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.

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