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Friday, October 13, 2017

Bulgur & Tempeh Stuffed Acorn Squash

Bulgur Tempeh Stuffed Acorn Squash

Among the squashes, the sweet and meaty winter squashes are my favorite. Not all winter squashes are alike, so, my preference is further refined by the varieties that I've had so far that have the texture and flavor that I consider 'meaty' and mildly sweet.

I am not a fan of spaghetti squash or other similar squashes with a pronounced stringy texture when baked/cooked. I like the chunky meaty texture of Butternut, Blue Hubbard, Sweet Meat, Kabocha, Red Kuri, Delicata, and Danish/Acorn.

Millet & Lentils Stuffed Golden Danish Squash is a favorite. But this time, I went with a mixture of bulgur and tempeh for the stuffing. To quick cook bulgur, I pour some boiled water over it and soak it while getting the veggies ready. To add a kick to it, I sprinkle some Tabasco™ sauce on the squash before stuffing and baking.

Bulgur Tempeh Stuffed Acorn Squash

One medium acorn/Danish squash

½ cup crumbled tempeh
¼ cup bulgur

½ cup chopped onions, tomatoes, chilies, garlic
¼ cup cooked corn
¼ cup cooked black beans
¼ cup diced red and green bell peppers

flavoring herbs:
fresh (or dried) oregano, basil, fennel leaves to taste

2 Tbsp olive or canola oil for sauteing

topping: Feta and Parmesan as needed

flavoring spices:
½ tsp cumin powder
½ tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper powder
¼ tsp black pepper powder

Tabasco™ Sauce (optional)

  • Prep: Soak the bulgur in boiling hot water; pre-heat the oven to 400°F; Cut the squash in half, scoop out the pulp and seeds, and make a wide well for the stuffing; spritz some water and rub some salt on the inside of the squash halves and microwave for about 6 minutes on high power till par-cooked
  • Stuffing: Sauté the onions, tomatoes, chilies, and garlic in some oil, with a pinch of salt; add the rest of the veggies, soaked bulgur, and tempeh once onions turn translucent, stir in the flavoring spices, cover and allow to cook till flavors meld
  • Baking: Sprinkle some Tabasco sauce on the par-cooked squash halves, then fill them with the stuffing and bake in 400°F oven for about 30-45 minutes till squash is roasted to a fine golden brown, and the skin is lightly crispy
  • Garnish: Top with feta and Parmesan, some spring onions, cilantro if available
  • Serve warm with extra feta and Tabasco sauce on the side

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Slow Cooker Watermelon Rind Relish (Puli Pachadi)

Slow Cooker Watermelon Rind Relish

Watermelon rinds being watery and edible and mild, it is used in quite a few Indian dishes. With its texture and taste bland enough like Ash gourd or Opo Squash or Chayote squash, it lends itself well to spicy dishes.

Slow Cooker Watermelon Rind Relish

Puli Pachadi is a thick south Indian concoction made with tamarind, jaggery, ginger, and chilies; with or without the addition of grated coconut. One such concoction is Puli Inji (Tamarind Ginger) which is one of my favorites, the way my mom makes it.

Borrowing the idea of Puli Inji, I added watermelon rinds - just the white portions that kids discard usually. Most of the work is done by the slow cooker. The labor-intensive part is to salvage the rinds and cut even chunks out of them for this recipe.

Add the water melon rinds to the slow cooker along with enough of tamarind paste, grape molasses, apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, Thai red chilies, whole black pepper, and salt to taste. Slow cook on low for about 5 hours till the liquids congeal and thicken to ooze concentrated flavor.

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Sunday, October 08, 2017

Kidney Bean, Sweet Potato, Kale Soup

Kidney Bean, Sweet Potato, Kale Soup

Soup seem to be the dish of the month. Thick hearty soups, light brothy soups, cheesy creamy soups, chunky filling stews... with a hunk of sourdough or olive bread to mop every last drop up. Of course, these days, the bread is reserved for the kids, the adults are trying not to indulge in dense carbs for a while.

Kidney beans and sweet potatoes already evoke a thick hearty soup; add in some kale and bok choy and chard, plus some onions and tomatoes and garlic for a good measure, and the soup becomes irresistible.

For spices, I went with turmeric powder, paprika, and Madras curry powder, plus some bay leaves and a sprinkling of powdered nutmeg for the warm notes it adds to the dish.

I soaked the kidney beans in hot water while I got the other ingredients ready; and then threw the soaked kidney beans with some sweet potato chunks and vegetable broth in the pressure cooker.

While the kidney beans was soaking, I chopped up some onions, tomatoes, garlic, kale, bok choy, and about 2 cups of diced sweet potatoes for pan-roasting.

When the pressure cooker is going, sauté the veggies -- onions, garlic, tomatoes, bok choy and kale -- with some salt and Madras curry powder. Pan-roast the sweet potatoes with some salt and brown sugar, and keep handy.

Once pressure cooker has finished its cooking, smash some of the kidney beans and sweet potatoes to form the thick base for the soup, add in the sautéed veggies and simmer gently till flavors meld.

Dish up into bowls and add some pan-roasted sweet potatoes just before serving.

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Thursday, October 05, 2017

Lentil Balls Veggie Soup

It's getting nippy here heralding the gorgeous season of autumn. I love every season for what it offers, and I await with anticipation all the changes each season brings, but, I must admit I am a bit more partial to Autumn than the other three.

The pageantry of leaves bursting with bright red, deep burgundy, sparkling yellow, shocking orange, and even dark pink, clinging valiantly, only to eventually abandon the tenuous attachment, leaving the starkly bare trees forsaken for the winter.

Colder weather means more warm soups and casseroles, fresh-baked breads and quick biscuits.

Lentil Balls Veggie Soup

I make Steamed Lentil Balls on and off and freeze a batch for other uses. Steamed lentil balls when crumbled and sauteed add the much-relished crunch and protein to vegetable sides in the Paruppusili dishes.

This brothy lentil balls soup is quick and simple for a weeknight meal, especially if the lentil balls are already made and frozen. Simply toss in the frozen lentil balls into simmering vegetable broth, add some veggies and herbs and spices, allow to cook to lentil balls are fork tender again but not too cooked that they fall apart. That's it.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Home Garden Veggies

This is not a recipe post per se, but, it seemed like a good time to bid adieu to the spring and summer garden which is a mini-indulgence for me.

I am not a die-hard gardener, nor am I gifted with a superb green thumb, but, I love plants of all sorts. I've managed to get by for the last decade or so working on a small patch in the backyard early spring through end of autumn, learning a little each year and getting a little better at it.

Some plants in the garden are perennial, of course, and they've been returning every year for a few years now without much coaxing from me.

And some are what I choose to plant each year - staples being eggplant, tomatoes, chilies, greens, peas, beans, and squashes - both summer and winter ones. Plus, a handful that catch my fancy -- like, kohlrabi, collard greens, cauliflower, cucumber that I planted this year.

Planting certain herbs and veggies in close proximity to each other tends to help - like basil with tomatoes and peppers, catnip near squashes, chilies with eggplant, sunflower near just about every patch, plus onions and garlic shoots wherever I can squeeze in a few, to keep aphids in check.

Composting is a way of life, and I've been experimenting with Lasagna gardening. We don't use pesticides, so the yield is unpredictable. When possible I try using natural repellents like chili powder garlic spray as needed to keep the cabbage moths away.

The picture collages shared below are not as stunning to behold as the plants were in the garden at peak season, but, they capture the essence of summer for me so I can stash away the memories of walking into the backyard and picking what's ready and making a meal out of it most days.

There was the usual herbs and garnishes like mint, oregano, fennel, basil, Thai basil, and spring onions...

Peas, peas, peas when it was colder in spring time... and, am hoping that fall peas survive and yield fine as well...

Greens both tender and fairly mature -- like, fenugreek, mustard greens, rainbow chard, kale, collard greens, beet greens, Romaine lettuce...

Green beans and wax yellow beans....

Some potatoes...

Tomatoes of a few favorite kinds...

Eggplant -- Ichiban being my favorite...

Zucchini and winter squash....

Chilies - Kung pao, Lemon drop, Thai red, and Ghost peppers!

Red currants, black currants, grapes, pears...

Some of the fall crop is surviving, and maybe I will get to post an update in a month or so about the kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, garlic, spinach, chard, kale, collard greens, peas, and lettuce growing in the garden.

For now, it seems like all I can do is save the seeds to plant next year and hope that I have the energy and interest to do some gardening again next growing season.

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Sunday, October 01, 2017

Chunky Halibut and Potatoes in Spicy Gravy

The rich aroma and flavors that come about when sautéing onions to the point of caramelization is irresistible. Throw in organic home garden sweet cherry tomatoes and some finely grated ginger and minced garlic, the combination is giddying.

That's how this Halibut and Potatoes dish started -- with a rich base for the gravy brought in by prolonged gentle sautéing of onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic, with a sprinkling of salt and turmeric powder.

Meanwhile, halibut was rubbed with Ethiopian Mekelesha spice powder and some salt, and allowed to marinate for a while. Chunks of potatoes were steamed just enough so they can finish cooking with the gravy.

When the onions are almost caramelizing, add in the halibut and potatoes, splash some water, cover and allow to sweat and simmer till fish is cooked and potatoes are fork-tender.

Drizzle some fresh lemon juice, garnish with spring onions and cilantro, serve with warm cooked pearl millet and Sprouted Moong Bean Salad.

Over the last few years, portioned plated meals for dinners has become the norm. I rarely do family-style meals anymore. However, I do make the portions quite small to start with so we can go for seconds to simulate family-style dining.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Stuffed Sweet Red Peppers

Stuffed peppers happen frequently in my kitchen, even if only the adults in the family enjoy it.

Most of the time the stuffing is leftovers - typically rice and beans, or TVP, or millet or quinoa. When I found these colorful beauties at the farmers market, I knew they would come home to get roasted/stuffed.

Here's a variety of stuffed veggies showcased in a previous post.

This time I went with some leftover basmati rice sauteed with onions, tomatoes, Ethiopian berbere spice powder, stirred in with some dried cranberries and toasted walnuts.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Roasted Beets, Swiss Chard, Pear Salad

A bunch of organic beets was just $2.00 at the farmers market. I bought a bunch, roasted the beets and saved the leaves for sautéing.

Some organic Rainbow Chard was handy in the backyard home garden, so, got a few of those chopped up with the beet greens, sautéed in olive oil, with a hint of salt and black pepper.

Some Asian pears were ripe and ready in the backyard as well, and these pears have a crisp crunch and perfect sweetness that goes well with most salads.

Some feta or goat cheese, plus a simple Greek vinaigrette is all it takes to serve up this chock-full-of-goodness salad.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Amaranth Leaves Thokku

Fresh amaranth leaves from the farmers market is something I am getting used to, but soon will have to let go as the fall rolls in and fresh produce tapers out when the farmers market closes for the season.

Thokku is a south Indian catch-all term that is used to refer to sautéed grated vegetables packed with flavor. My favorite is spicy Chilli Thokku, but, I make thokku out of just about anything, including Kohlrabi, Mango, Green Papaya Thokku which was all the rage last year and the year before when I canned a few jars of them.


  1. Chop up the amaranth leaves finely, even run them in a blender till they feel pasty. 
  2. Heat some oil in a pan, add some mustard seeds and when they pop, add the prepared amaranth; add in some salt, chili powder, turmeric powder, tamarind paste, white vinegar, and a hint of brown sugar and allow to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently
  3. Continue cooking, adding a bit more oil as needed till amaranth is fully cooked and the flavors meld
  4. Cool and store in a mason jar in the fridge, or can it in boiling water bath

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stuffed Baby Eggplant with Sweet-and-Sour Peanut Filling

Stuffed Baby Eggplant

It is no secret that I love eggplant, as evidenced by the wide array of Eggplant Recipes shared here. While I don't eat eggplant everyday, it does seem like I am rather partial to it. On and off I avoid nightshade family which include eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes to help the gut recover. Choosing ripe red peppers and ripe red tomatoes and and ripe purple eggplant seems to work so far.

Stuffed Baby Eggplant

Small Indian eggplant, when ripe, is just a little bigger than a large egg and perfect for slitting and stuffing to make spicy dishes. This time, the flavorful sweet-and-sour masala paste for stuffing is made with peanuts, tomatoes, dry red chilies, plus my favorite combo for sweet-and-sour: tamarind paste + grape molasses.

Stuffed Baby Eggplant

[Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with these brands, these are just the ones available where I shop]

Simply grind the masala paste, make cross-wise slit in the eggplants and slather the paste inside. Reserve some of the paste for the gravy, if preferred.

Stuffed Baby Eggplant

For the peanut masala paste:
½ cup dry roasted peanuts
4 to 5 dry red chilies
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp grape molasses
2 Tbsp tamarind paste
salt to taste

2 Tbsp canola oil
water as needed


  1. Masala Paste: Combine the peanut masala paste ingredients, grind to a smooth paste and keep handy
  2. Slit-and-Stuff Eggplant: Make two slits in the eggplant perpendicular to each other keeping the stem intact; slather the masala paste into the crevices by gently opening up the slits
  3. Cook: Heat oil in a pan, add any reserved masala paste and sauté ; then, arrange the slit-and-stuffed eggplants gently, splash some water and sprinkle some salt, cover and allow to cook over medium heat; turn the eggplant gently to cook all sides evenly till cooked through but still intact
  4. Serve with Basmati rice or naan; or just enjoy it as-is, like an appetizer

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Home-made Falafel with Chard

Home-made Falafel with Chard

Masala Vadai, a ubiquitous south Indian fried snack, is what came to mind when I first encountered Falafel ages ago. The name was new, but the flavor and appearance was all-too-familiar. Chickpeas being a staple in Indian foods, plus all the grams and pulses and lentils, it is not surprising that versions of fried chickpea patties and lentil patties were ubiquitous in India, and I grew up taking them for granted.

Over summer, it was so much easier to make falafel on and off at home and serve with some pita or home-made naan, plus some assortment of fresh filling like olives, feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, onions, lettuce, and home-made hummus.

My favorite of course was to serve falafel with little bowls of bib/Boston lettuce which seem perfect for filling with fresh veggies from the garden.

Home-made Falafel with Chard

Simply soak the chickpeas overnight, then grind them up coarsely. I like to add chopped onions and chard from the garden to this, season with salt, and knead a bit. If it seems too loose to shape, I add a sprinkling of my favorite coconut flour. With its high fiber content, coconut flour works well to thicken as needed. Chill for a hour in the fridge before shaping into patties for deep frying.

Home-made Falafel with Chard

Home-made hummus has always been a fun endeavor. Usually a batch of hummus gets made once a week or so and saved in the fridge to act as spread for wraps or toppings for salads.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Sauteed Sweet Potato Leaves and Sweet-Sour Salmon and Lychee-Chili Sauce

Sauteed Sweet Potato Leaves

A bunch of gorgeous Sweet Potato Leaves seemed so fresh and inviting at the farmers market that I had to bring it home and sauté it right away.

Sauteed Sweet Potato Leaves

A hunk of Silver Salmon caught in Alaska during our recent trip was thawed and ready. Sweet-and-sour salmon was one of the requests I received while wondering how to cook up the salmon this time.

Sweet-and-sour Salmon it is, then.

Tamarind paste and grape molasses is a perfect sweet-and-sour combination that I've come to love while cooking with these two staple ingredients in my kitchen.

Of course, vinegar and sugar is a default sweet-sour combination, which I am not very fond of... so, am glad I settled on tamarind paste and grape molasses for now, that bring in a deeper flavor and an interesting layering.

(Disclaimer:I don't have any affiliation with these brands, these just happen to be the ones easily available where I shop.)

Sauteed Sweet Potato Leaves

I grew up loving lychees (aka litchi), enjoying this seasonal fruit whenever it hits the local market. Litchi chinensis has a shell like peanuts which are peeled and discarded to get to the translucent mildly sweet flesh that has a strong odor characteristic of many tropical fruits. There were at least half a dozen varieties cultivated in northern and eastern parts of India, where the warm and humid climate and soil seem ideally suited for these lovely trees.

These days, every once in a while, I find fresh and frozen lychees at the Asian market, and bring them home for some fun smoothies and chutneys and sauces. It has a rather large pit inside, so, getting the flesh is a bit of an effort, but well worth it if one loves these fruits as much as I do.

Lychees with home garden chilies became a hot-and-sweet sauce in the form of Lychee-Chili Sauce, much like the sauce made for Lychee-Chili Chicken. This time, I served the sauce on the side as I knew kids don't care for it.

Sauteed Sweet Potato Leaves

Sometimes, the combination of ingredients might seem like a mish-mash meal, but those are the ones I've noticed turn out satisfying as it is rather unexpected and refreshing.

The salmon was slathered on with tamarind and grape molasses, and a sprinkling of salt, then, lightly dusted with flour. It is first pan-seared skin-side down. Then, flipped to cook the other side. I peel the skin off at this stage and slather more of the tamarind and grape molasses plus salt to the now skin-free side, then flip again and sear it till flaky and cooked through.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Home-garden Zucchini Crispy Pan-fried

Summer was rather unseasonably hot here. Al fresco dining was a frequent option, to just hang out in the backyard and catch the evening breeze as the sun sets and the air cools a bit.

Fresh veggies and fruits, with minimal cooking was my goal. And this particular meal seemed to fit the bill perfectly, served buffet-style, a few weeks ago.

Some tender zucchini from the garden got made into these incredibly addictive crispy pan-fried slices. Coat the zucchini slices with some olive oil. Grate some Parmesan, combine it with some seasoning. Press the oiled zucchini slices into the seasoned Parmesan and pan-fry till both sides are crispy

Carrots and cucumber from the farmers market became Indian-style salads: Cucumber got tossed with some salt, cayenne pepper, lime juice and cilantro. Grated carrots got tossed with some grated ginger, salt, toasted cumin seeds, and lemon juice.

We had picked fresh blueberries at the farm, diligently working under scorching sun, thinking about seasonal migrant workers who usually take on this tedious job for minimal wages, and wondering all the costs that go into keeping the berries fresh when they arrive at the local supermarkets... Kids were truly appreciative of the labor and the incidental costs, which hopefully will make them more responsible and discerning consumers when they grow up...

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Saturday, September 09, 2017

Cauliflower Leaves Tostada

Cauliflower Leaves Tostada

Much like Collard (aka 'Colewort' greens of Brassica oleracea, variety acephala) greens that have sturdy stems and thick leaves that are chockful of vitamins, my favorite this year has been Cauliflower greens from the home garden.

Cauliflower Leaves Tostada

Being of the same family, these cauliflower leaves also are sturdy and nutritionally packed, and have similar flavor and texture as collard greens when cooked.

Sautéed with onions and home-garden cherry tomatoes, these cauliflower greens were a perfect topping to spread on tostada to snack on some days back.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Zucchini Chutney

When Ridge Gourd Chutney is a staple, can Zucchini Chutney be far behind?

One of the home-garden zucchinis became the base ingredient for this chutney.

Sautéed with onions, green chilies, and tomatoes, flavored with salt, tamarind and grape molasses, and then ground up with toasted urad dal and chana dal, this zucchini chutney is easy to make and quite versatile.

For a thicker consistency, pan cook it till the excess water from zucchini evaporates. Temper with mustard seeds and cumin seeds if preferred.

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Sunday, September 03, 2017

Zucchini Paruppusili

Paruppusili is a traditional south Indian side dish made with vegetables and lentils. Ever since my first taste of Banana Flower Paruppusili my mom made when I was young, I have been terribly fond of this dish, and still consider it a comfort food.

These days I make paruppusili from various other vegetables, not just banana flowers. I love the concept: fresh seasonal veggie lightly steamed; then sauteed with pan-fried lentils. The lentils are not just cooked and fried, but, they undergo a wonderful procedure that boosts their presence in this dish.

A few of the garden zucchinis needed to be harvested. While thinking of ways to cook them up, paruppusili popped into my head. Along with some carrots, zucchini paruppusili seemed like a good idea.

Typically, I soak some Tuvar dal (split pigeon peas) in warm water along with some fenugreek seeds and dry red chilies. Then, grind into a thick paste that can be shaped into balls. Steam these balls, they will harden a bit but yet have the soft consistency of a meatball. At this point, the lentil balls can be cooled and frozen for later use.

For the paruppusili dish, the steamed  lentil balls are coarsely crumbled and pan-fried in coconut oil till lightly crispy; then the steamed veggies are tossed in with salt to taste. That's it. Served warm or at room temperature, this dish is a complete meal.

Of course, it might be okay to skip the make-into-ball-and-steam routine, and just pan-fry the ground up lentil paste.

If the steamed lentils are going to be crumbled anyway, why bother making them into balls? Well, the lentil balls are used to make another one of my comfort foods - Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu.

Between the Paruppusili and Paruppu urundai sambar, when one is planned the other automatically begs its existence as well.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Zucchini Casserole

Zucchini Casserole

à la green bean casserole, but with crispy fried jalapeño topping instead of the usual French fried onions.

We harvested some of the zucchinis from the garden.

I used my trusty Spiralizer to spiralize the zucchinis. Then, salted it and placed it in a colander lined with a towel to absorb the liquids for about 20 minutes while getting the cheese sauce ready for the casserole.

Much like Kohlrabi Au Gratin, this casserole is creamy and cheesy, thanks to heavy cream and cheese; but being conscious of fat consumption, the amount is not too generous, just enough to create the illusion of rich casserole.

Zucchini Casserole

And, our local supermarket had French's™ Crispy jalapeños that I wanted to try. Casserole topping seemed the best use for it at this time.

Squeeze out excess water from the spiralized zucchini before assembling in the casserole dish. Make a quick and simple cheese sauce by heating some cream and melting some cheese in it with favorite seasoning.

Bake in a 375°F oven for about 35 to 40 minutes til flavors meld and the cheese is bubbly. Top with the crispy fried jalapeños and bake 3 or 4 minutes more.

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