Quick Toss Pasta and Garlic Bread

There’s only so much a girl can do on a winter day! If it is not the winter blues then it is the winter blues imagined! Cold, dreary, icy wind across the country and I one of the luckier citizens should not rightfully complain.. NC is still a wee bit in the south and we experience the lower double digits mostly at night. We never have to go through it during the day! Brr….If only I could hibernate.. I would gladly do so. So today was one of the days, I spotted gray in the clouds and a bit in my mane. Sigh! Vanity takes a severe blow and suddenly certain things become more lucid…Grey or no Grey, dinner time remains!

Ravaging into the pantry yielded many things, but I gleefully pounced on my container of Pasta ( whole grain one ). It also yielded a french load bread …A quick makeover with a dash of fresh herbed garlic butter and I would be set to go.

Quick toss pasta and Garlic bread

This is a minor variation from the earlier post– the spiced pasta one.

Ingredients :

  • Cooked Pasta : 3 cups ( cooked al dente)
  • Sliced sweet peppers : 2 cups
  • Onion , thin sliced : 1
  • Vine Ripe tomatoes : thin sliced : 2
  • Crushed Garlic : 2 -3 cloves
  • Red pepper flakes : 1 tsp ( optional)
  • Italian herbs mix – dried kind : 1-2 tsp
  • Dried parsley : 1 tsp.
  • Garam Masala : 1 -2 tsp
  • Curry powder : 1 tsp.
  • Oil of your choice : 3-4 tsp.
  • lemon juice : 1 -2 tsp.
  • salt : per taste

Procedure:

  • Cook the Pasta of your choice in a pot of boiling water and as per the instructions.
  • In a wide skillet, add in the oil of your choice and heat it up and toss in the crushed garlic, dried herbs, red chili flakes .
  • Add in the slivered onions, cook them and then toss in the bell peppers and tomatoes.
  • Toss them in gently, and salt this mix so you have crisp but tender veggies .
  • Add in all the seasoning and masala mixes you are using. Give it a thorough stir.
  • Now add in the pasta and toss it with veggies. 
  • In about 5 minutes or so, you should have nice and awesome mix of pasta and veggies.Perfectly seasoned!
  • Pile it on a plate, add a dash of lemon juice  and eat with a side of garlic bread !
Quick toss pasta with bread
Quick toss pasta with bread

Garlic Bread:

  • French bread : 1 loaf
  • 4 Tbsp of butter
  • Minced garlic : 4 -6 cloves
  • Dried herb mix : 2 tsp.
  • Dried black pepper powder : A huge pinch

Procedure:

  • Mix room temp or softened butter with minced garlic, herbs and a dash of black pepper.
  • Slather it on the slit french loaf of your choice, cut in thick wedges , bake/ toast in a toaster oven for about 4-6 minutes at 375 deg F or until slightly brown but crisp.

Dig in!

 

Quick toss pasta with bread
Quick toss pasta with bread

Peach Banana Cinnamon Quick Bread – Moist, Fresh and the Perfect Bite of Summer!

My awesome neighbor dropped a few peaches off for me late yesterday night. Thanks, SP! An unfortunate mix up at the local farmer’s market resulted in an excess bounty of these luscious, fresh,locally grown king peaches! Holy cow! These were pretty, beautiful and begging to be bit into.. Well,Hello Beautiful !!!! You are more than welcome at my place 🙂

So there I was, having a few quiet few minutes to myself, in the wee hours of the morning.. Quiet hours after a bout of insane re -org of the pantry. What,you surprised? Any one who knows me recognizes I go into these occasional bouts of  super clean re -org required in the pantry.. Labels, library books, color coding .. You get the picture 🙂

 

Farmer' market Bounty
Farmer’s market Bounty
Hello Beautiful!
Hello Beautiful!
Ripe, luscious , perfect!
Ripe, luscious , perfect!

In any case, there was this huge basket filled with luscious peaches and speckled bananas calling out to me. Zip, zap and a few more.. This is one delectable piece  and so easy to make. Seriously, my trusted magic bullet came to the rescue and plus I did not feel like messing up the super clean counters…

And here it goes.. the ingredients and method required to make this super delicious,moist and very quick bread!

Wet:

  • Mashed Bananas : 2 large ripe bananas  ( approx. 1-1.25 cups) super speckled and very ripe
  • Firm peaches 2 numbers  : 1.5 cup of finely diced peaches ( skinned is better)
  • Natural Brown Crystal sugar : 1/3 cup
  • Olive oil : 1/4 cup.
  • Large Egg : 1 ( or substitute with flax seed ratio equivalent to one egg.)
  • Pure vanilla extract : 1 Tsp.
  • Plain yogurt : 1/3 cup

Dry:

  • Self rising flour : 1 and 3/4 cup
  • Baking Soda : 3/4 Tsp.
  • Ground Cinnamon : 1.5 Tsp.

Topping:

  • Thin sliced peaches – 10
  • Ground cinnamon: 1 Tsp.
  • Brown Sugar : 1 Tbsp.

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF
  • Grease a 9 by 5 inch bread loaf pan.I used olive oil to great the pan.
  • Whisk the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl – the self rising APF + baking soda+ cinnamon powder and set aside.
  • Mash/ Puree the bananas. Add in the egg and whisk it very well. Add in the sugar, vanilla extract and whisk very well . Add in the yogurt and oil and whisk it very well again .This entire process of mine happened in one jar of  magic bullet. Neat uh? You can go the traditional way and use the hand mixer or stand mixer too.
  • Fold the dry ingredients aka flour mix into this very gently.
  • Add in the diced peaches and fold it gently into the batter.
  • Empty the batter into the prepped loaf pan.

 Topping:

  • Gently toss the sliced peaches and sugar and cinnamon together so as to coat the slices very well.
  • Top it on the wet batter.
  • I just sort of lined them all up.

Baking:

  • Bake at 350ºF for about 45 – 52 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes clean. Mine was done in about 45 minutes.
  • Cool for about 10 -15 minutes in the pan.
  • Transfer to a wire rack. Let it cool down well before cutting into nice thick slices..
  • Serve it straight up, warm, toasted or let your imagination run riot!

 

Optional:

Chopped walnuts would add in a nice crunchy twist to this as well.

 Want to make this Vegan?

  • Substitute the egg with flax seeds ratio substitution ( 1 egg = 1 Tbsp. of flax seeds + 3Tbsp. of warm water. Dry grind the flaxseeds in spice grinder, add in the warm water and whip it to a very creamy consistency to be used in the place of an egg.)
  • Swap the yogurt for applesauce.

 

Aviyal ( mixed vegetable stew in yoghurt ) – Comfort food – Soul speak and more !

Ever wondered how you reach for the thing that speaks to that one spot in your heart or soul or more logically to the EQ of your brain ? Be it a bowl of ice cream or rasam, a favorite movie, a dog eared book, your favorite spot in the house overlooking the garden,  you reach for that one cozy comfort place when your emotions hit a low- be it the weather gods playing snarly, or your mood gods deciding “blue” was your mood hue for the day.

In any case you tend to gravitate towards the one  that fills your belly and soul and sort of reminds you of the comfort of your mom’s wisdom. Today was one such day! Cannot really put your finger on it, but it was  a blah day sort of..I just wanted to cozy up and snuggle in the warmth of the comforters and watch a movie or drink a cup of chai or read  a book or anything but get up drive and work or .. you get the picture. Passive aggression intentions apart, since none of it could actually materialize, even the spaghetti western I started with did not run through the session, and dinner was on the cards, I fell back to the one pot meal trick, and an eternal favorite in our house when we were grew up!

Here’s to soul food, mom’s wisdom and warm hugs 🙂

Comforting stew of vegetables in yoghurt base aka “Aviyal”

  • 3 cups of mixed vegetables in total , cut 1- 1.5 inch lengthwise and boiled/ tender cooked with salt and turmeric –
  • Melange of winter melon, yellow squash, cluster beans, string beans, french beans, raw banana, carrot, yams, drumsticks,chayote squash, tindora etc. ( I normally do not use okra, brinjals, onions in these. These also do not need tomatoes, onions or garlic, Satvic , I say  !)
  • Add these vegetables to boiling water with a pitch of salt and turmeric and cook till tender. The other option is for to   pressure cook these . Just take care that vegetables do not turn mushy.
  • Once cooked , strain the excess water ( using minimal water while cooking will prevent loss of nutrients ) and let the vegetables cool down a bit.

To grind:

  • 6-8 green chillies
  • 2 inches of peeled ,chopped fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 tsp of jeera
  • 2 tbsp of fresh grated coconut or shredded frozen coconut
  • 12 almonds  ( In traditional cooking we do not use almonds. My family does not take too kindly to a lot of coconut hence the substitution 🙂 )
  • Grind all of these to a nice thick paste with little water to ensure a nice smooth consistency.
  • 3 -4 cups of thick fresh yogurt or curd is whipped into this ground mixture.

Final stage prep:

  • In a bit saucepan or cooking pot, on low heat ( Important : please keep it on low heat . High heat will split the yoghurt and remember you do not have any besan or ground channa dal to prevent it!) add the  fresh yoghurt – ground chili coconut mix to the boiled vegetables.
  • Stir in gently and season salt to taste.
  • I generally let this stew  for another 5 –  7 min just to ensure the spices and yogurt mix is nicely coated and then turn the heat off.
  • To add in a touch of authenticity , a dash of pure 100% edible coconut oil could be added.  This stage is completely optional.
  • There are a plethora of variations to this stew. Few people believe in adding curry leaves sautéed in coconut oil. Some add in a dash of tamarind to the ground masala mix to add in the tanginess. I prefer the natural tanginess of fresh yoghurt and personally do not subscribe to the sour version of it.

In any case, you cannot go wrong in any version..Make a big bowl,  and indulge with a side of Paapad and hot steaming rice ! I did and did not regret it a bit..

Veg Malai Kofta ( with Gulab Jamun mix ) – Creative conclusions of a bare pantry

Alright.. Snowed in. No fresh veggies and in absolute cranky , cabin fever mood. I mean really  I love the snow  as long as I can see it not live with it, and for me to be iced in with snow , sleet and rain is like a big Oh No! . With due apologies to folks in the NJ, NY, Chicago and Dc area etc. You see in Cary, NC, a couple of inches of snow and ice is a big thing! We don’t usually get it and when we do, we love it. But this time twice in 3 week span was a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong the first time was amazing  and we sooooo loved it. Second time ,with schools out again for another 3 days, we were so ready to be done with it.

So while the landscape resembled a Yash Chopra film, pretty snow covered grounds, a white blanket of romance awaiting those who are willing to indulge in it I suppose –  Snowman and strong forts assembled, snow angels made, snowball fights and hot cocoa.. Eventually the younglings tend to wander in from the damp cold into the warmth of the house. Their utter fascination with snow exhausted for the day and hopeful of renewing it  the next day ( unlike their mom’s – it usually lasts an hour or two with me ). But then you do need to feed the bellies.. And you want something , hot, nice, with a bit of spice ( blame it on the genes ), maybe even indulging in some deep fried stuff. And something different. And something special!

A1,2,3 all love this fare and A3 my youngest claims “kofta” is his favorite vegetable. In all honesty, necessity is the mother of invention.

Inspiration : Contents of the pantry and the fridge .

Scavenging results yield: 4 onions + 2 tomatoes + ginger + 2 potatos + few sprigs of cilantro +1 can of diced tomatoes + handful of spinach leaves + a few green chillies

And drum roll please… ” star of the show “ :  A neglected packet of MTR Gulab Jamun mix expiring in 3 months time or so.

Thinking hat on :

Gulab Jamun mix is obviously a mix of milk powder and all purpose flour with a pinch of soda bi-carb to it. It has a mild taste to it , which gets deviously delicious after soaking in flavored sugar syrup..( I mean a wallflower all dressed up, and the makeover lands her the prom queen title  kind of analogy ).

In any case, these became the faux malai koftas  of my creation.

FAQ : Prep time : 45 – 60 min ( including frying the kofta balls )  Yield : 24-36 Kofta balls  Consumption time : Instant

A. Dry Spice grind : Initial Grind

Roast all these in about a 1 tsp of oil and set it aside to cool and pulverize later on. Don’t be daunted by the ingredient list or by the exact measurements. Use your own substitutions if required.

  1. Poppy seeds : 1 tsp
  2. Elaichi or green cardamom : 4-6 . I used it in their skins
  3. Cashews – whole or broken – about 12
  4. Almonds with skin – 6-8
  5. cloves – 2
  6. cinnamon stick – 1”
  7. fennel seeds or sauf – 1/2 tsp
  8. Jeera – 1/2 tsp

Roast and grind these well into a coarse powder initially and then add a few tablespoons of water to make a thick paste of sorts in the blender.

B. The gravy aka the base :

Saute all these in  the sequential order of listing here in about 1-2 tbsp of oil and wait for it to cool down before blending to a thick , smooth chutney like consistency.

  1. finely chopped ginger – 1 inch
  2. optional : 2 cloves of garlic
  3. Onions  : 3 ( chopping these finely will make them sautéed faster )
  4. Then add in the diced tomatoes and canned diced tomatoes
  5. Sautee well till you see reduction in the mass 🙂
  6. Let it cool before you blend it into a smooth paste. No need to add water.

C. Making the Kofta balls

  1. Boil the potatoes and mash it well.
  2. To this add finely diced 2 green chillies. Remember , the spice is to tickle the palate .. not kill it.
  3. Add in 1 small onion , finely chopped as well
  4. Add in 1 inch of finely grated ginger
  5. Add 1/2 tsp of crushed kasuri methi
  6. Add in a handful of finely chopped spinach leaves
  7. Add in a few spits of finely chopped cilantro as well.
  8. Add in some salt, say about 1/2 – 3/4 tsp of it.
  9. Optional : you can add more spices or masalas to this mix at this point if you feel like it
  10. Add in the gulab jamun mix in stages to bind this . If required add in a few tablespoons of water to bind it well .
  11. Your dough should resemble a big golf ball or a couple of big golf balls depending on the base mix. See that’s the best part, this recipe is entirely scalable to your needs 🙂
  12. Make small lemon sized  ball out of this.  Remember these swell up in the gravy base, so don’t make it too big !
  13. To fry – Fry these in medium to high heat alternate settings in a flavorless vegetable oil.  You need to maintain the temp of the oil using the alternate settings  so you cook it thoroughly . You don’t want burnt kofta balls or a half cooked mess on your hands !

Final prep stages :

  • In a large non stick wide mouth saucepan or kadai , add one tsp of oil. Add in some cumin seeds and on sputtering, add in a tsp of crushed kasuri methi.
  • Add in the purred tomato onion base and the ground masala paste with 1/2 cup of water.
  • Let this boil for a min or two. Check for the salt and pieces and thickness of the gravy, You do not want it too thick or a runny base either. Most likely  you will need to add in 1/2 tsp of chili powder if you need to up the spice ante and some salt to taste. You will also notice a possible oil separation on the top layer. Turn off the stove or maintain it in low heat, until ready to serve.

 To serve: Kofta buildup

Do this just before serving dinner. Nope you cannot do it ahead of time. And if  you do it ahead of time, the kofta balls will get too mushy and soggy.

Place the required number of warm koftas in a serving bowl and add the hot gravy to it. That’s it.

No need to mix or swirl or anything else. A swirl of fresh cream can do wonders and turn this faux dish to near authentic. But honestly, drenching the balls with the gravy and garnishing it with cilantro is just good enough.

Serve it with hot phulkas and a cup of steaming basmati rice !

Lip smacking!!

 

 

16 bean dumplings of glory!

NC boasted of an insipid and listless weather. It did not quite make up its mind on the sunny scale and we the poor residents were left with drizzle and chills , and added winds. So what do you do on a cold and lousy weather day.  Adding to the list of variables, 3 kids with cranky temperaments in various level in the crank-o-meter scale .  And it being Navrathri, we were fast exhausting the tolerance for steamed lentils ( aka sundal). Coming to my rescue was a packet of 16 bean soup mix which I had bought some time ago. And this recipe was born !

Ingredients:

  1. 16 bean soup mix – 2 cups ( check my notes for substitutions)
  2. Brown basmati rice – 1.5 cups
  3. ginger – 2 inches ( skinned )
  4. whole black pepper – 2 tsp ( but please adjust according to your spice levels)
  5. Byadagi chilli –  2
  6. Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  7. Fresh grated coconut – 2 tsp ( optional)
  8. Curry leaves – 2 healthy sprigs
  9. Coriander leaves – a fistful, washed and finely chopped.
  10. Salt : 1.25 tsp or to taste

Preparation time :

  1. Soak the 16 beans in sufficient water for 4 hours at least so it can get rehydrated very well. Soak it along with the ginger , black pepper,cumin seeds and red chillies.
  2. Soak the brown basmati rice in a separate bowl with sufficient water. 4 hours should do for this.

Process:

  1. Grind the beans soaked along with ginger, red chilies and black peppers to a coarse paste.
  2. Grind the soaked rice to a fine paste.
  3. Mix the two to yield a nice semisolid batter.
  4. Add salt , and finely chopped coriander and the curry leaves
  5. The batter is now ready for shallow frying, deep-frying or to make thin or thick pancakes.

Shallow frying process:

  1. If you own a mini pancake pan in cast iron or non stick for stove top cooking, cyber high five for you! . This is exactly what I use.
  2. Heat the pan, add a drop of oil  or more in case of cast unseasoned cast iron pan, drop in spoonfuls of the batter , just until the holes are 3/4 full.
  3. Make sure you cook in medium heat. You will know the pan is ready when you add the batter in and it sizzles !
  4. In about 2-3 min, you can find the edges browning , you can flip it over. I used a bamboo skewer ( make sure it is dipped in water) to ease the process.
  5. Once flipped, you can see the reddish golden orbs of goodness glistening.
  6. The bottom side should take another couple of minutes to cook.
  7. These are sizzling hot, make sure you wait a couple of minutes before you put it in your mouth.
16 bean pan fried dumplings
16 bean pan fried dumplings

Deep frying:

I will commend you on taking this bold step ! Oh ye brave soul, if you decide to go for this process , you just need to drop spoonfuls of batter in hot oil in a wok.

Points for consideration/Notes:

  • Make this more nutritious by adding grated carrots, zucchini, squash, chopped spinach etc.
  • Batter a little runny? No worries ! Add in a tbsp of rice flour. No rice flour at home ? Improvise. add in corn meal, wheat flour etc. Yes, the taste will differ , but you would you rather not try it before you decide?
  • Make think pancakes out of this. It’s quite yummy.
  • Don’t have 16 bean mix – add a variety of lentils that you have. This is protein packed , so a missing lentil or 2 or 5 should not matter.
  • Sprouted lentils, beans? is even better.

I give in!

I have been gently prodded, bugged and more or less nudged to compile my list of experiments, recipes and the general affirmations and decimations that stewed in my kitchen!..Well affirmations more so, and decimations when I finally utilize my organic and molecular chemistry aka common sense in most cases to figure out why certain experiments did not really fare well..

Well here I am after so many odd years of kitchen chemistry and well meaning friends to embark on this journey, so to speak!

Salute!