Jan 31, 2011

Beetroot Rice

Beetroots were probably born when Mother Nature was a blushing bride. I wonder who she would have gotten married to. Hmm. 

Anyways, that's her life. In my life however, the story of the beet is a little different. Yes, I blushed too once upon a time but I did not even like beets then! These have become a favorite of mine recently. But, I always cook it one and only one way. A beetroot poriyal cooked with onions and garnished with coconuts.  

This time around, just like the many times I've done it before, I needed change. Something new with a favorite ingredient. Something that wakes up my taste buds and refreshes them. Something that was easy and also a one pot meal. It was a weekday, you see. Some weekdays I wish I was just like an old cat lady (without the old part, of course) who eats a raw store bought salad for a meal. But the south indian in me wants all the varied flavors of a nice home cooked meal after a little slogging in the kitchen. But then, once I sit down in front of my food - the next few mins is all worth it. Nothing beats home cooking. 

Here are the beets sitting on my beat out chopping board. Just a little tip - if you use a lot of beets, just keep a regular plastic white chopping board just for the beets. I have one that I use only when chopping beets and eggplants and some yams. They all leave terrible stains and even if most of them go after washing, you'll still see a dirty hue. 

Give them a good haircut and shave. Ah the life of a beet!

Chop into rough pieces.

Add the beets to a food processor while using a shredding blade. These are the days when I love my food processor. 10 mins of hand grating = 1 min in the processor. God bless the folks who designed this stuff.

I just love when this happens. Food Magic.

Here are the basic spices that go in first.

A stick of Cinnamon
A couple of bay leaves
A tbsp of red chilli flakes
About 5-6 pieces of whole cloves
About 1 tbsp of whole cumin

Make a quick coarse paste of 3G -

Green Chillies - 3-4
Garlic individual pods - 4-5
Ginger - about 2 tsp rough chopped

In a wide and deep pan, add 1 tbsp of oil. Add all the ingredients above to this and fry for a min.

Then, add about 1 cup of chopped onions to the oil. Add a pinch of salt to taste and fry for a couple of mins.

Add about 1/2 cup of peas. This is optional. But, if you are using frozen peas, microwave the peas in water in a glass bowl for about 3-4 mins. Drain and then add the cooked peas in here.

Add about 1/4 tsp pf turmeric powder and also 1/2 tsp of red chilli powder.

Throw in the shredded beets.

You can add some garam masala powder or other spices if you'd like at this stage.

Add 1 1/2 cups of washed basmati rice to the beets and mix well.

Pour 2 1/2 - 3 cups of water to the rice and beets. The water should be just enough to soak all the rice and then form a short layer on top.

Cover the pot with a lid and cook for about 15-20 mins in low-medium heat.

Open it up and let the steam hit your face. Aaah. the joy! Especially on a cold winter night!

And like I said - 

This was my new find for my kitchen. Loved it when I saw it and absolutely had to have it. I was so happy that I went out to eat to celebrate!

Sorry I don't have final serving pictures. We were all hungry and just decided to serve ourselves out of the pot! 

Serve hot with some cold raitha and some potato chips.

Enjoy. Peace out.

Jan 25, 2011

Avocado and Black Bean Salad

Planning for a weeknight dinner after a long hectic day at work and everything else, is when you need to get your creativity to kick up a notch and work full force. And every time I want to be creative, I think of salads. There's something about throwing in multiple ingredients and bringing them together in a bowl and serving it up with style. Makes you feel like Superwoman. 

And this time it was a mexican style salad. Simple ingredients that come together beautifully. No jazzy special stuff required. Takes about 20 mins to put together the entire satisfying meal including the rice and vegetables. 

Chop and dice the avocado and cucumbers into small bits. I used the small tender Persian cucumbers and just diced them with the skin on.

Arrange on a platter or you can just add to a big mixing bowl if you're not taking pictures for a blog!

Roast some corn with a little salt to taste and also a pinch of paprika or red chilli powder. I use the frozen corn and feel that it definitely taste a hundred times better when you slightly roast the kernels.

Add the corn to the platter.

Chop up a couple of roma tomatoes and about half an onion into small bits and add to the bowl or platter.

Chop up some fresh lettuce into small strips.

Add to the platter.

Next comes the protein. I used the canned black beans - but you can soak and cook regular black beans or even the Indian rajma beans. Wash the beans once to remove the slimy brown liquid and all the unnecessary preservatives.

 Add the beans to the bowl and also add a whole bunch of cilantro chopped finely.

I can just stare at this all evening!

Add all of these below to the veggies and beans -

Salt - to taste
Red Chilli powder or Paprika - 1 tsp
Olive Oil - 1 -2 tsp
Juice of half a lime - squeezed out fresh.

Using a couple of forks, just mix up all the ingredients.

And there people, is the salad of the day!

Fresh. Crisp. Tasty. Fulfilling.

And this is how I multi task and catch up on all shows from back home. Listening to Jesudas singing while making a salad - perfect! Music and Food. My two best friends.

I also made some lemon flavored rice (Chipotle style) and sauteed onions and bell peppers along with the salad. And served them all with some tacos. You could get some tortillas too and roll up some burritos with all these fillings. TH missed his burritos very much!

Fill up some tacos with all the goodness and drizzle on some hot taco sauce on top for a wonderful dinner.

For the cheese lovers in the family, make them happy too!

“To remember a successful salad is generally to remember a successful dinner; at all events, the perfect dinner necessarily includes the perfect salad.” - George Ellwanger (1848-1906) ‘Pleasures of the Table’ (1902)

Enjoy. Peace Out!

Jan 19, 2011

Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps

I've said this before, but sometime I just repeat. Being a Vegetarian in the US is tough business. I mean, when we go out to eat and look at the menu, there are 76 options if you eat meat and there are 4 options if you don't. And out of the 4, 2 are added on the menu by you - like when you ask the restaurant to serve you the Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo without the chicken. Or the Panang curry - with no meat and substitute tofu. Or the great American BLT sandwich without the bacon of course - what's great or American about it after that anyways? 

And one such experience is with the very famous lettuce wraps for appetizers. PF Changs has one of the best lettuce wraps and until recently, they had only the chicken version available. I'm yet to go and try their vegetarian version. But every time we've been there before, and order the food and wait around, I see one of my neighboring tables being served the famous chang's lettuce wraps. And the hungry humans sitting on that table pick up their fresh green lettuce, dump some chicken filling and go crunch munch when I'm sitting there starving for my chowfun and ma po tofu. Not anymore - next time I'm getting my plate of the vegetarian lettuce wraps - hope its worth my wait.

I've been planning to make this for a while now. I wanted to do something new with the soya granules that's been sitting in my pantry for some time. So, if you are a soya chunk or soya granules lover, you will love this recipe. If you're not, its ok - you can still eat a little bit to get your protein in and give your muscles some food too. And its a perfect appetizer to serve when you're cooking Chinese or Asian food. I had invited a friend's family for dinner and had Indian Chinese on the menu and this was of course a part of the meal. 

So, this is what I used. I had about half a packet left and used it all up. This would serve about 6-8 people.

Boil the granules in hot water for about 10 mins and then wash and rinse under water. Wash it thoroughly a couple of times. Squeeze out all the excess water and set aside the cooked soya granules.

In a small mixer, make a paste of all these below -

Onion - half a medium onion - roughly chopped
Garlic - 3-5 single pods.
Ginger - about 1 inch piece - roughly chopped
Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tbsp
Red Chillies - 3-4

Without any pre cooking, just blend all these together into a raw paste.

In a wide pan, add 2 tbsp of oil. You can use sesame seed or regular vegetable oil. When the oil it hot, add the ground paste to this and start cooking till the raw smell goes away.

Add about 1/2 cup of finely chopped onions to the cooked paste. Saute for a couple of mins.

Now, add the cooked and strained soya granules to this paste. Mix well and cook on medium heat for a few mins.

Now comes the spicing up part. Here, what I added. You can add any kind of flavoring you like to improve the taste.

1/2 tbsp of Chilli garlic sauce

1 tbsp of Soy Sauce

1 tbsp of Chilli Soy

1 tbsp of white vinegar. You can also add a citrus flavor with some lime or orange juice for a citrus soy taste.

Mix well and let this all cook for about 10 mins. Add some salt if you think its needed. The soy provides enough saltiness.

When done, top off with some cut green onions.

Serve warm with some grated carrots and crispy chowmein croutons on the side. This adds a lot of crunch and balance to the soft soya filling.

Cut the stalk off at the bottom of a fresh whole lettuce and gently peel out the whole leaves and place on on top of the other. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. The cold bland lettuce works great with the warm salty soya filling and the crunchy noodle and carrot offer a welcomed crunch to the appetizer.

Don't let your protein sit away in a pantry shelf. Time to get it out and make it pretty. 

Enjoy. Peace out.