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Monday, March 24, 2014

Smoky Rich Mustard-y Slow-cooked Beans

Every once in a while, I enjoy the pungency of mustard oil in everyday dishes. Sometimes it brings out layers of flavors I didn't know possible. This beans is just a happy accident.

2 cups dry beans, soaked overnight, drained, ready to cook
2 Tbsp mustard oil
1 Tbsp stone ground mustard
½ cup molasses
½ tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 medium onion diced
1/8th tsp ground cloves

Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook for 8 hours or so till beans are cooked.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Multigrain Puff Bread

healthy low fat multigrain flax meal puff bread cinnamon-raisin garlic-herb

We just coined that term at home for the biscuit-style soda bread I make for a quick soup accompaniment. Rather than just all purpose flour, I use a combination of flax meal and Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Pancake Mix. Can substitute regular all purpose flour instead of the 10 grain pancake mix and increase the baking powder from 1 Tbsp to 2 Tbsp for this recipe - won't be "multigrain" puff bread anymore...

Each batch is flavored differently - garlic and herbs, just salt, cheese and olives... but the most favorite with the kids is the Cinnamon Raisin Multigrain Puff Bread I pack for school lunches and sometimes for morning breakfast.

½ cup flax meal
½ cup all purpose flour
1 cup Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Pancake Mix (or any generic multigrain pancake mix from bulk foods store)
1/8th teaspoon salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 Tbsp baking powder
¼ cup Smart Balance Omega Butter Light
¼ cup raisins
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp 1% milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F
  2. Combine the dry ingredients; then cut in the butter and mix till breadcrumb consistency
  3. Add the milk a little at a time and knead gently till the dough comes together
  4. Turn dough onto a floured surface, knead a little more and roll it out to ¼ inch thick
  5. Cut out circles and place in a greased sheet pan and bake in 425°F oven for about 8 to 10 minutes till done on the inside (I usually test one to make sure)
Spread some more butter once it comes out of the oven, and serve warm.

For the garlic herb bread, same as above, except, no cinnamon powder or raisins or brown sugar; adjust salt to taste.

healthy low fat multigrain flax meal puff bread cinnamon-raisin garlic-herb

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Sunday, March 09, 2014

Ginger-Lavender Chicken with Lacinato Kale

lavender ginger chicken lacinato kale

Treasured in Tuscany, Lacinato Kale is one of the easiest greens to incorporate in a portioned plated meals.

For this dish, the whole, washed, leaves get cooked in the microwave with a dash of salt and required amount of water. Then, it is ready for sauteing in the hot cast iron skillet, the skillet in which the chicken has just been cooked, so that kale picks up the flavors of the sauce.

Ginger and lavender come together to make a wonderfully aromatic and delicious sauce.

Ginger Lavender Sauce:
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
3 Tbsp chopped lavender flowers
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
½ cup red wine
¼ cup low sodium chicken stock

Combine the sauce ingredients, stir well, keep handy to add to cooking chicken.

2 marinated boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp olive oil
Thinly sliced red onions, if preferred (optional)

  1. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet to high heat
  2. Add the chicken breasts and sear one side for 1- 2 minutes, then flip the chicken breast
  3. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 8 minutes
  4. Then, add the sauce and cover and simmer gently till it reduces to about one-third cup total
  5. When internal temperature is 170°F and sauce is reduced, dish up chicken and reserve sauce for serving
  6. In the same pan, add the drained microwaved kale and red onions and a teaspoon of olive oil, saute till wilted to satisfaction
  7. Dish up the kale along with the chicken breast and serve warm

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Spicy Kale Crisps

Lightly coated chickpea and rice flour provide the perfect crunch for this favorite snack of Kale Crisps.

Adjust the seasoning and spices to taste. Sometimes I use cumin and coriander powder with a hint of paprika for the seasoning, and sometimes just plain kale with no flavors or flours except a sprinkling of salt.

5 packed cups coarsely chopped kale leaves
¼ cup rice flour
¼ cup chickpea flour
1 tsp chili powder
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt to taste


  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F
  2. Wash the chopped kale and drain; place in a large enough container
  3. Drizzle the oil, then sprinkle the flours and seasoning; toss well till a thin layer of the flours adhere to the kale leaves
  4. Place the coated kale leaves on a greased roasting pan and roast in the 350°F oven for about 12-15 minutes
  5. Check partway and flip the kale to crisp uniformly; turn the pan if needed; if the kale is not done to desired crispness, leave it in the oven for another couple of minutes; watch closely so as not to char
  6. Remove and serve warm; or, allow to cool completely in a rack and store in an airtight container

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Opo Squash + Kale Koftas & Patties

Opo Squash Kofta Kale Koftas  Patties Appakaral pancake puffs maker Curry Indian Bottle gourd

Call it Bottle gourd, Calabash, or Opo Squash, this fairly bland but versatile vegetable lends itself well to cooking many interesting dishes.

Opo Squash Kofta Kale Koftas  Patties Curry Indian Appa Karal pancake puffs maker Bottle gourd

Koftas is a favorite in my kitchen, served with some flavorful sauces. Typically koftas are balls, but, sometimes I make them into small flat patties.

In this recipe, grated opo squash and kale with some onions and garlic forms the core of the koftas and patties. A bit of rice flour and chickpea flour with seasoning is used to bind the vegetables so they can be shaped into balls and patties.

Opo Squash Kofta Kale Koftas Appa Karal pancake puffs maker  Patties Curry Indian Bottle gourd

Rather than baking, I fried the kofta balls in a pancake puffs maker a.k.a Appa Karal as I was making just a small batch of koftas. The patties were cooked in a cast iron skillet of medium low heat till cooked through on the inside.

appa karal pancake puffs maker

1 medium opo squash
½ cup finely chopped kale leaves
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 Tablespoon grated ginger
1 tsp finely minced garlic (optional)
1 tsp crushed red pepper
½ medium yellow onion, finely diced
salt to taste
¼ cup chickpea flour
1/3 cup rice flour

2 to 3 Tbsp oil for cooking patties and  kofta balls


  1. Peel the opo squash, remove the spongy core and seeds, and grate it. Squeeze to press out as much water as possible from the grated opo squash.
  2. Combine the kofta ingredients to make a thick yet loose/pliable dough. Add a little flour at a time till desired consistency. Add more flour as needed, in case the grated opo squash has retained too much water even after being squeezed out
  3. Shape the dough into even-sized balls that would fit in the Appa Karal or Pancake Puffs Maker
  4. For Kofta Balls: Heat a small amount of oil in the Pancake Puffs Maker or Appa Karal, drop the shaped balls of dough and cook over medium heat till done on the inside and crisp on the outside; alternately deep fry if preferred
  5. For Patties: Heat a tablespoon of oil in a cast iron skillet, flatten the balls into patties and cook over medium heat, flipping as needed to brown both sides and cook the insides
  6. Sauce: The sauce this time is a simple tomato-based one. But, either Jalapeno-Cilantro Sauce or Spicy Beet Sauce or Creamy Chard Sauce would be wonderful with these Opo squash & Kale koftas

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Opo Squash & Carrots Goan Soup

goa cuisine curry leaf spicy soup indian vegetarian goan spices

Incorporating flavors from the cuisine from Goa, India, is always a favorite. Much like Chettinad style flavors from South India, I adapt it for curries or soups that I make on and off.

Most Indian cuisine involve a combination of toasted spices powdered as well as some ground paste to make up the aromatic and mouth-watering masala base.

In this recipe, similar technique is used: turmeric, curry leaves, black pepper, cumin, coriander, dry red chilies, poppy seeds are toasted and ground to a powder. Grated ginger, minced garlic, grated coconut, tamarind concentrate and tomatoes are ground to a fine paste. Then the two are sauteed in oil to release the flavors and used as the base flavors for this soup.

Opo squash, peeled, pulp removed and diced
Carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium onion,  diced
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups coconut milk

For the masala powder:
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp black pepper
2 to 3 dry red chilies
1 tsp turmeric powder
6 to 8 curry leaves

For the masala paste:
¼ cup grated coconut
1 tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp grated ginger
4 garlic cloves finely minced
¼ cup tamarind water/juice* OR 1 tsp tamarind concentrate

*If using tamarind fruit pulp, seeded, then soak it in hot water and extract the water. For about a walnut size tamarind pulp, add about 2/3rds cup hot water, allow to soak for 5 minutes and extract the juice


  1. Toast the masala powder spiced till they bloom; then powder it
  2. Grind the masala paste ingredients to make a fine paste
  3. Heat oil in a pan, add the masala powder and masala paste and sauté till aroma releases, about 4 minutes in medium heat
  4. Add the veggies and stock/water and simmer over medium heat till veggies are cooked but not mushy
  5. Taste and adjust salt 
  6. Stir in coconut milk and garnish with cilantro if preferred
  7. Serve warm

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Monday, February 03, 2014

Crock-pot Green and Red Cabbage Rolls in Sauce

Crock-pot Green and Red Cabbage Rolls in Sauce delectable victuals

Cabbage rolls are quick and easy to make in a steamer or pan. But sometimes, just the sheer joy of starting it early and having it ready hours later makes me turn to the electrical crock pot for this.

Red cabbage leaves are notoriously crispy and not pliable to facilitate easy rolling. Use slightly old red cabbage that feels wilted a bit, yet good for consumption. Outer leaves with thick ridges don't work as well, of course. Also, I prefer to par cook it in the microwave with some water to make it softer and easier to roll up.

For a quick filling, ready-made frozen veggie patties are perfect. Either TJ's Pizza Veggie Burger patties or Black Bean Chipotle patties are the current favorites at home. Simply cook the patties, crumble them to make the filling.

Start some tomato sauce with corn and onion cooking in a crock pot. Assemble the cabbage rolls: simply fill a layer of cabbage large enough to make a roll, roll like a burrito wrap or dolma, place gently in the crock pot with the sauce. Cover and cook for  5 to 6 hours till desired doneness. I start this in the morning before going to work, and it is ready for dinner that evening.

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Sunday, February 02, 2014

Crock-pot Chicken Stew

slow cooker crock pot chicken chunky hearty vegetable stew delectable victuals

I am a big fan of Electrical Slow Cooker and Crock Pots. It makes winter night meals a breeze if planned ahead and started early. Warm, hearty stews and soups, vegetables, casseroles, and even fall-apart chicken breasts come out just fine, given a little time, requiring minimal effort.

Marinated chicken breasts were started on the crock pot one Friday night, and allowed to slow cook for about 12 hours; then, in the morning, when the chicken breasts were fully cooked, I added some chopped onions, bell peppers, kale, carrots, tomato sauce, spices/seasoning and continued to cook through the day Saturday, possibly another 4 or 5 hours.

By dinner time Saturday night, aromatic chicken and vegetable stew with flaky, juicy, fall-apart chicken was ready. Served with some home-made biscuits, it was a wholesome winter night meal.

Of course, I don't care much for chicken, so this batch was consumed by the rest of the family. For myself, I like to omit the chicken and double the vegetables, adding cauliflower, chick peas, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, winter squash, edamame and marinated tofu to make a There-Can't-Be-Too-Many-Veggies stew.

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Thai-flavored Pea Soup

spicy green curry thai split pea soup vegetarian delectable victuals

Split pea soup is a simple favorite, especially for this cold weather. My preferred way to cook split pea soup  is in a pressure cooker.

½ cup green split peas
1 Tbsp grated ginger (or galangal)
1 tsp lemongrass powder
1 cup water
1 cup vegetable stock
1 Tbsp green curry paste
1 14 oz. can light coconut milk
salt to taste

Vegetables: red and green bell peppers, chopped finely; spring onions chopped finely for garnish


  1. Add all the ingredients except coconut milk, in a pressure cooker and cook till done
  2. Meanwhile, saute the vegetables, and prepare the garnish
  3. When pressure cooker is ready to be opened, mash the cooked split peas if needed
  4. Stir in the coconut milk and heat up the soup gently; add the sauteed vegetables
  5. Serve warm, topped with spring onions and croutons if preferred

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Gold Beets and Chard with Toasted Walnuts and Pine Nuts

Gold Beets Chard salad Toasted Walnuts and Pine Nuts

The flavor of golden beets is milder yet robust compared to the strong earthy sweetness of the red beets. I love the bright yellow of it, almost as if it was steeped in turmeric powder which is a staple in my kitchen.

I usually cut them into wedges and cook them in the microwave till done - firm, not mushy. Then, heat oil in a cast iron skillet and pan roast them till golden brown. Toss some into lettuce salads, or use these roasted golden beets to make the beet-feta salad.

Gold Beets and Chard with Toasted Walnuts and Pine Nuts

Here, I simply add chopped rainbow chard to the same cast iron skillet where golden beets are roasted; when chard wilts enough, season to taste; serve warm topped with toasted walnuts and pine nuts.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sweet Sour Spicy Bitter Melon, Eggplant, Bell Peppers

bitter melon bittergourd eggplant sweet sour spicy vegetarian

I had half each of bitter melon, long eggplant, red and green bell peppers and decided to make a sweet-sour-spicy dish. It can be served with warm jasmine rice or even simple roti or naan. The picture shows it served with a small portion of chicken breast per the Other Half's request.

I salted the bitter melon for 10 minutes; rinsed and patted dry; then par-cooked in the microwave.

For the sweet-sour-spicy sauce:
2 tbsp sambal oelek
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 tbsp mirin

Stir the sauce ingredients. Adjust to taste as preferred. Heat some oil in a caste iron skillet, add the veggies, saute; add the sauce stir well and cook till desired doneness of the veggies. I like them crisp-tender.

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Stuffed Bitter Melon

TVP stuffed bitter gourd bitter melon

Bitter melon aka bitter gourd is a favorite with the adults in the house. The standard bittergour pitlay, tamarind flavored crunchy bitter melon, pan-fried, oven-baked, bitter gourd sesame pachadi... so many ways to enjoy this fairly bitter fruit.

Here, the fairly large Chinese Fu-gwa is stuffed with some flavored Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP).

Cut the bitter melon in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and pulp. Salt it and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Par cook it with some water in the microwave till just tender but still holding shape. Drain and pat dry.

TVP stuffed bitter gourd

Prepare the stuffing: Saute some onions and red bell peppers with favorite herbs and spices, add some TVP and just enough water to cook through.

Fill the bitter melon halves with stuffing and bake in a 425°F for about 10 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with cilantro and spring onions.

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Monday, January 06, 2014

Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins

stuffed sweet potato skins

Much like the classic Potato Skins and Twice-baked Sweet Potatoes, this Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins are quite easy to make and can be a delicious side or meal.

Rather than the bell peppers and mushroom stuffing/filling as below, I went with leftover baked tofu, bean sprouts for the version in the picture. To moisten the stuffing, I added some warm vegetable broth, just enough to keep the stuffing together.


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425°F. Wash and clean the skin of the sweet potato thoroughly.
  2. Prick the sweet potato with a fork in several places and microwave for a few minutes till cooked and firm, not mush (cooking time will vary depending on the microwave)
  3. Slice the cooked Sweet potato in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the middle leaving a ¼ inch thick flesh attached to the skin - this will be the "Sweet Potato Skin" (SPS) from now on. Save the scooped pulp for filling
  4. Brush the SPS with olive oil and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, first with the cut side down, then with the cut side up
  5. Meanwhile, sauté some diced onions, bell peppers, mushrooms with some spices and seasoning, then off heat stir in the mashed innards of the cooked sweet potato that was scooped out earlier; adjust flavors to taste
  6. When SPS comes out of the oven, scoop the filling into the hollows of the halves and garnish with spring onions and serve warm

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Chard Rice with Butternut Squash Ribbons and Pine Nuts

acorn squash ribbons chard rice

Peel the butternut squash, and then, use the peeler to cut out some strips of the butternut squash. Deep fry these strips to make the butternut squash ribbons. Keep handy for garnish.

Start some rice cooking - either the sticky kind of Thai, Jasmine or California short-grain, or my favorite brown basmati or any other long-grain rice.

Toast some pine nuts and keep handy for garnish

Sautée some chopped veggies like onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers in a tablespoon of olive oil, with a pinch of all spice powder, some Szechuan flower peppercorns, salt and turmeric powder (optional). Then, add chopped chard and cook till it wilts. Stir in the cooked rice to make the Chard Rice.

Serve the Chard rice topped with butternut squash ribbons, toasted pine nuts and chopped spring onions.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Collard Greens Wrap with Coconut Butternut Squash filling


Collar Green Sushi Bites as it is famously called at home when filled with rice, these wraps are easy to make and are quite filling, depending on the filling encased.

This time, I went with two types of filling:

Collard Greens Wrap with Coconut Butternut Squash filling

1. Coconut butternut squash filling: Dice the butternut squash and cook in enough coconut milk and a pinch of salt, turmeric powder & coriander powder till tender and fragrant; add chopped curry leaves and dry grated unsweetened coconut for extra flavor. I love the South Indian flavors from curry leaves and coriander powder. Off heat mush with a fork to shred it for the filling, not puree.

2.  Spiced shredded chicken filling: I had some leftover Almond-Flax Encrusted Chicken Nuggets. Simply run it in the blender till shredded coarsely but not ground to a pulp. Mix it with Neufchâtel cheese to bind it and make it cohesive.


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F
  2. Blanch the collard greens leaves and pat dry and keep handy
  3. Prepare the filling and keep handy
  4. Spoon some filling into the leaf, roll into a wrap tightly, place in a greased roasting pan
  5. Spoon some marinara sauce or any favorite pasta sauce, or cheese sauce, onto the wraps
  6. Bake in 375°F oven for about 10 minutes
Serve warm as an appetizer or side. I like to serve it on a bed of warm cooked quinoa to get that extra texture in every bite as I cut into the wraps and down a forkful.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Slow-cooked Chicken with Turnips

Slow cookers are handy for winter time. It is nice to start a pot of hearty soup or stew, leave it on for as long as the recipe calls for and allow it to fill the house with the aroma. Anything from a pot of chili to one-pot rice dishes to chicken breasts with vegetables come about in slow cooker around this time of the year.

In one slow cooker I dropped in some chicken breasts marinated overnight in a generic rub of spices and herbs. In another, I added a couple of whole turnips (peeled), a whole yellow onion (peeled), a whole potato (peeled), a couple of whole carrots (peeled), a cup of stock, a cup of canned diced tomato, some flavoring spices and herbs.

I started this on a Friday night, and by Saturday night dinner time, the chicken breasts were cooked till tender and falling apart, the veggies were cooked through and flavorful but not mushy.

Scoop up a little of the veggies and chicken and enjoy as-is. Or, serve it with quinoa or brown rice. 

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Acorn Squash Thai Soup

Around this time of the year, I love the variety of Winter squashes in the market. Hubbard, Kabocha, Acorn, Butternut, Delicata, Sweet Dumpling... Not too long ago we had a good yield of Hubbard and Butternut squash from our garden. And as long as they were safe in the cold basement, they lasted for over 6 months.

Be it fragrant fried rice or roasted sides or hearty soups, pumpkins and squashes have been featuring prominently in the meals lately.

Acorn Squash Thai Soup is much like a simple Thai soup, except to boost the squash flavor, I roasted some acorn squash and pureed it and stirred it into the simmering soup.

Grind the soup base ingredients together and keep handy.

Soup base:
2 1-inch piece of dry galangal, reconstituted in water -OR- 2 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp lime peel, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 medium lemongrass stalk, crushed/pounded a bit -OR- 1 tsp lemongrass powder
2 Tbsp sambal oelek, if handy, else chopped Thai bird chilies or serrano or other chilies of your choice
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp Bragg liquid aminos
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 citron leaves, if handy (instead of kaffir lime leaves)
½ tsp turmeric powder (optional)

Roast about a cup of chopped acorn squash in a 400°F oven for about 15 minutes till done; or pan-roast it with some oil in a cast iron skillet till done. Purée and keep handy.

For the soup:
Acorn squash chunks, as much as preferred from one medium acorn squash
1 to 2 cups light coconut milk
other veggies (optional): carrots, onions, snap peas
1 Tbsp peanut oil or sesame oil
1 cup vegetable stock


  1. Heat the oil in a pan, add the soup base paste and sauté till aromatic, about 5 minutes on medium heat
  2. Add the acorn squash and other veggies, stock, a pinch of salt and simmer till vegetable are cooked through but not mushy
  3. Stir in the pureed roasted acorn squash and the coconut milk to desired taste and consistency; simmer gently till flavors meld - about 5 minutes
  4. Garnish with chopped spring onions and cilantro

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Monday, December 02, 2013

Winged Beans and Acorn Squash with Coconut and Curry Leaves

winged beans acorn squash

The title says it all. The winged beans craze is still strong at home. Paired with acorn squash it was a welcome warm salad/side on a stormy weekend afternoon.

It is made in typical south Indian style with tempering and curry leaves and grated coconut. Salt, tamarind, and chilli powder for flavoring.

I cooked the acorn squash and winged beans separately in the microwave so they are firm yet fully cooked, not mushy.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Eggplant Slices with Crunchy French Fried Onions

Eggplant Slices with Crunchy French Fried Onions

'Tis the season... for the crunchy french fried onions in casseroles and anything else I can think of.

A hot batch of Green Bean Casserole is a comfort food around this time, especially for my daughter and myself-- the others at home can take it or leave it. And, for us, the french fried onions is the main attraction.

This time, the love of eggplant and the love of french fried onions managed to come together for this delicious dish. Any eggplant would be fine of course, cooking time might vary based on size and thickness of slices...

2 Chinese or Japanese long eggplants, sliced to about ½ inch thick
2 to 3 tablespoons Sambal oelek
½ cup french fried onions
¼ to ½ cup grated cheddar or Colby jack
salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425°F
  2. Salt the eggplant slices and allow to rest to draw out the water; drain on a paper towel
  3. Brush some olive oil on both sides of the eggplant slices, arrange in a roasting pan and roast in a 425°F oven for about 15 minutes, flipping the slices over part-way
  4. Spread some Sambal oelek, grated cheese and top with french fried onions on each of the roasted egggplant slices and put it back in the 425°F oven for another 4 minutes till cheese melts and the french fried onions are crispy
  5. Serve warm as an accompaniment to a steaming bowl of soup for a cold winter meal.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Indian Style Winged Beans and Okra with Curry Leaves

South Indian Style Winged Beans Okra Curry Leaves

Winged beans has become an obsession of sorts lately. It'll pass. I'm sure I'll grow out of it soon. But until then, it is fun to cook it up in ways that is particularly appealing to the cook.

Okra and winged beans come together for a mildly spicy South Indian style dish with tempering and curry leaves for flavoring and garnish.

While the beans and okra are cooking in the microwave (about 5 minutes each), I get the masala paste ready and start sautéing it; this way, when the masala paste is good and ready, I can throw in the cooked veggies into the same pan and finish cooking quickly. I prefer to cook the veggies with some salt for seasoning.

1 cup Winged Beans, chopped
1 cup frozen cut Okra
½ medium red onion, diced
¼ cup canned diced tomatoes, drained
2 Tbsp curry leaf masala paste*
salt to taste
tempering: 1 teaspoon sesame oil, ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds, ½ teaspoon split urad dal, 3 or 4 curry leaves

*Curry Leaf Masala Paste
¼ cup packed curry leaves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1-inch piece of Indian cinnamon bark
2 tablespoon unsweetened dry grated coconut
2 Tablespoon gingelly/sesame oil


  1. Curry Leaf Masala Paste: Dry roast the ingredients (except oil) and grind them to a fine paste drizzling olive oil as needed while grinding
  2. Cook the winged beans with some salt in microwave, drain, and rinse. Microwave power varies-- I cook the chopped winged beans for about 5 minutes in mine, with enough water to immerse the beans
  3. Cook the frozen cut okra with some salt per package directions, drain, rinse in cold water
  4. Tempering: Heat oil in a pan, add the urad dal first, when it turns golden brown add the mustard seeds, when it splutters add the curry leaves
  5. Then, add the masala paste, onions, crushed diced tomatoes, a tablespoon of oil and saute till aromatic and the onions and tomatoes are cooked and the masala paste is thick and intensely flavorful
  6. Add the cooked okra and winged beans to the pan, cover and cook till combined. 
  7. Garnish with some cilantro and chopped curry leaves. Serve warm with hot basmati rice

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Roasted Acorn Squash, Jewel Yams, Brussel Sprouts with Kasha

Roasted Acorn Squash, Jewel Yams, Brussel Sprouts with Kasha

Now that the cold weather is taking over, the cobwebs are cleared out of the oven, and the broken safety thermostat is fixed. Quite a bit of baking and roasting has been going on-- casseroles, roasted vegetables, dampers and rolls and breads of all sorts.

One stormy afternoon, it felt like a roast vegetables kind of day. The jewel yams and acorn squash bought in a fit of Autumn frenzy were waiting to be cooked.

Brussel Sprouts seems to be the new Mac-n-cheese for the older child who used to snarf the said Mac-n-cheese by the potful not too long ago.

In they all went, with some olive oil, diced red onions, and whatever herbs and spices I could find. And, out came this aromatic, sizzling, delicious plate of goodness.

Kasha was cooked with some broth in the rice cooker while the vegetables were roasting.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Winged Beans Curry


Until recently, I had never seen Winged Beans aka Goa Beans aka Sirahu Avarai (Sirahu = Wing, Avarai = Lab Lab Beans, in Tamil) in the local Asian markets. Now, they're everywhere! And, am glad. I love its flavor and texture and even its appearance.

I went with a very simple curry this time, served with some quinoa.

winged lab-lab beans siragu avarai

Winged beans, chopped into chunks
2 Tomatoes, diced
½ medium red onion, diced
4 mini colorful peppers, chopped
4 green chilies, chopped
cilantro for garnish

Flavoring Masala Paste:
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp Nihari masala powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp coriander powder
1 Tbsp oil


  1. Combine the masala paste ingredients. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add the masala paste and saute till aromatic
  2. Meanwhile par-cook the winged beans in the microwave with a dash of salt, drain and keep handy
  3. Saute the onions, tomatoes, and mini peppers along with the masala paste, adding a pinch of salt
  4. when onions are soft and translucent, add the par-cooked winged beans, cover and cook till curry comes together and flavors meld; garnish with cilantro and chopped spring onions if preferred
  5. Serve warm with brown basmati rice or quinoa, or even simple roti or naan or paratha

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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Home-made Arisi Vadaam (Crunchy Rice Discs)

Ready-made chips and packaged crunchy munchies were not handy back in the days... but, the love for such tidbits was always there. So, of course, there were so many ways to make fried chips and snacks at home, perfected and polished over a few centuries.

Vadaam and Appalam are two typical South Indian crunchy accompaniments to meals, so much so that many would consider a meal incomplete without these. Of these two, my favorite has always been Vadaams of various kinds.

Both Vadaam and Appalam can be made with rice or urad flours, maybe sago/tapioca sometimes. I remember my mom explaining the main difference between the two: Vadaam is when the batter is cooked, shaped, and then dried, whereas Appalam is when the dough is shaped and dried without cooking. Appalam is otherwise known as Pappadum or Pappad.

In blazing hot tropical summer days of my youth, my mom used to assign me the task of spreading spoonfuls of tapioca concoction spiced with lime and chilies on large plastic sheets laid out on the terrace floor. Scoops of steaming, gooey batter flattened into 2 or 3 inch circles bask under the sun for 2 or 3 days until they are bone-dry and ready to be stacked and stored in an airtight container.

When the mood called for it, we would take out a few of these stored dry discs and deep fry in oil to have  scrumptious vadaams either for snack or as a meal side.

Adding flavors for these concoctions used to be a favorite experiment for my mom-- chilies and lime, of course, perhaps some crushed tomatoes, sesame seeds, cumin seeds, crushed black peppercorn... they were all so good.

The fun thing about vadaam is that they don't have to be flat discs, they can be star-shaped, even small balls as long as the batter can hold the shape and dry completely.

Anyway, of all of these, the simplest is the Arisi Vadaam - made out of rice flour. (Arisi = Rice), whereas the most relished is the Javvarisi vadaam made out of tapioca.

I recently got a brand new Vadaam Stand as a birthday present and was thrilled to use it to make my own vadaams!

Vadam Stand is one of those brilliant devices, like the Electrical Idlee Steamer that has made life so much easier for lazy cooks like me. Not to mention demystifying the process and allowing me to bring my childhood favorites to my children, one small batch at a time. And, this one folds down to be stowed away neatly, no fuss.

Soak a cup of brown rice overnight and grind to a fine thick scoop-able batter adding very little water (can always thin the batter to required consistency as needed). Of course, white rice should be fine as well.

Get the steamer ready - a large pot with a tight-fitting lid into which the Vadaam Stand can fit easily. And start some water boiling in it.

Thin the batter with water, just enough to be able to spread it, almost like crepe batter. Add flavoring ingredients -- cumin seeds, chili paste, sesame seeds, salt to taste.

Spread the batter in a thin layer, on each of the plates of the vadaam stand apparatus. Stack them up carefully and assemble for steaming.

Steam for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Lay out the plates to cool just a bit.

Peel each cooked rice batter rounds carefully and lay on a plastic sheet under the sun to dry completely.

Repeat the process in batches till all the batter is used up. 1 cup raw rice made into batter yields about 30 vadaams roughly 3 inches in diameter.

Since we don't get much sun around these parts, I laid them out on cookie sheets and left them in a 190°F oven for about 30 to 45 minutes or until they seemed completely dry. The time and temperature will need to be experimented with. And if left for too long they curl up and crumble easily.

Store them in an airtight container until ready to fry.

Of course, being allergic to deep frying, I "fry" the vadaams in the microwave -- i.e., heat it up till it cooks through. Again, depending on power settings of microwave and size of vadaam, it takes anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute to "fry" up a small batch of 5 or 6 vadaams at a time, no oil needed.

I'll have to work on better pictures next time... poor natural lighting is my excuse for being sloppy with the pics this time.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Banana Flower Paruppusili

banana flower blossom vazha poo

Vaazha poo (Banana flower) parupusili is a rare delicacy for me these days. Rare, not because it is hard to find, but because it is so laborious that I rarely undertake the venture.

Cleaning and extracting the edible parts of the florets from the various layers of bracts is the first task. And then, removing the hard stamen and plastic-like petal that is not edible is the next step. Oil the palms before embarking on the procedure. Have a bowl of diluted buttermilk handy to place the edible parts during the procedure.

Banana Flower vaazha vazha poo

Many YouTube videos and online instructions clearly show how to do this if this is the first time. Since I've done it a zillion times as a youngster sous-chef in my mom's kitchen, I know that only the thought of the mouth-watering paruppusili  would make me go through the task of getting the edible flowers ready for cooking.

However, this time, since my mom is visiting, she undertook the task all by herself and made this delicious vaazha poo paruppusili!

The recipe for the paruppusili is the usual one with tuvar/toor dal as before. Simply chop the banana flowers and cook them with some salt and turmeric. Then, make it into paruppusili much like tindora paruppusili.

Of course, my mom takes a short-cut sometimes and instead of steaming the lentil balls and then pan frying the crumbs to crispness, she deep fried the balls into vada and then crumbled them instead.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Vegan Pork Slices

Not that I'd know what pork should taste like, but, thịt miệng đại loạn, sold as Vegan Pork Slices, tastes just like the  flavored soy product that it is - but, quite delicious with a good texture. It is easy to make - just soak in hot water for a few minutes and then cook it up with some vegetables,  and maybe some sauce, if preferred.

One of my favorite ways to flavor it is with fiery hot Nihari masala:
Dry roast
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
5 cloves
5 green cardamom,
1 black cardamom
2-inch stick cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
8 dry red chillies (fewer if preferred)
½ tsp poppy seeds

Cool a bit and grind to a fine powder. Store in an air-tight container and use as needed.

  1. Steep 1 cup of dry vegan pork slices in hot water 
  2. Meanwhile slice some onions; cut a wedge of green cabbage into big chunks; slit some green chilies and slice some green bell peppers
  3. Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a pan, add some crushed garlic and grated ginger, then the onions, green bell pepper, and chilies; saute
  4. Then add the cabbage and the softened vegan pork slices, some salt, and some Nihari masala powder - taste and adjust the flavoring, adding a little of the Nihari masala at a time
  5. Stir well, cover, and allow the cabbage to wilt in its own water
  6. Off heat, garnish with cilantro
  7. Serve warm with roti or hot brown rice

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