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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Lentil Sprouts Salad with Bok Choy and Bell Peppers

Lentil Sprouts Salad with Bok Choy and Bell Peppers

I don't do it as often as I'd like to - sprouting the lentils and beans, I mean. But, every once in a while, when I get a batch sprouted and ready, it is a giddying feeling. Yeah, it doesn't take much to make me giddy with excitement.

Lentil Sprouts Salad with Bok Choy and Bell Peppers

One part of it formed the base of a cobb or gado-gado style salad -- sauteed sprouts with just a casual arrangement of available, with an eye to color, topped with a simple vinaigrette.

Another part of it went into adding the crunch in a standard pasta salad. And yet another portion was sauteed with greens - chard, kale, spinach - spiced and served warm with rice.

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Home Garden Strawberry Salsa

Home Garden Strawberry Salsa

For weeks now, the small strawberry patch in the backyard has been consistently yielding about two dozen ripe berries every three days. Some get made into smoothies, some enjoyed fresh off the vine, some brighten up an impromptu fruit salad, and some others get to become my favorite Salsa Fresca, as well as simmered spicy salsa.

Home Garden Strawberry Salsa

There is no set recipe per se. For the strawberry salsa, a splash of fresh lime juice and finely chopped home-garden super chiles added the bite that I like; fresh tomatoes, onions, and cilantro are the main ingredients. But, I added some finely chopped celery and colorful mini peppers just to satisfy my tastes, along with salt, cayenne pepper powder and some taco seasoning.

Home Garden Strawberry Salsa

The simmered salsa is no much different, just combine the ingredients and simmer till cooked through to desired consistency.

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Saturday, May 09, 2015

Whole Okra with Mayocoba Beans

spicy Whole Okra with Mayocoba Beans

Mayocoba or Peruano beans have a meatier texture and a satisfying flavor compared to white or navy beans. Typically, I soak it overnight and pressure cook it to firm yet soft consistency, not mushy.

This simple side can be served with rotis, naan, basmati rice, or eaten as is.

Simply saute the onions and green bell peppers, add the par-cooked okra, season to taste, when okra is mostly done, stir in the cooked mayocoba beans, adjust seasoning.

Seasoning varies on my mood - sometimes it is lemon pepper and sage; sometimes it is cumin and curry powder; sometimes it is shawarma spice mix.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Fig and Dark Cocoa Chicken Taquitos or Flautas

Fig and Dark Cocoa Chicken Taquitos or Flautas

There was enough Chicken in Dark Cocoa and Fig Sauce leftover that I was going to put it in a wrap or serve it like fajitas when I noticed a stack of corn tortillas and some wheat rotis waiting to be used up. Since I don't fry foods every day, I decided to indulge by making these deep fried taquitos from corn tortillas.

Simply add the filling to the tortilla, roll it up and pin it with a toothpick, and with tongs, carefully immerse in hot oil to deep fry. Alternately bake in a 425 °F oven and then place under the broiler briefly to crisp it.

Serve with home made tomatillo salsa verde.

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Saturday, May 02, 2015

Chicken in Dark Cocoa and Fig Sauce

Chicken in Dark Cocoa and Fig Sauce

The combination of dark cocoa powder and dried figs in a pan sauce takes this chicken dish from good to awesome in my kitchen. Some sauteed onions and colorful mini peppers form the base for the sauce while dried figs and a dollop of fig preserves plus the dark cocoa bring the earthy deliciousness that is hard to describe.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips for easy cooking
1 medium onions, diced finely
6 mini red, yellow, orange peppers, diced finely
2 Tbsp dark cocoa powder
2 Tbsp fig preserves
4 dried figs, reconstituted in red wine, coarsely minced or ground
1 Tbsp homemade Taco Seasoning
1 Tbsp lemon pepper seasoning
salt to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil


  1. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions and bell peppers, the seasoning and saute
  2. Add the chicken strips, cocoa powder and fig preserves plus the minced figs in red wine
  3. Stir well, add just enough water, cover and cook at medium heat till chicken in cooked and the sauce has the desired consistency - not too runny, not too goopy
  4. Serve with Black bean rice and some steamed broccoli
Black bean rice:
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp of canola oil in a pan
  2. Add a teaspoon each of sage powder, paprika, and Italian seasoning mix, then add 2 cups of cooked and seasoned black beans, stir well
  3. Add 4 to 5 cups of cooked rice, sprinkle some salt to taste, stir well, turn off heat, serve warm

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mambazha Pachadi: Sweet Mango Fruit Pachadi

Mambazha Pachadi: Sweet Mango Fruit Pachadi

A Palakkad dish, this is one of my favorites growing up, especially the way my mom used to make it. Over the years, I've played with her recipe to adapt it to my current tastes. Kids don't like it, and the other adult in the family can take it or leave it. So, when I make it, I know there's going to be plenty for me.

The sweetness of ripe mangoes, the tang from tamarind, and the heat from red chilies come together for an amazing burst of flavor. If using raw tamarind or pulp or paste, adjust to taste; the store-bought Sour Soup mix works out well for many dishes that use tamarind, and the measurements are for this particular product.

1 large ripe mango, chopped
2 Tbsp tamarind Sour Soup mix
1 tsp red hot chili powder

for grinding:
3 Tbsp grated coconut
1 tsp whole black peppers

salt to taste

1 tsp coconut oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 dry red chilies broken to pieces
a few curry leaves, torn


  1. Grind the coconut paste and keep handy
  2. Boil the mango in some tamarind and water and salt; I leave the skin on as I like the texture it brings to the final dish; peel the mango if preferred
  3. Puree the cooked mango to a mush, stir in the coconut paste, adjust salt to taste and simmer
  4. Tempering: heat oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dry red chilies and finally the curry leaves; remove from heat when mustard seeds pop; add it to the simmering mango puree
  5. Serve with roti, naan, basmati rice

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Kale and Spinach Saag Paneer

Kale and Spinach Saag Paneer

Kale can be quite crunchy and reluctant to give up its structural integrity even when cooked to a mush. But, the texture and flavor it brings to the original spinach recipe, called Saag Paneer, is wonderful.

For smoky spiciness, and since fusion cuisine is my signature and preferred style, I brought in some chipotle in adobo sauce plus some lemongrass to spice up this Indian staple.

Paneer can be homemade or store-bought. Several online resources show a step by step procedure for making paneer at home-- it does take time, so, plan ahead. However, many Indian stores sell packaged paneer which works just as well.

Sometimes I saute the paneer cubes before adding it to the mix, but I omit this step here-- the clear blandness it brings balances the spiciness of the kale and spinach mix.

4 cups finely chopped fresh kale
2 cups chopped frozen spinach, thawed

spices and flavoring:
1 chipotle chile, finely chopped, in about 1 Tbsp of adobo sauce
a bit of crushed lemongrass or 1 tsp of lemongrass powder
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp garam masala powder
1 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice

¼ to ½ cup heavy cream
1 cup cubed paneer (more if preferred)

salt to taste
1 Tbsp ghee or canola oil or coconut oil or olive oil


  1. Pressure cook kale and spinach with some salt
  2. Blend the kale and spinach to a mush
  3. heat oil/ghee in a pan, add the spices and flavoring ingredients, mushed kale+spinach, stir well and allow to simmer gently
  4. Slide in the paneer (sauteed or plain) and simmer a bit more
  5. Off heat, stir in heavy cream, a little at a time, to desired consistency and flavor
  6. Optional Tempering: heat ghee or oil in a pan, break some dried red chiles and add to the hot oil, add some cumin seeds; remove from heat and add to the dish before serving

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Broccoli Stem Saute

Broccoli Stem Saute

Steamed broccoli florets with some cheese is a favorite side for the kids. They prefer just the florets, not much of the stalk/stem. So, I save the stem for this dish, a quick and easy side for weeknight.

Instead of pan-sauteing as shared in this method, toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast  it in a 400°F oven in a single layer, for about 15 minutes or more as desired.

Broccoli stem, cut into uniform pieces
red onion, sliced
salt to taste
ground black pepper
1 tsp olive oil

Broccoli Stem Saute

  1. Steam the broccoli stems in a steamer or microwave; I simply add the steamer apparatus when I cook rice in the rice cooker. Sometimes, I find it easier to microwave the stems.
  2. Heat oil in a pan, saute the red onions with a pinch of salt; add the steamed broccoli stems, saute some more; taste and adjust flavoring
  3. Serve warm

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Sunday, April 05, 2015

Kasha with Opo Squash and Carrots with Coconut, Curry Leaves and Chilies

Kasha with Opo Squash and Carrots with Coconut, Curry Leaves and Chilies

Opo squash and carrots mingled with curry leaves and coconut and chilies is a favorite combination. Simply cook the veggies; grind some coconut, chilies and curry leaves; stir it into the cooked veggies and serve warm; adjust salt to taste.

Easy to make, this side can be served with roti, naan, rice or even quinoa.

Kasha can be an acquired taste for some. No one besides me likes it at home, so I don't make it often. I prefer to cook kasha in the rice cooker. To get it mushy, I add equal parts kasha and water; but for a grainier texture, I reduce the water and add some olive oil to the rice cooker and cook it for one cycle as usual.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Colorful Mini Peppers, Red Cabbage, Kidney Beans Warm Salad

Colorful Mini Peppers, Red Cabbage, Kidney Beans Warm Salad

Served as a warm salad, or a side for roti and naan, or along with fluffy jasmine rice, this versatile dish is a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy. The rich colors, the balance of texture and flavors, plus the ease of cooking makes it a favorite weeknight dish.

1 cup cooked kidney beans
2 cups chunky-chopped red cabbage
2 cups colorful mini pepper, chopped

1 lemon cut into wedges for serving
chopped spring onions for garnish
greek yogurt or sour cream for serving on the side

½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp lemon pepper

1 tsp coconut oil
salt to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a pan, add the veggies and beans, a pinch of salt and turmeric, saute
  2. Add the flavoring ingredients, stir well,  cover and allow to sweat a bit at medium heat
  3. Remove the lid, splash water if needed to finish cooking the veggies to desired crunch
  4. Garnish with spring onions and serve with some lemon wedges and sliced green chilies and a dollop of sour cream or plain greek yogurt

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Red Onion and Purple Cabbage in Roasted Gram, Almond, Curry Leaves Curry

Red Onion and Purple Cabbage in Roasted Gram, Almond, Curry Leaves Curry

Sometimes, the simplest of combinations brings about the greatest satisfaction.

I don't generally use much of roasted gram (aka Pottu Kadalai) mainly because it is not readily available. Every once in a while, I get it from the Indian store and use it in some dishes that feel like comfort food. Served with warm basmati rice, this curry or kozhambu is quite filling.

For the curry paste:
2 Tbsp roasted gram
⅓ cup almonds
1 jalapeño
20 curry leaves (double if preferred)
4 cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp grated ginger

Veggies: anything is fine
red/purple cabbage
red onion

1 Tbsp coconut oil
salt to taste
water as needed

Tempering: mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal, 1 tsp coconut oil


  1. Grind the curry paste ingredients into a fine paste, keep handy
  2. Heat oil in a pan, add the curry paste, saute a bit, then add the veggies, salt and enough water, cover and simmer over low heat, stirring often
  3. roasted gram acts as a thickener, so, check for water often; when veggies are cooked through and the curry is at a desired thickness, remove from heat and add the tempering
  4. Tempering: heat oil in a small pan, add urad dal; when it turns brown, add mustard seeds and cumin seeds; when mustard seeds pop, turn off heat and add it to the curry.
  5. Stir well before serving with hot brown basmati rice

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Opo Squash, Tomatillo, White Bean, Mango Buttermilk Soup

Opo Squash, Tomatillo, White Bean, Mango Buttermilk Soup

This mildly spiced tangy soup is a summertime favorite. Tomatillos and raw green mango adds a gentle sourness that is enhanced by buttermilk. Opo squash brings a watery balance to the dish while the beans adds a bit of protein and texture.

We've had yo-yo-ing temperatures lately-- in the 80s one day and down to 50s the next. It seemed like a perfect meal for that warm day.

2 Tomatillos
1 medium green raw mango
1 cup cooked white beans
1 cup diced opo squash

spices to grind:
4 Tbsp grated coconut
1 teaspoon peppercorn
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tablespoon plain raw rice (acts as a thickener)

2 cups buttermilk
1 Tbsp coconut oil
salt to taste
½ tsp turmeric powder (optional)


  1. Grind the spices and keep handy
  2. Heat oil in a pan, add the veggies and beans, some turmeric, salt, just enough water to cook the veggies; cover and simmer til veggies are cooked but not mushy
  3. Add the ground spice paste, simmer for a few more minutes; stir in buttermilk, adjust salt to taste and turn off heat
  4. Serve warm or cold

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

Spicy Lentil Balls with Kale, Eggplant, Bell Pepper, Zucchini

Lentil balls (Paruppu urundai) sambar was a favorite when I was young; and of course, my mom made the best lentil balls sambar. Growing up vegetarian, and looking back at the amazing array of vegetarian foods I got to eat, I am always eager to share some of these recipes with friends who feel limited by their choice of vegetarian diet - salads are fine; steamed broccoli and cauliflower are nice; creamed corn and blanched green beans are wonderful, but that is not all. There's so much more.

Anyway, lentil balls can be made ahead (as in the paruppu urundai kozhambu recipe), steamed and then frozen for later use. Thaw before incorporating it in recipes. This time, I added some tomato paste, sambal oelek, cayenne pepper powder and paprika to the soaked-and-ground lentils before forming balls and steaming them. Hence the "spicy" lentil balls.

The combination of bell peppers, eggplant and zucchini is quite irresistible for me. Sauteing these three with some red onions and a touch of garlic, with a sprinkling of salt and turmeric powder gives off a heady aroma that is utterly appetizing.

6 to 8 lentil balls
2 cups chopped kale
1 cup diced eggplant
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced green bell pepper
½ cup diced red onion
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp sambal oelek
1 tsp brown sugar
salt to taste
oil as needed
water as needed


  1. heat the oil in a pan, saute the onions, garlic, tomato paste with a dash of salt and turmeric powder
  2. add the rest of the veggies and spices, a cup of water, cover and allow to simmer
  3. slide in the steamed lentil balls and simmer till the flavors infuse into the balls
  4. serve warm with basmati rice or roti

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mushroom and Cherry Pepper Shahi Curry

"Shahi" Curries usually have a rich nutty base with mild spices blended layer by layer to add deep flavors.

Any vegetable can be used, or even home-made cottage cheese, paneer. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, chayote squash, butternut squash, potatoes, and even ivy gourd (coccinia grandis) are wonderful vegetables to make this curry with.

Sweet red cherry peppers along with meaty cremini mushrooms and red onions makes this a perfect dish to serve with naan or brown basmati rice.


For the Masala Paste:
2 Tbsp roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp roasted cashews
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2-inch piece of Indian cinnamon bark
2 cardamom pods
1 start anise
1 teaspoon toasted poppy seeds
1 Tbsp cumin powder
2 Tbsp Tamarind concentrate (sold as Sour Soup Mix in Asian stores)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste

Curry sauce:
¼ cup vegetable stock
1 Tbsp canola oil (or ghee, if handy)
salt to taste
Mushrooms, onions, and cherry red peppers, chopped into chunks


  1. Combine the masala paste ingredients and grind to a fine paste
  2. Heat oil in a pan, saute the masala paste till oil separates; add tomato paste and saute a bit more
  3. Add the vegetables, and the rest of the curry sauce ingredients, cover and simmer till vegetables are done

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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

Since Papa doesn't like cake much, and since we indulge in desserts only for special occasions, we were wondering what to make for his birthday.

When the nine year old got interested in it, there was no turning back - we made mini chocolate bowls and filled it with mini marzipan veggies (and fruits).

We used the balloon method for making the mini bowls, about 2.5 inches at its widest, and about 1.5 inches tall. The nine year old went for the marbling effect, and the asymmetric tulip-like petal effects. Since this was her first attempt, it was just fine despite the imperfections.

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

We also made chocolate cups using silicone cupcake mold.

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

The marzipan veggies and fruits: carrots, green beans, artichoke, eggplant, strawberries, pear, watermelon, oranges. This was the favorite part as the little girl still loves to play with play dough and make shaped things that look like other real things. And working with marzipan was just like playing with play dough.

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

And some marzipan-filled confections.

Chocolate Bowl Filled with Marzipan Vegetables and Fruits

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Quinoa Fritters with Eggplant, Kale, Zucchini and Mushrooms

Quinoa Fritters with Eggplant, Kale, Zucchini and Mushrooms

I had ground up some quinoa to stock up on quinoa meal, about fine corn meal consistency, to make vegetable porridge. And used some of it to make these griddle cake-like fritters loaded with veggies.

Of course, the outsides got a bit too well done on the cast iron skillet, but, the insides were moist and cooked; the taste was just fine, so we enjoyed it with some chutneys.

Quinoa Fritters with Eggplant, Kale, Zucchini and Mushrooms

  1. Finely grate eggplant and zucchini, squeeze out excess water and keep handy
  2. Finely mince kale, onions, and mushrooms
  3. Add seasoning to taste
  4. Fold in the quinoa flour or meal, adding a little water as needed to make the batter about pancake consistency; alternately, keep water to a minimum to shape into patties
  5. Cook on a medium hot cast iron skillet
  6. Serve with tomato chutney and coriander-mint chutney

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Roast Butternut Squash with Chickpeas

roasted butternut squash chickpeas spicy punjabi curry

A wholesome simple winter meal which I like to serve as a warm salad, this roasted butternut squash dish is quite versatile. A bit more gravy and it can be a curry eaten with naan or rice; boiled in vegetable broth, it can be a delicious soup served with homemade dampers.

In this recipe, I toss in some garlic and cooked chickpeas with roasted butternut squash and fiery spices and serve it topped with shredded zucchini, thinly sliced red onions, and a wedge of lemon, plus some plain yogurt on the side. This is a fairly typical way of serving a spicy vegetable side with flatbreads like parathas and naan in India.

As I don;t typically measure the spices for such an impromptu dish, here's just a list of the ingredients used: tamarind paste, tomato paste, garam masala, turmeric and salt to taste.

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Farro Eggplant Kale Casserole

Farro cooks chewy and moist in a rice cooker with 2 cups water/stock per cup of farro. Sliced zucchini, sliced eggplant, sliced tomatoes, kale are are good layers to add to this casserole. This time, I went with whatever was handy. Casseroles are perfect to use up leftovers.

2 cups cooked farro, seasoned
½ cup seasoned ricotta cheese
½ cup colby jack cheese, grated
½ red onion sliced thinly
½ cup sliced black olives
1 cup seasoned cooked ground turkey (optional - I use TVP instead)
1 long Chinese eggplant, sliced into rounds
1 cup chopped kale


  1. Assemble in layers: onions, farro, ricotta, olives, colby jack, eggplant, farro, TVP or ground turkey, ricotta, kale, olives colby jack
  2. Cover with an aluminium foil and bake in 425°F oven for about 30 minutes
  3. Top with thin sliced zucchini and serve warm with cucumber raita

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Scotch Potato Falafel

scotch egg potato falafel envelop

Things enveloped in things, enveloped in things... ad infinitum has been quite a tradition with the royalty around the world and through the ages.

Scotch eggs come about in my kitchen on and off, especially since the kids and the other half like it with pasta and sauce. The usual Scotch egg I make for them is fairly standard, with only the flavoring customized.

While I am not a big meat fan, I don't mind occasional turkey or chicken, maybe salmon or halibut, that's about it. No red meat, no other exotic meats. 

So, to satisfy my tastes, I make Scotch eggs my way: instead of ground turkey, I use falafel batter for the outer coating. And, sometimes, I substitute the boiled egg with par-cooked largish new baby potato. That, in short, is the Falafel Scotch Potato/Egg

Turkey Enveloped Scotch Egg

ground turkey shawarmaIngredients
For the coating layer:
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp Bragg liquid aminos
1 tsp Shawarma spice mix
1 tsp Cajun spice mix
1 tsp celery seeds
½ tsp ground oregano
1 tsp demerara sugar

1 Tbsp oil

5 boiled eggs, peeled


  1. Combine the ingredients for the coating layer and mix well
  2. Rub some oil in the palms and flatten a ball of meat mixture
  3. Envelop the eggs with this seasoned meat mixture coating 
  4. Bake in a 425°F oven for about 20 minutes; I prefer it well done rather than underdone so, I turn off the heat and leave it in the oven for an extra 5 minutes
  5. Serve warm with salad or vegetable sides like green beans and peas and potatoes; my kids prefer it with pasta and sauce, or pasta salad with veggies

Falafel Scotch Potato

I try to keep the falafel batter envelop layer fairly thin for quick cooking; if the consistency of the batter is not just right, the outer layer will crumble easily. It has happened to me quite a few times - adding flour and baking powder per Bittman's recipe seems to work consistently well, especially if the batter is fairly thick to be able to shape.

Incidentally, veggie balls dipped in chickpea flour batter, called Bonda, is a favorite tea time snack in India. Any filling can be used, but, typically it is mashed potatoes, carrots, peas and onions. I remember "Egg Bonda" that a neighbor aunty used to make and share with me. Bonda is fried in oil. In that sense, this falafel wrapped baked eggs is much like the Egg Bonda from my younger days, only not as much oil involved.

 ground turkey scotch eggs

1 to 1½ cups any standard falafel batter - I use soaked chickpeas ground, with added flavors like garlic, tomato paste, salt and cayenne pepper powder; Mark Bittman's recipe works well
a few par-cooked new baby potatoes 
a couple of boiled eggs
a tablespoon or so of oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
  2. Envelop the boiled eggs and par-cooked potatoes with the falafel batter
  3. Bake in the 375°F oven for about 10 to 15 minutes turning it around, and turning the pan around as needed, depending on your oven
  4. Remove from heat, allow to rest before cutting open to serve

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Roasted Kalettes or Flower Sprouts

Kalettes (or Flower Sprouts) is a hybrid vegetable gaining popularity, so, naturally, I had to try it.  We love Kale as well as Brussels Sprouts at home, so, what's not to like about Kalettes which are a result of natural hybridization of the two.

I went with a simple roast kalette dish here. Toss the kalettes with a touch of olive oil, salt, black pepper, plus some sliced red onions. Roast in a 425°F oven for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Both the kids at home loved kalettes prepared this way, so I'll be making it often as a quick vegetable side.

Another way I like it is to saute some onions, garlic, tomatoes in olive oil, toss in the washed kalettes,  a splash of stock, a dash of Shawarma spice powder, cover and cook till wilted and a bit tender. Enjoy as is, or with naan or roti.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Oatmeal Chocolate Rounds and Lemon Bars

I am not much of a desserts fan, as is probably obvious from the small number of desserts/sweets posts shared here. Cookies don't interest me at all, neither does cakes or pies.

Anyway, kids wanted to make something special for Santa so we can set it out the night before Christmas when Santa was scheduled to stop by.

Oatmeal chocolate rounds is really easy and there are many variations and names for it among the bakers of the world. This recipe here is tailored to make it easy for the resident 9 year old to make. I use a mini muffin pan to place the rounds to freeze - easier to handle this way. But, can place in a cookie sheet and freeze if preferred.

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup small marshmallows
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp molasses
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
⅛ tsp nutmeg powder
¼ tsp ginger powder

1 cup whole grain quick-cooking oats
¼ cup dry grated coconut


  1. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate, butter, and marshmallows
  2. Add the flavoring ingredients, stir well, then add the oats and coconut and stir well till it comes together
  3. Remove from heat; use a tablespoon and scoop out a heaping spoonful to make a round; and place each round in the depressions in the mini muffin pan
  4. Leave the filled mini muffin pans in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes; remove and serve; or save in an airtight container and store in a cool dry place

Lemon bars are fairly standard as well. I couldn't bring myself to add too much butter, so, added some canola oil instead. And, I made it extra lemony, slightly sour-sweet, which is the preferred flavor for the kids at home. It turned out fine for our tastes at least.

For the crust:
1 c flour
¼ cup demerara sugar
¼ cup butter
3 Tbsp canola oil

For the filling:
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp flour
¼ tsp baking powder

a few tablespoons of powdered sugar for dusting (optional)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F
  2. Combine the crust ingredients to a uniformly crumby mixture and press down in an 8x8 baking dish and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes in the 350°F oven til lightly brown
  3. Meanwhile, make the filling: beat the lemon juice sugar and eggs till a bit thick, for about 10 minutes; then, stir together the flour and baking powder, and add it to the beaten lemon-sugar-egg mixture
  4. Pour the filling over the baked crust and bake in the 350°F oven for another 20 to 25 minutes
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool; the bars will firm up as they cool; dust with powdered sugar if preferred
  6. Cut into small squares for serving

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Eggplant, Beetroot and Tofu with Curry Leaves and Oregano

Some curry leaves, spring onions, and oregano leaves garnish this simple sauteed dish. The flavors are derived from southeast Asian cuisine - a bit of tamarind, dry red chilies, ginger and garam masala.

2 cups Eggplant, cubed
1 cup cooked Beets, cubed
2 cups Tofu, cubed

6 Curry leaves, some torn, some whole
1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves (optional - I had it handy in the garden)
1 Tbsp chopped spring onions
4 dry red chilies, broken into small pieces
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp tamarind concentrate (sold as Sour Soup Mix in Asian stores)
2 Tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 Tbsp garam masala powder
1 tsp demerara sugar or jaggery or brown sugar
1 Tbsp chili oil
1 Tbsp canola oil


  1. Heat the oils in a pan; add the broken chilies, grated ginger, torn curry leaves (reserving whole curry leaves for garnish)
  2. Add the tofu, beets, and eggplant, saute to coat with oil, add the rest of the flavoring ingredients, add a splash of water, cover and cook till eggplant is done
  3. Garnish and serve warm with rice

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Indian Baby Eggplant in Rich Coffee Infused Sauce: Bhagare Baingan with a Twist

One of the things that gets me into the kitchen every day to cook for my family is the endless possibilities for combining flavors and spices and arriving at a dish that is tailored to our palates, and nourishes and satisfies us all.

That, and the opportunity to get a bit creative and take liberties with the recipes I grew up with, as well as incorporating ingredients from cuisines of the world for a fusion infusion.

Kathrikkai, Vazhuthananga, Badhanekayi, Vankaya, Baingan... so many names for this pretty purple fruit in India.

Bhagare Baingan is a dish packed with flavor, built layer by layer, involving a multi-step process that results in the slit-and-stuffed baby Indian eggplant floating in a rich aromatic gravy.

I do take shortcuts and use substitutions on and off. Why? Well, Why not? And, because I can. And because I am curious to see if any other combination gives me just as much satisfaction.

This time, I had a cup of brewed decaf espresso roast coffee ready and wanted to see how it affected the flavor of this delightful dish that I enjoy often in its traditional form.

Also, I skip the first step of frying the slit eggplant to par-cook before simmering in the sauce, and directly simmer the eggplant in the sauce.


For the Masala Paste:
2 Tbsp roasted peanuts
2 Tbsp grated coconut
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon toasted poppy seeds
1 Tbsp cumin powder
2 Tbsp Tamarind concentrate (sold as Sour Soup Mix in Asian stores)
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 teaspoon canola oil
½ teaspoon salt

About 8 small baby Indian eggplants

Curry sauce:
1 cup (8 oz.) brewed decaf espresso roast coffee (or any dark, unflavored coffee, caffeinated or not)
¼ cup vegetable stock
¼ cup mirepoix - finely chopped celery, onions, garlic
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 Tbsp canola oil (or ghee, if handy)
salt to taste

Garnish Finish:
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon nigella seeds
2 dry red chilies, broken to pieces
a handful of fresh curry leaves


  1. Masala Paste: Grind the Masala paste ingredients and keep handy
  2. Slit-and-Stuff Eggplant: Just like for the Indian baby eggplant curry, slit the eggplant and stuff it with the Masala paste; there will be plenty of Masala paste, so reserve the remaining for the curry sauce
  3. Curry Sauce: In a pan, heat some oil or ghee; add the mirepoix, saute; then add the ginger garlic paste and tomato paste, a dash of salt and saute some more; add the remaining Masala paste left over from stuffing the eggplant, saute a bit more
  4. Simmer: Add in the coffee, stock, stir to incorporate; and place the slit-and-stuffed eggplants in the sauce, turn the heat to low, cover and allow to simmer; turn the eggplant every 5 minutes or so to cook all sides evenly, checking to make sure the sauce is not too dry (add water as needed); turn off heat when done
  5. Garnish: heat oil or ghee in a small pan, when the oil shimmers, add all the ingredients listed for the Garnish finish; wait till cumin seeds pop and curry leaves turn a bit crisp; remove from heat and pour over the finished eggplant curry
  6. Serve with warm basmati rice or naan or roti

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Brown Lentils, Pearl Barley, and Pearl Millet Dosai

What's not to love about flatbreads, right? It is a perfect universal food - for soaking up delicious dips and curries and chutneys; for loading up with veggies and wrapping up for easy consumption; for relishing the simple earthy goodness.

Dosai, a south Indian flat bread, is traditionally made from rice and urad dal. I have taken liberties with it making variations such as Brown Rice Dosai, Soy Bean Dosai, Adai Dosai Waffles, while relishing the simple and sumptuous traditional Mysore Masala Dosai, Adai Dosai, and Onion Rava.

Of course, there's the Ragi Dosai, (ragi is finger millet), which by itself is lovely for its rich color and flavor. But, this time, I went with a combination of brown lentils, pearl barley and pearl millet to make the dosai batter.

Dosai batter is typically allowed to naturally ferment before it is ready for cooking in the griddle into flat breads, crispy or spongy. To help it along, I add a dollop of home-fed, home-grown starter.

Grape Starter: A few grapes from the garden tossed into a mix of flour and water has been doing the magic for us. Wild yeast abounds in late summer early fall and it seemed like a great way to keep a bit of it to last us through the winter. So, since late summer this year, we have fed the starter and kept it going, in between periods of leaving it dormant in the fridge.

Using this grape sour dough starter to ferment the dosai, idli, injera batters adds a pleasantly sour taste and surprisingly quick results for fermentation.

¼ cup pearl millet
½ cup pearl barley
¼ cup brown lentils
¼ cup moong dal
¼ cup urad dal
1½ cups short grain brown rice
1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon grape sour dough starter

Combine all the ingredients except for the starter; soak overnight; grind to a smooth fine batter; add in the starter, cover and leave in a warm place for a few hours, or overnight. Stir every few hours to see if it is fermented to your liking. I like it bubbly and sour.

Salt the batter before making crepe or pancake like dosai on the griddle. Add finely diced onions, grated carrots, chopped chilies, chopped cilantro, even chopped kale to boost the dosai.

Enjoy with chutneys, sambar, curries.

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Friday, December 05, 2014

Sage & Thyme Garlic Lemon Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes

With the tight workday schedule, slow cooker is such a boon for me to get warm and flavorful meal ready on weeknights with minimal effort and a bit of planning-ahead.

Boneless, skinless chicken breast was marinated for about 2 hours one evening after I came back from work. Marinade: some white vinegar and Bragg liquid aminos. After finishing the evening's meal and clearing away the dishes, reading to the kids and tucking them in bed, I get to start on the next day's dinner.

1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
½ cup mirepoix chopped
half a lemon, cut into wedges
1 Tbsp oil
Potatoes & Carrots OR Butternut Squash & Taro Root, chunky-cut
salt to taste
2 to 3 cups chicken stock/broth as needed

  1. Heat a cast-iron skillet, add some canola oil and allow it to heat up as well; toss in some sage, thyme, a dash of salt, and mirepoix  (chopped celery, onions, carrots, garlic); sauté
  2. Add the marinated chicken breast, allow to brown on one side, flip and turn off heat and allow the chicken to sit in the hot cast iron skillet till the veggies and the slow cooker are prepped.
  3. Add enough stock to the slow cooker that will immerse the chicken completely and turn it on
  4. Chop carrots and potatoes into chunks; or, for an amazing combination of flavors, chop butternut squash and taro root instead
  5. Place the chicken in the slow cooker, add the chopped veggies, lemon wedges, make sure there is enough stock to immerse the chicken, and leave the slow cooker on at low heat setting overnight
  6. Check for doneness next morning - if the chicken is cooked, can turn off heat and let it sit till dinner time; toss in some frozen peas if preferred
  7. Warm and serve with brown basmati rice or freekeh pilaf.

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