Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Birthday to my little monster!

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This one right here will turn one in a couple days!
Last year, 29th of August became the best date of our lives. When we held her in our hands for the first time and looked at her face we believed she's gonna remain the same tiny little burrito forever. But nope...She's growing and she's growing pretty fast!

She's one already! We wanted to make this day all about her so we decided to take a couple days off, get away and do what she loves doing and celebrate the most magical one year of our lives. So I'll be away from this virtual world for a few days but will be back soon with probably some wonderful stories and some more recipes.

See Ya!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tadka tomato dal and green tomato chutney - Summer Fest

Recently I was browsing through food blogs and stumbled upon something really interesting. Margaret Roach and a few more bloggers have joined together to celebrate peak harvest season by a cross-blog event called the Summer Fest. The event invites all interested bloggers to contribute in whatever way they want. So you can swap your recipe or tips about the particular harvest ingredient which is the theme for that particular week.

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I thought it was a cool idea and felt compelled to contribute a recipe of mine as well. This week's theme was tomatoes. Tomato is such an important part of Indian cooking. There's so much you can do with it and at the same time not a lot you can do without it. I thought of a lot of Indian recipes which are solely dedicated to tomatoes and would have been perfect for the theme but somehow they were a bit complicated for each n everyone to understand.

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Then I came down to a few options and decided to make something that everyone can make in their kitchen irrespective of the fact that they are familiar to Indian spices or not. So I decided to make Tadka Tomato Dal  along-with Green tomato and cilantro chutney. Its something which is kind of a staple in North Indian homes and is very easy to put together.


Tadka Tomato Dal:


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I love any kind of dal (lentils) mostly because I love how something so simple and straightforward gives such burst of flavors. For this recipe I added all kinds of tomatoes I could find in the farmer's market and added it to yellow lentils and when it was cooked I was so amazed at how dal was packed with the taste of tomatoes.

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Chop all the tomatoes mix it with lentils. Add water four times the quantity of lentils add salt and turmeric and cook it.

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When the lentils are cooked its time to make tadka. Tadka also called chaunk or baghar in hindi is nothing but tempering. A few spices and some flavorings are freid in a small amount of oil or clarified butter (ghee in hindi) and then added to the main dish which in this case is tomato dal.

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Ingredients:

For lentils:
1 cup tuar dal  (yellow lentil)
3 cups sliced tomatoes. ( I used all kinds of tomatoes I got my hands into green, red, yellow. You can use whatever you have at home)
4 cups of water
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste

For tadka:
2 tsbsp oil or clarified butter (ghee)
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp curry leaves (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
4-5 cherry tomatoes (sliced into halves)
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Method:

Wash lentils thoroughly to the extent that water comes clear when added to it.
Add tomatoes, salt and turmeric along-with 4 cups of water and place it on burner on high.( If you are using a pressure cooker place it on medium.)
Once water starts to boil turn the heat to medium low, cover it with a lid and let it cook.
After lentils are cooked well turn off the heat and start making tadka.
You'll need a small frying pan for making tadka. Heat oil/ghee in the pan.
Add asefotida. When it starts tempering add mustard and cumin seeds.
It will start popping if the oil is hot enough and then add garlic. Let it brown.
Add sliced tomatoes. Cook then for about 4-5 minutes and just before they start to melt add cayenne pepper.
Turn the heat off immediately and add the tadka to hot lentils. Mix well.

Green Tomato & Cilantro Chutney:

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This chutney was one of those rare things that everyone in our family loved and so my mom used to make it almost everyday throughout summer and also sometimes in winter. Mostly summer because in India we used to get the most flavorful and fresh tomatoes at that time. Green tomatoes have a slight sour and tangy taste to it and that makes this chutney worth every bite. If you don't find green tomatoes you can also use red tomatoes and if you think your tomatoes are not sour/tangy enough just add a little bit of lemon or lime juice.

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Ingredients:

2 cups of cilantro
1 cup tomatoes
2-3 green chili or jalapenos (seed them if you don't want it very hot)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp lemon/lime juice (optional)
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste

Method:

There's no method to it. Just throw it all in a blender add a little water for the blades to move and make a runny sauce.

summer-fest-2010-logoIf you want to know more about summer fest click here

Also Come join Soup-a-Palooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by Bush’s Beans, Hip Hostess, Pillsbury and Westminster Crackers

Wordless Wednesday - An introduction.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Crunchy cantaloupe and blueberry salad

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It was not until a few weeks back when I started getting invites from people for the end of summer barbecue parties that I realized that summer is almost ready to kiss a bye bye. Very soon there will be snow all around and I'll be sitting on my living room couch sipping coffee, looking outside the window and thinking how fast summer went by.

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Since then I'm trying to spend as much time in the pool as I can, have pulled out all my shorts and trying to make as much summery, cool and vibrant food as I can. Ice creams and salads are on top of the list these days. So yesterday was not very different. I made a salad again! A fruit salad. Crunchy cantaloupe salad.

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Originally I was planning on making just a cantaloupe salad but these days the little one is liking blueberries. So you know how it goes.. Whatever she likes to eat goes into whatever she would eat. Hence the family is eating a lot of blueberries lately!

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This is a nice and refreshing salad that you would love on a hot summer brunch or you could have it for lunch like we did yesterday. Just use some simple, everyday ingredients you can find in your fridge and out comes a beautiful vibrant meal.
Ingredients:

1 medium size cantaloupe
1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup almond flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp red pepper flakes (for a little kick!)
1 tbsp chopped sweet basil leaves ( I wanted to make use of my beautiful basil plant so I used basil, you can use mint too. It will also give it a cool refreshing taste)

Method:

Using a melon baller, scoop out bite sized pieces of cantaloupe. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Toast almonds in a skillet over medium low heat for about 3-4 mins. Almond gives the salad a nice crunch that I liked. You can also use toasted walnut or pecans if you want.
Before serving mix all the ingredients together. Give it a nice toss and the serve!

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Falooda Kulfi - A little something from the streets of India

If you grew up in India like me then I'm sure you must have memories of Indian summer and if you remember that summer, then there must also be kulfi somewhere there. Well! I have some fond memories of those summer evenings. In our town, like any other town of India, we had a street where all these vendors would come and line up in the evening selling street food. Aloo chat, gol gappe, sugarcane juice and then there were Falooda Kulfi stalls!

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That was the favorite place to hang out for everyone. Our dad would take me and my little brother there. We would go in our Maruti 800 car, which by the way was my dad's third child. He would park it as close possible to the kulfi stall so that we could sit on the roof of the car and eat Faluda Kulfi. Did you also play this game with your sibling where whoever eats last wins? NO? I guess we are were the crazy ones ! My brother would always lose and then I would eat my kulfi little by little just to piss him off. Ah, good times!

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I thought that summer is almost coming to an end and I haven't made kulfi yet this season. So like every summer I call my mom  to ask for the recipe of Faluda Kulfi. And she goes... Cook milk in a large pot. Stir it and stir it and stir...until it reduces to half and... I said to myself  "this summer is very different from the rest of the summers that I've had in the past". This summer I have an 11 month old who will come and cling on to my leg if I stood in my kitchen stirring and stirring and stirring...
So I found a shortcut. This shortcut is super short and super yummy! I can only say that try this recipe and if you think its not too ''low cal'' for you then go run a few miles but then when you come back and eat this kulfi you sure will thank me.

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A little something: So let me tell you a little about Fallooda Kulfi which is nothing but an Indian ice cream. Kulfi was traditionally prepared by evaporating sweetened and flavored milk by slow cooking, with almost continuous stirring to keep milk from sticking to the bottom of the vessel where it might burn, till its volume was reduced by half, thus thickening it, increasing its fat, protein and lactose density. It has a distinctive taste due to caramelization of lactose and sugar during the lengthy cooking process. The semi-condensed mix was then frozen in tight sealed molds that are then submerged in ice mixed with salt to speed up the freezing process. The ice/salt mix, along with its submerged kulfi molds, is placed in earthen pots or matkas (hindi) that provide insulation from the external heat and slow down the melting of ice and because they are made in matkas or pots they are called Matka Kufi. Kulfi, thus prepared by slow freezing, also renders a unique smooth mouth feel that is devoid of water crystallization. Its then garnished with nuts or falooda which is nothing but boiled vermicilli dipped in rose water.

But we are not doing all that. We will just get all the ingredients, mix them up and freeze.

Ingredients:

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For Kulfi:
1 (16oz) cup heavy cream
1 (14 oz) can of evaporated milk. If you want you can use low fat.
1 (14 oz) can of condensed milk
8-10 strands of saffron (It is sort of a culinary jewel and I would say a must in kulfi which you can find it in any Indian/international store. I would say buy mexican saffron, they are cheaper than the high quality Indian ones.)
5-6 cardamom pods 
2 tbsp sugar
1 16 oz box of cool whipped topping (fat free)
1/2 cup coarsely crushed nuts ( I used pistachios but you can also add almonds, cashews. And you can powder it all if you want as well I like it when I can get them in small bites )

Method:

With a mortar and pestle, grind together sugar, saffron and cardamom seeds.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream and cool whip.
Using a whisk gently mix everything together. You need to be gentle otherwise cool whip melts very easily making the mixture more watery and you want it light and airy.
Add in saffron, sugar, cardamom mixture and coarsely crushed  nuts. Mix well.

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Pour mixture into small dixie style plastic cups and cover with plastic or aluminum wrap. If you don't have cups just pour it all in a bowl or a deep dish and cover it with a plastic wrap touching the surface of the liquid.
Freeze Kulfi for at least 4 – 6 hours, preferably overnight.
 

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For Falooda:

9 tablespoons rosesyrup
3 ounces vermicelli

Method:

Boil the vermicelli, drain the water out of it, and let it cool for some time (it's best to refrigerate it by putting it in a container and snapping its lid in place so it won't get stiff by cooling).

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Before serving take out the kulfi glasses. Rub them between your hands to warm the sides and if you have used a bowl stick it inside warm water for a few seconds. Flip and the kulfi will come out. Garnish with some falooda and rose water and serve. You sure going to get a little taste of India in every single bite that you take!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lemon Mousse

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Today I want to share a secret love of mine which I've decided not to keep a secret anymore. I told all about it to my husband as well and I think he is now fine with it. So the thing is that I think I'm in love with Ina Garten. There.. I said it! Yes, if I could I would marry Ina right now! Her soft voice, that friendly smile and out of the world cooking mesmerizes me all the time. I mean what else does a person want?

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She was the one who taught me my first chocolate cake which now people kill to have a bite of ( Ok not really kill, but it tastes decent!) and now she taught me how to make my first lemon mousse. And I can't even tell you how delicious it is. I mean Its Good!

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Since I tasted that lemon curd for the first time which one of my dearest friend made for her own baby shower I've become a big fan of lemon desserts. So recently when I saw one of Barefoot Contessa's episode where Ina made a lemon mousse I thought I gotta try this recipe. I mean lemon and mousse. How can you go wrong with that? I tried it for the first time, I loved it. Then I made it again with a few changes in the recipe, I loved it again. So when I thought of making it for the third time in the same week, I decided I have to share it with you.

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I tried making a low fat version of the same recipe and it actually tasted pretty good. It was not very different from the original 'not so low fat' one but I felt that mousse asks for that creamy texture which was not really happening when I made it low fat. So if you are not planning on making it three times in a week, you can certainly go for this recipe.

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Ingredients: Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa.

3 extra-large whole eggs
3 extra-large eggs, separated
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
Salt
1 cup heavy cream

Ina also used 1/2 cup bottled lemon curd which I didn't. For me the mousse was lemony enough without it but if you want yours extra lemony, you can add the lemon curd. When? I'll let you know.

Method:

Break three eggs in a heat-proof bowl. Now separate the remaining three eggs and add the yolks into the same bowl saving the while for later. Also add 1 cup sugar, the lemon zest, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk.
This is the time to work those muscles a bit because you have to whisk, whisk and whisk until the mixture is thick like a pudding. You can also switch to a hand mixer once the liquid starts getting thick.

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Take off the heat and set aside for 15 minutes.
Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, until completely chilled.
Now take out the saved egg whites from before, add a pinch of salt and place it in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until the whites are stiff and shiny.
Add it to the bowl with lemon custard and fold very carefully or just wait for the whipped cream.
Place the cream in the same bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the cream forms stiff peaks.
Fold it all together with the lemon custard. If you want to add lemon curd, this is the time to do so.
Chill for a couple hours before it all vanishes.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pasta in creamy tomato sauce with pumpkin seeds

 I love Italian food! I love eating it, I love cooking it and I even love just looking/staring at it! I love the layers and layers of flavor in it. Its complex but still there's a straightforwardness to it, just like Indian food. You can smell the rich culture through the food. I'm not sure whether what we get here in this part of the world is what real Italian food tastes like but I would love to one day go and eat on the streets of the country where it all started!

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I was speaking with my friend the other day who happens to be a pastry chef and has just come back from a dreamy trip to Italy. She was talking about olives and wine and the picture perfect villages of Italy and how life just doesn't get any better than that. Within minutes, I found myself dreaming and nearly transported to Italy.

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I couldn't stop thinking about it for days and knew that somehow it would translate to me doing something different in the kitchen. So I decided to make some pasta.

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My fridge was not in a very good mood though because I didn't put a lot into it lately so it was not cooperative. I couldn't find anything interesting and I sort of gave up on the idea and that's when I found some pumpkin seeds in the pantry. Now are pumpkin seeds in a pasta unusual? I don't know. But do they play well together? Definitely! I made a Pasta in creamy tomato sauce with pumpkin seeds in it. It was creamy and decadent and quick.

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Here's how I made it:

Ingredients:

1 pound pasta of your choice (I used spaghetti)
1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds
2 medium size tomatoes
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp parsley (chopped)
1/2 cup half & half (I wanted to make it rich for my little one so I used half n half but for the figure conscious, normal milk can be used just as well)
1 tbsp flour (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional) 
olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
Salt

Method:

Boil a pot of water. Throw in salt (about 2 tbsp) and olive oil (about 1 tbsp) and then the pasta. Let it cook until al dante.
In the meantime pour 1 tbsp olive in a pan and add minced garlic and red pepper flakes. Turn on the heat to medium. Wait for the garlic to slowly turn light golden.
Puree the tomatoes and pumpkin seeds in a blender making a nice smooth paste. Add the puree into the pan when garlic is golden.
Stir occasionally. Let it simmer until all the liquid from the tomato is gone.
Now add half n half and let it simmer. (If you are using milk then after adding it let it simmer as well and then add a tbsp of flour and whisk thoroughly so that there are no lumps formed.)
Once the sauce is thick enough according to your choice, turn off the heat. Mix it together with the pasta.
Garnish it with some chopped parsley and if you want then some shaved Parmesan cheese on top.
Enjoy!

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