Thursday, December 31, 2009

Grad School Rajma (Kidney beans)

Every Indian grad school student in US has made this recipe some time or the other. I know because I have and my husband has. There are advantages to this recipe - grocery shopping is easy and cheap  (no complicated or gourmet ingredients), very easily adaptable (any bean or vegetable works), goes well with rice and quick. This is how it happened... you came home and made the standard gravy. When that was merrily boiling, you searched the cabinets (we don't yet know what pantry is) and the freezer till you find 3 cans of the same ingredient or a large bag of vegetables. Then that went into the gravy and after mixing the stove was turned off. It was assumed cooked and well seasoned. No tasting necessary. My husband still makes this one but with one more ingredient - lots of love. He made it many times last year when I was preparing for my PE and PTOE exams. Definitely my recipe of the year.


3 cans Rajma (you have to use canned for authenticity of recipe)
1 diced onion
1 can tomato sauce
Large pinch cumin seeds
Large pinch mustard seeds
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon Garam masala
1 cup Water

Heat oil in a wok and add the cumin and mustard seeds. Then add the onions and cook for a few minutes (this step varies between cooks). Then add the tomato puree in the wok along with water. Add the spices and boil. Add the drained and rinsed rajma from the cans and salt to season. Mix well. This is where the traditional recipe ends but do boil for a couple of more minutes to integrate the flavors.and burn off some of the water. Can be garnished with coriander. Serve hot with rice.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Boondi Raita

This is a traditional and very common type of raita in north India. If you dont make the boondi at home, it is an easy to make raita as well. I had this raita at my bhabhi's place with mint and it was an interesting flavor combination, so it features here as well. If you don't like mint, you can leave it out.


2 cups yogurt
1 cup savory boondi
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder (bhuna jeera)
1/2 teaspoon pepper or chili powder

Whisk the yogurt till smooth and add the spices and herbs. Add water to reach the desired consistency of raita. Boondi will absorb water as it sits and become soggy, so add boondi minutes before serving. Mix well and garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Hot Chocolate

Wish you a Merry Christmas everyone!

And I have a special Christmas drink as well. Chocolate drinks are a favorite of mine, hot or cold. But during Christmas this one drink is especially favored. I have been making it for a few years now, mainly the difference being the chocolate type. I make this one on a stove top but it can just as easily be made in the microwave as individual servings. The proportion below makes 2 servings.


2 1/4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons cream (optional)
1 heaping spoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coffee (optional)

Boil milk in a pot with the cinnamon. Bring it to a boil and add the cocoa powder, coffee and sugar. Stir till the sugar is dissolved. Then add the cream and the vanilla and simmer for a minute. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve hot.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Its one day before Christmas. I hope you all have your cookies baked and cakes frosted and fruitcakes drowned in alcohol. Me, I decided to take a baking break and just eat store-bought. I bought this loaf of panettone from the market and have been enjoying it for a few days now.

I never had panettone before but every year I see Giada (on food network) raving about it. This year I decided to try it for myself. And boy was I happy. It was a very light, fruit filled sweet bread. I will now have it every Christmas. 

So all you cooks, who haven't baked yet, just go to the store and pick up a loaf. Its not home-made but its worth not cleaning the pots and pans!

Crustless Spinach and Feta Mini Quiche

Mini quiches are dainty little things on a buffet table. I have had them at cocktail parties before and this time they  were a part of the spread at my Holiday party. This was the first time I was making quiche and was a little hesitant about making the crust. What if the butter wasn't cold enough while making it or the crust was soggy or too flaky. I didn't need that anxiety before the party so I skipped the crust altogether. It tasted good without and I will mostly be making it that way. I wanted to make it bite size so I made in a muffin pan. I used frozen spinach and I thawed and squeezed the water out of it before starting the dish. If you are using fresh spinach, blanch it and squeeze water out of the spinach before using.


1 cup (packed) spinach
2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic
6 eggs
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled
1 medium tomato
4 tablespoons heavy cream or whole milk
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
Cooking spray to coat the muffin pans

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in a pan and add the chopped garlic. When the garlic starts to brown add the spinach and tomato. Saute for a few minutes. Add the oregano, salt and pepper and saute for another minute. In another bowl, slightly beat eggs with the heavy cream. Add salt and pepper to the eggs. Take the cooked spinach and tomato mixture off the stove and add half of the cheese. Mix well. Take a muffin pan and coat with the cooking spray. This helps the quiche come out cleanly. Put a spoonful of the spinach mixture in each muffin cup. Sprinkle some of the cheese on that. Pour 1/12  of the egg mixture on that. Bake for 15 minutes in the middle rack till the top is browned. To remove from the pan, run a knife through the side and the quiche comes out easily. Can be served hot or warm.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Orange Punch

Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Tis the season to be jolly

To spread the holiday cheer, I had hosted a holiday party last Friday with bite size food and plenty of alcohol. There was punch, puff pastry spirals, mini quiche, whiskey balls, wonton cups, mini pizza's, frosted cranberries, cheese tray and panettone. To be able to make all this food was another reason for the party as well. The easiest among these was the punch and I am going to start with that. I had this punch at a bridal shower and was an isntant favorite. It takes just minutes to make and it is good with or without alcohol.


1/2 gallon Orange sorbet
1 (2 litre bottle) Lemon-lime soda or gingerale
Orange slices for garnish (optional)

Vodka as per taste

Scoop out the sorbet in a large punch bowl. Add chilled lemon-lime soda or gingerale to the sorbet. (You can add orange slices at this point to float on the punch. I didn't do this). Make the punch about 10-15 minutes before the quests arrive to allow the sorbet to thaw into the soda. Add the vodka as desired. You may not add the vodka to the punch and serve it on the side :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pav bhaji (Indian Sloppy Joe's)

Pav Bhaji is one of my favorite dishes and my husband loves it as much as I do so it is made often.  It is also quintessential Mumbai street food. Back home there is a restaurant called Swadesh which makes the best Pav Bhaji I have ever eaten. Whether it was a celebration or a casual dinner, the order was always the same. The bhaji was made on a huge pan on the patio and you could smell the vegetables and masalas sauteing in butter as you entered the restaurant. Tangy, spicy, tomatoey bhaji with pav smothered in Amul butter. I have tried to make it as similar to that as possible. This recipe is a bulk portion. I always make it for 3 meals else it doesn't feel like we've had any!


1 cauliflower head
3 large potatoes
1 can (28 oz) tomato sauce
1 green bell pepper
1/2 cup peas
1 large (not huge) onion
3-4 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger minced
3-4 green chilies
3-4 tablespoons oil or butter
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Pinch asafoetida (hing)
1 tablespoon Garam Masala
2 tablespoons Mumbai pav bhaji Masala
2 teaspoons chili powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons dhania - jeera powder (cumin coriander)
1 stick cinnamon
4-5 cloves
Butter for topping and sauteing
Red Onion
Chopped cilantro leaves

Boil the cauliflower and potatoes. If using fresh peas, blanch the peas and set aside. In a large vessel, heat the oil or butter. Add the hing, cumin and mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add the onions, garlic, peppers, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and chilies. When onions are translucent and the peppers are cooked, add the tomatoes and the remaining spices. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add the boiled cauliflower and mash. Then add the potato one at a time and mash till all the potatoes are used up. If the bhaji is very thick, add some water to it to make it easy to stir. Add salt and peas, mix well and cook for 10-12 minutes till it starts bubbling. Taste the bhaji for salt, tanginess and spiciness. Add more salt, tomato or masala if needed and cook for a few more minutes.

Split pav (or dinner rolls) into halves and saute in butter. Chop some red onion and cut some lemon wedges. Serve the Pav bhaji piping hot with a pat of butter and chopped cilantro on top, with the pav, onions and lemon on the side.

An interesting variation is cheese pav bhaji. On the bhaji plate a liberal amount of shredded processed cheese is added as a topping.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Daal fry (Lentil Soup)

It doesnt always have to be seven course meal or a full thali. Sometimes the simplest dish can hit the spot. So it was with this delicious daal fry with chawal. We had it for lunch and then for dinner as well. It didnt need anything else. The daal is my mothers recipe but modified with ingredients at hand. My mother uses fresh tomatoes but I used canned tomato sauce instead and I was out of coriander, else it would be heaven.


1 1/2 cups yellow moong daal
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
3 green chilies
1/3 inch piece minced garlic
1/3 can (16 oz) tomato sauce
1/3 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons red chili powder
2 tablespoons chopped coriander

Place the daal in a pressure cooker with approx 2 1/2 cups of water. Pressure cook to 2 whistles. Let the cooker cool naturally. The steam inside will break down the daal even more. In a separate deep vessel, heat the oil. Add the cumin and mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add the onions and garlic. When they are translucent add the chilies, ginger, turmeric powder and the red chili powder. Saute for a minute and add the tomato sauce. When all the ingredients are cooked, approx 2-3 minutes, add the daal along with the water it was cooked in. Whisk to give a smooth texture (optional). Add water to reach the desired consistency. Mix thoroughly and bring it to a boil. Cook for another 5 minutes. Taste the daal (Mom doesn't need to I do), all the flavors should be meshed well and there should not be any boiled daal taste. Else boil a little longer. Add the chopped coriander and serve hot with chawal.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Eggless Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

My husband had a treat waiting for him yesterday morning. Usually weekday breakfast is cold cereal, breakfast bars or his new favorite bagelfuls along with office coffee. Yesterday it was fresh blueberry (and banana) pancakes. My plan was blueberry but the banana fan had to have them. So I made a sample one, but we both liked blueberry better. And it was decadent with a generous serving of butter and maple syrup. This batter made five medium sized pancakes.


1 1/4 cup AP flour
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
Butter for cooking
Pinch Salt
Few drops vanilla extract
Syrup of choice

Mix all the dry ingredients together. Mix the buttermilk, butter and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix gently till it is just combined. Do not over-beat as this will make flat pancakes. Heat a pan, coat with cooking spray or some butter. Pour a ladle full of batter into the pan. Top with blueberries. When bubbles start to form and you can easily lift the pancakes, flip them and cook till they are golden on the other side. Serve with syrup, on the side or poured on top.

Whole wheat Pizza

So I completed part two of Pizza from scratch. This was the whole wheat version. The pizza was crispy, cheesy and yum yum yum all the way. Now this will be the pizza to make in future.

The 48 hour rest to the dough helped. The dough had risen in double, I could see the holes in the dough. Next time I make pizza, the dough rests for at least 12 hours before baking. I didn't use cornmeal today instead I used flour as a separator between the baking sheet and the pizza base. I blind baked the base for 10 minutes at 450 degrees till it was crispy on one side.  Pierce the base with a fork to avoid it puffing up. Then flip it, put the toppings and bake it again for 10 minutes at 450. I broiled the pizza for 3-4 minutes to slightly char the toppings and cheese.

This is how the dough looked after it was kneaded. After this it was pulled into a base for the pizza. For me a pizza is a meal in itself but today I started with a small salad and ended with cappuccino chocolate chunk ice cream. Hope you make it and enjoy it as much as I did.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lemon and Tomato Rice

I was supposed to be making Pizza today but a movie changed plans. I am posting this dish instead which was waiting as a draft. This dish was born out of laziness and left overs. So what is the easiest thing to cook? I am sure most of you will say rice. Add rice, water and cook. But that is the one thing I always cook more than needed. My thinking is the next day I will just have to make daal and it will be dinner. Mostly it doesn't happen so. Well I had some leftover rice and decided to make this. My mom makes a delicious version, vagharela bhaat (seasoned rice) and I wanted to make that. I ended up tweaking the recipe more and made this lemon and tomato rice instead. It is yum and reminds me of home!


4 cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 medium onion diced
2 medium tomato diced
Juice of 1 lemon
7-8 curry leaves
1/2 inch piece ginger diced
3-4 green chilies
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (Jeera)
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds (Rai)
Pinch of asafoetida (hing)
Pinch turmeric

Heat oil in heavy bottomed pan. Add asafoetida, cumin and mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add the onions. When they are translucent add the turmeric, chilies, ginger and curry leaves. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the rice. Mix well and try to separate every grain of rice so there are no lumps of white rice. Finally add the tomato, lemon juice and salt. Mix and cook for a couple of more minutes till the tomato is cooked. It tastes yummy by itself but can be served with a side of spicy seasoned curd.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pizza from scratch!

I have been making pizzas for about 10 years now. I used to make them back in India with Monginis pizza base, a modified Tarla Dalal pizza sauce and lots of Amul cheese. That pizza is still my favorite. It brings back great memories... Today's pizza, the pizza base was a first. I am an quick and easy recipe type and pizza dough sounded manageable. I made two batches one with AP flour and one with whole wheat flour. I wanted to compare the taste and if the wheat one is good, that is what I want to make in future. Tonight it was flour pizza base. Tomorrow is the wheat night. I will also be doing a few things different tomorrow. I do not have a pizza stone so I made it on an edgeless cookie sheet. But this does not crisp the bottom of the pizza as much as stone does. To correct that I'll bake the base and once the top is crisp, flip it, make that the base and then build the pizza on that. Here is how it was made today.


Corn meal
1 tomato
1 bell pepper
1/2 poblano pepper
1 medium onion
Shredded mozzarella
Grated Parmesan (optional)
Olive oil

Pizza base (Makes two 11-12 inch pizzas)

1 1/4 cup AP flour
1 1/4 cup wheat flour
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon honey
1 envelope yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Pizza sauce

1 can (28 oz) crushed tomato
1 medium onion
3-4 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat water till it is warm. Add honey, oil and yeast. Mix well and divide it into half. Add 1 cup flour in one half and roughly mix it. Add salt and knead for 4-5 minutes until the dough is wet and sticky. Add some flour, knead more and form into a smooth ball. Place in a oiled bowl and cover. Let it rise for 30 minutes in a warm spot. Make the other batch the same way and freeze if not using the same day.

Heat olive oil and add the onions and garlic. When translucent, add the bay leaves and tomato. Bring to a boil and add the sugar, spices along with salt and pepper. Boil till it thickens and the water has evaporated.

Chop the vegetables for the topping. I sliced the tomatoes and cut the other vegetables in long juliennes.

Preheat the pizza to 450 degrees. Take the pizza dough from its resting place and knead it again for a couple of minutes till it has deflated and is nice and stretchy. Spread some cornmeal on the cookie sheet and place the dough ball on it. Make a round base by pressing the dough outward. Stretch to make a thin round base. Place half the pizza sauce on the base. I spread it almost to the edge. Next place the vegetables on top. I made a half onion and bell pepper and half poblano and tomato pizza. Spread the shredded mozzarella. Bake for about 20 minutes till the cheese has melted and the edges are crispy.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Home made vodka sauce with tortellini pasta

Yayyy... I did it. I finally made Vodka sauce at home. I have made marinara often but was nervous about Vodka sauce. Mainly cause I have never cooked with alcohol; I was worried about adding the right type, cooking it just enough so it blends without an aftertaste. Now this recipe is a keeper - atleast for me. The diced tomato adds a bite to the sauce and gives it some claws to stick to the pasta. If you like a smooth sauce just use tomato sauce. This recipe can be made with low fat cream as well but low fat creams are more sensitive to heat. They will curdle sooner if heated for long or reheated. A word about tortellini - the ones in the cold section of the supermarket are tastier but have a short shelf life. I like to keep a packet of dry tortellini in the pantry as it our favorite (read unhealthy) type of pasta and that is what I have used. So here is the recipe for the sauce - goodbye bottled sauce...


Vodka sauce

1 28 oz tomato sauce can
1 16 oz diced tomato can
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
3-4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup vodka (I used Absolut)


I packet tortellini pasta (I used cheese and spinach)
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed vessel. When heated add the onions and garlic and saute till onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes and vodka and bring to a boil on medium heat. Add the salt, pepper and spices cook for 3-5 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add some water or milk. Taste the sauce, the tomatoes should be cooked and there should not be any raw vodka taste. If it is done, add the cream.  Else cook a little more and then add the cream. Simmer for a minute or two and the sauce is done. Serve with Pasta.

To prepare the pasta. Boil a large pot of water and when it comes to a rolling boil add the salt. Add pasta and boil till al dente as per package instructions. When done add to sauce and cook for a minute or two. Serve topped with some grated Parmesan.
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