‘Lemon-Cilantro’ Couscous

Today’s recipe is ‘Lemon-Cilantro’ Couscous. Couscous, pronounced as koos-koos, made its way into my pantry very recently, like about a month ago. Though I had tasted couscous dishes before at friends’ place and parties etc, I hadn’t tried them out of my habit to stick to my routine recipes. Well, finally when I explored the couscous culinary world, it wasn’t a hard shift at all. It is a very bland grain that doesn’t effuse its own strong flavor, just like rice. That makes this grain very versatile in terms of usage, since you can literally make anything with it like pulav, upma, salads, soups, or plain couscous with any side dish. In fact couscous is a type of parboiled semolina pasta, made from durum wheat. It is relatively high in protein and fiber. The whole wheat version is definitely healthier.

Now, going on to the ‘Lemon-Cilantro’ recipe, it is quite similar to the lemon rice recipe, except rice is replaced by couscous:

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Couscous  – 3/4 cup

Water – 1 1/4 cup

Olive oil – 2 table spoon

Cumin – 1 tsp

Mustard – 1/2 tsp

Urad dal – 1 tsp

Asafoetida – 1/4 tsp

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Curry leaves – 1 sprig

Green chilli – 4

Peanut or cashew – 1/2 cup

Cilantro – 1/2 bunch

Lemon – 1

Salt – 1 1/2 tsp

Sugar – 1/4 tsp

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In a pan, boil water with 1/2 tsp oil and a pinch of salt. Add couscous and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Switch off the stove and let the couscous cool down.

In a heavy-bottom or non-stick pan, add oil. Once it heats, add in mustard,urad dal and cumin. When the mustard splutters, add curry leaves, green chillies and asafoetida. Stir for couple of minutes, add in turmeric and peanuts. Stir for another minute and add the cooked couscous. Sprinkle salt and sugar and mix well. Cover the pan and let the couscous cook in low for about 5 minutes. This helps the flavor of all ingredients seep in. Switch off the stove and add chopped cilantro. Squeeze in the lime and mix well. Serve ‘lemon-cilantro’ couscous while it is still warm.

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Quinoa

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I was skeptical about the super food, Quinoa when I first heard about it, not for its nutritive value but for its appeal to my South Indian palate. One of my first concerns was how I would make this relatively bland food more acceptable to my spice-addicted taste buds, but not for too long! I took to an instant liking to quinoa when a friend of mine once offered me simple home-made quinoa salad for lunch. The salad in fact, was quite filling, still light on stomach. The recipe for quinoa salad is simple and easy.

Quinoa              – 1 cup

Water                – 1 1/2 cup

Olive oil            – 1 tsp

Tomato             – 1 cup cubed

Cucumber         – 1/2 cup cubed

cilantro              – 1/4 cup chopped

green onion       – 1/2 cup chopped

mint leaves        – 2 tblsp chopped

salt                       – to taste

black pepper      – 1 tsp crushed

green chilli         – 1 chopped(optional)

lemon                  -1/2 juiced

Wash quinoa thoroughly and strain. In a pan, keep water to boil. Add quinoa and salt and let it cook. Switch off the stove and let the quinoa cool. Add in the chopped vegetables and other ingredients. Keep in the refrigerator to cool. Mix well and serve cold.

You can also do other healthy variations to this recipe by adding different combinations of vegetables like corn, bell pepper, onion, pomegranate, pickled olives, sun-dried tomatoes etc. You can add grated ginger for an extra zing or feta cheese for a twist. Use your creativity to bring a change in taste.

http://www.thegardengrazer.com

I have also used quinoa as a substitute for a regular dish like upma(Indian semolina dish) or pulav. Still, the salad is my personal favorite. Quinoa’s status as a super ‘grain’ is in fact a misnomer. It is a ‘seed’ rich in protein that delivers almost all the amino acids required by our body. It is also gluten-free and wheat-free which makes it a hot commodity among consumers intolerant to these components. It is rich in phosphorous, magnesium and iron, and is a good source of dietary fiber. These are reasons enough to incorporate this healthy substitute in my family’s menu more often than before 🙂

To give a brief history, Quinoa got its name from Spanish and its origin is in the Andean regions of Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Columbia.

Plantain chips

When I crunch into one of those freshly made plantain chips, also called banana chips, it is the heavenly smell of God’s own country that I inhale! I call them mystic food. Back home, all we had to do to eat fresh chips was to walk down to the roadside vendor, who sieved the hot chips right out of the gigantic pan of simmering coconut oil to a large container and pack them for dear customers. Every time my India visit would wind up in the last- minute purchase and packing of my suitcases with these yums to the brim.

I had tried my hands on making these chips at home from fresh raw plantains bought at the local supermarket. My effort in recreating the original flavor here in US always fell short in terms of taste, texture or crispness. Whenever my brother visits, it is a ritual for us to make deep fried food, mostly puris(Indian deep fried bread) with potato gravy on Sunday mornings, which is a form of brother-sister bonding. But this time around, we strayed away from puris to plantain chips, reminiscent of ‘those’ times. He was also equipped with gadgets for precise slicing and coconut oil to add authentic flavor, knowing him for a perfectionist in his culinary indulgences. And man, didn’t it pay off this time? We got to taste near perfect plantain chips that my friend’s son was willing to pay $5.00 per lb for!

All you need for the plantain chips are

Raw firm plantains                                             – 2 or 3

Oil (Canola  )                                                          – 3 cups

Coconut oil                                                             – 1/4 cup

salt solution(salt 3tsp, water 1/4 cup)   – 1/4 cup

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Wash the plantain, wipe them, cut the ends and make about 3 slits lengthwise on the peel. Make sure it doesn’t make its way into the flesh. Put a knife in the slits and slowly peel the plantains. In a large pan, add the canola oil and coconut oil and turn on the heat. You can also make chips with just one kind of oil. We added coconut oil for flavor. Be careful while mixing. If you add more coconut oil the combination causes the oil to froth and come out of the pan.

Once the oil heats, either slice the peeled plantain straight onto the oil or drop the pre-sliced plantain into the oil. About 1/2 a plantain would suffice for one lot. Stir them occasionally keeping the flame at medium high. Once the plantain feels slightly crisp add 2 tsp of salt solution. It makes a wave like sound for few seconds. Do not be scared by it(If you are scared to add salt solution to oil, you can sprinkle salt once you take the chips off the pan, but this won’t be as tasty). Turn over the chips so the salt gets everywhere, reduce the flame and strain them onto a bowl lined with oil absorbent paper. Now the chips are ready to be consumed. Indulge yourself guilt free as they are homemade and there are no additives that you don’t know of, at least! After all, who doesn’t want to indulge in the guilty pleasure of deep fried delicacies every once in a while.

Eeradye(Turmeric leaf sweet dish)

When my husband urged me to plant turmeric root in our back-yard, little did I know of his intentions in making a sweet dish wrapped in turmeric leaves! Few months down the lane, the turmeric plant yielded around 10 to 15 leaves, and we decided to cut the leaves and make his favorite delicacy, “eeradye” that is famous among Mangalorians, also called “Elayada” (in Kerala) made with plantain leaves. ‘Ere’ in Tulu is leaf and ‘adye’ is dish.This is very specially made during festivals like Ganesh Chathurti and Krishna Janmashtami. The ingredients to make “eeradye” are

Turmeric leaves     – 10,15

rice flour                     – 1 cup

water                            – about 1 1/2 cups

grated coconut        – 2 cups heaped

jaggery                         -1 cup

cardamom                   – 7,8

salt                                   – 1 pinch

oil                                      – 1 table spoon

20140928_095815FunFirst, in a pan add 2 tablespoon of water and put in the jaggery. Keep on low heat for 3,4 minutes till jaggery melts. Add the grated coconut and stir for about 5 to 7 minutes till you get a dry mixture. Powder the cardamom, add to the pan and mix well.

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Wash the turmeric leaves and let it air dry. (This can also be made with plantain leaves. The plantain leaves are more stiff and need to be slightly heated to make it make them limp.) In a small vessel, mix rice flour and water to make into a batter-like paste. Add a pinch of salt. Smear the inside of the leaves with oil. Put about a teaspoon or two of rice flour batter and spread it evenly on the leaves. Spread evenly the sweet mixture on one half of the leaf and fold it.

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In a cooker, add one cup water, place a colander or steamer inside and place the stuffed leaves gently on the top so the steam reaches everywhere. Close the cooker with a loose lid and leave it for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and take out the eeradye and let it cool for about 5 minutes. All that is left to do is inhale the aroma of the steamed leaf, gently remove the outer cover  and savor the sweet dish wrapped inside.

I like this delicacy for its simplicity and low calorie. It is not laden with tons of ghee, unlike other sweets. Kids too seem to have taken a liking for its unique taste. Nothing to beat the feel of coconut-jaggery duo with a sprinkle of cardamom and the authentic flavor of turmeric/plantain leaf.

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Curry leaves

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http://www.organicfacts.net

 

Curry leaves have been more of a way of life for me than just an ingredient in my South Indian kitchen which is now globalized! It has been around ever since I can remember. I have always carefully removed these leaves from my plate, that adorned the flavorful curry poured on top of steaming rice. Wonder where the flavor came from?! Of course, curry leaves played a major role, bringing aroma when seasoned with coconut oil, red chilli and mustard. The flavor is double fold when it is added in ground form with rest of the spices that typically go into south Indian cooking. As if its place is not enough in our palettes, it finds its way in hair products that the customers can testify for with their thick, black, long hair!

As a child, I was oblivious of the benign qualities of this simple leaf(well,it doesn’t have the air and hype of fenugreek  leaves or mint leaves). It was just there in the household and our backyard on the big curry plant, and I knew it will be part of my grocery list when I grew into an adult. It is amazing how the consumption of curry leaves helps in healthy and shiny hair and slows premature greying and hair fall. It is also considered a great remedy for skin problems. It is believed to be rich in iron and helps prevent anemia. It has excellent anti-oxidant properties. It also has medicinal values and helps keep diabetes at bay, by keeping blood sugar levels in check. All these knowledge acquisition has brought me into chewing on the curry leaves on my plate in the vain hope of reversing my hair greying process!

What more reasons are needed to include curry leaves in your diet. They can be part of your diet starting from breakfast, with a hot plate of idli sambar and chutni, or masala dosa, all the way to dinner with a sumptuous meal of bisibelebhath and a side serving of buttermilk flavored with curry leaves and green chillies crushed with a pinch of salt. The list is endless. All you need is creativity.

I, for one am glad to be born amidst the curry leaf culture, for something great would have been amiss if it was otherwise. I look at the two pots of nurtured curry plants in my patio and feel and reminisce the simplicity that life was!!

 

Potato spinach frittata

Frittata

For the longest time, my husband managed to stay away from kitchen, quite diplomatically, except for mealtimes! Off late there has been a transformation since an accidental tryst with cooking about a year ago. He urged me to buy a Panini maker to which I retorted not to count on me to make anything with it. On came the Panini maker with my husband’s cooking skills, out of the blue!  Over time, he has expanded his range with many recipes to follow his trademark Panini, like the lasagna, burrito rolls, taco breakfast and fusion sandwiches. Usually, whenever he enters the cooking arena, he is full on in action. Each dish has been ardently tasted by my kids, never to fail the quality test!

In fact, to my disgruntlement, they even placed him above me in the culinary department, when my younger one quipped one day, “mom, you don’t have dad’s magic touch”. Oh well!! I secretly feel happy, for now I could delegate part of my chore to someone else while I can find time to write about it. One thing I now do more often is praise his efforts, quite diplomatically, not that he doesn’t deserve it!!
Today, I will share with you one of his nutritious and wholesome recipes that he found on a website. It is quite filling in itself and provides good amount of protein, vitamins and minerals: The Potato-spinach Frittata.

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Ingredients: 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 russet potato, thinly sliced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Nonstick cooking spray

Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Put a baking sheet into the oven to preheat.

In a large bowl combine 1 tablespoon of the canola oil with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the sliced potatoes to the bowl and toss to coat. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, and add the potato slices, making sure they are all in a single layer. Transfer to the oven and bake for 8 minutes.

In a skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and spinach and saute for another 2 minutes.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, milk and remaining salt and pepper. Mix in the cheese and the onion and spinach mixture and set aside.

Spray an oven-proof baking tray with nonstick cooking spray. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F. Remove the potatoes from the oven and add them to the baking tray. Pour in the egg mixture and transfer the tray to the oven. Bake until the eggs have set, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, directly from the baking dish.

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spinach-potato frittata

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sandra-lee

Banana bread

 Banana Nut bread
banana bread

The ripe bananas with their blackened peel sit on the kitchen counter top, eying at me as if eager to go on their destined trip to the blender. Usually that’s where they all end up, in my smoothie blender, sometimes in the good company of strawberries or blueberries or anything that is labeled healthy, to meet the daily requirement of fruit servings for my kids.

This time around, I decided to take the bananas on a surprise trip to the oven, instead. Yes, the banana cake or banana bread recipe is something I resort to as a form of indulgence. But I personally lean more towards banana bread for its healthy ingredient list. The ummph so exploding aroma of freshly baked banana bread, hot and soft,  is heavenly. I only see them come out of the oven and vanish ever so quickly into the ravenous palates of my family.

The recipe I follow for banana bread is:

Brown sugar                         1/2 cup

Butter                                        1/4 cup

Eggs                                             2

Whole wheat flour             1 cup

Wheat or white flour        1/4th cup

Oatmeal                                    1/2 cup

Baking powder                      1 tsp

Baking soda                             1/2 tsp

Cinnamon powder              1/2 tsp

Salt                                               1/2 tsp

Nutmeg  powder                  1/4 tsp

Ginger powder                      1/4 tsp

Mashed ripe bananas         2

Walnut                                        1/2 cup

banana-walnut bread

Heat butter in a bowl. Add egg and mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well with a spoon and let it all blend well. Pour the mixture in a greased bread pan and bake it at 350 degree F for 45-50 minutes. You will know when it is done from the golden brown color. You can also test it by pricking with a fork to see if the inside is cooked. Take it out of the oven and let it stay for about 10 minutes. Serve warm. Wrap the rest in a plastic wrap, when cool.

Bon appétit 🙂

 

 

 

Banana bread

 banana bread

The ripe bananas with their blackened peel sit on the kitchen counter top, eying at me as if eager to go on their destined trip to the blender. Usually that’s where they all end up, in my smoothie blender, sometimes in the good company of strawberries or blueberries or anything that is labeled healthy, to meet the daily requirement of fruit servings for my kids.

This time around, I decided to take the bananas on a surprise trip to the oven, instead. Yes, the banana cake or banana bread recipe is something I resort to as a form of indulgence. But I personally lean more towards banana bread for its healthy ingredient list. The ummph so exploding aroma of freshly baked banana bread, hot and soft,  is heavenly. I only see them come out of the oven and vanish ever so quickly into the ravenous palates of my family.

The recipe I follow for banana bread is:

Brown sugar                         1/2 cup

Butter                                        1/4 cup

Eggs                                             2

Whole wheat flour             1 cup

Wheat or white flour        1/4th cup

Oatmeal                                    1/2 cup

Baking powder                      1 tsp

Baking soda                             1/2 tsp

Cinnamon powder              1/2 tsp

Salt                                               1/2 tsp

Nutmeg  powder                  1/4 tsp

Ginger powder                      1/4 tsp

Mashed ripe bananas         2

Walnut                                        1/2 cup

banana bread

Heat butter in a bowl. Add egg and mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well with a spoon and let it all blend well. Pour the mixture in a greased bread pan and bake it at 350 degree F for 45-50 minutes. You will know when it is done from the golden brown color. You can also test it by pricking with a fork to see if the inside is cooked. Take it out of the oven and let it stay for about 10 minutes. Serve warm. Wrap the rest in a plastic wrap, when cool.

Bon appétit 🙂

 

 

 

Soppina saaru (Greens-And-Lentils soup)

Soppina saaru or lentils&greens curry

I have been thinking of sharing one of my favorite recipes, Soppina Saaru or simply put the lentils-greens curry, of Mysore fame(For those of you who don’t know about Mysore, it is the princely city of Karnataka State in the Indian subcontinent). Glad that I got to write down the recipe at last for the reasons that it is both tasty and healthy at the same time. Most of all, it is quick and easy to make sans the saute and frying processes, though cleaning the leaves might be a bit time consuming. I learned this recipe from my mother-in-law, the better cook.

The name Soppina saaru came from soppu meaning green leafy vegetables in ‘Kannada’ language and saaru is any gravy accompaniment, like soup. It can be served with rice, chappathi or ragi balls. Everyone in or family just loves this dish for its simplicity and unique flavor. I am thrilled to see my kids’ excitement every time I make this dish and receive positive feedback from friends who get to sample.

Dill leaves....fenugreek leaves...spinach leaves
Dill leaves….fenugreek leaves…spinach leaves

The recipe of Soppin saaru is as follows:

Palak or spinach  leaves  – 4 cups nicely pressed

Methi or fenugreek leaves  – 2 cups

Sabsige or dill leaves – 1 cup

Spring onion(optional ) – 3,4 cut in big pieces

Medium Onion    – one chopped

green chilli   –   5,6

Tuvar dal(split red gram)  – 1 cup

garlic           – 1/2 pod or 5,6 cloves

tomatoes   – 2 big chopped

coconut   – 2 tbl spoon, grated

Salt   – to taste

For seasoning – Olive oil – 2 tsp, mustard – 1 tsp, red chilli – 2,

garlic – 4,5 cloves, curry leaves – 1 sprig, asafoetida – 1 pinch.

Wash and drain all the greens. Put all of the above ingredients except seasoning, in a pressure cooker vessel and add about 2 cups of water. Pressure cook for about 10 mnts or till  you hear 4 to 5 whistles. Switch off the stove, and let it cool down.

Once cool, grind coarsely the cooked mixture of dal and greens in a blender to a watery paste. In a pan, put oil and add red chilli and mustard  for seasoning. When mustard splutters, add garlic, curry leaves and asafoetida. Saute for about a minute. Pour in the blended gravy to the pan. Let it simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes in very low heat. This allows the flavor to get around and seep well. Once done, serve hot with rice or roti(wheat tortilla).

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This simple dish offers the  proteins from the lentil, and all minerals and vitamins from the leafy vegetables combined in one. When you are not up for an elaborate meal that is time consuming, think of Soppin saaru, that saves you times and still gives you satisfaction of cooking a well-rounded meal, not to mention some sincere accolades that might come your way!

Crescent Rolls

Photo:Mansa
Photo:Mansa

One Saturday morning, I was in for surprise when my high-school going daughter volunteered to make Crescent rolls for breakfast. I knew I was in for a treat as always when she decides to be the cook. Before my daughter could change her mind I immediately accepted the offer and jumped in to be her helper, as a way of encouragement. Well, I was in for a double treat for not only was the breakfast delicious, it was light too.

Though it took her a while to get the rolls ready and baked, it was well worth the wait. I want to share this recipe with all the food connoisseurs out there for its smooth, yet slightly crispy and melting feeling when you bite into one.

Crescent Rolls recipe:

Sugar   – 1/4 cup

Oil – 1/3 cup

Yeast – 2 packs( 2 tbsp Eno or Fruit Salt as substitute)

Warm water – 1 cup

Salt – 1tsp

Wheat flour – 2 1/2 cups

White flour – 1 cup

Egg – 1

Add sugar, salt and oil to electric mixer bowl.  Add yeast mixed with warm water to the above( I didn’t have yeast, so we added Eno instead). Add flour and  egg to the bowl. Mix for about a minute, till it forms a large ball. Cover it with a clean towel. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

Make small balls and roll them out into circles 2 mm thick and about 6 inch diameter, like roti or tortilla. If it sticks to the rolling pin, dust some flour before rolling. Cut out triangles of 2-inch width at the rim and going into the center of the circle(just like a pizza slice). Roll each piece as in fruit roll-ups starting out from the wider side, and ending at the narrow side. Place on baking sheet and cover. Let rest for another 10 minutes. Brush with melted butter.

Preheat oven to 415 degrees. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. The rolls are done when they turn golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. You can also see the inner layers of the rolls spread to the sides with the heat, as they form nice crescent shapes.

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Get ready with good appetite for these yummy, yet healthy treat. These can be eaten as snacks with your evening tea or coffee, or as breakfast with a bowl of fruit and a cup of milk as accompaniments.

As the sweet aroma of the rolls wafted across the rooms, all the four of us in the family made it to the kitchen in no time to consume the yumminess in a matter of few minutes. I thanked my daughter for the awesome weekend treat , through my ‘crescent’ smile.