Rajma, Daal, and Rice

Rajma is one of my favourite comfort foods. Its a great dish that gets better over a few days too!
I made this dinner of rajma, daal, rice, raitha, and roti's (I am determined to conquer rotis, right now they are no good). And here are the leftovers that I enjoyed later on. The toor daal is one of my favourites as I invariably have frozen toor daal kept for sambar and rasam, it can be whipped up very quickly with that. But I find that my south indian loving family members are not huge fans of the sweetness that comes from the jaggery. I like it, but i am very careful when adding the sweetness. Last time I over did it and I got a lot of 'comments' about it.

I find that the kidney beans need to be pressure cooked a LOT. Any tips and advice from you all out there on making sure they turn out nice and soft?

2 cups kidney beans soaked overnight, 1 large tomato chopped,1 onion diced, 1 tbsp garam masala, 1 tbsp coriander powder, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp turmeric, handful of chopped cilantro, 1 large green chili minced, 1 tbsp of minced ginger

1. Drain the kidney beans, then pressure cook them covered in a good amount of water with half the tomato and onion and turmeric and the bay leaf on high for 5 whistles, and then reduce the heat and cook for another 20 minutes.
2. Saute the onions in oil, add the chili and ginger and cook. Add the tomato and cook until it releases some water.
3. Add the coriander powder, and mix. Add the kidney bean mixture and simmer on the heat until it gives off a nice aroma. Add salt.
4. Add the garam masala and mix in, add the cilantro as a garnish.

If you want this to be hotter you could add a dried red chili while pressure cooking, or a tsp of chili powder when adding the coriander powder. Also adjust the quantity of masala powder by tasting. My mom also grinds up cashews or almonds and adds that to thicken it even more.

Toor Daal
1 cup toor daal pressure cooked in water, a pinch of asafetida, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 dried red chili, half a lemon, 1/2 tsp of jaggery, cilantro to garnish

1. Splutter the cumin seeds in oil, add the chili and asafetida.
2. Add the toor daal, and mix. Add the jaggery, and a few squeezes of lemon. Add salt.
3. Garnish with chopped cilantro

Peas Pulav recipe from a previous post.

Peanut Butter & Banana

I was watching Paula Deen, Queen of fattening food, on FoodTV the other day while I was at the gym. I have this sickening habit of watching FoodTV while I'm on the elliptical or the treadmill. Its sick I know, but I still do it. Mainly because I do not have cable at home, and thus must fill the craving for watching my shows. My dad canceled the channel at home in Toronto and my sister was so upset. He only watches CNN and movies. Oh yeah, and Reba. So she finally reinstated it this weekend when I visited! (Poor dad, she canceled movies on him, but he says he will be more productive as a result.) I got my fill, and my mom was so cute, saying 'Oh, it's nice to see our old friends'. Disclaimer: we do not stalk people on FoodTV.

Back to Queen Fatty, and yes one of her comfort foods was PBnB sandwiches. FRIED IN BUTTER, need I say more. I made a less fatty version. Only a little butter. It certainly filled the afternoon craving for something sweet with my tea.

Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches
2 slices of bread, 1 tbsp peanut butter, 1/2 large banana sliced, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp butter

1. Place the butter on a hot griddle, and swirl it around.
2. Spread peanut butter on one piece of the bread.
3. Toast the bread slices on the griddle, put the banana slices on top of the peanut butter.
4. Drizzle honey on top of the banana and close the sandwich. Cut it in half.


TorontoBrothers.com launched!
March 1, 2007

My friends Ashwin and Rohin Iyer are talented Carnatic Musicians. They have awesome stage personalities, and really move an audience. They are very cute too (and single ladies!). I happen to know these two from back in my days of undergrad at UofToronto Engineering where we tried to escape doing as much schoolwork as possible. Shankar and I were very lucky to have them as MC's for our wedding reception along with our friend Karthik Venkataraman (another talented musician). I saw them perform last year at the Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana and they were fantastic! The boys have just launched their new website, definitely worth checking out, and you can listen to their music on it as well. Here is an excerpt from their site:

Why 'Toronto Brothers'?

Ashwin Iyer and Rohin Iyer were born three years apart in Bombay (Mumbai), India and immigrated to Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1982 with their parents. They have been proud Canadians ever since, and have formed a deep connection to the city of Toronto.

They were formally introduced to Carnatic music in 1989 when they began taking lessons under Toronto-based teachers, and participated regularly in annual music festivals such as the Toronto Thyagaraja Aradhana. The name “Toronto Brothers” was affectionately coined by their illustrious gurus in the 1990s and seems to have stuck to this day.

Connecting With The Community

Ashwin Iyer and Rohin Iyer are actively involved in the Toronto community, not only as musicians, but also through various volunteer efforts.

The brothers are longstanding youth members of Bharathi Kala Manram of Canada, a registered non-profit cultural organization.

Classical Music For A Cause

Ashwin and Rohin have also participated in fundraising programs to help raise money for charities such as the Hospital for Sick Children and Handi-Care International.

In doing so they have occasionally delved into singing "light music" including classically-based Hindi and Tamil film songs. Nonetheless, their foundation and interests lie firmly grounded in the Carnatic classical tradition.

East Meets West

True to their Indo-Canadian roots, the brothers have a deep sense of pride in both Canadian and Indian culture. They are collaborating with several Toronto-based artists and are interested in touring several cities across Eastern and Western Canada as well as the US to promote their music to a wider audience.

For concert bookings, please contact them.

Mexican Salad

I love this salad.

Mexican Salad
1 black bean veggie burger, 1/2 can of low-fat vegetarian refried beans, shredded romaine lettuce (1/2 large heart), 1 handful chopped cilantro, 1/2 jalapeno pepper sliced or diced, 1 tomato diced, 1/4 small red onion diced, 1 green onion chopped, shredded mexican blend cheese

1. Microwave the frozen burger for 30 sec to a minute depending on your microwave. Grill it nicely. Its ok if it gets black spots. Chop it up into bite size pieces.
2. Microwave the refried beans.
3. Layer the burger, refried beans, lettuce, cilantro, tomato, red onion, green onion, jalapeno, and cheese.
4. Mix it up and enjoy.

This is a really low fat salad. You can totally omit the cheese and it will still be incredibly good. I love the crunchy lettuce with the burger, and the refried beans add a really nice flavour. Shankar and I ended up eating this one day when we made tacos, and our taco kit only had 4 little tacos in it. We basically mixed up all the remaining ingredients and it turned into a salad. It was his idea to put the burger in the taco.

Semi-Homemade Samosas

I was recently watching some show on FoodTV where all the food is 'semi-homemade' (At least she admits it, I have to give her that!). It seems to be the new trend of that channel. I actually really enjoyed watching chefs who prepared food with skill, and who used cooking techniques. Regardless of whether I prepare their dishes or not, I certainly do incorporate a lot of the techniques I learned watching them. I'm so sick of watching people with shows, making cakes and cookies out of box mixes and claiming it as their own 'recipes'. Anyways, my experiment with semi-homemade samosas made me think of these shows.

We had leftover egg noodle wraps from the spring rolls at our dinner party, and they had to be used within a week according to the package. So a few days later I decided to make Samosas, it also happened to be Holi that day. Shankar came home from school and told me about the Indian snacks that were organized by the Indian Business Students association which gave me a hankering for these goodies.

They were super easy to make, and I can claim some 'homemade' on part of it. This recipe makes 6 samosas.

6 egg noodle wrappers, 2 medium potatoes boiled and diced, 2 small dried red chillies or 1 large, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp anardhana (dried pomegranate) seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, salt, oil, 1-2 tbsp peas

1. Grind the chilis, coriander seeds, and anardhana in a mortar and pestle. It doesn't have to be super fine and can be a little coarse.
2. Fry the cumin seeds in oil until it froths, add the ground ingredients.
3. Add the peas (I usually keep frozen peas on hand).
4. Add salt, potatoes and mix thoroughly. Let the potatoes roast a little bit and then take them off the heat.
5. Place an egg roll wrapper on your board, and brush water on all four edges. Place a tbsp of the potato mixture in one corner and then fold the other corner over and seal. You will make a triangular shape like this.
6. Shallow fry it on both sides in some oil. You don't need to deep fry them. Just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan is fine.

The great thing about this recipe was that I made one or two samosas to try it out, and then put away the filling. Later that evening we had some friends drop by, and it only took me a few minutes to fry up a batch of samosas. You can try so many different kinds of fillings, this seems to be a typical filling for Punjabi samosas. I also like kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) , or cilantro for additional flavor. Serve them with tamarind sauce, and additionally the coriander/mint chutney. You can make these at home, but honestly I buy them in jars from the Indian store and keep them on hand. I usually find that I need to dilute them with a bit of water. Frozen samosas fried up are a favourite at parties we have with our Business School friends, but I find these use less oil, but still taste good!

: Shankar was not so impressed with the crust, claiming it was nowhere near the authentic crust. It isn't I agree, but I liked the variation. His friends who came over DEVOURED the samosas. I mean they were really a hit, and one friend didn't even get any because he wasn't fast enough. So, if you like the sound of this try it out and let me know how your family enjoys them!

Karadaiyan Nombu

Karadaiyan Nombu is a festival celebrated by South Indian married women in Tamil Nadu. North Indian women have a similar festival called Karva Chauth. The premise is that married women pray to never be separated from their husbands. The story of Savithri's devotion to her husband Sathyavan is remembered that day, you can read about it here. I have a younger sister named Savithri, so we were quite familiar with it growing up, and we loved reading the romantic story in the Amar Chitra Katha comic books.

For Karadaiyan Nombu, I called up my dear M-in-law to find out what exactly I was supposed to do. I took down notes and emailed them to her to double check. I never claimed to be a big Thamizh Pullavar, I can barely speak the language but what ensued had my M-in-law in stitches.

Nombu Notes:
1. Wash your hair, and wear a madisaar (nine yards saree).
2. Do not eat leftovers.
3. Make both sweet and savory Adai/Kozhakattai.
4. Make a kolam in front of swami.
5. Place the manja charadu (yellow string), fruits, and butter in front of swami.
6. Tie the first charadu on Devi, with flowers or fresh manjal.
7. Tie the second one on yourself, and repeat:
"Urukaatha venaiyum, Oradaiyum, naan noothEn, Orukaalum yen kanavan thiriyavendam".
8. Serve the Kozhakattai as neiveythiyam to god.
9. Do a namaskaram for Shankar, and give the neiveythiyam to shankar.

Wednesday evening b/w 7:30 - 9:30.

Well, the joke was in line 7. where the Thamizh saying is supposed to be: "Non-melted butter, an adai, I place in front of you, at anytime my husband should not be parted from me (Piriyavendam)." Instead I have written for the last part: "At anytime, my husband should not be out roaming around! (Thiriyavendam!!)".

Here is a Thamizh version: "உருகாத வெண்ணையும் ஓர் அடையும் வைத்தேன், ஒரு காலும் என் கணவர் என்னைவிட்டு பிரியாமல் இருக்க வேண்டும்". ( O Lord. I pray that my husband leads a long life and stays with me forever.) It is almost the same as what my M-in-law mailed me.

Luckily for me my mother was visiting from Toronto, so the two of us had the laptop open and diligently followed the instructions. Also my organized mother made sure to bring soaked black eyed peas with her, and also manjal. The adai turned out nicely thanks to my mom, and we did our puja together. Luckily for me my hubby is such a sweet fellow, and he made us a delicious lemon rasam for dinner which we served up with beans curry, and a green pepper mushroom curry that my dad made! So the women were praying, and the men did the cooking! A nice modern twist on Karadaiyan Nombu. If one had to compare Shankar and I cooking nice dishes for our respective in-laws I do think my folks got the better end of the deal! Below are the recipes straight from Chennai courtesy of my mamiyar.

Adai/Kozhakattai Sweet Version
1 cup rice flour, 1 cup jaggery, 2tsp black eye beans soaked overnight, 2 tbsp coconut pieces, cardamom powder

1. Dry roast the flour till it is slightly off white in colour (when you try putting kolam with it the flour should be flow easily ....in the sense that the line should continuous!)
2. Boil 2 cups of water with the jaggery, black eyed beans & coconut bits, & cardamom powder. Once the jaggery has melted completely add the flour. Reduce the heat & mix & cook till the water is gone.
3. Let it cool for some time so that you can roll it without getting blisters. Roll them into balls, flatten them and make a hole in the middle.
4. Steam them in an idly steamer for 10 minutes or so.

Adai/Kozhakattai Savory Version
1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 green chili, 1tsp minced ginger, a few curry leaves, 1 tbsp coconut bits, 2 tsp black eyed peas, 1 cup rice flour

1. Splutter mustard seeds, add green chillies & ginger, curry leaves, coconut bits and the black eyed beans.
2. Add 2 cups water, salt.
3. When the water starts boiling add the flour and continue as you would in the previous recipe.

Verdict: I don't think the men were really all that into the Adai's that we made for them but Mom and I certainly enjoyed them! Shankar's rasam was the hit of the night, and his secret ingredient was to add a stalk of lemongrass that was left in our fridge from the Thai cooking.

Idly (Uppuma)

As you all have read last weekend my f-in-law came over from India and I was busy making tiffin dabbas and the likes trying to impress him. Well, any inroads I made with the vatral kuzhambu were completely destroyed with my idlies the next day. Following my Dad's recipe I soaked the rice and urad, unfortunately I did not have parboiled rice. I ground them separately, mixed and let it rise, but I think because the weather wasn't really warm it didn't rise very well. To make a long story short the idlies were hard as BRICKS! I did receive feedback from my dear hubby that they were the worst idlies he had ever eaten. I felt bad, being the daughter of a master idly maker and all! But the sambar was pretty good if I do say so myself, and chutney! Now every person I meet has a new variation to tell me about how to make idlies, the ratio and the rising, and the brand of rice! Well, bring on the advice. Let's hear it. BTW, I did put it in the oven on warm for the whole day and it still only rose like 1cm. I guess I should not have attempted the idlies, but at least I have learned my lesson to always have a back up to them! ha.
We had some friends staying over with us as well, and luckily our Aunty who was here fixed up my idlies and transformed them into idly uppuma!! She gave me the suggestion to grate the idlies, yes folks they were THAT hard. Then she spluttered mustard seeds with channa daal, curry leaves and asafetida in a good amount of sesame oil. She added chili powder, turmeric and the grated idlies, and then mixed in a good amount of idly-milagaipodi and salt.

It tasted so good. I mean we all ate the left overs for days. You would never have know they had started out as such bricks. Its a good lesson that these Aunty's, Mother's and M-in-law's practice, they never waste any food!

Verdict: My dear f-in-law was so sweet and ate my rock hard idlies. He told me that idlies are hard to make, and so I should keep trying. Also he gave me extra compliments on the vatral kuzhambu to make me feel better! Hubby ended up warming the leftovers in the evening and eating them. My parents came over the next day and my father and mother loved the idly uppuma and we finished it off. Not one idly was wasted!

Cook Smarter

It's been a busy weekend, but still full of cooking. When I get a few moments, I will be writing all about my latest idly fiasco. In the mean time, if you get a chance you can check out some of my writing on The Well Fed Network, under their 'Cook Smarter' Section.

The website is www.cooksmarter.net, and my first article is titled Down South...India.

I will be posting some of MarriedtoaDesi's content, and some newer content.

Happy Cooking Everyone!


Appa's Tiffin Dabba

UPDATE: This is my entry for The Daily Tiffin's Show me your Lunchbox

The other night I got a phone call from my in-laws about my F-in-law's trip to the US from Madras this weekend. He planned to stop in Detroit en route to California to drop off some stuff with us. I did get the instructions from my M-in-law to take some food for him as he would be just getting off an 18 hr flight, and having to go on another 5 hr journey, needless to say even if she hadn't said this I would have done it. But the funny part is our dear VKV Mama, who is staying with my in-laws in India requested me to make sure I put whatever I made for Appa on the blog so they could see too. Well, this posed quite a challenge for me, and I hope I have risen up to it!

In making my own version of the classic Indian tiffan dabba I decided to take a queue from Jen's beautiful Vegan Lunchboxes, and try a bento box style. Being Indian, I have a tonne of tupperware lying around so I used a nice flat rectangular box as the base and filled it up with a few smaller boxes, and juice containers. My m-in-law had recommended I make rotis, but I decided that something hot in a thermos might be good after such a long trip. The bento boxes really remind me of how they serve the food to you on the airplanes, so I guess the theme was quite apropos. I wasn't sure what Appa would feel like eating so I decided to make a little bit of a few different items and then he could choose from them.

Appa's Tiffan Dabba
vatral kuzhambu sadham with more keerai, yogurt rice with mango pickle, carrot and pomegranate salad, roti and methi potato curry, orange and cranberry juice

Vatral Kuzhambu Powder
Equal quantities of toor daal, urad daal, channa daal, and a few whole black peppercorns (I recommend 1 tbsp of each for a 1 quart pot)

1. Roast all the ingredients except the last, and then grind them.

Vatral Kuzhambu
1 tsp mustard seeds, 2 tsp toor daal, 1 tsp urad daal, 1 tsp channa daal, 1 tbsp dried wonderberries (manathakkali), 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, a pinch of asafetida, a few curry leaves, 1 cup tamarind juice (make using 2"ball of tamarind), 1 cup water (guideline), 2 tbsp of the vatral kuzhambu powder, 2 tsp red chili powder, salt

1. Splutter the mustard seeds in sesame oil, add the toor daal, urad daal, fenugreek seeds, asafetida and curry leaves. Roast till they are golden brown.
2. Add the wonderberries, vatral kuzhambu powder, and red chili powder, and mix.
3. Add the tamarind juice, and water.
4. Boil this until it becomes a nice concentrated liquid, and add salt.

Now, I have been told that the vatral kuzhambu podi should be matched with an equal quantity of red chili powder. That was too hot for me, you can adjust to your taste. I like mine to have quite a bit of the vatral kuzhambu podi taste as well. Taste it, smell it, the more you make it the better you will get. This is really just a guideline. I guess it's supposed to be quite hot as people usually mix the sadham with a lot of ghee, but I'm not a fan of using a lot of ghee.

* As I learned from my culinary training at the Sundaram School of Cooking, the classic combo for vatral kuzhambu is more keerai, which is just your standard keerai recipe (spinach with mustard seeds, channa daal, dried red chillies), with the addition of moremilagai! Chillis that have been soaked in buttermilk and salt and dried in the sun, and then deep fried till they are black. Yum, seriously. The recipes are from my dear M-in-law, and we dried the moremilagai's together when she was visiting me this past summer. A friend of ours had wonderberries growing in their garden so we picked them also and dried them in the sun after soaking them in buttermilk and salt, it was very cool.

Methi Potato Curry
2-3 small potatoes diced and boiled, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp turmeric, 2 small green chillies chopped, 1-2 tbsp dried methi, 1 handful of frozen or fresh peas

1. Roast the cumin seeds in oil, and add the turmeric, and green chillies.
2. Add the peas and cook for a few min.
3. Add the potatoes, salt, and methi and mix well.

The Verdict: Appa ate the vetral kuzhmabu first. By the time we sat down it wasn't as hot as I had hoped, but he said it was still warm. At first he started out saying he wasn't sure he could eat all of it, and then after eating and saying it was 'so good' he finished all of it. (score!) Appa ate some of the yogurt rice, drank the orange cranberry juice and then he got full. He didn't want roti's because he had already eaten the ones Amma packed for him from India. Shankar then finished the remaining yogurt rice and 2 roti's, and I ate the last roti. The salad came back home.

Apple Fritter with Fruit Topping

The final item at our little dinner party was a delicious apple fritter topped with a fruit sauce. It was pretty easy to do, and sinfully rich so people ended up sharing plates of it. Well, I think that was also because everyone wanted to try it right away so as soon as Shankar finished plating one up, we would all fall upon it and devour it. If you like butter and apples, you'll like this. I promise. This recipe is from my bro-in-laws repertoire. And yes, he is also a really good cook!

Apple Fritters
1 Golden Delicious apple, 2 tbsp. powdered sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 2 tbsp. melted butter, ½ tsp. salt, 2 tsp. baking powder, 2 tbsp. sugar, ¾ cup milk

1. Peel and core the apple. Slice it into rings ⅛″ thick.
2. Mix the melted butter and the dry ingredients for the batter. Add the milk, stirring until a thick batter forms.
3. Dip each apple-ring into the batter,and fry in butter, flipping once, until golden brown.
4. Transfer the fritter onto a paper towel to blot up any excess oil. Dust with the cinnamon-sugar while still hot.

Fruit Topping
2 cups Frozen Mixed Berry Mix, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp sugar, 1/4 cup honey, lemon zest, 1 tsp grated ginger, 1/2 tsp mace, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, pinch of salt, 1 tbsp butter, 1/2 cup spiced rum (optional)

1. Combine all the ingredients and bring to a simmer on medium heat approx 15-20 minutes.

Shankar served the fritters, dusted with icing sugar, and topped with the fruit sauce.

Verdict: The plates were licked clean.

Thai Green Curry

The second course for our impromptu dinner party last night was a delicious Thai Green Curry, served with rice. This is by far one of the best dishes that my husband makes. It is SO good. I want some more now.

Thai Green Curry

1/2 cup thai basil, 1/2 cup cilantro, 3-4 green chillis, 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp cumin seeds, 2 cups coconut milk, tbsp ginger, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 small red onion sliced onion, 1/2 a large green pepper thinly sliced, 1 lemongrass stalk, 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tbsp sriracha chili garlic sauce, 1/4 cup crushed roasted peanuts, 1 package extra firm tofu diced into cubes.
1. Deep fry, or shallow fry the tofu in sesame oil. Keep aside.
2. Grind up the basil, cilantro, chillis, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds.
3. Saute the onion, and green pepper with ginger and black pepper.
4. And the blended mixture, coconut milk, and lemongrass to the onions etc. Bring to simmer.
5. Add soy sauce, sriracha and crushed peanuts. Add the fried tofu and mix. Remove the lemongrass before serving.
6. Serve with rice and garnish with chopped cilantro.

Verdict: Some of Shankar's friends requested the recipe so they could recreate this again themselves. He gets requests from Savithri and I to make this dish all the time! A+ for presentation from the peanut gallery.

ps. I've decided to submit this for Trupti's Weekend Food Blogging Event.

Spring Rolls

Yesterday night we ended up having an impromptu dinner party. Our original plans to go to Toronto dashed due to this miserable Michigan weather, we had a few people drop by and Shankar decided to redeem himself from the Mexican fiasco with an Asian feast. And an impeccable feast it was. We started off with spring rolls, followed up with a thai green curry with rice, and ended up with a yummy apple fritter with fruit topping. Everyone had fun watching him 'throw' his creations together, and of course oohed and aahed at his presentation for my pictures. To my dear friends in Toronto whom I really missed seeing this weekend, I hope we can have you all over to our place at some point in the future and I will get Shankar to make us this stuff again!

Spring Rolls
1 1/2 cups of cabbage and carrot julienned, a little red onion thinly sliced, 1 tsp chopped ginger, 1 tsp soy sauce, egg roll wraps

Dipping Sauce
1tsp sriracha chili garlic sauce, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp szhechuan sauce, a few drops sesame oil, a few drops of red wine vinegar, salt

1. Flash the carrot, cabbage, ginger, and onion in hot sesame oil.
2. Take this off the heat, add salt, and mix with soy sauce.
3. Brush the edges of the wrapper with water, or an egg wash. Place 1 heaping tbsp of the mixture in the centre of the egg wrapper.
4. Fold over from the bottom, fold over the sides, and roll up (similar to making a burrito). See pictures below.
5. Spray with cooking spray all over and broil in a hot oven at 450 degrees, for 5-7 minutes. Watch them carefully, and turn them over halfway through. This is an alternative to the traditional deep fry method.
6. Serve with dipping sauce (just whisk together all the ingredients), or a hoisin sauce, or even Maggie Masala.

Below: Shankar's buddy Mark from the Business School was an expert at rolling up spring rolls.

Verdict: This were simple and fast to make. In my opinion a fantastic alternative to deep frying. The peanut gallery did comment that deep frying would taste better, but all the spring rolls were still eaten up very quickly!

Classic Combinations: Poricha Kuzhambu & Puli-itta Keerai

Poritha Kozhambu & Puli-Itta Keerai

When I visited my husbands place for the first time (before marriage), my in laws treated me with an lunch that was a cornucopia of South Indian traditional dishes. Upon complimenting my M-in-law after the lunch, she casually mentioned to me that not only does she cook mostly traditional South Indian food, but in traditional combinations. I was really impressed and so excited to begin learning all about this from her. Of course, first I had to marry her son but that was soon taken care of.

This is one of my M-in-law's classic combinations, poricha kozhambu (mixed vegetable stew) and puli-itta-keerai (spinach with tamarind). Her signature is to always have a fresh salad with these meals, and I have added one such carrot salad of my own mother's recipe here. The amounts below are suitable for 2 people.

Poricha Kozhambu
1 heaping tbsp toor daal, 1 heaping tbsp urad daal, 5 whole black peppercorns, 1 heaping tsp cumin seeds, 1-2 dried red chili, a few curry leaves, either 1tbsp grated coconut or a dash of asafetida, diced vegetables (any combination of carrots, beans, peas, eggplant, zucchini, lima beans, and snake gourd), 1 tsp mustards seeds, 1 tsp turmeric

1. Boil the diced vegetables, just barely covered in water with the turmeric and a few curry leaves.
2. Roast the toor daal, urad daal, peppercorns, cumin seeds, red chili and grind this up with a few curry leaves.
3. Add the spice mixture to the boiling vegetables, and let it cook nicely, add salt.
4. Splutter the mustard seeds (and asafetida if you are not using coconut) and add to the mixture.
5. You can add the grated coconut at the end for flavor if you are using it.

*I usually don't put coconut to reduce the fat content. As you can see this dish only uses the few drops of oil to splutter the mustard seeds.

Puli-itta Keerai
frozen or fresh spinach (a good BIG handful), 2 small split green chilis, 1/4 cup of tamarind juice, 1 tsp mustard seeds, a pinch of asafetida, 1/2 tsp urad daal, 1/2 tsp of channa daal, 1 dried red chili

1. Cook spinach with the split green chillis in the tamarind juice on medium, add salt.
3. Blend the spinach with a hand blender, being careful not to grind up the chillis unless you want it that hot! Do not grind too much, as you still want a nice texture.
4. Splutter the mustard seeds, add the urad daal, channa daal, asafetida, and red chillis.

* If the spinach is too watery you can add rice flour to thicken it up. Ensure you cook the flour through completely.

Carrot Salad
1/2 large carrot, 1 green chili, lemon, 1 tsp urad daal, a pinch of asafetida, a few mustard seeds, cilantro to garnish

1. Soak the urad daal in water, until they break easily.
2. Grate the carrot, add a squeeze of lemon.
2. Splutter the mustard seeds in oil, and add the dash of asafetida, and fry the chili chopped in two.
3. Mix the grated carrot with mustard seeds, chili, and drained ural daal and a pinch of salt.
4. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Spectacular Failure - Soupy Mexican Glop

Howdy folks! Just to spice things up a little bit, I thought I would post instead of Kanchana today. Lest you think that Kanchana's husband can actually cook well, here is a sample of one of my most spectacular failures. I told Kanchana that I would make soup today and I did... It was unpalatable and the most generous term that can be used to describe it is "disgusting".

We managed to it look good for the pictures but all the good looks in the world could not make it taste good. To serve as a good warning, I'll post the recipe and pictures as well as the changes that will make it taste better.

Original Recipe:
1 Jalapeno pepper
2 Green onions
Random number of mushrooms
Random amount of refried beans
Random Mexican spices
1 Potato
1 cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese
4 cups stock
1 Tomato diced
1 Avocado
1 tbsp. Lemon juice
Sour cream
Chopped Cilantro

Saute jalapenos, green onions and mushrooms in oil. Add refried beans and stock. Leave on low heat. Meanwhile, mash up some avocado with lemon, salt and pepper. Cut tortillas into strips, drizzle with oil and bake at 350 until crispy. Boil the potato and turn it into a starchy glop with some of the stock. Add stock, mashed avocado, diced tomato and starchy glop. Salt to lack of taste. Add large amounts of Mexican spices in order to mask the unnatural flavors.

Pour the resulting thing into a bowl and garnish soup with the crispy tortilla strips, cheese, sour cream and cilantro. Have a very small taste and then throw the concoction out. DO NOT FEED TO THE DOG - Serious harm can result.

Changes to make the dang thing acceptable:
1. NO REFRIED BEANS - Don't be lazy. Soak some black beans, cook them and use in lieu of aforementioned crap.
2. NO POTATO - Find some other way of thickening the soup instead of resorting to this cheap starch source that contributes nothing of value.
3. Grill the mushrooms with long strips of bell peppers and red onions with some fajita-style spices.
4. Don't mash up the avocado - cut it into little chunks and add it towards the end. Don't cook it in the stock with all the other stuff.
5. Avoid the whole thing and go to Taco Bell - they serve better stuff than this wretched dish.

- Shankar