Archive for September, 2010

For Those 30 Minutes of Blissful Abandon


2010
09.26

Recently Updated

At the crack of dawn everyday, for little over a month I hear the patter of tiny feet down the hall. Moments later, I see faint light from the hall slip in through the ajar bedroom door  and  the silhouette of my little boy Nish at the doorjamb with his wild mop of curly hair standing against the light. He gently slides in. Like a cat his darting deep black eyes glow in the dark. He spends a few seconds deciding on which side of the bed to crawl in from. He mostly chooses the side his dad lies on. Roy mumbles in his sleep as he helps Nish climb across and snuggle in between us. He stretches out his hand and instinctively hugs his wife and son as we nuzzle closer to him. My boys immediately fall back to sleep and their rhythmic gentle snores sync in harmony. I sniffle Nish’s sour morning breath and my maternal heart shrugs with the familiar ache. I’m overwhelmed with strange euphoria.

Nish has been an independent child mostly. Form day one he has slept all by himself in a crib and ever since he turned 2, he sleeps in his own room. So last month when he crawled into bed with us for the first time I let it slide. He’s an early riser and I assumed he had come over to wake us up. But in a few days when this had become a habit I began to notice that he was falling back to sleep the moment he snuck in. There were fleeting moments of doubt when I wondered about the propriety of this routine. I’ve seen red alerts on co-sleeping in plenty of childcare books and you know how my antennae go pretty cuckoo with reception from these bibles. But, unlike before I dismissed these qualms without a second thought.  Because very much unlike before, this time I was high. High on this strange medley of emotions I’ve never felt in all 34 years of my life.

A month of this ritual and now I’ve turned myself into a full blown emotional junkie trudging through the whole 9 yards of intox and detox. Every morning at around 5:45 I stir awake hoping to hear the heartwarming patter down the hall. I get restless if there are no signs of his coming and lie depressed wondering if he could have outgrown his endearing habit. Other days I awake to find him already beside us and I struggle hard to  ease my fervor.  There is usually only less than 30 minutes of sleep time left before the alarm goes off at 6:30 and we need to begin our respective days. Every day I wish I could play God and hold that big needle form moving. I know it can’t be done. I know this is temporary. I know I’m addicted to this safe haven. I know he’ll grow up. I know I’ll have to struggle through deprivation. But for now, I feel much peace, quiet and well being. And I’m going to nestle under those covers for as long as I can.

A Simple Dal For Idlis

IMG_8631This simple dal with shallots, ginger and tomatoes, is what I call the soul mate for idlis. I know idlis are officially married to sambars and no doubt they make a handsome pair. But according to me their divine, spiritual and natural love totally lies in this dal ;)[read more]

 

 

 

 

 Mixed Sprouts and Potatoes in Coconut Gravy

IMG_8580 Since I’ve already written about how I sprout my legumes early on and also droned about all the nutrition they provide in that same post, I shall hit straight to the recipe here[read more]

Simple Dal with Shallots, Ginger and Tomatoes For Idlis


2010
09.26

IMG_8621

This simple dal with shallots, ginger and tomatoes, is what I call the soul mate for idlis. I know idlis are officially married to sambars and no doubt they make a handsome pair. But according to me their divine, spiritual and natural love totally lies in this dal ;).

I got this recipe from my sister Sophie, who I think tried to imitate something that my God Mother auntie M used to make and ended up with something  completely different but divinely delicious. And like I said before, if you have to do justice either to this dal or to the idlis you HAVE to get these two together. 

Ingredients

1 cup tuvar dal/ lentils (pigeon pea)
1 8-10 shallots each cut into half
1 cup tuvar dal/ lentils (pigeon pea)
4 plump and ripe tomatoes chopped
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1tbsp finely cut ginger julienne style
1/2 tsp turmeric
5- 6 curry leaves
1/4 tsp tamarind paste or 1 marble sized ball of pitted tamarind soaked in warm water and pulp extracted (optional)
4- 5 green chilies silt into half
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (an absolute must)
2 tbsp oil/clarified butter /ghee
salt to taste

Directions

  • Pressure cook dal with turmeric, tamarind and half of the shallots with sufficient water.
  • Heat  oil add mustard and curry leaves.
  • When the mustard pops, add a spoonful of finely sliced ginger, sauté for 2 mins.
  • Add green chilies and remaining shallots and curry leaves.
  • Add coriander powder, chopped tomatoes and sauté until the tomatoes are cooked and form a mush.
  • Add this to the cooked dhal and let it boil.
  • Garnish with with cilantro.
  • Mixed Sprouts and Potatoes in Coconut Gravy


    2010
    09.24

    IMG_8073

    Since I’ve already written about how I sprout my legumes early on and also droned about all the nutrition they provide in that same post, I shall hit straight to the recipe here.

    Though this dish has a touch of Kerala in it, I can see many snooty Mallus turn their noses the other way when I say this goes well with Kerala appams of any kind. So, I’d suggest you try it and decide for yourself.  And of course if the appams don’t do it for you, you’ll always have the basmati rice with cumin or the good old Indian breads to fall back on. About that, rest assured  no one will deny :).

    Ingredients

    1 cup sprouted black channa (black chickpea)
    1/2 cup sprouted green gram (whole moong dal)
    1/2 cup sprouted Red Chori/ Azuki Beans
    1 cup finely sliced shallots
    1 cup fresh grated coconut
    2 tsp coriander powder
    1 tsp red chili powder
    ½ tsp turmeric powder – ½ tsp
    ½ tsp kerala garam masala
    1 cup diced potatoes
    ½ cup chopped tomatoes
    2 sprigs of curry leaves
    salt to taste
    2 tsp coconut oil
    ½ tsp mustard seeds
    2- 3 green chilies
    1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste

    IMG_8580 

    Directions

  • Cook the sprouts together and keep it aside.
  • Heat a tsp of oil in a pan. Add the grated coconut and sauté until it turns brown.
  • Add coriander, turmeric, chili powder and garam masala.
  • Stir all the ingredients in until it becomes brown. Make a paste of this and keep it aside.
  • Heat a tsp of oil in the same pan. Add mustard and when it pops add curry leaves, green chilies and sauté for 30 secs.
  • Add shallots sauté until translucent, add ginger-garlic paste and sauté for a minute.
  • Add tomatoes and sauté until it forms a mush.
  • Add potatoes and sauté until it is 3/4th cooked
  • Add the cooked sprouts, pour sufficient water and mix well.
  • Add the coconut paste and bring to boil.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.
  • Spicy Paddu


    2010
    09.23

    IMG_8586

    I always loved the lunches my best friend L got to school. Her Mom was a very good cook and I made sure L reserved a major portion of her lunch box for me. She was/is one of my closest of friends and there is no doubt I loved her company and always wished to hang out at her place irrespective of the food, that is. But, the fact that her Mom was an amazing cook only amplified the desire a tad bit more ;).
    These fried dumplings called Paddu sometimes came in L’s lunches and were coveted by  not just me but, by many of  our other avaricious friends as well. So, my dearest pal L, bless her sweet sweet heart, always saved a few extra for me in a safe place before she opened her box to the wild hungry wolves around us. And though I knew that my portion existed elsewhere, I still fought with the rest to get my split in this share of the treat as well;).  You see, greed is a vice I’ve had tough timing dealing with all my life :(.  Anyway, what is worth mentioning here though is that, it was not just with food that L made sure that I got more than I deserve. She’s been there for me as a close confidant all through my life. My preteens, teens and now well into my adulthood. And though today we live across the globe from each other, every time either of us are having a plate of these yummy dumplings we never fail to think back of the good times we shared.

    L in the last few years has been having more than her warranted share of problems in life. And to all or any of you who have taken the pains to read through my monologue here, I’d be grateful if you could spare a moment to send over some good thoughts, spirits and prayers her way. Not because L is my friend but because she is a genuinely nice person and totally totally deserves it.

    IMG_8544 

    Ingredients

    1/3 cup urad dal/black gram
    1 cup raw rice
    1 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
    3 tbsp thin poha/parched (beaten) rice
    3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
    2 sprigs of finely chopped curry leaves
    1 med sized onion finely chopped
    2 green chilies finely chopped
    salt to taste
    1/2 tsp finely chopped ginger

    Directions

  • Wash and soak dal, rice and fenugreek seeds for 5-6 hours.
  • Grind this mixture along with the parched rice to make a smooth batter.
  • Add salt and let the batter ferment overnight.
  • When adequately fermented the volume of the batter more than doubles its original volume
  • Add all the remaining ingredients into the batter and mix well.
  • On high flame grease the appakara (the mold used in making these dumplings) with oil.
  • Pour  1.5 tbsp full of batter  into each mold.
  • Reduce the flame to medium and let it cook for 3 – 4 minutes
  • When the bottom side is done, turn it over to the other side.
  • Drizzle a few drops of oil gain.
  • Let it cook for another 2 – 3 minutes
  • Remove from the pan and server hot with your choice of chutneys.
  • IMG_8591

    Meaty Pasta and Mushrooms in Pink Sauce


    2010
    09.16

    IMG_8044

    Like most American kids my boy too could live his whole life eating only macaroni and cheese. I do indulge him occasionally, most often at restaurants, where of late better sense has prevailed upon me and I have begun accepting the fact that once in a while, it is ok to refrain  from wrestling veggies down his throat. At home however, over a period of 3 years I gradually gave Mac & Cheese  a complete make over. Today my innocent little lad eats a version that looks and tastes like anything but Mac & Cheese. A variation of elbow pasta that has veggies, meat and way less cheese and cream, . But every time I serve him this, he delightfully screeches MAC & CHEESE and wipes out the entire bowl!  I know he’s going to call my bluff in a year or two. But I’m counting on the fact that by then he would have acquired a taste for all the intruders in his bowl and would care less about the deception his trusted mother put him through ;).  

    My two cents –

    1. Nish and most other young kids I have noticed don’t like too many surprises in their food. They love familiarity.

    When I introduced veggies into this dish I started with mushrooms. Mainly because mushrooms easily blend in with cheesy food and Nish always loved them. When I introduced meat, I started first by crumbling in his favorite chicken and bell pepper sausages. Over a period of time I’ve substituted the mushrooms with other veggies like zucchini, asparagus, artichokes, spinach, squash, broccoli etc and the sausages with minced or diced chicken, turkey, beef, shrimp etc.

    2. Kids don’t like too much happening in their food. Keep it simple.

    I always do only one vegetable and one meat at a time  Never a medley. Too many colors from the veggies and too many textures from the meats annoy them and they end up picking out everything that doesn’t look like a pasta noodle. Also, using single kind of different veggie and meat each time gives the dish different flavors every time you make it. A good thing for adults, since you know how easily we get bored. This same recipe when made with either spinach or zucchini tastes so different from the mushroom version that you could kind of give them their own individual names.

    3. And the most important of all. Kids love anything that other kids claim to love.  So always give your dish a popular name and make sure something in it resembles the actual dish ;). Now you know why most of my pasta dishes use elbow pasta noodle ;).

    IMG_8031

    Ingredients

    1/2 lb elbow/penne pasta
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 small onion finely chopped
    2 cups chopped cremini mushrooms
    meat stuffing from 2 links of sausages(I used 2 links(76g each) of Rocky brand roasted bell pepper and garlic chicken sausages)
    2 cloves garlic chopped and crushed
    1 can (15 oz)  pureed tomatoes (I used S&W vine ripe organic tomato sauce)
    white pepper to taste
    salt to taste
    2 tbsp fresh basil chopped
    1/3 cup heavy cream
    grated Parmesan cheese to taste

    Directions

  • Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sautè until onions are soft and translucent.
  • Add mushrooms, sausage meat, salt and pepper and sautè until sausage is slightly browned.
  • Add tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of water and bring to a simmer.
  • Turn heat to low and let simmer until the sauce is thickened.
  • Add basil and  stir into the sauce.
  • Add cream and let it continue to simmer on low.
  • While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water with few drops of virgin olive oil to a boil and add the pasta. Cook uncovered over high heat until al dente.
  • Drain the pasta and toss into the sauce.
  • Garnish with cheese.
  • Serve hot.
  • Boring is What I Long For


    2010
    09.07

    IMG_8015

    If a slug and I were ever to race, it would get light years ahead of me and eventually reach the finish line while I’m still deciding on the bow-tie or the inside-out style for my shoe laces.  Yes, that’s how laid back I am, and always will to be. While others thrive on the pump of adrenaline, I go out of my way to avoid it. And if it were up to me, What are you NOT doing over the weekend, is what I’d prefer people enquiring. A quiet weekend with absolutely nothing to do is something I would often like to look forward to. I don’t understand why people don’t get the infinite possibilities of an empty weekend. Why people scorn upon me when I say, I’d like to spend the weekend sunk into the couch with my favorite author, or sleep it away with long beauty naps, or indulge it with longer restful baths or travel around the world through the TV, from inside the confines of my most favorable sanctuary – my home.

    Back from hiking random peaks at 5 in the AM, my husband Roy often gives me the what a loser you are look as I snuggle deep into my crisp clean sheets and curl tighter into my foetal position under the warmth of my blanket. I wish he would spare the harmless like me and reserve those looks and spirits for somebody more deserving like Bin-Laden or Sarah Palin. He rolls his eyes when I, upon his suggestion that I need some fresh air, sneak my long nose through the ajar deck door and inhale the pure oxygen beneath the dense conifers outside. So what if that fresh air is in my yard? Doesn’t that count?? Just because my couch is an arm’s length away while I’m filling up my lungs, he says and I quote, You shame your vibrant ancestors. Here’s my point, for every slacker like me there are 10 go-getters out there who would readily take on the needs of the world. And from what I see, Roy does enough to cover me and 10 generations of no-good like me ;).  And since I dedicate my presence here  to solely bring about balance in the universe ;), I take pleasure in sitting on the couch, watch and applaud you on TV, while you reach on top of the Everest or perform that all so difficult brain surgery! Cause trust me people you don’t want one more sucker in this race :)!

    And just like how I like my weekends and major part of my life, I prefer my food simple too. No doubt the rich biryanis, koftas and cutlets are very often welcome, but it is in the simple Indian food I often find comfort.

     Idli / Steamed Rice & Gram Dumplings

    IMG_8013One of the most common breakfast in the south of India are these steamed puffed dumplings called Idlis. Made from fermented rice and black gram these provide sufficient crabs and proteins to get you through the day. Idlis come in different size, shape and texture…[read more]

     

     

     

    White Pottukadalai (Roasted Gram) Chutney

    IMG_8050 Ok, this chutney is very similar to the previous pottukadalai chutney that I’d posted earlier. I however have omitted the cilantro and have used tamarind instead of curd to bring in the tang. Like I said before, chutneys are all about mix and match…[read more]

    Idli / Steamed Rice & Gram Dumplings


    2010
    09.07

    IMG_8621

    One of the most common breakfast in the south of India are these steamed puffed dumplings called idlis. Made from fermented rice and black gram these provide sufficient crabs and proteins to get you through the day. Idlis come in different size, shape and texture. Whatever kind they may be, you know they are perfect when they simply melt in your mouth.  The key to getting your idlis really soft is to make sure the amount of water is just right, not too much nor too little. And secondly ensure the husked black gram is ground fine to a smooth and silky batter. Take care of just these two things and rest assured that your idlis will be mouth melting delicate.

    Now, how you grind the rice depends on what kind of texture you are looking for. If you like your idlis smooth and soft then make sure your rice is ground to a smooth and silky batter as well. And if you are looking for a soft coarse texture in your idli, use cream of rice (rice rava) instead. If you can’t find cream of rice in the store you can make it yourself by soaking rice in water for about 4 hours, dry it and then dry grind it to a corn meal consistency.

    Ingredients

    1 cup urad dal (husked blackgram) soaked in water for about 4- 5 hours
    3 cups rice rava (cream of rice)  OR4 cups of boiled rice (idli rice) soaked in water for about 4- 5 hours
    1/2 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds soak along with the urad dal
    2 tbsp cooked rice (speeds fermentation)
    salt to taste

    Directions

  • Grind urad dal and methi and cooked rice to a very smooth fine batter adding little water at a time.
  • If using boiled rice grind it separately to a smooth batter as well, again adding little water at a time.
  • If using rice rava blend separately it with little water at a time and make sure there are no lumps.
  • Mix the dal and rice batter well. Add water if the batter is too thick. The consistency should be similar to a cake batter.
  • Add salt to taste
  • Set to ferment in a warm dark place.
  • Time to ferment depends on the room temperature. Usually take 6 – 8 hours on a warm day.
  • The quantity more than doubles upon fermentation.
  • Mix the batter well.
  • Grease the idli molds with ghee, and pour the batter into it.
  • Steam for around 10-15 mins.
  • Serve hot with chutneys or sambar.

  • IMG_8010

    Idli / Steamed Rice & Gram Dumplings


    2010
    09.07

    IMG_8621

    One of the most common breakfast in the south of India are these steamed puffed dumplings called idlis. Made from fermented rice and black gram these provide sufficient crabs and proteins to get you through the day. Idlis come in different size, shape and texture. Whatever kind they may be, you know they are perfect when they simply melt in your mouth.  The key to getting your idlis really soft is to make sure the amount of water is just right, not too much nor too little. And secondly ensure the husked black gram is ground fine to a smooth and silky batter. Take care of just these two things and rest assured that your idlis will be mouth melting delicate.

    Now, how you grind the rice depends on what kind of texture you are looking for. If you like your idlis smooth and soft then make sure your rice is ground to a smooth and silky batter as well. And if you are looking for a soft coarse texture in your idli, use cream of rice (rice rava) instead. If you can’t find cream of rice in the store you can make it yourself by soaking rice in water for about 4 hours, dry it and then dry grind it to a corn meal consistency.

    Ingredients

    1 cup urad dal (husked blackgram) soaked in water for about 4- 5 hours
    3 cups rice rava (cream of rice)  OR4 cups of boiled rice (idli rice) soaked in water for about 4- 5 hours
    1/2 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds soak along with the urad dal
    2 tbsp cooked rice (speeds fermentation)
    salt to taste

    Directions

  • Grind urad dal and methi and cooked rice to a very smooth fine batter adding little water at a time.
  • If using boiled rice grind it separately to a smooth batter as well, again adding little water at a time.
  • If using rice rava blend separately it with little water at a time and make sure there are no lumps.
  • Mix the dal and rice batter well. Add water if the batter is too thick. The consistency should be similar to a cake batter.
  • Add salt to taste
  • Set to ferment in a warm dark place.
  • Time to ferment depends on the room temperature. Usually take 6 – 8 hours on a warm day.
  • The quantity more than doubles upon fermentation.
  • Mix the batter well.
  • Grease the idli molds with ghee, and pour the batter into it.
  • Steam for around 10-15 mins.
  • Serve hot with chutneys or sambar.

  • IMG_8010

    White Pottukadalai (Roasted Gram) Chutney


    2010
    09.07

    Ok, this chutney is very similar to the previous pottukadalai chutney that I’d posted earlier. I however have omitted the cilantro and have used lemon juice instead of tamarind to bring in the tang. Like I said before, chutneys are all about mix and match.

    IMG_8050

    Ingredients

    For Grinding
    3 fresh green chilies ( base it on your spice tolerance) 
    1 big clove of garlic
    1 cup pottukadalai/ roasted chickpeas/ split dalia/ kadale pappu 
    salt to taste
    2 – 3 tbsp lemon juice

    For Seasoning
    2 dried red chili torn into 1 inch pieces
    2 tsp of cold pressed sesame oil
    1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
    1 sprig of curry leaves

    Directions

  • Blend all the ingredients for grinding into a slightly smooth paste.
  • Heat oil in a pan, add all the ingredients for seasoning.
  • When the mustard pops, turn off the flame and pour into the ground mixture.
  • Mix the seasoning well into the chutney and serve with idlis, dosas or other crêpes