Sunday, May 29, 2016

Vegetarian Mexican rice

When my son comes back home after his semester ends, he normally asks me to make Indian food, hopefully involving paneer.

This time, when I asked him what he would like, he said, “can we have pizza or Mexican?  It has been ages since I had those”.  He was coming back from a semester abroad.  He had plenty of access to Indian food at my brother’s house, as well as Asian cuisine everywhere he went.

So it was pizza on the day he came back (I did have to make rasam, keerai, and aloo curry for my husband, who was flying back the same day from an office trip), and a Mexican fiesta that weekend, when we had some friends over to meet him.

I have already posted the recipe for tamales that I had made as part of that dinner.

This recipe for Mexican rice is simple to make and tastes great.  It is a great side to have for a build-your-own taco or burrito bar.

I think this is more a Tex-Mex version of rice than what people typically make at home in Mexico, but I love the flavors of this rice.

Here is what you need:

  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) organic diced tomatoes (you can use fresh juicy tomatoes instead) 
  • ½ large onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 - 3 tsp. oil
  • 1 – 2 jalapeno peppers diced (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice 

Here is how I made it:

  1. Place the tomatoes and onions in a blender and puree till smooth.
  2. Heat oil in a pot.  Add the jalapenos and garlic. Fry for a few seconds, till the garlic turns slightly golden.
  3. Add washed and drained rice to this and sauté, stirring it frequently, till the rice is lightly toasted.
  4. Measure the tomato puree and supplement with vegetable stock so that you have about 4 cups of liquid.
  5. Add this to the rice along with salt and cumin powder.  Remember that the vegetable stock may have salt already in it. Bring it to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to low.  Cover and cook until rice is done – about 20 minutes.
  7. Fluff it gently with a fork

Serve as part of a Mexican Fiesta

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Vegetarian Green Chile Tamales

A bit of background information:

We got married in 1994.  My husband left Chennai a couple of days after the wedding, because he had exhausted all his vacation.  I joined him in Colorado a couple of months later.  Boulder was a great place – several Indian and Nepali restaurants, and overall very vegetarian friendly.

Since my husband had no time off, we traveled as much as we could on weekends.  Our first trip – Manitou Springs, about an hour and a half south of Boulder.  Definitely not vegetarian friendly!  My husband ended up getting me bean burritos from Taco Bell for dinner.  I still tease him about it – honeymoon dinner from Taco Bell :)


On one of our many trips, we went to Taos, New Mexico.  I love Taos. The town boasts several art galleries, and Native American culture is evident in the food, music, and architecture

It was in Taos that I first tasted tamales.  These were the days before Yelp! and Urbanspoon.  We had to find restaurants that served vegetarian food the old fashioned way – by looking them up in the yellow pages.

I ordered vegetarian tamales at this small place we found.  They were so delicious!  Little did I know that I had stumbled upon one of the few places that served vegetarian tamales.  Most places use lard to make the masa.

With fond memories of my experience, we tried to find this place again on our next trip to Taos, only to find out that it had closed.

Now, back to the present:

I have made tamales a few times at home.  They are a bit time consuming to make, and I normally don't make them for parties.  But my son was coming back home after a semester abroad and was craving Mexican food.  We were going to have a few close friends over for dinner.  And since it wasn’t a big crowd, I made tamales. 

I also had a vegetarian soup, a taco bar, Mexican rice, couple of types of homemade salsas, and fajita vegetables.  My friends brought guacamole, corn bread and dessert

Here is what you need (makes about 25 - 28 tamales):

  • 4 cups masa (I used Tamal masa – you can also use Masa harina)
  • ½ cup butter at room temperature (I used Smart Balance Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spread)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp. red chili powder 
  • 4+ cups organic vegetable stock
  • one packet of corn husks
  • about 20 oz. flame roasted green chile
  • 10 oz. queso fresco

Corn husks before soaking

Here is how I made it:

  • Take hot water in a big pot and soak the corn husks in it for a couple of hours. You may have to weigh the husks down with something so that they don’t float out of the water.
  • In a big bowl, take the butter and beat well with a rubber spatula till it is smooth
  • In another bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients.  Add the stock and mix well.
  • I used a little more than 4 cups of vegetable stock.  The batter should be thicker than pancake batter.
  • Add this to the butter and mix well.
  • Drain out the water from the corn husks.

  • Lay a corn husk out on a plate
  • Spread a couple of heaping teaspoons full of masa on to the husk as shown in the picture
  • Top this with about a teaspoon full of green chili and a little crumbled queso.
  • Fold the bottom of the husk up and then the sides.
  • Tie with a strip of cornhusk (tear one of the soaked cornhusks into strips)

  • Once you have all of them done, place them in a steamer  (I used my pressure cooker)
  • Steam tamales for about 20 – 25 minutes

Serve hot with Mexican rice and salsa

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Anu’s mom’s crispy potato curry

Lunch used to be a big deal in high school.   By the time we reached high school, the lunch we brought from home was no longer ours.  We use to bring food so that our friends could eat our food and we could eat theirs.

Since my students have apparently started reading my blog, I won’t go in to details, but for reasons that will remain unsaid, Supriya and I were moved to a different section, to “separate” us from our friends.  Little did our teachers know that this was a futile endeavor!

Anyway – due to this “separation”, recess and lunch became all too important in my life.  Supriya and I would wait for the bell to ring and would run to meet our friends as though we haven’t seen each other in years.  We would sit around in a circle and wait for everyone to open their lunch boxes - more interested in what some one else has brought than what was in ours.

One of my favorites was Anu’s avakkai sadam (pickle rice) and potato curry.  I don’t miss the avakkai as much – because Anu’s mom still makes it for all of us.  But I do miss her potato curry. 

When Tambrams make potato curry, we always temper it with mustard seeds.  Anu’s mom’s potato curry had no tempering and was crisp even after a few hours in a stainless steel lunch box!

After trying out a few recipes, I think I have one that reminds me of hers.

Here is what you need:

  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 3 – 4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and diced
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder (optional)


Here is how you make it

  1. Heat oil in a pan.  When the oil is hot add diced potatoes.
  2. Keep tossing potatoes on high heat till they become golden brown – you need to stay with the pan - don't try to multitask while making this because your potatoes will get burned!
  3. Reduce heat a bit.  Add salt and chili powder (and coriander powder if you are adding it).  Toss to coat well
  4. Reduce heat to low and let the potatoes cook through (5 minutes or so)– uncovered.
  5. Increase heat to high again and let the potatoes get crispy (for a couple of minutes)

That’s it!  Serve with rotis or rice.  I served these with my karuvappillai kuzhambu, rasam, and rice.

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