Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gongura Pachadi

The plan was to go visit my brother and his wife this weekend. And so we set off. Loaded the minivan with sleeping bags for the kids, a couple pillows, some clothes and the stuff from the Indian store. The place they live in does not have one single Indian grocery store! And so they usually buy all their stock when they visit us. Now since we were going to visit them, they gave me a tiny list, that included kari patta (curry leaves) and I do know that my sister-in-law is quite fond of gongura leaves as well and so I just bought a couple bunches of gongura as well. Now thankfully I was sensible enough to call my bro when we left the house to tell him that we were on our way. Apparently there was a winter storm warning and he suggested that it would be better for us not to go. Oh well and so we came back home and unloaded everything and I put the perishables back in the refrigerator. So much for our weekend trip!

The botanical name for Gongura is Hibiscus cannabinus and well, I am not sure what the common English term is. I think Red Sorrel leaves.........not sure. Anyway, the leaves are sour like heck and the most popular dish made out of Gongura is Gongura Pachadi, a chutney of sorts, in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh in India.

I was thinking that perhaps I could give the gongura to one of our friends who might actually cook it, rather than letting it rot in the fridge. But I surprised myself by actually going ahead and cooking it myself! My cousin, my sister-in-law and my mom--- all of them gave me one basic recipe that sounded very easy and so I went ahead and made Gongura Pachadi for the very first time in my life!!

 Gongura Leaves

  • Gongura leaves
  • Green Chillies
  • Red Crushed pepper (my substitute for red chillies- I was out of red chillies......)
  • salt
  • oil 
  • I separated the green leaves from their red stems and washed the leaves. I then dabbed the leaves with paper towel to sort of dry them (I must admit that I was a little impatient and so a lot more dabbing would have actually worked better.......).
  • I took a nice big pan and poured several teaspoons of oil into it; note: several teaspoons. And got the heat going.
  • I then threw in the washed and dried (err, sort-of-dried in this case) gongura leaves into the hot oil along with the green chillies and the red crushed pepper. I added salt to taste.
  • Fried everything together. Within a minute or so of frying, the green leaves started to turn really dark. My sis-in-law had told me that it would happen. Good, so I was on the right track!
  • Now my mom had told me to fry it all until the leaves turn crispy dry. However, the impatient me (no, no, not lazy!!) decided to stop frying mid-way. Anyway, this was my first time and basically an experiment, right?
  • I turned off the stove and let the fried leaves sit to cool off. I then transferred it into my food processor and pulsed it a couple times into a chutney consistency. There and that's it! The pachadi was ready and hopefully my experiment was a success!
 Gongura leaves washed and dabbed dry with paper towel

All fried up and ready

Gongura Pachadi ready to be eaten!

The Real Way to Eat this Stuff: 

My cousin P had suggested that the real way to eat this stuff is by mixing it with fresh hot steaming rice, a little bit of ghee (clarified butter) and some finely chopped raw onion. That is exactly how my husband and I ate it. It was pretty darn good! There was that sour thing going on as well as the kick from the green and red chillies. As for the onion-- the crunch totally added a joy-factor to the eating!

So my experiment was successful and guess from now on I shall be buying these sour leaves more often. Oh yeah! And I did not let the gongura rot in the fridge.

Now I gotta figure out what I'm going to do with the four packets of curry leaves that are lying in the fridge!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Egg-free and Butter-free Oatmeal-Raisin cookies

You remember how I bought all that hummus from Costco thinking that my kids would love it and actually eat it? And then of course, they never did and I kept using it as a sauce thickener in various one would have thought that I have learned my lesson.

No thanks to that one episode of Good Eats- the one about oats and how oats are excellent for the body, especially the heart etc, I yet again committed a blunder. I bought this box of oatmeal from Costco and placed it in the butler's pantry with a big smile on my face and imagining my kids thoroughly enjoying every bit of that healthy oatmeal every single morning for the next few weeks. I probably knew deep inside that this was a big mistake. Well, they say always listen to your inner voice...........wish I did that more often.

It snowed the whole of yesterday and on account of the 1.5 inches of snow, all schools were shut down today. You see, in this part of the world, we are not used to all this snow and we really can't handle it and hence we all just decide to stay put in our respective homes. Well, it is nice being cooped up in the house for a change and having the fireplace on and feeling nice and cozy, while outside is freezing. And so, around late afternoon I suddenly decided to please my kids by baking some cookies, some oatmeal raisin cookies, to be precise! Yes, the plan was to utilize that oatmeal lying in the pantry.

I think I have mentioned this before- I suck at baking cookies and cakes and the like. Cakes as I understand require a lot of precision. But I kind of figured that cookies should be easier. I mean I have "baked" those ready-to-bake kinds before and I have an idea about the consistency and the general ingredients.

Just as I started to gather up the ingredients, I realized that I was out of eggs and butter. The two most important ingredients! Uhh, what do I do? Well, thanks to the internet, I found this one butter-free and egg-free recipe and I decided to put my own twist to the recipe.

I took:
  • 4 sachets of chocolate chip oatmeal and 2 packets of original oatmeal
  • All purpose Flour (a few tablespoons)
  • maple syrup
  • brown sugar
  • canola oil 
  • vanilla essence
  • raisins
  • cinnamon powder (took a stick of cinnamon and powdered it in my nifty little coffee grinder)
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • milk (a last moment addition to rectify the consistency)

  • I took a mixing bowl and put in all the dry ingredients.
  • I then added a teaspoon of vanilla essence followed by oil and maple syrup.
  • I mixed up everything real well. 
  • I decided to make a few first just to see how it turns out and so I made little balls and patted out little cookies between my palms and placed them on a greased baking sheet.
  • I baked this first batch at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
  • After the timer went off, I took out that batch and placed the cookies on my little cooling rack. At that point they looked pretty good! I had to try one and indeed it was superb! Crunchy and delicious!
 The first batch (one already in my tummy)

Last moment addition to the cookie dough: I figured it was OK to go ahead and bake the second batch. The first batch was great, but a tad bit too crunchy for an oatmeal raisin cookie. And so I decided to add a little bit of milk to the cookie dough.

I baked the second batch again at 375 degrees, this time for only 10 minutes. Oh that second batch was excellent!! Chewy as well as fluffy!! Yummy!

 The second batch- chewy and delicious!

And fluffy inside!

My husband was bowled over (yes, he was at home today because of the snow......remember?) and could not believe that I made those cookies without eggs and butter! My kids were thrilled! And as ever, I was pretty pleased with myself!

A few more rounds of cookie-baking and I will succeed in finishing all that oatmeal. Yes, yes, I have promised myself not to buy huge boxes of oatmeal and hummus from Costco!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The latest sensation- Naanizza!

A few weekends ago we went to Pallino Pastaria and my daughter and I ordered two individual pizzas- one was a chicken-pesto and the other supposedly a "four seasons" pizza. We were all excited (and we were super-hungry) until the waiter brought our orders. I mean, literally, our faces fell upon seeing those little itsy-bitsy things that were placed on our table. To elaborate- the pizza base was basically a naan (we all know what a naan is, right?), floppy, that too! The chicken-pesto naan, oops, I mean, pizza was basically topped with 4 really tiny pieces of chicken, half a teaspoon of pesto and 1 slice of tomato, while the "four seasons" kind was topped with exactly 1 slice of prosciutto, 1 miniature slice of salami, 1 artichoke piece (definitely from a can) and 1 slice of tomato (aah, "four" seasons indeed!). Dunno where the mushroom(s) went! The menu mentioned mushrooms too......... oh well, so it was a total rip-off and we decided never to go there again.

Last week I bought a bag of naan from Costco. You get 8 lovely naans from one bag which is great. What do you think I did with those naans? One guess!
  • I pre-heated the oven to 400 degrees
  • Placed a couple naans on a lightly greased baking sheet
  • Topped each naan with the desired toppings
  • Threw it in the oven and baked for about 5 minutes and then switched it to the broiler mode and broiled for about 7-8  minutes (basically until the cheese got bubbly and the naan base got brown)
  • And I created some out-of-this world pizzas--- well, definitely a thousand times better than that restaurant pizza!
  •  The son had pepperoni, tomatoes and cheddar cheese; the daughter had canadian bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and chipotle jack cheese; the husband and I had Supreme pizza (basically with everything!). 
  • For the kids I used some plain old tomato ketchup and spruced it up with italian seasoning- hey, it was yummy! While for us two, I used a gourmet spicy sauce. 

Broiling is on.......the cheese is melting.....

Ready to eat-- crisp and delicious!

I got so excited with the success of my pizza, that I even made a dessert pizza. So I topped half a naan with some fresh blueberries and some brown sugar and a few chunks of chocolate and just baked and broiled like I did for the other pizzas. It was fantastic!!

Note to Self: Next time, I should omit the brown sugar and just use chocolate and fresh fruit and maybe some kind of jelly/jam.

Blueberry and chocolate pizza--- mmm!

Apparently now this kind of pizza actually has a name--- a Naanizza! Wow!

So will I order pizza from one of those pizza places now that I can create my own gourmet pizza, or should I say, Naanizza, at home? Heck, yeah!! But, but, but---- I am certainly not going to that restaurant to get ripped off again!