Archive for November, 2006

Aloo Palak

aloo palak
aloo palak

This morning I came across two boxes of frozen spinach – I must have picked them up during the “scare”. I also happened to have some tiny baby potatoes from a surprising sale at the grocery store. Although I love palak paneer, I had never made aloo palak. I browsed around a bit and came up with this recipe, another sort of amalgamation of several I saw. It seems a little odd now, with the raw onion puree. At 5am I saw that in the fridge and decided to take the lazy road. I don’t think the dish suffered.

Big thanks to Trupti, Vini K, and Mika for ideas and inspiration from their great recipes.

Aloo Palak
makes a big healthy meal for 3 or 4 people

2 10 oz boxes frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well

10 oz baby potatoes (about 15-20)

1/2 tsp canola oil
1 c chopped onion
1 big green chile, slit (or 3-4 smaller chiles)
1 TB garlic paste
1 TB ginger paste

1/2 c raw onion, pureed
1/2 c canned tomatoes or 1 small fresh tomato, peeled and chopped

1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 c yogurt
1 TB besan

1 tsp garam masala


1. Defrost the spinach and sqeeze dry. Set aside.

2. Cook potatoes about 5-6 minutes in boiling water. I like my potatoes firm — for softer potatoes, cook 5 minutes longer. Drain and set aside.

3. Heat oil in large saucepan and add green chile. When very hot, add chopped onion, reduce heat, and cook until well browned.

4. Move browned onion to one side of the pan and add garlic, ginger, and raw onion puree. Saute this until it begins to brown, then add tomatoes, salt, turmeric and chili powder. Mix in the browned onion and cook 5-10 minutes.

5. Add spinach and 1/2 c water. Mix everything well, cover, and cook about 15 minutes. Stir once or twice and add a little more water if necessary. Remove from heat after 15 min.

6. Blend spinach mixture in a food processor, adding 1/2 c water if necessary (I did not let this cool much before blending, and it seemed fine).

7. Return spinach puree to the saucepan over med-low heat. Add water to reach a consistency a little thinner than you want in the end (I used about 1c). Meanwhile, mix yogurt with a little water, and add the besan. Stir it up until smooth, then combine with the hot spinach puree. Raise the heat a little and cook about 10-15 minutes. It should thicken up nicely.

8. Reduce heat to low and add reserved potatoes and garam masala. Stir gently to warm through, about 5-10 minutes.

This tasted equally good warm or at room temperature. A new favorite!

aloo palak on beaded block plate
aloo palak on a beaded block plate from the late 1920s

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Vegetarian Eggs?

an oxymoron?
hmm… an oxymoron, redundancy, or irrelevant? (click on photo to enlarge)

Is there such a thing as a “vegetarian egg”? The package states “all natural vegetarian grain”. Who ever heard of a grain that was not “vegetarian”? If the chickens are cage-free (the package does not state one way or the other), what’s to stop them from brunching on the occasional passing insect some breezy, sunny Sunday morning? If the chickens are not free-range, perhaps “vegetarian” means they live in sterile little cages where no insect dares to venture 😦

I felt kind of badly after I realised this — as if I had fallen for a marketing ploy. I can only console myself with the fact that I picked up the eggs in a hurry because they were on sale, rather than for the “vegetarian” designation. I noticed that when I got home, and I find it a curious question indeed.

Either way, another time I believe I will pay the extra twenty cents for different eggs.

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Rye Breadsticks for Thanksgiving Dinner

rye breadsticks
rye breadsticks for Thanksgiving

For Thanksgiving, I tried my hand at another bread recipe — this time it was
Rye Breadsticks from Hodgson Mill website. They mixed up quick and easy, and although I didn’t take the time to get fancy with the toppings, they were tasty all the same.

thanksgiving montage
a thanksgiving day montage ~ clockwise from top left:
~ new england clam chowder and french onion soup cooking
~ moong dal and rice, two kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes
~ stuffing on the table
~ desserts included apple and squash pies, gingerbread, apple crisp, and ashwini’s goad bhaat
~ roast turkey, cranberry sauce, white sweet potato casserole
~ indosungod’s brinjal and brussels sprouts curry, turnips and stuffing
~ assorted munchies

Along with the usual fare, I added two Indian dishes I wanted to try — Indosungod’s Brinjal and Brussels Sprouts Curry (sans spinach), and Ashwini’s Goad Bhaat. My extended family was very interested to know about the jars of dal and spices I’ve accumulated since last Thanksgiving, and I was more than happy to demonstrate. Thank you ISG and Ashwini, for the lovely recipes; both were delicious!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

dishes 2
creamer and sugar

Thanksgiving preparations are in full swing! French onion soup and New England clam chowder are ready. Two stuffings, butternut squash and mashed turnips await, along with candied carrots, brussels sprouts and green beans. There is more to do in the morning.

nana’s dishes
nana’s dishes ~ they are called Pastoral Davenport ~ each piece in the setting (plate, bowl, etc) shows a different rural farm scene

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is my grandmother’s dishes. It is an older set, and it is very special to me because she gave the pieces to me bit by bit over the years. When I was through school and working, I would make the short trip to the cape to visit nana and we’d sit and talk. Eventually, almost inevitably, we would putter into her old-fashioned pantry (a real room, not just a closet as I have now!) and she’d start pulling these down from the shelves. She acquired this lovely set years back when she was setting up her own home. I remember how excited I was to serve my first Thanksgiving dinner on them — with nana in the place of honor at my table. I miss her every day. Bringing out nana’s dishes is now a Thanksgiving eve tradition I share with my own daughter. All the sweet memories come flooding back…

dishes 3

I enjoy using antique dishes and glassware – these pieces were made in the early 1900’s in a pattern called “Michigan” (big surprise!).

michigan glass
Early American Pattern Glass

I am thankful for the kindness and friendship I find here every day, and I wish each and every one of you a wonderful Thanksgiving (or just a happy weekend!) filled with smiles and laughter.

daisy helping
daisy loves to help set the table

pinkie helping
pinkie also enjoys helping in his own way…

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Completing the Trilogy ~ Sourdough Bread

bread flour and whole-grain rye flour
bread flour and whole-grain rye flour

It’s been a crazy-busy few weeks, with daughter in the school play, holidays fast approaching and company nearly every weekend for a month. Hardly any time for peeking at my favorite blogs, even less to post something on mine. The play is now over (six performances for a high school play!?) and there is a little time to breathe before Thanksgiving.

For weeks, I have been perusing sourdough recipes (thanks to Nabeela, who sent me the first one) and planning this bread in my mind. I wanted to use only the sourdough as leavening, with no yeast at all, so it took me awhile to find the recipe that would work with my starter. I mostly baked from this very detailed recipe.

***Disclaimer: I took one or two liberties with timing and the amount of starter used. I have written out the steps I followed in simplified form, based on knowledge of my own starter and the way it worked for me. However, in no way do I claim the recipe or methods — full credit goes to Mr. Joe Jaworski, to whom the original recipe belongs.

Do visit Joe’s site for the original recipe with great hints and tips as well as a trouble-shooter page.***

Sourdough Bread
very special thanks to my very special sourdough benefactor!

First I brought out my old faithful sourdough starter. To this, I added 1/2c unbleached, all-purpose flour and 1/2c warm water (100-108F). Let it stand until all was good and bubbly. Then I began:

Step One: Rye Starter

sourdough starter mixed with rye flour
rye starter before first proof

1/4c sourdough starter
1 TB whole-grain rye flour
1/2c bread flour
1/2c warm water (100-108F)

Mix all this together in a small bowl. Set aside in a reasonably warm, draft-free place (microwave oven, regular oven) until the mixture is bubbling and smells pleasantly sour. It should develop bubbles throughout. How long this takes depends on your starter. Mine took about 3 hours.

rye starter after first proof
rye starter after first proof

Step Two: Extending the Rye Starter

To the bubbly rye starter, add:

1c bread flour
1c warm water (100-108F)

Mix all this together in a larger bowl. Again, set aside in a warm, draft-free place as above. Depending on the strength of the starter, it could be another 8-12 hours before this sponge has developed sufficiently. I actually let this sit almost 24 hours before I made it into dough, and it worked fine.

rye starter after second proof
rye starter after extending (second proof)

Step Three: Making the Dough

2c rye starter from above
2c bread flour
3/4 tsp kosher salt

Mix all this together in a large bowl. It will be fairly dry at first. Turn out onto a lightly floured bread board and begin to knead. Resist the temptation to add water. Once you have kneaded a few minutes, you should be able to work the last bits of flour in. After kneading another 15 minutes or so, the dough will begin to develop that nice elastic feeling. Knead 5 minutes more. Form into a smooth ball, and place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides with oil. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and a clean cloth. Let rise in a warm place for about one hour.

dough after kneading
ball of dough after kneading

After the hour is up, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Very gently, punch the dough down using your fingers. Don’t work in too much more flour here. Just flatten it slightly and then work it back into another ball.

deflate the dough lightly with fingers
deflate the dough very lightly with fingers before the final rise

Step Four: Final Rise and Baking

Sprinkle cornmeal (or grits, in a pinch!) on a baking sheet or bread stone. Place the dough on top and cover with the oiled plastic wrap and towel. Set back into the warm place for the final rise. The original recipe calls for 3-4 hours rising time. It was so late last night when I got to this stage, that I let the dough rise overnight (probably about 8 hours all together). It still baked up fine. Remove the plastic wrap. Wet the blade of a very sharp knife, and shake off the excess water. Make a few slashes on the top of the loaf as shown.

sourdough bread ready to bake
sourdough ready to bake after final rise

Now it’s ready to bake! Preheat oven to 350F. Place a small pan of water on the floor of the oven (cast iron frying pan worked well for this). This will help create the steam necessary for a crispy crust.

Bake 15 minutes. Several times during the first 15 minutes, either spray down the sides of the oven with a mister (as shown in the original recipe) or toss a few ice cubes on the floor of the oven, or even pour small amounts of water directly onto the floor of the oven as I did. It will create steam almost instantly and not cause a flood. After 15 minutes, raise the heat to 400F. Continue to bake another 45 minutes, until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. For best results, tear off chunks, or slice with a serrated knife.

What I have learned thus far:

1. sourdough is *very* forgiving!
2. rye flour makes a batter that tastes, when raw, just like real (from the bakery) sourdough bread
3. next time I will try adding just a little more rye flour, as my loaf wasn’t as tart as I like
4. you don’t need fancy/specialized equipment to bake real bread
5. best of all my kids feel very special with homemade bread to eat! 😉

sourdough bread
homemade sourdough bread

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Great Lakes Scenes

Michigan on my mind…

classic laker on lake huron
classic laker on Lake Huron at sunrise

sunset snow squall
sunset snow squall at the Blue Water Bridge, Port Huron

autumn squall at cherry capital airport
autumn snow squall at Cherry Capital Airport

tranquility on grand traverse bay
summertime dreaming on the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay

keweenaw sunset spectacular
Keweenaw sunset spectacular near Eagle Harbor

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hmmmm… hee-kamah (Jicama)


hmmmm… jicama

Fun guesses! The moon, trees, chocolate — and oh Manisha, termites!? Eek! I’m not that adventurous yet 🙂

The photo is a closeup of the skin of jicama — and Krithika is closest — it’s also known as Mexican yam bean, among other things. This is one of those vegetables I’ve always wanted to try, but never quite knew what to do with it. I bought one yesterday on the breakdown lane at the grocery store — for 99 cents I thought I would take a chance. It was perhaps slightly beyond its peak, but still very usable.

jicama, pared and cut
jicama, pared and cut

Jicama can be eaten raw, and I found lots of recipes from salsa to slaw. I tried it raw and found it too floury for my taste, so I wanted to cook it. I was planning to do a simple stir-fry until I saw Archana’s awesome-looking zucchini curry at Spicyana. I decided to try that instead. Taking Archana’s recipe as a starting point, I substituted jicama for the zucchini, and added some baby red onions instead of sliced onions.

To prepare the jicama, just wash and pare the brown skin and fibrous layer underneath with a knife. Vegetable peeler is not so effective here. I don’t know whether it would discolor quickly in open air, but I left it in cold water overnight and it seemed fine. It retains its crunch even after long cooking, and has little taste of its own so it takes on flavors nicely. I’ll definitely be using more jicama in the future. Thanks, Archana, for the delicious curry!

Jicama Curry with Baby Onions

1/2 lb jicama, pared and cut into long chunks
1 c baby red onions (shallots), peeled

1 tsp oil or ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
10-12 curry leaves, torn
1 dried red chile, seeds removed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp cumin-coriander powder
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1/2 c coconut milk

salt to taste

Heat oil or ghee over med-high heat and add mustard seeds, curry leaves, and dried chile. When mustard pops, add baby onions and roast them until they begin to brown. Add ginger-garlic paste, jicama, turmeric, chile powder and cumin-coriander powder. Fry a few minutes, then add a splash of water and reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook about ten minutes, or until raw taste of jicama is gone. Uncover and stir well, then add coconut milk and salt to taste. Simmer another ten minutes or so, and correct the seasoning.

Serve over hot white rice.

jicama curry with baby onions
jicama curry with baby onions

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Asha’s Parathas

Just a thown-together post, but I can’t believe I actually made these parathas. I was so excited! If you’ve never made them, run, don’t walk, to Asha’s blog for the easy-to-follow recipe and instructions.

Asha, you are a miracle worker with your step-by-step recipes; even I could learn this. I wish I had better photography skills to show the layers inside! Rajma and parathas were indeed one delicious combo; thanks so much.

asha’s rajma and parathas

Asha’s rajma and parathas

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Mixed Grains with Toor Dal and Spinach

mixed grains
clockwise from left: barley, toor dal, rice, red quinoa

It’s crazy-busy lately, and I’m cooking mostly quick and simple fare… quite mundane. I tossed this experiment together the other day and really enjoyed it. The combination of tastes and textures was interesting and different, and an easy way to get in my daily dose of carbs. One of these days I’ll get over my weeks without spinach and tire of it… then perhaps I can liven this up with something different in the veg. department.

In retrospect, this seems like a long time to cook toor dal. Some held its shape but most was mashed; combined with the little water left it made a sort of natural thickener for the dish.

Mixed Grains with Toor Dal and Spinach
serves one

For the grains/dal:

2 TB toor dal
2 TB rice
2 TB barley
2 TB red or white quinoa

4 c water
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 – 1 c fresh baby spinach leaves or torn regular spinach

For tempering/tadka:

1 tsp oil or ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp chana dal
1/2 tsp urad dal
1/2 tsp ajwain
2 dried red chilies, seeded
5-6 curry leaves
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste


Pick over and rinse dal and grains.

Wash the spinach well.

In a medium saucepan, boil water with turmeric and salt.

Add toor dal. Reduce heat to med-high and cook 10 min.

Add barley, and cook till barley has softened, about 20 min.

Add rice and quinoa. Reduce heat to med-low. Cook 15-20 min longer, until rice and barley are done and quinoa has puffed out. Pour off any extra water left in the pan.

Stir in spinach and switch off the heat. Cover the pan. The spinach will quickly wilt.

Heat the oil or ghee and pop the mustard. Lower heat a little and add cumin and dals.

When dals begin to color, add ajwain, chilies, and curry leaves. Cook a minute, then lastly add the ginger-garlic paste. Cook just till fragrant, and pour into the pot of grains.

Give it all a big stir and serve hot.

mixed grains with toor dal and spinach
mixed grains with toor dal and spinach

Comments (5)

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