Monday, May 16, 2011

Popeye was right……….Spinach is good for you

Popeye the comic strip character - got instant boost of power/energy from eating cans and cans of spinach when he needed to duke it out with Brutus or other sailormen, or just to deal with grandma or his “girlfriend” Olive oyl.

The truth is that spinach has loads of iron thus making it an energized food {more hemoglobin content in your blood means more oxygen delivered to your vital organs}. So in other words I need to help myself to some serious amounts of greens to help me better cope with my life….………read on!

Just in case any of you are interested, {I know writing this blog is like I am starring in my own movie that NO one is watching} I’d like to blame two things for my lack of blogging {though there are more than enough excuses to pass the blame onto - I’ll stick to just a few to make this post short}.

1. Lack of sufficient/efficient household help, yup its true. As the beloved said, R you’ve had it good for a while now so don’t complain………….alas the cook and full time help are long gone and poor ole me has to do most of the domestic chores! Unfortunately cooking food, photographing the dish and then blogging about it does not make it on my “top 50” list of things to do for the day.

2. My new found love for Dish network {satellite TV} – the package we{I} bought {includes everything but the kitchen sink} and they feature channels in “popular” regional Indian languages like Marathi, Gujarati and Odiya {formerly Oriya} and all these channels have daily soaps, news, and yes EVEN musical reality shows – a MUST watch for me! So as you can see there is very little time left in the day to do the other 48 or so things on my daily chores list!

So enough of the lame excuses and back to Spinach - which can be boring……..but this version of Palak Paneer: Cottage cheese cubes in spiced spinach puree, courtesy my sis R is always a hit. Just a bit of FYI, the afore mentioned sis does not like to cook and rarely does, so acquiring this/a recipe from her makes it even more interesting!

Palak Paneer
2 bags or bunches of spinach leaves, washed and chopped
8-10 oz of paneer, queso fresco, panela, or halloumi, cubed and {shallow fried - optional}
1 medium onion or a handful of shallots finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic
½ inch knob of ginger, peeled
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
2 green chillies
1 cup milk or 2-4 tbsp cream
1 tbsp ghee/butter or oil
Salt to taste

Spice Blend: Lightly roast and powder

2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch piece of cinnamon
4-6 cloves
1 tsp black pepper
2-4 pods cardamom

Cook leaves with 2-4 tbsp of water and allow it to cool. Liquidize the cooked spinach, fresh garlic, ginger, chopped tomato, and green chillies. Heat ghee/butter/oil in a large pan and add the chopped onions and allow it to brown. Add the spinach puree, salt and cook on low heat for 10 mins. Add the paneer/cheese cubes, milk/cream, and the spice blend. Allow it to cook for another 5 mins. Serve warm with chappati/bread or cooked rice.
This recipe has been submitted for the event, Veggie/Fruit a month created by Priya M of Mharo Rajathan and hosted by Reshmi of Rasoi.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Going for the Gold

It’s been a while since I entered the kitchen – thanks to my excellent cook Baby Mami {tamil language word for Aunt} who whips up finger licking amazing traditional south indian fare, but this past weekend there was cooking competition at the Mylapore Club, of which we are brand spanking new members. The club is very quaint, has an old world charm to it and located on sprawling grounds like an oasis in the middle of hectic suburbia.

The theme of the competition was wheat and my son egged me on to participate. He suggested I make Pasta with olives { his two most favourite ingredients} and I accepted. I’ve never taken part in a cooking competition, but figured it was worth a try and that it would at the very least make the Sunday dinner a little more exciting as Baby Mami has Sundays off!

Based on the son’s request and the clubs guidelines I decided to make my vegetarian version of Pasta Puttanesca and load it with tons of olives and fresh vegetables like broccoli and zucchini. While at it I figured I’d make some interesting garnish to “dress” up the humble pasta and made palm trees with bell pepper and carrots - quirky, but adorable!

The competition had at the very least 18-2O competitors and was broken down into two categories - Sweet and Savoury. Some interesting dishes were “old fashioned” wheat halwa, ragi and wheat laddus, wheat flour polis and kottu parrotah – a very native Chennai quick eats dish made of chopped up roti’s and tossed with sautéed onions, garlic, ginger and assorted spices.

The judge of the competition was a nutritionist from a local hospital and had some wonderful comments about the theme in regards to its nutritional value and how we could incorporate more wheat in our mainly rice based south indian diets.

After announcing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners in the sweet category..........drum roll please, they announced Moi as the 1st place winner in the Savoury category! I’ve never really won too many things, excepting for the time I was Ms January in a yearly calender {I'll save that story for some other time} so this was a pleasant surprise and even more so as my son had declared me the winner even before I started to cook! However the son has such a persuasive nature that it is possible that he could have coerced the judge into declaring me the winner………..wink…wink! But the judges comments made me really proud as she said my pasta was the most *attractive dish* and it tasted even better than its looks! A few other things she mentioned was that since I choose to parboil the vegetables and cooked the sauce in olive oil, it added to the nutritional value, thus making it a winner…………..woohoo!

Without further ado, here is the recipe…………

Pasta Puttanesca
500 gms uncooked pasta of your choice {I used rigatini}, cooked until al dente
250 gms broccoli cut into small florets\
150 gms zucchini/squash, chopped into small fingers
6-8 peeled and finely chopped garlic cloves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 {100 ml each} cartons of tomato puree
3 tbsp sliced black olives
2-3 tbsp pasta/Italian seasoning
2 tbsp red pepper/chilli flakes
1-2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp sugar
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Parboil broccoli and zucchini. Heat oil in pan and add the garlic and onions, sauté until the garlic and onions give out a fragrance. Add the seasoning, 1 tbsp chilli flakes, salt & pepper, stir for a minute and the tomato puree. Cook until the sauce reduces to 2/3 of its original volume. Add the parsley, vegetables and cooked pasta and toss for a few minutes until the pasta is coated well with the sauce. Garnish with olives and pepper flakes, serve warm with your favourite bread.


This recipe has been submitted for the event, Create and Carve, created by Nayna and hosted by Nina of Givemesomespice.

Recipe has also been submitted for the event Presto Pasta Nights, created by Ruth of Once upon a feast and hosted by Jen of Taste of Home.