Friday, November 30, 2007

Savor the Sevai

Dear Foodies,

I hope all of you have had a chance to enjoy these delicious sevai. If not, its high time you did ! Sevai are rice noodles and can be made fresh or bought in a dried form at the store. They have a very delicate flavor and are smooth and soft when cooked, unlike pasta, that has a bite when eaten. Made the right way they are light and fluffy as the clouds. Dress them up with a flavor you love and you will love it even more ! They can be thought of as rice and can be made into lime sevai, Sweet Til (nuvvulu) sevai, Coconut sevai, Tamarind sevai. For a spicy touch it can also be served with vegetable kurma, chole or any gravy.

You can serve it as a nice refreshing breakfast or make it a light tiffin (or dinner) in minutes. My mother made some fresh sevai for last year's Ganesh Chavithi, you can find the recipe at the end of this post.

Cooking store bought sevai:
The one I used here is the dried rice noodles you get in the store. It is sold as Idiyappam (Rice noodles) in the Indian grocery store. They look like spiral noodles and to cook them you just need soak them in some boiling water for a few minutes (6-8). Check them frequently and look for the color to change to a nice opaque white and the noodles feel soft on touch. Any longer and you might end up with a white mush. Once cooked drain them well in a strainer.

Nuvvula/Til Sevai:

Deliciously sweet & comforting
Step 2 of the Procedure in this post also has the recipe for it. I roasted the sesame seeds and placed them on a tissue. Instead of using the blender I used the chapati rolling pin to coarsely crush them. I used a vegetable peeler to shave bits of jaggery. Mix them together and add some fresh ghee for a 'out of the world' experience. This sweet & crunchy mix is my favorite way of eating sevai. It simply warms your heart adding a festive touch to your mood. Please do not skip the ghee, even a teeny tiny drop will create magic. This is a nice way to pamper your sweet tooth too :)

Lime Sevai: (For 2 spirals)

Lime n lemony'
Heat 1/2 Tbsp of oil and splutter 1 tsp mustard seeds. Add 1 tsp of chana dal & 1 tsp of Urad dal and brown them. Chop a few Curry leaves, 2 green chillies and add it to the oil. As they turn crisp turn off the heat and add 1 tsp of turmeric powder and hing (asafoetida). Toss this over the sevai and season with salt to taste. Handle the noodles delicately and you will be awarded with a beautiful dish to plate (The taste is anyways awesome :D) There are very few ingredients here and so you need to have all of them to get the best flavor combo. You add some roasted cashews or peanuts for the added pizazz.

For the coconut sevai, use the same tadka ingredients as for the lime version, but replace the green chillies with red, skip the turmeric and add 1 Tbsp of grated, fresh coconut for about 1 cup of cooked rice noodles.

Pair the sevai with chutneys like - coconut, tomato or ginger chutney. Make them fresh or buy the ready-made ones, no matter which you choose I can promise you will love them.

Happy Cooking !

P.S: Bee, you were to get one of these for Click-noodles event, but I was too lazy to post :( I am going nuts :D

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Craving... for Potato Bread !

Dear Foodies,

Take a bite..
I am sure none on you missed all that talk of potato bread from the daring bakers this week. It just got me badly craving for some of it !! The only words that stuck on my mind from their posts were soft & moist. I could already taste the bread and imagined myself digging my teeth into one. How much I hate food bloggers for doing this to me :(( Their posts did not dare me to make my own but surely tempted me to pick up a few potato bread buns in the grocery store, not a potential daring baker there eh ! The bread aisle was next to the antipasti section and I bought a couple of different varieties of cured olives - hot olives, stuffed with sun dried tomatoes. I also added a spoonful of roasted garlic cloves to my container. Some fresh corn on the cob and my dinner was made :)

How it all fell in place :
  • The first thing I did when I got home was to set the oven on Hi-Broil. I shaved the corn off the cob and tossed it with some toasted sesame oil and olive oil. Seasoned it with some salt and pepper. As an afterthought I threw in some cubed green peppers/capsicum. I broiled these in the oven for about 15 -20 mins, mixing them once in between.
  • In the meantime I chopped up a handful of olives, picking a few from each variety I had. I also chopped up a few cloves of the roasted garlic.
  • I also attempted a vinaigrette by mixing 1/2 tsp - Dijon mustard, 1/2 tbsp - Olive oil and a few splashes of the sesame oil.
  • Once the corn and peppers had a nice char on them I added them to the bowl of vinaigrette and along with the chopped olives and garlic.
  • I sliced the potato buns in half and charred them in the broiler too. This happens really really quick. I almost burnt them !
  • Spoon some of your corn & olive salad into t he buns and Enjoy 1
The olives are salty, so taste before you season it with more salt. I was close to adding some dried herbs but the corn was so nice and crunchy that I did not want to overpower it with other flavors. The corn was crunchy and crisp, the olives salty and delicious. The buns were extremely good, they were so soft & I absolutely loved the whole sandwich. One kind of the olives I got were called hot or spiced olives, but I did not like the chilli powder used to stuff them. I will avoid them the next time.

I cooked some cous-cous and mixed it with the corn & olive salad for my lunch the next day. The cous-cous soaked up all the flavors of the salad by lunch time and it was a wonderfully light and yummy meal.

Ashwini's Gobi Kheema
In between all this bread menace, I spotted Ashwini's Gobi Kheema. That bowl has been haunting me ever since, I just had to try it. I could not find a small head of cauliflower in the store but since I could not wait I got home a huge one. I used half of it last night to make her dish and also made her tomato gravy. Both were superb ! I was in no mood of making the chapati's I intended to make and so, I toasted up some of the yummy potato bread, squeezed some lime over it pav-bhaji style and sat down to eat one of my best dinners ! You guys MUST try her recipe. I have some of the kheema left and I can't wait to get back home for a replay of the dinner :)

Ashwini, a huge thanks to you for the recipe. It is awesome and I am surely going to make it often, especially when I have friends visiting. I cannot let them miss this one ! The tomato gravy is a keeper too. I wanted to make her garam masala too for this dish, but I was too impatient to taste the final product and so used the MDH garam masala I have.

On another note, I tried Nabeela's Spicy tomato soup and Chickpea stew. Both were excellent heart warmers ! I loved them as a purrfect winter night, light meal and along with a few slices of toast wrapped in foil, I enjoyed them for lunch too. Thank you Nabeela :)

Now for a super quick dessert for you guys. Some cubed pears and mango dressed with honey and gulkhand, served chilled :)

Happy Cooking !!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sundal Cravings...

Dear Foodies,

If some one asks me what I miss most about the start of the festive season, food would fight for the top position along with the new clothes and the pooja customs. Each one of our festivals is accompanied by its very own, unique 'menu'. Its like rules written on stone, each preparation will invoke the memories of one particular festival. Varalakshmi vratam and Dussehra start the Sundal cravings for me. Varalakshmi vratam is like the "starter", just one evening of going arnd collecting all the various types of Sundal. My brother and I would tag along with my mom as she goes from house to house for tambulam just for the extra packet of Sundal. By the end of the trip we would have nearly every legume covered and soo many different flavor combos. Though the list of ingredients is pretty narrow, when paired with the legumes/beans used, the permutations and combinations are way too many ! And then comes Dasara, the "main course", my mom would prepare a different variety of sundal for each of the 9 days....yummmy !

Here go two varieties of sundal that I have tried and loved. The first one is with Lima beans. I absolutely love these. They taste a little like peas, but not as sweet and have a nice bite to them. I use them in a lot of mixed vegetable & rice preparations. I had a whole pack of these and knew this was the best way to get rid of the whole batch and enjoy the dish.

Lima Beans Sundal

  • 1 pack: frozen Lima beans
  • 1/2 Tbsp: Oil
  • 2 tsp: Mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp: Cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp: Urad dal
  • A pinch of hing/asafoetida and turmeric
  • 2 nos: dry Red chillies
  • 10nos: Curry leaves
  • 1/2 cup: desiccated coconut flakes or fresh/frozen grated coconut
  1. Thaw the frozen beans and microwave them for about 5-6mins. Sprinkle a few drops of water before microwaving if they look too dry. The beans should be cooked but not mushy.
  2. Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds, jeera and urad dal.
  3. Once the dal starts changing color add the turmeric, hing, red chillies and curry leaves. Give it a minute for the curry leaves to turn crispy and then add the cooked beans and coconut.
  4. Mix well and season with salt. Reduce the flame and cook for another extra minute allowing the flavors to blend.
Thats it ! I think I might have to take away the 'Method' sub-heading going by its length in my last few entires :))

The next one is my all time favorite ! The king of all Sundals, made with chickpeas :) With canned chickpeas making this one is a breeze. I also had some semi-ripe mangoes that I added to it and I was all set to go on an outing to the beach in Madras :)

Sundal 'to go' potlam for you
The only difference in this version is you don't have to cook the chickpeas separately. Just drain and wash them thoroughly to get rid of all the liquid that comes in the can. I used chana dal in the seasoning. I chopped the mango and tossed it in the oil before the chickpeas so that the oil also gets infused with the mango flavor too. I used frozen fresh coconut that you get in the Indian stores for this one. I also used a green chilli, but you can adjust the heat to your taste. This one is surely the best combo for Sundal, the slight tang and sweetness from the mango paired with the chickpeas and coconut is absolutely fantastic.

Other Sundal victims: black eyed peas, Green peas, boiled chana dal, boiled peanuts, cooked kala chana, batani...the options are endless!

Enjoy & Have a great day !

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pita Pockets

Dear Foodies,

Time for a recipe today after all the coffee talk. I present to you another of my week night wonders ! I absolutely loved this combo and had it twice in two weeks. I cook almost every evening and since I pack my lunch from home, I have to make something that will work well for the box. I bought some nice cucumber and that got me into the mood for a salad and so this dish was born. Paired with some yummy looking whole wheat pita bread that I found at the store, it was a perfect portion.

  • 1 cup - Corn, fresh or thawed, frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup - Chickpeas (canned), drained and washed
  • 1/2 cup - Red onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup - Cucumber, chopped (peel if necessary)
  • 1/4 cup - Sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup - Roasted red peppers, chopped
  • Salt, pepper & red pepper flakes for seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp - Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 Tbsp - Olive oil
  • Cilantro for garnish
  1. If using frozen corn allow it to thaw at room temperature or use the microwave.
  2. In a bowl, toss all the ingredients together...and...well thats it ! I know I did not need bullets for this, but I had to make it look like a recipe :))
Microwave the pita bread for 1 min and you will see it puff up. Cut in half and fill the pockets with this salad, top it off with some ketchup. A little aloo bhujia added some more crunch.

The whole thing was super filling and yummyy. I boxed up the salad and rolled up a pita bread in aluminum foil for lunch next day. I could fill the pita with as much salad as I wanted and the rest was delicious as is.

I repeated a similar salad but added a cup of cooked cous cous, since I ran out of cucumber and chickpeas. Even that tasted really good. The whole wheat pita has a nice nutty taste and is extremely filling too when paired with the salad. Take a look at a similar salad, called Fattoush, that I made for a Mediterranean themed dinner earlier this year. You can use any assortment of fresh vegetables that you have in hand and dress up the whole dish making it look like something really elegant but with '0' cooking involved. hmmmm, I must look for that Powerless event that was doing the rounds.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coffee Talk !

Dear Foodies,

This is what I come back home for in the evening
Its not about the lavish dinner in a 5 star hotel but the Rs.5 softy cone or dairy milk that we miss the most. If you ever need to bring a smile on my face, you only have to buy me a chocolate or get me a cup of coffee or if you are in a really good mood... a soft toy. ummm....Well, my friends and family would contest that. You don't really have to do anything to make me laugh. Some little, tiny, trivial thing will get me started and once that happens theres no stopping. I will go on and on ..and on...and on...and on....the tears will start flowing in about 2-3 mins and you will see me holding my stomach in pain and vain to hold my laughter, but that will never happen. I have laughed for more than 30-40min non-stop with no reason anywhere in sight !! I have had people laughing... not on the joke, but watching me in action !!

So getting to the point (there actually isn't going to be one....Sssshhhhh) , one of my most favorite things in the day is my cup of coffee. I just love the filter coffee my mother makes at home. The instant coffee was just a poor attempt at capturing that magic..and then.... I fell into the Starbucks trap after I got here. You really have to get used to the taste of coffee here. Its a completely new idea of coffee. While in India you are used to an espresso shot like qty of the aromatic decoction with 80% milk, here you will get a whole cup of brewed coffee and may be a shot of milk if you like. But, well I got used to that too. The first sip of coffee that you have in a day is the BEST sip the cup has to offer. With a Starbucks just a few feet from my lab in the university there was no reason to miss my daily dose. This had changed now too. No Starbucks near the office, :( there is one near my apt but that would mean, letting go of 5 precious mins of sleep in the cup of coffee is worth THAT :))

I did not find the stainless steel tumbler and bowl (??) when I was moving and so asked the Indian grocer in Cincinnati to see if he could find me one. I got myself a cup & saucer in the meantime. I was initially scared that I might not be able tog et back to the 'more of milk, less of coffee' mode again after Starbucks happened...but nope..old habits die hard. I love LOVE LOVE my filter coffee and it surely is one of the best ways to enjoy your coffee :)

NO...that is not the saucer !

and this is where I enjoy my coffee ....

Can you spot the cup n saucer in the picture
(remember Tinkle comics...)

All you tam's out there, do you remember this jingle for Narasu's coffee powder, " Man to his wife who gives him a cup of coffee: besh besh...rombha nanna iruku ; Wife: idha idha idhathan na edhir paathen" Here are a few coffee ad's: Nescafe, Bru Cappucino, I was looking for the Telugu version of the Bru coffee ad, could not find it.

If you are still here wondering why I posted today, well I had to flaunt my filter coffee set and my papasan.... and I read Manisha's post today and saw this
NaBloPoMo I am not going to commit myself to it, but atleast one in a couple of days may be, now you guys can handle that right ??

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Quick Fixes !

Dear Foodies,

Like I mentioned in my previous post, cooking for one is a whole new experience. I now have the license to experiment to my hearts content. My pantry is stacked and stocked with soo many new ingredients. I have been having an Indian dinner with rice just once a week for the last three weeks...yup! thats how much I am playing around with ingredients.

The week I moved, I saw a lot of Thai cooking going around in the blogs. That kinda dominated my taste buds for the rest of the week. I had some rice leftover from a previous meal (and that seems to happen everyday, I end up having a box in the fridge for every day of the week !!) I wanted to eat something Thai. I longingly looked in my fridge and realized I had absolutely no veggies, even frozen ones :( This was just the 2nd or 3rd day and I still had to get used to the thought that 'things don't end up in the house if I don't go to the store' :) But I was smart enough to buy all the curry I chopped up some onions and opened up a can of chickpeas and made this yummy rice.

I am not going to pen down this recipe in my usual 'ingredients and recipe list' style. To call this a recipe would be stretching things a bit too far ;)

Heat 2 tsp of Peanut oil in a pan, toss in 1/2 chopped onion and a handful of drained, washed chickpeas, patted dry. I wanted the chickpeas to get a little crunchy. Next mix in 1 -11/2 tsp of Thai red curry paste. The paste gives out a little oil when heated and as the aroma of the spices starts filling up your kitchen move the pan away from the heat and stir in 2 Tbsp coconut milk. (Thai without coconut is not Thai :P) Season it with a little salt and add in 1tsp of Thai chilli garlic paste if you need more heat or in my case since I bought it I had to use it :) Simmer for a minute or two, add in 2 cups of rice & stir to incorporate the curry paste. A bowl of this hot rice with some yoghurt was soo yummy and satisfying. You can surely add veggies that you have in hand and make it more healthy and hearty meal.

You might now be wondering what the first pic is all about then. Well that was later in the week when I went and bought some frozen stir fry style veggies to make a propah' meal. That night I could not decide what I wanted more, Thai/Chinese ? So I added a little of both these flavors. I did not want to eat rice and so used Orzo instead and tricked my mind into thinking I was eating the ever so comforting rice :)

Heat a 2 tsp of oil in a pan, toss in 1/2 a chopped onion and microwaved frozen veggies after a minute. I had snow peas, broccoli, red peppers, water chestnuts and onions. Since you don't want to loose the crunch in the veggies, quickly add some soy sauce (I bought Tamari, following B & J's post ) season with salt and pepper, some red pepper flakes and a little of that Thai curry paste. The liquid from the veggies and soy sauce will help in blending the paste into the vegetables. I cooked some orzo pasta in a separate pan and added that to the veggies. And my meal was ready :) The lovely color of the pasta is courtesy the Tamari.

A lot more of such simple, quick and wild recipes coming up... any new ideas from you guys will be sincerely put to test, so let me know ! :)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Happy Deepavali

Dear Foodies,
Happy Deepavali !

I made a teeny tiny batch of goodies for Deepavali. I plan to visit my friends in Cincinnati over the weekend and the thought of getting back to my guinea pigs..err friends sent me right into the kitchen. I made Thokkudu laddu/bandar laddu which is a Telugu delicacy. Going by the look, you guys can guess that they aren't perfect...but the taste was really close to the one's I remember enjoying. For the savory part, I planned to make maida biscuits, but realised I did not have any maida ! So I went blog hopping and went back to this recipe that I have eyeing for quite sometime. I did not have urad dal either, but made some by dry roasting some urad dal and used my trusty spice grinder to do the rest. I made simple rods with the dough. I could not get them to stick to the round shape and dint try too hard either.

Thank you Pavani and Shammi ! Both these recipes are extremely well written and took the apprehension off my mind. They are traditional recipes and Pavani & Shammi have done a great job of making them approachable.

I have been away from this space for longer than I had ever imagined. All your suggestions in the previous post have been dutifully followed :) I bought all stainless steel cookware and am looking for a good cast iron pan to invest on. The kitchen is the only place in the apartment that is fully equipped, well what else can you expect from a grad student who has a food blog ! I have my TV and a nice, HUGE papasan to snuggle into when I get back home in the evening...and yes a cozy bed. Thats it...nothing else :)) The bowl that you see in the photograph is from my neighbor, who got me some Deepavali goodies :) Lucky me ! I am going to get back to blogging regularly from now on. Its a whole new experience to cook for one person. I am struggling to manage the quantities and am thoroughly enjoying all the experimentation ! So theres lots to share with you guys :)

Have loads of fun, and those of you who get to fire crackers, please go ahead and light up a few more for me :) Happy Feasting !!

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