Category: Indian Vegetables&Some

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

In Season: Asparagus with Buckwheat Noodles

Houston has spring like weather since third week of February. That means the beginning of planting season. I had been in the garden, cleaning the garden beds, starting seedlings and planting vegetable plants. Kind of lost in spring sunshine, and who can resist the spring charm?

Spring means asparagus is in season. I bought a bunch of tender asparagus last weekend and prepared a Thai inspired Buddha’s bowl for today’s meal. A complete vegetarian one-pot meal with asparagus and buckwheat (soba) noodles in homemade sweet and sour peanut sauce. You can of course, buy ready-made sauce but the sauce is easy to prepare at home using the ingredients that are already in pantry and that’s what I did. Buckwheat noodles which are prepared from buckwheat flour have a unique texture and flavor that I enjoy. With fresh asparagus and in flavorful sauce, it was a nutritious, filling Buddha’s bowl. Imagine PF Chang’s restaurant but without all the hoopla and waiting to get a table.

Asparagus with Buckwheat Noodles
(serves 4)

    12 ounces of buckwheat (soba) noodles
    1 tablespoon sesame oil
    1 cup, shallots or red onion, cut into matchstick length thin strips
    2 cups, fresh asparagus, cut into matchstick length pieces
    2 cups carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
    2 cups unripe, green papaya, cut into thin matchsticks
    1 cup, fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
    1/2 cup, roasted pistachios or peanuts
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    For the sweet-sour peanut sauce:
    1/4 cup, roasted, unsalted peanuts
    2 teaspoons, chilli flakes
    1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
    1 tablespoon, palm or cane jaggery pieces
    1/4 teaspoon, sea salt
    Add the above in a mixer and blend to creamy, smooth sauce.

1. Cook the buckwheat noodles according to the instructions on the package, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

2. Heat sesame oil in a wok or wide pan until hot. Add onions, asparagus, carrot and green papaya. Saute for 10 minutes, turning frequently, until the vegetables are tender and browned.

3. Add the sweet and sour peanut sauce to roasted vegetables. Sprinkle salt and quarter cup of water. Simmer on low heat for five minutes.

4. Toss in the buckwheat noodles and stir coat them in the sauce. Heat through for two minutes and then spoon into individual serving bowls. Sprinkle cilantro, pistachio and little bit lemon juice on top and serve immediately.

Asparagus with Soba Noodles
Asparagus with Buckwheat Noodles ~ Under Spring Sunshine

Variation: Use whole-wheat or rice noodles instead of buckwheat noodles, if you wish.

Spicy Spaghetti with Indian Spices

Throughout the past, spices sacrificed India. Spice routes were formed, land was looted, blood was shed and a lot was lost due to others’ search of Indian spices. After all that sacrifice, you would think that adding spices would receive approval and appreciation. It seems not. Particularly adding spices to “pasta” group. Some sneer at any effort to spice up the spaghetti sauce. Sprinkle Indian spices, the severe sermons start. “Do not violate the sanctity of spaghetti with garam masala, it’s sacrilegious to spaghetti sauce”, they lament and ridicule the efforts.

If you disagree with this thought process, then this recipe is for you. The bland spaghetti mingles with moderately Indian-spiced tomato-garlic sauce. And the end result is delightful tummy filler, worthy of India’s spice sacrifice. Spices are no small matter. Long live spices. May they always enliven our food and guard our health!

Spicy Spaghetti with Steamed Vegetables
Spicy Spaghetti with Steamed Vegetables on the Side

Spicy Spaghetti with Indian Spices
(for 4 generous servings)

1 tablespoon, olive oil
1/4 teaspoon, cumin seeds
1/4 cup, Kasuri methi
1 small red onion or shallot, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup of diced carrots and fresh peas mix
4 cups, homemade or store-bought, organic tomato sauce
1 tablespoon, garam masala powder
1/2 teaspoon each – chilli powder and turmeric powder
Salt to taste

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and add to it the cumin seeds and kasuri methi. Toast on low heat to fragrance. Add onion and garlic. Saute on moderate heat. When garlic and the onion are transparent, add the vegetables and tomato sauce. Season with garam masala powder, chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Mix well and partially cover the pan. Simmer on moderate heat for about 15 minutes.

Serve the sauce hot over freshly cooked whole-wheat spaghetti for tasty, spicy spaghetti.

Broad Beans with Baby Green Brinjals (Vankaya Chikkudu)

This is another dish I prepared with my winter broad bean harvest. In this recipe, I have paired the plump, proteinaceous broad beans with delicious baby green brinjals. Green brinjals should be small, with firm texture and barely-there white seeds. Recognizing these qualities in green brinjals will make this a tasty, successful dish.

Baby Green Brinjals and Broad Beans
Baby Green Brinjals and Broad Beans

Broadbeans with Baby Brinjals (Vankaya Chikkudu Kura)
(for four, for one meal)

Prepare the Ingredients:

    Take 10 small green brinjals. Wash and trim the ends off and cut lengthwise into thin slices. Add them to salted water to prevent the onset of bitterness. Shell broad beans from plump pods. We need a cup of broad beans (Chikkudu Vittanaalu or Papdi Lilva).
    Ginger-green chilli paste: Take 1×1 inch piece of fresh ginger. Peel the skin. Take it in a mortar or mixer. Add 4 green chillies and pinch of salt. Pound or grind to smooth paste.

Prepare the Kura:

    Heat a tablespoon of peanut oil in a cast-iron pan over moderate heat.
    When the oil is hot, do the hing tadka: Add a pinch each – cumin, mustard seeds and hing (asafetida) and toast for couple of seconds.
    Add brinjal pieces and broad beans. Saute until two-thirds cooked, for about ten minutes.
    Stir in the ginger-green chilli paste, quarter teaspoon of turmeric and salt to taste. Mix well and continue to cook for another five minutes. If desired, sprinkle a tablespoon of sesame powder or fresh grated coconut for some extra taste.
    Serve hot over rice or with chapati.

Broad Beans with Baby Brinjals
Vankaya Chikkudu Kura ~ for Meal Today

Chikkudu Vittanaala Kura for Sankranthi

Chikkudu (Telugu) also known as papdi lilva (Hindi) is a type of broad bean from India. The tasty pods and plump seeds are culinary delight and part of the menu on Sankrathi festival in our part of Andhra.

The photographed chikkudu are from my garden. I shelled those seeds last month just before the onset of freezing temperatures. With that hearty harvest, it was a glorious goodbye to plentiful 2010-growing season.

Broadbeans, Chikkudu Vittanaalu
Indian Broadbean Seeds (Chikkudu Vittanaalu, Papdi Lilva)

Chikkudu Vittanaala Kura (Chikkudu Seeds Kurma)
(for 2 to 4, for 2 to 1 meal)

Chikkudu Seeds: 3 cups. Bring 2 cups of water to boil. Add half teaspoon of salt to water. To the boiling water, add the chikkudu seeds. Partially cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the water and set aside the seeds.

Masala Paste: In a skillet, toast a cup of unsalted peanuts. Cool and remove the peanut skins.
In the same skillet, add 1/4 teaspoon each – cumin seeds and black peppercorn, a tablespoon of coriander seeds, 4 cloves and one inch piece of cinnamon stick. Toast to fragrance on low heat constantly stirring. Cool.
Take roasted peanuts in a mixer. Add the toasted spices and also 1×1-inch piece of fresh ginger, 2 peeled garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons of tamarind pulp and 2 tablespoons of crushed jaggery. Add quarter teaspoon of salt. Blend everything together into fine paste. Add half cup of water for easy blending.

Chikkudu Seeds Kura: In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil. Do the cumin tadka.
Add the chikkudu seeds and masala paste. Add about a cup of water. Season with quarter teaspoon each – turmeric, chili powder and salt. Mix well. Taste for salt, spice and sweetness, and adjust to your liking. Cover and simmer the kura on medium heat for at least ten minutes, until the seeds have reached buttery texture.

Serve warm with rice or roti. For Sankrathi festive meal experience, serve the kura with pongali or sajje rotte with some ghee and pickle on the side.

Chikkudu Seeds Kura
Chikkudu Seeds Kura with Chapati and Lemon Pickle ~ Meal on a Cold Day

December Tomato Harvest

December Tomato Harvest
December Tomato Harvest

Cold front, freezing temperatures and northern winds … winter is here in Houston. Due to frost warning, I had to harvest tomatoes from my September-planted tomato plants. From 8 tomato plants, the yield was about 8 pounds of cherry tomatoes and few Brandywines. They need some time to ripen, and what I have now would be enough to prepare some comforting soopas and sambars for this coming winter.

Brinjal Sesame Kura

Bigger isn’t better always. You always know that for making delicious dishes, what is needed is not a big house, even bigger multiple kitchens. Sometimes, bigger things bring bitter results. All you’d need is a tender heart that responds to love and affection to make food that touches the other hearts. I have come to know that this applies to brinjal harvest as well. When you grow your own brinjals, pick as soon as they are just big enough to eat, when their skin still has high gloss finish and inside is tender. When you slice open and find brown flesh and dark seeds, you have waited too long. Bitterness claimed the brinjal soul, and it isn’t a culinary friend any more. The younger ones with angelic pulp and barely developed seeds taste better than bigger and bulky brinjals.

Here is traditional brinjal recipe with sesame I made last weekend for Janmastami with my brinjal harvest. Brinjal and sesame are a good combination and it is just not Bharath, many other world’s cuisines favor this endearing combination. The soul is the same, the dress-up and names are different from country to country. If you have never tried brinjal sesame combination before, try it once. It’s good and tasty, worthy of festival feast.

Homegrown Brinjal from the Backyard Garden
Homegrown Brinjal

Brinjal Sesame Kura
(for 2 or 4, for 2 to 1 meals)

Brinjals: Pick 8 to 10 small, fresh looking brinjals. Wash and remove the end. Take water in a bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt. Cut brinjal into bite sized pieces and drop the pieces into salted water.
Slice one red onion or shallot thinly lengthwise.

Sesame: Place a stainless steel pot on stovetop and heat. When the pot is hot, add 6 dried red chilli, a tablespoon of coriander seeds, half teaspoon black peppercorn, quarter teaspoon cumin, 6 cloves, one-inch piece of cinnamon stick in listed order and at the end 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds. Constantly stirring, roast the spices to fragrance. Remove them to a plate and cool. Take them in a blender. Add a garlic clove, a tablespoon each – , chopped fresh ginger, tamarind pulp and jaggery pieces, and half cup of water. Blend the ingredients to superfine paste.

Brinjal Sesame Kura: Heat the stainless steel pot again. This time, add a tablespoon of sesame or peanut oil and when oil is hot, do the curry leaf tadka. Add and saute onions to soft. Remove the brinjal pieces from water and add them in the pot. Sprinkle half teaspoon of salt and pinch of turmeric. Cover and cook on medium heat until the brinjal pieces are tender, for about five to eight minutes. Stir in the sesame-spice paste and half cup of water. Adjust salt, sour(tamarind) and sweet(jaggery) levels according to your taste. Mix well and simmer for about 15 minutes on low heat.

Serve immediately and politely accept the applause from your guests. Sesame brinjal kura tastes great with Pongal rice and sorghum roti with some ghee and pickle on the side.

Sesame Brinjal Kura with Pongal
Brinjal Sesame Kura with Pongal and Red Chilli Pickle ~ Good Meal for a Hungry Soul

Badam Beerakaaya (Almond Turia)

The badam-beerakaaya combination is a new recipe that I have come up with the beerakaaaya harvest. This recipe really concentrates the flavor and brings out the sweetness of both beerakaaya and badam. Dice the beerakaaya, saute and add ground badam paste. Simple vegetable curry with some protein profile, badam-beerakaaya makes a delicious filler for chapatis or pav-wiches on low appetite days.

Beerakaaya (Turai/Turia)

Badam-Beerakaaya Kura
(for 2 or 4, for 2 to 1 meal)

    3 beerakaaya – fresh and firm, about arm length each
    3 tablespoons - badam butter paste (ground almonds)
    4 green chillies – finely chopped
    1/4 teaspoon – turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon -salt or to taste
    For curry leaf talimpu:
    1 tablespoon, peanut oil, 1 sprig of fresh cury leaves, pinch each-cumin and mustard seeds

Peel the beerakaaya ridges. Wash and dice beerakaya to bite-sized pieces.

In a big pan over medium heat, heat peanut oil until hot and do the curry leaf talimpu. Add curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds. Saute to fragrance, stirring frequently.

Add beerakaaya and chilli pieces. Cover and cook on medium heat. After about ten minutes, remove the lid and stir in ground almonds, turmeric and salt. Mix well and cook for another five minutes or until the beerakaya juices have reduced and sweetened with almond paste.

Serve badam-beerakaaya kura warm with chapati, bread or rice and dal for a tasty meal.

Badam-Beerakaaya Kura with Chapati
Badam-Beerakaaya Kura with Chapati ~ For Meal Today

For Homemade almond paste:
Soak 8 almonds in water for about an hour. Drain the water and peel the almond skins. In a mixer or mortar, take almonds, add a pinch of salt and grind to smooth paste.

Turai with Chana Dal

Garden dreams – When they come true, it’s a glorious feeling.

One of my lifelong garden dreams has been growing turai at home. This summer, beautiful turai vines smiled with pretty yellow flowers and it has been turai tanmayam ever since. Total number of turai harvested so far was around 60 from four turai vines. Garden goddess is in good mood, it’s the only reason I could think of for this blessing.

Turai is such a lovable vegetable with succulent, white flesh and delicate, sweet flavor. Tender turai doesn’t take much time to cook and digests easily, nourishing the spirit. We love our turai and we have been cooking many great turai recipes to our hearts content for the past one month.

The following turai recipe is Vijay’s creation. Tasty turai, little bit tomato and some chana dal, cooked together, it was a good meal and a simple solution to overwhelmed brain with excessive turai.

Homegrown Turai
Homegrown Turai

Turai with Chana Dal
(for 2 or 4, for 1 or 2 meals)

    3 fresh and tender turai, arm length each
    1/4 cup chana dal, soaked in water for about two hours
    2 semi ripe tomatoes
    4 green chillies, finely chopped
    1/4 teaspoon, turmeric
    1/2 teaspoon, salt or to taste
    For cumin tadka: 1 tablespoon peanut oil,
    pinch each-cumin and mustard seeds and few fresh curry leaves

Peel turai ridges. Rinse the vegetable well. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
In a heavy pan, heat peanut oil. Add and toast cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves to fragrance.
Add the rehydrated chana dal to the skillet. Saute the dal to pale red.
Add tomato and cook to soft.
Add turai pieces. Sprinkle turmeric. Mix well. Cover and cook the turai for about five minutes or until the pieces become soft.
Stir in salt. Sprinkle a tablespoon of grated coconut if you wish. Cook another couple of minutes and turn off the heat.
Serve the turai with chana dal warm with rice, chapati or bread for a light and tasty meal.

Turai with Chana Dal
Turai with Chana Dal ~ for Meal Today

Summer Garden Harvest ~ Beerakaaya(Turai)

This is a video of the beerakaaya plant from my garden. Filled with pretty, yellow flowers and long, ribbed vegetables, beautiful beerakaaya vine is a sight to behold during peak summer time.

Beerakaaya (Turai) Harvest
Beerakaaya Harvest for this Week

Red Chilli Pickle (Pandu Mirapa Uragaaya)

Gloves and Kerchief
caution ahead

Chillies play an important role in Bharath bhojanam. Their haunting vigour is celebrated in a variety of preparations. Legendary among them is the Red chilli pickle from Andhra Pradesh. Known as Pandu Mirapa Uragaaya in Telugu, it’s ripe chillies raw glory. There is no cooking or simmering of chillies like in hot sauce. Chillies are ground and their potency is enlivened by salt, lemon juice and pungent methi. This stomach scraper’s fiery nature and daredevil attitude has a cult like following in Andhra. I was not a big fan until my thirties. Blame it on mature palate or hard life lessons digested over the years, now I am a blissed-out believer in uragaaya mahatyam. If keen on exploring this chilli extreme, you may reason that chillies are loaded with vitamin C in a chirpy, holier-than-thou healthy way.:)

Because we don’t get Guntur chillies here in Houston, I prepared the uragaaya with Mexican native Serrano Chillies. Ripe Serrano chillies are bright and biting with a delayed flavor fuse. Just the right variety for Andhra’s Pandu mirapa uragaaya.

Ripe Serrano Chillies and Juicy Limes for Red Chilli Pickle

Red Chilli Pickle (Pandu Mirapa Uragaaya) from Andhra

1. Rinse the chillies clean in plenty of water. Drain, and blot dry with a kitchen towel. Spread the chillies on a paper and air-dry for one hour under hot sun.

2. While chillies are drying, in the meantime, prepare the pickle ingredients.
- Heat a skillet. Add methi seeds and on low heat, slowly roast to light brown and fragrant. Remove from heat and when they are cool, take them in a mixer and powder to fine.
- In the same skillet, heat sesame oil on medium heat. When oil is hot, add urad dal and stirring constantly toast to red. Add mustard seeds. When seeds start to splutter, add hing and methi powder. Toast for a minute. Remove the skillet from heat and allow to cool completely.

3. Back to chillies now. Bring them inside. Wear gloves and cover your nose with a handkerchief. Remove the chilli stems. Chop. The smaller the cut, the easier it will be to blend. Place the cut chillies in a clean and dry, stone-grinder or food processor. Add sea salt. Grind to fairly smooth consistency. Do not add water. It will spoil the pickle. Moisture in ripe chillies is enough and mix with a spatula in-between for easy blending.

4. Take the ground chilli in a clean ceramic or glass bowl. Add the hing tadka and pour the lemon juice. Mix well. Keep the bowl on the countertop where air circulates freely, loosely covered for about a day.

5. On the second day, store the chilli uragaaya in a clean jar. Keep an eye on the pickle for a week. Usually enough salt and limejuice will rectify any potential spoilage.

This no-cook, raw style chilli uragaaya stays fresh from six months to a year as long as pickle precautions are taken (no wet spoons, moisture/humidity).

We can serve this pickle immediately but the pickle matures and tastes much better with age. Apply it on idly, dosa, pesarattu, spread on pav-wiches, Mix some to perk up the sauces or simply mix and eat with rice/roti. It’s good to have some chilli pickle company on those cloyingly sweet days.

Red Chilli Pickle (Pandu Mirapa Uragaaya)
Ready to Eat ~ Red Chilli Pickle (Pandu Mirapa Uragaaya)

Notes:
This pickle is also prepared with tamarind instead of limejuice.
Telugu to ingleesh: Pandu = Ripe, Mirapa = Chilli, Uragaaya = Pickle

Mango~Carrot Pulihora

No people have been more appreciative of the culinary possibilities of rice than the people from India. Biryani, bhats, pongal and pulao are some of the many well known rice preparations. Then there is Pulihora.

Pulihora is a celebration of the south-Indian penchant for rather sour flavors. In pulihora, the rice says no to baser onion, garlic and garam masala, and gets bridal. The aromatic, individually cooked rice grains are adorned with turmeric tadka in attractive yellow -the traditional symbol of joy and happiness, and absorbed in sourly sweet agents from nature. This flavorful dish is a must have on south Indian festival days and special occasions. There are several variations of pulihora depending on the sour agent. Common and crowd favorites are pulihoras prepared with grated unripe mango, tamarind pulp and lemon juice.

Today’s recipe is inspired by mango pulihora. I added little bit of carrot for sweet touch. Mango and carrot with rice, it was a delicious levels of flavor. This is the mango season. Just the right time for pulihora.

Grated Unripe Mango
Grated, Unripe Mango

Mango-Carrot Pulihora
(for 2 to 4, for 2 to 1 meal)

Recipe:
2 cups sona masuri or basmati rice
1 firm, unripe mango
1 small carrot
Wash the rice in water, then soak in 4 cups of water for at least 15 minutes.
Lightly peel the skins of mango and carrot. Grate with a grater or in a food processor. We need about two cups of grated unripe mango and a cup of grated carrot.

For Turmeric Tadka:
2 tablespoons, peanut oil
1 tablespoon, chana dal and urad dal
1 tablespoon, finely chopped green chilli
1 sprig of fresh curry leaves (10 to 12 curry leaves)
2 tablespoons, roasted, unsalted shelled peanuts (or cashews)
1/4 teaspoon, turmeric
Pinch each – cumin seeds, mustard seeds and hing

1. In a large, heavy pan, add the rice and the water it soaked in. On medium heat, cook until the rice is tender but still firm, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

2. In a large, heavy wide pan, heat peanut oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add one after another, from big to small, the ingredients listed in turmeric tadka in that order. Constantly stirring toast them to red and to fragrance. When you see mustard seeds pop, then add the mango and carrot gratings to the skillet. Sprinkle half teaspoon of salt or to taste. Stir and saute for about five minutes on medium-low heat. This is done to remove the mango and carrot rawness.

3. Add mango-carrot mixture to cooked rice. Gently mix well. Serve warm. Sour and sweet, mango-carrot pulihora makes a tasty one-dish meal.

Mango-Carrot Pulihora
Mango~Carrot Pulihora ~ Meal on a Rainy Day

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