Monday, July 10, 2017

Zucchini Chutney for Idlis

Among gardening types (sadly, I am not a member of that club), it is well known that come summertime, zucchini is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it grows in such abundance with relatively little effort, and a curse because you have to come up with ways to use up the abundant zucchini. The zucchini bumper crop is apparently such a phenomenon that August 8 is designated as National Sneak Some Zucchini Into Your Neighbor’s Porch Day. Mark your calendars!

I kind of had zucchini snuck into my porch by my neighbor already in July- she was leaving on a long overseas vacation and texted me to say would I please use up her crisper vegetables so they won't be wasted. Of course I gratefully accepted, and next thing I know, her kid is hoisting a bucketload of zucchini onto my back porch- harvested from neighbor's mother's garden in Southern Georgia.

So zucchini found itself in everything from dal to tacos that week. Certain dishes lend themselves to endless adaptation and chutney is prime among them. That's how four specimens found themselves being given the Southern treatment of a different kind.

Zucchini Chutney- South Indian Style

Chop 4 large zucchini into large pieces. I peeled mine and removed the seeds because my zucchini were tough mature ones but you don't need to do this if the zucchini are tender.

Chop a small onion into large pieces.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a saucepan. Saute the onion and zucchini with salt until the veggies are tender. Let them cool slightly.

Grind the following to a smooth chutney in a powerful blender or food processor:
Cooked onion and zucchini
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
2-3 tbsp. sesame seeds
1-2 tbsp. tamarind concentrate
1 tsp. jaggery
1 tsp. red chili powder
Salt to taste.

Make a tempering (tadka/ phodni) by heating oil and spluttering:
Mustard seeds
Asafetida (hing)
Chana dal
Urad dal
Curry leaves.

Stir the hot tempering into the chutney. Serve with idlis or dosas.

We loved this impromptu chutney! Now if zucchini was a rare, exotic and expensive vegetable as it is in some places, I wouldn't blitz it into a chutney. But when it is abundant and needs to be used up, this is an excellent way to do it.

What vegetables and fruits are in season in your neck of the woods? The kids are loving watermelon and peaches. My parents are visiting and enjoying fresh cherries. 

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Five-Layer Sev Puri Dip

Chaat-- that whole family of spicy, sweet, tangy Indian street food- is hard to describe but easy to love. I am going through a sev puri phase of some kind; almost every time we host a gathering or when friends or neighbors stop by, the snack that I am most likely to rustle up for them is a plate of sev puri. It never fails to delight. "What's in this?", folks ask incredulously- and that is precisely the magic of chaat. Chaat dishes have many components- a bit of this and a bit of that- that all add up to more than the sum of the parts.

My version of last-minute sev puri starts with a jar of thick sweet-tangy date and tamarind chutney that I make ahead of time and pull out from the fridge or freezer as needed. So let's take a step back and make the chutney.

I've posted date tamarind chutney before in this post but here's another version, slightly updated. Dates are a staple in my fridge- I usually buy the soft pitted mejdool or deglet varieties. I use them for this chutney, and to make smoothies and fruit-and-nut treats.

Date and Tamarind Chutney

Place 1 cup packed pitted soft dates in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to cover the dates. Add 1 tsp salt, 1/4 cup jaggery and 1/4 cup tamarind concentrate.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Cool a bit, then place mixture in blender and blend to a smooth paste.
Stir in 1 tsp. cumin-coriander powder and 1/2 tsp. red chilli powder (optional).

I store this mixture in jars in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for 2-3 months. With this chutney ready, a plate of sev puri is only a few minutes away. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I shall let you decide ;)

To store the date chutney, I often reuse sturdy screw-top Talenti gelato containers. If certain ice cream thieves come snooping into the freezer late at night and dip a spoon into a frozen pint that says "dark chocolate" on the front, they will find themselves tasting dates and tamarind instead. Mmm :)

Regular(ish) Sev Puri

Sev puri topping can be made a few hours ahead of time. My twist to the traditional toppings is to use another pantry staple- a can of chickpeas in addition to the usual potatoes and onions.

To make the topping, start by boiling 2 medium potatoes (Yukon gold potatoes are the preferred variety in my kitchen).

Mix together 2 peeled and mashed boiled potatoes, a drained can of chickpeas (or 1 cup or two of home-cooked chickpeas), also roughly mashed, 1 small minced onion, a large handful of minced cilantro, salt and red chili powder to taste. This topping mix can be stored in the fridge for a few hours.

When you're ready to serve sev puri...

1. Set out round tortilla chips in a platter. I use tortilla chips because I can access them easily but use regular sev puri puris if you can find them and prefer them.

2. Top each chip with a half tablespoon or so of the topping.

3. Add a dollop of the date and tamarind chutney.

4. Finish with a shower of sev (fried chickpea noodles), sold in Indian stores.

Five-Layer Sev Puri Dip

We hosted a large gathering recently, and it wasn't practical to make platter after platter of sev puris for 25 guests. I remembered Mints' Indian dabeli dip from several years ago and adapted it to make a sev puri dip- same taste as sev puri but a different format to feed a crowd.

I made the date tamarind chutney a few days ahead of time. The day before the party, I sprouted and cooked a couple of cups of moth beans (matki)- other sprouts such as moong would work as well. I also boiled a few potatoes. Then I made the layers as follows in a glass baking dish:

Layer 1: Boiled mashed salted potatoes
Layer 2: Date tamarind chutney
Layer 3: Cooked sprouts
Layer 4: Minced onion and cilantro
Layer 5: Sev (add at the last possible minute to keep it crunchy)

Serve with tortilla chips. This dip was a hit!

I usually don't make the "teekha chutney"- the spicy mint cilantro green chili chutney but it would be a nice addition to this dip, especially if your friends enjoy spicy food.

Do you have any go-to party snacks? Share your ideas in the comments!