Sunday, September 14, 2014

Spicy Stuffed Eggplants / Bharwa Baingan



It was a hot Sunny day.  The school bell rang for the break.  The first graders lined up behind the line leader.  They went outside under the shades of the trees to have their brunch/snack.  She opened her lunch box, saw the jelly sandwich, had couple of bites and put it back into the lunch box, drank her water from the pink pony water bottle that she fancied.  She was interested in chit chatting with her friends than eating her sandwich and sipping the water as a relieving thirst quencher on the scorching hot day.   One hour of recess didn't seem to be good enough for her, the giggling, whispering, kids running around were abruptly ceased when the bell rang again to get back to the class.  She made sure her navy blue pinafore was clean, grabbed the lunch bag and her fancy pony water bottle and went back to the class.  After another hour or so she heard the bell for dismissal.  She ran to her pre schooler brother's class room and he was all ready to join his sister way back home.  She grabbed his hand and told him not to run way back to home which was just the next block.  Her little brother was kind of running to get back to home with his water bottle string running across his chest and back pack on his back.  She tried her best to keep up with the pace by juggling her chart paper of drawings she made in the art class, pony water bottle and the back pack, but he made it to the home before her and pretended as the winner.  She was eager to complain to her Mom about him for not paying attention while crossing the road.   They saw their Mom waiting at the door with a smile.  As soon as she entered the home, she got the aroma of the home made Rotis and her favorite stuffed vegetable dish. She forgot about what she wanted to tell her Mom.  Mom got the bags and water bottles and asked them to change and wash hands to sit down for lunch.  As a picky eater, she never preferred non-vegetarian, so when the Mom served her favorite ghee slathered Rotis with the spicy gravy stuffed vegetable dish, she enjoyed each and every bit of it since she was hungry and was waiting for the warm homemade food that her Mom made with Love. .....Aww that was one typical day of my childhood elementary school days.


Since my childhood days in North India I never had the stuffed vegetable dish once we moved to Kerala.  My Mom's cooking style changed drastically.  She prepared more south Indian food.  Whenever I visit her now, I remind her of the stuffed Okra, stuffed bitter guard and stuffed eggplant she used to make.  But for some reason she never made it for me again.  It was last year, I got to taste the stuffed eggplant after so many years at one of the friends gathering, I was totally thrilled to experience my childhood taste and I even bragged my hubby about it and wanted to recreate it.  So I kept hunting for the recipe desperately and finally with couple of tries I made them to the fit our palate.  Couple of months ago my Mom and Dad visited us and I made this dish and surprised them.   This recipe may not be the authentic version, but this is how I make it and my hubby loves it to the core. 


Please read the recipe to the end and the notes before you start.  Please follow the steps as mentioned in the recipe to get a consistently cooked eggplant that tastes delicious and have the look.

Ingredients:
10 - small Indian eggplants(refer notes)
2 tbsp. - oil

Stuffing
1/2 tsp. - cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. - fennel seeds
1/4 tsp.  - turmeric powder
1/3 cup - caramelized onion paste
1 1/2 tsp. - ginger garlic paste
1 tsp. - kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp. - coriander powder
1/2 tsp. - garam masala
1 tbsp. - dry mango powder/Aamchur (refer notes)
1 1/2 tbsp. - oil
salt to taste
chopped Cilantro to garnish


Directions:
  • Wash and pat dry the eggplant and leave it open in the air to remove any moisture.
  • Meanwhile you can prepare the stuffing.  Add 1 1/2 tsp. oil in a cast iron pan/non stick pan.  Splutter the fennel seeds and cumin seeds on low heat.  Now add the ginger garlic paste and cook till raw  smell is gone.  Add the caramelized onion paste and mix well.  Add the rest of the ingredients from the stuffing list and cook till the raw smell is gone.  Adjust the salt.  Turn off the flame and let it cool.
  • While the stuffing is cooling, make slits in the eggplant by cutting the eggplant from the bottom into 4 quarters without cutting the stem and top part.  You should be able to gently separate the 4 pieces with the stem intact. 
  • Using a butter knife apply the stuffing in the inside of the cut eggplant.  Make sure that it should not be over stuffed, just enough to coat the insides.  There should be some left over of the masala/stuffing.  Reserve it in the pan.
  • Take another cast iron pan (refer notes) and heat 2 tbsp. of oil.   Place the eggplant in the pan without over crowding.  They should be touching the bottom of the pan.  Cover and cook on very low heat for 10 minutes.  Now open the lid and turn the eggplant on other side, and cook it covered for 10 minutes.  You have to repeat this turning sides and cooking on low heat for 10 minutes on each side.  So it takes approximately 40 minutes to get the eggplant cooked completely.  After 30 minutes of cooking, add the reserved stuffing into the pan and cook along with the eggplants.  The dish is ready when the eggplant is very soft and delicate, but still retains the shape.  Turn off the burner.
  • Garnish the stuffed eggplants with chopped Cilantro and serve with steamed rice or Indian flat breads.
Notes:
  • Pick the fresh and the smallest eggplant from the stores.  You can find them in Asian stores or Indian stores.
  • Dry Mango powder also know an AamChur is available at Indian stores.  This ingredient is not recommended to skip.  It gives the tangy flavor and dark color to the dish.
  • A wide Cast iron pan is highly recommended to cook the eggplant which helps in even cooking.  My trials with non stick pan resulted in half cooked  eggplants and burned stuffing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tempered Yogurt With Tomatoes, DrumSticks and DrumStick Leaves / Muringa Ella Morru Curry





Onam is around the corner!!!  Yes, it’s a festival of Kerala (South India) that each Malayali takes pride in and celebrate it where ever they are.  Last year we had a family Onam Sadhya (feast) hosted at our house.  We dressed up in Kerala attire and had our vegetarian feast on banana leaves (of course the fake one). If we had planned ahead, we could have got hold of some fresh banana leaves.  Oh well, it really doesn't matter, all that matters is the fun you have when you feast together as a family or with friends. 





When I spotted the fresh drumstick and drum stick leaves at the Indian store the other day, I don't know what my emotion was.  It’s hard to explain, I am pretty sure that my face was blushing due to excitement when I confirmed that it was drum stick leaves with the store manager.  The next thing in my mind was to cook up something with it.  The specialty of Malayalis is that they can make anything and everything with a vegetable.  Just name a vegetable and you can come up with tons of recipes with that.  If you are a Malayali, you know exactly what I meant.  So with this in my mind I called up my Mom to get the recipe with 'Muringa Ella' and reminded her of the small ziplock bag of leaves I got from the store.  She recommended this curry and I still had the taste of this curry lingering in my mouth from last India visit.  So all I had to do was to recreate the traditional Keralite taste which was apt for the Onam post. 



Ingredients:
1 - onion sliced
2 cloves - garlic sliced
3 - green chili splits
3 - medium tomatoes cubed
1/2 tsp. - turmeric powder
10 - pieces of drumsticks
1 tsp. - oil
salt to taste

To grind
1/2 cup - grated coconut
1/4 tsp. - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp. - cumin seeds/jeera
2 - small shallots sliced
1/3 cup - water

 For Tempering/Tadka
1/2 tsp. - black mustard seeds
2 - dry red chili
1/4 tsp. - roasted cumin/jerra powder
1/4 tsp. - roasted fenugreek/methi seeds powder
1 tbsp. - thinly sliced shallots
1 cup - tightly packed clean drumstick leaves
1 sprig - curry leaves
1 tbsp. - oil
2 cups - thick yogurt

Directions:
  • In a non stick or heavy bottom sauce pan heat 1 tsp. of oil and add the onions, green chilies, garlic and turmeric powder.  Sauté for 1 minute.  Add the drumsticks, mix well, cover and cook for 5 - 6 minutes on low to medium heat.  Open the lid and add cubed tomatoes and mix well.  Lower the flame and cook for another 5 minutes or till the drumstick is well cooked, but still have the shape.  Turn off the burner.
  • While the drumstick is cooking you can grind all the ingredients from the list into a smooth paste.
  • Add the ground mix to the cooked drumstick mix.  Add additional 1/4 cup water if needed and let the mix come to boil and cook for another minute and turn off the flame.
  • Use the same blender jar and add the 2 cups of yogurt and blend it; pour into the cooked drumstick mix and stir well.  Make sure that the flame is turned off at this step.
  • Prepare the tadka by heating 1 tbsp. oil in a non stick pan and splutter the mustard seeds.  Then add sliced shallots.  Once the shallots starts to turn golden brown, add cumin/jeera powder, fenugreek powder, dry chili.  Lower the flame and add the curry leaves and drumstick leaves.  Mix well. Turn off the flame.
  • Pour the tadka over the spiced yogurt curry.
  • Enjoy it with steamed Kerala brown rice.
Notes:
  • You can make this curry even without drumstick and drumstick leaves, it will be the tomato yogurt curry.
  • Make sure that you turn off the stove before you add the blended yogurt, otherwise it will curdle.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Grilled Corn On Cob With Chipotle Lime Butter



It was a chilly evening, we were cold enough to bundle ourselves in hand woven sweaters and scarf.  Walking along the side of the Carnival field we noticed a small crowd.  They were gathered around in circle.  A skinny old man sitting with a fire pit and heap of un-husked farm fresh corn was the center of attention.  He was religiously husking the corn and grilling it on the fire pit.  As a pro he seasoned it with some spices, slathered some hot ghee and fresh lime juice over it.  There were other stalls on the carnival field, but nothing got any ones attention as this man did.  People were enjoying the freshly made warm corn with the luxury of the outdoor fire pit. The aroma of grilled corn was irresistible.  My dad bought the piping hot grilled corn for us.  The aroma of the hot spicy and tangy dressing over the grilled corn was like a perfect tranquilizer to tame the gusto in us.  We headed to the rides while enjoying the corn. On the way back home from the carnival, we noticed few people meandering around the fire pit. With observant care few were watching how the man was trying to wrap up his act.  A little girl was helping him to collect the corn husks.    The smoky fire ashes from the fire pit were still lingering in the air and the clamor of the crowd was getting feeble.  With sleepy heads and contented hearts we headed back to our scooter to get back to home. That must have been an assiduous grilling in the late night for the old man!!!



These plum red hot Thai peppers are from my vegetable garden.






Hot Cherry/Capperino pepper from my garden. 

I was craving for the spicy grilled corn from the beginning of summer.  Finally I made these Chipotle Style grilled corn with lime butter and it was really lip smacking.  I insist that you try this recipe before the corn season ends.  Lets grill some spicy corn!!!



Ingredients:
4 ears - Corn on the cob with husk on

Chipotle Lime butter
1 tsp - chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce chopped
1 tsp - small Thai hot peppers chopped (seeds removed)
1/4 tsp - chipotle grill mate/paprika powder
2 tbsp. - softened butter
1 tsp - chopped cilantro
2 tbsp. - lime juice
Sea salt to sprinkle

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
  • Arrange the corn with the husk on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Let it cool.
  • Mean while mix all the ingredients under Chipotle lime butter using a spoon.
  • Pull the husk towards the stem of the corn and tie it using a yarn or thread.
  • Brush the Chipotle Lime butter on the corn and place directly above the grill.
  • Rotate and grill corn for 5 to 6 minutes or till small brown spots appear on the kernels .
  • Apply some more Chipotle Lime butter and sprinkle sea salt and enjoy.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Super Easy 4 Ingredients Mango Cream Cheese Popsicles


Am I posting too many dessert recipes these days?  Do you think so?  I didn't forget my resolution I took beginning of this year to post more savory items.  But you know things happen.  Not to mention that the busy schedules on summer makes it nearly impossible to cook an elaborate dish and spend time for the photo shoot.  But I assure that I will be posting an interesting savory dish next time  :).




Recipes with lesser number of ingredients and minimal steps always draw attention.  A longer list of ingredients may deter some readers even though the steps may not be intricate.  So here is a simple yet delicious recipe that uses only 4 ingredients and can be prepared with 3 simple steps.  Go ahead and try this summer treat while the Mango season lasts.  If you are a Mango fan, you are going to love it!!!




Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup - Mango puree without pulp
1 1/2 cup - low fat milk
1  (8 oz) package - plain cream cheese
1/2 cup - sugar

Directions:
  • Blend all the ingredients in a blender.
  • Pour into Popsicle molds and freeze overnight.
  • Enjoy the creamy Mango Popsicles on a Sunny day!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Creamy Dark Chocolate IceCream



Once you own an ice cream maker, you are constantly in the hunt for new recipes and you will experiment with all the possibilities that could whip up.  I have to warn you that its pretty addictive.  At least that is true in my case.  I love making ice cream for my kids rather than buying them.  My kids are at the point where they say No to the store bought tub ice cream.



People who know me always inquires, 'But it seems suspicious that you make these and don't gain any weight?'.  Well, the truth is that I don't have a big appetite for sweet treats, I enjoy them moderately.  The guilt of indulging too much sugar and the fear of increase in waist line always haunts me, so as soon as the inner conscience starts to bicker, I evade from the sweets :)  That doesn't stop me from making them and enjoying them moderately.  Baking and preparing desserts are therapeutic to me.




Here is the recipe of Creamy Dark Chocolate Ice Cream I made couple of weeks ago.  I also made some Popsicle with layering vanilla (before adding chocolate) and chocolate ice cream out of this recipe.  But I never got the chance to take pictures as they were dissipated into thin air when I decided to serve them to the group of kids in my family who were exhausted after a fun filled volley ball match in our backyard.


Ingredients:
4 cups - half and half
5 - egg yolks
1 cup - sugar
1/2 tsp. - salt
1 tsp. - vanilla extract
1 cup - semi sweet dark chocolate chunks/chips

Directions
  • Whisk the egg yolks together in a bowl and keep it aside.
  • In a heavy bottom sauce pan, mix  half & half, sugar and salt and bring to simmer.
  • Take 1 cup of the warm half & half mixture and pour into the egg yolk mixture by whisking continuously.  The egg mixture is warm enough now.  Pour the egg mixture back into the sauce pan.
  • Cook the mixture for 15 - 20 minutes by stirring continuously on medium heat till the mixture reaches custard consistency and coats on the back of the spoon.  Turn off the burner.
  • Take the bowl with 1 cup of chocolate chips/chunks.  Pour the hot custard through a fine mesh sieve (to remove any coagulated egg) into the bowl with chocolate chips.  Use a spoon to stir continuously so that the chocolate melts and mixes well.
  • Add vanilla extract and stir well.
  • Cover the custard and refrigerate over night.
  • Make the ice cream according to the ice cream maker's instructions.
  • Enjoy them fresh or store them in air tight container in the freezer.
  • If you don't have ice cream maker, pour them into Popsicle molds and freeze.  Either way you can enjoy this silky smooth and luscious treat on a sunny day!