Cook's Hideout: June 2009

June 30, 2009

Pasta in Spinach sauce

I love adding nuts to my gravies, especially almonds and cashews. I think they totally transform a dish from plain & boring to creamy & delicious. For example, would you prefer to have “Pasta in Spinach sauce” (oh.. blah) or “Pasta in Creamy Spinach-Almond sauce” (oh.. yay.. yummy). I chose the second one and I have to tell you, I was licking every utensil that came in touch with that sauce, it was sooo good.

Recipe is inspired from Indira’s Spinach-Basil pasta.
For the Spinach Sauce:
Onion – ½ cup, chopped
Spinach – 2 cups, chopped
Basil – 1 cup, chopped
Almonds – 1 cup, dry roasted
Garlic – 2 cloves
Tomatoes – 2 medium, chopped

For Pasta:
Whole wheat Penne – 1 lb.
Broccoli – 2 cups, chopped into florets
Chick peas – 2 cups
Onion – ½ cup, chopped
Salt, Pepper & Red Pepper flakes – to taste

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve pasta cooking water for later use.
  • Dry roast almonds in a skillet. Remove and keep aside.
  • Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a large skillet; add onions and garlic; sauté on medium flame until lightly browned around edges, about 8-10 minutes. Add tomatoes; cover and cook till they turn into mush, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and basil; cook till wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper & red pepper flakes. Blend spinach mixture with the almonds into a smooth paste.
  • Heat 1tbsp olive oil in the same skillet, add onions and sauté till slightly browned. Add broccoli & chickpeas; cover and cook till tender. Add the spinach puree and ½-1 cup of pasta cooking water. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer till it reaches desired consistency.

Serve over pasta (you can mix the sauce with pasta, but I prefer serving them separate, as you can add as much or as little sauce as you want. I like mine with a lot of sauce and pasta tends to soak up all the sauce when mixed early).

This dish goes to Cooking for Kids-Leafy Greens event. I'll be posting the round up at the end of this week, so send them in by Friday, the latest.


Rava Laddoo for Indian Cooking Challenge

Talented Srivalli of Cooking 4 all Seasons and Spice your Life blogs came up with this brilliant idea called Indian Cooking Challenge. Members would be making authentic Indian dishes from a tried and tasted recipe and posting them on the same day (how cool is that..). This month's recipe is Srivalli's Rava Laddoo.

Here' her recipe:
Semolina/ Rava - 1 cup
Sugar - 1 cup
Ghee - 25 gms
Milk - 25 ml
Cardamom powder - a pinch
Cashew nuts - 10 whole nuts
Raisins - 10 nos
Grated fresh coconut - 25 gms

  • Heat 2 tsp of ghee in a kadai. Once the ghee is hot enough, simmer the flame and roast cashew nuts and raisins. Once the raisins balloon up, remove. Then roast the grated coconut. Remove once done. Keep all these aside.
  • Add the remaining ghee and roast the rava till its well roasted and aroma starts coming out.
  • In a bowl, take all the roasted rava, nuts, Coconut and add the Cardamom powder. Then add the sugar. Mix well.
  • Then slowly add the warm milk into the bowl. Check if you are able to gather as balls. When you find that milk added is enough to get you laddoos transfer it back to the kadai and cook on low heat for 2 minutes. Mix well and then cover it and let it rest for 2 minutes. Then immediately make balls or laddoos.

June 29, 2009

Announcing JFI - August ’09: Peanuts

Let me start my thanking Indira (@ Mahanandi) for giving me the opportunity to host Jihva For Ingredients (JFI). In Indira’s words “Jihva for Ingredients (JFI) is an online monthly food event, celebrating the Ingredients and what they can do for our Jeeva.”
So for this month’s JFI, I have chosen PEANUTS as the ingredient. Let me pass on some of the Gyan (knowledge) I gained browsing the internet:
  • Peanut is actually not a nut; it is a species in the legume family and is related to chick peas and other beans.
  • They start growing as a ground flower that due to its heavy weight bends towards the ground and eventually burrows underground where the peanut actually matures.
  • India is the second largest producer of peanuts next only to China (US is 4th on the list).
  • Peanuts are a very good source of monounsaturated fats, the type of fat that is emphasized in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.
  • Peanuts are a rich source of protein with 30gms per cup after roasting. Peanuts are a good source of niacin and thus contribute to brain health, brain circulation and blood flow.
  • Peanuts are native to South America, Mexico and Central America. Evidence demonstrates that peanuts were domesticated in prehistoric times in Peru. Archeologists have thus far dated the oldest specimens to about 7,600 years before the present. It was then introduced to Europe by Spanish conquistadors. The legume gained western popularity when it came to the United States from Africa. It had become popular in Africa after being brought there from Brazil by the Portuguese.
  • The moral of this story is Peanuts have come a long way from their roots in South America and they are being used and enjoyed world wide in some form or the other.
Coming to the rules:
  • Come up with a recipe that has PEANUTS (Raw/ Roasted/ Boiled) or PEANUT BUTTER as one of the main ingredients. Cooking in peanut oil or using chopped peanuts as garnish are not allowed, Sorry.
  • Email me the link to your post on or before July 31st, 2009.
  • Please make the dishes Vegetarian; cheese & eggs are allowed.
  • Include a link in your post to this announcement and to Indira's site (
  • If you have recipes that are already posted, repost and include a link to this announcement and Indira’s site.
  • Use of Logo is optional, but much appreciated if used.
  • Email me at with the following information.
  1. Name
  2. Blog Name
  3. Entry Name
  4. Entry URL
  5. Picture of your creation in any size.

June 27, 2009

Aloo Paratha for "Click"

I've nothing to boast about my rotis or chapathis, they invariably turn into papads. Which is why I don't usually venture into making fancy rotis or parathas. Until I started making DK's sweet potato rotis. They always turn out soft and yummy and remain that way even for next day lunch. Since they taste good and also good for health, I've been making them quite frequently.

So finally I wanted to try my hands on making aloo-paratha and instead of using a filling to make them, I grated the aloo and used whipped cottage cheese instead of water to bind the dough making them soft and nutritious. Here's the recipe:

Recipe inspired from Saffron Hut's Aloo-Paratha recipe:
Aloo (Potatoes) - 3 medium
Whole wheat flour (Atta) - 3 cups
Cottage cheese (I used whipped) - 1 - 11/2 cups (or as needed for Kneading :-D)
Salt - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp (or more to taste)
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp (or more to taste)

  • Pressure cook potatoes until very tender (or boil them). Let them cool; mash them (or grate) along with 1 cup of cottage cheese** (if using small curd cottage cheese, then use the food processor for mixing the dough; or blend it to make it smooth before kneading into the dough).
  • Add atta along with salt, red chili powder & garam masala. Add more cottage cheese as needed and knead the dough until smooth. Alternately use a food processor to knead the dough, makes lives much easier.
  • Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 1/2 hr.
  • Pinch off a lemon size ball of dough, roll into 6-8" circle (don't have to be super thin).
  • Cook both sides on a hot tawa (griddle) brushing with little bit of oil.
Serve with a subzi or some yogurt.

This Aloo paratha stack is my entry to Click-Stacks.

June 23, 2009

Fruit & Nut Cookies

This is a recipe that has been on my to-make list for a very long time. I watched Ina Garten make them on her Barefoot Contessa show and when Priya (@ Akshayapaatram) made them egg-less and vegan on her blog, I had to absolutely had to make them. I even bought all the ingredients, but couldn’t find the much needed time to make them.
As the old saying goes, it’s better late than never, so this past weekend, I finally MADE these yummy cookies. I followed the original recipe to the T, I’m giving the same recipe here.

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Recipe.
Dried fruit – 2 – 2 ½ cups (I used a combination of raisins, dried cherries/pineapple/papaya/prunes/apricots/figs & cashews)
Honey – 1tbsp
Dry Sherry – 2tbsp
Lemon juice – 2tbsp, freshly squeezed
Salt – pinch
All-purpose flour – 2 2/3 cups
Sugar – ½ cup
Light brown sugar – 1/3 cup
Butter – 2 sticks, unsalted and @ room temperature (I leave it out the night before)
Egg – 1 extra large
Ground cloves – ½ tsp

  • Add honey, sherry, salt & lemon juice to dried fruit and nuts; cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.
  • Cream butter along with both sugars, ground cloves with hand mixer on medium speed, for about 3 minutes.
  • Add egg and mix until incorporated.
  • Slowly add the flour and ¼ tsp salt and mix until just combined; do not overmix.
  • Add the fruits and nuts, along with any liquid in the bowl.
  • Divide the dough in half and place each half on a parchment paper. This dough is very easy to work with and the recipe makes about 5-dozen cookies, so if you want to divide it into more than 2 logs for future use, go ahead and make 4 smaller logs. Roll each log in the parchment and refrigerate for 2 hours. Place all the logs that are not being used right away in a Ziploc bag and stow in the freezer (right now I’ve 3 logs waiting to be used).
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the log into ½” thick slices. Place them on a ungreased cookie pa ½” apart. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden. My cookies were ready in 16-17 minutes, but the bottoms were slightly browned, so keep checking after 15 minutes.
These are sooooo good, buttery with the sweet and tangy bite from the dried fruit. I think I like them better than Karachi bakery fruit cookies. Thanks Priya for making me try these, they are worth every minute of the wait.

These cookies go to Mansi @ Fun & Food Blog for her Sugar High Fridays-Fruit & Nut event.

June 22, 2009

Palakura Pesarapappu/ Moong dal with spinach

This is one of the simplest and tastiest dal recipes. I usually make spinach dal with toor dal and add either tomato or tamarind to make it slightly tangy. But for this dal, I kept it simple and you can the leafy spinach and the slight sweetness of moong dal; tadka with garlic completes the dish.

Moong dal – 1 cup
Spinach – 1 cup, chopped fine
Green chilies – 3 Onion – 1 small, chopped

For Popu/ tadka:
Urad dal – ½ tsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – 6
Garlic – 1 clove, minced

  • Pressure cook dal with spinach, onion and green chili for 3-4 whistles.
  • In a small saucepan, heat 1tsp oil, add the popu ingredients and once the seeds start to splutter, add it to the dal; mix well and enjoy with rice or roti.

This is my entry Cooking For Kids-Leafy Greens being hosted on this blog. Don't forget to send in your entries before June 30th.


June 20, 2009

My Container Garden & Eggplant Sandwich

My container garden is doing pretty good except for the two tomato plants and squash have practically overgrown the pot, but I'm going to risk it for this summer and leave them in there. Lesson for next season is to buy some bigger pots. Here are a few pictures.


Cherry Tomatoes

Cayenne Pepper

Grilled Eggplant Sandwich:
I had a roasted eggplant sandwich with sautéed spinach, roasted red peppers and provolone cheese called “Aunt Nina’s Sandwich” in a small Italian Café type place recently. Though the sandwich itself was very bland, I liked the combination of ingredients. So I tried to recreate it at home; I used Ciabatta bread and spread store-bought pesto on it and I have to say I liked my sandwich much better than the original.

Eggplant – 1 medium, cut into ½” thick pieces
Spinach – 2 cups, chopped
Roasted red peppers, canned – 3 slices, cut into strips
Pesto – ¼ cup
Monterey Jack cheese – 4 slices thinly cut

  • Heat a stove-top grill pan (or use outdoor grille) on medium high; Spray lightly with cooking spray and grill eggplants until grill marks are formed and the pieces are cooked through, about 4-5 minutes each side.
  • Remove and keep aside.
  • In the meantime sauté spinach with 1 clove garlic and season with salt & pepper. Keep aside.
  • Drain and pat dry roasted red peppers; cut into thin strips.
  • To assemble; spread about 1tbsp pesto on the bread halves. Arrange 3-4 eggplant pieces on the bottom half of the bread. Scatter spinach and red peppers; arrange 2 cheese slices. Cover with the top half of the bread. Press lightly and enjoy.
This sandwich is off to Priya (@ Easy n Tasty Recipes) for her AFAM-Bell Peppers Event. AFAM is the brainchild of Maheshwari. Thank you Priya for reminding me of AFAM.

June 19, 2009

Kohlrabi Greens curry

As a child I was never a picky eater and my mom never had any issues with my food. But I did have some absolute favorites (like eggplant, okra fry, potato fry, majjiga pulusu to name a few) and I also had some that I didn’t like as much. I would say to myself: “Amma, why can’t you make dosakaya pappu (cucumber dal)?? Why do you have to make this curry?” I never liked dosakaya kura, don’t know the reason.
But I loved all leafy greens no matter how they were cooked. But after coming to the US, I never found some of the greens we find in India like chukkakura, I don’t even know the English name for it. At least Indian stores in NJ are always stocked with fresh methi, bachali kura (red pohi??), thota kura (amaranth) and gongura. But since we don’t visit Indian store as frequently as a Korean/ Chinese or our local farmers markets, I started to buy any green that looked remotely close to the ones I remember from India (to be honest while in India I didn’t know the difference between spinach and methi!!!). I have been successful with some and totally disappointed with others (had to dump the whole dish in the garbage.. gross.. yucky and to top it all off-- my husband H still taunts me about that whenever I make anything green, so it was pretty bad).
My latest success is cooking with kohlrabi greens, they are mellow and don’t have any distinguishable taste, almost like chard. So I made this dish that I learnt from my SIL in Sweden (which she made with spinach). Very simple to make and tasted good too.

Kohlrabi greens – 6 cups, chopped
Onion – 1 small, chopped
Green chilies – 3, slit
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Chana dal – ½ cup, soaked for ½ hour

For Popu (tadka):
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Red Chilies – 2
Salt – to taste

  • Wash the greens thoroughly and finely chop them.
  • In a pressure cooker, heat 2tsp oil; add tadka ingredients and once the seeds start to splutter, add garlic and sauté until fragrant and lightly browned, make sure that garlic is not burnt.
  • Add green chilies and onions and sauté until onions turn translucent, about 6-8 minutes.
  • Add the chopped greens, soaked chana dal, salt and 2-3 tbsp water; lock the lid and cook for 2-3 whistles. Once the pressure is down, open the lid and cook further if there is too much water or serve right away with steamed white rice.

This is my entry to Cooking for Kids: Leafy Greens event. Send in your entries before June 30th.

June 16, 2009

Cornmeal Crusted Tofu

Some weeknights I’m all geared up to cook lot of dishes and some days I’m so down that warming up leftovers also seem to be stressful. So I made this meal on one of those days when I was in the mood to cook. Menu included Cornmeal crusted tofu with broccoli polenta, sautéed garlicky bok choy and my quick pan gravy.

Recipe adapted from Veganomicon.
Extra firm Tofu – 1 lb., drained and pressed
Soymilk – ½ cup
Corn Starch – 2tsp

For the cornmeal crust:
Cornmeal – ¾ cup
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Ground cumin – 1tsp
Chili powder – 1tbsp
Cayenne pepper – ½ tsp
Salt – 1½ tsp (or to taste)
Lemon zest – 1tbsp

  • Cut tofu into 8 pieces widthwise; then cut each piece diagonally to make 2 long triangles.
  • Pour milk in a shallow bowl; add corn starch and whisk with a fork to combine. In another shallow bowl, add all the ingredients for the cornmeal crust and mix well.
  • Pour oil to about ¼“ in a skillet and heat until very hot, but not smoking.
  • With your left hand dunk tofu in milk, roll it around and drop it into the cornmeal mixture. Now with your right hand, roll it around and make sure all sides are uniformly coated. Slowly place in the hot oil. Repeat with rest of the tofu pieces.
  • Cook them in two batches to make sure that the skillet is not over crowded. Cook for 3 minutes on one side, flip with tongs and cook for another 2 minutes. Your nose would know when the time’s up. Drain on paper towels and serve warm over broccoli polenta.

For the pan gravy, I added a cup of tomato-basil pasta sauce (I used my fav. Bertolli brand) along with ½ cup of low-fat milk. Brought it to a low simmer, seasoned with salt & pepper and finally sprinkled in some nutritional yeast.

June 11, 2009

Kanda-Bachali Kura (Suran & Malabar-Spinach Curry)

I’m re-visiting this recipe that I posted about 2 years ago. It features in most of Andhra bhojanams (feasts). I love it since I was little and still do. Here is how we make it:

Bachali kura – 2-3 cups chopped
Spinach – 2 cups
Kanda (Suran) – 1 cup (I used frozen cubed suran)
Ginger – 1 tbsp, minced
Green chilies – 3, chopped
Curry leaves – 10
Tamarind paste – 1tbsp

For Tempering:
Urad dal – 1tsp
Chana dal – 1tsp
Mustard seeds – 1tsp
Cumin seeds – ½tsp
Red chilies – 3
Hing – pinch

  • Heat 2tsp oil in a pan; add the tempering ingredients and once the seeds start to splutter; add ginger, green chilies & curry leaves and sauté for couple of minutes.
  • Then add the green veggies; cover and cook on medium-low flame for 5-8 minutes or until almost wilted.
  • In the meantime, de-frost frozen suran in the microwave.
  • Once the greens are ready, add the suran and ¼ cup of water; cover and cook till suran is completely cooked. I like this dish smooth instead of chunky, so I mash suran with the back of the spoon at this stage. Then add tamarind paste and salt. Cook for another 5 minutes. Serve with steamed rice for a yummy Andhra meal.

This is my entry to Cooking for Kids-Leafy Greens event. Send in your entries by the end of this month.


June 09, 2009

Recipes for my Cinco de Mayo feast

This post has been due for quite sometime, I posted my pics for Cinco de Mayo feast on Cinco de Mayo day (1st of May). So better late than never, here are the recipes.

Rice & Beans:
Basmati rice – 1cup, rinsed and soaked for at least 15 minutes
Black beans – 1 cup, cooked
Chickpeas – 1 cup, cooked
Zucchini – 2 medium, chopped
Carrot – 1 medium, chopped
Onion – 1 large, chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Tomato puree – 1 cup (I used canned crushed tomatoes with basil)
Cumin powder – 1tbsp
Chili powder – 2tsp (or to taste)
Lemon juice – 2 tbsp (optional)
Green onions – 2, for garnish

  • Cook basmati rice and keep aside to cool.
  • In a large skillet, heat 2tbsp oil on medium-low flame. Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent.
  • Add zucchini & carrots; cover and cook till the veggies are ¾th cooked.
  • Add the beans; cover and cook till the veggies and beans are completely cooked through. Add tomato puree, cumin powder, chili powder & salt. Simmer for 6-8 minutes.
  • Add the cooked rice, mix well making sure that the rice does not get mushy. Add lemon juice (if using) and mix well. Garnish with green onions; serve with guacamole, salsa (or guaca-salsa) and sour cream.
For Guaca-Salsa you need:
Avocado – 1 small, pitted and flesh roughly chopped
Tomato – 1 small, deseeded and roughly chopped
Red onion – 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Jalapeno – 1 small, deseeded and finely chopped
Garlic – 1 clove, finely minced (use garlic press, if you have one)
Lime juice – 1tbsp (or to taste)
Salt & pepper – to taste

  • Mix all the ingredients in bowl and mash with the back of a spoon or a fork. Taste and adjust seasonings.
I made these quesadillas with Trader Joes Corn-Chile Tomato-less Salsa and grated sharp & milk cheddar cheese. All I had to do is layer them on corn tortillas and they were just perfect, sweet & tangy from the salsa and oozing cheese. Yumm.

June 07, 2009

Goodies from Sweden & some Pics

I can't believe that we are already in June; time's just flying by and I'm a little late catching up with it. As I said in my previous post, it took me a week to clean up my inbox and my kitchen. Finally I got to take the picture of the goodies I bought in Sweden. The only shopping I did in Sweden was in a grocery store and I know all my blogging buddies would appreciate it.

I bought a pack of vanilla beans (2 beans/ ~4USD), a small container of vanilla powder, 3 baking chocolates. I also bought 2 packs of whole-wheat bread with nuts. These bread are dense unlike the breads that we get here in US. They also have a very long shelf life, which was perfect for bringing back to US.

Swedish groceries are filled with dairy products like yogurt, milk, ice cream, creme fraiche etc. Veggies were similar to US supermarkets, but I thought they had better selection of salad greens. Here are some of the picture from a Swedish grocery store.

These Cabbage were HUGE, as big as a football.


Aisles and Aisles of Yogurt

Soy Products

A whole Aisle with different varieties of Salt

Bulk Bins

Baking Chocolate, Vanilla beans & Vanilla powder

Whole-Wheat bread


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