Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's Looking a Lot Like Christmas!

I don't know if it's just me or the holidays season is going by too fast. Christmas is only a week away! I was so consumed in my work after the vacation, I thought there wouldn't be any holiday fun for me. So I packed all that I could in the last weekend. I hosted some San Diego food bloggers for a holiday potluck. Who doesn't want to eat with a bunch of great cooks? There were a few appetizers, a wonderful winter salad with lemon-tahini dressing (yum!), two kinds of chili and a pecan pie, and some bubbly mimosas to down it all. I made two of the appetizers - pesto pinwheels and fig compote bruschetta. I used store bought pesto and pastry sheets to make the pinwheels.  The fig compote was home-made using the figs in my garden! Lightly grilled baguette topped with fig compote, goat cheese and chopped walnuts made for a perfect appetizer. I like these kind of finger foods for parties. You can hold your drink, eat and have a conversation all at the same time.

For more holiday cheer, hubs and I went to see some amazing holiday decoration displays in a nearby neighborhood. It almost felt like we were in the north pole - except there was no snow. Oh, the decorations were lovely! Every single house in the Christmas Card Lane was decked out and you couldn't pick a favorite if you had to. It was all so magical. The pictures hardly do it any justice.

I also attended another holiday party at a friend's place. It was nice not to worry about hosting and cleaning the place and cooking for a change.

Although nothing holiday related, I tried two new things over the weekend. Some simple white bread - since husband was tired of being the Guinea pig for my whole-wheat or multi-grain bread making trials. I did sneak in 1/3 of whole wheat flour but this version was loved a lot more than my previous attempts. You know what I love on top of a slice of bread? Poached eggs! That's right - I poached not one, but two eggs without having any disasters! I'm so proud of myself and so very thankful to Anne Burrell for showing the perfect technique. I know what I'll be making for brunch the next several weekends.

A few more days of work and we'll be off on a mini getaway to celebrate Christmas. If I don't get to wish you before that, hope you have a fantastic holiday in the company of your near and dear ones. Do eat lots of food without worrying about the calories. There's always the new year to make resolutions!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pumpkin Bharta

While most blogs are exploding with sinful holiday goodies, I'm sharing a very healthy and simple side dish today. Why? Just because I thought the blogosphere needed some variety. Not really, it just makes me feel good about healthy eats before the holiday mania begins ;).

Bharta or Bharit, as we call in Marathi, is a typical Indian side dish made with mashed vegetables. Yes, the description is not very appetizing. But who doesn't like baingan bharta? Mom made a variety of bhartas in my house, all just as tasty and nutritious- doodhi/bottle gourd, green bell pepper, even okra. This particular recipe is a favorite of mine and is great since it uses the season's best. One of the reasons I love it so much, other than the taste, is because of the vibrant color it adds to the plate.

Pumpkin Bharta/Bhopalyache Bharit

3 Cups pumpkin cubes (~2 Cups cooked & mashed pumpkin)
2 Teaspoons oil/ghee
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 Teaspoon fenugreek/methi seeds
2 Pinches asafoetida
3-4 Dry red chilies - broken in half/2 Small green chilies - chopped
1 Sprig curry leaves
1 Cup yogurt
Salt to taste
Cilantro for garnishing

  • Steam/pressure cook pumpkin cubes. Don't worry about peeling the skin before cooking. It comes right off after the pumpkin is cooked. Just make sure you wash it before cooking.
  • Scoop out the flesh and mash it slightly with the back of the spoon or a fork. I like my bharta chunky.
  • Heat oil/ghee in a kadhai (or if you have those small tadka kadhais), add mustard and fenugreek seeds. 
  • Once they splutter, add asafoetida, curry leaves and red chilies. If you like green chilies instead, feel free to use them. I prefer the smokiness of red chilies. 
  • Add this tempering to the mashed pumpkin and mix well. 
  • Add yogurt and season with salt. 

Garnish the bharta with chopped cilantro and serve with hot roti.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cream of Mushroom Soup

Hello readers! I know my wishes come (very) late - but I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving. The weeks after Diwali just flew by between some work related travel and my dance exam. And what went by even faster was our relaxing vacation to Jamaica for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was a great week spent eating spicy curries and enjoying tropical weather. Getting back to work wasn't fun - I'm hammered with deadlines. The only comforting fact is that the holiday season just around the corner (can't believe the year is almost over)! We got back to a decked out neighborhood and a much cooler San Diego. It's nothing like the East Coast during the holiday season, but I'm finally in the mood for some winter cooking - oven working overtime and soups and stews simmering on stove tops. Today's recipe is a favorite of mine - cream of mushroom soup! This is a healthy, 'guilty-free eating before the holidays' recipe ;).

Cream of Mushroom Soup

1 Package baby bella/brown mushrooms (roughly 2 Cups chopped)
1/4 Medium onion - finely chopped
3 Garlic cloves - finely chopped
1/2 Teaspoon dried oregano (feel free to use rosemary or sage)
A dash of Mrs. Dash (hah!) original spice mix (or use Italian seasoning)
Paprika - to your liking
1Tablespoons + 1 Teaspoon butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
2 1/2 Cups milk
Water if needed
Salt to taste

  • Clean and chop mushrooms finely. If you like your soup chunky, cur accordingly.
  • Add a teaspoon of butter to a pan and ad the chopped garlic, onion and mushrooms. Season with the spices and cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms are soft (about 4-5 minutes).
  • Heat a pot on the side and add 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the flour once butter is completely melted. Whisk continuously so the flour doesn't burn.
  • Once the color of flour turns slightly dark, add milk and boil on medium-high until the milk thickens. Make sure to keep whisking so there are no lumps.
  • Add the seasoned mushrooms, salt to taste, close the lid and let it simmer for a few minutes until all the flavors come together. You can add some water if the soup gets too thick and bring it to a boil again.

The soup tasted delicious with some toasted whole grains bread. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Diwali Wishes!

Wishing everyone a very happy Diwali!!! May the glow of the Diwali diyas brighten our lives and remove darkness and evil. Hope you all are enjoying the festivities with your near and dear ones, and stuffing yourselves with Diwali sweets and snacks! Let's remember the less fortunate ones this Diwali and help in any way we can.

There are lots of firsts for us this Diwali - our first time celebrating it together (since I left hubs by himself last year while I was celebrating with my family back in India), our first Diwali in the new house, my first Diwali in San Diego! Although I miss my family and friends staying far from me, I'm super excited about being 'home' with hubby this year. Yesterday, we cleaned and decorated the house together, got a bigger and better home for our pet betta fish and ended the day by making some delicious 'faraal' with friends (sweets and snacks prepared specially on Diwali are called faraal in Maharashtra). A perfect Saturday before Diwali!

Rangoli at the doorfront
Back in India, all the ladies (with enthusiastic kids like me tagged along) would go to each other's house to help out with faraal making. The faraal was made in large quantities as it was to be shared with a big number of family members, friends and neighbors. Over here, the faraal hardly gets consumed. Honestly, I was wondering if I should even bother making anything this year. But once my friend told me how she and her husband were craving faraal, I immediately asked her to come over so we could have a 'faraal making party' :D. So last night, we gorged on fresh Shankarpali, Karanji and Garlic Shev/Sev along with a dinner of daal-rice and amrakhand (talk about gluttony). I had a moment of 'oh, I love faraal no matter how averse I'm to fried foods' and realized it isn't Diwali until the waft of ghee fills up your house!

I'm sharing the recipe for Garlic Sev/Lasanachi Shev. My mom passed on this recipe from the recipe book every Marathi woman swears by - Kamalabai Ogale's Ruchira! I absolutely love this preparation. It's great to change your palate in between all the sweets. Sadly, I don't have a Sev patra (the press that you make sev with), so I shaped these like kadbole by hand. I only made a small quantity so it won't be lying around for days.

Garlic Sev/Lasanachi Shev

1 Cup Besan (chickpea flour)
3 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
6-7 Large garlic cloves
1 1/2 Teaspoons red chili powder (adjust per your liking)
1 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1/2 Teaspoon ajwain/ova seeds
2-3 Pinches baking soda
Salt to taste
Water as needed
Oil for frying

  • Grind garlic cloves using morta-pestle or a small grinder. Add a little bit of water to it and strain it through a fine strainer. Squeeze all the water out of the garlic. You now have a garlic concentrate! You will use this concentrate to flavor the sev so that you don't end up biting into bits of garlic! Isn't that clever? 
  • Mix both the flours, red chili powder and cumin-coriander powder together. 
  • Bruise the ajwain lightly - just take it in your palm and rub it with your thumb. This brings out the oils. 
  • Mix the ajwain, garlic concentrate, baking soda and add salt to taste (add a little extra salt than usual - frying tones down the flavors). 
  • Add water little by little to form a soft, stiff dough. If you don't have a Sev press, make the dough stiff enough so you can shape it by hand.  
  • Heat oil in a kadhai. Once the oil is hot, drop sev in it through the press and fry until yellowish-brown. Keep the flame on low-medium heat. This way, the sev will cook from inside. Otherwise it ends up burning on the outside and the center remains uncooked. 
  • Without a press, you can make small bow-like shapes by rolling out the dough thinly between your palms and pressing two ends together like shown in the picture. 

Enjoy the sinful, fried foods today, for tomorrow we may diet ;). 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

100th Post And Diwali Lanterns!

100th Post! I didn't think I would hit a century in the blog space. I had dreamed of writing a blog for years - but my random musings would go just as far as my girlfriend next door. After moving to San Diego, I was in a new town with not many friends to hang out with, and a personal guinea pig to experiment on ;) - a perfect formula to finally sit down pen my recipes. I'm no writer, not at all! However, I enjoy blogging because there's no pressure to write a certain way. I can put my thoughts in my words without worrying about who reads it; because honestly, I doubted anyone would ever read my blog. And yet it's overwhelming to see all those 'Likes' on Facebook :). So here's a big "Thank You" to all those who give me a few minutes of their time in reading my ramblings.

Moving on to today's topic - Diwali decorations! Anyone who knows me knows that I love celebrating every festival with a bang. And that doesn't necessarily involve splurging - in fact, DIY is the way I always go. Remember the Ganesh idol? This year, I'll be juggling an exam, a conference, work deadlines and house duties all around diwali. So I'm getting a head start on my favorite part - the decorations!

Diwali is a festival of lights - about triumph of good over evil or dark. And lamps and lanterns are an important part of the celebration. Every house in India is lit up with oil lamps and glimmering with lanterns during this festival. So why not make it special by doing it yourself? I make these simple paper lanterns every year to hang up at the main entrance. This is something I enjoyed doing with my grandpa as a kid. I'm sure you'll love crafting them with your kids too. Getting your kids involved in making the decorations is a great way to get them interested in our festivals and culture. These lanterns are easy to make and look very traditional and authentic. If you make one big lantern, you can hang a light bulb inside. But I usually make smaller ones and hang them in a row. Nothing says 'Diwali' like these lanterns adorning the front of the house. And yes, they come with lots of compliments ;). 

**The long list of instructions may scare you at first, but just read on and you'll realize how easy it is to make these lanterns. 

Diwali Paper Lanterns

What you need:
Thick craft paper (8.5 x 11) - use white or beige
Thin craft papers (8.5 x 11) - your favorite colors 
Golden paper/ribbon for the trims
A thick needle 
  • Cut the white paper in 3 pieces width wise so each one has two 8.5" sides. Take the short sides and glue them together to create a cylinder (As shown in picture 2 above).
  • Cut one colored paper in half - again width wise so each one has two 8.5" sides. One half will be used for the top and one to create the dangling strips at the bottom.
  • Fold one of the colored halves into half lengthwise and make about 2/3" strips from the folded side. Don't cut the paper all the way. Leave about 1/2" on the top (Picture 3 in the collage above). When you open the paper, you will have slits in the center all attached on both the sides. This will be the top of the lantern. (As shown in picture 4).
  • Take the other half of the colored paper and fold it 4 times from the short sides and cut small strips. Again, don't cut all the way so that these strips are attached at the top. Once you open the paper, you'll have the strips needed for the bottom (Picture 6 above)
  • Put glue on the top and bottom edges of the cylinder and glue the top colored paper all the way around. (As shown in the left corner picture below). 
  • Glue the bottom strips to one side of the cylinder. Decorate both sides of the cylinder with some golden ribbon or golden paper strips. You can get creative and add glitter, stones or whatever else you like. 
  • With a sharp, thick needle, make two holes across from each other on top of the cylinder and create a handle to hang them using ribbon or thread. 

Make these lanterns in different colors and hang them in a row. 

How are you preparing for Diwali??

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Kojagiri Cutlets!

Hi everyone! Hope you enjoyed lots of Halloween candy and baked some sweet treats. I had been looking forward to this Halloween for days - mostly because it was our chance to finally meet the neighbors, which I'm happy we did. The whole parade of kids dressed up as princesses, ninjas, ghosts, transformers and what have you, was quite a lot of fun. Hubs and I put our beach chairs in front of the house and enjoyed giving out candy to happy kids (derived mostly through their gesture since I couldn't really see many of their faces) and talking to parents who worried whether their li'l ones said "thank you"! Our first holiday season in the new neighborhood as begun on a sweet Halloween candy note!

Anyway, to cut to the chase - cutlets! I made these fun snacks three days back for Kojagiri pournima (full moon night). I was hoping to post the recipe right away and get to my 100th post(!). Anyway...The story goes that Goddess Lakshmi roams the earth on this full moon night and asks "Ka: Jagarati" meaning "Who's awake" and  blesses those who observe night vigil with wealth and prosperity. People gather at night and enjoy flavored milk (masala doodh) and poha (flattened rice) after offering it to the beautiful full moon. In honor of this day, I made some tasty cutlets of poha. I remember my mom making these out of left-over Maharashtrian style kande-pohe (seasoned flattened rice). Poha is unusual to use in cutlets, but it works really well. It turns into almost rice-flour essentially, which helps in binding the cutlets and absorbing any flavors you add.  If you are making them out of kande-pohe, you already have the ginger, green chili, onion, cilantro etc. I mimicked the same flavors and made these out of plain poha. A fun snack you could make as starters for all the diwali parties you'll have lined up! These are great after-school snacks for kids as well. Of course, tone down the spiciness for them.

Poha Cutlets

1 Large potato
1 1/2 Cups washed thick poha 
1/4 Medium onion - finely chopped
A few springs of cilantro - finely chopped
1 Inch ginger
2 Small green chilies
1 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
Salt to taste
Rava (semolina) for coating
Oil as needed. 
  • Soak thick poha (don't use the thin variety) in some water and drain right away. Let it sit for 15 minutes. 
  • Boil the potato until fork tender and peel. 
  • Grind gingner, green chilies and cumin-coriander powder together. 
  • Mix the soaked poha, potato, onion, cilantro, the space paste you made and salt and bind well until the potato and poha are mashed. Sprinkle some water if the mixture is too dry. 
  • Make small flat patties and roll them in rava, pressing lightly. This will create a nice crunchy crust on the cutlets. 
  • Heat a pan on medium-high flame and drizzle some oil. Pan fry the cutlets on each side until brown. 

The cutlets taste yummy with ketchup! 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Eggplant Bhajja

The latest choice of weekend activity among our friends has been gathering at someone's house and cooking together. Oh, the joy of communal cooking and sharing meals! It's so much better than going out - the food is fresh and much healthier (not to mention, cheaper!), we get to learn each other's culinary skills, cooking doesn't feel like a chore when you want to relax, and most importantly, it gives us opportunity to have conversations and spend more quality time with each other. 

Some interesting recipes always come out of our cooking rituals. Last night when we had gathered at our place, my friend Deepti taught me what I can claim as the yummiest eggplant dish I've had. A very unique and ridiculously easy recipe that'll make the pickiest eater love eggplants! It wasn't hard for me to fall in love since I like eggplants in any form, but my other friends who don't care for them couldn't stop eating it either. This was Deepti's grandma's recipe who had learned it from her Sindhi neighbors. Her grandma made it for them as an after-school snack. The preparation is very simple - cut aubergine eggplants in the center and make grid-like slits, sprinkle some masala on top and roast for a few minutes. Done.You just scoop out the center with a spoon and enjoy the crusty-spicy eggplant that is extremely delicate and juicy inside. Amazing how something as simple as that can turn an ordinary eggplant into a gourmet dish. 

If only you could taste this through the screen - don't be fooled by the color.

Eggplant Bhajja

4 Aubergine eggplants
1 1/2 Teaspoons cumin-coriander powder
1 1/2 Teaspoons garam masala/goda masala
3/4-1 Teaspoon red chili powder (depending on how spicy you want it)
Salt to taste
Oil as needed. 

  • Cut eggplants in the center lengthwise. Make vertical and horizontal grid-like slits as shown in the picture below. This way, the spice mix you sprinkle will get all the way through. 
  • Combine the spices and salt and sprinkle over the eggplants and in between the slits. You can adjust the level of spices according to your liking. My friend uses garam masala for this recipe but I prefer goda masala for the slight sweetness coconut adds. 
  • Microwave the eggplants keeping face up for 2-3 minutes. This speeds up the cooking process. The eggplants should feel soft to touch. The cooking time may vary depending on the eggplants size. 
  • Heat a pan on medium-high, drizzle a little bit of oil (very little - you are not shallow frying them) and keep the eggplants face down (the side of spices touching the pan). Cover the pan and let the eggplants roast for 2-3 minutes. Once they are slightly charred on that side, turn them, cover and cook for a couple of minutes more. 
Serve while hot. It can be eaten as an appetizer or just a side dish. Just take a spoon and dig in!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Chana With A South Indian Twist

We always associate Chana/Chickpeas with the North Indian style preparation of chhole/chana masala. Chhole can be quite luxurious and sinful - especially served with fried bhature. Not that I don't love chhole, but it's a dish for rare occasions in my house. The other day, I tasted chana prepared in a very different manner using the South Indian essentials - curry leaves and coconut! This dish was served at the temple as prasad on one of the Navratri days. Being offered as naivedyam it had to be satvik and devoid of onoin-garlic. Give me anything infused with aromatic curry leaves and I'm instantly in love. The change of taste and the use of minimal ingredients were quite welcoming. Hubs and I couldn't stop praising the preparation. I wish I could thank and ask for the recipe to whoever brought the prasad. But it was a no brainer given the few and distinct ingredients. I wasted no time in recreating the dish in my kitchen. For the lack of a better title, I'll call this Jhatpat Chana for the ease of making it compared to Chhole! 

Jhatpat Chana

1 1/2 Cups soaked Chana (chickpeas)
1-2 Teaspoons Ghee
2 Green chilies - chopped
1/2 Teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 Teaspoon mustard seeds
Couple of pinches asafoetida
2 Springs curry leaves
1 Tablespoon grated coconut
1 Teaspoon tamarind  pulp/1 Tablespoon grated green mango
Salt to taste
Water as needed

  • Heat ghee in a kadhai, add cumin and mustard seeds and let them splutter.
  • Add asafoetida, green chilies and curry leaves. Fry for 30-40 secs.
  • Add chickpeas. Make sure the chickpeas are soaked for at least 5-6 hours for easy cooking. You can use the canned pre-soaked ones also.
  • Sprinkle grated coconut, tamarind pulp/green mango and mix well. Put a lid on and let the chickpeas cook, adding minimal water and stirring occasionally. The chickpeas should cook thoroughly without getting mushy so there's a bite to them. 

Serve as a side dish with roti/rice or enjoy as a snack!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pudachi Wadi

Hi everyone! Wish you all a very happy Navratri. Hope you have your garba shoes on and are dancing the nights away :). I have a fun snack recipe for you to munch on after all that dancing. 

I wanted to make something different this festival season. Not the typical sweets and faral - I'll be making plenty of that for diwali. My mom as always came to my rescue with this tasty snack recipe - Pudachi Wadi. Pudachi wadi is somewhere between Bakarwadi and Kothimbir wadi. It has a lot of common ingredients with kothimbir wadi and is shaped like bakarwadi. Can't go wrong with that. I guess the name comes from the way you shape these - rolling the roti into a pudi (a small packet). I was so excited about the recipe that I started going through my pantry for the ingredients before mom was done talking to me. 

This wadi has a savory coconut-cilantro filling with toasty sesame seeds and poppy seeds. For additional flavor and taste, I added some fennel seeds. The sweet bite they provide balances the spicy-savoriness perfectly. Besan in the covering makes it very crispy and light. The original recipe calls for frying but I went with shallow-pan frying using minimal oil. I don't think there was any compromise on taste. You should just make sure that the filling is roasted well since it won't cook as much while shallow frying as in deep frying. You can deep fry the rolls before cutting if you want the real thing. I didn't try baking them, but I think they'd turn out okay that way too. The recipe will make about 20-25 pieces after cutting.  

Pudachi Wadi

1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
1 Teaspoon poppy seeds
1 Teaspoon fennel seeds
2 Teaspoons oil
1 Teaspoon garlic paste
1 Teaspoon ginger paste
1 Green chili - finely chopped
1/2 Cup packed grated coconut
1 1/2 Cup loosely filled chopped cilantro
1 Teaspoon dhana-jeera powder
1 Teaspoon goda masala/garam masala
1/4 Teaspoon red chili powder for color (optional)
Salt to taste

1/2 Cup whole wheat flour
1/4 Cup besan/chickpea flour
1/2 Teaspoon dhana-jeera powder
1/2 Teaspoon red chili powder
Salt to taste
Water as needed

  • First, knead the dough by combining all the ingredients for the cover. Add just enough water to form a stiff dough you can roll out. 
  • For the filling, roast the sesame and poppy seeds until slightly darker and aromatic and keep aside. 
  • Heat oil in a kadhai and add ginger, garlic, green chili and roast for about a minute. Then add rest of the ingredients except the cilantro and roast, stirring constantly. 
  • Add cilantro once the coconut is roasted well and let it all come together for another minute or so. 
  • I pulsed this filling through the grinder quickly just to mix everything well. But you don't have to do that. 

To make the wadi:

  • Divide the dough as well as the filling in 4 equal parts. 
  • Roll each dough ball into a roti - not too thick. Then fill the center with the filling. Fold the small sides in so the filling doesn't come out and roll the roti into a tight roll. 
  • Heat a pan and drizzle some oil. Pan-fry the wadi rolls turning on each side until the cover is crispy. 
  • Once completely cooled, cut the rolls into small pieces and serve with some tamarind chutney. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Instant Idli

I have always loved having soft,fluffy idlis dunked in sambar and chutney. It must be all those Sundays spent as a kid eating a brunch of idlis while watching my favorite 'Potli Babaki Kahani' or some other show that makes it my favorite Sunday meal. But to be honest, I don't always have the patience to soak rice and urad daal, grind and ferment the batter in advance. As a quick and delicious alternative, I make rava idlis. Rava idlis, as the name suggests, are made completely out of rava. There's no soaking and fermenting for hours required; but you'll be surprised how pillowy soft these idlis turn out. Yogurt provides that slight tang you'd get from fermenting. The best part is, there's lots of flavor in the idlis themselves, so you can do with a quick chutney on the side. You can add all sorts of stuff the the batter - I usually go with peas and onion. Grated carrots go really well also - they add flavor as well as some color.
I made rava idlis for a potluck at my friend's yesterday. The picture was taken under very low light with my phone, hence the poor quality.

The recipe below makes enough idlis for 2 people.

Rava Idli

2 Teaspoons oil
1 Tablespoon urad daal
1 Teaspoon grated ginger
2 Small green chilies - finely chopped
1/2 Small onion - finely chopped
1 Spring curry leaves - roughly chopped (add cilantro alternatively)
Handful of green peas
1 Cup rava/semolina
1 Cup yogurt
A pinch baking soda (optional)
Salt to taste
Water as needed.

  • Heat oil in a wok/kadhai and roast urad daal until golden brown.
  • Add ginger, chilies, curry leaves, peas and onion and saute for a few seconds.
  • Add rava and roast, stirring constantly, on medium heat  until the rava turns a darker hue and becomes fragrant (~10 mins). The key to good, soft idlis is roasting the rava well. Don't keep the heat too high as you don't want it to burn.
  • Take it off the heat and mix with yogurt. Add water little by little until you have a thick batter. Rava will soak up water and puff up. Add salt to taste and baking soda.
  • Let the batter rest for 45 mins to an hour.
  • Make idlis in an idli patra just like you would the regular idlis. 

Enjoy with your favorite chutney or sambar. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall Flavors

On a recent trip up north to Pismo Beach, our hotel manager informed us about this lovely farm called Avila Valley Barn. I am so glad we shifted our other plans to visit this place! It wasn't just a farm - they had a market full of fresh produce and a petting zoo with cute farm animals. The market was teeming with the season's best - pumpkins of every size, color and shape imaginable. Although we had a whole day left to roam around, I couldn't help but pick up a few veggies and a gorgeous plump sugar pumpkin! After getting home, I simply roasted and pureed the pumpkin. This way I can use it for different recipes. Time for some fall cooking!

Pumpkins at Avila Valley Barn
Some warm, fluffy pancakes seemed like the perfect dish to start off the season. If I had to sum up fall flavors in one dish, I would make these pancakes - ultimately comforting pumpkin-spice pancakes with some chocolate chip goodness! I used 100% whole wheat flour and used no eggs. The pancakes turned out pillowy soft with the help of pumpkin puree and milk. The chocolate in the batter melted as the pancakes cooked and oozed out of each bite. Super delicious. These pancakes didn't even need much syrup to go with them. Just sprinkle some powdered sugar and let some butter melt on top. This is the kind of breakfast you should be eating on a fall weekend! 

Some powdered sugar on top!

Pumpkin Spice - Chocolate Pancakes

1 Cup whole wheat flour
3/4 Cup pumpkin puree from sugar pumpkin
1 Cup milk
1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
1/4 Cup brown sugar (adjust depending on the sweetness of pumpkin puree)
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon powder
A hint of nutmeg powder
1 Oz good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips/chunks

Making pumpkin puree:
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cut the pumpkin in half and remove the strings and seeds (don't throw the seeds away - you can roast them for a healthy snack :).
Roast the pumpkin for about 45 mins or until the flesh is fork tender. You can brush the inside of pumpkin with some butter to lock in moisture and add flavor. I let it roast just as is.
Cool the pumpkin, scoop out the flesh (which should be really easy after roasting it) and puree in the food processor. You may need to add a little bit of water to help the processor, but don't make it too thin.

If you don't want to go through the trouble of making your own puree, simply use canned one. But trust me, the fresh puree tastes so much better :).

Making the pancakes:
Mix the dry ingredients - whole wheat flour, baking soda, sugar, chocolate chunks, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl.
Add the wet ingredients - pumpkin puree, milk and butter, and mix well.
Heat a pan on medium and pour a ladleful of the batter. Cook on each side for a couple of minutes or until each side turns a light brown.

Enjoy the pancakes with some powdered sugar, butter or maple syrup!

I'm submitting this recipe to B-O-O-O-O Halloween Event @ AnuzHealthyKitchen.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Chutneys and Condiments

Growing up, my house was always buzzing with guests and visitors. Like any other typical Indian family, we were used to unannounced guests dropping in for chai or staying over for dinner after mom or grandma insisted. I remember my dad inviting his friends over for dinner on many occasions with barely any warning. There was hardly any time to come up with a fancy menu. But the women of the house never worried or complained, for they were always armed with an abundant supply of condiments. All sorts of pickles, chutneys, papads and other mouthwatering stuff! Think about it, these condiments are served in the smallest quantity on a plate, and yet add the most pizzazz to a meal. The simplest potato sabji served with piquant mango pickle, some sweet lemon pickle on top of upma, green chutney spread on a sandwich, curry leaves chutney sprinkled on a roti, or an assortment of papads cumbled with warm khichadi - these condiments make up for any flavors your plate may be lacking.

When I want a quick and easy meal, I rely on fresh chutneys or metkut (Maharashtrian style poodi chutney) to spruce up some rice and yogurt. Utterly satisfying and comforting. I made a big batch of green/raw mango chutney yesterday (the only upside to not getting alphonso is having access to Mexican mangoes most of the year). Green mango chutney is quite unique as it is complete with all the basic tastes our taste buds recognize - sourness, saltiness, sweetness, bitterness and - for all the Indianness in me - spiciness! It's one of the easiest condiments to make and boy, does it pack flavor! My mom used to add a little bit of grated onion to make this chutney extra strong, but you can't store it for long since onion starts smelling right away. Without it, the chutney lasts for 2 weeks or more. I love this chutney with roti, rice or even bread. It'll surely tickle your taste buds.

Green Mango Chutney/ Kairichi Chutney

2 Green Mangoes
1 Tablespoon grated jaggery
1 Teaspoon red chili powder
1 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 Teaspoon fenugreek/methi seeds powder
1/2 Teaspoon asafoetida powder
1 Tablespoon oil
Salt to taste

  • Pick firm, raw mangoes for this chutney. Peel and grate mangoes. 
  • Add jaggery and red chili powder. The exact amount of jaggery and chili powder will depend on the sourness of the mango and your preference. So make adjustments as needed. 
  • Heat oil in a kadhai, add mustard seeds and let them splutter. 
  • Turn off the heat, add asafoetida and fenugreek seeds powder (so they don't burn) and add this tempering to the grated mangoes. You want asafoetida to impart its strong pungent fragrance. 
  • Add salt to taste, mix well and let the chutney sit for about an hour so all the flavors penetrate the mango. 

There - complete with all the flavors, this chatpati chutney will make any meal special!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ganesh Chaturthi Wishes

Wishing everyone a very happy Ganesh Chaturthi! May Lord Ganesh bless you with health and happiness, and remove all obstacles from your path.

My eco-friendly hand made idol with natural clay and non-toxic paint

Hope everyone is enjoying delectable modaks and other naivedya. Here are some recipes you could make
this year:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Haliv/Aliv Ladu

Hartalika wishes everyone! Happy fasting to those who are observing it today. Hartalika is celebrated by women in honor of Goddess Parvati on Bhadrapad tritiya (third day of the Hindu calendar month Bhadrapad). I used to observe the fast as a girl - to pray for a husband like Shiva! Now that I have found him, I skip the fasting bit of the celebration ;). Hartalika falls a day before Ganesh Chaturthi. My grandma would scurry around just before the big day trying to fill the pantry with sweets, so none of the visitors who came for Ganpati darshan left without plentiful of them. She made pedhas, barfis and all sorts of laddus. I always had my eye on the Haliv laddus, to replenish the depleted energy after a long day of fasting.

Haliv/Aliv seeds come from an herb called garden cress. They are also known as Aserio seeds. These seeds are rich in iron, calcium and protein. Grandma told us how good they were for women and said, "We didn't have all these energy tonics in my days. We ate haliv ladus or kheer for the essential nutrients." The great thing is, these laddus taste much better than any energy drink you've had! Haliv seeds swell up once soaked, just like sabja we put in faluda. They give a nice, chewy texture. The laddus are quite decadent with the generous use of coconut. The surprise element is the sweet, floral aroma from cloves. You can add some dry fruits if you like, but the laddus are quite rich on their own. Other laddu recipes, like rava and besan, require exact measurements and technique. This recipe is a lot simpler in comparison. The only tedious part is the cooking process.

 Haliv/Aliv Ladu

1/2 Cup Haliv/Aliv seeds (Aserio seeds)
1 Cup coconut water (use regular water if not available)
1 Cup fresh grated coconut
3/4 Cup grated jaggery
2 Tablespoons sugar (if required)
3 Cloves
2 Teaspoons ghee (clarified butter)

  • Soak haliv seeds in coconut water for about an hour. The seeds start to puff up immediately and become slippery. They double in size once completely soaked.
  • Mix grated coconut (you can add some later if needed) and jaggery to the seeds and combine well. Let it sit for another hour. There should be equal or little more amount of coconut as the seeds. 
  • While the seeds are soaking, roast the cloves and grind them to a fine powder. 
  • Heat ghee in a kadhai and add the coconut,jaggery,haliv mixture and cloves powder and cook on low flame, stirring constantly. The seeds need to be cooked for a long time (~20-25 mins) until they become soft. 
  • Once the seeds are cooked through and the mixture comes together, turn off the heat and let it cool. 
  • Make golf ball sized laddus (you probably won't be able to eat a bigger laddu at one time since they are quite heavy). 


  • The sweetness of jaggery depends on the quality. You can add some sugar to achieve desired sweetness. 
  • Soaking the seeds in coconut water adds more flavor. Use regular water if you don't have it. 
  • This recipe makes about 10-12 laddus.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pizza Night

When I lived in NY, pizza was my go-to meal. It was the most accessible food choice when I was on a time crunch, was lazy to cook one day, or made last minute dinner plans with friends. My numerous sleepovers with school buddies were never complete without ordering a variety of thin crust pizzas from the 'Famous Pizzeria' (it was famous too =D). The crispy, baked to perfection pizzas would be gobbled up amid 5-6 girls chattering all at the same time! My favorite pizza had lots of veggies and wasn't drowned in out-of-the-can tomato sauce. Post school, as I started making healthier diet choices, I cut down my pizza consumption considerably. But on Friday, when my friend came down from LA to stay over, I wanted to have some pizza for old time's sake. Only this time, I made it from scratch at home.

I love thin crust pizzas since you get to enjoy more of the good stuff (the toppings) without filling yourself with dough! Previously when I made the crust at home, it was more like a roti dough that I used. This time, it was authentic with yeast, and yet had the healthy whole wheat component. I switched things up with a creamy garlic sauce instead of the typical tomato pizza sauce. You don't have to tell anyone that there's hardly any cheese in it. The recipe is extremely easy and a favorite of mine. I often add it to my pasta when I'm craving a luscious, yet not too cheesy sauce.

Making this pizza seems like a long process. And it is, but most of it just calls for sitting and waiting for the dough to rise or the pizza to bake. Everything else is pretty simple and the effort is worth every tasty bite! The great thing about making pizza at home is you can add whatever and how many ever toppings as you like. If you have friends over, have fun with them making your own pizzas. Keep the dough and the toppings ready, and each person can build their own. The garlicky gooey goodness of the sauce tastes perfect with baked crunchy veggies.

Note: This recipe makes around 4 small or 3 medium pizzas.

Thin Crust Pizza with Creamy Garlic Sauce

1 1/2 Cups warm water
1 Packet active dry yeast
1 Teaspoon sugar
2 Cups whole wheat flour
1 Cup all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons EVOO
Salt to taste
All purpose flour/corn flour for dusting

Garlic Sauce:
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Teaspoon all purpose flour
1 Cup milk
3 Garlic cloves - grated
Fistful (about 1/4 cup) of shredded cheese - Used a 4 cheese blend. Go for simple mozzarella if you like.
Mrs. Dash seasoning blend or any other herbs and spices blend
Salt to taste

Any veggies you like really! I used a mix of thinly sliced mushrooms, red onions, tomatoes, green bell pepper, avocado, olives, jalapeno (as you can tell, I love my veggies!)

To make the crust:

  • Add active dry yeast and sugar to the water and keep aside for 10-15 minutes until the yeast bubbles. 
  • Once the water is frothy, add the two flours, EVOO and salt and knead really well for a few minutes. You can add a little bit of warm water if needed to form a soft, elastic dough ball. Cover the dough and let it rise for about 45 minute or until the dough doubles in size. 
  • Punch the dough and knead again for a minute until soft. Keep aside until you work on the sauce. 

To make the sauce:

  • Heat butter in a sauce pan on low-medium flame. Once the butter melts, add all purpose flour and whisk continuously until the flour cooks through and turns a golden color. 
  • Add milk and grated garlic to the pan and keep stirring, breaking any lumps. The sauce, or rue as it is called, starts to thicken quickly. Turn the heat off when you achieve the desired consistency. 
  • Season with some salt and your favorite seasoning blend (simple Italian herbs will do), and add a little bit of cheese and stir. The heat will help the cheese melt and blend into the sauce. If the sauce becomes too thick, simply add some warm milk and whisk. The sauce is ready!

To put the pizza together:

  • Preheat over at 400F. 
  • Flour a pizza stone if you have one, or a wooden surface to roll the dough. Divide your dough in three or four parts depending on how big you want the pizzas. Roll each dough ball into a thin crust (about 1/4 inch) using a gentle hand on the rolling pin. 
  • Transfer the crust to your baking tray (don't try to lift it after building your pizza - wisdom learned from a stupid mistake =D ), then spread that yummy sauce generously, your choice of thinly sliced veggies and sprinkle just a little bit of shredded cheese. I used only a tablespoon or so for each pizza. 
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown on the sides and the veggies are baked crispy. 

Some chili flakes on top, a drink on the side, and some fun conversations are all you need for great dinner time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Of White & Gold

The first day of college, I entered my class with visible nervousness, and saw her reassuring face smiling at me. It was comforting to see someone giving a friendly smile in an unfamiliar place. Only I didn't know then that P and I would go on to form a strong bond of friendship that was to last all these years and many more to come. P, my BF from college, and I shared some of the best times as classmates and later as roommates in college. While I lived away from my family, I sought the love and comfort of her home. P's loving family quickly accepted me as one of them. I spent holidays at her house, had silly slumber parties, took over the basement to practice for our dance shows, celebrated many festivals there, and most of all, enjoyed home cooked food!

P is a Keralite, or Mallu, as known popularly. It was at her house that I first had a taste of Kerala cuisine. Rich with generous use of coconut, spiced with red and green chilies and scented with curry leaves, Kerala food is full of bold flavors. Every visit to P's house was filled with a delicious breakfast of dosa and a lavish lunch spread of red matta rice, beet-root or cabbage pachadi, dry veggie fry called Thoran, rich and creamy aviyal curry with a side of inji curry (ginger pickle) or chammanthi (chutney) to spice it all up. I was treated to payasam on special occasions. Imagine that all that exotic food for a college student who survived on all sorts of rice preparations. Enjoying those delicacies with the sweetest family one can have made it all the more special. 

Today, on the occasion of Onam, I cooked two of my favorite dishes. Onam is an important festival in Kerala, almost like diwali. Women dress up in the traditional white and gold settu sarees, wear jasmine garlands in their hair, adorn the door fronts with athapoo (rangoli made with flower petals), and get together for thiruvathirakali dance. The most exciting part of the celebration is the elaborate feast called Sadya. It's some serious food business! Imagine a large banana leaf filled corner to corner with one delicious dish after another.

I prepared aviyal and spinach thoran today. Aviyal is a kurma like preparation made with many different root vegetables, beans, squash and raw bananas. You can throw in anything you like, as long as the vegetables are firm and don't get watery when cooked. Thoran is any dry vegetable stir fry. I used to love thoran made with beans. Today, I tried it using spinach since I already used beans in the aviyal. Neither of these dishes use overpowering spices. They are extremely fragrant and flavorful with the use of curry leaves, coconut, shallots and chilies. Husband had never tried Kerala food. All I can say is, he is converted now :).


2 1/2 Cups chopped vegetables - a mix of potatoes, pumpkin, green beans, carrots and eggplant
Curry leaves from one spring
2 Small green chilies - slit lengthwise in the center
1/4 Cup grated coconut
2 Shallots
1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 Cup yogurt
1/4 Teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Red chili powder to taste
Water as needed

  • Chop vegetables into 1 inch long pieces. You can use a variety of gourds, beans and squash or yams. Make sure you choose vegetables that are firm and won't get watery when cooked. 
  • Add the vegetables, curry leaves, green chilies, turmeric powder and a little bit of water enough to cook veggies to a pot and cook until the vegetables are tender. 
  • On the side, grind the coconut, shallots and cumin seeds coarsely in a food processor. 
  • Add the coconut mixture to the veggies, mix well and cook for a couple of minutes. 
  • Add yogurt at the end, salt and red chili powder to taste, water if necessary and simmer for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and it's ready to serve.

Spinach Thoran

2 Cups packed finely chopped spinach
2 Heaping tablespoons of grated coconut
1 Large shallot
1 Green chili
1 Large garlic clove - chopped
Curry leaves from one spring
2 Dry red chilies
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 Teaspoon turmeric powder
2 Teaspoons oil
Salt to taste

  • Grind coconut, shallot and green chili coarsely and keep aside. 
  • Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and let them splutter. 
  • Add chopped garlic, curry leaves, red chilies and turmeric powder, and saute until fragrant. 
  • Add the coconut mixture and chopped spinach, salt to taste and cook stirring regularly. 

Serve the thoran and aviyal with some long grain rice or pooris with a side of pickle and papad.

I'm submitting these recipes to the South Indian Cooking Event started by Anu.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Blog Hopping

The blogging community has opened up a world of culinary possibilites. I bookmark about a dozen recipes every day and at least try to use an interesting technique, a new ingredient or get inspiration from them even if I can't go through them all. There are way too many awesome recipes to try and way too many great cooks to get to know for one lifetime. But the first blogger I came across about 5 years back while looking for Imperial Cold Drink House, and quickly realized the popularity of, was Nupur of One Hot Stove. Nupur is hugely popular in the blogging community, and it is very well deserved. She always has some delicious recipes and useful tips for her readers. And there are few who can write as beautifully as she does.

Her latest post talks about the mighty machines in our kitchen - food processors. It made me fall in love with the Ronald food processor my parents gifted me all over again. I can't thank this little helper of mine enough for making my life easier. I use it to knead dough when I have a large group of people to feed, make soups, chutneys, idly-dosa batters and a zillion other things. It was time to show it some love by making Nupur's red bell pepper pesto. What a fantastic recipe! I have used roasted red bell peppers in wraps, hummus, eggplant dips etc., but have never tried pesto with it. Coincidentally, I had also picked up a bunch of red bell peppers on sale from Sprouts the other day. Nupur's post came at the right time. With whatever substitutable ingredients on my hand, I made the pesto today. There was a fresh spring of basil in the garden - totally meant for pesto. The only nuts available in my pantry were almonds. They don't have an overpowering taste and blended in just perfectly. Husbby is raving about this pesto and I'm really pleased with the outcome as well. I'll surely be making this for a potluck or a party!

Updated image : I made this pesto without tomato and I think I like this better. 
Roasted Bell Pepper - Basil Pesto

2 Large red bell peppers - roasted, peeled and seeded
1/2 Tomato (optional)
2 Garlic cloves
1/2 Cup almonds (you can also use a mix of almonds and cashews)
Basil - handful of leaves
1 Teaspoon paprika or to taste
Salt to taste

  • Roast bell peppers using the technique I've mentioned here. Or simply use the bottled ones.
  • Grind all the ingredients into a fine pesto. I omitted olive oil completely. The pesto tasted just perfect without it, but go ahead and add it if you like the taste. I didn't have any jalapeno. Paprika was a good substitute for smoky heat. 

We enjoyed the pesto with some chips. I'll probably be spreading the leftovers over a slice of bread tomorrow. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

First Zucchini!

Finally, after fighting last year's luck and some persistent slugs, my zucchini plant has yielded its first fruit. As I mentioned earlier, I knew exactly what I was going to make with the first zucchini. Hubs and I have become huge fans of this simple recipe to make zucchini fries/chips. The original inspiration was a recipe by Veggie by Season. I had tried it in my egg-aversion days and had replaced egg with some yogurt to help the breadcrumbs stick. Sadly, I ended up with a product far from being crunchy. The yogurt made it a soggy mess. Ever since, I have resorted to the good ol', comparatively healthy technique of shallow frying. I also switched to panko bread crumbs instead of the regular ones since they provide a lot more crunch. Some tweaking to the original seasoning of simple salt and pepper makes this version quite flavorful. Today we enjoyed the chips as appetizers for dinner. One zucchini was just enough to get us started on the rest of the courses. 

The picture came out sad, only because I was too hungry to spent time on photography!
Zucchini Fries/Chips

1 Zucchini
1/2 Cup yogurt - whisked
3/4 Cup panko  bread crumbs
Paprika to taste
Dash of garlic powder
Salt to taste
Oil spray/oil

  • Cut zucchini in about 1/8 inch thick disks. Don't make it too thin. 
  • Whisk some yogurt (with a few drops of water if needed) so that it's smooth. Season it with paprika, salt and a dash of garlic powder. 
  • Take the bread crumbs in a plate and season them with paprika, salt and garlic powder as well. Seasoning yogurt as well as the bread crumbs will make these chips flavorful throughout. 
  • Dip the zucchini in yogurt, then press into the bread crumbs on both sides and fry in a pan using oil spray. If you don't have oil spray, simply spread some oil on the pan. Fry on both sides until golden brown. 

You can enjoy these chips with some ranch or another creamy dip, but they taste just perfect by themselves. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Gongura = Ambadi!

For the longest time, I knew Gongura as the leafy green from Andhra (a south Indian state). Reddy aunty, our neighbor and family friend in NY, used to make this wonderful tangy chutney with it to go with one of her many delicious rice preparations. The Indian store here carries Gongura pretty often but I never ventured into trying it. I finally bought a couple of bunches yesterday and started looking for recipes to make that chutney. Leave the chutney aside, what do I find?? Gongura is the same vegetable we Maharashtrians love and call Ambadi! Once I got over the fact that I didn't know Gongura was my most loved Ambadi, I picked up the phone and called mom to express my joy. Mom goes, "Of course, I knew it. Don't you remember I made ambadichi bhaji in NY a few times?". I don't know why, but I don't recall it at all. The Ambadi we get in Maharashtra doesn't have stems as red as the Andhra variety, but tastes exactly the same. Sour, tangy leaves that remind you of the taste of tamarind.

Ambadi is a popular leafy vegetable, especially in the southern part of the state where I come from. The leaves are cooked thoroughly so that they get gargatta, or almost mashed. Then they are tempered with the most fragrant combination of garlic and red chilies. There are no powdered spices, garlic providing most of the flavor and smokiness. A little bit of jaggery balances the sourness of the greens perfectly. People from my hometown Kolhapur tend to use jaggery much more than sugar since it's a prime sugarcane producer.  Ambadichi bhaji with some bhakri, raw onion, garlic chutney or spicy thecha is my kind of comfort food. It's a regular lunch combination of the farmers in Maharashtra too. All the ingredients are dry enough that they can be wrapped up in a piece of cloth and carried to the farms without worrying about containers or spills. I don't have to worry about any of that, but I could eat Ambadichi bhaji every day if I had to!

Ambadichi Bhaji

2 Bunches Ambadi or Gongura
Fistful of rice, toor daal and chana daal combined
1 Small piece of jaggery (~1 teaspoon grated jaggery)
3 Tablespoons oil
1/2 Teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 Teaspoon cumin seeds
5-6 Garlic cloves - smashed and chopped into chunky pieces
3-4 Dry red chilies
1/4 Teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste

  • Discard the stems of ambadi and wash the leaves well.
  • Wash the rice, toor daal and chana daal. This is just to add some body and bite to the bhaji. A fistful of the combination is enough. Take a little more of rice than the daals. 
  • Pressure cook the leaves, rice and the daals with 3-4 whistled until soft. Discard the water that it's cooked in so it takes away some sourness out of the leaves making them more palatable.
  • In a kadhai, heat oil, add mustard and cumin seeds and let them splutter. Add garlic and fry it until golden brown. Garlic smells heavenly when fried like this and adds a lot of flavor to the bhaji. Add dry red chilies cut in half and turmeric powder at the end so they don't burn.
  • Add about a tablespoon of this tempering to the cooked leaves, add jaggery and season with salt and cook for a couple of minutes, mashing with the back of your spoon.
  • While serving, pour some of that extra garlic tempering over the bhaji and enjoy with bhakari or rice. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Celebrating Shravan

Friday marked the first day of the Hindu calendar month Shravan. Shravan brings with it heavy monsoons after torturous summer heat, and the dry, deprived earth gets blanketed in lush greenery. As oceans swell and become dangerous with the onslaught of monsoon, fishing activity slows down. Everyone practices vegetarianism and gets ready to celebrate the changes in the surroundings that monsoon brings with it. Shravan is considered a holy month and probably has the most number of Hindu festivals. Many fast on Mondays to please Lord Shiva; newly married women in Maharashtra worship the Shivalinga on Tuesdays for their husband's well-being.

Shravan was my favorite time of the year for the number of school holidays we had. The days we did go to school were spent attending prayers, celebrations, and waiting for lunch breaks to attack each other’s tiffin boxes stuffed with goodies our moms prepared all through the month. We were distracted by the colorful clothes and jewelry on 'civil dress days'. Not that we didn’t dress civilly otherwise, but my school excused us from wearing school uniform every Monday and Friday of the month.  

At home, we were treated to a number of sweets and other special preparations in Shravan. My aaji (grandma) observed every fast religiously which she broke around sunset with some satvik food and sweets. Mom and the two of us sisters never fasted, but we relished the food nonetheless. Mom made fragrant ghee out of freshly churned butter to make the sweets decadent or simply poured it over warm sabudana khichadi. Among the many delicacies, Sanjyachi Poli stands out as one of my favorites. Sanja - sooji or semolina sweetened with jaggery - is stuffed inside whole wheat dough to make flaky, buttery, melt-in-the-mouth rotis, or poli as we call it. We Marathi people love our sweet rotis, like Puran poli, Gulachi poli or Khavyachi poli. Sanja poli is simpler to make compared to the others as the stuffing is not difficult to work with. It's not overwhelmingly sweet either. Some people make the stuffing with sugar, but I swear by jaggery. And as weird as this may sound, Sanjyachi poli tastes amazing with some spicy Maharashtrian style mango pickle! If you don't want to try that combination, enjoy it with some ghee or warm milk. 

**Note: The recipe below makes about 10-12 rotis depending on how big you make them. 

I'm submitting this recipe to the Celebrate Event by Jagruti, hosted by Sangeetha this month to celebrate the month of Shravan. 

Sanjyachi Poli/ Sooji Roti

1/2 Cup Rava/Semolina
2 Tablespoons ghee/clarified butter
3/4 Cup grated jaggery
3/4 Cup water + more if needed
5-6 Cardamom pods - powdered
Couple of pinches saffron
Pinch of salt

Poli dough:
~ 1 3/4 Cups whole wheat flour
Water to knead the dough
1 Teaspoon oil
Pinch of salt
  • First, knead the dough with just enough water so you have a soft dough ball. It should be slightly softer than the usual roti dough so you can roll it with light pressure. This will ensure the stuffing doesn't get pressed out. Cover dough and keep aside. 
To make sanja
  • Add ghee to a kadhai and roast semolina on low-medium heat till it gets a reddish hue. It'll be very fragrant when roasted well. Make sure you don't over-roast it. Keep aside. 
  • Cook jaggery with water to help it melt, then add the roasted semolina, cardamom powder, saffron and a pinch of salt and cook down until the semolina is soft. Add a little warm water and cook down if the sanja is not cooked through. The stuffing should not be watery or else you'll have a hard time rolling rotis. 
  • Take a golf ball size dough and stuff sanja the size of a lime. The more stuffing you have the better. Roll the rotis gently making the sides thinner than the center. Apply a little ghee to each side while roasting. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Celebrating Ice-Cream!

Did you know it was National Ice-Cream day today? How cool is that?? I discovered just today that the third Sunday every July is dedicated to this frozen dessert we all love and adore. Here are some fun facts for you. I made some ice-cream to celebrate this day (duh!). The kind of ice-cream I grew up eating - simple and elegant flavors with all natural ingredients. No corn syrup, corn starch, milk powder or hydrogenated oil. Milk, cream, sugar and natural flavors - that's all you need to make some good ice-cream. 

I chose two of my favorite ingredients for flavoring - Kesar (saffron) and Ilaichi (cardamom). These two ingredients are ubiquitous in Indian desserts, providing sweet aroma and richness. I love the floral notes and touch of golden orange color saffron adds. My sister works for a food distributing company and gets me some of the best saffron available. Cardamom takes any dessert to a whole new level. I always make fresh cardamom powder from pods. Good quality ingredients make a world of a difference. A little bit of vanilla essence elevated those wonderful flavors in the ice-cream.

Creamy Kesar-Ilaichi ice-cream is India in a dessert bowl. This ice-cream is great by itself, fantastic with some warm gajar halwa or gulab jamun or goes great with some mango pulp, even better fresh mango. 

Kesar Ilaichi (Saffron Cardamom) Ice-Cream

2 Cups whipping cream
2 Cups milk
3/4 - 1 Cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 Teaspoon cardamom powder
1/2 Teaspoon saffron strands
1/2 Teaspoon vanilla essence
Chopped fruits for garnishing - pistachio or almonds

  • Warm 3-4 tablespoon of milk in the microwave. Add the saffron strands to warm milk to extract color and flavor. 
  • Now mix all the ingredients together, including the saffron milk and whisk it until the mixture is frothy and aerated. If using a hand mixy, whip it on low for about a minute. 
  • Chill the mixture for about an hour then churn in an ice-cream maker. 
  • When serving, garnish with some chopped dry fruits. Alternatively, you can add them to your ice-cream while making it. 


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