Thursday, June 27, 2013

Oven roasted cauliflower

This is a quick and easy way to make cauliflower.  I make it sometimes for parties because it takes almost no time to prep and the whole thing cooks in the oven freeing up stovetop space for your other dishes.

With my plumbing disaster this morning, I was really glad that I had cauliflower on hand for a quick veggie dish to go with the whole moong dal.

If you have time, you can marinate the cauliflower in the spices for a while.  If not, you can toss the florets with the spices and pop it right into the oven.

Here is what you need:

  • 1 big cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 – 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

Here is how I make it:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Wash the florets and set aside
  3. In a big bowl, add all the other ingredients.  Mix well.
  4. Add the cauliflower florets to the spices and toss well to coat
  5. If you have time, let the florets marinate for ½ to 1 hour
  6. Spread the florets on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  7. Gently turn the florets over, return to the oven and bake for maybe 10 more minutes until the cauliflower is crispy on the outside and cooked well on the inside.

Serve with rotis and rice.

Quick and easy Whole Moong Dal

My son was having saxophone lessons today.  His instructor, also his namesake, comes home for the lessons.  The instructor is a great guy, of Indian origin, and a bachelor.  Invariably, when he comes home, it is after school and I am busy making dinner.  He always comments on the wonderful (I hope) smells from my kitchen and, if I have everything ready, I send some food home with him.

Since it is summer, and I am home, I planned to start working on dinner a bit early, so that it will be ready before the saxophone lessons.

Our dinner today was going to be whole moong dal and ovenroasted cauliflower with rotis and rice.

Aaahhhh! best laid plans…

We had a disastrous start to our morning – clogged drains, with my kitchen sink backing up  - requiring emergency plumbing services.  So it completely slipped my mind to soak the dal ahead of time.

I always thought that you had to soak whole moong before you can use it in a recipe - until I read this recipe on my friend Manisha’sblog.   Well, I decided to go ahead with the moong dal to see how it turned out.  It cooked perfectly.

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup whole moong dal
  • 2 roma tomatoes or 1 regular tomato, chopped
  • 1” piece ginger, slivered
  • 2 green chilies, slit
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • ½ tsp hing
  • 3 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½” piece ginger, slivered
  • 1 tsp.  chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • ½ tsp. coriander powder
  • few curry leaves
  • few sprigs cilantro, chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon

Here is how I make it:

  1. Wash and rinse the moong dal.  Place it in a pressure cooker. 
  2. Add enough water, tomatoes, green chilies, salt, turmeric, and hing.  Cover and cook on high heat till the first whistle blows.  Turn heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes.  Let the pressure release on it’s own.
  3. Heat oil in a saucepan.  Add cumin seeds
  4. When cumin seeds change color, add onions, garlic, and ginger.
  5. Sauté till the onions look done.  Add curry leaves and sauté for a minute or so.  Turn off the heat
  6. Sprinkle the chili, cumin and coriander powders on the dal.
  7. Blend in the onion mixture.  Garnish with cilantro and lemon juice.

Serve with jeera rice or rotis.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Masala Dosa, Sambar, and Chutney

I still remember when I got married and came to this country, one of the first gifts I got was a blender.  A few good friends of ours –all grad students, gave it to me and said, now make dosas for us.  I will never forget those days.  Those guys were my scapegoats.  They would land up almost every weekend and eat whatever I put in front of them.  Sorry guys!

I have come a long way from those days, and haven’t used a blender to make idli/dosa batter for over 15 years.

I had a lot of batter left over from making idlis for a friend on Sunday.  So was thinking of making dosas for dinner with that.  I was really excited about making dosas yesterday because of a new addition to my kitchen.  I got a brand new 14” cast iron pan!  Amazon is selling it as a pizza pan, but to me, it looks perfect for paper roasts.  My younger son can’t understand why I’m so excited about a pan – but hey – to each his own.

Anyway, I asked him if he wants plain dosa or masala – and of course, he picked masala dosa.  He will only eat idlis or dosas if there is sambar to go with them. He won’t eat it with chutney or molagai podi (gun powder). 

He took most of the pictures for this post.

When I am making batter and it is not for a party, I use the same proportions for both idlis and dosas.  It is pretty straight forward and comes out well every time.  I know there are as many recipes for batter as there are South Indian households.  So here is one more to add to your collection.

Idli/Dosa Batter:

Here's what you need:
  • 2 cups raw rice (any raw rice is fine – I use Sona Masoori for my everyday cooking and that is what I used for this)
  • 2 cups idli ric
  • 1 cup whole, skinned urad dal
  • ½ tsp. methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • salt to taste

Here's how I make it:

  1. Wash the rice in several changes of water.
  2. Wash the dal and methi seeds also in several changes of water.
  3. Soak them separately for at least 4 hours.
  4. I use my Ultra Pride wet grinder to make my batter.  Add a little bit of water to the grinder and start it.  Add the urad dal with methi seeds.  Grind it to a smooth, fluffy paste.  You may need to add water if the batter is getting too thick.
  5. You will also need to keep scraping the batter from the sides of the grinder, to make sure that it is all uniformly smooth.
  6. Remove the urad dal paste into a big bowl.
  7. Now add more water to the grinder and add the rice to it.  The rice gets done much faster than the dal.  When you have a mixture that is not totally smooth, but is not coarse either, stop the grinder.
  8. Remove this and add it to the urad dal batter.
  9. Add a tiny bit of water to the grinder to clean the sides and pour this also into the bowl.
  10. Add salt to the batter and mix it well with your hand.  My mom says that the heat from your hand starts the fermentation process.
  11. Cover the batter and leave it in a warm place overnight.  I leave it in my oven (no heat or light)

Your idli/dosa batter will be nice and bubbly and ready for you in the morning.

To make the dosas:

  1. Heat a tawa or a griddle.   
  2. Pour a ladle full of batter onto the heated tawa and spread it out as thin as you can.  If you don't like crispy dosas, you can make it slightly thicker.
  3. Drizzle oil around the dosa as will as a little bit in the center. 
  4. Wait for a few minutes – maybe about 2 - 3 minutes and then carefully flip it over.
  5. Cook on both sides till the dosa is crispy.

Simple sambar with arachuvittufied taste (in other words, tastes like a more time consuming sambar)

Here's what you need:
  • ½ cup toor dal
  • lime sized ball tamarind
  • 1 ½ tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • ½ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 1 red chili, broken into pieces
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped
  • 2 tsp. sambar powder
  • salt to taste
  • few curry leaves
  • 2 – 3 tsp. of fresh masala powder (recipe below)
Fresh masala powder (Radha’s mother-in-law’s recipe)
  • 3 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp. channa dal
  • ¼ tsp. methi seeds
  • ½ tsp. black pepper corns
  • 4 red chilis
  • 2 Tbsp. dry coconut (I don’t buy this and so don’t add this to the powder, but it was in the original recipe)
Dry roast all the ingredients.  Powder and store in an airtight container.

This powder is Radha’s mother-in-law’s secret to awesome sambar.  She adds a little bit of this after the sambar is done.  It adds great flavor and aroma to the sambar.

Here is how I make this quick sambar:

  1. Pressure cook the toor dal until soft. 
  2. Soak the tamarind in a cup of so of water for ½ hour.  Squeeze out the pulp from the tamarind and save the liquid.
  3. Heat oil in a pan or kadai, add mustard seeds, methi, hing, and red chilis.
  4. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the onions and fry for a few minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and fry till it gets mushy.
  6. Add the sambar powder and mix well.
  7. Add the extracted tamarind juice and salt.
  8. Bring to a boil and let it simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes till the raw tamarind smell goes.
  9. Add some water to the toor dal and mash it up well.  Add this to the sambar
  10. Let the mixture simmer on medium heat for five more minutes
  11. Turn off the heat. Garnish with curry leaves and the freshly ground powder.

Potato Masala:

Here's what you need:
  • 2 – 3 large potatoes
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp split urad dal
  • ½ tsp. channa dal
  • ¼ tsp. hing
  • few curry leaves
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 green chilies, chopped
  • 1” piece ginger, minced
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon

To make the potato masala:
  1. Boil potatoes in a pressure cooker.  Peel and mash them. Set aside
  2. Heat oil in a pan.  Add mustard seeds, cumin, urad dal, channa dal, and hing
  3. When the mustard seeds sputter, add onions, green chilies, ginger, and curry leaves.
  4. Sauté on medium heat till the onions turn translucent
  5. Add the potatoes, turmeric powder, and salt.
  6. Cook for a few minutes, then turn off the heat and add the cilantro and lemon juice.
  7. Mix well.

Coconut Chutney

Here's what you need:
  • 1 cup frozen or freshly grated coconut
  • ½ cup pottu kadalai (my Indian store sells it under the name dalia)
  • 4 – 6 green chilies
  • ½” piece ginger
  • a few sprigs of cilantro
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. split urad dal
  • ¼ tsp. hing
To make the chutney:
  1. Grind the coconut, pottu kadalai, green chilies, cilantro, ginger, and salt with a little bit of water into a smooth paste.
  2. Heat oil in a small pan.  Add mustard seeds, urad dal, and hing.
  3. Remove from heat when the mustard seeds start sputtering and pour this over the chutney.

Note: you can add a clove of garlic too.  I made this for people who don’t eat garlic – so did not add it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Seppankizhangu (Arbi, Taro) Roast

Sundays were special when I was growing up.  My mom, a working woman, had the day off.  Everyone was a bit more relaxed.  We did not have breakfast on Sundays, but would have an elaborate lunch.  This was one day of the week that we could eat the food as soon as it was ready – instead of taking it in our lunch boxes.

My mom would make araichuvitta sambar, or mor kozhambu, rasam, either a kootu or avial, and either urilaikizhungu (potato) roast or seppankizhangu roast.  I would keep walking into the kitchen to taste the seppankizangu as it was being fried.  Aaahhh! Brings back fond memories!

People either love or hate this root vegetable.  Luckily for me, my husband loves it.  I make it once or twice a month – and still continue to “taste” it as it is cooking in the pan.

Seppankizhangu (Arbi, Taro) Roast

Here is what you need:

  • 15 – 20 Arbi
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. split urad dal
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • 2 – 3 tsp. fresh masala powder (recipe below)
    • dry roast 2 Tbsp. coriander seeds, 2 Tbsp. channa dal, 1 Tbsp. urad dal, 1 Tbsp. black pepper corns, 1 Tbsp. cumin seeds, 4 -6 red chilies. Coarsely powder and store in airtight container.


Here’s how I make it:

  1. Boil the arbi.  You can do this on your stovetop in a big pot with water, or use your pressure cooker.  I use the pressure cooker I got from India.  As soon as the first whistle blows, I reduce the heat to low and turn it off after a couple of minutes.  This gives me firm, but cooked arbi.
  2. Peel the arbi and cut it into big cubes.
  3. Heat oil in a pan.  Add mustard seeds and urad dal.
  4. When mustard seeds sputter, add the arbi, salt, turmeric powder, and chili powder.  Mix well.
  5. Cook it on low heat with minimal stirring.
  6. When the arbi is cooked well, sprinkle the freshly ground masala.  Toss to coat all the arbi.
  7. Turn off stove after a few minutes.
Serve hot with rice, rasam or sambar or vathal kuzhambu.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is a grain that I came to know about only recently.  Maybe 5 -6 years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to it and I was hooked.  It had a great texture and is a wonderful substitute for rice.  It also has a higher protein content than most grains that I use in my everyday cooking.  I have been using quinoa in a variety of ways – quinoa idlis, burgers, salad, pulav, and upma.  It is also a great addition to soups.

Quinoa Salad
I love quinoa salad.  It is so easy to make and is always delicious.  It is a great dish to take to potlucks or picnics.  People ask me for the recipe all the time.

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup quinoa (see note)
  • 2 cups corn
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt to taste
  • ½ bunch chopped cilantro


Here is how I make it:

  1. In a saucepan, add quinoa and 2 cups water.  Bring it to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook covered, till you see the rings forming on the grain (about 10 – 15 minutes)
  2. Let quinoa cool for a bit.
  3. In the meantime, steam the corn – you can do this in the microwave for about 5 minutes.
  4. Now, in a serving bowl, combine all the ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
That’s it!  Delicious, healthy, quinoa salad is ready!

Note:  I used the white quinoa this time. You can combine white and red quinoa.  This gives a wonderful color and adds texture to the salad.

You can also add baby spinach, broccoli, black beans, sprouts, dried cranberries etc. to the salad.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Masoor Dal

May was a busy month for us.  One kid graduating from high school and one kid graduating from middle school; lots of year end activities – concerts, awards assemblies, graduation ceremonies, graduation parties, balvihar picnic, a friend’s 50th birthday – the list goes on and on.  We were also leaving for India right after school ended. 

With so much going on, it was difficult for me to plan meals in advance and we were making do with quick and easy dinners and leftovers.

Masoor dal is so easy to make.  I love masoor dal.  It cooks quickly and tastes great.

Masoor Dal

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup masoor dal (red lentils)
  • water
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1tsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • pinch of hing (asafetida)
  • 2 green chilies, slit
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1” piece of ginger, slivered
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • little bit of chili powder and freshly roasted and ground cumin powder
  • few sprigs of chopped cilantro
  • juice of ½ lemon

Here is how I make it:

  1. Wash the masoor dal
  2. Add the dal and enough water to a saucepan and cook on medium heat till the dal is done. It should take about 15 minutes. It cooks very quickly and you don’t need to use a pressure cooker. 
  3. In a skillet, heat oil and ghee.
  4. Add the cumin seeds.  When it changes color, add the hing, green chilies, garlic, and ginger. Add the chopped onions and sauté for a few minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and turmeric powder.  Cook till the mixture becomes pulpy.
  6. Add this mixture to the saucepan with the dal.  Add salt and let this simmer on low for about 5 minutes.
  7. Turn off the heat.  Garnish with chili powder, freshly roasted and ground cumin, cilantro, and lemon juice.
  8. Serve hot with rice or rotis.
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