Sunday, January 23, 2011

Gawaar ki Phalli- Cluster Beans

Cluster beans, commonly called "Gawaar ki Phalli," back in India is a vegetable, like the poor bitter-melon, that not many people like. Apparently it tastes "strange." Well, like I say all the time, one has got to open up to different vegetables and start eating and liking them.

I have never found cluster beans in any of the regular grocery stores here. The Indian store, however, carries it sometimes. So last week when I happened to drop by the Indian store, I picked up some cluster beans. Finally made it today for lunch.

The most time-consuming part: De-stringing the cluster beans

Before you can cook them, you gotta cut off the ends of each individual bean. If the beans are overripe, they could be very stringy. Luckily for me, this time, the beans were nice and fresh and so it was OK--- though, I must confess, that when I finally was done with the very last bean, I felt sheer relief. Yep, that is THE most time-consuming part of cooking cluster beans.

Cluster beans all trimmed and ready to be cooked

All that hard work! The ends.......

The Other Ingredients:

1. Potato
2. A couple cloves of garlic
3. A couple tomatoes
4. Oil
5. Cumin seeds
6. Red Chilli powder
7. Turmeric Powder
8. Salt

My Very Simple Recipe:

1. After de-stringing those beans, I rough chopped them and washed them. I also chopped 1 potato and a couple tomatoes. I smashed up a couple cloves of garlic.
2. I got a pot going on the stove and poured in a couple tea-spoons of oil. Then some cumin seeds.
3. Threw in the chopped potato and garlic followed by turmeric powder and some salt. Fried it for about a couple to 3 minutes.
4. Added the tomatoes and stirred it all and finally added the cluster beans.
5. After adding the desired amount of red chilli powder, I added some extra water just enough to cover everything up and then brought it to a boil and covered the pot and decreased the stove flame.

P.S.: Now normally I first cook the potato and then add the other vegetable(s)-- but in this case, I have found that cluster beans tend to be pretty hardy and require extra cooking time and that is why I just cook the potato as well as the beans together.

6. After about 5-10 minutes,  the cluster bean curry was ready to be served for lunch!

Ready to eat with rotis/rice

Another P.S.:  I have somehow never managed to retain that original green color of the cluster beans. I guess it is because of the extra cooking time........anybody have any suggestions?

My mom makes another version of this wherein she incorporates peanut powder and adds jaggery and then adds some Kala Masala (Black Spice Mix). That is very delicious too!

I wish they sold pre-trimmed and ready to cook cluster beans--- then I would buy them more often!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rajma- the Indian Chili

We are all familiar with Chili--- you know, the thick and chunky stew made with beans, meat and spices. There is the Indian "Chili" too that I make sometimes, more commonly known as Rajma. I make it with either dark kidney beans or the light ones and then slow-cook the beans along with onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and spices. The end result is a very delicious, lovely dark colored thick stew- yep, similar to Chili, minus the meat.

I like to soak dry red kidney beans in water overnight and then cook them the next day. Sure you could use a couple of those cans of red kidney beans available at the local grocery store if you are on a serious time-crunch. Then you don't have to bother about the overnight soaking. But if you want that authentic taste going on, then I suggest you soak the dry beans and cook them the next day.

Previous Night Prepping: Soak some dry red (dark or light) kidney beans in water and leave it soaking overnight.

 Dry Red Kidney Beans

Next Day: 

Note: When I am going to make Rajma for a party, I grind onions+ginger+garlic+tomatoes in the food processor and then fry the whole paste and then add the beans to this.......(ref previous post- the "real" egg curry). But if it is just for us, I simply chop the onions and tomatoes and coarsely smash the ginger and garlic. Saves me time and energy! 

Red kidney beans/Rajma ready to be cooked

  • So I get my beautiful pressure cooker out (if you don't own one, please do yourself a favor and buy one) and set it on the stove and get the heat going.
  • Add some oil followed by cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, maybe even a couple cloves (pretty much any of those wonderful spices you can get your hands on!).
  • Then I add the chopped aromatics and the tomatoes (or tomato paste) into this and quickly sautee it a bit. 
  • And then I add the soaked beans, including the water to this. 
  • I add salt, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and garam masala.
  • I usually have to add some extra water (those beans need a lot of water to cook well). 
  • I then give it a final taste before closing the lid. 
  • After about 5 minutes, the pressure cooker starts releasing steam and at this point, I immediately lower the stove flame to the least setting and let it all slow-cook for 30 minutes. 
  • Once the 30 minute timer goes off, I switch off the stove and let the cooker cool down so I can open the lid.
  • After the cooker has cooled down (which means there is no more steam under pressure and it is safe to be opened), I go ahead and open it and it is ready to be served! 
Yummy Rajma or Indian Chili!

Some like to eat Rajma with bread/rotis while some others prefer their Rajma with rice. Then there are some others who don't care and eat their Rajma with either bread or rice or both!

 Rajma served with Jeera (cumin) rice and a little side salad

See? This is basically chili, sans the meat. I am sure you can add some meat to this and perhaps some bell pepper and ta-da! it will in fact be Chili, only spiced up the Indian way!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy Birthday!

I asked the birthday boy what he wants for his birthday dinner and he promptly replied, "Make egg curry. Or actually, just make dal." Every January 11, for the last 13 years, ever since we've been together, this is all he asks for. Either egg curry or dal (split mung beans or lentil soup) with rotis. And so I cooked both egg curry as well as dal this time.

You remember egg curry, right? A couple months ago, I made "the other egg curry," but today I made the real egg curry- the one with boiled eggs. The method is the same, except that for this one, I make a paste with onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes in the food processor and then fry it in oil after adding some cumin seeds to the hot oil. I fry the paste until all the water evaporates (the water from the onions+tomatoes). I then add a potato followed by water, salt, red chilli powder and garam masala and cover the pot to let the potato cook in the beautiful curry. I meanwhile boil some eggs. After about 10-15 minutes, when the potato is cooked, I slowly drop the boiled eggs (err, peeled, of course!) into the curry. Let everything simmer for another 5 minutes and voila! egg curry is ready!

 Deliciously spicy "Real" Egg Curry

As for the dal- it is pretty simple. I have a short method and a long method.The former version is way faster in that I cook the dal first in a pressure cooker. So that is a grand total of 4 minutes. Whereas the long method involves cooking the dal in a pot, simmering away for at least 45 minutes. So you do the Math! Well, since it was a birthday treat, I followed the long method today.

1. I soaked some split mung beans in water in the morning so that it would be easier to cook them later.

2. I chopped up some onion and smashed up ginger+garlic (yeah, the standard aromatics) and then lightly sauteed this in some oil seasoned with cumin seeds, turmeric powder and red chilli powder.

3. Into this I added the soaked dal with the water. I also threw in a couple chopped tomatoes. After bringing this to a boil, I turned down the heat to low and covered the pot to let it all simmer away.

P.S.: When making dal this way, I watch it on and off, just to make sure that nothing is slipping out of the pot.........

4. After about 30 minutes, I checked to see if the dal was cooked. Thanks to the soaking process that happened in the morning, it was cooked perfect.

5. Finally I added salt to taste (we all  know that rule, don't we?). Done!

Spicy Mung Dal (lentil soup)

To balance out the overdose of protein (eggs and lentils), I had a simple grated carrot salad on the side. The birthday dinner was much enjoyed by the birthday boy as well as by the rest of us.

This time the kids and I got a lovely chocolate pie instead of the traditional cake from the store.

Happy Birthday, Darling!

Note: I should thank my mother-in-law for the dal recipe. And I must also add that she makes the best egg curry and poppy seed rice ever!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

1-Pot Pesto Pasta

I love to cook dishes that require least amount of effort, time and utensils. The fewer the number of utensils I have to use, the better. I therefore love to cook these 1-pot wonders that well, as the name suggests, utilize just 1 pot and of course, a ladle to stir up everything.

Now usually I cook pasta by first boiling water, cooking the pasta until al dente and then in a separate pot, throwing in some veggies/meat, seasoning etc and then draining the cooked pasta and then finally incorporating that into the sauteed veggies/meat. It does take some time and effort to do all that. Not to forget, I have extra utensils in my sink. So sometimes, when I am on a time-crunch, I just cook everything together in 1 pot and it turns out pretty darn good. This is how I make my 1-pot pesto pasta:

  • I take a pot, add some oil, followed by some Italian seasoning and then throw in some mushrooms. 
  • Quickly sautee and then add a packet of pasta. 
  • I then add water just enough to cover the pasta. Yes, they do say that pasta must be cooked in "sea-water," meaning a lot of salty water..........but remember, this is my 1-pot pasta wonder. 
  • I then add some salt and pepper and then once it comes to a boil, I cover the pot and reduce the heat. 
  • I stir it intermittently to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. 
  • Towards the end, I add some broccoli and frozen peas followed by a couple tablespoons of pesto. 
  • Give it all one last stir and ta-da! my 1-pot pesto pasta is ready! 
 My 1-Pot Pesto Pasta

I made this for dinner on Saturday. Before serving, I added some chopped cucumber on top. It added a lovely cool, fresh crunch to the warm and delicious pasta.

The best part was that I had only 1 pot to wash!

My 45-second Cake!

Last evening, right after dinner, I felt like some cake. Yep, that happens sometimes! Now if you remember, I am bad at baking cakes and the I told the husband to bake a cake. The kids got all excited too--- they love their dad's cakes. He is our Pastry Chef, you see. Well, since it was pretty late, he promised us some cake today. Then we called it a day and my kitchen was shut. I was watching some TV, when I suddenly got this brilliant idea. I dashed to the kitchen and started my experiment. Within 5 minutes, I had created a beautiful red velvet cake!! No way, you say? Here, keep reading and you'll know........

I took:

In a  microwave-safe bowl- 3 spoons of all purpose flour, a pinch of baking soda, a pinch of baking powder, a few drops of vanilla essence, some sugar, a few drops of red food color (for the red velvet part, of course), a couple spoons of olive oil, a tad bit of milk and water.

What I did: 

1. I took a m-wave safe bowl and put in all the dry ingredients first.

2. Followed by the wet ingredients.

3. Stirred all this up into a nice batter (cake batter-  you know, not too thin, not too thick.......). Tasted it to make sure it was sweet enough.

4. Then placed this bowl with the batter in the microwave.

5. Said a little prayer.

6. Punched in the cooking time for 30 seconds first and started the m-wave. Watched the batter rise up and by then the 30 seconds were up. I cooked it for an additional 15 seconds. At this point, it was smelling like real cake!

7. Took it out of the m-wave and by the mere look of it, I knew that it was a success. I nevertheless poked it to see if it was cooked all the way through and indeed it was!

WOW! I had created some real good red velvet cake (could have used more of the red food color to make it a nicer red). It took me 45 seconds to "bake" it in the microwave! I cut it into 4 parts and all of us loved it!

 Imagine my joy when I saw this!
 One slice for each of us
 Perfectly "baked!"
 Bowl licked clean!

From now on, whenever one of us feels like cake, voila! I can whip up my awesome 45-second Cake and satisfy that sweet tooth!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mexican Rice- my style

You know how sometimes you come back home right around lunch time and you are hungry like heck. You open the refrigerator, only to find drab leftovers. So then you consider take-out, but then again you re-think that option because you get into this whole "saving" mode and you don't want to spend 10 bucks on yourself. Of course, the very same weekend you go right ahead and spend 200 bucks on your Costco purchases........but hey, those are essentials! Anyway, so coming back to the lunch scenario. This happens with me on and off and so I came up with an excellent quick-fix for my lunch problem. I call it Myxican rice and it is super quick and super easy and I usually have all the ingredients, including leftover plain rice, for this wonderful lunch-fix.

I use:

A couple mushrooms, some frozen corn, hot salsa, plain rice, salt, pepper, some cheese (cheddar or pepper jack or whatever I have).

What I do:

1. I put in sliced mushrooms and some frozen corn into a microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle some salt & pepper on this and throw it in the m-wave for about a minute or two.

2. I then take the desired amount of rice and plonk in on top of the mushroom-corn mixture. M-wave this for another minute or two.

3. Spoon in a good amount of hot salsa over the rice and then mix it all up.

4. I finally take a thin slice of cheese and just tear it up into little bits and mix it into the above rice mix.

5. Heat up this final mixture in the m-wave for another minute to melt that cheese.

6. I add some extra hot sauce before eating. Delicious and oh-so-satisfying!

Corn, mushrooms, salt, pepper

Insanity Sauce, Salsa

Check out that warning! Love Insanity! ;) 

Yum-yum!! And so quick! 

I love this creation of mine. Takes me 5 minutes to whip up. And it totally satisfies my mid-day hunger!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Masala Bhurji

It was the fourth day of the new year, freezing outside and it was time to cook dinner. I had a few veggies lying in the fridge, but was in that laze-around-kinda-mood. Aha! Masala Bhurji! You know, scrambled eggs, all jazzed up with onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and spices---YUM!


Eggs, finely chopped onion (you could just slice it too), smashed up garlic+ginger, green chillies, tomatoes, fresh coriander/cilantro, a couple different spices that you like--- I usually like to add mustard seeds, turmeric, red chilli powder, cumin powder and sometimes even garam masala-- totally upto you, little bit of oil to cook and of course, salt to taste.

My Method: 

1. I take a couple teaspoons of oil in a pan and get the heat going. I splutter some mustard seeds and then throw in some chopped onion, garlic, ginger, green chillies, fresh coriander/cilantro as well as tomatoes*. Quickly sautee it all, adding turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt.

2. I then break eggs directly into the above mixture in the pan and start stirring it all up (just like scrambled eggs).

3. Within a couple to max 5 minutes, Masala Bhurji is ready! I sprinkle a tad bit of garam masala right at the end or maybe some cilantro+cumin powder for that final oomph.

*I was out of tomatoes and so I substituted that with tomato ketchup. OK, some of you might smirk at the idea of adding ketchup......but hey, it totally works, I tell ya!

Masala Bhurji all ready to go

With chapati/tortilla/bread

Hot chapatis with hot Masala Bhurji on a cold Tuesday night worked out great!

P.S.: If I was in that laze-around-kinda-mood, how on earth did I suddenly get the energy to make chapatis? Well, those were pre-made chapatis.......