Alu Gobi Sukha Subzi (Potato & Cauliflower Dry Curry)

IMG_0624-2Alu Gobi is the ubiquitous vegetarian dish of Potatoes and Cauliflower you will find in India everywhere. Literally everywhere from road side Dhabas to high-end restaurants catering to international clientele. It is made from affordable everyday ingredients, but still shines as the epitome of Indian cuisine—which is predominantly vegetarian, affordable, freshly made and multi-flavored.

I have fond memories of Alu Gobi from college days. Occasionally a bunch of us would skip classes for movies, and on the way grab a bite at the Dhaba. Loosely speaking Dhabas are off-the-highway eateries in India. They are very simple. Usually a shack with a kitchen and some tables and chairs under a shady tree or a straw thatch. I never had an opinion on what movie we should watch, as I did not much care about them then (and now). But I was an active participant in deciding where to eat. That was my agenda in the game anyway. Inevitably Alu Gobi was always on the order. Somehow it always tasted so much better at the Dhaba than at fine restaurants. Maybe it’s the simplicity, or the excitement of spending the rest of the day care-free with friends. I cannot quite put my finger on it. Neither could I replicate the euphoria I used to have when eating this. But the recipe I have here takes me the closest to those days.

Although I make this frequently for my family as well as for entertaining, it was different this time because of an extra ingredient–Pomegranate seeds powder, that took this dish to a whole new level. May I say, to the Dhaba level 😉 If you have ever eaten at a Dhaba in India, it will surely transport you back. If you didn’t, well this will take you there now. Give it a try.

What you need (Serves 6):
4 cups of bite-sized Cauliflower florets
2 medium sized Potatoes cubed to bite-size
1 medium Onion
2 medium tomatoes
2 Green chillies, slit
2 Cloves
1/2 inch Cinnamon
1 Cardamom
1/2 inch piece of Ginger
2 Garlic cloves
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Red Chilli powder (or more if desired)
1/2 tsp Pomegranate powder (available in Indian stores) or 1 tbsp of Lemon juice
2-3 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste
Cilantro for garnish
IMG_0634-2

How to make it:

  • Cut the Onion into quarters and pulse in the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, finely chop it (almost to a mince)
  • Cut the tomatoes into quarters and add them to the processor and pulse a few more times  along with the onions. You will have the onion-tomato mix at the consistency shown in the picture.
  • Heat oil in a wide and shallow pan on medium heat
  • Add the slit Green Chillies and Onion-Tomato mix to the pan and saute until soft
  • Crush the Ginger and Garlic along with Cloves, Cinnamon and Cardamom in a mortar and pestle. You can leave the Cardamom skin on, it adds more flavor as it cooks
  • Add Ginger-Garlic paste, Turmeric, Salt and Red Chilli powder to the pan and continue sauteing
  • Add Potato cubes and cook covered for 3-4 minutes until they are just about done.
  • Add Cauliflower florets and cook covered for another 3-4 minutes. Cauliflower cooks much faster than potatoes. So adding them later will ensure that they are just cooked like potatoes and still retain their shape.
  • Add the Pomegranate powder. If using Lemon juice add it after the heat is turned off.
  • Check and adjust seasonings as desired
  • Remove from heat and garnish with cilantro. Serve with Naan or Rotis or lightly seasoned rice.

Note: This is a ‘sukha-subzi’, meaning dry-curry. Hence no water/liquid is added. But if you prefer, you may add a couple of tablespoons of water to soften the vegetables. It will not take anything away from the taste.

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Fish in Coconut Gravy

IMG_3699-2My mom was born and raised in a small coastal town in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Soon after marriage she moved to Kerala, another coastal state in South India. Both regions are abundant in sea food and coconut trees. Street hawkers would bring the catch of the day to the door step. Their commute usually was under 10 minutes from the source of the catch! I don’t think you could find sea food any fresher unless, you live on the water. Although both regions have coconut and fish in plenty, their cuisines are distinctly different. In Andhra coconut is widely used in cooking anything from sweets to chutneys, but I have hardly seen it paired with sea food or meats. I don’t know why it evolved this way. But I am lucky that my mom adapted to cooking both cuisines, so that I did not have to miss one for the other.

Fish with coconut curry sauce is sort of a middle ground for these two cuisines, and is as delightful as it sounds. It is creamy and spicy. The fish acquires a succulent rich flavor from being stewed in the gravy. The sweetness of the coconut milk perfectly off-sets the spiciness resulting in an exquisite concoction that is simple enough for a weekday meal and elegant enough for entertaining guests. Make it and you will be an instant domestic goddess (or god)!!

What do you need (serves 6-8 generously):

Tilapia* – 2 lb

Coconut Milk- 1 can (regular or low fat)

1 large onion, thinly sliced

12 grape tomatoes quartered (or 1 medium tomato cubed)

2-3 green chilies slit length wise**

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste

¼ tsp turmeric

½ tsp curry powder ***

2 tbsp oil (for pan frying fish and sautéing onions)

¼ tsp red chili powder (optional, if you want the gravy hot)

Salt to taste

Cilantro leaves for garnish

 For marinating the fish:

¼ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp red chili powder

½ tsp salt

* I used Tilapia fillets here and have also used Salmon cubes before, both with great success. Any white fish would work here—just pan fry the cubes so that they develop a fine brown crust which prevents them from breaking while stewing. If using Salmon, you need not pan fry the fish as it is hardy enough to be cooked in the gravy without disintegrating.

** 2-3 green chilies + ¼ tsp red chili powder in marinade + ¼ tsp optional red chili powder in gravy may sound too much, but it is not, as coconut milk nullifies most of that heat.

*** If you don’t have curry powder handy, you can use same amount of Garam Masala, which will have a different flavor, but still delicious.

IMG_3106

 How to make it:

  • Cube the fish fillets and mix with the ingredients listed for marinating. Cover and keep in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  • Heat a shallow non-stick pan on medium with 1 tbsp oil. Spread the marinated fish pieces in the hot oil to get a nice golden sear. Turn the fish pieces to sear them both sides.
  • Remove the fish from the pan and add remaining oil. Once hot add the slit chilies and sliced onions and fry until lightly brown.
  • Add ginger and garlic paste and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add the diced tomatoes and sauté for 5 minutes or until soft.
  • Add the curry powder, salt and red chili powder (if using) and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Remember not to add too much salt—fish already has some on it.
  • Now add the thick part of the coconut milk (top layer in the can, if unshaken) to the onion-tomato mix and cook until oil separates, about 5 minutes. After that add the remaining coconut milk and mix well.
  • Add the pan fried fish cubes and gently stir to coat them with the gravy.
  • Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed.
  • Simmer on low heat for 5-6 minutes, stirring as little as possible. Gently shake/rotate the pan if you want to move the fish around.
  • Remove from the flame and garnish with cilantro leaves.
  • Serve with brown/white rice, or couscous.
  • IMG_3637-2
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2 Ingredient Delight…Peanut Laddoo

Peanut Laddoo 1

Yes, you read it right. This has only two ingredients. No sir, I am not bundling a bunch of items and calling it one ingredient…hmm, like a can of condensed soup? Nope. The two ingredients here are as simple and plain as an ingredient can be. We do not even need cardamom, which I never fail to use in desserts. Does it sound too good to be true? Well, it is too good AND true.

The duo in this show are Peanuts & Jaggery. Now before you roll your eyes saying ‘Yeah right, Jaggery is a simple ingredient. I only have to get it from across the world. I knew it was too good to be true’. Relax…you can find Jaggery readily available in any Indian grocery store. It is nothing but sugarcane juice boiled down and formed into golden molds. It is moist and sweet with a dense flavor, which is exactly what we need in this recipe. It is rich in iron and better than hard candy. No wonder, Jaggery is a popular bribe mom’s would offer their kids in India. I used raw peanuts with skin on (not shells) which I roasted. I could have made it much easier on myself by using unsalted roasted peanuts. But I did not, because a) I wanted to keep some skin to lend beautiful burgundy specs and of course for nutritional value b) that’s how my mom makes.

Raw peanuts are the ones which are dried with their skins on. They can be found in any Indian grocery store as well. So one trip to the store, and you can have a delicious laddoo that you can eat and actually feel good about it.

If you are using raw peanuts, you need to roast them. Place two cups of peanuts on a cookie tray in 380 F degree oven for 8-10 minutes. Turn them once mid way to ensure even roasting. They will develop a deep burgundy color. Let them cool before gently rubbing them between your hands to peel some of the skin off.  Blow off the loose skins and keep the rest (you would want to do it out doors or else, the feather light skins will fly all over). If you are using roasted peanuts, you can skip the above steps.

What do you need (makes about 6-8 laddoos):

2 cups roasted Peanuts

1-1.5 cups* coarsely crushed Jaggery (I use a rolling pin to whack the big chunks and then measure)

Roasted Peanuts

Jaggery

How to make it:

  • Pulse the roasted Peanuts in a food processor or blender until they become a coarse powder (little bigger than coarse corn meal)
  • Add the crushed Jaggery and pulse the processor to incorporate it into Peanut powder. Taste a little bit and add more Jaggery if necessary, and pulse a couple more times.
  • Scoop a golf ball sized mixture (or bigger or smaller, as you wish) and form into smooth balls with your hands.

* Jaggery comes with some salt mixed in. I noticed that some brands have a bit more salt than others. Then you might want to add more Jaggery. 1 cup Jaggery to 2 cups Peanuts is the way I prefer—not too sweet.

Peanut Laddoo

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Kadai Paneer

Kadai Paneer-1

I am back, well that is if you have noticed that I was off the radar for a few months now. That is with reasons–we are expanding our family with a second child on the way. We literally expanded our space–when we moved to our new home. In this context I cannot avoid but mention the expansion of my belly at the rate of this universe, almost rivaling the Hubble’s Constant.

This pregnancy was a tiresome one, with the added bonus of endless search for ‘the house’ and packing and moving and setting up the house to make it a home, which, is still a work in progress. And of course all this meant that I scaled back on experimenting in the kitchen quite a bit and relied mostly on everyday fare that my husband made or restaurant take outs. But once I was over the initial pregnancy blues, I was back in my element to pig out on whatever I craved….until I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. Never imagined the changes I had to make to my diet (while being pregnant) to manage my blood sugar. Well it would not just suffice to say that I had to give up white rice and find other creative ways and substitutes to get enough calories with lower carb intake. More…much more on that later.

In this situation, one of the staples I would always fall back on for making a special dinner or for entertaining is Kadai Paneer, which literally means paneer (Indian Cheese) stir fried in a wok. It is one of the simplest delicacies of Indian recipes, which often is thought as laborious process or requiring too many ingredients. Well, this one debunks all those misconceptions. There is no page long list of ingredients, or ingredients that you can only find in the jungles of Malabar coast. And for sure it does not take all day to make. 25-30 minutes tops!

Now a word about paneer. I did not yet dare make paneer at home..so I buy it from Indian grocery store. It is usually sold as a block of 400 grams. Fried paneer is preferred when preparing stir fries or thick gravies such as this, as fried paneer holds up better during stirring. As an alternative to frying it can be baked with same or better results. Be careful not to over bake as it can make paneer chewy. You can also buy fried Paneer, but I find it usually stale after sitting on the shelf for, I don’t know how long. Unfortunately, many Indian grocery stores I see in the States don’t put a date on most of their products–so I always err on the side of caution…and flavor!

What you need (serves 4-6):
1 block of paneer (400 g), cut into 1 inch cubes
2 medium onions
2 tbsp of tomato paste
8 cashew nuts
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 cup peas
Ginger paste-1 tsp
Garlic paste- 1 tsp
2 Green chillies, slit lengthwise
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
3 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
Cilantro and julienned ginger for garnish

Kadai Paneer-2

How to make it:

  • Arrange the cubed paneer on a non-stick tray ( I lined it with non-stick Reynolds Aluminum foil..with impeccable results) and bake in 400 degree F oven for 5 minutes, just until the edges are starting to brown. This step is optional as you see above in the note. If not baking or frying, just be extra careful when stirring after Paneer is added.
  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan. Cube 1 onion and pan-roast until lightly browned. Add the tomato paste and cashews and roast for another 2 minutes.
  • Blend the onion and tomato paste along with cashew nuts into a paste. You may want to add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan to collect any tomato paste stuck to it. This will help in blending as well.
  • In the meantime, chop the peppers into 1-1 1/2 inch strips.
  • Thinly slice the remaining onion.
  • Wipe dry the frying pan, and add remaining oil. Once hot, add sliced onions, green chilies and fry till translucent
  • Add ginger garlic paste, turmeric and red chilli powder, 1 tsp salt and saute for 2-3 minutes
  • Now add all the peppers and cook on medium flame for 5-6 minutes or until just soft.
  • Add the onion-tomato-cashew paste and mix well to combine with the veggies and cook for another 4-5 minutes. You will see the oil from the cashews separating out. If preferred, add 1-2 tbsps of water to thin out the gravy.
  • At this point add the garam masala. Taste and adjust seasonings as required.
  • Finally add the peas and paneer pieces and gently mix to combine them with the gravy. Close the lid and leave it on simmer for 5-6 minutes
  • Garnish with cilantro and julienned ginger and serve hot with naans, rotis or jeera rice.

Paneer can be omitted, to make Kadai Vegetables, which is vegan. You may also add other vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots cut into sticks, french cut beans or potatoes and broccoli (although the last two are unconventional) to amp up the veggie quotient.

Posted in Recipes, Vegetarian | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Dal Makhani

Dal (lentils) is one of my top comfort foods. Cooking lentils is pretty much an everyday deal for me, and typically I don’t consider it a special occasion food, or something I would like to cook for guests. But the game changes when it is Dal Makhani, which literally means buttery lentils. By no means it is an ordinary fare, but it is extraordinarily simple to cook. Of course it is not just lentils and butter, but has a host of other spices you would expect in Indian cuisine, making it a delightful accompaniment to Naan or lightly spiced Basmati Rice. Taking a tip from my sister, I pressure cooked the lentils. While pressure cooker is not essential for this, if you have it–use it, as it makes the lentils well cooked and creamy. To get the same ‘creaminess’ without a pressure cooker, you can blend 2-3 tbsps of cooked lentils and add that to the gravy. Another trick I learned from my sister is to use Red Kidney beans to lend extra creaminess. If you choose not to, just use all Urad Dal instead.

And, I confess, I used only half the amount of butter usually called for in this recipe….after all this is Dal (lentils) Makhani (butter)!

What you need (serves 2-3):
3/4 cup Whole Urad Dal (Black gram–found in Indian grocery stores) soaked over night
1/4 cup Red Kidney beans, soaked over night (optional, see note above)
4 tbsp Tomato paste
1 tbsp Ginger paste
1 tbsp Garlic paste
1 tsp Garam masala
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp Chilli powder
4 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp Oil
1/4 tsp Cumin seeds
1/4 tsp Cumin powder
1/4 tsp Corriander powder
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Kasoori Methi (found in Indian grocery stores)
1/4 cup Cream or low fat Half & Half (optional)
How to make it:

  • Cook the lentils in good amount of water with 1 tsp of salt, until tender. They should be tender enough to be mashed easily between your fingers when pressed. Save about 1 cup of this water and drain the rest.
  • For added creaminess (as noted above) blend 2-3 tbsp of lentils, adding a few tablespoons of water.
  • In a wide pan on medium low, add 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of oil. Once hot add Cumin seeds and let them splutter.
  • Add ginger and garlic paste and turmeric and saute for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste, salt and chilli powder and cook on low for 8-10 minutes, until cooked thoroughly.
  • Add corriander powder and cook for another minute.
  • Add the remaining butter and when melted add about 1/2 cup water from the lentils and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Now add the cooked lentilsl and lentils puree, if using.
  • Add tsp crushed Kasoori Methi and Garam Masala powder.
  • Cook on low for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add cream, if using and turn the heat off.
  • Serve hot with naans or cooked Basmati rice.

 

Posted in Recipes, Vegetarian | 25 Comments

Naan…Indian Flatbread

Naan is one of those eats, which gives an impression of restaurant-only type. For long, I was guilty of that misconception too, partly because back home typically nobody owns a Tandoor (coal-fired clay oven generating very high heat, up to 800-900 F) in which naans are made. Well of course you may find them in some homes in the state of Punjab, where this type of cooking originated. But rest of us depend on restaurants, big and small or Dhabas (eating shacks typically found in the outskirts of the city, or on highways) that are equipped with these ovens. But there are creative ways to get close to Tandoor cooking in household ovens or gas stove tops. In fact I had two recipes one using yeast and the other with baking soda, which I have been wanting to try for a long time. And in the name of research I tried them both. Both turned out to be good, although I preferred the one with baking soda, as they were softer and puffed up more. It simply boils down to what you have on hand or if you prefer baking soda over yeast.

The best part of making naans is that there are no expectations on what the shape should be! The slightly elongated shape seen traditionally is obtained as the flattened dough is stuck to the Tandoor walls to bake on radiant heat. You can elongate your naans to get that Tandoor cooked look. Definitely a positive for someone like me, who is terrible in rolling dough into perfect (or even reasonable) rounds.

You will have to crank up the oven to its highest heat setting, 500 F in many. If you can really get your oven to higher temperatures, your naans will be much fluffier and softer. I doubt that my apartment oven reached that heat although I had it all the way up. If that is the case naans will need a bit more time in the oven, at the risk of them drying out. But that can be minimized by brushing the naans on both sides with water prior to baking–which is what I did and got great results. For that reason, the exact time in the oven varies, so  with the first naan in the oven get a feel for how long it would take to nicely brown on the bottom. You would need about a minute on the other side.

What you need (makes 6-8 naans):
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup warm milk* (this may vary on the flour type)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oil
Optional toppings-Minced garlic, chopped cilantro, chopped mint, or all of them

*Quantity of milk may slightly vary. So add half the milk first and add the rest as necessary.

How to make it:

  • Mix flour, baking soda, sugar and salt.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour. Add baking soda, sugar, salt, yogurt, milk and oil.
  • Mix well until the dough reaches a sticky consistency. The dough will be messy!
  • Slightly oil your hands, form the dough into a ball and let it rest for 30 minutes under a damp towel.
  • Once rested, the dough will be springy. Oil your hands and knead for 2-3 minutes before dividing into 6-8 balls.
  • Dust your hands with flour and flatten the dough into naans. Try to keep them under 1/4 inch thick. Don’t fret about the shape.
  • Brush one side with water and place them on a non stick cookie sheet, with water side down.
  • Brush the other side also with water, add the desired toppings and put the naans in the oven for 2-3 minutes. If your oven heats up well, you may need only 1-2 minutes. Keep an eye until you get a hang of it.
  • Check the bottom and if you see brown spots, turn them over and bake for another minute.
  • Once out of the oven, rub them with a stick of butter and serve immediately.
  • If you are not serving immediately, you can reheat them in the microwave, brush with butter and serve.

Posted in Recipes, Vegetarian | 25 Comments

Pad See Ew

When ordering from a menu, the quirkier the name, the more intrigued I am. And sometimes it is hilarious to know what they mean or how they got that name. Who knew Thai chillies’s Thai name, means “mouse s*** chillies”. But when I saw Pad See Ew on the menu, my reaction was anything by ewww (although I say it that way playfully). Of course the description described the virtues just by listing the ingredients–and I was sold. However every restaurant I had this dish had a different look and feel and taste. So it was time to put my version out there to contribute to the chaos and confusion!!

I made this recipe based on several sources (including Drunken noodles). Although it was good–1) It did not have the look I was after, as it was too dark with all that dark soy sauce 2) Sourness was too toned down. So I adjusted that in the below listed ingredients, which should yield a lighter looking dish (as in color, not calories!). If you like slight sweetness balanced by the tang, you will love this combo–heat or no heat is up to you. Frankly, once you make the sauce, you can adjust it to your preference by adding more of what you want. With all the adjustments, you may end up with more sauce, which I am sure will be used up when you want to make this again….very soon!

What you need (for 4 servings):
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce/oyster sauce
3 tsp of sugar
1 tsp vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 pinch of red pepper flakes or 1/2 tsp chilli paste
2 tbsp oil
2 eggs
8 oz rice flake noodles/flat rice noodles
3 cups Kai Lan*
1 cup Broccoli florets
1/4 cup cooked Edamame (optional)
4 oz Chicken sliced thin

* If you don’t have Kai Lan, you can use Broccoli Rabe, as it closely matches Kai Lan’s slightly bitter flavor.

How to make it:

  • Mix the soy sauces, fish sauce (or oyster sauce), sugar, vinegar and pepper flakes or chilli paste to make a sauce.
  • Soak the rice flake noodles in cold water for 5 minutes and drain.
  • Bring a pot of water to boil and add the rice flake noodles and cook for 3-4 minutes stirring occasionally. When almost cooked, turn off the heat and transfer them to cold water or drop a bunch of ice cubes into the same pot. This is to stop cooking and prevent them from sticking.
  • Heat a wok on high heat with 2 tbsp oil. Once hot, add garlic and fry for few seconds.
  • Add chicken and stir fry until done, 5-6 minutes
  • Add the eggs and scramble.
  • Drain the noodles and add to the wok.
  • Pour the sauce over the noodles and stir fry until the sauce coats the noodles.
  • Add Kai Lan, Broccoli florets and Edamame, if using and stir fry on high heat.
  • Once Kai Lan wilts, it is done. Broccoli will be done while retaining good crunch.

 

Posted in International, Recipes | 4 Comments

Majadra…an exquisite combination of lentils and bulgur

One thing that I missed badly when I moved from Michigan, other than friends, was the Lebanese food. For those who has never tried it, Lebanese food is mild and flavorful without being hot. It is dry–no sauces or gravies–with lentils, and kebabs and meats akin to dry barbecue. It is subtly spicy and filling and perfectly portable–as in pita wrapped sandwiches. In addition to mom & pop restaurants, there was a chain restaurant which served excellent Lebanese food (yes, chain restaurant!), well at least in my opinion. I must have tried most of their menu (where raw meat was not included) but my all time favorites to this day are Chicken Shawarma (equivalent to grilled chicken pita wrap) and Majadra (lentils and bulgur wheat, eaten with pita bread and yogurt). I have seen many variations in spelling ranging from Mjadra to Mujaddara. I believe it depends on the region and whether rice or wheat is used. For a trove of info on this look up Wikipedia.

As I no longer has access to that wonderful food, I attempted making it at home. But my research on Google, most food blogs, cookbooks gave me the version with lentils and rice. There were a few with bulgur, but did not seem to yield the end product I had in mind. So I tried to figure out what must have been used to achieve that flavor balance. Garlic and Cumin for sure, maybe black pepper or red pepper for heat? I tweaked this combination, adding some and taking away some. All of which passed the taste test of my guinea pig (aka husband). But the best I liked and which was very close to the restaurant kind was with Garlic, Cumin, Salt and a pinch of Red Pepper flakes.

What you need (for 2 servings, and a bit more):
1/3 cup Bulgur (coarse, if available)
1 cup Brown lentils, cleaned, washed and soaked for 1 hour
1 tbsp Cumin powder
1 large clove of Garlic
1/2 tsp Red Pepper flakes, or to taste
Salt to taste
Greek yogurt, beaten until runny
Sumac (optional, can be substituted with Paprika)
Parsley for garnish
2 Black tea bags* (optional, see note below)
2 large Onions** (sweet/yellow onions) for caramelization

* I used a couple of tea bags in the water to cook lentils and bulgur to get a rich brown color.
** You may want to make a bigger batch as they take a while to caramelize. You can use them in so many ways….Omlette topped with caramelized onions, anyone?


How to make it:
Caramelizing the onions:

  • Slice the onions and spread them in a wide pan heated on medium-high with 2-3 tbsp oil.
  • Once the onions start turning golden at the edges, bring the heat down to medium low and toss to spread the caramelization.
  • Add a pinch of sugar to aid the caramelization process and cook of low for 15-20 minutes, until the onions are soft and uniformly brown.

Cooking Lentils:

  • Meanwhile in a large enough pot, add 3 cups of water and enough salt so that it tastes like sea water.
  • Once boiling add a tea bag, and the soaked lentils.
  • On medium heat boil the lentils for 20 minutes or so until tender but not mushy.
  • Remove the tea bag and drain excess water.

Cooking Bulgur:

  • While lentils are cooking, bring 1 cup water to boil in another pot with a pinch of salt.
  • Once boiling add a tea bag and infuse the color.
  • Remove the tea bag and add a tablespoon of oil and bulgur.
  • Bring the heat down to medium and let simmer, covered, until all water is absorbed, about 10-12 minutes. When done bulgur should be soft but a bit chewy.
  • If any excess water is present at this stage, strain and spread it on a wide plate, drizzle a tablespoon of oil and fluff with a fork. The goal is to allow the bulgur to stay separate and not clump up.

Assembling Majadra:

  • In a wide non-stick skillet, add about 4 tbsp oil and heat on medium.
  • When hot, grate the garlic clove directly into the oil and saute until fragrant.
  • Add the cumin powder and black pepper powder and red pepper flakes and lightly fry for a couple of minutes.
  • Now add the bulgur and let it saute for 4-5 minutes or until the aromatics incorporate with bulgur and it turns lightly darker.
  • At this stage add the cooked lentils, and fold carefully avoiding clumps.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  • Top it with generous amounts of caramelized onions and garnish with parsley. Eat with beaten yogurt sprinkled with Sumac or Paprika.
  • Best served with warm Pita bread–Cut the pita into half and fill the pocket with Majadra. Drizzle yogurt and top it with caramelized onions and parsley.

Posted in International, Recipes, Vegetarian | 13 Comments

Chatpata Chana

Chatpata Chana, roughly translated as Zesty Chickpeas is a minimum effort tea time or coffee time snack. The best part is it can be made under 10 minutes. All you need is a can of chickpeas and Chaat Masala. Rest of the embellishments are up to you.

Many variations of these could be found as street food in India. Most often they are made with Kala Chana (black miniatures of the familiar chickpeas). Street vendor’s version includes soaking them overnight and boiling in water (ahem, from questionable sources), with a pinch of salt (no pun intended). They carry them around in their portable baskets also containing garnishes such as chopped onions, tomatoes, lemon, cilantro, green chillies and Chaat Masala. If you don’t question the hygiene aspect, they are the best tasting. I ate them all the time as a kid and even as a grown up on several occasions–as long as it was not during the monsoon season. That is when the water sources become really questionable! I used to wonder how the street vendors managed to keep the cooked chickpeas from spoiling in a hot climate like India. But may be its the throughput that keeps them from getting stale. And if it is any evidence, we did not get sick often, considering how frequently we ate such street food.

I made it recently with sauteed onions (optional), chillies, mint, cilantro and Chaat Masala. It provided just enough tang to compliment a chilli infused hot chocolate. Spicy!!

What you need (for 2 servings):
1 can Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 Green or Red Chilli, finely chopped
1/4 cup (or 1 small) Onion , finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped Mint leaves
1 tbsp chopped Cilantro
1 tsp Chaat Masala (found in any Indian Grocery store)
1 tbsp oil
1 pinch Turmeric (optional)
Salt, to taste
1/2 Lemon juice

How to make it:

  • Sauté the chopped onion and chilli in a tablespoon of oil until golden brown
  • Add the chickpeas and turmeric, if using. Toss to combine and lightly sauté on medium for 3-4 minutes. Chickpeas will just start to turn golden brown.
  • Stir occasionally until they appear dry and browned all over, in about 4-5 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and sprinkle the Chaat Masala and chopped herbs.
  • Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon

Posted in Appetizers, Recipes, Snack | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Beets Hash….Find your Beet!

Good things come when you yield to temptations! Case in point are the gorgeous beets that caught my eye when I was in the grocery store last week. I had a ton of purple beets already at home, but I could not stop falling for the lovely orange (golden) beets freshly sprinkled with water and tops maddeningly green and luscious. And right next to them were gorgeous purple beets that I could not resist either, although my inner voice was reminding me that I have some (actually many) at home already.

So, I got home with an arm load of this stuff and was contemplating how best to use them…Beet Halwa, Borscht, Hummus, Tapenade…. The inconsequential thing was that I did not have to debate….I had that many beets on hand! But I got fixated on trying something totally different–Beets Hash!! Thats it!! Since I had colors to play with I threw in some potatoes for their pale blandness to contrast against the color explosion and essentially made it into Root Vegetable Hash…sounded rustic enough that I chose to add modern twist in presentation.

I would have eaten this anytime of the day, but it happened to be brunch time, so did not have to search for a reason to top it with a lightly fried egg with yolks running. It was a riot of colors on the plate as the runny yolks flowed over. The brunch was perfectly balanced with a nice cup of coffee. The earthy flavor of purple beets dominated golden beets, which were sweeter and milder. Different textures played up the eclectic combination. It would make an impressive brunch course especially when the farmer’s markets start brimming with spring produce and early potatoes. Can’t wait for that!!

What you need (2 servings):

1 Purple beet (diced)
1 Golden beet (diced)
1 Potato (diced)
2 Eggs
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 tsp oil
1 tsp Sambal Olek or hot sauce (optional)

How to make it:

  • Heat a pan and add few drops of oil and separately saute saute the potatoes, golden beets, purple beets (in that order) with a pinch of salt and pepper. This way you can just use one pan and not cross-contaminate the colors.
  • Using a ring mold, plate them in colorful layers. Or you may choose to just toss them all on the plate–either way the colors would be lovely
  • Top with a lightly fried egg, yolks runny
  • If you prefer, top the egg with Sambal Olek or some hot sauce.

Posted in Recipes | 3 Comments