Cook's Hideout: February 2011

February 22, 2011


Falafel has been on my to-make list for the longest. I don’t like deep frying-being calorie conscious is one reason, but the other important reason is I don’t like to deal with all that used oil. If I ever make a deep fried dish, I make sure that I use the oil only once for deep frying and the leftover oil gets used in everyday dishes 1tsp at a time. I also make sure that I transfer the leftover oil from the frying pan to a smaller container to make sure that the pan doesn't form an oil stain and for easy handling.
Nice little tip I learnt from Martha Stewart for disposing used oil is to use lots of paper towels to soak up the oil before washing. Never ever drain oil directly in the sink; this will adversely affect your drainage system.
Ok since the housekeeping is taken care of; let me move onto the falafel now. The recipe is from Vegetarian Times magazine and I had it bookmarked forever now. Finally got to make it this past weekend when we had friends over for a “Middle-Eastern” themed dinner party.
The recipe uses canned chickpeas and shallow fries the patties, which is probably not authentic, but the end result was just as yummy as the fried ones. I doubled the recipe and was able to make 30 patties, enough for 8-10 servings.

FalafelRecipe from Vegetarian Times Magazine.
Ingredients (makes 15-16 medium sized patties):
Chickpeas – 1 16oz. can, rinsed and drained
Tahini – 3tbsp
Garlic clove – 1, minced
Egg – 1
Lemon zest – 2tbsp, finely grated
Lemon juice – 1tsp
Ground Coriander – 1 tsp
Ground Cumin – 1½ tsp
Chili powder – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste
All-purpose flour – ¼ cup
Onion – 2tbsp, finely chopped
Parsley – 2tbsp, finely chopped
Baking powder – ½ tsp

  • In a food processor, pulse chickpeas, garlic, tahini, egg, lemon zest & juice, salt and spices until mostly smooth, but still a little chunky.
  • Transfer to a bowl and add flour, onions and parsley. Mix well to combine. Make ¼” thick patties with about ¼ cup of chickpea mixture.
  • I lined the patties up on a foil covered baking sheet, wrapped them in plastic wrap and refrigerated them the night before I was going to make the falafel. I took them out of the fridge an hour before frying to take the chill off.
  • Pour olive oil into a shallow pan to cover about ¼” in the bottom. Add the patties in batches and fry on medium-high flame and fry for about 3 mins per side or until golden brown. Make sure that the patties don’t touch while frying.
  • Drain the patties on paper towel lined platter. Repeat with remaining patties.
I served them with Pita bread, quick tahini sauce (½ cup each of tahini & yogurt mixed with ground cumin, salt & pepper, lemon juice), store-bought hot falafel chutney and cucumber & tomato salad. Enjoy!!

February 15, 2011

Gujarati Dal for ICC January

For this month’s Indian Cooking Challenge (ICC), Valli chose Gujarati Dal from Sukham Ayu cookbook. I own a copy of the book, but never made this dish, so thank you valli for picking this nutritious and delicious dish for ICC. This post also is the last in our 7 day mini marathon. As I said earlier the marathon has been great experience and an opportunity to get to know so many talented bloggers that I didn’t know before. I’ve bookmarked quite a few recipes and I hope to try them pretty soon. Coming to the Gujarati dal recipe.

I substituted some of the ingredients due to lack of availability. I cook with yam very frequently, but didn’t have any on hand when making the dish; I’m going to make this dish strictly per the recipe again when I have all the ingredients on hand.

Gujarati DalIngredients:
Toor dal – ½ cup
Tamarind: 2tbsp
Cluster beans (Goru chikkudu kaya) – ¼ cup, thawed if frozen
Green chilies – 2, slit
Ginger – 1” piece, finely chopped
Peanuts – 1tbsp (I used unsalted roasted peanuts)
Ground Coriander – 2tsp
Ground Cumin – 1tsp
Jaggery – 1tsp
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Garam masala – ½ tsp
Coriander leaves – ½ cup, chopped
Salt – to taste

For tempering:
Mustard seeds (Aavalu)– 1/2 tsp
Fenugreek seeds (Menthulu) – 1/4 tsp
Cumin Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Dry red chili – 2
Curry leaves – 5-6
Asafoetida – pinch

  • Pressure cook toor dal with 2 cups until very soft. When cool enough to handle, mash dal smooth.
  • Add all ingredients except for garam masala, coriander leaves and tempering ingredients to the smooth dal along with 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer on medium-low flame and cook for 15-20 minutes until all the flavors are mingle.
  • In a small sauce pan, heat 2tsp ghee for the tempering; add mustard seeds and once they start sputtering, lower the heat and add fenugreek seeds. Next add the dry red chili, hing and curry leaves.
  • Once everything starts to sputter and smell aromatic, add it quickly to the dal.
  • Add garam masala, salt and coriander leaves to the dal; bring to a boil and simmer for another 5 minutes before turning off the heat.
Serve hot with steamed rice or roti.

Gujarati Dal
Don't forget to check out what the other Marathoners are cooking up in their kitchens.
Azeema, Bhagi, Champa, Sowmya, Gayathri Anand, Gayathri Kumar, Harini, Jay, Kamalika, Mina, Meena, Padma, PJ, Priya Mahadevan, PriyaSuresh, PriyaVaasu, Rujuta, Saraswathi, Savitha, Shanavi, Smitha, Srivalli, Suma,Usha,Veena.

February 14, 2011

Deconstructed Vegetarian S’mores

6th day of Blogging Marathon, I can’t believe I posted continuously for the past 6 days. Yay.. for me. I’m so happy to be a part of this marathon as there is a certain sense of camaraderie among the marathoners and the kind of constructive feedback we have been getting from each other has been really helpful. All thanks to Valli for starting and organizing this event and hopefully I can be a part of your future marathons too.

De-constructed Vegetarian S'mores
So for today’s Kid-friendly recipe and to celebrate Valentine’s Day, I made these super simple and easy deconstructed s’mores that happen to be vegetarian too. I used Marshmallow fluff that uses egg whites instead of gelatin making this a vegetarian dessert. Also since I was making this at home and not on a camp fire, I wanted the dish to be eatable with a spoon. Google search led me to this recipe and the end result was equally exquisite.

De-constructed Vegetarian S'moresHere’s the recipe:
Graham cracker crumbs – 6 tsp, divided
Instant Chocolate pudding mix – ½ of 1 package
Marshmallow fluff – ½ cup
Pure vanilla extract – ½ tsp

  • Sprinkle 1½ tsp of graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of four 7 oz. ramekins. Gently spread the crumbs so that they cover the base.
  • Follow package instructions and prepare the instant chocolate pudding. Divide the pudding evenly between the ramekins. Pour the mixture slowly to avoid the crumbs being disturbed; pouring along the side of the ramekin helps a lot.
  • Place the marshmallow fluff in a small ziplock bag. Squish to one corner, tightly twist the top to make a piping bag. Snip the corner and gently pipe the fluff onto the pudding.
  • Let sit for about an hour in the fridge to allow marshmallow to set. Use a crème brulee torch if you have one or broil in the oven with the oven door open until the tops are golden brown. Serve immediately topped with some fresh blueberries.
The top gets stiff and crackly and the combination of the crisp marshmallow layer with the smooth chocolate layer and the sweet and tart blueberries..... mmmmm... this definitley made our Valentine's day special. Hope all of you enjoyed your Valentine's day.
De-constructed Vegetarian S'moresDe-constructed Vegetarian S'moresDon't forget to check out what the other Marathoners are cooking up in their kitchens.
Azeema, Bhagi, Champa, Sowmya, Gayathri Anand, Gayathri Kumar, Harini, Jay, Kamalika, Mina, Meena, Padma, PJ, Priya Mahadevan, PriyaSuresh, PriyaVaasu, Rujuta, Saraswathi, Savitha, Shanavi, Smitha, Srivalli, Suma,Usha,Veena.

February 13, 2011

Jelly Filled Donuts

5th day of our Blogging Marathon and today I made some Jelly filled donuts for the little one (and for the adults too, of course). My son loves donuts from Dunkin Donuts (a very famous donut chain in the US), but we don't buy from there very often which is why my son craves for donuts once in a while. He'll ask me when I drop him off at daycare, "Are you going to bring me some donuts when you pick me up in the evening?". I usually end up giving him some excuses for not bring anything in the evening, but this time I promised him that I'll make some at home.

Recipe is from Vegetarian Times magazine and I had it bookmarked for quite sometime now. They are a little time consuming to make (takes about 3-4 hours including the rising time), but the end product is well worth the effort. These little muchkins are so cute that I couldn't help but pop at least 2 at every stage of making. They are quite addictive.
To make a little nutritious, I used 1 cup of whole-wheat pastry flour and no sugar added jelly to fill them.

Jelly DonutsRecipe adapted from Vegetarian Times Magazine.
All purpose flour - 1½ cups
Whole-wheat pastry flour - 1 cup (or just use 2½cups All-purpose flour)
Yeast - 2¼ tsp (or 0.25oz sachet)
Sugar - ¼ cup plus 1 tsp, divided
Salt - 1 tsp
Baking powder - ½tsp
Nutmeg - ½tsp
Vegan margarine - 3tbsp, melted (I used Earth Balance vegan butter)
Superfine Sugar - ½cup (I ground regular sugar in the blender to get the superfine sugar)
Jelly/ Jam - ½ cup (I used seedless blackberry jam, but you can use any seedless jam/jelly, raspberry would be awesome too)

  • Mix yeast, 1tsp sugar with 1 cup of warm water (110°F) in a measuring cup. Let stand for 5 minutes or until the mixture is frothy and smells yeasty.
  • Whisk together flours, remaining sugar, salt, baking powder and nutmeg in a large bowl. Grease separate bowl with oil.
  • Stir yeast mixture into flour mixture with a wooden spoon until sticky dough forms. Add up to ¼ cup warm water to make smooth dough.
  • Stir in the melted margarine.
  • Dough is very soft and sticky at this stage. Turn it onto a well floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes using extra flour as kneaded, until the dough is soft, smooth and pliable.
  • Transfer to the oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or towel and let rise in a warm place for 1½ hours.
  • Flour a baking sheet. Roll the dough into ¼" thick round on a well-floured surface. Cut into circles using 2" round cutter and place them on the floured baking sheet. (I used the lid of a Bru bottle as my cutter.) Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
  • Jelly DonutsJelly DonutsHeat oil until hot but not smoking. Fry donuts in oil for 3-5 minutes, or until deep golden brown on all sides, flipping 2-3 times. Drain on paper-towel lined baking sheet.
Jelly Donuts
  • Roll the donuts while still warm in superfine sugar. Cool.
Jelly Donuts
  • Poke small hole in side of each donut with a toothpick or a skewer. Using a pastry bag fitted with small round tip, fill each donut with 1tsp of jam/jelly.
Jelly Donuts

Don't forget to check out what the other Marathoners are cooking up in their kitchens.
Azeema, Bhagi, Champa, Sowmya, Gayathri Anand, Gayathri Kumar, Harini, Jay, Kamalika, Mina, Meena, Padma, PJ, Priya Mahadevan, PriyaSuresh, PriyaVaasu, Rujuta, Saraswathi, Savitha, Shanavi, Smitha, Srivalli, Suma,Usha,Veena.

February 12, 2011

Veg Noodles

It's already the 4th day of our Blogging Marathon. I'm enjoying myself doing this everyday and I'm sure my son's happy too since I'm asking him what he wants to eat, so I can make him something and post it on the blog too (since the theme I've chosen for the marathon is "kid-friendly" dishes).

For today's lunch, I steered him toward noodles since I wanted to make some myself. I asked him "Do you want some noodles for lunch today??", he cheered and said "Noodles, Noodles!!", so there we have Veggie Noodles for lunch.

My 3 year old likes to slurp on noodles, he starts to slurp and blow with his mouth even before putting the spoon in his mouth. I make him "Maggi" noodles occasionally and really like the new "Atta noodles" that Maggi came up with. The seasoning sachets have dehydrated veggies and one pack makes for a quick meal for my little one.

Veg NoodlesI had some roasted vegetables in the fridge that I used in this dish which made making the noodles a snap, everything got done in about than 10 minutes (not including the time to boil water for noodles). If you don't have roasted veggies, simply sauté the veggies of your choice until crisp tender and proceed with the recipe.

Hakka Noodles - 1 pkg
Red Onion - 1 small, thinly sliced
Cabbage - 1 cup, thinly sliced (quarter of a medium sized cabbage head)
Roasted vegetables - 1 cup (I roasted Zucchini, Japanese eggplant & red pepper in a 425°F oven for 30-35 minutes with some salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar)
Soy sauce - 2tsp
Sriracha sauce (red chili sauce) - 1tsp (or per taste)
Ginger - 1" piece, finely grated (I use a microplane to grate it really fine)
Garlic - 2 cloves, minced
Salt - to taste

Veg Noodles
  • Cook noodles according to package directions; drain well and spread on a plate. Mix in some oil to prevent sticking and set aside.
  • Heat 2tsp peanut oil on medium-high flame in a large wok; add ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  • Next add onion & cabbage and stir-fry until the veggies are crisp tender, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the roasted veggies, sauté for another minute.
  • Add soy sauce, chili sauce, salt and the cooked noodles. Stir-fry for another minute or until the noodles are heated through. Serve hot.
Veg Noodles
Don't forget to check out what the other Marathoners are cooking up in their kitchens.

February 11, 2011

Easy Pasta Sauce

Today is Day 3 of our Blogging Marathon and I have a simple pasta sauce recipe for you.This is a very quick and easy pasta sauce that I make for my son. Actually this isn’t even an actual recipe; this is the way I jazz up store bought pasta sauce to make it taste fresh. Using store bought pasta sauce cuts down on the cooking time and is very convenient. But I try to make sure that I don’t buy sauces that are loaded with sodium or other additives. I like Trader Joes basic marinara sauce as is for pasta and pizza, but like to doctor it up a little bit once in a while. I also make it from scratch and I’m giving that variation as well in the recipe below.

I use Cashew or Almond butter to add creaminess to the sauce, you can also use light or heavy cream to get the same effect.

Easy Pasta SauceIngredients:
Pasta Sauce – 1 cup (I use Trader Joe’s brand). Use 2tbsp tomato paste with ¾th cup tomato puree instead of the store-bought pasta sauce
Red onion – 3tbsp, finely chopped
Carrot – 2tbsp, very finely diced
Garlic – 1 clove, minced (optional)
Pepper – to taste
Sugar – pinch (optional)
Cashew Butter - 2tsp

  • Heat 1tsp olive oil in a small sauce pan. Add onions, carrots and garlic with a sprinkle of salt and cook on medium-low flame until the veggies are tender, about 8 minutes.
  • Stir in pasta sauce, sugar (if using) and pepper. Taste and season with salt if required, which is highly unlikely because pasta sauces are usually heavily seasoned already.
  • Simmer for 5-6 minutes on medium-low flame. This sauce sputters and spits out a lot, so be aware and don't where your best white clothes while making this :-).
  • Slowly stir in cashew butter and simmer for another minute.
  • Mix the sauce with pasta of your choice and enjoy.
Don't forget to check out what the other Marathoners are cooking up in their kitchens.

February 10, 2011

French Toast

This will be my post for the 2nd day of Blogging Marathon. It's been quite a while that I posted back to back and since I'll have to do this for the next 5 days, I better get used to it. Follow up on my camera, I think I might have lost the egg fried rice pics from yesterday's post, but I've quite a few photos to make up for that in this post.

Coming to the recipe, Our weekday breakfasts usually consist of toast or cereal. Which is why I try to make something interesting on the weekends, just so it feels like a weekend and not another rushed weekday. My son loves pancakes & waffles and these items feature on most of my weekend breakfast menus. Also I freeze the leftovers in individual portions for quick weekday breakfasts.

This past weekend, I decided to try something new and made French toast from America’s test kitchen. I made some changes to the recipe: I used 2% milk instead of whole milk since we don’t buy whole milk in our home. I also reduced the quantities of the ingredients as I was making only 3 serving instead of 4 as in the original recipe.

The recipe is copyrighted by Cook’s Illustrated/ America's Test Kitchen(AND I don’t want to get into trouble them for tweaking/ changing the recipe), so I’m not going to give the recipe, but will give you a partial pictorial. (So yesterday's post has no pictures, this post has no recipe--you guys must be thinking this lady is a sham. Please bear with me and come back tomorrow for a post with both, I promise there will be both even though it will be about something extremely basic and simple).

All my previous attempts left me with eggy & flavorless French toasts. This recipe makes EXCELLENT French toasts with just the right amount of sweetness and the texture is beyond belief. I’m going to be using this recipe for a very very long time.

French ToastSoaking bread in Custard (Eggs, Milk, Melted butter, brown sugar & Spices) for 20 seconds each side.

French ToastSoaking the second side.

French Toast
Cooking French Toast on Medium-low flame for 3 minutes per side or until it becomes golden-brown.

French ToastI guess these are ready to serve!!!

French ToastEnjoy warm French Toast with some maple syrup drizzled all over and berries.

French ToastTime to dig in!! Yummm..

If you want the recipe, leave a comment with your email address, I'll email it to you.

Don't forget to check out what the other Marathoners are cooking up in their kitchens.


February 09, 2011

Egg Fried Rice

I am excited to be one of 25 bloggers joining Srivalli @ Spicing your Life for a 7 Day Blogging Marathon. I'm probably the last one posting on the First day. It has been a busy day and we got back home later than usual and when I sat down to download the pictures from the camera, there seems to be some technical problem. Well anyway I didn't want to miss out on the marathon and I'm trying to catch my fellow marathoners. May be by the weekend I'll be on track.
Egg Fried Rice
So for the event, Valli asked us to choose from several themes and my theme for the next week would be "Kid-Friendly" recipes. I'll try to make the recipes interesting for adults too, so you will come back to visit again tomorrow. :-)

To kick off, I made this quick and easy egg fried rice using a combination of brown and white rice. My son is in a stage where his dislikes are growing exponentially. One day he doesn't like any green stuff like cilantro, broccoli, spinach etc and another day he doesn't like any red stuff carrots, red peppers etc. So it is a constant challenge to come up with something that he would eat willingly and without complaint. He loves eggs and would eat egg rice or omelet without much fuss. So I try to add some veggies, rather inconspicuously, so he sees the fried egg more than the veggies. I pack it up for his lunch and I'm told he eats the whole box without a problem. Having cold cooked rice on hand makes cooking this dish a breeze.

Brown Rice/ White Rice - 1 cup
Onion - 1 small, finely chopped
Carrot - 1 small, finely chopped
Green chili - 1, slit
Ginger + Garlic paste - ½tsp
Green pepper or red pepper - 1 small, finely diced
Peas - ¼cup
Eggs - 2, lightly whisked
Red chili powder - ¼tsp
Soy sauce - 1tsp
Salt - to taste

  • Heat 2tsp oil in a pan; add onions and green chili. Sauté till the onions turn translucent, add carrots and other veggies.
  • Cover and cook until the veggies are tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add chili powder, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  • Add eggs and cook until they are set or done to your liking. If using cold rice, microwave for just a minute to heat it up.
  • Finally add rice to the egg mixture, mix well and cook for another 2 minutes. Serve hot.
Egg Fried RiceDon't forget to check out what the other Marathoners are cooking up in their kitchens.
Azeema, Bhagi , Champa , Sowmya , Gayathri Anand, Gayathri Kumar, Harini , Jay, Minu , Meena , Padma , PJ, Priya Mahadevan , PriyaSuresh, PriyaVaasu, Rujuta , Saraswathi , Santosh, Savitha, Shanavi, Smitha, Srivalli , Suma, Usha, Veena.


February 07, 2011

And the Lucky Winner is.....

The lucky winner for the CSN Giveaway is Maureen (@ Suburban Prep). Congratulations Maureen, your $45 CSN Gift Certificate is on its way. Please check your email.

I used Excel Random number generator to pick the winner.

Thank you all for participating.


February 03, 2011

Darbaari Dal

Name of this dal definitely sounds very royal and elegant. That’s what I thought when I saw this on Tarla Dalal’s weekly newsletter with Pressure Cooker recipes. My son loves dal and so I made it right away. What’s not to like about smooth, creamy and mildly spiced dal which goes well with both rice and rotis.
Darbari Dal

Masoor dal (Red lentils) – 1/3 cup
Moong dal – 1/3 cup
Toor dal (Kandi pappu) – 3tbsp
Onion – 1 medium, finely chopped
Tomatoes – 2 medium, finely chopped
Ginger + garlic paste – 1tsp
Kasoori Methi – 2tsp
Turmeric – pinch
Red chili powder – 1tsp
Coriander powder – 1tsp
Cumin powder – ½ tsp
Garam masala – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – 1tsp
Yogurt – 2tbsp
Cream – 2tbsp
Salt – to taste

  • Rinse dals and soak them in water for about an hour.
  • Heat 2tsp oil in a pressure cooker and add cumin seeds; once the seeds start to sputter, add kasoori methi and onions and cook until translucent. Add g+g paste and cook for another minute.
  • Next add the tomatoes and all the powders and salt; cook until tomatoes turn mushy.
  • Next add the soaked dals; mix well to coat them with the spices.
  • Add 2½ cups of hot water; close the lid and cook for 3 whistles on high. Lower the flame and cook for 1 more whistle.
  • Wait till the pressure releases, open the lid and stir in the yogurt and cream. Garnish with coriander leaves.
Serve hot with steamed rice or roti.

Don't forget to leave a comment on this post to enter into the CSN Giveaway. Contest ends on Saturday night, February 5th.


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