Sunday, December 28, 2008

In love for Som Tam now

In Northern Thailand near the Laos border, a dish named Som Tum is served in most homes on a regular basis. Loosely translated it means; SOM - orange/sour, TAM/TUM – pounded, and is relished all over Thailand. There are many versions…but the dish is basically a raw green Papaya salad that has a spicy, sweet and sour flavor to it.

Traditionally this dish is consists of ingredients like tomatoes, yard long beans, fermented fish paste, fish sauce, dried shrimp, palm sugar, garlic, red thai chillies, lime juice (tamarind juice), crushed peanuts and basil leaves. I’ve eaten the Vegetarian version and absolutely love the cornucopia of flavors that exist in this salad – a cool crisp crunch from the raw papaya enveloped in a sweet and sour and spicy dressing, finished with the saltiness from the roasted peanuts.

Having a fondness for raw papaya, this particular recipe is a favorite that is always on the menu at our home when we are in the mood for something Thai.

Recently an Uncle and Aunt were visiting, and I thought of making something different from the “usual” fare of Indian cuisine…the well traveled uncle (in jest?) questioned if anything Thai could taste good? So of course I had to make a mean Som Tam salad, vege spring rolls, Tom Yum soup, Green curry all served with white rice. Verdict........not bad at all!

Here is my vegetarian version of the Thai classic.

Som Tum Papaya Salad

1 lb raw green papaya, peeled and cut into very fine strips
5-8 yard long beans/green beans, stringed and cut into 2 inch pieces
2-3 peeled garlic cloves
2-4 Thai birds eye red chilies
2-6 leaves of thai red basil, chopped into a chiffonade
3-6 tsp lime juice
1-2 tbsp palm sugar/brown sugar/unrefined sugar
3-4 tbsp dry roasted peanuts, coarsely pounded
salt to taste

Coarsely pound the red chilies and garlic and keep aside. Using a large mortar and pestle lightly bruise the papaya and green beans. If you do not own a big enough mortar/pestle then pound the ingredients slipped into a large ziptop bag. Mix the ingredients and let the dish rest in the refrigerator. Serve cold or at room temperature.
This recipe has been submitted for the event A.W.E.D -Thai an event created and hosted by DK of Culinary Bazaar.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ful for Madame?

Meze or mezze in Eastern Mediterrean is a selection of appetizers or small dishes often served with beverages, similar to the tapas of Spain…or here in the US, Finger foods!

Beans are featured in many dishes and one of the legumes I particularly like are the Ful Medames. These small brown beans are members of the Fava family, of a specific type native to Egypt and the Levant. They are served with egg on top for breakfast, mashed into a puree with oil and lemon juice for mezze, or prepared as in this recipe, for a mezze, for a main course with meats, or for a side dish. There are restaurants in the Middle East- Egypt especially- that specialise in ful dishes!

Brown Beans with Herbs
1 15oz can of Ful medames beans
15-20 cherry tomatoes, halved
3-4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
3-4 garlic cloves crushed
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro or dill leaves (I prefer dill/suva)
salt and pepper to taste

Drain and rinse the canned beans. In a bowl add the crushed garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin powder, salt and pepper and stir in the beans and chopped fresh herb (cilantro/dill). Cool in the fridge for 2-4 hours and serve with more olive oil and lemon wedges and pita bread.

This recipe is submitted for the event My Legume Love Affair, created by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and hosted by Sra of When My Soup Came Alive.
For the event FIC-Brown, an event created and hosted by Sunshinemom of Toungue Ticklers.
And for Herb Mania-Dill, an event created by Dee of Ammalu's Kitchen and hosted by Latha & Lakshmi of The Yum Blog.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Holy Moly it's a Pozole

If pozole is unknown to you, hominy might be as well. It is a very large-kernel white corn that has been slaked in a solution of lime. It looks a little like chickpeas but has a strong corn flavor and makes this classic dish a hearty treat from Nuevo Mexican cuisine.

This soup is traditionally made with pork shoulders and hominy, and is said to have originated in Jalisco, but many claim it was actually Guerroro! The soup comes in three main versions, one just pork and hominy in a broth, second is as green version flavored with tomatillos & anaheim or poblano peppers and finally the third one is made with dried red chillies (ancho). If you do not find Ancho’s in your neck of the woods, you can substitute it with deghi mirch or paprika powder to give the intense red color and smoky flavor. Fresh roasted corn can be used as a substitute if Hominy is not available!

My version has it all in one bowl: a base of grains – hominy; vegetables – small chunks for flavor and finally garnished with chopped red onions, corn tortillas chips and lime wedges…who needs anything more?

Pozole Rojo de Jalisco

1- 16 oz can hominy
4-6 Roma tomatoes
1 medium sized zucchini, cubed
1 bell pepper (any color) cubed
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 corn tortillas
2 dried ancho chilies2-3 tbsp olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic
½ cup cilantro/fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 cup vegetable stock or 1 cube vegetable bouillon soaked in 1 cup warm water
3-4 cups water
¼ tsp white pepper
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp oregano flower
½ tsp red chili powder or paprika
salt to taste
Garnish: Red onions, red radish, cabbage, sour cream, tortilla chips and lime

Roast on the stovetop, a grill, or in the oven the tomatoes, whole tortillas until spotted with brown and ancho chilies –for a few minutes after which they’ll start to burn and taste very bitter! Break the tortillas into pieces. Blend all toasted ingredients until smooth.

Heat olive oil in a stock pot. Add the garlic cloves and onion and saute over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain the can of hominy and add to the pot along with the stock and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 25-30 minutes.
Serve warm garnished with chopped onions, tortilla chips, shredded cabbage, cubed red radish and sour cream.


This soup is my entry for the event No Croutons Required, inspired by Tinned Tomatoes and hosted by Lisa of Food and Spice.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Breakfast in Macchu Picchu - Quinoa Khichadi

Termed the Mother Grain – Quinoa was a sacred food to the ancient Incans. Cultivated for over 6000 years this seed is gluten free and low on the Glycemic Index making it an excellent food for breakfast. I have fond memories of eating Sabudana Khichdi for breakfast and substituting Quinoa for the tapioca balls makes this conventional recipe healthier.

Quinoa has a light and fluffy texture when cooked, and its mild slightly nutty flavor makes it an alternative to rice or couscous. To cook Quinoa the first step in preparing it is to remove the saponins/outer skin, a process that requires soaking the grain in water for a few hours, if possible. A common cooking method is to treat quinoa much like rice, bringing two cups of water to a boil with one cup of grain, covering at a low simmer and cooking for 14–18 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed. The cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it, like al dente pasta.


1 cup Quinoa
½ cup peanuts, crushed (optional)
1 boiled and peeled potato, cubed
1-2 green chilies, chopped
1 tsp whole cumin
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp heeng powder
1 tbsp sugar
5-6 curry leaves
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
juice of 1 lime
2tsp oil + 1 tsp ghee (optional)
salt to taste

MethodCook Quinoa in 2 cups of salted water until water has been absorbed and the texture is fluffy. Heat oil ghee combination and add the cumin seeds, heeng, green chilies, curry leaves and the cubed potato. Add the cumin powder and cook for couple of minutes. Mix in the Quinoa, coriander leaves, crushed peanuts, limejuice and sugar. Adjust for seasoning, serve warm.


Recipe submitted to WBB - Grains in my Breakfast an event created by Nandita of Saffron Trail and hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and for JFI-Grains an event created by Indira of Mahanandi and hosted by Suganya of Tasty Palettes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

In Knead of a Crust

My son K, loves Olives…actually so does his mom! K is the only kid I know that takes them to school as a snack and so I tend to buy a variety as each one has its own special flavor and use. Cured olives can broadly be classified by their color either black (purplish) or green. I’ve listed a few that I personally like…….

Kalamata – Smallish salty, flavorful, black and a bit bitter, you can find these popular Greek black olives in most large supermarkets. (my favorite kind)

Nicoise - A key ingredient in Salade Niçoise, these small purplish-black olives have a distinctive sour flavor.

Gaeta – These are small black Italian olives and are either dry-cured or brine-cured and a great substitute to the Kalamata.

Manzanilla – These green olives are often pitted and stuffed with pimento, garlic or cheese. These are the olives that garnish a martini cocktail.

Sevillano - This is a large, green, brine-cured olive, but not as large as the manzanilla and never stuffed.

Picholine - Green torpedo-shaped olives that are brine-cured and the ones made in France are marinated with coriander seeds and herbes de Provence while the American made version are soaked in citric acid, these make great martini olives as well.

Finally, the humble Mission - Common black sliced kind available at most supermarkets and the kind we see on a pizza or at the salad bar, this olive lacks flavor when compared to any of the European olives.

I’m passionate about bread…and the ones made with Olives are enjoyed by all at home, so I baked a simple Olive bread this weekend.

Simple Olive Bread

1 package active dry yeast

1½ cups warm water

3 –3 ½ cups bread flour, plus more for dusting1

½ tsp sea salt or kosher salt

3 tsp first cold press olive oil

¾ cup olives of your choice, chopped

Suji/cornmeal for dusting

Prepare yeast as per direction on the envelope. Sift flour with salt and add the olive oil. It is essential to use extra virgin first cold pressed oil as this flavors the bread. Mix it well. Add the frothy yeast liquid and warm water and mix until the dough is sticky. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead it for 8-10 minutes. Place in an oiled mixing bowl, cover with shrink wrap and allow it rest for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the bowl and knead the dough again, this time sprinkling some chopped olives as you go for about 6-8 minutes and shape into a smooth ball. Place the dough an oiled (2-3 quart) pyrex bowl, sprinkled with suji/cornmeal. Cover with dampened tea towel and allow this to rise once more, about 45-80 minutes. Put the lid on the bowl (this yields a nice chewy crust) and bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes. Remove lid and bake for another 5-10 minutes until when knocked on the side it sounds hollow. Remove and allow to cool. Serve warm with butter.


I would like to submit this for the JugalBandits event, Click-Crusts

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bitter is Better

Traditional Indian cuisine is based on the principles of the ancient scriptures of the Ayurveda. One of the commonly consumed spices in India is the Fenugreek, both the leaves and the seeds. Seeds of fenugreek contain the most potent medicinal effects of this plant and the use of Fenugreek seeds is quite common in “tadkas” in a variety of everyday menus like dal and vegetable dishes called subzi. The seed is also said to aid in the better absorption of sugar hence it is highly recommended for diabetics.

A traditional dish from the Western Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan is Methi dana aur Papad ki subzi, a dish usually made during the Fall/Autumn. The reason being that fenugreek seeds are said to be a natural expectorant and aids in loosening phlegm and mucus.

Raw fenugreek seeds are very bitter hence the title, however a lot of the bitterness can be extracted by soaking the seeds in warm water overnight and the boiling it until the seeds (aka dana) almost triple in size, develop a gel like outer covering and can easily be squeezed between two fingers. I like this dish as it is fairly easy to make and tastes like you labored all the day in the kitchen!


2 tbsp fenugreek seeds (presoaked or cooked in the microwave)
3 raw papads, broken into bite size pieces
2 tbsp yogurt
1 ½ - 2 cups water
2 tsp oil + 1 tsp ghee
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
4-5 curry leaves
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp jaggery or sugar
2-3 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
salt to taste

Soak fenugreek seeds in water overnight or zap in the microwave in 2 minute intervals, discarding cooked water each time for a total of 8-10 minutes, I often do this! Discard the water and keep aside. Break Papad into bite size pieces. Beat water and yogurt well making sure that there are no lumps.

Heat oil and ghee in a pan, add the cumin and mustard seeds and when they sputter add the curry leaves and turmeric powder. Now add the yogurt water, soaked fenugreek seeds, coriander powder, cumin powder and chilli powder and salt. Allow the gravy to come to a rolling boil (on a medium flame). Add the broken pieces of papad and cook for a few minutes until the papad pieces soften. Add grated jaggery and the chopped coriander leaves. Serve immediately with warm white rice.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Not in a Pickle

Though summer is officially over and Fall has begun, I chanced upon some raw mangoes at the local Indian grocery store. My better half C enjoys eating pickles, especially homemade ones with his meals……so I decided to make a pickle I had not tasted in awhile.

As a child I clearly remember eating fresh Avakai urga made by my maternal grandma, Kamalamma. When I stumbled upon my early teens I was considered “old enough” to be in charge of chores and every year, like clockwork I was taken by Grandma on a trip to scour the markets for the rawest, sourest mangoes. it was my responsibility to sit with the vendor while they cut the mangoes as per grandma’s instruction and to make sure that: (1) hand selected mangoes were not substituted with lower quality ones and, (2) they did not short us on the quantity. For all my efforts, I would be rewarded with a meal at a local restaurant before having to lug the baskets home!

Kamalamma’s recipe calls for a fair amount of garlic and chickpeas in the pickle - unusual, as we did not consume much garlic in our home! However, I like this version of Avakai the best as it’s not summer until one eats cool Thayir sadam with urga....when one bites into a crunchy piece of garlic, or a salty chickpea and then sucks on a piece of the pickled mango - sour and spicy… enticing is the pickle that it only makes you want to eat more! I can still savour the flavor of Kamalamma's pickle and decided that I had to make my own version of that classic…….the easy way of course!

My Avakai Urga

Raw green mangoes – 4 large, about ½ lbs each (make sure the fruit is fairly hard to the touch – this means that it is still raw)
1 Cup small cloves of peeled garlic (cut large cloves into smaller pieces)
1 Cup dry chick peas soaked in water overnight
2 tbsp whole fenugreek seeds
2 tbsp rai na kuria, hulled and split mustard seeds
2 tsp asafoetida (heeng) powder
2 Cups Pickle Masala (by Swad, Bansi or Deep which is what I used)
1-1/2 Cups Salt (depending on how sour the fruit is, + if very sour, - if less)
2 Cups gingelly/ sesame seed oil (may be substituted with a good quality peanut oil)


Wash and completely dry the mangoes. Cut into 1 inch cubes (use a very SHARP large knife as cutting through the inner shell can be tough) discard the seeds. Transfer into a large mixing bowl.

Heat oil in a pan until smoking point, turn off the flame and allow it to cool. In the meanwhile drain the chickpeas and remove external moisture by allowing it to dry completely(on a paper towel). Clean the peeled garlic cloves as well and make sure that they are bone dry as well.

Add ¾ of the salt and ¾ of the pickle masala and stir it into the cut mangoes. Make sure that all pieces are evenly coated with the masala. Add the garlic, chickpeas, fenugreek seeds, rai na kuria, and the heeng powder. Mix well to ensure even distribution, now taste the masala mix ~ it should taste extra salty, spicy and pungent, if not add more quantities of both the salt and pickle masala(the salt and spices mellow with age). Take a clean container (zap it in the microwave for a minute or two, or clean the container with vinegar) and slowly ladle in the mango mixture. Top off with the cooled oil. Tap the sides of the container to remove any air pockets. Add more if oil if it does not cover the top of the pickle as this will help keep the pickle from spoiling. Too much oil? Don’t worry I will suggest ideas on what to do with left over pickle marinade/oil in another post (making sure you visit again).


Finally, the last part is a challenge for most people – including me…....allowing the pickle to rest/mature in the sun for a couple of days! When you cannot wait anymore, transfer small (?) quantities of the pickle from the big container into several smaller ones for distribution to family and friends and one for personal use. Keep the large container in the coolest part of the refrigerator until you need to replenish your daily dose, Enjoy!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Berry Delicious

B, a cousin of my better half C visited us for a weekend and it was decided that we had to enjoy the Bay area weather by spending the day’s outdoors. For one of the days we planned on a picnic ~ the venue selected was Ano Nuevo Park, on the scenic Hwy1 along the beautiful Pacific Coast (a favorite of my son KD - who enjoys watching the 2-3 ton Northern Elephant seals). Along the way we decide to pick berries in the Atascadero area.

Olallieberry is an unusual berry - it is a cross between the loganberry and youngberry which further is a cross between the Raspberry and Blackberry…..complicated I know! I had read about this strangely named berry (apparently it’s a native Chinook word for berry) over a decade ago in a newspaper while at school in New Haven, CT and wondered what it would taste like???

Flash forward, Year 2008 – Berry picking at a U Pick farmette called Phipps Country Store, which just happened to have some Olallie’s ripe for the picking. These berries are said to have one of the shortest optimal-picking time for any fruit ~ just six weeks of plucking potential.

So packed in the car, B, Uncle J and Aunty L (also fellow foodies), we headed out with a few yummy goodies of our own! We finally reach the farm after a very long and winding drive and descended upon the farm with all our gear ~ you know hats, plenty of sunscreen, bug spray, bottles of water…yeah right!!!!!! Armed with just a basket each, for the pickings and incredible curiosity I headed out as fast as I could into the fields. I was barely paying attention to the lady who was instructing us on how to pick the ripest, sweetest berries. I figured if I pop a berry or two in my mouth I’ll figure it out… outta my way! As we scrambled past the hen house…Cousin B was nauseated by the stench of the poultry droppings…me, I was just excited to finally see rows and rows of the berry vines.

As the first one from our group on the field I picked the plumpest juiciest dark purplish hued berries and against the advice of my better half C- to rinse the fruit before ingesting, I excitedly thrust it into my already open mouth and squeezed the fruit between my tongue and palette to release the sweet treacle that was mildly tingling with a slightly tart after taste that made you want to pucker. The taste was very similar to that of raspberries and blackberries when eaten together.

Berry picking was a thoroughly enjoyable activity. All I can say is that I tasted more than what was picked….as I had to ascertain at which level of firmness and ripeness the berries tasted best….an earnest experiment for you my readers!

So in conclusion after eating several pints of berries I can safely attest that the berries that had the sweetest flavor were the;
a. Berries that had the darkest hue- almost a dark blackish purple shade, and
b. Ripe berries picked from vines that are almost dried out.

With my left over pint packed in a bag along with some other goodies from the store (more on the lentils soup mix I purchased at the store, later) we headed out to see the awe-inspiring Elephant seals that were in the process of molting their fur on the silver sands of the Pacific coastline.

Now to a recipe using my berry loot…….Berry Syrup!
1 Cup of berries (any variety)
½ Cup of fine white sugar (if berries are tart use ¾ of a cup of sugar)

Place berries in a non-reactive saucepan (stainless steel/pyrex/non stick) and pour room temperature water just until it covers the tops of the berries. Bring this to a boil and turn off the heat and allow mixture to cool. Blend this mixture and strain through a sieve for uniform smooth sauce and discard the leftover pulp. Place the strained mixture back in the saucepan and add sugar, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add extra water depending on how thick or thin you would like the syrup to be.

I like my syrup to be a bit on the thick side as I use it as a flavoring for salad dressings and berry flavored cocktails. When I use it as a cocktail syrup I like to add a teaspoon or two of brandy (Kirsch, Schnapps, Cassis) for every cup of fruit used to give it an added dimension in flavor.
The uses for this basic syrup are endless, and my favorites are:

Berry Vinaigrette
¾ cup berry syrup
½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
salt to taste

Combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth and silky in texture. Pour the dressing on your favorite greens and enjoy. I like it with a frisee or baby greens.

Researchers say that by adding alcohol to berries boosts the amount of antioxidants in the fruit that can be absorbed by our bodies…so here is a recipe for a “healthy” drink.

Healthy Vodka Drink
1 cup mixed berries
½ cup berry syrup
1 Cup ice cubes/crushed cubes
1 oz. Vodka
1 tsp chopped mint
Whole berries/mint sprig for decoration

Method I
Whip all the ingredients in a blender and pour into your favorite wine glass. Decorate with a sprig of mint.

Method II
Muddle the berries in a cocktail shaker and add crushed ice, syrup, vodka and chopped mint. Stir vigorously and strain into a chilled lowball glass filled with more crushed ice. Decorate with a sprig of mint or some berries skewered on your favorite cocktail pick.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Corn"ering the local farm

It’s almost the end of July and I have been scouring my favorite local haunts for the freshest of the freshest vegetables that I can lay may hands on.

At Ramirez Farms (a stones throw from my suburban home) the produce of the week is Corn. I picked up six ears of corn (3 for $1.00) and a bunch of sunflowers. Cheap and plentiful at this time of the year I headed home with my small but bulging cloth bag. While driving the mile and a half back home I wondered what to make? Maybe corn soup or some salsa as I had a few red and green bell peppers in the fridge!

Once home, I placed the corn on the kitchen island and took off to check my e-mail…come on I know you do that too!

Dinner time came along and I still wasn’t sure what to make until I tasted a few of the raw corn kernels.......wish I could describe how sweet and crunchy the corn was! Instinctively I knew I HAD to make Corn Curry. The recipe for this dish is loosely based on a traditional western Indian ~ Gujarati dish, Corn Kadhi that is mildly sweet and sour. The dish is served as a main course with Phulka’s, an unleavened flat bread or steamed rice......... Me, I like to pour some in a bowl and chow it down with a couple of slices of Foccacia bread.

Corn Curry

6 ears of fresh corn, shucked and rinsed
4 tsp ginger-green chili paste (GG paste)
1-cup yogurt
2 tsp gram flour - besan
1-cup milk
4 tsp oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp musturd seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp coriander powder
2 fresh green chilies, sliced
4-8 curry leaves (optional)
¼ cup fresh cilantro – finely chopped
4+1 cups water (more if needed)
2 tsp sugar
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste


Cut four ears of corn into 2 inch thick slices. Cut the kernels off the remaining two ears of corn and keep aside. Pressure-cook sliced corn with four cups of water, salt and 2 tsp of GG paste for 6 minutes. Whisk in the gram flour with the yogurt, mixing well to avoid lumps.

In another pan heat the oil, when it starts to smoke add cumin seeds & musturd seeds and allow it to sputter, throw in sliced green chilies, curry leaves, remaining GG paste, cumin and coriander powders and the corn kernels. Allow this to sauté for 6-8 minutes on a medium flame just until the corn is cooked. Pour one cup water, yogurt mixture and cook on a very low flame stirring frequently to prevent the mixture from splitting and until raw smell of the yogurt mixture disappears and the gravy has thickened. Now add the pressure-cooked corn slices, sugar, salt to taste and chopped coriander and cook on a low flame for 5-8 minutes. If the curry seems too thick add 1 cup of milk and cook for a few more minutes and take it of the fire. Add the lime juice and serve warm with Rotis or steamed rice. Enjoy!


As the title suggests this blog is about Vegetarian food - Recipes and Musings and as an homage to my mother, aunts, uncles, extended family & friends and International travels with my better half C, and to all those who have feed me with the most amazing and scrumptious foods and indulged in discussions that inspired me to enter the kitchen and have a blast! Finally it would be very unfair not to mention my dearest son KD, who occasionally lets me know……”Mom, you are the bestest cooker”!
This recipe is my entry to the Weekend Breakfast Blog- Summer Feast an event created by Nandita of Saffron Trail and hosted by Sia of Monsoon Spice.