Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Uh-Oh Pasta!

Yesterday was one heck of a busy day. The highlight being----I spent about 3 hours upstairs cleaning my wonderful (please note- WONDERFUL) kids' bathroom (including the toilet) as well as their rooms as well as the dad's *WONDERFUL* "office." So yeah, back-breaking work, literally. At least my daughter helped me towards the end by helping me shred some ancient stack of paper that the dad had saved for I-don't-know-what-or-why-or-how many eons........finally even the shredder gave up! Really! It just refused to shred any more paper! Just got over-heated and went kaput!

So yeah, as expected, things got all delayed and dinner time was fast approaching and I had not even thought of what I was going to cook. Of course, my brilliant mind said to me, "PASTA!" Fastest thing to make on a crazy weeknight, right?

The basics: Pasta, of course (I used the egg noodles kind), onions, garlic, Italian seasoning, olive oil, salt.

I threw in: Ground Turkey, Cilantro, spinach (I had some leftover spinach that needed to be utilized else it'd have gone rotten!), green onion (mm hmm!), 1 tomato, a handful of almonds, red crushed pepper, lemon juice.

First: I roughly chopped up a medium size onion and a couple cloves of garlic and quickly sauteed it in a pan. Threw in the ground turkey, seasoned it with salt & the Italian seasoning plus some red crushed pepper. Cooked the turkey- took like 5-7 minutes straight! No kidding!

Meanwhile: I had a pot of water come to a boil, nicely salted it and put in the pasta to cook. Everybody knows how to cook pasta, right? I still check the package instructions for the cooking time.........some types call for 6 mins, some 7 while some others suggest cooking for 12 mins....... this one called for 6 mins. Also had a handful of almonds run in the m-wave for about a minute and a half to toast them. Believe me, that m-waving brought out the oils in the almonds and of course, smelled awesome!

Then: I put the cooked pasta into the pan with the cooked turkey. Mixed it up gently.

Finally: Took those toasted almonds, a little bit of fresh cilantro, that leftover handful of spinach, a couple green onions, 1 nice juicy tomato in the food processor. Added salt and some red crushed pepper. And then some lemon juice. Gave it a quick round in the processor--- not too fine, just short of being completely fine. Folded this into that pasta+turkey. In the end, sprinkled some freshly ground black pepper.

The Husband's Reaction on the phone: "Uh-Oh, wonder what you came up with........."

The Husband's Reaction after eating a fork-full of that "Uh-Oh" Creation: Oh man! This is EXCELLENT! (and he went for seconds and thirds!)

The Kids: The standard, "This is yummy, mommy!"

The Creator- Yours Truly: Thoroughly pleased with self.

Pasta with that yummy goodness...........

The Uh-Oh Pasta!

Note to Self: IF I make this pasta again, I should add some red color to it...........perhaps just add a few cherry tomatoes to make it look attractive...........looks do matter when it comes to food!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Got (butter)Milk?

My husband is a huge fan of buttermilk &/yogurt (plain, i.e.). In fact he will have absolutely no qualms about eating only rice and buttermilk with a dash of good old pickle (Indian style- mango or lime or gooseberry etc) on the side every single day.

As for me, I never used to eat yogurt back while growing up. We lived in hot climatic conditions and we ate pretty spicy food and everybody around me would always end their lunch/dinner with some yogurt or buttermilk. To cool things down, you see! Finally, I think about a few years into marriage, I started drinking buttermilk, thanks to my husband and heartburn! Yep, guess my tummy finally could not handle the 20+years of all that spice and heat I was subjecting it to.

I remember very well, whenever I had a tummy upset (in my pre-buttermilk days), I used to have a cup of cold milk with some sugar and that would do the trick. However, with time I have come to realize that buttermilk actually works way better than plain milk. It definitely gives me relief in a jiffy. Not just for tummy upset but even when the temperature shoots up and you feel all hot and horrible- a glass of buttermilk always helps big time.

Buttermilk has lower fat content than milk and yet is rich in calcium. Plus it has all those good microbes that are in fact very good for the stomach as well. If you are lactose intolerant, pour yourself some buttermilk and I assure you, it will do you good.

If you don't like the idea of having plain buttermilk, you can do all kinds of things to jazz it up and make it yummy. One very simple thing to do is to add a dash of salt. My mom makes this excellent buttermilk to which she adds salt, ginger juice (squeezes ginger to get the juice out) and curry leaves--- ohhhhhhh, it is simply the most refreshing thing you can have on a hot summer afternoon.

I just buy my buttermilk from the regular grocery store. At the end of each meal, I grab that carton of buttermilk from the refrigerator, pour some into a cup (about 1/4) and fill the rest of the cup with cold water. Give it a quick stir and drink it all up. Aah! So refreshing!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fish in Green Sauce

By the time we came back home from my son's eye check up (yes, he needs glasses!), it was past 3'o'clock and of course, the eternal question crept into my mind, "What the heck should I cook tonight?" Opened the refrigerator and browsed and found a ton of fresh cilantro lying in there. I store my cilantro in this cool stainless steel container that I got from India this time--- it has a bunch of holes all around and tends to keep fresh cilantro, well, fresh. Grabbed some frozen coconut from the freezer. I had some Dover Sole lying inside too and I immediately knew what to  make for dinner!

Chopped up the cilantro, took 4 thai green chillies and a tablespoon of coconut (thawed it out in the m-wave). Quickly roasted all this in a pan. Meanwhile I took a little bit of cumin seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, 2 cloves, 1 cardamom, a tiny piece of cinnamon and about a teaspoon of sesame seeds (yes, pretty much whatever I saw in my pantry!) and threw it all in a bowl and ran this in the m-wave for a minute to roast it all. Aah! the kitchen was smelling ridiculously good! I then put this mixture of spices into my nifty little coffee grinder and powdered it all.


I first thought of leaving the cilantro+cillies+coconut as it is......but then you know how it is while cooking, you just get these sudden ideas.........so then I decided to just grind it all up in the food processor so as to make a nice chutney to be ultimately converted  into a sauce. I added a clove of garlic too into the chutney.

I meanwhile prepared my fish. Just roughly cut it into bite sized cubes..........doesn't really matter because it will eventually disintegrate anyway. The great thing about fish or any sea-food for that matter is that it cooks up so fast. Great for week night cooking. However, you gotta be careful so as to not overcook it. So even though it is super fast, you gotta be super careful too.

That's it! I took a pot and added a teaspoon of oil. Tempered some mustard seeds. Threw in the fish and lightly sauteed it (a few seconds really). Stirred in the green chutney, added 1/2 a cup of water, salt, and finally that awesome spice powder that I made. Brought it all to a boil and took it off the heat. After about 30 seconds, squeezed in some lemon juice. Ta-da!

Had my daughter taste it and she literally screamed in delight! Just to make sure she wasn't just doing that to please me, I tasted it too and ohhhhh, that was super-tasty! Served it with simple steamed rice. Fantastic!

 Pre-chutney form

Fish in Green Sauce ready!

Ready to eat!

I just randomly whipped up tonight's dinner with nothing pre-planned..........that is what cooking is all about. It is just experimenting and creating delightful food.

Note to Self: Tonight's sauce was a tad bit too thin. I think the next time I try out this recipe (unlikely, considering the fact that I keep coming up with brand new recipes.......AHEM!), I should increase the amount of sesame seeds..........that'll thicken up the sauce some more...........

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sabudana Khichdi

Sabudana khichdi is a very popular breakfast (/snack) item in the western state of Maharashtra in India. They even make awesome sabudana vadas (fritters) that are simply delicious. In South India I have usually found that people stick to making sabudana kheer (pudding or porridge). I don't know, but I prefer the khichdi to the kheer. Well, on second thought, the kheer is pretty yummy too! Sabudana is made from tapioca/cassava and is called Tapioca Pearl in English.

I learned how to make this beautiful dish from my Avva, my maternal grandma. She used to make the best sabudana khichdi on earth!

I buy sabudana from the Indian store. If I am going to make it for breakfast, I just prep it up the previous night. That way it is all ready to be cooked when I wake up the next morning.

Here's the basic recipe. You can add potatoes, onions, and sometimes I add tomatoes too, since I love tomatoes!


Sabudana- 2 cups

Peanuts, roasted- 1-2 handful (if you are like me, you'll go overboard with nuts!)

Cumin seeds- 1 tsp

Green Chilies- 3-4 slit lengthwise

Red Chili Powder (optional)- 1-2 tsp

Cooking oil- 6-8 tsp

Salt to taste

Sugar* (yes, sugar!)- 2-4 tsp

Fresh cilantro to garnish

*Sugar is used in a lot of Maharashtrian and Gujarati foods. It in fact adds a nice sweet backdrop to the dishes, that just somehow nicely balances out with the salt and spice elements.

Important Step- Prepping the Pearls:

Rinse the sabudana with water twice or thrice (just like rinsing/washing rice before cooking).  Then sprinkle some water on top to soak.

*You need to be careful with this. If you put too much water, you will end up with a soggy mess. If you put too little, you will end up with half-cooked mess. So my way of ensuring that I am sprinkling the right amount of water is by making sure that the topmost layer of sabudana is just very slightly submerged in water. Cover the container and leave it alone for at least a couple hours. (Leaving it overnight is perfectly fine).

Tapioca Pearls- sabudana

Soaked and ready to be cooked


1. Coarsely grind the roasted peanuts. A coffee grinder works very well. Or you could use a traditional pestle and mortar.

2. Loosen up the soaked sabudana with the help of a spoon, or even better, your fingers. Otherwise it'll become a lumpy mess. Add the peanut powder to this. Add salt, red chili powder, and sugar to this, and mix it all up.

3. Get your kadhai or wok or pan going on the stove, add oil, and splutter cumin seeds.

Optional: At this point, you could add a diced potato and 1/2 an onion, finely chopped, and green chilies. Some people even add garlic. But personally, I like only potatoes in my sabudana khichdi. I do like tomatoes too- though sabudana khichdi purists might smirk at this idea! ;)

If you do add potato, onion, etc. fry it so as to cook. And then go to the next step.

4. Add the sabudana mixture (step 2) into the wok/pan, and begin stirring it all.

Note: If you don't stir and mix, the sabudana has a tendency to stick to the bottom, and then it might get burnt. So do stir! 

5. After about 7-10 minutes, the sabudana will have cooked to a nice soft and spongy texture. The coarse peanut powder adds some crunch. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Squeeze some lemon juice for a fresh citrusy burst before serving. Yum!

Sabudana Khichdi 


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rava Dosa- my style!

After having returned from a lovely vacation and not having eaten ANY cereal or bread at all, my taste buds have gotten used to eating different kinds of breakfast every single day! Of course, I know very well that this will soon fade away and we'll eventually be eating cereal or waffles or bread & eggs everyday all over again.........but for now, we shall enjoy some variety.

This morning felt like eating rava dosas (salty-spicy-pancakes, Indian style). My mom taught me how to make awesome rava dosas the last time she was here. I love this recipe because it totally follows my basic cooking rule: simple and quick cooking.  And there is absolutely no fermentation required as in case of normal dosas.

All you need is some maida (M) (all purpose flour), rice flour (R) (available in any Indian grocery store) and fine sooji rava (R) (cream of wheat). A small onion, some cilantro and green chillies. Oh some salt and cumin seeds. That's it! My mom taught me a ratio for the first three ingredients that I think is 1:2:3 or is it 3:2:1?? See, I always forget that ratio and in the end, I just eye ball everything, like I usually do. Yep, that's me! But no worries because the end result is usually pretty good!

So I mix up the first three dry ingredients, MRR and then pour in cold water to mix it all up and make a nice thinnish batter. You don't want this batter to be too thick else it'll result in thick and unappetizing dosas. Now remember the ratio I mentioned in the earlier para? Today I actually followed the M:R:R=1:2:3 and it turned out excellent. Therefore now I am sure that the ratio is indeed 1:2:3. Yaay!

Next I cut a small onion, some cilantro and a couple green chillies and added it to the batter. Salt per taste and also a dash of cumin seeds. Mix it all up and done! Meanwhile I have my pan heating up on the stove. I check the temperature of the pan by sprinkling some cold water onto the heating pan. I know that the pan is ready to go when the cold water just evaporates with that typical "phusshh" sound (OK, I don't know how else to explain that sound!).

Then I pour some batter (make sure you mix the whole thing up and then ladle it in) onto the hot pan, just like you would for a pancake. You know things are going in the right direction when you see holes forming immediately as you pour the batter onto the hot pan. Again, pretty much like a pancake. Gotta spoon in some oil around the edges of the dosa to help it cook and not stick to the pan. Sometimes you might need a few drops of oil in the center of the dosa as well. Don't worry about the shape--- doesn't have to be a perfect circle.

See those holes? That's good!

After a minute or two (depends on how brown and crunchy you like dosa/pancake to be), flip it. Cook again for a couple minutes (more if you like it crunchier) and it is ready to be eaten!!

Flipped over. This one was for my daughter, who prefers soft dosas.

Now some chutney on the side would be really good, but eating this dosa sans chutney works real well too. My family likes a little bit of ghee (clarified butter) atop the dosas.

Rava Dosa ready to be gobbled up!

Rava Dosa- a delicious treat for the whole family!

Waiting for those pictures......

I have been wanting to write about the par excellent breakfasts I enjoyed this time in Bangalore.....but there is no fun in writing about those wonderful items without pictures. Those pictures are on my brother's laptop and he is busy right now honeymooning in Kerala, in a, err, tree-house, I believe!..........So guess will have to wait a while before I can post a write-up on those scrumptious items.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Not your usual corn-on-the-cob!

I fulfilled my desire of enjoying some excellent "Jola" this time in India. "Jola" is the Kannada name for corn-on-cob. In Hindi it is called "bhutta." Since childhood, I have loved this yummy zesty delight that roadside vendors sell, especially during summer time.

What is so special about "Jola?" Isn't it just plain old corn-on-the-cob? I mean, even KFC offers this stuff! Oh no, this is not the steamed sweet corn we are familiar with. I am talking about grilled corn. Again, not the kind of grilled corn you make here on the typical BBQ grill. The grilled corn in India has a very different flavor profile altogether. For one, it is not as sweet as the corn we get here. The way it is grilled/roasted imparts a much better taste. I think that it has everything to do with that coal they use to grill the corn and that hand-fan they use to keep the charcoal burning.

Towards evening, this woman starts shouting, "Jolaaa, Jolaaaaaaaaaa, Jolaaaaaaaaaaaa!" She enters the street (our neighborhood, in this case) pushing a wooden cart full of fresh corn (with husk and all). The cart also has this awesome very basic stove with coal. Yes, this is what she uses to grill the corn. And right next to the stove are a couple little containers. The first one has some lime wedges and salt and the other one has this, as I remember from childhood, utterly delightful mint+green chillies chutney. This chutney is what takes this grilled corn to a whole new level. BUT and this is a BIG SAD BUT(T), I tell ya, I have not eaten that chutney ever since I moved out of India! Mainly because who knows what kind of water they use and who knows what kind of diseases (mostly typhoid, I assume) one might get if that chutney went into one's tummy!

People call the "jola woman" to their gates and select the corn they want. Some people actually remove the husk themselves and poke and prod the corn with their nails to inspect its freshness..........I just ask the vendor to pick out the one she thinks is good and also tell her, "Chuntey beda," meaning, "No chutney." Then she places the corn on that awesome burning coal and uses the hand-fan (made of jute, I think) so as to grill/roast the corn. The fan basically keeps the coal burning, thereby grilling the corn. Every time one section of the corn is grilled, she turns the corn around to grill the other section, until the entire ear of corn is grilled to perfection. Then she places this freshly grilled corn into its own husk (that she had removed earlier) and hands it over to me. I pay her a mere Rs. 10 ($1= approx Rs. 45........) and she gives me this big smile and walks away, shouting, "Jolaa, Jolaaaaa!"

 The Jola woman grilling corn-- see that stove she has?

Grilling the corn on burning charcoal

I take the hot grilled corn to my mom's kitchen and smother it with lemon-juice and salt. And then place myself on the swing in the patio and eat away to glory, enjoying every chewy bite..........

Enjoying the chewy zesty delight!

After returning from India, we tried to re-create that grilled corn-on-cob at home on the backyard grill. But it was nothing like the "jola" back in India........guess I will just have to wait until my next visit to India!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I am back!

After a nice long holiday in India with parents, brother and new sister-in-law & extended family, I am back. Back to square one, back to the grind........OK, we get the gist! I barely cooked the entire time I was in India. The maximum I cooked was Maggi (the Indian equivalent of Top Ramen) 2 minute noodles and oh, the latest Maggi PaZZta. Now I don't know if this is just plain psychology or reality, but for some reason the Maggi there tastes way better than the Maggi we get here at the Indian grocery store......perhaps it has something to do with the freshness, the water etc. The masala (spice packet) itself tastes fresh & more potent. Anyway, enough about Maggi, I suppose.

I pretty much managed to eat all the items I mentioned on my wish-list before leaving for India. Funnily enough, this time I wasn't too crazy about eating the various types of manchurian that I had mentioned a few weeks ago in one of my posts. Yes, very shocking, really, considering it is ME we are talking about! Had a decade's worth of wedding food. No kidding! More on that in a later post. The Hyderabadi Biryani at Hotel Shadab in Hyderabad was totally worth it!

Had "ganne ka ras" (sugarcane juice)!! Let's see, the last time I had this amazing juice was perhaps in the summer of 1997........so that sure was heck of an achievement! The only difference was that this time I went to a "juice bar" --- a nice & neat place, as compared to the dirty "thela" (roadside cart) I used to go to back in school............of course, my immunity was way better back then and nothing ever happened to me. If I tried that now I am sure I would fall sick..........or would I?

Other than awesome food cooked by mom, we checked out Barbeque Nation, Rajdhani (excellent Gujarati food) and  the food court at Mantri Square Mall, which was pretty decent too. Oh I mustn't forget the crazy good buffets at Orange County resort in Kabini (little place near Mysore).

Oh I have more to write about, but am feeling sleepy. That darn jet lag..........will resume blogging hopefully starting tomorrow..........now am going back to Bangalore; well I certainly can dream about it!

Note: Will put up pics soon. Yes, food pics, of course!