Friday, November 28, 2014

Avocado Spring Rolls

We hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our place this year.   A few of our very close friends came over for dinner.  Three of the college going kids came back home for the holidays.  It was great to have the house full of people and the kitchen full of food! 

Normally, a very good friend of ours hosts Thanksgiving dinner at their place.  This time, I really wanted to have it at our house.  I don’t remember the last time we had people over for Thanksgiving.  Most of my course work was done and my Saturday classes were also done.  So it felt like a good way to celebrate.

We had an Italian themed potluck dinner. The menu:  Appetizers: bruschetta, spinach dip, cheese and crackers, chips, salsa, guacamole, and avocado spring rolls; Main Course: Minestrone soup, greens salad, quinoa salad, pasta salad, mashed potatoes, eggplant parmesan, mushroom strudel, broccoli strudel, baked mac and cheese,  grilled veggies, and cranberry sauce; Dessert: Pumpkin pecan pie, mango panna cotta, and pumpkin bread

My husband made the grilled veggies, my oldest made the baked mac and cheese, my youngest made the mango panna cotta, and I made the guacamole, avocado spring rolls, soup, and quinoa salad.

As usual, we had way too much food and people ended up taking a ton of food back with them.

I have had avocado eggrolls in Cheesecake Factory.  I almost always end up ordering these when we go there.  I wanted to make something different for appetizers for this party and decided to make these. 

I had dumpling wrappers that I had bought for something else.  These are super easy to use and don’t take much time to make.  They are circular and are made with flour and water.  I made sure that the ones I used had no eggs because a couple of the people who were coming over don’t eat eggs.  I also have a mold that I use to press the dumpling into shape.  I filled them up with the avocado mixture and deep-fried them.  They turned out great – almost as good as the ones you get in Cheesecake Factory!


Here is what you need:

(makes about 30 – 40)

For the filling:

  • 6 medium sized avocados
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  •  ½ red onion, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
  • salt to taste

For the spring rolls:

  • dumpling wrappers
  • water
  • oil for deep-frying


Here is how I made it:

  1. Dice the avocados into small chunks. I used slightly ripe avocados, so that they don’t turn mushy.
  2. Add the chopped onion, diced jalapenos and cilantro.
  3. Pour the oil from the sundried tomatoes into this.
  4. Dice the sundried tomatoes, add it to the avocados, add salt and mix it in.
  5. Heat oil for deep-frying.
  6. Take dumpling wrappers on at time and place on the mold. Wet the whole wrapper with water.
  7. Place a spoonful of filling in the center and close the mold, pressing it hard, so that the edges are sealed.  (If you don’t have a mold, you can place the wrapper in the palm of your hand and hand press to seal the edges.)
  8. When you have five or six ready, drop them in the hot oil and fry over medium heat till all the filling is done.

Serve hot with spicy sauce of your choice.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Masala Vadai

Masala vadai is by far my most favorite vadai of all times.  It is really difficult to mess up and the textures and flavors in each bite are so amazing. 

My mom would make a close cousin of masala vadai for festivals, called aama vadai.  Aama vadai is made without onions or garlic, and is made for several festivals.  I don’t remember her making masala vadai at home.

Masala vadai is most often sold as a street food – on the beach, and my most favorite source – the vadai man near Adyar Bakery.  We used to live in the Adyar area, a really long time ago.  This was early to mid 1980s.  Those days, it was unheard of to eat out regularly or get any food from outside (at least in my house).   We probably ate out once or twice a year!

The vadai man had just started his business around this time and had set up shop in a small alley next to a famous bakery.  You could not pass by his stall without drooling at all the wonderful aromas of keerai vadai and masala vadai!  So, occasionally, when we went out for shopping, we would get off at the big bus terminus in Adyar and stop by this stall to get an assortment of goodies – masala vadai, keerai vadai and milagai bajjis.  What a treat this was!  I think this person is still in business and is still doing extremely well.  

Anyway, my mom was here for three months and left just before Deepavali.  While she was here, we hosted several dinner parties and attended numerous others.   The food at each party was so amazing and different, that I am still recovering from the culinary feast we have been experiencing!

She noticed, however, that no one made masala vadai.  I never thought about it till she mentioned this to me, because there was a point in time, when I would make it often.  I also went back and looked at my blog posts and realized that I had not posted the recipe for this.

We had a Deepavali party last weekend, and so I decided to make this for the potluck.  

Here is what you need:

(makes about 60 vadais)

  • ¾ cup channa dal
  • ¾ cup split green peas
  • ½ cup toor dal
  • ½ cup moong dal
  • ¼ cup urad dal
  • 4 – 6 red chilies
  • 4 – 6 green chilies
  • 1” piece ginger
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  • ½ tsp. asafetida (hing)
  • salt to taste
  • ½ tsp. saunf (fennel seeds)
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped spinach leaves (optional)
  • ¼ cup mint leaves, chopped (optional)
  • few curry leaves, chopped

Here is how I made it:

  • Soak all the lentils together for a couple of hours.

  • Drain the water out and grind these along with green chilies, red chilies, ginger, garlic, hing, and salt, to a coarse paste, adding little or no water.  I use my food processor to make this batter and don't add any water.

  • Add the saunf, chopped onions, spinach, cilantro, mint, and curry leaves.  Mix well.  I added spinach, but no mint, because I did not have any at home. 
  • Heat oil for deep-frying in a deep pan or kadai.


  • Make lime size balls of the batter, flatten it slightly and gently drop it into the oil.  You can fry 5 - 6 vadas simultaneously.
  • Fry the vadas on medium-low heat, turning them over occasionally, till they are golden brown on both sides.
  • Repeat till all the batter is done.

     Serve hot with chai and chutney of your choice.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Vegetable Khichdi

I don’t remember ever having khichdi growing up.  We had pongal – of course – which is as close to the North Indian khichdi as we can get.

So when I got married and came here, and my husband (who grew up in Kolkatta) asked me to make khichdi for him, I had no idea how to make it.    I looked up the recipe in a Bengali cookbook (this was way before the internet) and made it.  I loved the spices used to flavor this dish.  The recipe was so simple, yet flavorful, and aromatic!  I fell in love with this healthy and delicious dish and make it often – especially when we need a break from some heavy, rich food like we’ve been eating.

Every time I make khichdi,, my husband loves to say "Khichdi ke chaar yaar - dahi, papad, ghee, aachar" (khichdi has four friends - yogurt, papad, ghee, and Indian style pickles).

I used to think - what a cool way to remember the things to serve with khichdi!

Now - I just give him the "look".

Anyway, I make khichdi several ways – with just dal and rice, with veggies, and sometimes the Bengali version.  I made this in my rice cooker – so it did not get mushed up too much.  I like it this way, because it tastes great even after a couple of days, whereas the mushed up version becomes lumpy and unappetizing if it is left over.

Here is what you need:

(easily serves 4 people)

  • 2 tsp. ghee
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • few curry leaves
  • 1” piece slivered ginger
  • 2 green chilies, slit length-wise
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup veggies of your choice – I used carrots, beans, and potatoes
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 cup split moong dal with skin
  • ½ cup split moong dal without skin
  • salt to taste

Here is how I made it:

  1. Heat ghee in a pan.   Add cumin seeds and bay leaf.
  2. When the cumin seeds change color, add the ginger, curry leaves, and green chilies.  Saute for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the turmeric and freshly ground pepper.  Mix well.
  4. Add the chopped veggies.  Sauté on medium heat for a few minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, wash the rice and dal in several changes of water. 
  6. Add this to the veggies in the pot.  Mix well and fry for a couple of more minutes.
  7. Add salt to taste.
  8. Transfer this to a rice cooker.  Add about 6 cups of water (you can cook this directly on the stove-top, but I used a rice cooker).  Let this cook until done.
  9. Serve hot with dahi (yogurt), papad, ghee, and aachar (Indian style pickle)

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