Blogs of Note

Savithri's Spot is my sister's blog with great posts on cake decorating, travel and restaurants. Go check it out!

One of my favorite blogs to read is Jugalbandi. This creative site is the child of Jai&Bee. Bee's writing is hilarious, and her anecdotes and impressions of the 'blogosphere' never fail to crack me up. Their most impressive series to date is definitely 'In Season', a look at Jai's homegrown produce and the recipes they make from all of your blogs! The photography is great, and their recipes are a must try, for example Low fat Brownies! Need I say more?

You all know and love her, Asha of Foodie's Hope. Asha is one of the most caring bloggers who never fails to encourage me on with a thoughtful comment. Asha you are the Foodies Hope for all of us! Thank you for being such a wonderful friend and mentor to us foodies. Check out her blog which is filled with amazing recipes, especially delicacies from the regions of Karnataka. *Blog of the Week will highlight blogs I am addicted to reading!

The write of one hot blog is Bharathy, who reflects the name of her blog as she is one Spicy Chilly. If you are looking for a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes from the realms of South India, look no further than her blog. Her versatile writing and beautiful pictures are a must read and see. She was also sweet enough to award me with the Rockin Girl Blogger Award. Thanks Bharathy! *Blog of the Week is a new section on Married to a Desi and will highlight some of the fantastic food blogs that I am addicted to reading!

Anita's A Mad Tea Party features fresh vegetables in easy to prepare recipes. I've tried a few of them and vouch that they are delicious.
Check out her new 30 Minute Meal section!

Supriya Krishnan, affectionately referred to by her fellow bloggers as SIA channels Passion for Life 'n Spice through her similarly named site. Supriya makes the most fabulous dishes that look mouthwatering. What really impresses me is the variety of foods that she cooks! Sweet SIA has also awarded me the Rockin' Girl Blog Award. Thanks SIA!!

Milagai Podi (Red Hot Chili & Lentil Powder)

Growing up in a Tamil Brahmin home, eating the likes of idly and dosai's a few times a week was standard operating procedure for us. As children we would have ghee with our idlies, and ghee mixed with sugar, or yogurt mixed with sugar for our dosai. As our palates matured the condiment of choice fast became idly milagai podi, or dosai milagai podi (milagai means chili in Thamizh). This hot dipping 'sauce' is created by roasting and grinding dried red hot chillies with a few lentils, salt, and the ever present asafetida (referred to as devils dung by some). It is then served with gingelly or sesame oil, and then mixed up on your plate right as you begin your meal.

The standard meal "to go" for us is rolled up dosai's or idly's slathered with milagai podi. No matter what is available at home, even if no one has gone to the market, there will invariably be dosai with with milagaipodi 'thottuka', on the side.

Red hot chili powder served with oil, my entry for Nandita's Jihva for Ingredients - Chillies. Nandita hosts a wonderful blog called The Saffron Trail.

Milagai Podi
4 tbsp chana dal, 3 tbsp urad dal, 3 tbsp sesame seeds, 3/4 tsp of asafetida, 10-15 chillies, 1 tsp salt

1. Roast the chana dal, urad dal, chillies, and sesame seeds on medium low heat until they release a little of their oils and leave off a fragrant smell.
2. Grind all the ingredients together along with salt, and the asafetida.

Serve this along with sesame oil. The amount of chillies be adjusted according to ones taste. This is another family recipe, and was taken from my brother-in-law Gopi's website.

Ultimate Nacho

Ok I'll admit I did buy one non-produce related item the other day on my trip which I claimed was purely healthy grocery shopping. Meijer Organics Blue Corn Tortilla Chips which to my defense look very interesting. These chips are really different from your regular corn chip as they are filled with sesame seeds. Its a unique addition and gives the chip a very good flavor. I also picked up some cheese. Alright fine! It wasn't as healthy an expedition the other day as I thought. But its the kind of cheese you only eat a little bit of. You don't grate the whole block and bake it or something. Extra sharp Cheddar from Wisconsin. You can understand, right?

Well what resulted from my grocery expedition is what I like to call, The Ultimate Nacho. I've had a lot of nachos in my life mind you, I don't know if I qualify to be a Nacho expert, but I'm confident that I'm pretty up there in terms of tasting a lot of them. I figure these Nacho's deserve some kind of fancy Mexican Party where I serve them as hors d'oeuvres.

Ultimate Nachos
12 Meijer Blue Corn Tortilla Chips with sesame, 1/2 an avocado in large cubes, 1 small roma tomato diced, 1 tbsp chopped green onion, 2 tbsp minced red onion, 1/2 jalapeno pepper minced, juice of 1/2 lime, 1 tbsp chopped cilantro, salt and pepper to taste, sharp cheddar cheese of your choice

1. To make the salsa, combine the tomato, red onion, jalapeno pepper, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper.
2. Take a peeler and shave off 12 pieces of cheddar cheese squares.
3. Lay out the nachos on a plate.
4. Top each one with the cheddar cheese, 1 cube of avocado, and 1 spoon of the salsa.
5. Garnish with the green onion.

Hummus and Cous Cous

Summer is here, and along with it has come my taste for refreshingly crisp summer salads. I'm impressed with myself these days, heading out to the grocery store and staying within the realms of the produce section and not venturing over to the aisles laden with dangerous goods (mostly chips, ok sometimes cheese and maybe crackers). As Shankar and I hit the year and a half mark on our marriage we're beginning to see a lot more accumulation of things in our home. More dishes and pots in our kitchen, more clothes, more electronic goods, and unfortunately more pounds on the scale. I've decided to be really serious about removing the added baggage that has inconveniently deposited itself on my hips. I guess that it is a comfort zone thing, and yeah I was so much more conscious of my fitness level when I was on the market, and now we tend to choose going out together over going to the gym. At the end of the day feeling good is definitely linked to looking good, so its time to start working out again.

Fortunately for me the market (this time I mean the produce market) is filled with delicious fresh and healthy vegetables and fruits to tempt my palate. This recipe resulted from an experiment where I substituted lettuce leaves for pita bread. Romaine lettuce leaves are crisp and sturdy enough to be filled with this nutritious Mediterranean salad. The cous cous would be fabulous stuffed into small romaine hearts and served as an appetizer, or eaten as I have shown here for lunch. They travel pretty well, you could pack the lettuce leaves separately from the cous cous, and assemble before serving. The boats can be made up plain or by spreading a layer of hummus on the leaves first. I recommend both. Of course the hummus adds so much more to the flavor (and fat). If you don't have hummus, open a can of chickpeas and add them for some protein. This recipe makes about 8 boats. Cous cous is made from semolina wheat flour and you can find more information about cous cous on Wikipedia here.

Lettuce Boats with Cous Cous Salad
8 large romaine leaves, 1-2 roma tomatoes diced, 1/2 a cucumber diced, a few tablespoons of chopped green pepper, 1/2 a bunch of green onions chopped, 1/2 bunch of parsley chopped, 1/4 bunch of mint chopped, 1/2 lemon, 1 ounce feta cheese crumbled, 1/2 cup of cous cous, 1/4 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, radish to garnish

Optional: chickpeas, hot banana peppers

1. Add hot water to the cous cous to cover it. Let stand for a few minutes until the cous cous absorbs the water and becomes fluffy.
2. Mix Through.
3. Add all the vegetables and herbs reserving the lettuce leaves.
4. Add the salt, olive oil, lemon juice and mix.
5. Spread the leaves with hummus (optional).
6. Fill the lettuce leaves with the cous cous salad.
7. Garnish with crumbled feta cheese, and radish slices.

1 cup of dry chickpeas soaked (substitute one can of chickpeas), 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1 tsp of chopped garlic, 1 tbsp of sesame seeds , salt and pepper to taste

* You can roast and grind the sesame seeds into a powder before adding to the blender. We have done it by adding the sesame seeds straight and it still tasted great.
** These measurements are really approximate, I find that you just need to keep tasting and adjusting the hummus.

1. If using the dry chickpeas rinse them, cover with water and pressure cook for 20 minutes on high, and 20 minutes on low heat.
2. Grind all ingredients in a blender (my blender is smaller so I do it in two batches).
3. Drizzle the olive oil through the top of the blender until a nice thick but smooth consistency is reached.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Potluck #2

It looks like our potluck has now officially become a monthly event. The ladies regrouped for another night of socializing, this time hosted by the lovely Akanksha. We were joined by two new additions to the club, Radhika and Aparna. The evening was filled with a lot of talk about pregnancy since both Akanksha and Radhika are expecting to deliver babies in September. Aparna is also a new mother and so the evening ended up being quite informative for a person such as myself (no kids, unless you count my husband who is a BIG kid). Invariably the conversation leaned towards our husbands who are in B-school and soon to be embracing the demanding consulting lifestyle. The common thread in the group is that we are all professional women with careers all embarking down the path of learning how to manage work and life.

Aparna is a Doctor doing her fellowship in Gastroenterology, Radhika is a PMP and now a stay at home Mom, Akanksha is a Programmer, and I am an Engineer and PMP. All together we discussed our fears of having to leave work and try to join again after taking time off to care for children, how we will manage living with husbands on the road 4 days a week, and how we all enjoyed earning a lot of money but would also really love to stay home. Managing the home and children is hard enough without adding a job to the mix. Ulitmately our conversations came back to how we prioritize these things. Many of you who read this blog are accomplished mothers, cooks, and professionals. I ask you all, how do you manage work and life?

More importantly, the food was fantastic.

Potluck #2 Menu
Akanksha's Baked Paneer Tikka
Akanksha's Daal
Akanksha's Salad
Kanchana's Masala Dosai
Radhika's Rasamalai

Akanksha's Baked Paneer Tikka
1 block paneer cut into small cubes, sliced onions, sliced bell peppers: green, red, yellow, salt, 3 cups yogurt, 1 tbsp of any masala powders (chaat masala, garam masala, dhania jeera powder, etc)

1. Add the yogurt, masala powder, salt and vegetables to paneer and marinate it for about 15 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and the paneer mixture (spread on aluminum foil) in oven for about 15- 20 min.
3. Turn the oven up to broil, and leave the paneer in for about 5 min while constantly checking to make sure it doesn't burn.

Akanksha's Masoor Daal
1 cup masoor daal, 1 tsp turmeric, salt to taste, 1-2 tbsp chaat powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tbsp oil, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 2 red chillies, 1 tomato chopped, 1 onion chopped, a pinch of asafetida

1. Soak the black masoor daal for about 2-3 hours.
2. Add about 3 cups of water, turmeric powder and salt to the daal and boil till completely cooked.
3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and red chillies. After the cumin seeds turn brown, add the asafetida and onion. Saute this.
4. Add tomatoes and fry them.
5. Add chaat masala powder and garam masala powder.
6. Add the onion paste to daal and mix well adding salt.

Kanchana's Masala Dosai
See previous post!

Radhika's Rasamalai
Paneer - 250 gms, Water - 6 cups, Sugar - 2 1/2 cups, Whole Milk - 1 litre, Cardamom Powder - 1/2 tsp, Almonds & Pistachios - 2 tsp (thinly sliced), Few strands of Saffron

1. In a wide saucepan, add 1 1/2 cups of sugar to water and boil.
2. Mash the paneer and make small well pressed patties and gently let into the boiling water. Cover with a perforated or partially covered lid. Boil for 12-15 minutes (a little less if the paneer patties begin to separate out). On touch the rasmalai should spring back, to be done.
3. In another pan add milk & 1 cup sugar to boil.
4. Add cardamom, sliced nuts and saffron to the boiled milk until they dissolve/blend well.
5. Gently remove each rasmalai from (2), drain water and transfer to the milk pan.
6. Allow them to boil in the milk for further 2-3 minutes.
7. Turn off the heat and cool to room temperature.
8. Chill for 3-4 hours before serving.

Akanksha's Salad

One of the coolest things we discovered is how Akanksha makes her rice in a pyrex dish in the microwave! Just add double the water. We were all wondering how she got the rice to fit so perfectly in the square glass tray.

Verdict: Potluck with the Girlfriends is some serious food for the soul.

Mushroom Biriyani

Mushroom Biriyani is another creation of Chef Shankar. Served together with the Cabbage Kofta, this vegetarian meal would satisfy even the hungriest carnivore. Several varieties of mushrooms were used including Shiitake, Crimini, and White Button Mushrooms which when combined give the dish a nice satisfying texture and bite. The rice is flavored with biriyani pulav masala which can be bought in any Indian grocery store, and garnished with bright green onion. Unlike the typical slow cooked biriyani, this one was put together in a flash.

Mushroom Biriyani
15 mushrooms (5 of each variety, and 2-3 shiitake), 2 cups basmati rice, 1 tbsp of biriyani pulav masala, ghee, salt and pepper to taste, green onion chopped

1. Cook the rice, with 3 cups of water.
2. Clean and slice the mushrooms.
3. Heat a few tbsp of ghee on medium high heat, and saute the mushrooms. Add salt & pepper.
4. Once the rice is cooked, mix in the mushrooms. Add the masala powder and salt and mix together.
5. Garnish with chopped green onion.

Cabbage Kofta

Cabbage Kofta is my husband Shankar's signature dish. The finely minced cabbage with a hint of carrot is mixed with besan flour and deep fried. The cabbage balls are nicely textured and hold together firmly under the layer of gravy while still remaining light and fluffy. My husband concocts his own complex blend of spices which are freshly ground together to aromatize and flavor the dish. Shankar is a perfectionist when it comes to his kofta, and I am still chastised when I haphazardly form the kofta balls without rolling them smoothly. I admit his attention to detail makes all the difference in the final product.The kofta recipe has been handed down from a close family friend, to my MIL, who passed it on to her sons.

If you are looking for a dish to make that will impress your friends, this kofta recipe is a surefire hit. When I think of all the times we have had cabbage kofta a number of special memories come to mind; the first time my husband cooked dinner for me, celebration dinners we have had for our friends getting married, to special dinner events we have hosted for our friends at the B-school. A typical dinner party for us invariably includes making a large batch of kofta's in order to satisy our dinner guests AND their requests to take home the leftovers. Foods seem to trigger fond memories for a lot of people, and a signature dish can create that memory between you and your friends. I highly recommend it!

Cabbage Kofta
(Makes about 30 koftas)

1 small head cabbage, 1 carrot shredded or finely minced, 3/4 cup besan flour, 1 tsp garam masala, 2 tbsp red chilly powder, Salt, oil to deep fry

1 pound tomatoes, 2 tbsp coriander seeds, 2 tbsp cumin seeds, ½ tsp poppy seeds, 1/2 tsp saunf seeds, 1/2 tsp anardhana powder, 2 tbsp minced/grated ginger, 2 medium green chillies, 3 dried red chillies, a large handful of cilantro, 1 medium onion, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 clove garlic minced (optional)

1. Grind all the ingredients for the gravy together into a fine paste, adding about 2 cups of water. 2. Sauté the gravy with 2 tbsp. butter letting it thicken. Bring this to a boil, seasoning with salt.
3. Mince the cabbage (best done with a food processor). Add salt and leave it for a few minutes.
4. Squeeze as much of the water out of the cabbage as possible.
5. Add the besan to the cabbage, along with the rest of the kofta ingredients, and knead it together.
6. Form this mixture into small balls, and fry them in hot oil until brown.
7. Add the balls to the gravy, and let it soak for about half an hour.

This recipe is taken from my brother in law Gopi's website, and he has mentioned a few tips as follows. Squeeze as much water out of the cabbage as possible so the balls will absorb less water while frying. Add the carrot after you squeeze out the water in order to squeeze out the maximum amount of water.

Verdict: We had our friends over for dinner last weekend. Menu: Cabbage Kofta, Mushroom Biriyani, Okra & Greens Subzi, Toor Daal with Tomato (by my friend Pooja), and Paneer Paratha's. The dinner was spectacular and leftover koftas duly packed off with our friends. Mushroom Biriyani Recipe to follow, stay tuned!

Potluck #1

The follow up to the first potluck post is here! After many requests for Pooja's Masala Macaroni, I've finally found the time to put up the delicious secrets from my friends. If you haven't been to a potluck with your girlfriends, I seriously recommend organizing one right away!

Pooja's Masala Macaroni
2 cups macaroni, 1 tbsp garlic paste, small pieces of cabbage and capsicum - finely chopped, cheese, 1 tbsp white vinegar, 1.5 tbsp soy sauce, 1.5 tbsp tomato ketchup, salt and black pepper to taste, 1 cup of any shredded cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1. Cook the macaroni for 5-7 minutes in boiling water. Add some salt while boiling it for taste.
2. Add 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan, add garlic paste. Let it fry until golden brown.
3. Add chopped cabbage and capsicum, let them cook for 3 -5 mins.
4. Add boiled macaroni, salt, black pepper, soy sauce, vinegar and ketchup. Let it cook for about 3 - 5 mins.
5. Sprinkle some cheese while cooking it.
6. Empty it out in a baking dish, sprinkle cheese on the top and bake it for 10 min.

Akanksha's Chola
1 can chick peas, 1 small onion chopped, 2 green chillies, 1 tomato chopped, 1 tsp ginger garlic paste, 1tsp curd, 1 pinch haldi, 1tsp dhania powder, 1/2 tsp amchur powder, 1 tsp bhuna jeera powder, 1/4th tsp garam masala powder, 1 tbsp olive oil

1. Heat oil in pan, add jeera.
2. When the jeera splutters, add chopped onions and fry till golden brown.
3. Add green chillies, tomato, ginger/garlic paste, haldi and dhania powder.
5. Fry till the oil separates, then add chola, curd and fry for 10 min.
6. Add 1 cup water,jeera powder,amchur powder and garam masala powder, stir and cover.
7. Cook on low heat for 15-20min or till the oil separates.

Namrata's Daal
1 cup arhar daal, 1 medium size onion-chopped, 1 tsp grated garlic, 1 tomato- chopped, 2 tsp oil, 1 tsp cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, 1 tsp coriander powder, salt, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp green chili powder

1. Pressure cook daal in around 3 cups of water
2. In a skillet heat the oil.
3. Spatter cumin seeds and asafoetida in this oil
4. Add onion and garlic and fry till golden fry with occasional stirring.
5. Add rest of the masalas and tomato.
6. Cook till the paste leaves the sides of the vessel.
7. Add cooked daal to this paste and give it a boil.
8. Garnish with some fresh coriander leaves.

Nalin: Happiness on Stage

On Saturday June 2, 2007 the stage at Toronto's Premiere Dance Theatre came alive with the ecstasy of one woman named Nalin Bisnath. 250 invitees were privileged with the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the true bliss of Nalin, in the form of dance. She took us on a journey that has been taken only by the devadasi's of another age where dancers surrendered themselves to their Lord by dance. Nalin gave everything she had that night, to her dance.

Nalin Bisnath is a veteran of Hari Krishnan's InDance, and has performed as a member of his company all over the world, most recently in the revered halls of Krishna Gana Sabha in Madras, India. She only started dancing in 1999, but watching her dance you would think she has been studying Bharatha Natyam all her life. The chief guest of the evening Dr.B.M. Sundaram a notable expert on the study of Devadasi Culture summed up her performance as that of an experienced professional and not of a dancer giving her debut.

Nalin's transition from a fledgling dancer to the mature dancer she now is has been dramatic. During the last 7 months before her performance this young lady originally from Trinidad, immersed herself in learning the Telegu language, and understanding the layers of culture and mythology in the depths of the traditional songs she danced to. The passionate connection to the heroine she portrayed was most evident in her rendition of the Svarajati 'emayaladira'. She brought out the betrayal felt by the heroine as she gently berated her Lord Mallarji for falling for another woman. Her depiction was subtle and emphasized her affection and love for her Lord despite her doubts of his affection.

Credit for Nalin's success rightly goes to her wonderful teachers, Hari Krishnan and SriVidya Natarajan. Hari Krishnan has trained and honed Nalin Bisnath, the dancer, with a personal intensity that is unique to their relationship. From taking her to India and guiding her training through one of the few remaining Devadasi's in Tanjore, to being one of her close personal friends and helping her through trials and tribulations of her life Hari has been a guiding force for Nalin and a conduit for her to discover her passion for Bharatha Natyam. (From my experience as one of Hari's company dancers I know he is a consummate teacher and artist.) The pinnacle of Nalin's dance education has certainly been the detailed training imparted with care to her by SriVidya Natarajan in abhinaya which has truly ingnited the brilliant flame of Nalin's soul. Her dance was the dance of supreme happiness.

The arangetram invitation designed by REX.