Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Sesame Quinoa with Maple Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

It's been a long time since I've had quinoa.

It's pretty easy cook and doesn't take much time at all to prepare (about 10-15 min).

I'm also a big fan of pumpkin seeds, both for their taste and nutritional value (high in protein and one of the best vegetarian sources of zinc). Here, they've been coated with maple syrup and then roasted for a few minutes.

Sesame Quinoa with Maple Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Monday, September 26, 2005

Rajma Tikkis

Like pakoras and vadas, tikkis are a common snack in India. The most popular is the pan-fried type made from potatoes, Aloo Tikki. But since I wasn't in the mood for a separate dal, I decided on a more substantial kidney bean variation, Rajma Tikki.

I substituted semolina for the cornflour in the recipe, since the stuff would otherwise just sit in the pantry.

Cutting it into 1/8ths wasn't enough, so after this picture I split each 1/8th once more for a thinner tikki.

Most tikkis are pan-fried. I'm sure this one could've been as well. But pan-scrape messes really annoy me, so I followed the recipe and deep-fried them

Rajma Tikkis (with a mixture of last night's leftovers)

Related Entries:
Mixed Vegetable Pakoras
Amai Vadas

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Saag Chole and Zucchini Pepper Pulao

Thom, my friend from New Orleans, decided to start his life over in the Bay area. Until he finds a job and an apartment, he'll be staying with me. I generally tone the heat down on the Indian dishes I make for non-Indian friends. However, since Thom's a Louisiana boy and no stranger to hot and spicy food, I didn't hold back tonight.

I had tons of leftover spinach from the Sai Bhaji, so I put it to use in what's probably my favorite spinach dish, Saag Chole. It's also commonly known as Chana Saag.

My personal version follows the basic template of Chana Masala. But instead of (or in addition to) tomatoes, well-cooked spinach is added to the fried onion and spice mixture. I had a tomato on hand, but I opted to save it for a dish that would highlight both the tomato's flavor and color.

About a pound and a half of spinach boils down to about 2 cups.

Once the onions are translucent it's time to fry the spices.

It doesn't very green yet, but it will once everything is put through the food processor.

I also had an extra red bell pepper and zucchini from the Sai Bhaji night, so I made a quick pulao to go along with the Saag Chole.

Related Entries:
Arugula Saag Chole and Aloo Gobi Mattar
Masala and Movies

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Sai Bhaji

My roommate Ketan introduced me to a great Sindhi dish known as Sai Bhaji. I was too tired to cook at first, but the smell coming from the of the kitchen revived me. I made a quick batch of Jeera Chaval (cumin rice) to accompany the main dish.

Ketan's mini-pressure cooker gets a lot of use.

I almost burned the rice! The aroma from the sai bhaji was so good and masked the scent of the cooked rice.

The spinach was silken from the pressure cooking. I'm definitely adding this dish to my repertoire.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Fabulous Super Powers

For all of you old school He-Man fans...

What's Going On?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sabz Biryani & Aloo Poshto

Tonight was the first house meeting for our newest roomie, Jesse. I haven't officially cooked for the whole house in... oh I don't even remember. Biryanis are elaborate, layered rice dishes that are meals all by themselves. I prepared a modified version of the following biryani recipe. You'll notice that some of the measurements were in metric. I used 2 cups of uncooked rice and one large onion, and then tailored the rest to what vegetables I had on hand and personal preference.

I tinkered with the masala paste a bit and added sweet paprika. I love that vibrant red!

After the rice was cooked, I spread it out to allow dry slightly. Biryani calls for alternating layers of rice and vegetables, so letting the rice cool and dry a bit is a good idea, as the vegetables have a ton of moisture.

Speaking of moisture, I had to turn the flame on high to get rid of the extra liquid from the vegetables. Otherwise I would've had a vegetable and rice stew.

Aloo Poshto is basic compared to biryani, so I didn't use any specific recipe. It calls for fried potatoes covered in a sauce of roasted white poppyseeds.

You can either roast the poppy seeds and then grind them into a paste or grind them first and fry the paste in the oil used for the rest of the dish. The seeds are really small and easy to burn, so I opted for the second option. Along with the paste are some cumin seeds and mustard seeds that were fried a minute or two beforehand.

Since I was concentrating on the biryani, I oven roasted the potatoes with a mixture of oil, garlic, and cumin powder.

Normally the potatoes would be fried on the stovetop, but this way I could just put them in the oven and forget about them for a good 30 min.

Sabz Biryani and Aloo Poshto, served with Sweet Potato Sambar

One of the topics of discussion was my friend Thom from New Orleans. My roommates gave the green light for him to stay with us while he looks for a place and a job in the Bay Area. He'll be arriving within the next two weeks. The roomies from left to right: Ketan, Jesse, and Natasha.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sweet Potato Sambar and Mysore Vadas

Sambar and vadas are a traditional pair in South Indian cuisine. There are as many variations of sambar as there are households in India, but they generally fall into one of three major types: tamarind, tamarind and dal, and buttermilk. I prefer the thick tamarind and dal sambar, both for taste and $$$ savings.

Many spices used in Indian cuisine are used as much for medicinal purposes as taste. According to Ayurvedic principles, ginger and turmeric are digestive aids and are often added to a pot of boiling legumes.

Mysore vadas are pretty different from the amai vadas I made a while back. Instead of the typical ground lentils, mysore vadas are made from a mixture of rice, all-purpose white, and semolina flours. For my personal variation, I replaced the all-purpose white flour with whole wheat pastry flour with a touch of baking soda.

The stiff batter was easily shaped into rounds ahead of time. With lentil vadas, this preliminary step is nigh impossible, as the lentil batter will spread out over time. In practice though, I discovered this really didn't save much time at all.

The following spices were fried in oil and then ground into a paste with a bit of water: fenugreek seeds, chana dal, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, white poppy seeds, and black peppercorns. A hallmark of South Indian cuisine, and part of what differentiates it from North Indian cuisine, is the use of roasted/fried dals as spices.

Fried spices must be cooled sufficiently before adding them to an electric grinder with plastic parts. To quickly do this, spread them out thinly in a metal pan and place the sheet over a cool surface.

After the masala paste (diluted first in some more water) is added to the cooked dal, the following spices were fried and added whole: hing, curry leaves, and mustard seeds.

This process is known as "tempering", "chaunk", and "tarka" in various regions of India.

Sweet Potato Sambar and Mysore Vadas, served with Tamarind Chutney

If you're curious about this dish, as well as South Indian cuisine in general, check out Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India.

Related entries:
Amai Vadas

Monday, September 05, 2005

"George Bush doesn't care about black people."

At an NBC telethon for New Orleans aid, Kanye West ditched the teleprompter. It's like "Strangers with Candy" in real life...

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Creole and Cajun cuisines are often found in the same restaurants, and before I went to New Orleans, I only had a vague idea of the distinction. Chuck of the Gumbo Pages explains the basics here.

Since I had a Creole dish on Thursday, I chose a Cajun one today. After a single recipe, I've become a big fan of the Gumbo Pages, so I went there again for dinner inspiration. The recipe for Maquechoux (pronounced "mock shoe") caught my eye, as it was unlike any corn dish I've prepared before.

I have a big plastic tub that I wash all my veggies in. I prefer to dunk and swish veggies in a lot of water, instead of constantly running the tap.

I'll be honest. Despite the recipe calling for corn cobs, I fully planned on using frozen corn kernels. However, the freezer was being cleaned out at the natural food store across street, so I had to use the corn cobs. But in retrospect, I'm glad. Fresh corn definitely tastes better than frozen or canned.

I used to be a regular at the "Nightmare on Oak Street" vegan potlucks (more on that at a later date). But having to wake up at 5am on weekdays made 7:30pm on Sundays a bit difficult to attend. Yay for Labor Day! I veganized the original maquechoux recipe by using Earth Balance non-hydrogenated margarine and boiled down soymilk instead of butter and condensed milk.

Another change I made to the original recipe was the addition of lacinato kale. I had tons in the fridge and I hate good greens going to waste.


Related entries:
Creole Red Beans and Rice

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Creole Red Beans and Rice

With all the news of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has been on my mind. I was there for Halloween 2003 and have very fond memories of hot weather, hot food, and hot men. In light of the overwhelmingly depressing news about the current situation in New Orleans, I needed something positive to think about. I decided on having Creole Red Beans and Rice as a tribute of sorts to one of my favorite cities.

Generally when I make red beans and rice, I just use a generic prepared spice mix for the seasoning. On this occasion that just would not do. I went online searching for a good recipe and settled on Chuck Taggart's Red Beans and Rice found on his website, The Gumbo Pages.

Here's a closer look at the assorted spices. Clockwise from the top is garlic powder, sweet basil, oregano, onion powder, cayenne, black peppercorns, thyme, and celery seed. In the center is paprika, the leading spice in the dish by volume.

Instead of a mock-sausage, I went with thinly sliced tempeh, marinated in soy sauce, tabasco sauce, and thyme. I discovered this combo by happy accident a while ago. This actually tastes a good deal like a cross between bacon and sausage.

Due to the tabasco sauce and thyme, the marinade flavor isn't very Asian at all, despite the soy sauce.

I've tried salt and water as a marinade for tempeh used in non-Asian dishes, and it just doesn't compare. Plus the soy sauce gives it such rich color when fried.

For the most meat-like flavor, it's imperative that you slice the tempeh very thinly (1/4 inch at least, less preferred). Otherwise, only the outer layer will be fried, leaving a moist center which won't taste as much like bacon/sausage. It's inevitable that some slices will be a bit too thin. Don't worry. Crumble them into small bits, let them soak in the leftover marinade, then fry them up after the slices are all done.

There was some serious volume to this mixture of onions, green bell peppers, and celery. I kept the heat on high for a good while and stirred well. There was plenty of water from the veggies to prevent scorching.

After adding vegetable broth and the creole spice mixture, I let the pot stew for a while before adding the beans. I used canned beans, which would've disintegrated if they had been added to the pot too early.

Dried kidney beans that had been soaked overnight would've been ideal, as the flavors would've penetrated the beans more. But I decided on this dish in the middle of day rather than the night before.

Creole Red Beans and Rice served with Steamed Lacinato Kale