Archive for August, 2006

My New Spice Box

covered spice box
modeling the cover

How excited am I!?

I’ve been looking for a spice box for awhile. Couldn’t find one in any of the local stores, and I didn’t want to pay so much for shipping…

my new spice box!
clockwise from top: turmeric, cumin, chana dal, mustard, kashmiri chili powder, urad dal… baby curry leaves in center

… not to mention the wait to have it shipped from near or far. I’m so impatient sometimes. Happily for me, I found one right down the street — literally — from work today, in a recently-opened shop.

Instant gratification at a reasonable price — it must have been my lucky day.


Incidentally — I usually keep curry leaves in the fridge, but I put the baby ones in the box last night as I was filling it for the first time — curry leaves have been really small lately and they fit in perfectly, plus I liked the green color for the photo. I don’t know whether they’d stay fresh in there — my guess would be “not for long”! Thanks Shankari, RP and Shilpa for pointing it out. I should have written that part last night but I was too lazy ๐Ÿ™‚


colorful spices

fragrant, colorful spices in all their glory


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Fabulous Food Finds 2

I have really enjoyed reading all the posts describing festival food and learning about the traditions associated with Vinayaka Chathurthi. I’d like to say thank you for sharing and wish the very best to all who are celebrating.

For me, this weekend was supposed to consist of cleaning the cellar. Instead, on the spur of the moment, I took my daughter and her friend to New York City for a Broadway show. We spent a fun couple of hours Saturday afternoon enjoying the sights and sounds of Times Square before taking in the matinee.

When we got back Saturday evening I put some beans to soak, so I did manage to do a little cooking today.

soaked urad dal and rajma
soaked urad dal and rajma

I wanted to make Aparna’s Dal Makhni — not only because it sounded wonderful, but because up till now I have had the same experience she described: “with a potful of brown water and dive through to find some black dal at the bottom”.
I did not really alter the recipe, but I did reduce the butter just a little to 2 TB.
I was still thrilled with the outcome.

aparna's dal makhni
Aparna’s delicious dal makhni


tadka for curd rice
tadka for curd rice

Since I finally made a decent batch of yogurt, I also really wanted to try Vineela’s Dadhojanam (Curd Rice). Once again, I did not alter the recipe other than to add some bottled chili paste, as I had no fresh. This was a totally new dish for me and it was thoroughly enjoyed.

vineela's dadhojanam (curd rice)
cool and refreshing — Vineela’s dadhojanam (curd rice)

Thanks, Aparna and Vineela ๐Ÿ™‚

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Fresh Tomato Rasam with Leeks

fresh leeks
lovely late-summer leeks

I found these beautiful leeks in the market and could not resist them. I thought I might make a clear soup of leeks and carrots. I even went so far as to dice the carrots. But local tomatoes are finally on; after a couple of days of sitting on the counter, the luscious, vine-ripened tomatoes cried out to me:
“Put us into Indira’s Tomato Rasam“!
The leeks were crying too, so I put them in the soup in lieu of cilantro.

Fresh Tomato Rasam with Leeks
thanks to Indira for her technique and the basis of the recipe

3 large, red, ripe tomatoes
2 large leeks, washed well and sliced thin (white and light green parts only)
small ball of dried tamarind pulp, soaked in 1/2 c warm water

1/2 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp jaggery

1 c. water, divided

for tempering/tadka:

1/2 tsp ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
9-10 curry leaves

Wash the tomatoes well, remove the stem end and place in a saucepan.

Prepare the leeks:

Remove the first few dark green outer leaves and discard them. Now you can see where to cut off the top — make one cut across where the green begins to turn from yellowish to dark-green. The tops can be washed and saved to flavor vegetable stock. Now with the bottom part, cut crosswise from top nearly to root/bottom so the leek spreads open. Separating the leaves with your fingers, wash well under cold running water. Take your time here and be thorough — leeks grow in sand, and we don’t want any sand in teeth… yuck ๐Ÿ™‚

sliced leeks
sliced leeks, without sand

Once the leeks are well washed, cut off the root and slice them crosswise into thin pieces, as above. Add these to the tomatoes. Add the soaked tamarind and its soaking water, and squeeze all together with very clean hands. Add 1/2 c. water and heat over low heat just long enough to warm everything. Remove from the stove and when cool enough to handle, have at it again — as Indira says, “work those hand muscles”.

raw rasam
rasam before cooking

Once you have squeezed all you can, leave everything to settle 20-30 minutes, then strain into a clean pot. Press down on the solids in the strainer with the back of a wooden spoon or a small bowl to extract as much pulp and flavor as you can. Add 1 cup of the solids back to the liquid, making sure no tamarind seeds remain.

Grind the peppercorns and cumin seeds together and add to the pot along with jaggery, salt, and the last 1/2 c. water. Bring the rasam to a simmer, then pour on the hot tadka. Let it simmer 10-15 minutes before serving, if you can! The aroma may lure you in sooner. ๐Ÿ™‚

Fresh Tomato Rasam with Leeks

fresh tomato rasam with leeks served with Sri Ganeshram Appalam

As an aside — I am really excited about these pappadum/appalam!! Found them in the asian grocery on the shelf with all the bigger pappadum. Package said fry in oil, but I never follow directions (well, almost never…) so I popped one into the microwave. Sixty seconds later I had a light, crispy-warm pappadum with no added fat ๐Ÿ˜‰


crispy and light ~ microwaved pappadums

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Fabulous Food Finds

soaked moong dal
soaked moong dal

I took a virtual walk around the blogs this weekend and cooked up some treats!

First stop was Healthy ‘N Spicy, for a taste of Surya’s Moong Sprouts Curry (Cherupayar Curry). This one was really fun because it was the first time I tried making my own sprouts. The combination of spices was delicious.

whole moong sprouted
sprouted moong dal

Suryaโ€™s Cherupayar Curry
Surya’s Cherupayar Curry

soy chunks dry and soaked

Next I passed by the Culinary Studio, for a taste of Pushpa’s Soya Chunks Varuval. I had never tried soy chunks before and was happy to find that just like their cousin tofu, they soaked up the rich flavors wonderfully.

Pushpa's Soy Chunks Varuval
Pushpa’s Soya Chunks Varuval – packed up for lunch


snake gourd
snake gourds:whole, seeds, and cut

The next stop was Happy Burp, for Vaishali’s Snake Gourd with Hyacinth Beans (Padval Dalimbya). The split val dal I had worked out nicely. I think the delicate seasoning in this dish really lets the fresh flavor of the dal shine. I saved some seeds from the snake gourds; I love the interesting shape. I’m hoping they will grow next spring ๐Ÿ˜‰

Vaishali's Snake Gourd with Val Dal
Vaishali’s Snake Gourd with Hyacinth Beans (Padval Dalimbya)


fresh tomatoes
fresh ripe tomatoes

And finally, I had to visit Trial and Error, for Nabeela’s Hyderabadi Tamatar Chutney. This was so scrumptious, I wanted to eat the whole batch straight out of the pan!

tamatar chutney
Nabeela’s Hyderabadi Tamatar Chutney

Thank you all for sharing these wonderful recipes!

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Facing My Fear ~ Naan with Atta

yeastie beasties
fresh baking yeast

When I was 14 or 15, I flirted with becoming vegetarian. The original
Laurel’s Kitchen became a favorite read. It sounded so organic and bohemian — a world away from my rather mundane, sort-of-middle-class suburban teenage life: families shopping at co-ops and working in community gardens, their spare time spent in the kitchen, sprouting everything imaginable and compiling tables of essential amino acids, etc. It’s been years since I’ve seen my old paperback copy, but I still recall one part in which the author described a yoga class where fragrant loaves of homemade bread magically appeared under select seats, still warm in their recycled coffee-can pans, bagged in brown paper. I collected empty coffee cans for awhile back then, preparing for all that fabulously healthy homemade bread I would be baking; alas that youthful dream was never realised. When it came right down to it, I was afraid to bake bread. I never laid a finger on the “yeastie beasties” (as fondly described in the book) until yesterday.

Like Sudah, of the lovely blog Samayal, I had wanted to make naan for some time (check out Sudah’s great-looking naan with chana masala here). A new little natural foods store opened down the street; finally I gathered my courage, bought some yeast, and decided to try. Coincidentally, I also settled on this recipe from Archana of Spicyana fame. I am not the world’s most organized cook… when the counters were cleared and the ingredients gathered, I discovered I did not have enough all-purpose flour. I did have a whole bag of atta, so my first foray into the land of yeast was going to be doubly experimental. Since I was already messing with the ingredients, I decided to try cutting back on the fat (still on my lo-cal mission), and substituted yogurt for half the ghee.

Naan with Atta
makes 8 small loaves, adapted from Spicyana

1 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 c atta
1 tsp salt

1 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
2/3 c warm water

3 TB yogurt
1 TB melted ghee

Extra flour (either type) for kneading
Extra melted ghee for cooking

Topping for sprinkling, if desired

naan ingredients
making the naan dough

I followed Archana’s excellent instructions pretty much to the letter:

In a small bowl, mix yeast and sugar with warm water until dissolved. Sift flours with salt into a large bowl. Add yeast mixture, yogurt, and melted ghee. Mix to form a soft dough. Take out to floured surface and knead for five minutes. Place dough into a large greased bowl, cover and set in a warm place to rise for one hour or until doubled in bulk (see note).

naan dough before and after rising
naan dough before and after rising

When dough has risen, take out onto a floured surface, punch down and knead a further five minutes. Taking lemon-sized balls, use your hands to flatten dough and form small loaves on floured work surface.

naans ready for baking
naan loaves ready for baking

Wipe grill pan with oiled paper towel and heat over medium heat. Set loaves
one or two at a time onto heated pan and bake 3-4 minutes, till they begin to rise. Dot the tops with melted ghee (add topping now, if desired) and turn, bake a further 2-3 minutes till browned and cooked through. Transfer to clean kitchen towel to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining loaves.

Serve naans warm with extra butter or ghee, if desired.

finished naans

warm naans, rescued from hungry children in time for one photo…

I was so happy with the way these turned out. Although my photos aren’t the greatest (photographing bread and bread dough is tough! I have a whole new respect for those who do it well…), the bread was gobbled up so fast I hardly had time to get any pictures at all. Yeast is not so frightening after all — as with most things in life, it’s fear of the unknown that is worst. I think I shall try more bread in the future.

Thanks Archana for the great recipe ๐Ÿ™‚

Note: In the middle of the hour-long rise called for, I decided to run out to the store. This turned into a couple of hours running errands. The dough sat at least three hours and seemed none the worse for wear.

Comments (13)

Cat Tails (A Tale of Two Kitties)

I’m holding a little cooking-from-blogs marathon here this weekend,
so there are lots of delicious dishes forthcoming.

Meanwhile, I have been playing catch-up with all the reading I missed over the
past couple of months. Among all the great recipes, I came across
these cuties over at Priya’s award-winning blog.

When I left a comment, she kindly asked about my kitties,
so thought I’d put a few photos here. My little guys aren’t quite
so cooperative in front of the camera, but I think I’ll keep
them anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰

big brother pinkie

little sister daisy the day she came to us

pinkie and daisy 2
checking out the new digs

pinkie and daisy

all settled in now, but still in tandem

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Gobi Masala Soup

Fabulous, sunny, almost-autumn weather over the past few days has got me in serious cooking mode. I have the urge to cook nearly every night, so I’m really trying to keep it lo-cal.

I had a lovely head of cauliflower in the fridge. After going to the theatre last night, I really wanted some homemade soup. This turned out on the thick stew side.
For a thinner soup, increase water and seasoning accordingly.

Flavoring inspired by Priya B’s great looking Gobi Masala. Thanks, Priya!

Gobi Masala Soup
(with very little aloo)

1 big head cauliflower, trimmed and steamed
(should be about 4-5 cups florets)
1 big onion, chopped roughly and blanched
1 medium potato (abt 5 oz), diced and boiled (reserve 1/4 c boiling water)

1 tsp oil or ghee
1 TB garlic paste
1/2 TB ginger paste
1 TB bottled coriander-chile chutney
1 TB tomato paste

2 tsp coriander-cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp chili powder, more to taste
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

1 – 1 1/2 c water for soup
1/2 c yogurt

freshly ground black pepper


Puree the blanched onion in food processor. Heat oil or ghee in a 6 qt pan and add garlic and ginger pastes. Cook over medium heat a few minutes, then add pureed onion. Reduce heat to medium-low and fry the pastes slowly until they turn golden brown.

Meanwhile, puree the steamed cauliflower with 1 c. water. Take out to a bowl (should make about 4 c. puree). Mash the boiled potato with its reserved boiling water. Don’t worry if there are some lumps left in either puree.

When onion paste is golden brown, stir in coriander-chile chutney, tomato paste, coriander-cumin powder, garam masala, chili powder, turmeric and salt. Fry together a few minutes, then add the cauliflower and potato purees and 1 cup of water. Mix well, cover, and let cook 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, mix again and correct the seasoning. Add an additional 1/2 cup water if too thick. Stir in 1/2 cup yogurt and cook a few minutes longer, stirring, until heated through.

Serve as is, or for heartier fare, stir in some cooked rice. Garnish with freshly ground pepper.

gobi masala stew
gobi masala soup ~ spicy and filling

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Methi Mushrooms

methi mushrooms
methi mushrooms

Back in the winter, I was eating Amy’s or Ethnic Gourmet frozen meals for work lunch a few times a week. Not only was the cost adding up, the calories were as well. Now that I have learned a bit about cooking Indian at home, I’m trying to make my own frozen lunches.

Tonight I made fresh mushrooms with tomato and spinach, flavored with kasoori methi. Simple, spicy, low-cost and lo-cal!

fresh mushrooms, spinach, garlic and tomato
fresh mushrooms, spinach, garlic and tomato

Methi Mushrooms
enough for four lunches

1 1/2 lbs fresh mushrooms
1 large ripe tomato
4 oz fresh spinach

1 tsp oil or ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 TB minced garlic or garlic paste
1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder, or to taste
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 TB kasoori methi

1 TB daliya powder mixed with 1 TB water

Wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth (they absorb a lot of water if actually washed) and cut into thick pieces. Chop tomato into smaller pieces. Wash spinach, and if large, tear into smaller pieces.

In a wide saute pan, heat oil or ghee over medium heat and pop mustard. Add garlic and saute a few minutes till fragrant. Add chopped tomatoes and their juice, cook down 5 minutes, then move tomatoes to one side of the pan. Turn heat to high and add the mushrooms in the free area. Stir and turn the mushrooms for a few minutes till they take on some color, then add chili powder, salt, and kasoori methi. Reduce heat to medium-low, mix all together well and cook 10 minutes or so, till most of the liquid has evaporated.

Mix daliya powder and water together in a small bowl, then pour over the veggies, stirring constantly. Allow to cook a few minutes to remove raw taste of daliya. Fold in spinach and cook a further few minutes till wilted.

Give everything a good stir and taste for salt. Serve hot with plain rice, or freeze for lunch!

homemade lunch
homemade lunches: methi mushrooms and Indira’s yummy
chana masala with rice

Comments (8)

More Lake Superior Agates

Lake Superior Agates
mesmerizing agates…

Comments (4)

Mystery Revealed – My Blogger Postcard Has Arrived!

I was looking forward to returning to work today because I hoped to find my blogger postcard, and sure enough it was waiting right on top of my desk!

Ottawa Postcard
Byward Market, Ottawa, Canada

My beautiful postcard comes from Jenny of All Things Edible. As you can see, it’s a lovely picture of a well-established open-air market, Byward Market. Jenny writes that it has been around for over 100 years, and is held daily right in downtown Ottawa.

I have never visited Ottawa; now I hope to have the chance to go. Thank you, Jenny, for this great card that captures the city’s beauty! And thanks again to you, Meeta, for the wonderful idea and all your hard work. I’m looking forward to September!

Comments (1)

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