Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Meals Ready !

Dear Foodies,

Starting this year with Ugadi pachadi which contains the six tastes/flavors. Read more about it at Sailu's blog.

Our mini-plate meal for Ugadi, Lime rice, Aratikaya podimas, Aratikaya fry, Mamidikaya pappu, papads & uppu mirapa, mamidikaya pachadi with steamed rice in the middle.

Dessert was the best ever paal payasam I have made.

But I did make the mistake of adding nuts and raisins, like Ammini mentioned in her book that lovely Manisha had been doling out dishes from, this one needs no decoration !
A closer look at a few dishes,
Raw plantain, steamed and flavored with green chillies and coconut, Raw plantain stir fry, Green mango dal and steamed rice.

Mango pachadi, ripe mangoes cooked in water flavored with tamarind and jaggery and seasoned with mustard seeds and red chillies. The perfect match between sweet and hot flavors.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Countdown to the feast...

Dear Foodies,

A platter filled with fritters made from stuffed green peppers, potatoes, capsicum and onions all made by two dear friends and ofcourse with some help (well I had to add my name, you'll know why when u see the pics :-)) and .....

Starting this year with a sweet, carrot-banana cake

Closer look at the stuffed green peppers with a side of chopped onions, coriander leaves, a dash of lime juice, pinch of salt, pepper and garam masala.

The perfectly puffed up potato fritters

And finishing off all this with a glass of flavored buttermilk-store bought buttermilk spiced with crushed ginger, chopped curry leaves, crushed cumin seeds and salt.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Snack time - Savory Cake

Dear Foodies,

This one is a different take on my buttermilk biscuits. Will come back with the recipe in awhile.

Sorry for keeping you guys waiting ! This cake is really very similar in taste to the buttermilk biscuits I made, but surprisingly does not have the same ingredients. It does not have all that butter and neither does it need buttermilk !! I made this cake around the same time I made the Vanilla-Strawberry muffins, and that would mean I used the same sour-cream and cheese mix (with a slight variation) :-P I think these two recipes can stand proof to the charm that this mix does to your baking !

I had a lot of vague ideas in mind when Meeta announced the theme for this month's MM to be Savory Cakes. I did not want to try a full-fledged cake because I have very rarely been successful. For some reason my egg-less versions make better muffins than cakes !! Would anyone know why ??

Getting back to the recipe in hand, I wanted to use the ricotta cheese lying in the fridge and was trying to sort out the ingredients. I also had some feta cheese that I thought I could use, as it is salty and might be good in the cake. When I had read this post in Meeta's blog I really fell in love with it. I could feel the fluffiness in the souffle and decided to experiment with what I had in the kitchen to get something to imitate that effect.

So what did I finally do ... ??

Off to the recipe. This one involved a lot of experimentation just like all the other of my baking trials.
  • 1 1/2 cup - All Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp : Corn Starch
  • 1 tsp : Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp : Baking Soda
  • 2-3 Tbsp : Whipped Cream
  • 1 1/2 tbsp : Sour Cream
  • 1 tbsp : Ricotta cheese
  • 1 tbsp : Feta cheese,crumbled
  • Seasoned with Garlic-Parsley salt and red pepper flakes
For the crust:
  • 2 tbsp : Bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp : Corn meal
  • A fistful of vermicelli ( a huge mistake !!)
  • 1/2 tbsp : Melted butter
...and some mozzarella cheese on top.

  1. Starting with the crust: I did not have stocked bread crumbs and so drizzled some olive oil on a few slices of bread and sent them into the oven for abt 15 mins till they turned crisp.After they cooled I crumbled them.
  2. Added some corn meal and butter & Mix until it forms a ball when pressed lightly with your fingers. I made a huge mistake of adding some vermicelli to this, on cooking it got really hard and was taking away the softness of the cake :-(
  3. Spread this on the bottom of your baking dish and bake for a few minutes.
  4. For the batter: In a small bowl, beat the whipped cream until it forms soft peaks. In another one mix the ricotta cheese and sour cream and beat for a few minutes until well mixed. Even this mixture will become a little fluffy. If you have a electric beater all this should be very easy.
  5. Sift all the dry ingredients and slowly fold in the whipped cream, feta cheese(this one was salty so I added less amt of salt), garlic-parsley salt, red pepper flakes and the sour cream+ ricotta cheese mix.
  6. Add half the sour cream and ricotta cheese mix and increase as you incorporate all the ingredients. You might not need the whole, but if you think you will need more liquid to get the right consistency, use milk/buttermilk.
  7. The batter was not smooth in consistency like cake batter, but a more sticky one. I did not beat the mixture too much.
  8. Transfer and spread this over the crust, top with some mozzarella cheese and bake for about 30 mins and test for done-ness.
  9. You can either transfer the cake onto a serving dish by placing it over the baking dish and inverting so as to have the cake crust upwards on the dish or leave it as is like me since I used a pyrex dish and cut slices as you need :-)
This cake was really great for a light snack in the evening and a perfect accompaniment to my Orzo soup that night. It was fluffy as I had hoped it would be. It reminded me a lot of the buttermilk biscuits but it had no butter in it and hardly any buttermilk ...hmmm. I enjoyed this one and the crust also was something I tried for the first time. It paired really well with the cake and made it more interesting. The one mistake I did was adding the vermicelli. Got a little over adventurous and less thoughtful !! So skip that one step and try this one out, I am sure you will enjoy it too :-)

And now I'm off to mail this to Meeta for her wonderful Monthly Mingle - Savory Cakes' event.

Friday, March 09, 2007

...and the Sun is out !

Dear Foodies,

A taste of Heaven....

Vanilla ice-cream topped with mango pulp and toasted cashews.... mmmm yummm. A wonderful combo that a good buddy of mine want some ??

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Chinese Fried Rice !

Dear Foodies,

Like a lot of Indians, even I discovered that Chinese cuisine found in India is essentially something a very innovative and adventurous chef in India came up with and has nothing to do with authentic Chinese cuisine. No matter what the origin, I just love it.

The basic rule of all these dishes is the same. 'Oodles of garlic, green chillies, pepper, cubed onions and soy sauce' - with this list of ingredients you can whip-up some lip-smacking dishes by tossing in pre-cooked rice/noodles for a main course or some stir-fired veggies, soup or make the sauce for a starter like Manchurian.

This Chinese Fried Rice is one of my favorite ways to use up leftover rice. I tasted tofu only after I came to the US and just love it. I like the firm/extra firm kind and just hate the slimy ones found in a few soups ! The firm one has a very nice texture and goes very well with the soy sauce and garlic in Chinese/Thai dishes.

  • 2 cups: Mixed vegetables, like carrots, beans, cabbage - julienned
  • You can also add broccoli florets, baby corn, bean sprouts, water chestnuts
  • 1 nos: Onion, cubed
  • 10-15 nos: Extra firm Tofu, cubed
  • 1-2 nos : Green chillies, finely chopped
  • 4 nos : Garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp : Ginger, finely chopped
  • 3-4 Tbsp : Soy sauce
  • 1-2 tsp : MSG/Ajinomoto
  • 3-4 Tbsp: Oil (I used Olive oil)
  • Salt and Pepper(freshly ground) for seasoning
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a wide bottomed pan, add the tofu pieces and let them brown a little on all sides. Any amount of oil that you add, will get soaked up by the tofu as they have a spongy texture, so be careful while adding oil.
  2. Once the tofu browns, I drizzle a few drops of soy sauce on them, so that they have similar flavors when mixed with the rice.
  3. Reserve the tofu and add the rest of the oil to the pan. Add the ginger, garlic and green chillies. Give them about 30 seconds before you add the onions and cook till translucent. Adding the ginger-garlic-chillies first, infuses their flavors into the oil and gives the dish a uniform flavor when mixed.
  4. Microwave the veggies for a few minutes and then add them to the onions.
  5. Saute till the vegetables are done but let them retain their crunch. Take care to not overcook them.
  6. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and stir well. Also add a little soy sauce so as to coat all the veggies well.
  7. The rice should be pre-cooked and cooled and should have separate grains or the final dish will get all mushy !
  8. Add the rice, soy sauce and ajinomoto. Taste for salt and pepper, add as required and stir well. Soy sauce contains salt, so keep that in mind while adding salt. Pepper is one of the main flavors in this dish and freshly ground pepper is the best.
  9. Add the reserved tofu and keep covered for a couple of minutes before turning off the heat.
  10. Garnish with spring onions and serve.
You can pair it with some wet Manchurian or just as it is. I don't think I have to explain to you how delicious this dish is. This fried rice beautifully highlights the flavor of the vegetables like carrots and beans. These two I think are a 'must have' when making this dish and you will fall in love with the combo. Another important flavor is the use of Pepper as the main source of heat. It is subtle in its action and does not overpower the vegetables. The green chillies can be skipped completely too, but when making for more than one cup of rice I prefer adding a little of it to support the pepper. Read about MSG here. Recent studies have shown that its not good for health and has been banned in most dishes.

Do try it out and let me know how you like it. I will also be glad if you share with me your variations to this dish.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Join hands...

Dear Foodies,

Icon credits - Sandeepa
All of you out there who follow Indian (food) blogs might already be aware of the ongoing protest against Yahoo,Inc's content theft on its Malayalam portal, from this blog. InjiPennu of Ginger and Mango has spearheaded the protest along with many other bloggers. You can read about the March 5th event here.

More information on these blogs:
Ginger and Mango
Copyright Violations

A lot has been said about plagiarism and the lack of rules in place to curb such incidents. Join hands to voice your opinion.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Potayto ?? Potaato ??

who cares whats its called, grab some and turn them into your favorite dish I say !!
Dear Foodies,

The moment I saw Meeta's Gnocchi in Sage Garlic Butter I was itching to taste it. It looked like a dish that can't go wrong. We went to a a couple of Italian restaurants in the hope of trying it , but none had it one their menu ! Finally we went to a place that had Gnocchi on their specialty dish list and I was impressed. I did not care to look at the rest of the menu and placed an order for it. The menu described it as 'potato dumplings in marinara and cheese sauce seasoned with Italian herbs'. When the dish arrived all I saw was potato dumplings in cheese, cheese and more cheese !! It was extremely bland and had no flavor at all. Everything that they added was overpowered by the huge amount of cheese they used. I had to flood the dish with salt, pepper and chilli flakes to make it palatable :-(

After that incident I decided to try it out myself and Vaishali's event was the perfect call. I made this early last week, but I had to move to a new apartment during the weekend and in the mess I forgot to upload the pictures to my laptop and the camcorder was safely stacked in one of the boxes. Yesterday I checked the deadline for the event and rushed to get this post published.

I am not going to go into the details of the recipe as Meeta has explained it in as much detail as possible :-) So here's a summary of what I did : I boiled and grated the potatoes and used all-purpose flour, semolina and a little corn starch for binding. I did not have potato starch at hand and I think that effected the texture. I think there was also a lot of water content in the potatoes since I found it extremely difficult to shape them. The only way I could handle them was by wetting my fingers with water. You might have noticed that my Gnocchi do not have the beautiful ribbed design that Meeta made. I could not make those stick to the gnocchi :-( But the best part is neither did the one in the restaurant have them :-)) So I consoled myself that I was atleast able to shape them well. I then boiled them in some salted water. Heat the water first and when you see it steaming add the potato dumplings. Use medium flame and don't let the water get to a boil. This will overcook the potato and break them down into a gooey form (thats from experience..eeeeks :-P) Once the dumplings start to float, drain and reserve them. Make these in small batches based on the size of your pan.

Now its time to add the flavorings. The blandness of the Gnocchi at the restaurant was still haunting me and so I decided to add some heat to mine. I made a few changes to Meeta's seasoning based on what I had in my pantry or rather what I did not have...hehe.

Before I started with the dish I made some Aglio Olio and let it sit till I was ready to use it. After all the potatoes were done, I heated a wide bottomed sauce pan added some olive oil, butter and a few spoons of Aglio Olio ( I used red pepper flakes instead of chillies). I also added a tsp of finely chopped ginger and a few extra flakes of red pepper. After sauteing them for a minute I tossed in the Gnocchi and got all of them nicely coated with the seasoning. Be careful to not break any. I did not have any fresh/dried herbs but had some parsley-garlic salt and used that. I finally garnished them with some grated parmesan cheese and it was ready to devour :-)

I am sure this was nowhere close to what Meeta made but it was faaaaar better than the one at the restaurant. 'Garlic' was the flavor in the dish and the potato was perfectly cooked. I just loved them in this form. It was not similar to any other potato dish I have tasted. No extra flavorings to spoil them, no extra fat just plain simple potato richness all through. All of you must try this dish at home. Once the dumplings are made you can play around with the seasonings and make it your own dish. I assure you that you will change your perspective on cooking potatoes after you eat this. They do not need all the spices and oil to perk them up, they are gooood just as they are :-)

Now I am off to Vaishali's place, I'm a day late and just don't want to miss the event :-(

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