Friday, August 28, 2009


A decade ago, when I was first introduced to the pizza, my first impression was that its one complicated thing with so many ingredients and could never be made at home. Also, who wants to take the trouble making it, when its just a phone call away. With so many pizza stores mushrooming everywhere making fancy claims like: "Delivery in 30 min or money-back", flooding our mailboxes with all those coupons, etc etc, it never once occured to my mind to actually try to make a "home-made pizza" until I saw the nutrition guide on 800+ calories in one single meal???? Got the shock of my life and started trashing away all those coupons in the bin right next to the mailbox, even without bothering to look at what they've got to offer new.

The hunt for recipes started then. Realized it isn't as difficult as I once thought. The main ingredient is the pizza dough. You can either choose to make it at home, or buy a readymade dough. I baked like 3 pizzas till now, and never once kneaded the dough myself. Trader Joes carries a wonderful pizza dough in the cheese section. It comes in three flavours/types - plain dough, wheat dough, garlic & herbs. Having tried them all, plain dough has emerged a winner in my home. :)

If you use all store-bought ingredients like I did, pizza can be made in as less as 30min. For the sauce, I use Prego "traditional" sauce. If you like herbs, you could use Oregano, Basil, and other Italian seasonings.

I'll now descibe the pizza-making process picture-by-picture:

Let the dough sit for about 15 min on a slightly flour-ed surface. In the meantime, get ready with your toppings. For a veggie pizza, I use onion, green capsicum, tomato, jalepenos, black olives and pineapple chunks.

Slightly grease a baking pan/pizza stone and spread out the dough evenly. This is the hardest part of pizza-making. You could use a rolling pin, if it helps.

If you choose to add herbs, do it now. I dusted some garlic powder too.

Generously spread the pizza sauce leaving an outer border of about 1 cm on all four sides. Prior to adding the sauce, you could add some olive oil if you wish.

Now comes the fun-nest step. Decorate the pizza with your choice of toppings.

Cheese. IMO, Mozarella is the one for pizza. Don't be too stingy with the cheese, while at the same time, don't add too much either.

I usually sprinkle a spoonful of pizza/pasta sauce along with some more herbs on the cheese layer.

Bake at 450F for 10min. You'll know when its ready. The smell that gets filled up in the room.. Ahhh! If only smell could be digitized, I could have sent it to my mom back in India to tell her that the smell that emanates from the oven is more filling that the pizza itself. :)

Oh! So restaurant-y

I know its hard to resist temptation, but its important that you leave it to cool for 10min and then run a pizza cutter/knife through.

After looking at the nutrition labels of all the ingredients (using cheese made from 2% milk), I came up with the magic number 300. That's the maximum number of calories in a pizza made with half pound dough. Now, this is what I call guilt-free indulgence.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Medu vada/garelu

Vada/vadai/garelu (in telugu) has been my favourite breakfast item since childhood. As I already mentioned earlier, while at home, I never ever bothered to look how something is made. Mom feeds, I eat, that's it :) Its only after I began to cook that I realized making garelu isn't my cup of tea. But my craving for vadas doesn't end even though I can't make them. And talking about Indian restaurants in San Diego, sheaaaa!! I am a much better cook than any chef at these places.

The solution to my problem was to make "hole-less" vadas.. :D I know its funny, but I just don't get the vada-with-a-hole ever right. So both of us kind of compromised on the shape of the vada. After all, who cares about the shape when they do taste good. This was until my ma-in-law came and made garelu, the way they were meant to be made. Maannnn! They were so crispy, so light, evenly cooked, what not. But I was scared to drop the vadas in hot oil like she did. More days pass by, she goes back to India, and I get back to my spherical vadas, and then this friend drops by, I offer her my vada, she laughs at it lacking a hole, though she says it tastes good. A day later, she emails me that there is indeed a gadget for vada-craver-no-maker like me. :) Had it not been for her, I would have spent all my life making golu-golu vadai, and may be even telling my children-to-be that this is what a vada looks like. :)

And then, I share this exciting news of vada maker with my mom who's already packaging a bunch of things for me. In goes the vada maker, and here it comes travelling across oceans to give me the boundless satisfaction of making the "holed" vada.

That's the story part.. Recipe, a very popular one, can be found on Even if you know the recipe, I suggest you take a look at the video. His aeration technique helped me make softer and lighter garelu.

Now this vada maker thingy did a mind-blowing job for the first batch of say 10 vadai. After that, the batter stuck to the bottom of the tool and didn't fall out of it as freely as it did for the initial round of garelu. Probably it needs to be cleaned after every batch. I had the bestest vadas in round 1 and because I felt lazy to clean the gadget, my batch 2 vadas ended up looking like shrimp and crabs. :)

Here are the clicks:

The vada-maker:

Batch 1:

Batch 2:

And once upon a time,

FYI, some of the objects arranged in a circular fashion above are garelu, the rest being burelu. Hardly distinguishable, ain't they? :) I had to weigh each piece to determine which is which. The heavier ones are sweet and the lighter ones vadai. Hahhahhaaa.. I have come a long way from Pic#4 to Pic#2, haven't I?

IMO, vada-maker is the most innovative kitchen tool ever invented. If you're like me too, scared of dropping the vada-with-hole batter into oil, this will amaze you.

All's good about the vada maker except for the cleaning part. Its sort of complicated on the inside, the design, and hence cleaning becomes tougher. With all that sheet metal, I even got my fingers pricked. :( So, be careful while cleaning.

On a concluding note, thank you dear S. I'll forever be grateful to you.. :)

Inspired cooking   © 2008. Template Recipes by Emporium Digital