Saturday, March 29, 2014

Vazhaipoo (Banana Blossom) Paruppu Usili

I am almost done with my Spring Break.  Have been enjoying the slower pace of life – don’t have to rush in the morning and am getting caught up on all the chores that had piled up.  We had a couple of soccer games to go to and a dinner with friends.  Other than that, I have had time to read, start on some spring-cleaning, and spend more time in the kitchen.

My husband took my younger son skiing on Wednesday and I had the whole day to myself.  Since I was feeling a bit sick both Monday and Tuesday, I ended up making quick and easy dinners for the family.  So decided to spend some time and make an elaborate meal for them.

The local Asian market had vazhaipoo (banana flower or banana blossom).  I had not made paruppu usili with vazhaipoo in ages.  So decided to make that along with parangikkai vathal kuzhambu, peerkangai kootu, and lemon rasam for dinner.

Vazhaipoo takes a little extra time to prepare.  I have taken some step-by step pictures to show you how I did it.

Banana Blossom curry

Here is what you need:

  • 1 cup toor dal
  • 1 medium size vazhaipoo (banana blossom)
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp. yogurt
  • a bowl of water
  • 4 red chilies
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafoetida)
  • salt to taste
  • 3 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 2 red chilies
  • few curry leaves

Here is how I made it:

Wash and soak the toor dal in some water for  about ½ hour (This is the amount of time it took me to prepare the vazhaipoo)

In the mean time, prepare the banana blossom:

In a bowl add water, yogurt, and turmeric powder.  Mix well.

Remove the tough outer layer of skin covering the vazhaipoo.  You will see a set of florets arranged beautifully in two rows. 

In each floret, you will see a black stigma sticking out.  

 Carefully remove this along with the translucent outer skin as shown in the picture below.  Discard.

Chop the rest of the florets and put them in the bowl of water, so that they don’t discolor.

Repeat the above step, peeling back the tough skin to expose the florets as you go, till the florets become tender and it is difficult to remove the stigmas.

Chop these florets as is and put them also into the water.

Once you have reached a point where you can’t peel back the skin anymore, stop.  Some people use the inner core of a banana blossom, but I have never tried it.
Steam the chopped flowers in a microwave safe bowl.  I steamed it in the same water it was soaking in.  It cooks really fast – so about 5 minutes should be more than sufficient.  Drain and set aside.
Drain the water from the toor dal.  Grind it to a coarse paste with red chilies, hing, and salt, adding very little water.

Distribute the ground paste onto idli plates, or a stainless steel bowl and steam for about 7 – 8 minutes.  Alternatively, you can steam this in the microwave in a bowl, stirring occasionally, till the paste is crumbly.
When the steamed paste has cooled a bit, crumble well with your hand, so that there are no big lumps.
Heat oil in a pan.  Add mustard seeds and red chilies.  When the mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves.

Add the ground dal and stir well.  Let this mixture cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up lumps.

When the dal looks dry and starts getting slightly crispy, add the steamed vazhaipoo.  Mix well.

Cover and cook for 5 - 10 minutes, adding salt if necessary.

Serve with mor kuzhambu, vathal kuzhambu, or rasam

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pakodi Kadhi

It has been a while since I had people over.  Everyone has gotten busy with kids' activities and work schedules. We don’t socialize as much as we used to when our kids were younger.  We used to meet our friends almost every weekend, either at someone’s place or at a restaurant.  During the week, kids would have play dates.  Those were such crazy times. There were days when I would have given anything, to have time for a quiet cup of coffee or to enjoy my shower in peace, without a kid banging on the door demanding attention.

Anyway, we were having some of our friends over after ages, and since the guest list was short, I decided to make Aloo Parathas.  I like to make kadhi to go with parathas – especially if we are having guests.  I just love the combination. I learned to make this from my friend, Shashi.

Kadhi is actually quite simple to make and tastes great with rotis, parathas, and rice.  I made the pakodis ahead of time, and made the kadhi later in the afternoon.  I let it simmer on low heat, to thicken slowly.  I added the pakodis to it around ½ hour before serving.

Here is what you need:

For the pakodis:
(don't add salt to the pakodis - they will absorb the flavors from the kadhi)
  • oil to deep fry
  • 1 cup besan
  • ½ medium onion chopped
  • ½ tsp. red chili powder
For the kadhi

  • 1½ cups sour yogurt
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup water (or more)
  • 3 Tbsp. besan (gram flour)
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 3 - 4 red chilies
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 1 cup chopped spinach

Just before serving:  2nd tempering 
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 2 tsp. red chili powder


Here is how I made it:

For the pakodis:

  1. Heat oil for deep-frying in a pan
  2. Mix the besan, onions, and chili powder with a little bit of water so that the dough is of dropping consistency (not too thick, and not too watery).
  3. When the oil is hot, drop spoonfuls of batter into the oil and deep-fry on medium heat till the pakodis are cooked through and are golden brown on the outside.
  4. Drain on a paper towel and set aside.

For the kadhi:

  1. Mix the yogurt with salt and let it sit for about an hour.
  2. Make a thin batter with the besan and water.  Mix this with the yogurt.  Add turmeric.
  3. Heat oil in a pot.  Add mustard seeds, red chilies, and hing.
  4. When the mustard seeds sputter, carefully pour the yogurt mixture into the pot.
  5. Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat.
  6. Let this cook slowly on low, stirring occasionally, till the mixture thickens – about 20 minutes.  You might need to add more water so that the consistency is like that of cream of tomato soup. Adjust salt if necessary.
  7. Add the chopped spinach and give it a good stir.
  8. Let this cook for five more minutes.

Just before serving:

  1. Drop the pakodis into the hot kadhi. Transfer this to a serving bowl
  2. Heat oil for the second tempering. Add the cumin seeds.
  3. When the cumin seeds change color, add the chili powder and turn off the heat.
  4. Pour this over the kadhi.
Enjoy with parathas or rice.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Peanut Chutney

I think I have mentioned this before – the Indian store close to my house gets fresh veggies only on Thursdays.  I used to be able to go on Thursday afternoons or Friday mornings to get my weekly shopping done.  But since I have started a new job, I don’t get off work till around 4:00 on Thursdays and then need to get home and drive my son to soccer practice at 5:30.  By the time I finish on Friday and go there, all the fresh veggies are gone!

This brings me to today’s post.  I was out of frozen coconut (well I had too little) and so couldn’t make coconut chutney to go with the quinoa dosai.  I really felt like making a chutney, and have made pottukadalai (roasted gram dal) chutney in the past, but was almost out of that too.  I did have a jar of roasted peanuts though, and decided to make a chutney with that instead.
I used store bought roasted peanuts.  If you have raw peanuts, you can dry roast them and use that in the recipe.


Here is what you need:

  • about 1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 2 – 3 tbsp. grated coconut
  • 3 – 4 red chilies
  • 2 tsp. tamarind pulp (or small marble-sized ball of tamarind)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. split urad dal
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • few curry leaves, rinsed


Here is how I made it: 

  1. Grind the peanuts, coconut, red chilies, tamarind, and salt to a smooth paste adding a little bit of water.
  2. Heat oil in a small kadai or pan.  Add mustard seeds, urad dal, and hing.
  3. When the mustards seeds sputter, add the curry leaves and turn off the heat.
  4. Pour this over the chutney.
Serve with idlis or dosas.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Quinoa Dosai

I make dosa batter every other week.  As long as I have that in the fridge, I don’t have to worry about coming home and wondering what to make dinner.  I use the same batter to make idlis, dosas and uttappams.  If I make idlis the first day, I will make dosas couple of days later and uttappams a few days after that.  That takes care of at least three meals.
Last week, while cleaning my pantry, I found a big box of quinoa.  I love quinoa and make salads and soups with it, but other than my older son, no one else likes it much at home.  And he, of course, is away at college.  I needed to find a way to use quinoa so that everyone at home will eat it.

I have made idlis with quinoa before – my friend Vimala’s recipe, and thought maybe I could use it to make dosas.  My mom also mentioned in our last phone conversations that she was substituting quinoa for rice in all her recipes, including making dosais.  She told me how she made it, and so I decided to try it out. 

My first attempt came out great!  My husband loved the taste.  In fact he had quinoa dosas almost everyday till the batter was done.  He also liked the fact that it was easy to spread and the dosas were super easy to make.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 1 cup urad dal
  • a handful of channa dal
  • a handful of split moong dal with skin
  • ¼ tsp. methi seeds (fenugreek)
  • salt to taste
  • oil to make the dosas

Here is how I made it:

  1. Soak the quinoa along with the dals and methi seeds for about 4 – 5 hours
  2. Pour out the soaking water and rinse it a couple of times.
  3. Grind this to a smooth batter adding a little water.  I use my wet grinder, but if you have a blender, that should work too.
  4. Add salt to taste.  Mix well with your hand.
  5. Cover and let this ferment overnight
  6. Heat a griddle or tawa.
  7. Pour a ladle full of batter on the griddle and spread to make a thin crepe/dosa
  8. Drizzle oil on the outside.
  9. When the edges get slightly browned, flip it over and cook on the other side.

Serve hot with sambar or your choice of chutney.  I made peanut chutney to go with it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sprouted Green Peas Masala

It is pantry-cleaning time.  My pantry is like Aladdin’s cave - I never know what I am going to find in it! Obviously, if it is in my pantry, I am the one who put it in there, but I just have no recollection of how some of the things I have got in.

Anyway, while looking for something I was sure I had, I found this bag of dried green peas.  I probably bought it during Navrathri, when we are supposed to make different kinds of sundal each day, and promptly forgot about it.

Tired of making chole and rajma, I decided to sprout the green peas and make a masala that we could have with either jeera rice or rotis.  It sprouted really well and the dish itself was a hit.


Here is what you need:


  • 1 cup dried green peas, soaked overnight (you can sprout these for a couple of days if you like, but it is not necessary)
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • pinch of hing (asafetida)
  • 3 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 green chilies, slit
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1” piece ginger, slivered
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder
  • small bunch of cilantro, chopped

For garnish:
  • ¼ medium onion slivered
  • 2 green chilies, sliced
  • few sprigs of cilantro
  • freshly roasted and powdered cumin

Here is how I made it:

  1. Put the peas, salt, turmeric, and hing with enough water in a pressure cooker.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes on low heat after the first whistle/sound.
  2. Heat oil in a deep pan. Add jeera.
  3. When the jeera changes color, add the onions, green chilies, ginger, and garlic.
  4. Sauté on medium heat till they look well blended and start changing color.
  5. Now add the tomatoes and all the dry spices and fry for a few minutes, being careful not to let the spices burn.
  6. Cover and cook for a few minutes till the tomatoes are mushy.
  7. Add the cooked peas.  Add more water and salt if necessary. Let this simmer for fifteen minutes. Mix in the chopped cilantro.
  8. Turn off the stove.

To serve:

Put the peas in a bowl and top with chopped onions, green chilies, and cilantro.  Sprinkle some freshly ground cumin on top.

Serve with jeera rice and rotis.  You can also eat it just like that.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sreekanth’s Special Potato Curry

-->It does happen, that sometimes (very rarely) a week or so goes by and I have not made potatoes in my house.  If it does happen, then my dear husband starts having withdrawal symptoms and decides to make his special potato curry.  He also makes this when we have house guests, who stay with us for more than a couple of days, or if I am traveling and he needs to feed himself and the kids.

Last week, it somehow happened that I did not make potatoes for the entire week.  So, on Saturday, even though we had leftovers, my husband decided to make it.  I took pictures so that I could post it on my blog.

Even though he messes up my spice arrangement, and uses more turmeric than necessary, and uses a Corelle plate as a cutting board – instead of the numerous cutting boards we have, and sometimes peels more potatoes than he is going to use (I have now trained him to use all the potatoes he peels saying that if the curry is left over, we can eat it later, but a peeled potato, sitting in the fridge discolors and might go waste), I have learned to sit back and enjoy the results!

Here is his recipe.

You will need:

  • 6 medium potatoes, washed, peeled, and diced (he added a couple of unpeeled, diced potatoes)
  • 3 – 4 tsp. oil
  • ¼ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp. cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp. split urad dal
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric (he uses more)
  • 1½ - 2 tsp. red chili powder
  • 2 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.  Powder and store in airtight container.       


Here is how he made it:

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan.  Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and urad dal.
  2. When the mustard seeds sputter, add the diced potatoes and mix well.
  3. Add salt, turmeric powder, and chili powder.  Toss to coat everything well.  Cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Check to see if the potatoes are cooked through and cook uncovered, on medium heat for a few more minutes so that the potatoes get crispy.
  5. Add the fresh masala powder and stir to coat the potatoes.  Turn off the heat after a couple of minutes.

Serve with rasam, sambar, rice or rotis.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Quick Channa Masala from a Can (Canned Garbanzo Beans Curry)

Another weekend is over and I have no idea where the time went.  Sometimes I feel that weekends are busier than weekdays.  At least on weekdays, I have a routine. 

I had so many tasks that I wanted to finish - and, there was a wonderful party at a friends’ place that I did not want to miss.  So I made my list and tackled the tasks, slowly making a dent in my to-do list.  Unfortunately, a few remained "un-done".  Grocery shopping was one of them.

Monday afternoon, I came home from work and opened the fridge to see what to make for dinner.  Of course, there was nothing I could use.  I had some tomatoes, a carrot, some cilantro, a  ¼ head of cabbage, and a few leftovers – not enough to serve the three of us.  If I was hoping to have my fridge miraculously stocked up with fresh veggies – that had not happen.

I went over to the pantry and started scanning the shelves, waiting for inspiration to strike, when I spotted these cans of garbanzo beans.  I had some uncooked flour tortillas from Costco and decided that my life just got easier – tasty dinner in a jiffy.

I prefer the taste of home cooked channa – where you soak the dried beans and then cook them yourself.  But hey, canned garbanzo is a great substitute if you are in a rush.

Here is what you need:

(to feed a family of four)

  • 2 cans garbanzo beans (without salt – if available)
  • 3 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic
  • 1” piece ginger, slivered
  • 2 – 3 green chilies, slit length-wise
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 1 ½ tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. jeera powder
  • 1 tsp. amchur powder
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tsp. kasoori methi
  • cilantro for garnish

Here is how I made it:

  1. Wash the canned garbanzo beans in several changes of water, drain, and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a pan.  Add the cumin seeds.
  3. When they change color, add the hing and fry for a few seconds.
  4. Add chopped onions, garlic, and ginger.  Sauté for a few minutes.
  5. When the onions become translucent, add the tomatoes and green chilies.  Fry till this whole thing gets pulpy.  Add salt and mix well.
  6. Take a little bit of water in a small bowl.  Add the turmeric powder, chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, and amchur.  Pour this mixture into the pan.  Stir.
  7. Cover and cook this for a few minutes.
  8. Add the diced potatoes, the garbanzo beans and some water.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, till the potatoes are done
  9. Crush the kasoori methi in the palm of your hands and sprinkle it over the gravy.
  10. Turn off the heat.  Garnish with cilantro.

Serve hot with rotis, fresh slided onions, and green chilies.

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