February 28, 2006

Wake up and smell...the Granola!

Granola is a favorite breakfast-on-the-go choice in my family (and we are not even breakfast people to begin with!). It comes in delicious flavors and is crunchy unlike oatmeal. Add some fruits and there will be no hunger pangs till lunchtime. I was on the lookout for a good granola recipe since most store mixes contain a high level of sugar or artificial flavors.

Erin's entry for ARF Tuesday came at just the right time. Isn't food blogging the best? No more surfing the net blindly looking for a recipe, then hoping it will turn out half as decent as it seemed :-)

Three and a half cups of oats gave me one medium size container of granola. Bake up a big batch in advance and relish the 'fruits' of your labor through the following weeks!

granola

BREAKFAST GRANOLA
Nonstick vegetable oil spray/ oil
3 1/2 cups rolled oats
a handful of almonds, slivered
a handful of dried cranberries & blueberries (or apricots, dates, prunes, raisins etc.)
4-5 tablespoons golden brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup honey (flavored honey like wildflower, orange blossom works well)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300°F (with the rack in the centre). Mix the oats with the nuts, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Combine oil and honey in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

Pour this mixture over oats and stir well. Ensure oats are evenly coated. Spread granola on a greased baking sheet. Bake until golden brown (about 25-28 minutes), stirring ocassionally. Cool completely. Mix in the dried berries and store in an airtight container.

To serve I make a granola parfait. Spoon 2 tablespoons of low-fat yogurt/ milk/ soy milk into a bowl. Top with 2 tablespoons of granola. Toss in fresh fruits of your choice and serve. Takes all of five minutes from start to finish!

* Rolled oats and dried berries are available in Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and other specialty shops

Continuing on the subject of trying out my fellow bloggers' recipes, here are some more.
Cilantro Rice (Sailu's Food)
An aromatic and easy to make pilaf. A dish which retains the original color and flavor of it's ingredients is a keeper in my book.

Lemon Rasam (Spice is right)
A citrus-y, tangy, nutritious rasam that goes well with steamed rice or as soup.

Mediterranean Omelet (Once upon a feast)
Now brunch is something I love. And this mediterranean omelet is perfect for a lazy Sunday morning.

Tags:

February 22, 2006

Of summer holidays - Mango Relish

If I had to choose a single word to capture my summer holidays as a child, it would be ... mangoes. When the first wooden crate appeared in the market, each greenish yellow fruit neatly stacked amidst bundles of hay, it meant only one thing. Two long fun filled summer months at my grandparents' house in the Konkan (the Konkan coast is a stretch of land that covers parts of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka).

One of our first visits would be to our orchard, a magical sight for a kid. Trees and trees laden with the fruit in vibrant shades of green. My grandfather who had an innate instinct about such things would decide which fruits were ready to be picked. These mangoes were brought home and left to ripen in peace and quiet. After a long wait (or so it seemed) they were served in all their golden glory, plump, juicy and begging to be eaten. And eat we did!

Many households in the Konkan region have their own mango orchards or at least a couple of mango trees in their backyard. So the women of the house have a huge repertoire of recipes using this fruit. The raw green mango is used in beverages, chutneys, spice blends or as a souring agent in curries, the ripe one in desserts, jams and relishes.

The first batch of juicy fruit is eaten sliced. No frills required, this is the king of fruit after all. By the second or third week everyone begins to hanker for a change, so in comes a very popular dessert - mango juice flavored with cardamom (aam ras) and served with hot puris. After this mangoes are used to make breakfast or teatime treats - mango burfies, pancakes (ambapoli) and jam (muramba).
When the sweetness has gotten overwhelming for even a staunch mango lover, a spicy relish is introduced in the meal - the amba sasam. It is a sweet, sour and spicy combination that serves as a side to a rice- curry meal and is eaten by all in thankful relief! To up the tartness quotient, pineapple cubes are added in one version. This is called the Ananas Amba Sasam.

Sasam gets its name from the mustard seeds (sasam in Konkani) that are used liberally in the masala.

sasav3

ANANAS AMBA SASAm (Pineapple Mango Relish)
(serves 3-4)
1 small ripe mango
1 cup pineapple cubes
1 green chilli chopped fine
1 teaspoon jaggery
salt to taste
Grind to a coarse paste -
3-4 tbsp coconut, grated
1-2 dry red chillies
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
For tempering (optional) -
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
oil

Peel mango and slice it. Combine with pineapple cubes and green chilli in a bowl. Add salt and jaggery to taste. Mix with your hands, mashing the fruits as you do this.

Grind coconut and red chilli to a coarse paste using very little water. Add mustard seeds and pulse for a minute. Mix this paste with the fruits. I like to add a tempering of mustard seeds. Serve cold as a side with rice and curry.

* Alternatively you can simmer the relish over low heat (do not boil) and serve it warm
* Sasam keeps for 2 to 3 days at the most; use leftovers as a topping on sandwiches or salads
* Sasam can be made with mangalore cucumber (magge), ashgourd, beetroot, cucumber or any other fruit

Labels:

February 14, 2006

ARF/ 5-a-day - Salad a la Dad

The credit for this one goes entirely to my father. As far back as I can remember, my dad has been in charge of the dinner salad in our house. Perhaps because of the abundance of vegetables in our main course, Indian cuisine has a limited repertoire of salads; these are usually in the form of raitas - chopped onions/ tomatoes/ cucumbers in a yogurt dip. In any case an elaborately prepared salad on the table is rare. Which is why, my dad took it upon himself to whip up something for us.

The routine went something like this - after my mother was done cooking dinner she watched a bit of television while my father headed into the kitchen and put together a salad. He would then offer it to everyone at the table, firmly holding the plate before you till he felt you had taken an appropriate helping!

Up until a few years ago, we didn't get a lot of salad vegetables in Bombay, but my father still managed to make something delicious with what was available - left-over vegetables, nuts, fruit, basically anything in the fridge that caught his eye! This ensured that we had a 'new' salad practically every day. Now that romaine, peppers and herbs are easily available in the market, he has a lot to play with, and my mother complains that the salads have gradually become so exotic, they overshadow the meal!

salad2

SALAD A LA DAD
1 pomegranate deseeded
1/2 cup seedless black grapes halved
1 mandarin/ orange diced
1 cup shredded cabbage + carrot (I used a coleslaw mix)
3-5 almonds slivered
some finely chopped cilantro
1-2 teaspoon lemon juice
a pinch of cumin powder
salt & pepper to taste

Combine the lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Mix salad ingredients in a large bowl and top with dressing. Dig in!!

Could there be a more appropriate entry for Sweetnicks' ARF/ 5-a-day Tuesday?

Labels:

February 10, 2006

Everything tastes better with cashews - Upkari

My very first guest in my new home in the U.S. I was in a complete tizzy - what do I serve a vegetarian who was sorely missing home cooked meals? It had to be fancy enough to be served to a guest but simple enough to lift his spirits (I had been requested to stay away from paneer, kofta etc!).

I decided to make this upkari; a staple at our religious functions. Well if it's good enough for the Gods... At lunchtime I casually asked him if he liked ivy gourds. "Not at all", came the response. To cut a long story short he did try the upkari because the cashews were hard to resist and ended up liking it after all. It was a happy meal for everyone involved ;-)

A preparation such as this is common throughout the south, though the names (palya, poriyal) and vegetables (beans, plantain, cabbage) may vary. It is prepared as a side to curries, is undeniably simple to make and delicious.

upkari2

TENDLI KAJU UPKARI (Ivy Gourd-Cashew Stir fry)
2 cups ivy gourds, quartered
10 cashewnuts, halved
2 tbsp grated coconut
salt and jaggery to taste
Seasoning -
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 dry red chilli
2 green chillies, chopped
1 tsp black gram (urad dal)
5-6 curry leaves
a pinch of asafoetida
oil

Cook gourds in just enough water. They retain their crispness and flavor if cooked in this manner, so try not to use a pressure cooker.

When they are almost done, add cashews. Drain thoroughly once cashews have turned tender. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter add asafoetida, curry leaves, red chilli, green chilli and black gram. Saute till dal turns golden.

Add gourds and cashews. Continue to saute for a few minutes. Season with salt and jaggery. Sprinkle grated coconut on top, mix well and serve immediately.

* This upkari (beeja manoli/ bibbe) is actually made with raw cashews that are in season in April-May but cooking the dry nut in water gives the closest possible taste.

Labels:

February 06, 2006

Poetic Eggcellence - Masala Toast

Ah Egg! could thou and I whip up
A delicious meal for evening sup
Would not we have our guests sigh - and say
The golden toast is never enough!


toast2

Such literary slaughter! But never you mind, its for a blog event. I first heard of the EoMEoTE event (End of the Month Egg on Toast Extravaganza, phew) through Nupur's blog. One look at this month's theme and I went straight to the crate in the fridge. Poetry!

I made what is commonly called French toast in India. I have no idea why since the original French toast is nothing like this spicy version. Fusion at its best perhaps?

The verse above is a parody of 'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam' - a poem I chose because it has fond memories attached to it. My best friend and I were really hooked on to this Persian gem during our college years for some reason. Its a lyrical, plain poem that appealed to our young minds I suppose.

MASALA TOAST
(serves 2-3)
6 white or brown bread slices
3 eggs
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 tsp red chilli powder or 1 green chilli chopped fine
1/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1/2 tsp pepper
some finely chopped cilantro
grated parmesan or any other cheese
salt to taste
oil for frying

Whisk the eggs with all the spices, herbs and cheese. Season to taste. Heat a skillet with olive oil. Dredge a bread slice in batter and shallow fry on moderate heat till golden brown.

Drain excess oil on absorbent paper. Serve with ketchup or chutney.

*For an eggless version, make a batter of chickpea flour (besan) and spices; use cumin-coriander powder instead of cheese.

PS: For those who are interested, here is the original verse (a translation by Edward Fitzgerald) -
Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits -- and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire!

Tags:

February 02, 2006

Maximum city, maximum taste - Dabeli

"Where are you from? Searching for an answer, in Paris, in London, in Manhattan, I always fall back on Bombay. Somewhere buried beneath the wreck of its current condition, is a city that has a tight claim on my heart, a beautiful city by the sea, an island state of hope in a very old country. I went back to look for that city. In the looking I found the cities within me."
- Maximum City - Bombay lost and found by Suketu Mehta

I have been breathing, living this book since I picked it up. A love hate essay on my favorite city; Mehta unveils everything - the villagers who come to the city everyday to look for a living, the criminal underworld, the politics and yes, Bollywood.

Reading about the city I love (my home away from home) got me nostalgic about it's food. A typical Bombay snack could only mean vada-pav, but I opted out of deep frying and decided on Dabeli. Dabeli is originally a Kutchi/ Gujarati dish. Just as Bombay welcomes people from all over the country, so does it welcome their food, and Dabeli is now a common snack sold on Bombay's roads.
It is also called Double Roti or Kutchi Dabeli.

dabeli

DABELI
(adapted from a recipe by Tarla Dalal)
(serves 2-3)
For dabeli masala:
1-2 red chillies (you can make it as spicy as you like)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2" stick cinnamon
2 cloves
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
For the filling :
2 medium size potatoes, boiled and mashed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
a pinch of asafoetida
2 teaspoons dabeli masala
2 tablespoons peanuts
1 tablespoon oil
salt
For assembly:
5-6 ladi-pav/ burger buns
1 onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup sev
garlic chutney (optional) & tamarind date chutney
For garnish:
finely chopped cilantro
a handful of pomegranate seeds (optional)

Roast masala ingredients in a pan for a few minutes taking care not to burn them. Grind to a fine powder.

Heat oil in a pan and fry peanuts till they turn light brown. Remove and keep aside. Next add cumin seeds; when they splutter add asafoetida, dabeli masala, potatoes, salt and a little water. Toss in the peanuts and mix everything well. Remove from fire.

Slice buns into halves and toast them with a little butter on a griddle. Apply garlic chutney if using on one side, tamarind chutney on the other side of the bun. Place a portion of the potato filling in between.

Top with chopped onion, cilantro and sev. Press down, garnish with pomegranate seeds and serve immediately.

Tags: double roti kutchi dabeli tarla dalal tea time snacks low calorie