Thursday, January 26, 2012

#182 Sambhaloo-Cilantro Roasted Potato Bites

What you need for Sambhar-Cilantro Flavored Aloo(potatoes) :
Potatoes/Aloo- 2 russet
Onions-1 chopped fine
Cilantro/Dhania Leaves- 1 cup chopped.
Asafoetida- 1 pinch
Sambhar Powder- 1Tblspn
Haldi- 1/4 tspn
Coriander powder- 1 tspn
Salt to taste
Mustard seeds and oil.

It turns out that I had bought back a whole bunch of Cilantro with my groceries, and as we know cilantro is not an herb that stays fresh too long. The dilemma is to either cook with them or they will be wilted in two days.  A chutney would be the 'easy way out', but a Potato dish with loads of chopped cilantro sounded better.  Its proven that you can roast potatoes in the oven and skip the effort it takes to slave over the stove roasting them and that came in real handy! In step two and three, the potatoes absorb the Asafoetida and Sambhar Powder roasting in Olive oil until they are deep brown in places but soft and flavorful inside. And with the final tossing of loads of chopped cilantro the Sambhaloo developed into an irresistably addictive potato roast when served with rotis, rice and dal.
Method: 1. Peel, wash and drain potatoes. Cube them and cook in mocrowave with enough water to cover them. They should just turn soft. Do not overcook. 2. Place a wok on the fire and Add about 2-3 Tblspns of oil to it. Add mustard seeds and when they crackle add the chopped onions and asafoetida and saute until the onions turn soft.3. Now add all the rest of the ingredients except cilantro. Then add the potatoes and salt to taste. 4. Add more oil if necessary and roast the potatoes until they are lightly brown in color. Last of all add the cilantro and stir well.

Monday, January 23, 2012

#181 A Cold Wintry Night and Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu

It was a cold wintery evening this Friday and the windchill made it feel even colder than it appeared on my thermostat. I left work and felt the chill as I walked to my car. The wind hit my nose and chin as if it wanted to taunt me, all the moisture seemed to drain out of my cheeks. I can barely feel my face and I've parked all the way at the end of the mile long parking lot. The roughness of the wind from last night convinced me to lather up my hands in lotion, but my face still feels the pain from exposure to the chilly air. An hour later, it surely feels good to come home and get hit with a waft of warm air as I stepped into the comfort of my warm home. The heat lit up my face and my feet get warmer as they touched the hardwood floor. I asked "What's for dinner honey"? ---I didn't get an answer from upstairs. There is a pause before I hear "Do you want to carryout Pizza or something?" Oh well, that's just like R.  It doesn't matter if the weather is freezing cold or steaming hot its always one thing for him---- PIZZA!! I should've known! 

Should I resort to delivery after all? No and I'm feeling the hunger pangs growing. Remember? ....I desperately needed something spicy and hot to warm up my frozen limbs. January is National Soup Month after all, and to celebrate it I ventured out to make a soup or at least something close to one!! a quick peek in the fridge and I salvage some tofu and Portobello mushrooms. A Spicy Szechuan dish 'Ma Po Tofu' comes to mind. A soup normally made with marinated beef, mashed black beans and tofu in a hot and spicy sauce.   Did you know that 'Ma Po Tofu' actually means 'Pock -marked grandmother'? The dish got its name from a woman called Qiaoqiao who came up with the dish. It turns out that when her husband died, she was trying to survive along with her sister-in-law by opening up a new restaurant. She served patrons with stewed tofu only because there was a beef and tofu shop on either side of her residence and the final product tasted so ridiculously good. So when she passed on, the dish was dedicated to her:)

Anyway, I get the tofu all chopped up, putting together the spicy sauce.  I may have hit the mark with the spices to add to the sauce.  Now, all I need to do is add a chopped substitution like Portobello mushrooms to replace the meat. Wait a minute, is that a nice can of chopped waterchestnuts in my pantry? Mmmm "Why not"? I threw that in for a slow braising and in about 30 minutes a lovely hot pot was ready to be served. A gorgeous soup such as this one is just the perfect meal to enjoy in the peak of winter.Steamed rice is optional but the tofu by itself is soft and flavorful. After a bowl of this, it warmed me up so well, I set up to take my best spot on the couch getting ready to watch my favorite TV show. On another note maybe R will call in for Pizza tomorrow LOL...... Good night!!
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
4 portobello mushroom caps, gills removed, chopped
1 tablespoon chile-garlic sauce,
1 1/4 cups mushroom broth, or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons dry sherry(I used some red wine instead),
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 14-ounce package firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

This recipe has been submitted to the Blog Hop event at Recipe Lion.............

How to:
1.Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and chile-garlic sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes.
2.Add broth, sherry, soy sauce, brown sugar, tofu and water chestnuts and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain a simmer, for 10 minutes to blend flavors.
3.Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir the mixture into the saucepan and simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

#180 Goi Cuon or Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

A freshly made salad roll comes in very handy for "on the run" lunches. I've spent a fortune at Vietnamese restaurants on this refreshing appetizer. So when a  friend mentioned how easy it was to make this at home, I had to take up her suggestion.  This was my rookie attempt at rolling these beauties in my kitchen and I tell ya, I will not purchase another one of these cool packages at any restaurant!!

2 ounces vermicelli noodles or thin rice noodles.
1 cup sliced cucumber
1 cup sliced red bell pepper
1 cup sliced red radishes
1 cup sliced scallions
1/2 cup mint leaves
1 1/2 cups Steamed Shrimp
1/2 cup Thai Hot and Sweet Sauce for dipping
10 large round rice paper wrappers.


Steaming the Shrimp
1. To steam the shrimp devein and wash the shrimp well and take about 3 cups water in a pan.
2. To the water add 1 tspn soy sauce, 1 tspn garlic and 1 Tblspn any store bought Chinese salad dressing(I used sesame- ginger).
3. Boil the spiced water and add the cleaned shrimp, quick cook the shrimp for a minute or two and remove, drain. Slice each shrimp lengthwise
into two halves.

Cooking the Vermicelli Noodles:
4. You can use the same hot water that you cooked the shrimp in step 3 above, and add the noodles.
Quick cook to make sure it is not overcooked and mushy. Drain well and keep aside.

To make the Rolls:
5. Set up an assembly line with a plastic cutting board in the center and the sliced vegetables, noodles, mint and shrimp around it to make it easier to stuff the rolls.
6. Start making the first roll by softening one rice paper by dipping in a deep plate of water for a second or two until it is flexible.
7. Carefully remove most of the water and place flat on the cutting board. Keep warm water in the deep plate so that it is easy to quickly remove the next paper.
Be careful not to let the paper fold on itself when you remove it from the water. If you soak it too much it's too soft and hard to work with.
8. Now, place about 3-4 pieces each of cucumber, scallion, bell pepper, radishes and mint on the middle of the wrapper.
9. Add a 1/4 tspn of cooked and drained vermecilli on top and followed by two shrimp halves. Now you have a heap in the middle lengthwise.
10. Roll the rice paper as you would a taco from the end on your side over the heap tucking in the sides as you roll to the end of the paper's edge.
11. The ends should be tucked in as tight as you can, but gently so that none of the vegetables break through the thin softened paper.
12. Slice diagonally and serve with dipping sauce.

Monday, January 16, 2012

#179 Pumpkin with Black eyed Peas or Mathanga Erriserri

Pumpkins are smooth bright colored squashes. They are not just orange colored squashes used for carving out Jack O'lanterns, but also versatile relatives from the squash family the flesh of which is used to prepare a variety of delicious dishes. Although Pumpkin pie is the most popular dessert around this time, I must admit that I loathe Pumpkin pie and cheesecake, but love pumpkin in most other forms. This humble vegetable is low in calories yet a good source of  vitamins, flavonoids, xanthins and carotenes and I'm sure you've noticed that this squash has been making its appearance on my dinner table very often this season...

My favorite is the Pumpkin Erisseri. This spicy sweet curry is served either with steamed rice or rice porridge(Kanji) for an excellent comforting meal in Kerala. An erisseri is traditionally the technique used in cooking the dish so any vegetable may be used, the most common being Pumpkin, Plantains or Yams. The tempering includes toasted coconut which adds a new flavor to the gravy. Although raw coconut is normally ground with cumin seeds and added while cooking the pumpkin, I eliminated that step in my dish, but you are welcome to follow the steps as described in my recipe.

They say it is good luck to start the New Year with Black eyed's still January so better late than never !!

Pumpkin Wedge- 1 lb
Black eyed peas- 8 oz can cooked.
Dessicated or grated unsweetened Coconut- 3 tblspoons
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tspn
Chilli powder-1/4 tspn
haldi/turmeric powder-1/4 tspn
Garlic-1/2 tspn chopped.
Salt to taste
Oil for tempering mustard seeds, red chillies, curry leaves
How to make Errisseri
1. Peel the skin and cube the pumpkin. Wash, drain and keep aside.
2. Drain the canned black-eyed peas wash and leave aside.
3. In a small pan add the pumkin cubes, 1/2 cup water, chilli powder, haldi. salt and allow to cook until just soft.
4. Grind together one tablespoon coconut. cumin seeds and garlic to a coarse paste.
5. To the cooked pumpkin add the peas, coconut paste and allow the mixture to simmer for about 5 mins.
6. When there is very little liquid left, remove from fire. Heat the oil in a separate skillet.
7. Add mustard seeds, split red chillies and curry leaves. When the seeds splutter, add the rest of the coconut and roast until the coconut is brown in color. Toss the tempering into the curry and stir well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

#178 Elegant Butternut Squash Ravoili from Il Fornaio

This is my version of a simply delicious Pasta dish that I was served at an Italian Restaurant in Virginia called Il Fornaio. The sweet savory taste of the butternut squash and Parmesan cheese is one that stayed with me especially the aroma of the Sage leaves. It was sort of a tortellini stuffed with mashed butternut squash and loaded with flavor. I was inspired to recreate a modified version of this at some time. With the dawn of the New Year those memories came back when I saw some fresh Sage leaves at the grocery store a few days back.

An elegant Italian recipe that is bound to amaze all your guests at your next dinner party. I will share one big secret with you... I did not make the ravioli
pasta from scratch. Instead I got some pre-made wonton wrappers from the store to fill the roasted butternut squash and creamy cheese. The Fried Sage leaves make such an elegant display and crispy scrumptiousness you can almost start snacking on it before the ravioli is done!! Above all, the aroma fills the air and reminds me of simple home cooking.  I promise you, your guests will shower you with compliments.

For filling
a 2-pound butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
use one half of it
1/2 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1  teaspoons ground sage
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 ounces soft cheese like goat or cheddar cheese, grated
30 won ton wrappers, thawed if frozen
1/2 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/3 cup walnuts,toasted lightly and skinned and chopped coarse
Sage leaves- 3 sprigs
that is so warm and fuzzy it reminds me of Holidays gone by.
Preheat oven to 425°F. and lightly grease a baking sheet.
Make filling:
Put squash halves, flesh sides down, an baking sheet and roast in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until flesh is very tender. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh into a bowl and discard skin.
Mash squash with a fork until smooth.
While squash is roasting, in a skillet cook onion and sage in butter with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring, 5 minutes, or until onion is golden brown. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, 1
Cool onion mixture slightly and add to squash. Add cheese and stir to combine well.
In a 6-quart kettle bring 5 quarts salted water to a gentle boil for ravioli.
Put 1 won ton wrapper on a lightly floured surface, keeping remaining wrappers in plastic wrap, and mound 1 tablespoon filling in center. Lightly brush edges of wrapper with egg wash and put a second
wrapper over first, pressing down around filling to force out air and seal edges well. If desired, trim excess dough with a round cutter or sharp knife. Transfer ravioli to a floured baking tray. Make more ravioli
with remaining wrappers and filling in same manner, transferring to the baking tray and turning occasionally to dry slightly.
In a skillet melt the butter, add the nuts and toast over moderate heat until butter begins to brown, about 3 minutes, and immediately remove from heat (nuts will continue to cook). Season clarified butter with salt and pepper and keep covered in a warm place.

A taste test for texture and flavor!!

Cook the ravioli in 3 batches in gently boiling water 6 minutes, or until they rise to surface and are tender. Carefully transfer the ravioli as they cook and rise to the surface, with a spoon. Keep aside in a large shallow baking pan and add enough cooking water to reach 1/2 inch up side of pan. Keep ravioli warm, covered.
Transfer ravioli with a slotted spoon letting excess cooking liquid drip off onto 6 serving plates.  If you decide to put them all onto a family size platter(like I did) you must serve them immediately or they will lump together and stick.

For a real treat, after boiling and draining the ravioli, set them aside for a while on parchment paper, separating each and every packet so they do not stick together. Rest them for a while. Now heat the
clarified butter, when it foams add sage leaves.  Let them crisp, and slide in the ravioli. Sauté them until they start browning nicely. Remove to warm serving dish and toss with Parmigiano or toasted walnuts, or bread

Thursday, January 5, 2012

#177 Apple, Swiss Cheese and Moong Dal Parathas

I stand guilty as charged for enjoying a decent portion of Holiday treats and to top it all my dessert overindulgence last week was unaccountable! Don't get me wrong, it was all worthwhile:), but now that I am back to work I'm planning to take a bag lunch again. Here's a terrific lunch idea that is ridiculously good, parathas with mashed moong dal, grated apples and cheese,a smear of chutney or a dab of butter along with a fruit and it wouldn't hurt to sneak in some oatmeal cookies into my brown bag.

2 tsp oil
a pinch asafoetida (hing)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1/2 cup moong dal (split green gram)
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp coriander (dhania) powder
salt to taste
1 onions , chopped
Ginger-garlic paste- 1/2 tspn
Green Apple- 1 peeled, cored and grated.
Swiss Cheese grated- 1/2 cup
chopped coriander (dhania) (dhania)
2 to 3 green chillies , chopped

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp Olive oil
1 tsp salt
Other Ingredients
flour for rolling
ghee for cooking

1.Heat the oil in a kadhai, add the asafoetida and cumin seeds.
2.When the seeds crackle, add the coriander powder, red chilli powder and onions, mix well and saute for 2 minutes.
3.Add 1 cup of water and salt, add dal, cover and cook till the dal becomes soft, mushy and most of water is evaporated. There may be 1/4 cup of water but do not drain.
4.Remove from the flame, cool and add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
5.Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions and keep aside.
6. When cool, add the wheat flour and enough water along with the liquid from the cooked dal.
7. Make a soft and pliable dough and keep aside for one hour.
8. Make small lime sized balls out of the dough.
9. Dusting a little flour at a time, place each ball on a rolling board and with a rolling pin roll the ball into a
round flatbread as thin or thick as you can.
10. Place a griddle over the fire, when it is hot enough turn down the flame to medium.
11. Now cook the flatbreads over the griddle adding a little ghee on each side while cooking both
sides until they develop dark blisters like the photos. They are cooked  well. Serve with chutney or curry.

Monday, January 2, 2012

#176 Happy New Year 2012 with Bohri Samosas and Blissini

There's so much pressure on enjoying New Year's Eve, making strict resolutions to better our lives in the brand new year ahead when there are so many resolutions to be made!  Over flutes of Champagne I make some resolutions and it ends up that I forget all about it the next day. I don't know about you, but that happens to me very often...LOL
What is your New Year Resolution this year?
It is easy to outsmart the ending of last year and bring in 2012 by forgetting lets loosen up and forget resolutions for now. I am still recovering from bronchitis after my overseas trip so this New Years Eve and 2012 was best celebrated right here at home, watching the ball drop at Time Square and bubbly working well with lighter bites for R and I, my couch, and a cozy pair of warm socks. A few dips, veggies, crusty bruschetta, salsa and samosas later, I made myself a Blissini.....
Samosas...Ahhh the word just brings so much joy to Indians! Samosas can be large or small bundles of  stuffed pastry filled with either potatoes and peas or ground meat of any kind, accompanied by the classic Indian cream tea. An icon for comfort food in India along with Urad Dal vadas and Besan Veggie Pakoras... Yummm

Dinner is usually served a bit late in India, so an evening snack is most welcome, washed down with a cup of fresh brewed hot tea. Although in the West, it is the norm to skip the afternoon snack and go straight for an early dinner, we can always find time to sit back and enjoy these delicious pastries on holidays and weekends. Samosas will never take back stage, so they make their appearances on weekends with a cup of tea.
Traditionally they are made of a spicy filling of potatoes, carrots or peas and onions, filled into cone/pyramid shaped dough made from all purpose flour and fried to perfect crispy bundles. I like this version because it involves phyllo pastry baked to crispy perfection.

Why did I call them Bohri Samosas? Bohras are people from Yemen who later moved to India or Pakistan and moved their cuisine with them. The food has Mughlai, Arabic and Middle Eastern influences and some have taken an Indian twist too.  Today's dish was adapted from what's called 'kheema na samosa' or mince meat samosas by the Bohras.   My vegetarian Samosas are made of Soya Granules and veggies stuffed inside the phyllo pastry.  Then baked to a golden brown triangle encasing the savory, flavorful meat substitute mixture with a layered crispy blanket of flaky pastry. How hard is that? You can hear the crunch as you take a bite into the pastry and bite into the beautiful interior. A burst of flavor, texture and spiciness of the stuffing embedded inside wakes up your tastebuds.

The ingredient today is a Soy derivative introduced in India several years ago. Nutrela Protein Soya Granules by Ruchi is a product widely used to make many meatless meat dishes in households across India.  A high source of protein for vegetarians, it can be purchased in cartons as chunks or granules that closely resemble the Grapenuts cereal found in most US supermarkets.

My mother makes cutlets, kheema and kababs from soy granules and the burgers turn out equally good. I prefer to use Nutrela Granules over ground meat since it has about 52% of protein content, no fat and is loaded with Calcium and I am a huge fan of this product..  I soaked the dry granules in a pan of hot water for 30 minutes and then squeezed out all the water from them. The granules were ready for a quick saute absorbing all the flavors I incorporated into them, and tossing them with mashed sweet potatoes and green peas, now they were pretty much ready to be stuffed.

What you would need to make these tasty packets:
Sweet Potatoes-1 cut up, cooked
Green Peas-1/2 cup
Garam Masala- 11/2 tspns
Cilantro chopped-5
Jeera/cumin seeds./fennel seeds- 1 tspn
Onion-1 large chopped fine
Soy Granules- 1 cup
ginger -garlic paste- 1/2 tspn
Sheets of Phyllo Pastry as needed.  About 12
Keep these covered with a wet towel so that they do not dry out.
Melted Butter
Oil for sauteing
Salt and red chili powder as needed

How to make them:
1. Soak the soya granules in hot water for about 1/2 hour. Squeeze out all the water and drain.
2. Saute the onions in oil after adding the jeera and fennel mixture. When the onions turn light brown add the
 soya granules, green peas and the garam masala. Add ginger-garlic paste, salt, red chilli and mix well
3. Add a little water to bring all the ingredients together and incorporate the bold flavors throughout the stuffing. Add the Cooked sweet potatoes, mix well. Remove from fire and cool.
4. Now remove the sheets of Phyllo gently one by one and apply the melted butter with a brush.
5. Place the next sheet over the first one and brush more melted butter.
6. Repeat for about 3-4 layers and cut them with kitchen shears lengthwise into two or three strips.
7. If you have three strips you will have mini samosas and two will form bigger ones. I have a mixed batch.
8. Place a large spoonful of mixture on to one end of one strip of pastry. Fold over to cover and form a triangle.
9. Fold over into a cone from one end of each strip until the stuffing is completely encased inside the pastry.

10. Heat the oven to about 350 degrees F and bake the little bundles until the shell is a deep brown color.
11. Serve with mint chutney or ketchup


Blissini is a pumped up Mimosa with the addition of Pomegranate Juice, and as an Ode to my Space I am celebrating the new year with this Drink. Reminds me of all the rosy sunsets enjoyed the past year and many more joyous ones in the future:)

1 cup Sparkling Wine
1 cup Orange Juice
1 cup Pomegranate Juice
Lime slices for garnish

Method: Combine all three liquids in a shaker, pour into Champagne glasses, garnish with mint or lime slices and serve.

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