Cook's Hideout: March 2011

March 31, 2011

Vermicelli Pilaf (Semya Upma) for National Noodle Month

Did you know that March is National Noodle Month? I wanted to make something on this occasion (??), for the past 31 days and as usual the month flew by right in front of my eyes. Well since there are a few more hours left to complete the month I thought I’ll post this yummy semya upma (aka vermicelli pilaf in a fancy way).
I usually end up making a sticky lumpy mess when I make semya, usually because I second-guess myself when adding the water and end up adding way more than needed. But my mom’s method of boiling vermicelli (just like pasta) in lots of salted water for 2-3 minutes until cooked through has solved my sticky mess problem.

Semya Upma

Here’s how I made this dish.
Semya (Short cut vermicelli) – 2 cups (I used Bambino brand available in Indian groceries)
Onion – 2 medium, finely chopped
Potato – 1 medium, diced
Roasted Peanuts – ¼ cup
Tomato paste – 1tbsp
Tomato – 1 medium, chopped
Kitchen king masala – ½ tsp (or to taste)
Lemon juice – 2tsp

For tempering:
Urad dal – ½tsp
Chana dal – ½tsp
Mustard seeds – ½tsp
Cumin seeds – ½tsp
Dry red chili – 2

Vermicelli Pilaf

  • Boil 4-5 cups of water in a large saucepan, and once water comes to a rolling boil, add 1tsp and the vermicelli. Boil for 2-3 minutes or until cooked through (this should not take very long). Drain the water from the vermicelli and keep aside until ready to use.
  • Heat 1tbsp oil in a sauté pan, add tempering ingredients and once the seeds start to splutter, add the onions and sauté until lightly browned around the edges.
  • Add potatoes and roasted peanuts; cover and cook until the potatoes are cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Next add the tomatoes and tomato paste, cook until they turn mushy. Season the veggies with salt and kitchen king masala.
  • Finally add the cooked semya* with the lemon juice and more salt (if needed), mix everything gently. Cover and cook for 2 minutes, so the flavors get a chance to mingle. Let rest for 5 minutes and garnish with coriander leaves before digging in.

Semya Upma
This is a great dish for BLD (Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner). We had ours for dinner with some homemade fruit juice.

* Note: Cooked Vermicelli might turn into a mush if left in the colander/ strainer for too long. Don’t worry, just rinse them under some cold water and squish them around with fingers to separate the noodles.

March 29, 2011

Chickpea Romesco with Saffron-Garlic Rice

This recipe is from Veganomicon by Isa & Terry. I love making nut based dishes, be it nut butters or just ground nuts-I think they make the dish creamy and extremely tasty. Romesco sauce is a Spanish style red sauce that is made with almonds, red pepper, vinegar, roasted tomatoes & garlic. It is typically served with seafood, but in this dish chickpeas are simmered in romesco sauce to make a delicious vegetarian/ vegan entrée.

Chickpea Romesco
Recipe adapted from Veganomicon.
Slivered almonds – 1/3 cup
Roasted red peppers (home-made or store-bought) – 2
Fire-roasted tomatoes (or regular diced) – 1 28 oz. can
Garlic cloves – 3, minced
Red onion (or Shallots) – 2 small, finely chopped
Red Serrano chili – 1
Vegetable broth (or White wine) – ¼ cup
Red wine vinegar – 2tsp
Sugar – 2tsp
Dried thyme – 1tsp
Dried Rosemary – ½ tsp, crumbled
Chickpeas – 2 16 oz. cans, rinsed and drained (I used 1 can each of Chickpeas & Cannellini beans)
Salt & Pepper – to taste

  • Grind the almonds into almost smooth, powdery crumbs.
  • Blend roasted peppers and tomatoes until smooth and set aside.
  • Heat 2tbsp olive oil in a medium-sized sauce pan; sauté garlic, chilies & onions until onions turn golden, about 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the tomato & pepper puree, broth (or wine), vinegar, sugar and herbs. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Next add the chickpeas, season with salt and pepper and simmer the mixture on medium-low flame for about 20-25 minutes or until the mixture becomes thick and coats the beans. Serve with Saffron-Garlic Rice.
Chickpea Romesco
Here’s how I made the Saffron-garlic rice:
Since I was making this dish on a weeknight and it was only for the 3 of us, I used only a little bit of saffron (I use saffron extremely sparingly and guard it with my life, do you remember seeing saffron garnished on any of my dishes—nope, too expensive to use as garnish :0).

Long grain rice – 2 cups (I used Sonamasoori rice, but Basmati would be excellent here)
Garlic – 3 cloves, minced
Saffron – pinch (or more)
Salt & pepper – to taste

  • Rinse and soak rice in cold water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Add 2tbsp hot water to saffron in a small bowl.
  • Heat 1tsp oil and garlic in a pressure cooker. Once the garlic starts to sizzle and brown, add drained rice and mix to coat the grains with the oil. Sauté for couple of minutes until rice starts to turn opaque.
  • Add saffron water, 4 cups of water, salt and pepper, mix well and cook for 2 whistles on high flame.
Serve hot with the Chickpeas. Yummmm..
This goes to Aipi’s Bookmarked recipe every Tuesday event.


March 22, 2011

Vankaya Kurma/ Eggplant Kurma

I was wondering one day, is it possible to make all the delicious recipes that I bookmark online AND make the recipes from my cookbooks AND make ALL my favorite recipes that Amma used to make AND make something new and creative when I’m inspired in ONE LIFETIME. I have my doubts, since I don’t actively cook during the week and weekend being ONLY 2 days, I don’t think I can do them all. Unless I stop bookmarking anymore new recipes for the next year and cook everything I already have. I really want to know how you guys manage your bookmarks, please!!
Years ago, I used to print the recipes and file them by category: rotis, rice, subzi etc. After flooding the favorite section on our browser, I’ve started to maintain a notebook where I write down the recipe name and the URL that interest me. So when I want to make something from my bookmarks I refer to my notebook.
Vankaya Kurma/ Eggplant Kurma

March 17, 2011

Vegan African Squash & Sweet Potato Stew

We have been having trouble with our electricity at home, thanks to the crummy contractor we hired to renovate our bathrooms a year ago. He messed up the internal wiring and now whenever we try to start the computer or run a vacuum, the fuse blows up. So had been away from the computer for the past 4-5 days. Hopefully we'll have it fixed (with a licensed professional this time) very soon.
Coming to today's recipe, I never thought Peanut butter based dishes could be this tasty. I was ranting and raving about this dish ever since I tried it. Peanut butter gives this stew both creaminess and slight sweetness that complement the texture and sweetness of both squash and the sweet potato.

African Squash & Sweet Potato Stew
Very simple to put together and the ingredients can be easily substituted with what you have on hand. I used butternut squash, but you can easily use any other winter squash like acorn or kabocha or even sweet pumpkin (thiyya gummadikaya). You can add cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans to add protein and make the dish more wholesome. Stew can be made as spicy as your palette can tolerate or bland-I think mine was somewhere in the middle. Served over rice or couscous, this is a very filling and comforting dish.

Recipe adapted from Vegetarian times.
Butternut squash – 2-3 cups, peeled and diced (½ of a medium sized squash)
Sweet Potato – 1 medium, peeled and diced
Onion – 1 medium, chopped
Other Veggies – 2 cups chopped, I used frozen mixed veggies which had cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini and carrots. Feel free to use any veggies you have on hand. Original recipe only had cauliflower.
Ginger – 1” piece, finely grated
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Fresh Red Chili (like fresno chili) – 2, slit
Diced tomatoes – 1 15 oz. can (or 3 fresh ripe tomatoes chopped)
Peanut butter – ¼ cup
Cinnamon – 1/8tsp
Chili powder – ½ - 1 tsp (or to taste)
Salt – to taste

  • Heat 1tbsp peanut oil in a large pan, add onions and sauté till transparent.
  • Add ginger & garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  • Next add sweet potatoes and butternut squash along with ½ cup of water or vegetable broth. Cover and cook till the veggies are half cooked.
  • Add the remaining veggies; cover and cook on medium heat till all the veggies are cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  • Stir in tomatoes along with cinnamon, chili powder, salt and ½ cup of water or broth. Cover and cook till the stew thickens a little bit.
  • Whisk peanut butter with 3tbsp warm water into slurry. Slowly stir in peanut butter into the stew and simmer for 4-5 minutes.
  • Serve warm over rice or couscous.
African Squash & Sweet Potato Stew

March 10, 2011

Vegetarian Tacos with Soy Chorizo, Beans & Spinach

Today’s the last day of our 7 day blogging marathon. I’m going to miss doing this every day and will miss all of my fellow marathoners. I have an excellent 30 minute meal recipe that is very versatile and super delicious.

Vegetarian Tacos
Tacos are nothing but corn or flour tortillas wrapped around a filling. I used ingredients I had on hand to make the filling, but there are endless variations to make these. Here’s how I put my tacos together.

Vegetarian TacosIngredients:
Soy chorizo – 6 oz. (½ of 12oz. package) (substitute with 1 cup of cooked soy granules or TVP instead)
Black beans – ¼ cup
Spinach – 1 cup, chopped (thawed if frozen)
Tomato paste – 1tbsp
Onion – 1 medium, chopped
Garlic – 1 clove, minced
Red pepper flakes – ¼ tsp
Cayenne pepper – ½ tsp (or to taste)
Salt – to taste

For garnish:
Pepper jack cheese
Sour cream
Grape tomatoes etc.

  • Heat 2tsp oil in a sauce pan; add red pepper flakes, onions and garlic and sauté until onions are lightly browned around the edges, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the soy chorizo and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Next add tomato paste, cayenne pepper, salt and mix well. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle some water if the mixture starts to stick to the pan.
  • Add spinach, salt and black beans; cover covered until spinach wilts and beans are heated through, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Warm taco shells and place 2-3 tbsp of filling in the middle, top with your favorite garnishes and serve.
Vegetarian TacosCheck out what my fellow marathoners have cooked up for the last day of the marathon:

30 Minutes Meals:

March 09, 2011

Indian Dinner in 30minutes

So now don’t expect to see a whole spread of Indian dishes made from scratch in 30 minutes. That’s not going to happen, it probably will happen in your kitchen, but not in mine. I had to take some short-cuts to make 3 dishes in 30 minutes. Bear with me, this is going to be a long post (I know it's kind of ironic that I've a long post for a quick meal).
I used to watch Rachael Ray’s “30 minute meals” very religiously few years ago. When I tried to make the same dish at home, it used to take more than 30 minutes and I wondered if Rachael was even for real.

Keeping with the theme of “30 minute meals” for blogging marathon, I wanted to challenge myself to make a typical south Indian meal with rice, rasam (pappu chaaru) and curry in 30 minutes. I used frozen toor dal (from past weekend) and store-bought roasted unsalted peanuts to make the gravy for the curry. To tell you the truth, 30 minutes whizzed past pretty fast and if I didn’t have my eyes on the clock and rushed around the kitchen like a mad woman, it might have taken a little longer.

Mirchi ka SalanHere’s how dinner was made in 30minutes:
6:40-6:45PM: Washed rice in a pressure cooker and left it to soak for 10 minutes. Heated a sauce pan (for rasam) and sauté pan for the curry on medium-high heat. Cut 2 red onions & 3 green chilies (need twice, chop once).
6:45 – 6:50: Added 2tsp oil to both the heated pans; added tempering (fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, dry red chilies & hing) in the saucepan for dal and let it splutter. Added half of the onions to the curry pan and sautéed the onions with ginger+garlic paste until onions were browned around the edges (about 3-5minutes). Added the remaining half of the chopped onions to the dal pan and cooked until they turned translucent (about 3 minutes).
6:50 – 6:55: Zapped the frozen dal for 2 minutes in the microwave. Chopped 15 mini-bell peppers and 2 ripe tomatoes. Started pressure cooking rice. Once the onions for the curry were done, removed them into blender jar and set aside. Heated 1 tbsp oil in the same pan; added mustard & cumin seeds and after they spluttered, added the peppers, covered the pan and allowed to soften.
6:55-7:00: Onions for the dal were ready by this time, so added the tomatoes; covered and cooked them for 3 minutes. Next added rasam powder, salt, brown sugar, tamarind paste, cooked dal along with 2 cups of water. Left it to simmer on medium flame. To the cooked onions in the blender jar, added roasted peanuts, bagara baingan masala (store-bought), red chili powder, ground cumin, brown sugar, salt, tamarind paste and tahini and blended them into a smooth paste with 1-2cups of water.
7:00 – 7:05: Added the peanut paste into the pepper mixture, seasoned with some salt; covered the pan and left it to simmer on medium flame. The cooker had whistled once already.
7:07: Second whistle and the rice was done.
7:08: Rasam simmered long enough, turned that off.
7:10: Curry simmered long enough and the peppers were tender but a little crisp, turned that off.

The next 15 minutes were spent in cleaning up the mess and some dirty dishes. By 7:30 we were ready to have dinner. Now for the recipes in a more leisurely pace.

Pappu chaaru (Rasam with dal)
Dal – 1 cup, cooked
Onion – 1 medium, thinly sliced
Green chilies – 3, slit vertically
Rasam powder – 2tsp
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Tamarind paste* – 2tsp (see note 1 below)
Jaggery (or Brown sugar) – 1tsp (or to taste)
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste

Fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Dry Red chilies – 2
Hing – pinch
Curry leaves - 6

  • Heat 2tsp oil in a medium sauce pan. Add the tempering ingredients and once the seeds start to splutter, add onions and green chilies and sauté until onions turn translucent, about 3 minutes.
  • Next add chopped tomatoes and turmeric; cover and cook until tomatoes are cooked and turn into mush, another 3 minutes.
  • Then add rasam powder, red chili powder, brown sugar, tamarind paste, cooked dal and salt along with 2 cups of water.
  • Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat; lower heat to medium and simmer until all the flavors combine, about 10 minutes. Serve hot with steamed rice.
Mini Peppers in Peanut Gravy This dish is a 30 minute spin off on the very famous Hyderabadi mirch ka salan and bagara baingan.

Mini Sweet Peppers – 15, chopped
Red onion – 1 large, chopped
Ginger+garlic paste – ½ tsp
Roasted peanuts (preferably unsalted) – ¼ cup
Bagara Baingan masala powder (or garam masala) – 1tsp
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Jaggery (brown sugar) – 1tsp (or to taste)
Tamarind paste* - 1tsp (see Note 1 below)
Ground cumin – ½ tsp
Tahini (Ground sesame seeds paste)** – 2tsp (see Note 2 below)
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste

  • Heat 2tsp oil in a sauté pan; add onions and sauté on medium-high heat stirring frequently until browned around the edges, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add ginger+garlic paste and cook for 1 minute.
  • Remove onions from the pan; heat 1tbsp oil in the same pan; add mustard & cumin seeds and once they start to splutter, add the chopped peppers; cover and cook until half way cooked through, about 5-8 minutes.
  • In the meantime make the peanut gravy, to the onions, add peanuts, tahini, masala powders, salt, tamarind paste and brown sugar and blend into a smooth paste with 1-2 cups of water.
  • Add the gravy to the peppers, cover and cook until peppers are tender, about 6-8 minutes.
Mirchi ka Salan
Note1 : Tamarind Paste - I make tamarind paste at home with tamarind that my mom sends me from India. Take about 2 cups of tamarind with 2 cups of water in a saucepan, bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. Then blend it up into a smooth paste. If you have time and energy, use a strainer to take out the strings so the paste is really smooth. Use as needed.

Note 2 - I recently found that I can add tahini to gravies instead of making my own roasted ground sesame powder. Both of them are basically the same but tahini has some oil in it and is a liquid. If you don’t have tahini, then add some roasted sesame seeds to the peanuts when grinding.

Lets see what my fellow marathoners have cooked up for the 6th day of our 7 day marathon:
30 Minutes Meals:

March 08, 2011

Indian Style Cabbage Rice

This is going to be a short post. Have been a little busy at work and at home today. So will leave you with this simple and spicy cabbage rice. I started out making sauce for pasta with some cabbage, but ended up adding leftover rice to it and the end result was quite tasty. Here's how I made it.

Cabbage Rice
Rice - 2 cups, cooked
Cabbage - 3 cups, chopped (3/4 of a medium size head)
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Carrot - 1 small, chopped
Red chili powder - 1/2tsp
Kitchen King Masala - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Ginger + Garlic paste - 1/2 tsp
Tomato paste - 2tsp

  • Heat 1tbsp oil in a pan, add mustard and cumin seeds and once they start sputtering, add onions and saute until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add ginger+garlic paste and cook for another minute. Next add carrots and cabbage; cover and cook for 12-15 minutes or until cabbage is tender.
  • Add tomato paste, salt, masala and red chili powder. Cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Add the cooked rice and mix well. Cook for couple minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand for at least 5 minutes. Serve as is or with some yogurt.
Cabbage RiceDon;t forget to check out what my fellow marathoners are cooking for the 5th day of our 7 day Marathon.

30 Minutes Meals:

March 07, 2011

Baked Potato Soup with Crusty Potato Wedge

One tip that always comes in handy when making 30 minute meals is to take short-cuts and also to do some ground-work before hand like on the weekends. Short-cuts could be store-bought masala pastes, pre-packaged salad greens etc. Prepping for meals over the weekend is also a great tip. I usually clean and chop veggies (like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli etc.) and refrigerate them in Ziploc bags ready to use. This saves some time during the week and also saves a lot of space in the refrigerator.

Also if I don’t use a veggie during the week and it looks like it won’t last anymore, I chop it up and microwave it until tender, then cool it completely and freeze it sealed in a Zip-loc bag. This will give the veggie at least another month of life. This technique works well for veggies like pumpkin, bottle gourd (sorakaya), zucchini etc.

Baked Potato Soup
As for today’s recipe, I was looking for 30 minute meal ideas to make for 7day blogging marathon and found this potato soup recipe in Veganomicon. I had some potatoes that needed to be used up pronto and this soup sounded just perfect. If you bake the potatoes before hand, the whole soup and the cornmeal crusted potato wedges take about 30 minutes to make.

Note: You can bake the potato in the oven or the microwave. To make it in the microwave, scrub and wash the potatoes, dry with a paper towel. Put a big X in the middle of the spud, put it on a microwave safe plate and microwave for about 3½ to 4 minutes per potato. My microwave has a pre-set baked potato button and I baked 3 potatoes at a time for 11½ minutes. To bake in the oven, pierce the potatoes with fork, coat them lightly with oil and bake them in a 350°F oven for about 1 hour.

Baked Potato SoupRecipe from Veganomicon.
Baked potatoes – 6, medium
Onion – 1 large, thinly sliced
Garlic – 3 cloves, minced
Fennel seeds – 1tsp, coarsely ground
Dried Thyme – ½ tsp
Dried Rubbed Sage – ½ tsp
Dry White wine – ¼ cup
Vegetable broth – 4 cups
Soy milk – ¼ cup
Spinach (or Kale) – 3-4 cups, chopped
Salt & Pepper – to taste

  • Halve the baked potatoes lengthwise and set aside 3 halves to make potato wedges. Chop the rest of the potatoes into ¾th inch cubes.
  • Heat 2tbsp oil in a saucepan and sauté onions on medium-high heat until browned about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add garlic, thyme, fennel, sage, salt and pepper; sauté for another 2 minutes.
  • Add wine (or broth) and deglaze the pan. Next add the chopped potato and broth; cover and bring to a low boil. Stir in the chopped spinach, cover and cook for 12-15 minutes.
  • Using a potato masher, mash half of the potatoes into smooth. Stir in soy milk, mix well and serve hot.
Baked Potato SoupWhile the soup is bubbling, make the Cornmeal crusted Potato wedges.
Cornmeal – 1½ tbsp
Dried Thyme – ¼ tsp
Paprika – ¼ tsp
Garlic – 1 clove, minced fine
Salt – to taste

  • Mix cornmeal, thyme, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper in a plate. Cut the baked potato halves into half lengthwise, you should have 6 wedges in the end.
  • Heat 2tbsp oil in a cast iron skillet on medium heat.
  • Lightly wet the cut edges of the wedges and drench them in the cornmeal. Sauté them for about 4 minutes per side or until the crust is golden brown. Flip the wedge and add a little more oil if needed and cook for another 4 minutes. Serve hot with the soup.
Baked Potato Soup
This soup is very tasty and flavorful with the hint of fennel and thyme. I liked it a lot and the leftovers tasted great for lunch the next day. Potato lovers will definitely LOVE this soup.

Check out out my fellow marathoners have coked up today:
30 Minutes Meals:

March 06, 2011

Soya Pulao

One pot meals are great 30 minute meal options, especially pulaos or pilafs cooked with veggies, rice and protein (lentils/ beans or paneer) are quick to cook and make a complete and nutritious meal. For the 3rd day of our 7-day blogging marathon, I made this quick one dish dinner from Sukham Ayu by Pratibha Jain & Jigyasa Giri. According to the book "Soya leads among legumes in the new world as it is rich in protein content." Cooking the rice in the pressure cooker makes it easy to make under 30 minutes. I made slight changed to the recipe to suit for taste.

Soy Pulao
Recipe adapted from Sukham Ayu.
Basmati Rice - 1 cup
Onion - 1 small, thinly sliced
Soya Granules Or TVP - ½ cup
Carrot - 1 small, cut diagonally
Green beans - thinly sliced
Green peas - ¼ cup, thawed if frozen
Turmeric powder - ¼ tsp
Chili powder - ½ tsp (or more to taste)
Lemon juice - 1 tsp
Garam masala - ½ tsp
Salt - to taste

For Tempering:
Ghee - 1 tbsp
Bay leaf - 1
Cinnamon - 2" stick
Cloves - 2
Cardamom - 1-2
Peppercorns - 5-6
Cumin seeds - ¼ tsp

Soy Pulao
  • Wash and soak the rice and soya granules separately for 10 minutes. Drain well and set aside.
  • In a pressure cooker, heat ghee and add the tempering ingredients. Once they start crackling and letting out their aroma, reduce flame and add onions and sauté till lightly browned.
  • Next add the soy granules and the veggies. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add rice and stir for 2-3 minutes, add turmeric, red chili powder, lemon juice, salt, garam masala and 2 cups warm water. Pressure cook for just 1 minute.
  • Allow steam to settle down completely, gently fluff the rice with a fork and serve hot with onion raita.
Soy Pulao
Soy PulaoDon't forget to check out my fellow marathoners are cooking up for the event.
30 Minutes Meals:
Priya Mahadavan

Seven Days of Salad:
Divya Vikram

For Ongoing 7 Events:
Priya Suresh
Suma Gandlur

Kids Friendly:

Seven Days of Rice:
Veena Krishnakumar
Priya Vaasu
Padma Rekha


March 05, 2011

Salad with Homemade Croutons & Avocado Dressing

Salads make for an excellent 30minute meal. Salad greens already washed and packed in a bag make meals even more convenient. Open the bag, add some toppings (tomatoes, onions, olives etc.) and toss with dressing - dinner can be served in no time. But if you want to make it a little fancier with homemade croutons and dressing, then it might take up to 30 minutes, which is perfect for a weeknight meal. This is my 2nd day post for 7-day Blogging Marathon.

I made this Savory Christmas bread from KAF blog. But the bread seemed a little dry (may be because I used reduced fat milk and cheese-not sure) , we enjoyed some of it fresh the day I made it, but for the next day I decided to turn the leftover bread into croutons to toss with salad.

Recipe adapted from KAF catalog.
Partially stale Bread - 4 cups, crusts cut off and cubed
Olive Oil - 1tbsp
Salt - to taste
Herbe de Provence - ¼tsp

Homemade Croutons
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Combine oil, salt and herbe de provence, and toss with the bread.
  • Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet (lined with foil-for easy clean up).
  • Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, turning every 8 minutes until browned and crisp.
While the croutons are baking, make the dressing. I love avocados for their creamy textures and neutral flavor. I think they pick up any flavor you want them to pick up. I love to make chocolate pudding with avocado, unsweetened cocoa powder and some agave nectar-I think it tastes divine. There's not much of a recipe for this dressing, since it's nothing but smooth guacamole thinned out with water to dressing consistency. Here's how I made it.

Avocado - 1 ripe, pitted and flesh scooped
Jalapeno pepper - 1
Garlic - 2 cloves
Scallions - 3, chopped
Lemon juice - 2-3 tbsp
Mint leaves - 3tbsp, chopped
Coriander leaves - 3tbsp, chopped
Salt & Pepper - to taste

Ingredients for Avocado Dressing
  • Blend all the ingredients until smooth without adding any water. Just before tossing with the salad, add just enough water to thin out the dressing.
  • Without adding water, the dip will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
Avocado DressingPutting the Salad together:
By this time, you should have your salad greens out of the bag and in a large bowl mixed with some chopped tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers or any other veggies that you favor. Add some protein with some cooked chickpeas or any other beans, chopped boiled egg, chopped cooked veggie burger (we love Morning Star vegetable burger in salads). I added some cooked store-bought veggie meatballs.

Salad with homamade CroutonsThen add the dressing, mix well and finally add the croutons and some cheese (feta or queso fresco are my personal favorites, but cubed pepper jack or mozarella are yummy too). Now it's time to enjoy your salad creation!!!!!

Don't forget to check out what my fellow marathoners are cooking up today!!

30 Minutes Meals:
Priya Mahadavan

Seven Days of Salad:
Divya Vikram

For Ongoing 7 Events:
Priya Suresh
Suma Gandlur

Kids Friendly:

Seven Days of Rice:
Veena Krishnakumar
Priya Vaasu
Padma Rekha


March 04, 2011

Mili Jhuli Subzi (Mixed vegetable Curry)

We are on for another round of Blogging Marathon. Thanks to Valli for accommodating 14 more enthusiastic bloggers as Group 2 for the 2nd round of 7 day-Blogging Marathon. Basically there are 2 groups of bloggers posting everyday for the next 7days. It was a lot of fun doing the marathon the first time around and I’m looking forward to this round as well.

To keep things simple, I chose 30 minute meals as the theme. I’m always looking for quick and easy meals for weeknights since I don’t have the energy or the time to slave for hours in the kitchen after a long work day. I try to make a big batch of sambar, dal, a rice dish and have some dosa or idli batter ready, so at least I can make something quick for my son and think about what else to make for dinner (this way he’s calm enough and lets me think of a menu). I also keep store bought frozen rotis handy. For more useful tips on making quick weeknight meals, head over to Nupur’s post, it has ton of information on how to organize and plan meals and some of her tried and tested menu ideas. Do check it out. I wish I could be at least 50% organized like her.

Coming to today’s recipe: I pressure cook a lot and I’m looking for recipes that are made in the pressure cooker. I own 4 pressure cookers of different materials (steel/ aluminum & hard-anodized) and sizes. So when I saw this recipe in Tarla Dalal’s newsletter, I wanted to try it right away. This is a great side dish with tons of veggies and super yummy gravy. We loved the slightly spicy gravy and the perfectly cooked veggies. This goes well with both rice and rotis. So all you need is to cook some rice (in another pressure cooker) or heat up those (frozen) rotis and warm up some of that leftover dal. Dinner’s served!!

Mixed Vegetable Curry
Recipe adapted from Tarla
Carrots – 1 medium, chopped
Potato – 1 medium, chopped
Green Beans – ¼ cup, chopped (I used frozen chopped beans)
Cauliflower – ¼ cup, chopped
Green peas – ¼ cup
Corn – ¼ cup
Tomatoes – 2 medium, chopped
Tomato Paste – 1tbsp
Chickpeas or White kidney beans (Cannellini beans) – ½ of 16 oz. can, rinsed and drained
Cashew Butter – 2tbsp
Salt – to taste
Sugar – 1tsp (optional)

To be ground to paste:
Onion – 1 medium, chopped
Poppy Seeds – 1tbsp
Thick poha – 1tbsp
Peppercorn – 8-10
Cinnamon stick – 2” piece
Cloves – 2
Dry Red Chilies – 3
Coriander Seeds – 1tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1tsp
Garlic cloves – 3
Ginger – 1” piece

  • Soak poppy seeds & poha in water for at least 10 minutes. Chop your veggies in the mean time.
  • Grind all the ingredients under paste into a smooth paste using little water.
  • Heat 1tbsp oil in a pressure cooker and add the prepared paste. Sauté on low flame for 5-7 minutes or until the paste doesn’t smell raw anymore.
  • Add tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Cook until mushy, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the veggies along with salt, sugar (if using), cashew butter and 1 cup of hot water, mix gently; close the lid and cook on high flame for 2 whistles (takes about 8-10 minutes).
  • Let the steam release naturally, and then open the lid.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with either steamed rice or roti.
Original recipe used paneer & cream, I used cannellini beans & cashew butter instead. Add paneer along with the other veggies to the pressure cooker and proceed with the rest of the recipe. Mix in cream after cooking the veggies.

Check out what the my fellow Marathoners are cooking today!!
30 Minutes Meals:
Priya Mahadavan

Seven Days of Salad:

For Ongoing 7 Events:
Priya Suresh

Kids Friendly:

Seven Days of Rice:
Veena Krishnakumar
Priya Vaasu

And the Rest:
Divya Vikram
Padma Rekha
Suma Gandlur

March 01, 2011

Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables

This salad was part of my Middle-eastern themed dinner this past weekend (or 2 away. This recipe has been on my drafts for quite some time). Except for chopping the veggies, this dish needs less than 10 minutes of hands-on time and it can easily feed AND please a crowd. I made it about 4 hours before the party and all the flavors had enough time to mingle and make the dish super delish.

Here’s how I made it:
Zucchini – 2 medium, sliced into ¼” half moons
Red peppers – 2, chopped into 1” pieces
Japanese Eggplant – 2, sliced into ¼” half moons
Red Onion – 1 medium, chopped into 1” pieces
Chickpeas - 1 cup, cooked
Balsamic vinegar – 3tbsp
Extra virgin Olive Oil – 2tbsp
Salt & Pepper – to taste
Herbe de Provence – 1tsp, crushed (or any other dried herbs)
Whole-wheat couscous – 2 cups

Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Place the chopped veggies in a large bowl and add balsamic vinegar, oil, s&p & herbs. Mix well to coat the veggies with the marinade. Transfer to baking sheet (s) and bake for 30-35 minutes turning the veggies half-way through until roasted around the edges. Remove from oven and cool.
  • In the meantime cook couscous: Boil 4 cups of water with 1tsp olive oil and salt, once the water comes to a rolling boil, add couscous and turn off the heat. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes. Fluff the grains with a fork and add 1tbsp balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Gently mix in the roasted veggies and cooked chickpeas; season with more vinegar or salt & pepper. Cover and set aside until ready to serve.
  • Garnish with chopped parsley & coriander if desired. You can also add some feta cheese or queso fresco to make it a fancier and non-vegan.
Couscous Salad with Roasted VegetablesSignature


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