Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Coconut Poha (Flattened Rice)

Breakfast is a tricky time of day. When I'm rushing out the door, I want to be able to eat something that is super-quick and dirties the least number of dishes. None preferably... but cooking without dirtying dishes is an oxymoron in itself! Most weekday mornings, we eat cold cereal... Cherios, Special K, Honey Bunches of Oats and the likes. I know they are processed and loaded with salt, sugar and what not... but better than most options out there, no? I try to avoid eating packaged cereal bars and granola bars, since most of the commercial chewy ones contain gelatin as part of their 'Natural Flavors'. The most creative I can get on winter mornings, in my cold kitchen is toast some bread and fix us a classic PB&J sandwich.

On the weekends, we usually make it a point to start the day right with some breakfast over hot chai. In fact I get out of bed only when I have a clear picture of whats going to be on for breakfast! I love poha or flattened rice. It's quick, easy and delicious. Now thats not a combination we see that often. Poha can be flavored in many different ways, anything you put in an upma (oh no not that again) can be used in poha. Buy thick flattened rice for this as they tend to be plumper and not fall apart. To prep poha, rinse it under running water in a colander making sure all the grains are moistened. Then allow to drain.

Coconut Poha
2 cups thick poha or flattened rice
salt to taste
Rinse poha, allow to drain. Add salt, toss and set aside
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp black gram dal (soaked in water for 2 mins and drained)
3 dried red chillies
3 green chillies minced or chopped fine
Heat oil in a skillet, add the other ingredients, allow to sputter.
3/4 cup grated coconut (thawed if frozen)Add and fry till coconut turns a reddish brown
Add poha and cook till dry

Enjoy with a steaming cup of tea. If you don't have poha, you can also substitute cooked rice. Just increase the amount of coconut and you'll have coconut rice.

Coconut Poha - my entry to From my rasoi breakfast event hosted by Meena of Hooked on Heat.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Comfort Food South Indian style

Even though I have acquired tastes for different types of cuisines and love food in general, I enjoy South Indian food in my own way. Infact according to hubbie, I eat Southie food with the occasional trademark slurp ( Don't be alarmed, I absolutely don't). But, I agree to the extent that I really savour the taste. I made a modest but extremly heartly meal of Vatral Kuzhumbu, Vazhakkai (plantain) curry, Lemon rasam, plain rice, curd rice to extinguish the flames and salad.

Vatral Kuzhumbu

Every family has their own take on this. Here is one from food blogosphere's Shammi.
Here is how it is made in the old GM house.

Vatral Kuzhumbu

2 ladles oilHeat
1 tsp mustad seeds
1/4 tsp methi seeds
2-3 dried red chillies
Add to oil and crackle
1 cup sliced onion
3 tsp sambar powder
2 tsp rasam powder
Add to oil and fry till fragrance exudes
1 lime sized tamarindExtract 3 cups of juice and add
2 tsp saltAdd
Boil for 15-20 mins or thick consistency

Traditionally as Shammi points out, you use dried goodies (Vatral) that you can get from the Indian stores. In their absence, you can use other vegetables (like I have) onions, brinjal, beans, okra etc, and fry them well in the cooking process. Also, keep in mind that the spices must also cook well until the raw smell is gone. In my opinion, the simplest and best accompaniment to this Kuzhumbu is simple potatoes cooked till crispy in simple seasonings like salt and turmeric. Also, Spinach is another classic accompaniment.

I however decided to cook potato's cousin brother, the plantain.

Vazhakkai (Plantain) Curry
3 plantainsPeel, wash and chop into even bite size pieces
2 tbps oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
Heat oil and crackle seeds. Add chopped plantains
2 tsp salt
pinch asafetida
Scald the plantains. Cook undisturbed for 10 mins
2 tsp curry powder or sambar powderWhen slight browning occurs, add curry powder. Cook uncovered for 5 -10 mins more till desired crispiness obtained

As a wise one has rightly said "Self Restraint solves all problems". I tried to practice it, and didnot harass the veggies, just let them cook in peace, and the results as promised were great.

Lemon (Juicy) Rasam

I love rasam. What a tangy and nutritious meal it makes. There are different types of rasam... my absolute fav is lemon rasam. Apparently when I was young (er), I coined the term 'juicy' rasam meaning lemon rasam. But my suspicion is that Mommie came up with this term, she is always making up cute names to make things sound appetizing. Rasams are also the easiest things in the world to make! Throw in the ingredients, and let the heat do the job. The only smarts needed is NEVER let the rasam boil. It must gently froth just below boiling point.

Lemon Rasam
5 cups water
4-5 green chillies slit
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp salt
2 tsp rasam powder
big pinch asafotida
1 tomato chopped roughly
Add to stockpot/vessel on medium heat.
1.5 cups cooked toor dalWhen rasam begins to froth, add dal. Let the mixture bubble and froth
juice of 1 lemonAdd
1 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
Add tempering to rasam

There you go. Don't forget to enjoy a nice helping of curd rice at the end of this meal. Here is a great recipe for curd rice by Raji of My Cuisine.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Cream of asparagus soup

Asparagus is one of those 'rich' vegetables that tastes simply great just steamed and topped with melted butter. It has traditionally not been included in Indian dishes, but I would love to know if some one has tried. Here is something we always make whenever aparagus is available in our refrigerator.

Asparagus Soup
Serves 4


1 lb young asparagus
3 tbsp butter
1 small yellow onion roughly chopped
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2.5 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup milk
1/2 cup light cream (I substituted 1 mashed ripe avocado... for a mild avocado taste but the same creamy texture)
salt and freshly ground pepper

How to proceed

1. Cut 1.5 inches off the tops of half the asparagus and set aside for a garnish. Slice the remaining asparagus.

2. Melt 2 tbsps of the butter in a large sauce pan and saute the sliced onion for 2-3 minutes until soft.

3. Add the asparagus and saute over low heat for 1 minute.

4. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the stock or water and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, half-cover the pan, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the asparagus is very tender. (If crazy enough to use the avocado, mash and add at this point)

5. Cool slightly and then process the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth. (You may then press the pureed asparagus through a sieve. I usually skip it as I don't mind some texture)

6. Add milk to the mixture and heat gently for 3-4 minutes.

7. Melt remaining butter and saute the reserved asparagus tips gently for 3-4 minutes to soften. Add to the soup as garnish.

This recipe is adapted from the book "Vegetarian - the best ever recipe collection" by Linda Fraser. Give it a try, I assure you that you will not be dissappointed!

For those of you who have been following my tryst with the avocado, it is finally over! I have used up all those avocados in a variety of ways. The most successful ones are mentioned on this blog :)