Monday, November 19, 2012

Cocoa Covered Pistachio Date Truffles

Cocoa covered date truffle
The whole mood around festive season stays the same, doesn't matter if its Thanksgiving in the US or Diwali in India. Irrespective of the country, people, language or culture if its the holidays season there will be a struggle against insanity! I have spent enough Diwalis and Holis in India amongst boatload of relatives and friends to know that! Long lists of menus being created, destroyed and then created again, a month in advance. Some new recipes being developed and some of grandma's tested ones thrown in the mix. The whole talks about who is cooking what and who cooks it best.

Date Truffle Collage 2

I wouldn't call my mother any less of a risk taker when it would comes to her in the kitchen but still holiday season was no time for playing around. She had her favorite and "tested" list of dishes and she would stick to them . Dahi vada (fried lentil dumplings served with spiced yogurt), boondi laddoos (a sweet dish made with chickpea clusters), gulab jamuns and chola masala served with hot puffed poori and a few stir fried vegetables is what the menu would mostly look like every year.
She had the patience of getting up very early in the morning to start cooking the dinner. Nothing could be made a couple days in advance because its just impolite to feed your guests baasi (a day old) food. So the day would start very early even before the sun comes with a shower and prayer, then cleaning up of the kitchen followed by a cooking marathon which would only end when the guests would start trickling in the evening. I never understood why this hardship was required but she had her set of rules and she grew up following them.

Dates
I, on the other hand have a different set of rules and one of the perks of living in a foreign land is that mummy wouldn't know that! I believe in band-aids, microwaves and quick fixes. So when planning a big meal like Diwali or Thanksgiving I concentrate on one or two big dishes which ask for most of my attention. That's what people are going to dig into anyway, rest are all side kicks. But don't neglect the side kicks either, just try to keep them easy, quick and if possible make in advance.
Now one of my favorite side kick right now which practically changed my life is this recipe for date truffles. I quickly softened my dates in a little bit of butter before grinding them and the extra caramelized flavor that added to it is amazing. This ones easy enough that I made it with my 3 year old, doesn't ask for many ingredients, its delicious and is healthy too- Jackpot!

Date Truffle Collage 1
Ingredients:
1 lbs pitted dates (coarsely chopped)
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoon sweetened cocoa powder

Method: Makes approx. 16
Melt butter in pan. Add dates. On medium heat cook the dates until they loosen up and begin to look pulpy.
Transfer the dates into a dish or to a food processor.
Now in the same hot pan quickly toast the pistachios for a couple minutes until they give out some aroma. Turn the heat off. Let the pistachios cool.
Transfer both pistachio and dates into a food processor and grind it into a paste. After a point it might get a little difficult for the blades to move. Just move the mixture around with a spatula or spoon to aid smooth grinding but do not add any water. The paste does not necessarily need to be very smooth but enough to not have lumps in it.
Wait the mixture is cool enough to touch. Then oil your hands a little and roll them into small balls.
Take sweetened cocoa in a plastic ziplock back. Drop all the truffles in it. Seal the ziplock back and shake it vigorously for 15 seconds.
Take the Cocoa Covered Pistachio Date Truffles out and enjoy after a nice and hearty Thanksgiving meal!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Indian Simmer Loves- Veggie Belly

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It has been a long time since one of my favorite sites was featured here on Indian Simmer. Things have been really crazy here in the background  with me, both work wise and health wise. But when I thought of coming back with the "Indian Simmer Loves" series I figured what better way to do it than come back with a blog and blogger who has been on the top of my favorite list ever since I started as a food blogger! Sala Kanan was the very first food blogger who when saw my food blog for the first time sent me an email telling how much she loved it. It was a short email with just a few lines of praise and an invitation to come visit her whenever I am in her hometown. And that few liner not only made my day but weeks because it was a huge thing for a new amateur blogger like me to get praises from Sala Kanan of VEGGIE BELLY! Its been over two years now and we have grown to be good friends and still can say that Sala is the same. Gracious, always ready to lend a helping hand and kind enough to share her knowledge with everyone. Now if you are a foodie and like to surf through food blogs then chances are you already know Sala and her gorgeous blog Veggie Belly. With her simple yet innovative recipes, impeccable photography and her intriguing stories of travel around the world, its no wonder that Veggie Belly is one of the most popular Indian food blogs. I am super excited that Sala agreed to guest post on my blog and happy to announce that Indian Simmer Loves- Veggie Belly.

butter-roasted-masala-potatoes3
Tell us about yourself and what you would say is your food philosophy?
I grew up in South India. I've lived in the UK and now the US - Baltimore, MD, Washington DC, and now Portland OR. The travel bug has bitten me hard, and I've traveled to over 40 countries in 6 continents. Apart from travel, I really enjoy cooking and photography. Veggie Belly is the result of all of these interests coming together.
My cooking is pretty eclectic, and always meat free. I love the spices and flavors of India and the far east, and I think that reflects in my cooking.

What led you to starting a food blog?
People always ask me for recipes or guidelines for how to cook something. I was always sharing my recipes with people - either emailing them or scribling them on pieces of paper. So I decided to share my recipes with the world through my  blog.

What would you say "Veggie Belly" is all about and please share a recipe that best describes your blog?
Through Veggie Belly I share my vegetarian recipes, and hope to inspire people to step in the kitchen and make vegetarian food for their families. My blog has hundreds of vegetarian recipes that are inspired by my travels and by my upbringing in India.

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When butter and potatoes come together, you just cant go wrong. Add some homemade curry powder to the party, and you have a super tasty, easy side dish! The best part is, this recipe is so easy to make – you just toss everything together and it pretty much takes care of itself in the oven.

I love curry leaves and use them in everything (even pasta!). They have a beautiful earthy flavor that is just perfect for this masala potato dish. Just throw a sprig of curry leaves on top of the potatoes and they will get fragrant and crisp in the oven.

My home made curry powder is easy to make – all you do is toast up dry red chiles, coriander, cumin and fennel seeds, then grind them in a spice grinder. This powder will keep for weeks in an airtight container, and can be used in curries, roast vegetables, salad dressing etc. So make sure you make extra!

I like using baby potatoes for this recipe and I used a mix of white, purple and red. But you can just as easily use regular sized potatoes, just make sure you cut them up into even, bite sized pieces. And make sure you don’t crown the potatoes in the sheet pan – they need to be in a single layer so they can brown properly.

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Butter Roasted Masala Potatoes

Ingredients-  Serves 3-4 as a side dish
1 ½ pounds baby potatoes (white, red, purple, or mixed)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon Sea salt
1 Curry leaf sprig
1 teaspoon homemade curry powder (link:  http://www.veggiebelly.com/2012/10/homemade-curry-powder-recipe.html)

Method
Pre heat oven to 400f
Scrub the potatoes clean and pat them dry on a towel. Cut the larger potatoes in half, so that everything is the same size.
Melt butter in a small saucepan, and let it simmer till it is golden.
Place the potatoes, melted butter, olive oil and salt in a bowl and toss well.
Arrange potatoes in a single layer in a sheet pan, that is lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 30 minutes. Then flip the potatoes over. Put the curry leaf sprig on top of the potatoes. Return to the oven.
Bake for another 20-30 minutes or till the potatoes are golden on the outside.
When the potatoes are done, remove from oven and immediately sprinkle the curry powder evenly on top. Mix well. Then fish out, and discard the curry leaf stem, keeping the leaves. Serve hot.
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