Aloo Broccoli

Once in a while. you want to try something different. Steer away from the everyday and jazz things up a little. Change the routine and surprise yourself. Take a detour from the simple foods that you have no recipe for, the ones where you just put a few things together subconsciously. Then there are the times where you just want to clear out the fridge.

Aloo-Gobi (Cauliflower) is a no-brainer for anyone who cooks Indian – any region. I am sure that every one of us has tried a variation of this with broccoli. My first attempt at this, I realised that I (& the family) prefer broccoli that is lightly spiced. For all its similarity in looks to the cauliflower, the broccoli has a more pronounced flavor, chlorophyll will do that to you. IMO, less is more where this pretty vegetable is concerned. My second attempt at Aloo-Broccoli was one based on the upkari-vegetables cooked konkani style with mustard seeds and a sole dry Red chilli-I changed the spices a liitle bit. It worked great and is our most favored way to eat broccoli. When more pressed for time or when trying to add healthy sides in our lunch boxes, I microwave-steam the broccoli florets with salt in a covered plate for about 3 minutes. Toss with a little bit of olive oil to coat. Pack it and feel like a domestic goddess for the rest of the day for giving a side in the lunch boxes, healthy one to boot. I give baby carrots this treatment too.

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Recipe

In a 10″ frying pan, take

2 tbsp of Peanut oil

warmed till the oil forms ripples, add-in quick succession-

Turmeric/tumeric/haldi-a pinch
Red Chilli Flakes – to taste, I prefer to be generous here
2 Medium potatoes, cubed

Stir to coat, cover and lower heat to medium low to cook till the potatoes are halfway cooked, about 4-5 minutes. Shake the covered pan in between to make sure they don’t stick. As soon as the potatoes are halfway cooked, add

1 cup of broccoli florets, trimmed
Black Pepper, ground, to taste
Salt, to taste

Normally, I mention salt to taste and leave it at that. But here, I would like to specify that when working with minimal flavors such as in this case, take care not to under-salt it. It also goes along without saying that you shouldn’t over-salt it. Stir gently to mix, cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes till the broccoli softens just enough. Serve with rotis or as a side with rice and Bendi/dal/curry.

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Pucker up to some Cranberry-Apple Chutney!

Its the season for cranberries. Its one of the main things that I look forward to as thanksgiving approaches and it is also something I buy only during thanksgiving and never before. In any form. No cranberry juice all around the year for me. This is the only time of the year that it seems right. Though, I experimented with cranberries (dried ones in cranberry muffin, juice in a cranberry martini etc), I never went Indian with them. Until this year for thanksgiving, I made some cranberry chutney and I could’nt resist putting in some of this and some of that and a whole lot of jaggery to make it family friendly. I like the tartness but my husband is not so much a fan. I mean, it is a chutney , you know!. The chutney is really good , especially with some hot parathas.

Cran Apple Chutney

Heat , in a medium size sauce pot

1 tsp of ghee

Add,

1/4 tsp Black mustard seeds

When that sputters add,

2 Cloves
5 Green chillies (slit length-wise or chopped finely)
4-5 Kadipatta (Curry Leaves)
a pinch hing (Asafoetida)
2 Apples , chopped into cubes size of cranberries
1 12 oz bag of Fresh cranberries
Salt to Taste

Mix everything together and cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes on medium heat. The cranberries pop, the apples melt and results in a wonderful dark pink concoction. If you taste it now, you will get, other than a burnt tongue, a really really tart taste. Its time to sweeten things up.

Add

1 cups of Jaggery
1/4 cup Orange juice

Cook, covered on medium heat till the jaggery melts and remove from flame. Add

1 tsp Red Chilli powder

to finish off a wonderful-tart-yet-sweet-and-with-a-hint-of-heat chutney. This was a part of my neither-here-nor-there-Thanksgiving dinner and we have enough leftovers to have with parathas. My son loves them in his PB & J Sandwich. I get the feeling that his palate is becoming neither-here-nor-there, too. But, of course, I would prefer it to be called “Well-Rounded” Palate!

This is my contribution to Jihva-Jaggery hosted by Kay of Towards a Better Tomorrow and also
to Festive Fair hosted by Anna of Morsel’s and Musings

Making the Weekday Special with Chilli Chicken

Aayush has decided that he likes to bite into things and chew his food rather than having it mashed and gulping it down. Finally! I almost had visions of feeding him mashed food into old age.

“Kha re, deva. Hoddu jatalo!!”.. “Eat it, my lord. Make you a big boy!” .

Amazing how he can set his tooth grinders on when he is eating a chakuli (murruku) or tukdi or even potato chips. But, a roti or rice, god forbid if he would chew through them. After a lot of explaining, showing him how dad (and all ‘big boys’) eat, trying to enforce the rule by refusing to mash his food and finally, breaking down and just praying to god for salvation, the bugger decides to eat like a grown up. So what pushes him to do it ? Not peer pressure, not shame, not wanting to be a ‘big boy’ nor any of my culinary creations. Oh no!! It was the blasted Chick-Fil-A Chicken Nuggets. Not that I have anything against them. Rather them than the ones at MacDonalds, I say. It is the sheer perverse-ness of it that frustrates me. After going through a lot of struggle to avoid getting him on the fast food bandwagon (struggle, not only because of the sheer amount of outlets and Ads , but because we have had to avoid it, too), the one food that drives him to take that next very important step in his development comes straight out of a fast food chain. Ugggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!

Thats kids for you. So, how does the a two year old with parents trying hard not to expose him to fast food, come across a Chick-Fil-A Chicken nugget? Ah, see , thats a whole other can of worms. Of late, there have been discontent in the family about the food that coming out my kitchen during week days. Discontent that they were just not as exciting as before. Discontent that began erupting with mild comments, mild comments that turned into mutterings when food was served, mutterings that turned into snide comments, and snide comments that finally became loud complaints. When even those didn’t have the desired effect, they decided to hit it where it really hurts! The ego. Oh yes, the hubby coming home with one of the drive-thru specials was becoming a regular feature and signs of a full blown mutiny were apparent. I was not ready to give in, though, and a full blown war was about to start, when Aayush decided, he liked fast food.

And, peace was sketched out between the waring factions (read, the parents) in the interest of the innocent people (read, the kids) whose life was blown apart by the silent war (though I am sure, Aayush doesn’t look at it that way). It was decided that something “exciting” (in terms of food!) will be made mid-week, the day hubby comes home at the same time as me, and that he would help in any way he can, begining with staying out of the kitchen and making sure the kids stay away, too. He was very happy with that suggestion. Poor guy, has no idea the tornado that is going to hit him in the form of two kids who have missed their parents the whole day. *snicker, snicker*

So, the good news is, Aayush likes chicken and that means a quick route to good proteins for him and another reason for us ( S and me) to gorge on chickens and hubby takes care of the kids for one WHOLE evening. Not a bad deal. I began the healing process with some darn good, Indo-Chinese concoction that I guess would be known as fast-food in India, but since I make it at home, is alright ;).

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Cube into bite size pieces

3 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

Make a paste of the following and marinate the chicken in it for about an hour.

1 tbsp Red Chilli Powder
1 tbsp Soya Sauce (Dark or lite, I prefer the dark)
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tbsp Cornflour

In a large frying pan, heat up

a couple tbsp of Peanut Oil

Shallow-fry the chicken cubes in the oil. If you have used a large enough pan, you will be able to do this in two rounds. Follow the usual rules. Don’t over crowd the pan, don’t try moving the chicken around for a couple minutes until a shake to the pan has it dancing in the pan. Usually, with chicken pieces this small, you know you are ready to turn them when the side on top if white with small pink center on top. Drain on paper towels when cooked through. Cool. This part you can do ahead of time. I have to warn you though that the family might think they are chicken pakoda and finish them off.

Raise the heat on the remaining oil (there should be about 2 tbsp oil, if there isn’t add more), add

2 whole dried red chillies (optional)
1/2 cup sliced Green Onions
(usually a bunch. only the white part, save the green for garnish)
1 tbsp chopped Garlic
4-5 chillies slit length-wise

Stir fry for 2 minutes. Add

2 tbsp Soya Sauce
2 tbsp Chilli-Garlic Sauce (you get these in most grocery stores)

Add salt, depending on taste. Usually, with that amount of soya sauce, its not necessary. Mix to coat all the chicken with the sauce. Stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Remove from flame and top with

chopped greens from the green onions
(That sounds very knowledgeable,doesn’t it?)

I served this with dal and rice. But, it works as an excellent finger-food,too.

And All was as should should be and peace reigned the kingdom again. With the mutiny squashed, the queen was joyous. The king was happy with the time he was getting with the kids and the prince and the princess were just happy with the attention. The chicken nuggets got to stay in the outlets where the bad grown ups (us) can go and pig out without the kids knowing about it. Everyone gobbled down on the ‘exciting’ home-made food, and they lived happily ever after

…………………………………………………………….until the next meal.

Mango Pie…For JFI-Mango

Mango

When you have experienced the best, anything less is simply not acceptable. When you have grown up eating some of the best mangoes in the world, you just can't adjust to any other. That's the problem every Indian has in the US. We have been bred on the famous Alphonso Mangoes all our life and suddenly, we find ourselves in a place where we, for the life of us, can't find it. We will make all the other adjustments, you see. We will replace our full-fat buffalo milk, that we grew up on, with 2%. We will melt unsalted butter and pretend that it is asli desi ghee. Heck, we will even pretend that tofu is a vegetable. Eventually, we will get used to all of that and stop craving for the original. One thing we will never be able to replace or stop missing is the indian mango. Oh, you can go to the indian store now and pick up good mangoes. They are really good, especially when you compare it to the atrocities that we get at local grocery stores. But they are not the real thing. So, how do you know if its the real thing? Well, for one, if you have eaten mangoes and don't see what the big deal is, you have not eaten the real thing. One bite of a real alphonso mango or aapoos aamba as it is called in Bombay, you will know why it is called the king of fruits. The thought that our kids would grow up not knowing its taste was simply untolerable. Of course, things are changing. All things remaining the same, we might have the real thing in US markets next season. Fingers Crossed and all that.

There are about 1500 varieties of mango that are grown and harvested in India. Though I can't say I have tasted all of them or can list all of them, I will list the more popular ones. Ratnagiri Alphonso, Raspuri, Totapuri, Neelam, Kesar, Suvarnarekha, Choosa, Dasheri and Langra.

kalash

Mangoes are very important in hindu culture. Mango leaves are associated with prosperity and happiness. The residence of every Hindu famliy is decorated with festoons of mango leaves called as thorans. Mango leaves are also associated with purification.  Hanging fresh mango leaves outside the front door during Gudi padwa, Pongal, Uggadi, Dassera, Diwali is considered a blessing to the house and supposed to usher in prosperity and fortune. During weddings, clusters of mango leaves are also placed atop a silver or brass vessel filled with water which is then sprinkled on the couple to promote *ahem*… fertility. After all, an average mango tree will bear fruit for upto 40 years averaging upto 100 fruits per season. Talk about procreation.No pooja is complete without mango leaves. The pooja kalash(a clay/copper pot filled with water, topped with mango leaves and a coconut) uses the mango leaves to represent abundance and hospitality. Being such a prized fruit, the mango motif is used in indian textiles, paintings and jewellery as an everlasting symbol of desire and plenty.

Mangoes…Just saying it brings so many memories.

I have always associated mangoes with summer vacations. School's out and suddenly, everything's about mangoes. Summer vacations coincided with the mango season. There would be a boxes of mangoes in the house, in various stages of ripening. The ripe ones , you eat. The overripe one got converted into various mango flavored eats. There's Mango lassi, Mango Shakes, Mango Ice creams, Aamras, Mango Burfi etc. etc. The ones that weren’t ripe yet, would be kept in a corner on a pile of dry hay( to help with the ripening process). Then, there were the raw mangoes that would be pickled, or turned into chutneys or concentrated into drinks. I remember snacking on finely chopped raw mango seasoned with chilli powder and salt. Simply marvellous. And, of course, eating the fruit as is. Peel the skin, bite into the juicy flesh with all that juice dripping down your arm as you eat. There was also the aftermath of stains that would be left behind. See, Mangoes tend to be juicy and contain so much pigment, they will permanently stain your clothes. Yep, there were always a few clothes every year that would go the mango way and have to be bleached a mango orange/Yellow. Ahhhh..memories.

Back to the present and today’s Recipe

Mango Pie

When Indira of Mahanandi announced Mangoes as the ingredient for Jihva, a lot of options raced through my mind. There is the aambe saasam which is ripe mangoes and grapes in a coconut-mustard seed gravy, usually served at konkani weddings. There is aambe upkari mango curry made with a particular variety of ripe mangoes which is not available here. There is the raw mango chutney. However, due to an almost empty pantry thanks to a trip to india in 4 days, I had to settle for this recipe for Mango Pie. This is a no-bake pie, very easy to put together and light on the stomach. I got this recipe from a good friend of mine who is a vegetarian and doesn't eat eggs. I have tweaked the original recipe to increase the exotic quotient a bit since then and even tried once to add eggs and actually bake the pie. I have settled on this no-bake version as this was voted the family favorite.

Recipe

For the 9 inch Pie Crust

6 tbsp Butter

26 Graham Crackers

1/4 cup sugar

Melt the butter in the microwave. Pulverise the graham crackers in a food processor until finely crushed. Add the butter and the sugar and process till it mixes together.If you don't have a food processor, put the graham crackers into a ziploc bag and roll the rolling pin over them until finely crushed. Remove to a bowl. Add the butter and sugar and stir till it all blends together. Take a 9 inch pie plate and press the mixture into the bottom and the sides. Use the cup measure to press it into an even layer. Bake the pie crust in a 350 degrees F Oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool.

Alternatively, you can use a ready made pre-baked 9 inch graham cracker pie crusts available at most grocery stores. I confess to doing so whenever I am short of time.

For the filling

3 Mangoes Peeled, Deseeded and blended into smooth pulp

1 pkt Cream Cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup Heavy Cream

1 cup Milk

2 tbsp Honey

1 sachet unflavored Gelatin

Whip the Heavy Cream till it forms peaks. You can use the ready made frozen whipped cream. Find the one that is not sweetened. Whisk the cream cheese till smooth. Add the mango pulp and mix well. I use canned mango pulp when I don't get fresh ones in the market. However, the fresh ones just taste better. Boil the milk on the stovetop or in the microwave. Add the honey and the gelatin and stir till the gelatin melts. This will take some time, about 2-3 minutes.Add this to the cream cheese and mango mixture and stir till everything gets incorporated.  Fold the whipped cream into the mixture gently.

Pour the mixture into the pie crust and refrigerate for about 6 hours. Top with freshly chopped Mangoes or cherries.

This is my entry for JFI-Mango Event.

 

Pasta Fusion…Elbow Macaroni in a Eggplant-Spinach sauce.

Pasta Upma

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. This Recipe came out of the dire necessity to empty my pantry. Going to India for a couple of months , you see.(Yay for me!!!).

Opened the pantry,have some elbow macaroni but no cheese, so cant go for the Mac n' Cheese.Peek into the freezer, do have some Parmesan cheese and frozen spinach that have to be consumed . Peek into the refrigerator, some tomatoes and eggplant that have to used pretty soon or else have to be dumped. Decided to put everything into one dish and see what comes up. And, Lo and behold, a pasta dish that can easily become a staple in our everyday food. But only if I can remember what I put into it.Which is why , I am typing as I eat my pasta fusion.Pardon any sauce splatters and typo errors….

Lets see,

Heated some oil in a pan,threw in onion and garlic, sauteed till soft. Hmmm..opened the spice cabinet (yes , I have a cabinet full of spices.Whole spices, powdered spices, ready-made spice mixes, homemade spice mixes, dried herbs..the whole lot. will do a post on them some time),some red chilli powder, some goda masala,some fennel seeds. Stir.Added veggies, tomato puree.  In goes Italian Seasoning,salt, pepper and the pasta. Topped with Parmesan. Ah..good .I remember everything. Now, to quantify the ingredients and write a proper recipe.

Pasta Fusion….

1 cup elbow macaroni (or any pasta you prefer)

1/2 cup frozen spinach defrosted (or 8-10 spinach leaves, chopped)

1/2 cup chopped eggplant

1 medium tomato chopped

1 medium onion chopped

4 tbsp tomato puree

2 cloves garlic chopped finely

1 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp goda masala (or garam masala or any other spice mix you prefer)

1/8 tsp fennel seeds

1/4 tsp Italian seasoning

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

salt, pepper to taste

Boil water.After it comes to a boil, add salt (make the water as salty as sea water) and pasta. Meanwhile,heat oil in a pan, add onion and garlic and cook till translucent.Add red chilli powder, goda masala and fennel seeds.saute for a minute.Add tomatoes, eggplant and spinach. Add a little of the water in which the pasta is cooking and cook till the eggplant is cooked through and the spinach has wilted. Drain the pasta, reserve the water. Add the pasta,Italian seasoning, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Mix till it all blends together and check for salt. If the salt seems less, add the water reserved from boiling the pasta. I do this for 2 reasons. First, we have already added a little of the salty water for cooking the veggies + tomato puree has salt to some extent and Parmesan cheese is salty. Second, it just seems a waste to put all that salt in the water and throw it away. If the salt seems more, add more tomato puree or boil some more pasta and put it in. I don't like my pasta drowning in tomato sauce, that's why i used just 4 tbsp of tomato puree. You can use more depending on taste.

Ta..da…delicious pasta is ready.