Archive for June, 2006

Jihva for Dal (part two) ~ The Tradition

Ingredients for Indira's Sweet Pongal

Ingredients for Indira’s Traditional Sweet Pongal

Jihva for ingredients

This recipe needs no introduction.

Indira’s Sweet Pongal, The Sankranthi Sweet

Told in brief ~ please see Indira’s Recipe for details.

I have wanted to make this for some time, and Jihva for Dal seemed the perfect opportunity. I followed Indira’s excellent, detailed instructions with two minor exceptions ~ I used four whole crushed cardamom pods and added them at the beginning, while cooking the rice and dal. Also, I used a pot on the stove rather than rice cooker or pressure cooker.

The rich aroma of moong dal toasting in ghee brought even my skeptical teenagers wafting into the kitchen to see what crazy mom was up to this evening ๐Ÿ™‚

Fresh Milk, Jaggery, Cashews and Golden Raisins

Fresh milk and jaggery in Michigan pattern glass, cashews and golden raisins

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Although I followed the directions *to the letter* …

Indira's Traditional Sweet Pongal

…mine doesn’t look near as good as Indira’s! Imagine that ๐Ÿ™‚

My attempt at Sweet Pongal is my small tribute to the delights of traditional Indian cooking, and my second entry to Jihva for Dal. I can’t wait to see what wonderful things everyone else is cooking up!

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Jihva for Dal (part one) ~ The Trial

Chana Dal

Golden Chana Dal in Colonial aka Knife and Fork glass by Hocking, circa 1934

Jihva for ingredients

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Jihva for Dal is particularly enjoyable for me. Actually, dal is responsible for the most fun I’ve had in some time, in the kitchen and on the internet: playing at blogging.

Back in January, I began to seriously toy (hmm.. sounds like an oxymoron!) with the idea of becoming vegetarian. I knew about beans/legumes and rice as a quality form of protein (thanks to Laurel’s Kitchen phase way back when). I had tasted dal in restaurants, and wanted to learn to cook it myself. Google “authentic dal recipe” sometime and see what results you find. I landed at Mahanandi; from there the links took over and I was hooked on Indian home-cooking.

Since then, I’ve met a kind, generous group of people who have offered advice and encouragement as well as fabulous food! I feel humbled on my daily blog-run; there is so much talent out there and you all share so willingly. I offer my heartfelt thanks for sharing with me.

On with the recipe!

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Buttery Cilantro Poha with Crunchy Chana Dal
(a first attempt at poha)

1-2 TB butter

1/2 cup thick poha
1/4 cup chana dal

1 TB mustard seeds
5-6 fresh curry leaves
1 small red onion, chopped
1 small carrot, cubed
1 bunch cilantro, stems included, rinsed and cut fine
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp chili powder, or more to taste
1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients for Cilantro Poha with Chana Dal

Clockwise from bottom: carrots, chana dal, cilantro, onion. Curry leaf in center.

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Rinse thick poha well and leave to soften in strainer 30-60 min.

Heat butter in a medium-sized pan over low heat. When foamy, add chana dal and cook slowly, 5-10 min, until golden brown. Raise heat to med-high. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When mustard pops, add chopped onion, carrot, and cilantro. Reduce heat to low and cook 5-10 minutes, or until vegetables have softened. Add poha, chili powder, lime juice and salt. Stir well, cover the pan, and allow to cook 10-15 minutes.

Adjust seasoning before serving.

Interest in poha and the taste of crunchy chana dal in tadka/temperings gave me the idea for this ~ my first entry to July’s Jihva for Dal graciously hosted by Sailu of Sailu’s Food.

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Cilantro Poha with Chana Dal

The Trial ~ Buttery Cilantro Poha with Crunchy Chana Dal

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Vineela’s Vangi Bhath

Cooking the Eggplant and Spices

Cooking eggplant and spices

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I finally got to make this today. I followed Vineela’s recipe exactly… right down to her magic masala powder which I made and froze earlier in the week.

All I can say is…

YUM.

Thanks, Vineela!!

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Vineela's Vangi Bhath

Delicious Vangi Bhath

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The Banana Flower Experiment

Cut Banana Flower In Yellow

The Banana Flower Experiment

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I had seen these purple vegetables for sale for months. I wanted to buy one, but what to do with it? Then I saw Aparna’s Healthy Banana Flower Preparation and BDSN’s Banana Stem Flower Paruppu Usili, and knew I was safe to try.

Last weekend I finally bought the banana flower. I was lucky; there was a big fresh box from which to choose. I chose a medium-sized flower; it looked fresh and felt firm to the touch. It must have been very fresh. It was a few days before I had a chance to cook it. I left it loosely in the plastic bag (one of the papery-plastic types, not saran-wrap type) on bottom shelf of fridge, with bag open for air. It was hardly changed.

I prepared this mostly according to Aparna’s recipe, and also followed BDSN’s advice about removing the dark purple parts, or most of them. That lovely purple does yield to a paler yellowish tone a ways down. I cut the flower the same way Aparna described (this method works great for onion too), using cross cuts and then slicing through them. I cleaned the chopped pieces in yogurt/water/salt mixture as BDSN advised, then rinsed them well before cooking. I did not use onion, as I had none (!??) and added some cumin, because I put cumin in everything these days.

Banana Flower Fry a la Aparna
Prep tips courtesy of BDSN

1 medium fresh banana blossom/flower

1/4 – 1/2 c yogurt
water
salt

1 tsp oil or ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
10-12 curry leaves
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste

Have a medium-sized bowl with 1/4 – 1/2 cup yogurt mixed with a little salt.

Remove and discard the first few outer layers of flower ~ the dull-looking layers. I discarded about 6-8 layers, as I was afraid of too much bitterness. I also removed the first few clusters of stick-fruits, because they had begun to turn brown.

When the flower begins to look shiny and fresh inside, begin to reserve the stick-fruits. Add them to the yogurt bowl as you go. This must be done at your discretion ~ you will know when it is time by the look of them.

Banana Blossom Whole

Shiny fresh banana flower, with stick-fruit cluster

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Once the yellow layers appear, with just a couple of lighter purple left, begin to cut as Aparna described.
(see her photo for illustration)

1. cut the tip from the flower
2. make two cuts lengthwise from top to near the bottom of the flower
3. lay flower on board and slice through the long cuts, crosswise, so vegetable comes off the knife in quarters

Banana Blossom Cut

Banana Flower, cut.

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The vegetable will turn brown when cut edges are exposed ~ work quickly and drop the slices into the yogurt bowl as you go. Add sufficient cold water to cover the vegetable, stir it up well, and allow to soak 15-20 min.

When soaking time is nearly up, heat oil or ghee and slowly toast the mustard, cumin, and curry leaves.

When ready to cook, raise heat to med-high and rinse the vegetable. I actually ‘washed’ it in the yogurt-water using my hands, then rinsed well under running cold water. Squeeze to drain, then add to the hot tempering. Fry 5 min or so, till cut banana flower begins to wilt. Add chili powder and turmeric, sprinkle with salt, mix well and cover. Reduce heat to med and cook 10-15 min. Remove cover and stir again, reduce heat to med-low and allow to cook a further 10 minutes, until soft but not mush.

Serving thoughts

I love trying new foods. There are very few foods I can honestly say I don’t like, especially vegetables. I think every vegetable has some redeeming quality in it somewhere… anyway, I very much wanted to like the taste of banana flower. I had waited so long, and had so longed to cook it! When I took that first bite, hot out of the pan, I was a little taken aback ~ tangy wasn’t the word. Astringent was more like it! Eek.

Oh well, I thought, perhaps banana flower is an acquired taste.

I couldn’t help trying to acquire that taste. After banana flower sat awhile it seemed to take on a new characteristic. At room temperature, the astringency mellowed to a slight bitter bite; the sort of bite one gets from broccoli rabe, bitter greens, etc. I am glad I didn’t give up right away, because the following day, mixed with rice and a little yogurt, this was an excellent dish indeed.

Therefore, it’s my opinion that banana flower cooked in this manner is better for holding awhile before serving ~ hours, or maybe even overnight, so it can rest and soak up some of the spices. I also will use the onion and coconut in Aparna’s original recipe, another time.

One last note: banana flower has the very faint scent of nearly-ripe bananas, which lingers pleasantly on your hands…

Thanks to Aparna and BDSN for their great recipes and tips. See another great banana flower recipe from Krithika here.

Banana Blossom Fry

Banana Flower Fry, with chili powder and turmeric

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Confessions in Groups of Five ~ Drumsticks in my Freezer

what's in my freezer

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Lovely and talented Vaishali of Happy Burp
has given me a chance for more meme fun ~ and now I have better understanding how to play. Thank you Vaishali ๐Ÿ™‚

Confessions in Groups of Five

Five things in my freezer:

drumsticks! 3 bags. . .
edamame in the shell
Vineela’s Vangi Bhath masala powder to make that dish
broccoli and cauliflower (kids’ favorites)
numerous small containers full of mystery items… might be soup, or might not be soup… will find out when I defrost them ๐Ÿ™‚

Five things in my closet:

dark blue flag with duck flying across yellow moon, for autumn
son’s cap and gown from HS graduation
daughter’s dance recital costumes (I can’t bear to part with…)
long black woolen winter coat
box of cross stitch supplies I haven’t looked at in a few years

Five things in my car:

Michigan maps: county atlas and state road map
snow/ice brush
bags of bird food
binoculars (in case I spot a bird … wouldn’t want to be caught unprepared)
bag of skittles candy (for daughter in case her blood sugar drops)

Five things in my purse:

savings account passbook
driver’s license
worry stone from Lake Superior
5% off my next grocery shopping coupon
debit card… hardly ever much cash

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I would like to tag:
Vineela of Vineela’s Cooking
Nabeela of Trial and Error
RP of My Workshop
LG of Ginger and Mango
Mahek of Mahek’s Kitchen

I would have tagged you Sudha, but you already posted ๐Ÿ™‚

I keep reading some folks don’t like to be tagged, so if I got one of you, forgive me. Also, if you’re new like me and want to play along, please feel free. I never heard of a “meme” till I found the cooking blogs ~ what fun…

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hmm…

hmm...

hmm…

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Grandma’s Noodle Kugel

Thinking about my Nana’s good, simple food for the 10 Things meme got me thinking of my other grandmother as well. She didn’t cook much, but she did make this kugel which we adored as young children.

Penzey's Fox Point, noodles, eggs

Easy ingredients for kugel: eggs, noodles, seasoning

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Traditional kugel can be sweet with noodles, sugar and raisins, or savory with potato and onion. This is a rather plain kugel, savory with noodles, that is probably not traditional to any anyone other than my family. It’s really just a noodle pudding. Nonetheless, it is enjoyed by kids of all ages. It’s easy to make and is good served hot or cold, as a main dish with salad or on the side with something more substantial.

You can use any spice mixture that suites your taste. My grandmother used bullion cubes, and mom still does. I prefer more herbs and less MSG, so I have been using Penzey’s Fox Point (I am really partial to that Fox Point). For a no-salt version, have a look at Penzey’s Sunny Paris Seasoning.

If you use no-yolk or whole wheat noodles and add some veggies, it almost approaches healthy. Veggies that work well are cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, asparagus… really only limited by imagination. Cut the veggies small and blanch them briefly to remove the raw taste before adding to the mixture.

This can be made with great success in a toaster oven, making it perfect for hot weather when you don’t want to use the big oven. Kugel keeps well in the fridge ~ just be sure to wrap well so the cut edges don’t get hard. Made in advance this way and brought to room temperature, it makes good party food too.

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Grandma’s Noodle Kugel

This makes enough for one pie plate or cake/brownie pan filled to the top ~ a thick kugel with tender noodles inside. For crunchier noodles, divide it into two pans so they will crisp up more.

4 c dry egg/no-egg/wheat noodles
1 TB butter
2 large eggs
3 tsp mixed seasoning of your choice
salt to taste
1 or 2 c blanched chopped veggies (optional)

Preheat oven to 375, and butter/oil/Pam spray baking pan(s).

Boil noodles according to package directions, usually 8-10 minutes. Drain well and immediately place back in hot pan. Add butter and mix well until butter melts and coats noodles. If using veggies, mix them in now. Allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, break eggs into small bowl and add the Fox Point or other spice mix. Beat with a fork until well blended.

When noodles have cooled slightly, mix in the eggs/seasonings. Have prepared pan handy, and mix quickly with a big spoon, so the eggs don’t have time to “cook” in the hot noodles. Immediately turn out into prepared pan(s).

Kugel Ready for Oven

Ready for the oven

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Bake 30-35 minutes, until top is browned to your liking. Remove from oven and allow to rest 10 minutes before cutting into wedges, squares, or snack-sized fingers.

Serve hot or cold and enjoy.

Kugel with Carrots

Noodle Kugel Lunch

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A few things:

Any width noodle will work, but wider is better. More butter can be used for a browner finished dish. If using Fox Point blend, be careful adding extra salt.

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Ridge Gourd – Paneer Butter Curry

I was browsing blogs yesterday and came upon Sudhav’s Paneer Butter Masala. I immediately wanted to make it. I had only a small amount of paneer leftover from Graduation Party, and had already planned to make Saffron Hut’s Ridge Gourd Curry. Undecided, I finally combined the two recipes with what I had on hand and ended up with a sort of ridge gourd~paneer butter hybrid.

Ridge Gourd Paneer Butter Curry

For the sauce:

1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks
2 TB cashews, soaked in hot water 30 min
2 medium ripe tomatoes (or one 12-16 oz can peeled tomatoes, drained)

1-2 TB butter
1 healthy tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp cumin-coriander powder
1 tsp red chili powder or more to taste
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp salt

For the veggies (peel and cut into small even chunks)

1 fresh ridge gourd
1 medium potato
1 carrot

4 oz paneer cubes browned in Pam, butter, or oil

A few TB cream (if desired)

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The procedure includes the tips I learned from Sudhav ~ soaking the paneer, and blanching the onion.

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Soak browned paneer in hot water 30-60 min to soften. Meanwhile, blanch the cut onion in water. I started with cold water and used the microwave for 10 min. Allow onion to cool slightly, then puree onion with cashews and set aside.

Meanwhile, blanch ridge gourd, potato, and carrot chunks the same way (5 minutes in microwave was enough). Drain and set aside.

Dip fresh tomatoes in boiling water to loosen the skins. When cool enough to handle, peel them and crush by hand (or drain and crush the canned tomatoes). Set aside.

Heat butter in shallow saute pan. Add onion-cashew puree, and cook over medium heat till nicely browned. Add ginger-garlic paste and crushed tomatoes. Cook 5-10 minutes, then add cumin-coriander powder, chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, and salt. Stir well and reduce heat to med-low. Allow to cook down 10-15 min, then raise heat to high and add the blanched ridge gourd, potato, and carrot. Cook over high heat a few minutes, stirring, until ridge gourd begins to soften. Add drained paneer. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 10-15 min until veggies are crisp-tender and all is nicely thickened.

When ready to serve, stir in the cream if desired.

I am sure blanching the onion made the difference in this sauce. I’ll be making this again, with or without paneer. I wish I had been able to get a photo of it. It’s the first time I’ve had such a hit around this house with a ‘new dish’.

Thanks, Sudhav and Saffron Hut, for the wonderful inspiring recipes!

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No photos of this, so an interesting site about cashews instead…

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Saturday Veggie Shopping

Every few weeks I have a chance to shop in two small groceries a few towns over. One is strictly Indian, while the other shop carries Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, etc. Both always have lots of fresh veggies, my favorite part. Friday and Saturday seem to be delivery days, so I always try to time my visits for the weekend.

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Fresh Veggies

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What do I want to make with these?

Vineela’s Eggplant Rice/Vangi Bhath

Aparna’s Healthy Banana Flower

and

BDSN’s Paruppu Usili with Banana Stem Flower

Saffron Hut’s Superlative Ridge Gourd Curry and those cottage cheese-spinach chappatis, too.

I also finally found sabudana papad. I’ve wanted them for months, and was too chicken to ask. For those I want to make some rice and dal. One of the most appetizing pictures I’ve ever seen is of Indira’s Mango Dal and Rice Mudda in Sabudana Papad. I want to try this even if I can’t have green mangoes.

Last but not least, I stocked up on canned and frozen drumsticks. Not the fresh I was hoping to find, but perhaps those will show up one day. Lunch was one whole can of drumsticks, carefully scraped and warmed over hot rice. The canned drumstick does taste very much like well-cooked asparagus. I am anxious to know what the frozen tastes like, without brine.

The fresh lychees are, of course, for dessert!

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More Great Lakes ~ Waterfalls of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Dreaming of Summer Vacations Past …

Au Train Upper Falls

Au Train Upper Falls near Au Train, Michigan

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Au Train Lower Falls

Au Train Lower Falls

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Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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Lower Taq Falls

Lower Tahquamenon Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park

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Upper Taq Falls

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

About the two Tahquamenon Falls, excerpted from Michigan DNR:

. . . “The Upper Falls is one the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. It has a drop of nearly 50 feet and is more than 200 feet across. A maximum flow of more than 50,000 gallons of water per second has been recorded cascading over these falls. Four miles downstream is the Lower Falls, a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island.” . . .

“Rising from springs north of McMillan, the Tahquamenon River drains the watershed of an area of more than 790 square miles. From its source, it meanders 94 miles before emptying into Whitefish Bay. The amber color of the water is caused by tannins leached from the Cedar, Spruce and Hemlock in the swamps drained by the river. The extremely soft water churned by the action of the falls causes the large amounts of foam, which has been the trademark of the Tahquamenon since the days of the voyager.” . . .

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Munising Falls

Munising Falls at Munising, MI

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Sable Falls

Sable Falls near Grand Marais, MI

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Wagner Falls

Wagner Falls near Munising, MI

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Comments (1)

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