Cook's Hideout: February 2009

February 24, 2009

Vegan Potato Pizza

I was looking at my cookbook collection and I realized that I have made a big progression over the years in selecting cookbooks. I bought cookbooks from places you wouldn’t even think to look for books. The first cookbook I bought “Indian cooking” was from Costco and it has very limited vegetarian recipes. I remember just glancing at the book cover and the next thing you know; book was home, didn’t even bother to see what was in the book. My next cookbook was from “Marshalls” and the same thing happened again.

I collected quite a few books that have not much use to me as they have minimum vegetarian recipes. But with time I realized (and a nice little discussion with my DH) that I’m amassing all these book to gather dust and that’s when I started to research a little bit before actually buying (and if you want to know, the last 4 cookbooks I bought were from amazon). I bought all of Isa Chandra’s vegan cookbook collection recently and I’m very very happy with all 3 of them.

I also have to mention about the great library that I have in town; it is a part of a co-operative library system and if my local library doesn’t carry a particular book (which is 9 out of 10 times), they can borrow it for me from any of the 75 other libraries… how cool is that!!! I might have borrowed about 25 books till now using this (or should I say misusing this). If I think I like the book and I should have it, then I buy on amazon. Its been working great for me.

So now coming to the recipe, this is my entry to Vaishali’s (@ Holy Cow-Earth Vegan) Vegan-Italian event. Recipe is from Isa’s Vegan With a Vengeance (VWaV) and has two very unusual pizza toppings: Potato and Tempeh crumbles.
And what do you know Pillsbury Pizza Crust is vegan; and I had Bertolli’s tomato and basil pasta sauce on hand; that cut my prep to practically nothing. I changed the recipe just a little bit since I didn’t have some of the ingredients on hand, but both DH and I liked the pizza very much.

Pizza Crust – 1, homemade or store-bought (I used Pillsbury brand)
Potato – 1 medium, thinly sliced
Tempeh crumbles* – 3 tbsp (Recipe follows)
Pizza sauce – 1/3 cup
Garlic – 3 cloves, thinly sliced
Onion – 1 small, thinly sliced
Olive oil – for brushing
  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Rinse potato slices until the water runs clear, 2-3 times to remove any excess starch.
  • Roll out the dough onto a pizza stone or foil covered baking sheet.
  • Spread the tomato sauce with the back of a big spoon on the crust. As per Isa you should still be able to see some of the crust through the sauce-otherwise pizza might get soggy, so that’s what I did.
  • Scatter all the other ingredients on the crust making sure that potatoes and onions lay flat for even cooking. Drizzle little olive oil on potato, onion and garlic to make sure that they don’t dry out in the oven.
  • Bake in the oven and check after 8 minutes. Once the crust is lightly browned the pizza is ready, takes about 12-14 minutes.
  • Remove and let cool before enjoying this unique pizza.

Tempeh Crumbles:
Tempeh – 1 pk, any variety
Fennel Seeds – 1 tbsp
Dried Basil – 1tsp
Dried Oregano or marjoram – 1tsp
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Soy sauce or Tamari – 2tbsp
Olive oil – 1tbsp
Lemon juice – 1tbsp
Salt – to taste

  • In a small pan, crumble tempeh; add enough water to almost cover it. Over medium-high heat, simmer until most of the water evaporates; about 12-15 minutes.
  • Drain remaining water; add the rest of the ingredients and cook on medium heat stirring occasionally till lightly browned; about 10 minutes.

February 23, 2009

Les Recettes pour A.W.E.D France

I took French classes for almost 5 years long long long time ago and don't remember a whole lot now, except for a few words here and there. My only aim was to get a passing grade and get over with it. I struggled to understand why the French had to have genders for every "thing". But now that I think about it, may be I should have paid attention in the class; knowing a second language is such a plus nowadays.

So for this month's A.W.E.D DK @ Culinary Bazaar chose French. My entries are Crunchy Croque Provencal and "French" fries.

Crunchy Croque Provencal:
This recipe is from vegetarian times magazine. Traditionally a Croque sandwich is a hot grilled sandwich made with ham and cheese. This vegetarian version is baked and has tomatoes & onions along with cheese. I made some changes to the recipe since I didn't have some of the ingredients on hand. Click here for the original recipe.

Adapted from Vegetarian Times magazine.
Rosemary & Olive bread (or French bread) - 4 slices
Coarse-grain mustard - 1 tbsp
Reduced fat Cheddar cheese - 4 slices
Red onion - 2 thin slices, rings separated
Tomatoes - 4 thin slics
Egg - 1, beaten
1% Milk - 1/4 cup
  • Preheat oven to 450F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.
  • Spread mustard over 2 bread slices. Top each slice with cheese, 1 onion ring, 2 tomato slices. Season with salt and pepper. Top with remaining bread slices.
  • Whisk together milk and egg in shallow dish. Season with salt and pepper. Soak both sides of the sandwiches in the milk mixture until liquid is absorbed.
  • Transfer sandwiches to prepared baking sheet, and bake 10 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
These turned out to be one of the tastiest sandwiches I ever had and with my Sweet Potato "French" fries made it a complete meal.

Sweet Potato "French" Fries:
These fries have become my absolute favorite. These are baked instead of fried; they are sweet and savory at the same time which makes them irrestitable. My sweet potato hating husband also likes them. They can be flavored in many different ways, for the french themed fries, I added 'herb de provence'.

Sweet Potato - 1 medium
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Herb de provence - 1 tsp
Salt & pepper - to taste

  • Preheat oven to 450F.
  • Cut sweet potato into thin slices.
  • Add oil, herbs, salt and pepper into a bowl. Add the potato slices, toss around to coat.
  • Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet (covered with foil for easy clean up) and bake for 15-20 minutes.
These are not as crunchy as regular potato fries, but they are much more nutritious and delicious.

February 20, 2009

Potato Quesadillas

This is my entry to Recipes for the Rest of Us-Dinner being hosted by lovely Siri @ Siri’s Corner. This event is started by Ramki @ One Page cookbook and the rules say that the recipe should be easy enough for a 10 year old to make.

I’m sure almost all 10 year olds like potato (I sure did and my DH says he could eat potato everyday even now, so I can imagine how he was when he was 10 J) and they would want these for themselves.

Coming to the recipe, its nothing but spicy aloo bhaji tucked in a tortilla (roti) with lots of cheese.

Potatoes – 1 medium, cubed
Onions – ½ small, chopped
Red chili powder – a little bit or a lot (depending on how spicy you like)
Garam masala – to your taste
Salt- to your taste
Cheese – you 2 handfuls
Tortillas – 2 (I used sundried tomato-basil flavored, but any flavored tortilla would work. Chapati/ Roti would be great too)

  • First make aloo cury: Heat few drops of oil in a pan, add onions and potatoes; sauté till onions are tender, will take around 5 minutes.
  • Add a small glass of water, cover and cook on medium-low flame till potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add chili powder, garam masala and salt; mix well and keep aside.
  • To make the quesadillas: Heat a griddle or tawa on medium heat; spray with non-stick cooking spray; add the tortilla and let it brown a little bit on one side; then flip. Add palmful cheese on half the tortilla, and then add half potato curry then another palmful cheese. Fold tortilla in half and press lightly with a spatula, so the cheese melts and sticks. Flip and cook on the other side till brown spots appear. Remove and let cool** for at least 5 minutes and then cut into wedges.
** If the quesadillas are cut when the cheese is still hot, then the cheese oozes out.

February 17, 2009

Sweet Potato Soup

My 16 month toddler has just started to get used to real food (not that bland baby food anymore.. yay), he keeps me thinking of what new to make for him. Wholesome baby food website has been very helpful for me with lot of recipes and nutritional information.
I try to feed him the same food that we eat except when I think it is too spicy for him to handle. For cases like that I make a little extra of some of the dishes and freeze for later use. This is one of those recipes that freezes extremely well and comes in handy when needed. This soup is full of yummy veggies-sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips and leeks.

Sweet potatoes – 2 medium, peeled and chopped
Carrots – 1 medium, peeled and chopped
Leek – 1 medium, chopped and cleaned (see how to here)
Parsnip – 1 medium, peeled and chopped
Onion – 1 medium, chopped
Bay leaf – 2
Chili powder – ½ tsp (or to taste)
Brown sugar – ½ tsp (or to taste)
Vegetable Broth (preferably low-sodium)/ Water – 3 cups
Salt – to taste

  • Heat 2 tsp oil in a medium sauce pan; add all the veggies and bay leaf with a pinch of salt. Let the veggies sweat for 10-12 minutes on medium flame.
  • Add water/ broth, cumin powder, chili powder & brown sugar; bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  • Puree into smooth consistency either in a blender or immersion blender. Pour back into the pan, add half & half, season with salt and pepper; simmer for 3 more minutes. Serve warm.
  • To freeze: After the soup is completely cool, pour into ice cube trays; cover with plastic wrap and freeze until set. Once frozen, transfer them into freezer safe plastic bags and use within 3 months.

This is my very Orange entry to Aparna’s @ My Diverse Kitchen “Food in Colors-Orange”, an event started by Sunshinemom @ Tongue Ticklers.

February 12, 2009

Ammamma’s Idlis for Dhruva

Dhruva is my 16month old son and he got to meet his ammamma and tata for the very first time last November. My parents were super excited to see their first grandchild. My mom said: “she wasn’t sure if he was going to crawl, walk or run to them when they first saw him”. Walk, he did, when he went to India.
I was a little nervous whether he would go to them or treat them like strangers, but I was glad that he went to them as if he knew them forever. The trip as a whole was quite emotional and coming back was almost heart-breaking (more for the adults than for the little one). I feel bad that he is not able to spend time with his grandparents and missing all the pampering he could get being with them. Well.. may be someday he’ll get that chance and I truly hope its soon.
Coming back to the task at hand, Pratibha and Jigyasa @ Pedatha are the hosts of this month’s Cooking for Kids event and they have chosen Love as the ingredient. They are hosting this event in memory of Pedatha’s spirit of love and nurture. Cooking for Kids is a monthly blog event started by Sharmi @ Naivedyam.
My entry is my Amma’s idlis that my son ate for breakfast every single day we were there. He absolutely loved the idli-coconut pachadi combo every morning. There might be millions of recipes for basic idli and chutney, but this is how my mom makes and this is what my son loved.

Urad dal – 1 cup
Idli Rawa – 2 ½ cups
Salt – to taste


  • Soak urad dal and idli rawa separately for at least 4 hours. Grind dal into smooth batter.
  • Squeeze water from rawa. Add dal batter and about 1 tsp salt and mix well. (I use my hands to do this. Its fun.)
  • Let the batter ferment overnight. Pour the batter into idli mold and steam for 12-15 minutes.

Enjoy them hot with a generous dab of ghee and yummy coconut chutney.

Coconut Chutney:
Coconut – 1 cup, grated
Dalia (Roasted channa dal) – ¼ cup (Putnala pappu)
Green chilies – 3 (or less for kids)
Salt – to taste

For tempering:
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Hing – pinch
Dry red chili – 1
Curry leaves – 5-6


  • Grind all the ingredients for the chutney to a smooth paste.
  • Heat 1 tsp oil, add all the ingredients for tempering and once the seeds splutter, add it to the chutney. Mix well and enjoy with idlis or dosas.
    These are extremely simple recipes, but when made with love, they are the most comforting and can be as heavy as a big feast.
    Wish you all a very Happy Valentines Day. Hope you have a day filled with lots love and happiness.

    February 09, 2009

    Mango Ice cream

    I know we are having record low temperatures this winter, but that didn't stop us from making and eating ice cream. My latest kitchen acquisition is a Cuisinart 2 qt Ice cream maker. I am not a big ice cream eater, but my DH absolutely loves it and keeps buying them whenever they are on sale.

    I read these articles and I was totally shocked how many artificial chemicals are used in commercial ice creams. I almost fell over when I read that not even vanilla flavoring is real (strawberry or cherry or anything for that matter). So I decided that we either make our own ice cream or eat nothing unless it has ingredients we can recognize, pronounce and the list is not as tall as me.

    Then before Christmas, we saw this in BJ’s for $34.99. We went home at night with a brand new appliance. Since then, I made Vanilla ice cream (and yes with real vanilla extract—thank you very much.. I'm actually in the look for vanilla bean.. does anyone have any suggestions where to get those??), Kahlua Ice cream and this Mango ice cream. Its so much cheaper too, about 1.5 qts of ice cream for under $5 .
    This recipe is adapted from Priya @ Akshayapaatram’s Mango ice cream. Thanks Priya for inspiring me to make ice creams at home. Next on my to-make is her Dulche leche ice cream. If you want to make this recipe please see my notes below.

    Half & Half – 1 qt

    Sugar - 1 cup (or to taste)

    Mango pulp – 1 can, 34oz.

    Cardamom powder – 2 tsp


    • Blend using a hand blender, half& half, sugar, mango pulp and cardamom in a large bowl. Make sure that the sugar is well mixed in. Pour into the ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

    MY NOTES: These measurements were way too much for our 2 qt machine. I thought 1 qt of cream and 1 qt of mango should be ok. But apparently I didn’t take the added sugar and the aerating process into account and 2 qt is the final ice cream quantity. Well at the end, I had to hold back about 2 cups of blended mango – cream mixture from adding as it was way up near the brim. I also had to take out about another 1 cup of ice cream from the machine as it started to overflow.

    So next time I make this I’m going to follow below measurements:
    * Mango puree – 3 (you need this much to taste the mango)
    * Half & Half – 2 ½ cups
    Everything else as required. I made mango popsicles with the leftover mango-cream mixture and they were awesome too.

    February 07, 2009

    Mamidikaya Pulihora & Ragi Dosa

    I bought Dakshin-Vegetarian Cuisine from South India by Chandra Padmanabhan on my last trip to India. It’s a neat little cookbook with lot of south Indian recipes, mostly from Tamil Nadu. I tried coconut sambhar and adai recipes from the book, they were both awesome.
    I wanted to try a different mamidikaya pulihora (mango rice) recipe and found Mangai Ogaray in the book and the result was nothing like the regular mango rice I usually make. It is a lengthier process but I think it is well worth it.

    Grated Mango – 1½ cups (I used half of a medium mango)
    Peanuts - 4 tbsp
    Rice – 3 cups, cooked (I used Sona masoori rice)
    Curry leaves - 6

    For the Spice paste:
    Dry red Chilies – 6
    Fresh Coconut, grated – ¼ cup
    Hing - ½ tsp

    For Tempering:
    Oil – 3 tbsp
    Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
    Chana dal - 1 tbsp
    Dry red Chili - 1, halved

    • Grind the ingredients for the spice paste to a fine paste, adding ½ the grated mango; keep aside.
    • Cool cooked rice on a large plate.
    • Heat oil and the tempering ingredients; when the mustard seeds splutter, add the peanuts.
    • When the bengal gram turns golden add the rest of the grated mango and sauté for 4-5 minutes on medium flame till mango doesn’t smell raw anymore.
    • Add the spice paste and sauté for another 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
    • Add salt and curry leaves to rice and mix well. Stir in the mango mixture, a little at a time and mix well; season with salt if needed.
    I made Adai Kunukku and Sakkarai Pongal from Dk's Culinary Bazaar. It was an awesome Tamil Nadu meal that we enjoyed very much.

    Mango Rice with Adai Kunukku & Sakkarai Pongal

    Ragi Dosa: Another recipe that I tried from Dakshin is Ragi Dosa. I bought ragi flour from Indian grocery sometime back and I’ve been looking to make something with it.

    Ragi flour – 2 cups
    Rice Flour – ½ cup
    Small Onion – 1, chopped fine
    Green chilies – 3-4, chopped fine
    Coriander leaves – chopped fine
    Sour curd – ½ cup

    For tempering:
    Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
    Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
    Hing – pinch
    Salt – to taste

    • Mix ragi flour, rice flour, onions, coriander leaves, chilies and salt. Add the curd and enough water to make thin batter. Cover and keep aside for 2 hours.
    • Heat 2 tsp oil; add the seeds and hing. Mix it in the batter.
    • This batter is similar to rawa dosa batter and it has to be poured from outside-in instead of inside-out like in regular dosa.
    • Take a ladleful of batter and start pouring from outside-in onto the hot griddle pan. Try to make the batter thin by swirling the pan around (my husband’s trick) or with the ladle itself. Pour about ½ tsp oil along the edges and let the dosa cook for 1-2 minutes on medium-high flame. Gently lift the dosa and cook the other side for another minute. Serve hot with any chutney.

    We had our dosas with Karivepaku karam (Curry leaf powder) & Chutney powder. My son enjoyed these with his apple sauce. I wrapped the leftover dosas in a foil and put in the fridge. I wasn’t sure how they would turn out; they tasted just fine microwaved after 4 days, but I had to be real careful handling them as they got very delicate and crumbly.

    February 04, 2009

    Gnocchi Primavera

    Gnocchi are small Italian potato dumplings. They are soft like pillows, just melt in your mouth and to top it all off, they cook in a snap. I bought dried gnocchi from our local Farmer’s market and this recipe was on the package. I made it the same day since I had all the ingredients and I wanted to see how the dish was going to turn out right away.

    Gnocchi – 10 oz. pkg
    Onions – 1 medium, thinly sliced
    Carrots – 2 medium, diced
    Zucchini – 2 medium, diced
    Crushed Tomato – 1 cup
    Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
    Red Pepper flakes – ¼ tsp
    Rosemary – 1 sprig fresh or 1 tsp dried
    Parsley – to garnish
    Salt & Pepper – to taste

    • Cook gnocchi according to package directions. As I already said these take a snap, all you have to do is drop gnocchi into boiling water and the pasta is ready as soon as they float to the top. Just remove with a slotted spoon into a colander and keep aside till the sauce is ready.
    • In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil on medium flame. Add onions and red pepper flakes and sauté till the onions turn transparent and slightly browned at the edges.
    • Add garlic, carrots and zucchini; cover and cook till the veggies are tender about 8-10 minutes.
    • Add tomatoes and rosemary; cover again and cook for another 5-6 minutes, till the tomatoes don’t smell raw anymore. Season with salt and pepper; remove the fresh rosemary sprig (if using). Slowly drop in the gnocchi into the sauce. Serve warm with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.


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