Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bharli Vaangi/Stuffed Spicy Eggplant

Eggplant is one veggie with a lot of names, where if I had so many names I would surely develop an identity crisis! Its known as eggplant, aubergine and brinjal among other names depending on which part of the world you live in. But then its only fair for a vegetable with so many different varieties in terms of shape, color and even taste, to have all these different names. Isn't it amazing how you have the large egg plant which is usually converted to Baingan Bharta in India, the slender long variety which tastes great in a garlic sauce preparation, or then the tiny variety which usually gets stuffed to err its gills!

Apart from this there are countless other ways of preparing the eggplant, so I can't wait to see the entries for the JFI: Eggplant event hosted by Sangeeta of Ghar ka Khana and originally started by Indira of Mahanadi.

My version of the eggplant is a very traditional Maharashtrian way of making it, This involves using the small variety and stuffing it with a mixture of masalas, onions, coriander, peanuts and coconut. The best part is it uses very little oil and is really more steamed cooked than fried. This is my entry for the monthly Jihva For Ingredients:Eggplant event.

Bharli Vaangi/Stuffed Eggplant
1. 5-6 small purple eggplants
2. 1 cup diced onion
3. 1/4 cup desiccated coconut (optional)
3. 1/2 cup roasted peanuts finely crushed
5. 2 tsp Kolhapuri masala. Alternatively, you can substitute the Kolhapuri masala with 1½ tsp red chilli powder, 1 tsp dhana-jeera powder, 1/4 tsp garam masala
6. 1 tsp turmeric powder
7. 1/2 cup chopped coriander
8. Salt to taste
9. 2-3 tsp olive oil

1. Wash the eggplants and slit it in 4 while keeping the end intact. Add some salt and keep aside
2. In a bowl, mix the onion, coriander, turmeric, Kolhapuri masala, coconut, peanut and salt. To this add 1 tsp oil and mix well
3. Now stuff the eggplants with this mixed filling and tie with an edible thread if needed. I leave about 1/4 cup filling to make a "sauce" for the eggplant
4. In a skillet pan, heat oil and add the remaining filling. Sautee till the onions are translucent
5. To this add the stuffed eggplant. Let eggplant roast for 1-2 minutes on each side
6. Cover with a lid and let cook till the eggplant is tender. Do not overcook. You can add some water if needed.

Serve with naan or rice. Enjoy :)

Monday, June 25, 2007


Modak in June you say? I know, I know, the Ganesh festival is still over 2 months away, but when Nupur called for Marathi recipes for the RCI June: Maharashtrian Cuisine event, I just had to make this incredible little pockets of pure joy for this very special event! This event started by Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine is awesome where it calls for bloggers to post regional recipes once a month. This month its my state, Maharashtra's turn so decided to add a little picture of me in a super traditional outfit called the navvari saree which is a nine, yes NINE yard saree which used to be worn by women in the olden days.

Ok, I digress, now on to the real purpose of this post, MODAKS!! Modaks are traditionally made during the Ganesh festival. Without this special treat which is supposed to be Lord Ganesha's favorite food, this festival is just not complete!!
My mom and grand mom also used to make modaks on Chaturthi fasting days, where they fasted all day long with no food or water!! Once they saw the moon rise in the evening they would be able to end the fast with what else, Modaks! This was truly a fun tradition, where there were 21 modaks made specially for the fast ending ceremony. Now of these 21 modaks, only ONE modak had salt in it..yup, not sugar but salt. So the idea was that one keeps eating the modaks till they reach the salted modak and ofcourse the person fasting as the others had no idea which one had the salt as they were all randomly mixed!
While all this was going down, we kids would sit around the person fasting watching with eager eyes, and drooling tongues as none of us were allowed to eat the modaks till the fast ending ceremony was complete. Aah the torture!!! We would pray and pray that the 1st modak my mom/grand mom picked would be the one with salt so that we would be able to get all the remaining modaks...yes we were true hogs!!

This is my recipe for quick Modaks. Modaks are of 3 kinds really: Ukadiche made with rice flour, Kankiche made of wheat flour and steamed, and Tallele which are made of wheat flour and then deep fried. The latter is the easiest to make and thats the one I am making today!
For the outer covering
1. 2 cups whole wheat flour
2. 1 cup water (adjust according to the consistency of the dough)
3. 1 teaspoon oil
4. 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Filling & Assembly
1. 2 cups shredded coconut (fresh is preferred. If not, you can use the dry dessicated coconut)
2. 1 cup powdered sugar
3. 1/2 cup ghee
4. 1/2 a pinch of cardamom powder
5. Pinch of salt
6. 3 tbsp Oil for frying

Outer Covering
1. In a bowl, add the water, oil and salt to the flour. Knead into a pliable dough. Keep aside and cover with a wet cloth
1. In a heated pan add the ghee and let it warm up
2. To this add the coconut and roast for a minute. Add the sugar, salt and cardamom powder and roast well
3. Remove and let cool
Final Assembly

1. Make small balls from the dough. Roll the dough into small round puris
2. Scoop up a spoonful of the filling and place on the puri
3. Roll it up to look like the one on the picture above
4. Heat oil in a frying pan. When oil is heated, fry the modaks till golden brown
Serve with ghee.

Enjoy :)
Mille Crepe Cake with Vanilla Custard

Ok, now there are a lot of amazing looking (and am sure amazing tasting!) mille crepe cakes out there, but this is one decadent dessert I had been dying to make! So one day my friend S and I decided to just go for it. Of course we didn't have any special ingredients so decided to just make one with ingredients available in our pantry. Now that I look back at that decision, it sounds a bit crazy as who prepares a mille crepe cake with NO prior planning..whoa!!! But then looking at the end result, am I glad we went for it.

Mille crepe cake literally translated means cake made up of a 1000 crepes. Now while noone really uses 1000 crepes to make the cake, one does make about 20 odd crepes, stack them on top of each other with a layer of a decadent filling topping every layer. We used custard for the filling and dusted it with some cocoa powder and nuts which was really great for a 1st time effort. However next time I will surely try the more elaborate mille crepe cake recipes with hazelnut cream, raspberry vanilla custard and the like.

For now, am basking in the glow and happiness of our 1st successful unplanned attempt at putting together this wonderful mille crepe cake ;)! This is my entry to Domestic Goddess' Sugar High Friday - The Sweetest Thing event. She asks fellow bloggers to make and blog about the dessert they crave for most. Totally looking forward to the roundup.

Mille Crepe Cake with Vanilla Custard
For the Crepes Batter: Adapted from New York Times *
1. 3 tablespoons butter
2. 1 1/2 cups milk
3. 3 eggs
4. 3/4 cups flour
5. 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
6. Pinch salt

For the Filling
1. 1 pack of vanilla custard mix (I used Weikfield's)
2. 1 cup roasted hazelnuts (you could use almonds, walnuts, pecans etc)
3. 2 tsp cocoa powder
4. 2 tsp powdered sugar

Crepes: Adapted from New York Times*
1. In a heated pan, cook the butter until its a hazelnut brown and set aside to cool
2. In another pan, heat the milk until it starts steaming. Cool for 10 minutes
3. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt
4. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter
5. Remove in a container and let cool.
6. Heat a 9 inch non stick pan, and swab it with some oil. Pour some batter onto the pan with a deep ladle and make sure its spread thinly across the pan
7. Cook the crepe until the bottom begins to brown. Then flip the crepe and cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds
8. Remove the crepe and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat until you have 20 good crepes.

These were the tastiest crepes that I have ever tasted. I think the trick was to cook the butter as the NYT article suggested.

Filling & Final Assembly

1. Prepare the custard as per packet instructions.
2. Once the custard is set, start the cake assembly.
3. For the assembly, lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Using a spatula, cover the crepe with a thin layer of the custard. Add some toasted hazelnuts. Cover this with a crepe and repeat the layering process till you have 20 crepes stacked on top of each other with a layer of custard between each layer. I didn't put nuts for every layer, but added them every 4-5 crepes or so
4. Cover the crepe with a plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes at the very least
5. Sprinkle the cocoa powder and powdered sugar and caramalize the top with a blow torch if you have one. Since we didn't have a blow torch, we just heated the bottom of a clean pan, and placed the heated pan over the top of the cake :)

The result was a truly great tasting crepe cake, where the buttery smoky flavor of the crepes went very well with the vanilla flavor of the custard and the crunchiness of the hazelnuts. One caveat however is that given that we used custard for the filling, the cake didn't taste as great the next day!!

Enjoy :)
* The NYT batter recipe was adapted by them from the "Joy of Cooking."
Spiced Egg Bhurji with Masala Spinach Bread

When Trupti asked us to spice things up at breakfast for the WBB # 12 event, many different possibilities ran through my mind. After all Indian food is rife with great spicy breakfast food ranging from Parathas, Upma, Idlis and Dosas to Indianized versions of Western dishes like Spicy French toast and Scrambled egg or Egg bhurji!

I absolutely love egg bhurji which is really a spicy, masala version of the traditional scrambled egg. R loves bhurji even more, where he has these nostalgic memories of eating bhurji at their local adda (hangout) at 2 am after a late night of partying, movie watching or ahem studying!!

Given that this is our favorite breakfast which indeed has a lot of great spices in it, I decided to make this along with some masala spinach bread for the ever popular Weekend Breakfast Blogging event started by Nandita of Saffron Trail. This week's WBB event is hosted by Trupti of The Spice Who Loved Me, and is aptly titled Spice It Up. Now who can resist that!

Spicy Egg Bhurji(Scrambled Egg)
1. 4 eggs
2. 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3. 1/2 cup chopped onion
4. 1/4 cup chopped tomato
5. 2-3 green chillies chopped
6. 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
7. 1/2 tsp jeera (cumin) powder
8. 3/4 powder dhania (coriander) powder
9. 1/2 tsp red chili powder
10. 1 pinch of garam masala
11. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
12. Salt to taste
13. Fresh coriander

1. Beat the eggs in a bowl and keep aside
2. In a heated skillet, add the chopped onion. Cook till translucent
3. Add the turmeric powder, ginger garlic paste and roast till the paste is golden brown
4. Add the jeera, dhania and chili powder and roast for a minute
5. Add the tomato and roast well till the oil leaves the sides
6. Add the beaten egg, and mix it in well till the egg is scrambled and crumbly
7. Add the garam masala, salt, corriander and mix well
8. Let this cook for 1-2 more minutes and its ready to eat!

Masala Spinach Bread
1. 1 loaf of sesame or plain baguette
2. 2 tsp olive oil
3. 2 cups chopped spinach
4. 1 tsp cajun creole spice. You can replace this with red chili powder
5. Salt as needed
6. 1/4 cup grated cheese

1. Slit the bread into 2 halves still leaving one side of the bread connected to the other
2. Toast the bread in the oven for about 7-8 minutes
3. In a heated pan, saute the spinach. Add the creole spice and salt. Mix well. Let the spinach cook till it starts changing color ever so slightly (do not overcook)
4. Top with some grated cheese
5. Spoon this on the heated baguette. Cut into chunks and serve warm

I served this with some fresh strawberries and cream & a glass of OJ. Could not have asked for a better breakfast!

Enjoy :)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Restaurant Review: Sino Restaurant & Lounge

Its a lazy Saturday afternoon where R and I are making dinner plans as in "where should we eat today" ;)? Now that brought me to my current post pondering, isn't this what most people would be thinking at this time as well? So here is my small contribution towards answering that (new) age old question "where should we eat tonight ;)

We recently went to Sino which is this very hip, very mingle (and single ;) friendly lounge & restaurant in San Jose. San Jose, hip you ask..ahem! Well to be fair this restaurant is located in Santana Row, a European style, stone cobbled shopping and dining destination.

While Sino's lounge is hopping with lots of people watching opportunities, R and I went to of course try the food ;)! The restaurant is surprisingly very well separated from the bar area. Interestingly, as you walk into the restaurant section of Sino, you will feel transformed into a warm, romantic setting with red billowy curtains and amazing decor. The lights are muted, music hushed and the tables are well distanced from the other tables (something that seems to be a rarity in California these days!).

The Asian fusion type preparation was good but not excellent. I got the dim sum platter and R got the lamb roast. What contrasting orders we both had, as while mine looked all white and dainty, R's lamb was HUMONGOUS! The picture of the lamb you see in the post is true to alterations in size there!! For the first time R had a problem finishing his lamb in spite of it being perfectly cooked and accompanied by a great tangy sauce. For drinks, I got a chocolatini and R got a glass of Merlot. Nothing special there..pretty regular drinks menu, with tantalizing descriptions for the cocktails.

The dessert now is a different story altogether! R and I shared a decadent chocolate strawberry mousse which was beautifully presented with a crispy butterfly shaped cracker dusted with powdered sugar. NICE!!

I would definitely go back to Sino, not so much for the food alone, but really for a combination of things: pretty good food, really great ambiance, and impeccable service. Of course if you are interested in the the people watching bit, Sino lounge is the place to be seen at :)

My Ratings:
Cuisine: Asian Fusion
Food: Mmm (good, not great). Decent portions. More options for non vegetarians!
Decor: Yay yay yay!
Service: Yay.
Price: Nay. This place is definitely pricey.
Would Go Again: Yay!
Varan Phal aka Daal Dhokli

I just love one pot meals, especially when you are having a super busy week. Well, last week was exactly the kind of week that begged for a quick, feel good meal. Now Daal is the quintessential quick comfort food for me, so opted to make some Varan Phal also known as Daal Dhokli in Gujarati. Varan is daal in Marathi, so simply put Varan Phal is spiced chapati rolled out, cut up and cooked in yellow lentils. The best part about making the varan phals is that you can buy store made uncooked whole wheat chapatis, chop them up into little diamond shapes and use that as your "phal" for the varan.

This dish is so tasty and filling, that its almost a crime that its so simple to put together! We enjoyed out steaming bowls of varan phal with some green salad on the side, and voila we were in comfort heaven!!

This is my submission to Nupur's A-Z of Indian vegetables 'V' letter event.

Varan Phal aka Daal Dhokli
For the Phal
You can use store bought uncooked whole wheat chapati/rotis or make it at home with the ingredients listed below

1. 1 cup whole wheat flour
2. 1 tsp oil
3. Water as required to prepare the dough
4. 1/4 tsp Salt
5. 1/2 tsp red chili powder

For the Varan/Daal
1. 1 cup toor daal/yellow lentils
2. 1 tsp mustard seeds
3. i tsp cumin seeds
4. 1/2 tsp asafoetidia/hing
5. 2-3 curry leaves
6. 1 tsp turmeric powder
7. 2 tsp red chili powder
8. 2 tsp goda masala. This is available in most Indian grocery stores. If not, just replace this with 1 tsp cumin and 1 tsp coriander powder
9. 2 tbsp tamarind pulp. You can use store bought pulp or make it at home by soaking tamarind in water for a few hours.
10. 3 tbsp jaggery, grated or broken into small pieces
11. 1 tbsp olive oil
12. Salt to taste
13. 1/2 cup chopped coriander for garnish

For the Phal

1. Mix in all the dry ingredients and ad water to knead the mixture into a dough.
2. Once the dough is pliable, roll it out into chapatis (or like tortillas)
3. Cut the rolled chapati into diamond shaped bite sized pieces

For the Varan (Daal)
1. Wash & cook toor Dal till tender. Mash it lightly when cooked
2. Heat the oil in a deep pan. Add the mustard seeds.
3. Once the seeds start crackling, add the curry leaves and hing/asafoetidia.
4. To this add the cumin seeds and turmeric powder
5. Mix all the ingredients in the cooked dal. If needed pour some water to thin it out where you have enough to cook the chapati pieces in the daal.
6. Add salt, chili powder, goda masala, tamarind pulp and jaggery and mix well
7. Add the chopped up phal/chapati pieces and let the mixture which you can NOW call varan phal ;) cook for another 5-7 minutes. Stir occasionally to get all the flavors blended together.

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve piping hot.
Enjoy :)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Recipes from Fellow Bloggers

There are so many amazingly talented food bloggers out there. They range from blogging who talk about every day food which is oh so comforting, to beautifully photographed gourmet works of art which bring one pure joy!

I have been turning to my fellow bloggers recipes and advice where I have been having a blast trying out different recipes sometimes using ingredients I had never even heard of!! I recently tried out 3 awesome (and sure shot crowd pleaser!) recipes from Nupur's & Richa's blogs.

The first dish I made a Bread Bowl Souffle inspired by Nupur of One Hot Stove.

Her recipe has some super tasty ingredients consisting mainly of boursin cheese (aah cheese!), sourdough bread bowl, eggs, mushrooms and spinach. I made 2 variations, one with the exact ingredients on Nupur's post, and another one where I added shredded cooked chicken and some red pepper flakes for the meat & heat lovers! The end result was a super tasty dish that I will surely make again.

The other 2 recipes came from Richa of As Dear As Salt. I tried her Stuffed Peppers, which was a truly unique recipe for me as I had never steamed suffed peppers with chickpea flour before.

Verdict: this is an excellent dish, with just the perfect flavors and the best part is there was NO frying involved (my kind of dish!). I think I overcooked the chickpea flour, which made the filling a bit dry, but overall a truly great find!

The next recipe from Richa's blog was Parwal with Kala Chana.

I was fascinated by the combination of this dish and had to try it. It made for a really good, comforting meal where R who is not very fond of Parwal's tucked it all in with gusto!

I can't wait to try out some more great recipes, especially with the farmers markets filled with new and interesting fresh produce!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Tri-Vegetable Chinese Fried Rice

I was hankering for some good old Indianized Chinese fried rice last weekend, but didn't want to venture to Temptations, the Indo-Chinese restaurant close to my house. Apart from the fact that the food wasn't good, what made matters worse is that the service totally sucked!

But eat Chinese fried rice I must, so grabbed my old recipe book and put together a satisfying meal consisting of Chinese Fried Rice and Tomato mozarella basil crostinis (recipe coming soon!). The moment we polished off the rice, R and I went down memory lane, reminiscing all the amazing Indo-Chinese food we have had in Pune...starting wwith the unhealthy but super tasty food at the myriad of "Chinese" food stalls outside Pune University, to hole in the walls named Golden Dragon or Red Dragon to more upscale establishments like Chung Fa & Kamling.

Ooh, I can't wait to visit India soon!!

This is my submission to Nupur's A-Z of Indian vegetables 'T' letter event.

Indo-Chinese Fried Rice
1. 1 cup uncooked basmati rice
2. 1/4 cup green capsicum sliced thin
3. 1/4 cup green peas
4. 1/4 cup shredded carrots
5. 1/2 cup spring onions finely chopped
6. 3 tablespoons soya sauce
7. 4 teaspoons olive oil
8. Salt & pepper to taste
9. Chili sauce or Ketchup to serve
1. Boil the rice. Each grain of the cooked rice should be separate.
2. Heat the oil in a wok and add the vegetables. Cook on high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Add the boiled rice, soya sauce, salt and pepper. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes.
5. Serve hot chili sauce/ketchup on the side

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate, Coconut & Cointreau

When Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey invited us to the biggest blog party with a befitting treat, how could one resist! I came up with some obvious few cake ideas, but given that am not a huge cake fan, I settled on these decadent vanilla-chocolate-coconut cup cakes soaked in Cointreau...YUMMMM!

The combination of all the flavors was truly intoxicating..oh wait or was it just the cointreau! I made quite a few of these cupcakes, and sent them off with R to be taken to work. All I know is he had some VERY happy (hic!) employees all day long ;)
Happy Birthday Meeta and hope to mingle a lot more this coming year!!

Vanilla-Chocolate-Coconut Cupcakes
For the Cupcakes (Adapted from Martha Stewart)
1. 11/2 cups all-purpose flour
2. 1 teaspoon baking powder
3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
4. 1/4 cup olive oil or 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature.I used olive oil to make a healthier version
5. 1/2 cup honey or 1 cup sugar. Again honey makes it a bit more guilt free ☺
6. 3 large eggs
7. 11/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8. 3/4 cup milk

For the Chocolate Ganache
1. 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2. 1 cup heavy cream
3. 1 tablespoon cointreau or any orange liqueur (optional)

For the Topping
1. 1 cup dessicated coconut flakes
2. 2 tablespoons cointreau or any orange liqueur (optional)

For the Cupcakes
1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time; scrape down bowl, and fold in the vanilla.
3. Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
4. Spoon batter in greased muffin pans and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer pans to wire rack; cool completely.

For the Chocolate Ganache & Topping
1. Place chopped chocolate in a bowl. Keep aside.
2. Heat the cream in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, making sure it does not boil out of the pot.
3. When the cream comes to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Stir in 1 tsp cointreau if desired.
4. Allow the ganache to cool slightly.
5. Pour the remaining cointreau over the cupcakes till they soak some of the liqueur
6. Top with the slightly cooled ganache and coconut flakes

Enjoy :)