Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jihva - Wedding Feasts

Dear foodies,

I mentioned the soon approaching wedding celebration in the last few posts, but April is host to another celebration of sorts around here - Jihva arrives at Akshayapaatram :) Last year when Indira opened up the hosting for '09-'10, I eagerly sent her an email hoping to host it real soon. But in the two days that it took me to communicate with her, the slots filled up at lightening speed. Indira emailed saying April 2010 was the only one left and if it would work for me. I was not going to turn down the wonderful offer but I had also never planned for anything so far into the future, ever. I had no clue what awaited me a year ahead and committed to take it up with a little uncertainty in mind. Exactly a year later, holding true to that thought of mine, I'm getting married this month!

Food is a very integral part of our culture. Be it a small family gathering, one our many festivals or a wedding gala, they are all incomplete without food. We are a people that discuss dinner while having lunch, huge fights can spawn from a cup of bad coffee :D Every festival and event has a unique food preparation or menu style accompanying it. Some from habit and some passed down from years of family tradition. The food blogging community with its rich diversity in culture would be a perfect way for us to learn about all these various traditions. So Jihva will be celebrating Wedding Feasts this month! :)

Bring out your wedding finery and cook up a recipe fit for a wedding this month. I would also love to read about your wedding memories, be it your own or one dear to you. What makes up a wedding feast in your family, is there any specific dish that just has to be served and is there a specific order to serve them ? What is your favorite wedding treat ? Please do write about it and share with us your beautiful memories and experiences.
JFI - Wedding Feasts

Guidelines for participation:
  • Cook /share a recipe that forms part of a wedding feast. Memories, stories, folklore - anything related to weddings can also be included and will be greatly appreciated!
  • My request would be that all dishes sent to the event are vegetarian.
  • Post about it and link to this announcement page and to Indira's Jihva for Ingredients post. Feel free to use the logo for the event in your post if needed.
  • Send me an email at 'akshayapaatram dot gmail dot com 'with the subject line - "JFI - Wedding Feasts"
  • Within the email, include:
    Blog name:
    Blog URL:
    Recipe Name:
    Post URL:
    Your name:
    Photo of the dish (any size)
  • The deadline for the event is April 30th, 2010.
  • Non-blogger entries are equally welcome, just send me an email and I will post your recipes on the blog prior to the round-up.
Please come and join in! There is no restriction on the number of entries, more the merrier! If you think you already have something in your blog that relates to this theme, re-post it on your blog, or link to it in a current post using the above guidelines. I might have a special gift in store for one lucky entry, will add in the details soon :)

Its going to be a huge celebration here, and I am eagerly looking forward to all your posts! If possible do share the event on your blogs to spread the word, thank you! :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy Ugadi!

Dear Foodies,

Happy Ugadi/Gudi Padwa
A very Happy New Year to all of you who celebrate it today. This year promises to be one of the most exciting ones for me. The wedding is just a few weeks away and as expected I am a complete mixed bag of emotions right now :))) There are loads of things I'm looking forward too - a new family to meet, new experiences to cherish and newer memories to create, memories that are going to last me a lifetime! I am nervous and I'm excited and I know its going to turn out fabulous :D I just can't wait to get on the plane and go meet my parents!

I made some rava kesari and masala vada to ring in the year. Ugadi at home meant my mom would treat us to a complete hotel style thaali/plate meal. I am not as fast as her nor as patient, so while I got busy making these two dishes, I skipped making a proper lunch :)) I'll come back with the recipes later :) You guys have a fabulous day and even more fabulous year ahead.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sprouted bean salad

Dear foodies,

Close on the heels of the sweet & savory chickpea and sweet potato salad, I have another salad recipe for you. This one uses a different set of beans and fresh veggies in it. I've been trying to add more protein in my diet. For a vegetarian, beans and legumes are an excellent source of protein, apart from soy and dairy products. Instead of using canned beans - which are more expensive, may contain high amounts of sodium, and not always the right texture for your recipe - re-hydrating dried beans at home is a far better option. You also get the added advantage of sprouting them when you do this and can control the texture of the final product.

I bought some garbanzo beans, kala chana, yellow and green split peas, kidney beans and some black eyed peas to kick start the dried bean collection in my pantry. The bulk bins at the store are a great boon here. I can pick 3-4 varieties and buy just a cup or two of each instead of investing on a whole bag of them. When I get into the mood of prepping the beans, I almost always over do it :D So on the same evening I'll have numerous odd sized bowls sprawled across the counter-tops, each holding a different kind of bean for soaking. And then for the next few days, I'll pressure cook them batch after batch, storing a few bowls of soaking beans in the fridge to stop them from spoilage after day 1. Changing the water every 10-12 hrs helps too. Once pressure cooked, I portion them out into plastic bags and send them into the freezer to await their cooking turn. I cannot tell you how convenient having a bag of these pre-cooked beans are when it comes to making a quickie meal.

I leave out a few handfuls of each bean to sprout so I can snack on them or to even use in stir fry's. (Sprouting guide from the Bee & Jai). Here is a quick salad that I made with a few of them.

Mixed Sprouted Beans Salad
(serves 4)
  • 2 cups - mixed sprouts (here I used yellow split peas, kala channa/black chickpeas)
  • 3/4 cup - English cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup - Red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup - Carrots, diced
  • 1/2 tsp - Mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp - Cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp - Urad dal
  • 1/4 tsp - Ginger, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp - Red chilli powder or to taste
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • 1/2 Tbsp - Olive oil
  • 4-5 Mint leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  1. Heat oil in a pan, splutter the mustard and cumin seeds, add the urad dal and allow it to turn a slight orange color.
  2. Add turmeric and ginger, saute for a few seconds. The diced peppers & carrots go in next, cook just for a couple of minutes to get rid of their rawness.
  3. Next add the sprouts, cover and saute about 2-3 mins.
  4. Take off the heat, allow it to cool a bit and add diced cucumber, mint leaves, lemon juice, salt and chilli powder. Taste and adjust for seasonings. This salad can be served warm or at room temperature.
This is a nice crunchy salad with a tangy, fresh feel to it, and its mighty filling too. A pinch of roasted cumin powder or chaat masala would also be great here. I had found some fresh colored carrot tops at the store which were put to good use here. I am really looking forward to the fresh spring produce to get to the groceries stores here. Tired of looking at everything being shipped from Mexico or Peru or some place far far away, walking through the aisles feels more like a travel expedition now.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad

Dear Foodies,

Spring is almost here at our doorstep and with the longer brighter days I almost forget grabbing my winter coat on the way out :D And with that, I've begun counting down to the D-day too, just a month away from today!! Its exciting but I'm also restless, since there's hardly anything I can get done from here :(

A few weeks back I decided I was going to have hearty soups to tide me through the snowy winter, so I brought out the huge soup books that I bought when I first moved to this winterland. I had fun trying out many different soup recipes and also added in a bunch of salads in between. This sweet potato salad was one of them, and its the best form of salad I have ever eaten.

I vaguely remember eating sweet potato when I was kid, the memory is too distant. In the last couple of years since I started cooking, I always saw the tubers in the bins at the store but never really ventured into cooking with them. Sweet and savory just did not seem comfortable. A month back when we were driving through Virginia, my colleagues and I stopped at a diner to grab some lunch. They were serving baked regular/sweet potato with the buffet and I ordered the sweet potato. It came accompanied with a huge dollop of butter and a mound of brown sugar. The first few bites were divine! The warm, tender potato mixed with the butter and crunchy brown sugar melts in your mouth. But after the initial excitement the cloying sweetness takes over. The good thing though was I was now ready to start experimenting with the sweet tubers again.

While going through Molly's blog Orangette I came across this recipe for a warm butternut squash & chickpea salad. It was the savory dressing that drew me to the recipe, it was like no other vinaigrette I had seen and I finally found another use for the huge tub of tahini that I have in the pantry. So when I brought home the sweet potatoes this was the first recipe that struck me, may be it was because the diced potato resembled the butternut squash in color ?! Or I was trying to mask the sweetness of the potato under the savory tahini dressing. No matter what the reason, you guys just have to give this one a shot. I added some warm spices like coriander, cumin and five spice to the mix, and the result was out of the world.
Sweet Potato and Chickpea salad with Tahini dressing
(Serves 3-4 as a side)

  • 1nos - Sweet Potato, peeled and cubed into 1" pieces ~ 2 cups
  • 1 cup - Chickpeas, pre-soaked and boiled (or) canned, rinse and pat dry
  • 3/4 cup - Red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup - Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 4-5 nos - Mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 nos - Sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1Tbsp - Olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp - Chinese five spice powder (or your fav spice mix)
  • 1/4 tsp - Coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp - Smoked Paprika (or) regular paprika/chilli powder to taste
  • Salt to taste
for the dressing:
  • 3 Tbsp - Tahini
  • 2-3 Tbsp - Lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp - Olive oil
  • 1 nos - Garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp - Cumin powder
  • Salt to taste
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400F
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a bowl toss the sweet potatoes with salt and spice powders. Drizzle the olive oil and mix to coat the cubes well. Spread them on the baking sheet and let the roast for about 25-30 mins. They will shrink a little in size and get soft and tender, yummm!
  3. In the mean while, heat a wide skillet, add a tsp of olive oil and toast the chickpeas. You could also do this in the oven. Make sure that the chickpeas are dry when they hit the pan. Toast them for 5-6 mins till the skin starts to crisp a little.
  4. Start making the dressing in the same bowl you used to toss the sweet potato. Whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, minced garlic and cumin powder. Adjust the amounts by tasting the dressing, some brands of tahini tend to be bitter (not good!) If the dressing is too thick, add a few spoons of warm water to loosen it.
  5. Once the sweet potatoes are ready, try not to snack on them! Instead, toss them into the dressing bowl along with the toasted chickpeas, diced onions, sun dried tomatoes, cilantro and mint. (I used the sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, if using the dry kind, reconstitute them by soaking in warm water for a few minutes.) Mix well to blend all the flavors together and check for seasonings.
  6. The salad can be served warm, but I liked it even at room temperature the next afternoon.
As you may have noticed, I ran out of red onions and used white ones here. Don't let any excuse of this sort stop you from trying this recipe! The nutty tahini with the warm tones of the cumin and coriander reminded me of bagara baingan. All the flavors mingle so well together in this salad that it will have you craving for more n more. Every bite is delicious and filled with so many different notes that seem perfect together. I made this about a month ago, and just writing this post makes me want to have some right now. Lucky me, I have a sweet potato waiting in veggie basket :D Most of the other ingredients in this salad are regular/pantry ingredients. So don't waste any more time, make some for yourself asap! :) O, Happy Womens day to all you gorgeous ladies :)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Kick start...

Dear foodies,

...your day with some Jalapeno-cheddar scones,
homemade butter and freshly squeezed orange juice

I need a kick too, for not coming back here for soo long. I am not going to start with an excuse, I have tonnes, but none really matter.... Instead I'll sneakily pass on this wonderfully buttery scone recipe that packs a punch in it....its dotted all over with some spicy jalapenos.

I came across the recipe for these fiery delights on Deb's blog, Smitten Kitchen. I nearly have half her recipes bookmarked! I don't know when I will get through all of them, but this particular one said it wouldn't wait any longer :D So here's the recipe. I stuck to the whole thing, just added half an extra jalapeno (it could have used more) and topped the scones with some Parmesan cheese before sending them into the oven.

I bought some heavy cream in the hopes of making panna cotta, but that did not happen. The agar-agar flakes have been sitting in my pantry for almost a year now, sigh. I used some of the cream in the scones and while they were baking, I got a brilliant idea of whipping up the rest of the cream into fresh butter. I brought out the blender jar, tipped the contents of the cream can into it and whizzed it around. In a few minutes I had light and airy buttahh! Sprinkled with some salt and sugar you'll have the most wonderful stuff to spread over the warm scones.....yummmm. Here's a detailed how-to on Kay's blog (half her recipes are bookmarked too!) If you want to get some exercise done before you feast on the divine stuff, then skip the blender and try the hand-shake method :D Don't blame me if you get addicted to making flavored butters at home from now on... :D

On another note, it been almost a year n a half since I bought the domain name for my blog, but haven't used it. The first time I tried to re-direct the blog, it did not transfer the photos. Now the photos are displayed, but the comments on the posts did not get transferred. I followed all the steps listed in the blogger site, should I be doing something else ?
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