Monday, August 31, 2009

Potato Cheese Patties

Summer seems to be the time for get-togethers, an excuse for spending long afternoons clustered around a table that is groaning with food and drink and noshing with abandon.

I made these little cheese-filled morsels earlier this summer and we made a big batch again yesterday to take to a party. The patties disappeared in minutes (late arrivals to the party were met with an empty platter) and since this is such a crowd-pleaser, I wanted to jot down the recipe here for my own future reference.

The recipe calls for a liberal use of many spices, because I wanted the patties to be tasty enough on their own, without a chutney or dipping sauce, and I wanted them to taste good even at room temperature.

The hardest part was answering the question, "what are these?"- V and I mumbled something like "they are know, with potatoes and herbs and cheese". Call them patties or croquettes or tikkis or "things", people are happy to eat them and that's all that matters sometimes. The recipe below made 24 patties, each about the size of my palm.

Potato Cheese Patties


1. Boil about 10 medium potaoes. When cool enough to handle, peel and mash the potatoes.

2. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy skillet and saute 1 large onion, minced fine, until golden.

3. Add 3 shredded medium carrots and 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste and saute well.

4. Add turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and Kitchen King masala and salt (all to taste but be sure to add enough to season the bland potatoes that will be added later). Saute for a minute more and turn off the heat.

5. When this mixture cools, stir in the mashed potato, large handfuls of minced cilantro and fresh mint, a teaspoon or less of sugar and chaat masala to taste. Knead the mixture gently to mix well and taste it. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

6. Shred 1 cup Pepper Jack cheese and 1 cup cheddar cheese and mix them together to make the filling.

7. Divide the potato mixture into 24 portions. Pat each portion into a disc, fill with some cheese and pinch the edges together to make a stuffed patty. Shallow fry the patties using a few drops of oil. Don't worry if some cheese leaks out of an occasional patty, it will crisp up in the hot pan and seal the leak. The cook gets to eat the leaky patties ;)

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The Print Lover gave me a sweet award (thank you!) and tagged me for a meme. The meme had a lot of questions about fashion and style and these things are not my forte (to put it very very mildly) so I'm just answering a few of the questions here...

1. What is your current obsession?
Knitting socks. I just made my first pair (Fall colors!) and I am smitten. I was warned that sock knitting is addictive and that seems about right.

Pattern: Wise Hilda's Basic Ribbed Sock.

3. What’s for dinner?
Spaghetti squash with sauteed onions, red peppers and kidney beans, topped with a dollop of sour cream and habanero-lime salsa. I was inspired by this recipe.

6. What do you think about the person who tagged you?
I'm glad she delurked!

7. If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?
In a liberal, eco-friendly, walking-friendly, dog-friendly community- anywhere in the world.

16. What’s your favorite magazine?
The New Yorker

17. If you had $100 now, what would you spend it on?
KnitPicks yarn

20. Describe your personal style.
Shabby Chic. OK- Much Shabby with just a hint of chic.

22. What are your favorite movies?
Documentaries. Two memorable ones are Mad Hot Ballroom and Born Into Brothels. I'd love to hear your recommendations for good documentaries.

28. What is the meaning of your name?
Nupur means "ankle jewelry" in several Indian languages. In particular, it often means ghungroo or the bells worn by Indian classical dancers on their ankles. Click here to see a picture of these beautiful metal bells and here is a picture of a dancer wearing them. In keeping with my name, I did learn Indian classical dance (kathak) for 10+ years as a child. Dance is my favorite art form. About my name, people seem to either love it or think it is very outlandish. I love it :)

29. Which other blogs you love visiting?
I read hundreds of food blog and like visiting them all, but I'll mention three non-food blogs that I enjoy reading- The Happiness Project, Zen Habits and Kamini's wonderful blog, Tales of South India.

Can you believe September is only hours away? I'll see you in a week or so!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Good Times

Kanchan from Kitchen Gossip gave me a sweet award and asked me to list 7 interesting things about me. Instead, I'll share 7 interesting things I did this weekend, in pictures.

1. Read a book
and started another book written in a similiar vein

2. Finished knitting a scarf
Pattern: Lace Ribbon Scarf by Veronik Avery

3. Went to the Farmers' Market and bought a vegetable I've never cooked before
Can you guess what it is?

4. Tried a new recipe
Molly Wizenberg's Banana Bread with Crystallized Ginger and Chocolate: recipe can be found on various blogs

5. Watched 2 episodes of Foyle's War on DVD
I saw the Foyle's War series first on PBS, and I think it is the most scintillating detective series ever made. Intelligent, sensitive and studded with poignant moments and gentle humor. We have been borrowing episodes from our library and each episode is a treat.

6. Picnicked at a local winery

7. Watched my favorite dog enjoy himself at the picnic

Did you do anything fun this weekend?

I'm off on a work-related trip this week, so I'll be back in 7 days or so.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Verdant Salad

I'm facing yet another episode of the Magical Never-ending Cabbage. Every time I buy a large head of cabbage, it seems to last forever and ever. I shred it, saute it, steam it for one dish after another, and yet I can never seem to use up the cabbage. Does it sound like I am complaining? Never. Cabbages are the stars of my vegetable crisper. Budget-friendly (the current 5-lb monster cost me 2 bucks and was grown on a local farm), sturdy enough to live in the fridge for a couple of weeks, and versatile, there is much to love here.

This impromptu salad was our dinner last night. I came home to a power cut, after being thoroughly soaked in the thunderstorm that precipitated the power outage. In the half-darkness of the kitchen and the black hole of the fridge, I groped for a few ingredients, chopped them together and put together a salad.

I had been playing with the idea of an avocado-based dressing for some time, with herbs and avocado and yogurt all blended into a thick, creamy dressing. With the food processor out of commission, the herbs went into the salad and the dressing was simply whisked by hand. If you are no salad lover, this is the kind of tasty dressing that will change your mind about eating a salad-only lunch. I speak from experience :)


Salad- In a large bowl, toss together
1 cup cooked black beans
¼ medium head of cabbage, thinly shredded
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
Handful of cilantro, minced

Season the salad with salt, pepper and some lemon juice.

Dressing- Mix together
Pulp of 1 ripe avocado
½ cup yogurt
1 fresh hot green chilli pepper, minced
1 tbsp. minced onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Pile the salad on a plate and ladle on the dressing!

In shades of pastel barely-there green, this dressing looked innocent enough, but the heat of the green chilli asserted itself in every bite.

With three kinds of peppers (bell pepper, chilli pepper and peppercorns), this salad is heading to the soup/salad event No Croutons Required- the theme this month is Peppers.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Bookmark Project: Walnut Oatmeal Burgers

Cauliflower, potato, onion, cabbage, beetroot, sweet potato, corn, beans, black eyed peas, kidney beans, lentils, brown rice, wheat, soy granules, tofu.

These were some of your guesses when I asked about the two main ingredients of this veggie burger.

All good guesses, and to be sure, over the years I have made veggie burgers with most of these ingredients. But when I spotted this veggie burger on the blog Everybody Likes Sandwiches , the recipe sounded outlandish enough that I just had to bookmark it and try it.

So, dear readers, the two main ingredients of this burger are oats and walnuts!

Mamatha guessed oats correctly (congratulations :D) as did an anonymous reader. No one guessed that this burger is also chock-full of walnuts.

I followed the burger recipe quite closely. It could not be simpler. Walnuts are ground up, then combined with oats, flavored with onions, garlic and herbs, seasoned and the mixture is held together with eggs and some milk. The burger mixture is refrigerated for an hour or so, then formed into 8 hearty patties. At this step, one expects to brown the patties in a skillet, but after browning, this burger is actually cooked in some stock. This was another unusual step.

My modifications (based on what I had on hand): using 2 eggs instead of 3, using dried oregano and thyme in place of the sage, using sooji/rava (semolina) in place of the breadcrumbs and using mushroom stock instead of vegetable stock.

As they were browning, the kitchen filled up with a very savory and unmistakably meaty smell. Not meaty enough to put me off, but meaty enough that it might fool a meat-eater into thinking that this is a "real" burger! There is some chemistry going on here which turns the combination of a nut and a grain into something quite unexpected. These burgers are tasty and very hearty. With all the grains in the burger, we decided to forgo the buns- they would have made the meal too carb-heavy even for me.

To go with the burger, I wanted something crunchy and savory. I had been leafing through Ellie Krieger's book The Food You Crave and a recipe for baked onion rings caught my eye. So, in response to Kamana, who asked, "I can never get my onion rings to crisp and stay that way. how do you fry yours?", the answer is simple- I don't fry them :)


The recipe called for an unusual ingredient to coat the onion rings with some sought-after crunch and crust. I got several guesses for this ingredient- cornflakes, panko, rice, coconut, semolina, vermicelli- but Manisha was spot-on when she guessed that the onion rings were baked and that the crust was made with crushed kettle chips. Yes, indeed these onion rings are coated with crushed potato chips. Manisha, how did you know?

The recipe for the onion rings is here. I added other spices (aleppo pepper, oregano, basil) to the buttermilk mixture and also the crushed potato chips for some extra flavor, and otherwise followed the recipe closely.

For once in my life, I opened a bag of potato chips and did not scarf them down in a few nanoseconds. Instead, I placed them in the food processor and helplessly watched them being pulverized. It was a bit of a challenge to crush the potato chips into a fine powder, and to get them to cling to the onion rings, but we did our best and the results were fantastic. The onion rings are incredibly crunchy and addictive!

Finally, my sincere thanks to all those generous souls who left me fantastic suggestions for the Boston trip. I'm only going there next month but will return with a report of everything that I managed to fit into the oh-so-short trip.

Meanwhile, I have some cabbage and avocados in the fridge and there are some black beans soaking on the counter. Let's see what I can make with these ingredients! Have a great week, everyone.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Questions, Questions...

I've got questions, do you have the answers? ;)

A) What ingredient formed the crust on these onion rings?


B) What are the two main ingredients in this veggie burger?


C) This one is off-topic. I'm going to Boston for a long weekend, so gentle readers, do you have any suggestions for must-see, must-do, must-eat things in Boston? I don't eat seafood so the chowda is out.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone! Answers to the first two questions will be posted on Sunday night.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Bookmark Project: Dal Makhni

Regular readers of this blog know that I get a special kick out of being able to imitate restaurant favorites in my home kitchen. Dal makhni (which translates as "buttery lentils"- the name says it all) is one of those classic dishes that is probably on the menu of every generic Indian restaurant I've been in.

The simplest recipes are often the hardest to nail down. But lurking in my bookmark folder was a recipe for Dal Makhani, Oberoi Style- a recipe extracted straight from a restaurant chef! I never ever can muster up the courage to ask for recipes at restaurants, and am eternally grateful to bloggers who do this and save me the trouble of reverse engineering a coveted recipe.

The recipe calls for three kinds of legumes- chana dal, black urad dal and red kidney beans or rajma.


At some point, I have had to grapple with the fact that there are an infinite number of beans and lentils and legumes on this planet, as opposed to a woefully finite amount of space in my pantry, and also a finite limit to how many beans and lentils can be consumed by a family of 2 humans (canines, on the whole, seem indifferent to the joys of beans).

The way I keep things under control is to have only(!) about 10 beans/lentils on hand. Some of these are staples and the others are ones that I love but don't use often, and these are on a rotating schedule. As far as urad dals go, the skinned white urad dal (bottom right in the picture above) is a staple for meals of the idli/dosa variety, and the black urad dal is a brand new arrival in the pantry. It is Vaishali's tempting recipe for spicy urad dal (very tasty, by the way) that prompted me to buy it. And suddenly, I had all the ingredients for dal makhni!

As an aside, English is such an exasperating language. Skinned (which sounds like something that has skin) is the same as skinless. I just had to get that off my chest. Moving on.

I modified the recipe a little and here's how I made it. For the complete and proper recipe, visit the wonderful blog that the recipe is adapted from.

Dal Makhni


Adapted from Dal Makhni: Oberoi Style from a Life (Time) of Cooking

1. Soak ½ cup red kidney beans, ½ cup black urad dal and ¼ cup chana dal. I soaked the kidney beans for 16 hours or so and the other dals together for 6-8 hours. Rinse all the legumes thoroughly to get rid of the soaking water. Pressure cook them together, then mash coarsely and set aside.

2. Heat 2 tsp. oil and splutter 1 tsp. cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida and 8-10 fenugreek seeds. Add 1 heaped tsp. ginger-garlic paste and stir it for a couple of minutes. Add 2 cups thick tomato puree. Cook the mixture for 5-7 minutes, stirring often.

3. Add the cooked legumes, salt to taste and bring to a boil.

4. Stir in 1 tsp. red chilli powder (or more/less to taste), ¼ cup heavy cream and 1 tbsp. butter. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

5. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tsp. garam masala (the best you can find) and 1 tbsp. butter for a glossy finish. That's it.

Thrilled. To. Bits. That was me after I tasted the dal makhni. This one is a keeper, people! To be honest with you, I don't know if I have ever tasted good authentic dal makhni, but this recipe yielded completely delicious results. The slippery mouth-feel of the urad dal makes the dish a silky, buttery experience.

A Life (Time) of Cooking happens to be the chosen blog this month for Zlamushka's Tried and Tasted event, so I'm sending in this post to this event.

What's next? If you feel like playing a little guessing game, come back on Saturday!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Julia's Provencal Tomato Quiche

Years after she passed away, Julia Child is once again the talk of the town. I went to see the movie Julie and Julia this weekend, and quite enjoyed watching Julia Child's larger than life personality artfully brought to life by Meryl Streep. What I love about Julia Child has nothing to do with French cooking, really. It is the way she grabbed life with both hands and simply went on to do whatever she felt like, without being self-conscious in the least.

V and I have spent so many lazy Saturdays going about our chores with the TV tuned to PBS in the background. We would be putting away the groceries and folding laundry as Julia Child chatted with master chefs in her trilling voice, Lidia Bastianich made gigantic vats of pasta and plumbers dispensed sage advice on This Old House. I love the cooking shows on PBS- they are so authentic and professional and infused with genuine love for cooking.

Last week, I hauled home a mighty tome from the library- Julia Child's The Way To Cook, published in 1989, a cookbook that focuses on techniques. Don't you love illustrated cookbooks from the '80s? There is something utterly charming about the colors on the photos, the over-the-top garnishes and the layout of the food. The pastry and dessert chapters in this book had me completely mesmerized.

The recipe I chose was one that sounds perfect for the season- Provencal Tomato Quiche. It calls for pre-baking a pie shell, then layering it with an anchovy paste, a filling of sauteed onions and tomato blended with eggs, and a topping of parmesan cheese and fresh tomato slices. My two major modifications were- I did not want to use anchovies so I substituted olives instead, and I used a store-bought frozen pie shell. There, I said it. I do have several excuses for not making my own pastry dough! Take your pick: There was a heat advisory that day and I was loathe to spend a minute more in the kitchen than absolutely necessary. I was busy hoisting myself up a wooden ladder to see the roof-top herb garden of a nearby cafe (no joke). My lace scarf won't knit itself. But before you cast your judgement, I'll have you know that this chapter contains a paragraph called "To Prebake Frozen Store-bought Shells". So Julia has actually legitimized such behavior!

Provencal Tomato Quiche


Adapted from Julia Child's The Way To Cook

1. Pre-bake a pie shell. I used a 9-inch whole wheat pastry shell, defrosted it for 5-10 minutes, pricked it all over with a fork and baked it at 450 F for 15 minutes.

2. Base: Blend ½ cup kalamata olives to a coarse paste.

3. Filling: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, then saute
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-2 medium onions, sliced thinly
until the onions are cooked but not browned.

Add 2 cups tomato puree and cook the mixture until it is very thick and the water has almost evaporated. Season the mixture with cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper, oregano and thyme.

Let the filling cool almost to room temperature, then stir in 1 whole egg, 3 egg yolks and ½ cup minced fresh parsley.

4. Grate some parmesan cheese and slice 1-2 fresh tomatoes.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Assemble the quiche- layer the olive paste at the bottom of the prebaked pie shell, then pour in the filling, scatter the cheese and arrange the tomato slices ("tastefully", Julia instructs. I tried). Drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.

6. Bake the quiche for 30-40 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbly.


This quiche would be perfect with a fresh green salad. However, that evening, I had a bunch of vegetables that needed to be urgently dispatched, and as I had fired up the oven already, I simply roasted them and served them on the side. This quiche is divine. It is absolutely hearty and flavorful, a mouthful of summer.

This post goes to Lisa at Champaign Taste, for her fourth annual Julia Child Birthday Celebration.

Coming up next- lentils + butter + cream= ?? Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Bookmark Project: Tangy Curried Vaal

Well, well, well. I certainly learn something new every day. Usually in the first 15 minutes after I wake up, as I am sipping the first cup of tea and browsing through the latest RSS feeds.

I love all the beans in my pantry (and there are many), but the vaal (hyacinth beans) have a special place in my heart. Sprouted and peeled, they get cooked into two dishes that I have adored all my life. The problem is...the peeling! It is a little labor-intensive and needs a bit of planning, and this is why the poor vaal tend to languish in my pantry.


Shilpa of Aayi's Recipes posted a recipe recently that showed me a new way to cook the vaal- unsprouted (I can live with that) and unpeeled (hurray)! Bookmarked!

And that's how I could make vaal today on the spur of the moment for a weeknight meal. All I did was soak the vaal in the morning for tonight's dinner. I adapted Shilpa's recipe slightly to omit a few spices and make a basic version of this curry. I seem to be genetically programmed to cook goda jevan (food with a hint of sweetness) and that's how a small lump of jaggery ended up in there as well. I loved the way it contrasted with the tangy tamarind and slightly bitter vaal. A simple curry with complex flavors. And no, you can't taste the peel.

Tangy Curried Vaal


Adapted from Shilpa's delicious recipe

1. Soak 1 cup vaal for 8 hours or so, then rinse them and pressure cook them.

2. Soak 1 tablespoon or so of tamarind in a cup of hot water and extract the tamarind juice.

3. Roast the following together, then cool and grind into a fine powder. Add a tablespoon of cooked beans to the powder and grind again to make a thick paste.
1 heaped tsp. cumin seeds
1 heaped tsp. coriander seeds
1 heaped tsp. sesame seeds
1 heaped tsp. poppy seeds

4. In a saucepan, heat 2 tsp. oil. Temper the oil with mustard seeds, a pinch of asafoetida and a sprig of curry leaves.

5. Add 1 small minced onion and fry it for a few minutes. Add turmeric, red chilli powder and salt to taste.

6. Stir in the cooked beans, spice/bean paste, tamarind juice and a small lump of jaggery. Add water as need to thin down the curry. Simmer for 10 minutes. Done!

I served the tasty curry with some freshly steamed rice and a simple subzi of eggplant and potato for a truly sumptuous weeknight meal.

This post goes to the bean-lovin' event, My Legume Love Affair. The 14th edition is being hosted at the home of this event, The Well-Seasoned Cook.

August has started and I find myself in a busy phase, work-wise. But I fully intend to continue cooking the bookmarks and featuring the successes in short posts like this one. See you soon!