Cook's Hideout: February 2007

February 28, 2007


This month’s ingredient for JFI is our family favorite – potato and is being hosted by lovely Vaishali from her kitchen in Pune. I can’t imagine cooking without potato, most of you would probably agree with me on that. It can easily be dressed up or down, be it the simple potato fry (bhaji) or the more fancy Dum aloo Kashmiri; no other vegetable draws in such a crowd or flavor. I don’t want to go on and on about the sugunas (excellent quality) of potatoes, as you all know them very well.
So here’s my entry, Oven Roasted Potatoes with cheese sauce. This is an extremely simple dish, quick to make and can be served any meal of the day.

Potatoes - 3, thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed
Herbe de province or Italian seasoning– 2 tbsp
Salt and pepper – to taste

For the cheese sauce:
Butter – 1 tbsp
Flour – 1 tbsp
Milk (low fat) – 1 cup
Cheddar or Monterey or Pepper Jack cheese (low fat) – 1 cup grated
Tomato paste – 1 tbsp

  • To make the fries: Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cut potatoes into long wedges. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet (I cover my baking sheet with an aluminum foil for easy clean up). Spray with non stick cooking spray and add the herbs, salt and pepper. Toss lightly with your fingers and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are crispy tender. Don’t forget to stir them once in between for uniform browning.
  • Mean while make the cheese sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan, whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes or until the flour loses the raw smell.
  • Add tomato paste and mix well to incorporate into the roux. Slowly whisk in the milk, making sure there are no lumps formed in the sauce.
  • Bring the milk to a gentle simmer, add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the cheese. Let the cheese melt, remove and keep aside.
When the fries are ready, liberally douse with cheese sauce and serve hot.

February 23, 2007

E for Eggplant in Coconut Gravy

Eggplant is my favorite vegetable and I can have it for all my meals. I never understood why some people don’t like it, but I guess I am heavily biased toward it. If I have to do an A-Z of vegetables, it’ll probably look like this:

A for Aubergine (German, UK)
B for Baingan (Hindi)

E for Eggplant (US)
K for Katharikai (Tamil)
M for Makhua (Malaysia)

T for Terong (Thai)

V for Vankaya (Telugu) and so on.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise if I submit “E for Eggplant in coconut gravy” for Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables series. I used Japanese eggplants, the skinny long ones. They taste sweeter than the large round eggplants.

Japanese eggplants – 3, cut into match sticks
Red onions – 1 medium, thinly sliced
Green chilies – 3, chopped
Ginger – ½ tsp, minced
Garlic – 2 cloves, chopped fine
Tomatoes – 2 ripe or ¼ cup tomato puree
Curry powder – 1 tsp
Coconut milk (light) – ½ cup
Turmeric – ¼ tsp
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste
  • Heat a large non stick skillet, sauté the eggplant pieces in 1 tsp oil until nicely browned on all sides. I used non-stick spray and worked in batches so that the skillet is not crowded and all the pieces are browned evenly. Remove and keep aside.
  • Heat 2 tsp oil in the same skillet, add onions, chilies, ginger and garlic and sauté till the onions are lightly browned.
  • Add turmeric, tomatoes, curry powder and red chili powder, cover and cook till the tomatoes get mushy (or until the tomato puree doesn’t smell raw anymore).
  • Add the fried eggplant pieces and 1 cup of water (use less if you don’t want your gravy to be runny), cover and cook for 5 -7 minutes until the eggplant pieces soak up the spices.
  • Add coconut milk, salt and cook for about 3 more minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with steaming hot rice.
Rice with Eggplant Curry and Lemon-Ginger pickle (Priya)

February 21, 2007

Soy Flakes Masala Curry

This is another one of those recipes I jotted down in my little trusty diary during my India trip. I couldn’t find soy flakes in India grocery here, so I bought 2 boxes from India. This recipe goes really well with rotis and chapathis.


Soy Flakes – 1 cup
Onion – 1 small, chopped
Tomatoes – 2 ripe, chopped
Green chilies – 3
Ginger + Garlic paste – 1 tsp
Coconut (dry or fresh) – 2 tbsp
Poppy seeds (Khus khus) – 2 tbsp
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste

  • Grind coconut and poppy seeds with water into a smooth paste.
  • Soak soy flakes in 2-3 cups of hot water until ready to use.
  • Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan, sauté onions till lightly browned. Add ginger-garlic paste and sauté for a minute.
  • Add green chilies, tomatoes, coconut paste, cook covered till the tomatoes are tender.
  • Drain soy flakes, squeeze out the extra water and add to the tomato mixture along with red chili powder and salt. Sprinkle water if the gravy is too dry.
We had our soy masala curry with jowar roti (thanks to Shilpa for the easy jowar roti recipe) and pesarapappu charu. Healthy and delicious meal.

February 16, 2007

D for Dal Moghlai

This is my entry to Nupur’s A-Z of Indian vegetables series. Dal is the quintessential comfort food for all Indians. Be it the tangy-spicy sambar or plain old tadka dal, no Indian thali is complete without dal. This recipe is from Tarla Dalal’s recipe newsletter. I love my lentils and make sure that I make a big pot of dal (like soup) every weekend that will last at least 2-3 days. That way all I have to worry about during weeknights is making a subzi (curry) and rice.

Toor dal – ¾ cup
Chana dal – ¼ cup
Bottle gourd (doodhi/ lauki/ sorakaya) – 2 cups, peeled and chopped into big pieces
Tomatoes – 1 cup, chopped
Turmeric – ¼ tsp
Onion – ¾ cup, chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, chopped fine
Ginger – 1 tsp, minced
Green chilies – 5
Salt – to taste

  • Clean, wash and soak the dals for about 30 minutes. Drain.
  • Add the tomatoes, bottle gourd, turmeric, salt and 3 cups water to the dals and pressure cook till the dals are tender.
  • Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and when the seeds crackle, add the ginger, garlic, green chilies and onions and sauté till the onions are golden brown in color.
  • Add the cooked dal and 1 cup water to the onions and bring to a boil.
Serve with steaming hot rice for a wholesome meal.

February 13, 2007

Tofu & Vegetables in Black bean sauce

This is a vegetarian version of lovely Barbara of Tigers & Strawberries Peng’s Home style Bean-curd recipe. I had some baked tofu left over from this dish, that I made earlier, in the fridge. You can use extra firm tofu or baked tofu for this recipe.

Extra firm tofu – 16 oz. package, drained, chopped into bite size pieces
Mixed vegetables – 2 cups (carrots, peppers, mushroom, snow peas, onions, celery etc – I used frozen snow pea stir fry blend)
Black bean sauce – 2 tbsp
Red chili flakes – 1 tsp
Ginger – 1 tsp
Garlic – 2 cloves, finely chopped
Soy sauce (low sodium) – 3 tbsp
Sesame oil – 1 tsp
Corn flour – 2 tsp (mixed in ¼ cup water to make a slurry)

  • Fry tofu in little bit of oil, so that the pieces are lightly browned evenly on all sides. Remove and keep aside. Skip this step if using baked tofu.
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok or large pan, add ginger, garlic and chili flakes. Stir fry for 30 seconds.
  • Add the vegetables and black bean sauce; stir fry till the veggies are crisp tender, about 7-10 minutes.
  • Add soy sauce, corn flour slurry and 1 cup water, cook for about 2 minutes until the gravy is thick. Serve with brown rice.

Note: I added black bean sauce to the oil right after ginger and garlic and found out the hard way that its not a very good idea. The sauce hissed and sputtered in the hot oil and all over the stove and counters. So, don't try this at home.

February 09, 2007

Carrot-Coconut Curry

Continuing with the sweet & tangy theme, I made Carrot & Coconut curry. Both carrot and coconut are naturally sweet, so I didn’t add any other sweetener to this dish. I made it little tangy by adding lemon juice.

Carrots – 4 medium, finely chopped
Onion – 1 large, finely chopped
Grated Coconut (Fresh or dry) – ½ cup
Green chilies – 2
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Lemon juice – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 4-6

  • Heat 1tbsp oil in a pan, add urad dal, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves and when the seeds splutter add onions and fry for about 7-10 minutes or until slightly caramelized, but not burnt.
  • Meanwhile microwave carrots with water for about 6-8 minutes until they are just tender.
  • Add carrots to onions and sauté on medium high flame for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in grated coconut, lemon juice, chili powder and salt.
  • Mix well and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve with rice or chapattis.

Cooking Around Flavors - Sweet & Tangy

I was watching Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meals the other day and she was making a menu around smoky flavors. She used various ingredients like cumin, chipotle in adobo, smoked Gouda cheese etc to get the smoky taste in all the dishes. That made me thinking about Indian menus around one particular flavor.
I don’t usually like having the same flavor in all the dishes. I like to have complimentary flavors like hot & spicy with mild & slightly sweet. Well for this menu, I wanted to have the same flavor, sweet and tangy, in all the dishes.
I made Pearl Onion pulusu and Carrot & Coconut curry with white rice.

Potato fry, Carrot-Coconut curry, Onion Pulusu with Rice

Pearl Onion Pulusu (Chinna Ullipaya Pulusu)

Pearl Onions – 12, peeled and cut in half
Tomatoes – 2 ripe, chopped
Green chilies – 4
Tamarind paste – 2 tbsp
Sambar powder – 1 ½ tsp
Jaggery – 3 tbsp
Rice flour – 1 tbsp, mixed with water
Turmeric – ½ tsp

For Tempering:
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Dry red chilies – 2
Curry leaves – 6-8
Asafoetida, hing – pinch

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a saucepan, add the ingredients for tempering one after another in the same order. When the seeds splutter, add the onions and sauté on medium heat till they turn light golden.
  • Add the tomatoes, cover and cook till they get mushy. Add tamarind paste, 2 cups water and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Stir in sambar powder, jaggery and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the rice flour mixture, cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in chopped coriander leaves.
This sweet and sour dish goes well with rice and plain dal (utti pappu).

February 06, 2007

Banana Cake

I wanted to bake a Banana cake and I found this recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook “Baking: From my Kitchen to Yours”. This cake definitely doesn’t fulfill any of my healthy eating resolution requirements, but then I thought to myself, anything in moderation is OK. So I promised myself only 1 piece a day (forgot all about the promise when the cake came out of the oven and my husband and I gobbled down the small corner pieces, mushy middle piece, crumbs et al. I had to hide the remaining cake in the refrigerator out of sight). It’s not dense, but it’s not feather light either. The cake is just right that you keep going back to it.
The other good thing about this cake is that the author makes the recipe very flexible and offers a number of options if you don’t have any of the ingredients on hand.

All purpose flour – 2 2/3 cups
Baking Soda – 1 1/4 tsp
Fresh Nutmeg – ½ tsp
Salt – ½ tsp
Light Brown sugar – 1 cup (or substitute with sugar)
Sugar – ¾ cup
Banana – 4 very ripe, mashed (1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups)
Eggs – 2 (at room temperature)
Butter – 12 tbsp (1½ sticks, at room temperature)
Vanilla extract – 1 1/2 tsp
Milk – 1/2 cup (substitute with sour cream, coconut milk or plain yogurt)
Grated coconut - 1 cup (substitute with dried cherries, raisins or half coconut, half cherries/raisins)

  • Center the rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter 2 9”x2” round cake pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pans on a baking sheet.
  • Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together.
  • Beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugars and beat at medium speed for a couple of minutes, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and rum. The batter will have a beautiful satiny consistency.
  • Now lower the speed and add the bananas-the batter will curdle at this stage-but will come together as the dry ingredients are added.
  • Still on lower speed, add the dry and liquid ingredients alternately, adding the flour mixture in 3 portions and the coconut milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients).
  • Mix just until everything is incorporated. Switching to a rubber spatula, gently stir in the coconut. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cakes are a deep golden brown. They should pull away from the sides of the pans and a thin knife inserted into their centers will come out clean.
  • Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes, then unmold and invert onto another rack to cool to room temperature right side up.

To serve the cake in a fancy way, top the cake with ice cream (coconut, chocolate, vanilla and coffee flavors work great) and drizzle some chocolate syrup or ganache. What’s not to love about delicious cake, ice cream, chocolate syrup and cherry…..
This is my entry to Meeta’s Monthly mingle-Sweet Love.

February 04, 2007

Tortilla and Tomato Soup

This month's theme for Weekend Cookbook Challenge (WCC) is to cook a recipe from our newly acquired cookbook. This recipe is by Didi Emmons from February edition of Vegetarian Time magazine.

Onion - 1 large, chopped fine
Garlic - 2 cloves, minced
Chopped fire-roasted tomatoes - 1 28 oz. can
Corn Tortillas - 2 6-inch, cut into quarters
Cilantro - 3 tbsp, chopped
Hot sauce - 1 tsp, optional
Fresh Goat Cheese - 3 tbsp
Plain low-fat yogurt - 2 tbsp

  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute 7 minutes, or until soft, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, and saute 1 minute more.
  • Add tomatoes, 2 cups water and tortillas. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Cover, and simmer 15 minutes, or until tortillas have broken down into tiny pieces.
  • Stir in cilantro and hot sauce, if using, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Combine goat cheese and yogurt in small bowls. Ladle soup into bowls, then swirl goat cheese mixture into each serving.


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin
Blogging tips