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Friday, December 31, 2010

Welcome 2011

Wish you all a fabulous 2011. May all your dreams & wishes come true.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pesara Sunnundalu / Green Gram Laddus

Warning! This recipe is not for the faint hearted or the modern era 'smarties' who count their calorie intake on a day to day basis. The recipe has fat and calories written all over it and yet happens to be one of the popularly loved desserts in my home state, Andhra. This is an old world dessert / snack born when people didn't yet rely on machines to do their jobs and believed that people need to eat good food to keep them fit.
Probably there is no granny in Andhra who would say sunnundalu are not good for you in spite of the amount of ghee and the jaggery / sugar that goes into it. My mom would feed us sunnundalu as an evening snack saying that they are very nutritious because of the protein and iron content in them. Then we did not know ABCs about calories. Anyway even I knew, it would not have mattered since those sunnundalu tasted so yummy and besides I was thin as a stick during my teenage years.
Though 'sunnundalu' refer to the ones prepared with uraddal, they can be made using green gram as well. I love the dal with husk (either urad or moong) - jaggery combination when making sunnundalu and so have used green gram (moong with the husk) and jaggery in this recipe. They are equally delicious as the minapa sunnundalu (urad dal laddus) and can be made in a jiffy. Roasted and powdered green gram can be made ahead and stored in an airtight jar. Just mix jaggery powder and ghee when you love to have sunnundalu.

1 cup green gram / pesalu
1 cup powdered jaggery (sugar can be substituted)
Ghee to shape the balls (We can't get stingy here. Shaping the mixture into balls becomes difficult when enough ghee is not added.)

Making sunnundalu:
* Dry roast the green gram on medium flame until they slightly brown.
* Cool and grind the green gram into a coarse powder. Then add the jaggery powder to the green gram powder and pulse it in the processor / blender so that they blend well.
* Melt the ghee. Add as much ghee as needed to shape the green gram - jaggery mixture into balls.

These yummy laddus are on their way to 
Susan's MLLA30th edition hosted by Priya Mitharwal.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lemony Tomato Dal

According to ayurveda, replacing tamarind with lemon in everyday cooking reaps health benefits and this dal is based on that school of thought. Tamarind happens to be a basic ingredient in preparation of any traditional Andhra style dal and lemon replaces tamarind in this simple and healthy dal recipe. A pleasant variation to try when you want something new or when one runs out of tamarind. The recipe for this home style, delicious dal comes from my cousin's wife. 

Ingredients for 4 servings:
3/4 cup toordal / lentils
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
3 tomatoes (I used plum tomatoes)
6 Serrano peppers, sliced lengthwise
Salt to taste
1 big juicy lemon (or as per taste)
For tadka: 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, few curry leaves, a pinch of asafoetida
Minced cilantro for garnish

* Wash the toordal and cook it adding turmeric powder and about 1.5 cups of water in a pressure cooker. Alternatively, the dal can be cooked on stovetop till done.
* Heat oil in a kadai or thick-bottomed cooking vessel and add the tadka ingredients. When they start to pop and splutter add the green chillies and tomatoes. Stir them once, cover the pan and cook on low flame. Keep stirring once or twice in between till the tomatoes turn mushy.
* Add the cooked dal and salt to the kadai. Mix well and let it simmer for a couple of minutes more so that the flavors mingle. Turn off the stove.
* Add the lemon/lime juice as needed and stir well once more.
* Garnish with cilantro and serve with hot steamed rice /rotis.

This goes to Susan's MLLA30th edition hosted by Priya Mitharwal.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

VeggiePlatter Turns 4 & Ragi Vermicelli Payasam

Veggieplatter turned 4 this month. What started as a journal to preserve our family recipes has turned into an obsession now, to put it mildly. :)
I am not the kind who gets excited about birthday / anniversary celebrations and that's why prior to this, there have been no posts of that kind here. However, this time I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has been a part of this incredible journey.  I am sincerely thankful to each and everyone who chose to spend a portion of their valuable time at my space and have encouraged me through their valuable comments and emails. I hope your love and support continues. :)

I thought of celebrating the occasion with something sweet. A bowl of kheer entices me more than a piece of cake and so thought of posting this delicious payasam / kheer recipe. Today's main ingredient of the payasam happens to be ragi vermicelli making it more yummy with the distinctive flavor of ragi and also healthier than the regular vermicelli version.

Ragi vermicelli - 1/4 cup
Whole milk - 1 & 1/4 cups
Sugar - 1/4 cup
Cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp
Cashew nuts & raisins - 1 Tbsp each
Ghee / Clarified butter - 2 tsp

The Cooking part:
* Roast the ragi vermicelli for a couple of minutes and keep it aside. 
* Heat the milk in a cooking vessel or non-stick saucepan on a low-medium flame. Then add vermicelli and cook till it is done, stirring in between.
* Add sugar and cardamom powder to the vermicelli and continue to cook until the sugar melts. Turn off the heat.
* In the mean time, toast the cashews and raisins in ghee and add them to the cooked payasam and stir well.

This payasam tastes equally good warm / chilled.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Easy Breezy Besan Dosa / Puda

Nowadays, I am not in a mood to cook as M is away. Cooking for two (The picky one 'daughter' does not come into count) is sounding more like a chore, especially when the other adult is not there to appreciate and enjoy food. I am opting for simple, basic stuff as these 'no ferment' besan dosas / pudas that we had for lunch yesterday. I added veggies to the batter and served them with chutney. Though these are on the same lines as the rice flour dosas or the wheat floured ones, they are more nutritious and healthier because of the besan-veggie combination and are quicker to make. Good for a quick breakfast / lunch or as an evening snack. :) 

The ingredients: (make about 10 dosas)
2 cups besan / chickpea flour
1 tsp each - carom seeds & cumin seeds (I always add to besan preparations to avoid the bloating effect later.)
Vegetables (optional. I added about one finely chopped onion, one grated carrot and about 1/2 cup of chopped methi / fenugreek leaves. Spinach or tomato can also be substituted. If leafy greens are not included, try to add some chopped cilantro for flavor. Though I haven't tried, grated cabbage or bottle gourd may work too.)
2 -3 finely chopped green chillies or chilli powder (entirely optional and can be left out if serving kids. Or ground paste of green chillies and ginger can be substituted.)
Salt to taste
Oil to make dosas

Preparing the batter:
Sieve the besan to avoid lumps. Add besan, salt, carom & cumin seeds to a mixing bowl. Add enough water to make the batter. About 1.5 cups of water will make thicker dosas and if you prefer the dosas to be thin, add a little more. Stir in the chillies and veggies you prefer to add. If not preparing dosas immediately, batter can be refrigerated.

Making dosas:
Heat a griddle or a shallow non-stick pan. Sprinkle a little water on the pan and if it sizzles and evaporates, then the pan is ready for dosas. Pour about 1/4 cup or a ladleful of batter at the center of the pan and spread into a circle. Spread 1/2 tsp of oil around the edges and roast until it turns golden brown. Then flip it, spread the oil again and let it cook on the other side as well. Repeat the same with the remaining batter.
Serve with chutney / any spicy pickle.

This goes to Priya's CWS event, hosted by Kavitha this month with the theme Ajwain Seeds.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Hindu Temples in USA ~ Malibu Temple, California

Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple / Malibu temple in Calabasas, California - USA

Last weekend, we had been on a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles, California and as anticipated, it was pleasant escaping the freezing weather and snow of Chicago for at least a couple of days. Though we were there for a different reason and could not do any sight seeing, we were able to visit Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple located in Calabasas. The temple is nestled in the beautiful hills of Malibu in the Santa Monica Mountains and because of its geographic location, it is also known as the Malibu Temple.
The architecture is traditional, south Indian style and the atmosphere is very serene. Though the temple is smaller compared to the ones I visit locally, it reminded me of the temples in India and I very much loved it's ambience. I was pleasantly surprised to notice several outdoor shrines in the open courtyard that house Lord Ganesha (the smaller shrine to the right side in the picture), Rama Parivar (the smaller shine on the left side), Padmavathi and Bhoodevi. Owing to the bad weather, Chicago land temple deities have to be in an enclosure, with coat - shoe racks inside for the devotees. Here in Malibu temple, we could leave our shoes outside and there was also facility to wash our feet outside if we had wished.
The temple consists of two complexes. One with Lord Venkateswara as the presiding deity and the other deities I mentioned above.  Lord Shiva is the presiding deity of the other complex with some more deities. Here I found many empty enclaves and so probably there are going to be some more additions to that list. This complex is somewhat large and a wedding party was just leaving when we visited there.

Mukhadwaram with the dwarapalakas and the dhwajasthambam - The main entrance to temple

After worshipping and receiving theertha - prasadams from the priest who was present there, we visited this adjoining building. Here, they have a small kitchen with dining hall, restrooms and a classroom where kids were getting ready for their Sunday dance lessons.
Though they don't have a full-fledged kitchen as many developed temples do, they were selling sweets. The special for the day was a box of pongal with some sambhar and yogurt rice sold at a minimal price.

Photography inside the temple is strictly prohibited.

1600 Las Virgenes Canyon Rd
Calabasas, CA 91302

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kashmiri Dum Aloo for ICC

Srivalli announced 'Kashmiri Dum Aloo' as this month's theme for the Indian Cooking Challenge and I am glad to try it at the last moment. For the past one week, my schedule was hectic and in fact, I started cooking this after I saw Srivalli's post today in my mail. :) She chose this recipe that happens to be 'satvik' - garlic and onion free.
'Dum pukth' or simply 'dum' is a slow cooking method, a concept borrowed from Mughlai cuisine. The basic idea is to slowly simmer the contents in a sealed pot so that the food is cooked in it's own juices and the flavors are not allowed to escape through steam. The pot is sealed with dough, made with flour and water. To get an idea about dum cooking, check here. I used my saucepan since I don't have access to an authentic dum style cooking pot.

Ingredients for 2 servings:

Baby potatoes or tiny sized potatoes - I used about 7
Fresh yogurt / curds - 1 & 1/2 cups (must not be sour)
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste

Powder them together: 4 Kashmiri red chillies, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, 3-4 cloves, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds. (Toast chillies and cumin before grinding.)
For tadka: 1 - 2 tsp oil, 1/2 tsp grated ginger, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, a little asafoetida
1 cup vegetable / canola oil to deep fry potatoes
A cup of firm dough made from flour and water

Take another look at the dum aloo.

* Peel the potatoes and prick them all over with a fork. Place them in a bowl of cold water and leave it aside for 10 - 15 minutes. 1/2 tsp salt can be added to that water.
* In the mean while, whisk the yogurt. Add the ground spices & salt to it and mix well.
* Mix the flour and water in a bowl and make firm dough. Keep it covered.
* Heat the oil in a deep sauté pan or a kadai and fry the whole potatoes on medium flame till they turn golden brown through out. Drain them on absorbent towels. Add these potatoes to the yogurt - spice mixture.
* Heat 1 tsp of oil in a saute pan and add the grated ginger and cumin seeds. When the ginger turns golden brown, add the asafoetida. Then add about 1/4 cup of hot water and the yogurt - potato mixture to the pan.

* Cover with a lid and seal the edges with the dough.

* Cook it on low flame for 15 minutes and then remove the flour seal. Add the garam masala and mix well. Again cover the lid and let it simmer for 5 minutes more.

Mine was served with rotis.

Verdict: This version does not contain onion and tomatoes as mentioned earlier and so the spices over power this dish to an extent, I think. I don't favor spices that much in a dish and so my opinion may be prejudiced.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Erra Karam Masala Dosa

A true breakfast for us at least from M's perspective would be errakaram dosas, idlies or ponganalu. And this masala dosa tops that list. That is no wonder taking into account his rayalaseema background. Or for that matter, who wouldn't appreciate and relish the crispy dosas perfectly done to golden brown, lathered with the delicious errakaram, pappula podi with the spicy filling of potato masala. This mouthwatering union is irresistible for any palette accustomed to Indian food. This erra karam style dosa is a spicy and tasty variation of 'masala dosa' - And is the ultimate dosa, I think.

The following are needed to make these dosas:
Dosa batter
Erra karam
Potato curry
Pappula podi
Oil / ghee to fry dosas
Griddle to make dosas

Dosa batter:
2 cups rice
1/2 cup uraddal
1 Tbsp chanadal
1/2 tsp methi / fenugreek seeds

Wash and soak the ingredients in water for at least 4 hours. Then using a grinder or mixer grind them into a fine, smooth batter adding water as only needed. Add salt and then leave it to ferment overnight in a warm place (like a lighted oven during winters.) Fermented batter would be ready by the morning. The fermented batter can be refrigerated for 4 -5 days.

Potato curry:
Recipe here.

Erra karam / Onion chutney:
6 onions peeled and cut into chunks, 6 red chilies / 1 tsp chili powder (adjust as needed), salt, 1 tsp mustard seeds and 1 -2 Tbsp oil

Grind onions and chilies / chili powder into a fine paste. Add a little water only if needed. Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to splutter, add the ground onion mixture and fry till the raw smell disappears. Add salt and mix well. Doing the tadka is optional and I prefer it. If not using immediately, cool and refrigerate it.

Pappula podi:
Grind together 1/4 cup dalia / pappulu, 2 Tbsp grated copra / dried coconut, 4 red chilies and salt in a spice grinder to a fine powder. Don't add water to grind.

Now hopping onto dosa part:
Heat a penam / griddle on medium flame. When you sprinkle a few drops of water on the griddle, the water should sizzle and evaporate. This means the griddle is ready. Pour a ladle full of batter in the center of the griddle and spread it into a thin circle with the help of the backside of the ladle. Spread ½ tsp of ghee or oil around the edges of the circle / dosa. Let the bottom side of the dosa facing the heat cook. Flip the dosa and again spread some oil around dosa and let it cook for about 30 seconds or so. Now again flip it, take a spoon of erra karam and spread on the dosa uniformly, sprinkle some daliya powder and place about 2 Tbsp of potato curry on it. Fold the dosa and let it cook on both sides for a few seconds. Remove the dosa with a spatula. Repeat the process with the remaining batter.
You can just eat the dosas as it is or serve with chutney. I have spread more curry so that one dosa was enough for my breakfast. :)

1. These dosas need prior preparation since the batter needs to be fermented.
2. Pappula podi can be prepared in advance and stored in an air tight container. If in a hurry, erra karam and curry can be prepared the previous day and refrigerated.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Potato Curry / Aloogadde Palya / Aloo Bhaji

Potato curry with pooris and chutney in the background

Owing to this curry's popularity in Indian cuisine, this post should have appeared here long ago. Potato curry happens to be a favorite accompaniment to breakfasts such as poories / masala dosas, appealing to many (not exaggerating if I say millions) and a standard one at restaurants that serve Indian food. This basic version can also be used as a stuffing for aloo bondas / puffs / samosas or to serve along with rotis / rice.

1 big sized onion or 2 small onions (about 1 cup chopped)
3 potatoes
3 - 4  green chillies (I used Serrano peppers. Change the quantity according to the spiciness preferred)
Salt to taste
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
Finely minced cilantro leaves for garnish
For tadka: 1-2 Tbsp oil, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp chanadal, few curry leaves

Peel and quarter the potatoes.  Cook them in a pressure cooker adding turmeric powder and sufficient water. Alternatively, they can be cooked in a microwave or on stovetop.  Drain the water and keep the potatoes aside.
Mean while, heat the oil in a pan and add mustard seeds and chanadal. When chanadal turns red, add green chillies and curry leaves. Saute the green chillies for a few seconds and add the onions. Fry them till they turn translucent and then add the potatoes, lightly mash them with back of the spoon and add the required amount of salt and mix well. If the curry appears to be very dry, you can add one or two Tbsp of water. Let it remain for a couple of minutes more on the flame and then turn off the stove. Garnish with cilantro.

Another variation of potato curry

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Quinoa Bisibele Huli

Quinoa bisibele huli served with saggubiyyam / sago vadiyalu

Bisibelebhath or bisibelehulianna is one of the well known rice-lentil preparations from Karnataka. Bisi = hot, bele = lentil, bhath/anna = rice, in Kannada. Huli in Kannada can mean either the sourness or a lentil preparation equivalent to sambhar.
Since there is no rice in the following version, I have left out the bhath from the title. 

Quinoa works well in many dishes or cuisines for that matter because of it's adaptability factor. Here is one more example of this super grain's versatility. I tried replacing rice with quinoa in bisibele bhath - a classic, signature dish of Karnataka and had enjoyed it thoroughly. Nutrient rich quinoa combined with hearty toordal, vegetables, aromatic & flavorful spice mixture turned our favorite BBB into a scrumptious and wholesome meal.

Ingredients for 6 generous servings:
1 cup quinoa
1 cup toordal
About 2 cups chopped vegetables (I used 2 small carrots, 1 potato, 2 tomatoes, a handful of fresh peas and 25 -30 green beans)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Tamarind puree - 1 Tbsp (optional)
Salt to taste 2 .5 tsp
For bisibele bhath masala: 3 tsp chanadal, 1.5 tsp uradadal, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 3-4 cinnamon pieces, 6 pieces of moggu, 20 red dried chillies, a few tbsp copra (store bought bisibelebhath powder can be substituted though it is not the real deal and even the worldwide known brand from Karnataka doesn't do any justice to BBB.)
For tadka: 3 -4 Tbsp ghee, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 2 Tbsp cashews, few curry leaves

* Wash quinoa and toor dal thoroughly and drain the water. Add the rice, quinoa, vegetables, turmeric powder and about 4 cups of water to a pressure cooker directly and cook till they are done. Alternatively, cook in a sturdy pot.
* Meanwhile add chanadal and uraddal to a sauté pan and on medium heat, dry roast them. When they start to change their color add the rest of the masala ingredients and toast till the coriander seeds start to turn a few shades darker and the dals turn reddish. Turn off the heat and cool the toasted masala ingredients. Once cool, grind them into a fine powder.
* When the valve pressure is gone, remove the cooker lid. Add the ground bisibelebhath powder, salt, tamarind to the cooked quinoa - dal and mix well. Add (about a cup of) water to adjust the consistency. Let the mixture come to a boil and then simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes.
* Meanwhile, heat ghee in a small sauté pan. Add the tadka ingredients and toast till the cashews turn golden brown. Remove from heat and add the tadka to the cooked bisibele huli and mix well.
Serve with papads, chips or kara boondi.

Other bisibelebhaths posted here:
With Poha
With Cracked Wheat
With Brown Rice

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