Who says you can't play with your food and eat it too? These idlis really know how to "chill" out and soak in the flavor! Can't wait to pop 'em in my mouth!
One of my favorite South Indian dishes is Idlis. They are savory steamed cakes made with husked black gram and rice. You'll never find idlis without the accompaniment of the chutney powder and/or sambhar. However lately, I've been craving for something different; that's not traditional and doesn't require a lot of preparation. We experimented with a few ingredients and came up with another option. It's called Tangy Tomato Chutney and it's also a great dipping sauce for vadas, dosas, garelu (mini lentil patties) and even paratha.
1½ lbs Firm Red Tomatoes, chopped
3 to 4 Green Chilies, finely chopped
½ tsp Mustard Seeds
½ tsp Whole Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Peanut Butter
½ tsp Turmeric
½ tsp Salt, adjust for your taste
1 tbsp Vegetable oil, for seasoning
Heat oil in a saucepan and add mustard and cumin seeds. When they splutter, add green chilies and mix well for a minute. Add chopped tomatoes, salt, brown sugar and mix well. Cook them under closed lid for 5 to 6 minutes and let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Then blend the cooked vegetables along with peanut butter under pulse mode to making sure all ingredients are mixed well. Once it reaches a smooth consistency, transfer the sauce into a serving dish and enjoy with your favorite dish.
Sometimes it's worth driving an hour or more for your favorite snack. This past weekend, we drove down to Moghul Express, and gave into our cravings of popular Indian street food. These are but not limited to pani puri, bhel puri, aloo papdi chaat, aloo tikki chaat, and samosa chaat. Our favorite is bhel puri and boy, was it satisfying. The portion size was good enough for two but one can eat it devour as well. I'm glad my mom ordered her own because I finished mine pretty quickly.
Bhel Puri, Yum!
How shall I describe this snack? There were crispy, sweet, sour, and spicy elements in it that meshed so well together. It wasn't deep fried and was made with healthy and fresh ingredients. After we got our fill, we took a drive through Edison for a bit of shopping. Holi just passed and Ugadi is just around the corner, so we wanted to load up on some savory and sweet treats to celebrate. We stopped at Sukhadia's and bought dry fruit kachoris, masala peas and rasgulla sandwiches. The sweet sandwiches never had a chance; finished them within days.
One thing is for sure, we can't keep driving down to Edison for all our cravings so it's a good idea to make them at home from time to time. So it's good that we know a couple to enjoy at home: aloo papdi chaat or aloo tikki chaat.
Achar is a very popular Indian pickle. Raw mango or lemon are most commonly used to make it. Other varieties include mixed vegetable, gooseberry, or coriander. It's a great accompaniment for flat breads and rice. We like using it as the "sour" taste enhancer in many of our curry (gravy based) dishes. One of them is the Achari Chayote Curry. Chayote (from the squash family) looks like a fat green pear and has a mild flavor.
Place the pressure cooker or skillet on medium to high heat and add oil for the seasoning. Then add mustard and cumin seeds. When they splutter, add turmeric powder, stir and mix in the chopped chayote. Then add salt and ¼ cup of water and pressure cook for 5 minutes (If using skillet, cook until soft by stirring every couple of minutes, add additional water if needed). When the pressure is released, open the cooker, add peanut butter, achar and cook for 2-3 minutes until they are mixed in evenly. (If using the skillet, just add in the ingredients once the vegetable is cooked thoroughly.) Now it's ready to be served. Enjoy with some rotis or warm rice/quinoa.
***Quick Tip: - If chayote is not readily available, try the recipe with long squash or zucchini.
The best part of our festivals is the dessert for me. It's different for every holiday and easy to make. For Holi, we made a different kind of halwa, using vermicelli. Usually we use vermicelli for dishes like upma or pulihora, but you can use it to make sweets like kheer as well; it's versatile ingredient.
- 2 cups of Vermicelli* (Bambino Brand)
- 1¼ cups of Granulated Sugar
- 6 pods of Cardamom, seeded and powdered
- 10 Cashews, halved and roasted in butter
- 10 Raisins
- A pinch of Red Food Coloring
- 2 to 3 tbsp Butter
Boil approximately 3 quarts of water in saucepan and then add the vermicelli. Allow it to come to a boil again. Remove from heat and cover with lid. Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes and then drain the vermicelli. Quickly rinse it through cold water to remove excess starch and prevent it from becoming sticky. Set aside. Then take sugar in a saucepan and add ¼ cup of water, cardamom powder and food coloring. Allow the sugar syrup to boil to a 2-string consistency. Next add vermicelli into the sugar syrup and mix thoroughly for 5 minutes to allow the mixture to come together. Add 2 tablespoons of butter. Transfer the contents into a greased dinner plate or pie plate. Distribute evenly and decorate the halwa with fried cashews and allow it to set for at least half an hour before serving. Voila!
***Quick Tip: - Vermicelli is made from hard wheat semolina.
We're marching into Spring with a variety of exciting, new dishes! We're fortunate to celebrate two wonderfully colorful holidays that truly represent the spirit of Spring this month.
Of course, we're talking about Holi and Ugadi. Holi is a Spring festival and it's celebrated with lots of color. The Ugadi festival celebrates the start of a new year or beginning. If you think about it, Spring is a new beginning. And during Ugadi, we prepare this dish called Ugadi Pachadi and the most common ingredients found in this dish are dry Neem flowers, banana and brown sugar, green mango and tamarind juice. These ingredients were picked specifically because of their flavors, which relate to the emotions of life. We took it one step further and created dishes that exemplify each of these flavors.