Friday, February 27, 2015

Winter Vegetables and Tuvar Lilva in Green Sauce

Winters have been around for a few months and it has been really cold in some parts of US, frequent storms and loads of snow. On the positive side, winter is the season in which we get the most wonderful vegetables like Purple Yam, Sweet Potatoes, Green beans like lilva Tuvar and Val Papdi and Surti Papdi. These winter vegetables generally form a large part of the delicacy Surti Undhiyu. However, that is a time-consuming preparation, so I used certain vegetables from that to prepare this dish. 

Using fresh Tuvar Lilva as the hero in this dish, I added potatoes and purple yam along with sweet potato and eggplant. The curry is predominantly made of cilantro, green and white garlic and spices. The vegetable can be  prepared quickly and tastes great with hot Fulkas, Puri or even steamed rice. With Holi just around the corner, this is my way of bidding good-bye to the cold season. 

Tuvar Lilva shelled, 2 cups
Potato 1/2 cup diced
Sweet Potato 1/2 cup, diced
Purple Yam 1/2 cup, diced
Eggplant 1/2 cup, diced
Cilantro 2 cups
Garlic 3-4 pods shelled
Garlic shoots 1/4 cup
Ginger 1 inch piece
Green chili 4-5 
Sesame seeds, Carrom seeds, Cumin seeds, Asafoetida
Salt, Sugar, Lime Juice

To make the curry, wash and blend cilantro, garlic, garlic shoots, ginger and green chili to a paste. In a wide bottom pan heat oil and add cumin seeds and asafoetida. Once the cumin pops, add sesame seeds and carrom seeds. In acouple of seconds they will start popping so add the prepared green paste and cook for a couple of minutes.

After the paste has sauteed for a few minutes, add the tuvar lilva seeds and mix well. Next, spread the potato dice and purple yam dice in a layer. Add the sweet potato layer on top and finally place the eggplant pieces on the sweet potato layer and let the vegetable cook on medium to low flame for 3-4 minutes.

In about 3-4 tablespoons of water, add salt, sugar and lime juice. Mix well and pour the water on the vegetable. This is a quick way to ensure the seasoning reaches every part of the sabji. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes on medium flame adding little water if needed in the middle. 

Uncover the vegetable, mix slowly making sure the pieces do not crumble. Garnish with cilantro and serve with Roti, Puri or steamed rice. 

If you would like to try Gujarat's traditional winter vegetable; give a shot to this Surti Undhiyu. Elaborate preparation required, but the result is absolutely fabulous.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Super Moist Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

A wonderful combination of caramelized fruits on top of a soft, spongy Vanilla and butter cake. Well, that is aptly the definition of the classic Pineapple upside-down cake. This cake is unique in flavor and can be made in a jiffy. No fondant or butter cream toppings for this one and yet it has a tasty and colorful top! The smell in the house while baking this cake is almost as great as the taste while eating it.

This Upside-down cake is a perfect blend of almost everything. Soft buttery cake infused with pineapple juice and Vanilla, slightly tart and chewy pineapple on the top along with the sweet and eye-catching maraschino cherries perfectly caramelized in butter and brown sugar. Whenever you need a break from the Chocolate cakes, try this fruity Pineapple cake or Strawberry cake. And not to miss the flavorful blend of Cranberries and Orange that come together in this one.

For the Pineapple layer
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
Pineapple slices
Maraschino Cherries

For the Cake Batter
1 1/2 cup Allpurpose flour
1 cup Confectioner's Sugar (Powdered Sugar)
1/2 cup Pineapple Juice
1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a 9 inch Spring form pan, place pieces of unsalted butter at the bottom and place the pan in the pre-heated oven for 2 minutes to melt the butter. Next, evenly distribute the brown sugar to coat the base of the pan. Place in preheated oven for 3-4 minutes till the sugar and butter mix well. Now place slices of pineapple evenly on the base and place Maraschino Cherries in the cavities and around the pineapples.

In a large mixing bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to form a homogeneous mixture. Set aside. In another mixing bowl whisk sugar with eggs and butter. Ensure that the eggs and butter at at room temperature. Add vanilla extract and pineapple juice and homogenize into a smooth mixture. The amount of sugar can be adjusted based on the sweetness of the pineapple juice. If using pineapple juice from the canned pineapple, dilute 1/4 cup of juice with 1/4 cup of water. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk. 

Pour the batter over the pineapple and bake the cake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick pressed in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, and then over turn the cake to expose the caramelized pineapples and maraschino cherries. Decorate with extra cherries and enjoy!!

Cake base adapted from JoyofBaking.

Also try these fruity combinations that are absolutely delicious!!
The perfectly tart and sweet Cranberry and Orange Cake

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple fried rice is a very common Thai dish. The Thai name for it is khao phat sapparot. This is a quick weeknight dish that comes together under 30 minutes or even less if you have the rice cooked. I have eaten this dish at various restaurants and most of them choose to serve it in a pineapple boat. So I thought of replicating the same at home.

This rice dish has a unique blend of sweetness from the pineapples and pineapple juice balanced by the spicy garlic Sriracha Sauce. You can change the proportions of the two depending on your taste. For the rice there are just 3 basic components: rice, vegetables and pineapple. Use white or brown rice depending on your taste; add vegetables of your choice, either fresh or frozen and use a fresh pineapple or just pick up a can and use that. Choose any combination of the three components and stir up a dinner that is not only healthy and quick but tastes better than the take-out!!  

2 cups short Brown Rice
2 tbsp. Oil
1 tsp. Chilli oil (optional)
1 cup diced Pineapple (fresh or canned)
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup chopped spring onion greens and white
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
1 cup diced vegetables ( carrots, sweet corn, green peas, cabbage)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Soy Sauce/Soy paste
Sriracha Garlic Sauce
1 Pineapple cut into a boat (to serve)

If you are using a pineapple boat to serve the rice, scoop out the pineapple from the half cut fruit and dice it. Using about 1/4 cup of the dice, make pineapple juice and set aside. Also leave out a few big chunks of pineapple for the garnish. If using canned pineapple, dice 3-4 slices for the rice. Dilute the pineapple juice from the can with equal amount of water and use.  

Wash and cook two cups brown rice (can be substituted for white rice) in 3 cups water and a pinch of salt. Let the rice rest while you prepare for the dish.

In a thick bottom wok/wide saucepan, heat oil and chilli oil, put the garlic. Sauté the pepper and onion whites on high flame. Add the vegetables one by one in the following order, allowing a minute of cooking time between two vegetables: green peas, carrots, corn and cabbage. Sauté for a couple of minutes, and add the pineapple dice. Mix well and add the rice and pineapple juice. Cook till the juice is absorbed by the rice. Mix well, add Soy Sauce, Vinegar and Garlic Sauce. Add salt as required and sauté for a minute or two. Set aside.

To prepare the topping, heat a tsp of chili oil in another pan. Add a pineapple slice or few big chunks and a tsp of soy sauce. Let the pineapple absorb the sauce for about 3-4 minutes on high flame and then flip the side. Once the pineapple is dry remove from flame.

To serve, add the rice into the pineapple boat. Top it with the sweet and spicy pineapple slice and spring onion greens. Serve with your choice of tofu or vegetable side dish. Tofu in Chili Garlic Sauce tastes very good with this rice. Find the recipe here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Strawberry Cupcakes | 100th post on Valentine's Day

This is my 100th post on the blog and what better day than Valentine's Day to do this!! It has been such a wonderful journey these past months; exploring cuisines, trying different techniques, taking and helping take pictures, posting them here and finally chasing Foodgawker to get them to approve pictures!! Learnt a lot with this blog-feeling HAPPY :)

So back to the post; it's the 100th post so had to be something special. It is Valentine's Day so what better than a dessert? And given the season, strawberries are almost at their peak. Putting all these parameters together, here is a simple to make recipe for yummy Strawberry Cupcakes. I thought of frosting  them with strawberry frosting, but the light pink color of the cakes was so lovely, I did not feel like adding anything else. The taste too is superb even without the frosting. So here is how to make these Strawberry Cupcakes and enjoy Valentine's!!

3/4 cup Allpurpose flour
3/4 cup Confectioner's Sugar (Powdered Sugar)
1/2 cup strawberry puree
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
3/4 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 Eggs
1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Buttermilk

In a large mixing bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to form a homogeneous mixture. Set aside. In another mixing bowl whisk sugar with eggs and oil. Add vanilla extract and strawberry puree and homogenize into a smooth mixture. The amount of sugar can be adjusted based on the sweetness of the strawberries.

Pour half the wet mixture and half the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and whisk. Once combined, repeat with the remaining mixture and buttermilk and whisk on medium speed to form a smooth paste. The mixture might be flowy, but that is how it is supposed to be!

Preheat oven to 350 F and line the cupcake mold with 12 liners. Divide the mixture equally among the 12 cupcakes, and bake for 15 minutes. Test with a toothpick, if it comes out clean, the cupcakes are done. Serve warm or refrigerated. If you want to frost them, go ahead and do so with buttercream and strawberry frosting.

Note: Buttermilk can be made with half cup milk and 2 tsp. Vinegar and let stand for 5 minutes before using it.
I have also made the same cupcake from a box of French Vanilla Cake. Just substitute the one cup water with half cup strawberry puree diluted with half cup water.

Here is wishing all of you a Happy Valentine's Day!!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Creamy Avocado Pasta

Ever since I began cooking, pasta has been an item I make very often. And ever since I began doing grocery shopping by myself, my pantry always has half a dozen dry pasta in various shapes and sizes! Having tried my hand on various sauces from different ingredients, I got to one of my favorite ingredients; Avocado.

Avocado is a delightful fruit to work with. No complex tools required to cut it, not too many ingredients need to be added to make an avocado dish and most importantly, it tastes so amazing with almost everything!! I also realized from various trial and errors that the green fruit tastes best with garlic and olive oil rather than other seasonings. The only drawback of the fruit being it oxidizes very quickly and hence should be consumed immediately on preparing. So here is a pasta with a creamy avocado sauce; less the ingredients that make pasta a 'guilt filled' dinner.

Shell Pasta 2 cups
Ripe Avocados 3 medium
Garlic 2-3 cloves minced
Onion 1/2 medium diced
Mushrooms 1/2 cup
Olive Oil
Mixed Herbs 
Ground Black Pepper

Heat water in a large pot and add salt. Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook till it is el-dente. You can use any pasta of your choice. However, using pasta with grooves will ensure the sauce clings well to the surface. Once done, drain and set aside. Reserve the pasta water for the sauce.

In a skillet add half a tsp of Olive oil and saute garlic in it. Add the onion and cook with a pinch of salt. Once done transfer the garlic, onion to a blender pot. De-skin and chop the avocado to pieces. Add that top the blender pot and blend to a paste using little water that is reserved from the boiled pasta.

In the same skillet, heat half a tsp of olive oil and saute sliced mushrooms in it. Let the mushrooms become little dark and crisp. In a large bowl add the boiled pasta and the avocado sauce and mix well. Add mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Be careful with the salt as the sauce and pasta both have salt in it! Top with sauteed mushrooms and serve with a bowl of soup and a side of herb bread.

P.S.: Remember this dish should be mixed up only minutes before it is time to serve else it will turn brown. The sauce cannot be heated, hence if you prefer warm pasta, heat the boiled pasta for a minute in the microwave and then add the sauce. Keeping the pit of the avocado in the sauce helps in the dish not becoming brown quickly.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Rice Idli | South Indian Rice Cakes

Idli is fermented rice cakes made the South Indian way. A very common breakfast and dinner dish not only in Southern India, but across the globe. People from all over India learnt how to make these rice cakes from the southern states and took the dish all around. It is actually surprising to see SO MANY South Indian restaurants in the Bay Area, all serving idli pretty similar to the ones back home!

What was once a simple breakfast or dinner dish has many versions. While the traditional idlis are made from urad dal and rice, the Thatte Idli from Karnataka has sabudana added too. And there are multiple varieties like Kanchipuram idlis, Muday idli and Rava Idli. These idlis have ingredients different from the traditional ones. 

Then, people transformed the regular idlis into multiple dishes that come under fusion cooking. These recipes are also amazing ways to use up leftover idlis. From the Indo-Chinese Idli Chilli Dry to the South Indian Kaima idlis and Idli upma, these rice cakes are widely used to spice up the meal! 
But before making all these fusion dishes, getting perfect rice idlis is essential! Here is a recipe to make soft, white and fluffy idlis every single time. The batter can be made and steaming idlis enjoyed over dinner and if there is leftover batter, refrigerate it for use in the coming days or week. Simple and no-fail recipe.

Whole urad dal, husked 1 cup
Idli Rice 3 cups
Flattened Rice/Poha 2 tbsp
Fenugreek seeds 1 tbsp

Wash and soak the urad dal with fenugreek seeds in 2 cups water. Similarly, wash and soak the idli rice in 5 cups of water. Soak the rice and dal overnight or at least 6-8 hours. After the soaking time is complete, crush dry flattened rice/poha and set aside. Next crush the dal and fenugreek seeds to a smooth paste. In the same pot, blend the rice to a smooth paste. Combine the two pastes and 2 tsp salt and flattened rice in a big container. Ensure that the container is big enough to hold twice the mixture after fermenting.

Leave the mixture to ferment for about 10-12 hours. If the temperature outside is below 70-80 F, preheat the oven and then shut it off. Leave the light on and let the batter ferment in there. Adjust the salt and water after fermentation and keep the consistency just good to flow.

Using a idli stand, heat water in the container. Grease the individual cavities with oil,ghee or cooking spray. Pour the idli batter in the cavities and set them inside the container. Steam on high flame for 2 minutes and then lower the flame. Let the idli cook on medium flame for another 10-12 minutes. Open the container and check if the idli is completely cooked using a toothpick. Once done, serve hot with Sambar or Rasam and Coconut Chutney

Also try Karnataka's famous Thatte Idli/ Plate Idli.