Archive for April, 2007

Jihva for Leafy Greens ~ Curry Leaves Dal

chora dal and curry leaves
chora dal (split cowpeas) and curry leaves, little past fresh but still good!

I love Jihva. As usual, a month ago I had visions of the marvelous dishes I could cook up for Indira’s First Jihva Anniversary: Green Leafy Vegetables. How exciting!
I love them all: collards, chard, spinach, sorrel, on and on… if it’s green and leafy, I’ll try it at least once. But that was a month ago.

Along came tax time, school vacation and my vacation. Once I got back, somewhere between work and play, the prom for my daughter and student loan deadlines for my son, April the 30th snuck up on me. I haven’t yet had time to catch up on my blog reading, much less posting — but I couldn’t miss Jihva — especially not this one! Not to worry, I thought — I’ll just run look in the fridge — surely there’s *something*
I could whip up.

EEK!

Nothing. Nada. Zip zero zilch!! There was no fresh greenery to be found. I had one bag of frozen spinach, and some really tired-looking curry leaves… but wait… curry leaves! In my fridge, even a little past their prime, curry leaves retain enough of their unique character to be tasty. What better way to use them up than for Jihva.

I bought a bag of chora dal in Michigan. I cooked the curry leaves along with the chora dal in the pressure cooker, and in fifteen minutes I had this mild, colorful dish infused with curry leaves. To spice it up, I sprinkled Revathi’s delicious no-oil Curry Leaves Podi, the proportions for which she kindly obtained from her mom in India! Thank you, Revathi :)

With a little freshly cracked pepper for garnishing, it made a tasty midnight snack even without rice or bread.

“Curry in a hurry”, indeed!

~~~

Curry Leaves Dal

1 tsp oil
1 tsp chana dal
1 tsp urad dal
1/2 c curry leaves

1/2 c chora dal, rinsed well
1/4 tsp turmeric
small bit of ghee
Revathi’s curry leaves podi
salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

~~~

In a pressure cooker, heat the oil and roast the dals and curry leaves till fragrant. Add the rinsed chora dal and cook for a few minutes, then add about 1 1/2 c water. Cover the cooker, bring up to pressure and cook about 10 minutes (my cooker doesn’t have a whistle). Remove from the heat, and when the pressure falls, stir in a spoonful of ghee and another of Revathi’s curry leaves podi for a double shot of flavor.

~~~

Thank you Indira, for creating and sharing Jihva. Happy Anniversary!

curry leaves dal
mild and creamy chora dal infused with curry leaf flavor

Comments (24)

L is for Lake Superior ~ M is for Michigan!

Only in Michigan can you see…

boats
a car ferry passing in the wake of an ore carrier ~ St. Clair River
photo by gkc

duck
a lone merganser piercing the still water ~ early morning on Grand Traverse Bay

oqueoc falls
mist rising from the river as it rushes out of the woods ~ Ocqueoc Falls

rain clouds
a rain shower moving toward Lake Huron ~ across the Straits of Mackinac

stormy lake superior
a Lake Superior storm

I’m afraid I’ll miss out on “L” and “M”, Nupur, but I’ll be peeking in to see what you’re cooking up! Weather permitting, I am off to the lakes on Monday morning. Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Comments (23)

Green Blog Project ~ Winter/Spring 2007

soft-scrambled eggs with baby methi and shallots
soft-scrambled eggs with baby methi and shallots

I don’t have a green thumb, but I really wanted to take part in Inji Pennu’s
Green Blog Project.

The GBP for Winter/Spring 2007 is being hosted by lovely Mandira of Ahaar. Thanks Mandira!

let me out, let me out!!
poor methi has had enough of indoor gardening…

Last month I planted methi seeds and some radishes, catnip and cilantro.
The methi was coming along quite nicely until the past few days when it started to yellow — almost as if to say “enough of this windowsill already — I want outdoors”!! It was high time I plucked off the baby leaves, but I had very few and couldn’t think of a thing to make. Then I remembered that old standby, the scrambled egg. So here is a very simple recipe with just a few ingredients, quick enough for a fast breakfast, lunch, or late-night snack.

brown eggs are local eggs, and local eggs are fresh...la la la la la
baby methi leaves, shallots, and brown eggs

~~~

Soft-scrambled Eggs with Methi and Shallots

2 eggs
4-5 shallots (baby red onions)

1 tsp butter or ghee
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
3-4T TB fresh snipped baby methi leaves
salt and chile pepper to taste

~~~

Dice the shallots and chop the methi.

Break the eggs into a small bowl and if you like fluffy scrambled eggs, add 1 TB water. Beat well with a fork to blend.

Have a warm plate ready before you cook — this will take about five minutes at the most.

In a small skillet, melt the butter or ghee over medium-high heat and pop the mustard. Add the diced shallots and let them begin to brown. Add the beaten eggs and cook, stirring every few seconds, until they are almost set. Fold in the chopped methi and let them cook a few seconds longer, then turn onto the warm plate. Sprinkle with salt and chile pepper to taste.

Voila, that’s it!

soft-scrambled eggs with baby methi and shallots
soft-scrambled eggs with baby methi and shallots, served on a crispy papad

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Tell-Tale Sign of Spring

The wild things know, in spite of snow… spring is here!

spring goldfinches
goldfinches molting from dull winter colors to bright summer yellow

spring goldfinches
spring goldfinches on thistle sock

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Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables ~ K is for Kamal Kakri

lotus root
the beautiful shapes of sliced lotus root

lotus root pakoras
snow-white inside, golden-crispy outside

It’s Saturday again — time for lovely Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables!

“K” is for kamal kakri, or lotus root. Widely known in Asia, it is just one of many edible parts of the perennial plant classified as nelumbo nucifera. Lotus root has a fairly bland taste, with a texture somewhere between that of a potato and a water chestnut. Wiki states that lotus root (actually a rhizome) has been found to be rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C, among other nutrients, as well as low in fat.

What’s that you say? A nutritious vegetable that is low in fat??? I can fix that :)

lotus root pakoras
spicy lotus root pakoras

The shape of lotus root is so lovely; it always seems a shame to chop it up. I decided to be decadent and fry the slices whole, as pakoras. I was really excited about the batter — an experiment that turned out better than any I’ve made yet. I was in the mood for something spicy and feeling lazy, so I used Badshah meat masala in the mix, and plenty of it. You could use any blend you prefer. Lotus root mimics potato in holding its shape for frying; unlike potato, it retains its crunchy texture inside. I wanted my son to try one, so I told him it was a french fry. He promptly gobbled it up and then told me it was good, but undercooked ;)

Lotus Root Pakoras

1/2 – 3/4c sliced lotus root (mine was water-packed from an oriental market — fresh would need to be cleaned and boiled)

1/3 c besan
1/8 tsp baking powder
1 TB rice flour
1 TB thin poha
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp Badshah meat masala (or any spice mix you prefer)

6 TB water

oil for deep-frying
~~~

Sift the besan and baking powder into a bowl. Add the rice flour, poha, salt and spices and mix well. Add the water, 1 TB at a time, until you have a medium thick batter. Let the batter rest 15 min.

Lay the sliced lotus root between paper towels to absorb moisture — this helps the batter adhere.

In a kadai or other deep pan, heat oil for deep-frying over medium heat. When the oil is ready, dip the slices into the batter and drain the excess before sliding into the oil. Fry slowly on medium heat about 2-3 minutes per side. Drain well on more paper towels, sprinkle with salt if desired, and serve hot.

lotus root pakoras on Imperial glass
crispy pakoras of crunchy lotus root and yogurt mixed with cilantro chutney ~ served on a canary yellow Twisted Optic snack set by Imperial Glass, circa 1920

Thank you, Nupur, for this continuing alphabetical adventure!

And now I must hop off to the bunny-hole, for even teenagers like candy on Easter morning. For those celebrating, have a Happy Easter, and for those who are not, have a Happy Weekend!

Comments (27)

Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables ~ J is for Jackfruit (Just a little late)

I am often Just under the wire with my entries for all these fun events. I like to think it’s because I work better under pressure. While that may be true to an extent, most of the time it’s because I have so many wild ideas that it’s hard to settle down and choose one! This and the fact that I had no time to cook last weekend prevented me from getting a “J” ready for Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables by Saturday. So here I am Just a few days late :)

jackfruit chips, boiled jackfruit chips, shallot, radish, carrot
clockwise from bottom left: jackfruit chips, boiled jackfruit chips, shallots, radish, carrots

Down the road from work is a great little Indian cafe. They serve chaats of all variety, sambhar to die for, and sweets galore. I have tasted a couple of their chaats, but mostly it’s their sambhar I crave. It’s silky smooth and bursting with flavor, with little chunks of brinjal, carrot, and sometimes potato floating about between the mustard and cumin seeds. I really wanted to recreate it at home. MHD makes good sambhar powder and I like it, but its heat is a little too brash for this. I tried with a homemade version I had in the freezer, but I still couldn’t quite get the distinctive taste of that sambhar.

The last time I visited the shop, I hinted around a little, trying to get a secret or two:

Me: “I’d like one sambhar please, to go”.

Proprietor: “Oneplainsambharnovadanoidly”??? (he’s always in a hurry)

Me: “Yes please. Oh, it smells heavenly! I make sambhar at home but it’s never quite the same” (smiling… hint, hint…).

Proprietor: “Thassalljussoneplainsambharandyouwantittogoma’am?”

Me (little deflated): “Yes, please, one plain sambhar”.

Hmm… maybe he doesn’t think I know what good sambhar *is*…

While I wait, I browse around the small selection of grocery items. I pick up a package of toor dal and a package of mustard seeds. Maybe he’ll take me more seriously if he sees me buying these. I lay them by the cash register.

The proprietor ignores me, bustling about behind the counter.
I forge ahead anyway.

Me: “You folks serve the most delicious sambhar I’ve ever tasted! There must be a secret ingredient”! (flashing big grin now… HINT HINT!)

Proprietor (unmoved by my blatant plea): “Youwanttopayforthesenowwiththatplainsambhartogoma’am”?

I give up and to console myself, I buy the package of jackfruit chips I’ve been eyeing, too.

Well, I guess we both knew there was no way he was going to divulge his secret!!

~~~

After stalling a long time, I finally bought a lovely new pressure cooker (my first one went home with my sister months ago). Past few days I read about a zillion sambhar recipes — rereading some of my favorites and checking out some new. While reading, I munched on the jackfruit chips I picked up in the little shop near work. I had never tried them before, and they were tasty. They also gave me an idea. Into the kitchen I went with my new pressure cooker, and gave it a whirl.

Jackfruit Sambhar

1 c toor dal, picked over and washed
1 small piece tamarind (golf ball or lime size)
1/2 c jackfruit chips

For tadka

2 tsp canola oil

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp chana dal
a few methi seeds
curry leaves (10-12 small or 5-6 large)

For the vegetables

2 big shallots cut fine
1-2 big green chiles (cut a slice off top and bottom, but leave whole)
2 carrots, sliced
6-8 red radishes, diced
1 long asian eggplant, cut in chunks

For seasoning

1 tsp kashmiri chile powder
1/2 tsp coarsely cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin-coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp methi powder

Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

~~~

Pressure cook (yay!!) the dal with 2 c water. Mash to a smooth paste and set aside.

Soak the tamarind in a cup of hot water till soft. Strain the pulp and set the tamarind water aside.

Boil the jackfruit chips in about a cup of water till soft. Drain and set aside. Reserve the boiling water. If any oil rises, just skim it off and discard.

In a large saucepan, heat the canola oil and do the tadka. I did the dals and methi first until fragrant, then popped the mustard; cumin and curry leaves went in last.

To this spiced oil add the shallots and stir around for a minute or two, then add the green chile, carrots, radishes, and eggplant. Saute this mixture about 5 minutes or so, then add the tamarind water and all the seasonings. Let it simmer together about 10 minutes, then add the mashed dal paste, the reserved jackfruit water and 4 cups fresh cold water.

Bring everything to a boil, mixing well to blend the dal in completely. Boil just a minute or two, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the boiled jackfruit pieces, add salt to taste and simmer about 30 minutes. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary. Thin with a little more water to get the consistency you prefer.

~~~

This was the first time I made a real sambhar without following a recipe. I think half the battle was won when I brought home the new cooker. Dal cooked on the stove in the regular way is good, but the pressure cooker brings a completely different dimension in both taste and texture. I won’t be without one again. I have to say, I was thrilled with the results — it was nearly as good as the little cafe’s, and twice as good the next day.

jackfruit sambhar
silky jackfruit sambhar garnished with crispy jackfruit chips

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Jihva for Tomatoes ~ Simple Summer Sandwich

tomatoes
juicy ripe plum tomatoes

I suppose this recipe will sound like I didn’t try hard, but I did. I really did.
I wracked my brain for a tomato recipe worthy of Jihva for Tomatoes, and at
RP’s My Workshop no less! I will spare you the agony of my thought process.

I thought and thought, and then I remembered that RP mentioned something about
posting simple recipes and how she was not going to be worrying about that. Fabulous! Freed from my own rules, I felt able to post the first and best thing
I could think of: a tomato sandwich.

tomato sandwich in the making
tomato sandwich in the making — plum tomatoes work, too

When I was growing up, my grandmother always had a fantastic garden.
On the Cape, the sea air lends something to the soil — good things seem to simply sprout up where planted. If we were visting in spring, we were allowed to help with the weeding and the watering. Then came summertime, which meant a month-long visit at least. We kids played in half of her big backyard rimmed with brambles — blackberries and raspberries, with the garden taking up the other half. We played badminton, baseball, kickball, you name it. All those summer afternoons nana would sit in her lawn chair watching. Whenever a ball or birdie went astray and a child ran after it, she would jump up from her chair to retrieve the offending toy — all in order to save her precious plantings. In later years when she wasn’t so nimble, she would direct us between the rows of green, calling “out of the garden”. She did this in such a sing-song voice that I can still hear her tone now, thirty-plus years on.

When the games were over, we scrambled through the brambles — braving the prickers to pick blackberries which were then proffered to nana with blue-stained fingers and lots of love. In return we received simple and delicious fare from her well-worn and equally loving hands.

Tomato sandwiches were one such pleasure.

Later, as the sky grew dark, we would run barefooted over the lawn, chasing fireflies. And if any of us were so lucky as to catch one, nana always had a jar ready. We could place the firefly gently into that jar and watch it — maybe for half an hour, before nana would have us release it. She was a wise woman — having us set that small creature free to fire up our childhood dreams.

Eventually, my uncle took over the garden. Sadly, they are all three no more — garden, uncle, and nana. But the singsong call remains, “out of the garden”, and just a short drive away, my mom still has her own vegetable patch with juicy, succulent garden-fresh tomatoes every year.

This recipe is simple and can be enjoyed anytime, but to fully appreciate it, try it in the summer with a fresh, garden tomato — just picked and still warm from the sun.

Simple Summer Sandwich

Choose the freshest, ripest tomato you can find. Rinse it off, and slice into medium-thick rounds. If you don’t mind tomato juice on your hands, leave the rounds whole. If you want a neater sandwich, cut them in half.

Take two slices of fresh, soft white bread. Storebought Canadian White style is my favorite. Homemade bread is great too. You could use wheat or some other whole grain, of course, but this sandwich of my childhood memories is all about indulgence so I use white bread and real mayo.
Real mayo in this case means Hellman’s — or for anyone west of the Mississippi, Best Foods brand.

Lay out your fresh white bread (preferably on a paper plate) and give each slice a thin veil of real mayo. Lay on the sliced tomatoes. Put the two halves together. Cut into quarters — triangles are the most fun.

Carry your plate outdoors if you can.

Gobble it up and lick your fingers — napkins are for grownups. :)

Thanks RP, for hosting Jihva and for reminding me of this wonderful treat from those sunny summertime days ‘down the Cape’.

tomato sandwich fixins
all the fixings for a summer tomato sandwich!

Comments (19)

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