Category: Greens and Herbs

Garden Greens for Sag Paneer

Spinach, swiss chard, methi plus cilantro and dill are growing so much, they are getting big and out of control in my garden. So, I plucked all the excesses and with that garden greens bounty, prepared sag paneer for lunch today. The following recipe is a tad different from the classic recipe blogged here in 2005. Instead of cashew powder, I’ve added carrot pulp to thicken the sag gravy and to add some sweetness to the greens. With carrot and paneer, garden greens never tasted this shiny-sweet before. It’s a good recipe if you have greens’ surplus.

Garden Greens
Garden Greens

Sag Paneer with Garden Greens
(for 6 to 8 servings)

1 bunch each – spinach, swiss chard and methi – coarsely chopped
1/2 cup each – cilantro and dill leaves – coarsely chopped
8 Guntur green chillies
1 carrot – sliced to chunks
1 red onion and 1 ripe tomato – finely chopped
1 cup or to taste – paneer cubes
1 teaspoon – ginger-garlic paste
1 tablespoon – cumin-coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon – turmeric
Salt to taste

1. In a wide pan, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil. Add the greens and green chillies. Saute until the leaves collapse and chillies soften. Turn off the heat and let the greens cool. Once they reach room temperature, take the sauteed greens and chillies in a food processor. Add a pinch of salt and pulse to coarse puree. Remove the mix to a bowl. In the same food processor, add carrot pieces and make super fine puree, adding water when necessary.

2. Wipe the pan clean and add another tablespoon of peanut oil. When oil is hot, add a pinch each – cumin and mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the onion and tomato pieces. Saute until they soften , then stir in the garden greens and carrot puree. Add ginger-garlic paste, cumin-coriander powder, turmeric and salt. Mix well. Add the paneer cubes. Cover the pan and on medium heat, let simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve the sag paneer warm with rice or roti. Tastes good on its own as well.

Sag Paneer with Garden Greens
Garden Sag Paneer with Rotis ~ for Bhojanam

Gongura Peanut Pachadi

Thanks to the frequent rains this summer, my gongura plants are thriving. In fact, there is a surplus of fresh gongura leaves and that allows me experiment some new recipes. You know the peanut chutney in which we add tamarind or lemon juice to perk up the pachadi? I thought why not replace them with fresh gongura leaves. Gongura’s tangy taste should be a perfect compliment to nutty peanuts. It has turned out a good recipe with gongura.

Fresh Gongura Leaves
Gongura Madi

Gongura Peanut Pachadi

    1 tablespoon, peanut oil
    2 garlic cloves, skin peeled and chopped coarsely
    1 red onion or shallots – coarsely chopped, about a cup
    6 to 8, fresh or dried chillies, Indian variety
    Fresh gongura leaves – about 6 cups, tightly packed
    Roasted, shelled, skinned, unsalted peanuts – 3/4 cup
    1/2 teaspoon, salt (or to taste)

1. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet. When oil is hot, add garlic, onion and chillies. Saute to soft brown. Remove them into a cup.

2. In the same skillet, stir in the gongura leaves. It will seem an enormous quantity but the leaves reduce rapidly to less than half the volume. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for about five minutes. If the gongura is very fresh, the mixture will be juicy. Remove the cover and continue to cook until the water has evaporated, for another two to three minutes. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

3. In a blender or mortar, take the peanuts. Add salt. Grind or pound into a fine powder. Add the cooked onion-gongura mixture to peanut powder. Stir in half cup of water. Blend the ingredients to smooth pachadi. Remove to a cup.

Gongura-peanut pachadi tastes good with breakfast items, rice or roti.


Gongura-Peanut Pachadi with Ponganalu ~ for Meal Today

Gongura Adugula Pappu

My gongura love has many avatars. One that frequently appears on Mahanandi is amma’s beloved gongura pappu. Today’s gongura avatar is from my mother-in-law’s kitchen, a Nandyala standard and Vijay’s all-time favorite. It’s a simple mélange of familiar toor dal and fresh gongura, does not use lot of ingredients, but relies on slow cooking for a rich and satisfying flavor. The key for this recipe is toor dal should not be overcooked, and it should hold its shape. Back in the old days, the dal is placed on the bottom, topped with gongura and simmered in earthen-ware pots on firebricks. Bottom is adugu in Telugu, so the name “adugula pappu“. This pride of Nandyala is an artisan food. I feel fortunate to prepare it at home with garden-fresh gongura and share it today on Mahanandi.

Garden Fresh Gongura
Garden-fresh Gongura

Gongura Adugula Pappu
(for 2 or 4, for 2 to 1 meal)

Ingredients:

    Fresh gongura leaves, coarsely chopped, about 6 cups, tightly packed
    1/2 cup, toor dal (kandi pappu)
    1 medium sized, red onion or shallot, chopped to chunks, about a cup
    6 to 8 green chilli, Indian or Thai variety, about 3-inch length each, finely chopped
    1/4 teaspoon, turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

    For Hing Tadka:
    2 tablespoons, peanut oil
    10 to 12, fresh curry leaves
    1/2 teaspoon each – chana dal and urad dal
    Pinch each – cumin and mustard seeds
    1/8 teaspoon, hing (inguva)

Method:
1. Soak toor dal in two cups of water for one hour. Drain.

2. In a large pot, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and green chilli. Saute until soft and translucent, about five minutes. Add the gongura leaves. Saute the leaves until they collapse.

3. Add the soaked toor dal to gongura. Sprinkle turmeric and salt. Mix well with a whisk or sturdy spoon. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the toor dal is tender for about 15 to 20 minutes. Moisture from fresh gongura is enough to cook the toor dal to tender, and adding extra water is not necessary. But if there is a need, add little. The key for this recipe is toor dal should not be overcooked, and it should hold its shape.

4. Do the hing tadka. In a small pot, heat peanut oil. When oil is hot, add curry leaves, chana dal, urad dal, cumin and mustard seeds, one after another, and toast to fragrance. When mustard seeds start to pop, add hing. Stir for couple of seconds. Add the gongura-toor dal mix to this hing tadka. Gently mix well.

5. Serve gongura adugula pappu hot with rice and some ghee for a taste of tradition.

Gongura Adugula Pappu with Rice and Masala Vada
Gongura Adugula Pappu with Masuri Rice and Masala Vada ~ Meal on a Summer Day

Pudina Potatoes

One other vegetable I brought from weekends Canino farmer’s market trip was baby red potatoes. They were so tiny, round and fresh, I just couldn’t resist their cute appeal. Half of them went into a weekend special meal Dum Aloo. With the remaining ones, I prepared pudina potatoes for today’s meal. This new recipe is inspired by village style methi aloo. The combination of pudina and potato might sound odd, but wait until you try it. Pudina’s strong herbal flavor lends a charming personality to potatoes making pudina potatoes a pleasure to serve and have.

Homegrown Pudina (Mint)
Homegrown Pudina (Spearmint)

Pudina Potatoes
(for 2 to 4 for 2 to 1 meal)

Potatoes: Place 10 tiny red potatoes in a large pot or pressure cooker. Add enough water to cover by at least half inch. Bring to boil and cook the potatoes to tender. Drain. Cool and peel the skin. Set aside.

Pudina: While potatoes are cooking, take a fistful of fresh pudina leaves. Wash and take them in a mixer or mortar. Add 2 to 3 fresh green chillies, a tablespoon of fresh grated coconut and a pinch of salt. Blend them to coarse paste without adding water.

Pudina Potatoes:

    In a large, cast-iron skillet over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil. Add a pinch each-cumin and mustard seeds and saute to fragrance. Add a cup of thinly sliced onions and fry to golden.
    Add the potatoes. Sprinkle the pudina paste, quarter teaspoon of turmeric and half teaspoon of salt over the top and mix well. Cook on medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.
    Serve hot.

Pudina Potatoes makes a tasty side dish to rice, roti or pasta with dal, dahi or subji combination.

Pudina Potato (Minty Aloo)
Pudina Potatoes ~ for Meal Today

Brinjal Cilantro (Vankaya Kottimera Kura)

An authentic Andhra dish to be eaten with Sona Masuri rice or sorghum roti, this superb recipe came with high recommendation from Lakshmi chinnamma. She has been following my vegetable harvest updates and when she saw the fresh and familiar brinjals, she highly recommended I cook this recipe and I did. What a joy it was to rediscover the forgotten taste. Chinnamma, you are my muse, thank you.

Brinjal and Cilantro

Brinjal Cilantro (Vankaya Kottimera Kura)
(for one or two meals for four to two)

    8 palm-length, fresh and firm pinkish mauve colored brinjals
    2 cups, finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
    4 green chilli, Indian or Thai variety, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon, grated fresh ginger
    1/4 teaspoon, turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon, salt or to taste

    For tadka: 1 tablespoon, peanut oil and
    from masala dabba: tadka ingredients (cumin, mustard seeds and few fresh curry leaves)

Brinjal: Fill a bowl to half with water. Add a teaspoon of salt and mix.
Remove the ends and cut the brinjals lengthwise thinly and then crosswise to about one-inch length pieces. Drop the pieces into salted water. This old-Bharath technique is to prevent brinjal bitter-browning.

Cilantro: Take cilantro leaves, chillies and ginger in a mixer or mortar. Add a pinch of salt and blend them to coarse paste. (Or, if you prefer, skip this step and add the three ingredients as they are.)

Brinjal-Cilantro: Place a wide skillet on stove-top and heat. Add oil and when oil is hot, add and toast curry leaves, a pinch each – cumin and mustard seeds to fragrance. Add brinjal pieces. Sprinkle turmeric and salt. Cover the skillet partially and cook the brinjal pieces to soft on medium heat. Add the cilantro paste at the end. Stir-fry for few minutes until the home is filled with wonderful cilantro scent.

Serve Vankaya Kottimera Kura warm with rice or roti and dal or dahi. Soft brinjal pieces with rich, jari like cilantro accent taste spicily silk. Imagine an edible Dharmavaram silk. This could be it.

Vankaya Kottimera Kura (Brinjal-Cilantro Curry)
Vankaya Kottimera Kura ~ For Meal Today

Payala Kura Pappu (Purslane Dal)

Purslane (Payala Kura)
Payala Kura (Purslane) from my Garden

Last March, I planted some seeds expecting edible amaranth plants. But then came in abundance, pleasant looking plants with plump leaves and tiny yellow flowers. The leaves in size and shape resembled methi but they are much thicker. I couldn’t identify them for sure, so I called my amma(mom) and described the plant in detail. Amma said, “Indira, you have payala kura. It’s an old-time leafy vegetable, tasty and good for skin and eye health. Remember, payala kura pappu (dal), kura(curry) and chutney I make. You used to like it.”

Last time I had payala kura was at Nandyala, at my mom’s home, almost 15 years ago. So finding it here is definitely a delightful surprise. There is some very good information about this native to India plant, and could be found on Google search. Just type payala kura (Telugu) or Purslane (English). I also realized I had these greens growing all along in between the flower bushes. Here it was, a tiny plant, promising a wealth of health, but treated like a no-value weed. I wonder why sometimes we tend to overlook the best that is readily available and right in front of us.

Following my mom’s suggestion, I made traditional, Telugu vaari payala kura pappu today. Thanks to the sweet-sour taste of payala leaves, the dal came out wonderful, and it tasted better than spinach dal, almost as good as gongura dal.

Payala Pappu (Purslane Dal)
(for 2 or 4, for 2 to 1 meal)

¾ cup, Toor dal
2 cups, tightly packed – Fresh Payala (purslane) leaves and tender stems
1 onion or shallot – coarsely chopped, about a half cup
6 to 8, green chilli, Indian or Thai variety, chopped,
1 tablespoon, tamarind
¼ teaspoon, turmeric

Take toor dal in a pressure-cooker. Rinse well. Add the payala leaves, onion, chilli, tamarind and turmeric. Add about 2 cups of water. Mix. Pressure cook the ingredients to soft. Once all the valve pressure is released, remove the lid. Add half teaspoon of salt. With a wood masher or whisk, gently mix and mash the dal to smooth. You have made the purslane dal. Now the only thing left is, the final touch, the hing (asafetida, inguva) tadka.

For hing tadka: Heat a tablespoon of peanut oil in a vessel. When oil is hot, add a sprig of fresh curry leave, a pinch each- cumin, mustard seeds and hing. Constantly mixing, toast the ingredients to fragrance. Add the dal to this hing tadka. Mix well.

Serve the purslane dal with rice or roti with some curry or papad on the side for a traditional Telugu meal.

Payala Kura Pappu with Kerala Matta Rice
Payala Pappu with Kerala Matta Rice ~ for Meal Today

Notes:
Payala Kura in Encyclopedia of Indian Medicine

Spinach & Sprouts

Spinach and Moong Sprouts

A gentle flavor with sweet undertone makes spinach sprouts one of my favorite curries. Tender spinach moistens the moong sprouts as they cook in this recipe.

Spinach with Sprouts

Ingredients:
1 bunch of fresh spinach
1 cup moong sprouts
1 red onion or shallot
2 green chillies, Indian or Thai variety
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon, freshly grated coconut
For cumin tadka: 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, 1/4-teaspoon of cumin seeds

Method:
Trim away the spinach roots and finely chop the fresh leaves and tender stems.
Finely chop onion and green chillies.

In a deep-bottomed skillet set over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil. Add cumin and saute to fragrance. Add onion and green chillies. Stir-fry to soft-brown. Add the sprouts and spinach. Partially cover the pan and cook, until the leaves have collapsed. Sprinkle turmeric, salt and coconut. Mix well and continue cooking for another two minutes. Serve hot.

Spinach&sprouts is a great workout vratham food and I usually have it as it is without rice or roti. But I know that spinach&sprouts make a nice side dish to dal and rice or roti and a tasty filler for samosas and kachoris.

Spinach with Sprouts
Spinach Sprouts ~ Getting Ready for Kay’s Workout Vratham

Avocado~Methi Paratha

When culinary comfort is needed, it has become a habit to go into the kitchen to make parathas. Parathas magically transform dull looking meal options into a centerpiece meal, perfect for weekday eating but also special enough for that potluck party. Simply combine wheat flour with a favorite ingredient, rollout and cook, you have created something rich and tasty. For today, it was luxurious avocado and ultra-soulful fresh methi, gently kneaded into durum wheat flour and made into soft and satisfying parathas.

Avocado

Avocado-Methi Parathas
(for 8 medium-sized parathas)

Ingredients:
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado cut, seed removed and ripe flesh smoothly mashed
1 cup, finely chopped fresh methi leaves and tender stems

Method:
In a bowl, sieve wheat flour with salt. Add avocado and methi. Mix well and gently knead. Add couple of teaspoons of water if necessary to make firm dough. Keep covered for at least 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6 to 8 equal sized pieces and shape them into smooth rounds. On a wooden board or on a clean countertop, take a paratha dough piece, dust with flour and roll into 6″ diameter circle with a rolling pin.

Place a tava or griddle on stove-top and heat. When the tava is hot, place the paratha and cook on medium-heat to golden brown on both sides.

Serve hot with some curry or yogurt or pickle.

Avocado Methi Paratha with Methi Chole
Avocado Methi Paratha with Methi Chole ~ For Meal Yesterday

Home as a Hobby ~ Cilantro Bouquet

Every kitchen garden needs a healthy combination of both herbs and vegetable plants, and nothing beautifies the homestead like flowers. Cilantro is a great annual herb with memorable fragrance, flavor, and flowers. This old-time herb sprouts from coriander seeds, grows compact, flowers prolifically, sets seed gladly and reseeds with ease, offering a perpetual, perennial-like performance in the kitchen garden. The whole cilantro plant, from fresh leaves, flowers, root to seeds have valuable roles in the kitchen and many culinary uses.

I noticed that cilantro loves warm and humid Houston weather. I let my cilantro bloom this spring and then fruit. When seeds are plump, I removed the plants and arranged them in a flower vase to air-dry. They made a beautiful arrangement and filled the home with wonderful coriander fragrance. It makes me happy to think that in about a week when they are dried, I could harvest home-grown coriander seeds.

Cilantro in Bloom
Cilantro in Bloom

Fresh Dania (Coriander Seeds)
Cilantro with Plump, Green Dhania (Green Coriander Seeds)

Cilantro with Seeds
Cilantro with Coriander Seeds

Cilantro Bouquet
Celebrating Mother Earth’s Generosity with Cilantro Bouquet

Methi Turai Dal (Menthi Beerakaaya Pappu)

Methi in my garden is now fully grown. Thanks to the frequent rains and pleasant weather we had for the past few weeks. I dug out few plants and plucked the fresh leaves and tender stems to prepare methi dal for today’s meal. I also added turai, because I thought mildly sweet turai would complement methi’s herbal flavor. Individually also they are best friends with toor dal. Together, methi and turai made an excellent team-toor dal day.

Methi is easy to grow in garden beds or in small containers, tastes good and known to balance blood sugar levels. If you have never tried growing methi, please do try this season. Go to an Indian grocery and purchase a packet of methi seeds. Soak some in water for a day. Wrap the soaked seeds in a wet muslin (cheese) cloth for a day or two. Seeds start to sprout. Plant the methi sprouts in soil where it gets sunlight. Water once a day. Within a month methi will be ready to harvest for dal, curry or roti.

Fresh Methi and Turai

Methi Turai Dal (Menthi Beerakaaya Pappu)
(for 2 or 4, for 4 to 2 meals)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup, toor dal (kandi pappu)
2 cups, fresh methi leaves and pinched tender stems
2 cups, turai pieces (peel the turai ridges and thinly slice)
1 small red onion or shallot. chopped
8 to 10, Indian or Thai green chillies, finely chopped
1 tablespoon, tamarind pulp
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Method:
In a pressure cooker, take toor dal. Wash and clean the dal. Add the methi leaves, turai, onion, green chilli, tamarind and turmeric. Add about 2 cups of water. Mix. Close the lid and pressure-cook the dal to soft consistency. Allow the pressure to come down and then remove the lid. Add salt, about half teaspoon or to taste, and mash the cooked ingredients gently with a wood masher or a sturdy whisk.

Season the dal with garlic tadka. For garlic tadka, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil in a medium-sized pot. When oil is hot, add 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, 8 curry leaves, and a pinch each – cumin and mustard seeds. Saute the ingredients to fragrance. Add the methi-turai dal to this garlic tadka. Mix well and serve the methi-turai dal with rice or roti.

Methi Turai Dal with Rice
Methi-Turai Dal and Turai Curry with Rice ~ For Meal Today and
for Suma’s Delicious Dals From India Event

Potatoes with Rosemary and Cumin

Delicate skin, texture so precious, you just want to hold them like babies.

Their fragrance is legendary, and continents were discovered in search of their source.

Create a dish that would express your culinary affection. It has to be simple in preparation and sensational in taste.

Yes, my dear Mahanandi!

New Potatoes with Rosemary and Cumin
(for two, for one meal)

Freshly Harvested Red Potatoes
Pick 12 freshly harvested (new crop or baby) potatoes. Gently rub and wash to reveal that pale ruby red skin.

Freshly Harvested Potatoes
Place the potatoes in a steamer. Add water to the pot and place the steamer in pot. Cover and steam-cook the potatoes to fork-tender.

Freshly Harvested Potatoes
In a cast iron skillet, heat two tablespoons of ghee. Add and toast quarter teaspoon cumin seeds and a tablespoon fresh rosemary to fragrance. Add the steam-cooked potatoes (cut into smaller pieces, as needed). Gently toss and saute for five minutes. Sprinkle salt and black pepper to taste. Serve Warm.

Fennel Farfalle ~ India Inspired

Fresh fennel not only tastes great, on research I found that fresh fennel is low in calories, contains beta carotene and foliate. It is good for digestion and has a calming effect on the stomach. All the above makes fresh fennel a power food in my food dictionary. Needless to say I am enjoying being a follower to fresh fennel flavor. And, this is what I have made for dinner today with fresh fennel bulb purchased from last weekend grocery trip.

I paired the fennel with spinach and sun dried tomatoes. Pasta is the carbohydrates. Chickpeas and almond butter filled the protein need. I omitted the routine pasta fare, tomato sauce, oregano etc, instead experimented by adding some traditional Bharath masala. Fennel looked like it was in turmeric heaven and the meal tasted light and delightful.

Fresh Fennel, Sliced Thinly

Fennel Farfalle Pasta
(for 2 to 4 servings for main meal)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon, peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon, fennel seeds
2 garlic cloves, skin peeled, sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 fennel bulb
4 cups of spinach, coarsely chopped
8 sundried tomatoes, sliced thinly
1/2 cup, cooked chickpeas
1 tablespoon, almond butter
1 teaspoon each – garam masala powder and red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon, turmeric
salt to taste
2 cups, farfalle pasta

Method:
Cut the fennel bulb in half. Remove the outer layer and hard core. Slice the fennel into thin strips. Cut and prepare garlic, onion, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes, until just tender.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a wide pan. Add the fennel seeds and garlic. Toast to fragrance. Add the onion and fresh fennel. Saute for five minutes on moderate heat to pleasant pink color. Add the spinach, sundried tomatoes and chickpeas. Saute, stirring frequently, until the leaves collapse.

Add the cooked pasta and about half cup of water pasta simmered in. Stir in the almond butter, garam masala powder, red pepper flakes, turmeric and salt. Mix well and cook on low heat for another five minutes. Serve the fennel farfalle immediately.

Fennel Farfalle
Fennel Farfalle ~ for Bhojanam Today

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