Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Corn, Edamame, and Red Bell Pepper salad

Well, the title has most of the ingredients in this salad.  This one is absolutely simple to make, and looks and tastes great.  A friend of mine used to make this and I always took the left-overs (if there was any) home with me.  She has moved out of Colorado now.  So if I feel like having this salad, I have to make it myself.  Don't the colors look gorgeous?  Here is her recipe:

Corn, Edamame, and Red Bell Pepper Salad

Here is what you need (serves 6 - 8 people easily when served as a side dish) :

  • 1  12 oz. pkg. frozen corn kernels
  • 1 16 oz. pkg. frozen edamame in pods (you can use the frozen edamame beans instead)
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 2 green chilies, minced (Jalapeno or Serrano peppers work well)
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • juice of one lemon
  • few sprigs cilantro, chopped

Here is how I made it:

  1. Cook the corn and the edamame in a microwave according to package directions.  If you are using edamame in the pod, pop the beans out.
  2. Place corn, edamame, and red bell peppers in a bowl.
  3. Add the green chilies, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  Mix well and taste to adjust seasoning
  4. Garnish with cilantro.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mango Ice Cream (Mango Kulfi)

This was one of Ramesh’s specialties.  Ramesh is a good friend of ours and was our neighbor for a couple of years.  He has moved to India now, and every time we meet, we reminisce about our numerous get-togethers and all the food people would make.  He still jokes that the one thing he misses about Colorado is all the good food he used to get on the weekends.  

Mango Ice Cream (Kulfi)

Those were the good old days.  Most of our friends were bachelors/grad students. Our kids were really little and our weekends were not yet taken over by soccer games or karate tournaments.  We were actually able to enjoy our weekends with our friends – talking late into the night.

With one kid going away to college in the fall and one entering high school, I realize that before I know it, my weekends will soon be mine to do with as I please.  Wonder why that doesn’t cheer me up…

Anyway, getting back to the mango ice cream.  Ramesh had a standard menu that he would make for most of his parties.  He had perfected those dishes and loved to make them when he called us over.  He got the recipe for mango ice cream from some one he knew and was really thrilled to share it with me.  It is super easy to make and tastes great.

The original recipe calls for Cool Whip.  I used it blindly for many years before I started paying attention to the ingredients.  Now I use a product called TruWhip.  It seems to be a little bit better than the Cool Whip and claims to be 70% organic. I got it at my local organic grocery store.

Here is what you need (serves 20 easily):

  • 1 can mango pulp (from the Indian store)
  • 2 cans evaporated milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 2 tubs TruWhip Light or Cool Whip
  • ½ tsp cardamom seeds crushed
  • 4 – 5 Tbsp. chopped pistachios

Here is how I made it:

  1. Thaw the TruWhip/Cool Whip.  Save a few pistachios for garnish.
  2. Mix everything (except the pistachios for garnish) well and pour either into a big serving dish or individual serving pots.
  3. Freeze for at least 6 hours.
  4. Add pistachios on top and serve cold
Delicious Mango Kulfi is ready.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kadala Curry (Kerala style)

Srinivasan uncle was one of my dad’s very good friends.  We used to visit him occasionally during summer vacations.  His wife, Vanaja Akka, is a wonderful cook.  She made the best puttu I have ever had.  In fact, she introduced me to puttu and kadala curry.  On one of my recent visits, she came home and made it again for me.

Kadala Curry
I don’t have a puttu maker (a long tube like contraption) and so have never attempted to make it.  I make the kadala curry quite often though, and serve it with idiyappams.

I was telling my friend the menu for my party and the things I was making- vazhapoo vadai, baby idlis, idiyappam, ishtew, and kadala curry.   She wanted me to make everything for her on her next visit, except the kadala curry.  I realized that she did not know what it was.  In tamil – kadala means peanuts.  So I was sure she was thinking that this is a peanut dish. I sent her pictures after I made it.  She has now added this to her list also.

I like to sprout my kala channa for this dish.  So three days before I need the channa, I soak it in water overnight.  Then I drain out the water, put the channa in a colander, cover it with a wet paper towel, place the whole thing in another bowl with a little bit of water in it and let it sprout.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 cups kala channa (brown chick peas), either sprouted or soaked overnight
  • ½ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 2 tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp. cumin seeds
  • 6 – 8 red chilies
  • 1” piece of cinnamon
  • 3 - 4 cloves
  • 1 cup grated coconut (I used frozen)
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil (or any other oil)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • few curry leaves
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • salt to taste

Here is how I made it:

  1. Boil the chana in a pressure cooker with a little bit of salt and hing.  Set aside.
  2. Dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chilies cinnamon and cloves for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the coconut and keep stirring till the coconut turns golden brown. This takes a little time, especially if you are using frozen coconut.  Let this cool for a bit.
  4. Grind this to a smooth paste with a little bit of water.  Set this also aside.
  5. Heat oil in a big pot.  Add the mustard and cumin seeds.
  6. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves and onions.  Turn heat to med-low.
  7. Keep stirring this till the onions are nicely browned.
  8. Add the turmeric and fry for a couple of minutes.
  9. Now add the ground paste.  Fry this on low till the moisture is gone.
  10. Add the cooked channa and water if necessary.  Check the seasoning and add salt if necessary.
  11. Let this simmer for a while till the channa absorbs all the flavors.

Serve hot with idiyappams, appams, or puttu.

This is another great crock pot recipe.  Once I added the channa to the pot, I took it off the stove and stored it in the refrigerator.  About an hour before my guests arrived, I put it in a crockpot and set it on low.  It had simmered perfectly, just in time for dinner.

Sending this flavorful Kadala Curry to  the "My Legume Love Affair" event hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen. The MLLA's 61st edition happening this month was originally conceptualized by Susan and is being managed by Lisa.

Rava Dosai

Masala dosas are the most famous of all, but in my house rava dosas rule.  Rava dosa – made with sooji/cream of wheat, does not require fermenting, is really easy to make, and tastes great.  I remember, once when I was in India, my husband called up and said that he had invited a couple of friends over for dinner and wanted to make rava masala dosas and sambar.  I gave him my recipe over the phone, and he made it for his friends.  He still gets rave reviews for it.

Onion Rava Dosa
The recipe that I grew up with used buttermilk to make the batter.  The dosas were not too crispy.  I later found a recipe on vahrevah dot com, that seemed very simple and the dosas tasted like the ones you get in South Indian restaurants.   This one just used water to make the batter.  I don’t think I have modified his recipe at all.

Both my kids and husband love this dosa, and I can make it without too much planning.  With so many varying tastes in my house, some days I end up making three different dinners to please everyone’s palate.  But on days that I make rava dosa, everyone is happy. 

These dosas take a little longer to cook on the tawa (griddle) than the regular dosas.  You can make a potato masala for this, just like the one for masala dosa, but this dosa tastes so good that you don’t need to.  I served this with sambar. 

Plain Rava Dosa with Sambar

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup sooji (rava/cream of wheat)
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • salt to taste
  • ½ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 ½ tsp. crushed black pepper
  • 2 green chilies, finely chopped
  • few curry leaves, chopped
  • 1” piece ginger, minced
  • ½ onion, finely chopped

Here is how I made it:

  1. Take the rava, rice flour, all purpose flour, salt, hing, cumin seeds, and crushed pepper in a bowl.
  2. Add the green chilies, ginger, and curry leaves.  Mix well.
  3. Add water while continuing to mix with your hand.  Keep adding water till the batter is watery – more watery than regular idli/dosa batter – more like buttermilk.  If you let the batter sit for some time, the rava will absorb the water - so check the consistency just before you make the dosas.
  4. Place your tawa/griddle on the stove and turn the heat to high.
  5. When the tawa is hot, sprinkle chopped onions on the tawa, covering the surface evenly (my youngest does not like onions, so I make it without onions for him).
  6. Drizzle the dosa batter to cover the tawa.  The batter should spread on its own, forming a lacy pattern. You don’t have to spread the batter like you would for regular dosas.  Don't pour the batter in the center, but move your ladle around so that the batter falls and spreads evenly covering the tawa surface.
  7. Now, drizzle oil around and in the center of the dosa.
  8. Leave it on for a few minutes.  When the edges are slightly brown, flip it over and cook till the other side is also crispy.
  9. Repeat with the rest of the batter, remembering to stir it well before making each dosa.

Serve hot with chutney and sambar.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Vathal Kuzhambu without the vathal (with onions and tomatoes)

My husband comes home for lunch occasionally.  If there is a cricket match going on, he will come home, catch a few overs, eat lunch, and then head back to work.  Most days, I will have left-overs from the previous night and he will eat that happily. Otherwise, I end up making something that he likes.  My kids typically don’t eat a full Indian meal at lunch.  They prefer burritos, pasta, sandwiches, or a veggie burger for lunch.  So this is my chance to make something that my husband likes, but my kids don’t care for at all.

Onion and tomato vathal kozhambu
He came home one day last week and I ended up making pongal and vathal kuzhambu.  He loves pongal.  I did not want to make chutney or sambar.  So decided to make vathal kuzhambu to go with the pongal.

This time, I made vathal kuzhambu with onions and tomatoes.  This is how my mom makes it:

Here is what you need:

  • lime size ball of tamarind (see note)
  • 3 tsp sesame oil (see note)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp split channa dal
  • ½ tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
  • ¼ tsp hing (asafetida)
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • few curry leaves
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp sambar powder
  • salt to taste
Note 1:  I use tamarind and not store bought tamarind paste because it tastes much better when you extract the pulp yourself.  You can use tamarind paste if you are in a rush or if you don't have tamarind handy.  Substitute 2 tsp. tamarind paste for the tamarind.

Note 2:  Sesame oil gives this dish a unique flavor.  You can use any vegetable oil that you have on hand, if you don't have sesame oil.
In my cast iron pot

Here’s how I made it:

  1. Soak the tamarind in a cup of so of water for ½ hour.  Squeeze out the pulp from the tamarind and save the liquid.
  2. Heat oil.  Add mustard seeds, channa dal, methi seeds hing, and dry chilies.
  3. Once the mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves (be careful because the hot oil can splash).
  4. Add onions.  Fry for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes.  Fry for a few more minutes.
  6. Add the sambar powder and mix everything together.
  7. Add the extracted tamarind juice and salt.
  8. Let this mixture come to a boil and then simmer on medium to low heat till the raw flavor of tamarind is gone (about 10 minutes).

Serve with rice, pongal, or kancheepuram idli.

Kerala Style Vegetable Ishtew

I had this ishtew for the first time at a friend’s house in California.  I was pregnant with my first child.  We had gone to visit a close friend, my husband’s college classmate.   It was Christmas time.  Another classmate, originally from Kerala, invited us for Christmas dinner at their place and they made appam and vegetable ishtew.  I was in foodie heaven.  It was an amazing combination and I haven’t forgotten the rich taste of the vegetable stew I had that day.

Kerala Style Vegetable Ishtew
I don’t make it as often as I would like to because of all the bad rap about coconuts.  Coconuts were such a constant in my mom’s kitchen while I was growing up.  My mother in law would also use it regularly.  They would break a coconut every day and use it up in that day’s cooking.  Once I moved to the U.S, I kept hearing about coconut contributing to high cholesterol because of the high saturated fat content and stopped using it.

Now that coconut and coconut oil are back on the good side of healthy eating, I decided to make this stew for my party.  Since I had around 30 people coming, I made idiyappams instead of appams, to go with the stew.  I looked up various recipes online and came up with this hybrid version that works for me.  It tastes much better than it looks in the pictures :)

Here is what you need:

  • ½ cup grated coconut
  • 4 green chilies
  • 1” piece ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 – 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into big chunks
  • 1 small cauliflower, separated into florets
  • 2 carrots, cut into big chunks
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 blade of mace
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (cut onion in half, slice off the head and the root.  Peel the dry outer layers and discard.  Cut into very thin slices parallel to the layers.  Separate the layers.  I learned this technique from Vasu, who used to work in my friend's house)
  • salt to taste
  • ½” piece of thinly slivered ginger
  • 2 green chilies, slit
  • few curry leaves
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can coconut milk

Here is how I made it:

  1. Grind the first four ingredients (grated coconut, green chilies, ginger, and garlic) into a smooth paste.
  2. In a large pot, bring water to a boil, add vegetables one at a time and cook them till they are cooked though, but still firm.  Set aside.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a big pan. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, and mace. Fry for a few seconds.
  4. Add the slivered onions.  Keep frying till the onions are gently browned.
  5. Add salt, ginger, green chilies, and curry leaves.  Stir and fry for a few more minutes.
  6. Now add the tomatoes and fry till the whole thing gets cooked well (about 10 minutes).
  7. Add the ground paste and keep stirring occasionally till all the water gets dried up (another 10 minutes).
  8. Now add the coconut milk and reduce the heat to low, because you don’t want the coconut milk to get curdled.
  9. When you see small bubbles forming – showing you that the coconut milk is heated through, add the vegetables and mix well.
  10. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes on low heat so that the vegetables absorb the spices. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  11. Serve hot with idiyappams or appams.
This is a good recipe for the crock pot.  I made the dish in the morning.  When I reached step 9, I refrigerated the gravy.  About an hour or so before people were scheduled to come, I put the coconut gravy and the vegetables in a crock pot and set the heat to low.  The vegetables slowly absorbed all the flavors from the gravy and the stew was perfectly cooked when people were ready to eat.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tomato Rasam (without Toor Dal)

In our house, we call this Poorni’s rasam.  Poorni and Subbu were the first Indian couple we met in Colorado after we got married.  They have moved to Illinois now, but we still keep in touch.

When our kids were very young, we planned a vacation together and decided to meet in Orlando, Florida.  They flew in from Chicago and we went from Denver. We stayed in a hotel with a kitchenette, because we were staying in Florida for a week, and the prospect of eating out three times a day for the whole week did not appeal to us.

I had packed some spices and quick-fix meals that we could make with the limited facilities available in the kitchen at the hotel.  Subbu, the most enthusiastic cook in the group, had packed everything to make full-fledged meals, including his pressure cooker and idli plates!  We would come back from a long day of waiting in lines at the theme parks to a freshly cooked gourmet meal. I am sure that our rooms retained the tantalizing smells of our cooking endeavors long after we checked out.

Tomato Rasam

Poorni made this rasam for us one evening.  It was so simple to make and tasted great!  The kids had rasam sadam (rice) with potato curry and kept asking for seconds and thirds!  Here is her recipe.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 roma or 1 regular tomato, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 green chilies, slit
  • about 4 cups of water
  • 2 tsp. tamarind pulp/paste
  • 2 tsp. rasam powder (store-bought)
  • salt to taste
  • few curry leaves
  • ½ tsp. hing
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  • 1 tsp. ghee
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. jeera
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns

Here is how I made it:

  1. In a pot, add the tomatoes and about 1 cup of water.  Mash up the tomatoes with your hand.
  2. Add the crushed garlic, green chilies, curry leaves, and ginger.  Add the rest of the water.
  3. Add tamarind pulp, salt, and rasam powder.
  4. Bring this to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let it cook for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add hing and cilantro.  Let it simmer for a couple of more minutes
  6. Turn off the heat.
  7. In a small skillet or saucepan, heat the ghee.  Once the ghee is hot, add the mustard seeds and jeera.  When the mustard seeds start sputtering, add the whole pepper. The pepper tends to burst, so be careful.  Remove from heat and pour this over the rasam.

Serve hot with rice and vegetable of your choice.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Homemade Pizza

Don’t know if anyone else faces this problem – what to make for dinner.  Coming up with something different day after day, that everyone will eat without complaining, is a daunting task.

Most days, what I make is dictated by what is available in the fridge and pantry on that day.  Sometimes, I am stumped.  My family is of no help.  If I ask my kids what they want for dinner, I get shoulder shrugs – or a comment like “I don’t know” or “not Indian”.  Thanks guys!  That was really helpful!  My husband’s standard response – aloo (potato) curry.

Well, my standard go-to for those days is smothered burritos, enchiladas, or some kind of soup-pasta-bread combo.  Yesterday, I decided to make pizza.
Homemade Pizza

Homemade pizza tastes so much better than the standard store-bought pizza.  I am not comparing my pizza to the gourmet pizza places, but to the big chain stores, where the pizza is loaded with cheese and the crust is an inch or more thick.

Speaking of pizza, we had great pizza in London recently.  It was probably the best pizza I have had in a long time.  Our cousin, who lives in Wimbledon, took us for lunch to a neighborhood pizza joint.  The crust was perfect, golden brown and crispy, the toppings worked well together and the whole experience was fantastic.

Anyway, while my pizza is nowhere close to that one, it turned out O.K.


Here is what you need:

For the crust (Emeril Lagasse’s recipe):
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 envelope active yeast (¼ oz.)
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • yellow cornmeal for sprinkling

For the toppings:
  • 3 - 4 tbsp. pasta/pizza sauce
  • 2 tbsp. pesto (store-bought or homemade)
  • sprinkling of grated cheese for each pizza (I used a mixture of mozzarella and parmesan)
  • toppings of your choice (I used banana peppers, red and green bell peppers, spinach, and red onions)

Here is how I made it:

(Crust recipe from Emeril Lagasse)

  1. Combine yeast, honey, 1 tbsp oil, and water. Mix well and let it sit for 5 minutes till the yeast bubbles.
  2. Add 1½ cups flour, mixing by hand till blended.
  3. Keep adding flour a little at a time till the dough stops sticking to your hands.
  4. Put dough onto floured surface and knead with both hands for about 5 minutes.
  5. Separate dough into two balls.
  6. Pour rest of the olive oil into two bowls. Place a ball of dough into each bowl and turn to coat the dough with the oil.
  7. Cover and let it rise for about 1½ hours.
  8. Place the pizza stone (if you are using one) in the cold oven.
  9. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  10. When the dough has almost doubled in size, punch it down and make it into a ball again. Do this with the other ball of dough also.
  11. Place the dough on a floured (I use cornmeal) pizza peel.  Stretch the dough with your hands to form a round, flat disc, rotating as you press down.  I like a thin crust on my pizza and so I make the disc thin.  Make sure that the pizza will slide off the peel onto the pizza stone (don’t press so hard that the dough sticks to the peel).
  12. Once your base has the desired thickness, spread the sauce on.  I made one with pesto and one with tomato (store-bought pasta) sauce.
  13. Sprinkle cheese on the sauce and add any toppings that you like.
  14. Slide the pizza gently on to the hot stone.  I sprinkle a little bit of cornmeal on the pizza stone so that the pizza does not stick to it.
  15. Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes – till the edges are nicely browned, the cheese is melted and the bottom of the pizza looks crispy and cooked (lift it up gently with a spatula and look at the bottom).
  16. Repeat these steps with the other ball of dough.
  17. Cut it into slices and serve hot.

If you have younger kids, you can have a "make our own pizza" party.  Make smaller pizza bases, set out a variety of pizza toppings and have the kids make their own pizza.  Bake the individual pies and serve.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Healthy Mixture (Chivda)

You know, when you have those 4:00 p.m. cravings?  When you feel like you need something to crunch or munch on?  Well, I have those regularly.  In fact, I have them through the day.  I go to the pantry, open the door to see what goodies are available, and grab the closest murukku or thatai or anything else I can find.  Since we just got back from India, my pantry is well stocked with a lot of stuff that I shouldn’t be eating.

Healthy Mixture

Anyway, I had gone to Sprouts (a grocery store that sells natural and organic products along with traditional stuff) for some bell peppers and saw that they had a variety of puffed grains – brown rice, wheat, millet, and kamut.  I got a packet of each and made this mixture.  Now, when those cravings hit me, I can grab a bowl of this chivda and not feel too guilty.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 tsp. coconut oil (any oil will do)
  • few curry leaves
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • ½ cup fried gram dal (pottukadalai or dalia – as it is called in my Indian store)
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup each of puffed wheat, puffed millet, puffed brown rice, and puffed kamut (you can make this with one or any combination of puffed cereals)
  • ½ cup shoestring potatoes (optional)

Here is how I made it:

  1. Heat oil in a big pan
  2. Add curry leaves (carefully) and peanuts.  Roast for a minute
  3. Add fried gram dal.  Fry for another minute
  4. Add all the spices and salt.  Mix well.
  5. Add the puffed cereals and the shoestring potatoes.
  6. Keep mixing till the salt and spices coat all the cereals.  Remember that the bottom of the pan is hot, so keep stirring so that the bottom layer does not get burnt.  I got distracted for a bit and you can see some burnt peanuts in the picture. 
  7. Turn off the heat and let it cool completely.
  8. Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy a healthy snack at 4:00 p.m. or at any other time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Idiyappam (String Hoppers / Sevai)

My mom used to make sevai from scratch.  She would make the rice flour dough, put it in the sevai-making contraption, steam it, and then make either lemon sevai or coconut sevai.   I used to help with the sevai puzhinjufying (putting the dough into the contraption and turning the handle to make the noodles), but never thought that I would be doing this so many years later.


My friend Usha, who grew up in Sri Lanka, makes idiyappam regularly.  She always uses red rice flour.  This is healthier than the white rice flour my mom used.  She would serve this with a fantastic eggplant coconut milk curry.  On one of her trips, she got me the idiyappam press.  I use it regularly to make idiyappams.  I only use the red rice flour or Chemba flour because I love the texture and the color.

Idiyappam Press
When people see the idiyappams, they think it is very time consuming and labor intensive.  It is not that difficult to make and you can take credit for having slaved over the stove for hours (it probably took me an hour or so to make these for my party).  My idiyappams look a little weird because of the red rice flour and the fact that I steamed it in my idli plate. The noodles also look thicker than they actually are.

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup red rice flour
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 1 cup boiling water (adjust to get the right texture)

Here is how I made it:

  1. Add salt and oil to the boiling water.
  2. Start adding the rice flour to the boiling water, stirring constantly (or, you can add water to the rice flour).  When this mixture reaches a pasty consistency – you should be able to make a ball with the dough - stop. 
  3. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps.  If the mixture is too watery, you may not be able to make the noodles and if it is too dry, it may be too difficult to press.  So try out the dough in your press, to make sure that the noodles come out well.  If not, add more water or flour to get the right consistency.
  4. Fill up the hollow chamber in the press with this dough.  Press out the noodles onto greased idli plates.
  5. Steam in an idli steamer or pressure cooker for about 10 minutes.
  6. Repeat till all the dough is done.

Serve with vegetable ishtew, kadala curry, or use it to make your favorite sevai preparation.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Vazhapoo (Banana Blossom) Vadai

A long time ago,  I saw a tamil movie in which one of the characters made vazhapoo vadai.  If I remember right, the vadais were kind of critical to the plot.

I have never made this.  I make vadais regularly for parties but usually end up making either ulundu vadai or masala vadai.  This time around, I decided to try vazhapoo vadai.  

Vazhapoo Vadai

We only get vazhapoo at a Chinese/Asian grocery store, which is not that far away, but my normal commute doesn’t take me in that direction.  So I don’t buy it that often.  Also, it takes a bit of prep time to cook vazhapoo.  You have to remove the stigma and the outer translucent covering from individual florets and this takes time.  Here is a great tutorial on how to prepare vazhapoo.

Anyway, I had invited a few people over for dinner.   I made vazhapoo vadai, baby idlis, idiyappam, ishtew, and kadala curry.  My friends brought bajjis, sambar, pulav, dry subji, raita, salad, rotis, and dessert.

I will post recipes for the idiyappam, ishtew, and kadala curry soon.

Here is what you need (to make about 60 vadas):

  • 1 small banana blossom
  • 1 cup channa dal
  • 1 cup green split peas (dried – the kind used to make split pea soup)
  • ½ cup toor dal
  • ½ cup moong dal
  • a handful urad dal
  • 8 – 10 red chilies
  • 2” piece ginger
  • ½ tsp. hing
  • salt to taste
  • 6 – 8 green chilies
  • a bunch of chopped cilantro
  • 1 onion chopped fine
  • few curry leaves chopped
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • oil for deep frying

Here is how I made it:

  1. Wash and soak all the dals together for about two hours.
  2. In the meantime, prepare the vazhapoo like this.  Chop the florets finely and then steam it for about 5 minutes with salt and turmeric powder (you can do this in the microwave).  Squeeze out all the water from this.
  3. Grind the dals, with ginger, red and green chilies, hing, and salt in a food processor. I use the food processor because I can grind it to a coarse paste without adding any water.
  4. To this, add the vazhapoo, onions, cilantro, curry leaves, and fennel seeds.  Mix well
  5. Heat enough oil for deep-frying.
  6. Take lime sized balls of the batter in your palm and flatten it to shape the vadas.  Slip this gently to the hot oil.  Keep the heat on medium so that the vadas get cook evenly, inside and out.  You can fry a few vadas at a time.
  7. Gently turn these so that they don’t break.  Once both sides are browned evenly, remove from oil and drain it on a paper towel.
  8. Repeat till all the batter is done.

Serve hot with chutney of your choice.  You can make this ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator or freezer and then warm it up in the oven.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Brown Rice and Mixed Bean Adai

We had a low-key 4th of July.  With all the traveling we have been doing, it seemed like no one wanted to do anything but laze around the house.

On July 4th, the City of Boulder typically has a fireworks show at the University.   If we are in town, we go to watch them.  Yesterday, we went to a different observation spot.  It was less crowded and the views were fantastic!  Since we were going to go after dinner, I wanted to make something simple.  Decided to make adai with brown rice.

I have already posted a recipe for the traditional  adai.  This one uses brown rice and a mixture of beans.  I read a recipe for 16 bean adai on this blog a long time ago and loved it.  
Mixed beans

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup mixed beans (I used something called The Gourmet Bean Blend from Costco)
  • a handful urad dal
  • 6 – 8 red chilies
  • 1 inch piece ginger
  • ½ tsp hing
  • salt to taste
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • oil to make the adais

To make adais:

Brown Rice Adai

  1. Soak the rice, urad dal, and beans in water for about 4 hours.
  2. Drain the water and then grind it to a coarse paste with salt, hing, red chilies, and ginger.  I use my blender to make the batter.  Take care to make the batter thick – don’t add a lot of water while blending.
  3. Now add the onions, veggies, and some curry leaves.  You can add a variety of vegetables (carrots, cabbage, very finely cubed potatoes, spinach, drumstick leaves etc.), or not add any at all.  I make plain adais sometimes. Mix well.
  4. Heat a tawa or a griddle.  I like using my cast iron griddle for adais.
  5. Pour a ladle full of batter onto the heated tawa and spread it out.  It should be slightly thicker than dosas.
  6. Make a small hole in the middle and drizzle oil around the adai as well as in the center. 
  7. Wait for a few minutes – maybe about 3 -4 minutes and then carefully flip it over.
  8. Cook on both sides till the adai is crispy.

My sons like it with grated cheese.  So after the adai has cooked on both sides, I sprinkle some grated cheese on one half of the adai, fold it in half and let the cheese melt.  Serve it with yogurt.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Vazhakkai (Plantain) Curry with Toor Dal

My chitti (mom’s sister) lives in a flat right across the hallway from my mom.  Like my mom, she is an excellent cook.  The advantages of having her right across the hallway – I get to sample her cooking as well as my mom’s cooking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

She made this plantain curry when I was there.  It was very different from other plantain curries that I had tasted.   I normally make it with chili powder, salt and turmeric. This one had some similar ingredients to the traditional paruppu usili, but was easier to make.  I really liked it.

Vazhakkai Curry with Toor Dal

Here is what you need:

  • ½ cup toor dal
  • 4 red chilies
  • ¼ tsp. hing
  • 4 small raw plantains
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. split urad dal
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • salt to taste

Here is how I made it:

  1. Soak the toor dal for about an hour
  2. Grind this to a coarse paste with red chilies and hing
  3. Peel and chop the plantains into small cubes.  Put the pieces in water so that they don’t discolor when you cut them.
  4. Heat oil in a saucepan, add mustard seeds and urad dal
  5. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the ground paste and mix well.
  6. Add the cut plantains, salt, and turmeric powder
  7. Sprinkle a little water.
  8. Cover and cook till the plantains are done, stirring occasionally.

Serve with rice and rasam, sambar, or kuzhambu

Keerai (Spinach) with Moong Dal

It feels like we have been traveling and eating out forever!  First, as soon as summer vacation started, we went to Chennai.  Then we went to London.  The day after we came back, my youngest and I went to Idaho for a soccer tournament.  Then, this weekend, we went to Ann Arbor for freshman orientation for my oldest. 

I don’t know how people do this regularly. I know a couple of people who travel extensively for their job.  They are gone about 15 days each month.  I don’t think I can do it.  It is so tedious to find a place to eat.  Not only do all the different cuisines start to taste the same, but finding veggie dishes that haven't been smothered in oil - making the vegetable unrecognizable - is also difficult - unless you eat raw salad.

When we come back from a trip, I usually make our family’s version of comfort food – rasam, keerai, and potato curry.


We came back home late last night, and I was too tired to make all of that.  I just made potato curry and rice.  We had rotis, rice and the potato curry with yogurt.

I made the spinach, eggplant curry, plantain curry, and rasam for dinner today.

There are a lot of different ways to make keerai (greens) and a lot of different keerais (amaranth, spinach, methi, mustard greens, collard, kale etc.) that can be used.  My favorite is the organic baby spinach from Costco. 

This is a very simple dish to make and is absolutely delicious .   Just the way comfort foods should taste.

Here is what you need:

  • ½ - ¾ cup split moong dal
  •  ¾ lb. baby spinach, washed and chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. split urad dal
  • 2 red chilies broken
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafoetida)
  • few curry leaves

Here is how I make it:

  1. Wash the moong dal in several changes of water.  Add about twice the water as there is moong dal, and cook it in a pressure cooker until done (about 10 minutes after the first whistle).
  2. Wash and chop the spinach.
  3. Add enough water to cover the spinach, cook on high heat till the water comes to boil, simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes ill the spinach is cooked.
  4. Drain the excess water into a bowl.  Add the moong dal to the spinach.  Add enough water to this till the desired consistency is reached.  I like my keerai (greens) a bit liquidy.  If you like it to be a bit more dry, don’t add the water.
  5. Add salt and bring it to a boil.  Turn off the heat.
  6. In a small saucepan (I use a deep iron ladle for this), heat oil, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal, broken chilies, and the hing. 
  7. When mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves and turn off the heat.
  8. Pour this over the keerai.
Serve hot with rice, rasam, and potato curry or with rotis.

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