Kothu Parotta

I tasted my first Kothu Parotta this week. Before I go on about whether I liked it or not, let me give you a little background. Growing up in Canada, I never really had much of a chance to taste Indian street food. Though Toronto is one of the most multicultural places in the world today, the social climate 30 years ago was drastically different. It was in the small suburban, town of Oakville that my parents tried to Indian-ize their two young daughters. My father would grill us with questions like, "If someone asked you where you are from, what will you say?". The happy response from us would be "Canada, of course. We are Canadians!". My Father tried so hard to change that answer to India. It should be noted that in over 30 years of living in Canada, and hating many of the changes to his beloved Madras, my Father now proudly identifies himself as a Canadian.

My parents worked diligently to establish an Indian identity for their children in that foreign land filled with snow. I marvel at how they toiled to maintain the Tamil Brahmin traditions so far away from their home. My parents both worked, they did not have anyone living with them to help out, there were no Indian grocery stores near by, and no temples except of course the Pittsburgh Sri Venkateswara Temple. My mother tells us of the one Indian grocery store that used to open for a few hours on Saturday morning, and if you missed the window there would be no daal for the week. She recounts fond memories of going to Indian movies which were screened a few times a year and eating samosas they served there which you couldn't get anywhere else. You can see how much things have changed when I tell you that some convenience stores in Toronto now stock samosas, next door to the latest crop of 'plaza temples'! While we were growing up Savithri and I mainly enjoyed eating homemade bujji's, pakodas, and samosas. Eating channa bhatura and punjabi samosas at the Indian Bazaar on Gerrard St. during Deepavali or other festivals was a big treat for us. Experiencing street food in India was out of the question as our trips to visit grandparents were mostly spent with upset stomachs. My mothers remedy for that included eating only home cooked food, and drinking boiled water.

Now that I am married and thinking about how my future family will be two generations away from India, I deeply value the glimpses my parents gave us into that wonderful world of their homeland and wonder if I will be able to live up to their ideals. My parents have now lived in Canada longer than they lived in India, and yet they are still pillars of the Tamil Brahmin community to whom other immigrant Indian families look to for direction on how to survive amidst the snow.

Alright, back to the Kothu Parotta a famous Indian dish best eaten at a street-side stall. They are made with shredded flaky, buttery roti's called parotta's that are cooked with a medley of chillies, onions, tomatoes, and flavored with rich masala powders. It makes me happy that I am Married to a Desi who is now my direct connection to the motherland. Instead of just listening to my Dad expounding on the importance of the Lalitha Sahasranamam or learning Carnatic Music and Bharatha Natyam, my world is now filled with learning about authentic (and street) food, Tamil film music (mostly A.R Rahman), language (especially Tamil slang), and visiting my second set of parents in Madras. India is once again a whole new world for me, and would you believe it if I told you that I can sum it up in a Kothu Parotta? That's how good it tasted.

Kothu Parotta serves 2
2 store bought parottas ripped up into pieces, 1 large tomato chopped, 1 onion minced, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp pav bhaji masala, 1 large green chili minced, 1" piece ginger minced, handful chopped cilantro

1. Saute the green chilies, ginger, and then onions in oil.
2. Add the turmeric, and chili powder.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook them until they release water. Salt them to hasten this.
4. Add the pav bhaji masala, and then the parotta and mix.
5. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with a squeeze of lime, and onion raitha.

You can also add curry leaves to this, and also an egg to make it a '"Muttai Parotta". Parottas are available now in all Indian Grocery Stores. Today, in Ann Arbor alone there are about 5 Indian grocery stores within 15 miles of my home. And yes, they are open for more than 2 hours week.

More Parotta's

Youtube: Watch how to make a Parotta

Spicyana: Chilly Crepes
The Singing Chef: Kothu Roti
En Samayal Pakkam: Kothu Parotta
Beyond the Usual: Step by Step Pictures on how to make Parotta's

Eggplant Pakoda

Of course, as soon as I start my new diet Shankar has to go and make these delicious Eggplant Pakodas. The chefmate threw these together as an afternoon snack the other day for Gopi and myself. I swear I only ate two, alright three. As we sat and munched on the pakodas we discussed the virtues of Indian pub fare, and how unfortunate it was for us that we were stuck in a world of fries, wings, and pizza when there was a land of appetizers which included bujjees, pakodas, tikkas, paneer 65, spicy bakshanams and so many others. Shankar and Gopi were going on about how they used to eat all this stuff growing up in India and all I could do was watch them with big eyes and drool at the descriptions.

Pakodas can be made with any vegetables, or combinations of them. We typically do them with cauliflower, onion, potato, or eggplant. The key ingredient in this is the curry leaf, it adds so much to the flavor. Guaranteed hit with your friends, but you do have to go to the gym to eat these.

Eggplant Pakodas
1 and 1/2 cup finely chopped eggplant (with the skin), 3 cups besan (chickpea flour), 1 cup rice flour, approximately 2 cups water, 1 small red onion minced, 1 handful chopped curry leaves, 2 tsp chili powder, 2 tsp turmeric, salt to taste, 1 litre oil for frying

1. Mix all the ingredients together (except the oil). Adding water until you get a consistency where you get a clump of batter that doesn't fall apart.
2. Heat the oil to the appropriate smoke point based on the type of oil you are using. See here for more information regarding that.
3. Drop 2 tablespoon sized clumps of the batter into the oil (not more than 4-5), and fry them on both sides until they are nice and browned.
4. Drain them against a paper towel to remove excess oil.
5. Serve with tamarind and coriander chutney.

If you have never deep fried before I recommend reading up on the internet about it. It is important to be very careful when mixing your dough, if there is too much water in your batter making it too loose, you increase the chance of it spluttering out of the oil and burning you very badly. Also if you are reusing oil, the smoke point of the oil decreases with every use, so you must make sure it reaches the correct temperature for frying in order for your pakodas to turn out crispy (otherwise they will be soggy). This site has some very useful information.

Verdict: Yummy.

On Asha's suggestion I am going to send this into RCI: Karnataka! Asha tells me this is a dish that is featured in Kannadiga homes, and they call it Badanekai (Eggplant) Bajji.

More Pakoda Recipes

Spicyandhra: Spicy Pakodas

Samayal.com: Medhu Pakoda
The Hindu: Of Pakoras and Kachoris
Spice Corner's: Onion Bhajji's
Foodies Hope: Spinach Pakodas
Mysoorean: Cabbage and Onion Pakodas
Sobila's: Mini Bhajji

Jalapeno Cheddar Broccoli Corn Bread

Our friends Deepak and Aparna came to visit us this weekend, so of course Shankar and I had to have some sort of feast to honor them. I had asked Shankar if he would make jalapeno corn bread, this way he could make it a day earlier and it would be perfect to heat up in the oven for the brunch we were planning. So off to the grocery store we went to pick up creamed style corn, jalapenos, and sharp cheddar cheese.

The other day while we were browsing around Trader Joe's and purchasing several vintages for our cellar, we were offered some lovely samples of broccoli and cheddar corn bread. I asked Shankar to add in some broccoli (since I am on my new health kick and all) to the recipe. He was a bit skeptical wondering if it would alter the batter too much and if the ratio of flour blah blah blah ..... "Just throw it in already", I said. So he decided to make one batch of muffins with broccoli, and another loaf without, in case the broccoli massively screwed up the recipe.

Well the corn bread was extremely good, but my dear darling husband in all his anxiousness over the addition of broccoli totally forgot to add in the creamed corn. So he is not a perfect cook after all. Close but not quite.

This is another recipe from my brother-in-law Gopi's website.

Jump to the recipe >

Verdict: I didn't even notice the creamed corn was missing. Too focused on how good the chunks of cheese were, and of course all that butter I slathered on it. Did I just say that? I meant how good the broccoli tasted.

Linguini with Spinach, Artichoke Hearts, and Capers

Well it looks like I'm really craving pasta with capers. A few weeks ago while browsing our favorite Food Blog Desam I came across a new blog with a delicious recipe for pasta with artichokes by Poonam of Cooking Adventures. It inspired me to come up with this lovely dish which I've been meaning to make for a while now. One pasta dish leads to another and so today I whipped this up in no time at all, come to think of it this recipe is perfect for the 30 minute meals event being held by Shaheen at Malabar Spices. The key to tossing this together easily is to make sure you have the ingredients in your pantry. The whole idea behind having a stocked pantry and fridge is to escape that stare into the fridge while stating that "There is absolutely nothing good to eat here." I like to keep a variety of frozen vegetables on hand, pastas, and tomato sauces in the cupboard and jars of olives, capers, and banana peppers in my fridge. Another good item to make sure you always have are dried herbs, and if you are organized enough with a weekly trip to the market you can easily keep nice fresh herbs in the fridge.

This way, a quick pasta is never more than 30 minutes away... And this meal is perfect for one person (the hubby is out with the boys tonight). Its hard to cook when its just yourself, but I think if the ingredients and recipes are readily at hand the inspiration to cook for yourself will strike with greater frequency.

Linguini with Baby Spinach, Artichoke Hearts, and Capers
3-4 ounces of cooked pasta, 5-6 pieces chopped frozen artichoke hearts, 1 handful of baby spinach, 1 tsp of chopped garlic, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 large tomato chopped (OR 1 cup of crushed tinned tomatoes), 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes, salt and freshly ground black pepper, 1 tbsp parsley chopped, 1 tsp capers, parmesan cheese

1. Boil about 8-10 cups of water in a large pot. Add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes.
2. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the chopped garlic and saute for a few seconds.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook them thoroughly.
4. Add the frozen artichokes (microwave them for 2 minutes first).
5. Add the baby spinach and mix.
6. Add the pasta and a little of the pasta water.
7. Add salt, pepper, and red chili flakes and mix.
8. Garnish with the capers, parsley, and grated parmesan cheese

During the 8 minutes that the pasta is boiling, you can assemble the tomato sauce and cook the artichokes and spinach. And if you multitask and microwave the artichokes while doing the tomatoes the cooking time will be even faster. I was lazy and didn't want to wash more than 1 pot, so I boiled the pasta first, drained and reserved it in my serving bowl. Assembled the sauce in the same pot which took another 10 minutes at most. 1 pot for cooking, 1 bowl for eating, and you only have 2 dishes to wash. Also I measured the pasta quantity with that circle thingy that came for free with my microwave rice cooker, the smallest 1" circle and that was perfect for me. I bought the frozen artichoke hearts from Trader Joe's.

Total time with 2 pots: 20 minutes
Total time with 1 pot: 30 minutes
Total eating time: 10 minutes, max. And thats because I was uploading the pictures for the blog at the same time.

Verdict: It tasted as good as it looks. Try it.

Italian Wedding: Pasta with Roasted Vegetables, Garlic Bread, Eggplant Stacks

As the blog title would indicate, I did not have an Italian wedding rather I married a Desi. No ordinary desi, one who not only cooks Desi food but who also cooks delicious Italian food.In my humble opinion food fit for an Italian wedding. Last night we were joined for dinner by my brother-in-law Gopi, also the latest inductee into the Ross Business School Hall of Fame. (He'll be starting his MBA in the fall.) Our guest of honor was their uncle Chellappa Chithappa who is affectionely referred to as CC.

The Italian wedding dinner was envisioned in order to accompany the vintage selected for the night, 'Three Buck Chuck'. If you haven't tried it, go out and buy a bottle, or 10. It'll still be cheaper than most out there, and better. Appropriately accompanied by Italian food, since in this case South or North Indian food was vetoed. Imagine my luck, my husband and brother in law decide to team up together to cook CC and I dinner. It was the Sundaram Culinary Institute in full force. The menu follows but first the toast, "To MY good fortune of having these two around!".

  • beer battered eggplant stacks layered with mozzarella and parmesan cheese
  • salad of mixed greens with pear and nectarine, topped with roasted peanuts
  • spaghetti with roasted vegetables in olive oil and garlic with capers
  • garlic buns

Eggplant Stacks
1 medium eggplant thinly sliced into rounds, 1 small red onion thinly sliced, 2-3 green onion stalks minced, 4 small mozzarella balls sliced, 2 shavings of parmesan per stack, 3-4tbsp of all purpose flour, 1 cup of beer, dried italian herbs, garlic butter

1. Layer a stack in the following order: eggplant, red onion, mozzarella, parmesan, eggplant.
2. Insert a toothpick through the centre to anchor the stack together.
3. Dip the stack on both sides into the flour mixture to coat.
4. Fry on both sides in garlic butter.

Serve over salad. You can omit the garlic, but to be honest when we compared the garlic butter stacks to olive oil stacks, the garlic butter tasted so much better. You could also layer fresh basil leaves in this as well.

1 bag of spring mixed greens (freesia, radicchio, spinach, arugula), 1/2 asian pear thinly sliced, 1/2 raw nectarine thinly sliced, 1/4 cup of roasted pine nuts (substitute any nuts here), 1 cup of diced tomatoes

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 3-4 splashes of balsamic vinegar, juice of half a lemon, 2 tsp italian seasoning, black pepper, salt

1. Mix the salad ingredients together.
2. Toss with the dressing right before serving.

Pasta with Roasted Vegetables
1 lb spaghetti, 1 zucchini diced, 1/2 eggplant diced, 1 medium eggplant diced, 1/2 pear diced, 1 green pepper sliced into strips, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, a few splashes balsamic vinegar (optional), 1 tbsp garlic, 1 tbsp chili flakes, salt, black pepper, 2 tbsp dried italian herbs, 2 tbsp capers

1. Toss the vegetables with oil, salt, ground black pepper, chili flakes, and italian herbs.
2. Broil until the vegetables are cooked and release a flavorful aroma (approximately 8-10 minutes). Alternatively you can bake them at 450 for about 20 minutes.
3. Boil the spaghetti according to package directions until al dente.
4. Mix the vegetables along with the pasta.

Serve topped with capers and Parmesan cheese.

Garlic Buns
6 buns, 1/4 cup butter, 1 tbsp chopped garlic

1. Mash the garlic into butter. The butter should be at room temperature (If not it will not adhere properly to the buns and create the nice garlicky crust on the bread).
2. Spread the buns with the garlic butter.
3. Bake at 350 degrees until the edges are browned slightly.

Verdict: CC and I were blown away and decided the food was better than any restaurant we had been to. It deserved to be served with a 100 dollar vintage!