Friday, December 10, 2010

Masalebhat with Stuffed Eggplants

(Link to the Marathi Recipe

Every year Maayboli celebrates 'Online Ganeshotsav'. In 2005 I participated in cooking competition held in this 'online Ganeshotsav'. Theme was to make something using ingredients given in the list. We could use ingredients for tempering. I was declared as a winner at the end after counting the votes I got. Original recipe is from one of m father's aunt, but I have changed few things according to the list of ingredients given to me.

Stuffed Eggplant Masale Bhat

Masala -
1/2 cup dry shredded coconut
1/2 cup Sesame seeds
2 tbsp Garam Masala
Red chili powder and Salt per taste
1/2 tsp Turmeric

For Rice -
4 small eggplants
1 cup Rice
salt, red chili powder - per taste
1 tsp garam masala (optional)
1 tbsp oil for tempering
1 masala cardamom, 1" cinnamon, 1-2 bay leaves, 1-2 black peppers, turmeric, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, Asafoetida.
2 cups warm water

Preparation - 
Wash the rice and keep aside for at least 1/2 hour. Dry roast shredded coconut and sesame seeds separately. Let them cool a bit. Grind coconut and sesame seeds. Mix red chili powder, salt and garam masala and grind in the mixer just to mix them well. Add chopped cilantro if you want to.
Wash eggplants and cut the tops off and then slit them without cutting them all the way just like we cut these for stuffed eggplants. Stuff the mixed masala in the eggplants and set them aside.
Heat oil in a thick bottom vessel. Add black peppers, cinnamom, cardamom, bay leaves and let them sizzle. Add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, asafoetida and turmeric let it sizzle.
Add washed rice and roast for for 5-6 minutes. Add the remaining stuffing masala if any, while roasting rice. Add warm water to the roasted rice and cover the lid and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Now add the stuffed eggplants upside down in the half cooked rice. Do not stir rice often. Let the rice cook properly. Do not take off the lid. There will be enough steam to cook the eggplants properly. Decorate with coconut (dry or fresh) and cilantro and enjoy.

Tips -

  1. You can use only dried coconut instead of sesame seeds.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Aloo Banjara

I was picking tomatoes in the backyard on Diwali day and noticed unusual bumps in the soil. I looked at it from all the sides, but couldn't guess what it was. For a minute I thought it was some kind of eggs. After doing the guess work for almost 5 minutes I decided to put gloves on and touch it. And started laughing at my own silliness. Few months ago few of the potatoes sprouted in the pantry. Instead of removing the spouts or throwing the whole potato in the trashcan, I decided to plant them. Same week I planted tomato seedlings in the same planter box. Obviously I had forgotten all about the potatoes I had planted. But these potatoes survived and flourished without me paying any attention to them. I dug through the whole area and got almost all the potatoes out. Crop was about 1/2 to 3/4th pound.

Raw material from the backyard 
 Potatoes from the backyard

I wanted to make something special with these potatoes. I had bookmarked this wonderful recipe on Maayboli by one of my favorite photo blogger Abhijit. He is one of the most talented photographers I know. He has shared few recipes on Maayboli and his recipe writing style is very catchy :) This particular dish 'Aloo Banjara', he saw on TV and remembered the ingredients and general procedure and reproduced it and immediately shared with us. What is so special about this dish? It has potatoes, dill, lentils and the most important thing - a clay pot. It doesn't need any special spices. That clay pot gives it a unique flavor to the dish. My house was filled with aroma when I made it.

I do not own a clay pot but the Indian store close by does sell 'Chatti' so I went there couple of times but they were out and their shipment had not arrived yet. So I asked a very dear friend 'A' if I can use hers. She was kind enough to lend it me. Thanks A!!! I owe you one Aloo Banjara.

Cooking in the clay pot 
Cooking in the clay pot

So here is quick and easy recipe (This is just rough translation of original Marathi recipe by Abhijit)

7-8 Baby Potatoes
1 Small Onion Roughly Sliced
1 tsp Finely Chopped Ginger
1 tsp Finely Chopped Garlic
1/2 cup Soaked Lentils (I used sprouted)
1/2 cup Finely Chopped Dill
2-3 tbsp Chopped Cilantro
1 tsp Garam Masala
2 Dried Red Chilies (Byadagi)
1 tsp Coriander Powder
1 tsp Cumin Powder
1 tsp Red Chili Powder (Kashmiri red chili powder is preferred for the color) or per taste
Salt per Taste
Pinch of Hing and Turmeric Powder
1/2 Tomato chopped
1 tsp Jaggery
2-3 tbsp Oil

aloo Banjara in a dish

Preparation -
Make sure your clay pot is ready to be used for cooking. Read instructions about using it before you start cooking. Use the eat diffuser if you are scared of using it on direct heat like me.
Peel the potatoes and prick them using fork. Soak pricked potatoes in cold water with little salt.
Heat oil in the clay pot on medium heat. Add chopped ginger and garlic and saute until golden brown.
Now add hing, turmeric powder, red chillies, garam masala, red chili powder, cumin-coriander powders and saute for a minute or so.
Add sliced onion saute but you don't need to saute until golden brown.
Add sprouts, chopped dill and soaked potatoes.
Add water until everything is covered with water and and about an inch above.
Add salt and cilantro.
Cover and cook till the potatoes are half cooked.
Now add chopped tomatoes and jaggery. Cover and cook thoroughly.
Serve with chapatis or steaming rice.

Finished Dish in the dish made by me
Final Product in the handi I made

Tips -
  • You can use the any nonstick pan if you do not have access to a clay pot but it will be with lack of special 'earthen flavor'.
  • You can buy the clay pot here.
  • Even though the list of ingredients is pretty long, its every Indian household usually has on hand.
  • Please do not use soap to clean the vessel instead use boiling water and salt. Then heat the pot in the Sun. 
  • Never heat clay pot on high heat as it might break while cooking.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Diwali Special - Shev/Sev

Happy Diwali

Happy diwali everyone! I hope this festival brings lots of joy and happiness for you and your loved ones.

My mom grew up in a huge joint family. They were 15-20 cousins growing up together. House was huge and and everyone had chores assigned to them. Boys would sweep yard and upstairs, fill the water. Girls would do the dish washing and laundry.  My grandma would cook with help of older girls. I think that was the norm back then to divide the work and finish off in time for school college. Once the kids went to school/college, grandma would prepare goodies for them to eat with evening tea. With so many people to feed, you can imagine the quantity she had to make. But she never compromised on quality. She made shankarpali, shev and chivda more often. Once in a while she made rava laddoos. All these are typical Maharashtrian Diwali snacks. Obviously my mom learned to cook from her mom and after her marriage from her mother in law. She got best of both worlds. My paternal grandma's chakalis and chirote were out of this world, that is what everyone who tasted them says. Unfortunately I dont remember much about her cooking. But I was fortunate enough to learn from my maternal grandma and my fathers aunts. Remembering all my grandmas, their signature dishes and trying to replicate them are my favorite Diwali memories.

The shev recipe I am going to share with you is one of the recipes my mom's. She combined her mom's recipe and one she got from my father's aunt. Its extremely easy to make and very tasty. I rarely deep fry stuff and this diwali I decided to make shev so that I dont forget the traditional diwali snacks.

Homemade Shev

Here is how I made it -

1/3 cup Water
4 tbsp Oil
1"x1" fresh Ginger Root
1/4 Lime/Lemon
Salt per taste
Red Chili Powder to taste
1 tsp finely ground Cumin powder
1 cup Fine Besan (chick pea flour) - may need couple more tablespoons
Pinch of Hing
Oil for deep frying

Preparation -
Take water in a small bowl. Grate ginger in water. Now squeeze lemon in the water bowl as well. Now sieve this water through a fine grade mesh. Squeeze out as much ginger juice as you can through the mesh.
Now add salt, chili powder, hing and finely ground cumin powder to the water.
Add 4tbsp oil in the water mix and whisk well for 3-4 minutes.
Now add this water to besan and make the dough/batter. If the batter is too watery then add couple of tablespoons more besan. Consistency should be ticker than idli or pakoda batter and way softer than chapati batter.
Adjust the seasoning if needed.
Mix the batter/dough with hand for 3-4 minutes. This makes the dough bit lighter.
Heat oil in stable pan on high heat. Oil should be piping hot.
Fill the dough in shev press and press shev in hot oil in circular shape.
Flip it once when one side is golden yellow.
Remove promptly from the oil once both sides as fried well. Let it drain on paper towel.
Repeat the process with remaining batter.
Cool the fried shev thoroughly before storing in airtight container.

Tips -

  • I sift chili powder, besan and cumin powder through fine sieve before adding to water.
  • Shev gets darker and tastes burnt if its fried longer. 
  • I used byadagi chili powder so color looks reddish. 
  • I dont put turmeric powder, but you can use it if you wish. 
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Orange Cranberry Cake

We usually have drama practices at home almost every weekend and we take turns to feed the army. I get to try few recipes on them but rarely get to take pictures as it all vanishes within half an hour or less. I always look forward to my turn as I get few more guinea pigs ;) I wanted to make a simple snack cake for the troop and had cranberries sitting on the counter and whole orange tree with ripe oranges in the backyard.

I had my eye on this recipe for very long time as I love orange flavor. Substituting eggs, milk and butter was something I was very reluctant to try all in same batch. Just in case if that doesn't come all together as its supposed to be then it becomes difficult to finish. I like this orange cake so much that I make very often. Using cranberries in that orange cake was going to be my last option as I know it will come out great. But I wanted to try a new recipe(!) so went on searching for a different recipe. I had tried this maple pecan cake by Shyamala with walnuts and agave syrup, soy milk. Also had tried ET's take on the same recipe using agave syrup and almond milk. It is such a forgiving recipe that I wanted to alter it to suit with ingredients I had on hand.

Orange Cranberry Cake

Here is how I did it -

1.5 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
6 tbsp Turbinado Sugar
3 tbsp Agave Syrup
1/2 cup Oil
1/2 cup Dried Cranberries (I used orange flavored cranberries)
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tbsp Lemon Juice (I used Meyer Lemon)
1/2 cup Orange Juice (I used freshly squeezed)
2 tbsp Orange Zest
1/4 tsp Salt

Preparation -
Orange Cranberry cake with orange tree in backyard

Preheat oven at 350F. Grease 8" baking and dust it with flour.
Mix together sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt to mix it thoroughly. Then add cranberries and mix well.
Mix orange zest, lemon juice, orange juice, agave syrup, oil, vanilla extract in food processor.
Add the flour mixture in 2 batches in the wet ingredients.
Mix for a minute and pour batter in the greased pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until the toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let it cool for 15-20 minutes and then Take it off the pan and cut into pieces.

Tips -
  1. You can easily add 2 tbsp more orange juice and omit lemon juice.
  2. You can use white sugar but I like rustic taste of turbinado.
  3. As ET has mentioned this is pretty dry cake but works great with coffee/tea.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Corn Cutlets

Fall is here. Crisp air and leaves changing colors. You come out of office at 6 and its already getting dark. When the weather is cold all I can think of is warm cup of coffee or tea, specially on the weekends. I enjoy reading a nice book while sipping coffee and munching on spicy goodies. I rarely get to enjoy quiet time because of household chores, groceries, some classes etc. These relaxing time once in a while keep me going for a long time. I always look forward to these afternoons even when they are hard to come by!!!

Back in the days, we only got Sundays off. The main attraction of Sundays used to evening Hindi movie on TV! TV watching time was rationed, if evening movie is good, no day time TV. We had to finish all our homework before we could watch TV. I always sat with my journals in front of the TV and writing all the submissions while enjoying movie. Once in a while my mom would make something special with tea. Dhokla, pohe were staples. Whenever I think of times back then, it reminds me how life so simple! TV had only one channel, simple food choices. Anyhow as always things change and life goes on. There are plenty of things I do now that I couldn't do then. Funny thing is, now that I know I can watch as much TV as I can, I rarely watch it anymore.

On one of a quieter Sundays recently I tried these simple and easy to make corn cutlets. They are so easy that you can make them on minutes notice.

Corn Cutlets

1.5 cup Frozen/Fresh Corn Kernels
0.5 cup Boiled/Baked Potato
2 small Green Chilies
Salt per taste
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp Sugar (optional)
1/4 Chopped Cilantro
1/2 chopped Onion (optional)
Oil as needed

Preparation -
Thaw frozen corn kernels.
Add green chilies, corn, salt in food processor. Pulse everything but don't grind it too fine.
Grate boiled potato. Mix the corn mixture and boiled potato. Add lemon juice, chopped cilantro and chopped onion and mix it well.
The mixture will be soft.
Make small 1.5-2" patties. Heat a griddle on medium heat and line up the patties. Add oil if the patties start sticking to the griddle.
Shallow fry them well from both the sides.
Serve with ketchup or green chutney with afternoon tea.

Tips -
  • The mixture will be soft but it will firm up when cutlets are cooked. 
  • I used yellow corn so the cutlets look bright yellow. If you use white corn, you can add pinch of turmeric. 
  • You can use bread crumbs or stale bread instead of boiled potato.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Edible Sombreros

My Favorites - Fun, Food and Friends!!!

What else do you need when you have all this? I am talking about my special friends and food is the bond that has glued us together. We can talk about food for hours and share knowledge, no secrets, nothing. Its a genuine food based friendship. Time just flies when we meet, 15 minutes turn into 1 hour and 1 hour turns into two. Few months ago we introduced our families to each other and there was instant bonding in them as well. Now when we meet, significant others and the kids don't have to find other activities. All being big foodies, we decided to arrange a nice themed potluck dinner. Theme was to cook from a cookbook that we all agree upon and a course will be chosen for you by a lottery. We all got excited and thought choosing the book will be difficult. WRONG! We all said 'My Bombay Kitchen' almost at the same time! And then chits were drawn and I got the dessert!! Yay!! Oh Nooo!!!! Vegan dessert in a Parsi cookbook?? It was going to be a challenging decision. A friend offered me to exchange with her if I wanted to. But knowing Niloufer's suggestions work really well, I decided to give it a try.

I looked at all the dessert recipes in the book and settled on Khajur Ni Ghari and decided to veganize it. I love dates specially Medjols but finding them fresh sometimes is not always easy. I know Trader Joe's carries packs of these but that was going to be my last choice. My quest for soft and sweet Medjol took me to a small mom and pop type of shop in a nearby city. They had everything I was looking for, including Orange blossom water. Now I was all set to make the gharis.

I started making the pastry with earth balance. I added about 3/4 part earth balance and got scared, what if the pastry doesnt come out well? What if the pastry becomes hard instead of flaky? So I decided to add ghee for the remaining part. I have never tasted original recipe so its hard to decide whatever I am doing is correct or not. I did not want to throw things if they dont come out well. Now that I have tasted this, I know its really easy to veganize it.

A young foodie at the dinner said they look like mini Sombreros so I am calling these 'Edible Sombreros' ...

So here is the non-vegan recipe (adapted from My Bombay Kitchen)-

A Closeup

Date Filling -
1 tbsp Ghee
1 cup Pitted Dates
Zest of an Orange
3-4 Cardamom powdered using mortar and pestle
1/4 cup Chopped Walnuts
Pinch Of salt
1 tsp Orange Blossom Water (Original recipe calls for Rose Water)

Cover/Pastry -
2 cups Wheat Flour (I used regular chapati flour)
3/4 tsp Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
8 tbsp Earth Balance
4 tbsp Ghee
1/2 cup Ice Water

Preparation -
Making Pastry -
Combine all the pastry ingredients except water together.
Break earth balance/ghee into small pieces and while mixing it with flour. Work the dough till 'butter' pieces are as big as peas.
Now sprinkle ice water on buttered flour and start making the dough while breaking butter. Do not pour all the water at once.
The dough is mixed just so much that all the dry flour is incarporated in the dough.
Divide the dough in two discs and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refridgerate the dough for at least an hour.

Making Filling -
Heat ghee in a thick bottom pan.
Add dates and mash it while stirring it.
Add walnuts, cardamom powder, orange zest. Mix it well.
It should resemble thick paste. Sprinkle few drops of water if you think the filling is too thick to even move.
Remove the pan from heat and let it cool down a bit. Mix in orange blossom water and mix thoroughly.
Make 12 balls of the filling when it is cool enough to handle.

Assembly - 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (I used aluminum foil).
Lightly flour a surface roll both discs of dough in 1/8th thick sheets.
Now you have 2 rolled out sheets. Cut out 2.5-3 inch discs from the rolled out dough.
Make 24 disc. Make a dough ball from scraps as you go and roll it out to make discs.
Place filling balls on the middle of 12 discs. Now brush water on the edge of these discs.
Cover these discs with remaining 12 discs (line up properly) and crimp the edges with fork. Poke few holes on the top of each pastry.
Brush each of these 12 pastries with ghee and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until brown.

Sombreros on cooling rack

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tips -
  • As I said, I used few tablespoons of ghee but its easy to veganize. 
  • Niloufer's directions are for 6 big (6") gharis but I found them too big to eat so made a personal ghari for everyone with given proportions. Given proportions yield 13 pastries. 

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Potato Sagu

Potato is one vegetable I use sparingly mainly because I like to use locally grown vegetables whenever possible. Farmers market around our area are still filled with locally grown vegetables. Last year I tried to get CSA bag but I love to go pick my own veggies and I do not get a chance to do so with CSA bag. This year I decided against it solely for that reason. I feel like supporting these small farms but their weekly stalls are usually on the odd days that I can't go to. But going to local farmers market is much better option than going to the chain grocery stores. As I had written in this post, farmers markets remind me of Sabji-Mandi in India.Last week I got nice and fresh hummus, spicy olives, potatoes, garlic and Jujubes. What I did with Jujube's? That will come in another post.

Potato Sagu

Few years ago I had this nice potato sagu at a friend's place and fallen in love with the taste. She used MTR sagu masala and I immediately bought it in my next Indian grocery store trip. Since then I kept on making it whenever I remembered this sagu. But few months ago I read Anjali's version of vegetable sagu and bookmarked it immediately. I decided to make my own masala mix for the sagu after reading her post. She has made her sagu using lots of vegetables but I wanted to use only potatoes, onions and tomatoes. So I tweaked the recipe per my taste. Here is what I did -

4 Medium Potatoes
1 Medium Onion
1 Medium Tomato
Salt per taste
Chopped Cilantro
Water as needed

Masala -
1 tbsp PhuTane daaLe/Dalia
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Coriander Seeds
1 tbsp Dried Coconut
2 Dried Red Chilies (or per taste)

Tempering -
2 tbsp Oil
4-5 Curry Leaves
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
Pinch of Turmeric
Pinch of Hing
1 red chili (optional)

Preparation -
Dry roast all the Masala ingredients and grind together.
Peel and cube the potatoes. Add about a cup of water and little bit of salt and boil it on medium heat. Potatoes should be tender but not fully cooked.
Chop onion and tomato in the similar shape.
Heat oil in kadhai, make tempering as usual by adding mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric and hing. Let it splutter and then add curry leaves and red chili.
Now add onion and saute it until golden brown.
Add chopped tomato and fry it for few minutes.
Meanwhile the potato pieces are cooked just enough. Add ground masala powder to cooked potato and mix it well. Make sure there are no masala lumps.
Pour sauteed onion and tomato mixture and mix well. Adjust salt and water. Cover and let it cook on low heat for 10 minutes or until everything is cooked well, stirring occasionally.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve hot with chapati.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

Daal Kanda

This is a dish from Satara - Sangali - Kolhapur region of Maharashtra.  Lots of my friends did not know about this quick fix. Its prepared when you run out of vegetables or when guests come over for quick lunch/dinner. It can be made with Toor Daal, Masoor Daal or Moong Daal.

1 cup Toor Daal
1 Large Onion
Kanda-Lasun-Masala (or Kolhapuri Masala) - Per Taste
Salt per taste
2-3 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp each Cumin seeds, Mustard Seeds, Turmeric, Asafoetida - For tempering
Chopped cilantro for garnishing

Preparation -
Wash daal and pressure cook with mimimum water. 
I usually put about one cup water for one cup toor daal and pressure cook for 2 whistles. You should see all the daals separately and it should not be mushy. 
Dice onion and set aside. Now heat oil in heavy bottom pan. Add cumin, mustard seeds let them sizzle then add turmeric powder and asafoetida. Immediately add chopped onion and saute till onion turns golden brown. Add cooked daal, salt and Kanda-Lasun Masala mix it well. 
If daal is not cooked thoroughly sprinkle some water, lower the heat, cover the pan and let the daal cook.  
Add more water if required. Consistency of this daal is very dry so add water accordingly. 
Add chopped cilantro and serve hot with chapati.

Tips -
  1. Masoor daal and Moong daal are easy to cook so you don't have to pressure cook them separately just soak in water for 30-35 minutes before cooking.
  1. If you don't have Kanda-Lasun Masala or Kolhapuri Masala add Kala/Goda Masala and Red Chili Powder instead.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Vaalache Birade

Picture this -  

My uncle is driving in peak Mumbai traffic around 7pm. He has come home earlier to go meet his cousin(my aunt) who has come to Mumbai to attend her friend's wedding. We are traveling from Colaba to some suburb and traffic is as awful as it can get. My cousin and I are constantly chatting in the car. We can see that uncle is tired of sitting in the car after long day. Fast forward 2 hours and we reach at the destination. Uncle takes us in this old looking building. We knock on the door and first thing we notice very tempting smell and that reminds us that its dinner time. Everyone there is busy with pre-wedding preparation. They are about start serving dinner. The lady of the house requests us to stay for dinner, uncle says no. The lady requests again then my uncles agrees and calls home to tell that we will be eating dinner there. A very homely dinner is served. I ask names of lentil dishes and I am told that its called 'Birade'!!! 

That was my first introduction to this delicacy from coastal Maharashtra. I traveled back to my town and described the birade to mummy. Mummy bought Kadave Vaal in the next grocery trip, soaked it one night. Next day she drained it and kept in warm place to sprout. I though it was ready to cook when I saw the beautiful sprouts. But mummy told me we are supposed to peel the beans as it is easy to digest. It takes very long time to peel each bean and takes skill not to divide the bean or break the sprout. An hour later peeled sprouts were ready to cook. Mom made very tasty usal but it was not anywhee close to what I had eaten. My mom kept on making it her way and I started liking it her way.

After coming to US, I got to know three or four ways of making it from my friends. All of them have their own way of making things and I combine all their techniques to make mine.

Kadave Val and Gode Vaal

2 cups Peeled Sprouted Vaal (Its called Dalimbya in Marathi)
1 Onion
3-4 Cloves of Garlic
1" Piece of Ginger
2-3 tbsp Oil
1/2 cup Cilantro
2-3 Aamsool/Kokum
1 tbsp Jaggery
2 tsp Malwani Masala
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 pinch Hing (Asafoetida)
2-3 tbsp Freshly Grated Coconut
Turmeric Powder
Warm water as needed


Preparation -

Grind ginger and garlic together.
Wash and drain peeled dalimbya.
Mix with turmeric, ginger-garlic paste and salt. Set it aside for 10-15 minutes.
Finely chop onion and cilantro.
Heat oil in heavy bottom kadhai add cumin seeds and hing and let it splutter.
Add vaal mixture and chopped onion.
Saute it until onion becomes translucent, approximately 5-6 minutes.
Add 2 cups of warm water and let it boil.
Add Malawani masala, coconut, kokum, and jaggery and let it cook properly.
Add chopped cilantro, adjust salt.
Serve warm with rice or chapati.

Biradyachi Khichadi
Tips - 

  • If you do not have Malwani masala, you can grind cumin seeds, couple of cloves, and small piece of cinnamon together. You will have to add red chili powder as well. 
  • I have tried it with Gode Vaal (with white skin) and and that is little less bitter and tastes good as well.
  • If you peeled too many vaal, you can use some to make this Khichadi. 

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I am getting Chocolate Cupcakes For Potluck

Friday coffee night is something we friends have been doing for past three years. It started out as a casual conversation and came to reality. Its a monthly event and we take turns to host. We meet after dinner on a Friday evening and share few good laughs, plan the next outing together. Even though we say its strictly a coffee evening, the host always offers some snack. I made these amazingly tasty and easy to make mini cupcakes from ET's blog which she has adapted from Nicole's recipe, for one of these coffee meetings. I have made it at least a dozen times and it has come out great every time. I can whip it up in 30 minutes, even on a weekday! And get all the ooohs and wows every single time. She uses milk in her recipe but I simply replace it with water. Funny thing is the only time I used soy milk, they came out bit dense. Since then I have gone back to using water. Yesterday I whipped up a batch for a wonderful little guy who loves cakes and cookies but is allergic to milk and doesn't eat eggs. I hope he likes them.

Closer Look

Here is how I made them (Recipe is identical to ET's except I replace milk with water)

3/4 cups All Purpose Flour (I use Chapati Flour)
1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 tbsp Instant Coffee Powder (optional)
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
3/8 cup Water (bit more if needed)
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
Pinch of Salt
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Preparation - 

Line 12 mini muffin pan with paper liners. Preheat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix well flour, coco powder, sugar,  instant coffee powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Sifting all together helps remove lumps if any.
Mix water, oil and vanilla extract. Whisk together for a minute or so.
Add flour mixture and mix well. Make sure there is no dry flour left. Add more water teaspoon at a time.
Spoon the batter in lined muffin cup evenly.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Remove promptly and let them cool on cooling rack.

Coffee and Brownie Cupcakes 
Coffee and Cupcakes

Tips -
  • I always get 14 mini muffins from the given measurements.
  • I have used chapati flour, APF, whole wheat flour and every one of these flours work really great. 
  • I have tried just using 1/4 cup of  turbinado sugar and that works as well.
  • I have multiplied this up to twice and works great. 
Nupur, would you like to have these for Blog Bites 6 - Potluck edition?

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    Monday, August 02, 2010

    Dadape Pohe

    Dadape - weighed down
    Pohe - flattened rice

    One of my friend has really a very green thumb. She grows almost everything and anything!!!! Cabbage, carrots, onions, grapes, fennel, chives and usual suspects like zucchini and tomatoes. Her garden is really inspiring. She had an old wooden play structure in her backyard which had no use for her. They got it down and used it to make big vegetable beds and planted all the vegetables she wanted to her heart's content. She tries to plant whatever is in the season and eat accordingly. She is an amazing cook and uses everything from her backyard in various ways.

    Vegetable Garden

    My vegetable patch has too much gravel and whatever I planted did not yield much. Even though I have huge backyard and lot of empty space to use as my vegetable garden. But this is the patch that I have set my heart to grow the goodies. This year I decided to use my friend's idea to make wooden vegetable beds that can hold good soil. As we did not have any wooden structure to reuse, we decided to buy wooden planks and make the beds. We had to decide type of wood, thickness and width of the wood. She helped us along the way to make the decisions. Finally the beds got ready, we ordered truck full of dirt and hauled it to the backyard! It was extremely labor intensive work but extremely satisfying. We planted methi, cilantro, bell peppers, chard, tomatoes, beans and some more vegetables. Now we are literally reaping fruits of our labor.

    Home grown Veggies

    She is the one who inspired me to take pottery class, to learn painting. She is the one who inspired me to be adventurous with food and now the vegetable garden! D, thank you for everything!

    Here is a simple Maharashtrian snack that I made using some of backyard finds!!!
    Dadape pohe

    2 cups Thin Pohe
    1 small Onion
    2 medium Tomatoes
    2 tbsp Roasted Peanuts
    2-3 tbsp Freshly Grated Coconut (I used frozen)
    Lots of chopped cilantro
    2 tbsp Oil
    3-4 Green Chilies (adjust per taste)
    1 tbsp Jaggery
    Salt per taste
    1/2 Lime
    For tempering - Mustard seeds, Cumin Seeds, Few Curry leaves, Turmeric powder

    Dadape Pohe - 2

    Preparation -
    Pick over thin pohe and keep it in a plate
    Add 2-3 tbsp of water to jaggery to make simple syrup. Squeeze lime juice in the prepared syrup.
    Drizzle this jaggery-lime mix on pohe, add coconut and mix well. Now take a smaller plate and cover this poha mixture. Keep something heavy (I like using 1lb bag of beans) on this assemby and set it aside for 15-20 minutes.
    Meanwhile chop onion, tomatoes, green chilies and cilantro.
    Heat oil in a tempering kadhai. Once hot, add musatard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves and turmeric. Let it sizzle for a minute and then add chilies. Add chopped onion in couple of minutes. Now saute the everything for few minutes. Onion should be partially cooked.
    Add Roasted peanutes and saute for couple of minutes.
    Remove cover from pohe and mix salt. chopped tomatoes and cilantro.
    Add the tempering and mix thoroughly.
    Adjust salt if needed and enjoy.

    Tips -
    • Every family has a favorite recipe to make this. My mom uses raw onion but I don't like raw onion taste so I saute it. I learned this trick from one of my aunt.
    • Some use coconut water and lots of fresh coconut to make the pohe softer and just add salt and green chili paste.
    • I know few people use raw onion and chopped cilantro to soften the pohe and just add salt, sugar and red chili powder to finish off the dish.

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    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Thai Style Chili Tofu

    Thai food was something I ate first after coming to US. And I liked it for the similarities with Indian food. I tasted tofu for the first time and it was love at first site. If I remember correctly it was in the Tom Yum or one of those soups. I started buying it immediately. I used it in chapati dough, in palak tofu instead of paneer), in kababs, in soups. I even experimented with Thai curries for a little while and then stopped as I did not want to buy every little sauce and fill up my pantry. But I kept making tandoori tofu and fried rice.

    We recently visited our dear friend Anil and he made his signature dish for us. I watched him make it from start to finish. It was simple and very easy to make. I think chopping takes more time that actual cooking. After coming back I experimented with it and turned out great. Here is what I did -

    Chili Tofu

    1 block Organic Extra Firm Tofu
    1 large Red Bell Pepper
    1 large Green Bell Pepper
    1 large Red Onion
    4-5 cloves Garlic
    2 tsp Red Chili Flakes (adjust according to taste)
    3-4 tbsp Soy Sauce
    2 tbsp Oil
    1 cup Thai Basil leaves (packed)
    salt per taste

    Preparation -
    Cut the tofu block into 1"X0.5"X0.5" sized pieces.
    Remove stem and seeds of bell peppers and cut in large pieces.
    Cut onion in thick slices.
    Crush and chop garlic.
    Now spread 1 tbsp oil in a flat thick bottom pan. Heat it and arrange cut tofu in a single layer. Let one side cook for 5-7 minutes on medium heat. Carefully turn over and cook the other side.
    Remove tofu to a plate and set aside.
    Heat remaining oil and add choped garlic. Let it sizzle. Then add sliced onion saute it on high heat until the onion is translucent while stirring constantly.
    Add cut bell peppers and fry them for few minutes. Now add tofu and lower the heat and add chili pepper flakes and soy sauce. Tore the basil leaves and add it to the pan too.
    Now mix it well and saute for 3-4 minutes. Taste and adjust salt.
    Serve warm with steamed rice.

    Tips -
    • All the vegetables should be crunchy and partially cooked
    • You can use thick soy sauce and chili paste if you wish.
    • You can also use Thai peanut sauce as my friend did. I did not put any.

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    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    Cauliflower with Green Curry

    I am not big fan of making cauliflower, cabbage, green beans over and over. I either avoid buying these or if I ever buy, I try to find new recipe every time. I feel there are so many other good vegetables available in farmers market that I can live without these grocery store finds. Recently a huge cauliflower ended up in my fridge(and please don't ask how!!). It sat there for almost 2 weeks while I secretly hoped the significant other will make his favorite sabji and be done with it. But that did not happen and I had to take a decision about the big blob! So finally on Sunday I decided to make something out of any book that will have some different recipe. First book I checked was My Bombay Kitchen and looked through index. Niloufer has nice recipe of green curry cauliflower that caught my attention and decided to give it a try. The original recipe is for meat and she has suggested other variations and using mixed vegetables was one of the variation and I decided to use use only one (for obvious reasons!). The recipe calls for coconut milk and cashew paste but I did not have any coconut milk so decided to omit and proceed. The end result was amazing even without the coconut milk. It is such a keeper recipe ...

    Cauliflower Florets

    (Adapted from Niloufer Ichaporia King's My Bombay Kitchen)
    Masala -
    1.5 cup Cilantro (packed)
    3 Green Chilies (adjust according to taste)
    2 Cloves Garlic
    Small piece of Ginger
    8-10 Cashews
    1/2 tsp Turmeric

    Other ingredients -
    1 Large Cauliflower (1-2 lbs)
    1 Large Onion
    1 tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste
    3 cloves
    7-8 Curry Leaves
    1 tbsp Oil
    Salt per taste
    2 tbsp frozen/freshly grated coconut
    1/2 lime (optional)

    Preparation -
    Cut cauliflower into large florets. Rub the ginger garlic paste to the florets and set it aside.
    Grind all the masala ingredients to fine paste using very little water.
    Thinly slice the onion.
    Heat oil in a heavy bottom pot or a dutch oven. Add curry leaves and cloves and let them sizzle for a moment.
    Add sliced onion and saute until translucent. Now add cauliflower florets and saute for 3-4 minutes on medium heat.
    Now add green masala and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Make sure the masala doesn't burn or else use tiny bit of water.
    Now add salt and enough water to cook and cover.
    Let it boil until the cauliflower is cooked enough. Add coconut, mix and boil for another minute. Serve warm with quinoa, rice, chapati or like me with dosa.

    Tips -
    • She has added couple of potatoes to the mix which I avoided.
    • I am sure the original recipe with coconut milk tastes great. She uses it to cook the cauliflower.

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    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Panchamrut - The Spicier Type

    Like everyone else, I have wonderful memories from school days. Our school timings were 12 noon to 5.30pm. Almost every girl in my class including me used have lunch before heading off to school. Still we friends used get lunchbox to eat in the recess. School had a rule to get only Roti-sabji and nothing else so everyone had chapati or jowar roti with some kind of sabji to go with it. My mom would always pack jowar roti with dab of home made butter and any sabji. We would share at least one bite of whatever we have with others around and eat rest. In one such recess, I tasted panchamrut from a friend's lunchbox and promptly told my mom about the sweet-tangy-spicy taste. Until then the panchamrut I knew was the one prepared for pooja using milk, yogurt, ghee, sugar and honey. But of course mom knew how to make the spicier version and told me that she will make it on Sunday. Why Sunday? She used to have more time to cook something different and that was the day we would get fresh vegetables including nice green chilies. I waited eagerly to help her to make this. And to my surprise the preparation took very little time and within 20-25 minutes it was ready. She made it every time I remembered the taste. Few months ago I read panchamrut recipe somewhere and it reminded the wonderful times in school and the time I helped my mom to make it.

    I was buying chilies from a vendor in farmers market and asked him how spicy are these? Answer was not too spicy. Another guy asked same question to the same vendor while I was putting my chilies in the bag. His answer was - Very very spicy! You can try if you wish. My brother was on phone with me and heard the whole conversation and started laughing. He asked me what I was planning to make with the 'not so hot' chilies. I told him may be I will make khardha/thecha. But when I reached home, I changed my mind and decided to make this wonderful concoction. I hope you like it too!

    (Recipe is adapted from Kamalabai Ogle's Ruchira)
    10-15 Green Chilies (less spicier version)
    1/4 cup Sesame Seeds
    1/2 cup Jaggery
    1/4 cup Peanuts
    1/4 cup Dry coconut (thinly sliced)
    1/2 cup Tamarind
    2 tbsp Goda Masala/KaLa masala
    Salt per taste
    1 tbsp Oil, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, few curry leaves
    Water as needed

    Preparation -
    Dry roast sesame seeds and peanuts.
    Grind the sesame seeds after it cools down.
    Soak tamarind in warm water for at least 20-25 minutes and squeeze the pulp.
    Wash the chilies and chop them in big pieces removing the stems.
    Heat oil in the heavy bottom pan. Make tempering as usual and add chopped chilies.
    Saute chilies for couple of minutes.
    Add tamarind pulp, little bit water, salt, goda msala, jaggery, sesame powder, peanuts and coconut pieces.
    Boil it for 10-15 minutes. Adjust salt/jaggery per your taste. It is served at room temperature as a side dish like pickle or chutney. It is neither very thick or nor very watery.

    Tips -
    • Original recipe calls for peanut powder but I used whole peanuts.
    • Please avoid using spicy thai chilies. This is not a very spicy side dish.
    • You can try making it with just 2-3 chilies before trying out a large batch.
    • It stays good in fridge for 8-10 days that is if you have any left by then ;)

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    Wednesday, July 07, 2010

    Farmers Market Finds

    Sunday mornings in summer are dedicated to farmers market. Due to large Indian and Asian population we get lots of different vegetables. I have started writing a series on Maayboli on these vegetables to document simple day today recipes that my mom used to make. All of these are in Marathi and not sure when they will be converted to English. If you like any of the preparation and want the English translation, please let me know and I will try my best to get that for you.

    I will keep updating this page as write more recipes in the series.

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    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    Fire Roasted Onion Bell Pepper Chutney

    Last week we did some impromptu BBQ. We had friends over for coffee after dinner on Friday evening. One of them loves bhutta (fire roasted corn on the cob). So we got some corns and started the fire. It was bit cooler and breezy that night, perfect for campfire. Instead of sitting inside sipping coffee we all enjoyed the warm bhuttas around the barbecue pit. At the end everyone was super full with bhuttas, orange cake and banana cake. The fire was still burning. We roasted some potatoes, onions and lone red bell pepper. I just removed top later of onion, washed the bell pepper and dropped in on the coals directly. We removed coal ash with damp cloth before storing. Everyone was so full that I had to keep the roasted veggies in the fridge.

    Next when I called my mom, I asked recipe of amati my grandma used to make with fire roasted onions. Instead she told me this chutney recipe that grandma used to make. Its super simple and tastes great with idlis and dosa.

    Roasted Onion

    2 Fire Roasted Onions - medium size
    1 Fire Roasted red Bell Pepper - small size
    1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
    2 tbsp Jaggery
    1 tbsp tamarind
    1 tsp Red Chili Powder (or per taste)
    Salt per taste

    Before Grinding

    Preparation -
    Peel the roasted bell pepper and de-seed.
    Peel top 2 layers of roasted onion.
    Dump everything to grinder jar.
    Finely grind it and adjust the seasoning.
    Keep aside for 30-40 minutes before serving.

    Tips -
    • If you do not have BBQ pit, you can broil the veggies for 25-30 minutes turning couple of times.
    • You can just use onions and omit the bell pepper if you cant get one.

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    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Leftover Magic: Breadchi Bhaji

    Mummy rarely bought bread loaf on regular basis. Once a month or may be even more than that sometimes. We had very few good bakeries and getting a good bread was difficult. Few times we got bread was usually eaten as sandwiches or with butter and chili pickle. That was my favorite combination with bread. Once in a while, it was used in cutlets or eaten with some kind of usal. And most savored dish made out of day old bread - bread chi bhaji!!! Once in a while we would tell mummy to buy bread just to make this bhaji. It was something we all loved.

    I used to visit some of our relatives in Kolhapur and they would buy the bread just to make this bhaji for breakfast. My mom used to just make uneven pieces and make the upma but in Kolhapur, it was always cut using knife. And I loved the way it looked. Of course both types tasted equally great. On the other hand my sister-in-law makes fine crumbs and then makes it upma style. And that tastes great too.

    After coming to US, I made it once using the white sandwich bread. And people who have used it know how soft it is. And the bhaji turned out horrible. It stuck in the mouth, onion and oil did not cover the bread pieces. And I never tried to make it again until recently. Only thing I changed this time was used Sourdough bread. I had got some nice sourdough bread from farmers market. I used few pieces and rest was sitting in the fridge waiting to be used. Saturday after morning walk I decided to use it to make much wanted breadchi bhaji.

    Bread Bhaji

    5-6 Large slices of Sourdough Bread
    3-4 Green Chilies
    1 large onion
    10-15 peanuts (optional)
    Salt per taste
    Pinch of Sugar
    Chopped Cilantro
    For Tempering - 2 tbsp Oil, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, pinch of turmeric, few curry leaves

    Cubed Sourdough Bread

    Preparation -

    >Chop onion, chilies and cilantro.
    Cube the bread 1/2 inch pieces.
    Heat oil in large thick bottom pan.
    Make phodni as usual using mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, turmeric.
    Add chopped chilies and fry for a minute. Add peanuts and fry until golden brown.
    Now add onion and saute until golden brown.
    Add half of chopped bread. Add little bit salt and pinch of sugar. Add rest of the bread.
    Mix very well to make sure all the bread pieces are covered with tempering.
    Cover for few minutes. Add chipped cilantro and mix thoroughly.
    Eat while its warm.

    Tips -
    • Please do not use wheat/white bread if you are in U.
    • You will need some sturdy bread for this.
    • You can use roasted peanut powder instead of whole peanuts.
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