lentil soup, and an integral part of traditional meals in many parts of Southern India. Sharmi of Neivedyam shares a tangy lemon Rasam as part of a spectacular (and I mean *spectacular*) Andhra feast.

Finally, Aarti of Arti's Corner decides to face the sweltering summer with a tall glass of Refreshing Kairi Panha.

R is for Radish Paratha: Root Vegetables

In the world of vegetables, there are the over-achievers and the underdogs. With their gnarly, knobby appearance, the root vegetables are a rather unglamorous lot, and are generally inexpensive and easily procured. But their importance in Indian cuisine cannot be overstated. Root vegetables are generally a means used by the plant to store energy, but they are a very diverse lot, both botanically, and in a culinary sense.

In my kitchen, no matter what other ingredients may be present or absent, four root vegetables are always around, ready to be rustled up into a quick dish: potato, onion, garlic and ginger. Of course, a spice found in every Indian kitchen- turmeric- is also ground from a dried root. Onion, ginger and garlic, in different combinations, are three of the most common flavoring agents of many savory Indian dishes. Not that they are indispensable, though: Traditionally, the Jain community of India eschews garlic and onion in their food, and while many people cannot dream of preparing meals without these two ingredients, the Jains have evolved a delicious cuisine that is perfectly flavorful in the absence of garlic and onion. Creative cooks can make delicious food no matter what constraints they are operating under!

Other root vegetables have beautiful colors and are versatile and nutritious: sweet potatoes, radishes, carrots and beets are all used in dozens of ways and lend themselves to a lot of creativity. Carbohydrate-rich root vegetables often sustain human life in the more arid and harsh parts of our planet- the yam and cassava and taro to name a few. No matter how many root vegetables I try, there will always be new ones to taste: I have yet to play around with sunchokes and jicama, the rutabaga and celeriac and dozens of other mysterious roots!

I have only recently started giving root vegetables the attention they deserve and trying out new recipes with them. A couple of years ago, radishes would never be found in my shopping bag. Inspired by fellow bloggers, now, radish pachadi and radish sambar can be found on my table on a weekly basis. Today, I am using my new friend, the radish, in a paratha. Mooli paratha is an iconic dish in Punjab, but this is the first time I am making it. I used a new technique for rolling out the parathas, sandwiching the stuffing between two layers of dough. This I learnt from Musical's blog, which is my classroom for learning about true Punjabi home cooking.

Radish Paratha

(Inspired by Musical's Recipe, makes 8 parathas)
2 cups atta (chapati flour)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ajwain (carom)
salt to taste
warm water as required (3/4 cup or so)
1 large diakon/ white radish, shredded coarsely
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
2 tbsp minced cilantro
salt to taste
1. Place all dough ingredients, except water, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade. Start processing, then drizzle in warm water through the feed tube until the dough comes together in a firm and elastic ball. Remove into a bowl, knead briefly, then cover with a damp kitchen towel and leave for 30-60 minutes.
2. Prepare the stuffing by mixing all the ingredients together and setting aside for 10 minutes, then squeezing out the excess water.
3. To make the parathas, knead the dough again for a minute, then divide into 16 equal small balls. Roll 2 balls into thin, even circles. Spread 1/2 tbsp or so of stuffing all over one of the circles, then cover with the other circle and seal the edges by pressing down with the rolling pin. Cook the parathas on a hot griddle, adding a few drops of olive oil on each side as required. The parathas are ready!

V made some Tomato-Onion Koshimbir to go with the Radish Paratha: Finely diced tomatoes and onions combined with yogurt, peanut powder, cilantro and salt to taste. A pinch of sugar is a good idea if the yogurt happens to be too tangy. Of course, in my eyes, no paratha meal is complete without a side of one's favorite pickle!

How do you serve this paratha?
Paratha makes for a very satisfying breakfast, brunch or lunch. They can be stored in the fridge and reheated on a hot griddle or in the toaster oven with good results.

The verdict: The overall taste was superb, but the parathas were slightly doughy...because I was not quite able to roll them out thinly enough and the circles of atta were a bit thicker than they should have been. This is going to need some practice! But I love the whole idea of eating a salad inside a paratha, and this one I will make again and again.

Fellow bloggers have come up a spicy-tangy-sweet array of dishes using root vegetables. Here is a hypothetical meal with every course featuring root veggies:
Appetizer: Onion Pakoda from Spice Corner,
Chutney: Garlic Chutney from Aayi's Recipes,
Salad: Beet Raita from Musical's Kitchen,
Pickle: Yam Pickle from Creative Pooja,
Vegetable: Potato Curry from A Mad Tea Party,
Dal: Radish Sambar from Mahanandi,
Curry: Shallot Egg Curry from Spices of Kerala,
Bread: Leek Kulcha from Tasty Palettes,
Rice: Carrot Rice from Food, In The Main,
Dessert: Sweet Potato Payasam from Coconut Chutney.

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

Thursday, May 24, 2007

WBB: Chocolate Cherry Bread

This is my entry for the monthly Weekend Breakfast Blogging, an event show-casing my favorite meal of the day! WBB is the brainchild of Nandita from Saffron Trail. This month, WBB is being hosted by Padmaja of Spicyandhra, and the theme is: SUMMER FRUITS!

Some day I will be a perfect baker: the cakes I bake will rise to the skies, the bread will have the perfect balance of crust and crumb, and every muffin will be picture perfect. That day appears to be far, far into the future. For now, my baked goods have a "rustic" look that only their own baker could love, and I regularly forget to do essential steps like adding the vanilla or sifting the flour. Here is my latest attempt at baking...using one of my favorite summer fruits- cherries- in a decadent breakfast roll. My favorite way of eating cherries is straight out of hand. This time last year, I was in Seattle, eating my way through huge bags of plump, sweet cherries bought from local farmer's markets. However, I also love the pairing of cherry with chocolate and was excited to try this recipe. For warm, fresh rolls in the morning, start the dough the night before.

Chocolate Cherry Bread

(adapted from this recipe from Vegetarian Times, makes about 16 small rolls)
1. Mix 1 cup warm water, 1 tbsp sugar and 1 packet instant yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes or until yeast gets activated and foamy.
2. In a large bowl, sift together 2 and 1/3 cup AP flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1 tsp salt.
3. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade, add the flour mixture. Pour the yeast mixture on this. Add 1 tablespoons melted butter. Process the whole thing into a smooth and elastic dough (takes 2-3 minutes).
4. Take the dough onto a well-floured surface, knead briefly and pat down to a square.
Until this point, everything was picture perfect, the dough had a wonderful texture and I was rather pleased with myself.
5. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used bittersweet) and 1 and 1/2 cups chopped pitted fresh cherries or frozen thawed cherries (could also use 1 cup dried cherries). Knead to distribute them within the dough.
Now this is where things got interesting. I had some frozen cherries in the freezer and decided to use those. I did thaw them out and set them in a strainer to drain the extra juices, but apparently, the thawing time was not enough. When I added the cherries to the dough, in the matter of a few seconds, my beautiful dough became a squelchy wet mess, thanks to the excess liquid from the cherries. I was horrified to say the least, but unwilling to toss it out, I carried on with the recipe.
6. Set the dough in a large bowl for a 1 and 1/2 hour rise. Then, punch it down and set it, covered, in the fridge overnight.
7. Next morning, shape the dough into a log and make 16 equal pieces (divide the log into fourths, then each quarter into fours). Shape each piece into a ball and set on a non-stick baking sheet. Let it rise for 45 minutes.
All of these steps were very difficult with the ultra-wet dough, and I only managed to shape the dough into rough lumps, not the perfect rolls of my dreams!
8. Pre-heat the oven to 375 F. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes. Because of the chocolate, it is difficult to see if the rolls have been browned, so I inserted a toothpick to see if the rolls were done. Serve warm, with a cup of your favorite beverage!

Verdict: At the end of this rather stressful process, I was rewarded with a tasty treat, to my immense relief. The dough might have been very wet, but during the baking, it dried off and the resulting rolls had a dry exterior. I am really glad that I did not give up half-way and end up throwing good food away. The roll was tender and delicious, and extremely chocolate-y! The roll was studded with melted pockets of chocolates (from the chocolate chips) and little cherry bites. Very delicious!

I will definitely be making this again, BUT with an important difference: I will use either fresh cherries (only if they are NOT over-ripe and too juicy) or stick to good old dried cherries. I would like to try this bread with white whole-wheat flour next time. As I was writing this post, I discovered that fellow blogger Pavani has a much more successful version of this bread on her blog. If you like the combination of fruit and chocolate, this bread is for you: the perfect special brunch treat!

See you on Sunday, with the R of Indian Vegetables. Entries are due on Saturday for anyone who wishes to participate!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

RCI June: Maharashtrian Cuisine!

A couple of months ago, Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine started an event that is very close to my heart: it is called RCI or Regional Cuisine of India. Each month, a region or state of India is chosen as a theme, and food bloggers are encouraged to explore the cuisine of that region and try making some delicious and authentic food from that region. The first month was Tamilian Cuisine, and here is the appetizing feast of the Tamil round-up. Right now, the second event, Andhra Cuisine is ongoing (last 2-3 days, so hurry!), hosted by Latha of Masala Magic...that round-up will be up by the first of June. When Lakshmi was looking for bloggers to host for this event, I jumped up and begged her to let me host one of them. And so, here it is, the RCI for the month of June is...
(Pictured: Marigold flowers and Mango leaves, depicted in yarn, woven into a garland or "toran", a must-have for every festive occasion in Maharashtra)

...Maharashtrian Food! From the Southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, we move a little bit to the North and all the way to the West Coast of India, to the state of Maharashtra. Maharashtra is the third-largest state of India, densely populated and a hot-bed of commerce and agriculture. The language spoken there is Marathi. It is the state where I spent the first 22 years of my life, hence my obsession with love for Marathi food. Maharashtra has many different regions...the coast by the Arabian sea is home to rainy tropical forests while interior Maharashtra is dry and prone to extreme temperatures. Marathi food is very diverse, reflecting the many different regions and sub-cultures of Maharashtra.

If you are not very familiar with Maharashtrian cuisine, here are some resources that might be helpful: Lokpriya and Mumbai Masala have good recipes, Wikipedia provides several links, and here is an essay on Maharashtrian food.

I can't think of many (or, actually, any!) English-language cookbooks that specialize in the food of Maharashtra, but cookbooks on general Indian cuisine (of which there are hundreds) often have a few recipes that come from Maharashtra so it is worth looking through them.

Of course, you can also go and look for recipes and ideas from all the blogs who cook up a lot of Maharashtrian cuisine. In these wonderful blogs, you will find everything from fasting foods to feasting foods and everyday favorites.

You could choose to tuck into some breakfast, or eat a wholesome meal of bread, amti (dal), simple bhaaji (vegetable), rassa (curry), flavored rice and salad.

Or you might be more in the mood for some tea-time snacks, washed down with steaming hot chaha (chai) or a cool beverage. You can even go "back to basics" and try a recipe for an authentic Maharastrian masala.

Let's not forget that Maharashtra is home to the the sprawling, throbbing megapolis of Bombay. All the dozens of Indian culinary traditions collide in Bombay, for it is home to people of all regions of India, who migrate to this city in search of work or education, chasing dreams of a better life. Bombay is home to chaat of all types, including a spicy one-dish meal that is popular all over Maharashtra!

So whether you decide to go with traditional techniques or their creative counterparts, have fun and cook up a storm! We would love to hear of the stories behind the recipes too, whether it is food memories from childhood or from traveling to Maharashtra, or knowing someone who comes from there.

If you would like to participate...
1. From now until 25th June, write a post on your blog that features Maharashtrian (Marathi) cuisine.
2. In your post, please include a link to this post so that your readers can play along.
3. Feel free to use either or both logos given below in your post: the RCI one (courtesy: Lakshmi) or the RCI:Maharashtrian one.
4. Mail me at nupurDOTkitturATgmailDOTcom with the permalink/URL of your post.
5. If you have a picture of the dish, please attach a photo (400 X 400 pixel) to the mail.
6. Check back on July 1st for the round-up right here on One Hot Stove!

Please e-mail me if you have questions, or need ideas or resources. Thanks in advance for your enthusiastic participation!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hearty Heart-Lovin' Pasta

The Heart of the Matter is a food blog event with a difference- like many other events, you make a dish every month based on a theme, BUT with one important criterion: the food has to be heart-friendly and healthful! It is a wonderful challenge to think of the food we eat and come up with something that is both delicious and good for the body. The round-ups are collected in the HotM blog so that we can all have a handy collection of recipes to try out. The theme this month is something we all crave: Pasta!

The pasta I am making today comes from the lovely PBS food show Everyday Food. I always feel a keen sense of relief when I watch this calm and professional show, with efficient chefs demonstrating eminently do-able recipes for the home cook. It helps me recover from the trauma that I undergo when I come across some of those shows on Food Network that are so out-of-tune with where we should be headed, like Paula Deen's shows, with the sickeningly fatty recipes that are doing nothing to help America's obesity epidemic, or Sandra Lee's shows, with the wasteful shopping and unintelligent "cooking" that are hurting the eco-friendly changes the world needs to make.

What makes this dish heart-friendly...
...the extra-virgin olive oil, which is the sensible choice when one is cooking with fats,
...the lentils, which provide fiber and protein, making this a filling and satisfying meal,
...the vegetables, which provide taste, vitamins, minerals and a ton of other nutrients while adding minimal calories

What is even more special is what this dish does NOT contain...
...animal fats; there are no saturated fats in the form of meat, butter, cream or cheese
...excessive salt; I used the trick of adding some lemon juice, which brings out the flavor and lets you get away with minimal salt.

This pasta could be made even more healthful by using whole-wheat pasta instead of the regular one made with refined flour. I use both kinds of pasta in my kitchen. Regular pasta can be part of a healthy diet if it is served in small quantities, and in combination with protein and healthy fats. The orecchiette ("little ears") pasta is wonderful in this dish because the tiny shells capture the lentil sauce perfectly.

i heart pasta

(Adapted from this recipe from the TV show Everyday Food, makes about 4 servings)
1. Start boiling a large pot of water for pasta.
2. Place 1 cup lentils in a saucepan, rinse them, then cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, until lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
3. As lentils are cooking, do the prep. cut up 1 large onion into slices. Mince 2 cloves of garlic. Chop 1 cup canned tomatoes and set side. Chop 1 fresh tomato into slices. Clean 1 bunch arugula and chop roughly. Take a fresh lemon and collect 2 tbsp juice.
4. Heat 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil in a non-stick skillet, then saute onions and garlic until golden brown and aromatic.
5. To the onions, add 1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped, and some salt and pepper.
6. Stir in the lentils.
7. When pasta water comes to a boil, add salt and 2 cups orecchiette and cook until just tender. Save 1 cup pasta water. Drain the pasta and return to pot.
8. To the cooked pasta, add onion-lentil mixture, chopped tomatoes, chopped arugula, lemon juice and pasta water. Toss well and serve!

Verdict: I will surely be making this again and again! It is perfect for summer, light and juicy. It tastes good hot, at room temperature and cold, like a pasta salad. It would be the perfect addition to a lunch box.

Thanks to Joanna and Ilva for hosting this event...I'm going to try and participate every single month! Here is the HotM Pasta Round-up with wonderful recipe ideas for making heart-healthy pasta dishes.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Q is for Quick Carrot Pickle

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 "Q" of Indian Vegetables
(Note: I had written this round-up and was a couple of minutes away from posting it, and very unluckily, blogger wiped it off and I lost the whole write-up! :( :( This is the painfully re-written version. If I accidentally left an entry out during the re-writing process, please let me know and I will include it right away).

The letter Q inspired twenty-three quirky Indian flavors!

First up, the only bona-fide English language Q ingredient that I can think of: the ancient seed, Quinoa. Quinoa is used as a grain, although botanically, it is closer to a vegetable than to a grain. Quinoa has remarkable nutritional value and it is worth the effort to get to know it. Here are two ways to enjoy quinoa, Indian style!

TC of The Cooker tells us that "Cooked quinoa doesn't have a distinctive taste of its own, which is a good thing as it means one is free to improvise." She marries the South American seed with traditional Marathi flavors to great effect, making a delicious dish of Quinoa with Goda Masala.

Suganya of Tasty Palettes talks about her experiments with quinoa and her efforts to use more of it in her diet. She creatively uses quinoa in the ever-popular dish, upma ("A savior for those women who have no idea what to cook for dinner") along with vegetables and a flavorful tempering to make some tasty Quinoa Upma.

Next, the quick-witted Cook of Live To Cook turns to a different language to find a Q fruit: it turns out the fragrant cantaloupe melon is Qawun kantalubi in the Arabic language! She cooks shredded cantaloupe, milk and barley into a creamy and delectable Qawun kantalubi kheer.

We now come to two rich and royal dishes from Northern India that are just fit for a queen!

Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi make an impressive tray of a layered rice dish called Qabuli. In their own words, "Qabuli is the poor man’s version of biryani. The meat is replaced with plant protein in the form of chana dal (split bengal grams), which has a sweet, nutty flavour and holds its shape while cooking. It is coated in yogurt and spices and baked between layers of rice, fried onions and mint for a one-pot meal. The saffron and rose water give it a wonderful aroma." You have to see this Qabuli to believe it!

Asha of Aroma/ Foodie's Hope makes a rich and creamy curry called Qorma. Asha tells us that, "Since Qorma in this recipe is Afghanistani,they mostly use yogurt as the base and add Nuts for more flavor.Either way,it tastes great". Her recipe uses a most unusual ingredient, the Tropical American tuber, Jicama, to make a flavorful and alliterative Qorma with Jicama.

Next up, Richa of As Dear As Salt sings an ode to India's very own cheese, the Quintessential Paneer and pays a tribute to it with some puffy, golden paneer puris.

Now for a dish that is not Indian but enjoys international popularity: the Quesadilla! This Mexican dish is made with tortillas (akin to chapatis), cheese (as the glue which holds the dish together) and a variety of fillings that can be tweaked to make a quasi-Indian dish. Here are a variety of quesadillas...

Swapna of Swad uses a savory filling of onions and mushrooms to make her Mushroom Quesadillas.

Neelam of Recipe Factory opens up a can of baked beans to make her Quick Quesadillas.

Manasi of A Cook At Heart makes a duo of Quesadillas, one with a spinach and cheese filling, spiced with taco seasoning, and the other with a filling of kidney beans (rajma) and lettuce.

Well, Q stands for Quick, and while I am all for slow-simmering, time-consuming recipes that are a labor of love, it is also nice to have a bunch of quick and delicious recipe in one's repertoire for those inevitable busy days.

We start with an array of Quick Snacks...

Aarti of Aarti's Corner gives us a healthier alternative to dep-fried potato chips and tortilla chips...indeed her fresh turmeric-tinged bright yellow Quick Popcorn, made with a whole grain (corn) is a nutritionally sensible snack.

Smitha of Andhra Food Network makes Instant Noodles with mixed vegetables and tomato, just like on the pack!

Dhana of Fresh Kitchen takes two pantry staples- chickpea flour and peas- and cleverly turns them into a duo of snacks, the first is a pancake (chila) with a savory filling of peas and carrots, and the other is a microwave dhokla with a bright green peas filling.

Coffee of The Spice Cafe makes a sweet tea-time snack in minutes- mixing condensed milk with desiccated coconut to make these adorable coconut ladoos.

Tee of Bhaatukli magically transforms a boring ol' can of tomato soup into some spicy and fragrant Tomato Saar with the help of some spices, herbs and coconut.

The next set of recipes is all about the Mango, Unquestionably the most beloved of all Indian fruits. This is the very season for mango mania, so read on for a quartet of quick mango pickles, and a duo of quick mango desserts...

Suma of Veggie Platter mixes tiny cubes of raw mango with a few select spices, then bathes them in mustard seeds and oil to make a devastatingly delicious Quick Mango Chutney.

Manasi of A Cook At Heart uses a tried-and-tested store-bought pickle masala mix to make a tasty Quick Mango Pickle in minutes.

Coffee of The Spice Cafe writes a drool-worthy account of mango pickles and goes on to share recipes for Two Quick Mango Pickles; both call for the same ingredients but one is uncooked and the other is cooked, resulting in two very different tastes!

And now for some quick mango desserts. Nandita of Saffron Trail teams up with a friend to make a cool and creamy Quick Mango Sandesh: slices of fragrant and juicy mango are sandwiched between some milky fresh chenna.

Sreelu of Sreelu's Tasty Travels shares a recipe for a fool-proof crowd-pleaser: her Quick Mango Cheesecake can be whipped together in mere minutes with delicious results.

The final category is just right for the summer months when the sweltering sun results in our quest for cool drinks and melt-in-the-mouth ice cream. Here is a slew of cool and refreshing quenchers!

Dhana of Fresh Kitchen turns to the orange mini-me, the kumquat! She turns the kumquat into a refreshing Ice cream: topped with fresh berries, it simply screams SUMMER!

Pooja of Khana Pina makes a beloved raw mango squash that just hits the spot on a sweltering day; her Panha blends cooked tangy mango and sugar with a touch of saffron and cardamom.

The final two drinks both use two summer favorites: lemon and watermelon...

Ramya of Mane Adige tells us of her memories of beach-side outings followed by a sweet treat. She recreates her favorite Watermelon Slush; icy watermelon juice topped with a luscious scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Aarti of Aarti's Corner takes everyone's favorite summer drink- lemonade- and gives it a spin; her Melon Lemonade is spiced with a touch of black salt to bring out the flavors!

We set out to prove that Q is an exciting culinary letter after all...and what can I say, except, Q. E. D.!!

Q is for Quick Carrot Pickle: Pickles!

Today, following the chutneys and the raitas comes the last of the tasty trinity of Indian condiments: the pickles! Like the other two condiments, a dollop of pickle on the side of the plate can magically transform a ho-hum everyday meal into a memorable one.

Pickles are a time-honored way of preserving vegetables for a "rainy day", for all those months of the year when fresh vegetables are not easily available. Indian pickles capture the flavor spectrum from salty to spicy to tangy to sweet, often all in one delirious bite. In India, pickles are made with fresh vegetables- cauliflower, carrot, chilies; with fruits- lemon, mango; and every permutation and combination of these. Pickles can be anything from pungent and garlicky to syrupy and sweet. Some pickles are made to be eaten fresh and only last a week or two (in household with strong-willed individuals anyway), others are made to last and get better as they age. Mango deserves a special mention in the world of pickles- for most Indians, the thought of mango pickles evokes a rush of memories- of hot summer days and lazy school-free holidays, and baskets of mangoes, and beautiful jars of pickles being laid out in the sun, and chubby little fingers stealing cubes of pickled mangoes when no one is looking. The four delicious mango pickles in today's round-up are testimony to the popularity of this pickle!

For all my love of pickles, and the unhealthy way in which I consume jars of (store-bought) pickles at an alarming rate, I have never tried making pickles at home. Until now! This is my first attempt at pickle-making, and I chose to use carrots. Colorful, crunchy and naturally sweet, carrots lend themselves very well to being pickled. I used a combination of two recipes in putting this pickle together: the idea of microwaving the carrots briefly comes from a pickle recipe from Tarla Dalal's Microwave Desi Khana, and the combination of spices comes from the iconic Marathi cookbook "Ruchira" by Kamalabai Ogale. The main reason why I never tried my hand at pickle-making before this was- I always thought of it as a laborious and difficult process. I was thrilled to see that this pickle came together in minutes! There are only two potentially time-consuming steps: (1) the cutting of carrots into matchsticks, which I did by hand (one could use a food processor with the right type of blade). (2) making the fenugreek powder: roasting fenugreek seeds lightly, cooling them, then grinding them to a fine powder. Be aware that this pickle needs to be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within 3-4 days...it is not a long-lasting pickle (and tasty enough that you will never have to worry about it).

If one is interested in making long-lasting pickles to store for months and years, it is important to learn how to do it properly! Pickles that do not have enough salt/ sugar to retard microbial growth, or that are filled into improperly sterilized jars can be pretty dangerous if consumed. With a quick pickle (quick to make and quick to eat), you don't have to worry too much.

Quick Carrot Pickle

(makes about 1 and half-2 cups of pickle)
To be mixed:
Carrots, cut into matchsticks, 2 cups
Garlic, 1 clove, sliced
Red Chili Powder, 1 heaped tsp, or to taste
Fenugreek Seed Powder, 1 tsp
Turmeric, 1 tsp
Salt, 1 heaped tsp, or to taste
Lemon, 1, juiced
Oil, 2 tbsp
Mustard Seeds, 2 tsp
Asafoetida, 1/4 tsp
1. Mix all ingredients, except the tempering, in a microwave-safe bowl (glass is best, as plastic can leach into food).
2. Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add mustard seeds and asafoetida. Add the hot tempering to the rest of the ingredients.
3. Microwave the bowl on HIGH for 1 minute. Let it cool for 15 minutes, then place in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours. The pickle is ready to eat!
I was delighted at how properly pickle-y this stuff looked, with a thick spicy layer clinging to the carrot sticks! The garlic adds a great deal of pungent flavor, fenugreek adds a touch of bitterness and the lemon juice brings it all together.

I served the Carrot Pickle with some fresh-off-the-griddle Rajma Parathas, inspired by this recipe (don't miss the gorgeous picture on the post!) from the blog Talimpu, written by Raji. I wanted to try the recipe the minute I saw it: the addition of fresh tomato and cooked kidney beans to whole-wheat flour results in a protein-rich, fiber-rich paratha that also happens to be delicious! The method is very simple too, and this is how I made these parathas:
1. I soaked 1/2 cup of kidney beans overnight, then pressure-cooked them.
2. In the food processor fitted with a metal blade, I blended the cooked kidney beans (discarding excess cooking water), 1/2 cup tomato puree, cumin-coriander powder, cilantro and a sprinkle of salt to a thick paste.
3. I replaced the metal blade with the plastic dough blade. I added 2 cups atta to the food processor bowl and blended everything into a firm dough (adding only a few tablespoons of extra water).
4. After letting the dough rest for 30-40 minutes, I divided it into 12 portions and rolled each out into a paratha, cooking the paratha on a hot griddle with a few drops of olive oil.
The addition of soft cooked beans made the dough soft and delightfully easy to roll out. The parathas were also soft and tasty, and perfect for packing into lunch boxes and picnic baskets. The combination of the crunchy carrot pickle and the soft mild parathas was beautiful!

How do you serve this pickle?
1. A highly popular way to enjoy pickles is with parathas, as above.
2. Serve as a side with dal and rice, or a side dish with any Indian meal.
3. Spoon some pickle into a sandwich or pita pocket for a taste explosion.

Fellow bloggers have come up a spicy-tangy-sweet array of pickles. Here are some of my favorite finds, and I can't wait to try them all:
Two Punjabi Pickles from Musical's Kitchen,
Tomato Pickle from Saffron Hut,
No-Oil Lemon Pickle from Indian Food Rocks,
Lemon Date Pickle from My Workshop,
Mango Sweet Pickle from Aayi's Recipes,
Avakkai from Green Jackfruit,
Two-Minute Ginger Pickle from Vyanjanaa,

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

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Monthly Blog Patrol, Weekend Stuff

Every month, Coffee from The Spice Cafe sends us off on a mission called the Monthly Blog Patrol: the idea is to browse our favorite blogs and choose some recipes that make us want to run to the kitchen and try them, and, well, run to the kitchen and *actually* try them, instead of just drooling all over the keyboard. The theme for this month was Something Sweet. I chose the simplest sweet treat ever: Banana Muffins from one of the most gorgeous new blogs on the block: Tasty Palettes, written by Suganya. I loved this recipe because (a) it is a good way to use over-ripe mushy bananas that would be otherwise fated for le garbage. (b) most muffin recipes are for 12 muffins, this one only makes 6, the perfect number for my little family (and I only own one 6-cup muffin pan anyway). (c) it calls for all pantry ingredients, no sour cream or any such thing that I don't usually have on hand.

I followed the recipe quite closely, only omitting the walnuts (since I made it the day after V's dental surgery, as a get-well-soon treat, and he was certainly not able to chomp on walnuts at the time), and adding a dash of cinnamon and a couple of drops of vanilla extract instead. Here is a look at the muffins right after they emerged from the oven:
I wonder why the tops looked so funny! Any ideas from experienced bakers? The only thing I can think of...the oven temperature was too high, so the outside of the muffin cooked before it got a chance to rise. Next time, I will bake at 350 F instead of 400 F.

Anyway, the muffins tasted wonderful, and made for a very special breakfast-dessert indeed!

Thanks, Coffee for hosting and thank you, Suganya, for a lovely recipe!

Weekend City Blogging-1

(Pictures taken by V)
Now that the weather is nice, I thought I would share some glimpses of Saint Louis. The first in the series has to be the iconic Gateway Arch that defines this city. I'm never too interested in monuments and touristy attractions, but I do think the arch is a very beautiful creation, rising sleekly into the sky at the bank of the Mississippi river, denoting the border between Missouri and Illinois.
It is in the shape of an inverted catenary arch and is made of stainless steel. It is the tallest monument in the United States. You can get into tiny pod-like elevators and take a 4-minute trip to the top of the arch.

We recently made a trip to the arch as part of a Flat Stanley project. What is it all about? Basically, an elementary school child (in this city, V's cousin's little girl) makes a paper doll ("Stanley") and mails it out to a family friend/ relative (in this case, V and me) in another city (in this case, St. Louis). The recipient has to take the doll on an adventure and write back to the child telling her all about it. It is a lesson in geography, letter writing etc. and fun for all concerned. Read more about the Flat Stanley project here.

Here we are, taking a paper doll to see the arch...

Weekend Dog Blogging

(Pictures taken by V)
As part of his adventure, our lucky paper doll Stanley also got to spend some quality time with the most adorable dog in all of St. Louis, Dale!
But posing for pictures is so exhausting! After a few minutes, Dale heads off for a nap...
Dale might be asleep, but his ears stay wide awake in case someone should utter the magic words "Chalo" heralding a walk!

I'll leave you with a final link: As a avid food-blog-watcher, my new favorite place to find new posts is Food Blog Desam. Many thanks to Mathy and Indira for their efforts in creating this time-saving resource that lets us find newly written posts the minute they are posted! See you tomorrow, for the Q of Indian vegetables.

Friday, May 18, 2007

RCI Andhra: A Trio Of Podis

Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine has come up with a new event that is close to my heart: Regional Cuisines of India or RCI. Each month, we will be making the food of one region/ state of India. This month, the RCI event is being hosted by Latha of Masala Magic. The theme is Andhra Cuisine, i.e., the cuisine of the Southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

I am a relative newcomer to the world of Andhra food. A few years ago, I was living in Bangalore for the summer, and ended up with some friends at a Andhra restaurant called Bheema's. That evening was my memorable introduction to Andhra cuisine. We ate off verdant banana leaves; the courses kept coming, progressively ever tastier and ever more fiery, until I had tears of pain running down my cheeks. But I kept gulping down cool water and eating some more. I don't know what they put in that food, but that stuff was downright addictive.

Now, the world of food blogs has provided me with several wonderful "teachers" who are providing a glimpse into their Andhra kitchens. Two of the earliest Andhra food blogs that I came across- Mahanandi and Sailu's Food are both excellent resources for traditional Andhra recipes, written neatly and precisely, accompanied by gorgeous pictures.

From the vast domain of Andhra cuisine, I am choosing one category that I find fascinating: the various ready-to-eat spice powders or podis. From a bunch of dry items that are commonly found in the Indian pantry- dried red chillies, desiccated coconut, different dals (split lentils), a few spices- it is possible to mix together, roast and grind ingredients in special proportions to make all types of spice powders. Once you have a bottle of the dry powder sitting in your kitchen cupboard, it can add a touch of magic to so many meals. It gives the term "instant meal" a whole new meaning...mixed in with steamed rice, you get a tasty dish in seconds. It can be sprinkled on idlis and dosas for a dash of spice when one is too busy to make a fresh chutney. I have been known to sprinkle podis on buttered toast too!

The one essential kitchen equipment for making podis is a good grinder. If you own an Indian "mixer", boy, those are some powerful machines and will have a small dry grinder attachment that will reduce grains, dals and spices to dust, in mere seconds. For those of us who don't own the Indian-style mixies, the usual blenders and food processors are unable to grind hard grains and dals (and it is unwise to try, they can be damaged by doing so). What does work well is a spice grinder, often sold as a coffee bean grinder. Be sure to keep separate machines for grinding coffee beans and spices, unless you happen to like coriander-flavored coffee and coffee-flavored idli podi.

The one I have is a compact little thing from Krups and was a gift from my aunt Jayashree in Toronto. When she gave it to me 3-4 years ago, I had never made my own spice mixes before and expected that this contraption would lie in some forgotten corner of my kitchen. As it turns out, having the means to grind nuts, spices and grains has improved my cooking tremendously, and I use the spice grinder several times each week! Just goes to show you that aunts know a thing or two :) My one grouse with this machines is: the bowl does not detach, and that makes it a little difficult to clean. It is not a huge issue, since I never grind wet stuff in it. I clean it using two ways: (a) Wipe it down with a damp kitchen towel or paper towel, being careful to avoid the sharp blades, (b) Run a dry old piece of bread through the grinder. It picks up bits and pieces from all corners of the grinder. The resulting bread crumbs can be discarded and you end up with a clean grinder. The cover of the grinder does detach; it can be washed with some soap and water.

Today, I am making three podis or spice powders, all from Sailu's recipes. Each uses some basic ingredients- chana dal and urad dal provide the body and texture for the podi (not to mention a nutty base and a boost of nutrition), dried red chilies provide the kick and the heat, a touch of oil is needed to roast the ingredients and enhance their flavor and aroma, and the final essential ingredient is a bit of salt. Apart from these ingredients, different podis are enhanced with other main ingredients (nuts, sesame seeds, coconut), flavorings (garlic, tamarind) and spices (coriander seeds, cumin seeds) in different permutations and combinations. One can adjust the level of heat by adding more or less chilies. For the exact recipes and method, I am providing links to Sailu's recipes so she can teach you herself.

The first podi is dry coconut powder or Endu Kobbari Podi, made with...
Desiccated coconut, Garlic, Chana dal, Urad dal, Dried red chilies, Oil, Salt
I served this podi with plain steamed idlis. Soft idlis, topped with generous sprinkles of coconut podi, and a few drops of sesame oil made for an authentic and tasty brunch.

The second podi is sesame seed powder or Nuvullu Podi, made with...
Sesame seeds, Coriander seeds, Cumin seeds, Chana dal, Urad dal, Dried red chilies, Oil, Salt
I served this podi with some freshly steamed rice and ghee. The nutty and mild flavor of the podi with rice, it was delicious and comforting.

The third podi is curry leaf powder or Karivepaaku Podi, made with...
Curry leaves, Coriander seeds, Cumin seeds, Tamarind, Chana dal, Urad dal, Dried red chilies, Oil, Salt
I served this podi sprinkled on to my favorite instant rava dosa which is inspired by our host Latha's recipe. The difference is, this time I added brown rice flour to the dosa instead of the regular white rice flour that I normally use. I made the brown rice powder myself, by simply grinding brown rice in the spice grinder. I also omitted curry leaves from the dosa batter since I was going to serve the dosa with this powder. This podi was a taste and flavor explosion! As I made it, the aroma of curry leaves simply filled the kitchen. The combination of dosa and spicy curry leaf powder was incredible.

Thank you, Sailu, and all the other Andhra food bloggers out there for helping me learn more about your cuisine! And thanks, Latha, for hosting this event! I am eagerly waiting for the round-up!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Quick "Bisibele" Bhaat

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Other prep: chop half a small onion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 13, 2007

P is for Pattagobi Pachadi

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 "P" of Indian Vegetables

The letter P inspired forty phenomenal Indian flavors!

Let's start with a array of P vegetables: the first is colorful and chubby , followed by nine veggies that all happen to be painted in myriad shades of green, and the last is a popular starchy root!

First up, the Pepper: an potent word in the culinary world. It can mean anything from peppercorns that constitute the most basic seasoning, to the dizzying array of chili peppers that provide the kick and the zing in a multitude of cuisines, to the chubby vibrant bell peppers that are mild and tasty enough to be savored as vegetables. TC of The Cooker takes advantage of the hollow insides of the colorful peppers. She stuffs pepper halves with a savory mixture of vegetables, potatoes and spices, then bakes them to perfection. The resulting Stuffed Peppers are versatile delights that can be enjoyed as an appetizer or a main dish.

The next vegetable is the Pea, the pint-sized green gems packed in their pod. Peas are such a versatile vegetable, used in dozens of different ways in Indian cuisine. Today, we get to eat them in the tastiest way possible, in two delicious appetizers, both P words!

Dhana of Fresh Kitchen chooses to make pattice. Now, we all know what a "patty" is: usually a savory flattened cake of some kind. But in India, the unique term "pattice" refers to a turnover consisting of puff pastry enclosing a tasty filling of some sort. In bakeries all over India, across small towns and megacities, patties (pattices?) will be made and sold like hot cakes every single day (confused metaphor there, but you get the picture). Dhana now teaches us to make these delights in our own home: she makes a savory filling of peas, corn and spinach, then drapes some ready-made biscuit dough over it to makes this appetizing Peas and Corn Pattice.

Sharmi of Neivedyam chooses to make potlis. A "potli" is a cute little purse or moneybag that can be closed with a drawstring. Sharmi's adorable edible potlis are made of home-made pie dough, and contain a treasure of spicy potato and peas. Go steal a look at these artistic Potlis with Potatoes and Peas.

Coming up next is the long, tapering, placid Plantain, the family that includes bananas. Some varieties of the starchy plantain are especially wonderful for cooking. A Cook of Live To Cook cooks them in a very interesting Tamil style called Plantain Paniyaram, or puffy, golden brown, savory pancake balls.

The next vegetable is a proud member of the prized family of green leafy vegetables: Palak, Hindi for spinach. Here is a vegetable that is inexpensive, nutritious, easily available and that cooks in mere seconds. Here are four ways with the versatile spinach...

The first course is a steaming hot cup of soup: Ramya of Mane Adige cooks spinach with a flavorful combination of onion, ginger, cinnamon and cloves, then adds some tomatoes and corn to make this nutritious and utterly slurpable Palak Corn Soup.

Next, a popular appetizer: Swapna of Swad makes Palak Pakoras that take minutes to make and mere seconds to disappear, blending spinach with chickpea batter and spices, then frying spoonfuls of the batter until golden brown.

Tee of Bhaatukli makes a cool recipe for summer: tasty spinach dumplings in a yogurt sauce. Her Paalak Dahiwade are a smart way to sneak in vegetables into a beloved snack.

Then, Rinku of Cooking in Westchester illustrates that spinach can be teamed with other foods to make quick non-fussy everyday meals. She combines bright green spinach with deep red kidney beans to make a pot of colorful Palak Rajma.

Following close is another green vegetable, with tightly packed pale green leaves: Pattagobhi, Hindi for cabbage. "patta" means leaves, and "gobhi" means cabbage, the close relation, the cauliflower is called the "phulgobhi" where "phul" means flower. Musical of Musical's Kitchen makes a complete Home-style meal: she cooks the Pattagobhi together with Purple Potatoes, and serves this with a dal made using Peas...comfort food at its best!

The next vegetable is beloved in India- a cute petite squash called Parwal in Hindi and ivy gourd or pointed gourd in English. Richa of As Dear As Salt eats a delicious dish featuring parwal at a restaurant, then comes home and recreates us in her own kitchen, then shares the recipe for Parwal and Kale Chane.

Then comes a huge prickly tropical fruit: the jackfruit or Panasa. Dee of Ammalu's Kitchen makes a festive dish with canned jackfruit, a stir-fry with an aromatic tempering of mustard seeds, Panasa Pottu Koora.

Then comes another green vegetable with an interesting patterned skin, the bitter gourd, called Pavakkai in Tamil and Pavakka in Malayalam. Bitter gourd is, well, too bitter for many palates but it has its fans, and there are certain ways of cooking it that lower the bitterness and bring out the true flavor....like these two:

Sheela of Delectable Victuals cooks this vegetable by the method of Pan-frying, a useful cooking method for rustling up quick and tasty vegetable dishes. Her Pan-fried Pavakkai is a wonderful side dish, and the post has many useful tips for cooking with this vegetable.

Sigma of Live To Eat turns the bitter gourd into a Pachadi, or yogurt-based salad. In her step-by-step recipe, one can see how minced bitter gourd is fried until golden, then seasoned with tempering, a spicy coconut paste and yogurt to make a cool Pavakka Pachadi with complementary bitter, tangy and spicy flavors.

The next veggie is a poised and pretty, long strands of green blending into white...Piyajkoli, the poetic Bengal word for scallions/ green onions/ spring onions. Sandeepa of Bong Mom's Cookbook makes a quick and delicious stir-fry with scallions- her Piyajkolir Tarkari has a burst of flavors from scallions, potatoes and shrimp, with the aroma of nigella seeds to spice it up.

Then comes a summer favorite; mint or Pudina. With its pleasant sweet flavor and distinctive cool aftertaste, mint adds a special something to many Indian dishes. Madhuli of My Foodcourt created a recipe of her very own: stir-frying tofu in a fragrant mint paste, with a tangy touch of chaat masala to make this Pudina Tofu Stir-fry. Well, this experiment looks like a complete success to me!

The last vegetable is #1 when when it comes to popularity, none other than the pre-eminent Potato! Swapna of Swad gives the potato a glowing representation by cooking it with eggs in a famous Parsi brunch dish, Papeta-Pur-Eedu.

Now come four P foods that are popular, prominent and precious in the world of Indian cuisine!

First comes Paneer: the milky, mild Indian cheese. Un-aged and rennet-free, paneer is easy to make at home and versatile in its uses. We have five paneer dishes here, all crowd-pleasers!

Now that barbecue season is upon us, it is time to make some juicy paneer kebabs. Paneer is a non-melting cheese; upon grilling, it becomes tender and flavorful and eagerly absorbs the flavors of the marinade. Sreelu of Sreelu's Tasty Travels takes this Indian grilled staple to the next level: she skewers chunks of paneer together with a whole host of P goodies...Pineapple, Pepper, Pudina (Hindi for mint), Pyaaz (Hindi for onion). The combination of the spicy paneer with the smoky sweetness of the vegetables and the aroma of the herbs results in this picture-perfect platter of Paneer Kebabs!

Pooja of Khaana Pina talks about the nostalgia of street food in the city of Pune. She then recreates one of her favorite street foods, Paneer Kathi Kabab, with a detailed recipe so we can all try it too! Also, check her blog for many interesting posts about the "rainbow colors of food".

Aarti of Aarti's Corner was inspired by the Vietnamese and Indonesian pastries called lumpia. She makes a spicy mixture of paneer and cabbage, then stuffs it into a freshly made dough and rolls it into a cigar shape. The roll is fried to perfection to make these innovative and tempting Paneer Lumpia.

Mahek of Love 4 Cooking makes a classic tomato-based curry, Paneer Jhalfrezi. The classic trio of onion-pepper-tomato combines with classic North Indian spices and soft paneer to yield lip-smacking results!

Swapna of Swad tasted paneer biryani made by a friend and loved it so much that she wheedled the recipe out of him! She now shares the recipe for this popular Paneer Biryani with all of us, with neat step-by-step instructions, complete with pictures.

The final paneer recipe is the classic combination of paneer with spinach, the Palak Paneer. We have two recipes here...

Neelam of Recipe Factory shares an easy recipe to make the restaurant favorite, Palak Paneer, in your very own kitchen.

Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine shares a fellow bloggers' tried-and-tested recipe for another delicious version of Palak Paneer.

Second comes Pulao, or pilaf or pulav...all terms for flavored rice dishes. A pulao offers an open-ended opportunity to a cook- a blank canvas to paint with spices and veggies, nuts and dried fruits as one likes: rice+ innovation= pulao!

Vani of Mysoorean shares a recipe for a Plain Pulao which does not sound that plain to me at all- it is cooked in a rich mixture of water and milk and is redolent with whole spices and herbs. To make a complete feast out of it, Vani serves the pulao with some tasty egg curry and crisp Potato wedges.

Ramya of Sena's Rasoi makes the ever-popular Peas Pulav, with a recipe that is elegantly simple- a few ingredients come together in an uncomplicated way to make a tasty meal in minutes.

Third comes Papad: thin, dried, brittle discs that can be roasted or fried into crunchy treats. The papad or papadum can make every meal special (pulao and papad happens to be a particularly well-loved combination). One wildly popular brand of papad, Lijjat papad, also happens to be a very interesting story of women's empowerment. Swapna of Swad is inspired by her aunt's recipe and shares a way to make a crunchy tea-time snack, Papad Pohe.

Fourth comes Puri: a deep-fried bread that makes for a special treat. Dough is rolled out into thin discs and deep-fried to puffy, golden goodness. Puris can be made in a dozen different ways; the plain puris are generally served with spicy curries, while the flavored puris can be enjoyed by themselves or dipped into a chutney. We have three stellar examples here...

Reena of Spices of Kerala makes plain whole-wheat puris, then goes on to serve them with a spicy and aromatic vegetable made with potato and fenugreek (a match made in heaven!), resulting in this appetizing and festive meal of Poori with Aloo Methi.

Manasi of A Cook At Heart kneads spinach and wheat flour together, then rolls out the dough into little Palak Puris. Tasty, puffy and crisp, these puris are the stuff of school picnic memories for many of us!

Asha of Aroma/Foodie's Hope minces up some aromatic mint leaves and kneads them into a spicy dough to make these lovely fried Pudina Puris. Served with some tasty tomato chutney, these quick puris sound like the perfect tea-time snack!

Coming to the regional specialties, first up is Puttu, a cylindrical steamed rice cake. Reena of Spices of Kerala explains that, "Puttu and Kadala curry (Black chana curry) is Kerala’s very own breakfast". As they say, try, try and you will succeed, and here, Reena shares her puttu success story with a tried-and-tested recipe for Puttu and Chana Curry.

Then comes Pithla, a rustic curry made with chickpea flour. Aarti of Aarti's Corner makes the classic combination of Pithla Bhakri and adds that she served "pithla with bhakris, rice, buttermilk and spring onion…. A perfect marathi meal, ideal for a weekend...". for a simple meal that is rich in taste.

Next comes an elaborate appetizer/ side dish that can only be described as edible art: Patra, also known as patode or patrode. Giant leaves of the taro plant (they are also called elephant ears!) are spread with a savory paste, then rolled and steamed. In the style of Swiss rolls, these steamed rolls can be sliced, resulting in a beautiful spicy treat. We have two recipes for patra...

Anita of A Mad Tea Party assures us that, "Preparing alu wadi (wadis made with taro leaves) is somewhat labour-intensive, but not hard". She proceeds to write a beautifully detailed account of the preparation of the delicate Patode, complete with pictures that will make you want to run into the kitchen and make them right away.

Roopa of My Chow-Chow Bhath tells us that, "Back in my hometown, we grow these leaves in our backyard is very handy to use in case we are short of veges". I remember the taro plant in my parents' backyard too! Roopa gives a delicious step-by-step recipe for Patrode/Patra with handy tips for serving the sliced rolls, and for freezing them.

Next comes a signature savory pancake: Pesarattu, a wholesome dosa made with a batter of rice and lentils (moong dal). A popular way to serve pesarattu is with a stuffing of upma ( a savory dish made with semolina). We have two versions of this filling breakfast/ tea-time treat...

Prema of My Cookbook explains that "Pesarattu is a key item in Andhra cuisine" and goes on to share a detailed recipe for making Pesarattu with Upma that is thin and crispy, filled with chopped onions and chilies.

Sukanya of Hot 'N Sweet Bowl talks about her love for this dosa..."Once my family and I went to Trupati and we found this pesarattu in almost all the restaurants.. From that time Pesarattu became my families favorite dish." She provides recipes for the whole menu: Pesarattu with Uppma, and a flavorful ginger chutney.

Next comes a distinctive style of cooking vegetables: called Patoli in Andhra Pradesh and Parippu Usli in Tamil Nadu. In this method, a mixture of lentils and spices are ground to a paste, then cooked by steaming and crumbled to bits. The tasty lentil bits can be mixed in with any vegetable to make a dry curry that is nutritious and protein-rich. We have two versions to learn from...

Suma of Veggie Platter makes three traditional versions of the Patoli to demonstrate the versatility of this method, pointing out that it is "An easier, smarter way to feed the family, the nutritious stuff".

Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi show us a way to get creative with the basic method and adapt it to all kinds of vegetables; they take advantage of seasonal produce to make some Patoli with Asparagus. To make everyday cooking more efficient, they share a useful tip: "Make extra batches of the lentil paste and freeze for later use".

The next P food may not be distinctly Indian, but it sure has an international fan following: Pasta! Deepa of Recipes 'N More raids her pantry and whips up a simple and tasty lunch of Pasta with onions, peppers and tomato sauce.

As we start winding down this round-up, it is time for a bite of something sweet. One stove-top pudding that is a popular sweet in its many avatars (can be made with wheat/ rice/ noodles) is the Payasam, the South Indian counterpart of the Kheer. Sushma of Sunkiran's Recipe Source gives us a taste of some rich and creamy Payasam made with semolina, with a delicate touch of saffron.

The final dish is a rather mysterious one: Pidza! Are you perplexed and perturbed? To solve the puzzle, go visit Coffee of The Spice Cafe and find out what Pidza is all about. Two hints: (1) it is the international food of mystery, and (2) it is delicious!

P is for Pachadi with Cabbage: Cool Salads

We are on a "accompaniments" roll...close on the heels of the chutney, comes the salad! Unlike most American and European meals, where the salad is usually a separate course, in the Indian thali, the salad is part of the array of delicious "courses" all beautifully arranged on one large plate. It forms a crunchy, cool counterpoint to the rest of the meal. During the sultry days of summer, a big bowl of raita is a truly refreshing treat.

Indian salads come in many different forms. In a departure from olive oil and mayonnaise, Indian salads are most often dressed with yogurt or lemon juice. Other additions are often region-specific. The raita is the term often used for salads made in North Indian style, usually seasoned with cumin, mint and yogurt. The kachumbar often has a mixture of onions, tomatoes and cucumbers with a fiery hint of chillies. The Maharashtrian koshimbir gets a nutty sprinkling of crushed roasted peanuts. The South Indian pachadi sparkles with an aromatic tempering of curry leaves and mustard seeds with the creamy backdrop of yogurt. Indian salads can range from the really simple to the fairly complicated. Many times, the salad may simply consist of thin slices of beets, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes and onions, all decoratively arranged on a plate and sprinkled with salt and lemon juice. Other salads may involve complex pastes of coconut and an array of spices.

In my kitchen, I often throw together raitas and pachadis with commonly available vegetables such as radishes, cucumbers and carrots. This is my recipe for a pachadi made with crispy fresh cabbage. I use the classic South Indian tempering and apply it, along with yogurt, to any vegetable I have on hand...and viola: it becomes a pachadi! I have used the crinkly, lacy Savoy Cabbage. My favorite addition to pachadis: dahi mirchis...
These are hot chillies that are stuffed with a mixture of yogurt, spices and salt, then dried in the sun. They can be stored, and to use them, one simply pops them in some hot oil for a couple of seconds. That is enough to get them beautifully crisp. Crushed fried "dahi chillies" really takes pachadis to the next level by making the flavor pop! If you plan on using these, add less salt to the salad, because dahi chillies are generally quite salty. The dahi chillies I used were store-bought, but you can certainly make them at home in dry, sunny weather.

Cabbage Pachadi

(makes about 3 cups of salad)
To be mixed:
Savoy cabbage, shredded, 2 cups
Plain yogurt, 1 cup (low-fat or non-fat OK)
Milk, 1/4 cup (low-fat or non-fat OK)
Sugar, 1/4 tsp
Salt, to taste
Other ingredients:
Oil, 1 tsp
Dahi mirchi, 3-4 (see note in recipe introduction)
Cilantro, minced, 2 tbsp
Mint, few leaves
Mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp
Chana dal, 1/2 tsp
Urad dal, 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves, 5-6
Asafoetida, pinch
1. Place all the ingredients "to be mixed" in a large bowl, and stir gently to mix them together.
2. Heat the oil in a small skillet. Fry the dahi mirchis (stuffed chillies) for a few seconds, then remove from oil and set aside.
3. To the remaining oil, add all the ingredients in the "tempering" list and stir until the mustard seeds pop and the dals turn golden. Pour the tempering into the bowl over the cabbage and yogurt.
4. To the bowl, add the cilantro and crushed fried dahi mirchis. Mix well. Top with sprigs of mint and serve.
(Pictured: Cabbage Pachadi gets an elephant ride.)

How do you serve this dish?
This salad goes well as part of any South Indian meal. I love eating it with khichdi too. I also mix culinary traditions and eat it with North Indian parathas!

Variations: Pachadis can be made with a variety of different main ingredients. Here is what you could use instead of the cabbage...
1. Mixed vegetables: tomato, cucumber, onion
2. Carrot, shredded
3. Radish, like so
4. Vegetables like okra and eggplant (just cut and saute them first to cook them)
5. Fruits, like mango

Fellow bloggers have come up a colorful array of salads. Here are some of my favorite finds:
Red Pumpkin Raita from Happy Burp,
Beet Raita from Musical's Kitchen,
Carrot Peanut Salad from Saffron Trail,
Pale Green
Cucumber Raita from Priya's Kitchen,
Bright Green
Okra Pachiri from Food, In The Main,
Dark Green
Spinach Raita from My Chow-Chow Bhath,
Corn Salad from My Rasoi,
and finally, a sprouts salad:
Mung Sprouts Salad from The Cook's Cottage,

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