Tuesday, August 23, 2011

cantaloup milkshake with mint and cardamom

 We all know and enjoy Lassi, Mango lassi to be precise. In India, plain old sweet lassi is very popular. But United States seems to have welcomed the fruity version of it. I love it too. But when you run out of mangoes, and are too lazy for the grocery run, anything in your refrigerator will have to do. I was hoping for the Papaya I had purchased just 2 days ago. But that was gone too!!! FYI, Papaya Lassi is absolutely delicious, just in case you run out of mangoes and are dying to drink some form of Lassi. 

I saw something orange in the back of my fridge...aha, cantaloup!!! I always wondered what a melony lassi would taste like. I was about to find out. But it was like I was not meant to have Lassi that day, I was out of yogurt and that never ever happens in my house. Sigh!!! I was hell bound on making me a refreshing drink nonetheless. Cantaloup shake it was and not just any kind...with mint and cardamom! Delish!!!!

cantaloup milkshake with mint and cardamom

1 1/2 cup fresh cantaloup, roughly chopped
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon honey 
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
few sprigs of mint
Add all ingredients into a blender and pulse until combined. Pour into glasses and refrigerate till chilled before serving.

Replace 1 cup of whole milk by 1/2 cup yogurt + 1/2 cup milk and you got yourself some minty cantaloup Lassi.

Monday, August 22, 2011

spicy potatoes in microwave

It was years after owning a kerosene stove that we finally bought a little two burner gas stove that sat on the counter top. Before that I think the kerosene stove had taken over my grandma's life. There was a distinct groan in her voice when she woke up every morning. But it got a lot easier with the gas stove. She got 15 minutes of extra sleep. Kerosene was replaced by the bulky red gas cylinders. Everything was cooked on it in the morning and heated on it for dinners. It was not until 2003 that I purchased a little microwave for her. She barely used it at first, afraid that it might explode somehow. She did eventually learn how to warm up her rice in it and it was a life changing moment when she showed me this super easy potato dish she prepared in it. My jaw dropped two storeys down when she proudly presented me with the potatoes. Now if grandma could do it in the microwave, anyone can.

Here is the quick, easy and delicious recipe from my adventurous grandma...

spicy potatoes in microwave

2 large potatoes, washed, peeled and chopped into small cubes (you can leave the skins on if you like)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
2 tablespoons oil
salt to taste
cilantro for garnish

In a large microwave safe bowl add oil, chili powder, turmeric, ginger-garlic paste and salt and mix well. Add the chopped potatoes and thoroughly mix making sure that the potatoes are well coated with the spices.

Microwave on high for about 8-10 minutes stirring every 3-4 minutes, till the potatoes are fork tender. No need to cover the bowl while cooking. Garnish with cilantro and it's ready to eat.

You can even add cumin powder to it or squeeze some lime before you serve. Either way it will be delicious.

Friday, August 19, 2011

vegetable glass noodles + chicken wonton soup

My first week in the United States, almost 11 years back introduced me to cuisines other than Indian, Chinese and Pizza. That's right, Pizza, not Italian, was a cuisine in India back then. Chinese too was completely Indianized to the point that when I first tasted authentic Chinese fried rice, I needed water to gulp it down. Of course things are much different now, both in India and my liking for authentic cuisines.

I love Indian Chinese. I am talking about food of course and my only source for that food was the corner restaurant called Nam Lim Singh's Chinese Dhaba. Now that I think of it, I certainly hope it was chicken that was served.(yikes!) All said and done, food was delicious. My grandma's thoughts were. "If the food it so hot, it must kill all the bacteria. I am sure it is safe to eat.' So we blissfully enjoyed the yummy food that most Asians have never heard of. My favorites were Chicken Manchurian and American Chopsuey with crunchy chowmein noodles sprinkled on top. Chicken Lollipops were an additional treat for special days. I will be attempting make these sometime, but for now here is the recipe of my other favorite Asian cuisine:

Vegetable Glass Noodles & Chicken Wonton Soup
You probably think I have lost my mind to make soup this time of year especially since I have been complaining about the heat so much. But my husband is down with cough and cold and this was my way of comforting him and preventing that nasty cough from getting to me.

For Noodles:
1 packet thin glass noodles
3 cloves of garlic, minced fine
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used the low sodium kind)
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 cup broccoli slaw (you can use any veggies of your choice)
2 stalks of scallions, chopped finely
salt to taste

In a large microwave safe container warm some water for 4-5 minutes. Put the glass noodles and let stand for 10-15 minutes till the noodles are soft.

In a wok or similar pan heat some oil and add ginger, garlic and chili garlic sauce. Toss for a few minutes and add the broccoli slaw and saute for a couple of minutes. Keep the heat on high. Make sure the veggies stay crispy. Add to this soy sauce and salt and stir well. 

Drain the noodles and immediately add to the wok and stir well. Garnish with scallions and serve hot. You can also add some toasted sesame seeds for garnish or squeeze some fresh lime juice over it. I also added a few peanuts on my noodles.

For the Wontons:
1 packet thin wonton wrappers
2 cups minced chicken
1 cup finely chopped green onion
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
salt per taste

Mix all ingredients except the wrapper in a bowl till everything is well incorporated. Take the wonton wrappers and place the mixture in the center of each wrapper. Apply little water to the edges as a glue. You can fold them any shape you like. I went for a simple triangle. Make sure there is no air inside and that they are well sealed.

For the Soup:

6 cups low sodium chicken stock
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 cup baby spinach, washed
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt to taste
In a large saucepan heat about 1 tablespoon of oil and toss in the ginger and garlic. Add the broth, soy sauce,  lime juice and salt and simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Add the wontons and spinach and cook for about 5 minutes.Drizzle the sesame oil and serve hot!!!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

spicy tapioca (sabudana khichdi)

Tapioca (Sabudana) was one of my favorite things in the whole world. I said 'was' only because even if I have made the dish a hundred times, it is never quite as yummy as my grandma's. She made the best khichdi I have ever tasted. She would have it ready for me, nice and steamy  when I got back from school the day I had extra tough classes. It was one food I ate when I wasn't even hungry and the only food when I was sick (other than chocolate).

It still is my go to comfort dish. Unfortunately, it requires the tapioca to be washed and soaked overnight, so it needs a little do ahead prep time. Which means I need to know today that I want to eat it tomorrow. Doesn't always work out, but when it does it is the best feeling in the world.One bite and it takes me to my childhood. It still doesn't taste like how my grandma made it, but it is pretty darn close (I think she sneaked in twice as much oil to fatten me up - her one goal in life)

Spicy Tapioca (Sabudana Khichdi)
Khichdi actually means combination of ingredients. In this case tapioca with peanuts and cumin. It is an acquired taste, but worth a try at least once. Now the key to making this dish is the soaking of the tapioca. One wrong move and it can turn into a nasty old lumpy goo. It needs at least 8 hours of soaking. So plan accordingly.

1 cup tapioca (sabudana or sago pearls)
1/2  cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped coarsely
2 green chilies sliced
2 tablespoon oil
1/2  teaspoon cumin seeds
4-5 kari leaves (you can omit these if you don't have them handy)
1 small potato, boiled and chopped into small cubes (you can also microwave it till the potato is soft)
1 tablespoon sugar
salt to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro for garnish

Wash the tapioca very gently for not more than 15-20 seconds. (do not scrub, be very gentle) Drain that water and add just enough water to barely soak the tapioca (water and tapioca level should be equal). Allow to soak for 8 hours.

In about 8 hours run your fingers through the tapioca to loosen them up. At this point they should look translucent and swollen. Fold in sugar, salt, and peanuts into it.

In a medium saucepan heat oil and add cumin. Allow to brown slightly and add chillies and kari leaves. Toss for a few seconds. Stir in the potatoes for a few minutes. Add the tapioca-peanut mixture and stir well. Keep stirring for 8-10 minutes. The color of tapioca will slowly change to light brown. Turn of the heat and let stand for a couple of minutes.

Garnish with Cilantro and serve hot!!! You can either serve just plain or you can add either a teaspoon or so of lemon juice or 2-3 tablespoons of yogurt. Any way you have it, it is delicious.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

saffron and pistachio ice cream (without machine)

Summer is absolutely here, the heat is going crazy. Temperatures were flirting around 3 figures before cooling off slightly. And with the heat in the suicidal range, nothing else comes to mind except icecream. And not just any favorite since childhood, saffron and pistachio ice cream.  As a kid I could eat any ice cream as a meal (I still can, I think), but this was my favorite, with butterscotch a close second. My grandma always stacked these in the freezer as a bribe and it worked quite well. "If you finish you homework by 6pm, I will give you some ice cream'. It was done before 5. The motivation was immense. 

With lack of my favorite flavors in the supermarkets, I had to take things in my own hands. And boy did I ever...with this fantastic 3 ingredient (few more for flavors), no ice cream maker needed deliciously creamy Ice cream. Ya heard!

I came across this recipe on Kevin & Amanda's lovely site. I have been looking for easy to make ice-cream without the maker for so long. This is so delicious, you wouldn't believe it was done within 5 minutes. It was even more delicious than I, creamy, just divine. Next time I might get a bit more adventurous and add some fruit, like papaya with pine nuts. Yum!!

Saffron and Pistachio Ice-Cream
Adapted from Kevin & Amanda

2 cups Heavy Cream
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Saffron strands
handful of pistachio, shelled and broken into tiny pieces
small pinch of cardamom powder (optional)

Reserve 2 tablespoons of heavy cream in a small bowl and add the saffron strands. Let this stand for 10-15 minutes till the cream turns the color of saffron.

In a large bowl whip the heavy cream till stiff peaks. Add condensed milk, vanilla extract,  cardamom powder, saffron cream and pistachios. Stir well till everything is mixed thoroughly

Pour in a covered container and freeze for 5-6 hours or till firm. Store the left overs if any, in the freezer.
How easy is that!!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

pea and crab salad

Mark Bittman is my hero (well, sort of). He boasts of cooking in a tiny kitchen, just like I do. Except, he own a condo in New York with a great view, a big freaking terrace with a large freaking grill. Nevertheless, he is a wonderful chef and writer, and I love his column in the New York Times. That's where I came across this scrumptious looking pea and crab salad. Now I am not much of a pea fan, especially in salads. But I am a big enough crab fan to give this salad a try. That being said, the salad was divine, peas and all. 

If I haven't said this enough on my blog, I love summers, but hate the heat. And that in turn  means I keep the cooking on absolutely necessary basis. So here is another salad recipe from me. I promise they will slowly disappear as fall and winter approach. But for now, here is a delicious salad that you will love. I served it with some simple baked fingerling potatoes and got myself a satisfying meal.

Pea and crab salad
Adapted from Mark Bittman
I have used frozen peas instead of fresh ones. Shelling peas is not labor of love for me, it's just labor. And it helps me skip the process of poaching them. But you can use fresh peas as recommended in the original recipe.

11/2 cups frozen peas, thawed (about 1 bag)
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped finely
1 cup fresh cooked crabmeat (you can use shrimp instead as well)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Handful of pine nuts
Freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon
Shredded basil for garnish
Salt and ground black pepper per taste

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients and add some salt and pepper. Garnish with Basil and serve!!!

Baked fingerling potatoes

1 bag of fingerling potatoes (about 20 potatoes)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
few leaves of rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven (I used my toaster oven) at 400 degrees. Mix everything and lay on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or till the potatoes are fork tender and serve.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

mango chutney in minutes

Month of May was one of my favorite times of the year. Other than the nasty heat, everything about it was great. It was the month when our summer vacation started, it was also the month before the monsoon started (my other favorite time of the year) and it was when the ever so beautiful Mayflower (Gulmohar) tree blossomed. But the most important reason was that it brought the mighty Alphonso mango in season. They don't call the Alphonso the king of fruits for no reason. You really have to taste it to believe. 

As soon as vacations started I would perch on my bed staring out the window that framed a gorgeous Mayflower tree fully bloomed with the blazing red flowers, a book in one hand and fork in the other. The fork was usually to pick the beautiful orange colored mango pieces in my bowl. A whole month of things I loved, what could be better? As soon as June arrived, the rains would erase the flowers from that tree slowly till it was almost naked. It was the start of monsoon!! Sadly the end of both Mayflower as well as the Mango. But it also meant corn was in season and the school was about to start in a week. What wonderful memories!!!

Here in L.A., I miss everything, the flowers, the mango and the rains. But just this last weekend I found some lovely looking Mexican Mangoes on sale. They taste nothing like the Alphonso, but they'll do just fine for now. In the process of letting it sit to ripen, I ended up waiting too long. Last night I found the once lovely mango start to shrivel. I had to do something. It's not fun eating an over ripe chutney came to mind. I have always wanted to try some mango chutney for a while, but never got to it. Now was my chance. It is by far the simplest recipe I have ever made. All you need is a mango, some sugar, and a microwave. You can then get fancy and add whatever spices you like. Yummy beyond words!!!

Mango Chutney in minutes
Adapted from Saffron Trail
Make sure you don't over-microwave it. The mango should not burn or turn to mush. So adjust the heating time accordingly. I believe this kind of chutney might be possible with many other fruits too, like pineapple, may be even tomatoes. If you try, do let me know how it turns out.

1 ripe mango, cut into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon of brown sugar (or jaggery if you have some) (adjust the sugar to your taste)
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of cardamom power (optional)
small pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix everything and microwave on on high for about 6-7 minutes. Make sure to stir it 2-3 times in between.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

egg curry

Since I made the spicy egg salad sandwich a few days back, my husband has been secretly craving for the egg curry he loves. After hoping against hope he finally gave up on me and made some himself last night. Boy was it delicious!! And the best part...I got to be a couch potato for the night. With our daughter fast asleep, and my husband busy in the kitchen, I parked myself on our lumpy couch and nibbled on plantain chips while watching something brainless on the tv. The joy of doing nothing is just so wonderful.

Giving credit where it's due...

Egg Curry
Recipe by my husband adapted from vahrevah

5 eggs, boiled, shelled and halved
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon red chili powder 
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves 
4-5 kari leaves
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
pinch of turmeric powder
tamarind juice (soak a teaspoon of tamarind pulp in about 100ml warm water for 10-15 minutes) (you could substitute this for lemon juice, only and only if you looked hard and didn't find tamarind)
1 green chili, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
salt per taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan and add mustard seeds. Let them splutter. Add cumin, chilies, fenugreek leaves and kari leaves to the oil. Stir for about a minute and add chopped onions and stir till they start browning.
Now add ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder and cumin powder and mix well. Saute the mix for about 5-6 minutes.

Add the tamarind extract and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add salt and sugar and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the boiled eggs and let it cook in the gravy till the curry thickens slightly, about 3-4 minutes.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot over steamed rice.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

spiced egg salad sandwich with avocado

I can't say I am big egg fan. I really have to crave for them to make something out of them. My husband on the other hand loves them. So when he saw me crave for some eggs yesterday, he looked excited. I usually make his favorite egg curry or simply a yummy omelet. But I was feeling adventurous this time. It kind of upset him, but if I was eating eggs, they had to be absolutely delicious. 

I wouldn't eat an egg salad sandwich if you paid me to do it. (Well, if it involves 6 digit figures then it's a different story). But I wasn't feeling like making a curry in this scorching heat and omelet was just too simple. So I decided to Indianize the infamous egg salad sandwich. And I can't complain about the outcome. Simple ingredients, easy and quick...a bonus point was it was healthy too. Eliminating the mayo was probably why I liked it so much. 

spiced egg salad sandwich with avocado

4 hard boiled eggs, chopped fine (you can even choose to do egg white only salad)
1 avocado, chopped fine
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 cloves of garlic, finely minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper per taste
handful of baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
6 slices of a hearty bread (I used the 12 grain bread)
butter (optional)

In a large bowl add the first 7 ingredients and mix really well. The avocado will work as the mayo in this sandwich.

Toast your bread lightly and apply some butter. Put on a generous heap of the mix. Top with cheese, spinach and the second slice of bread. You can also grill the sandwich for the melted cheese effect.

Friday, July 22, 2011

garbanzo bean and zucchini salad

There are days when I feel blessed to live in Los Angeles. While rest of the country is burning up in 3 digit heat, we are enjoying the summer at 80 degrees here. But like most people in Los Angeles, including yours truly, have a way of complaining about everything...even the 80 degree weather. As I was extending my grumbling to my co-workers hoping for some empathy, almost all of them had the same reaction. "Aren't you from India? You should be used to this". Kind of pissed me off a little bit. Sadly it's true. From where I come from, you have just 2 seasons, hot and hotter with a few months of rain thrown in for good measure.

Coming back to the Los Angeles weather ...preparing a hot curry was beyond my scope of energy. I wanted something fresh, light, hearty and that which involved keeping my cooktop and oven turned off. Just last week I saw Giada prepare this beautiful summer salad. It looked delicious and I always love me some Giada in my kitchen. To my happy surprise I had all the ingredients that were needed, except for the lettuce, so I used Spinach instead. It is gorgeous light salad perfect for a scorching summer day.


garbanzo bean and zucchini salad
The recipe called for 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. This much quantity in my salad kind of scares me. So reduced it a little bit to 2 tablespoons and still loved the salad. You can use whatever quantity suits your fancy. But make sure it a good quality oil.

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 can garbanzo beans, washed and drained
2 medium zucchini, diced into small pieces
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 cups of baby spinach, wash and dried
2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese

For the Vinaigrette:
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper until combined.

For the Salad: 
In a large bowl place garbanzo beans, zucchini, corn, red onion, and spinach. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss well. Top with the parmesan cheese and serve.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

delicious quinoa

One thing I love about getting back to work after a lovely 4 month break is the lunch time. We have a small little kitchen where about 10 of us gather and chat about food, people and general stuff. But mostly about food. This is where I was introduced to the little grain called quinoa only a few months back. For a few seconds I thought cous-cous had grown a little transparent tail. On tasting, it was nothing like cous-cous. It took me a while to develop a taste for quinoa, but now that I have, I make it at least ones a week. It is easy, delicious and healthy. And like rice, you can make a whole lot in a matter of few minutes.

Like most Indians, I own a pressure cooker and making quinoa is as easy as making rice. I can see most of you are going..."What??? no food processor, but you own a pressure cooker?" In my defense, I have inherited it...from my husband. He carried it with him when he came here from India. And it is super useful and easy enough to use. If you don't have the cooker, simply follow the instructions on the side of the box. I used the white kind, but I gather there are many more types of quinoa.

delicious quinoa

1 cup cooked quinoa (I used 1 cup quinoa with 1 1/2 cups water)
1/2 cup zucchini and carrots (any available veggies are fine)
handful of cashew nuts
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
3-4 kari leaves (optional, but gives a great taste)
1 green chili, halved
2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon sugar
salt per taste
cilantro for garnish

In a deep saucepan heat oil and add the mustard seeds. Allow to splutter and then add ginger, chili , cashew nuts and kari leaves.

Chop zucchini and carrots into small bite sized pieces. Add these into the saucepan and cook till carrots soften. Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork and add to the saucepan along with salt and sugar and stir till everything has mixed well.

Garnish with cilantro and enjoy hot!!! Squeeze some lemon for even better tasting deliciousness.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Semolina Halwa

If there are indeed marriages made in heaven, then Saffron and Cardamom should be somewhere on the top of the list. The combination is absolutely divine. My quinessetial comfort food...the delightful semolina halwa has both. It is usually served either for breakfast or along with afternoon chai or even dessert, but I could squeeze it in my lunch too.

As a kid my grandma would tell me the so called benefits of fats, especially of the clarified butter. Fats and sugar, good for you...spices, not so much. She was such a trooper. How she loved to feed me. I would take her word for it and happily gobble down 2 bowlfuls. July 10th was her birthday and she would have been 84 years old this year. This, I made for her...happy birthday ajji!!! I miss you dearly.

Semolina Halwa

1 cup semolina (cream of wheat works great too)
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp clarified butter or ghee (regular butter will work to, but taste might change slightly)
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
handful of raisins
handful of cashew nut pieces, toasted
3-4 cardamom seeds, crushed (you can use cardamom powder as well)
pinch of saffron (soaked in 1/4 cup of slightly warm water or milk for about 10 minutes)
1/8 teaspoon salt

In a skillet on medium high, toast the semolina in ghee till it just starts to change color. Remove from heat immediately to avoid burning. This should take about 5-6 minutes. Add salt to the toasted semolina

In a large saucepan add the milk and sugar and heat till the milk just begins to boil. Add the saffron soaked milk/water along with the saffron strands and steep for a couple of minutes. Slowly whisk in the toasted semolina. Make sure it is lump free. Reduce the heat to low and add cashew nuts, cardamom and raisins and stir to combine well. The halwa will slowly star tto thicken. Cover and simmer for 4-5 minutes. 

Serve hot and enjoy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

black eyed peas curry

Life moved on even though the mighty 405 freeway was closed down. For most people in L.A. life revolves around this freeway. And to close it down for the whole weekend called for an emergency situation called 'Carmageddon'. Like most we planned our weekend either in or within 1 mile radius of our home. And I finally got to the ever so delicious blackeyed peas curry I was craving for. This recipe is so versatile it is ridiculous. I have used it for all sorts of beans, peas, cauliflower, heck it even makes a delicious Mussels Curry. As you can see I am a sucker for versatile curries that use everyday ingredients.

So if you are intimidated by Indian cooking, this is a great place for you to start. This recipe does not use any of the 'Indian' spices so to speak. I wasn't quite fond of black eyed peas till I reluctantly tried this recipe. And I was hooked. So I definitely urge you to give it a shot.

Black Eyed Peas Curry

1 frozen bag of frozen Black eyed peas (you can also used canned) (or any kind of beans you have on hand)
3 cups water
2 teaspoons oil (I use Canola)
1 finely chopped onion
1 finely chopped tomato
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped (add more if you like)
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional)
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (you can vary the quantity depending on how brave you feel that day)
3 teaspoons of grated fresh coconut (you can use frozen) (if you ca't find either coconut milk is ok too)
juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons Cilantro for garnish

Wash and drain the black eyed peas. In a large saucepan heat oil over medium flame. Add finely chopped garlic and ginger and fry for a few seconds (do not let them turn brown). Add onion and fry till slightly brown, about 2-3 minutes

Add tomatoes and cayenne pepper. Stir and cover the pan. Allow to cook for additional 2-3 minutes till tomatoes become mushy.

Add the BEP, coconut and water and mix well. Simmer till the peas beacome super soft and are cooked through. About 20-25mins. If the curry seems very water, mash some of the peas with a masher. OR if the curry seems dry, simply add more water. Add salt to taste and Cilantro. Squeeze in then lemon juice for the yummy tang.
Serve hot with rice!!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

tomato watermelon salsa

Adventure was the name of the game yesterday. Glad I didn't get shot all for the sake of some copper wire on the roof of our office building. Just so you know, LAPD will send about 25 cops including detectives, K9 units, 2 helicopters, the fire department, three news stations, blockade an entire block, and evacuate almost 100 people if they see you trying to steal copper wires. So in the end from the 3 meth-heads stuck on a roof stealing copper pipe, they only caught one.

After a 5 hour stand-in-the-sun ordeal, I really had no strength to dive into making the delicious black eyed pea curry I have been craving for. It wasn't meant to be. Although I can't complain about the salsa I made instead. A fresh summer worthy salsa of tomatoes and watermelon. Red tomatoes, red watermelon and some red onions...what's not to like...and add to it some green mint and green lemon juice. Out of control good! Add to that a no effort, no cooking required kind of a dish. I paired it with some chicken quesadillas to die for (that's another post)

Tomato Watermelon Salsa

1 cup diced watermelon (about 1/4inch)
1 cup seeded, diced tomatoes (also 1/4 inch)
1/4 cup sliced chopped red onion
2 teaspoons wash, dried and chopped mint
1 teaspoon sugar
1 chopped chili (I used Jalapeno)
1/2 lime
salt and pepper

Mix the first 5 ingredients and squeeze the lime. Add salt and pepper per taste and mix well. Chill for a wonderful crunchy salsa.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

masala chai

I know I know, it's been more than a week and I have yet to post a recipe with cardamom in it. So much for being a cardamom junkie (thank you for reminding me Nam) So here is this recipe, if you can even call it that. Chai is something every Indian knows how to make. I think the recipe is embedded in our DNA from birth. It was certainly the very first thing I knew how to make.

Chai in India is a generic term for tea. Loose tea leaves boiled and then enjoyed with sugar and milk. So for me 'chai tea latte' makes no sense...chai, which means tea to begin with, already has latte in it, hello!!! Anyway, coming back to Indian chai...there are many ways to enhance the already divine flavors, like by adding certain spices. And by certain, I mean Cardamom. I love love the flavor of cardamom in my tea and to that add a few cloves, cinnamon and slices of fresh ginger for refreshingly yummy beverage.

We enjoy chai only on the weekends along with some delicious Indian cookies. It's our weekend treat. Sipping on a cup of chai watching the world go by is (was before the baby arrived) our favorite way of spending a Saturday morning. Ahh! the small things in life that bring joy.

Masala Chai
This is a combination of spices I love in my tea. But you can vary the quantity or omit any spice you want, or rather don't want. Lots of people use dry ginger powder rather than fresh ginger. But it is too strong a flavor for me. But if you like the gingery taste, you can use ground ginger instead. I also do not include any black pepper, ground or whole. It ruins the taste of chai for me. But again, if you like it go ahead.
Makes 2 cups.

2 teaspoons loose leaf black tea
2 whole cloves
4 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger root
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups of water
1/2 cup milk (I use whole milk for chai)
2 teaspoons sugar (you can vary per your liking)

Using mortar and pestle whack the spices a few times. You don't have to mash them into a powder form. In a saucepan add water, tea and spices and bring to boil. Remove the pan from heat, put on a lid and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes

In a different pan bring the milk to boil (you can also microwave it for a few minutes) and add to the steeping tea. Add sugar and stir. Allow to steep for another 2-3 minutes. Strain the tea into cups or a teapot and enjoy.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Spaghetti with pistachio-pine nut pesto

Do you have days when you are beyond exhausted but crave for something so specific that you just have to cook it? Well, I do and last night was one of those days. Deadline at work, a hungry baby at home and a growling tummy asking for pesto. It didn't end there though. I realized I was out of pine nuts and basil and pasta. So I stopped at a Trader Joe's on the way from work just to pick those up and while I was at it, grabbed a bag of pistachios. They seemed like a good addition to the pesto.

I came home to a well fed and a happy baby, which gave me enough time to put the spaghetti in boiling water and stuff the blender with pesto ingredients. The outcome of the combination was great and faster than expected. I even had enough for me to take some to work today.

Spaghetti with Pistachio-Pine Nut Pesto

12oz dried whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 cup mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

For Pesto:
1 bunch of fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
2 cloves of garlic
handful of dry roasted pine nuts
handful of roasted pistachios (unsalted)
few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + few more for mushrooms
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pesto: Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a blender (or a food processor if you have one) and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add olive oil and pulse till smooth.

Pasta:  In a large saucepan heat oil and saute mushrooms till tender. Salt the mushrooms and pesto. Stir till warm. 

In a large pot cook your spaghetti till al dente. Pour the drained spaghetti to the pot and toss till it is covered with pesto. Add a splash of pasta water to get things moving a bit. Cook for a minute or so and add salt and pepper per taste. Add a sprinky-dink of parmesan cheese on top and garnish with some fresh basil.
Serve with some nice hearty bread, toasted.
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