July 30, 2010

Moments In Life II

As long as we have memories, yesterday remains. 
As long as we have hope, tomorrow awaits. 
As long as we have friendship, each day is never a waste.

~ Author Unknown

It is always feels good to meet the actual *faces* behind the blogs we read everyday. I met the chocolate lady, Arundhati and the doctore sahibaan, Nandita during my recent India trip and they gave me this little diary with two cute miniature dolls as a gift. I remember taking this picture on my sister's bed as the rest of the house was packed with stuff that we got for my marriage and this was the only place where I could take a decent picture, with proper lighting. All these memories make this pic extra special!

~ Siri

July 29, 2010

Mashed Amaranth (Keerai Masial)

Are you bored of the *usual* dal that you make almost every other day? then, its time you try this dish. Please, don't let the simplicity of the recipe fool you. Pureed Amaranth has a nice herby flavor and when coupled with mung dal, the taste is just pure divine. Everybody at S's office loved it and am gonna make it again, today.

..try it, if you don't believe me!

July 27, 2010

Okra Raita and Mint Raita

There is absolutely nothing comforting than a bowl of cool yogurt to beat the scorchy summers outside. When I was a kid, having yogurt at the end of meal was a MUST in my house (just like in any other Indian household). Two or three days without yogurt, my body heat starts to build up till it finally signals me to have some immediately.

Yogurt with onion, tomato & coriander or Yogurt with grated carrot & cucumber are the usual combinations which one often ends up making. Today, I have two simple yet divine yogurt recipes for you guys. these can be made in a jiffy and can be enjoyed at any time of the day - as a side dish or like me, just have as-is.

Okra Raita (Bendakaya Perugu Pachadi/Vendakkai Thair Pachadi)

Stem and finely chop the okra into rounds. Heat some oil in a skillet. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, black gram dal (urad dal), bengal gram dal (chana dal), halved red chilli, asafoetida powder and a few curry leaves.

When mustard seeds start to splutter, add the okra. Cook on a low heat until the vegetable is tender. Add salt to taste(at the very end as it prevents it from becoming soggy) and cook for a minute or so. Cool the okra and add to the well-beaten yogurt. Blend thoroughly. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Mint Raita (Pudina Perugu Pachadi)

This recipe is by my dear friend, DK of Chef in You. Last month when I visited CA for the first time, she cordially invited me and S for dinner and then, she made this cool, Mint Raita. Once we came back, couple of days later, S was craving for this and I had to call my buddy for the recipe. Since then I must have made this tons of times, atleast twice a week. It tastes that good.

In a food processor, grind mint leaves with some beaten yogurt. Add this mint mixture to rest of the yogurt with some roasted coriander-cumin powder and salt. Whisk the contents well. Ta-dah, its ready!

I hope you are all are enjoying the summer with lots of fresh fruits & vegetables, sangrias, lemonades, hikings and outdoor barbecuing!

Don't forget to put your Sunscreen at ALL times!.

[EDIT] Sending these two raitas as entries to Suma's event about Sidedishes other than Dals & Subzis.


July 24, 2010

Moments In Life I

“Thy summer, O earth, thy rainy season, thy autumn, winter, early spring, and spring, thy decreed yearly seasons, thy days and nights shall yield us milk”

~ Atharva Veda

I took this picture a while ago, couple of months actually when I was in Virginia. It was drizzling all-day & night and in the morning when I opened the door, I saw this mud diya, out of no-where filled with rain water and these pink flowers scattered around it. there was something about it which caught my eye and had to immediately photograph it, right in my pajamas. :).

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” ~ Ashley Smith

~ Siri

July 20, 2010

down the memory lane with Eggplant, Ginger and Chilli

I call my grand mom - "Amma" (Mom), as she raised me till I was 4 years old. Once I started schooling, every summer, me and my sister used to spend all our time at their house - climbing guava trees, playing in the mud, making clay idols, plucking flowers, eating all goodies ...the list goes on. Ah! those were some of the best, care-free days of my life, where I didn't have any assignments to complete or any deadlines to meet. Life was at its best and since then, things have changed a lot back home. We all grew up and all those days, which will never come back are permanently etched as my memories.

my grand-mom, sweetest, cutest ever

Eggplant with Ginger and Chilli (Vankaya Allam Pachimirchi Koora)

Eggplant sauteed in minced Ginger and Chilli is one of the classic dishes that is regularly made in Andhra households. My mom and my grandmom are experts in such authentic recipes and am trying my best to re-create their magic in my kitchen. This recipe in particular is very close to my heart as I remember my ammamma (grandmom) feeding us all with hot rice and a big dollop of ghee with appadams on the side.

2 eggplants (I used the long, chinese variety)
8-10 small thai chillies (reduce the number to make it less spicy)
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled
table salt - to taste
1/8 tsp turmeric

Note: Run through your knife to very finely mince the chillies and ginger together or use a mortel & a pestle (like my grand mom used to do) to coarsely grind it. don't puree.

For poppu/tadka

2 tsp canola/vegetable oil
1/2 tsp each of - urad dal (skinned split black lentils - cream-colored), mustard seeds, cumin seeds
asafoetida (or hing) - a pinch

How to make -

1. Cut the eggplant, lengthwise into small pieces. Put them in lightly salted water, so that they don't change color.

2. Coarsely mince ginger and chillies together. Heat oil in a skillet and add urad dal, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Once the mustard starts to pop, add hing and ginger-chilli mixture. Saute for 1-2 mins.

3. Drain the water from eggplants, pat them dry. Add them to the skillet. Mix everything so that the eggplants are coated with ginger-chilli mixture. Fill a plate or a vessel  (which fits the skillet) with water and cover the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 6-7 minutes or until eggplants are half-cooked. stirring one or two times in the middle. Season with salt and turmeric. Cook for 8-9 minutes more or until the eggplant is fully cooked. Serve.

Variations - Substitute eggplant with boiled plantain, cabbage or any bland vegetable. It will taste equally yummy.

until next time,

July 17, 2010

Makhani Dal (Whole Black lentils with Ginger, Garlic and Butter)

Are you guys watching the new Next Food Network Star on Food Network?. I am so rooting for Aarti Sequeria,  a former CNN producer who later trained at The New School of Cooking in Los Angeles. I love the way she fuses indian flavors in almost any dish she makes. I just hope she wins the challenge and finally bring the first-ever show on FN based on Indian cooking.

..coming back to today's dish - it is based on legumes, the best source of protein with less cholesterol levels (when compared to other meat-alternatives) for we, Vegetarians. there are so many varieties of legumes and their derivatives that it is unbelievable. It is also scientifically proven that consumption of legumes will reduce the risk of many cancers and these are very good sources of iron, calcium and other nutrients. Now, with all this info, are convinced to make some lovely legume recipes for this month's - My Legume Love Affair 25.

The best part of this dish, that there is no-pre-soaking-of-the-legumes-required. Yes, even I was surprised. The recipe is from Raghavan Iyer's amazing cookbook 660 Curries. I am planning to make many more, in future. So stay tuned. :)

 Makhani Dal (Whole Black lentils with Ginger, Garlic and Butter)


Adapted from: 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer (Pg: 364)


1 cup whole black lentils (sabud urad)
2 tbsp unsalted butter or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp fresh ginger paste + 1/2 tsp garlic paste (or 1 tsp of store-bought ginger garlic paste)
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup light sour cream (optional. I sometimes just increase the amount of yogurt if I don't have any)
Salt - to taste
1 tsp garam masala (or curry powder)
1 tsp red chilli powder
finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves


1. Place the lentils in a pressure cooker. There is no need to soak them the previous day like we do for red beans. Fill the cooker halfway with water and rinse the lentils by rubbing them between your fingertips. The water may appear slightly dirty. Drain this water. Repeat 3 or 4 times, until the water remains relatively clear. Drain. Now add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface. Stir in the ginger and garlic pastes. Seal the cooker shut and allow the pressure to build up. When the cooker reaches full pressure, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 45 minutes. Remove the cooker from the heat and allow the pressure to subside naturally. (about 15 minutes) before opening the lid. Tip: I typically cook 3 to 4 cups of beans, cool, store in an air tight container or a bag and freeze.

2. Combine the yogurt, sour cream (if using), salt, garam masala and cayenne (or red chilli powder) in a blender jar. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to make a smooth, batter-like paste, speckled with brown and red spices.

3. Once the lentils are ready, stir in the butter and the creamy yogurt paste. Let this lentil mixture boil for 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the cilantro and Serve with anything - plain rice, pulao, rotis etc.

Have a great weekend ahead.

until next time,

July 6, 2010

This book makes me cook - Garlic and Sapphires

For the month of June, the book club members chose Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl (RR). It is a witty memoir (with many sumptuous recipes) of her stunts as a New York Times food critic in 1990's. With an engaging and entertaining style of writing, RR is a very frank and a fair-minded as a critic, one of the things, I loved about her.

Whether it is portraying as Molly, her first disguise , a high school teacher by profession who in her beisge Armani suit pays meticulous attention to her details or as Miriam who is none other than RR's mother , one commanding figure who absolutely has no timid bone in her body to Chloe, a divorcee who is eager to start a new life to Brenda, bold & out-going who loves old-clothing like Japanese kimonos, cocktail dresses from 20s, to Betty, a spinster all her life long who is 'invisible' to the outside world and finally as Emily who wears tweeds & is well-known for her punctuality, one who she never make mistakes - Ruth manages to convinces them all. 

The way RR describes her experiences with food, places and people around is the best I have ever read in recent times. I can almost feel her happiness, frustration (with some NYT associates), her sorrow and every emotion she undergoes along her journey.

..One piece I particularly loved in this book is Why I disapprove of What I do (It's indecent to glamorize a $100 meal. Or is it? (Page 226) as it shows both - her conviction and her dilemma of being a food-critic.

and finally the recipe I chose to make from this book is...

Hash Browns

RR says -

"Making these remain in a cake is very difficult and requires a fair amount of practice. But they're delicious even when they fall apart, so keep trying.

A few hits: I use a Spanish tortilla plate, which is made precisely for the turning maneuver (it has a knob on the bottom), which makes things easier. And if you have a short-sided skillet, it is much easier to slide the cake out; the high sides of an ordinary cast-iron skillet means that you have to turn quickly in one smooth fast motion. And that requires strength..."

8 small waxy potatoes (new potatoes), 2 1/4 pounds
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, very finely diced
Salt and Pepper
Coarse salt for sprinkling on top

My Note: I used just three big russet potatoes, 1/4 medium onion , 2 tsp of Canola oil instead of butter to make a bit healthy and topped with minced garlic and cilantro. I wasn't too quick to flip the hash brown on time, hence the char. Nevertheless, it tasted amazing. :) 

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, add the potatoes, and boil about 10 minutes, or until they are cooked about halfway through. Drani, and allow them to cool to warm; then peel and chop into about 1-inch squares.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a well-seasoned 8-to 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Remove about a quarter of the butter and set aside. Add the potatoes to the skillet, forming them into a flat cake and pressing down on it with a spatula. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for about 6 minutes, until a good crust has formed on the bottom. Keep pressing with the spatula, and run it around the edges a bit so the potatoes don't stick.

Scatter the diced onions over the top, along with a good shake of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and cover with a large plate; leave for 2 minutes, allowing the potatoes to steam. Using oven mitts, hold the plate and skillet together, and invert together, so the potatoes drop onto the plate.

Put the skillet back over medium heat and add the remaining melted butter. Carefully slide the entire potato cake into the skillet, trying not to break it. Add more salt and pepper, turn the heat up to medium high, and brown the potatoes for another 5 minutes, until a crust forms.

Slide the potato cake onto a hot platter, sprinkle with the coarse sea salt, and serve immediately.

Serves 4

RR's Note: You can use bacon fat or duck fat, or, if you are very lucky, goose fat for these potatoes as well. You can also gussy them up by adding diced parsley or diced garlic at the very end, as they do it at L'Ami Louis, in Paris.

For next month, the book chosen is Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman. If you wish to join us in the reading, drop me a line or a comment here for more details of participation.

until next time,
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