Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A week of stir fries - Sweet corn sundal



And before you know it, Navratri is almost over. Just 2 more days (or three, if you want to include the 10th day Vijaya Dashami) of celebrations, after which the festival season is officially open. The next three days are the most significant of Navratri. Ashtami (8th day) is regarded as especially auspicious, especially in the Eastern Indian states such as West Bengal. The last day of the festival, the ninth is regarded as a rest day when all implements & tools of the trade are worshiped as Saraswathy, the goddess of wisdom & knowledge. This was a favorite day for us as kids. It was one day when parents would actually tell us to skip studying!
The last day is known as Vijaya Dashami (Vijaya means victory in Sanskrit), and is regarded as a favorable day to commence any new endeavor in life, be it music / dance lessons, or a new business, basically anything new endeavor in life.. Kind of puts a positive spin to life doesn't it

Although religious in spirit, the extended festivals such as Durga puja (in the eastern part of India) and Ganesh Chaturthi (in the western parts of the country) were made popular for socio-political reasons during the days of the British Raj. These large scale celebrations were perfect for social reformists and freedom fighters to gather without raising suspicions from the British authorities.

From a culinary POV, I try to include as many locally sourced ingredients as possible and Sweet corn is in season. Today's stir fry is  seasoned with  smoky Pimenton pepper.




Sweet Corn Sundal with smoky Pimenton:

You need:

2 cobs of corn, Kernels stripped off
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1 sprig curry leaves, torn
pinch of turmeric
1 Serrano chile diced into 3-4 pieces
1/2 teaspoon Smoked Pimenton chile powder or paprika
Salt to taste
Lime juice as per taste

Heat oil in a skillet and and add the cumin when the oil begins to shimmer. Once the cumin seeds sputter and split, stir in the curry leaves and serrano chile. Toss in the corn kernels and the turmeric, and saute on high heat until tiny dark spots appear on the kernels.Sprinkle the pimenton/paprika and the salt (as per taste). Lower heat, cover and allow the corn to incorporate the flavors of the spice (~ 5 minutes). Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with the lime juice. Serve warm.

Tomorrow's stir fry ingredient was sourced from the freezer - Frozen shelled edamame. Its been the favorite one thus far, I barely got a taste while the other half & my 8 year old eagerly scarfed it down!



Bon appetit!

Monday, September 29, 2014

6 down, 3 to go - The 'Nutrino' effect




Sometimes the wackiest ideas flashing through your brain from one ear to the other, at the speed of light can yield the tastiest dishes. I think I shall name this principle the 'Nutrino'  effect ( & yes, there is no 'e' in Nutrino). Sometimes, they leave an exciting chain reaction that spurs culinary creativity, and as a bonus, the creativity includes a nutritious component as well!


Remember when I had suggested a couple of posts ago about the possibility of using lentils for a sweet dessert? Well, it worked, and perfectly. Glistening caviar like Beluga lentils, sauteed in ghee & Jaggery and spiced with cardamom.

Sweet Beluga Lentil Sundal

1 cup Beluga lentils
1 cup powdered Jaggery / Panela
2 tablespoons ghee
~ 1/2 teaspoon powdered cardamom
1/4 cup cashew pieces
2 tablespoons shredded coconut

Rinse the beluga lentil and set to boil with adequate water. In about 15 - 20 minutes they should be cooked but will still maintain their near spherical shape. Drain the excess water and set aside.
Ina  skillet, heat the ghee and add the cashews. Toast until they turn golden brown. Add the powdered jaggery along with the cardamom and allow it to melt. Add the cooled lentils and coat well with the jaggery. Lower the heat, cover and allow to cook in peace for about 10 minutes. After that, remove the lid and allow any excess moisture to evaporate completely. Stir in the coconut and spoon out into dessert bowls and serve warm.




Coming up for tomorrows post.. A classic, beloved American favorite.. stir fried!




Bon appetit!



Day 5 - Half way through with an iconic beach snack!




Its already half way though the festival season and I see plenty of posts on Facebook about how sacrilegious it is that people still cannot give up their craving for meat during these holy days. A couple of years ago, I would have been tempted to agree although I would never openly say so. Turns out that the scriptures spell out something quite different.
The Mother Goddess  is a manifestation of nature which changes with the seasons. In Spring, she is Gauri, the gentle maternal figure who nourishes and coaxes life to bloom. In autumn, once the sun begins its journey south, the harvest and consequent destruction of the crops begin in order to hoard and save grains for the cold months of winter ahead. In order to successfully prepare for the monts of possible hardship, it was crucial for early man to fortify himself with energy giving proteins in the form of meat. And that was the bounty that  was provided for him and hence offered to the Almighty as a thanksgiving.
 With the advance of Buddhism, the gradual preference for vegetarian fare also resulted in spiritual offerings becoming meatless. And, as with many other things, the shift in dietary preference becomes an occasional point of contention.

Today's offering is an iconic beach snack, and is sold by vendors from the backs of their bicycles and two wheelers. The peas, seasoned with coconut and curry leaves is served in a paper cone garnished with thin slivers of green raw mango.

Green Pea sundal with coconut and raw mango:



You need:
1 cup dried green peas, soaked in water for about 3-4 hours
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon mustard
1 sprig curry leaves torn
1-2 serrano chiles cut into big pieces
1 pinch asafetida
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
2-3 tablespoons green mango, finely diced or shredded
Salt to taste.


Boil the peas in adequate water until the peas are soft and yield when pressed between the thumb and finger.
Heat oil in a skillet and add the mustard when the oil heats up. Once the mustard seeds pop, stir in the curry leaves, asafetida and serrano chiles and then proceed to add the cooked peas along with the turmeric and salt. Cover , lower heat and allow the flavors to blend together. once the moisture has evaporated, add the coconut and raw green mango. Serve warm with a hot cup of tea or coffee.



Coming up for tomorrow's offering..I warned you earlier, I was going to try to make a sweet version with lentils..well, I just carried out my threat!





Saturday, September 27, 2014

Day 4 and time for a stir fried dessert!


Stir fried desserts..Now that's something you don't hear of very often, No, I do not plan to subject anyone to lentils served up as a dessert, (Although the concept is worth contemplating about.. Is it not?)
Adzuki beans are used in making bean cakes in oriental cuisines and its a natural ingredient to be paired with sweeteners. This is a traditional South Indian recipe which usually employs black eyed peas. I happened to have a bag of the adzuki beans at home and as is to be expected, I tend to favor the ingredient less used.

Adzuki Bean Sweet Sundal

You need:

1 cup dry Adzuki beans soaked for about least 2 hours
3 tablespoons ghee
1/4 cup cashews broken into bits.
3-4 pods cardamoms, seeds  crushed
1 cup powdered Jaggery / Panela or 3/4 cups dark brown sugar.
1/3 cup fresh frozen shredded coconut

Cook the hydrated adzuki beans in adequate water until they can be squished easilywhen pressed between the thumb and finger.
Heat the ghee in a skillet and add the cashews. Fry until they turn a golden brown color. add the cardamom, the cooked beans and the sugar. allow the sugar/jaggery/panela to melt and cook down until the moisture is evaporated. Add the shredded coconut, stir to incorporate completely and serve warm.

Coming up for Day 5, the half way point - The iconic 'Thenga Manga Pattani sundal' ( Green pea sundal)



Bon Appetit!


Day 3 of stir frying - French Green / Puy lentil stir Fry



I will notch it up to mere coincidence, although the cheery optimist in me is already trying to draw inferences and 'sign's. I'm sitting here typing away and watching THE movie that got me started blogging. Julie and Julia. 

Earlier this morning I had a moment of serendipity that may have been staring at me all along for the past 3 years. In my face, yet eluding me, thanks to the never disappearing pile of pure knick-knacks that kept piling up on top of my dryer in the laundry room. You see, the main grip I had about my kitchen is also its best feature - huge skylights that keep in bathed in glorious sunlight while pottering around in the kitchen. But all those photons did not provide for the best lighting when it came to clicking photographs, especially in summer. In contrast, my laundry room has a window with diffused sunlight that streams though at a perfect angle.. Here's to hoping that I can take fill advantage.


Back to Julie & Julia - I'm going through a phase where I feel a bit of a 'burn out' and I wonder if my foray into the daily blog may have pushed me to it. Plus it does not help when I see barely any increase in the number of 'likes' on my Facebook page week after week, and I wonder where I'm shortchanging myself in terms my content and/or my marketing skills (or lack thereof). Ah well, here's to hoping that this phase too shall pass.
Well, I seem to have already shared todays recipe on my Facebook page notes 2 years ago, and so didn't bother to click photographs (and also, by the time I was done, the sun was well on its way to the other side of the world).



Puy Lentil Sundal

You need:

1 cup re-hydrated Puy lentils (toss the lentils in water for about 2 hours)
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Mustard seeds
1 teaspoon split de-husked Urad dal
1 dried Arbol Chile
1 sprig curry leaves
1 pinch asafetida
Lime juice and Salt as per taste
1/4 cup thawed frozen coconut

Add the lentils to 3 cups of water along with the turmeric and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. the lentils should still retain shape, but mush up uner finger pressure. Drain and rinse in cold water to shock the lentils and stop the cooking process. Drain off water completely and set aside.

Heat the oil in a non stick skillet. when it begins to shimmer add the mustard and Urad dal. when the mustard pops and the dal begins to turn golden, add the arbol chile, the curry leaves and the asafetida. Stir to combine and add the lentils and salt.

Shake the pan to mix the ingredients with the lentils. Allow  any residual water to evaporate completely.

Add the coconut and toss to combine. Remove from heat, drizzle the lime juice and transfer to a serving dish.

Tomorrow's stir fry is a sweet version made with Adzuki beans and cashews, so stay tuned.



Bon appetit!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Navratri - Day 2 of stir fries, simple and absolutely sunny! - Mung Dal stir fry.



This particular flavor of the sundal stir fries series is simultaneously the easiest and the trickiest one to make. Easy because it requires no boiling of the dal, and tricky because even the slightest over cooking results in a mushy consistency.

dehusked split mung has a crunchy texture when soaked for about an hour and I love adding this to salads especially those that are heavy on the soft produce. and the added advantage that it cooks down quickly enough to lose its green vegetal flavor makes this particular sundal the quickest in the list of nine. Since I opted not to add any shredded coconut, I tempered the mustard seed in EVCO (extra virgin coconut oil) for the added flavor.

Mung Dal Sundal:

You need:
1 cup dehusked splut mung dal, soaked for about an hour
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard
1 - 2 dried arbol chile, broken into pieces
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 pinch asafetida
1 sprig curry leaves
salt to taste
wedges of lime for drizzling over

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the mustard seeds once the oil heats up to a shimmer, once the mustard seeds begin to pop, lower the heat slightly and add the arbol chile, curry leaves and the asafetida. Stir well until the mixture starts emitting an aroma and then toss in the soaked mung dal along with the turmeric and salt. Lower the heat, cover and allow to cook until the mung dal just turns soft, but still retains its shape and not mushy. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with lime before serving.

Day 3 - I've already posted this recipe 2 years ago, but will re-post. Old pictures though, the light was completely gone today before I could click any pictures






Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nine days of battling Evil and nine lentil & legume 'sundals'.




The next 9 days starting from today are dedicated to fighting the forces of evil. The actual 'fighting' will be left to goddess Durga, I'll just worship this awe inspiring mother figure with the best possible 'prasad' I can make.

Have I ever mentioned that a number of the goddesses in the Hindu pantheon are supposed to be worshiped with meat? And that the 'meat' has simply been substituted cleverly with protein rich offering thanks to the waves of the Ahimsa (non-violence) movement that was introduced by the Buddha to counter the spate of butchery of animals in the  ritualistic sacrifice?

Navratri (the festival of Nine Nights) commences the string of festivals that are celebrated when the sun makes its southward journey and winter sets in (in the Northern hemisphere). From a mythological POV, this signifies the turning of the tide to the 'dark' forces, the plants shedding their leaves and going into a non productive mode, of fruits dropping off the trees, the destruction of the fields to harvest the grain and so on. Mankind tucks in hoping and praying that he has enough sustenance to tide him through the bleak winter months.

I personally love this festival for its Female centric significance. Arrogance and Ego (in the Buffalo demon Mahishasura belittling a woman as weak) gets soundly kicked royally by the femal aspect of divinity as Durga or Chandi in the form of  a gorgeous, confident woman dressed in bridal attire riding a tiger). As befits a warrior who requires energy to fight battles, the respective offerings to the divinity are correspondingly fortified protein rich dishes (who ever heard of someone going to war fortified by snooze inducing carbs, right?). The offerings are usually made of legumes or bean (both rich vegan protein sources, stir fried simply with a tempering of mustard and curry leaves. additional flavors get layered on as per personal preference.



Brown Chickpea Sundal

You need:
1 cup dried brown chick peas (kala channa), soaked in water overnight & drained
2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 serrano chile cut into 3 -5 pieces
1 sprig curry leaves, torn
Salt to taste
a pinch of asafetida
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup frozen shredded coconut, thawed
finely diced raw mango (optional)

Rinse the plumped up chickpeas and cook them in plenty of water with a pinch of baking soda added until the legumes are soft and get squished when you press one pea between the finger and thumb. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in  cast iron skillet and add the mustard when the oil begins to shimmer, Once the mustard seeds pop, lower the heat and stir in the chiles & torn curry leaves along with the asafetida. Now add the cooked chickpeas, turmeric and salt. Stir, cover and allow the mixture to combine flavors under the low heat for about 10 minutes (until any remaining water evaporates). Sprinkle the coconut shreds and fold to disperse the coconut evenly. Serve warm with a wedge of lime on the side (if you don't have any raw mango).

Bon appetit!



Coming up tomorrow for Day 2 - Mung dal stir fry!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Surviving a Laze Attack and a recipe for Tahini eggplant.


I KNEW there was a reason why I had a tinge of reluctance when I set out for my holiday to India. I was, after all going full steam ahead with my daily blog, I had a set of 6 -8 recipes that I had on hand as a spare and a whole hives worth of ideas buzzing in my head. But at the back of my head I knew that the holiday would set me into a state of extended lethargy that would be extremely difficult to shake off. When it came to writing up a blog post, or making dishes or even uploading my photographs from my camera to the computer, my system would go into a slow down / get distracted by other mundane stuff mode. Net result.. I've yet to publish my post on the amazing experience I had at the Indian Food Bloggers meet almost 2 months ago. Go figure!

If I stuck to my initial decision of posting my recipes in the order that I've made them for the past month, I'd probably never get started, so here goes. I plan to start the blogging process and then get back to completing and posting all the half finished drafts (14 at last count).
And before I knew it, another half a day has elapsed since I started writing the post.*SIGH*

Back to the recipes and moving away from any form of justifying my laziness...
I finally got to meet Anjali Koli, the blogger behind Annaparabrahma in Bangalore at the Indian Food Blogger's meet and she was just as bubbly & cheery as I pictured her to be during the course of our online interaction as bloggers. (In fact, each and everyone of the bloggers I met were absolutely delightful, and I would definitely have befriended them if we met in real life. The mysteriousness of the online factor just adds to the charm!). She has some fabulous spice blends from her native Koli community  for sale on her blog. I got myself a stash of 3 different spice blends and simply fell in love with the flavors & aroma.
I finally made a trip to the Union square Farmers Market in NYC last weekend with the kids in tow and confirmed a lingering suspicion in my son's head that I was missing a marble or two upstairs when it came to produce. Schlepped a huge backpack filled with about 8 - 10 lbs of cabbage, 4 different varieties of chili peppers, strawberries and fairy tale eggplants. It would have made sense if I came back home directly, but NOOO.. I sauntered all around the American Museum of Natural History for about four hours with the load on my back! Here is some of my loot:


Bulls's heart cabbage, same taste, maybe a tad milder, but oh so cute shape!


Shishito, Fushimi and another variety of pepper that I'm not sure about the name.
And of course a bag of teensy fairytale eggplants. I love this particular variety for their delicate flavor and the fact they hold up to filling and simmering without getting reduced to a mush and yet, melt in your mouth with minuscule resistance. These eggplants make their appearance so briefly at this time of the year, that I invariably make them in one single way, filled with a mix of Peanut butter, coconut & spices. 


This year I decided to deviate slightly and use Tahini instead of peanut butter. It has a much milder flavor and its definitely lighter compared to the tongue gluing tackiness of PB. The spices I used were Anjali's Malwani Masala and a classic tempering of mustard and curry leaves. (Apparently Yotam Ottolenghi seems to have latched on to that flavor pairing of late)!


Tahini and coconut stuffed fairytale eggplants

You need:

~ 25 small Fairytale eggplants
2 large onions cut into quarters and thinly sliced
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon mustard
1 sprig curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
a pinch of asafetida

 For the filling:

1/2 cup Tahini
1 tablespoon 'Malwani' Masala
1/2 cup shredded coconut
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon dried Mango Powder (aamchur)


Combine all the ingredients for the filling and set aside.
Using a sharp paring knife, make a crosswise slit at the bottom of each eggplant, taking care not to cut all the way through. soak in acidulated water until you're ready to stuff the eggplants.
Shake off excess moisture from the eggplants and wipe dry with a paper towel individually  just before filling. Using a spatula, gently fill the eggplants with the tahini/spice blend mixture and stack on a platter. Reserve any remaining spice blend.



Heat oil in a skillet and add the mustard seeds. once they pop, add the torn curry leaves followed by the asafetida. Once the curry leaves crisp up, add the onions and saute until they turn translucent. Add the tomatoes along with the turmeric and extra spice blend mix. Allow the tomatoes to soften (you may want to adjust for salt at this stage, since the spice blend has just enough to cover the eggplants). Then gently place the stuffed eggplants over the tomato/onions, cover, lower the heat and allow to simmer gently until the eggplants are cooked through.
Serve hot with fresh rotis or naans.




Bon appetit!




Monday, September 8, 2014

Dishes from my other blog - Quinoa and Beluga Lentil Salad (Day 251)


Its been quite a while since I even opened up the blog, While I returned from my summer vacation 2 weeks back, turns out my mojo & motivation was happily following Newtons 1st law! Well, better late than never I say!

Trying to minimize white rice from the daily diet is harder than one thinks. For one, the pearly whites are so accessible and the devious temptation in the form of shorter cooking times is often hard to resist. But its well worth the effort to make a hearty protein rich dish like this quinoa and Beluga lentil salad. Yes it does take some time (~15 minutes) to cook the lentils and quinoa separately, but those minutes are well spent prepping the vegetables that are tossed in almost equal volume.

You need:
2 cup cooked Quinoa (I used a blend of tri colored quinoa)
2 cup cooked whole Beluga lentils (or whole plain Masoor dal)
1 diced Zucchini (I ran it through a spiralizer and made them into a spagetti
1/2 cup finely diced red onion
1 large tomato finely chopped
1 small bell pepper diced.
1 small cucumber diced (after removing the central seedy core)

Toss all the ingredients together and fold to combine.

For the Dressing:

Juice of 1 orange + 1 teaspoon of the orange zest.
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup EVOO
a sprinkle of Dried Herbs (I used Oregano)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mint leaves, either cut into a chiffonade or torn

Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a bottle and shake until it forms a cloudy emulsion. Pour over the salad and  fold to incorporate. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Garnish with mint & serve chilled or at room temperature


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