Just half a spoon of Haldi (Turmeric)

“Half a spoon ( about 1 teaspoon) is enough!”, my mother would say. The first thing I learned about cooking veggies was “add some haldi ( turmeric)”  after about two – three minutes of sauteing, be it potatoes,  peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, they all needed that little bit of haldi, followed by a dash of salt. Cook on low heat for about 20 – 25 minutes until done, finish with a sprinkle of garam masala. Simple, easy & delicious!

 

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Namak Daani ( Traditional spice box)

My mom’s spices were all freshly ground and stored in this Namak Daani ( spice box) a standard feature at many North Indian homes. She could whip up 5 – 6 dishes for a crowd coming over for dinner in a couple hours. Be it 15 people or 50 people, her estimate on how much to make was always perfect. And the food always delicious!!! She  kept it simple, by using Haldi and Garam masala as her primary spice agents. To get that touch of tanginess in Cholle ( garbanzo bean masala) she would add freshly crushed Anardana (dry Pomegranate seeds), or raw green chillies to spice up the saag( steamed greens) or raw chopped red onions on the side to add that crunch to the daal.

Quick Cabbage Stir Fry

 

Ingredients

4 C chopped Cabbage
1 Banana Pepper
1 t tumeric
1 t Garam Masala
2 T oil

Method

  1. Put the chopped cabbage and banana pepper on a non stick skillet
  2. Saute for 2 minutes
  3. Add Tumeric and Salt and blend well for 2 more minutes till it is soft and slightly cooked
  4. Drizzle oil and blend for another 2 minutes on high heat
  5. Sprinkle Garam Masala
  6. Enjoy it with some Roti/Pita or flat bread…….

Dry turmeric  would always be spread out in the sun before being taken to the mill to be ground into a fine powder. After I moved away from home,  I always got to bring a jar back, each time I visited them, for the next 20 years. My father dutifully made packets for me to take along, even though I had plenty of stock. So, I could share fresh turmeric powder with my friends as well – the abundance of it all.

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Now, I look at the few jars I have left  and wonder if I should leave them as keepsakes, as this tradition of drying and grinding turmeric at our home in India has come to an end….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squash Blossom – Dolmas

I made Squash Blossom – Dolmas today! Thanks to my friend who plucked 50 blossoms from her garden and a suggestion by Ronit Penso of Tasty Eats. They were super delicious and easy to make. It reminded me of the time, we soccer moms stood around the  kitchen counter making samosas for a fundraiser!  Dolmas would be fun to make in a group, they would be healthier and quicker to make too… maybe next time.

All I did was, wash the blossoms, fill them with the rice filling, fold them, arrange them in a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and bake them at 400 F for about 20 minutes till the edges turned crisp.  As for the filling, I added chopped Parsely & Mint ( 4 – 6 tbsp), Lemon juice ( 3 – 4 Tbsp), Red pepper flakes ( 2 Tbsp) and Sesame oil ( 2 Tbsp) to about 2 cups of cooked Basmati rice.

 

I baked some of the Blossoms plain, and they were good too, nice and crisp. Either way, a good Appetizer….

 

 

 

 

 

Squash Blossoms: Dosa (Crepe) & Salad

My friend, Stephanie gave me Squash blossoms from her garden today. I have never cooked with them before.

What does one do with Squash blossoms?  Well I ask Google and find many recipes that urge me to “Fill them up with cheese and then deep fry.”  While other recipes call for putting them in Omelets, Frittata, Quesdillas or use them as a Pizza topping.

So now what am I going to do with them? I eat one raw, it is delicious!  Then I chop some of the Squash blossoms, put them in an existing Dosa ( crepe) batter. And I make some Dosas for lunch! Delicious!!!

I stir fry the remaining Squash blossoms  on a medium-hot sauce pan for about 4 – 5 minutes, then add them to shredded to Red Cabbage -Cucumber salad with a bit of lemon juice and a sprinkle of crushed pepper on the top.

Yummy! Next time, I will stir fry the Squash blossoms with some rice, peas ….and cumin………….

 

 

Steamed rotis – Auntie Trejavathi’s Kitchen

Soft, moist and yummy is how I remember Bilavalege – a steamed roti of sorts with tomato gojju, a spicy, tangy, sweet sauce.  It was one of my favorites at Auntie’s kitchen. Even after 25 years, the warmth and her immaculate kitchen remain unchanged! She was really happy to show me how she made them.

 

To a steel tumbler (cup) of hot water, she added another tumbler of flour and let it cook on low heat for 2 minutes in a beautiful brass pot. Then blended it well with a wooden ladle before shaping handfuls of the dough into balls and flattening it into little discs.

Then she proceeded to roll out the dough disc on a plastic sheet, as the dough is sticky, before cooking it on a hot griddle

It used to be Mamatha’s house for me. Back then, Mamatha and me would take turns visiting each other’s houses to just chat or study together. Visiting also entailed a warm welcome and warm homemade food at both the houses. That was the beauty of going to a friend’s house, especially of a different culture, you got to eat something really different and delicious!!! Besides, every kitchen in India has a flavor of its own, own spice blends and flavorings that have been passed down in the family from one generation to another.

At Auntie Trejavathi’s kitchen, I was introduced to so many different kinds of food & different flavors. So going to her house was always a treat. The kitchen was always spic and span with everything beautifully organized and arranged. We would sit on the marble kitchen floor, while she served the food to us and everyone else, before eating herself.

The gojjus, saarus ( lentil based sauce) and the rice dishes (eggplant, peppers, mango) were super delicious and super spicy, even though she would tone down the spice level for me. I enjoyed her green pepper rice, Obbatu( jaggery stuffed wraps), Mulangi Sambhar (radish & dal), Mango rice and bilavalege – steamed roti.

As usual, I couldn’t leave without eating, so I got to eat the  Bilavalege -steamed roti that I had watched her make with a side of French bean- coconut, seasoned with black mustard seeds and Obbatu as well! It was a nice visit, as we talked a lot – she about Mamatha and her grand daughters and me about my sons as we pulled up pictures on the phones & ipad. Back then, it used to be about classes, exams & grades.

 

As I was leaving, I said “Barteene Auntie” ( I will be back)……. another way of saying goodbye!!!

Ingredients:

1 Cup Wheat/Rice Flour

1 Cup Water

1/2 tsp Salt

 1 tsp Oil
Directions: 

1. Boil the water in a saucepan or pot, add salt.

2. Place a wooden spoon in the pot and then add the wheat/rice flour.

3. Do not stir.

4. Reduce heat to low and let it cook for 1 – 2 minutes.

5. Turn off heat and stir quickly using the wooden spoon to make a lump free soft dough.

6. Knead the dough while its hot.

7. Apply a little oil to your hands, as the dough is sticky

8. Take a handful of dough and shape it into round ball then flatten it into a disc

7. Roll the round disc (on a plastic sheet/parchment paper) till they are about 6 to 8 inches in diameter

9. Cook the round disc (roti) on both sides ( about a 75 – 90 seconds on each side) – Medium heat 

10. You can have it with a dip/roasted veggies of your choice

 

 

Cooking Class party for Myrna Loy @ Creperie

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These ladies had fun making Dosas, Chutney, Raita, Alu & Masala Chai

Tamara Blank and her friends won my cooking class at the Myrna Loy Auction. They wanted a gluten free class, what could be better than a dosa ( Indian crepe)? It was a fun group and I had met some of them before. Anyways, one can’t go too far in Helena without bumping into someone you know:)

This time I experimented with setting up stations for the different items and it seems like it worked out just fine….The Cucumber Raita(blended yoghurt) went well as a dip with crackers and so did the Cilantro-Coconut chutney…. The Alu ( Boiled potatoes) had just the right flavor with all the spices and a sprinkling of freshly chopped cilantro on the top. The Chai had a strong flavor of black cardamom. And Jeff’s Crepe griddles are the best for making dosas.

Everyone experimented making dosas of varying shapes and thickness, they all tasted good. I think!

Jeff was in the background prepping food for the next day, I saw him blending some delicious looking strawberries and blueberries for his crepes. I can’t wait to have them tomorrow…. yum!

 

 

Spiritual India – Dinner for 12 @ Creperie

Beautiful Altar & Table set up with steel Thaali & tumblers by VJ, Jeff Spurlin & Taylor – We are ready for our guests

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Jeff & VJ friends for 30+ years…
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Our guests all in white ready for their journey to Spiritual India
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Naan with Tomato- Date Chutney & Masala Chai  – Appetizers- 

And ….I forgot to take pictures of the food, as we got busy serving…… I got so taken in by the ambience and the lighting. VJ did an excellent job of setting up the Altar with pictures and idol of lord Ganesha with flowers, tea candles & lighting around them. It was nice of Taylor to help us, besides, he can tie a turban so well, after watching it being tied once. Jeff brought out his beautiful table clothes and Napkins.

When the guest arrived, all dressed in white ( as a part of the spiritual theme), I got busy making Naan. While VJ did a little ceremony and Taylor served tea. I was the only one not wearing white, while VJ wore a white saree. I just wasn’t thinking when I was getting ready….

All I did was make the food. It was the usual Langar ( community kitchen) kind of vegetarian food with Rajma Dal ( Kidney beans & Black lentils in a creamy sauce), Alu Gobi ( Caulifower & potatoes), Matar- Paneer Pulao( Rice dish with peas, nuts & homemade cheese), Raita & Halwa ( Semolina pudding with cashews & raisins) and of course Naan made right there on Jeff’s special griddles….All organic & made extra special with Ghee and coconut butter.

And everybody got to take a banana home as prasadam ( religous offering)

It was a TCEF fundraiser – “Indian dinner for 12 with a theme”-

 

Naan on the griddle… Everyone’s favorite …

” We never make Naan at home”, I would proudly tell any Naan- Indian food enthusiast. It is made of white flour, while the humble roti that is made of whole wheat flour is much more nutritious. But then, after making dosas ( Indian Crepes) on the griddles at the Creperie for six  Indian dinners. I was ready to try something new… so why not try making Naan…

Continue reading “Naan on the griddle… Everyone’s favorite …”

Alu Parontha at the Creperie

We had a fun cooking class at the Creperie today. The Creperie looks even more beautiful with all the Christmas decorations. It was a simple one hour + class. We made Chai tea and Alu Parontha ( potato stuffed flat bread) with whole wheat flour and gluten free ( rice flour and garbanzo bean flour) as well.

Continue reading “Alu Parontha at the Creperie”

Quick Orzo stew with dehydrated veggies

The first time I bought Orzo (rice shaped pasta) was at the Pike place market in Seattle. It was lemon flavored Orzo. I forget how I made it, but I remember it being easy to make and delicious. So I bought it again the other day and made a simple one pot meal . To a pot of  about 4 cups of boiling water, I added  the dehydrated vegetables that had been lying around for ages and a cup of Orzo. Continue reading “Quick Orzo stew with dehydrated veggies”

Simple ….Garam Masala

Whenever people tell me that they find it intimidating to use spices, I am reminded of “Garam Masala” and turmeric;  the oxygen of my mother’s cooking. Every dish started out with half a teaspoon of turmeric in the beginning and ended with a sprinkle of about 2 teaspoons of Garam Masala, be it Daal, a vegetable side dish or a Pulao – Rice dish.

Continue reading “Simple ….Garam Masala”