Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chocolate brownies

Sunday summer afternoons are meant for lazying around, aren't they? Last summer when the heat would be unbearable to do any outside chores, my husband and I used to drive upto a nearby Starbucks adjacent to a California Mission. We would buy some coffee, snacks and then sit under the cool shade of the large ancient oak and beech trees overlooking the mission, savoring our treats and chatting mindlessly about this and that. My favorite treats were the chocolate brownie bites that Starbucks used to carry which I used to LOVE! I say used to because unfortunately atleast in the area where I live Starbucks doesn't carry them anymore. They were the best tiny indulgence ever! Just tiny enough that you won't feel guilty about eating them and oh so tasty! A perfect companion for an impromptu coffee picnic. We would get 3 brownie bites for $1 - one for each of us and the last one was guilt sharing one that both of us would try to pass on to the other but at the end we would always end up splitting it in half (which was a feat considering how tiny the bites were to begin with!).

Anyway, so coming back to the recipe, after Starbucks stopped carrying brownie bites I started looking for a good brownie recipe. My rule of thumb is to not bake anything with more than 1/2C sugar or 1/2stick of butter and definitely stay away from the ones which have both! But what the heck, rules are sometimes meant for breaking, right ;) specially for a REALLY good brownie!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Salsa two ways: salsa fresca and roasted tomato salsa

Past week has been crazy! Work-wise, I mean. Don't you always feel like there are so many things to do and so little time. My library books are waiting patiently for me to pick them up. My 3/4th done knitted summer vest is still on the hooks and summer is so fast approaching (guess I should just add sleeves and make it a winter vest, ha!). My brand new painting stand is waiting for its inauguration AND I am having more and more late evening urges to just order a quick dinner outside. Life just seems to be on fast track sometimes.. and this sure seems like one of those times.

I don't know about you but sometimes I wonder how we get so tangled up in the walls made out of our own expectations and lure of luxuries. Every time I read a Jane Austen novel it always makes me feel so nostalgic about the good old days when people had time. Loads of it. Time to pursue their hobbies and passions. They seemed to live their life just wonderfully and perhaps, in a more relaxing way. They had time for afternoon tea get-togethers; English sandwich and biscuit knitting parties and what-nots. Why is it then that in our generation we seem to just struggle so much: we are working after-hours; we are doing all the house-chores ourselves and the time still seems to just pass away while we are merely putting things together. Is this the trade-off we have signed up for in return for the newest iPads, iPhones and large screen TVs?

Anyway, I digress. So a crazy week needs a perfect weekend to balance. And what better way than to cook up some salsas and guacomoles and make an impromptu taco night! Which is exactly what I did last night. Today I am sharing two of my favorite salsa recipes. Salsas come in various forms and flavors; there is the simple salsa fresca (or pico de galla) which is made out of all the fresh ingredients; then there is green tomatillo salsa; then there is cooked tomato salsa and then roasted tomato salsa and so on. The ones I am sharing today are two of my favorite salsas. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Split green mung daal with green garlic and how not to be predictably irrational

To a foodie like me spring in California means two things: lots of strawberries and a lot of green garlic! Okay, I may be the only weirdo you will see who writes about strawberries and green garlic in the same sentence but I do really love the onionish-garlicish flavor of the green garlic. I don't know about where you live but over at my place I hardly see any green garlic in supermarkets or large grocery stores. Infact I never knew green garlic is available here until I started visiting our local farmer's market where they are in season early spring.

Green garlics is just a young garlic. It looks like a slightly big spring onion and has a delicate garlic taste (more a mix of garlic and spring onion). You buy it fresh, then clean it, chop off a bit of top and some tough green ends and slice the rest of the tender whites and greens and use them wherever you would use garlic or spring onions.

Today I am sharing a simple split mung daal recipe with green garlic. The spices are kept at a bare minimum just to let the green garlic shine through. I do feel it pairs really well with split mung. The recipe, as always, is much left to your tuning. You can add more spices if you want a spicy version or add less garlic if you don't like the daal to be very garlicky. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Middle eastern fava bean dip

I had a packet of dried unshelled fava beans lying around in my cupboard for the longest time. I had bought it initially hoping to make Ful Medames but then later I realized that the fava beans used in Ful Medames are Egyptian small brown fava beans and what I had instead was a pack of regular dried fava beans. I put them in the back of my cupboard right next to the fancy cranberry beans and some unknown grains which were also picked up on whim at some such other times.

I finally decided I would make a fava bean dip with these dried favas. I soaked the beans Saturday night hoping to have the dip ready by next day afternoon. On Sunday morning, I shelled the soaked beans, mashed them up, added some olive oil, zatar and garlic. The dip tasted so wonderful. Whats even better was that I  just happened to have some whole wheat pitas sitting in my bread basket! Sure a toasted pita chips with fava bean dip was on cards for that lazy Sunday afternoon!

I absolutely loved the combination of crushed garlic with smashed fava beans. I did not pureee the beans completely so there was still some texture left. Zatar is a middle eastern spice blend which I had on hand and thought married perfectly with the favas. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Paatvadyachi bhaji (chickpea flour dumplings in curry sauce)

You know I have a theory. You might become the most famous or the most creative chef out there, but I bet you will still crave your Mom's food (or Dad's - essentially the food you grew up with) every now and then! There is something magical about the foods you grow up with, isn't it.. their flavors stay fresh with us long after we have last eaten them and their aromas draft us towards those golden care-free times of our childhood so effortlessly. Somehow the foods we grew up with get so intertwined with our childhood memories that no matter how great a cook you are, you are always going to crave your Mom's food as long you as live!

Needless to say my Mom is a great cook! I wish I had learnt a lot more about cooking from her than I did. In my defense though I grew up as this preppy girl who would refuse to step foot in the kitchen unless it involved munching. I used to always think that somehow studying Mathematic (which was by-far my favorite subject!) was way more "important" than cooking or anything for that matter.. but now as a grown-up I have realized that there is nothing more humbling and satisfying than cooking a healthy and wholesome meal for your friends and family; perhaps second only to seeing the satiated feelings and smiles on their faces :)

Okay, I better get to the point now. So one day I woke up having these huge cravings for my Aai's paatvadyachi bhaji. Paatvadyachi bhaji is a common Maharashtrian delicacy. Its a curry made out of simmering paatvadya (which are chickpea flour dumplings) in a mildly spiced curry base. I think of it as the native Marathi answer to the ubiquitous pasta. I had never made this dish at home and the last I had eaten it was some 6+ years back! 

It was a Friday so I shoot a quick email to Aai asking if she can tell me her recipe. I was hoping that the next time I would call her, I would get her to recite the recipe to me over the phone. So imagine my surprise when the next day I wake up to see an email from Aai with a hand-written recipe attachment! Turns out she wrote her recipe, then she had taken a picture of her recipe and sent the jpeg to me so I could make the dish I was cravings on that very weekend! Isn't it really lucky to have such an awesome Mom who would write, take picture and upload the recipe the very same day just so her daughter can satisfy the cravings.. I think so :) 

Happy Mother's day to all you awesome Mom's and Mom's-to-be out there! Honestly, what would we all do without you :) 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

30-minute Chana Masala and some blabber

Ever since I heard that a renowned Indian food personality was going to be answering home-cook's and reader's questions on preparing Indian food at home in the New York Time's dining blog, I was looking forward to the Q&A. Afterall, she is an author of various Indian cookbooks and she also hosts an Indian cooking class so I was interested to hear what advice she would give to the home-cooks worldwide.

Unfortunately though I was disappointed. Why? Well, I felt her views were a lot rigid for my taste. For example, she says that store bought spice blends like garam masala (or even cumin powder) have 100% loss of flavor compared to roasting and grinding spices at home and hence one should never buy store-bought blends but instead make our own every 3-4 months. On a question about improvising Indian spices in various dishes, she answers that the spices can not and should not be improvised in Indian dishes; there is a logic to which spice should go in which dish and the logic should be followed.

Now, on face value, I agree with everything she said. Yes, we know that home-made spice blends made from toasting and griding whole spices is much better than store bought ones; yes, there is a logic in which spices go in which Indian dishes, and yes, home-made paneer (like home-made cheese) can not compare with store-bought one.

But, this is where I disagree: I disagree that one should never buy store-bought garam masala; I disagree that it lacks 100% in flavor. Yes, there is logic in spice combinations, but I disagree that you need to always follow the logic rigidly and not improvise or adapt spices to what suits you.

Indian cooking to me is not about slogging in the kitchen for hours at end following rigid rules. It is instead about incorporating all these fragrant spices, each with unique colors and flavors in your cooking, in your own way, in what suits you and your family the best. It is about making these spices your own! I don't think Indian cooking should be considered as a collection of rigid rules of spice combinations and recipes that should be followed by heart; but instead, our food, like us is unique to each and every one of us and thats where lies the beauty of it!

If you have time then you should definitely make home-made garam masala and roast and grind whole cumin for cumin powder and make home-made paneer everytime you crave saag paneer, but here is the thing, life happens.. Most of the home cooks today are juggling various roles: some of us are professional individuals, some of us are busy parents of toddlers and teens, some of us have many other responsibilities and some of us have all of the above. 

It is not always possible to make home-made spice blends every 3-4 months and it is not always possible to make home-made paneer everytime you want to cook paneer. I don't think that should ever be a deterrent for anyone wanting to cook more Indian food. Indian food for me. In this world of obesity, fast-food and takeouts we got to encourage more people to cook at home and share a healthy home-made meal on dinner table, if the cost is that they use short cuts like canned and store-bought, I don't think there is any reason to discourage that.

Yes, we all agree what the best is -- but don't let not reaching the best, deter you from attempting something good, may not be the best but its still good! Don't let best be the enemy of good... what do you think about this topic??

Okay, now, I stop my blabber right here and go straight to the recipe. Today's recipe makes the same point in case. On many days when I come home dead-tired this chana masala has saved the day. It uses all the short-cuts of all sorts but it is sure to bring a very tasty dish to your table in less than 30-minutes!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Potage parmentier (Julia Child's potato and leek soup)

Simplicity itself.. thats how Julia Child had described this soup - in one of her b&w television episodes which had aired on PBS a while back. And then I picked up the book 'Julie and Julia' and heard Julie Powell rave about this simple few ingredient soup all over again.

Now I have never been a minimalist at heart.. I mean, okay, I don't regularly sweat cooking recipes with 20+ ingredients (or may be only rarely when I am crazy enough) but making a soup with mere 5 ingredients (potatoes, leeks, salt, pepper, butter) as a main-dish for dinner needed guts from my part. But then, when you see a great chef like Julia Child convince you in her commanding voice calling this soup 'simplicity itself' and then you hear Julie rave about it in the book, this recipe just becomes too difficult to pass by!

There was a problem though; I am one of those people (aptly described in the book as 'wimpy') who cringe when adding generous quantities of butter to the dishes, particularly to savory dishes (my logic goes that if I have to take the butter, then let it atleast be for something divine like Tiramisu or a triple chocolate cake). Anyway, so being who I am, I substituted olive oil for butter. Please feel free to use butter though, I am sure it would taste better with butter.

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This page and all of its contents is copyright of Prajakta Gudadhe. All rights reserved.

This is a web catalog of the recipes that I have tried and tasted in my kitchen. While these recipes and instructions have worked well for me, please use all the information and the recipes from Ginger and Garlic at your own risk.