Yellow Lentils with Brocolli and Cauliflower (Bhaja Mooger Dal)

 Simple, lentils finished with a hint of tempering is the Bengali idea of comfort food. I love this on a cool evening like the ones we have been having this past week. Fall is finally here. It is also the time we start getting the bits and pieces from the garden before it finally winds down. This week, what I recieved was a lot of tender brocolli and then I think it is done for the season. Now, we like brocolli especially when it is as tender as the ones we harvested over this past season, but there are others who will treat it much like Green eggs. Anyhow, if some of them are amenable to lentils, I will tell them to try it, try it, for you will see that the mild brocolli almost dissolves into the earthy lentils leaving them nicely tinged with green.  These lentils are best with steaming rice and we also had a side of red swiss chard and eggplants, I shall save the recipe with you at some point.

 The kids has gone to a pumpkin painting party and are determined to make carved pumpkins this year. I am generally feeling a little overwelmned at the tought of adding another activity to what seems to be an already packed weekend, so I did not make any promises. We shall see, who gets the last word this weekend.

I did have the first meeting with Priti, who returned my work all marked up, I sometimes wonder if it is some form of self punishment that met me want to go through the process.

Now back to the lentils, here is how I made them,

Yellow Lentils with Brocolli and Cauliflower

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 35-40 minutes (mostly unattended)

Serves 4

Ingredients

3/4 cup split yellow lentils (moong dal)

4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

2 green chilies slit lengthwise, stems intact

1 teaspoon fresh ginger paste

1 cup chopped cauliflower

3/4 cup chopped broccoli

1 teaspoon ghee or 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji or kalo jire)

Method of Preparation

1. In a cooking pot, lightly roast the lentils on medium heat for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring the lentils frequently until the lentils are very gently golden and smell aromatic.

2. Add in about 3 cups water, salt, turmeric, ginger paste and the green chilies and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook the lentils for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are soft but still hold their shape.

3. Add in the last cup of water with the brocolli and the cauliflower and simmer for another 10 minutes, at this point the cauliflower should be tender and the brocolli should had broken into very small pieces around the lentils.

4. Heat the oil or the ghee  on medium heat until it is very hot and add the nigella seeds and cook until the seeds sizzle.

5. Pour the hot seasoning over the lentils and stir lightly. Serve with rice, but this can also be eaten with hot buttered toast.

This entry is my submission for MLLA (a monthly legume celebration) started by Susan and being hosted this month by Veggie Platter.

Happy Diwali!

 There is a simplicity to the concept of the triumph of good over evil is simple and something that we can all relate to.

Here is wishing all the readers of this blog, friends and well wishers a bright and peaceful year ahead.

I send this post over to Susan, for her black and white wednesday event.

The president this year, spent a few minutes, well actually two to be precisely sumarizing a thoughful message that I think is worth listening to.

Eggs in a Double Bell Pepper Sauce

Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven, would you feel the same if I saw you in heaven?” Eric Clapton

Today would have been my father’s birthday, a day he missed by less than a month. In fact, it felt strange not to put in the usual order of flowers to Kolkata. A simple gesture that did bring him a lot of hapiness. Actually, almost any act of affection was always much appreciated by him.

I was not really feeling like cooking much, actually I did not need to. I had been out of sorts this weekend and if there was not enough to fill my Saturday, between their dance and soccer and some residual work projects I spent the evening cooking, like I do when I am anxious. The poor husband is now being asked to sit and finish all the food.

In a stray comment, my husband mentioned that I probably have more pictures in my flickr, than I remember. This is true, it also set me on a quest. Most of the “people” pictures were fine, but the food pictures were another story. I think this is such an evolving process, I seem to have pictures that look so horid, I shudder to think that I actually took them and then of course serveral meaningless one. The loss of the camera and chip has also made me very nervous about the pictures. The truth certainly is that good or bad, the pictures are almost more of a journal for me at times than the blog. Well, but I guess nothing stops one from editing the journal. Skimming through, I came across this recipe, that I had developed last fall when the garden was literally overflowing with bell peppers.

I had actually made this very flavorful and delicate sauce with peppers and eggs, and was pleasantly surprised at how flavorful it had turned out to be. It is rather appropriate to remember my father with, since he like me and the kids loved eggs.

Eggs in a Double Bell Pepper Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes (mostly unattended)

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

6 bell peppers (red and yellow varieties)

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup half and half

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

4 shallots, finely chopped

3 pods of garlic, pressed

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)

3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

6 hard boiled eggs

Method of Preparation

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut 5 of the bell peppers into 2 inch pieces. Place on a large baking sheet and drizzle with all but 4 tablespoons of the oil.

3. Place the peppers in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes.

4. Chop the remaining pepper into a fine dice.

4. In the meantime, in a large pan heat the remaining oil on medium heat until the skillet shimmer. Add in the cumin seeds and wait till they sizzle.

5. Add in the shallots and garlic and saute for about 7 minutes, stirring constantly until the shallot begins turn pale golden.

6. Add in the chopped pepper and the tomato and the chili powder and the salt and continue cooking until the tomatoes are nice and pulpy.

7. Place the roasted peppers in a blender with the cream and blend to a smooth soft sauce.

8. Pour this over the tomato mixture and stir in the dried fenugreek leaves.

9. When the mixture simmers, add in the hard boiled eggs. Cook until the eggs are cooked through and coated in a soft thick sauce.

10. Serve with bread or rice.

This entry goes out to WHB, a weekly blog event, created by Kalyn, now managed by Haalo and being hosted this week by Lynne at Cafe Lynnylu

Thali – Worth the trek across the border

If I watched popular TV, I would understand exactly what this poster at the front of the restaurant was all about. Nonetheless, it did catch my eye on this second visit to Chef Prasad’s competetion. The first visit was on a rare day when we had stopped by to pick up some weekday lunch. Thali literally refers to a plate and the plating of Indian food is done by arranging a lot of dishes to make the meal. Actually, if you are interested you might want to take a look at this post by Monica Bhide and her collection of Indian Thalis. Anyhow, essentially at this restaurant it is all about Indian food done right. It focuses on good regional Indian cuisine, which is where I think the heart of good Indian food rests.

This time round, we visited with some friends mostly on a whim to stop by their buffet table. The Indian weekend buffet is a strange thing – it can on occasion make you wonder why it was invented and when done right it offers a wonderful cornocopia of tastes that can offer a little something for everyone. This is what the food at Thali did. The food had some really interesting dishes, what stood out for me was the really nicely flavored lemon rice, a lightly spiced coconut shrimp, a flavorful and not too rich chicken curry and a really delicate assortment of desserts. They had other great staples like creamy lentils and the kadhi.

They had a bread pudding, that is one of my favorite desserts. It is not something one associates with India, but growing up it was one of my favorite desserts and I still love it when it is well made.

Possibly with the food, their decor begining with the lentil and spice studded tables are worth mentioning. We were a little rushed this time round, so I shall be back very soon and if you are in the area, I think this restaurant is worth a venture.

Thali

87 Main Stree, New Canaan, CT 06840
Thali Regional Cuisine of India on Urbanspoon

Cauliflower Soup with Coconut and Star Anise

Cauloflower Soup with Star Anise

It does not take much to inspire comfort cooking in my kitchen, this creamy soothing cauliflower soup is just the very epitome of fragrant, soothing comfort.

A lot has transpired these past few days and then depending on your perspective, maybe not that much, I have been trying to stay busy even outside of work.

It is this frenetic routine I tend to get into when I am restless. It is not usually busy work, in fact, as always it tends to be a lot of food shopping and then cooking. I have been so tired as well running around with the kids. Well, among other things this week, I left my backpack with my camera on the train.

Interestingly enough, the backpack showed up in the lost and found without the camera. So it has been a week of sorts!

Although, life is often about seizing the opportunity, I need an excuse to maybe graduate beyond the point and shoot that I have been using all these years. Somehow, I have not been brave enough to commit to the freedom and flexibility of an SLR and maybe it is now time.  As with anything new, I know there will be some learning to do, some opportunities to explore and hopefully some heights to reach. turned a year older, for that and to replace the old baby, I got myself an used SLR.

Cauliflower and Star Anise-horz

I wanted a used one, simply because I do not want to feel like I am destroying something really expensive when I leave it around in the kitchen. That was one of the biggest comforts of the little point and shoot, anyhow, this compromise will help. Also, it is part of the reusing idea, it never hurts to use something with enough working life left in it, all a part of recycling.

The cauliflower soup I made this evening was wonderfully rich with delicate notes of spice. It is the kind of subtle touches of spice that truly surprise and tantalize the palate all at once. Drizzled with a finished of chili oil, if you like it hot this recipe is perfect for the late fall weather we have migrated to. I love cauliflower for all its versatility. This lovely soup is just a perfect to herald in the weekend.

Cauliflower Soup with Coconut and Star Anise

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

A delicate and comforting soup with a gentle touch of spice and anise. Perfect for a cold evening!

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion, cut into a dice
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 5 cups of finely chopped cauliflower
  • 11/2 cups of coconut milk
  • 2 cups water or vegetable stock (please adjust salt if using stock)
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 4 pieces star anise
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 lemon, cut into half
  • For the finish
  • 1 teaspoon chili oil (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped chives or thyme

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil and add in the onion and the garlic and sauté for about 7 minutes, until the onions are beginning to turn golden.
  2. Add in the cauliflower and cook for another 7-8 minutes, stirring lightly.
  3. Add in the coconut milk and the water or stock with the salt, star anise and coriander and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Let the mixture cook slightly. Remove the star anise and squeeze in the lemon juice.
  5. Blend the soup in batches until smooth
  6. Place the soup into serving bowls, drizzle with chili oil if using.
  7. Garnish with the chives and thyme and serve.
  8. 7. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.
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Black and White Wednesday – Skillet Naan

 Made these rather wonderful naans from some left over dough, we enjoyed them with yellow hot buttered lentils. Perfect for this wet rainy evening.

This one goes to Susan for her black and white wednesday event.

Little Kabab Station, A evening stop

Life and things change as do peoples tastes. One of the things I miss about one of my still super favorite Westchester blog, is the local links feature. It really used to help to get my very own weekly summary through Liz’s eyes. Well, it was through this local linksversion that I heard about Little Kabab Station, which in turn was due to Martha’s stop and try visit.  This weekend has been even more somber, I am worried about the lost backpack, I hope it shows up on Monday.

It took a whole load of things to happen to prevent me from visiting until now. I shall however let all you readers know, that you might see an assortment of restaurant review posts, since I am rather nerve racked about loosing my camera and bag, which if you followed me you twitter you might know. I do not want to leave anything to chance so I am cleaning out my SD card and any residual photographs, to ensure that they make it to the right place. Now back to the Little Kabab Station (LKS), it is a charming little spot in the tradition of some of the other little ethnic places that have cropped up over the past year in Westchester.

The first thing that catches your attention is the very ethnic tea shop like mural and a general co-ordinated atmosphere. Yes, the restaurant had a lot of wait staff. In fact, despite a fairly busy evening the gentleman waiting on us probably checked in on us every 4 minutes. The restaurant is still a BYOB, and we recieved to chilled wine glasses for our red pinotage. But, this was the kind of place where they would actually change the glasses to room temperature ones with a smile if we asked them too. A glimspe through the menu will indicate that the place is in touch with the multiple diet and alergy requirements with dishes labelled vegan and nut free as appropriate.

Onto, the food, we started with their frankie rolls, which are the Mumbai version of what we Bengalees call a roll. The frankie roll actually usually always includes an egg (as the ones in LKS) but also sprouts many vegetairian varieties.  The LKS rolls arrived in good time, we tried the green paneer roll and the chicken tikka roll. They realized that Anshul and I were into sharing and very obligingly cut them into half for us. Our first bite, was soft and flavorful. The rolls were a little moister that what I was used to and might have used just a smidgen more heat, but they were quite wonderful. I made a mental note to get back to savor these with the tea some afternoon.

Given the name of the place, we had ordered a seekh kabab (minced lamb grilled sausages) platter and the gobi paratha, which is a stuffed whole wheat bread and some raita (cold Indian yogurt salad. The paratha came in first. I love the light taste and full softness of the cauliflower filling. The filling while generous, lacked some sharpness of spice. This is something that most stuffed parathas have in common. The seekh kababs were what sealed the evening. They were moist and wonderfully seasoned. The rice is warm and buttery, however there could be a side salad that was more than a few leaves, maybe an Indian style cucumber salad might work too! The buttery rice and the succulent bites of seasoned lamb made me want some more, so we ventured further to order the Shammi Kabab, a lentil and lamb creation, a great cocktail bite, in fact it’s name translating to evening kebab. This one was good, but the previous one was better. I also felt that if they let customers unbundle the platters and allowed just a kabab option, it might work better. All in all, this newcomer is one we shall be back to visit.

Little Kabab Station

31 E Main Street

Mt Kisco, NY

212 242 7000

Little Kabab Station on Urbanspoon

Songkran – Thai Food on the Quick

I had walked by the spot a few times, actually even as I write this I realize that I should really be getting back to the gym. Yes, I had passed by the spot en- route from the gym. Located in a charming alley with a couple of other interesting finds that I am sure I shall eventually cover, I was seduced by the quaint little board advertising their specials and made my way in for lunch and then was back. The first thing that you love about this place is its wonderful assortment of lunch selections. I was also intrigued by the name, that turns out to be a festival that is observed in Thailand and in Burma, Cambodia and the Lao State, observing the entry of the sun into the zodaic sign Aries, but actually turns out to be an April Fools Day when the joke is on the men.

Day One was about the usual suspects – Fried Rice and Noodles, did not like their fried rice as much as the two noodle offerings we tried, the broader Pad Si Eu was flavorful and the Pad Thai, had the correct complex balance of flavors that when well done always reminds you why it remains a classic.

The next day with a larger group I ventured into a few more options! I love fried food and whenever I order some spring roles it gives others the excuse to be bad. The mark of a good spring roll is a nice crisp skin without much grease and this satisfied. We had tried a nice creamy red curry that was comfortingly spicy.

They had a series of entrees that served in a satay style peanut sauce that I had not tried before. The chicken that I tried tossed in this sauce was interesting but not necessarily spectacular, hey, you can’t win them all! The restaurant also had what can be best classified as “service with a smile”, prompt and pleasant.

Finishing off with an obligatory fried banana dessert took the edge off the check, yes, I did feel that the restaurant was a just a little on the pricey side, but nonetheless not a bank breaker. It certainly was an experience that my friend Priti would clasify as good but not memorable!

Songkran Thai Cuisine

330 8th Ave, NYC
Songkran on Urbanspoon

Black and White Wednesday – Grilled

 Every season has its sense of intertia, actually its spring and early summer that I have been missing. Some days are hard to brush off, it is at most times still hard to process the news of Dad.

It shall get better,  but just not there yet. This is a picture of some Lamb kebabs that I was grilling on a rainy day this summer. It is amazing how much I love the rain, it calms me on most days like today.

This entry goes out to Black and White Wednesday, I am glad to get back to some routines.

Sweet and Sour Winter Squash with Fenugreek – Doi Methi Kumro

This was a somewhat unusual rendition of the winter squash, touched by the flavors of my household an interesting mix of flavors from Bengal and the north of India, but like a lot of regional food in my household the Bengali flavors dominating. Actually the touch that is rather boldly from the northern regions is the kasuri methi or the dried fenugreek leaves, Bengali cuisine does feature the use of fenugreek, but usually like most greens in its fresh form. This is actually an adaptation that I have done effectively mostly for convenience rather than anything else. It is not always easy to find fresh fenugreek leaves and also for some reason, they tend to not have the robust and characteristic maple tinged flavors that is distinctly reminiscent of the flavors of life. It is really in a dish like this that I think lies the essential elements of the flavors of life, tartness, touched with a touch of the bitter however retaining the essential elements that are sweet and savory. I have recently found a lot of comfort in keeping the flavors of our food simple, it is also great to realize that this simple food is amazingly nourishing and in several cases (where I remember to keep the chilies down, much appreciated by the kids)

The squash of choice that we have worked with this year is the Delicata Squash. a much favored variety named after its rather delicious taste. I personally enjoy its rather pronounced sweet taste and absolutely love the fact that it tends to cook much quicker than a lot of other varieties of orange squash. It is actually quite amazing how pretty the outer skin is, it is a shame that this cannot be captured to the cooking pot. Unlike the skin of the summer squash or zucchini, this skin is rather tough.

This variety ended up being nice and prolific, allowing me to test and develop an entire plethora of recipes for the cookbook. The squash stores beautifully, and so we had a crop of about 28 squashes that lasted us comfortably through fall and a lot of the winter. It also inspired us to keep some of the root vegetables such as the carrots in the soil through winter.

Doi Methi Diye Kumro – Sweet and Sour Winter Squash with Fenugreek

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 11/2 tablespoons mustard oil
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 2 dried red chilies
  • 1 medium sized winter squash, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons yogurt
  • 11/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon honey or mollases
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 tasblespoon fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil for about 1 minute and add in the nigella seeds and wait till they sizzle.
  2. Add in the red onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until the onion wilts and turns pale golden.
  3. Add in the ginger paste and the dried red chilies and cook for about 1 minute
  4. Add in the winter squash and the turmeric, salt and mix well.
  5. Add in the yogurt and cook for a couple of minutes.
  6. Mix in the fenugreek leaves and the water and cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until the squash is nice and soft and the water is absorbed.
  7. Add in the honey, squeeze in the lime juice and mix well.
  8. Garnish with the cilantro leaves and serve
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