Friday, April 24, 2009

French Toast

Never made it before, Couldn't be happier having made it :)

  1. Eggs - 2
  2. Bread slices - 3  (Use bread that is thick & not too soft)
  3. Maida/all purpose flour - 3 tblspoons
  4. Sugar - 3 tblspoons
  5. Milk - 1/3 cup
  6. Vanilla sugar/powder - 2 tblspoons
  1. Whisk the eggs and add all the ingredients (#3-#6) along with a pinch of salt to the eggs
  2. Blend the egg mixture in an electric mixer to get a frothy batter. Smell it now, your stomach would be half-filled with the aroma of vanilla :)
  3. Cut the bread slice diagonally to break into two triangular pieces
  4. Heat a griddle on low flame
  5. Dip each bread slice in the batter, coat it entirely, gently squeeze out the excess dripping batter and fry with a little butter on low flame. French toast can quickly burn, so better to cook slowly on low flame until the bread gets browned

Done! Now, that I got my French Toast right, very soon, I'll try to make my favourite "Strawberry Banana French Toast" in IHOP style :)

Entry to: Event for eggs

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bisibela bath

An authentic Karnataka dish, also called Sambar rice in other parts of the country. A single pot meal that gives the benefit of eating dal, rice and vegetables all in one go! 

Besides dal, rice and vegetables, the important ingredient that goes into the making of Bisibela bath is the spice powder. Most people make it at home, however, MTR bisibela bath masala is good enough for lazy people like me.

  1. Toor dal - 1/2 cup
  2. Rice - 1/2 cup
  3. Vegetables - carrot, beans, potato
  4. Onion - 1 medium size
  5. Bisibela bath powder - 2,3 spoons
  6. Tamarind juice - 2 tbl spoons
  7. Popu/Tadka - mustard, jeera, curry leaves and heeng 
  8. Cashewnuts - as you wish :)

  1. Pressure cook dal & rice together with 2 cups water
  2. Chop the vegetables into inch long pieces and (steam/microwave) cook them too
  3. Cut the onion into thin inch long pieces (as long as the veggies)
  4. Fry a spoonful of ghee & oil and do the tadka
  5. Once the mustard seeds start to pop, add the onions
  6. Next add the cooked vegetables and fry
  7. Add the dal-rice mixture to the fried vegetables. At this stage, add salt and a pinch of turmeric powder
  8. Toss in the bisibela bath masala and tamarind juice 
  9. Adding a little water, bring all the ingredients together. Skip this step if you like your bisibela bath to be grainy and not one mashed lump of rice
  10. Adjust salt, spice powder, tamarind juice as required. You could also add some chilli powder if you like it hot
  11. Garnish with ghee roasted cashewnuts and serve hot

When I cook something from an online recipe, I end up running several times back & forth between the stove & the computer. So as to check if I'm on track :) If you're also like me and if you're going to make bisibela bath using MTR powder, you could avoid running this time - bcoz the recipe above is what is written on the back of the MTR packet. :D

Entry to events:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spicy Thai Noodles

Given a choice of cuisine while deciding on where to have lunch/dinner, Thai would be the first thing that pops up in my husband's mind. I'm not as big a fan as him, but Thai is something I do enjoy eating. Noodles cooked in a sweet-spicy-sour sauce with Tofu - vahrevah!! 

After looking around for Thai recipes, I landed up on this and that. A fusion of both is how I cooked and needless to say (bragging :) ), IT WAS AWESOME !!!

  1. Thai Rice noodles  (Got Rice sticks from Trader Joes)  - 1/2 packet (serves two)
  2. Extra Firm Tofu 
  3. Green and Red capsicums - 1 each
  4. Basil leaves - a bunch
  5. Carrot - 1 
  6. Onion - 1 
  7. Peanuts - a cup
  8. Jaggery - 2 tblspoons
  9. Chilli sauce
  10. Soy sauce
  11. Garlic powder - 2 spoons
  12. Lemon - few drops
  13. Coriander leaves for garnishing
Thai restaurants add what is called "fish sauce" to most of their entrees. When I order, I remember to tell the waiter not to add any egg in my noodles. We tried a different Thai cafe recently, and when I told about my "no egg" thing, the waiter was smart enough to guess that I might be a vegan. He promptly asked if fish sauce was okay. That came as a surprise to me, & for one moment, I cursed myself for eating fish all the while :( So, if you are also a vegetarian, let them know that you don't want fish sauce.

  1. Drain excess water from Tofu and cut into into 1x0.5 inch rectangles.
  2. Spread a drop of oil on a pan and fry the Tofu pieces till they turn golden brown on all sides.

  3. If you are using Rice sticks from TJs, cut them such that each stick breaks into 4 equal pieces. Soak them all in luke warm water for about 20minutes till they get moderately soft.
  4. Cut capsicums, onion and carrot into inch-long pieces.
  5. Wash the basil leaves. Basil is the Star ingredient of this dish. Can't get Basil? - don't even think of making these noodles. If you can't get fresh basil leaves, you could substitute with dried basil.
  6. Prepare the peanut sauce by dry roasting the peanuts and grinding them with jaggery and salt. Add water to the ground mixture so as to make a semi-thick sauce.
  7. Heat two tblspoons of oil and fry all the vegetables with some salt. Cook till tender, not to overcook.
  8. Add Tofu, chilli sauce & soy sauce.
  9. Now add 75% of the peanut sauce and garlic powder and then mix all the contents of the pan.
  10. Taste the curry above, and check the following:

    1. Sweet? - no: add sugar dissolved in water
    2. Spicy? - no: more chilli sauce
    3. Salty? - less: little more salt

  11. Time to go back to the noodles. If they are soft enough, you could stir fry them. Or else, boil them along with the water used for soaking for few minutes till they get soft. Adding noodles to boiling water (like the way we make Maggi) would result in a soggy mess. So, add noodles and water at the same time and heat them just until the noodles are soft enough to bite. They needn't be too soft.

  12. Once the noodles are ready, add the remaining peanut sauce. This step is important, as the noodles would taste bland otherwise. 
  13. Mix the curry and noodles along with few drops of lemon juice and coriander leaves. Don't add too much lemon, it should just be a little sour, not too sour.
That's it! Enjoy your meal.... "home-made" with "restaurant-taste"

Entry to events:
  1. I do see a lot of green & red in the noodles, so posting this recipe to the Red & Green food event, with a link back to this.
  2. It's a vegan world: Thai

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sambar with Toor Dal

Sambar is such a popular South Indian dish that people from the rest of India tag southies as Sambarwalas. No offense meant, had their elders fed them Sambar right from childhood, I'm sure they'd grow up loving Sambar as much as we do. Such a healthy & finger-licking dish!

At home, I make Sambar with Toor dal as well as Moong dal. For now, as I only have the former's click - posting Toor dal Sambar for now. Though I didn't cook Sambar this Morning, I somehow felt a sudden craving for it while working on a cold afternoon - it's 58F outside. As I'm in no mood to cook now, thought I'd satisfy my cravings by just looking at a picture of it that I have. If you have seen the Telugu movie "Ahanaa Pellanta', you'd already know that you can satisfy your tummy by merely looking at a mouth-watering dish. :)

No more chit-chat. Heading straight to the recipe.

  1. Toor dal - 1cup
  2. Onion - 1 medium sized
  3. Tomato - 1 med. sized
  4. Boiler onions (optional) - a handful
  5. Sambar Powder - my vote goes to MTR & MDH brands
  6. Jaggery (optional) - spoonful
  7. Tamarind juice - spoonful
  8. Coconut powder (preferably fresh, dessicated is okay too) - spoonful
  9. Coriander/cilantro for garnishing
  10. Popu/Tadka - Fenugreek seeds, mustard, jeera, curry leaves & heeng
  1. Pressure cook the dal with 2 cups water
  2. Take a thick bottomed vessel (so that dal doesn't burn) and add a cup of water. Don't add a lot of water. After adding all the ingredients in Steps 3-5 below, this is how the contents should appear. 

    Water should just be sufficient to submerge all the ingredients. Not more.
  3. Add about 1.5 spoonfuls of Sambar powder, tamarind juice, salt, pinch of turmeric powder, half teaspoon chilli powder, and jaggery. 
  4. Cut the onions into inch-sized pieces. Also chop the tomato and add them both to the vessel above
  5. Peel the boiler onions and add them too
  6. Now bring the vessel to a boil. Once water starts boiling, let it continue boiling for 10minutes or so. 
  7. Now add the cooked dal and stir all the contents. At this stage, you can taste it & adjust any of the ingredients in Step 3. Particulary salt, tamarind, sambar powder. If you find the sambar too thick, add little more water.
  8. Once the sambar starts boiling again, add coconut powder and let it boil for another 5-10 minutes. Stir in between, or else the dal could stick to the bottom and eventually burn.
  9. Turn off the gas, and add the popu/tadka
  10. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with Rice or Idly.

If the tamarind juice and Sambar powder are added in the right amounts, the end result would turn yummy. You could also add some vegetables like drumsticks, carrot, potato, okra in Step 4. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Curd rice

I generally cook only in the morning and we eat whatever is leftover for dinner. When there isn't much left for the evening, I end up making a bowl of curd rice. We love it so much that we can have plate-fulls of just curd rice. Very soothing on the taste buds, very cool on the stomach, and very very easy to prepare. 

Learnt the recipe from my Mom. Here it is:

  1. Rice - cooked
  2. Curd (I prefer the home-made curd to store-bought yougurt for this recipe)
  3. Grated coconut (fresh/dessicated)
  4. Ginger - finely chopped
  5. Green chillies - slit length-wise
  6. Popu/tadka - urad dal, mustard, jeera, curry leaves, red chillies & heeng
  7. Grated carrot & coriander leaves for garnishing
  1. Add salt and some sugar to curd
  2. Allow the rice to cool & add it to the curd
  3. Fry the popu/tadka along with ginger and green chillies and add it to curd rice prepared above

  4. Add a spoonful of coconut powder
  5. Adjust salt as required
  6. Garnish with carrot & cilantro
  7. Refrigerate before serving

Since curd rice can be served to a single person as a single-course meal, this recipe goes to the Single serving recipes event.
Also goes to: Cooking for kids: Rice event.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fried potato curry

After cooking for close to 3 years, Today is the day I had my "Aha" moment with Potato. There are hazaar ways of making potato curries, & the deep fry is the one that requires max amount of oil. I, hence, make it as an occasional treat once a month. But today, with the procedure I followed, I could get the same taste with just 2 teaspoons of oil! The trick is to oven-bake the potatoes before frying. Takes time, but you would feel guilt-free after your meal.

  1. Potatoes - washed & cubed
  2. Onions - cut into small pieces
  3. Jeera
  4. Curry leaves
  1. Spread a drop of oil on a baking dish and place the cubed potatoes
  2. Bake on 400F for about 10minutes
  3. Toss the potato pieces and bake for another 5-10minutes. Once done, they should look like this:

    If you actually bite a piece, you'll see that it tastes like those French fries. See, they're already fried & your oil pot isn't empty yet!

  4. Add one tea spn of oil and fry jeera with curry leaves. I add lots of jeera in this step unlike other tadkas I make. You could also call this curry Aloo-jeera.
  5. Fry the onions till they turn translucent
  6. Add another tea spn of oil & drop the baked potato pieces ( I always add oil in installments otherwise the onions take up all the oil)
  7. Salt, chilli powder and turmeric go in next
  8. Cook covered for about 5minutes
  9. Adjust salt & chilli powder as required

Simple dish, can't really go wrong. An amazing combo for steamed rice.

I actually made Taro root (Chaama dumpa) fry with the same recipe a week ago, & it was as tasty as it could be with so less oil. Shall blog it later. So, girls, start putting your oven to good use! I was always under an impression that oven is only for cake-making, but now, I'm even forcing my mother into buying an oven so as to cut down on the oil intake.

Sending this to the Side dish event

Spinach (palakoora) Dal (pappu)

Here I begin my Dal series...

Since we are vegetarians, dal is our main source of protein. So I make sure I include something made of dal in my cooking everyday. My mom used to make a different dal with each green. But here in the city where I live, we don't have the previlige of getting all those. So, I end up making either tomato dal or spinach dal every week, besides lemon dal and sambar. I don't like my dal to taste masala-y or too spicy, prefer the milder ones. In Telugu, we call it "kammati" pappu. 

There isn't much that goes into the making of Spinach Dal. 

  1. Spinach leaves - washed & chopped
  2. Toor dal - cooked
  3. Popu/Tadka - urad dal, mustard, jeera, curry leaves, heeng
  4. Lemon
  1. Heat a teaspoon of ghee and fry the tadka (I always do ghee-popu for my dals)
  2. Fry the chopped spinach leaves till they wilt.

    This is something I learnt from my M-I-L. It helps to retain the nutrients of Spinach. Earlier, I used to pressure cook dal with spinach leaves and then add the popu in the end.
  3. Add the cooked dal, salt and chilli powder
  4. Few drops of lemon juice and the dal is ready!

An excellent side-dish for both Chapathi & Rice. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vegetable puffs

Veg puffs are sold in most Indian bakeries. A very popular snack liked by both young & old. This is called "veggie pattie" in some of the Northern & Western states of India. It hardly takes 10 minutes to prepare them, provided you have all the ingredients. All you need is a pack of puff-pastry sheets (you'll find them in the frozen section of most grocery stores) and mixed vegetables (I use the frozen ones). 

During one of those weekend get-togethers, a friend of mine made vegetable puffs. Even in my wildest dreams, I never imagined that veg puffs could be made at home. Though its been like 9 months since I had them at her place, I didn't get the enthu to make them until I started to food-blog. 

I generally don't browse cooking videos for recipes, unless I have a gut feeling that the recipe calls for some level of manual dexterity which can only be learnt when watched. The recipe I followed is the one by Vah chef, Sanjay. If you stock up the puff-pastry sheets and cut vegetables, you can prepare the puffs in less than 10 minutes. But it could take upto an hour starting from the the point when you pull out the ingredients from the fridge to the point when you take out the baked puffs from the oven. That's bcoz the pastry sheets should be thawed for atleast 20minutes. 

Look at how I made them:

Using Pepperidge farm pastry sheets, I could make 9 large puffs using one sheet. The unbaked puffs can be kept frozen for - .... I don't know how many days :) I prepared the filling for 9 puffs and sealed the puffs ready to bake, and then felt we couldn't eat them all at once. So, I placed 4 of them in a Ziploc bag and kept them in the freezer. Unable to resist the temptation, I baked them the very next day :) They tasted just as good as they did on Day 1. 

I've had the experience of having microwave-fresh puffs at the bakeries in India, but never had oven-fresh ones. Can't wait to make them for my sister who loves them! 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pav bhaji

I'm going to start my "Street food" series with this. This is a copy-pasted recipe from Nupur's kitchen to mine :)

The shot:

Extremely authentic, Superly delicious!

She is absolutely right about adding onions in the end, and not while cooking. After making in both the styles (fry onion in the beginning, add onions just in the end), I could only wonder how much one small change could alter the taste of the dish. Since I couldn't find pav bread here in San Diego, I ate my bhaji with ghee-roasted white bread slices. :) Wasn't much different from the taste of pav.

Feel like sipping something? Me too :)
How about a glass of Strawberry banana milkshake on the side?

Drinks - Juices, Milkshakes, etc

Would anyone have a chilled milkshake in Winter? I will! :) & so would my husband. We looove looove the drinks made from fruits. Weekdays, we get our daily dose of milk from the cereals we eat for breakfast. But on weekends, I make south Indian tiffins for b/fast. In the afternoons, I make milkshakes so that we get to have milk in some form during weekends too. They are quite refreshing and at the same time, healthy.

If you have a blender/mixer, you are good to go. Blend any fruit (like strawberry, mango, banana, chikkoo - only used these so far) or a fruit-combo with sugar, milk, ice and vanilla sugar (optional). From my experience, I learnt that banana-based shakes should be consumed immediately. Since we don't get ripe mangoes and chikkoo here, I use store bought mango pulp and frozen chikkoo.

Few pictures of the shakes I make:

Strawberry banana m/s

Chikkoo (sapota) m/s

There's this small chaat place in San Diego called Surati Farsan Mart where you get chikkoo shake. Until few weeks ago, we used to visit this place almost every week to have this milk shake. Fellow used to charge 3$ per serving. I always used to crib that I can get a whole week's supply of milk for the same amount. But because I couldn't get chikkoo anywhere, we had to go to this place to have it. I tried really hard in all the Asian and American grocery stores for something even remotely belonging to the sapota/chikkoo family, but in vain. Then one afternoon, I sat and started thinking, if that Surati fellow can get his supply of chikkoo, why am I not getting? It then struck to my mind that probably he could be using frozen chikkoo from India. I never peep inside the frozen foods section of the desi stores. But when I did, the last time I went, I found a bag of "frozen chikkoo". Hurray!! I proudly showed it to my husband as though that was a trophy/award I achieved :) From then on, we started having home-made chikkoo shake. Very fresh, with a very heavenly taste. This is one truly "dil maange more" drink. All for under 1$.

Coming to juices, the only fruit juices that I make are with watermelon and pineapple. Reason- I don't like to eat the melon directly & my husband doesn't like to eat pineapples directly :)

Fruit + sugar + ice + water = one "aha moment" after a day's work :)

Pineapple juice

Watermelon juice

Masala buttermilk

My grandma first made this after seeing us purchase packets & packets of masala buttermilk from Visakha Dairy. These elderly people tend to favour "at-home" cooking a little too much. "Why waste money, when you can have something more healthier and fresh at home" is what they say. I'm so glad my grandma made this, for now, even in the US, I can have masala majjiga whenever I feel like.

For the recipe, churn the curd with water (manually/mixer) and add salt, lemon juice. Grind ginger, green chilli, jeera, curry leaves in a mixer and add to the buttermilk. Serve chilled.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Caramel apples

During my visit to the Seaport Village, San Diego I bought & ate a "caramel apple". Having never seen such a thing before, I innocently asked the cashier if there's really an apple inside that peanut coated spherical object? :) (They call something "Mysore bajji", when there's no Mysore inside the bajji - I know, a really poor PJ :) ) Thankfully, she didn't put any crazy look and answered "yes, there is" with a smile. This is basically an apple coated with caramel and topped with crushed peanuts. Whosoever came up with this idea, What an innovative thought! There were a line of apples coated with chocolate, caramel, cream, etc etc. A real treat to watch them. I don't usually take snaps inside stores/restaurants. I so wish I did. 

This is what it looked like:

Yummy, it tasted! The apple was a little sour though. Had that been a really good one, I can't imagine how much more taste it would have added. Can be made at home too, all you need is a sweet apple, some caramel and anything else to decorate it - put on your creative hat! Stick around, I'll post another picture when I make one in my kitchen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy Fools' day!

How many of you have been fooled today? Feeling sad that you could be fooled so easily? Don't you worry. There's somebody out there who was fooled consistently by a huuuuge number of people for the last two years. Not by 10, not by 100, but atleast by 8,500 people who fooled it into believing that they have a job, when they actually don't! Who else do you think I'm talking about besides the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services, the USCIS, in short. Here's why...

Each year the USCIS accepts petitions for the much coveted ***H1B*** visa. This is perhaps the World's most sought after visa, as it gives a ticket to making $$$. :) For those IT professionals with Dollar dreams, there's one additional season besides Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter - & that is the "Filing" season. This season begins on the 1st of April every year. And for the last two years, this has been the shortest season of the year. Started on April 1st, and ended on the same day. Huh-oh!

A citizen of India, with a very good job back in Pune, I never dreamt of landing in the US. So, I didn't care about all these work visas. But after coming here, I was like Sheaaa!!! Is this the way the country, the World looks up to, issues work permits? To get a job here, you need a work authorization; and to get the work authorization, you need a job. Do you see the cyclic dependency? Sadly, our friend, the USCIS doesn't.

For the US-graduated students, they have the previlige of getting a short-term work permit that allows them to work for atleast 1year. So, it becomes easier for them to get a job, start working using the Student work authorization, and eventually get the employer file the H1B. But for the people on dependent visas, and for all those in India, there's a slim chance of finding an employer who is willing to file your H1B and is ready to wait till October 1st for you to join work. As a result, most of these people approach the DCCs (Desi Consulting Companies). Most of them are shady guys with a one room office, and with 100's of employees on the payroll. All they do is, take money from the candidate, offer him a "dummy" job and go ahead with the H1 application. Once the candidate gets the visa, and lands up a job, he becomes the hen that lays the golden eggs. The owner of the DCC can happily vacation in Hawaii, while his employees fill up his bank account. In the eyes of the USCIS, he is a legitimate employer. But hey, there was no real job offer while filing the H1 petition. How could the USCIS miss that?

Last year, I went the right way & got a "real" full-time job, and got my H1B filed without paying a penny. But since the USCIS is not smart enough to sift the "real" jobs from the total pool, I missed the lottery. This year, when I gave up (bad market-no one knows whether he'll be in business on Oct 1st) and started enquiring around for a DCC, there's this guy who offered to file my H1. Not too surprising, this is what he said: "I charge 4000$ for processing your app. I strongly recommend you to put atleast 5 other apps (What???). The more tickets you buy, the better the chances of winning the lottery. Right? Any amount you *invest* in H1B is priceless". My greatest regret is that his name somehow slipped off my mind. Had I remembered, I would have posted this in some legal forums.

Because of these DCCs, the applications out number the quota, thereby resulting in a lottery. All the while, I've been believing that your education, personality, experience, anything that is either a natural trait or one thats acquired with lots of hardwork, earns you a career. Funny thing is, in the US, its a lottery that decides whether or not you can work. Hows that??

Atleast 10% of the 85,000 visas are grabbed by the DCCs. If somebody fools you today, you realize it latest by the end of day. But it could take the USCIS anywhere up to an year to realize it was fooled by a DCC. It just rubs it off the shoulder, perhaps denies the visa at the Consullate, and gets ready to invite another set of applications. The System can't be more screwed up. Since its not possible to filter out the DCCs, some radical changes should be introduced in the way the work permits are issued.

That said, I'm asking again: Do you consider yourself the greatest fool? Think again!

In order to adhere to the Terms & Conditions (written by me :) ), I have to write something about a click or the kitchen. This being one of my Cloudy days, I'm posting my worst recipe ever. What's the point? Well, you'll know what not to cook :)

Remember the curry powder thingy I told you about? Cooking Capsicum with that is an awful recipe. Since I'm never going to cook it again, I don't have a suitable click. But, look at what I have for you :)

Beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel:

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