Archive for March, 2010

Punjabi Chole


2010
03.30

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Garbanzo beans/chickpeas are cooked in a variety of ways all over the Indian subcontinent. Each preparation exhibits the distinct characteristics of the regional cooking. The Punjabi Chole, a preparation from Punjab, is a great accompaniment with Pooris, Bhaturas and Chaat.

Ingredients

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large tomato, finely chopped
2 green chilies, slit into halves
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp tomato paste, or half a cup of tomato sauce (from the can)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp whole cumin
1/2 tsp amchoor powder (dried mango)
1 tsp anardana powder (dried pomegranate seeds)
1 tsp punjabi garam masala
salt, to taste
1 tsp kala namak
1 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp chopped cilantro for garnish
water, as needed

Directions

  • Cook pre-soaked chickpeas in enough water in a pressure cooker till soft. ( I let it whistle for about 5 – 6 times and simmer for 10 minutes)
  • Heat oil in a deep pan and sauté whole cumin for a minute.
  • Add in onions and green chilies and sauté until the onions are translucent.
  • Add ginger-garlic paste and sauté till slightly browned.
  • Stir tomatoes, tomato paste, ground cumin, turmeric, chili powder, amchoor, anardana, punjabi garam masala and salt and sauté till the oil separates.
  • Add chickpeas and about a cup of water, and let cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Mexican Anybody?


2010
03.29

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Whenever I make my occasional visits to the office, my Boss always treats me with a good lunch. It is his way of appreciating the 60 mile commute I make to reach there. He’s either  plain nice or he’s too busy to realize that he signs my pay checks and that these gestures of politeness are totally unnecessary, and whether I like it or not, I  darn well need to get my fat behind there when he requires me to.  I hope though, it is the former. Because I’d hate the day when he’d recover from his amnesia and I’d be left to eat those cold sandwiches from the next door deli. What can I say? My belly has been spoilt rotten with these elegant treats!

At first, when he suggested a nice Indian place, I gladly agreed. Assuming it was the popular preference among my All-American colleagues, I gave no second thought to it. But, during the second and subsequent 3rd and 4th visit when we had exhausted all the fine Indian restaurants of the Marin county, and were redoing the circle, it slowly dawned on me that they were doing it all for me. Me? ME? A thorough bred Indian, who cooked and ate three, sometimes four (I can’t help it, I get hungry) Indian meals a day? No offence implied, but, would you offer a fish cold water? Look, look there’s ice in it. Get excited!!!

Well, I had to get out of it. I couldn’t deprive my greed of those fabulous restaurants and cuisines in the North bay, so waiting for me to explore. I hatched up a plan. I decided to  play the pregnant woman & nausea card. It came easy for me. Sincerity has never been one of my finer virtues and I always try to make the best use of the card I’m dealt. So, the next time at work when a colleague, for politeness sake, asked me how I was doing, apart from my usual rants about the discomforts of carrying a 6 lb something being inside me, I threw in how horribly nauseous I was and how Indian food made it worse. I caused sufficient distress in my desperate efforts, volunteering unsanitized and unsolicited information that I literally turned faces green!!! Eventually the whole office had an ear about my beef with Indian food, and come lunch time, the Boss had a miraculous change of plans. That afternoon we all sat at the fine Las Camellias, where we were treated with one of the finest Mexican food that I’ve ever eaten. I was so happy to get out of the previous set up that I couldn’t help but exaggerate how impressed I was. And what do you know? The next time I was making one my sporadic visits, guess where we went for lunch? Las Camellias again!!! I wasn’t joking when I said I went overboard with the praises. My Boss, the nice man that he is, didn’t think twice about taking me anywhere else. All because I’d declared – oooh the food is so divine, I could die here.

So, its been Las Camellias ever since. But, I’m not complaining. The food is indeed divine there. The dying part, I’m not sure though. But, I love it so much, that all the Mexican food I attempt to make, I try to recreate with my memory from there. And the fact that I’ve eaten there quite a number of times now ;), the spices are well registered in my buds that I’ve almost succeeded in making it exactly like they do. Though I hope the chef there never ever ever gets to read this ;)!!!!

Mexican Rice with Bell Peppers

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This rice was my saving grace when I was pregnant with Nish. Though horribly nauseous all the time, I still craved for rice. Now, don”t ask me how that works ..[read more]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Shrimp And Red Pepper Quesadillas

IMG_5948Quesadillas are like burgers you can make them any which way you want as long you have tortillas and cheese with you. Everything else that goes inside depends on what you are looking ..[read more]

 

 

 

 

Refried Black Beans

IMG_5946 While making refried beans, though pinto is more popular, I usually use Black beans. Some one once told me they were healthier.,,[read more]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Mole Poblano 

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This is one dish, when I make I can be assured, doing the dishes will be easy. Roy, literally wipes (licks?) clean all the pots, pans, bowls, plates, spoons, everything that has had even a remote acquaintance ..[read more]

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Mole Poblano


2010
03.29

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This is one dish, when I make I can be assured, doing the dishes will be easy. Roy, literally wipes (licks?) clean all the pots, pans, bowls, plates, spoons, everything that has had even a remote acquaintance with the dish. It is not a pleasant sight. But I think for a guy, who sacrifices so much, including his mind, to keep me happy, the least I can do is suppress my disgust and smile as he slurps through the entire dish in a matter of minutes.

I use  skinless chicken breasts and simmer them for a long time in mole, made with a combination of dried chili peppers (chipotle and ancho), chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, nuts, tomatoes, onions and garlic. You can vary the combination of peppers and the quantity, to your taste. We are a family that likes food really spicy. So, I don’t deseed any of my peppers. But, I wouldn’t recommend that you do the same unless you have paralyzed taste buds like ours.

Ingredients
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1small onion, chopped fine
1 tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin 
1/4 tsp cinnamon clove spice mix
2 chipotle peppers
2 ancho peppers
1 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp shavings of bittersweet chocolate preferably Mexican)
1 lb chicken breasts
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

  • Marinate chicken seasoned with salt and pepper with lemon juice for about 30 minutes.
  • Tear the ancho and chipotle peppers and soak them in warm water for about 30 minutes till they are soft
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed skillet.
  • Add onions, garlic and sauté until the onions turn translucent.
  • Add tomatoes and sauté until they form a mush.
  • Transfer to a blender, add the soaked peppers, cumin, peanut butter, spice mix, oregano and chocolate and blend to a smooth paste.
  • Heat 1 tbsp of oil in the same skillet and brown the chicken on all sides.
  • Pour in the mole sauce and chicken broth and let it simmer for 45- 50 minutes until the chicken is cooked tender and the sauce is thickened.
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve hot.
  • Shrimp And Red Pepper Quesadillas


    2010
    03.28

    IMG_5948

    Quesadillas are like burgers you can make them any which way you want as long you have tortillas and cheese with you. Everything else that goes inside depends on what you are looking for. You can add tomatoes for the tang, onions for the crunch, meat to make it hearty, vegetables to make it healthy, guacamole if you think it is not rich enough already, and spices if you want to make it interesting. I use jack pepper cheese because you know, being Indian and all, I just can’t kill my addiction to heat! You can serve it as the main or as the side. Depends on what else you have on the plate.

    Ingredients

    1/2 cup red bell peppers, diced small
    1/2 pickled jalapeno, chopped
    1/2 cup red onions, chopped
    5 -6 medium sized shrimp, coarsely chopped
    1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
    4 6-inch flour tortillas
    3/4 cup shredded jack pepper cheese
    2 tbsp tomato sauce (from the can)
    1 tbsp butter or 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    big pinch of ground cumin (optional)

    Directions

  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a nonstick sauté pan.
  • Add onions and peppers, sauté until the onions are translucent.
  • Add tomato sauce, jalapeno and the shrimp. Sauté for a couple of minutes until the shrimp is cooked.
  • Add cilantro. Divide the mixture and three equal portions.
  • Heat a little butter on a wide non stick pan.
  • Place a tortilla, spoon over the cooked mixture onto the tortilla. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese.
  • Top with another tortilla and press down.
  • Cook, undisturbed, until golden brown and crisp on the bottom.
  • Carefully turn to the second side, and continue cooking until golden on the second side.
  • Take off the pan, and on cutting board, cut into wedges.
  • Repeat with the remaining quesadillas.
  • Serve hot with sour cream and other Mexican sides or by itself.
  • Refried Black Beans


    2010
    03.28

    IMG_5946

    While making refried beans, though pinto is more popular, I usually use Black beans. Some one once told me they were healthier. I never bothered to confirm it though. So, don’t pound on me with info. I use it because that’s just stuck in my head and of course because I love the taste.

    Ingredients

    2 cloves of garlic chopped fine
    1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1 (19-oz) can of black beans
    1/2 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
    1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    salt to taste
    chipotle pepper to taste
    big pinch of cumin (optional)
    1-2 tbsp of lime juice
    1/4 cup sour cream (optional)
    shredded cheddar cheese for garnish

    Directions

  • Heat oil on medium heat.
  • Add garlic and sauté for a minute until fragrant.
  • Add beans and chicken stock and mash with the back of a large spoon to make a coarse purée.
  • Add cumin , salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot.
  • Stir in sour cream.
  • Stir in more stock to thin to a creamy consistency.
  • Serve hot, garnished with cilantro and cheese.
  • Mexican Rice with Bell Peppers


    2010
    03.28

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    This rice was my saving grace when I was pregnant with Nish. Though horribly nauseous all the time, I still craved for rice. Now, don”t ask me how that works. Apparently, nausea and craving go hand in hand during those most confusing months in the lives of many women. While I longed for rice, I was put off by the smell of any kind of rice preparation. In his desperate quest to find something to plug the whining gob of his wife, Roy, discovered that the Mexican Rice did the trick. It got him at least a couple of hours of relief from her  incessant annoying drone and heaving. I think it had to do with how simple the rice is. Everything about it is subtle. Perfect for a preggy’s oversensitive olfactory system.

    Called arroz, which means rice,  it is served along side the main dish. It can be made with or without the vegetables. I usually use vegetables to keep it healthy, but limit it to just one kind. That helps retain its identity and not over power the dish.

    Ingredients

    1 cup long grain rice
    2 cloves of garlic, diced fine
    1/2 cup of onion, chopped fine
    1/2 cup puréed tomato (I prefer to use the can since the sauce is more dense)
    2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
    1/2 cup of bell peppers diced small
    2 –3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    1 chopped pickled jalapeno (optional)
    2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

    Directions

  • Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
  • Add in the rice and sauté over medium heat for a minute or two until the rice is nicely toasted.
  • Add onions, garlic, jalapeno and bell peppers and sauté for a minute or until the onions turn translucent
  • Pour in the chicken broth and tomato purée and bring to boil.
  • Reduce the flame to low, tightly shut the pan and let it simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes till the rice is cooked.
  • Fluff up the rice gently using a fork. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.
  • Beans Thoran – Sautéed Beans with Coconut


    2010
    03.27

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    The last bag of frozen beans for dinner tonight and I can wipe the freezer clean before I take off to India for a long work cum pleasure trip.

    Thorans are vegetables cooked with spices and ground coconut very characteristic of the Kerala Cuisine. All tender firm vegetables are cooked mostly as either a Mezhukuverati or as a Thoran, in Kerala. Both, involve sautéed vegetable. But the latter has coconut and the former doesn’t.

     Ingredients

    1 lb French cut frozen green beans, thawed or fresh beans, stringed and chopped fine
    1 big shallot or 2-3 small ones
    1-2 green chilies
    2 cloves of garlic
    1 cup fresh grated coconut / frozen coconut thawed
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    2 tbsp vegetable oil
    1 tsp whole black mustard seeds
    2 tsp raw white rice
    2- 3 sprigs of curry leaves
    1 whole red chili
    salt to taste
    2-3 tbsp water

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    Directions

  • Coarsely grind the shallots, green chilies, garlic, coconut, cumin, salt and turmeric in a food processor and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a  skillet. Add mustard, rice, red chili and curry leaves, sauté for a few seconds until the mustard pops and the rice swells up and turns golden.
  • Add the green beans, salt to taste and sauté for a couple of minutes.
  • Gather the beans together to make a mound .
  • Make a well at the center of the mound.
  • Pour the ground mixture into the well and cover the top with some of the beans.
  • Add 2 tbsp of water and close the skillet  tight with a fitting lid.
  • Reduce the heat to low, and cook approximately 10 -12 minutes until the beans are cooked and tender (add more water if needed, but be careful not to over cook it).
  • Mix all the ingredients together well, and serve hot with white rice.
  • Beans Thoran – Sautéed Beans with Coconut


    2010
    03.27

    IMG_5855

    The last bag of frozen beans for dinner tonight and I can wipe the freezer clean before I take off to India for a long work cum pleasure trip.

    Thorans are vegetables cooked with spices and ground coconut very characteristic of the Kerala Cuisine. All tender firm vegetables are cooked mostly as either a Mezhukuverati or as a Thoran, in Kerala. Both, involve sautéed vegetable. But the latter has coconut and the former doesn’t.

     Ingredients

    1 lb French cut frozen green beans, thawed or fresh beans, stringed and chopped fine
    1 big shallot or 2-3 small ones
    1-2 green chilies
    2 cloves of garlic
    1 cup fresh grated coconut / frozen coconut thawed
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    2 tbsp vegetable oil
    1 tsp whole black mustard seeds
    2 tsp raw white rice
    2- 3 sprigs of curry leaves
    1 whole red chili
    salt to taste
    2-3 tbsp water

    IMG_5846

    Directions

  • Coarsely grind the shallots, green chilies, garlic, coconut, cumin, salt and turmeric in a food processor and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a  skillet. Add mustard, rice, red chili and curry leaves, sauté for a few seconds until the mustard pops and the rice swells up and turns golden.
  • Add the green beans, salt to taste and sauté for a couple of minutes.
  • Gather the beans together to make a mound .
  • Make a well at the center of the mound.
  • Pour the ground mixture into the well and cover the top with some of the beans.
  • Add 2 tbsp of water and close the skillet  tight with a fitting lid.
  • Reduce the heat to low, and cook approximately 10 -12 minutes until the beans are cooked and tender (add more water if needed, but be careful not to over cook it).
  • Mix all the ingredients together well, and serve hot with white rice.
  • Pineapple Rasam


    2010
    03.23

    IMG_5894Every time we get a pineapple home, I always save a portion of it to make my most favorite kind of Rasam, the Pineapple Rasam. I’m not sure how much nutrition I’m killing by cooking the pineapple, but the taste is sooo divine that I really don’t care. The husband and son are not too fond of it and so, this is one of those ‘many’  selfish foods that I make all for myself!

     Ingredients

    1/4 cup tuvar dal/ lentils (pigeon pea)
    1 plump and ripe tomato
    11/2 tsp rasam powder(or however much spicy you want the rasam to be)
    1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
    1/2 tsp cumin seeds
    1/2 tsp turmeric
    5- 6 curry leaves
    a pinch of asafoetida
    1/2 tsp tamarind paste or 1 lemon sized ball of pitted tamarind soaked in warm water and pulp extracted
    11/2 cup diced pineapple
    2 tbsp chopped cilantro
    2 tbsp clarified butter /ghee
    water
    salt to taste

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    Directions

  • If you plan on retaining the dal in the Rasam, pressure cook dal with 11/2 cup water, tamarind extract, turmeric, pineapple and the whole tomato together. Peel the skin of the cooked tomato and mash them up with the dal until there are no lumps,
  • or

    If you plan on using just the stock of the dal then, pressure cook the dal separately, drain out the stock and in it, cook peeled and crushed tomatoes along with pineapple turmeric and tamarind extract.

  • Add rasam powder and more water to get desired consistency and bring it to boil. Put off the flame.
  • Heat a little ghee in a small pan and add asafoetida, mustard, cumin and curry leaves.
  • When the mustard pops, switch off the flame and  pour the seasoning over the  Rasam.
  • Garnish with cilantro.
  •  

    Meen Pollichathu – Roasted Pomfret Steamed in Banana Leaves – A Kerala Delicacy


    2010
    03.23

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    You know your family eats a lot of fish when your preschooler looks into the fish tank at school and screams, “Look Mama, fish!! Yummy!!”. Then, pretends to reach out and gulp down the little fishes, rubs his tiny pot belly and says “Mmm tasty, that was goood!!”. Of course, I gave my usual God-whose-kid-is-that?  look and walked away, pretending like I had nothing to do with him. Don’t worry, I never lose him during these acts of disownment. The little piece of embarrassment always follows me, like a gosling does a mother goose. I don’t blame him either – obviously, the only reason I didn’t abandon him completely and let him hold my hand a little while later (when I was sure, we were off the radar of the folks who heard his verbal sacrilege by the aquarium), was because I understand it must be hard for his 3 year old brain to distinguish pet from food, when most of time, we are serving him dinner with what the neighbors flaunt around as pets :P.

    Yes, we the Tharakans, are die-hard carnivores and fish for us is a staple. Our recent favorite has become the Meen Pollichathu. Traditionally, this recipe requires that the fish along with the spices be wrapped tight in banana leaves and roasted on a greased pan, allowing the fish to cook in the steam trapped inside the leaves. Instead of grilling them in a pan, I bake them in the oven. The banana leaf imparts an amazing flavor to the fish  and if you are lucky to get your hands on some(I get mine from the Asian market), that would be the ideal way to make this recipe. If you can’t, use aluminum foil for wrapping and rest assured, minus the banana leaf flavor, everything else will taste just like the original.

    If it is your first time trying this recipe, I’d suggest you use one of the less fishy fishes like salmon, halibut, tilapia or any other of your favorites. If you like it, only then try the recipe with the whole pomfrets. I say this because fish recipes can get too overbearing at times and you need to approach it with caution until you have acquired a taste for it.  Also if you are using fillet and not the whole fish, reduce the spices a tad bit and use only 1/2 the quantity of lemon juice mentioned in the recipe.

    IMG_5830

    Ingredients

    2 whole small pomfrets, cleaned 
    salt  to taste 
    11/2 tsp black pepper powder
    1 tsp turmeric powder
    4 tbsp lemon juice
    1 tsp chili powder
    1 tsp paprika
    1 tsp coriander powder
    1/4 tsp kerala garam masala
    1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds powdered
    2 tbsp ginger garlic paste
    2 tbsp coconut Oil/ refined vegetable oil
    1 tsp black mustard seeds
    2 –3 sprigs of curry leaves
    1 cup finely sliced shallot
    2 green chilies
    2 medium tomatoes. chopped
    3/4 cup thick coconut milk (from the can would be perfect)
    12 thin slices of fresh lemon ( this makes a huge difference in the taste and is a must)

    Directions

  • Make a few slits till the bone on both sides of the fishes, perpendicular to the spine. (If you are using  fillets, omit this step)
  • Mix salt, 1 tsp black pepper powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp each of red chili and paprika powder and 1/2 tbsp of ginger-garlic paste and lemon juice in a bowl.
  • Marinate the fish with the above mixture inside out and let it sit in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
  • Heat oil in a pan, slightly roast the fish until it is caramelized on both sides but not fully cooked.
  • Take out the fish and set aside. If there is any liquid from the marinade left, keep it aside to add while making the masala.
  • In the same pan, splutter mustard seeds, add fenugreek powder, green chilies, curry leaves, shallots and sauté until the shallots are golden brown.
    Add tomatoes, all the remaining spice powders, ginger-garlic, leftover marinade and sauté  until the tomatoes form a mush.
  • Add thick coconut milk and salt to the masala and sauté on low heat until the masala mixture thickens and reduces to about half the original quantity.
  • Add fish and coat it thoroughly with the masala gravy.
  • Wrap each fish along with 6 lemon slices each(3 on each side) in a piece of banana leaf or greased foil. Secure with tooth pick if using a the leaf.
  • Bake at 350ºF for 20 minutes.
  • Garnish with lemon wedges and onions, serve hot.