Today's Menu

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

How Green is my tomato

Cooking with Green Tomatoes

Except for Salsa Verde, Green tomatoes, or tomatillos as they are known in Spanish, are something I had never tried before. I passed the pale green, fresh looking tomatoes in the grocery aisle and thought, perhaps I can do something with these in the Indian style.
To describe Green tomatoes, I would say-think red tomatoes but firmer and sourer and without the sweetness. For those of us who happen to enjoy sourness, they are very well suited to the Indian style cooking. As I looked up recipes, I found that they can be really versatile and you can make a number of relishes, chutneys or vegetable side dishes using these. I tried the following recipes with very nice results and what started as an experiment has quickly become a family favourite.

STUFFED GREEN TOMATOES

Once of the best ways to elevate any vegetable dish to something exotic is to stuff it. There are many different combinations you can try - one thing I would like perhaps to try in the future is to stuff tomatoes with couscous - mediterrenean style. Meanwhile, on a less ambitious note, this is my recipe for stuffed green tomatoes.
















Ingredients


5 medium size green tomatoes
1/3 cup gram flour (besan)
2 tablespoon oil
1/3 tsp mango powder (amchoor)
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
a pinch hing ( asafoetida)
coriander leaves for garnishing

Method

Slice off the tops of the tomatoes and scoop out the insides of the tomato to create a hollow for the stuffing. You can scoop about 3/4 of the pulp out using a spoon. Keep this pulp aside and try to chop it so that it is almost like a paste.

Heat a pan and roast the gram flour till is turns slightly brown. Take it off the stove and mix chilli powder, fennel, mango powder and salt to taste.
Stuff this dry mixture into the tomato cups, place the cap on and secure with tooth picks.

























Heat oil in a flat pan, add mustard and cumin seeds. When the seeds splutter, add the hing and the tomato pulp and stir. Stir in salt, chili powder and turmeric and cook for 3-4 minutes till the pulp is soft and mushy and the oil separates. Place the tomatoes on the pan and cover and steam on a medium flame. The tomatoes will cook and the water from the tomatoes will seep into the dry stuffing.
Season with coriander leaves and serve.


TOMATO BHAAJI

This is a very simple stir fry that can spice up any meal either as a side to roti or rice. This has a really sharp, tangy taste that brings your taste buds alive and it works especially well when you want to bring a spicy-sour element to an otherwise ordinary meal.















Ingredients


3-4 green tomatoes
1/3 tsp. red chilli powder
1/2 tsp. dhana-jeera powder ( cumin-coriander powder)
3-4 pinches turmeric powder
2-3 pieces asafoetida
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp. each cumin & mustard seeds
2-3 tablespoons sev ( deep-fried gram flour noodles )

Chop the tomatoes into large chunks.
Heat oil, and cackle the mustard and cumin seeds. Add the spices and stir for a few seconds. The add the tomato chunk and salt and sugar and cook for a very little while, till they are softened but not mushy.
Top with sev just before serving.
With a few slight tweaks, the above recipe becomes an excellent chutney, to be served with dosa or idli.
Omit the sev, and the mustard and cumin seeds and follow the same procedure as above. Then grind the mixture after the cooking process and you have a quick and easy chutney.

Foot Notes - It is always exciting to try a new vegetable and realize that you are on to something. Since these tomatoes cook very fast, you never need to keep them on the stove for too long.
Also, since they taste so sour and sharp, besan is a perfect foil for their sourness in both the above recipes.
Enjoy!!!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bread Bhajji

Nupur's blog on stale bread has inspired me to put in an entry for bread bhajji's. There is always left-over bread to work with. For starters, there are the two slices, the top and the bottom one which no one want to have. Also, sometimes, I like to slice off the ends of the bread for a really soft peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Soon the bread ends stack up in the fridge and I know that it is time for bread Bhajji.

Ingredients.

2 cups bread ends
1/4 cup yougurt
1/2 cup onions cut fine
some baking powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsl dhania-jeera powder
salt to taste

Soak the bread in the yugurt for 15 min. After the bread gets soggy, add chili powder, spice powders, salt and onions and knead it into a hard dough. Do not knead too much, just enough to form a dough.
Make flat patties and deep fry in oil.
serve with ketchup.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Jivha for Lentils - Cool Lentil Broth soup

Jivha for Lentils

Lentils - so versatile and tasty. Indian kitchens, especially south Indian kitchens have some variation of lentil pretty much everyday.
This is such an exciting ingredient - if not cooked and mashed into dals and sambars then friend as wadis or dried as papads or mixed with rice for idlis and dosas. For vegetarians, this is almost the only good source of protien besides dairy products.
This simple recipe is a clear soup that is perfect for a hot summer's day.
In my kitchen, a cup or two of lentils is pressure cooked almost everyday.
Every once in a way, I have some extra water that floats on top of the cooked dal. Those are good days coz this leftover lentil broth is the perfect stock for a number of soups - both hot and cold
This is a simple soup that I love to put together. It makes for a nice change from regular cooking.

COOL LENTIL BROTH SOUP

Ingredients

2 cups of thin lentil broth
1/4 of a small cucumber
1/4 small tomato
1/3 of a small carrot
1 radish
2 tablespoons of tiny cut red onion
1 spring onion
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1/3 tsp chaat masala
salt and pepper to taste

Cut all the vegetables into very tiny pieces, the tinier the better.
Slice the spring onion and keep the leaves aside.
Pour the thin broth into a bowl, add lime juice, vinegar, salt, pepper and chaat masala. Add all the vegetables and let it cool for a while in the fridge
Top with the spring onion leaves and optionally, some crushed nachos.
Add a sprig of coriander and serve.

This simple soup is very refreshing in the summer. You can get creative with this - I like to top with crushed papads or add some tabasco for some extra kick.

PALAK DAL ( SPINACH LENTIL STEW)

This is a simple wholesome dish, pleasing to the palate and very nutritious - a perfect weekday dish. Spinach and lentil are a magical combination.


Ingredients

1 1/2 cup tur dal boiled and mashed
1/2 onion chopped
1/2 tomato
2 cups chopped spinach
1/2 sp red chili powder
1/2 sp corinader pwd
1 tsp garlic paste
mustard seeds and cumin seeds for seasoning





Heat oil and add the mustard seeds and jeera seeds. When the seeds pop, add the onion and 'sweat' them. then add the garlic paste , coriander and chilli powders and stir fry for a minute. Add the spiach leaves and saute for 2 minutes. Then add tomato and turmeric powder and let it cook till the tomatoes are soft and spinach is cooked through.
Pour in thetur dal and 1/2 cup water. Add salt and stire well.
Let the mixture boil for 5-7 minutes.
Serve hot with roti or rice.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Arachu Kalaki

Famous among sides is this very typical, traditional side dish served as a savory accompaniment to kutan and rice. It is very hard to classify this dish - it falls into the general category of pacchadi - a semi-liquid concontion served as a side.
in south Indian cooking, the sides are as important as the main dish - there is a wide variety of these relishes that is served to give an additional tang and kick to the kutan.
Today I make 'Keerai Kutan' or spinach stew served with rice. Since by nature Keerai Kutan is sort of mild with coconut, spinach and lentils, it needs a certain something on the side to rev it up a bit. Enter the pacchadi or the Arachu Kalaki!!
There are a cumber of options here but the rule of thumb is- something sour.
So This is my recipe for today - Arachi Kalaki.

Ingredients
3 ripe Amla ( nellikai) - I'm afraid i dont know the English name for this
1/2 inch piece ginger
3-4 green chillies
1/2 cup sour curds - the more sour the better
2 table spoons grated or dessicated coconut.
Seasonings - mustard seeds, methi seeds and curry leaves

Deseed the amla and grind it along with the coconut, chillies, ginger and a little water so that the result is a smooth paste. Pour the paste into a bowl, add the curds and salt and beat well till it is well mixed.
Heat oil, add mustard seeds and methi seeds. When the seeds splutter, switch off the flame, add the curry leaves and pour this sizzling mix into bowl with the arachu kalaki. Mix well and serve with kutan and rice

On a different note, I happened to come across this really great article on the magic of the 'family meal' in time magazine.

Family Meal

This is all about how the family meal helps in bonding and bringing the family and the kids together.
As a born-again foodie I feel that food not just about eating but also about experiencing life and family ties and spiritual revival.
Sometimes when I come home tired from work and put together something indifferent for dinner, I feel a tinge of regret that an important ritual in my day has been trivialized. The act of planning and preparing a special meal everyday really defines the quality of your family life.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

10 min Tomato Kadhi

Part of being a working mom who still likes to serve up hot food everyday is that i am always looking for quick and easy recipes. These can be really handy for days when office is too loaded or the baby gets temperemental.
This is a recipe for tomato kadhi that I tried once and with such good results that this has become my staple quick-and-easy recipe. On busy days, it is really a life-saver; I mean, no soaking, grinding, peeling or pressure-cooking and very little chopping - and the taste id pretty good to. I love this with rice, but you can serve it with chapatti also since it is thick enough.

Ingredients

2 ripe medium sized tomatoes
2 tablespoons besan or kadala mav ( chick pea flour)
3/4 green chillies and ginger either chopped finely or crushed in a pestle
seasonings ( mustard seeds, cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida)
1/2 tsp turmeric
A handful of curry leaves

Heat oil and add mustard and cumin seeds. When they splutter, add green chillies, ginger, curry leaves, and stir fry. Add the asafoetida and the tomatoes and fry for a bit till the tomatoes get soft. Add 2 cups of water, turmeric and salt and bring to a boil.
In a small vessel, mix the chick pea flour with a little water till it gets mixed well.
Bring the kadhi down to a simmer and add the chick pea flour while stirring simultaneously.
Simmer for 3-4 minutes till the kadhi thickens and gets the consistency of a dal.
Switch off the flame and serve hot.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mambazha Kutan with Soy

The first time I had Mambazha Kutan ( or Mango stew) was in Palakkad, Kerela where we had been for our annual vacation. This was the real deal - the mangoes and coconuts were from the orchard, the curry leaves from the backyard and the rice from the paddy fields outside. The combination of the wonderful air and natural surroundings and the delicious meal is something that has stayed with me.
This is the authentic Kerela recipe for Mango kutan with some changes to make it healthier for our urban lifestyles.



Some Main Ingredients

Ingredients
Main
1 ripe mango diced roughly into cubes
1 1/2 cup shredded coconut ( fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup Nutrella soy granules
1/3 cup sour buttermilk

Spices
2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
3-4 red chillies
1 tablespoon uncooked rice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon jaggery
a few curry leaves


Lightly Roasting the spices

Procedure

Prep Work
Boil the soy granules in a little water for 3-4 minutes. You can also microwave them for 1 minute with a little water - they just need to get soft.
Roast 1 tsp fenugreek seeds and the red chillies. Put these in the mixer along with the coconut, soy and raw rice. Grind well to make a paste

Process
Heat 1 cup of water. Add the mangoes, turmeric, jaggery and salt and boil for 10 minutes on a medium flame. You can adjust the jaggery based on the sweetness of the mango. Then add the ground paste and allow the kutan to simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring occassionally. Switch off the flame and add the buttermilk and mix well.
In a smaller vessel, heat oil and when the oil is smoking, add mustard and fenugreek seeds. After the seeds splutter, switch off the flame and throw the curry leaves into the vessel. Pour this seasoning mixture into the kutan and allow the kutan to sit for 3-4 minutes.
Serve hot with steaming rice and papads.

Mambazha Kutan with soy

Footnote:
The above recipe is completely authentic except for the addition of soy. Coconut is a high cholestrol food while soy is an excellent source of protein. Therefore I use coconut and soy in the proportion of 2:1 for this dish and the results are very good. You can change this ratio and use more/less soy depending on your preferences.


Rolicking with Raw Mango -

Raw mango - When I was a child, summer vacations were all about getting tanned in the hot sun, climbing mango trees and getting bruised and bitten by bugs - and sampling the raw mangoes from the tree.
These are a few of my favourite dishes with Raw Mango
1) Mango bhel - Make the regular bhel and throw in a few slivers of chopped raw mango for an additional kick
2) Mangai moru chadam - The traditional Moru chadam or Yogurt rice is made with rice and buttermilk and seasoned with mustard seeds, urad dal, green chillies and curry leaves. To this combination, add some milk to reduce the tartness of the yogurt. then add a few finely chopped raw mango for extra bite.
3) Raw Mango Dal - While pressure cooking the lentils, add 1/2 a raw mango - this is a good substitute for tamarind. Season and serve
4) RawMango curry pickle - Another summer favourite - Heat oil and season mustard seeds, hing and red chilli powder. Pour over finely sliced raw mango, add salt and some fenugreek powder and allow to sit overnight. you have spicy-sour pickled mango in no time - one of the simpler pickles.






Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tomato Mozzarella Breadsticks

For someone who grew up loving Paneer, fresh mozarella cheese was a revelation. Fresh mozarella is usually sold in little boxes as mounds of white cheese swimming in lightly salted water.
With Italian food, an assemby of a few simple ingredients can result in something that looks and tastes exotic. Here is my recipe for Tomato mozarella garlic toast which I put together one day and I'm pretty sure I will do it again.

Ingredients:

1 Roma tomato
1 mound of fresh Mozzarella cheese ( this is different from the sliced or shredded mozzarella)
1 length of frozen garlic bread
1 tablespoon olive oil and dried Italian seasoning



Procedure:
In a small bowl, mix the olive oil and italian seasoning.
Pre-heat the oven and toast the frozen bread as per the instructions on the packet till it is half cooked. Remove from the oven. Place the tomato and mozzarella slices on the bread alternatively. Drizzle the seasoned olive oil over the tomatoes and cheese. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
Return the bread to the oven and continue to toast for 5-7 minuted or till the cheese just begins to melt.
Your cheese breadsticks are ready to serve hot.



Variations:
Before serving, you can also drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar over the bread. Another good option is to place some fresh basil leaves on the toast.
To serve the above as a pizza breadsticks, spread some pizza sauce on the bread before placing the tomatoes and mozarella. Top with red chilli flakes and serve hot and melting.

Tomatometer:
Roma tomato is usually smaller and firmer than regular tomatoes. It is a good idea to use these for any baking dishes since they are frm and do not disintegrate easily and they are as tasty as regular tomatoes.