Weekend Vegetable Harvest

Tomatoes from my Garden

Home Garden Harvest for this Week:
28 tomatoes (Brandywine, Celebrity, Cherokee Purple)
16 okra (bendi)
8 brinjals (purple variety)
7 cucumbers (pickle variety)
4 yellow squash
2 zucchini
1 turai (beerakaaya)
Bunch of ripe, red chillies

Vegetables from my Garden


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

Payala Kura in Encyclopedia of Indian Medicine


Jihva Workout Vratham ~ Week 4

May 22 and 23:

Vratham Food:
Sundal, sambar and subji, the three S’s with plenty of fresh vegetables and protein filled lentils was my food intake on the weekend.
Workout: Not much except the routine, weekend shopping walk.

May 24:

Vratham Food:
Morning: A cup of Ragi malt and one cucumber
Noon: Zucchini zunka (love this recipe) with roti, and a bowl of mango and pear fruits
Evening: Capsicum subzi with roti plus a small cup of yogurt rice with diced cucumbers
Workout: 30 minutes walk + 3 hours gardening work + 15 minutes meditation
Miss you. dear Kay!

May 25:

Vratham Food:
Morning: A cup of ragi malt and one cucumber
Noon: Capsicum subzi in Sesame sauce with one roti + a bowl of pear fruit
Evening: A bowl of Payala kura pappu (purslane dal) with Kerala matta rice + a glass of ginger buttermilk
Workout: 30 minutes walk + 15 minutes meditation

May 26 to 31:

Vratham Food:
Morning: Sundal and Ragi malt
Noon: Bowl of Subzi with fresh and green leafy vegetables with roti and a bowl of fruit
Evening: A bowl of Sambar Soopa with toor dal and plenty of fresh vegetables and a bowl of fruit
Workout: Walking, weights and meditation

Vratham Results:
Sundal, Subzi and Sambar, the three S’s of Bharath’s culinary staples were my Satyam, Sivam and Sundaram during Workout Vratham. I am glad I did the workout vratham. I feel light and I have much more energy than before.


Weekend Vegetable Harvest for May 4th Week

Vegetable Harvest for May 4th week
Home Garden Harvest for May 4th Week

As the summer approaches, I see brinjals getting bigger and tomatoes slowly changing color from green to red shades. Tiny pequin peppers are also coming up a lot. They would make great tadka mirchi. My plan is to soak them in dahi(Indian yogurt) and sun-dry to prepare dahi mirchi.

Here is the vegetable count for this week.

7 yellow zucchini
1 green zucchini (I thought I planted only yellow)
9 cucumbers (pickle variety)
6 brinjals (purple variety)
15 okra (bendi)
8 cherry tomatoes and 1 big, ripe tomato (Cherokee Purple)
28 green chillies (bajji variety)
4 anaheim peppers
Bunch of chilli pequins (tiny tadka/talimpu mirchi)
Bunch of green beans

Do you know cucumber pickle recipes without vinegar? Any new ideas and recipes for the above vegetables? I would love to hear from you.


Garden Blooms ~ Gardenia

Gardenias from My Garden
Fragrant Gardenias from My Garden

Lakshmi chinnamma, who lives in Hyderabad, India loves gardening as much as I do. She is an avid plant collector. I remember her growing sandalwood, parijaatham to name a few. She just started browsing my website and I know she would enjoy seeing beautiful gardenias from my garden. If I could only share their potent jasmine like fragrance as well…

Gardenia in Bloom
Beautiful Gardenia ~ for Dear Lakshmi Chinnamma

Chinnaamma (Telugu) = Mother’s Younger Sister


Zucchini Zunka

It is easy to adopt vegetables of foren places to the tried and tested, centuries-old culinary traditions of India. Gently simmered in dal or steam-sauteed in subjis, surrounded by complimentary spice seasoning, Indian recipes highlight vegetables’ inherently good nature without suffocating them with artificial flavors. Example is the following recipe. Here, in this Marathi based, rural popular Zunka recipe, zucchini is quickly stir-fried and seasoned with nutritious besan flour to a vibrant and crisp-cooked end result. I remember an old Bharat saying – “select your ingredients as if they were your future daughter-in-law”. Here it definitely applies and it’s jai ho to zunka when zucchini does not well up with loads of tears at the touch of heat. Yellow is the best for that reason and that’s why I planted yellow zucchini. But if you make it with green, pick young and firm-fleshed green zucchinis for this recipe.

Yellow Zucchini
Yellow Zucchini

Zucchini Zunka
(for two meals)

2, young and fresh yellow zucchini
1 red onion or shallot
1/4 cup besan flour
2 garlic cloves
2 dried, red chillies
1 tablespoon, grated dried coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
For tadka: from masala dabba, a pinch each cumin and mustard seeds, few curry leaves and a tablespoon of peanut oil

1: Cut yellow zucchinis to bite-sized pieces. (For young zucchini, skin tend to be thin, so don’t peel the skin.) Finely chop onion to small pieces.
Take besan, garlic, dried red chilli and coconut in a mixer or mortar. Add a pinch of salt and grind the ingredients to fine mix.
Now the prep work is done and on with cooking.

2: Place a cast iron skillet on stove-top. Add and heat oil. When oil is hot, add curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds and toast to fragrance for couple of seconds. Add onion and saute to soft. Add zucchini pieces and stir-fry over medium high heat for about five minutes until almost cooked but still crisp.

3: Sprinkle the besan mix, salt and turmeric. Turn up the heat slightly and saute for about two minutes. Scoop into a bowl and serve the zucchini zunka warm with chapati or sorghum roti.

Yellow Zucchini Zunka
Zucchini Zunka ~ for Meal Yesterday


Zucchini Ponganalu

Next year I have to remember how many zucchinis will appear in May, when I plant in March. For now, zucchini will have a culinary journey of its lifetime in my kitchen.

The following is a zucchini experiment, inspired by traditional ponganala recipe of South India.

Zucchini Ponganalu
Zucchini Ponganam ~ for Meal Yesterday

Zucchini Ponganalu
(for 3 to 4 batches)

3 cups, dosa batter
1 cup, grated yellow zucchini
1/2 cup, finely chopped onions
2 tablespoons, roasted cashew pieces
1 tablespoon, finely chopped green chilli
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon each – cumin and turmeric
2 tablespoons, finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
To prepare ponganalu: a well-seasoned ponganalu pan

In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil. Add and toast cumin to fragrance. Add and saute onion, yellow zucchini and green chilli for about five minutes. When they start to get crisp, add cashew pieces, turmeric, salt and cilantro leaves. Stir-fry few seconds and turn off the heat.

Add the skillet contents to dosa batter. Mix well. This is now zucchini ponganala batter.

Heat a ponganala(paniyaram) pan on medium heat. Add spoonful of ponganala batter in each impression. Cook few minutes on each side to golden brown like shown here in photos.

Serve zucchini ponganalu warm with chutney, honey or sambar. They make a tasty snack or filling mini meal.


Cubed Zucchini in Cashew Sauce

Because zucchini is being so generous in my garden, I decided to return the favor and treat it royally. I picked two zucchinis. Diced them into bite-sized cubes and added them to rich cashew sauce. Zucchini looked like it was in a state of Zen, and that made us happy. This is a good zucchini recipe for those of you who would like to avoid tomatoes but still like to indulge in sauces.

Yellow Zucchini and Cashews

Cubed Zucchini in Cashew Sauce

2 young and tender, yellow zucchini, cubed to bite-sized pieces
1 small red onion or shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup crowder peas fresh or frozen (or any beans you prefer) for protein
1 tablespoon, peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon each – turmeric, salt and chilli powder (or to taste)

For cashew sauce:
2 tablespoons, roasted, unsalted cashew pieces
1 teaspoon each – coriander seeds and cumin seeds
4 cloves and half inch piece of cinnamon
1/2 x 1/2 inch piece ginger
Blend the above ingredients to smooth paste in a blender or mortar.

In a saucepan or skillet, heat oil.
Do the tadka (toast a pinch each cumin and mustard seeds).
Add onion and saute to soft.
Add zucchini and the peas.
Add the cashew paste and also turmeric, salt and chilli powder. Add about half cup water. Mix well.
Cover and cook for about ten minutes. Do not over-cook. Zucchini should remain crisp and tender.
Serve as a side vegetable for chapati or rice or with upma or dosa.

Yellow Zucchini in Cashew Sauce with Dosa
Yellow Zucchini in Cashew Sauce with Dosa ~ Meal on the Weekend


Jihva Workout Vratham ~ Week 3

May 15th:

Vratham Food:
Brunch: 3 Rose Matta rice dosas with cubed zucchini in cashew sauce + 1 sweet mango + 1 cup cardamom chai
Evening: 2 wholewheat vegetarian pizza slices (grimaldi) + 1 glass buttermilk (home)
Workout: Shopping walk

May 16th:

Vratham Food:
Morning: a cup of cardamom chai
Noon: Traditional Kerala-onam style meal at a friends home ( matta rice, avail, mango pulissery, sambar etc served on banana leaf).
Night: Wasn’t feeling hungry much. So, had a glass of plain soda water and a mango.
Workout: Talk and laugh, moved the mouth muscles a lot. It was a pleasant day.

May 17th:

Vratham Food:
Morning: a glass of cucumber lemonade (from Cilantro blog) + 15 rehydrated almonds
Noon: a bowl of cucumber kosambari + small bowl of carrot sambar + 1 mango
Evening: 6 Zucchini ponganaalu with honey + 1 glass buttermilk(homemade)
Workout: 15 minutes meditation + 30 minutes walk

May 18th:

Vratham Food:
Morning: A glass of cucumber lemonade + 15 rehydrated almonds
Noon: a bowl of zucchini zunka with sorghum roti + small bowl of fruits (pear and mango)
Evening: 1 cup palak tofu with a cup of kerala matta rice + 1 glass buttermilk(homemade)
Workout: 30 minutes elliptical + 30 minutes walk + 15 minutes meditation.

May 19th:

Vratham Food:
Morning: A glass of cucumber lemonade with just a bit of honey (it’s humid here) + 12 rehydrated almonds
Noon: a bowl of zucchini zunka with sorghum roti + small bowl of fruit (pears and mango)
Evening: 1 small bowl of capsicum in sesame sauce + a cup of kerala matta rice + a small bowl of chana dal chaaru
Workout: 1 hour aerobics + 30 minutes weights + 15 minutes meditation

May 20th and 21st:

Enough protein powered lentils and fresh vegetables filled sundal, sambar and subji with some Kerala matta rice sums up my food intake.
Low energy days, so no workout.


Weekend Harvest

Vegetable Harvest for May 2nd Week
Vegetable Harvest for This Week from the Garden
5 cucumbers, 3 yellow zucchinis, 3 green bell peppers and 18 okra

Mango Stand at Houston
Roadside Fruit Stand, Houston

Houston sprawl could make one hurl, but soothing the stomach and the sight are occasional roadside fruit stalls on inner farm roads. While coming back from a friend’s home, we saw this stall and had a sample of sweet mango from a charming boy. Came home with a box of golden yellow mangoes. I don’t know what it is, may be the boy’s charm rubbed on mangoes, they are heavenly delicious. The real miracle is they have that intoxicating ripe mango scent.


Garden to Table ~ Green Beans and Green Peas Poriyal

Green beans and green peas combination is a south-Indian marriage made in garden heaven. The gentle sweetness of plump peas pairs well with herbal flavor of vibrant green beans. Traditional fresh coconut – chilli seasoning at the end ties up everything beautifully, and beckons us to bless the lovely bean-pea poriyal couple. So common at home and in restaurant buffets, yet surprisingly delightful when prepared with fresh ingredients. It’s no wonder, green beans-green peas combination remains a beloved classic in Indian cookery.

Fresh Green Beans and Green Peas

Green Beans with Green Peas
(for two to four, for four to two meals)

Fresh and young green beans, about a pound
Freshly shelled green peas, about 2 cups
Red onion or shallot, 1 medium-sized one
Freshly grated coconut, about 2 tablespoons
Indian or Thai variety green chillies – 5
Turmeric and salt, about 1/2 teaspoon each or to taste
For curry leaf tadka: 1 sprig fresh curry leaves, pinch each cumin and mustard seeds
1 tablespoon peanut oil

1. Trim the ends and cut green beans to half-inch length pieces. Finely chop onion.

2. Take coconut and green chilli in a mixer. Add a pinch of salt and blend the ingredients to fine without adding water.

3. In a wide skillet, heat peanut oil. When oil is hot, add and toast curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds to fragrance. Add onion and saute to soft brown. Add green beans and green peas. Mix. Cover the skillet and cook the beans, until they are soft but still have some crunch left. Just before turning off the heat, sprinkle coconut-green chilli paste, turmeric and salt. Combine well. Saute five more minutes and remove the skillet from heat.

4. Serve green beans-green peas poriyal warm with rice and dal or with chapati. Makes a tasty topping on dosas, pesarattus and pasta.

Green Beans ~ Green Peas Poriyal
From Garden to Table ~ Green Beans and Green Peas Poriyal


Zucchini Pesarattu

This is my first time preparing zucchini pesarattu and I have to say this first try has turned out to be the best garden to table zucchini experiment. The recipe is easy. Pick tender zucchini. Grate and add it to pesarattu batter. Zucchini pesarattu base is power-packed moong sprouts. To stabilize the moong batter, I added little bit besan flour. Grated carrot, onion and fresh ginger made good companions to tender zucchini. Simple and sublime, these delicious pesarattus evoked a longing for a summer supper beneath a large and shady mango tree.

Zucchini, Carrot and Moong Sprouts
Grated Yellow Zucchini, Carrot and Moong Sprouts

Zucchini Pesarattu
(for 10-12 pesarattus)

1 fresh and firm, medium-sized zucchini
1 medium-sized carrot
1 small red onion or shallot
4 Indian or Thai green chillies
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
4 cups sprouted moong beans
1/4 cup besan (gram flour)


Grate zucchini and carrot. Finely chop onion, chillies and ginger.

In a blender or food processor, take sprouted moong beans. Add green chillies, ginger and salt. Blend the ingredients to fairly fine consistency. Add about half cup of water for easy blending.

Take the pesarattu batter in a bowl. Add besan flour, onion and grated zucchini and carrot. Mix well.

Heat a tava or griddle. Pour a ladle full of batter onto the tava. Gently spread into a small circle. On medium heat, cook both sides to golden. They do not require oil or ghee. But drizzle some if you wish.

Serve warm. Good with chutney or raita on the side.

Zucchini Pesarattu with Coconut Chutney
Zucchini Pesarattu with Coconut Chutney ~ for Meal Yesterday


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