The word "khana" in Indian Khana Made Easy means food. So come on, let's explore and cook some easy Indian food together including Gluten Free dishes.

December 31, 2010

A Look Back At 2010

When we started in February, we thought that this would be an avenue to reach out to people who are like us living in the USA and trying to maintain the culture through our cooking. Slowly we realized that by fusing some American methods and ingredients, we have reached out to a much wider group and our ideas and recipes have reached the masses. We have expanded this blog to include not just recipes but new ideas on cooking and how to make it more enjoyable for all chefs (beginner to expert). We will continue to bring you more innovative recipes, videos, experiences, etc. Please keep the feedback coming!

December 29, 2010

Soup To The Rescue!!

It was reported that the blizzard that hit the Northeast on Sunday, December 26th was the 6th worst in the history for the area. And to think, I was feeling bad about not attending my friend's wedding in Long Island. Phew!! We were stuck at home from 10AM 12/26 to 10AM 12/27. We had to wait 24 hours before we could shovel our way out. While most people hit the grocery stores to stock up on supplies, we decided to stay at home and out of the storm.
My mom was eager to try this new soup recipe she had in mind and so our dinner plans for the evening were set: Chat-pata Corn Soup.

Ingredients listed below are good for 3 servings:
- (1) 14.75oz can of Creamy Sweet Corn
1¼ tbsp of Coriander chutney
- Salt, as needed 
10 pieces of Fried onion rings, for garnish (optional)

Procedure:
1) Empty the sweet corn can contents, coriander chutney and 1 can of water into the blender. Blend until it is smooth for 2-3 min.
2) Pour out the blended contents into a saucepan (if a silky smooth consistency is desired, pass the mixture through a fine mesh colander or sieve) and add additional water to desired consistency. Add salt and allow the contents to come to a boil on medium heat. The soup will thicken slightly after removing from heat.
3) Pour it into bowls, garnish it with crunchy onion rings and savor the chat-pata taste on a cold wintry night.

December 26, 2010

HO HO HO Holiday Rice With Beets!!


 

Have we got a treat for you! We decided to spread some holiday cheer by cooking up this colorful and healthy rice dish for everyone to enjoy during the holidays. We call it HO HO HO Holiday Rice. We prepared it just in time for Christmas...so even Santa can have a taste.  I figured he's so used to eating cookies that he might like to try something new.


Main Ingredients
You can make 6-8 servings by using the ingredients listed below:
  • 1 large Beet Root, peeled and grated
  • 1½ cups Rice (prefer Basmati), washed and cooked
  • ½ cup Carrots & Peas (frozen)
  • 4 Green chilies, split lengthwise
  • 1" piece Ginger, chopped finely
  • 1/8 cup Fried onions
  • 1½ tbsp MTR Vangibhath powder
  • 4-5 leaves Curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 tsp each Whole Mustard and Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Black Gram Dal (optional)
  • 3-4 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • Salt, as needed
Procedure:
1) Cook rice with little less water than normal so that it separates individual grains. After the rice is done, separate it with a wooden spatula and add a tbsp oil to avoid sticking.
2) Heat oil in a saucepan, add mustard and cumin seeds, when they splutter, add the gram dal and stir until it is golden brown (1-2 min). Add green chilies and ginger and stir for 1min and add grated beetroot and ½ tsp salt mix well and place the lid and cook for 4-5 min.

3) Add another tsp of salt and cooked rice in portions mixing it with season until it is uniform. Mix in fried onions, frozen carrots & peas and vangibath powder, stir well and cook for 3-4 minutes.


4) Serve it hot garnished with fresh coriander.

December 25, 2010

Wishing You and Your Family 
A Very Merry Christmas!**!


We enjoyed the festivities of Christmas by opening up presents, wishing all our relatives,  and baking some cookies as well as some Indian dishes.

December 21, 2010

~Reinvented Chili - Desi Style~


We found a way to help all our readers keep warm during this winter. Put aside all those canned soups, and spice up your cuisine a bit with some good ol' homemade Chili. We're not talkin' about any ol' chili now. This is chili made desi style.




It is actually called Rajma and it is made with red kidney beans. Coincidentally,  red kidney beans are called Rajma in Hindi specifically because of this dish. It is made with just the right amount of spices, protein, and carbohydrates to create a good wholesome meal for the season.

So go ahead, try your hand at this dish and warm up your tummy.

Main Ingredients

Ingredients for Serving size of 6:
  • 1 pound 13 ounces (822g) Goya Red Kidney beans
  • 1 medium Potato, (microwaved for 3 min)
  • 1 large Red Onion, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 ½ cups Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Garam masala
  • 1 tsp Ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp Chili powder
  • 3 tbsp Vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup Fresh Coriander, chopped for garnish (Optional)

Procedure:
1) Pour the beans from the can into a colander and wash them thoroughly under running water & drain.


2) Peel the potato and cut into cubes.

3)  Heat oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add jeera and when it starts to sizzle add grated onion. Saute it until golden brown; add ginger garlic paste, turmeric & chili powder. Mix well.



4)  Add crushed tomato into the mixture and stir it for 2-3 minutes until the raw taste is gone. Now
add the beans and the potato cubes and mix. Add salt, garam masala, and some water to the desired consistency. Cook well under low-medium heat for 10 – 15min.


5) If using a pressure cooker instead of the saucepan, pressure cook for 10 minutes.



Now the rajma is ready to be served. Grab a bowl full with a side of rotis or naan as your bread for dipping. It can also be eaten with hot jeera rice or plain basmati rice. We served this dish at Thanksgiving as well and it was an instant hit and all gone by the end of dinner.

December 11, 2010

Yumm Aam Rasmalai!

I have this friend who is crazy about Indian sweets. Ever since that day, we were inseparable. For her last birthday, I was pondering about the idea of buying her a box of assorted sweets, but her sister beat me to it. During one of our many conversations, she told me that her favorite sweet was Rasmalai. She told me how she used to buy the frozen trays at the Indian stores and take it home for herself.  When she didn't feel like buying the sweets, she attempted to make them at home. After several unsuccessful efforts, she gave up. 

Now my friend can try her luck again at making her favorite sweet with this recipe submitted by one of our Bengali friends.

Ingredients (8 servings - 2 per person):
Illustration includes finished recipe with ingredients
- 2 cans of Rasmalai patties (we used Ghasitrams brand)
- 1 quart carton Half & Half
4 tbsp of Mango pulp
5-6 pods of Cardamom, seeded and powdered
2-3 leaves of Bay leaves
1 tbsp of Rose water
5-6 Pistachios (unsalted), chopped finely

So let's start assembling this scrumptious dessert:
1) Open the Rasmalai cans and drain all the sugar syrup by transferring the contents into a fine
mesh colander and discard the sugar syrup.

2) Transfer the half & half into a container and place it on the stove with low to medium heat. Add
bay leaves and cardamom powder. Next, heat until the milk ‘ras’(liquid) is somewhat thick.

3) Now add the mango pulp, 1 tbsp at a time and mix well between each spoon addition. Remove
from stove and slowly add the drained patties. Allow the rasmalai to cool down, add rose water and
chill before serving.

4) Garnish the rasmalai with chopped pista before serving and indulge the divinity!!!!!!

December 10, 2010

~Funky Fast Fungi~

A Mushroom walks into a bar to get a drink. He walks up to the bar area and asks the bartender, "Can I have a drink?" The bartender looks down and says "We only serve people".  So then the mushroom responds, "But I'm a Fungi" (as in Fun guy). 

My Biology teacher shared this joke with the class the first day of the class to start off with a laugh. Until this day I still remember it and it cracks me up every single time. 
Anyways, let's get down to cooking. My mom came up with this recipe post Thanksgiving weekend. We had a lot of vegetables leftover from the holiday grocery shopping trip. So she thought, what better way to use them up but to create a whole new recipe:

Mushroom and Bell Pepper Medley Ingredients:
Serving Size: 4 to 6

- 1 lb of White button mushrooms, chopped
- 3 Green bell peppers,  remove seeds chop into cubes
- 1 medium Red Onion, chopped into cubes
½ cup (frozen) of Carrot and Peas
1-1 ½ tbsp of MTR Vangeebath powder
- 2-3 tbsp of Vegetable oil
2 tbsp of Dry Grated Coconut 
- 1 tsp each of Mustard and Jeera seeds
½ tsp of Turmeric powder

Procedure:
1) In a saucepan heat oil and add mustard and jeera seeds. When they splatter, add turmeric powder, chopped onions, mushrooms & bell pepper.

2) Add salt and Vangeebath powder and mix well. Cook the vegetables till soft & firm.


3) Then add frozen peas & carrots. Cook for another 5-6 minutes. Next, sprinkle coconut powder and mix well.
Finished Mushroom & Bell Pepper Medley
4) The curry can be served with hot rotis, rice or eaten by itself.

December 9, 2010

No Turkey, No Problem!

Growing up in the United States, I learned quite a bit about all the holidays and their importance. My favorite holidays are Thanksgiving (lots of eating) and Christmas (lots of presents). Although we are not Christians, we still take part in the festivities. Every other year, we go over to my Uncle's place to spend the holiday with them and enjoy their arrangement of  Thanksgiving: Turkey, stuffing, baked sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and some kind of pie. We bring a couple of vegetarian dishes like green bean casserole and biryani to spice up the dinner variety.
This year my family decided to host the big dinner at our new house and invited a lot of family over for the weekend. Some stayed for the weekend since they were travelling from abroad. And boy, did we have our work cut out for us! My mom and I prepared the holiday weekend menu a week in advance so we could finish the grocery shopping and cooking in time for the bid day. Furthermore, Our Thanksgiving Dinner was moved to Friday to accommodate all the holiday guests.  Even though the holidays always seem to be the most stressful time of year...I love the feasting and stuffing our faces part.

Our Big Thanksgiving Dinner comprised of many dishes such as the ones illustrated above (starting from left to right): Chili bhajji, Cranberry chutney, Lavish Lilva beans, Pumpkin pulusu, Vegetable lo mein, Dahi vada, and Asparagus twists. These dishes were served with warm jeera rice and rotis.

Although, I thought I was in a food coma after dinner, I made sure I secured enough room for dessert. Some of our guests were kind enough to bring desserts and so we had a lot to choose from: Almond and cranberry Biscotti, apple pie with ice cream and rasmalai. We made rasmalai at home and it didn't take as long as I thought it would.

Over the next few days, we will be posting recipes for many of these mouth watering dishes for you to try at home.

Hey even though there was no turkey served for dinner, we all managed to burn off a few calories afterwards with the Turkey Dance!!

November 16, 2010

Daddojanam - My Favorite Childhood Dish


Question of the day: What is your favorite childhood meal or dish?

Feeding time was always a challenge for my mom. I'm sure most new moms and experienced ones would agree; especially for toddlers versus any other age group. My mom told me that whenever she cooked something for the night, I never ate it. I would just runaway and be a menace. After many such days, she couldn't take it anymore and tried something different. She started to feed me yogurt rice (plain white rice mixed with homemade yogurt). Now that may sound awful to some people who don't eat yogurt to begin with. Well,what can I say except that it worked. Slowly she added vegetables to the mixture and that's how I got my nutrition.

When I told my mom I was going to share the recipe of my favorite meal, she thought that it wasn't anything special. Oh, was she wrong! See, yogurt rice doesn't sound fancy but it's the revised version that I find more scrumptious these days. Think of it as an upgrade. It's called Daddojanam and it's mixed with spices that make it taste different. We always serve this along with our other dishes for family parties. My mom tells me that the guests enjoy eating daddojanam after eating anything spicy because it refreshes their palate and calms the stomach.

By the way, we served this at the Diwali Dinner and it was gone by the end of party. Guess who ate most of it? ME...if you haven't guessed it by now. 

Daddojanam 
(Popular in Andhra Pradesh)

Ingredients (for 4 servings) 
1 cup Plain Rice (white or brown)
1 cup Plain Yogurt
1/4 cup Sour Cream (Regular or Non-Fat)
2 to 3 Tbsp Milk
Half Cucumber or Carrot (optional), grated
A pinch of Salt, for taste

1/2 tsp Mustard
1/2 tsp Jeera
A pinch of Turmeric (optional)
1/2" Ginger, grated
1 Green Chili, chopped
1 to 2 Tbsp Oil
5 Curry Leaves, fresh or dry (optional)

Procedure
1) Cook rice to a slightly softer grain so that it can be mushed easily after done. (Hint: easier to do when rice  is hot)

2) Mash the rice and mix in yogurt, sour cream and some milk and mix well until the mixture is somewhat liquidity.

Seasoning:
- Heat some oil (1-2 tbsp) and add jeera and mustard. When they splatter, add green chillies, ginger, salt and curry leaves. Stir for few minutes until the leaves are crisp.




3) Transfer the seasoning into the rice mixture and add salt as needed and mix well.


4) The dish will taste better if it is allowed to stand for 2-3 hrs. If you have more time, leave it in the fridge overnight.

Quick Tips:
- This dish can also be made by using cooked Quinoa, rice noodles or vermicelli.
- Additional milk or sour cream can be adjusted to your desired consistency.
- 4 to 5 cracked black peppercorn can be used as a substitute for green chilies.

November 15, 2010

Pamper Yourself With A Royal Dish

Did you know I have royal blood running through my veins? I didn't know either until I started eating this rich cuisine. You see, now more than before I have a reason to brag about my origins. I found out our cuisine is widely influenced by the Mughals. Their tastes varied from mild to spicy. Additionally their cooking had an unique aroma where whole and ground spices were infused in their cooking. I've noticed that in South Indian cooking, we use the same kind of spices to make our dishes POP. 
So I say to you now, come join me in my conquest of discovering new ingredients and trying dishes...oh and on your way, delight your palate with some "rich" food.

Eat like the Maharajahs and Maharanis with Shahi Korma.  



Ingredients:
  • 10" long Long Squash, also known as Lauki
  • 2/3 cup Frozen peas and carrots
  • 2 Green Chilies, cut in half
  • Handful Cashews, split in half
  • 2 tbsp Raisins or Craisins
  • ½ cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1 tbsp Garam Masala
  • ½ tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp Salt, or as needed
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp Whole Cumin seeds
Procedure:
1) Peel the lauki and cut it into 1-inch cubes.  In a pressure cooker or sauce pan heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and season with mustard and cumin seeds. When they splatter, add turmeric powder, cubed lauki, green chilies (chopped), and salt.


2) Pressure cook or cook on stove top on medium heat until the lauki is soft but not mushy. Please note if using pressure cooker, turn off the heat after one to two whistles. 

3) When the lauki is cooked, add the remaining ingredients: peas and carrots, halved cashews, golden raisins, evaporated milk and garam masala. Cook well for 5-6 minutes on medium heat until the korma thickens.  
4) Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve it with hot rice, jeera (cumin) rice, or rotis. 


***Quick Tip: To add more richness to the korma, you can grind the cashews and add the mixture.


****We recently submitted this recipe for the Lufthansa: Flavors Of India promotional contest and received a generous amount of votes. We thank all our fans, friends and family for their support****

November 12, 2010

~Better Than Fried Green Tomatoes~

Tomato, what a versatile fruit or vegetable (however you view it)! There are so many kinds and so many ways to use them all. Let me count the ways: sauces, relishes, breads, rice dishes and even curries. Just take a look at those succulent and juicy varieties. Makes me want to reach in and take a big bite out of one!

Photo: Jack Gavigan (CC/SA)
One of the ways I enjoy eating tomatoes is with roti or hot rice. It's a dish called Tangy Tomato Curry which my mom prepared for a Diwali dinner recently. This gravy based dish is made with unripened tomatoes.  My mom always said, the greener the tomatoes, the better the taste. What I like about this dish is that the tomatoes are the focal point and not used as garnish or gravy. It's about time, they got some recognition! Are you with me?

Ingredients for Tangy Tomato Curry:
- 5 Medium Green tomatoes, cut into cubes
- 2 Medium Potatoes, cut into ½” cubes & microwave for 4 min
- 1 Large Onion, chopped into ½” cubes
- 4 Green chilies, finely chopped
- 1 inch piece of Ginger, grated
- ¼ cup of Grated coconut, fresh or dry powder
- ½ tbsp of Sambhar powder
- 2 tbsp Vegetable oil
- 1 tsp of Cumin seeds
- 1 tsp of Mustard seeds
- ½ tsp Turmeric
- ¼ cup of Fresh Coriander/Cilantro, chopped

Procedure: Heat oil in a medium size saucepan and season with cumin & mustard seeds. When they splutter, add onions and saute the mixture for couple of minutes. Next add turmeric, ginger and chopped chilies and stir well. Then add the potato and tomato pieces and salt. Mix and cook under medium to low heat with closed lid for 6 to 8 minutes. When the potato pieces are soft, add sambhar powder, grated coconut and mix well. Serve it with hot rotis or rice and enjoy the spicy & sour chatpata taste.


***Quick Tip: If dry coconut powder is used, sprinkle it with 2 tbsp of water and microwave it for 30 seconds to make it soft & fluffy. 

November 6, 2010

!*!Diwali Dhoom Dham Se!*!

Wishing You & Your Family

A Very Happy Diwali 


On Friday we celebrated one of India's most important holidays called Diwali. For those of you who are not well versed in Indian festivals, I thought I would share some insight into our culture. The festival earned the tag line, "festival of lights" from its name. Diwali is a contraction of the word Deepavali which translates into row of lamps; specifically oil lamps made with clay called Diyas. These lamps are then placed outside every one's homes to light the night. They signify the triumph of good over evil.  It has a nice ring to it, don't you think. Every holiday has its own traditions that make it meaningful and fun. Another tradition is that everyone wears new clothes and shares sweets with all their friends and family.  So, of course I put on my best Indian clothes and prepared for the day's events.

This year we decided to have a potluck dinner and invited a few people over to celebrate the holiday. The day started with decorating the front porch with rangoli.
We do this on all holidays, as you might have remembered reading on my post about Ganesh Chaturthi. Rangoli is the traditional decorative folk art of India. There are competitions that are held to see who can come up with the most intricate and unique designs. If you don't take my word for it, just check out this website: http://www.theholidayspot.com/diwali/rangoli.htm

As night approached, we lit diyas as well. We would usually place them outside but it was a particularly windy day so we arranged them inside to be enjoyed by all.

Colorful Diyas
Another tradition is eating Pheni (fried vermicelli) with sugar and hot milk. It is the first thing everyone eats on Diwali as a way of breaking fast.  I love it because it's so simple and once you mix the ingredients together, it tastes like payasm (kheer)


Pheni with sugar
As for all parties, my mom and I pre-plan the dinner menu so we can shop for the ingredients and prepare for the big day. This year we made most of the dishes except for a couple so we had time to do other things. Phew!


We made the green mango and spinach dal, tangy tomato curry, daddojanam (yogurt rice) and green beans. My aunt made the vegetable biryani and the mixed veg raita. We also had a variety of sweets to choose from at the party (including the ones some guests brought). Along with the boxed sweets, we also served gulab jamun that we made from scratch.

The Diwali Dinner turned out great and everyone raved about the food. The best part about holiday parties are the leftovers.  

***Quick Tips:
- Pheni is available at most Indian grocers during the Diwali festival time. 
- An easy and non  alcoholic beverage for holiday parties is Cranberry Spritzer. All you need to do is combine (1) part cranberry juice and (1) part Sprite. It has a refreshing taste. 



October 27, 2010

Is Chinese Okra, Okra's Distant Cousin?

If you read our post about Sweet and Sour Toast, then you will know the vegetable I will be cooking with today. Ah, yes...the infamous Chinese Okra.

In some ways, I believe Okra and Chinese Okra are related. If you look at them closely, they both have similar ridges on the surface. Do they have anything else in common?

I did some digging to find out what else they have in common. Unfortunately, my research only took me so far. Here are my results: they both have the word okra in their name and they have ridges. To further my disappointment, I found many recipes from various cultures for okra and not a lot for the other one. I thought because it is called Chinese Okra, it must be popular in China. However, my East Asian friends told me that it's not so. Even in India, this vegetable is not commonly found in the North; it's mostly available in South.

Man, this vegetable is so unappreciated.  😡 What a pity!  Lucky for us, we are South Indian and we know how to use this vegetable for its potential.

We have come up with 4 recipes and are excited to share them with you. We shared the first recipe with you back in September: Chinese Okra Chutney. Don't forget to read about it, if you haven't already.

The second one is quite interesting since it is made from the skin of the vegetable. You heard it correctly, I said SKIN and this recipe is mainly popular in Andhra Pradesh. So give it a try!

It is called Skintastic Squash with Lentils and the ingredients and procedure are listed below:


  • 3-4 medium Chinese okra (also known as Ridged gourd/Tori)
  • 1 big, chopped finely Onion
  • ½ cup Gram dal / channa dal
  • 2 Tbsp Grated coconut (dried)
  • ½ tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp Red chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable oil

 Let's see how it's made


1) Wash squash thoroughly and cut the end and peel the ridges to remove strings (shown in video below). 





2) Now peel the green skin. The actual flesh inside can be saved and used for making another curry or chutney (shown in video below).




Cut the peel into 1-2 inch pieces and place them in the chopper and chop them coarsely.


OR


3) Transfer the coarse peel into a pressure cooker, add 2 cups of water, channa dal, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well and pressure cook for 5-6 minutes. (Please Note: it can also be cooked in a saucepan on stove top until the dal is cooked but firm, might take 10 – 15 minutes.)



4) After pressure is relieved, open the lid and immediately strain the contents using a fine mesh strainer. Use a paper towel in the colander if fine mesh strainer is not available.

5) In a saucepan heat the oil on medium heat. Add mustard and cumin and allow them to crackle, then add onions and sauté them until transparent. Add chili powder and mix well. Now add the drained squash and channa dal and mix well. Place a lid and cook for few minutes (approx. 5 minutes).


6) Add coconut powder and mix well.Then you are ready to remove from the stove. Serve it hot with rice or rotis.


October 17, 2010

October 14, 2010

Surprise, Surprise! - New Features

If you haven't visited our blog already, you will want to now. We are continuously making changes to the site to make it easier for you. We have added some new features that will aid you in your cooking and give you a better understanding of the ingredients we use in our cooking.

Spice Rack 
An explanation of the different kinds of spices and their benefits

Dals and Flours
How and when to use them

Cooking 101
Basic cooking techniques

September 29, 2010

Watch Out Salsa, Here Comes Raita!

Have ever tried Tzatziki (Greek cucumber yogurt sauce) which is served in most Mediterranean restaurants? Then you're sure to love raitas as well. They are made with yogurt, various vegetables, and some spices.

Below are some of the vegetables we use to make raitas (yogurt based sauces).
 
Long Squash

Frozen Chopped Spinach, 
Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Cabbage


So the next time you're having people over, instead of serving cheesy nachos or potato chips, try something new. Arrange a plate of pita pieces with any of these raitas as a dipping sauce. Your guests will love you and you will love yourself for eating healthier.

Ingredients:
Use any one of the following vegetables:
- Spinach................................................................... ½ box frozen
- Green Bell pepper.................................................... 3 medium size chopped finely
- Cabbage.................................................................. 2 cups chopped finely
- Long squash............................................................. small size, grated (use larger grate)
-Tomatoes..................................................................4 med, cut into small pieces
Plus:
- Sour cream (Reg / fat-free)....................................... 6oz
- Yogurt (any type as desired, lite / Reg)...................... 1 cup
- Green chilies............................................................ 2, chopped finely or cut into halves for milder taste
- Mustard & Cumin seeds............................................1 tsp each for seasoning
- Vegetable oil............................................................ 1 tbsp
- Curry leaves (optional)............................................. 5-6 leaves
- Salt.......................................................................... 1 tsp or as needed (varies with vegetable)


Procedure:

1) Add the vegetable into a microwavable container (for squash remove any water), add salt and green chilies and microwave for 5-6 min or until they are firm and cooked.


Illustration: Spinach Raita
2) Allow the vegetable to cool for 10 – 15 min and then mix in the sour cream and yogurt.

3) In a small dish heat 1 tbsp of oil and add mustard and cumin seeds. When they splatter add curry leaves, mix well and transfer the contents into the raita.

Illustration: Spinach Raita

4) Raitas can be served with pulao, parathas, rotis or plain rice. They can also be used as a dipping sauce for some appetizers like nachos, tortilla or pita chips.

September 27, 2010

Sweet And Sour Toast

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and he mentioned having an Okra smoothie for breakfast. He said it was delicious and very healthy. I took his word for it and made sure not to ask for the recipe. He's a bit of a health nut, so he is always on the lookout for nutritious meals. I'm not saying I'm into unhealthy stuff but I cross the line at green gooey shakes.  My usual day starts with toasted wheat bread and a glass of orange juice.

So on one of  my daily breakfast sit downs, it hit me. My breakfast meal is already healthy but it lacks pizazz. Then my mom told me that she also eats toast in the morning but tops off it off with some chutney.  She said that she was sick of eating it with peanut butter or jelly everyday. That's an interesting idea, I thought.  

And so I present to you my new breakfast item:  Toast with Chinese Okra Chutney

Chinese Okra
Ingredients:
- 3 Chinese okra/ Tori / Squash, approx. 8-10” long
- 1 tbsp of Tamarind pulp, (use the bottled brand)
- 1 tbsp of Peanut butter
- 2 tbsp of Idli podi*
- 1 tsp Salt, or as needed
- Half tbsp of Brown sugar
- 2 Green chilies

Procedure:
Peel the squash and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Then cut the chilies into two pieces. Saute the squash along with green chilies in a sauce pan along with salt and turmeric until soft. Set aside to cool. In a blender or food processor blend the squash mix along with all other ingredients listed.  Adjust the salt and sweetness as desired. It tastes great as a spread on toasted bread slices because it has the sweet and sour flavors blended together in one. And you can serve it with hot rice/ rotis or use it as a chutney or relish with any appetizers.


*If idli podi is not available the following powder can be used as a substitution. In tablespoon oil roast 2tbsp coriander seeds (dhania), 2 red chilies and 2 tbsp chana dal. Powder them to a coarse grain along with salt.

September 17, 2010

It's September - Time To Spice Up Condiments

If you have ever been to an Indian restaurant, one thing everyone can count on is the different kinds of chutneys (sauces) that are served with the food. The last time I went to this restaurant called Dosa Hut, the waiter brought over my Masala Dosa order with 3 chutneys. I tried all of them and in end stuck with the coconut one which wasn't too spicy.

In 2008, my family and I went back to my native country (India) for vacation and had the time of our lives. Since we haven't been back in a while, a lot has changed; especially the restaurants scene. A lot of new places popped up and enticed customers with their unique dishes. I couldn't believe my eyes when our relatives took us to this restaurant in Himayatnagar (suburb in Hyderabad) for lunch.  The restaurant's name is Chutney's. Hmm, I wonder what they are famous for? Below is a picture of the chutneys that were already placed on our table before we ordered our entrees. More chutneys accompanied our dishes so we had a loads to choose from. It was fun trying different chutneys or sauces with our dishes. I will definitely go back to this place when I visit again.



So in light of our trip to Chutney's, we've decided to dedicate the month of September to chutneys and raitas.  

In the US, most people know of  chutneys as sauces that are served with food like condiments (mustard sauce and ketchup). And for the most part, they are right. Tamarind and coriander chutneys are used like condiments on top of snacks like chaat, samosas, tikkis, and other such foods. However, in South Indian cooking, there are other types of chutneys that we prepare which are eaten with rice and/or naan. These chutneys are more like curries that are more hearty and flavorful. Below are a few that we whip up often for their nutritious value and taste:

Chutneys

Raitas (Yogurt based)
Long Squash
Tomato
Beet Root
Eggplant
Cucumber

September 12, 2010

My Favorite Festival – Ganesha Chavithi

Yesterday was an auspicious day for all Hindus. It was the day we celebrate Ganesha Chavithi, a festival dedicated to Lord Ganesha. He is known to help people overcome obstacles in their lives and bestow great wisdom and wealth. It is important for this pooja and every pooja that we prepare prasad (offering to the God) and wear new clothes.

So our day started with making his favorite dishes, cleaning and decorating the place where the pooja will take place.
We also drew rangoli (colored chalk/powder drawings) in front of our house. Usually, we create more colorful drawings but we were really tired and just decided to keep it simple.


My parents told me that the story goes that Lord Ganesha's favorite dishes are steamed sweet rice dumplings, rice kheer (pudding), besan ka ladoo, and boondi ladoo.
However, we are health conscious and so we made steamed rice and lentil dumplings with ginger & coriander chutney, vermicelli & tapioca pudding, and beet root rice. Don't you just want to grab a couple of the balls off the screen.

Steamed Rice & Lentil Dumplings (Undrallu) Ingredients: 
2 cups of Idli rava/cream of rice/coarsely powdered rice 
- 1 cup of Moong dal
- 1½ cups of fresh grated coconut (frozen grated coconut can be used as well)
- 2 tsp of Salt or as needed
- 4 tbsp of Vegetable oil
  
Procedure:
1) In a pressure cooker or heavy bottomed sauce pan cook the moong dal with two cups of water until it is soft & firm (Hint: should be able to split it when pierced with the nail). Remove excess water and set aside.
2) Add 3 cups of water into the pan or cooker (including the water collected from the dal earlier). Add 2 tbsp of oil and salt and allow the water to come to a boil. Reduce heat and add idli ravva into it and mix.
3) If using cooker, close the lid and cook in medium to low heat under pressure for 5-6 minutes. If using pan, cook under low heat until the rice and dal is fully cooked (may require slightly more water in the pan).
4) Transfer the cooked mixture into a wider container and add remaining oil and spread the cooked rice to cool. When it is cooled down, add grated coconut and mix well.
5) Make lemon size balls with the mixture and put them into a container. Cook them under steam by adding 1-1 ½” height water and place the rice balls container in it. Close the inner container and the outer and steam cook in medium heat for 10 minutes.
6) When done, eat the dumplings with ginger chutney. 

Quick Tip: To enhance the taste of the dumplings, just add a drop of ghee on it.

Vermicelli & Tapioca Kheer (payasam) Ingredients:
- 2 cups of Vermicelli (sevia)
½ cup of Tapioca (sabudana)
- 1 liter of Milk
½ can of Condensed milk
½ cup of Sugar
- 6 pods of Cardamom, seeded and powdered
- 15-20 Cashew nuts, halved and roasted
- 15-20 Golden raisins
Procedure:
1) Roast vermicelli & sabudana separately in a 1/2 to 1 tbsp butter and keep aside. Soak the sabudana in 1 cup of water for atleast 1-2 hours (this will reduce the cooking time immensely).
2) In a heavy saucepan or crock pot add milk, vermicelli, and sabudana. Allow them to cook on low heat (15-20 min) stirring the contents frequently to avoid caking and burning at the bottom. Cook until the sabudana turns opaque to transparent and vermicelli is soft.
3) Now add sugar, condensed milk, raisins and cardamom powder and bring it to boil on low heat stirring continuously. Taste the kheer and add more sugar as needed. Remove from heat and then add cashew nuts.
4) This kheer can be enjoyed when hot or chilled and served as pudding (thickens when chilled).

Quick Tip 1: While use of condensed milk gives a rich taste, you can replace it with extra milk or evaporated milk and sugar if preferred.
Quick Tip 2: The kheer can be made with vermicelli only if sabudana is not available; adjust the milk and sugar accordingly.