Archive for November, 2007

Grindless AFAM With a Few Dates, a Persimmon, and Notalotta Toor Dal Gravy

A jumbled-up multiple-event post, to mirror my life of late — also jumbled-up with multiple events!

All in the mad-dash runup to Thanksgiving, I was trying to keep in mind the three things I wanted to cook for:

RCI: Bihar — hosted by lovely Sangeeta, event hostess with the mostess, who also had us over for JFI: Eggplant, yum 🙂

(Ok, whew! made it to RCI: Bihar in time!)

AFAM: Dates — hosted by talented Chandrika,
whose photography I salivate over 🙂


Grindless Gravies — for dear Sra, whose keen dry wit I admire so much 🙂
(see ISG’s Grindless Gravy post and comments) 😉

These, and I had Thanksgiving dinner, the only *big* holiday celebration in my home for multitude of folks — musn’t neglect that!

And of course all the while, there is JFI — and my very own turn, Jihva for Toor Dal!
I have been so happy about this, wanting to cook every entry that has been sent thus far! Day and night, I couldn’t stop thinking about toor dal — ’till one morning I found myself wanting to toss some toor dal into a bowl of cottage cheese and sprinkle some sambhar powder, just to see how that would taste.

I may be slightly obsessed 😉

So I hope Chandrika and Sra will forgive my inclusion of toor dal in my entries for their events — for Sangeeta’s I managed to get away without a drop in the khichdi.


First up, for AFAM: Dates!

toor dal chutney
toor dal chutney with dates and persimmon

Toor Dal Chutney with Dates and Persimmon
inspired by Shyam and Indira

1 tsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dry red (kashmiri) chiles
1/2 c onion, chopped
1/2 c dates, chopped
1 ripe persimmon, peeled and diced
1 fistful toor dal, washed (about 1/3 c)
1/4 – 1/2 c water

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over med-high and add the cumin seeds. When they crackle, add the chiles and reduce heat to medium.
Stir a minute until the chiles darken, then add chopped onion. Fry a few minutes till onion begins to color, then add dates, persimmon, and dal.
Stir and fry again for 2-3 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and add the water, couple of tablespoons at a time. Allow mixture to steam nearly dry before adding more water. The dal should be softened but not cooked through — about ten minutes should do. Stir in a little salt, remove pan from the heat and allow cool.

Grind the mixture using only as much water as needed for a medium-thick consistency. We don’t want to grind the dal to bits.

Taste for salt and serve chutney warm or room temperature, with dosa, idlies, potato upma as I did, or perhaps just a spoon 😉

toor dal chutney and potato upma
savory late night supper ~ spicy toor dal chutney with potato upma


Then for Grindless Gravies!

potato, onion and toor dal
chopped onion, diced potato, and washed toor dal ~ makings of a grindless gravy

Grindless Potato Sambhar Gravy
inspired by my lack of concentration the other night
when making sambhar with far too much water

for grindless gravy

1 fistful toor dal (about 1/3 c), washed
2 big potatoes, diced roughly (preferably russets)
1/2 c onion, chopped
1 small lump (about 2 TB) soft tamarind paste
(not the hard imli block, but similarly packaged soft paste or use tamcon)
1 small lump jaggery
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oil
1/4 tsp turmeric
3-4 c water

for tadka

1 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
2 dried red (kashmiri) chiles
5-6 curry leaves

secret ingredient
1-2 tsp ISG’s Magic Sambhar Powder

Salt to taste


Pressure cook the grindless gravy ingredients about 10-12 minutes. Let the pressure come down on its own, and when safe, open the cooker and mash the mixture with a potato masher to nearly smooth. Try to leave some chunks of potato.

Return pan to the heat and add secret ingredient and salt to taste. Simmer 5-10 minutes. The potato should break down almost totally, making a lovely thick (grindless) gravy.
If it’s too thick, add a little water — if too thin, simmer a little longer.
When the consistency is just as you desire, hold aside and…

In a small pan, heat the oil and do the tadka, adding chiles and curry leaves after mustard and cumin pop.

Pour tadka over the hot potato gravy and cover for a few minutes.

Serve hot with a dollop of ghee (if you like your gravy plain) or serve over any rice or vegetable of your choice. Roasted or steamed cauliflower is a great side dish to mix in with the grindless gravy (with hardly any toor dal!) 🙂

potato sambhar with notalotta toor dal
grindless potato sambhar gravy (with hardly any toor dal!)

Thank you ladies, one and all, for getting my creative kitchen juices flowing. Both these dishes will be regulars in my kitchen from now on!

I will be sending the entries properly in a day or two 🙂

Comments (10)

For The Birds

Special visitors!

pine siskin on thistle sock
You know it might be a great winter for birds when a pine siskin shows up
amongst your autumn goldfinches. The two are very similar in size, plumage,
and behavior; a siskin’s tell-tale streaking will give him away every time

thanksgiving day visitor
This little goldfinch was resting on the front steps, Thanksgiving Day.
He was likely stunned after mistakenly hitting a window.
Happily he recovered quickly and flew off.

pileated woodpecker

The magnificent and often elusive pileated woodpecker rarely ventures close enough for a glimpse, nevermind a photo. This juvenile was hungry enough to pose outside Traverse City, Michigan last August.

Ah, Michigan… summertime dreaming! 🙂

Comments (15)

RCI: Bihar ~ “Chaar Yaar” Wali Khichdi

moong and masoor dals
rain from my faucet ~ pouring down on moong and masoor dals

Thank you all for your lovely Thanksgiving wishes!
I hope everyone celebrating had a wonderful day 🙂

Between the holiday and the Broadway Production — OOPS — I mean school play my daughter was in this fall, I was afraid I might not find just the right dish I wanted to cook for RCI: Bihar, hosted by lovely Sangeeta of Ghar Ka Khana.
Does that ever happen to you? You hear of this or that event, and oh, you have just the thing in mind, or will find it! With me, I always have a million ideas, and half the time I end up sending something in a hurry.

Oh well, it’s the thought that counts, and I always learn so much along the way. This time I happily stumbled upon this wonderful site chock full of traditional Bihari recipes — it was a little late in the game for me however, so I am saving it to go through leisurely.

From another old standby,, I managed to come up with this khichdi. It’s not really a lot different from other versions I’ve seen, perhaps except for the addition of both black and green cardamom. It was the name that caught my eye, and once I read the translation I knew it was what I wanted to make.

Chaar Yaar, ‘four friends’, makes this dish sound special.

I followed the recipe I found at Barwachi by Mohita Prasad, with only minor modification. I used brown basmati rice instead of regular, and I cut way back on the amount of ghee used in cooking. I halved the recipe, so for 1/2 c of brown basmati rice, I used only 2 tsp ghee and 3 c of water to make the dish.

The four friends of course, you all will know: yogurt, ghee, pickle and papad.
My papads were microwaved, my yogurt store bought, the ghee half melted into the khichdi… but the pickle I can proudly say, is my own from
Manisha’s wonderful recipe. Please click to get the whole pic — you won’t want to miss Manisha’s pickle! 🙂

khichdi chaar yaar
Bihari Khichdi “Chaar Yaar” ` with four friends

One thing I love about the RCI series is how it inspires me to learn more about different regions of India. I learned that the capital of Bihar State, Patna, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, and that through this ancient city, the mighty Ganges passes, looking more like a sea than a river, according to one description.

From a lovely site called Image India, here is one scene I would love to someday feast my eyes upon. Out of respect for this person’s work, I don’t copy the photo here but urge you to look!

Ganges at Patna

For more on traditional khichdi, see this excellent write-up by Nupur, fellow blogger, wonderful cook, dear friend and all-around inspirational kind soul 🙂

Comments (26)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wherever you are, whomever you’re with, I wish you all a wonderful, wondrous day of fun and good cheer!

Thanksgiving table
Thanksgiving Day table set with Nana’s dishes and Michigan pattern glass

Have a fabulous holiday! 🙂

Comments (22)

Noodles, BC

Just for fun, something for “Click” by Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi.

By the way, thanks guys for pointing me to this lovely and convenient site — perfect for non-techies like myself: allows you to upload a file from your computer and resize it to specific dimensions far more easily than I ever could with MS Photo Editor or Paint.

Bee and Jai ask us to say a few words about our photos.

As usual I am just under the wire. I wanted to send a photo for fun, but I didn’t have one measly noodle anywhere in the house. Not a piece of pasta, not a thread of bean, not a single strand of shirataki… zippo zero nada nothing.
Very unusual, I might add.

I actually thought about making idiyappam, but I didn’t have the energy to try a new recipe tonight.

They say necessity is the mother of invention; in my case laziness begat…

noodles, bc
noodles, bc ~ before cooking, or before color?

Comments (20)

Sambhar With Nothing In It ~ And Why Not!

For this month’s Jihva, lovely word which I finally learned to pronounce correctly — thank you Indira!

toor dal and sambhar powder
best quality ~ toor dal and sambhar powder

I borrowed an idea from dear Latha’s grandmother.

She made goddu upma ~ “upma with nothing in it”.
It looked so easy and delicious. Why not goddu sambhar!?!

fresh seasonings
freshest seasonings

Wash a little toor dal and cook it up soft. Heat pure ghee and plenty of it.
Do the tadka with lively mustard and subtle cumin seeds, the mellow heat of kashmiri chiles, and the enticing aroma of fresh curry leaves.
Pour on the dal.

Sprinkle the most fragrant sambhar powder.
Maybe even make it fresh ~ just because you’re worth it!

Add pure cold water and a touch of salt… and simmer.

What you get is a nourishing comfort dish full of earthy flavor of toor dal
shining through the spices.

That, to me, is simply sublime.

goddu sambhar
goddu sambhar ~ sambhar with nothing in it!

Thank you ISG, for the fragrance of the sambhar powder that never disappoints, and thank you Latha, and your ammama, for the inspiration to savor beguiling sambhar, just as it is 🙂

Comments (23)

Bet You Can’t Guess Just One!

Wasn’t that a great marketing line for potato chips —
Frito-Lay, I believe, was the company…

“Bet You Can’t Eat Just One”!

Well, if you click on the banner below, I “Bet You Can’t Guess Just One”!

Thanks to a visit to Indira, I just spent an hour playing word games.

Much fun for a great cause — try and you’ll see… 🙂

Bet You Can’t Guess Just One! ~ Play For A Great Cause!

Comments (5)

Autumn Days

It’s been a beautiful autumn weekend.
You might have to click on the pics for full view…

autumn titmouse
tufted titmouse

squirrel enjoying the fallout from birdfeeder

downy woodpecker

sleepy kitties
sleepy kitties on a sunny autumn afternoon


And a neat article about dal from Little India Magazine ~~
The Magic Broth, for JFI ~ Toor Dal.

It’s not exclusive to toor dal, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

au sable river
and ever summertime dreaming… if you look hard you can see a lone deer taking a drink in this pool on the beautiful Au Sable river, near Oscoda, MI

Hope you all had a lovely weekend! 🙂

Comments (24)

Hooray, It’s My Turn! JFI ~ December

rainy autumn day
toor dal in a Munising bowl ~ rainy autumn day

Things got unexpectedly crazy around here *again* late last week,
and I’ve been absent from my blog-rounds. Much catching up to do!

I’m also a little late but, better late than never… because…

Hooray! It’s my turn to host Jihva.

Like a little kid, I am very excited! The first blog event I ever took part in was Indira’s original Jihva For Mangoes, and oh, how hesitant and unsure I was!
New to blogging, new to Indian cooking, new to the whole *community*.

Timidly I emailed Indira, asking, was it ok for me to go along too?

Indira, I have never forgotten your kind encouragement from way back when;
nor others’ since. I’m glad of the chance to carry that spirit forward to anyone
who has newly discovered the fun of blogging.


Jihva for December

To quote Indira’s original post:

“Jihvā, the Sanskrit word means taste, desire and deep longing. . .”

Well, I couldn’t exactly have a Jihva for Michigan (where I so long to be!).
So I chose something else dear to my heart — an ingredient which,
when denied it too long, my taste buds rise up in protest to declare their desire.

I’m sure you’ve guessed.

You probably know.

It’s the unassuming

yet illustrious

Toor Dal!


In a way, this is something of an offshoot of the incomparable
“Jihva for Dals”, hosted by our own dear Sailaja back in July of 2006.
I consulted with the creator of Jihva herself, and received the OK
to zero in on one specific dal.

This holiday season, I am back-to-basics and appreciating the myriad simple pleasures life holds. One big pleasure is certainly the endless variety of delicious dishes that can be made with this most basic of ingredients.

This is my chance to pay tribute to authentic Indian cooking, for which I have an enduring love, and also to all of you, wonderful friends who have encouraged and taught me so much.

Showcase your easiest everyday dal, your fanciest koftas, or anything else that comes to mind. If you showcase your special sambhar I will really swoon! 😉

festive toor dal
toor dal in holiday dress

In other words, please send any of your favorite dishes with toor dal as a main ingredient. The only “rule” is to make it easy on yourself. Whatever you celebrate, festival season is upon us full force — we don’t want to make more work. If you posted a favorite toor dal recipe long time back, feel free to post it again. I’m sure many bloggers have not had time to read back into the archives of some of the more long-standing blogs — I know I surely haven’t — so if you’re lacking time, pull out something fabulous from the past and send it along.

Of course, if you create a new masterpiece, please send that as well!

Anything and everything Toor is most welcome!

To Participate in JFI: Toor Dal

Post your favorite recipe featuring toor dal as a main ingredient on your blog, anytime from now till December 7, 2007.

Email me at outofthegarden1911_at_
Please put JFI in the subject line, and include the following:

Your name

Your blog name

URL of your post

Photo of your entry
(preferably in 200 x 200 pixel, but I realise some programs
can’t do this — approximation is fine)

If you don’t have a blog but still wish to participate, email me your recipe and photos if you have them, and I will post for you.

The roundup of lovely toor dal dishes can be expected by mid-December.

From the simple and humble everyday to the inspired star-of-the-show, I look forward to reading and learning everything I never knew about toor dal.

Thank you for reading and indulging me, and above all, have FUN! 🙂


Don’t forget to send your entries to Vee of Past, Present, and Me
for the second half of Jihva Special Edition: The Festive Series,
deadline November 11 for Diwali treats!

UPDATE: JFI:Toor Dal — The Round Up Part 1 ~ A-M is now up here


The Round Up Part 2 ~ N-Z is now up here.

Many thanks to everyone who participated and made this toor dal party such fun for all!

Comments (76)

Jihva Special Edition ~ Hubbard Squash Halwa

hubbard squash halwa
hubbard squash halwa for Diwali

Talented Vee of Past, Present, and Me is hosting not one but *two* Jihva events for autumn festival season: one for Navratri-Dassera and one for Diwali.
Together they are Jihva Special Edition: The Festive Series.

piece of hubbard squash
a brilliantly colored piece of hubbard squash

baked hubbard squash
baked hubbard squash

Because this squash is traditionally harvested in autumn, the time of harvest festivals, I thought it appropriate for the Jihva Festive Series.
Probably it should have been sent under Navratri-Dassera, but I’m late as usual, so I made the deadline for Diwali. Hope you don’t mind, Vee, and thanks for all your hard work! 🙂


I’ve never made halwa.

I also haven’t had a piece of hubbard squash since I was a kid. Our neighbors used to grow this huge squash in their garden, and often the fruits would hang right down through the fence into our little backyard. The neighbors were a sweet elderly Italian couple — very old-world and generous to a fault.
I was only four or five but I still remember their amazing suburban garden complete with grape vines. Looking back, it was like a little slice of Italy just up the hill beyond the fence.

We never bought this squash. Someone like the neighbors or a grandmother grew it and hacked off a piece with an axe (yes, the rind was that hard), and shared it with us. Back then the skin was a blueish grey… nowadays I see it in orange skin as well. I saw a small-sized piece the other day, and thought to bake it for old time’s sake. The baked squash was so naturally sweet that I decided to use it to try my hand at halwa.

Hubbard Squash Halwa with Split Moong

1 small piece hubbard squash (about 8 oz or enough for 1 1/2c mashed)

1/4 c ghee
1/2 c split moong dal (wash well and let dry)
2 TB cashew pieces

2 to 2 1/2 c milk, warmed
2-3 lumps jaggery


Bake the hubbard squash in 375F oven about one hour or until very soft and lightly browned (I did this in the toaster oven). Meanwhile, start the dal:

Melt the ghee and toast the dried moong dal slowly, until it is fragrant and reddish-golden. When it’s almost toasted, add the cashews as well.

Add a cup of the warm milk and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer slowly until the dal begins to soften and break up (about an hour).

Now add the baked squash (scooped from its shell) and the remaining milk. Stir well and continue to cook slowly until most of the milk is absorbed (about another half hour). Add the jaggery and stir well to ensure that it melts. Continue to cook another 10-15 minutes or until the halwa is the consistency you prefer.

hubbard halwa cooking
slow-cooking colorful hubbard squash halwa

Serve warm with spiced cream (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, whatever you fancy) — or — spread in a shallow greased tray to cool before cutting into shapes to be served at room temperature. This had so much ghee that I didn’t care for it straight from the fridge — my personal choice would be warm.

Compared to many halwa recipes I have seen, this took a long time to make. It was rich and delicious without being overly sweet — and the cheerful autumn-colored sweet stew bubbling away on the stove made the kitchen seem quite homey, so I felt it was worth the time 🙂

I also made mushroom and green pepper bhajjis — everyone has their own favorite recipe so I won’t detail this one, only to say I used the mild cubanelle peppers and they were really delicious. Something about the flavor of the besan and those peppers was a special combination, like two foods made for one another. The mushrooms were good too, but nowhere near like those peppers!

mushroom and cubanelle pepper bhajjis on American Pioneer platter
by Liberty Works, circa 1931

hubbard squash halwa
hubbard squash halwa with moong dal on a favorite green stoneware plate from Christmas Tree Shops, circa 2006 ~ their slogan: “don’t you just love a bargain” 😉

Happy Diwali!

Comments (19)

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