Saturday, May 31, 2008

Late Latif - Click lentils

Dear Foodies,

I took these photographs yesterday, and was lazy to upload them immediately, and today morning I realized that the deadline had passed ! But I am not going to spare you guys cos of that :D, so here you go...

Whats your pick ?

Click-lentils 011

Click-lentils 006-1

Click-lentils 003

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pudina/Mint chutney

Dear Foodies,

Pudina chutney

After my tryst with mint in the lovely risotto, I thought it was time I gave mint another chance. I do stock some mint in my freezer but rarely use it. Last Friday, I went grocery shopping and saw a nice fresh bunch of mint for $2. The first thing that came to my mind was the chutney my mom makes with fresh pudina. My father enjoys it mixed with plain rice, but that was too strong for me and I liked it the best as a spread in the sandwiches he makes. He made these lovely sandwiches, which had the pudina chutney spread on buttered milk bread (not toasted) and layered with cool cucumber and tomato slices. No sandwich can ever compete with the simplicity of this one.

Have you guys tried the Mediterranean veggie sandwich at Panera bread ? It tastes soo close to this sandwich and is my fav for the very same reason.

So as soon as I came home, I called my mom to ask for her recipe and made the pudina chutney. The chutney takes a little over 10 mins to make but I spent a good 15 mins washing the leaves itself. I got the mint at an organic store and there were tiny insects behind the bigger leaves...eeks, that totally scared me and I filled up the whole sink with water, let the leaves float in it for a while, and individually scrubbed each leaf! Thank God the bunch was not as big as the ones we got in Hyd :))

Pudina Chutney 2

  • a bunch of pudina/mint - approx 2 loose cups
  • 2 tsp - Oil
  • 1 tsp - Urad dal
  • 1 tsp - Channa dal
  • 2 nos - dry, Red chillies (adjust to taste)
  • tamarind, the size of a 25cent/50paise coin or ~1/2 tsp if using extract
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp - water
  • Wash the mint leaves and drain them on a kitchen towel. Heat a pan with oil, once hot add the dals. ( I use the broken urad dal, and so add it a little after the channa dal, else it burns)
  • Once the dals turn a little golden, reduce the heat and add the tamarind and red chillies. Once the chillies change color, transfer all the ingredients to the grinder.
  • To the same pan (with oil) add the mint leaves and saute for 2-3mins till they wilt. Transfer to the blender and grind to a coarse texture adding water as required. Don't overdo the water or the chutney will not hold together. (I have a tiny food processor, so I first used my spice grinder to coarsely powder the dals and then transfered them to the food processor with the pudina). Add salt to taste.
Thats it, you have a versatile dish in your hands now. Mix the chutney with hot plain rice along with a tiny dollop of ghee or drizzle of oil, spread it on your bread for a flavorful sandwich, add to a cup of thick yoghurt and use as a dip for chapathi's & dosa or even veggies/chips , use it in chat recipes like bhel puri, sev puri, pani puri...ohh, the list is endless.

After publishing this post I saw the chutney in the fridge and made an instant bhel with what I had at home. I mixed murmura/puffed rice with chopped onions, diluted chutney, hot n sweet ketchup, a few dashes of tobasco and mango pickle masala. Topped with some Namkeen mix and a quick snack was ready. In an ideal situation I would've added diced tomatoes, cucumber and peanuts with lots of cilantro.

To me the slight tang from the tamarind and the crunchy dals were a perfect balance for the strong mint flavor. You can also use all cilantro/coriander leaves or a mix of cilantro & mint for this recipe. Do you have a another version of this chutney you love ?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Primo Veggie Burger

Dear foodies,

Finding a good veggie burger is soo tough, isn't it? Not many places even have them on their menu. During my Masters, I survived on the Wendy's veggie burger, which had a slice of cheese, onions, cucumber and couple of pickles inside a bun, for well more than three months. And it still remains a favorite because of lack of better options around. Except for Burger King I haven't seen a fast food place serve veggie burgers and well, and I haven't seen it at the restaurants I have been too either. The only way you can take a easy route to having a veggie burger is by grabbing a pack of frozen Boca burger patties or veggie patties at the grocery stores and making your own burger at home. I've made my own burger patties at home inspired by the masala burger patty from Trader Joe's and the delectable recipes from Bee & Jai, but I don't make and stock them that often.

So when I went to this local deli near my office and saw that they have a veggie burger with a spicy black bean patty I was shocked! Is that really on their menu?? I just had to try it and was hooked to it. Our team goes there for lunch may be once or twice a month and I have to have it every single time. Its loaded with crunchy grilled vegetables and the bread has the perfect texture. Now the lunches have stopped but my liking for the burger is far from over. A few weeks back my brother suggested I try the frozen black bean burger patties from the grocery store. I haven't liked any frozen patty until now and was skeptical about this one too, but I was wrong this time. Filled with all the fresh vegetables that spring has to over, this is a perfect way to enjoy them. I ate these burgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner a few weekends back :))

The main specialty of this deli is they make their own bread. Theres something purely magical about the aroma and flavor of freshly baked bread and these guys have mastered it. They use a hard kaiser roll for this burger and thats what I used. This is how I assemble the Primo burger, highly inspired by the burger served at the deli which goes by the same name. Their rolls are bigger and the burgers are filled with a lot more veggies.

  • Snow peas, Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Bell peppers (any color), fresh Spinach/bok choy, Onions (optional), Cucumber - no quantities here, you can use as much as you want
  • hard Kaiser rolls
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Hummus, ketchup (optional)
  1. Heat a grill pan or a cast iron pan on medium high heat. Spray some oil and line thin slices (0.5 cm) of zucchini and yellow squash. Cut the bell peppers into thick match sticks and slice the onions. Line them up as well if your pan can accommodate them. Once they brown on one side turn them over and brown the other side too. Cooking on low heat with soften them, which is not what we want here, the veggies need to retain their crunch.
  2. Boil some water in another pan, salt it and add the snow peas. Blanch them for a minute until the green color brightens up and transfer them on to a plate to drain. Once the veggies are out of the pan/griddle toss the snow peas too and saute for a 1-2 minutes along with the greens.
  3. Thaw the burger patty, I usually microwave it for a minute and then pat it with a paper towel to absorb the fat coming out of it. Place it on the pan to crisp the exterior. Cut the kaiser rolls in half and toast them on the pan too. I don't find the need to add any oil or butter for the rolls, the initial oil spray will suffice.
  4. Layer a few slices of zucchini, yellow squash and the greens on the bottom half of the roll, next goes the burger patty a few more slices of zucchini and squash, snow peas and bell peppers. Season the veggie layers with some salt and pepper and top it with the other half of the roll.
There, you are all set to have a scrumptious veggie burger now. You will surely love this one! It has soo many veggies with none of the usual onion/lettuce/tomato combo. The kaiser rolls are sturdy enough to hold all of them, and the spiciness in the black bean burger is enough to balance the rest of the veggies. I was cooking with yellow squash for the first time and I really like it. It has a very different flavor from zucchini (well, I thought it was just a yellow colored zucchini until then!!) with a slight peppery or may be jalapeƱo'ish twist to it (!). The grilled veggies are extremely good for munching on their own too, so definitely make extras. They are surely my most favorite part of the burger!

This burger does not need any ketchup or hummus but you can surely spread a little of it for a change of taste, try it without them first though. I like the spicy black bean burger for this one since it closely resembles the deli burger, but you can surely try it with any burger patty. I had the burger with a few fresh strawberries and some orange juice for my weekend brunch. (Did you notice that the hungry photographer drank a lil of the juice even before the shoot was over ? :D) Oh, and the deli serves it with some melted provolone slices on top of the veggies, I skipped that part, but you can surely add a cheese of your liking.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ravioli 101

Dear foodies,

Has it happened to you? A recipe or dish just gets stuck on your mind and the only way you can get it out of your system is to cook it once...and until then it haunts you every time you are in the kithcen or watching TV or out shopping. Yes ?? Thank God! then I am not alone :D It was ravioli for me. My favorite Italian restaurant serves a mean mushroom ravioli, and everyone who has eaten it swears by it. I haven't tried it because a certain kind of mushroom (don't know which) triggers a very bad stomach ache for me and so I avoid anything that has mushrooms when eating out. I guess that was when the ravioli madness started...

I went by the frozen pasta aisle in my grocery store a couple of times, but stopped myself from buying any of the vegetarian ravioli's they had because they were overstuffed with cheese. With me trying to control my diet, that was a very bad option. So I decided I would make them....yess, that crazy! I watched two different shows on TV in a week, which made fresh pasta, I also picked up this wonderful Italian cookbook from the library which started out explaining how good pasta can be made at home. Now that was the last straw...

So off I went shopping for my pasta, I picked up a pack of frozen spinach because RR is always telling how much cheaper it is than fresh spinach, then I picked up some 'light' ricotta cheese and a pound of guilt. Yes, its still cheese, right ? As I was going through the dairy section I saw some lite silken tofu and that flashed a bulb. Why not substitute the cheese like a vegan version of ravioli? I love tofu and since I was pairing it with spinach and pasta and other garnishes, it surely wouldn't taste that bad. So last weekend I set out making my own pasta at home...from scratch...Yay! It was easier than I thought, but was also time consuming. May be because it was my first time and I had not figured out the exact method etc., etc., so I spent roughly about 30-40 mins making 10 ravioli's :)) Well, don't forget to account for the photography breaks though. Every time I wanted to click a pic, I had to wash, wipe and dry my hands; get the camera, click and immediately tuck it safely away from the kitchen and all that flour. So not really bad from plain flour to plated ravioli right?

Here goes the recipe, I made an egg-less version ofcourse.


pasta dough:
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup- All purpose flour (whole wheat flour can also be used)
  • 1/4 cup + - Water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup - Silken (lite) tofu, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup - Spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
  • 1 tsp - Red chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp - Nutmeg powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp - Soy milk/spinach water
  1. In a food processor, combine the tofu and spinach. Start out with dry squeezed spinach so that the stuffing is not watery. Add required amount of water/soy milk to then blend all the other ingredients together.
  2. Once blended, add the chilli flakes, nutmeg and salt and adjust the seasonings to taste.
  1. On to the dough, on a flat surface place your flour in a heap, add salt and mix. Make a well in the center and pour 1/2-3/4 of the water and slowly start stirring with a fork to incorporate the flour and water. Gradually add the rest of the water, and using your hands make a smooth dough kneading it well to form a round ball, resembling chapati dough. (Now, this method of making the dough was shown on TV and also described in the book. I am not sure why I cannot make it like normal chapati dough itself instead of the making a well, and using a fork n all. May be next time I will do it that way, and update the post with my results. If any of you know the reason, please do leave a comment)
  2. Once the dough is ready, divide it into two, and flatten one ball into a very thin layer. Use the extra flour to dust your surface, roller and hands. The dough has to be extremely thin and pliable, using all purpose flour instead of wheat flour I think helps here. Try to spread the dough in a rectangular shape instead of circular to avoid wastage.
  3. Now cut through the layers to form 1 1/2" to 2" squares. One round of dough gave me about 10 ravioli.
  4. Place a spoonful of the filling in the center of a square, wet the edges lightly with water and seal with another square. While sealing it try to get the air out of the center and press all four sides. Otherwise the ravioli may open up when boiling.
  5. Arrange the finished ravioli on a parchment paper so they don't stick to each other. You can freeze the ravioli or use them fresh.
  6. To cook them, bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it and then drop the ravioli into it. (If frozen, thaw them out first). They will initially sink to the bottom and slowly rise upwards when done. Drain them on a plate and serve them which ever way you like.
The pasta dough can be turned into any shape you want and used instead of dried pasta. I read in some article that wanton wrappers could be used to make ravioli, may be we could try that too ...

I made a simple topping for my ravioli. Heat a pan with a pat of butter, brown some finely chopped garlic and add some crushed red pepper flakes. Next toss in some grape/cherry tomatoes and saute on medium high heat until the tomatoes start to pop and burst. Add a Tbsp or two of the cooked pasta water, cook for a minute until it thickens a little and pour it over your ravioli and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm!

You can top them with marinara or cream sauce but if you have made the ravioli yourself, I would recommend a very basic topping so you get to taste the pasta by itself and not drown it in other sauces. You will also have extra stuffing from this recipe, hang on for more ways of using them :) If using fresh spinach, chop it finely and saute it in a little butter or oil. you could also add some finely chopped shallots to it if you like.

The stuffing was just right, soft and creamy with a clear spinach flavor. The ravioli were cooked perfectly and luckily for me were not doughy at all. The grape tomatoes were tangy and sweet, being a perfect compliment to the milder stuffing in the ravioli. The red pepper flakes added the right amount of spice that I like. In all it was just a perfect weekend adventure for me. I will surely make more of this soon, but for now, the craziness is gone and I am back to being normal :)

Happy Monday!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Dondakaya vepudu/Ivy gourd stir fry

Dear Foodies,

How many of you like dondakaya/tindora/ivy gourd ? I know I love it! But this vegetable has such a tarnished reputation and powerful lobbyists who saw to it that it never showed up at any home with school going kids, atleast in Andhra they succeeded. It was told to induce dullness as opposed to the ladysfinger which could turn you into a Math wiz (!!). So every mother would sneak in bhendakaya/ladysfinger as often as she probably could and relegate the dondakaya to an occasional day far far away from any Math exam. The poor guy could not fight all that bad energy :( But now that I am done with all schooling, I am going to enjoy this dish in peace :) (and hey! its actually not bad for you)

The ivy gourd is a very versatile vegetable and it cooks in a jiffy. You can use it in a simple stir-fry like I did, or go for an elaborate stuffed version or an usli preparation. you can either use it in a traditional kootu or in a masala gravy or even in a fried rice, the options are just endless. In Hyderabad, you are most certain to find the dondakaya vepudu with a good amount of cashews thrown in, at every wedding menu.

My mom usually made the stir-fry/vepudu with it and thats my favorite way of eating it too. She would cut them into discs and not length-wise. I think the shape you cut it does change the texture of the dish. The discs cook faster, evenly and are crisp and tender at the same time. When cut length wise I think the chances of thicker pieces are more and I just hate biting into an undercooked piece, okay, I am just biased towards the discs (Mom's always rule) :) and so the frozen tindora is not something that I like. Whenever I get access to fresh dondakaya this is how I cook it,

  • 3 cups - Dondakaya/Tindora/kovakkai
  • 1/2 Tbsp - Oil
  • 2 tsp - Mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp - Channa dal and urad dal (I like the crunch they give, you can adjust the qty accordingly)
  • Pinch of Asafoetida/Hing/Inguva
  • 1 tsp - Turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp - Chilli powder or to taste
  • Salt to taste
  1. Wash and dice the ivy gourd as per your preference :D. Place a wide pan with the oil on medium heat.
  2. Splutter the mustard seeds, add the dals and allow them to brown. Add the hing, turmeric and the cut gourd to the pan and saute.
  3. Add the salt and cover and cook for about 6-8mins. Stir in between to avoid burning any of the pieces.
  4. Once they are tender to the touch, uncover the pan and cook for 5 more minutes to crisp up the pieces. Add the chilli powder towards the end and mix well.
Serve hot with rice or chapati. I had it with rice and iruvili kuzhambu, the recipe for which I got from my friend Jaya (while you are there check out her travelogue). Its her mom's recipe, so no doubts there about how it turned out... absolutely fantastic! Kuzhambu is nothing but pulusu, for the telugu speaking. Its a dish that has a tamarind base and has no lentils added to it as is the case in sambar. It mostly has an addition of lightly sauted fresh or dried vegetables. (I used onions)

I love anything that is tangy and my personal favorite is an onion pulusu that my mom makes using sambar powder. This one is very similar to that but the freshly ground spices lend the kuzhambu a nice texture and taste..yummmy. The combo of the kuzhambu and vepudu was great. I was actually planning on taking this for lunch the next day, but once I tasted the tangy kuzhambu I had to serve myself some immediately. Do try it out!

Happy Thursday and have a great weekend !

Monday, May 05, 2008


Dear Foodies,

Having seen many many recipes for risotto on blogs and the high praise that is showered on this dish, I just had to try it out. So off I went to the store one fine day and picked up some Arborio rice...and so the story ended! Yes, that box of rice was sitting on my pantry shelf for more than 2 months without complaints!! Last week I finally decided it was time to bring it out, I was out of fresh vegetables and the Risi e Bisi photo flashed past my mind.

So I checked their recipe, realized I had just about everything needed and set out making the risotto before the moment passed! I used frozen peas and arborio rice .... and sprinkled some (gulp) chole masala (!!) .....I also skipped the cheese & the parsley, apart from that ;) the recipe is intact and so check the recipe here. I am not a huge fan of mint but I absolutely loved its flavor in this recipe, it was wonderful. Thank you Bee & Jai!

Now, you cannot possibly take a photo without garnishing the dish first, right? So I brought out some baby carrots, chopped them up into little flower-like shapes, decorated the risotto with it and took the pictures. Later when I took a bite of the risotto with the carrots, I loved the I hurriedly diced up some more carrots and added it to the risotto. I had it with some yogurt for dinner, Absolutely lovely! Now that the box has been opened, I am surely going to try out other flavors soon.

Since this is my first time ever making or eating risotto, I am not sure if the consistency was perfect. The rice grains were a little sticky but also had a slight bite to them. I hope that is how its supposed to be, cos I liked it that way :D It was wonderful hot off the stove, but the next day since I had refrigerated it by then, I had trouble liking the consistency, because re-heating it in the microwave made it dry and yet probably needs a little stock when re-heated. Any suggestions ?

Happy Monday!
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