Monday, August 31, 2009

The best Idly Milagai podi ever!!

This recipe is a combination of my mom's and mom-in-law's. After a few trial and error episodes, I have arrived at the right combination that my family loves!!!

I love curry leaves and, I end up adding a generous heap, but it is optional. Curry leaves can be saved for a long time by separating the leaves from the stems, washing them, patting dry and then microwaving on a paper towel for about 1 to 2 minutes (microwave times vary). Cool and store in zip-top bag in a dry place.

I use 2 kinds of red chillies. One for spiciness (Thai or Tezpuri red chillies) and other for aroma and colour (Kashmiri or mild Mexican red chillies)

Urad Dal - 1 cup
Channa Dal - 1 cup
Thai red chillies - about 30 numbers or to taste
Mild chillies - about 10 - 15 numbers
Dried curry leaves - to taste (optional)
whole black pepper - 1 tsp
salt - 1 1/4 tsp or to taste

Dry roast the ingredients separately on medium-low heat until slightly brown. Roasting the red chillies with salt tends to reduce the intensity of the fumes. When roasting dal, do not over-crowd the pan. Roast in batches, if required. Allow to cool. Grind in a blender / Dry grind attachment to a coarse powder. Mix with sesame oil (gingely oil) when needed and enjoy with idly / dosa. This can be mixed with yogurt and eaten as dip for Chappati and parata.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dinner Tonight - Hearty Vegetable Soup with Rosemary Bread

It does sound like a simple dinner... Yes it is... But, I baked my own bread for the first time!!! I know nothing of bread making - not even witnessed someone making it.. So I was exited!!

It all started with some fresh cut rosemary someone gave me. I dried it and bottled it up and went about searching for a rosemary bread recipe. I followed a recipe word to word from I used wheat flour (the chapati type) instead of all purpose flour (Maida). I killed my first batch of yeast as the water was very hot. The recipe called for kneading by hand for 10 minutes or using a food processor for 5 minutes, which I do not have. I kneaded by hand on a hot summer afternoon (100 degrees), sweating like crazy, and it was a great workout :).

Now coming to the bread, I am not sure what went wrong - I messed up with the dough consistency or messed up with the yeast may be... it turned out not as airy and fluffy as it was meant to be. But it tasted pretty good. The smell and flavor of rosemary was great. My husband did not like the texture much, so I toasted it up a little and it was a bit crispier and he ate it. I'll surely try and perfect this one again...

The soup turned out wonderful. It was one of the best soups I have ever tasted!! Really!!! I am not a big soup fan (My husband is) and still loved it!

I soaked red kidney beans (Raajma) overnight and pressure cooked it with salt. I sauteed slit garlic cloves, diced onions, diced tomatoes and tomato paste (added in the same order) in little butter. Then added diced carrots, red and green bell peppers, celery stems and few leaves, and potato and sauteed for some more time. I added vegetable broth to cover the veggies, salt to taste, red chilly powder and cumin powder and covered to cook. Then added the cooked beans and brought it to boil again. I turned the heat off and added chopped green onions and cilantro. I finished it of with the juice of one lime. It was better than "Sweet Tomato" hearty vegetable soup (which we love).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Badal Jaam - Spiced and baked eggplant (Brinjal)

I did not know such an Indian side dish existed until I saw the episode of "Rachael Ray's vacation" on Food network in which she visits San Francisco. She eats Badal Jaam in an Indian restaurant in Berkley and also gives a glimpse on its preparation. I searched food network site for this recipe and found that it involved shallow frying. Instead, I tried to broil in my oven to reduce the amount of oil used. I served it up with good old Jeera-saffron rice and chunky cucumber raita and it tasted wonderful. Here is how I prepared it.

Eggplant - 2 medium sized
onion - 2 medium sized, finely chopped
green bell pepper - 1 diced
tomato - 2 medium sized, finely chopped
green chillies - 4 or to taste, finely chopped
red chilly powder - 1/4 tsp
turmeric - 1/8 tsp or a couple of pinches
ginger paste - 3/4 tsp
garlic paste - 3/4 tsp
coriander - 1 tbsp finely chopped (save some for garnish)
cumin (jeera) powder - 1/2 tsp
lemon juice - 1 tsp
garam masala - 1 tsp
salt to taste
mango powder and/or chaat masala for garnish (optional)

Cut eggplant into 3/4 inches thick slices. Rub both sides with salt and let it sit for 10 minutes. This will make the eggplant lose some water. Pat the slices dry with a paper towel. Line a baking pan with foil and smear oil on it. brush little oil on both sides of the eggplant slices and smear garam masala. Preheat the broiler at high heat and broil the slices 8 inches under the source of heat for 7-8 minutes (Broiler times vary, so keep an eye. It can burn food very quickly). Turn the slices over and broil for another 6-7 minutes and set aside.

Preheat the oven at 400 F. In the mean time, saute the onion, green chillies, ginger paste and garlic paste in a tbsp of oil. You can a little salt at this stage to bring out the sweetness of the onion. when the onions are slightly brown, add tomatoes and bell peppers. Saute for another 2-3 minutes. Now add the remaining salt, turmeric powder, cumin powder and red chilly powder, and 1/2 cup of water. Mix well, cover and let it cook for 5-7 minutes. Then remove the lid and stir until all the water evaporates. Turn the heat off and then add lemon juice and coriander and mix well.

Divide the vegetable mix equally among the eggplant slices and spread evenly on each one. Now cover the baking pan with foil. close the ends tightly and bake for about 20-25 minutes (Baking times vary). Let it stand for 3-4 minutes before removing the foil. Garnish the slices with a dollop of yogurt, chopped tomatoes, coriander and dry mango powder and serve.

Note: If your yogurt is not very thick, hang it in a muslin cloth to remove excess whey water.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Krishna Jayanthi

This is my first blog and my first post and decided to start with the festival we celebrated recently - Krishna Jayanthi ( Gokulashtami).

I am an East Indian living in U.S. for the last 3 years. I love to celebrate festivals the traditional way and try to do as much as my busy life would let me. All festivals go with their own mouth-watering food and that's an added plus.

For me any event requires a bit of planning - especially with a one year old toddler running around...

The following are varieties that I prepared this year

Savory snacks:
1. Murukku
2. Thattai
3. Seedai
4. Ribbon/ olai pakoda

1. Theratti paal
2. Aval payasam
3. Vella seedai
4. Rava Laddu

Main food:
1. Pongal, Chutney and Sambar
2. Thair Sadham (Curd Rice)

I had invited few of our friends (about 15-20 people) for the puja. The festival was on 23rd August (Thursday). I had planned out all the cooking starting Saturday.

1. Saturday - Preparation of Flours (Rice, Urad and Dhalia)
2. Sunday - Murukku and Ribbon pakoda
3. Monday - Seedai and Thattai
4. Tuesday - Rava Laddu and Vella Seedai
5. Preparation of flower decoration and cut veggies for cooking the next day
6. Thursday (The festival day) - Theratti pal, Aval payasam, pongal, chutney, Sambar and Curd Rice.

The celebration went on very well and I received praises from my friends (and my folks back home who saw the pictures) about making so many varieties. All the food tasted great. A little planning goes a long way.

I'll post the recipes very soon.