Monday, September 30, 2013

Mixed Greens And Lentil Stir Fry/ Swiss Chard, Collard Greens & Thuvar Daal Stir Fry (Thoran)



 Last week sunshine was in its brim and we enjoyed every bit of it.  This week seems to be sober and dull.. the days are getting shorter, but the nights never seems to be long enough especially when you are an early bird for work.  Fall colors are popping out every where and within few weeks the sunshine is going to fade and darkness is going to take over.  That sounds pretty scary and gloomy right?  I didn't mean to...but that's how I feel now :(.



Fall season is best for greens like collards, Swiss chard, kale etc.  They grew at their peak and produce sweet flavorful leaves.  With the same notion of using these leaves in my cooking, I planted green Swiss chard and collard greens in my garden beginning of summer.  They are really worth a try if you have a small space to spare some gardening in your backyard.  These green foliage not only brings enticing colors to your garden but also makes good nutritional dishes.



 I remember my first experience with Swiss chard, it was a bit awful.  Ok let me share it with you....It was few years ago... I went to this grocery store near my house and they have a huge section for fresh produce especially the leafy section and I literally got stuck there perplexed by what to pick because the mist sprayed crisp fresh leaves were so impelling.  Got my eyes on these red stemmed leaves and quickly picked up one bunch and I had already a plan to make stir fry.  Came home and put on my apron, started cutting, chopping and what not and made the stir fry.  I even bragged to my husband that I got the red spinach (Indian spinach) and it was crisp fresh and so on.  Long story short...something went wrong, may be the red chard was not meant for a stir fry and I end up with a hard leafy dish that made its way to trash after sitting in the refrigerator after one day :(.  I would say I became more cautious about trying the greens after that.  I make use of these collard greens and swiss chard from my summer garden and they are very delicious.  Green chard is very succulent and when paired with collard greens which has a hard texture compared to chard makes a perfect stir fry.



Here are some health benefits of Swiss Chard and Collard greens:

  • Studies shows that chard leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants. These phytonutrients provide antioxidant benefits, anti-inflammatory benefits and blood sugar regulations.
  • Collard greens has the greatest ability of lowering cholesterol among the cruciferous vegetables and thus provides cardiovarscular benefits.  The glucosinolates found in Collard greens helps to lower the risk of cancer by supporting our detox and anti-inflammatory systems.  These green leaves are excellent source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, vitamin E and they provide us with 4 core conventional antioxidants.

Ingredients
1/4 cup - Thuvar daal
1/2 cup - water
1/4 tsp - salt
2 cups - chopped green swiss chard
2 cups - chopped collard greens
1 - medium size onion chopped
1 - clove garlic
3 - green chili chopped
1/2 cup - grated coconut
1/4 tsp - turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp - oil
salt to taste

Tadka
1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
1/2 tsp - urad daal
1/2 tsp - uncooked rice
1 tsp - pearl onions/shallots thinly sliced
1 - dry chili split into pieces
1 sprig - curry leaves
1 tbsp - oil

Directions:
  • In a sauce pan cook 1/4 cup of thuvar daal with 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 tsp salt till well cooked, but retains its shape.  It takes approximately 20 minutes on low - medum heat.  Keep the cooked daal aside.
  • Mix the grated coconut and turmeric powder together in a bowl. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic.  Add grated coconut and crush well.
  • In a cast iron or non stick pan, heat 1 1/2 tsp oil and cook the onions, green chili with salt till golden brown.  Add chopped greens to the pan and stir well.  Make a deep well in the middle of the green and add the crushed coconut & garlic mix and cooked thuvar daal to it.  Cover the coconut mix with the greens so that the coconut and garlic cooks in the steam for 2-3 minutes.  Use a lid. 
  • Open the lid.  Adjust the salt and mix the greens and coconut well till everything gets mixed evenly.  It should not take more than 5 minutes to cook the stir fry.  Remove from pan and transfer to a serving bowl.
  • In a small pan over low heat, splutter 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds in 1 tbsp of oil.  Add the urad dal, followed by rice.  Once the rice starts to puff up, add the thinly sliced shallots and red chili and cook till golden brown.  Turn off the heat and add the curry leaves carefully.
  • Garnish the stir fry with the tadka and serve the thoran with steaming plain rice and yogurt.
Notes:
  • Swiss chard cooks faster than collard green, so make sure that the collard greens stem is chopped finely to allow even cooking.  If necessary add 1 tsp of water to keep the stir fry moist.  But usually Swiss chard is very succulent and you don't need any water if cooked over low heat.
  • When making the tadka, use the low flame, otherwise the urad daal and rice can get burned.
  • Garnish the stir fry just before serving, otherwise the puffed rice will get soggy.  Don't skip the rice, it gives a nice crunch to the stir fry.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chipotle Chicken Pizza








Last Saturday was the first year anniversary of my little space on the blogsphere. First and foremost I thank almighty who blessed me with such a wonderful family, friends and my dear readers who supported me on my journey of culinary. Without your immense support, I wouldn't have made it so far. I look forward for your continuous support and your suggestions, comments and reviews; all really matters to me. So please don't shy away from jotting down your suggestions and comments.


In my previous post, I had mentioned about a Keralite festival named Onam that we celebrate here in US too. We had a function on the weekend to celebrate Onam. It was a mere coincidence that I and my friend decided to put up a stall during the function and it happened to occur on the same day as the blog anniversary. There was lots of baking, canning and packaging happened over the last few days, but I am happy to say that none of my effort went in vain. We were little skeptical in the beginning, but things turned out to be very well and we got lots of positive comments. Unfortunately I didn't get time to take any snaps of the goodies I made. Oh well, that happens I guess...but no regrets. Heartfelt thanks goes to Shema from lifescoops who was there to help us with banner and setting up the table. It was quite a bit of experience.. I am sharing a picture someone took during the function.



Ok, let me come back to today's post. Mexican flavors are well received by my family and when the flavors are combined into a pizza, it’s an ultimate panacea for a dinner dilemma when one asks for pizza and other for tacos. I had been making this pizza for last 2 yrs and it’s an absolute keeper for anyone who loves Chipotle flavors.



The other Chipotle flavored recipes on the blog are Chipotle Style Spicy Chicken Tacos and Chipotle Chicken Quesadilla

Ingredients

Pizza Dough
3 cups - Whole wheat flour
1 cup - all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup - luke warm water
1/2 tsp - salt
1 tsp - extra virgin Olive Oil
1 (7oz) packet or 2 1/2 tsp  - active dry yeast
1/4 cup -luke warm water
1 tsp - sugar

For Chicken
1 1/2 lb - cleaned chicken strips (use thigh meat)
1 tsp - Chipotle grill marinade (Grill Mates Chipotle Pepper Marinade)
1 - Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce chopped (I used San Marcos brand)
1/2 tsp - peprika powder
3 - garlic cloves minced
1 tsp - extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Vegetables
2 cups - multicolor pepper cut into long strips
1 cup - red onion sliced
1 - Jalepeno pepper sliced
1/2  tsp - extra virgin Olive oil
Sea salt to sprinkle

Sauce
2 cups - tomato basil sauce or any tomato sauce
1 tsp - sauce from chipotle chili in Adobo sauce
1 - garlic crushed
1 tsp - extra virgin Olive oil
1 tsp - fresh torn Cilantro leaves

2 cups or more - Mexican cheese blend
sea salt to sprinkle
Olive oil to brush the crust

Directions

Pizza Dough
  • Mix 1 packet or 1 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast and 1 tsp of sugar with 1/4 cup of luke warm water and keep it aside for 10 minutes or till it is frothy.
  • Knead the wheat flour, all purpose flour, yeast mix, salt and 1 1/2 cup of water to form a elastic dough. The dough might be sticky. Add 1 tsp of olive oil to coat the top of the dough. Cover and leave it to rise for 1 hr.

To season the sauce
  • In a non stick pan, roast the crushed garlic with 1 tsp Olive oil till golden brown.  Add the Cilantro leaves and the tomato sauce.  Adjust the salt.  Warm till it starts to boil.  Turn off the burner and keep it aside.
Vegetables
  • Mix the vegetables with Olive Oil and sea salt and keep it aside.
Chipotle Chicken

  • Heat a non stick pan and add 1 tsp of Olive oil and cook the minced garlic till golden brown.  Now add the peprika powder and chicken and mix well.  Add chipotle marinade and chopped chipotle chili.  Adjust the salt; cover and cook  till all the water dries up and the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Turn off the burner.
To Make the Pizza

  1. Pre heat oven to 415 °F.
  2. Punch down the pizza dough and divide it into 2 balls. 
  3. Roll the dough into a thin crust pizzas on a floured surface.  Dust a pizza pan with wheat flour and transfer the rolled dough into the pan.  Spread 1 cup of sauce on the pizza crust.  Apply olive oil on the sides and sprinkle sea salt. 
  4. Add 1/2 cup of cheese blend over the sauce.  Now evenly distribute 1 cup of vegetable mix over the pizza.  Spread half of the chicken above the vegetable mix.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the cheese over the chicken and bake the pizza to 20 minutes.
  5. Make the second pizza with rest of the dough by repeating the steps 3 and 4.
Notes
  • Adjust the chipotle chili in adobo sauce according to your spice level.  They are pretty hot.  I add only a very small amount for kids.
  • You can get the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and marinade from Walmart or any grocery stores.  I used the homemade tomato basil sauce.  Don't skip the step to season the sauce with roasted garlic and cilantro.  It gives a good flavor to the pizza. 


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Green Apple In Yogurt Sauce/ Apple Pachadi


Onam is an auspicious occasion for people who hail from the very southern corner of India.  The festival of Onam is celebrated by Malayalis all around the world.  It is a secular festival celebrated with equality.  Onam reminds me of my childhood days both in North India and Kerala.  My whole family used to participate in the Onam programs while we were in North India.  I vaguely remember the practice sessions conducted at our home for the drama my Mom and Dad were part of and later the Air force group competed against HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) group and won the price.  For us kids, it was the time of merriment, get together and special occasion to get new South Indian style attires.  When we moved back to Kerala, the celebration was different.  We used to put flower arrangement in our Veranda and we celebrated Onam with a huge vegetarian feast at my grand parent's house with all other family members.  Women looked prettier than ever with their golden bordered off white sarees called 'Settu Saree/Settu Mundu' and fresh jasmine flowers on their hair.  Men in their 'Mundu/Dhotis' adds the zeal to the occasion.  We would spend the whole day from dawn to dusk at my grand parents house.



Time flew by and I am here in another corner of the world writing about my childhood memories of Onam.  We have a small community of Malayalis here and there is Onam celebration every year which we all take pride of.  We do participate in many activities with our kids and it is such a joy to see everyone in their keralite attire come together as one big family.  The sumptuous vegetarian meal will be the highlight of the day.  I try to prepare the Onam Sadhya at home and we feast them on banana leaves ( we adjust with the frozen leaves).



Since Onam is around the corner, I want to share a simple recipe that is part of 'Onam Sadhya'.  The traditional dish is made with cucumber, but there are tons of variations to this recipe.  I had prepared the dish with green apples that I picked the other day.  Little Noah was my helper to pick few from a small apple tree from his school.  The apples were not too sour and not sweet either, so it was a perfect pachadi when paired with some steaming rice and mango pickle.



The traditional recipe calls for crushed mustard seeds, but I omit that because I don't like that taste.  Feel free to add 1/4 tsp crushed mustard seeds with fenugreek powder if you like it.


Ingredients

1/2 cup - peeled and chopped green apple ( Granny smith)
1 clove - garlic finely chopped
1 tsp - finely chopped ginger
1/4 cup - chopped shallots or red onions
1 - green chili chopped
1 - dry red chili broken into 2 pieces
1/4 tsp - mustard seeds
1/8 tsp - roasted fenugreek powder
1 1/2 tsp - oil
1 - sprig curry leaves
2 cups - plain low fat yogurt
salt to taste

Directions

  • Splutter 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds in 1 1/2 tsp oil. Add chopped garlic and ginger and cook till golden yellow.  Add chopped onions, salt, red and green chili and cook for 2 - 3 minutes on low heat.
  • Now add the chopped green apple and saute till apple pieces and soft.  Add fenugreek powder and curry leaves and give a good stir.  Turn off the heat.
  • Finally add the plain yogurt to the tadka mix and enjoy with steaming plain rice. 

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