Kachumber

Kachumber

Depending on the region, Indian food is served with a small plate of sliced raw onions, tomatoes, radish, green chilli, lemon/ lime wedges and cilantro. While this is primarily a North Indian offering, my family (and many others I know from the South) usually serves this ‘salad’ with meat dishes. It’s not uncommon for rural diets to include these fresh raw vegetables with their roti or flatbread (made from rice, wheat, corn, buckwheat, maize, etc) as it make for a sharp accompaniment and travels well.

My husband is an onion-lover of the first degree and I hate them! As simple as this dish is, it’s a treat for him when I make some kachumber. He swears that a few pieces of raw onion, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of cilantro takes food to a whole new level. You can click here to see the Oven Roasted Tandoori Cornish Hen recipe and the complete menu that I served this Kachumber with.

Kachumber

  • 1 medium red onion – sliced
  • 1/2 medium tomato – seeded and cut into wedges
  • 1-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp chaat masala OR salt to taste
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped green chilli (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve.

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Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

As promised – here is the next easy appetizer idea. Most Indians will be familiar with some version of this carrot salad. You can add in seeded & finely chopped tomatoes, or sprouted mung beans. I have just added a small twist to how it’s served. Cocktail Papadums (mini papads) are available at most Indian grocery stores. If not, you can use tortilla chips / scoops.

These papads and the salad can be made ahead of time and assembled just before serving. Hope this helps make your entertaining easier :)).

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

Cocktail Papadums & Carrot Salad

(serves 4-6)

  • 1/2 packet cocktail papadums (fried and drained)
  • 2 large carrots (peeled & grated)
  • 1 small red onion (finely chopped)
  • 1-2 green chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2-3 Tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
  • salt to taste
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 1 medium tomato (seeded & finely diced) – optional
  • 1/2 cup sprouted mung beans – optional

This recipe is more a guide than an actual measurement:

1) Fry cocktail papadums and drain on paper towels. Store in a paper towel lined air tight container for up to 2 days. (If you cannot find mini papadums/papads,  I suppose you could get away with tortilla chips/scoops.)

2) In a bowl, mix together the grated carrots, onion, green chillies and mung beans (if using). Refrigerate till ready to serve.

3) Just before serving, add the salt, lemon juice & tomato and gently mix with a fork. (Remember that tomatoes will release moisture and make the carrot mix soggy after a while. I generally avoid it if I expect the mix to sit for a while.)

4) Serve in a bowl on a plate with the papads. Guests can fix their own bite size snack.

Cocktail Papadums

Growing up, this was something we occasionally had as Sunday breakfast to give my mom a break from cooking. We slathered our bread with ghee and toasted it on the griddle till it was golden and crunchy, and topped it with this spicy carrot salad. I still enjoy this salad, but without the bread!

Vegan Zucchini & Corn Cutlets

Vegan Zucchini Corn Cutlets

Is everybody getting ready for the holiday madness? For many years, I felt like I was short changing my kids and family if our holidays didn’t involve hand made stuff, decorating, cleaning and cooking like a maniac, and entertaining over the 6+ weeks starting mid-November. It’s so easy to get caught up in the picture perfect version of the holidays that is sold to us by retailers and media, that we forget it took a large paid team of people to come up with what we see in ads. 2 years ago, I decided that I would not do anything that my kids didn’t really care about. Surprisingly, they were fine with not putting up a tree (second time in 15 years; the first was when we lived overseas for a year)!! That December, we travelled to Jamaica for a gloriously relaxing vacation, took naps, read books, watched movies and played Scrabble. Not a single wreath/christmas decoration came out of the box. We did do some casual entertaining (as in easy meals, or order in Chinese or pizza) with small groups, and were actually able to sit down and enjoy company. It was an eye-opener for me. I wasn’t a yelling nagging lunatic with a whisk in one hand and a dusting rag in the other!! (Atleast, I think I wasn’t one. My family may differ 🙂 but they have to agree that I toned it down a couple notches.) We did put up our tree last year, and baked, entertained, shopped, etc. but I didn’t stress about how perfect everything had to be. It’s definitely a work in progress, but I’m trying to walk down the same path again this year.

What I want to say here is that while we may not be able to completely give up everything, the holidays are about appreciating our loved ones and making the time to connect with them. If you can effortlessly whip up a 7 course meal and still smile, hats off to you. But most of us need a stash of easy and quick tricks in our bag to tide the next few weeks. In the coming days, my plan is to post recipes of what I am making in my own home. I assure you that they will be easy, healthy (somewhat :)), elegant, and mostly make-ahead. After all, the hosts need to enjoy the party too.

The recipe below is just a guide for making these cutlets. Since zucchini has a neutral taste, you can add any seasoning of choice: green chillies & chopped mint; sriracha & fish sauce; chopped dill & feta cheese; etc. I have used basil & oregano as I wanted to empty them out. It is crucial to squeeze out the water from the zucchini, and to add a binding agent to hold the mix together. (I might try adding mashed black beans instead of the potato next time.) The flour & starch / bread crumbs aid in absorbing any left over moisture, and may not be necessary if you have had enough time to drain the vegetable.

I have made these cutlets a day or two before my party and heated in a toaster oven, and they tasted just as good as fresh. If you plan on reheating, place them on a rack after cooking so they cool without sitting in steam. Cool completely and store in a paper towel lined air tight box in the refrigerator. I sometimes make these and serve as after-school snacks and my 10-year old will eat 4-5 without complaint.

Vegan Zucchini – Corn Cutlets

(Makes about 24)

  • 2 lbs zucchini
  • 1 cup roasted corn ( I buy the frozen bag but you can roast at home if you like)
  • 1 Tbsp garlic (paste or minced or powder)
  • 1 Tbsp dry red chili flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp dry basil (crush between palms before adding)
  • 1 Tbsp dry oregano (crush between palms before adding)
  • 1 medium boiled, peeled & mashed potato [or] 1 egg**
  • 1 cup bread crumbs [or] 1/2 cup all-purpose flour + 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • salt to taste
  • Oil for griddle

1) Set a colander in a plate or bowl,and grate zucchini into it using the fine side of the grater.

2) Toss with 1 tsp salt and set aside for 15 minutes. This will make the vegetable release a lot of moisture and drain into the lining plate/bowl.

3) Meanwhile, in another large bowl, mix the corn, garlic, chili flakes, basil, oregano & potato.

4) After 15 minutes, squeeze out the grated zucchini and add to the corn mixture. Adjust salt and spices, and chill for another 15 minutes (optional – this will help to set the mixture and make for easier shaping. Also, this will release any additional water in the zucchini, and you can control the amount of bread crumbs added).

5) Alternately, you may skip the chilling, and add the bread crumbs (or all-purpose flour & cornstarch) and mix well.

6) Heat a griddle on medium and add 2 Tbsp oil to it.

7) Shape 2-3 Tbsp of the mixture into balls and flatten into patties. Cook the patties on medium-high for about 3 minutes per side until golden brown.

8) Serve with dipping sauce of your choice – ketchup, ranch, sriracha, cilantro-mint-green chili chutney, etc.

*** Vegans might want to try flax egg as a binding agent. Please let me know how it turns out if you do.

Easy Microwave Chocolate Barfi

Microwave Chocolate BarfiThis is an easy recipe I got many years ago from a friend’s mom who said she got it from a yoga buddy. My trial batch, in my opinion, was not perfect, and I had no plans of posting it here. Turns out that when I met a few friends and offered them a taste, they all loved it and requested not only to take a few pieces home, but also that I definitely share the recipe. I have slightly tweaked the recipe since then to improve it. Hope you all enjoy these barfis too.

Easy Microwave Chocolate Barfi

(Makes 36 1-inch pieces)

  • 5 cups – Dry instant milk powder (You may substitute a 14oz packet of Milk Mawa Powder that is readily available at most Indian grocers.)
  • 2 cups – Heavy Whipping cream
  • 2 cups – Fine Confectioners Sugar
  • 1/2 cup – Chocolate Chips**
  • 2 Tbsp – Cocoa Powder

1) Line an 8X8 inch pan with parchment or wax paper (click here or here to see how – I don’t even spray or butter my pan). Alternately, generously grease the pan with butter and set aside. (I prefer the parchment paper method as it is sturdy enough to aid in removing the barfis from the pan to cut on a chopping board.)

2) In a microwaveable container that is atleast 2 quarts (8-10 cups) capacity, add the milk powder, cream and sugar, and mix thoroughly.

3) Microwave for 2 minute and stir well.

4) Repeat the microwaving and stirring another 3-4 times in 2 minute intervals (total cook time of 8-10 minutes). The mixture will get foamy and fluffy towards the end, so exercise caution when moving the bowl in and out of the microwave. Cook time will vary because of different microwave power.

5) At around 8 minutes cook time, drop a small ball of the mixture into a bowl of cold water and see if it sets into a relatively firm shape. If it is still soft, microwave an additional minute or two, stirring well and checking the consistency with each additional minute.

6) Pour 2/3 mixture into the pan and quickly smooth the top. Set aside on counter or in the refrigerator to chill and firm up, about 30 minutes.

7) Add the chocolate chips and cocoa powder to the remaining mixture and set aside at room temperature.

8) Once the barfi mixture in the pan is firm, reheat the chocolate mixture at 30 second intervals till it is well mixed and smooth, but do not make it hot or the chocolate mix will sink. Pour over the barfi mixture in the pan. You can spread the chocolate smooth & evenly on top, or drop spoonfuls  in a random designs so that the finished barfis will have an interesting contrast.

9) Cool completely and remove the barfis from the pan by holding the parchment paper. Set on a chopping board and cut into 36 pieces.

 

Marinated Tomato Salad

Marinated Tomato Salad

With the mild summer this year, I’m sure most home gardeners are being blessed with a late but bumper crop of tomatoes this month. We got our first harvest in August, and there has been no looking back. The two cherry tomato plants we put in this year have  multiplied and pretty much taken over the vegetable patch like weeds. The one beef-steak tomato plant is thriving too and it’s fruit is humungous, juicy & delicious. After sharing plenty with family & friends, and freezing a couple bottles full of sauce, we are still going strong.

Today's Harvest

Today’s Harvest

Snuffles waiting for treats

Snuffles waiting for treats

Overgrown Tomato Plants

Overgrown Tomato Plants

Looking online, I came across this recipe for an interesting tomato salad. Although I didn’t have everything mentioned, I used the basic idea and tweaked it to suit our tastes. I must say – this is YUMMY!! Really easy to put together, this salad is made ahead of time and it must sit for a few hours at room temperature for all the flavors to come together. The marinade/juices can be sopped up with some crusty bread. I’ll definitely make it again when we have company for the last few barbecues this fall.

I had this for lunch with Cold Sesame Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce. I know – different cuisines, but it worked for me :).

Marinated Tomato Salad

(Serves 4-5)

Marinated Tomato Salad

  • 1 lb cherry tomatoes (or other red variety of choice)
  • 1 Tbsp parsley (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tbsp basil (finely chopped)
  • 2 whole green onions/scallions (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp dry oregano (original recipe called for thyme, but I didn’t have any)
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional – I like my food spicy)
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt to taste

1) Wash & drain the tomatoes. Cut cherry tomatoes in half, or larger tomatoes into wedges.

2) In a large bowl, whisk all marinade ingredients until well incorporated.

3) Gently toss tomatoes and cover bowl.

4) Marinate at room temperature for several hours, stirring occasionally.

NOTE: Can be served with a piece of crusty bread to sop the juices. Next time, I might add a little shredded mozzarella too.

Creamy Guava-Coconut Popsicles

Creamy Guava-Coconut Popsicles

A week into summer break, and I’ve already heard “Mom, can we go to the pool?”, “Mom, can we go get ice-cream?”, and “I’m Bored!!” more times than I can take. I had my 10-year old make a list of all the things he would like to do for fun over the next two months, and making popsicles was one of the first few items. We’re checking off one item on the list each day, and yesterday happened to be the day we pulled out the popsicle molds from the basement. But let me be honest; I foresee many days where screen time is going to be my best friend :).

IMG_0042  (Mom’s ‘not-so-little’ helper)

 

I got this paleta Latin American popsicles that are either cream or juice mixed with fruit – recipe several years ago from my friend Nellie, and had really enjoyed the taste. I meant to share it here earlier, but had misplaced the hand written scrap of paper. After looking everywhere, I found it folded and tucked inside one of my many recipe books and binders. One of my most favorite recipes, these are creamy and just sweet enough. I’ve been inspired to use this basic recipe to substitute other fruits, and will update here once (if) my experiments are successful.

IMG_0043 IMG_0044

 

 

(Guava paste can be found in the Hispanic food section at the grocery store.)

Creamy Guava-Coconut Popsicles

Creamy Guava-Coconut PopsiclesCreamy Guava-Coconut Popsicle

(Makes 15-17 popsicles, about quarter cup each)

  • 1 (15 oz) can coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 (15 oz) can condensed milk
  • 10-12 oz guava paste

1) Chop about a quarter of the guava paste into small pieces and drop into the bottom of the popsicle molds.

2) In a large blender jar, add the coconut milk, cream, milk, cornstarch, condensed milk, & chunks of the remaining guava paste. Blend till well mixed, but not frothy.

3) Pour into the popsicle molds, add handles and freeze for atleast 4-6 hours.

4) To remove popsicles, run the bottom & sides of the mold under warm water for a few seconds and slide the ice cream out.

NOTE : If using dixie cups, place them on a cookie tray or plate and then fill them according to instructions. Freeze on the cookie tray for about an hour. Then insert the popsicle sticks. This will help keep the sticks straight as they freeze for several more hours.

Non-alcoholic Apple-Fennel (Saunf) Spritzer

Apple-Fennel (Saunf) Spritzer

 

I made this to accompany a Saturday lunch party with spicy Indian food because I was tired of serving the same sodas/lemonades/mango lassi to guests who preferred non-alcoholic drinks,  As with most of my recipes, this can be made ahead of time, and mixed quickly when your guests request the drink.

Fennel seeds/saunf has a licorice flavor, and is generally know as the sugar-candy-coated seeds that are placed at the entrance of almost every Indian restaurant. While one of its roles is as a mouth freshener, saunf is also known to help relieve many stomach ailments – colic, constipation, indigestion, flatulence, heartburn. etc.

Original recipe credit to SAVEUR magazine. My version is a little sweeter and has a slightly more pronounced fennel taste.

 

Apple-Fennel (Saunf) Spritzer

(Makes about 1-cup syrup; enough for 6-8 drinks)

FOR THE SYRUP:

  • 2 tbsp. fennel (saunf) seeds – [coarsely ground]
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water

1) Add the crushed fennel seeds, water & sugar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

2) Cook on medium-low flame for about 5 minutes till slightly thick, about 5 minutes.

3) Remove from heat and let the mixture rest till it reaches room temperature.

4) Strain into an airtight container or a pretty glass bottle. If not using right away, this mixture can be stored in the refrigerator (tightly sealed) for up to  1 month.

TO SERVE THE DRINK: (per person)-

  • 2-3 Tbsp fennel syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup club soda
  • Thin apple slices for garnish
  • Ice

1) Mix all ingredients above in a tall glass and add ice. Garnish with apple slices and serve.