Cook's Hideout: July 2006

July 29, 2006

Spicy Vegetable Omelet

I love to have eggs anytime of the day, be it scrambled, omelet or boiled eggs. Even though I know that the yolks have high cholesterol content, I cannot see myself eating just the white or even egg substitutes (egg beaters etc). To eat eggs and not feel giulty I have made my serving sizes smaller. This quick and easy vegetable omelet is Indian equivalent to Italian frittata and makes a good dish for anytime of the day, especially for a lazy weekend breakfast (or brunch).

Eggs - 4
Onion - 1, finely chopped
Tomato - 1, finely chopped
Potato - 1, boiled and cubed
Peas - 1/2 cup
Green chilies - 4
Garlic - 1 clove
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1/2 tsp
Chili powder - 1/2 tsp
Monterey Jack cheese - 4tbsp
Fresh cilantro - 1 tbsp chopped
Salt - to taste

  • Preheat the broiler.
  • Heat 2tbsp of oil in a heavy-bottom skillet. Add the garlic and onion and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomato, potato, peas, chile, cumin & coriander powders and chopped fresh cilantro and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened and the mixture is well blended. Season to taste with salt and chili powder.
  • Beat eggs lightly. I usually add 1 tbsp of water and a dash of hot sauce to the eggs.
  • Add the eggs to the veggie micture, cover, and cook over low heat for 4-5 minutes, or until the underside is golden brown.
  • Sprinkle cheese over the omelet and cook briefly under the preheated broiler until the cheese has melted and the top of the omelet is set.
  • Slide out of the skillet, cut into wedges and serve immediately.
We had our Indian style frittata with whole grain toast. This omelet makes 4 servings.
This is my entry to Nandita's Weekend Breakfast blogging #2.

July 27, 2006

Palak Rice

Being south Indians, we had rice for all our three meals. Having chapathis or parathas was only on occasion, may be twice a week. If you have a pressure cooker or electric cooker, making rice is a jiffy. So here one of my jazzy Palak rice, that's great to make for a week day dinner.

Rice - 11/2 to 2 cups cooked
Spinach - 1 bunch
Onion - 1 medium chopped
Tomatoes - 2 crushed (I used abt 1/3 can of crushed tomatoes)
Fresh Corn - 1/2 cup
Green chilies - 4-5
Garlic - 2 cloves
Cloves – 3
Cinnamon – 1 small stick
Cardamom – 2
Bay leaves – 2
Chili powder – 1tsp
Garam Masala – 1tsp
Salt – to taste


  • Add bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves to rice while cooking.
  • Saute spinach in 1tsp oil and grind into a smooth paste with green chilies and garlic. Keep aside.
  • Heat 2tbsp oil in a pan, add onions and saute till they turn light brown. Add turmeric, tomato puree and corn. Cover and cook till tomatoes are done.
  • Add spinach paste, chili powder, garam masala & salt and saute for about 15minutes. Add water, if the mixture looks too dry.
  • Add the spinach mixture to rice, mix well. Serve hot with onion raita.

This is my entry for Anthony's Curry Mela.

July 26, 2006

Black Bean Chili w/ Basmati Rice

I really love my beans and I always keep my pantry stocked with different kinds of canned beans(I especially love black and red kidney beans), so that I can use them when I have nothing in the refrigerator or running out of time. Canned beans are so convenient and don't require any prior planning.
I know there are a few million recipes for making Chili and this is my quick and easy version.

Black Beans - 1 16oz. can (Rinsed and drained)
Refried beans - 3 tbsp
Vegetable Buillon cube (low-sodium) - 1
Tomato sauce - 2 tbsp
Crushed tomatoes - 4tbsp
Onion - 1 medium chopped
Jalapeno pepper - 1, seeded and chopped
Garlic - 2 cloves
Cumin powder - 1tsp
Chili powder - 1tsp
Salt and Pepper - to taste

  • Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a pan, add onions, jalapeno and garlic and saute till the onions are transparent.
  • Add the rinsed black beans, refried beans and vegetable buillon cube and 1/2 cup of water. Cook for 5 minutes on medium flame.
  • Add the tomatoes, cumin & chili powders, salt and mix well. Add about 1 cup of water (you can add either more or less depending on your liking).
  • Cook for about 15minutes or till the Chili comes to the consistency you like.
  • Adjust seasoning and serve hot.

This can be served over Yellow spanish rice, white rice, baked potato, nachos...... Using refried beans makes the chili thicker (you can completely omit this). This chili can be made with any kind of beans - red kidney, pinto.....

This is my entry for Revathi's FMR "Comfort foods".

July 24, 2006

Janthikalu - JFI#4:Flour

It is that time of the month again to make a dish for JFI (Jihva for Ingredients - Indira's brain child) and this time (fourth time to be exact), Santhi of Santhi's kitchen is hosting the event. Ingredient for month of August is Flour and Santhi is honoring all the flours under the sun . Though it sounds so simple, it is a tough one because of the wide range of recipes to choose from.
I made Janthikalu, which uses two kinds of flours - Rice flour and Chickpea flour (besan). Janthikalu are similar to Sev & Murukulu (Chakli) in terms of the ingredients and hardware used (Janthikala Mold).
I have to mention about my Janthikala Gottum (Mold). I asked my mom to send me one from India and she sent the one, she has been using for years (she replaced it with my Ammamma's mold). So this mold is kind of sentimental and I hope to take good care of it.

Rice flour - 2 cups
Besan (Chickpea flour) - 1 cup
Sesame seeds - 2tsp
Chili powder - 1tsp
Cumin powder (jeera) - 1tsp
Ghee - 2tbsp (Can be replaced with hot oil)
Salt - to taste
Oil (vegetable, canola...) - for deep frying

  • Mix the flours, sesame seeds, chili and cumin powders, ghee, salt together.
  • Add just enough water to make a thick batter. Make sure that the batter is not too watery or too thick.
  • Using a spoon, fill the mold with the batter.
  • Heat oil till very hot. Press the mold over the hot oil and try to make concentric circles, so that the batter drops in the oil in circular coils.
  • Fry till janthikalu turn golden brown. You might have to flip them once to fry uniformly on both sides.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon on to a paper lined plate to remove any excess oil.
  • Let cool and you can store in an air-tight container for upto 10days.

Mixed fruit Smoothie

Meeta of Whats for Lunch Honey invites all the foodies to her Monthly Mingle and comes up with a new theme for each month's mingle. Theme for this month is very aptly chosen - Beat the heat.
My entry is a mixed fruit smoothie that can be put together in no time. I used mango juice and strawberry puree that I already had in the refrigerator. You might have to adjust sweetness if you use fresh fruit.

Mango juice - 1/2 cup
Strawberry puree - 1/4 cup
Banana - 1
Cold Milk - 1/2 cup
Berries - for garnish (optional)

  • Blend all the ingredients till well combined.
  • Pour in chilled glasses, garnish with any kind of berries and serve.

Notes: You can use Non-fat vanilla frozen yogurt instead of milk for a thicker & creamier smoothie.

July 18, 2006

Chocolate-Cherry Bread

During our last weekend farmer's market shopping, I bought these fresh organic cherries (they costed me a fortune, but hey, they are worth every penny). So after we devoured the sweet cherries, I decided to make Cherry-Chocolate bread, recipe courtesy Vegetarian times.
After I added yeast to water and mixing all my dry ingredients, I realized there was no butter to use. I wanted to use canola oil, but my sister suggested using "Desi Ghee" (clarified butter). I was skeptical initially, but the bread turned out really good.
Following is the actual recipe.

0.25oz. pkg. yeast - 1
Sugar - 1/3 cup + 1tbsp
All purpose flour or bread flour - 2 1/3 cups
Unsweetened cocoa powder - 1/2 cup
Unsalted Butter - 2 tbsp melted
Chocolate chips - 1/2 cup
Cherries - 1 1/2 cups pitted

  • Dissolve yeast and 1tbsp sugar to 1 cup of wam water. Let stand 5 miutes or until water is cloudy and smells yeasty.
  • Sift remaining sugar, flour, cocoa and salt in a large bowl.
  • Add yeast and water to flour and mix well with a wooden spoon till it forms a smooth dough.
  • Fold in butter.
  • Transfer dough to a well-floured surface and knead 7 to 10minutes.
  • Pat dough into 10" square. Place cherries and chocolate chips in the center, fold in sides like an envelope. Press edges to seal.
  • Gently knead dough to evenly distribute chocolate and cherries throughout. Transfer to oiled bowl, cover and let rise 11/2 hours in warm place.
  • Punch dough down and place on a well-floured work surface.
  • Roll into thick log, then cut log into 16 equal rounds. Roll each round into a tight ball, and place on baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Set baking sheet in warm place, and let balls rise 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375F. Bake rolls 20 to 25minutes, or until tops appear dry and centers spring back when touched.

  • Cool 15 minutes before serving.
This is my entry to Sweetnicks ARF/5-a-day Tuesday.

July 17, 2006

Palak Pakoda (Spinach Fritters)

To go along with my Chinese green tea, I made some green pakodas (with spinach). I used frozen chopped spinach, but fresh spinach will definitely taste better in this dish. Procedure is same as anyother pakoda, just add Palak to the batter, and fry.

Besan (Chickpea flour) - 1 cup
Spinach - 1/2 cup chopped
Onion - 1/2 cup thinly sliced
Green Chilies - 3-4
Red Chili powder - 1 tsp
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Baking powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste

  • If you are using frozen, thaw spinach and squeeze out the water completely. If using fresh, finely chop the spinach.
  • Add all the ingredients to the flour, add water to make a thick batter.
  • Heat oil, about 1" high in a frying pan, add batter with a tablespoon (to make same size fritters) and fry till golden brown on medium heat.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon onto a paper-towel lined plate.
  • Serve hot with tomato ketchup.

Chinese Green Tea

During my visit to China, there were two things I absolutely wanted to buy: Chinese green tea and something made with Jade.
I am not a big tea drinker, may be once in a while. Before leaving as I was googling for things that I can buy from China, I found out that China is the birthplace of tea and produces the world's finest green teas. The Chinese have known about the medicinal benefits of green tea since ancient times, using it to treat everything from headaches to depression.
Green Tea contains a particular type of polyphenol - EGCG which is a very powerful anti-oxidant: it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue and is also effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots.
Green tea has the greatest benefits compared to other Chinese teas like Black or Oolong. All of them come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis), but green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG compound from being oxidized. By contrast, black and oolong tea leaves are made from fermented leaves, which results in the EGCG being converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases.
For more information read here and here.

With this information in hand, I couldn't come back without Green tea. I bought a bag of Chinese green tea from a local store in Shanghai. The lady in the store even put a pamphlet with the instructions to make the tea, of course written in Chinese (Not sure what made her think I can read that ;-) ).

Back in the States, I made my first ever green tea, not the regular Chinese style, but "Kashmiri Kahwa" style. This is Tarla Dalal's recipe with Kashmiri green tea, I replaced it with the Chinese version. This Chai helps to relieve headache and maintain fluid levels in the body.

Kashmiri Green tea - 4 tsp
Cinnamon - 1" stick
Cardamom - 2 pods crushed
Cloves - 2
Ginger - 1" piece
Sugar - 2 tbsp
Water - 3 cups
Saffron - pinch (mixed in water)
Almonds - 8 blanched and chopped

  • Add cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom to water and bring to a boil.
  • Pour water over the tea and leave to infuse over a very low flame for about 10minutes. Add sugar and mix well.
  • Strain the tea and add saffron water along with chopped almonds.
  • Serve hot.

I have never had Kashmiri Kahwa before, so I can't say if Chinese green tea matches up to its taste. But it was definitely refreshing and you can taste all the different flavors going on in the tea.

July 16, 2006

Farmer's Market produce

Within 10miles around the area where we live, there is one farmer's market which is open on saturdays only from June to November. Yesterday was the first time, this year, we could make it to the market. I could not stop myself from buying the bright white organic cauliflower and bright yellow squash.
Heres the produce that I bought yesterday. Cauliflower, savoy cabbage, grape tomatoes, figs, broad beans, apples, peaches, yellow squash, cherries, eggplant, onion foccacia bread.

July 15, 2006

Vankaya Pulusu Pachadi (Eggplant Chutney)

This dish is usually made in combination with Kandi Pachadi. It is similar to bhaingan bartha in making. This is one of my favorite Eggplant dishes.
Eggplants - 1 medium or 4 small
Red onion - 1 chopped
Green Chilies - 4
Tamarind - 2tbsp
Jaggery - 1tbsp

For Tempering:
Chana Dal - 1tsp
Urad dal - 1tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Jeera - 1/2tsp
Dry red Chilies - 2
Curry leaves - 4

  • Roast the eggplants either on stove top (if you have a gas stove) or in the oven at 400F.
  • While the eggplants are roasting, heat 1tbsp of oil in a pan, add the tempering ingredients. After the mustard seeds and jeera splutter, add onions and green chilies fry till golden brown. Remove from heat.
  • After the eggplant are roasted, leave them aside till they are cool enough to handle.
  • Remove the skins and roughly smash the flesh with a fork.
  • Add tamarind paste, jaggery, salt and the onion mixture. Mix well and serve.

Kandhi Pachadi (Toor dal Chutney)

This is my first entry into Barbara of Tigers and Strawberries "Spice is Right" blog event. I was excited to see her theme for this month's event "Its too darned hot" focusing on Chilies. Andhra cuisine uses a lot of chilies in all different forms and is said to be one of the "hottest" cuisines in India.
I made a very simple dish that has lot of chilies mixed with nutty fried toor dal. This dish can be put together in no time and is paired with dishes that are made with tamarind to soothe the heat from the chilies.
Toor Dal - 1 cup
Red Chilies - 10-12
Jeera (cumin seeds) - 1tsp
Garlic - 2 pods
Oil - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste

  • Dry roast the dal along with the chilies, till dal turns golden brown and gives out the nutty aroma
  • Let the mixture cool down completely.
  • Grind the mixture with water (Do not add too much water, add little at a time. We dont want a watery chutney).
  • Add jeera and salt, pulse to combine.
  • Heat oil in a small pan. Add chopped garlic and fry on low flame till garlic is golden brown.
  • Add fried garlic into the chutney and mix well.
  • Serve with white rice and ghee.
Note: Kandhi pachadi is almost always paired with Vankaya pulusu pachadi (eggplant stew).

July 14, 2006

Mumbai blasts

There are no words to describe the incidents that happened on 11th in Mumbai. If you need any assistance or help in finding your lovd ones, please use the link below.
Mumbai Help

Thank you Indira

July 12, 2006

Food Network recipes

I like to watch Rachel Ray ("30 minute meals" on Food TV) cook her meals in 30minutes. But I always wonder if they really shoot the whole episode in exactly 30minutes. So I tried to time her recipe and see if it really works for me. I completed the entire dish in about 45minutes (I guess I can blame my electric stove for the extra 15mins, but I had my sister helping me with the cutting and cleaning. So it would probably be around an one hour just by myself.)
So for yesterday's dinner I made Pizzagna (Ray's idea of combining Supreme pizza toppings with lasagna). It turned out pretty good.
The changes that I made is use whole wheat penne instead of curly pasta and lots of basil instead of parsley. Also I used fat-free ricotta cheese (next time I would use low-fat ricotta instead. Fat-free ricotta has an after taste) and part-skim mozzarella for health reasons.

From one food network recipe to another. I made Giada De Laurentiis's (Everyday Italian) Chocolate-Strawberry panini. These take like no time at all. They were so decadent and so filling, and so quick & easy to make. Giada used a panini grill to make these paninis. I used a stove-top grill with foil covered brick (about $1 in Home Depot), works just perfect.

Trip to China - My Experiences

I have successfully completed my 2 week China trip and returned in one piece last week. I was a little dizzy and my body took about 2 days to get back into routine (no jetlag.. thank god for that). Two weeks looked really long, but everything went well without any major mishaps (except for the initial delay of 4hours in Newark with the aircraft crew stuck in Holland tunnel).
From a fellow Asian perspective, China is a very modern, neat and crowded (sh… did I say crowded) country. I went to Shanghai and Hong Kong and both these cities were very modern with tons of skyscrapers, giant bridges, very clean roads and lots of people (did I say people….. again). You can find McDonalds, KFC’s, Pizza Huts on almost every corner of the street. I was surprised to see almost all the Chinese women dressed in latest fashions and trends similar to New York.

Shanghai has many sky scrapers, but among these tall new buildings is the old Shanghai city (Top left corner photos). If you see from a sky scraper, you will see sprawling 1 to 2 storey buildings constructed very very close to each and look like a maze from the top.

I couldn’t believe the roads in China – 5 lane roads and exits. If you don’t see the Chinese signs, you would think you are in US. There are traffic rules, but not many seem to follow them. Chinese drivers have very little or no patience at all and they weave through the traffic so fast, you forget which lane you started in. Maximum speed allowed in 120 km/hr (75 miles/hr) and again no body seems to care much (not even the cops). I didn’t see even a single cop car on the highway (I know they have better things to do). Anyway all the trips went well with no major issues on the road.

In Shanghai, there might be around 100 (big and small) malls at every corner of the street. And from my observation, Chinese like to shop similar to Americans. The mall I went to during the weekend was buzzing with activity the whole day. The other reason for the malls being crowded is that they are the only places that are air-conditioned in the city.

Finally, the issue I was worried about before I left to China was the food. It was not as bad I expected. Shanghai and Hong Kong have many restaurants that have vegetarian options (it may be just one or two items on the menu.. but I was really glad they at least had them). Chinese food is nothing like the take-out food (too greasy) we get in the U.S. Vegetables are generally steamed or sautéed in very little oil with lots of flavor (fresh ginger, garlic and soy sauce).
For Chinese having lunch or dinner is a communal event. They like to share their food. I noticed that they eat a lot of protein (Fish, seafood, veggies etc) and not too much of carbs.

Apart from Chinese food, we (my manager and I) also had a chance to taste other cuisines. Our director in HK took us to a Indian restaurant (They even had hindi channel “Sahara TV” in the hotel). We went to Angelini’s (another Italian restaurant in HK and I had this awesome potato lasagna.. will try to make it sometime), Pizza Hut in Shanghai (that was our last meal in China.. we were both too home sick to eat Chinese food).
Below are the pictures of Grocery store and farmer's market in China. Grocery stores are filled with western stuff like Barilla pasta and spaghetti sauces.
All in all, it was a great trip (even though I am very glad I am back home) in terms of work and an experience to explore a new country. I didn’t have more time to go out site seeing, but will pass on that for now.. But I definitely would like to go back to visit these awesome places (photos courtesy Impact labs. See more pics here).

July 11, 2006

Sweet Memories - Mango Juice

We bought these tiny mangoes from Indian store last week. They looked like rasam mamadipandlu (mangoes with juice instead of flesh), but they ended up being regular mangoes. I am not sure if we can even get rasalu in US. Anyway I had about 25 mangoes and only 3 people to eat them (outside heat was not helping us either). I made mango pudding (which has now become our staple mango dessert) with about 6 of them. With the rest of the mangoes I made Mango juice, recipe courtesy, Mom.
Years ago, my mom along with 2 of her best friends (our very lovely aunts, we call them both Atta) used to go to Canning & Nutrition Center in Hyderabad to make juices, jams and marmalades for the whole year and especially for the hot summer . This was like a yearly tradition during the months of march and april when there is abundance of seasonal fruit.
These ladies used to go to the center with baskets and bags full of apples, grapes, oranges, pineapples, guavas etc. (Shopping for these fruits two days earlier is another story) When they got back home they had big containers full of orange juice, grape juice, jam. They used to distribute everything among the three families. Sometimes they used to come back with surprise items like guava marmalade (this is the one I remember the most).
These are just very sweet memories....
Here is the recipe for Mango juice, it is more like a concentrate - you will need to add some cold water or water and ice to make the juice. I didnt add any preservatives or essence, cos according to my mom that might slightly change the taste.

Mango pulp - 5 cups
Sugar - 4 cups
Water - 5 cups
Citric Acid - 2tsp

  • Remove pulp from the mangoes. Keep aside.
  • In a heavy bottom sauce pan, add sugar and water and let it come to a slow simmer.
  • Dont simmer for too long, we just want the sugar to dissolve, around 10minutes on low flame.
  • Add citric acid. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain the syrup to remove any impurities.
  • After the sugar syrup is completely cooled, add the mango pulp and mix well.
  • Pour into clean bottles and store in the fridge.

Notes: Make sure your hands are completely dry during the whole preparation and storing process. Pour about 1/3 of mango concentrate and the rest water to make a cup of mango juice.

Very tasty, home-made mango juice.

July 10, 2006

Bhindi Masaleydar - Masala Okra

Whenever we go out to eat, I try to order something new or something that I never had before(or never even heard of sometimes). My husband is more of a careful guy and not a risk taker. He ends up ordering the same item in most of the restaurants. I try to deconstruct the recipes that I have, so I can come home and try them.
I had this Bhindi masaleydhar in Shanghai (Epicure on 45, a revolving restaurant on the 45th floor of our hotel) and I liked it very much, so I tried it out as soon as I got back.
This is my version of Masala Bhindi and it came pretty close to what I had.

Fresh Okra - 12-15 no.
Onion - 1 large chopped
Tomatoes - 1 large juicy chopped
Cumin powder - 1tsp
Coriander powder - 1tsp
Chili powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric - pinch
Curry paste - 1 tsp [I used Patak's mild curry paste]
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Salt - to taste


  • Wash and thoroughly dry okra. Cut into 1" pieces.
  • Heat 1tbsp of oil in a pan, fry okra till browned on all sides. Remove and keep aside.
  • Heat 1tsp of of oil and add 1/4 of the chopped onion. Fry till lightly browned. Remove and keep aside. After cooling grind the fried onions with the coriander, cumin and chili powder into a smooth paste using little water.
  • Heat 2tsp of oil in the same pan, add asafoetida and onions. Fry till onions are transulent, then add tomatoes, onion paste and turmeric. Mix well and cook covered till tomatoes are done.
  • Add fried okra, curry paste, garam masala and salt to the tomato gravy. Add water if it is too dry.
  • Cook for 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice or chapathi.

July 05, 2006

Lentil Walnut Burger

I am late for this month's Lentil theme JFI#3 (Jihva for ingredients) hosted by Sailu. I hope she accepts my late entry.
I made Lentil-Walnut burger for our mini in-house barbeque for 4th of July. I saw them made on TV (pbs - channel 13) few weeks ago and wanted to give them a try(above pic is courtesy pbs tv). Adding cumin and coriander powders gave the burgers an Indian taste.


Green Lentils - ¾ cup, cooked, drained and cooled
Toasted Walnuts - ¾ cup, cooled
Dried breadcrumbs - 1/3 cup (I used 3 potato bread slices and it worked just fine)
Garlic - 3 cloves
Ground Cumin - 2 tsp
Ground Coriander - 2 tsp
Red pepper flakes - ½ tsp
Large Egg - 1
Olive oil - 1tbsp
Salt and pepper - to taste

  • In a food processor, combine walnuts, breadcrumbs (or bread slices), garlic, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, salt (I used 1 ½ tsp and it was just right, but if you eat less salt, reduce the amount), and ¼ tsp pepper; process until finely ground.
  • Add lentils and oil; pulse until coarsely chopped (some lentils should remain whole).
  • In a large bowl, whisk egg and add lentil mixture; mix well.
  • Divide mixture into equal size parts; roll into balls, and flatten with the palm of your hand into ¾ inch thick patties (I made 9 medium size patties).
  • Heat a large nonstick skillet. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Add burgers; cook over medium-low heat until crisp and browned, turning gently with a spatula, 8 to 10 minutes per side.
  • Serve hot.

I made Indira’s Sesame buns and had our burgers with mayo, ketchup and cheese. Really healthy and not very difficult to put together.


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