Sunday, May 23, 2010

So far........

.......have eaten the following:

1. Benne Masala Dosa--- yummmm!
2. Vada-sambar
3. Avarekaai Uppittu

Sadly, the indo-chinese food tried this time was BAD! Gotta try some other place.

We arrived on May 21st at 12:45am. As soon as we entered the immigration area, it smelled like indo-chinese food! HAHA! Well, as of now, my son and I are still jet lagged. The plane ride was horrendous with my son barfing the entire journey and I praying that I don't end up barfing too. I also realize now that Americans are by far the friendliest people on earth. The rest of them, I dunno, seem to have a problem with smiling! Always seem constipated. Of course, have not seen the entire world........but you get the idea.........

Guess I will resume writing my blog after I go back home.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

List under construction

I am getting set for my India trip. I leave tomorrow. Of course, I hate traveling by air now a days. I am sure a lot of you will agree. It just SUCKS big time! Plus all that packing and oh, the crappy airplane food......... anyway, I now am looking forward to that one thing that most of us regular people look forward to when we visit our home-towns and families--- the FOOD!

I have created a little list of things to eat when I am there this time. I think it always helps to have this kind of a list because when you are there, there is just so much excitement, anxiety and total chaos, that often times right at the end of the trip, you realize that oh darn it! I did not eat that, I did not eat this........ and then you feel really bad. I know I do! So here goes my list for now (some of the names are in Kannada and some in hindi):

1. Of course the #1 thing to eat: Masala Dosa, especially Benne Masala Dosa (benne meaning butter)
2. All the available kinds of manchuri (remember my last post?) and basically Indo-Chinese food
3. Poori Saagu that my mom makes
4. Mom's Akki Rotti
5. Avarekaai rotti, avarekaai uppittu- again by Mom
6. Akki Tari uppittu with either avarekaai or peas (YUM!)- Mom
7. Kababs
8. Hyderabadi Biryani
9. Paranthas (aaloo, mooli, gobi, gaajar, matar etc etc), courtesy Mom
10. Rajasthani food- made by Mom
11. Maharashtrian food- made by Mom
12. Kachoris
13. Pineapple and black forest pastries
14. Tender Coconut Water!! LOVE IT!
15. Jola or Bhutta or grilled corn--- awesome stuff!! not like the grilled corn here......too bad I can't have the chutney though.......
16. How can I forget all that WEDDING FOOD?!!!!

16. contd: So the main purpose of this trip is to attend my brother's wedding that is scheduled for June 24th. Now it so happens that there are quite a few weddings that I will get to attend, in addition to my own brother's. The last time I ate at a wedding was over a decade ago--- at MY OWN wedding! In fact, come to think of it, I was too excited to eat properly back then! Therefore, the plan is to make up for that folly.

If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to jot 'em down for me. My list is still under construction, you see!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Jiffy Indo-Chinese

I miss the wonderful Indo-Chinese delicacies that we get back in India. Every time I visit, I gorge on gobi (cauliflower) manchurian, baby corn manchurian, paneer (Indian cottage cheese) manchurian, veggie ball manchurian, chicken manchurian and oh, mushroom manchurian. Hope I have not forgotten any other kind of manchurian that might exist. Whoever first came up with this dish is a genius for sure!

There is one Indo-Chinese restaurant around here, but no way comparable to the real thing you get back in India. So well, since necessity is the mother of all invention, I started cooking different kinds of manchurian myself at home. Started with the most popular one, Gobi (cauliflower), followed by baby corn, mushroom and then graduated to chicken manchurian too.

Now I used to follow this very tedious method of first marinating the chicken, then making a corn flour batter, dipping each chicken piece into the batter and then frying it all. Then make a sauce out of onions, garlic, ginger & tomato paste. Finally pouring the sauce over the fried chicken. I would literally stand in the kitchen for at least 2 solid hours. Then one fine day, my friend P happened to give me a recipe for her chilli chicken. I followed the recipe and then suddenly I got this brilliant idea of adding this "miracle ingredient" towards the end of the cooking process and I was thrilled with the final result! It was chicken manchurian alright! Without all that tediousness.

So here is how I make chicken manchurian--- you could call it chilli chicken too:
I just buy the organic boneless skinless chicken thighs from Costco. So convenient. I cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes. Marinate in soy sauce and vinegar (1 cup soy sauce+1/2 cup vinegar is the ratio I use), crushed garlic, tad bit of salt (soy sauce is pretty salty already), red chilli powder (paprika) and that's it. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. If I am going to be cooking this for a party, I just do this the previous night and that way the marination happens for a good 24 hours and the chicken ends up tasting oh-so-awesome!

Chicken marinating in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, paprika & salt

While the chicken is marinating, I slice some onion, crush a couple extra cloves of garlic and slit some thai chillies (gotta have that kick!). Then I saute` this for a couple minutes and then throw in the marinated chicken pieces. I try not to put in the marinade along with the chicken because then it just poaches the chicken and then there is, well, no fun to the dish! Of course, some amount of marinade does sneak in somehow--- so I just keep stirring the entire contents till it sort of evaporates. This takes about 20-25 minutes. (I tell myself to be patient--- you know me, I want my cooking to be done in no time........)

Then, when there is still a little bit of sauce left in the pot/pan (I make sure the chicken is cooked at that point), I add that "miracle ingredient" I mentioned earlier. Cornflour!! I add a couple to 3 tablespoons of cornflour and immediately start combining it with the chicken. The flour coats the chicken pieces and seals in the yummy flavor and as you keep stirring it, the outside part becomes nice and brown and at that point, it starts sticking to the bottom of the pot/pan. Not to worry. That just improves the flavor. Then finally in about 35-40 minutes (from the start), it is done. Sometimes I add some freshly ground black pepper in the end. It is delicious!

Still waiting for the evaporation to happen!

Chicken Manchurian/Chilli Chicken garnished with some green onion. Cilantro would be good too.

My family loves my chicken manchurian. We usually eat this with a simple veggie fried rice.

I use this same method for baby corn manchurian too. Works real well!

We don't miss Indo-Chinese food that much anymore. I mean, why miss it when I can cook it; in a jiffy, that too!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


As I was making the bed, simultaneously watching Paula Deen on Food Network, the channel by default on our television, I just thought about all these food network stars and how we tend to relate to them. I know I relate to some of them and I start imagining that it is me in there, on that show, showing everybody how to cook! Even though I don't know any of them, just by watching their shows and seeing how they behave on their shows, I have formed this picture about their personalities. I am going to jot down my thoughts about some of these people based on how they behave on their shows. So here goes:

1. Rachael Ray: Yep, if you are my good friend, you know that I totally relate to Rachael Ray. She is ever so bubbly and seems like she has that zest for life. Her scratchy voice is kind of cool too, I think! She is always cheerful and does not seem pretentious. I mean, if she goofs up, she just laughs it off and continues with the same enthusiasm. If I were to cook for an audience and talk while cooking, I would probably be like Rach! Where do you think I learned some of my food terminology from? (remember EVOO?)

2. Paula Deen: As I am growing older, I can totally see myself in this Southern gal. She seems to be so warm, loving, funny and cheerful and does not hesitate one bit to use that "sticka butta!" She can be naughty too! Of course, love that accent of hers. I mean, how cool does "y'all" sound versus "you all." Ra(i)t?

3. Alton Brown: OK, this guy is, according to me, THE BEST food network star. He is a walking food encyclopedia, I swear! His style is so unique and he is so hilarious! He gives out the most amazing facts about various foods on earth. I mean, I never knew that there is a male eggplant and a female eggplant! So the male eggplant is the one that you want to use if you want to make eggplant parmigiana or "baingan ka bhartha" (will include the recipe for this another day). Male eggplant has fewer seeds and is less bitter as compared to a female eggplant. And the details can go on and on.......... the point being, Alton is AWESOME! I wish he was my uncle or something!!

4. Bobby Flay: I can totally flirt with this guy! He is so cool, trim & fit, charming, sometimes sarcastic yet funny...... he is a handsome guy, especially when he is all serious. Funnily enough, he has these 2 lady assistants and one of them, the younger one, seems to have intentions similar to mine. He is a chipotle guy- loves to add chipotle peppers into everything! Love the way he talks. Love the way he sneaks up on people and totally surprises (or startles) them. I can imagine sitting next to him on a plane--- a yummy co-passenger!

5. Giada De Laurentiis: This gal is quite popular with the guys. Just because she has a lot to show---- in terms of, simply put, boobs! If  nothing else, you can be assured of some cleavage on her show. Well, enough with the cleavage-criticism, I guess. I must admit that her food is pretty decent. Good, simple Italian preparations. Very reluctantly I will admit that she is that petite-pretty kind. I am not sure if I want to meet her, really............watching her on the boob tube is good enough. ;)

6. Ina Garten: This one is by far the most boring host I can think of. She just talks in a monotone (with a monotone?) and usually cooks "romantic meals" for her husband. She tends to be all sophisticated. But honestly, being that sophisticated is utterly boring! Come to think of it, I have never once cooked anything from her show. No offense to Ina, but I don't care for Barefoot Contessa!

7. Guy Fieri: Another cool dude. He in fact competed on the Next Food Network Star and now has his own show. Love his signature style of wearing his sun glasses backwards. He is like this completely chilled-out guy with spiked up hair. I would love being friends with him.

I don't know what these people are like in reality. But I just find it interesting in how I have formed opinions about their personalities merely based upon their shows on television.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beautiful Butterflies

Another Tuesday and an action-packed day for yours sincerely. Yet again, had to whip up something quick, easy and tasty. PASTA! One of the easiest things to cook and really versatile.
I mean, first of all there's a whole variety of pasta out there with different shapes---spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, macaroni, farfalle, linguine, manicotti, ziti, conchiglie etc will take me a long time to sit and type out all the gazillion types of pasta available. Then there are those stuffed pastas, the most popular one being ravioli. Heck, isn't rice pasta too?

So anyway, today I decided to cook some farfalle (butterflies in Italian), the bow-tie pasta, with sausage, artichokes, olives and tomatoes. I had some yummy chicken jalapeno sausage that my husband had got from Trader Joe's (LOVE that place!) the other day. So took out the pack from the refrigerator, sliced up the sausage into discs. Took out a packet of frozen artichoke hearts, got a few arti-hearts out and ran them under warm water to thaw. Opened up a can of sliced olives. Chopped up a beef-steak tomato.

While I was prepping all this up, I had a pot of water on the stove come to a boil to cook up the farfalle. Everybody knows how to cook pasta! While that was cooking, I had another pot on the stove that I drizzled some EVOO into. Followed by some Italian seasoning. Then threw in the cut up sausage. Sauteed it until nice and plump and caramelized. Took about 3 minutes. Then put the thawed out artichoke hearts, stirred it all up. Then finally added the chopped up tomato. Seasoned with some salt and pepper. Covered the pot and simmered, just to get the flavors rolling. The farfalle was cooked and ready to be combined with the sausage+artichoke+tomato. Once that was done, added the sliced olives and gave it one last stir. Done!

Instead of the usual fresh basil in the end, I thought how about some fresh mint?! So tore up some fresh mint leaves and added to the pasta. That mint, I tell you, took the already delicious pasta to a whole new level of flavorful delight! Wish you could taste it!

Farfalle jazzed up with mint--- extra-delicious!

My kids love a little bit of shredded mozarella and parmigiano on top of their pasta. The hot pasta melts the cheese and it is a gooey-delight!

Note to Self: Next time, try adding some whipping cream and smashed up cilantro and green chillies. Bet it will be tasty!

Next time you decide to make some pasta, don't just dredge it with boring old marinara or alfredo. Use something new, something more fun and exciting. Treat that pasta with love and give it a new twist. Buon appetito!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Grab some mint!

Remember that mint I had in the refrigerator? Well, it was beginning to turn black and so before every leaf turned black, I decided to use it.

Mint is a beautiful aromatic herb that grows easily (can spread like a weed!) and has multiple uses. Most of us get a taste of mint early in the morning when we brush our teeth and swish some mouthwash. Then some of us get a taste of it again during the day when we pop a chewing gum into our mouths. Some others get a taste of mint in their after-dinner dessert in the from of mint thins. Mint has medicinal values too. If you have a tummy ache, eat some mint! Hey, they put mint into cough depressants too. And if you are like me, you LOVE good old mint chutney.

So that is exactly what I decided to make. A simple, sexy mint chutney. I learned this from my mom. Extremely simple, as most of my cooking is and very quick, again, as most of my cooking is. The most time consuming part would probably be the step where you have to pluck out the leaves from the stem. If it were upto me, I would skip this step-- I mean, why not just use the entire herb with the leaves and the stems? But then, this is again one of those things that I do just coz my mom taught me to..........

Mint leaves plucked out from the stems. Some of the black leaves discarded along with the stems.

Next I sliced up 1/4 of an onion (you could substitute this with a shallot)-- too much of this would be too harsh. Plus a couple cloves of garlic. You don't want to overpower the mint flavor and aroma with the onion and garlic. Then I put the mint (washed of course), onion, garlic, some salt to taste, a couple green chillies into the food processor. Added some lemon juice and switched on the food processor. There, that probably took about a couple minutes. Super quick! Transferred this into a container.

Then I put 1-2 teaspoons of oil into my little wok (a cute little wok that I bought in India the last time I visited) and heated it and then splattered some mustard seeds. Poured this into the beautiful green mint chutney. And voila! the mint chutney was ready.

 My cute little wok that I use to splatter mustard (& cumin) seeds.

Pouring the mustard seeds into the chutney

 Mint Chutney! (Mix it up before eating)

This mint chutney again has multiple uses. Could be eaten with samosas--- oooh yummy! Or make sandwiches with cucumber and mint chutney. Great picnic item! I also make a very delicious mint-pilaf with this chutney. Darn simple. Give it a little stir in a pan and add rice (preferably basmati) into it. Mix it up, add some extra salt if needed and cook it all up. So delicious!

The next time you see some mint, grab it and then create something delicious out of it!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Don't over-serve!

I dislike the habit in certain people of taking a lot of food onto their plates and then realizing that they can't eat it. And then quietly sneaking into the kitchen and dumping all the food into the trash can or the garbage disposal! GET A GRIP, people! You are old enough to know how much you can eat!

I don't understand moms who give their kids so much food that the poor kids can't really eat all of it and obviously end up wasting the food. Then the scene goes like this:

1. Mom gives faux lecture to the kid, "You should not have asked for more!"
2. Kid makes a face.
3. Mom makes a face.
4. Mom says very reluctantly, "OK, I will eat it later."
5. Obviously the host, in this case, a very irritated  host (yours sincerely) says with faux calmness, "It is OK, just throw it."
6. Mom instantly dumps it in the garbage disposal (she is obviously relieved!).
7. Irritated host runs cold water into the disposal and switches on the garbage disposal thinking to herself, "Great, what a waste!"

I have no problem with little babies and toddlers wasting food. I, in fact, am OK with kids upto the age of say 5, wasting food. However, I have a serious problem with MOMS who want their kids to eat ridiculous amounts of food and  then just throw all the food, without even considering the fact that the host would have put in so much effort into cooking and creating that food! UGH! Total lack of manners! I don't care if they do this in their homes or restaurants or elsewhere. But they must not do this at the host's house. Definitely not in this host's house!

There are certain acquaintances that you don't really care for and yet you have to just be all nice and keep in touch. I mean, you can't totally cut then you have to tolerate their lack of manners............grumble a bit and then again, in a few weeks' time, invite them again and go through this all over again!

Edit 1: Changed the title of this post 

Edit 2: Deleted a couple sentences from the last para

Edit 3: Altered the first sentence

Edit 4: Altered a couple more sentences..........

Friday, May 7, 2010

Go on, eat some junk!

We had to get a gift for my daughter's friend yesterday. So we headed to Target. We love Target. As we started looking for something nice, my eyes fell on this aisle with mini donuts, chips, cotton candy, chocolate etc. You got it--- JUNK FOOD! Oh I got this sudden urge to splurge- yes, on junk food! I mean come on, with all this healthy eating going on every single day, I think it is OK to throw in some junk once in a while! And that once in a while was yesterday.

Picked up a couple bags of cotton candy, some onion rings (they are yummy, I tell ya!), mini donuts (3 kinds- frosted, chocolate covered and coconut crunchy) and then rushed to the nearby freezer section and picked up a box of 12 ice cream bars.

My kids were shocked, literally! They thought their mom had gone bonkers. But their shock soon changed into major joy. They were overjoyed. We thoroughly enjoyed every junk item. That ice cream bar was heaven! Felt like I was at the fair eating cotton candy. It was sheer bliss. It was even better because there was no guilt involved (on my part)!
Junk food Treasure - Guilt-free pleasure!

I was a star yesterday. My kids were totally amazed and were thanking me and called me "The Best Mom in the Whole World."

And yes, we did find a decent gift for my daughter's friend in the end. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Don't leave those leftovers!

Remember the brown rice, the gai-lan and the lentils I cooked a few days ago? Well, so last evening I got this bright idea of utilizing all these leftovers and transforming them into something outstanding.

So I took a few cups of wheat flour in a big mixing bowl and yep, I am sure that you smart readers know exactly where I was going with this. I added the leftover gai-lan, the lentils as well as the brown rice into that flour and mixed it all up. Also added a teaspoon of ajwain seeds and some EVOO. Kneaded the dough with some extra water until nice and smooth. And done! The parantha (also spelled paratha) dough was ready!

A parantha is a flat bread made in India. The most popular kind of parantha is aaloo ka parantha, i.e. flat bread stuffed with mashed potato. It is simply superb! But paranthas can be made with pretty much everything. They can even be made with minced meat. Wikipedia spells it as Paratha and has a decent explanation, if you want to know more..........

The wheat flour package. There are different brands available in the Indian grocery store.

The leftovers all ready to mixed up with the flour

The final dough

I like to add ajwain seeds to parantha dough because I like the slight bitter taste and the aroma it imparts. It is almost like thyme, just a tad bit more pungent, maybe...... anyway, supposedly very good for digestion.

Ajwain seeds

I got my pan heating and made individual dough balls, about 1-2 inches in diameter and rolled them out, one by one, into 6-8 inch diameter "pizza bases" (didn't know how else to put this in words). Cooked them one by one. It is a very tedious job, especially if you are not used to doing this on a regular basis, as with anything. Also, could be messy with all that dough, dry flour (to prevent the kneaded dough from sticking to the rolling pin and the base) and the oil. It could be frustrating too at times, especially if the paranthas end up looking like maps rather than perfect circles! But one has to be patient. And hey, it is all worth it in the end!

The dough ball rolled out into an almost circular "pizza base!"

Onto the hot pan (OK, this one is somewhere between a circle and a map.........)

Flipped over to cook the other side. Looks good so far!

All ready to be eaten. Oh yeah, gotta put some butter on top of the parantha.

The paranthas were a hit with my family. We had them with some peas and Indian cottage cheese on the side. These can be eaten with plain yogurt too. Plain old tomato ketchup will work too.

I was successful in transforming leftovers, that otherwise would have probably ended up in the garbage disposal, into something outstanding and delicious. Mission accomplished!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Simple is good

Eating cereal every morning is such a BORE. I mean, sure, you can have a variety of cereal stacked up, but in the end, it is what it is and that is, cereal! Same old sweet (yes, there is that unsweetened stuff available too that tastes like nothing) stuff that you add milk to and either eat it cold or warm. Not my cuppa tea, or in this case, bowl of cereal!

So this morning I chopped up a couple roma tomatoes, added salt, pepper, a teaspoon of rice vinegar and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Sprinkled some Italian seasoning (the dried kind you get at any grocery store) and then drizzled some extra virgin olive oil (or EVOO as my Guru calls it) and let it all hang out in a bowl to marry each other.

Tomatoes hanging out in the bowl marrying the other goodies

Meanwhile I took a couple slices of bread (white whole grain, to be precise--- this note is for the Californian who is impressed with all the healthy eating going on in this household...........;) ) and toasted them in a toaster. The real way to do this would be to pan fry the bread. But that would mean get the butter out, heat up a pan and then fry the bread in the butter until golden brown. It not only takes longer, but I mean, you don't need all that overdose of butter early in the day!

I also had a pot of water boiling on the stove. Once it came to a boil, gently put in a couple eggs. I do this with a pair of tongs now a days. Works out better. Turned the stove setting down to prevent the eggs from breaking up and then creating a whole lot of mess in the pot. Had them boil for exactly 10 minutes and then immersed the eggs in cold water. Now I don't know why the boiled eggs need to be immersed in cold water before you shell them. Just something that my dad taught me when I was a kid and I have just been following....... one of those things. Hmm, but now that I think about it, guess that just stops the egg from cooking any further and maybe makes peeling the egg a bit easier? As for peeling boiled eggs, I must confess--- I am not very adept. I often times peel not just the hard shell but also the white of the egg and then the end result is a weird looking "pixie" egg (remember the pixie orange?). I learned from a friend that a perfect boiled egg has its yolk perfectly yellow. Today, I am happy to say, that I boiled those eggs pretty darn perfect! (OK, the peeling was again a little off, but not that bad, really!)

Note to self: Must buy that Egg Genie one of these days.....

So finally I spooned in some of that beautiful tomato on top of toast. I like to do this when the toast is still warm because then it soaks in that lovely juice (tomato+vinegar+lemon+salt+pepper+seasoning) and it is a crispy yet soggy goodness. Delicious!

Now doesn't that look yummy? (Err, try to disregard the badly peeled egg on the side).

Aha! the perfect golden yellow yolk.

You don't have to eat boring cereal every day. Get some variety in your life, get some color in your life. You don't need fancy ingredients to create a delectable meal. Sometimes simple is good. Really good!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Shortcuts work!

Tuesdays and Thursdays are super busy for me. I chauffeur the kids to and from their Taekwondo class and by the time we get back home, it is time for dinner. I usually try to keep it simple and quick. Actually pretty much all my cooking is under 30 minutes (if you have been following my blog). Hey! I sound like Rachael Ray! ;)

I do use a lot of shortcut in my cooking...........I mean, I don't have the time and patience (mostly the latter) to spend hours together in the kitchen! Following my shortcut policy, I decided to grab a Rotisserie chicken from Fred Meyer, since anyway I was driving to that area for my kids' class. Also grabbed a bag of salad, one of those mixed greens kind.

I picked up a lemon pepper rotisserie chicken today. The only problem with rotisserie chicken is that the outside part no doubt is yummy because that is where all the seasoning is, but the inside part is pretty bland, especially for our taste buds that are more accustomed to spicy food. But hey, once in a while it is OK to skip the spice, right?

Mmm, look at all that yummy pepper!

Next I jazzed up the salad by adding some tomato, almonds, "pixie" orange, salt, pepper and lemon juice. I added some pure OJ in the end and it was one heck of a salad! Fresh and crisp lettuce, radicchio and carrots all mixed up with crunchy almonds and tangy tomatoes with a note of sweet citrus--- YUM!

I found this "pixie" orange at Uwajimaya the other day. It tastes like any other orange and more resembles a tangerine. I have no idea why they call it a pixie orange. The skin is sort of wrinkly compared to a regular tangerine/orange--- maybe that's why they named it a pixie orange..........?  Must ask Alton Brown. I bet he has a good explanation!

Salad from a packet- all jazzed up!

I made some excellent brown rice to go with the chicken and the salad. Took 2.5 cups of brown rice, washed it a couple times and added 5 cups of water to it including a cube of veggie stock and a tablespoon of soy sauce. This was just to add some flavor to the rice. Pressure cooked for 20 minutes. Turned out perfect!

 Meal created using a couple shortcuts!

Now we did find it all a bit too bland, but that's why we have that special habanero sauce in our refrigerator!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Comfort Food- the South Indian version

After a weekend full of pigging out, felt like some simple comfort food today. In our house, this means some good old "annu-chaaru," and some potato chips on the side. I usually like to make some simple vegetable on the side as well- yeah, I am a vegetable freak and given a chance, I can utilize every single vegetable available in my cooking. Yes, really!

Translation: Annu-Chaaru= Rice Rasam.

"Chaaru," better known as "Rasam," is a South Indian spicy tangy soup made with tomatoes and lentils and a special spice powder. Tamarind pulp is the conventional addition to this, however, I prefer lemon juice. So all I do is cook some pigeon peas, the lentils, (better known as toor dal) in the pressure cooker (don't forget to wash it at least 4-5 times to remove that metanil yellow I talked about in a previous post!) for at least 5 minutes. Gotta make sure that the lentils are well done. Al dente does not work in this case. See below:

Uncooked lentils

Cooked until nice and mushy (yeah, not very eye-appealing!)

While the lentils are cooking in the pressure cooker, I start boiling a pot of water combined with tomato paste, salt, spice powder (I get that from my mom in India- must learn how to make it) and sometimes, like today, I add a few curry leaves. The curry leaves impart a lovely flavor as well as aroma to the whole concoction. Once the whole thing has come to a good boil (I boil it for at least 5 minutes), I add the mushy cooked lentils (usually about 2-3 tablespoons works well- some people like it thicker. For thicker rasam, just add more lentils). Give it a stir and taste. If it works for your taste buds, there, you are done! If not, generally it might need some extra salt or maybe even that spice powder or, as it happens often in my case, just a tad bit more tomato paste. Another quick boil. In the end, I garnish with splattered mustard seeds and crushed cumin (I use a teaspoon of ghee, i.e. clarified butter.......come on, you gotta use the real stuff!). And right before eating, I add a few teaspoons of lemon juice. Ta-da! The "Chaaru" is ready!

The nice spicy tangy tomato lentil soup!

For the veggie side, I decided to make a very simple quick Kai-Lan, also called Gai-Lan or in plain simple language, Chinese Broccoli. As the name suggests, it is a bit similar to broccoli in taste. Well, it might stink to some people. It has that typical broccoli or cauliflower or cabbage or brussel sprouts smell to it, just a little bit milder, though.........

Cooking this vegetable literally takes about 4 minutes. No kidding! So I wash the leaves and stems. Sometimes there are small little yellow flowers on top. They are edible too. After washing, I chop it all. Then take a pan, put 2 teaspoons of oil into it. Splatter some mustard seeds and immediately throw in the washed and chopped kai-lan. Add salt to taste, give it a quick stir and cover with lid. After 3 minutes, take off the lid and stir once more and then switch off the stove. It gets cooked in that heat itself. Remove from heat after another minute. I like the kai lan to retain its lovely green color. I usually add a couple green chillies too just for a bite. Didn't do so today. And done! Healthy, ton of iron (leafy green veggie) and tasty!

Kai-Lan or Gai-Lan or Chinese Broccoli

Chopped up Kai-Lan (notice the intermittent yellow flowers?)

Ready to eat!

Am off to the grocery store to get milk (we seem to be consuming milk like crazy of late!). Will get a packet of salted kettle chips as well. You see, I am not fond of people going, "What? No Chips with annu-chaaru??"