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.

May 24, 2010

A Hidden Jewel Amongst the Rocks

How many of you out there have tasted well prepared *Bhel Puri or **Papdi Chaat?

My family and I went out tonight to this Indian restaurant called Bombay Spice in Bridgewater, NJ. We usually go to places nearby but tonight it was my sister's treat so we let her pick the place. And she picked this place which was about 30-40 minutes away, but she said it received good reviews, and so we went for it.

At first, we were put off by the location and appearance of the place from our car as we made our way into the parking lot. It was hidden inside a strip mall which also had a cleaners, realty office, a bank and an ice cream shop. After making a round through the lot we saw the little restaurant in the corner and parked. We sat outside since it was nice and breezy. As we took our seats, the hostess brought out the menus, cutlery and these round steel plates which would be used to eat our appetizers. The feel of this place reminded me of our restaurant choices in Kerala, India. We ate at these small places where the decor was simple but the food was great. Everything was cleaned off the plates.

We ordered two appetizers which I haven't had in a long time: Papdi chaat and Bhel Puri. Now this restaurant claimed to have cuisine from East, West, North and South. The appetizers I just mentioned are from Northern India but most Indian restaurants offer them. The downside is that not all prepare them well. Usually, the puffed rice that is tossed with the potato pieces and tamrind sauce is soggy by the time the waiters bring it to the table and it's too sweet. I'm a harsh judge when it comes to my native food. If the appetizer is supposed to be served crispy, it should be like that when it reaches my table. Well, tonight I was so happy. Not only was the puffed rice still crispy but also tasty. The sauce wasn't too overpowering or sweet; it was tangy, just the way it should be.

The Papdi chaat was prepared really well and presented tastefully. It was brought out in this square plate that looked like antique silver with the edges slightly curved. The papdi was still crispy and as I was eating the chaat, it just made me feel like I was in Delhi and eating my favorites. I took a couple of spoonfuls before I realized I should keep some for my parents.

Also another notable entree is the Vegetable Kolhapuri. It is vegetables are cooked with roasted coconut and red chillies. We were told that the restaurant cooks in 4 spice modes: Mild, Medium, Spicy, and Indian spicy. We went for spicy just to be on the safe side. We ate this entree with rice pulao and naan. My parents are also pretty picky when it comes to Indian cuisine. A lot of restaurants in our area are North Indian and cater to Non-vegetarians. When they do have vegetarian options, it's usually worth it, so they don't dine out that much anymore. However, at this restaurant we ordered two entrees, the Kolhapuri I mentioned earlier and Saag Paneer. They were both really delicious and unique. My parents really liked them; now that's hard to come by. We found out at the end of our meal that the chefs do not use butter or cream to prepare the dishes like most other places do...so we know now that what we ate was all healthy and not too fatty. In conclusion, if you are in the central Jersey neighborhood and are in the mood for some good ol' vegetarian cuisine, try your luck at this place, Bombay Spice. The owner and staff were polite and helpful and the food was good. http://www.bombayspicenj.com/index.html <-- has coupons! I learned one more lesson tonight: Don't judge an Indian Restaurant by it's physical size and appearance. You might miss out on great cuisine.

*Bhel Puri is a puffed rice dish with potatoes and a tangy tamarind sauce.
**Papdi Chaat is made with papdi which are crispy fried dough wafers made from refined wheat flour and oil and they are are served with boiled potatoes, boiled chick peas, chilies, yogurt and tamarind sauce. Sometimes this is topped with chaat masala.

May 23, 2010

Khichdi - Not Just For Sick People (Royal Style)


I've heard from a couple of my North Indian friends that Khichdi is prepared for people who become sick or ill. They told me that is made with rice and lentils and there aren't any spices so it is very bland and plain. The way it is cooked, it is easily digestible and I guess that is why it is preferred for sick people. When you are not feeling well, you want comfort food and food that won't make you run to the bathroom.

You know what, it is also the first solid food fed to babies. From all these information, I can understand why my friends aren't fans of this dish. Here's where I come in. I'd like to consider myself as someone who likes changing people's minds about things and steer them into the world of interesting cuisine. It's a talent I brag about a lot because you know what, You Only Live Once and There's so much food out there!

Anyways, I am here to prove my friends wrong about Khichdi. It's not just for sick people but anyone who loves to try new versions of an old recipe. My mom has this talent that reminds us all of why we love to eat. At least she does it for me and I'm not saying it because she's my mom. It's true. The updated or improved recipes of traditional recipes play with my palate in a good way. I can taste, sweet, sour, and spice in every bite. That's what food should taste like. Who wants to eat bland and plain food?

This Khichdi (rice and lentil dish) one such recipe. Give it a try and if I didn't change your mind about it...then let me know.



Let's start with the ingredients:
  • 8 oz of Basmati Rice 
  • 6 oz of Split Moong dal (yellow lentils) 
  • 1 Medium Onion, chopped finely length wise 
  • 2 tsp Ginger garlic paste 
  • 4 Green cardamom pods, seeded and powdered 
  • 3" piece Cinnamon bark 
  • 5 to 6 Cloves 
  • 2 to 3 Bay leaves (pulao leaf) 
  • 1 tsp Turmeric 
  • 2 tbsp Vegetalbe oil 
  • ½ tbsp Salt 
  • 2 Green chilies, split length wise 
  • 2 tsp Butter, (optional) 
  • 1 tsp Whole Cumin seeds

Procedure:
1) Powder coarsely cloves, cardamom and cinnamon together and set aside the garam masala powder (spice powder).

2) Heat oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan (2-4 Qrtz size), and add jeera, when they start to crackle, add the garam masala powder and fry it for 1 minute. Now add chopped onions and sauté them until golden brown in color and then add ginger garlic paste, green chilies and turmeric & mix well.

3) Add rice and dal into the sautéed mixture and fry for at least 5min or until the aroma from the rice comes out. Add boiling water (6.5 cups) into it and add salt & bay leaves and cook it on low medium heat (for approximately 15-20min) with closed lid. Mix the contents every few minutes until both rice and dal are soft and cooked not mushy.



4) Leave the lid open after the rice and dal are cooked to allow any extra water for quick evaporation. When done remove from heat and add butter on the top.

May 19, 2010

Nice N Easy Kheer

The Ultimate Coconut Grater came in handy for making the following dish. My mom likes adding shredding coconut for added flavor.

It's called Kheer or (Payasam in Telugu). It is a traditional South Asian dessert, made by boiling rice or broken wheat with milk and sugar, and flavored with cardamom, raisins, saffron, pistachios or almonds. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kheer).




Ingredients
- 1 cup Basmati Rice
- ½ cup Sugar
- ¾ cup Shredded fresh coconut
- ½ cup loosely packed brown sugar
- 3 cups Milk (1 or 2% fat)
- 1 tsp Cardamon powder
- 10 to 15 Cashew nuts
- 10 to 15 Raisins
- 1 Tbsp Butter
- 2 Bay Leaf (Optional)


Procedure


1) Cook rice either in a rice cooker or stove top using 1-1/2 cups of water and 1 cup of milk.

2a) Transfer the cooked rice into a non-stick sauce pan and add remaining milk, shredded coconut, sugar & brown sugar, cardamom powder and the bay leaves.

2b)Cook on low-medium heat for 10 – 15 minutes until the mixture is thick and cooks well. Add water or milk if needed if the mixture is too thick. Remove from stove.

3) Melt butter and fry the cashew nuts until golden brown and add raisins and mix well. Transfer the contents into the pudding. Serve either hot or cold.



Quick Tips
- If you have some leftover rice, using it to make kheer from step-2 on wards is a good way to turn it into a hearty and healthy dish. And if you are worried about sugar calories, use a sweetener instead and adjust the measurements.
- Also for a rich texture and taste, whole milk can be used or evaporated milk can be added instead of water. Two tablespoons of condensed milk can also be used before removing from heat when the pudding is cooked with 1% milk, but reduce the sugar quantity accordingly.
- Not everyone is too keen on buying whole coconuts and figuring out how to grate the flesh inside. Freshly grated coconut is available in the freezer section in most Indian grocers such as Patel Borthers or Subji Mandi.

May 17, 2010

Evolution of Kitchen Gadgets

I'm always curious about the different gadgets used in the kitchen these days. Last week for Mothers' Day, my mom wanted to make a dessert that's quick and easy (according to her). So she sent my dad on a mission to find our handy dandy Coconut Grater. I don't know about you, but the grater we have is very unique, sharp and it gets the job done. Here's a brief description of what it looks like...see if you can picture it with my details: The stainless steel blade is fixed onto a 9" piece of wood rectangular in shape. We used to grate the coconut by placing the gadget on the floor and stepping on it and grating the coconut on the blade. When we moved to the United States, we realized that it would be more practical to clamp it to the counter space to keep it steady and using the gadget that way. Nowadays, there are more varieties of these gadgets that are being released to make this process more manageable.

**Indian Coconut Grater:
I know you're dying to see this baby in action. Just click on the video for a demonstration:
I just love watching my dad use this gadget. It grated all the juicy coconut flesh out of the shell. This beats chipping the coconut pieces with a knife and grinding them down with a chopper. Less work, if you ask me!

While my dad was grating away at the coconut, my mind wandered a bit and I started thinking about a few questions about the ease of culinary masterpieces created these days. Whenever I tune into my favorite cooking shows, I wonder how all their ingredients are so perfectly grated and diced and proper. Then it dawned on me that maybe they replaced the old clunky ones that got the job done but took too long with newer and faster ones...likes the ones found on the web link below:
By the looks of some these gadgets, I felt that they just got fancier but can they really get the job done? If you look at the link above, there are gadgets for almost everything you can think of...even an Avocado slicer? OMG! Are you kidding me? I just use a big spoon and scoop it out. Then I mash it up myself; but hey if you are making a presentation with Avocados and want to make the dish look nice, you can use the slicer.

What Gadgets or contraptions do you use at home that you think are better than the modern/techie versions? Please feel free to share!

**FYI: The Coconut Grater in this post is from India. If you are looking for one like ours, you can inquire for one from your local Indian grocer.

May 9, 2010

Garam Garam Aloo Paratha!!

Today is Mothers' Day!! Let's take a moment and praise our mothers for their patience, love, support and wonderful culinary talents. I had this whole plan of making her all these different dishes but my plans got messed up when we lost power on Saturday due to the weather and I just decided to stick to simple stuff. I took over her cooking duties for the Sunday and started the day by giving her lots of hugs and love.
I saw potatoes soaking in the pot and I quickly knew what she wanted to eat for lunch: Aloo Paratha (potato stuffed Indian flat-bread). If you want more information about this type of bread, search on Wikipedia. This type of flat-bread can be made with different ingredients but potato is most filling and easiest. This flat-bread can be purchased at any grocery store but you know, it always tastes better when it's made at home with love.

To make the dough and the stuffing you need the following ingredients:
- 5 medium Potatoes
- 3 cups of Atta (durum wheat flour), for making the dough
- 1 cup of Atta, for rolling parathas
- Salt, for taste
- Half of medium Onion, chopped finely (optional)
- 1 tsp Red Chili Powder
- 1 tbsp of Coriander (Cilantro), optional
- 1 tsp of Whole Cumin seeds, optional
- Vegetable Oil, for frying parathas

Procedure:
1) Wash well and microwave potatoes for 8 minutes (or until soft). Remove them from microwave immediately and immerse in cold water for 5- 10 minutes. Remove from water and peel the potatoes. Next, crumble them, add salt, chili powder and mix well and set aside. Finely cut fresh coriander and cumin seeds can be added if available.

2) Take the wheat flour in a shallow container (mixing bowl), add salt to taste and mix well. Knead the flour into a smooth dough by using ½ - ¾ cup of water. Add a teaspoon of oil and cover dough for at least 15 minutes. Watch video for further assistance:http://www.youtube.com/watchv=h2fMTSlsdg4&feature=player_embedded
3) Clean the kitchen counter and take the dough of the size of lemon flatten it and dab it with flour on both sides and roll it evenly into a circular size of approx. 6-inches diameter. Spread 2 heaped tbsp of the potato mixture onto half-area of the circle.


Fold over the remaining half onto the potato mixture and seal the ends, representing a ‘D’. Fold it once more to make a quarter and set aside. Prepare similar quarters with rest of the potato mixture.


4) Heat a Non-stick griddle or tawa on medium heat. Roll-out each quarter into parathas evenly to a size of 6-8 inches long triangle and place it on the griddle.

5) Flip to other side after 30 seconds, and spray oil around and on the paratha. Spread the oil evenly with a wooden spatula and flip the other side. Brown the paratha on both sides.


6) Serve the parathas hot with mixed vegetable achar (available in Indian grocery stores), and/or raita.

May 1, 2010

Spinach Nuggets...Beyond Appetizers!!

Remember Tater Tots from your high school lunches? What about spinach nuggets from fast food restaurants with some spicy dipping sauce. Did you ever think you could make an Indian curry out of them? Here's what my mom had to say. The following is our conversation between mother (M) and I, the daughter (D):

M: Traditionally, Koftas (dumplings) are made using the following method: you first grate vegetables like potatoes, long squash, plantains or even Paneer (Indian Cheese). Then mix the grated vegetable with bread crumbs or gram flour, and then make them into balls. Next you fry these balls and add them to the gravy which you also have to make.

D: What?? All this sounds like a long process. Isn't there a way to shorten this recipe and still eat healthy.

M: I'm glad you asked because there's a way out. You can use tater tots or spinach nuggets as the dry koftas. No more grating or mixing and making balls. All you have to make is the gravy, which is not that difficult.

D: Okay, how do you make it? Oh, maybe we can make this for our guests tonight.

M: That's a good idea. It makes 3-4 servings, so we will have enough.

Here's what you will need:

Ingredients for koftas:
  • 1 Packet Veggie Patch Spinach Nuggets - (12 pieces total)
Ingredients for the gravy:
  • 2 tbsp Cooking oil
  • 1 Medium Onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tbsp Ginger-garlic paste
  • ½ tbsp Garam Masala
  • ½ cup Red Pack Crushed Tomato puree
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1 tbsp Cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp Regular Sour Cream
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Coriander, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
***It's a good thing we have our Chaunk box (spice box) for some of the ingredients. It makes it easier to store them for cooking.

Procedure:
1) Bake the koftas in a toaster oven at 350°C for 20 minutes, alternately they can be toasted mildly on both sides in a non-stick pan.
2) Heat oil in a saucepan and sauté crushed onions until light golden brown. Add ginger garlic paste and sauté for 1-2 min. Then add turmeric, chili and garam masala powder and mix well.
3) Stir in crushed tomato / puree and mix well, add cream cheese & sour cream and mix it into the tomato mixture.
4) Next, add water to make the gravy to a soup like consistency and salt & boil the sauce. Evaporated milk (small can) can be used instead of cream cheese and sour cream to make the gravy.

5) Drop the nuggets into the sauce and continue to heat the curry to boil and remove and transfer into a serving dish.
6) Garnish with fresh coriander and serve the vegetable with rice or any type of bread.




***Quick Tip:
- To avoid koftas /nuggets from breaking, arrange them in the serving dish and pour hot gravy over them. Microwave for 3-5 minutes if needed.
- Fat-free or non-fat ingredients could be used to make a low-calorie dish.
- Mushroom and broccoli nuggets, Tater tots, or Ashoka's Hara Bhara Kebabs can also be substituted for spinach nuggets.