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 5, 2015

"Wholly" Vegetarian Meatloaf

Traditionally, meatloaf is made with ground meat such as beef or pork and other ingredients and then rolled into a loaf and baked. Since, I don't eat either of those meats, I never really looked into it further. 

I found this recipe on a blog I follow called A Pinch of This. The blog is run by Payal, a Certified Holistic Health Counselor who wants to bring the inner chef out in each of us and help us be creative in our cooking. 
Vegetarian "Meat" loaf

When I saw this recipe for a Vegetarian "Mealoaf" on her Facebook blog, I had to give it a try. The meat protein is substituted with other types of protein that any vegetarian can appreciate, such as tofu, oatmeal and lentils. 


I adapted the recipe from A Pinch of This with ingredients we had at home. I cooked whole masoor dal instead of using precooked lentils from Trader Joe's (listed on her blog). I also added toasted walnuts to add more hearty flavor to the loaf. 


Overall, the taste and texture were great. Each time I made this dish, I've added and/or substituted ingredients and it's turned out great. I would definitely recommend it for vegetarians and protein lovers alike. I've made this dish a few times already and love taking it to work everyday. Keeps the hunger away and leaves me feeling full and good about myself. Below is the recipe.


Ingredients

1/2 cup whole masoor, cooked and well drained (which equals to about 9oz cooked masoor dal)
8 ounces extra firm tofu (drained, pressed and crumbled)
1 cup quick cook oats (or old fashioned oats)
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and ground
5 Tbsp ketchup
3 Tbsp BBQ Sauce
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp sage

Saute garlic, onions and celery on medium heat for about 5 minutes or until mixture is cooled and then remove from heat. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and add the cooked garlic, onions and celery. Spoon mixture into a loaf pan and top with a generous layer of extra ketchup. Bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees.


Quick Tips
- I didn't have all the fresh herbs so I used Italian seasoning mixture for the rosemary and sage and fresh thyme from my plant.
 

December 3, 2015

Cornbread Stuffing with a Cornucopia of Vegetables

Carrots, Celery, Red Onion and Cornbread Oh Yum!
Another holiday has come and gone, but the leftovers are still being enjoyed; the best part of Thanksgiving.

This year we spent the holiday at my uncle's place and took our favorite vegetarian dishes over including Vegetarian Stuffing, Green Bean Casserole, Blueberry pie, and Brown Sugar Glazed Sweet Potatoes.

The following recipe is for the most moist and flavorful vegetarian stuffing I've ever eaten. I don't have to feel guilty eating so much of it, especially with a cornucopia of vegetables.

Ingredients
- 7 oz Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Stuffing
- 2 cups Vegetable Broth
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 4 Celery stalks, stringed and chopped finely
- 1 medium Red onion
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped finely
- 1 cup French cut beans
- Vegetable oil
- 1 Red or Yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1" cubes
- 1 tsp Ginger-garlic paste
- 2 to 3 green Chilies, chopped finely
- 1/4 cup Craisins (dried cranberries), optional
- 1/2 tsp Salt

Procedure
Heat oil and butter in a large skillet and stir fry onion, celery, carrots, and bell pepper for 2 to 3 minutes on medium heat. Sprinkle salt and cook the vegetable mixture under tight lid. When the vegetables are soft, remove lid and add vegetable broth, and cover the skillet to allow the mixture to boil. When it boils, remove the lid and lower the heat to low and add in the cornbread stuffing and mix well. Remove from heat and garnish with Craisins (dried cranberries) and serve.

(Please Note: add additional broth or water if the mixture looks dry. Cover with a lid and allow the water to be absorbed well for 2 to 3 minutes.) 

How was your Thanksgiving holiday? What was your favorite dish? Looking forward to hearing about your foodie stories. 

November 10, 2015

~Best Wishes this Diwali~

Let the positive light triumph over any negativity in your life. Best Wishes for you and your family from our family!

October 22, 2015

Dusshera Wishes for Everyone


From Top Right: Chutney Powder Rice, Mustard Rice, Tamarind Rice, Coconut Rice, and Lemon Rice

In honor of Dusshera and Batkamma (a floral festival of Telangana celebrated by Hindu women), we prepared five kinds of rice dishes.
 My personal favorite is tamarind rice because I love the combination of the tang flavors from the tamarind and the crunchiness of the peanuts. 



Which rice dish is your favorite? How did you and your family celebrate Dusshera today? We would love to hear your stories. 



May this Dusshera light up for you, the hopes of happy times and dreams for a year full of smiles!  


October 18, 2015

Healthy Start with Super Foods


We are continuing our tradition for Dusshera with dishes made with Super Food ingredients such as brown rice, lentils, tofu, quinoa, and leafy greens for eating healthier and better.  These dishes will bring balance to all the foods you may be making for the holiday season.  

We're starting off the dishes with TOFU!! It's healthy, protein enriched and easy to cook. 



Tofu Butter Masala Curry
We're always trying new spice mixes to help us in the kitchen. At one of our most recent grocery shopping trips to Patel Brothers Cash and Carry (in Parsippany), we found Suhana branded Paneer Butter Masala Mix -  great for gravy style curries. 

You can use this spice mix with any protein (paneer, tofu, or meat). We had tofu at home so we used that instead of paneer. Below is our recipe:

Ingredients
- 1 cup tofu (firm or extra firm), cut into 1" cubes
- 2 medium tomatoes, crushed (or you can use 150 grams of tomato puree)
- 1/4 cup frozen peas and carrots (optional)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 50 grams of Suhana Paneer Butter Masala Mix
-  3 tbsp unsalted butter 
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tbsp Vegetable oil
- 1 cup water


Procedure
1) Make a paste of Suhana Paneer Butter Masala Mix and milk and set aside. 
2) Heat oil in a pan, add chopped onion and cook until the onion mixture looks translucent. Then add crushed tomatoes and cool till the oil oozes out. 
3) Add the paste and cook for two to three minutes. 
4) Add water, tofu, and butter. Cook till gravy thickens. Then add frozen peas and carrots and cook for a couple minutes. Turn off stove and garnish with fresh coriander. 

***Enjoy with your favorite flatbread, rice and/or quinoa.***




Spice Mix Review
The spice mix is easy to work with and doesn't require a lot of steps. A lot of times, we find that spice mixes tend to be on the spicy side but this spice mix was just right. Everyone enjoyed the curry and it was easy to eat with chappati or roti as well as rice. We would definitely recommend all to try.


August 29, 2015

A Brother Like No Other!


I finally got the opportunity to tie Rakhi on someone for Raksha Bandhan... thanks Sunil (my brother-in-law), you're the best.  


Raksha Bandhan is a Hindu festival that celebrates the bond and duty between brother and sister.  The sister ties the sacred thread around her's brother's wrist and makes his favorite. Then the brother gives his sister something she likes. 


Knowing that my brother-in-law is a foodie like me, I knew he would love something sweet but not too sweet. I did some research and found this recipe that was perfect for him. Feast your eyes on this Strawberry Pizza.

A Strawberry Pizza by A Spicy Perspective (click on name for link to recipe)
It is a sugar cookie base with soft goat cheese and honey cheese spread, topped with freshly sliced strawberries. I also added a few mint leaves for pop in color.

It was a hit with everyone, especially Sunil. Yay for all.


August 13, 2015

Mirchi Restaurant - Spicing It Up with South Indian Dishes


It has been a while since we went out as a family including my grandmother. This past weekend was surely a delight in that respect. My sister and my brother-in-law came to visit us and spent some quality time with the parents and of course me. All of us went out to dinner together to this newly opened South Indian restaurant called Mirchi (chilies in English) located in Parsippany NJ. This restaurant replaced another Indian restaurant  located in the same complex called Amiya.

When you enter the restaurant, on your right you will see a party room with a bar and as you walk further into the lobby, you will see the concierge desk. To the left of the desk is the entrance to the dining area (click here to see pictures). The dining area is very spacious and comfortable. In the back, there's a glass door leading to the wine cellar, which I thought was really cool.

We started off our dinner with a couple of vegetarian appetizers: Gobi 65 and Baby Corn Pepper Fry

Gobi 65*

Gobi 65 is a dish where well marinated cauliflower florets are brown to perfection (description from menu). These florets were definitely cooked, marinated and seasoned very well. Additionally, the portion size was adequate for 4 or more people. We were a party of 6 so we got about 3 pieces each and were very satisfied.

The Baby Corn Pepper Fry failed to meet the same flavor expectations as the Gobi 65. I felt the corn was more doughy than crispy and the taste was not as satisfying. 


We had never dined here before so we had no idea about entree portions. We ended up ordering 5 separate dishes to make sure everyone was happy.

My parents and grandmother are vegetarian so they ordered mixed vegetable Uttappam, Rava Masala Dosa, and Hyderabadi Vegetable Biryani.

According to my dad, the Mixed Vegetable Uttapam was a good size and tasty. The Rava Masal Dosa and Hyderabadi Vegetable Biryani didn't make the cut. Both my mother and grandmother were disappointed in their dishes. 


ENTREES CHOICES
Top Left -  Garlic Naan
Bottom Left - Vegetable Biryani
Right - Malabar Fish Curry

My sister, brother-in-law and I (the non-vegetarians) shared the Shangri-la Biryani and Malabar Fish Curry with Garlic Naan. All 3 of us really enjoyed the Malabar Fish Curry served with plain white rice. The fish curry was made with selected fish pieces simmered in tamarind pulp and coconut milk. It was quite tasty and flavorful. You can't go wrong with coconut milk; it makes everything taste better and rich-er. 

Third disappoint of the evening was the Shangri-la Biryani,  combination of Chicken 65 and biryani. Before we placed our order, we specified that we all wanted our dishes to be Medium spicy, which in my book means, add some chilies to our dish. However, our biryani and the chicken lacked flavor. It was not until I added the spicy raita that I actually tasted something in my biryani. It was like eating saffron rice with crispy chicken. The combination was did not suit us at all.



Takeaways from our experience - 3 STARS 
- The portions for appetizers and entrees are big enough for two people.
- When placing your order, specify your spice level: Mild, Medium and Spicy. If you order biryani, it should be spicy, not bland.
- The best part of our dining experience was the service. The waitstaff were helpful and friendly.


Although half of our dishes were disappointing, I would definitely dine here again as it was my first time. I would never dismiss going to a particular restaurant again if it rated 3 or more stars in the first experience. Next time, I will stick to regular Hyderabadi Dum Biryani instead something totally exotic. Also, I will steer clear of anything on the menu with dish titles ending with 65, not my cup of tea.



***Until next time, happy eating. If you know of a good Indian restaurant for us to try, let us know.  Looking to dine out, check out our Restaurant Reviews page for suggestions. ***

August 6, 2015

Celebrating Flavors with Tandoori Tofu and Coriander Chutney Sandwiches


Congratulations to Swathi for sharing her re-creation of one our recipes with us. 

Recently, one of my relatives reached out and asked us for some protein enriched recipes to make for her family. One of the recipes that came to mind instantly was the Tandoori Tofu curry. It's easy to make, healthy and high on the protein list. She tried the recipe and shared her experience with us. We love it when people make our recipes their own. 

Check out the Tandoori Tofu and Coriander Chutney Sandwiches above. Don't they look so tasty and inviting. I just want to take a bite into one right now. 

She modified the recipe so she could stuff the curry into the bread rolls to make sandwiches. She spread coriander chutney on one side and Tandoori Tofu curry on the other side. She also added cucumber and onions slices and sprinkled a little lemon juice to add more flavor. 

Mama Mia! My mouth is watering just thinking about all these flavors. Great job Swathi! 



QUICK TIP:
- Shred or grate the tofu before making the curry so it won't be clumpy in the sandwich. 
- The bread rolls can be substituted with any other kind of rolls if you are allergic to gluten like potato rolls. This curry goes well with jeera rice. 


FEEDBACK FROM OUR READERS:
 What do you think of this sandwich idea? Have you tried our Tandoori Tofu recipe? Please share your thoughts with us. 

August 4, 2015

The Wonders of the Mediterranean - Rhodes

06/15 - We arrived in Rhodes after a day's journey on the Aegean sea. 


Rhodes is the island with the RED STAR

Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese islands (a group of 12 larger islands plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea). It is the island group's historical capital. 

Shortly after breakfast, we left the ship to venture out into the city and take in the history. The city of Rhodes can be navigated by car, bus or walking about. We didn't know what to expect so we initially took a bus tour around the historical sites. Afterwards we realized most of the important sites are close to the port so got off the bus and walked around.



One of those historical gems is the Colossus of Rhodes (pictured above is where it once stood). After an earthquake in 226 BC, the 30 meters statue was reduced to rubble. It was known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Another popular tourist attraction is the Grand Master's Palace of the Knights. It is a medieval castle -- one of the few examples of Gothic architecture. 




The palace is full of things to see from paintings, canons and canon balls, clay oil lamps, bone needles and combs, and mosaics (shown below). 




One of my favorite parts of the visit was capturing the essence of these mosaics; they are from the Byzantine empire and 2nd century BC. I couldn't walk away without taking a few snapshots with my Samsung phone. 



We walked down the cobble stoned path inside the palace and found a cafe hidden within the walls for a light lunch. 


We dropped our bags and relaxed  at this quaint little cafe/bnb. We enjoyed the infamous Greek salad and bruschetta and for dessert, we ate baklava and ice cream. YUM!!!

As we finished up lunch, I caught up with a friend on google hangout. ***Note: Always double check the time difference before waking up your friends before the crack of dawn.***


My dad is 'chillaxing' with a Pina Colada
After a long day of sightseeing, we stopped over at the sunset bar and grabbed some tropical cocktails. Perfect ending to a good day.



Stay tuned...the fun has just began...onwards to Mykonos...the island with the famous windmills!


August 3, 2015

The Wonders of the Mediterranean - All Aboard and on Cruise Control to the Greek Isles


The Equinox was launched in 2009 with capacity of 2,850 
A few weeks ago, I started telling you all about our Mediterranean adventure to Greece and Turkey. We started a day early in Athens and boarded the Celebrity Cruises: Equinox ship to begin our adventure. Did I mention that this was our first time on a cruise ship? AY CARAMBA!!

We enjoyed this beautiful sunset as we left Athens behind and cruised towards the first of the Greek Isles, Rhodes.



The view above is from the Ocean View cafe. Isn't it gorgeous and so romantic. I took tons of pictures like this every night so I could reminisce about those sunsets when I get back home. Although is nice, the dining experience at this cafe wasn't equally nice the first night. I was a bit disappointed in the buffet menu.


The best dining experience was in the Silhouette restaurant where we had to make reservations every night. They had quite a selection of menu items to choose from and enjoy. I normally don't eat meat unless I'm out dining with my friends, so this was my chance to savor the Mediterranean cuisine. Each night I tried a different dish and really experimented with my palate.

Below are some of my favorites from the trip:

Top left corner: Chocolate molten cake with vanilla ice cream and flambe
Top right corner: creme brulee cake,
Bottom left corner: Branzino (European sea bass) served over a bed of cooked spinach and potatoes with a drizzle of pomegranate sauce
Bottom right corner: Lamp chops served with a side of broccoli and thin broth
My parents loved the Mediterranean spring rolls, French onion soup, and the tomato bisque. We couldn't some of these items were served as appetizers; they were big enough to be entrees. We really had to control ourselves moving forward.

Along with the food, we were really impressed with the quality of service at this restaurant. All the waitstaff were polite and helpful, I never felt like I was pressured to eat my food too quickly because they wanted to seat another family, If we didn't like something, they were all too eager to replace our food. It was unbelievable.

Quick Tip 
- If you don't like anything on the preset menu, ask for the Indian menu which has a lot of vegetarian options. My parents ordered from this menu a couple times; here are some of their favorites: vegetable pakora, mixed vegetable curry, potato and beans curry, and yogurt. WE LOVE YOGURT. - If you have any allergies, let your wait staff know. They are very accommodating to their guests' needs.


July 21, 2015

How to Keep Calm and Stay Cool this Summer


WITH OUR FAVORITE DESSERTS AND DRINKS!

I thought I would cool down since returning from our warm Mediterranean vacation, but it seems like it is just as hot here. Yesterday, it was about 90 degrees and all I could do to stay cool was eat ice cream, drink yogurt smoothies and turn up the air conditioning. 

In the spirit of staying cool and refreshed during this hot season, I wanted to share some of our favorites with you guys. Check them out:


1) Kulfi - an Indian ice cream. I love kulfi because it is creamy like gelato and there are so many flavors to choose from. My favorite is mango and pistachio; I just love the fruit and nut flavor and texture combination. 


Mango and Pistachio Kulfi. Kulfi is a creamy Indian ice cream 

If you like kulfi, you can also mix it up with vermicelli, basil seeds, tapioca pearls, and gelatin to make kulfi falooda like in the picture below.  



2) My mom's favorite cool drink, which is the Rose Spritzer. Whenever we have family parties, we always try to have a refreshing drink to serve. One day we put our heads together and came up with this spritzer that became an instant hit.  I would definitely recommend for you to try it. 

Rose Spritzer

3) Lassi is a popular yogurt based drink, that is a blend of yogurt, water, spices and sometimes fruit. It can be enjoyed in two ways: sweet or savory. A popular sweet lassi is mango lassi, which is served at Indian restaurants and/or weddings. 

A savory lassi is flavored with roasted and ground cumin and salt. 


Here's a great example of a savory lassi


4) If you're not a fan of yogurt drinks, try Roohafza milkshakes. Roohafza is rose syrup which is used in a lot of desserts and drinks. When we feel like a milkshake, we add roohafza to milk and bananas and ice to make a delicious frothy drink. Click here for recipe. 


For more sweet bliss ideas, check out our recipes page

July 15, 2015

The Wonders of the Mediterranean - Athens, Greece

Last month, my family and I packed our bags and went on our first cruise adventure. We flew to Athens a day earlier than boarding time for our cruise to explore the city. Below are a couple pictures I managed to take before indulging in "fresh" cuisine.

Greek Salad served at Thissio restaurant - great views of the acropolis from the rooftop dining (beautiful during day and night)
Every restaurant served the infamous Greek salad. Even my mom, the "true vegetarian" in the family enjoyed herself.  A Greek salad is a beautiful mix of sliced red onions, green peppers, cucumbers, capers, olives, and a big piece of fresh feta. The salad is then tossed with olive oil, salt, black pepper and herbs. It's hard to take just one bite! What I loved about this salad was the crisp vegetables and not so salty feta; everything tastes FRESH!!

Fresh bread served with olive and sesame dip at Thissio restaurant
Along with the salad, we also enjoyed the freshly baked bread and dips. Some restaurants served the bread with olive oil and herbs or like the dip shown above made from olives. The olive dip had a rich and strong flavor, and went well with the bread. We enjoyed all the culinary delights in this city.


We also enjoyed the monumental jewels of the ancient city of Athens. Our hotel was just a shuttle ride away from Syntagma Square, central square of Athens. From there, we walked to the Arch of Hadrian, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.


The Temple of Olympian Zeus

If you look closely, you can catch a glimpse of the Parthenon behind the temple.


The Parthenon - Temple of goddess Athena, whom the Athens people considered their patron

Porch of the Caryatids - were supposedly modeled on Karyatides, women from Karyes, famous for their upright posture and noble character. The original lady columns are on display at the Acropolis Museum. 
Near the porch, is an olive tree (which is not clear in this picture), a replacement for the one Athena planted here in her face-off with Poseidon. Olive trees have been called "the gift of Athena" to Athens.

We also browsed through the Acropolis Museum which was built to house every artifact found from the Greek Bronze Age to the Roman Byzantine Greece.



We saw all the carved reliefs (such as this one above) and sculptures that were excavated from the Parthenon and carefully preserved for the people to see and enjoy.  After our tour, we indulged in a light lunch at the museum cafe. I ate this sweet and savory appetizer that was topped with cute little cherry tomatoes that were just divine. It is best when it's still hot and crunchy. 

Fried Feta Cheese with sweet cherry tomatoes garnished with thyme


I've only read about Athens in the history books but to witness and walk among the titans was a great honor. We withstood heat, long lines, and lots of walking to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.  We are grateful that the Greek people preserved their history so well and hope that future generations can admire these architectural beauties for years to come. 


***Quick Tips:
- The museums and monuments we visited were reviewed in the Rick Steve's Mediterranean Cruise Ports - 3rd Edition. The edition had tips for first time cruisers and tourists visiting the different ports of call. We also checked out Trip Advisor for restaurant reviews. 
- We highly recommend Xenios Zeus restaurant at top of the Acropolis - great food, wine and views. Thissio restaurant a higher end restaurant that has really good appetizers like the Greek salad pictured above, roasted mushrooms topped with sliced Parmesan, cheesy risotto, and picturesque views of the Acropolis from their rooftop dining area. 





We said goodbye to Athens as we sailed off into the sunset and had dreams of our first port of call: Rhodes, on the Celebrity Cruises: Equinox ship. 

Stay tuned, details to come very soon...



May 16, 2015

Happiness Can Come in Small Packages Too


Choco Cashew Biscuit

I love when relatives visit us. My aunt and her family were here in the States on vacation, and stopped by our place for a short visit. We caught up on old times and exchanged news about each other. I love hearing stories about my hometown and how things have progressed or changed.

It was a night of fun and good food. We figured they would like something different than Indian food, so we made penne a la vodka with vegetables served with garlic bread and dark chocolate brownies for dessert. They were a hit, especially the brownies. They were going like hot cakes!

Afterwards, we looked through family photos and talked late into the night. Before they left in the morning, they gave us a "small package" of happiness. I could hardly contain myself. How did they know about my love for these crumbly and delicious biscuits from Karachi Bakery?


Fruit biscuits

Karachi Bakery has a variety of biscuits/cookies, cakes, pastries, chocolates, sweets and gift packs. Whenever we're in Hyderabad, we always stop by this bakery and pickup a box of biscuits or their light and moist pineapple cake.


Bakery Locations (in Hyderabad, India only)
Mozzamjahi Market (original location)
Khanchand Towers in Banjara Hills
Hitech City
Hyderabad Airport

Comments/Questions:
Have you been to Karachi Bakery? What are your favorites? Please share with us. 


May 12, 2015

Mother's Day Special - Vegetarian Maqluba & more




I've always been curious and adventurous about cooking. When I was little, I used watch my mom cook in the kitchen. The aroma of the taalimpu or tadka (tempering of the spices) was so energizing. When she mixed those spices with the various vegetables, my mouth was watering and I couldn't wait to eat what she had made. It was that joy of cooking that drove me to learn to cook our ethnic food. 

I'm all grown up now and I still find the tempering of spices euphoric. Just a whiff of whatever is being cooked in the kitchen is enough to make me run wherever I am to the stove. I thank my mom for getting me excited about Indian cooking and teaching me the ways. She's always encouraged my sister and I to experiment and not be afraid to try new dishes.

I feel that some of that energy or spunk has rubbed off on my dad as well. He's been testing out a lot of recipes he finds on the Internet and gets feedback from my mom.

This Mother's day was no different. He was catching up on his daily dose of world news and found an interesting recipe for a rich dish called Maqluba; a Middle Eastern dish that literally means "upside down", The dish includes meat, rice and fried vegetables in a pot which is then flipped upside down when served. Leave it to my dad to come up with the menu for this special day. He researched further and found a vegetarian version of this dish on the Serious Eats website.

Vegetarian Maqluba (Rice Layered with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Cauliflower)

Yield: Serves 6 to 8
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Spice Ingredients

  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
We adapted this recipe to what we had at home and used garam masala for all the spices except turmeric.

Other Ingredients
  • 1-2/3 cups basmati rice, rinsed until water runs clear
  • 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/4" thick slices
  • About 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium cauliflower, divided into medium florets
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4" thick slices
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • Plain yogurt, for serving (optional)
  • Hot sauce such as sambal oelek, for serving (optional)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro or coriander, for serving (optional)

Procedure

Adjust oven racks to middle positions and preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover rice with water, stir in 1 tsp of salt and let soak. 

Stir together all the spices in a small bowl. (In our case, we measured the garam masala and put it in a bowl). In a large bowl, toss eggplant slices with 3 tbsp oil, 1/3 of the spice mixture, salt, and pepper to taste. Lay eggplant out on two rimmed baking sheets and roast, turning slices once, until eggplant is browned and tender (see example below), about 20 minutes.  


In a large bowl, toss cauliflower, with 2 tbsp oil, 1/3 of the spice mixture, salt, and pepper to taste. Lay cauliflower out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, stirring once, until cauliflower is browned and tender, about 20 minutes. 

Time to assemble the Maqluba
Line the bottom of a Dutch oven with a circle of parchment paper, then brush paper and sides with melted butter. Assemble tomato slices in a circle, covering bottom of the pot and overlapping the slices as you go. Follow with the eggplant, Arrange cauliflower over eggplant. Drain rice thoroughly, then spread over cauliflower. Stir remaining spice mixture and 1 tsp salt into vegetable, and pour over rice. Scatter garlic pieces over top. 

Place pot over high heat and bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove pot from heat, remove lid, drape a clean tea towel over top of pot, and quickly replace lid, letting dish set for 10 minutes. Quickly invert rice dish onto a large round platter; do not remove pot for 2-3 minutes. Remove pot and circle of parchment and serve maqluba with plain yogurt, hot sauce and chopped fresh cilantro, if desired. 

 
Although we substituted some ingredients and used a different pot, our Maqluba dish still turned out well. 

We also tossed together a healthy salad (my sister's recipe): baby spinach, cooked beets (purchased from Costco), walnuts, crumbled goat cheese, diced apples, flax seed powder, and diced carrots. This salad can be eaten as it is or with poppy seed salad dressing. Every since my mom tasted this salad at my sister's place, she always asks her to make it whenever she's visiting us. 

I'm not a big fan of salads, but I love the ingredients in this recipe. I couldn't believe my sister came up with it on her own; she always seems to surprise me with her ingenuity. 

For dessert, I made Dark Chocolate brownies with walnuts using Pillsbury brownie mix and just added chopped walnuts. After we all tasted these brownies, I don't think we're going back to the original kind. I don't feel as guilty eating these since the only calories are from the oil and cacao. Once in a while, it's okay, right. 

My mom loved her Mother's day surprise dinner and we enjoyed cooking together after a longtime. 

Quick Tips
- We realized the importance of parchment paper after we flipped the pot into the serving dish. Some of the rice and vegetables fell out of place. If we had used the parchment paper as suggested in the recipe, everything would have stayed in place and looked more presentable. 

- We forget to garnish the dish with fresh cilantro or coriander. It would have added more flavor. Lesson learned and looking forward to making it again. 

- You can always cut down the recipe by half if you're making it for less people. 

Have you made or tried Maqluba before? What did you do for Mother's Day? Please share your thoughts with us. Happy Mother's day to all the mommies and to be mommies!


January 31, 2015

For the Love of Biryani



"Would you like to have a taste of  the BEST Hyderabadi Biryani?"

Balaji from Deccan Spice is serving up Hyderabadi Biryani at the 2012 Varli Food Festival
"Sure, I'll have a taste or two or maybe a plate full. Balaji watched me as I indulged in this savory rice dish filled with spices and saffron. There are different varieties of biryani. Hyderabadi biryani is the most famous and well known among all Indians. This dish originated during the Mughal empire and is made with Basmati rice, spices and goat. As it became popular, variations wee made with chicken instead of goat.

My first taste of Hyderabadi biryani was during one of my trips to Hyderabad, India in 2008. One of my cousins took my sister and I on this off the beaten path place near his apartment for dinner. The Megana Biryani Point wasn't much of a restaurant and more of a shack really, but one cannot mistake the aroma of roasted spices mixed with rice and meat for anything but biryani. We eagerly waited while this man behind a small kitchen was cooking our dinner. It's not Hyderabadi biryani if it's not spicy. 

When I got back to the States, I searched and searched for god spots to eat Hyderabadi biryani and finally found a few, which were comparable to Megana Biryani Point. Below are a few that I found to be good. 

1) Deccan Spice Restaurant - Jersey City, New Jersey - Really good! 

2) Paradise Biryani Pointe - Edison and Parsippany, New Jersey - This was the original restaurant that was famous for Hyderabadi Biryani in Hyderabad, India. 


Hyderabadi Biryani with chicken and egg
My only concern at Paradise was that it was either too mild or too spicy. It's not like in India where they only make it one way. Most places in the US, can make meals mild, medium or hot. However, I found that a couple of times, I found the biryani to be too spicy here. If you can take the heat, go for it. 

3) Rajni - Parsippany, New Jersey - The Hyderabadi biryani here is pretty good. Regardless of how spicy you order your dish, it is cooked well. The portion sizes are reasonable as well. The biryani is available with chicken, egg, goat, or plain here. Next time, I will share a picture. 

4) Urusi - The Taste of South India - Rockaway, New Jersey - A few weeks ago, I tasted a variety of biryani that I never came across before to this day. It's called Thalappakatti Biryani and it received its name from Mr. Nagasamy Naidu who owned the Anandha Vilas Briyani Hotel in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu (southern state in India). Mr. Naidu always wore a turban called Thalapa, which over the years became synonymous with his brand and cooking styles.

Thalappakatti Biryani from Urusi - The Taste of South India
This dish is prepared with Seeragasamba rice or short grain rice; spices, meat, and coconut milk. These ingredients are really what makes this dish unique and flavorful. I wasn't sure whether I would like it or not because it's not like any biryani I have ever tasted. However, I found it to be quite tasty and well seasoned. I also liked the presentation with the sprig of mint laid over the dish. It adds a nice refreshing flavor overall. 

For the love of biryani, I will continue my journey and seek out best and worst and give it to you as it is. Until next time, LIVE TO EAT not the other way around. Cheers! 

Quick Tips: If you like taking a ride on the wild side, then try making one of these biryani varieties.  You only need to go to your nearest Indian grocer like Patel Brothers or Subzi Mandi and look for brands such as Shah or MTR  biryani mix. 

Do you have a favorite restaurant that makes really good biryani? Share your experience with us. You can also connect with us on Facebook or Twitter


January 24, 2015

A South Indian Dinner on Sankranti

I've felt this emptiness inside of me ever since the demise of my favorite Indian restaurant, Bombay Grill. You may think my behavior is over dramatic but I have my reasons. You see, I'm very picky when it comes to dining out, especially at Indian restaurants. More than the ambiance and decor, I indulge in the food. I can tell when the dishes are made with LOVE and when they are not. The family that owned Bombay Grill cooked with such love and treated their customers very nicely. I was heartbroken when it closed its' doors forever.I was happy to know that although there was no more Bombay Grill, the spot wasn't vacant for long.

A new Indian restaurant called Urusi - The Taste of South India opened its doors on Pongal on January 14th the day before Sankranti. We were in the neighborhood and decided to stop by for dinner.  The restaurant's entrance was adorned with sugarcane sticks and colorful Christmas lights. The host and owner welcomed us at the door with a smile and seated us to our table. While we looked at our menus, we chatted him up a bit and learned about the restaurant. He is originally from Tamil Nadu (Southeast State of India) and came to the United States with his family to start a restaurant business. His brother is the chef and he loves to cook all kinds of South Indian dishes.

After the pleasantries, we ordered a plate of idli fry with mint chutney for appetizer and different kinds of dosas (fermented crepe with rice batter, various lentils and/or flours) for dinner. Idlis are steamed rice and lentil cakes. As we enjoyed these crispy and well seasoned idlis, the host brought our dosas out one by one. My father ordered the ever popular Paper Masala Dosa with a side of hot sambhar, seasoned potato curry and coconut chutney.

Example of Paper Masala Dosa  

Whereas, my mother and I ordered my favorite, Onion Rava Masala Dosa with the same sides. Our dosas were not presented as majestically like my father but that didn't stop us from enjoying them. Onion Rava Masala dosas are typically made with rice batter, semolina flour (sooji) and all-purpose flour (maida). The taste was a bit different from what I've eaten before but it was still tasty. Overall, our dinner was enjoyable and the company was nice. I am looking forward to stopping by again soon to try more of their South Indian dishes.


 ***Quick Tips:
- Urusi is situated in the mini plaza off of Route 46 East in Rockaway, opposite of World Gym and BP Gas Station. 
- Dosas taste better when eaten hot; so don't take too long to enjoy them because you are taking pictures. 
- Also check out my review of the Thalappakatti Biryani, one of their specialty rice dishes. on my post, For the Love of Biryani

January 20, 2015

Better Late Than Never...

to wish everyone a Happy New Year! 
A new year, new resolutions. 


Here are my resolutions:

  • Share new recipes with wholesome ingredients like cracked wheat, ragi, lentils, etc.
  • Review a product every month. 
  • Exercise more so I can enjoy these new dishes and recipes along with you.
  • Try new restaurants and share reviews:
  • Learn more about my culture and festivals.

Now share yours? What do you want to achieve?