Bitter Melon, Potato and Eggplant Stir Fry – Kolora Alu ar Begun Bhaja

My father taught me how to love korola or the bitter melon pretty early in life. This amazingly bold and super-nutritious vegetable is IMG_7514_blogmuch loved on the Bengali table, in fact, standing out almost like an oxymoron against the deep Bengali love for sweets. The bitter melon in fact works as an anti-dote against all the ills culled by the deep love of sweets that the Bengali enjoys.

This week has had melancholy strains, Martha our longtime helper is getting ready to leave us. Our rather tightly wound household survives on routine and the thought of change, especially so radical is anything but comforting. The little one is very disappointed, and I know that he will have to learn about these partings eventually. This week is also close to the second year anniversary of Dad’s passing, and it brings with it the same sense of sadness and loss. Food always offers an outlet to celebrate and mesh together memories, it helps me channel remembrances in a positive manner. Food memories that even connected together to bind into my cookbook, that I hope some you will be persuaded to get.

This dish is about as simple as it gets, it is a starter dish that is enjoyed at the beginning of a meal. When my father was posted in Nigeria, I used to visit on summer holidays and my father used to always come home at lunchtime. A long day allowed and almost necessitated a mid-day break in the routine. I remember, my mother getting food ready on the table, snowy white rice, just strained, hot and steaming, sunshine bright lentils, a chorchori and usually chicken or fish. The lunchtime meal, especially if Dad joined us was an unquestionably Bengali meal, leaving time for occasional experimentation in the evenings. No matter how elaborate or simple the meal was, this was a staple that he wanted to have around. If not there, Dad would get into the kitchen and make it himself.


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It was a strange and comforting sight, to see Dad in the kitchen, in his office clothes, looking sharp and efficient, wielding a knife and evenly dicing the vegetables, first the bitter melon, then the potatoes and finally the purple and shiny eggplant.  He used a spoon to sprinkle some turmeric and salt over the eggplant, and then it was handed over to Bob, our cook to finish off. This recipe will probably be the swan song for this year’s summer offerings and of course, the weather has very loudly proclaimed the arrival of Fall in the Hudson Valley.

Bitter Melon, Potato and Eggplant Stir Fry – Kolora Alu ar Begun Bhaja

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

A simple everyday stir-fry that uses bitter melon and is a classic starter on the Bengali table.

Ingredients

  • 2 small potatoes
  • 3 medium sized slender Japanese variety eggplants
  • 1 medium sized bitter melon (korola)
  • 2 tablespoons oil (preferably mustard oil)
  • 1 teaspoon panch phoron (Bengali 5-Spice)
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon red cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Dice the eggplants and set aside. Peel the potatoes and dice and set aside (note, if you wish, you can use organic red skinned potatoes and leave the skin on).
  2. Dice the bitter melon and leave any visible seeds
  3. Heat the oil on medium heat for about 1 minute and add in the panch phoron (Bengali 5 spice) and wait until the spice crackles.
  4. Add in the mixed diced vegetables and stir well.
  5. Shake over the turmeric and the salt and mix well. Cover and cook the mixture for about 5 minutes on low heat, remove the cover and check the mixture for softness. The potatoes should be lightly crisped and soft.
  6. Stir the cayenne pepper and mix well. Cook for another minute and serve with rice and lentils for a classic Bengali style first course.
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Quinoa Pilaf and a Cookbook Review

 

 

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My daughter loves quinoa, she took  to it quite naturally after I had made this salad. So, I have been playing with this lovely grain in various ways. It is completely gluten-free so it also works well, with people looking for a nutritious grain, without the trappings of gluten.

Today’s recipe  with Quinoa, a quinoa pilaf, is also from Shubhra Ramineni’s book, Healthy Indian Vegetarian Cooking. I have been telling you about this book earlier this week, let me tell you some more. I connected with Shubhra over The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles and she was then adding finishing touches to this book. It therefore gives me great pleasure to see this book completed and in print.

Shubhra is an Indian-American raised in Houston, TX.  She grew up enjoying healthy, traditional Indian food and she learned to cook from her mother, an excellent home cook and a professional dietitian. Determined to eat well despite her busy schedule as a chemical engineer with an MBA and a mom to an active toddler, Shubhra set out to developed a no-fuss cooking style that recreates authentic Indian flavors using easy techniques and fresh and easily available local ingredients. She is the author of the award-winning cookbook, Entice with Spice, Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People and also of Healthy Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Easy Recipes for the Hurry Home Cook (June 2013 and is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com). Shubhra teaches Indian cooking classes at Whole Foods Market, Williams-Sonoma, Central Market, Sur La Table, and Rice Epicurean stores. More information on her upcoming events and classes can be found at www.enticewithspice.com and you can join her “Entice with Spice” Facebook page and follow her on Twitter @ShubhraRamineni.

IMG_7196_medbThis book is a very well illustrated practical volume that offers a concise collection of Indian Vegetarian dishes. These are simple tested and tried dishes that can be comfortably fitted into a practical everyday routine as Shubhra emphasizes, something that works for the “hurry home” cook.

These simple recipes offer a lot of room to learn and then build and develop your own recipes with core inspiration from her book.

Back, to the recipe on hand, I pretty much loved the idea of being able to through in a bunch of vegetables to create a one dish meal. I did eliminate the potatoes as I felt the dish had a nice amount of carbs already and also subbed the cashews for peanuts as my son is allergic to cashews, but otherwise stuck to the recipe to get a great weeknight meal in a hurry.

If you are looking for some vegetarian inspiration for you table, please do check out the book, I think you will enjoy its simple and flavorful recipes.

Quinoa Pilaf

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • cup (180 g) uncooked white quinoa 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 20 whole cashews, split in half lengthwise (nuts optional -see note below) 1 teaspoon cumin seeds 1 small onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
  • 1 medium russet potato (about ½ lb/225 g), peeled and diced into ¼ in (6 mm) cubes 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced into ¼ in (6 mm) cubes
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) frozen or fresh green peas
  • 2 cups (500 ml) water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

Instructions

  1. Place the quinoa in a large sieve. Run cold water over it to thoroughly wash the grains. While washing the quinoa, rub the grains with your fingers to thoroughly clean them. Drain the quinoa.
  2. Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a medium saucepan and place it over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the cashews. Sauté until the cashews are light golden, stirring frequently, about 30 seconds. Remove the cashews from the saucepan and place aside.
  3. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil into the medium saucepan and place it over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the cumin seeds and onion. Sauté the onion until lightly golden, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the sautéed cashews, potato, carrot, peas, and quinoa. Stir to combine. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the water, salt, and turmeric. Stir to combine. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
  6. Stir and reduce the heat to medium- low. Cover the saucepan. Simmer undisturbed until the water is completely absorbed and you do not see any more water on the bottom of the saucepan if you insert a spoon through the quinoa, about 13 minutes. The grains will have turned slightly transparent, and the spiral-like germ (the part of the grain that sprouts into a plant) will have separated from the grain and curl around it like a small thread.
  7. Turn off the heat. Let rest, covered, for 5 minutes on the warm stove. Keep covered until ready to serve or let cool to room temperature and refrigerate or freeze for later. Before serving, gently fluff the quinoa with a fork to mix the cashews and vegetables. Enjoy!

Notes

Recipe from "Healthy Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Easy Recipes for the Hurry Home Cook" by Shubhra Ramineni. Reprinted with the express permission of Tuttle Publishing, a member of the Periplus Publishing Group. www.enticewithspice.com

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Mushrooms with Green Peas

ISquare Mushrooms_blogt is difficult to believe that summer is almost coming to an end, just when I thought the weather was just right. We seemed to have worked out all the kinks, with the heat wave and extra cool days. Well, believe it or not, this weekend is labor day weekend! It is probably the perfect time to sneak in this lovely mushroom recipe, that we have been enjoying on several weekdays. We love mushrooms in our household so this one has become a new weeknight favorite.

There has been a beautiful book, that I have been looking at whenever I get a chance, eyeing the recipes, making notes and promising to cook several of them.

I have just not had the time to post and tell you all about it. Since it is a vegetarian cookbook, I thought I should start telling you about it before summer was over. The book that I shall be cooking from this week is Shubhra Ramineni’s, Healthy Indian Vegetarian Cooking. I have done about three to four recipes, from the book and I shall post a complete review with the next recipe that I will be sharing.

Interestingly enough, I have twisted my ankle returning from the doctor’s office, so it gives me just the perfect opportunity to sit and write this up as I ice my ankle. This is actually a very relaxing activity for me, take a look and the simple and flavorful recipe with me.

Mushrooms with Green Peas

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

A flavorful super easy mushroom recipe that gets done in under 30 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small red onion, grated (using the large side of the box grater)
  • 2 cups of thickly sliced button mushrooms (about 8 oz)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of green peas (I used frozen)
  • Fresh cilantro to garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil and add in the cumin seeds and wait until the seeds begin to sizzle.
  2. Add in the grated onion and cook until the onion begins to turn softly golden.
  3. Add in the the mushrooms and mix well.
  4. Stir in the salt, powdered coriander, cumin, red cayenne pepper and the black pepper with the green peas and mix well.
  5. Cover and cook for five minutes.
  6. Stir in the cilantro and serve

Notes

Recipe Adapted with Permission from

Healthy Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Shubhra Ramineni Tutle Books (2012)

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Beet Greens with Potatoes and Nigella Seeds – Alu Laal Shager Chorchori

Stir Fried Beet Greens and PotatoesToday is an incredibly hectic day, the last day of mom’s visit, I seem to want to pack everything between these last few days. The children have been feeling the same way, too! I think my poor mother has critiqued countless versions of Maacher Chop, supervised the picking of several buds of Mocha or banana blossom flowers.

She has in turn watched my daughter current dance piece and listened to her piano pieces enough times to forget that Beethoven might have really existed and the little fellow too has regaled her with his art work and music.

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Meetings in a world where family members do not live close to each other, often entail farewells and tonight was her last dinner with us for this visit. Among other things, I cooked some beet greens with potatoes, using a simple Bengali seasoning. My love for Beet Greens is well known, and to add some spark to our family repertoire I created this recipe to join the other summer recipe that is already a family favorite.

The delicate reds in the leaves seep into the potatoes giving them a pretty and very unique color. This recipe is also created for Stephanie, for her Dog Days of Summer event that supports her kickstarter project. I hope that you will consider stopping by to support the project.

Beet Greens with Potatoes and Nigella Seeds – Alu Laal Shager Chorchori

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Beet Greens get a nice Bengali touch, from the addition of nigella seeds. A colorful seasonal recipe that will warm and brighten your table.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons mustard oil (can be substituted with regular olive oil)
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
  • 1 small to medium red onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 fingerling potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 to 3 green chilies, slit
  • 2 cups finely chopped beet leaves

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil on medium heat for about a minute.
  2. Add in the nigella seeds and add in the onion and sauté it for 3 to 4 minutes and let it turn lightly golden at the edges.
  3. Add in the ginger and sauté well.
  4. Add in the potatoes and mix well. Add in the potatoes and the salt and mix well and add in sugar.
  5. Stir in the green chilies and mix well.
  6. Add in the beet leaves and cook for 4 minutes, stirring and mixing well until the beet leaves wilt and mix into the potatoes.
  7. Serve as a side to any meal of your choice.
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Bengali Red Lentils and Brocolli

Red Lentils with BroccoliWe have heard of people describing food in poetic and comforting terms, and the closest thing that evokes poetic feelings for me is well made red lentils or mushoorir dal. We Bengalis can rapsodize about these buttery smooth lentils every day of our lives. Well, today’s variation of red lentils goes beyond poetry, this variation is an accomplice in my efforts to get my mother to enjoy broccoli.

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Chances are if my husband was reading this post, he would like to highlight that the broccoli, I speak of is not just any old florets of broccoli, they are like almost anything else that I cook in summer, tender stem pieces of green beauteousness, that he has grown. This year, I have truly been thrilled to see how enthusiastically, mom has been relishing my crazy forays in the kitchen. However, I am a believer to get someone to like something, we need to start traditional.

Brocolli Plant

To be fair to mom, she is a little confused. Chances are she first about broccoli when President Bush was around, and we all know what his views on the broccoli are. Well, times they are a changing. We have a different captain of the ship today, and this is what President Obama feels. Gosh! who knew that there was a correlation between broccoli and politics! Despite, being a politically obsessed family, I knew that it would take more than just presidential endorsement to have mom give a nod to the broccoli, it would take the comforting and quintessential red lentils and then some.

Lentils and Broc

Well, jokes aside, all things considered I paired the broccoli in a simple stew of red lentils.  A tender delicate comforting bowl of well seasoned goodness. The broccoli cooked along side the red lentils was cooked in a typical no fuss Bengali manner, none of the fuss, associated with green and blanching or icing the vegetables. It was simmered till tender soft in pools of the thick and buttery soft red lentils laced with gentle kisses of spices. I finished this off, with the traditional tempering of golden crisp onions.  Growing up in our house, not all lentils got the caramelized onion
finish, this was left for the comforting and soothing lentils.

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Buttery red lentils, soft and flavorful broccoli and delicate bits of caramelized red onion. What do you expect a mother to do? A few bites later she declared, “onekta kopir moto (a lot like cauliflower)”, considering that the mild mannered cauliflower was a family favorite, looked like we had a winner!

It has been a while since I participated in one of the events that I liked a lot, MLLA, or my legume love affair an event started by Susan to celebrate lentils, that is currently with Lisa and is hosted this month by Aparna at My Diverse Kitchen.

Bengali Red Lentils and Brocolli

Cook Time: 25 minutes

A comforting creation with red lentils garden fresh tender broccoli seasoned with hints of ginger, cumin and caramelized onions.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup split red lentils
  • 2 cups of water or 3 if using the stove top
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ¾ teaspoon red cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 11/2 teaspoons powdered cumin
  • ½ pound of tender broccoli florettes
  • For the tempering and finish
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 green chillies, slit
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the lentils in the pressure cooker or the cooking pot add in the water, turmeric, salt, ginger and cumin and cook under pressure for 4 to 5 minutes, or simmer the lentils until soft and smooth. This takes about 25 minutes and needs to be stirred occasionally.
  2. While this is cooking cut the broccoli into small pieces, tender stems can be chopped into smaller pieces along with the florets.
  3. Add to the lentils and simmer for another 7 minutes, until the broccoli is tender crisp.
  4. While the broccoli is cooking, peel the onion and cut into a fine dice.
  5. Heat the oil and add the onion and cook the onion on medium high heat until the onion is nice and golden, this will take about 5 to 6 minutes.
  6. Add in the green chillies and mix this into the lentils and simmer for another 2 minutes.
  7. Squeeze in the lime juice and sprinkle with the chives if using.

Notes

If not using a pressure cooker, this will take much longer.

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Chili Tofu and Technical Issues

Chili TofuThis month has been a busy and balanced month. In various ways, the flavors of this Chili Tofu, synchronizes with the kind of month that I have been having. The flavors are sharp and full of fun.

I have managed to squeeze in a few days of vacation, spread over the few weeks that my mother is visiting. Since these vacation days are loose days, without any major purpose other than taking things at a slightly slower pace, and fitting in some, together time with mom, they have been immensely relaxing. I have filled them with shopping, catching up with Bollywood movies, and I some loose errands and bits of time for myself.

It is the simple things in life, that sometimes help in creating balance. Those rare simple things that we often do not think of getting into our lives.

I have been enjoying creating new dishes for mom. She seems to want to take a break from the regular cuisine of her days. To my surprise, she has also been wanting to learn some new flavors, and one of the recipes that caught her fancy was this Chili Tofu. This recipe is a lighter take on the Indo-Chinese style chili dishes. The flavors here are presented with a generous

Acadia National Park

Somewhere in the middle of fireworks and traffic, we managed to get in a week on the road, travelling up to ME, to Acadia National Park. It always amazes me to see the natural beauty of these sanctuaries, offering us beautiful family friendly recreation that works for all age groups.

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The local was beautiful and rejuvenating, but just a tad too hot, although the young people in the group did not seem to mind. The kids enjoyed the junior ranger program a lot. This was their second try at this, with the first one being at Yellowstone.  I was happy to be away, the long drive allowed me to actually read and finish a really interesting novel when I was not driving.

I am a die hard night person. Well, one of my planned projects was to back up and organize an SD card that had a select 125 pictures. Except that I had a novel experience planned, and not a pleasant one at any rate. Somehow, this disk had gotten whacked out, all the files appeared deleted… I managed to detect this about 10 new pictures, once I noticed the new sequencing of numbers. Emotions, ranged for shock and disbelief to a need to fix things.

The internet is a wonderful place. After some research, I realized that the data might be retrievable after all. I had broken the cardinal rule here, I had recorded over the data. While this was not intentional, that is what the new pictures were doing they were copying over the old data out of their own volition.  Following a bunch of threads, I landed on this page and actually did manage to retrieve quite a lot of my data.

Chili Tofu-2

This now brings me back to this recipe, and the post that I had started a while ago when the spring onions were first surfacing in the markets. The preferred tofu for this recipe was the firm slice able variety.

Chili Tofu and Technical Issues

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

A simple and flavorful stir fry with sharp green chili and fresh tasting green onions.

Ingredients

  • 4 to 6 whole green onions
  • 3 green chilies minced
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups of slice able tofu, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 3 pods of garlic, minced

Instructions

  1. Separate the whites and green of the onions. Chop them both and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl mix in the green chilies, soy sauce, white wine, sesame oil and honey and mix well.
  3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick wok, until very hot.
  4. Carefully add all the tofu, single side down and cook for about 1 minute on both sides until the tofu is lightly browned.
  5. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon.
  6. In the oil add in the ginger and the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
  7. Add in the white onions and saute for 3 minutes, until the onion is nice and translucent.
  8. Add in the tofu and mix well. Stir in the soy sauce mixture and cook for 2 minutes, until the mixture is absorbed.
  9. Add in the spring onion greens and cook until wilted and serve the tofu with a side of rice.
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Spicy Mushrooms with Garlic, Black Pepper and Chives

Summer often reminds of the shorter shelf life of things, with fruit ripening more quickly, herbs drying out if not tended carefully. For me, summer is also the season of fermentation (think dosa), easy banana breads and simple stir fries that tend to showcase the best of the fresh produce that is so readily available.

 

Mushrooms with Red Onions and Black Pepper

This is where today’s Spicy mushroom stir-fry recipe comes in handy. This lovely stir-fry is adapted from Indian Inspired Gluten-Free Recipes a book packed with flavorful and easy recipes.

Ones that fit into the fast paced days that I have been having the past few weeks. Yes, so far, it has not really been an easy, breezy summer. With my mother visiting, I have been trying to eke out more time in already packed days to spend with here, but it has been a very pleasant visit. I play with stir-fries all the time and it is always fun for me to see how the same few ingredients combined differently can offer different nuances in taste and texture. Given the high temperatures that we have been having these stir-fries are just perfect to keep your kitchen time down to a minimum, without any compromise in flavors.

The recipe is so simple and not fuss, that it is difficult not to stick to it, however I did play around with it just a little adding some fresh chives towards the end along with the cilantro. Also, added a very small hint of fresh lime. It actually turns out that this recipe has become the new household favorite, even, mom loves it and my husband actually does not notice that it is not made with homegrown produce. In fact, he does not even think about the aborted attempt at growing mushrooms. We all have some failures, when working through our passions and mushrooms were the one that got away, from my husband’s backyard.

That is another big deal, in the house, particularly the three peak months of summer, we are swimming with produce and my ever vigillant husband tries to ensure we do not waste any gas, in procuring our summer meals. What I really enjoy as a side bonus, are the empty crisper shelves in my refridgerator. Since, the produce is picked just when we use it, I do not need to store anything.

This allows me to throughly clear these shelves and wash them out with baking soda and lime, allowing me a sense of freshness that is all important and soothing especially during these summer months.

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Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Lime and Cilantro

Chickpea Salad with Quinoa

 

There is a saying that goes, if you build it, they will come. I think my philosophy with my children and healthy eating is that – If you cook it, they will learn. Quinoa is something I have thrown in hear and there without much preamble or planning. Then last week, with the mercury soaring, I decided to fix a salad meshing quinoa, with the other favorite ingredient in this household, chickpeas. The result something that has gotten my daughter all excited about Quinoa, she carefully looked at the package and said – Qui-no-a, I gently corrected her, just like I had been corrected many years ago, to say Keenwah, her brother decided to matter of factly tell me, yes, I know that is how you say it. The little one is just such a flosser.

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad

Despite the craziness of the weather, I do not really have cucumbers in the garden, there are small and tender little green tomatoes showing up. But, hopefully next month I will be all ready with these from our garden, and I will have a hit and comforting recipe to put it all together. What more can I ask for? Well, actually I could ask for a successful finish to this weekend, there is way too much happening, that to following a rather frentic week at work.

So, here is to a recipe that is simple, comforting and nutritious all at once.

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Lime and Cilantro

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: PT3-M

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

A simple fresh tasting salad that makes a great one-dish meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (preferably, homecooked with no salt)
  • 1 cup (about 1 large seedless english cucumber), diced cucumber
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium sized tomato, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup minced, fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 11/2 fresh limes

Instructions

  1. Place the chickpeas in the mixing bowl.
  2. Mix in the cucumber, red onion and tomato and stir well.
  3. Add in the cilantro and mint and stir in the quinoa.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, add in the salt, red cayenne pepper, extra-virgin olive oil.
  5. Squeeze in the lime juice and mix well.
  6. Pour the dressing onto the salad and let the salad rest for 15 minutes before serving.
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Turnips with Carmelized Onions and Toasted Lentils

TurnpmedAmong other things, the highlight of this week has been tender and tiny Japanese turnips. These have found there way into out little yard, after I picked up a bunch of these tiny perfectly formed turnips at the farmers market about two years ago… Since, then we have been growing our own, and I cook them simply, with a lot of flavor, not much action, not unlike the recipe that I shall be sharing with you.

 

Speaking of farmers markets, the Pleasantville Farmers Market, aka, my local market started amidst the rain last weekend. I popped my head in amidst all the rain, actually with the daughter. Had a little more time today. Loved some of the more interesting additions. Yarn, Flowers and even and an extended segment. This is exciting since it gives me more to check out.

Yarn at the market

Today, has ended on a pensive note, it was my brother’s birthday. Turns out it was Suvir Saran’s father’s death anniversary. The man’s eloquent thoughts of my father, reminded me of Dad. I cannot always voice my feelings in such depth. I want not to be greedy and complain about not having Dad around, but I cannot help it. I really wish he was here, with us weeding, savoring the simple freshness of our garden helping us feel lively with his presence and infectious laughter.

Back to the recipe, the recipe is all about simplicity and flavor, influenced by this event that I had running on the blog. It is perfect for the turnips that use a hint of flavor and are cooked to delicate and crisp translucency.

Turnips with Carmelized Onions and Toasted Lentils

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

A simple stir fry with turnips and turnip greens. Perfect over warm toasted bread and cheese.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium sized red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 pods garlic, very finely chopped
  • 11/2 tablespoons split yellow moong lentils (soaked for 1 hour)
  • 3/4 cup small fresh turnips, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red cayenne powder
  • 1 cup of turnip greens, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro to garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil and add in the cumin seeds and wait until the seeds begin to sizzle.
  2. Add in the red onion and cook the onion until it is a pale toffee color and the kitchen begins to smell softly fragrant.
  3. Add in the garlic and saute lightly for another two to three minutes.
  4. Add in the lentils and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the lentils are nice and toasty and a few shades darket.
  5. Add in the turnips and mix in gently. Stir in the turmeric, salt and the red cayenne powder and mix well. Cook lightly until the turnips are soft and shimmering.
  6. Mix in the turnip greens and cook until the greens are wilted.
  7. Stir in the cilantro and garnish.
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Onion and Kale Fritters – Mixed Up Piyanjee

Onion Pakoras with TeaI recently ended up as a part of a conversation somewhere in the facebook world on authenticity and after sort of supporting both sides of the arguement I am not really sure where I ended. Well, I am a Libra, I know when I was growing up following one’s zodiac was serious business. I will date myself even further and tell you that a popular book amongs me and the friendship clan was Linda Goodman’s Zodiac Signs, which it turns out was the first astrology book to make the New York Times Bestseller list, illustrating the fact that I had company in my silly reading. In case you are wondering, a the Libran symbol are the scales and they are supposed to always work towards balancing things. And whenever my equilibrium shifts a little I make some variation of onion fritters also called piyanjee in Bengali.

Well, while the bit on equilibrium is not entirely true, we do love these onion ring fritters in my house. My husband of course calls them pakoras. Actually, these classic naturally gluten-free and vegan-fritters are called different thing in different parts of India, but all tend to have the same lovely crisp and savory sweetness of red onions cloaked in nutritious and crispy chickpea batter.

Onion Pakoras or Piyanjees

 

 In fact, the line in our household is, you say pakora, I say piyanjee, lets call the whole thing off. Well, the interesting thing about these fritters is that they can take a whole assortment of variations, depending on the nuances of spices used. I have used some thyme from are garden in lieu of carom seeds to make this particular version. It is available in bounty and adds a nice and simple touch of freshness. I also added some curry leaves and tender kale leaves on a touch of whimsy. The kale was in lieu of spinach which is something that I normally add.

IMG_5637-horz

 

The only caution that I offer is to ensure that you are working with medium hot oil, ensure that the batter is not too thick, there should not be too much batter over the onions, as it will overpower the sweet crispiness of the onions.

Onion and Kale Fritters – Mixed Up Piyanjee

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: about 20 fritters

An variation of classic Indian onion fritters with kale, onions, thyme and curry leaves. Perfect with a cup of tea!

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped baby kale leaves or spinach
  • For the batter
  • 1 cup of besan or chickpea flour
  • 15 curry leaves
  • 11/2 tablespoons thyme or 1/4 teaspoon carom seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon red cayenne powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • Oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Separate the pieces and layers of the onions and set aside with the kale or spinach.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the besan, thyme, red cayenne powder, salt, turmeric and cilantro.
  3. Stir in about 1 cup of cold water, this should be done gradually to ensure a batter that is slightly thinner than pancake batter, but thick enough to coat.
  4. Stir in the onions and spinach.
  5. In a heavy bottom skillet add about 1 and 1/2 cups of canolla oil, about 11/2 inches deep. Heat the oil until a crumb when tested dances up to the surface.
  6. Add about 2 tablespoons of the batter, gently allowing the onions to fan out in strands.
  7. Fry on medium heat for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side, this should NOT be done on high heat.
  8. Turn and fry again, the color of the fritters should be a comfortable golden brown color.
  9. Remove from the fire, drain on paper towels and serve.
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