Wednesday, August 15, 2007

60 Glorious Years & Refreshing Panha!

Indian Flag

Panha Concentrate

Mango Panha

Its been 60 years since India got its Independence, where its fascinating to see how far we have come, as also to know how much more is left to achieve. The last 60 years has seen us work towards eradicating poverty and illiteracy on the one hand, and launch our own space programs on the other. We have seen the green (agriculture revolution) as well as concrete steps to go green and make the environment a healthier one for generations to come.

We have seen the growth of the middle class, with cell phones becoming more of an equalizer across societies every day. We have seen an onslaught of malls, cable TV, yet retained the essence of who we truly are!

We surely have a long ways to go with eradicating poverty, social inequality and corruption, but I have faith and confidence that its only a matter of time before we collectively do so!

My mango panha is a tribute to India's meteoric rise as well as the actual meteoric temperatures we are experiencing this summer :). Its a refreshing drink to a refreshing start of the next set of glorious years for India!!
Refreshing Mango Panha (A tart summer cooler made from raw mangoes, flavored with cardamom and saffron).

1. 2 raw mangoes
2. 3/4 cup sugar
3. 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder (elaichi)
4. a pinch saffron soaked in warm water
5. Black pepper
6. 1 tsp lemon juice (per glass)
7. Salt to taste
1. Peel the raw mangoes and chop into pieces
2. Boil the chopped mango and sugar in water till the mango is very soft.
3. Drain all the water from the mangoes.
3. Strain the mango pulp.
4. Add the cardamom powder and saffron and mix well.Boil again for another 4-5 mins
5. Store in a bottle and refrigerate. This panha concentrate has a shelf life of 2-3 months if kept frozen.
6. When ready to serve, put 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a glass and top up with chilled water and ice. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and 1 tsp lemon juice.
Note: Instead of the cardamom and saffron, you can add cumin powder and black salt.

This is a perfect summer drink that can be easily packed and carried over to that fun picnic in the sun. Am sending this to 2 super fun events: Anupama's innovative "Fun in the Sun" event & Meeta's Monthly Mingle event!!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Zero Oil Kebabs

What's that again you say? Zero oil kebabs!! Why, and how and why again ?? Well, I have been gorging on some amazing food lately with recent visits to Bong Su (beyond amazing dining experience!), Cascals, get the drift!! Given that, I decided to try a zero oil recipe from Nita Mehta's book, Zero Oil Cooking. This is a fantastic book, where every recipe is extremely well thought out. Especially, given how hard it is to make traditional dishes with little or no oil, she works wonders with this theme!

The book has a large variety of dishes, ranging from oil free Chocolate Sandesh to Baked Eggplant to Paneer Makhmali. I decided to try out the minty dal kebab recipe from her book as it was simple and I had all the ingredients ready at hand. And no, in case you are wondering, when the recipe said no oil, it also meant no butter, no margarine etc etc ;). This is truly without any oil or substitutes thereof..I know, hard to believe right!

This goes straight not to the stomach (no oil remember ;)), but to Nupur for her "Z" letter event in the A-Z of Indian Vegetables series.

Zero Oil Minty Dal Kebabs (adapted from Nita Mehta's Zero Oil Cookbook)
1. 1 cup chana (split chickpea) dal
2. 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
3. 1/4 tsp cardammom powder
4. 1-2 cloves crushed
5. 1-2 peppercorns crushed
6. 11/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
7. 3-4 green chilies, grated
8. 7-8 mint leaves, finely chopped
9. 1 onion, finely chopped
10. 1/2 tsp garam masala
11. 1/2 tsp chaat masala
12. Salt to taste

1. Cook the dal with salt, cumin, cardamom, cloves, peppercorn and ginger-garlic till its ready to be mashed.
2. Once cooked, mash the dal with a flat spoon. Make sure all the water is cooked off before you mash the dal.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to the mashed dal.
4. Make small round flat rounds/kebabs
5. Grill at 450 degrees F for about 20 minutes.
Enjoy :)
I served this with some hot sauce and mint chutney.

Even without oil, the kebabs did not stick to the baking sheet after they were cooked. You almost didn't miss the oil in fact, given that the dal was already cooked and tasted more like a savory chaat!
However, next time if I am eating these kebabs by themselves, I think I will add some oil while grilling them. If I am making a ragda pattice or a chaat with yogurt and sweet date-tamarind chutney, I will use the recipe as is, with no oil.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Zafarani Harvest Grain "Pulao"

Nupur's fantastic series the A-Z of Indian Vegetables Series is coming to an end :( This has been an amazing culinary journey for me where I saw bloggers come up with the most amazing variety of entries, where the recipes were mostly Indian but the ingredients were necessarily not!

In order to honor the culmination of this series where the letter "Z" is being celebrated, I decided to prepare a dish with the king of spices, Zafaran or Saffron. Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world and also one of the most ancient. It not only elevates the flavor, color and fragrance of the food it is added to, but takes it to a whole new level really. As if that one was enough, saffron has some pretty cool medicinal properties as well!

Now moving on to the Pulao bit, I am not a huge fan of white rice which is why I decided to make this pulao with this amazing harvest grain blend from Trader Joe's. The savory blend consists of orzo pasta, baby garbanzo beans and red quinoa. The instructions on the package said one can make an entrée by adding shrimp, so though why not use this to make a flavorful zafarani pulao instead!

I am happy I decided to do so, as this was as tasty as it was healthy. The best part is I got to use the dried apricots sent to me by jen last week. This is my entry to the “Z” series of Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables

Zafarani Harvest Grain Pulao
1. 1 cup harvest grain blend (mixture of orzo pasta, baby garbanzo beans and red quinoa). I used the one I got from my local Trader Joe’s
2. 2 tsp dried apricots of Zardaloo, fine chopped
3. ¼ cup lima beans
4. 1 tsp paprika powder
5. 1/2 tsp biryani masala (available in any Indian grocery store)
6. 2 tsp saffron strands
7. 11/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
8. 3 cups vegetable stock or water
9. 1 tsp olive oil
10. Salt to taste

1. Soak the saffron strands in ½ cup of water and keep aside
2. In a heated pan, add the olive oil
3. When the oil is hot, add the apricots and ginger-garlic paste. Sautee for a 1-2 minutes
4. To this add the paprika and biryani masala and roast for half a minute
5. Add in the lima beans and mix well. Sautee for 1-2 minutes
6. Add the harvest grain blend and sauté for a minute
7. To this add the vegetable stock/water and salt
8. Let cook for 10 minutes or till the beans are done. The harvest blend does not take more than 10 minutes to cook
9. Garnish with some zafaran and zardaloo
Enjoy :)

I paired this with some roasted pappadums.yumm…

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Summer Salad in a Jiffy

Refreshing Watermelon-Papaya Salad
Mint plant I am taking care of for my friend S while she is away!
Its summer, and you have a million things to do and ummm, one has to eat! So what does one do? Cook up quick, refreshing salads of course!

I was inspired by this super simple, but loaded with flavor watermelon salad over at Madhuli's blog. I added a few additional ingredients like mint (given that I now have a HUGE pot overflowing with it!) and some fresh mozzarella. Everything is better with Mozzarella ;)

The entire recipe including prep time took less than 20 minutes to put together. The marriage of the summer fruits with the mint and ginger-honey dressing was just fantastic!! It made for a great summer lunch paired with some freshly baked corn bread. I am quite sure I will be making this my lunch few more times this summer!

Note: anyone looking to add more honey in their diet should get some from their local farmer's market if available. I have been enjoying unbelievably good wildflower honey, as well as a range of honey flavors that took me by surprise!
16 flavors of honey at the Mountain View farmer's market

Summer Salad in a Jiffy
1. 2 cups watermelon, scooped into balls. You could also just cut up the watermelon into bite sized chunks
2. 1½ cup papaya, scooped into balls. You could also just cut up the papaya into bite sized chunks
3. 1½ tsp freshly grated ginger
4. 3 tsp honey
5. 2 tsp lemon juice
6. 1½ tsp red chili Flakes
7. 4 tsp fresh mint, torn into smaller pieces
6. 2 tbsp fresh mozzarella, cut into smaller pieces
7. Salt to taste

1. In a bowl, combine the watermelon and papaya. Keep aside.
2. In a separate bowl, mix the honey, ginger, chili flakes and salt to make the dressing. Mix well.
3. Add the dressing to the fruit and toss well.
4. Top with the mint and mozzarella.
5. This salad tasted best when chilled, but could also be eaten right away.

Enjoy :)