Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dare to eat? Buckeyes

I met JAM came when she came to work in my office around Thanksgiving time, 5 years ago. That first Christmas, she gave me a small bag-full of chocolate- candy for my daughter A. It didn't look like something you'd buy in a store, so I asked her and she said that she'd made it. I was impressed...if there's anything I can't do or had ever attempted to do, is work with chocolate. A was about 3 yrs old at that time, and didn't care much for chocolate. Which was good because that bag of candy never reached home. I ate it; just couldn't stop at one.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Raising the Bar- Carrot Haandvo

Apparently, the sweet and savory combination is a love it or hate it deal. There can be no happy middles here. I fall into the 'love it' camp. And I believe I get this from my mom's Western Rajasthan genes. Most of the north-west belt of India mixes sugar and salt in everyday food. I can almost hear my dad, who was more of a northern-Haryana product, scoffing at food with this kind of presentation, as in my naani's dal-chawal-boora-ghee combo.

We'd spend the whole 5 weeks of summer vacation at my naani's, without eating rice even once. This is probably why I remember the only time that we got to eat rice at her place was when my dad had come to pick us up - it was a rule that my naani imposed on him - and my naana (grand dad) suggested that rice be served for lunch as a special treat for my dad. And I, who loved rice enough to want it for every meal, was ecstatic. The request was nothing short of a major catastrophe in the kitchen though, for my naani's bhandara (a large room designated as grain and spice storage for the whole harvest year) was lined to the roof with sackfuls of wheat - but there wasn't a grain of rice in the house. I remember my youngest uncle being sent out to buy rice with special instructions as to whose farm it should come from. And if my memory serves me right, then my uncle 'paid' for that rice with an equal amount of my naana's best quality chana dal.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

To Fry or Not To Fry? Crisp Okra Fry

I’ve been working on some of these blog posts for so long, that I’d practically forgotten that they were still not posted. The delay was in part due to laziness, and part due to circumstances. To get around laziness, I’ve decided to impose a rule on myself – at least two posts a month- with deadlines of the 15th and 30th. Whether circumstances allow or not, is still to be seen. I will definitely try my best though. And for now, humor me by pretending that this one belongs in November, even though it’s posted on the first day of December.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Tasty Teaser- Badam Ka Halwa

My friend R is a big tease....she's good at heart, but she's an awful mean tease. And I can prove it. She bought a house in New York recently, and she kept talking about how picturesque her home was. It took her forever to unpack, settle down and invite us over to the new house. The minute she mentioned we come down, I packed up the family and we left. We arrived just in time for the evening chai, and as we sat there enjoying her house and her chai, with the obligatory snacks, she let out that she'd made badam ka halwa that morning for it was her hubby's b'day.

"But we're planning to go out for dinner tonight to this great restaurant that's a bit of a drive...", she said. " "So finish up the tea and lets go for dinner and we can have the badam halwa for dessert when we come back." And we left for the restaurant... without tasting her halwa.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Things I Remember - Gatte ki Kadhi

Sometimes, it is difficult being yourself. Sometimes, you just want to go back to the cocoon that was your childhood and live life the way you used to. Yes you hated school, homework, your parents' constant concern and how your life was so structured. But what do you do when you find that growing up didn't make things any easier? Not only are your life's activities more controlled than they were, but you grew up to become, supposedly, an adult. No more hugs and kisses from your mom, getting tucked in at night by daddy, bickering and fighting for the last piece of chocolate with your siblings. The realization hits that those small, infinitesimal worries just grew up, as you did, to become large, infinite, never-ending struggles. And that is when, you about the past. That is when you look back, and try to recreate that magic. In my case, nostalgia comes in large part from food. My mom's way of making me feel special, and loved, was to cook up something she knew I liked. As I grew, this also became her way to tell me that she understood me, or missed me. So with this recipe, I hope to tell her that I miss her...everything about her.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thats Some Hot Stuff- stuffed Poblanos

My life's spiraled quite out of control recently. Both at the personal, and professional front. The last month went by so fast, with the major fasting (Paryushan and Das Lakshan festivals for us) and feasting going on. Both girls celebrated their b'days within a week of each other. We had parties for their friends from school, and our friends. Then came Ganesh Chaturthi, and another round of festivities. Even though traditionally Ganapati is not a big festival where I come from, I have friends who celebrate it with all the fervor that I've come to associate it with .

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Find; and A Dish.

Last month, when a new Wegmans opened in our area, I just had to go there. For those of you who don't know of this food store, it is one of those in league with Whole foods and Trader Joe's. May even be slightly higher end than those. And I'd heard so much about this store from a friend....So I went there...hubby and girls in tow. And we looked and looked and looked. I just couldn't recognize anything in there. Not only the brand names they carry are different from the ones in a regular grocery store, but they had hundreds of things that I didn't know what they were.

" Are you going to buy anything or not?" asked my husband seeing that my shopping cart was gloriously empty after about a half hour, except for a water melon and a jar of almond butter.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Simple Pleasures : My Favorite Comfort Food

I started this blog as a punching bag for my bottled up thoughts and frustrations, accompanied with food of course - for you can't let the guests leave hungry! It was meant to wrap around my moods; that I could pursue at my pace, with no pressures or deadlines to meet. That is why I have tried never to write around event announcements. So that day when I stumbled upon this leftover makeover announcement, I didn't really pay much attention. Except that little poke in the back of my brain that kept pointing towards my favorite food in the whole world. I had to have it, and I had to write about it so I can share it with you all. Just because this dish is such a unique and refreshing makeover of leftover rice. I haven't seen or heard anyone outside of my family to even know of this prep. And that brings us to the story for this post....

So, if you've been good about following me (did you get the pointer :-)?), you'd know by now that I'm part Rajasthani. My mom and her two brothers grew up in western Rajasthan, almost bordering Pakistan. That is where we went every year for our summer holidays, till I went to college. Naani's home is a magical place during childhood. Now I look back with nostalgia; those days, we laughed at our endearing, but very earthy naani and her small dusty town. Compared to big city Delhi, my naani's town was an overgrown village. Very dusty unpaved roads, streets crowded with strays, especially cows and pigs (I'm not kidding!!); and my naani's whimsical foods. Bari aur papad ki sabzi stands out the most in my mind, followed by turai ke chilke ki sabzi and tarbooz ke chilke ki sabzi. I hope all of you reading this know hindi, because I can't even begin to translate these things. My dad and I would actually sit and snicker about what naani was going to serve right under her nose. I'm sure she knew what we were upto, but she never complained. This is where my earliest memory of Chawali is from.

Despite the initial skepticism, I found that I loved it. But when mom actually started making this at home in Delhi, especially for me, that is when dad switched camps and he and my bro started snickering at mom and I! I've kept up with this dish though. It is my favorite comfort food and an excellent use of leftover rice. Moreover, now both my daughters love it. I now actually make sure I have leftovers the day I make plain white rice, so we can enjoy this the next day. Here's the recipe for you.
Chawali
(Rice in a milk-based sauce)
Leftover rice: 1 measure
Milk: 1 1/2 measures
Water: 1/2 measure
Ghee : 1tsp
Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp (for tempering)
Red chilli powder : 1/2 tsp
Salt: 1tsp (suit to taste)
  1. Heat the ghee in a saucepan and splutter your cumin seeds in it. Add the chilli powder and let it smoke for a min or so. My mom said that the more you let the chillis burn, the less pungent they become, and in this dish, you don't want the heat, but the color from chilli powder.
  2. Add the water now- stay away for the ghee is going to spatter like crazy. Protect yourself at this point.
  3. Now add the salt, and let the water come to a wild boil.
  4. Next add your milk. Again, my mom said that if you mix milk and salt, you'd curdle the milk. So make sure your salt boils in water for a good 2-3 min before putting the milk in.
  5. Finally, add your leftover boiled white rice, and let the whole thing come to a boil. Lower the heat for a few min.
That's it. If you're brave enough to try it, let me know what you think about my Chawali!  

My two cents: None what so ever. I love this dish and my daughters too. Naani used to break up a chappati into small pieces and dump it into my Chawali, so I've also called this preparation Chawal ki sabzi. Actually, that is exactly how I present this food to my daughters (and myself). They get to eat rice, bread and milk all in the same bowl; making me the happiest mom on earth!! Oh, and just a thought- I always make my rice with a tsp of salt. If you don't, then you might need to adjust it accordingly in your Chawali.

Linked to:
Cooking without Onion & Garlic at Ammaji's recipes

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Refreshing Goodbye to Summer!

Summer's over in our part of the world. And the realization hit me full force when my daughter received a welcome-back-to- school note from her class-teacher-to-be yesterday evening. School starts, summer's over. Officially! So while she spent the next hour chirping excitedly about her teacher's note, I sat with my little camera, reliving my summer. That is when I realized that I've been really tardy about updating my blog this past few months. I've been pre-ocuupied, and over-whelmed. Plus, my MIL was visiting us; and with all the weekend entertaining that we did; it didn't leave me much time for myself.
 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Something Happy, Something Sad, but All Delicious!!

August has always put me in a fast-forward mode. Since my childhood, I've greeted the month with growing excitement - the weather started cooling down a bit after sizzling summers, we could begin to see my favorite fruits- oranges and grapes at the vendors, plus the festivities began with Teej festival around this time. I loved putting on Mehandi and going out to shop for Ghevar, Shakkarpara and red and green glass bangles with my mom. When I was very little, my dad would even string up a rope in the bedroom doorway to make a jhoola for me to swing on. Teej meant Rakhi was around the corner, bringing forth another round of festivities and other goodies to enjoy. In the recent years, however, August has taken on a more melancholic symbolism for me. It reminds me of our days in the hospital, waiting on my dad in the ICU and our nights at home praying for his recovery. I still wait for Rakhi as before, not only for the festivities, or because I miss my bro, but because I can't seem to forget that that was our last celebration as a family with my dad. Now I just wish for the month of august to roll by fast, so I can banish my ghost of memories into a dark closet.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Minding my B's- Banana Blueberry Bread

This post has been sitting in my computer for ages...just couldn't conjure up a story to go with it. Still can't, as a matter of fact. So am just going to quit trying and post it. My friend and I had decided to treat our families out to an open air concert evening and a Friday night picnic dinner. The idea was to just go home after work, look in our pantries and make something quick and convenient. Pulao and cheese quesidillas were an obvious choice for my meal. As I scurried around getting things together for the picnic, my eyes fell on a bunch of bananas gone over-ripe as a result of the the unprecedented heat wave the past few days. Rather than toss them into the dustbin, I chose the alternative of making use of these ugly looking, but perfectly good bananas while satisfying the kids' hankering for dessert. I usually make banana muffins for the kids. This time I decided to bake a loaf instead for the convenience of carrying it to the park. Without any further ado, here is the recipe:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pot-pourri, Indian Style.

"My mom's ...... tastes better than yours" is one comment that can send women (read, me) in a mad, adrenaline-pumping battle mode. And I got plenty of that attitude these past 5 weeks. Not that I have anything against my MIL, mind you. She's a sweet, well-meaning lady like all mothers are. It's all him...him and his devil-may dare grin when says THE offensive sentence. And my response to that is (1) Give him one of my 'You better watch yourself' stares, meant to move mountains but effectively ineffective in our domestic tiff situations OR (2) prove to him that he is wrong; which as I (and all the married women in this world) know to be the only indisputable truth.

Although my MIL mostly stayed out of the kitchen; and our riff-raff; when she visited us recently, he still managed to specially request his childhood favorite from her - Tahari. He asked for it the day after she landed in US, and then again, and again until it seemed like we were eating tahari for dinner almost every other day. By the time my MIL's 5 -week vacation came to an end, I was so ready to not eat rice anymore. Then, came the heatwave last week. As we entered our home, it felt like we'd walked into an oven. Even the air conditioning took several hours to kick in. That was all the trigger he needed to come up with his last jab; 'If only mom was here, we could've had her tahari for dinner.' And I set out to prove that I could learn to make tahari as good as, if not better than my MIL's!
Masoor aur Matar ki Tahari
(Spiced rice with lentils and peas)


 

Long Grained Basmati rice : 2 measures
Red Lentils/ Masoor ki dal: 3/4 measure
Frozen Peas: 1/2 cup
Bay leaf: 1 broken into pieces
Cloves: 3-4
Green chillies: 3-4,chopped
Ginger: about a 1/2 inch piece; chopped
Salt: 1Tbsp (or to taste)
Red chilli powder: 1/4tsp, adjust to taste
Cumin seeds: 1/2tsp
Oil/Ghee: 1Tbsp
  1. Wash and soak the rice and lentils separately for about 30 min. Meanwhile prep and chop your veggies.
  2. Heat 1tbsp oil ( I used Ghee) in a wok and add the cumin to it. Let it splutter and then add the cloves, bayleaf, green chillies and ginger. Saute for a min or so.
  3. Add the rice, lentils and peas at the same time; plus all the rest of the spices. Dry roast the rice and spices till the rice appears brittle and starts breaking up (about 3-4 min).
  4. Add enough water to cover at about an inch above the level of rice. Cook uncovered on high for 10-15 min till the water is almost evaporated. The rice is still not done at this point.
  5. Turn down the heat and cover the wok. Cook for 2-3 min and then turn off the heat.
  6. Let the rice stand in the covered wok for another 10 min or so. Then serve hot.
My two cents: This is a one-pot meal, ideal for those lazy summer days. It can incorporate any veggies that suit your fancy; I know I love it with onions, and potatoes. My MIL only does peas- the lentils were my addition too; and the result was awesome. You can serve it with yogurt, any chutney or pickle. Here, I have it with Matha, a slightly spiced, salty buttermilk with ground cumin- another excellent summer cooler!

Linked to : Dish name starts with a T

VHearth and Soul Hop at the 21st Century Housewife

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Friends or Foes: Paratha or Thepla??

I've been invisible from the blogging scene again for a while. The experimenting, cooking, feeding the family and entertaining was as usual. Just did not take pictures to post. And a food-blog isn't appetizing enough unless accompanied by visuals, I think. So, I apologize and I'll make up for it....some day, and hopefully soon enough. I'm going to start backwards for now- most recent first. July 4th weekend.

A bunch of friends proposed a beach vacation. The location was decided and we rented some condos right on the water. Menu for breakfast included cereals, bagels and cream-cheese, pancakes and theplas. What in the world is a thepla; I asked the rest of the crowd.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Venturing into the unknown- Cheese and Dill bread

I've always been a fan of artisan breads. The shapes, the distinct textures and flavors excite me. Not that we had much exposure to them back in India. Now, I make it a point to try out every new bread that I can lay find in the stores. And before I knew it, I got obsessed with wanting to try making them.For my first attempt, I picked on a fresh dill and cheese bread. Don't ask me why... As I've mentioned umpteen times in this blog, I am not much of a baker. So this project began with a lot of 'what ifs..." and "how tos..". Apart from the baking aspect, dill was a new herb for me as well. I just wasn't sure about it- but many of my friends were all praise for this highly fragrant herb and I dived headlong into baking this flavorful bread.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Semi-Baked Ideas..err Potatoes (Aloo Dum Pukht)

The produce store that we frequent is pretty predictable. And sparse, to say the least. But that's what we have, and he stays open much later than the farmer's markets in our neighborhood, so we just go him- most of the time. That means we pretty much have to choose between cabbage, cauliflower and bell peppers! So my excitement knew no bounds when I saw him expanding his selection beyond this. The story today begins the day I found these cute, precious, rosy baby potatoes in this sorry excuse of a produce store. I brought them home and they found their way in almost everything I cooked till the kids revolted against potatoes of any kind! I firmly believe that potatoes are the bestest thing ever created. My dad used to tell me that the first food word I ever learned to speak was 'wahwah'; and it referred to potatoes- boiled and mashed with a hint of salt, pepper and butter. I've grown up many decades since then, but potatoes still comprise the widest part of my food pyramid. I love them unconditionally, in all form, color and size. With these baby potatoes, I wanted to recreate another childhood favorite dish from my mom's recipes (of course..). At the same time, I've been attempting to eat healthier. So here you have my version of my mom's Aloo Dum Pukht.
Aloo Dum Pukht
Baby red potatoes 1lb Home made yogurt 1 cup Onion 1 medium, chopped Tomato 2 medium, chopped Green chillies 4-6, per taste, chopped Ginger 1 inch slice, chopped Salt to taste Red pepper powder to taste Dhania powder 1tsp Garam masala 1tsp Oil 1tbsp + 1/2tbsp
  1. Wash and cut the baby potatoes into halves, with their skin on. Dry them with a paper towel. Toss them with a pinch of salt and about a 1/2 tbsp oil. Shake to coat.
  2. Preheat the oven to roast at 400 degrees. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on a baking dish and roast for about 20 min., turning them once in between. By this time the potatoes are semi-done. (In the original recipe, my mom used to poke holes in the whole potatoes and deep fry them).
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the gravy. In a heavy bottomed pan, saute the onions till translucent. Add the tomatoes, and all the spices. Cover and cook till the moisture evaporates.
  4. Now, add the dahi (yogurt) and 1/2 cup water. Turn down the heat and cook on the stove top for 1-2 min.
  5. Pour this gravy over your semi-baked potatoes, cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for another 20-25 min. Check to see that the potatoes are cooked completely before taking out of the oven.
My two cents: This dish is pure heaven when served with warm parathas or missi roti. Roasting them eliminated deep frying, but the crispiness was still intact. My mom slow steamed them for the dum in a pressure cooker without putting its weight on, the old fashioned way- not that it made any difference, in my opinion.
 This recipe is updated for the
LYRO-Potato event of Sindhi Rasoi.
Crazy For potatoes event @ Nivedhanam



Friday, April 9, 2010

Extreme Makeover- Leftover edition. Knead I say more?

My blog was going to be all about the new stuff that I tried out in my kitchen. After all, no one wanted to know how I cooked everyday dinner. It was all so basic, or so I thought, till I came across Daisyblue's announcement of Leftover Delicacies event.
Ever since then, I've been itching to write this piece. I've opened and closed the page many times, trying to ignore the temptation. Today I am finally giving in. You see, A has been away a lot this past month, and we've been inundated with leftovers. After weeks of living off the fridge, finally I threw the last box in the dishwasher yesterday and look forward to eating something 'fresh' tonight. But more on that later...This post is not going to be a recipe, I warn you. There is no way I can concoct a "recipe" for what I'm going to tell you. So what do I do with those little extra packets of food. Some of my thoughts are no brainers - like the fried rice from leftover rice. And I also do a chawal ki sabzi and chawal ke parathe. But Daisyblue said no rice recipes, so that's out for now. Most of my gravy-less veggie preps get converted to sandwich fillings or take on fancy avatars of kababs and tikkis for breakfast. My most exciting piece of conversion comes from the leftover soups and dals. You see, I really get a kick out of kneading all of these into the flour and making parathas and puris. So this is what my entry in the event is going to be.

Urad-chane ki dal ka paratha
 
To make these, you have to incorporate the dal or soup in the atta during kneading.
Let the dough rest for about 10 min, knead it again and roll out the rotis/puris.
You'll need to dust the rotis frequently as the dough gets pretty sticky. E
ither cook them on a skillet with a bit of oil to make parathas, or deep fry them as puris.

I really love to make them as these breads come out very soft, and taste divine with raita and achaar like my Gobhi-shalgam ka achaar. Plus I don't have to worry too much when the kids want to eat just the roti, without anything to go with them, since the dal is in there already. So go ahead, knead a dough with anything liquid and sticky and make these delish parathas. And if you already knew this, well- I warned you in the beginning, didn't I?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

'Bun'alicious!

I love Facebook. It was here that I found my childhood friends and rekindled long-forgotten memories. We got back to calling each other those elementary school nicknames; laughed at our teachers again and extolled virtues of the school we hated in a not-so-recent past. And then, I hate FB. It was here I found my childhood friends and discovered that they were not those only the pranksters I knew. They all had lives and talents and expertise that I only dream of - jetsetting, media savvy, artistic bunch was what I found along with the goofiness that I’d been expecting. So I have no idea why I was surprised to find out that some of those old friends were also accomplished cooks at home. Their updates about food they cook made me turn green (but I’m definitely not the envious kind, I assure you). And then, when the pictures appeared, I turned greener. For not only were these aforementioned friends great cooks (or chefs, if you please), but they’re all great photographers. And what are all those exotic sounding foods and breads that they make? 

In one of my revved up “green” moment, I’d decided to bake the bread that a FB friend had on her page. I gathered all the ingredients…but then never had the courage to try her recipe. You see, I’m not very confident or adventurous around the little space in my house we call the kitchen. Whenever I saw her post another bread recipe, a little voice inside my head reminded me of the little packets of yeast sitting in my pantry. And I gave both the voice and my friend’s FB updates a cold shoulder. And then, I recently came across this recipe that was way too tempting to ignore. I had all the ingredients, so it was all a matter of picking up the courage and diving in. That was my project, this last weekend! I’ve pretty much followed the recipe to a T, except for the yeast proofing part. Also, I was too impatient to wait for the flour to rise the second time! The buns did come out excellent nevertheless, and I got over my FB greens without much stress :-).
 
Stuffed Veggie buns
 
For the dough:
All purpose flour 1 cup
Whole wheat flour ½ cup
Parsley 1 small bunch, chopped
Baking powder 1tsp
Salt 1tbsp
Sugar 1 tbsp
Warm water ½ cup
Active dry Yeast 1tsp
Milk as needed
For the filling
Frozen Mixed veggies ½ cup thawed
Boiled potato 1
Salt, pepper to taste
Amchoor powder ½ tsp
Cumin seeds ½ tsp
Oil for tempering

  1. Add the sugar and yeast to warm water and keep aside for 15 min.
  2. In the meanwhile, sift the flours together and add the salt, baking powder and chopped up parsley to this. I also preheated the oven to WARM at this time.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the yeast-mix to it. Bring it all together slowly and make soft, pliable dough. Add warm milk as needed. Grease an oven-proof bowl and put the dough in this, cover with an oiled plastic wrap, and keep inside the oven for an hour. You can turn off the oven and just let the dough rest in the warmth.
  4. Prepare the filling meanwhile. I tempered the cumin seeds in a bit of oil, added my veggies, potato and spices to coat. Then allow the filling to cool.
  5. After 1h, the dough had doubled up and was very soft with holes on the outside. Punch down the dough, quickly divide into 6 balls. Flatten one ball with your hands, put the filling in the center and close the edges tightly. Flatten the filled ball again slightly. Repeat with all the six balls of dough.
  6. Keep all the filled buns on a greased oven-proof plate, about 2 inches apart. You can sprinkle them with poppy or sesame seeds now, but I didn’t have any
  7. Allow them to rise again in a warm oven for 1h- this is where I was impatient and only waited 20 min.
  8. Brush the tops with a little milk and butter. Bake them at 350F, until golden brown.
My two cents: The buns came out as well as the original post promised; but I do wish I'd allowed them to rise a bit more. Wonder what they'd have tasted like then.... I am sending this to YeastSpotting- the weekly cooking with yeast event, and to Lets Do Brunch..