Category: Tomatoes

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.

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.

Andhra Aavakaaya ~ Tomato Aavakaaya with Green Tomatoes

Aavakaaya is a type of centuries-old pickle tradition from Andhra Pradesh, India. In aavakaaya, the dressing itself forms the base and the green, raw vegetables are used subordinately to add texture, flavor and color. Freshly grounded dried red chillies and mustard seeds play leading role, supported by methi seed powder, salt and sesame oil. This aavakaaya base goes exceptionally well with green, unripe mangoes, lemon-cukes and also with green tomatoes.

Tomatoes, when they are immature and unripe have lemon-cuke like firm texture and sour, acidic flavor, so they are suitable to this style of traditional pickle making. This 100 plus year old recipe source is amma, Nandyala and the recipe suggestion came from a friend over dinner conversation. Thanks Kousalya and Sanjeev for the excellent suggestion.

Green tomatoes

Andhra Aavakaaya with Green Tomatoes
(for a small batch of about 3 cups pickle)

Green Tomatoes:
Pick about 6 medium-sized green tomatoes. They have to be firm with no damage to skin and when cut open, the insides have to be in green without any hint of pink or red ripening colors.
Rinse the tomatoes under water. Pat them dry with a clean cloth. On a dry cutting board, chop tomatoes finely into half-inch pieces (about 3 cups). Take the tomato pieces in a clean, dry glass or ceramic bowl.

Aavakaaya Base:

    For Aavakaaya Powder: Heat a skillet. When skillet is hot, add 2 tablespoons of black mustard seeds, half teaspoon of methi seeds and 10 ring finger length dried red chillies. Roast them to fragrance, constantly stirring. Cool the ingredients to room temperature. In a clean, dry mixer, take the roasted ingredients and grind them to fine powder. (About half cup of powder.)

    Aavakaaya Oil: In the same skillet, add quarter cup of Indian sesame oil. Heat the oil and add quarter teaspoon of hing powder. Gently mix and turn off the flame. Cool the oil to room temperature. Instead of hing, we could also add peeled garlic cloves and fresh sprig of curry leaves to oil for different ruchi.

Tomato Aavakaaya:
Sprinkle aavakaaya powder over green tomato pieces. Add quarter cup iodine-free, sea salt. Using a clean, dry wooden spoon, gently combine. Pour the aavakaaya oil. Mix well.

Ladle the pickle into a clean ceramic or glass jar. Cover loosely with a lid. Keep it undisturbed on the kitchen countertop and after three days, mix well again and start having it. This rest period will give enough time for tomatoes to absorb the aavakaaya seasoning.

Tomato aavakaaya tastes great with all types of traditional breakfast items and particularly with rice/roti -dal/dahi combination. It stays fresh up to a month as long as pickle precautions (no wet stuff, enough salt) are taken.

Here is the Tomato Aavakaaya preparation in images:


Chopped green tomatoes for aavakaaya


Green tomatoes mixed with aavakaaya powder and aavakaaya oil


Andhra Aavakaaya with Green Tomatoes

Note: The proportions I used above are for a general, mild preparation. Some people prefer using more Aavakaaya Powder and Aavakaaya Oil for their pickles. If you prefer making the pickle with more base, you could use one-and-half or two times the proportions, or to your liking.
For aavakaaya, we need Indian, untoasted sesame oil, available at Indian grocery shops. This is different from Chinese sesame oil.

Green Tomato Chutney

I have so many tomatoes from my garden right now and it’s overwhelming. I have been cooking as many dishes as possible before they get spoiled in this warm and humid Houston weather. One of the recipes I have come up is delicious tasting India inspired chutney with green tomatoes. The recipe is easy, requires only five ingredients and stores well too. The chutney has mild mix of sour-sweet-spice ruchi and tasted really good when applied on toasted bread/chapati.

Green Tomatoes from my Garden
Green Tomatoes from My Garden

Green Tomato Chutney
(makes about four cups of chutney)

4 big-sized green tomatoes, coarsely chopped, about 6 cups
2 medium-sized onions, coarsely chopped, about 3 cups
6 to 8 green chillies, Indian or Thai variety, finely chopped
1 tablespoon, peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon, sea salt or to taste

1. Heat a heavy pot, pour peanut oil and heat until hot about a minute.
2. Add onion and chillies. Stir-fry until they are soft and pale brown.
3. Add green tomatoes. Saute over medium heat for about ten minutes. When tomatoes are cooked to soft mush, turn off the heat. Let the ingredients cool to room temperature.
4. Take them in a blender or mortar. Add salt and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust salt if necessary. Ladle into a clean jar.
5. Serve green tomato chutney with your favorite savory items. The chutney stays fresh for about a week, when refrigerated.

Green Tomato Chutney on Toasted Bread
Green Tomato Chutney on Toasted Bread ~ for Meal Today

Tomato-Garlic Rasam from Nandyala

I left some of the harvested cherry tomatoes on the kitchen counter. Waited a week. When they ripened to deep red, soft to touch stage, I prepared one of my favorite tomato recipes, the traditional tomato-garlic rasam of Nandyala. The rasam has all the usual and lovable characters- the ripe tomatoes, garlic and Indian spices and no gimmicky substances like store-bought stock, ‘enriched’ flour or loads of butter. One thing the rasam demands is that we put some energy into it. No machines, just using our God-given hands. For the effort, the tomatoes richly reward us with their bold, exquisite essence making the rasam tasting a memorable experience.

Home-grown Cherry Tomatoes
Homegrown Cherry Tomatoes

Tomato Garlic Rasam from Nandyala
(for 2 to 4 meal portions)

Prepare the rasam only with burst on touch, water balloon like very ripe tomatoes.

Tomatoes: Take 10 very ripe cherry tomatoes or 2 vine-ripe tomatoes in a big bowl. Chop them coarsely into the bowl. Add a tablespoon of tamarind pulp and a fistful of fresh cilantro leaves. Add a cup of water. Using your clean hand, gently squeeze the ingredients together to extract the juicy essence. Pull up a chair, sit and patiently do it at least for five minutes to bring out the best. Pour the juice through a filter into a bowl, repeat the process one more time and discard the squeezed out pulp.

Garlic : In a mortar, (no blenders, please) take a peeled, plump garlic clove. Add 4 cloves, a tablespoon of coriander seeds, quarter teaspoon each – cumin seeds and black peppercorn. With a pestle, crush the ingredients to smooth paste without adding any water.

Tomato-Garlic Rasam: Heat a teaspoon of peanut oil in a vessel. Add and toast a sprig of curry leaves, a pinch of cumin seeds to fragrance. Add the tomato juice from step 1 and garlic-spice paste from step 2. Sprinkle a quarter teaspoon each- turmeric and salt. Stir in a tablespoon of crushed jaggery and a cup of water. Mix well. Bring the rasam to boil and then simmer for about five minutes.

Serve the tomato-garlic rasam warm in a bowl. Bursting with tomato essence and in bold red, the rasam is great to sip on its own or to eat with cooked rice.

Tomato Garlic Rasam
A Bowl of Tomato-Garlic Rasam ~ for Meal Today

Red Bell Pepper and Sundried Tomato Chutney

It is a spread on dosas and parathas. A dip for mini idlies. Pongal, rice and upma love to mix and mingle. Sun-dried Tomato chutney. What’s the attraction? Some said, it’s the concentrated goodness of the sun-dried tomatoes, for some it’s the red bell pepper smoky sweetness. While others say it’s a matter of cooking it quickly on very high heat. I think all three contributed to the red hot success of this chutney and popularity in my home.

Sundried Tomatoes

Red Bell Pepper and Sundried Tomato Chutney
(for a week, for two or four)

Ingredients:
12 sun-dried tomatoes
2 red bell peppers
1 tablespoon, thick tamarind pulp
1/2 teaspoon, salt or to taste
1 tablespoon, peanut oil

Method:
Chop red bell peppers coarsely to chunky pieces. Include the seeds.

Heat peanut oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red bell pepper pieces. Stirring constantly, sauté to soft, about 15 minutes. Add sundried tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to sauté, stirring often for another two minutes. Turn off the heat. Wait for the ingredients to reach room temperature.

Take the roasted red bell pepper and sun-dried tomato pieces in a blender or food processor. Add tamarind pulp and salt. Blend until smooth. Remove to a clean, glass jar or cup. Serve and enjoy the chutney with your favorite savory items.

(Chutney stays fresh up to a week when refrigerated.)

Red Bell Pepper and Sundried Tomato Chutney
Red Bell Pepper and Sundried Tomato Chutney

WV2 ~ Paneer Tomato

Morning:
A cup of ragi ganji without sweetener
A small bowl of leftover apple-cherry salad

Noon:
About half cup of Paneer tomato. Very tasty and flavorful. Parents also liked this paneer curry.
A cup of yellow vatana(peas), soaked overnight, pressure-cooked and then sautéed with onion and cherry tomatoes and seasoned with hing, salt and black pepper. Generously doused with fresh limejuice.
A glass of tomato rasam

Evening:
A glass of delicious buttermilk with homemade yogurt

Night:
2 chana dal based vada in a cup of sambar soopa
Small serving of carrot-cucumber raita
Few cherries

Workout:
Friends came over for a visit and stayed for dinner. Did a ton of house work. Cleaning, cooking, then cleaning again. On my feet almost the whole day. I believe in a way this is also a form of exercise.

In retrospect:
Should have something at least by 9 in the morning.
Exhausting yet excellent day.

Paneer and Tomato

Paneer Tomato
(for four or two, for one or two meals)

Paneer tomato tastes as heavenly as it looks. It captures some of the delectable flavor of summer season and puts the summer tomatoes to good use. Paneer provides added interest and some nutrition but without all the heaviness associated usually with paneer based curries. The recipe is from Sunitha’s website on recommendation from Kay. Thank you both for this wonderful recipe.

Ingredients:
6 big tomatoes (about an orange size)
12 to 15 half-inch cut paneer cubes
1 shallot or red onion – finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic-cilantro paste
1 tablespoon – coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon – salt
1/4 teaspoon each – red chilli powder and turmeric
1 inch piece cinnamon, 1 bay leaf, 1 cardamom, 4 cloves
From masala dabba: Tadka ingredients

Preparation:
Step 1: Cut tomatoes into big chunks. Take them in a pot. Add cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom and cloves. Also a cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer. When tomatoes reach mushy-soft stage, turn off the heat and remove the pot from stovetop. Wait until cool, and then take them all in a blender and puree to soft without adding any extra water.

Step 2: In a pan, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil. From masala dabba, add a pinch of cumin and a sprig of curry leaves. Toast to fragrance. Add onion and sauté to soft. Stir in ginger-garlic paste and fry for couple of seconds. Next goes the pureed tomato and the seasoning. Salt, red chilli powder, turmeric and coriander powder. Mix and cover the pot. On high heat, cook the tomatoes until the sauce thickens. Add paneer cubes. Simmer on low heat for another five minutes.

Serve warm with rice or roti or pasta. Good on it’s own too.

Paneer Tomato
Paneer Tomato ~ for Meal Today

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.

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