Wednesday, November 17, 2010

#29 Banana Bread with walnuts and chocolate

When the weather gets colder we turn our thoughts to home and the warmth of a fireplace. The smell of baking banana, zuchini or pumpkin bread wafting through the house brings back fond memories. It
feels just like eating grandma's home made banana bread. Mmmm........ wait a minute, I am getting carried away my grandma did not bake at all!!! Well, she used a batter similar to this one to fry fritters
called "Unni Appams" which filled the house with a heavenly smell. It really does not relate to where you are born or where you live, the point is that you always have fond memories of home and
grandma's food during any Holiday Season. I encourage everyone to try out my recipe for banana bread. You will not regret it and if this does not remind you of childhood, I don't know what will!!

The only issue you will ever have is that the bread can be very addictive. I was mortified to read that the USDA lists one serving as a slice of traditional banana bread. According to their statistics, one 60 gm slice has 200 calories between 6 gms of fat, 33 gms of carbohydrates and 3 gms of protein. With the high carb content, those of you who are looking for energy can always turn to banana bread and it is easy to make.  I made this batch with walnuts and I ended up with 2 moist and delicious 9" loaves.  Mini banana bread loaves make great Holiday gifts, and by adding chocolate chips or cranberries they become festive eats. Make sure to butter and flour both loaf pans well and the bread will easily lift off the bottom of the pans.

Bananas(preferably ripe ones)- 4
Corn Oil-1/2 cup
Butter- 2 Tblpsns
All-purpose Flour-1 cup
Corn Meal-1/2 cup or you can subsititute with Bisquick Mix
Sugar-1 cup
Walnuts- 1 cup chopped.
Vanilla Extract- 1 tspn
Baking Powder- 1tspn
Melted chocolate chips-1/2 cup
Baking Soda- 2 pinches
If the batter turns out too thick add 1/4 cup of milk

1. Peel and cut up the bananas in a mixing bowl.
2. Heat the Oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a Loaf Pan by greasing with butter all over and dusting lightly with flour.
3. Take an egg beater or a food processor and mash up the bananas until coarse.
4. To this mix add eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar butter and beat really well for 5 minutes.
5. Sift together all the dry ingredients -flour, corn meal, baking powder except walnuts. Toss the walnuts lightly in some flour and keep aside.
6. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat the batter until well incorporated. Add the chocolate and walnuts and pour the batter into the prepared Loaf pan.
7. Bake in the middle of the oven for about an hour or until the top is light brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
8. Cool or serve up warm with hot coffee or cold milk.

#28 Green Beans and Carrot Korma

A Korma is any vegetable, meat or seafood dish with a rich and creamy gravy.  It is very common to find Korma dishes in almost every Indian restaurant. The most decadent creation is the Navratan Korma which is a combination of nine vegetables and sometimes paneer (cheese cubes).  I have turned a luxurious dish into my version of a simple Korma without the cream, instead I dished up an almond based gravy to immerse the vegetables. Substituting nine vegetables for two or three and enjoying the full flavors of those veggies. You may find different versions of Korma using yogurt, milk, cream or coconut paste in addition to cashewnuts.

Green Beans cut into 1 " long peces- 1 cup
Carrots cut into 1" long peices-1 cup
Onion Cubed- 1
Tomato Cubed- 1/2
Almonds- 2 Tblspn
Cinnamon Stick-1
Bay Leaf-1
Ghee- 2 Tblspn
Haldi, salt to taste
Fennel(Perumjeerakam/Saunf)- 1 tspn
Giner/Garlic paste- 1 Tblspn
Green Chillies-4
Cilantro-1 cup cut

1. Toast the Almonds in a toaster oven or a skillet. Remove skin and soak in a little water.
2. Grind to a smooth paste the onions, tomato, ginger-garlic paste, green chillies, cilantro and the soaked almonds to a smooth paste.
3. Heat a deep pan and add the ghee, cinnamon stick, elaichi, cloves, fennel seeds and bay leaf. Roast until the fragrance fills the room.
4. Add the green beans and carrots with enough water, salt and haldi to cook the vegetables. Lower the fire.
5. When the vegetables are about half cooked, add the ground masala paste and cook very slowly until well cooked and gravy is thick. Serve with Rotis.

#27 Cranberry Pickle

All over the world, pickles have been the oldest method of preserving seasonal vegetables. In the US the most commonly used dill pickles that come alongside a burger or hot dog, the pickled lemons from
Morocco have Mediterranean origins. Mangos and lemons were the ancient form of vegetables that were pickled in every household in India. My mother made the best tasting pickles with a variety of
vegetables like garlic, green chillies, eggplants, dates and even fish.  The same pickles if sun dried had a longer shelf life than those that were freshly made.

One holiday season about 15 years ago, I created this cranberry pickle for a Thanksgiving get-together and the guests loved it.  V loves it as much as the guests, and so I made it for Thanksgiving 2010 once again. I can assure you this pickle is a mouth watering dish to be had with yogurt rice or as a chutney. Here is my recipe and I am sure you will love it as much as V and I.

Cranberries (fresh)- 1-12 oz packet
Mustard Seeds- 1 tsp crushed
Methi(Uluva) Seeds- 1/4 tsp  remove two pinches and crush the rest well.
Vinegar- 1/4 cup
Water-1/4 cup
Sugar- 2 Tblsn or more if you like it sweet
Ginger fresh- 1/2 Tblspn chopped
Chilli Powder- 2 Tblspn
Asafoetida- 2 pinches
Salt to taste
For Seasoning: Oil, mustard, 2 pinches above Methi seeds, 2 redchillies and curryleaves.

1. Remove the cranberries from the packet and wash well and drain or roll in a dry towel.
2. Heat a deep pan on the fire. Add a little oil and the seasoning spices until the mustard seeds splutter.
3. Now turn the fire to low and add the Ginger, Chilli powder and asafoetida. When the air is fragrant with the aroma of the spices. add water and vinegar.
4. Add the salt, sugar, crushed mustard and methi seeds and finally add the cranberries.
5. Increase the heat to medium to let the berries cook, but make sure to keep the lid on so that the berries do not splutter or jump out of the pan.
6. Let cook until done. Cool and preserve in a Canning or Preserve Jar. By sterilizing the jars, the pickle will stay fresh for a longer time. Another option is to store the pickle in the refrigerator.

#25 Jalapeno Turkey and Beans Chili

Who invented Chili? Chili or Chili Con Carne has its origins in the Southwest and although there are different theories about its may have come from the large beef producing state of Texas. A
variation on the theory states that cowboys may have started making chili while driving cattle. There are many stories about the dish but one says that cooks planted oregano, chilis, onions and tomatoes
along patches of mesquite to protect them from cattle and the next time they passed the same trail, they would collect the produce, combine them with beef and make a dish called "Trail drive chili". It
sounds absurd, but I like fairytales and would like to imagine this happened.

No matter what the history, chili is a wonderful choice as a wintertime meal along with Corn bread, doritos or breadsticks. It can be a great meal for large gatherings and office potlucks. I personally do not like the Cincinnati version of the chilli concoction served on top of a pile of spaghetti, but I do love chili dogs. I prefer to make the Turkey version adding black beans to thicken it up.

Ground Turkey- 1 1/4 lbs
Onion Chopped-1 large
Green Bell Pepper- 1/2 chopped
Garlic chopped- 4 cloves
Jalapeno chopped-1 or 2
Celery Stick chopped- 1
Coriander powder-1 tbpsn
Cumin powder-1/2 tspn
Chicken or Vegetable Broth or Water- 2 -15 oz cans
Orange Juice- 3.5 oz
Worcestershire Sauce- 1 Tblspn
Crushed Tomatoes with Basil- 1- 28 oz can
Bay Leaf-1
Oregano- 1 Tblspn
Black Beans- 2-15 oz cans
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Oil as needed.
Chardonnay or Red Wine- 1/4 cup (optional)

1. In a skillet crumble up the turkey and add salt and pepper, onions and bay leaf and saute until water is evaporated.
2. Add some oil and brown the turkey lightly to add flavor. If you like thick soup add 1 Tblspn flour and stir well.
3. Add green pepper, celery and saute well and remove from fire.
4. Drain and wash the liquid from the canned beans.
5.To a slow cooker, add the turkey mixture, black beans, and the rest of the ingredients.
6. Mix well and slow cook for about 3- 4 hours depending on the heat of your slow cooker. Additional salt may be needed at this time.
7.When the Chili is thick and stewy remove and serve with sour cream, chopped onions, parsley or cheese on top.

#26 Kerala Fish Curry with Gambooge

A fruit called Gambooge is used for preparing fish curries. It is called 'Kodum Puli' in Malayalam. The outer cover of the fruit is dried in the sun and being considered as a digestive aid, it is the essential ingredient of some traditional fish recipes in Kerala.

When I have a craving for this type of fish curry, I generally King Fish, Mackeral or even canned sardines in hot tomato sauce because of their nutritional value. 

A Traditional Clay/earthen Pot or "Meen Chatti" with a curvy base is used for authentic Kerala fish curries. The pots are either red or black in color.  If you prefer to use the Oval cans of Sardines in Hot Tomato Sauce, then you may add the fish at the end along with the tomato sauce. Of course, you always have the options of selecting any other fish of your choice. 

Fresh Mackeral-2
Sardines in Hot Tomato Sauce- 2 large cans
Kokum(Kodam Puli)-2 large pieces
Green Chillies-3
Ginger- 1" piece
Garlic- 4 cloves
Curry leaves- 4 sprigs
Coriander Powder- 1 tspn
Chilli Powder- 2 Tblspn
Paprika- 1 Tblspn
Whole Black Peppercorns-1/2 tspn
Methi Seeds(Uluva)- 1/4 tspn
Mustard Seeds-1/4 tspn
Haldi- 2 pinches.
Red chillies, Salt and Oil as Needed.

1. Clean the Mackeral inside and out. Remove the skin without bruising the flesh. wash well with salt and keep aside.
2. Soak the dry Kokum skins in 1/2 cup of cold water. Keep aside to soften.
3.In a food processor, crush well the shallots, green chillies, ginger and garlic. Keep aside.
4. In a mortar and pestle, grind the mustard seeds, methi seeds (keep a pinch of seeds aside)and crush black pepper seperately and keep aside.
5. Place the Clay Pot (you may use a regular pan if you do not have Meen Chatti), on the fire and add some Oil to it.
6. Add a pinch of methi seeds from the 1/4 tspn and then the Red Chillies. WHen the seeds crackle, add the Shallot -ginger mixture from step 3.
7. Turn down the fire and add the Coriander powder, roast for a minute. Add Chilli Powder and saute for a minute.
8. Add 1 cup of water very slowly. Then add the Paprika and Kokum along with the water. Add salt and haldi.
9. Close with a lid and boil for some time to reduce the gravy.
10. If using fresh fish, add the fish pieces and the shredded curry leaves into the gravy and let cook on very slow fire.
11. At this time, do not stir the curry or you will break up the fish.
12. If using canned sardines, let the curry cook down and thicken well before sliding in the fish along with the tomato sauce. Let the curry just start simmering.
13. Turn off the fire and serve the most fragrant fish curry with steamed rice.

#24 Italian Beef Lasagna

Nothing says Italy like its food and of course that means pasta....pasta......pasta and olive oil, tomatoes, onions, garlic and lean meats. Herbs like oregano, basil and parsley sometimes teamed with cheeses
and often times some cream.  In addition to pastas, Italians love their pizza, prosciutto, zuppas, seafood, caponata, pork, breads, good wine and fresh vegetables. The word lasagna is derived from the Greek word 'lasanon' which means 'chamber pot'.

I may have mentioned that my first born N avoided eating veggies, and I had to find ways to sneak them into most dishes, so she was not aware that she had a serving of veggies. The lasagna was the best source to hide all kinds of vegetables--- especially spinach.!! Although I do not cook as much Italian dishes as I used to these days, here is a lasagna that I prepared for the girls.

Ground Beef- 2 lbs
Crushed Tomatoes with basil-1- 28 oz can
Frozen chopped Spinach- 1-10oz package
Onions diced- 1
Garlic crushed well- 6 cloves
Lasagna Noodles- 1- 1 lb box
Ricotta Cheese- 1- 2 lb container
Parmesan Cheese grated-1/2 cup
Mozzarella Cheese grated- 1 cup
Oregano dried- 1 tspn
Flat Leaf Parsley chopped- 1 cup
If you would like to incorporate vegetables into the sauce or cheese you can use grated carrots, zuchini, broccoli or green pepper.
This time, I added some extra vegetables into the sauce. If you choose to leave this out that works too.
Grated butternut squash may be added as a middle layer if you do not eat meat.(Optional)
Grape Jelly- 2 Tblspn
Chicken Broth- 1-14 oz can
Salt and Pepper to taste.
1. Cook the Noodles according to the directions given on the box. Drain well and lay them out separately onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
2. In a large skillet, crumble and cook the beef over medium heat until it is no longer pink. Drain all the fat out. Add onions, garlic, chopped vegetables, green pepper
and oregano. Add the tomato sauce to this mixture along with the grape jelly dissolved in the chicken broth. Add salt, oregano and pepper. Bring this to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer
uncovered for almost an hour stirring occasionally until it is thick and reduced. Cool well.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the beaten eggs, parsley, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Squeeze out all the water from the chopped spinach and add to the mixture.
Add salt and pepper to this and combine well. A pinch of nutmeg may be added if you like the taste.

4. Take a baking pan, spread 1/2 cup of meat sauce into the greased pan. Layer with 3-4 Lasagna noodles just to cover the sauce. Top this with 1-2 cups of the cheese mixture and spread evenly using a large spoon or butter knife. Next, place a layer of noodles again and spoon over 1 cup of meat sauce. Add some Parmesan cheese and top with Noodles. Keep Layering in this way until
the Baking Pan is full and the topmost layer is Meat Sauce..
5. Heat Oven to 350 degrees and COver the Pan with ALuminum Foil. Bake for 50 minutes or upto 1 hour until the top layer is slightly brown. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan Cheese on top
and back uncovered for 15 minutes. Cool well outside the oven before serving.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

#1 Channa or Chole

I would call Chole a sort of "Comfort food" throughout North India-nutritious, soothing and satisfying, simple to make and available as "street food". The street vendors sell Chole served up with Puris or Bhatures. Of course, you can determine what those flavors are customized to meet your whims and preferences. You can top it off with different chutneys-- either mint, green chillies, yogurt or imli chutney(tamarind and brown sugar). This gives the dish a level of comfort to me especially when I can customize the sweet or spicy balance of flavor to meet my tastes.

Dried Chick Peas- 2 cups soaked overnight and pressure cooked well.
Cooked Garbanzo Beans canned- 1(1lb 13 oz) can
Onions- 1 medium onion cubed
TOmatoes- 2 cubed
Amchoor(Dry Mango Powder)- 1/2 tspn
Haldi powder- 1/4 tspn
Garam Masala- 1 Tblspn
Coriander Powder(Dhanya)- 1 Tblspn
Cumin Powder(Jeera powder)- 1 tspn
Chilli powder-1/2 tspn
Ginger grated- 1 Tblspn
Garlic grated- 1 tspn
Jalapeno pepper-2
Tamarind Pulp- 1/2 tspn
Cilantro chopped- 2 Tblspn
Imli Chutney and Yogurt for garnish.
Salt to taste
Oil for sauteing
1. Wash the soaked dried chick peas in water until clean. 
2. Add the peas with enough water to a pressure cooker along with salt,haldi. chilli powders and pressure cook until soft. Keep aside.
3. In a blender grind coarsely the garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and remove. Then Add Onions, Tomatoes and blend coarsley.
4. Place a deep pan on the stove and add the oil and then the coarsely ground masalas from step 3. above.
5. Saute well until the masalas are well incorporated, add Coriander and cumin powder at this time.
6. Stir until the onions are translucent and cooked to mushy.
7. Now, add the chick peas along with Amchoor Powder, Tamarind pulp and more salt if needed and let cook slowly until thick.
8. When the gravy is thick mash up a few of the beans and mix well with chopped cilantro and serve topped with Imli chutney and yogurt.
9. You may leave off the topping and instead garnish with raw chopped onions and chillies.

#2 Cauliflower Corn Bisque

It is getting colder in Virginia in the past few days, and today is a breezy day outside. The wind chill makes it feel colder than the actual temperature and calls for something to warm up the body and soul. I cooked this up on a whim and wasn't sure it would turn out this good either. It is really simple and does not take hours to slow cook--the best part is that you can add your own vegetables or make substitutions based on what is available.

Here the delicate and sweet flavor of the cauliflower plays gently with the subtle taste of the creamed corn and milk. This elegant soup is a refreshing starter for a party and it can be pre-made and re-heated too..........or you could change it up a bit and add some cooked bacon for added flavor but I did not have any bacon when I made it, so I left it out.

Cauliflower florets- 2 cups
Celery- 2 sticks
Onion- 1/2
Jalapeno pepper-1
Creamed Corn- 1, 15 oz can
Chicken or Vegetable Stock- 1 can+ 1 cup water
Whole Milk- 1 cup
Cornflour- 1 tspn
Garlic- 2 pods chopped
Fresh thyme- 1 tspn
Salt and black pepper to taste.

1. Chop all the vegetables fine and cook in broth in a pressure cooker along with chopped garlic, pepper and salt.
2. When cooked, you may puree 1/2 the soup or all of it with a hand blender.
3. I like texture in my soup so I pureed only 1/2 the soup.
4. Now place a pan on the hot stove and pour the soup in it.
5. Add the cornflour mixed smooth into 2 Tblspn of milk and let it boil for a minute,
6. Add thyme and creamed corn, let it simmer for 3 mins and then add the rest of the milk.
7. Remove from fire and serve with sour cream and paprika.

#3 Broccoli Bacon Salad

I love salads --especially when I have fresh grown tomatoes in our backyard. I am not an expert  gardener, but I do have a green thumb that occasionally produces a few essential vegetables like tomatoes, green chillies and beans.  Surprisingly, this year I was lucky enough to grow fresh bunches of the type of Red Spinach grown in Kerala.  I have fantasies of growing watermelon, cauliflowers, cucumbers, squash and lettuce too but I wonder if that will ever happen. I cannot get myself to eat a salad everyday, so I am enthusiastic about coming up with vegetable salads either cold or warm. Of course it does not feel like summer is around the corner anytime soon, which means I will not enjoy the red leaf lettuce salads for some time. I come up with recipes like this because vegetables like Broccoli do serve my purpose of eating low carb and keeps my stomach satisfied for longer periods of time.

Broccoli Heads- 2 small
Green Onions- 1 stem
Bacon- 2 small slices
Mayyonnaise- 2 Tblspn
Mustard- 1/4 tspn
lime juice- 1 tspn
garlic- 1/4 tspn
Ranch dressing- 1 Tblspn
Grated Carrots-1/2 cup
salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash and cut the Broccoli heads into small florets.
2. Boil a pan of water and when it comes to a full boil, blanch the broccoli for a min.
3. Blanching allows you to cook the vegetables completely then cool quickly by adding some ice cubes to  keep them crisp.
4. In a large Glass bowl, mix together the dressing- Mayyonnaise, mustard, lime juice, garlic, Ranch dressing, salt and pepper.
5. Take three paper towels and fold the bacon into them. Place in a microwaveable plate and microwave for 2 mins.
6. Cool the bacon and crush it up.
7. To the dressing in the bowl, add the broccoli and the crushed bacon, toss and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Monday, November 8, 2010

#4 Fast Kerala Fish Fry

Kerala's long coastline, numerous rivers and backwater streams have built up a strong fishing industry that contributes to the abundance of seafood dishes. Rice is grown in plenty and along with
cassava(tapioca) are the strong starch components found in the food of  Kerala. The state also has major production of spices such as black pepper, cardamom, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. Most of Kerala Hindus are vegetarian by religion and love to serve food on a banana leaf (not because there is a shortage of dinner plates but because the leaf adds flavor to the food), and there are minorities of Christians and Muslims that are non-vegetarians therefore, Kerala has a large collection of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. My ancestors were vegetarian although our generation has ventured out to eat meat and fish.

Every restaurant menu includes some form of fish prepared in rare spices--- whether it be a gourmet five star restaurant or the most common street vendor.  Besides being fried, different fish may be cooked up into a variety of fish curries immersed in simple hot gravies. The larger fish are sliced or cut into steaks and slowly cooked in milder versions of coconut paste gravies. A common fish curry is combined with raw mango and coconut, Fish Mollee is a version with a gravy of coconut milk. We love our fish and serve it with rice or mashed tapioca/yuca root called "Kappa Puzhukku". Sometimes it may be a Raw Jackfruit mash (Chakka Puzhukku). Here is a quick recipe for fried fish steaks.

Fish Filets/Steaks-2
Chilli Powder- 2 tspns
Pepper powder-1/2 tspn
Haldi powder- 1/4 tspn
Lemon Juice- 2 Tblspn
Salt to taste.
Oil for shallow Frying

1. Remove skin from the fish steaks. Cut up into bite size pieces.
If using filets(I used Tilapia) slice lengthwise.
2. In a plate, mix together all the rest of the ingredients with a fork or spoon.
3. Marinate the fish pieces in the marinade for at least 6 hours.
4. Heat a pan and add oil to shallow fry the fish in small batches.
5. Do not disturb the fish or turn over until they are browned slightly on both sides or they turn crip outside and moist inside.
We are happy when for everything inside us there is a corresponding something outside us.  ~W.B. Yeats

#5 Grandma's Kurukku Kalan

I am dedicating this recipe to my maternal grandmother Sathyabhama Nair. She was originally from a Palghat(Northern Kerala) Menon family and was a strict vegetarian. Over the years, I got many cooking tips and short-cuts from her. As the years went by,  I also got the idea that she had a very strong mind and a great sense of humor. We have laughed together and enjoyed so many stories of the past. She passed away recently in July 2010 at the age of 90. Although I will miss her dearly, I know that I will always cherish the fond memories of her stories, jokes and laughter and best of all the taste of all her vegetarian food. She used to cook up the best Kalan using root vegetables and raw plantain. In my version of her recipe, I used just Raw Plantains. She would talk a lot about how Kalan was made in her ancestral home in Palghat although she grew up in Coimbatore.  She alway said "The trick to good Kalan is your patience and how long you can stir without giving your hand a break. If the curds curdle, you have to toss the Kalan".

Raw Plantain- 1
Yogurt-2 cups
Haldi- 1/2 tspn
Black peppercorns-1 tspn
Green Chillies- 2
fresh grated coconut- 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds-1/2 tspn
Methi seeds, Mustard seeds, Dried red chilli and curry leaves for tempering.
Curry Leaves- 1 sprig

1. Scrape the thin outer layer of teh Plantain and slice off both ends.
2. Split the Plantain along its length with a sharp knife and cut both cross sections into 1/4 inch slices.
3. Wash them in water with a pinch of haldi and wash out all the gunk.
4. Drain from the water and add to a deep bottom pan.
5. Add just enough water to cover the plantain pieces, cook for a few mins.
6. Add salt and haldi to the plantain and cook until they are well cooked.
7. In a blender or processor grind the coconut, cumin seeds and black peppercorns to a very smooth paste.
8. When the paste is smooth, add green chillies and a few curry leaves and pulse for a min to crush them.
9. Take the above prepared paste and add to the cooked plantain. Make sure there is enough gravy in the plantain but yet, not too watery.
10. Let it cook to absorb the ground paste and allow to boil for 2 mins.
11. Now, keep a low flame and let the mixture cool down a bit.
12. Add the beaten yogurt to the warm mixture on the low fire, remember that you must have a large ladle to briskly stir this as you add the yogurt.
13. My grandmother's advice to me was that the taste of the Kalan is dependant upon how long and well you can stir.
14. Stir on low flame, until the mixture starts to boil well but be careful not to let it curdle and seperate.
15. Once it reaches this stage, you can stir from time to time and let it reduce to half the original amount.
16. Now take the pan off the fire and keep a skillet on it.
17. Add oil, and tempering ingredients and the rest of the curry leaves and pour the tempered seasonings over the Kalan and stir well.

Never be bullied into silence.  Never allow yourself to be made a victim.  Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.  ~Harvey Fierstein

#6 Drumstick Thoran

It is normal to find a drumstick, jackfruit, mango, banana and curry leaves tree in the backyard of almost every home in Kerala. If you venture into the suburban areas, you may even find paddy/rice fields, pepper, tapioca/yuca plants, yams and plantains grown widely. Along with the drumsticks, the leaves are also used to make delicious thorans. "Thoran" is generally a dry vegetable side dish made with finely chopped vegetables and simple seasonings and the key ingredient being grated coconut. Kerala is known for its vegetable cookery and for its vegetarian sub-cuisines. Only the most appropriate cooking techniques are employed for the traditional and economical recipes are used for such vegetables as the drumstick and raw jackfruit. The coconut is coarsely ground along with subtle flavors, in a blender before being added to the dish. . This thoran is especially good when fresh drumsticks are available in the market.

Fresh Drumsticks- 3
Coconut grated-1/4 cup
Cumin seeds- 1/4 tspn
garlic- 1/4 tspn
Tempering with red chilli and curry leaves.
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
Channa dal 1/2 tspn
Chilli powder- 2 pinches
haldi-2 pinches
salt and oil to taste
1. Wash drumsticks well and with a knife take off the ends of the Drumsticks
while peeling the thin skin along the way down. Do not remove the drumstick flesh when you do this.
2. If it is easier, you may use a potato peeler and peel the skin off the surface.
3. Cut the drumstick into 3 inch long sticks. Cut each stick lengthwise to make two halves.
4. Grind coarsely the Coconut, chilli, cumin seeds and garlic in a blender.
5. Add salt, haldi, ground coconut mix from step 4. and 1/2 cup water to a pan along with the drumstick halves and cook until they are just cooked.
6. Remove from fire and keep aside. It should have very little liquid at the bottom.
7. Place a skillet on the fire, add oil and tempering seasonings- channa dal, mustard, 1 red chilli and the curry leaves from 1 sprig.
8. When the spluterring stops, add the drumstick-spice mixture and stri fry until it is completely free of water but not too dry.
9. This is a very tasty side dish with rice and goes well with Kalan and any mezhukkupuratti.

#7 Dried Anchovies Thoran

Anchovies Thoran is a common side dish made by my Paternal grandmother and I dedicate this recipe in memory of Lekshmikutty Thampi and her culinary skills. She passed away about 30 years ago but I
still remember the taste of her dried fish thoran.  Anchovies are easily found at any Asian Market.  I have one in my neighborhood, which I  frequently visit.  Although I am not a fan of dried fish, I did come up with this modification of my grandma's recipe because of a desire for it. This recipe is meant only for those of you  with an acquired taste for both Anchovies and spicy food together. As a word of warning either you love this dish or you hate it.

Dried Anchovies- 3/4 lb
Shallots- 2 lbs chopped (red onions can also be used but shallots give the authentic taste to this dish)
Green Chillies- 6 chopped
Ginger- 3 inch square finely diced
Curry Leaves- 4 sprigs
Chilli powder- 1 Tblspn
Pepper powder-1 tspn
Coriander Powder- 1 tspn
Haldi-1 tspn
Kodampuli(Kokum)- 3 pieces.
Methi seeds, dried red chilli and mustard for tempering
Lime juice- 1 lime.
Oil as needed.

1. Soak the Achovies in warm water and keep for at least 8 hrs or until they turn soft. Clean the heads off and stomach if needed.
2. Wash thoroughly but gently by changing the water three times to wash off extra salt or sand in the fish.
3. Drain the fish and squeeze out most of the water. Keep aside. Soak Kokum in 4 Tblspn water for 15 mins.
4. Place a wok on the fire and add about 4 Tblspn of Oil. When it is warm, add tempering ingredients.
5. When the tempering has sizzled down, add chopped shallots, 3 sprigs curry leaves, ginger, garlic and green chillies.
6. Saute for some time on slow fire until the shallots are cooked.
7. Add the Anchovies, chilli, pepper, haldi and coriander powder and the chopped Kokum pieces.
8. Add enough salt and the water that was used to soak the Kokum pieces. Add 1/2 cup of water, cover the pan and let it cook on a low fire.
9. After the flavor is soaked up by the fish,  test to make sure fish is cooked and soft enough but not mushy.
10. Add some extra oil and 1 sprig curry leaves at the end and stir well before serving.

The most exhausting thing in life is being insincere.  ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

#8 Wing Bean Mezhukkupuratti

"Mezhukkupuratti" is a name for any vegetable  "rubbed with oil" and stir-fried with haldi, salt and pepper. The popular favorite in my home is Potato Mezhukkupuratti to which I may add a little dhanya powder. But almost all vegetables like Okra, Asian long beans, Green beans, Plantain and eggplant stir fry with some rice may be served with rice and yogurt anytime at  my house. Wing Bean is a rare type of bean that I have eaten many years ago from my paternal grandmother's home. I found this bean at a Korean Market last week and decided to re-create it. My paternal grandmother was an excellent cook and most of my fish curry recipes reflect her Travancore(southern region of Kerala) style of cooking.

Wing Beans- 10
Green Chilli-2
Salt to taste
Haldi-1/4 tspn
Oil as needed

1. Remove the tips of the bean and the fibrous edges that come with it.
2. Make sure all the fibrous strands are removed so that they do not get between your teeth. Cut into 1/4 inch pieces.
3. Place a skillet on the fire and add 1/4 cup water and the bean pieces.
4. Cook covered for 2 mins until cooked.
5. Add the oil and stir fry on a very slow fire until it is literally coated lightly with the oil and no water remains.
6. Mezhukkupuratti is ready to be eaten with rice and a side of Kalan and fish curry!! Yum....

#9 Bhindi Aur Aloo Ki Subzi

Who does not like Bhindi/Okra/Vendekka? I know it is not the most pleasant texture when cut up and I refuse to use the frozen okra because I believe it is harder to lose the texture without overcooking. On the other hand---fresh Okra, once stir fried absorbs whatever flavor is added to it, and turns into a delightful side dish to be added to a meal of rice or rotis. It used to be my father's favorite and he even grew them in his vegetable garden. Bhindi Subji is a widely prepared dish across all the regions of India. I created a savory treat that combined two of my favorite vegetables and shown below is a delicious plate and a wonderful accompaniment to whole wheat chapathis.

Fresh okra tops and tails cut off and diced into 1/2 inch pieces-1/2 lb
Potato-1, boiled and cut into cubes
Olive Oil-2 Tblspn
Cumin seeds-1 tsp
Onion chopped-1 large
Green chillies chopped-1
Garlic chopped- 1 tsp
Coriander powder-1/2 tsp
Haldi-1/4 tspn
Chilli powder-1/4 tspn
Tomatoes-1 large chopped

1. Heat the oil in a wide pan on a medium fire and add cumin seeds until they sizzle.
2. Add onions, green chilli and garlic and fry well until the light brown in color.
3. Add coriander powder and haldi and fry for a minute.
4. Add tomatoes and fry for 5-6 minutes. Then add the Okra and keep covered for 2-3 mins. Mix well and add salt to taste.  Add a sprinkle of water if needed to cook the okra.
5. Once the okra looks dry and does not appear to be slimy, add the potatoes and stir fry for 2-3 minutes adding oil if necessary. When it all comes together the subji is done.
6. Serve with rotis/rice.
Salt to taste

#10 Chicken Salad Sandwich

Saturday afternoon went by rather quickly. I was by myself for lunch and this was my opportunity to be a couch potato and relax in the living room with a good book!! R was running errands.... As I am flipping through TV channels  I notice in between my light nap that Rachel Ray is making a Chicken Salad sandwich. I am now craving a Chicken Salad Sandwich and decide I would make my own version of one....that is if I can get out of the couch by noon. I finally did and here it is.................

Leftover Rotisserie chicken meat- 1 cup shredded
(If you do not have rotisserie chicken in the fridge, then roast up a chicken breast in the oven)
Celery- 1 stick
granny smith apple- 1/4 chopped up
onion- 1/2 chopped up
green chilli- 1 chopped
Mayyonnaise-1/2 cup
Lemon juice-1/4 tspn
ginger paste- 1/4 tspn
salt and pepper to taste
garam masala/tandoori paste- 1/4 tspn
Almonds- 5 chopped fine
Lettuce leaves, Tomato slices, Avocado Slices
Whole Wheat Bread/White Bread/ Wraps/Naan

1. Take a ceramic Mixing bowl. Add the Mayyonnaise.
2. Mix together all the chopped veggies, ginger paste, salt, pepper, almonds, lemon juice, garam masala and mix well with a spoon making sure it is well mixed.
3. Taste to make sure that there is enough flavor.
4. Add the chicken and toss well without making it mushy.
5. Take the whole wheat bread and toast until brown. Place a scoop of the Chicken salad on one slice. Top with lettuce, sliced tomato and avocado.
6. Slice crosswise and enjoy with a bag of chips for a quick lunch.

This one was an old favorite of my older daughter N and she still loves it. This is a basic recipe for chicken salad with an Indian twist, although at times I would replace the apple in this recipe with fruit like dried cranberries or canned pineapple. As a child, N did not favor many vegetables in her meals, and I made every attempt to hide them in things like chicken salad, pasta sauces and stuffed shells.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.  ~e.e. cummings

#11 Tomato Chutney

Last weekend some friends dropped by for dinner.  I had some Dosa batter in the fridge and decided that I would come up with a few uttappams for dinner. I whisked up some grated veggies and made a quick UTTAPPAM batter and made the favorite pancakes.  I realized that I need to get some coconut from the store...... I could not find grated frozen coconut in my freezer. Well, I told myself I have some ripe tomatoes and onions and that always serves a purpose. Here's how I made a Tomato Chutney that was tart, spicy and slightly sweet from the onions---delicious!! In my dining room, this is usually eaten with idlis....

Ripe Tomatoes-2 chopped
Onions- 2 chopped
Salt to taste,
Chilli powder- 1 tspn
Asafoetida powder- 1/2 tspn

1. I usually slice the onions and toss with oil in a baking pan/cookie sheet. Place this in the oven to Broil for about 10 mins.
2. When it is translucent color, add the tomatoes to the baking pan and broil for another 10 mins.
3. Toss the broiled veggies into a blender, add salt, asafoetida and chillie powder.
4. Blend coarsely and remove and serve with UTTAPPAM. It can also be served with DOSA or idlis.

#12 Kerala Sambhar

South Indian food is considered one of the spiciest of all Indian food. Meals are centered around rice or rice based entrees.  One of the popular gravies that goes really well alongside either steamed rice or rice based delicacies like idli, dosa or uttappam is Sambhar. Every South Indian cook has his/her own version of Sambhar. Sambhar is a piping hot soup-like lentil dish with a variety of vegetables and seasoned with whole spices and chillies. Along with Sambhar,  dry and curried vegetable and meat sides are served.  A host of chutneys, pickles and pappadams also accompany the rice at meals. This is my husband's all-time favorite, and one that I have made many times over for him. 

He claims his mother's Sambhar is the best and I believe my Mom makes the best one. So, I have incorporated a few flavors from both families and now we love the so called "enhanced" version. A Sambhar combines all the ingredients for a complete meal--- when eaten with rice. The savory tanginess of the tamarind, lentils and finish it off with a sizzle and pop of the mustard, chillies, curry leaves at the end.   The lentils and vegetables include the protein and veggies needed for a meal making it a soupy wholesome delight for the palate.

My grandmother and mother used a combination of Cucumber, Okra, Arbi, Drumstick, Eggplant, Tomatoes and Pearl Onions. My MIL on the other hand used more Toor Dal and no Tomatoes at all. I have replaced some of the vegetables with my own favorites.

 Toor Dal(split yellow peas)- 1 cup
 Any kind of Sambhar Powder( I use either Eastern or MTR brand)-2 Tblspn
Indian Eggplant-1
Okra- 10
Cucumber-1 or Pumpkin- 4 " square
Baby Onions- 10 peeled and cored.
Onion- 1/4 chopped fine for tempering
Tamarind pulp- 2 tspn
Green Chillies-3
Tomato chopped- 1 fresh or 1 can
Mustard Seeds- 1 tsp
Methi Seeds-1/4 tspn
Dried red chilli-2
Asafoetida powder 1/2 tspn
Haldi powder- 1/4 tspn
Curry Leaves- 2 sprigs
Ghee for tempering
Salt to taste.
a little jaggery- 1/4 tspn
Oil as needed

1. Pressure cook the Toor dal and baby onions in a pressure cooker until the toor dal is soft. Keep aside.
2. Cut the Okra into 1 inch pieces and stir fry in a little oil keep aside.
3. In a deep pot, add the potato, cucumber/pumpkin, carrot and eggplant cut into large cubes.  Add green chillies and tomato. Add the salt and then Haldi and Sambar Powder.
4. Cook on medium fire until the potato is cooked. Add the Okra and let cook slightly. Add the dal, asafoetida and jaggery and let it boil for 3 minutes. Remove from fire.
5. Place a small saucepan on the fire and add some oil(1 Tblspn) add the mustard seeds, break the red chillies and add them and  lastly the methi seeds.
6. When the mustard seeds splutter add the curry leaves and 1/4 chopped onion and saute. When the onion turns brown turn the fire off and add the tempering over the Sambhar and stir to mix well.

#13 Uttappam- The South Indian Savory Pancake

My mother used to make Uttappam with left over DOSA BATTER. When we complained of having to eat dosa everyday, she would add onions, green peas and carrots to the dosa batter to make it more interesting. I do have cravings to eat her dosas now and then--- wondering why I used to complain when I was a young girl!!! Although most of us regret a few things we did in our younger days.
The good news is, at least this is easy to make over again. I used leftover vegetables and dosa batter and keep the girls interested in eating uttappams.

Zuchinni-1 grated
Carrot-1 grated
Onion- 1 small grated
Curry leaves-1 sprig chopped
Cilantro- 1/2 bunch chopped
Green chillies-2 chopped
Ginger chopped -2 tspn.
Salt to taste
Oil/ghee as needed

1) Mix all of the above ingredients together and stir well, except the oil.
2)Take a non-stick griddle or a dosa tava and place on the fire.
3) Make sure the griddle is hot, and lower the fire.
4) Take a ladle full of the batter and pour at the center of the griddle
5) Going in the clock-wise direction move the ladle forming a pancake. If you deisre you can make it thinner and spread it around.
6) Now add a teaspoon of oil/ghee over the pancake and when the edges start turning color, use a spatula to go around the edges.
7) Flip the pancake over and cook for a minute and remove from the griddle onto a serving plate.
8) The pancake may be served with a quick TOMATO CHUTNEY or COCONUT CHUTNEY.

You grow up the day you have your first real laugh, at yourself.  ~Ethel Barrymore

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