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Monday, January 16, 2017

Spicy Bitter Melon Curry with Fenugreek and Szechuan Peppercorns

Spicy Bitter Melon Curry with Fenugreek and Szechuan Peppercorns

Indian Bitter gourd and Chinese Bitter melon are oft-relished veggies at home. Having offered it to kids since they were little, both seem to like bitter gourd and bitter melon, especially as chips. Healthful properties of this supremely bitter vegetable is no secret in India, where many regional recipes showcase this green beauty.

Spicy Bitter Melon Curry with Fenugreek and Szechuan Peppercorns

This time, the flavors come from toasted Szechuan peppercorns and fenugreek seeds, along with other curry staples. After toasting the peppercorns, put it through a sieve to remove the husks before using.

Spicy Bitter Melon Curry with Fenugreek and Szechuan Peppercorns

Health benefits of fenugreek is also quite well-accepted in India, where the cuisine naturally incorporates it in many everyday dishes. Just ½ tsp of fenugreek seeds, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed in the morning and eaten on an empty stomach is a habit I had going for a while, and still do on and off but not as regularly as I'd like, being too forgetful with old age and all.

Served with a side of pearl millet, this is a hearty weekend brunch.

millet bitter melon

1 Thinly sliced red onions
2 medium bitter melon, cleaned and sliced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
cilantro for garnish

Spice Mix:
1 Tbsp Szechuan Peppercorns, toasted
1 tsp Fenugreek seeds, toasted

Masala paste/gravy:
2 Tbsp Tamarind
1 Tomato, chopped
1 cup diced yellow or red onions
6 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger


  1. Soak the sliced bitter melon in salted water and let it sit while preparing the spices
  2. Masala paste: Grind up the paste and keep handy
  3. Spice mix: toast the peppercorns and fenugreek seeds, put it through a spice grinder and sift to remove the shell-like husks
  4. Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the sliced onions with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder
  5. Add in the masala paste and saute some more till the rawness of onions mellows down; then stir in the spice mix powder and sauté some more
  6. Drain the bitter melon, rinse well, pat dry, and add it to the pan, stir in enough water to make a gravy, cover and simmer on medium low heat till bitter melon is cooked through
  7. Adjust salt to taste, garnish with cilantro and serve warm with roti or quinoa or millet

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Cream of Kale Soup

Cream of Kale Soup

With nicknames ranging from "Power Soup" (no guesses who picked this one) to "Brown Slime" given at home, this filled-with-green-goodness soup is one of my favorites, even if kids drink it reluctantly every time I make it. Fifteen more times and am sure they'll end up loving this soup.

Pressure cook some greens - kale, mustard greens, spinach - with celery, onions, garlic, and mayo coba beans. Then, run it through the blender to make a smooth mush. Then, strain it to remove pulpy lumps for a smooth texture.

At this point, stirring in cream and simmering gently should be fine. But, since I like to use my slow cooker to keep the soup warm and ready for dinner when I come back from work, I poured the strained soup into the slow cooker one morning and let it slow cook till dinner time. Around the 8-hour mark, some heavy cream was stirred in, plus dried basil (I use freeze-dried which feels intense fresh), dried parsley, dried oregano and continued till the slow cooker is done.

Cook longer if preferred for the soup to come together with a creamy  warmth. I start it first thing in the morning and let it slow cook till dinner time - about 12 hours - in the slow cooker.

With a few slices of Pumpernickel bread, the kind made according to "old world methods, utilizing a slow-rise process", from Trader Joe's. Of course, the name "Pumpernickel" itself has fun origins that we talk about every time we eat this bread.

An alternative origin of "pumpernickel" is nearly as strange, if somewhat less savory. "Pumpern" was a New High German word similar in meaning to the English "fart" (so chosen because, like the word "achoo," it imitated the sound it described), and "Nickel" was a form of the name Nicholas, an appellation commonly associated with a goblin or devil (e.g., "Old Nick" is a familiar name for Satan). Hence, pumpernickel is the "devil's fart," allegedly a reference to the bread's indigestible qualities and hence the effect it produced on those who consumed it. (Some word fanciers have claimed that "pumpern" refers to the sound produced by thumping on a loaf of pumpernickel, but that explanation is extremely unlikely.) 
With winter firmly here, the old slow cooker gets a lot of use with stews and soups; quick one-pot meals come about often as well, like casserole and roast vegetables.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cabbage Papaya Peppers Slaw with Hemp Hearts and Bits of Dates

Cabbage Papaya Peppers Slaw with Hemp Hearts and Bits of Dates

I just have a few basic kitchen tools, no fancy stand mixer or avocado slicer or Vitamix blender (which I have been eyeing on and off). So, when I suddenly get an electric grater/slicer aka Salad Shooter, I get too excited. After the initial skepticism wears off, that is. (The Am sure it just can't do what I want it to do feeling)

This cabbage slaw was the guinea pig of sorts for this Salad Shooter. I prefer slicing cabbage thinly with my trusty knife, but, I decided to shred it at the push of a button. And it came out all right. So, I sliced some peppers, shredded some broccoli stems, and julienned some barely-ripe firm papaya (in my finicky Mandoline slicer) to make a quick slaw/salad.

Squeeze the cabbage to press all the excess water out, so the slaw is not too soggy, before adding the dressing.

Topped with hemp hearts and sunflower seeds, and sprinkled with bits of dates, this Cabbage Papaya Peppers Slaw was a perfect quick meal.

Dressing and Vinaigrette are always fun. This time, it is a simple mix of the following. Simply stir well and adjust to taste.

Slaw Dressing:
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce
1 tsp Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp apricot preserves/jam

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Saturday, January 07, 2017

Salmon Fish Curry

Indian Salmon Fish Curry

A hunk of fresh-caught Alaskan salmon was asking to be made into an Indian-style flavorful fish curry. Not too spicy but full of aromatic goodness.

Most Indian curries start with a ginger + garlic + onion + tomato  ground up to the masala paste base; to which cumin + coriander + star anise + Indian cinnamon bark + black peppers/dry red chilies mix is added in powdered form and sautéed for flavors to develop.

That is just one of the popular combination of dry mix, but there are umpteen regional variations, of course: fenugreek seeds, bay leaves, poppy seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds, black cumin seeds, black cardamom, black mustard seeds, black sesame seeds...

Similarly, the masala paste has a few variations like adding yogurt, or almonds, or coconut, or tamarind, or curry leaves...

Part of the fun for me is to go with the flow, with my mood, with the ingredients handy in the kitchen (which is usually well-stocked with spices), and make a "surprise" curry.

2 cups of cubed salmon
1 large Poblano pepper, sliced
a few colorful sweet peppers, sliced
½ cup red onions, sliced
2 Tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp brown sugar or demerera sugar
salt to taste

For the masala paste:
½ cup diced onions
½ cup diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 Tbsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp tomato paste

For the spice mix:
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp white poppy seeds
1 star anise
2 dry red chilies

  1.  Masala paste: Combine the masala paste ingredients and blend to a fine smooth paste and keep handy
  2. Spice mix: toast the spice mix ingredients in a pan till mildly aromatic, allow to cool a bit, then grind to a fine powder, keep handy
  3. Heat coconut oil in a pan, add the onions, turmeric, some salt and sauté
  4. Add the masala paste and peppers and saué some more till the rawness of garlic and ginger cook away
  5. Add the fish cubes and the spice mix, stir well and saute some more
  6. Add just enough water to immerse the fish, stir in the brown sugar, cover and simmer till fish is cooked and the flavors meld
  7. Serve with cooked quinoa, or millet, or rice, or roti or naan.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Breaded Halibut with Poblano Peppers and Colorful Sweet Peppers

Breaded Halibut with Poblano Peppers and Colorful Sweet Peppers

Another hunk of halibut fillet was thawed and ready in the fridge, part of a 10-pounder that the other half caught in Alaska last summer.

Breaded Halibut with Poblano Peppers and Colorful Sweet Peppers

Breading and pan-frying is the easiest, but it can get boring if just using plain old bread crumbs or Panko all the time. So, in an effort to use up the soon-to-go-stale Triscuit™ crackers, I went with a fun breading made out of roasted almonds, parsley, and the said Triscuit. Simply crumble them in a blender.

Poblano peppers when sauteed give out this delicious flavor and aroma, which when combined with red onions and sweet peppers can be heavenly. This formed the veggie accompaniment to the breaded halibut, which was pan-cooked. Rather than dip in egg whites before the crumb coating, I dipped in buttermilk and pressed into the breading mix, on both sides.

Heat some oil in a cast-iron skillet that is moderately hot, place the breaded halibut fillet and press down, leave it undisturbed in medium heat till browned and firmed on one side. Carefully flip and cook the other side as well. If the flipping is not done with caution, the breading will peel off. Cook till fish is done, about 150° F in the thickest part.

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Green Plantain Oven Fries

Green Plantain Oven Fries

Green Plantain, a member of the Banana family, is one of my favorites, although I cannot handle much of it thanks to its high starchiness and its tendency to cause digestive discomfort. Plantains are not usually eaten raw, they need to be cooked.

Botanically Banana plant is an herb, its fruit is considered a berry. Which is a fun trivia I never tire of sharing. Every part of banana plant is used in India, including its pseudo stem which can grow over 20 feet tall. Banana leaf is used as a dinner plate and a food wrapper; stem can be used to make a savory dish, called Koottu, with lentils; banana flower can be made into an incredibly delicious banana flower paruppusili; and of course, the berry/fruit itself can be cooked up in many ways, either raw green or ripe.

Plantain cooks up much like potatoes in many Indian dishes and is enjoyed as chips in many parts of south India. Riper plantains, not the raw green ones, are much relished in dessert form with a touch of brown sugar.

Green plantain fries in this recipe is baked in the oven at 400 °F for about 30 minutes or till desired crispness.

Skin and cut the plantain into thin sticks, toss with some olive oil and salt, and bake, stirring once or twice to get all the sides evenly crisped.

To keep up the Indian theme, I served it with some mint chutney for the adults, but the kdis prefer it with the ubiquitous ketchup.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Baked Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash Thai Curry soup

Not a top favorite among the winter squashes, Spaghetti squash gets its turn in my kitchen a few times during fall/winter months.

Brush with olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper, maybe a touch of paprika, and bake in a 375 °F oven for about an hour.

Spaghetti Squash Thai Curry Soup

Once baked and ready, however, the strings of spaghetti squash are handy for making other dishes, like this Spaghetti Squash Thai Curry/Soup.

Spaghetti Squash Thai Curry Soup

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Apricot Strawberry Blackberry Jam Cookies

Apricot Strawberry Blackberry Jam Cookies

Sugar. Butter. Flour.

Just three basic ingredients and umpteen variations to make yummy goodies.

This time, I went with Flax Oil Omega Butter Light, with a combination of Splenda and demerera and granulated white sugar, regular all purpose flour, plus egg yolks, of course. The texture came out more or less like shortbread cookies.

Apricot Strawberry Blackberry Jam Cookies

Jam filling is the fun part. Jars of homemade home-canned jams made from fresh u-pick berries were sitting in the pantry.

Apricot Strawberry Blackberry Jam Cookies

I don't have a consistent standardized recipe for these jam cookies, but it's hard to go wrong with these basic ingredients as long as we keep an eye on the consistency and proportions. I prefer to chill the dough before shaping and baking.

3/4 cup Smart Balance ™ Omega Butter Light
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp demerera sugar
2 Tbsp Splenda
1½ cups all purpose flour, plus or minus to make the dough not too sticky
2 egg yolks

Cream the butter, sugar and egg yolks; then fold in the flour till it comes together and forms a dough. Refrigerate for about half an hour. Bake in a 375°F oven for about 10 minutes till the edges turn brown.

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Pumpkin Walnut Bread

moist Pumpkin Walnut Bread maple icing

'Tis the season... for baking...

A lot of standard soups and stews and casseroles and breads and rolls come about this time of the year, with not many new recipes to share. I resort to comfort foods and sail through the winters without much fanfare. Except around the holidays in December, when quite a bit of baked goodies come about just to make the kids happy.

This Pumpkin Bread, much like the Zucchini bread and Apple Walnut bread and Rhubarb Banana bread and Sweet Potato bread and others that I've shared here already, is a simple no-fuss bread.

For the most part, it is a fairly standard recipe, only, I am not into adding a lot of sugar and butter. However, without the right amount of fats and sugars, baking can fail miserably... unless, I manage to substitute with the right kind of ingredients that work and that I can feel comfortable incorporating in copious amounts that is required to make it work.

moist Pumpkin Walnut Bread maple icing

1 can (15 ounces) pureed pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup combination of flax meal and wheat bran
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For Icing:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
a few teaspoons of water as needed (or maple syrup, if preferred)

Some raw green hulled pumpkin seeds for topping

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F; grease the bottoms of two standard loaf pans
  2. Beat together the wet ingredients: pumpkin puree, sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs
  3. Mix the dry ingredients: flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, walnuts
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients mix to the wet ingredients to form a thick batter
  5. Pour into the greased loaf pans and bake in the 350°F oven for about an hour, checking for doneness when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
  6. Cool on a wire rack and add on the icing and sprinkle some pumpkin seeds on top
  7. Icing (optional): Stir a few drops of water to the icing sugar and stir till desired consistency, spread over the bread

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

French-Fried Onions-Breaded Rockfish with Mint Sauce

French-Fried Onions-Breaded Rockfish with Mint Sauce

Rockfish filet was thawed and ready - caught and brought from Alaska by the other adult this summer. Breaded pan-fried is the easiest but this time, rather than traditional breading, I went with chickpea flour plus French-fried onions.

Simply rub some chickpea flour and seasoning on the fish, pan cook with a touch of oil, on both sides, till slightly crisp on the outside and cooked through. Top with a sprinkling of French-fried onions and broil in the oven for a few minutes. Drizzle with some mint sauce and serve warm, or serve the sauce on the side.

Mint Sauce: I saved the last of the mint and spring onions in the home garden. Just a handful of mint leaves, plus some green chilies and roasted peanuts come together with a splash of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice, salt to taste, for this minty sauce.

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Rockfish with Peppers, Kale, and Tofu

Rockfish with Peppers, Kale, and Tofu

Some of the fresh-caught Alaskan rockfish that came home frozen this summer was ready to be cooked after thawing overnight in the fridge.

Some sauteed colorful bell peppers, ancho chilies, kale, and onions make the cozy bed on which the bite-sized chunks of rockfish is served.

Rockfish itself was cooked on a pan with a dash of apple cider vinegar, a generous drop of Zenjiang vinegar, and a splash of Braggs Liquid Aminos.

Rockfish with Peppers, Kale, and Tofu

The tofu is my favorite part. Some Kolhapuri Thecha from my previous venture combined with some BBQ sauce plus some Braggs Liq. Aminos forms the flavor sauce. Toss the extra firm tofu cubes with this sauce and bake in a 450 ° F oven for about 25 minutes.

Serve with a side of rice, if preferred.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Roasted Squash, Arugula, Hemp Hearts Salad

Roasted Acorn Squash, Arugula, Hemp Hearts Salad

Hemp hearts is a treasure, a fairly pricey treasure, which I indulge in small doses as a special treat. A jar of shelled hemp seeds usually waits in the fridge patiently until called to enhance salads, oatmeal, yogurt and anything else that could use a boost from this nutrient-rich garnish.

Roast squash is a quick addition to winter salads. When cut into thin slices and tossed with olive oil winter squashes like acorn squash roast up in no time at all - say, 10 to 15 minutes in a 400 ° F oven.

Hearty arugula forms the base layer for this salad, topped with roast acorn squash, caramelized red onions, feta, and hemp hearts. Raspberry+balsamic vinaigrette with a touch of agave nectar is what I prefer to drizzle on this salad, sparingly.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Baked BBQ-flavored Halibut with Charred Eggplant and Steamed Asparagus

salmon fillet barbecue eggplant asparagus

I had some Kolhapuri Thecha leftover from my previous venture. To balance its heat, it seemed like sweetish BBQ Sauce would be ideal. So, I slathered both these flavorings on the halibut filet and baked in a 400° F oven for about 25-30 minutes till done. Simple, no fuss dish.

The pristine Alaskan fish caught over summer and brought home by the other half feels like a precious resource, fast dwindling...

Some steamed asparagus plus some char-broiled eggplant slices round out this sumptuous weeknight meal. The asparagus sat in the steamer a bit longer than I intended, but, it was still fine.

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Four Delectable Wheat Meat Dishes

wheat meat delectable victuals vegetarian bulgogi fajita meatball

Gluten has strongly polarized the current generation of food-loving folks. Depending on who we talk to, either gluten is the root cause of all evil and ailment, to be censured and possibly banned from diets; or, gluten is quite an essential part of a nutritionally-balanced meal that includes optimal whole grains which provide a rich array of vitamins and minerals.

Celiac disease is very real. Research connecting diabetes and gluten is well published. And, many seem to have high sensitivity to gluten in their diet, even if not diagnosed with Celiac disease.

Over the past few years, after staying gluten-free months at a time, switching to quinoa, millet, amaranth, brown rice for weeks a stretch, it seems to make no significant difference to the folks at home. So, I've made peace with gluten for now, promising to revisit the issue in a year or so. 

I am not a nutritionist, but, I do believe in consuming as much natural, primarily-vegetarian foods as possible with minimal processing -- leaning towards fresher,  homemade options than conveniently packaged heavily processed foods. As to going grain-free? I am still researching and experimenting.

Anyway, all that is to segue into these 4 vegetarian recipes for using homemade wheat meat. 

Every once in a while, I make a batch of  wheat meat with variations in flavor and cooking methods just to see if this is still tolerated by our digestive systems. Since it stores well in the fridge and freezer, I can use a little at a time incorporating it in a variety of dishes.

I. Wheat Meat Bulgogi with pickled ginger

wheat meat delectable victuals vegetarian bulgogi fajita meatball

Nothing much to it. Instead of beef, which we don't eat, simply slice the wheat meat and toss with other ingredients like, pickled ginger strips, pickled carrots and beets, julienned summer squash and cucumbers, thinly sliced onions soaked in vinegar,

II. Wheat Meat Crumble Burritos

wheat meat delectable victuals vegetarian bulgogi fajita meatball

Cut up the wheat meat chunks into smaller pieces and run it in a food processor to make a coarse crumble. Saute some onions, bell peppers, tomatoes along with the crumble, add some Taco seasoning and there you have it.

III. Wheat Meat Fajitas

wheat meat delectable victuals vegetarian bulgogi fajita meatball

Similar principle as above, but just thinly cut them to strips along with peppers and onions.

Homemade corn tortillas fresh off the griddle makes this interesting.

wheat meat delectable victuals vegetarian bulgogi fajita meatball

IV. Wheat Meat Meatballs

wheat meat delectable victuals vegetarian bulgogi fajita meatball

Since wheat meat is already cooked and ready to go, simply crumble it in a blender, then add egg and wet slice of bread for binding. Either bake or pan cook till it has a crusty outside and firm enough that it can hold its shape well in the sauce.

wheat meat delectable victuals vegetarian bulgogi fajita meatball

Other wheat meat dishes shared earlier:

Wheat Meat Pot Roast

Wheat Meat Philly Cheesesteak

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Halibut with Kolhapuri Thecha Fish Curry

Halibut with Kolhapuri Thecha Fish Curry

Kolhapur is a region in Maharashtra, India, known for many wonderful temples and palaces, botanical gardens and wildlife sanctuary, and not the least of all the inimitable Kolhapuri Chappal - sandals that were my weakness as a youngster, I couldn't have enough of them.

Kolhapuri Thecha is this fiery chili concoction that can double as a sauce/paste as well as chutney/dip.

Here, in Halibut with Kolhapuri Thecha, I use it as a rub and cooking sauce which is not for the weak-stomached or the weak-kneed eater.

There's habañero and ghost pepper, which just rip the insides out for me so I stay away from them; but I enjoy jalapeño and Serrano just fine, in small doses. I went a little easy on the red chilies with this Thecha but adjust the heat to your taste. The other adult in the house relishes way more heat than I can handle, so, I enjoy making this once in a while, not often.

Simply rub the halibut chunks with this, and, add it to the sauteing veggies as well to layer the flavor in this simple fish curry. There is still some pristine Alaskan fish that the other adult caught over summer that I wanted to cook up in an interesting way.

This Red Chili thecha can be made with fresh red chilies, or even green chilies. Simply roast the chilies first to enhance the flavor. I went with using dry red chilies as they were handy.

For Kolhapuri Thecha:
8 dry red chilies
8 large garlic cloves
½ medium onion, diced (optional)
2 Tbsp dry roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste

Halibut or other favorite fish cut into chunks
Vegetables - red bell peppers, red onions, red tomatoes - chopped
a few Tbsp vegetable oil as needed
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds


  1. Soak the dry red chilies in the lemon juice and a little bit of warm water to reconstitute it for grinding
  2. Combine the Kolhapuri thecha ingredients and grind to a fine paste, including the soaking lemon water
  3. Rub the fish chunks with some of the thecha paste, reserving some for cooking
  4. Heat the oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds, when they pop, add the cumin seeds, then add the remaining thecha paste, saute for a few minutes till oil separates
  5. Add the chopped veggies, stir well, and saute till veggies soften a bit
  6. Then add in the fish chunks rubbed with the chili thecha, splash some water as needed, cover and cook till fish is done -- internal temperature is about 145 °F and is flaky and opaque
  7. Serve warm with a side of rice

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Bisi Bela Huli Millet

millet bisi bele bath bela huli vegetarian indian delectable victuals

"Bisi bela huli anna" translates to "hot lentils tamarind rice" in Kannada, a typical vegetarian dish that is out of this world when done right. Instead of the "anna" which is the rice part, this dish is made with millet.

This may not be the conventional method of preparation here, but, this is what I like to do: Simply add the chopped veggies, lentils, millet, tamarind paste, spices, salt to taste, in a pressure cooker, with enough water to cook it through. When cooked and ready, add some fresh tempering and garnish, and serve hot, with a generous dripping of ghee.

Most of the time, I use my home-made Sambar powder for the spice mix and flavoring, but this time I went with store-bought mix of spice powders that are easier to find at the local grocery stories.

Pressure cooker:
3 cups assorted chopped veggies: eggplant, onions, squash, peppers, broccoli stems, carrots (optional: peas)
½ cup Tuvar dal (split pigeon peas)
1.5 cups pearl millet
2 Tablespoons tamarind concentrate (I use Vietnamese Sour Soup Mix)
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoon Madras curry powder
2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon red hot chili powder (optional)
salt to taste
enough water to immerse the contents and build up pressure - about 5 cups

Garnish: ghee-roasted cashews

¼ tsp urad dal
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp mustard seeds
3 or 4 curry leaves
1 tsp vegetable oil


  1. Pressure cook: Combine the ingredients for the pressure cooker and cook till done; the cooked dish will be mushy with a porridge-like consistency
  2. Tempering: Heat oil in a small pan, add urad dal and allow it to turn a mild golden brown, add the mustard seeds and let them pop; cover with a perforated lid if preferred as the mustard seeds will spatter all over when they pop; add the fresh curry leaves, remove from heat and add to the bisi bela huli millet from the pressure cooker
  3. Garnish: Heat some ghee in a small pan and roast some unsalted raw cashews till golden brown, toss in Curry leaves if available

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Friday, November 04, 2016

Millet Meal Polenta Patties

millet meal polenta cakes kozhakattai delectable victuals blog vegetarian fusion

Pearl millet ground up to a coarse meal is something I keep handy. It works great as a substitute for rice meal in some of the Indian dishes. This time, equal parts millet meal and corn meal came together with a dollop of ground lentils to make this polenta.

In case this is sounding complicated, the recipe is very close to Arisi Upma Kozhakattai, only, instead of 2 cups of rice idlee rava as called for in that recipe, I substituted 1 cup millet meal, plus 1 cup corn meal.

Once the thick porridge-like Upma/Polenta is made, roll into a log and pack it in foil, refrigerate it till it sets. I left it in the fridge the previous night, then cooked it for dinner the following evening.

Simply slice up this log when ready, pan cook both sides till brown and the insides are warm. Dust the slices with some chickpea flour before pan-frying to get the extra crispness and brownness, if preferred.

Saute some onions, peppers, tomatoes, and any other favorite veggies. Serve these Millet Meal Polenta Patties topped with the veggies, some feta, plus chopped kale, chopped celery leaves, and chopped spring onions.

Since some yellow pear tomatoes, red cherry tomatoes, kale, and spring onions are still alive in my home garden, now in mid-Autumn, I went with these, but, any combination of veggies would work just as well.

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Kohlrabi Daikon Slaw with Bits of Dates and Sunflower Seeds

Kohlrabi Daikon Slaw with Bits of Dates and Sunflower Seeds

I think the title sums up this dish well, nothing more to write...

Julienne some kohlrabi, Daikon radish, carrots, and thinly slice some red onions. Toss together with a quick homemade dressing and serve fresh.

Of late, I am addicted to the chopped dates rolled in oat flour - my mum-in-law gave me a giant 4 pound container of it. I've been making Date-tamarind chutney for Bhel puri with it, adding it to oatmeal and salads... it's been fun to try and use these sweet treats in different dishes.

Thanks to heavy rainfall, my Kale is still doing fine in the home garden; the onions have sprung up with these lovely shoots, reminding me of Spring when it is just mid-Autumn. Some Lemon drop chilies are still hanging on to the plant as well.

2.5 to 3 cups of julienned veggies - Daikon, Kohlrabi, Carrots, Onions
(Optional: Thinly slice one lemon drop chili and add it as garnish if the eater is up for it)
¼ to ⅓ cup chopped dates (rolled in oat flour)
¼ cup roasted seasoned sunflower seeds

2 Tbsp thick plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp Braggs Liquid Aminos
1 tsp Franks Red Hot Sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Baby kale leaves
thinly sliced lemon drop chilies
chopped spring onions

Whisk or blend the dressing ingredients, toss in with the slaw and serve garnished.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Stuffed Ridge Gourd Curry

Stuffed Ridge Gourd Curry

Ridge gourd looks rather unappealing and a bit spiky, like cactus, but is one of my favorites in the cucumber family. Not for its inherent flavor or properties, but for its skin/peel. Ridge Gourd Peel Chutney is incredibly delicious, perfect for stirring into a bowl of steaming brown basmati rice with a spot of ghee and enjoying the simple earthy goodness.

Stuffed Ridge Gourd Curry

This time, while the peel still got made into chutney, the innards/flesh got made into something a bit more exotic than my usual koottu, which is a south Indian lentils-based coconut-cumin sauce.

Simply slit and stuff 2-inch pieces of peeled ridge gourd with spice paste, much like Stuffed Eggplant curry. Then cook in a favorite gravy/sauce.

Serve warm with rotis, naans, parathas, or cooked millet.

Stuffed Ridge Gourd Curry

About 6 2-inch pieces of peeled and slit ridge gourd, ready for stuffing
1 Tbsp vegetable oil

For the Spice paste:
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon brown sugar
salt to taste

For the curry sauce:
¼ cup vegetable stock
¼ cup mirepoix - finely chopped celery, onions, garlic
1 or 2 Anaheim peppers, sliced thin
½ medium onion sliced thin
remainder of the spice paste after slitting and stuffing
salt to taste


  1. Stir the spice paste well and keep handy for stuffing
  2. Slit the ridge gourd pieces just enough so they are intact at one end and can be parted at the other to stuff with the spice paste
  3. Stuff the ridge gourd pieces and keep handy
  4. Heat oil in a pan and add the sliced onions and Anaheim peppers, plus the mirepoix and the remaining spice paste from stuffing; saute till aromatic
  5. Gently arrange the stuffed ridge gourd pieces in the pan, add the vegetable stock (and water as needed), cover and cook undisturbed on medium low heat; turn the ridge gourd pieces periodically to cook all sides evenly
  6. Finish cooking uncovered till the ridge gourd is soft and cooked through and flavorful
  7. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm with naan or paratha

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Sunday, October 09, 2016

Kohlrabi and Green Papaya Thoran

Kohlrabi and Green Papaya Thoran

Thoran is typically just a dry dish made using coconut and green chilies that are ground up and stir-fried with steamed veggies, topped with tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves. Many of the vegetarian South Indian recipes here are based on this basic thoran.

Green Papaya and Kohlrabi don't have the same texture but they go well together when cooked, especially in this simple form.

4 cups finely diced green papaya and kohlrabi, peeled first
¼ cup dry grated coconut
3 green chilies, coarsely chopped
½ tsp black mustard seeds
¼ tsp cumin seeds
4 to 6 curry leaves (Murraya Koenigii) torn to small bits
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. Cook the kohlrabi + green papaya with enough water and salt till it is cooked through but not mushy, and no excess water remains (drain if needed)
  2. Meanwhile, combine the green chilies and coconut in a blender and grind to a fine powdery paste
  3. Tempering: Heat the tablespoon of oil in a small pan, when shimmering add the mustard seeds, when they pop add the cumin seeds and torn curry leaves, turn off heat and keep handy
  4. When the veggies are cooked through and dry, stir in the coconut+chilies, then top with the tempering
  5. Stir well and serve as a side with brown rice or even flax-and-whole-wheat roti

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Thursday, October 06, 2016

Lab-Lab Beans aka Hyacinth Beans Chundal

Lab-Lab Beans aka Hyacinth Beans Chundal sundal navarathri

Chundal ('ch' as in chair, not choir) is a specialty around Navarathri time - the nine nights, ten days long Indian festival going on right now. Each of the nine evenings, a different chundal is on the menu along with a sweet dish.

Almost all beans and pulses and lentils are fair game for making this style of chundal, referred to as sundal by most Tamilians. Black chickpeas, green chickpeas, chickpeas, dried peas,  kidney beans, white navy beans, black turtle beans, black-eyed peas, as well as the top favorite Lab-lab beans aka hyacinth beans aka mochakottai.

Soak the dried lab-lab beans overnight. Drain and pressure cook with salt till cooked but not mushy. This is the tricky part as lab-lab beans is pretty tough to cook quickly. Sometimes, I've had to pressure cook it twice to get the right consistency - firm to the touch and holding shape, but soft melt-in-the-mouth texture when eaten.

Fairly quick and easy to make, with the main flavoring coming from tempering*, plus grated ginger and green chilies, this is a low-fat protein-rich snack that kids enjoy at home.

*Tempering: Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, add a teaspoon of urad dal; when it turns golden brown, add mustard seeds; when they pop, add some cumin seeds, torn curry leaves, grated ginger and finely sliced green chilies. Add in the cooked lab-lab beans, adjust salt to taste and serve warm. Optionally, fresh grated coconut can be stirred in as well.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Sprouted Whole Green Mung Bean Salad

Sprouted Whole Green Mung Bean Salad Sprouted fenugreek

Sprouted lentils and beans come about often in my kitchen. At least once a week, a batch of it will be sprouting (unless I get lazy and skip a few weeks, of course), ready to be sprinkled on salads and wraps.

Adding a handful of fenugreek seeds along with lentils or beans to sprout is one of my favorites. Sprouted fenugreek brings a good amount of fiber, iron, and fantastic quality protein.

Of course, there is always the risk of harmful bacteria like salmonella and E.coli if the sprouts are not treated with care, but, the method I've been using so far seems to work all right.

Sprouted Whole Green Mung Bean Salad Sprouted fenugreek

In a glass jar, soak the moong beans and fenugreek seeds in water overnight. Drain and rinse, with as little touch by hands as possible. Place a piece of clean cheese cloth or netting on the mouth of the jar, and screw the jar ring in place. Allow to sit undisturbed in a cool dry place for 2 days, making sure to rinse and drain at least once a day to keep it moist and cool. No handling needed.

Once the sprouts are as mature as you prefer, simply drain well and refrigerate for daily use. I make it into this favorite salad right away and store the salad in the fridge. This makes a fantastic filler for wraps and pita pockets.

Sprouted Whole Green Mung Bean Salad Sprouted fenugreek

¼ cup finely diced cucumber
¼ cup finely diced onions
¼ cup finely diced raw mango
¼ cup finely diced colorful red/yellow/orange bell peppers
¼ cup finely diced firm tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh baby spinach leaves
¼ cup finely chopped clean, fresh coriander leaves aka cilantro
2 medium green chilies, chopped finely (optional)
2 cups loosely packed mung bean and fenugreek sprouts
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste

Stir well and enjoy!

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Chickpea & Coconut Flour Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini Chickpea flour Coconut Flour savory Pancake

Last of the home-garden zucchini was waiting to be used. It felt like a pancake kind of day. Not the boring old flour-and-eggs kind served with butter and syrup. But, the loaded-with-veggies savory kind that I've passed off as "pancakes" since kids' infancy.

For the longest time, both kids rejected the traditional pancakes; and, when offered at friends' place the morning after her first sleepover, the then 6 year old came home and wondered why the pancake she was offered was so buttery, soggy, and sweet.

No surprise, as the title says it all, these are griddle pan cakes made with a mix of chickpea flour and coconut flour that has been infused with a generous amount of grated zucchini.

Since the batter is easy to make, I did not measure it out with any precision. Just a bit more of chickpea flour than coconut flour, salt, turmeric, chili powder, plus grated zucchini, and enough water to make the batter thick.

Served with spicy herb green dip and sweet-sour red dip, plus a dollop of thick plain Greek yogurt, these zucchini pancakes get polished off quickly, much like... hot (pan) cakes.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Verum Arisi Adai

Verum Arisi Adai palakkad cuisine flatbread griddle-cake

Verum Arisi Adai translates to Plain Rice Adai, a Palakkad specialty. Among the various griddle-cooked pancake-like flatbreads of south India, this Verum Arisi Adai is not that well-known.

It is fairly thick, even up to a quarter inch thick, and needs to cook over medium-low heat for enough time so insides are not raw. Usually it helps to make 3 or 4 "holes" on the surface and drops some oil in to help with crisping the surface.

My favorite additives to the plain rice adai batter are: chopped greens like kale, beet greens, spinach, grated carrots, finely diced onions, finely chopped coconut, whole black pepper, coriander and curry leaves. Of course, not all of these at the same time - that would just overload the adai.

The picture doesn't do justice to the taste, naturally. In fact, the resident eight year old who has an opinion about everything, told me that it looks like dried up fake puke and refused to try even a courtesy bite.

Verum Arisi Adai palakkad cuisine flatbread griddle-cake

Soak 2 cups red par-boiled rice overnight (with 1 Tbsp fenugreek seeds), grind it to a coarse batter that is thick, with very little water; should be able to scoop a handful, roll it into a ball so it will still hold its shape on its own. This batter tastes better when allowed to ferment overnight with natural wild yeast fermentation, no additives.

However, since I don't get the traditional variety of rice here, and since I don't want to go to the trouble of soaking and grinding the long grain rice batter just for me, I have this alternate recipe using coarse rice meal like for Arisi Upma Kozhakattai.

  1. Soak required amount of Coarse ricemeal (also sold as Rice Idlee Rava in Indian stores), grind it with just enough water to make a thick paste; and allow it to ferment overnight 
  2. When ready to make the adais, add a tad bit of rice flour if the batter is too brittle and breaks apart when made into adai; the flour seems to help keep it together;
  3. Add in grated carrots or kale or onion or any other favorite veggies, adjust salt to taste, and cook on a medium hot pan on both sides till cooked through
  4. Serve with favorite chutneys or pickles; I serve it with pickled beets
While the original par-boiled rice Verum Arisi Adai will be just fine no matter how long after getting out of the pan, this quick short-cut method adai has to be eaten hot off the pan as it can get quite hard ("jaw-breaker") if allowed to cool down. It is very filling - just 2 medium sized (5" diameter) Verum Arisi Adai makes a big brunch.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Arisi Upma Kozhakattai

Arisi Upma Kozhakattai

These steamed coarse ricemeal balls, Arisi Upma Kozhakattai, is my mom's specialty. She whips up a batch or two in no time at all and it is an all-day kind of meal - breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner, these taste good with suitable chutneys and dips.

Now, the recipe is my mom's, so, the measurements are not precise; which suits me fine as I rarely measure the ingredients before I cook.

Basically, coarse rice meal, "arisi ravai" or "rice idlee rava" as sold in Indian stores, is coarse ground raw rice about the texture of coarse cornmeal. It is versatile in south Indian tiffin/snack dishes.

This rice meal is cooked in water with some salt and oil to a fairly thick consistency - like the standard Upma - so as to be able to take a handful and shape into egg-shaped balls. Then, steamed gently and served hot with chutneys on the side. Alternately, I've tried this with leftover thick polenta shaped into ovoids and steamed as well.

During my fledgling days of pottering about in the kitchen, I often goofed up and made the upma too thick so that after steaming, they became hard as rocks, making my dad nickname them hand grenades. But, I think I've learnt a thing or two since then, so, am happy to make this dish whenever the mood calls for it.

2 cups rice idlee rava
½ cup dry grated coconut
4-5 cups hot water (more or less)
salt to taste

tempering: 1 Tbsp oil, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 2-3 dry red chilies (broken)

optional: ¼ cup toor dal, soaked for 2-3 hours and ground to a fine paste

  1. Heat oil in a pan and when shimmering add the mustard seeds, when they pop, add the dry red chilies, then add the hot water, some salt, and bring it to a boil
  2. Slowly add the rice meal while stirring constantly so as to not form any lumps
  3. Add the dry grated coconut and the toor dal paste, if using and stir till well incorporated
  4. Adjust salt to taste, cover and cook on low heat till all the water is absorbed and the rice idlee rava is cooked through and comes together to a medium-thick scoopable consistency
  5. Allow to cool a bit so it is easier to handle, and scoop a handful of it and form little oval balls
  6. Steam them in idlee cooker or other simple steamer apparatus for about 8-10 minutes
  7. Serve warm with chutneys like mint chutney or curry leaf chutney, or my favorite ridge gourd peel chutney

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