Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dry aloo curry with tomatoes and onions

I am surprised that I have not posted more recipes with potatoes.  It is by far the most favorite vegetable in our house.   Both my husband and younger son will eat it without complaining.  And I make some form of potatoes at least once a week.

Since it is one of our favorite vegetables, I cook it several different ways so that there is some variety.  I tend to make it as a gravy when I make puris, but on almost all other occasions, I make a dry subzi that can be eaten with both rice and rotis.

My oldest is now back for winter vacation and on the day that he came back, I made these potatoes.  He is cooking for himself now and wanted to know how to make these.  So am posting this recipe so that my baby can make these when he wants to.

Here is what you need:

  • 3 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • ½ tsp. saunf (fennel seeds)
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • few curry leaves (I didn't have any at home, but be sure to add these)
  • 2 green chilies, slit length-wise
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 medium-sized potatoes, peeled, and cubed
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • 3 tsp. red chili powder
  • salt to taste


Here is how I made it:

  1. Heat oil.  Add mustard seeds, jeera, saunf , and hing.
  2. When mustard seeds sputter, add curry leaves and green chilies. Sauté for a minute or so.
  3. Add onions and garlic.  Sauté on medium heat till they turn translucent.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook till they are mushy and mixed in well with the onions.
  5. Add potatoes, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and salt.
  6. Toss to coat the potatoes uniformly.
  7. Cook covered, on medium heat till the potatoes have absorbed all the flavors – about 10 – 15 minutes.
  8. Remove the cover and cook on med-high heat so that the potatoes get slightly crispy.

Serve hot with rotis or rice.

Lemon Rasam

Living in Colorado, skiing has become a huge part of our winter.  I don’t ski, my husband doesn’t ski, but both my kids love it.  So every December, for the past few years, we have gone to the mountains for 4 – 5 days so that the kids can enjoy skiing without the long morning drive.  We typically rent a house and go with a few other families.

While the kids are out, we watch movies, catch up on reading, sit in the hot tub, and cook.  Most of our dinners are elaborate, and with many helping hands, we can get a gourmet meal to the table very quickly.

For example, on our most recent vacation, we had Chinese soup, noodles, rice, and stir fried veggies the first night, medhu vada, masala dosa, sambar, chutney and tomato rice the second night, vegetable and chicken biryani, chole, bhature, and raita the third night, rotis, potato subji, and left overs the fourth night, and pizza on the last night.  What a feast – right?

And if this wasn’t enough, we had to head straight from the mountains to a wedding reception.  The food of course, was fabulous.

With all this over the top eating, my TamBram husband was ready for some comfort food – rasam and aloo curry.  This time, I made Lemon Rasam. Typically, my mom and mother in law would make this rasam in a eeya sombu.  Since I don’t have an eeya sombu, I make this in a regular stainless steel pot.

Lemon rasam is really easy to make and even people who don’t have a well stocked South Indian kitchen can make it - because you don't need tamarind or rasam powder.  When I make lemon rasam, my husband thinks I have made something special, even though it takes less time and effort to make it.  I do nothing to bust this myth :)

Here is what you need:

  • ½ cup toor dal
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 – 3 green chilies
  • 1” piece ginger
  • salt to taste
  • few curry leaves
  • ¼ tsp. hing (asafetida)
  • 1 tsp. ghee
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • juice of one lemon or lime


Here is how I made it:

  1. Rinse the toor dal and cook in a pressure cooker with enough water until done. Set aside
  2. With a mortar and pestle, slightly crush the ginger and green chilies (pound it a couple of times).
  3. Take about a cup of water in a pot.  Add the ginger, green chilies, tomatoes, and turmeric powder
  4. Bring this to a boil and reduce the heat.
  5. Take the cooked toor dal and mash it up so that the dal is mushy.  Add enough water (maybe another cup or cup and a half) and pour this into the rasam.  Add salt, hing and curry leaves.
  6. Cook the rasam on low heat till bubbles form on top.  It should look frothy (you can see it in some of the pictures). Take care, not to let this come to a boil.
  7. Add cilantro and turn off the heat.
  8. In a separate pan (I have a small ladle with handle), heat the ghee.  Add mustard seeds and cumin.  When the mustard seeds sputter, pour this on top of the rasam.
  9. Add lemon/lime juice and mix well.  If your lemon or lime is not juicy, you many need to add more.

Serve with rice and potato curry.  Some people prefer to drink this as is - like a soup.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Minestrone Soup

Back in 1994, when I moved to Boulder, there were very few Indians in the area.  Our social circle included a few, wonderful, grad students, and a few couples.   We had two Anands and two Rameshes in our group.  Both Anands were from IIT Madras, same year, same branch.  One Ramesh was a confirmed bachelor and the other was married.  We also had a couple of other friends with little kids (now those kids are 24 – 25 years old!).

Every weekend, we would either meet in one of our houses or go out to eat.  We had our usual set of restaurants to visit – Bangkok Cuisine for Thai food, Jose Muldoon’s and Pablos for Mexican, Gandhi’s for Indian, Ras Kassa’s for Ethiopian, and this place called Grisanti’s for Italian.  Our group was loud, full of laughter, and a lot of fun.  I pity the people who were seated in the tables around us.

We especially liked to go to Grisanti’s if someone was having a birthday, because the waiters sang for you in a really special way.  I think this was the first place I heard the words “soup thadiyan”.  While this definitely loses its meaning in translation, it could be interpreted as a man who has become fat on soup.  The married Ramesh would keep calling one of the Anands “soup thadiyan” every time he ordered soup. 

I love soups and keep thinking of this phrase when I make them.  I used to make soups a lot, but after my oldest went off to college, I am making them less.  My husband and youngest will have soup, but it is not something they love or look forward to.  So only I end up having soup day after day – to finish up the leftovers.

So, when we were coming up with a menu for Thanksgiving, and it was leaning toward Italian, I decided to make minestrone soup.  This is lighter than chili and but rich enough to serve for Thanksgiving.

Here is what you need:

(serves 8)

  • 3 – 4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 – 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 6 – 8 green beans, trimmed and diced into ½” pieces
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian spice blend
  • salt to taste
  • 6 large tomatoes, chopped fine (you can use canned, diced tomatoes)
  • 4 cups organic vegetable broth
  • enough water to get the right consistency
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup shell pasta
  • finely chopped fresh basil
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground pepper

Here is how I made it:

  1. Heat oil in a big pot.  Add onions and fry till translucent.
  2. Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds.  Add celery and stir well.
  3. Add carrots, beans, spices, and salt.  Mix well and cook on high heat for about five minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes.  I had so many tomatoes from my garden at the end of summer.  I had chopped and frozen these for later use.  Home grown tomatoes have a great flavor, but if I don’t have these, I use canned tomatoes.
  5. When the tomatoes are mixed well, add the vegetable stock and enough water to get the right consistency.
  6. Bring this to a boil and reduce heat to a slow simmer.  At this point I transferred the soup to a crock-pot and let it slow cook for a couple of hours, but you can keep it on the stove for about 15 – 20 minutes.
  7. Add the beans and the pasta.  Let this cook for 10 more minutes till the veggies are done and the pasta is cooked.  If you are using a crock-pot, let it cook on low for about ½ hour and then switch it to the “keep warm” setting.
  8. Add basil a few minutes before serving.

To serve:

Ladle generous amounts of soup into bowls. Top with parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper.  Serve with crusty French bread or croutons.

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