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Archive for July, 2009

Pineapple Rasam

Pineapple Rasam

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rasam

Rasam is a form of soup, a must in every South Indian household. It is made with Tamarind juice, aromatic spices and tomatoes for the most part. There are at least 15 varieties of Rasam, ranging from Tomato Rasam, Lemon Rasam, Dhal Rasam, Garlic Rasam, Pepper Jeera Rasam(Milagu-Jeera), Pepper Rasam, Goddu Rasam, Mysore Rasam and a whole bunch of other exotic ones. A typical South Indian meal would be Sambar, followed by Rasam and completed with CurdRice or Yogurt rice. Rasam can be enjoyed as a soup, to increase the appetite or can be mixed with rice and eaten. Rasam also used as a digestive aid, because it has Jeera-Cumin, which aids digestion. When a person suffers an ailment and lack of appetite due to that, Rasam is given, as it is soft and easy to digest and will re kindle the taste buds, to increase the ailing person’s appetite. 

One of the interesting Rasams that is out there is Pineapple Rasam. It’s very tasty and adds a sweet punch to the Rasam.

Ingredients:                                                                                      Cooking 010

  • Pineapple pieces- 1cup.
  • Tamarind paste- 1tsp or Thin Tamarind juice-1cup.
  • Salt- to taste.
  • Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp.
  • Rasam Powder-11/2 tsp.
  • Cooked ,Mashed Thoor dhal- 1/2 cup.
  • Jaggery- 1tsp.

For Seasoning:

  • Ghee- 2tsp.
  • Mustard seeds- 1tsp.                                                           Cooking and Performance 001
  • Red chilly-1.
  • Asafoetida- a pinch.
  • Coriander leaves for garnish.

Preparation:

  1. Take 4-5 cups of water in a pan and add pineapple pieces, tamarind paste and allow it to cook.
  2. After 5 minutes, add salt, turmeric, Rasam powder, jaggery and let it cook for another 10 minutes in low heat.
  3. Now add cooked, smashed Toor dhal to the pan.
  4. Let it cook for another 5-7 minutes and when the frothy layer forms on the Rasam, turn the heat off.
  5. Keep a small seasoning pan and add ghee, mustard seeds and let it splatter.
  6. When they start splattering, add red chilly, asafoetida and put it in the Rasam.
  7. Add Cilantro-Coriander leaves and keep the Rasam covered with a lid immediately, so the aroma doesn’t escape.

Note:

  • Can be enjoyed as a soup or served with plain white rice.
  • If required, few drops of pineapple juice or essence can be added, when the Rasam is about to be done, to enhance the pineapple flavor.
  • Please refer my blog, on how to make Rasam powder.

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Vathakuzhambu

Vatha Kuzhambu or Vetha Kuzhambu is a tangy gravy that is served with plain white rice. Originally, its  “Vathal-Kuzhambu”-meaning  Vathal-Dried vegetable, which can be preserved for a long time and kuzhambu means gravy. Dried Vathals like Sundakai vathal, Manathakali vathals are used to make this kuzhambu. However, I really like the variations and absolutely love the fact that something that would typically go in a dustbin, can actually be used to make something useful.

Most of the vegetables and fruits have a lot of the vitamins in their peel. But we tend to use the fruit and discard the peel, which is like wasting half of the nutrients. So, I have made it a practise, not to take the peel off from some vegetables and fruits. For instance, Potatoes, Carrots, Cucumbers, Zuccini, Apples, Mangoes, Suppota and few other fruits and veggies can be consumed without taking the peel off. This way, you can fully benefit from the veggies and fruits. But make sure, you wash the skin well to get rid of the wax coat.

Vatha kuzhambu is a food of South Indian Brahmins.  Poor people who couldn’t afford fresh vegetables, would still make this Vathakuzhambu and enjoy a filling and gratifying meal with Vathal kuzhambu & sutappalam( papad, which is just heated in flame and not deep fried with oil). So, it is also called a poor man’s food. It is such a wonderful dish and this orange peel vatha kuzhambu in particular is fabulous, bursting with Citrus flavor and  a mild hint of bitterness. Its also my Yogamba paati’s (my mom’s mother) all time favorite. After travelling for 4-5 days and eating food from outside, your tongue really craves for simple home made vatha kuzhambu.

A variety of Vatha Kuzhambu can be made. Like I mentioned, Sundaikai Vathals, Manathakali vathals can be used. Vegetables like Drumsticks, Red pumpkin, Small onions, Okras, Bringal, Capsicum, fresh sundaikai can be used to make vatha kuzhambu. Use one vegetable at a time, to get a unique tasting vathakuzhambu each time. Another interesting vatha kuzhambu is appalam kuzhambu, where urad dhal papad is fried and used instead of the vegetable. Though the papad gets soggy and soft, it adds an interesting flavor to the kuzhambu.

Orange(Clementine) peel

Orange(Clementine) peel

 Ingredients:

  • Clementine peel- from 2 fruits.                                                      Vatha kuzhambu-suttapalam
  • Sambar powder- 3tsp.(refer my previous post)
  • Tamarind paste-11/2 tsp.
  • Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp.
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Asafoetida- a pinch.
  • Gingelly Oil- 2tsp.
  • Mustard seeds-1/2 tsp.
  • Toor dhal-1 tsp.
  • Fenugreek seeds-1/2 tsp.
  • Red chillies-2.
  • Curry leaves-an arc.
  • Rice flour- 1tsp.(optional)

Method:

  1. Peel the skin from 2 clementines.
  2. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds.
  3. After the mustards splatter, quickly add thoor dhal, fenugreek, red chillies, curry leaves, asafoetida.
  4. Then add clementine peel and saute for a minute.
  5. Now add sufficient water( 2-3 cups), and add tamarind paste.
  6. Allow it to cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Then add sambar powder, salt and turmeric.
  8. Let it simmer for 1/2 hour.
  9. The kuzhambu gets thick. If it is still thin, rice flour can be mixed with water and added(Only if required, as it could affect the original taste).
  10. Turn the heat off, cover it so, the aroma doesn’t escape.
  11. Serve with plain white rice, sutta appalam and gingelly oil.

Note:

  1. This is just like wine. The older the better. Vatha kuzhambu always tastes better the 2nd and 3rd day after you cook it.
  2. Can be enjoyed as side for Curd rice.
  3. My mom usually makes some cooked Thoor dhal, so we can enjoy some parupu saadham with vathakuzhambu.

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Sambar & Rasam powder

The key ingredient in making Sambar and Rasam are the spice powders that go into them. I had mentioned in my Pumpkin Gothsu post, that I will be giving the sambar powder’s recipe soon. So, here it is. My mom makes these powders in India and would send it to me or when ever I go to India, I bring a good amount and save them in the freezer in ziplocks, so the aroma doesn’t go away. It is  relatively easy to make these powders in India, because of the huge grinding mills available back home. Here in the US, you can make them with coffee grinding machine. But it could get laborious.

Sambar Powder or Kuzhambu Podi:

  • Coriander seeds or Dhania-2 cups.
  • Red chillies-1 cup or depending on spice level.
  • Channa Dhal-1/4 cup.
  • Urad Dhal-1/4 cup.
  • Black Pepper-1/4 cup.
  • Fenugreek or Methi seeds-1/4 cup.
  • Turmeric Powder- 2tsp.

Making:

  1. Grind everything to a fine powder and store it in a dry, air tight container.

Rasam Powder:

  • Coriander seeds or Dhania- 2cups.
  • Cumin or Jeera- 1/2 cup.
  • Black Pepper- 1/2 cup.
  • Thoor dhal-1/3 cup.
  • Mustard seeds-1tsp.
  • Red Chilly- 1cup.
  • Turmeric powder- 1 tsp.
  • Curry leaves dry- 1/2 cup.

Making:

  1. Dry roast everything separately, one by one, until a nice aroma comes from each ingredient.
  2. let it cool.
  3. Grind everything to a fine powder and store it in a dry, air tight container.

Enjoy Delicious Homemade Sambar and Rasam with these powders.

 

 

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Parupu Usili

If God created something that can be used from top to bottom, it is the Banana tree. Banana tree( Vaazhai maram) itself, along with the raw banana cluster( Vaazhai Thar), is used as an auspicious symbol  of prosperity in Wedding altars, temples and festive occasions. Banana leaf ( Vaazhai Ilai) is used as a platter in South Indian households. Raw banana(Vaazhaikai) is used to make chips and used in vegetable side dish preparations. Banana fruit (Vaazhai pazham) of course, can be enjoyed as a fruit and also used in halwa and panchamirtham etc. Banana stem or (Vaazhaithandu) can be made as a dry vegetable dish and in gravies. Banana flower( Vaazhai Poo), can be cooked into exotic dishes like parupu usili.

Parupu usili means lentil crumbs.It’s full of protein and Vitamins. It is my all time favorites. Since I posted  Morekuzhambu, I felt the need to post Parupu usili coz, the combination is like Shiva -parvathi. They just go hand in hand with each other. Parupu usili , morekuzhambu combo would be my typical weekend menu. It such a deadly combination, that anybody that eats would fall in love with the dish. The preparation is a little elaborate. My mom would give me the task of separating the “Kallan- or thief”, which is the pith of the flower. It has to be removed, as it would be hard to digest. I would patiently sit and remove all the kallans. Then my mom would chop the flowers and start the preparation. Lemme tell you how its done.

Ingredients:                                              

  • Thoor Dhal- 1 cup.
  • Channa dhal- 2tsp.
  • Banana Flower-1.
  • Red chillies-2.
  • Salt-to taste.
  • Turmeric powder-a pinch.
  • Asafoetida- a pinch.
  • Oil-4-5 tsp.
  • Mustard seeds-1tsp.
Banana Flower

Banana Flower

Cooking 152
Pith removed

Pith removed

Ground lentils

Ground lentils

lentils getting cooked

lentils getting cooked

Rice balls with ghee and usili

Rice balls with ghee and usili

Method:

  1. Soak the Thoor dhal and Channa Dhal in warm water for half an hour.
  2. While the dhals are soaking, remove the pith from the banana flowers and chop them finely.
  3. Cook the banana flowers with a little water. Can be done in a microwave and drain excess water.
  4. Drain the water in the dhal, add red chillies, salt , turmeric and asafoetida and grind them to a fine paste in a mixer.
  5. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and after the seeds splatter, add the ground paste.
  6. Cook well, using two ladles, until, it gets cooked.
  7. Add the cooked flowers to the  cooked lentils and mix well.
  8. Leave it for 5 minutes in the stove and turn the heat off.
  9. The parupu usili is ready now and can be served with white rice, ghee and of course morekuzhambu.

Method 2:

The ground lentils can be steamed, (instead of cooking with oil) like you would do for Idlis.This would save some time in cooking and would consume very less oil.

Note:
  1. Other popular vegetables that are used to make parupu usili are Beans, clusterbeans or kothavaranga, Cabbage.
  2. Make sure, you remove excess water from the cooked flowers, so the parupu usili will be dry and not sticky.
  3. I use a dedicated cutting board for banana flower, raw banana cutting, as it may leave some stain inthe board.

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Panchamirtham

Panchāmirtham/ Panchāmrutham means Five nectars. “Pancha”-five, “Amrutham”-Nectar. I guess, this is the closest to Amrutham- the divine nectar, consumed by devas. The devas and the asuras (gods and demons) united in their efforts to churn the celestial ocean of milk Ksheerasaagaram in quest of Amrita (the nectar of life and immortality). Must have been a humongous task. Our Panchāmirtham tastes as divine as Amrita, but the preparation is a snap.

Panchāmirtham is the holy prasad in palani Murugan( Subramanya Swamy) temple. It  is used for Abhishekam( Bathing the God). Palani Panchamirtham and Sabari mala’s, “Aravana Paayasam” are the most wonderful form of prasaads ( prasadham), that can take the place of  man made amritam.

Panchamirtham

Palani Panchāmirtham is the oldest form of jam or fruit mix and preserves very well, even for months. The secret lies as much in the art of preparing it as in the quality of the fruit that is used as the basic ingredient. It is the small sized viruppāchchi plantains which account for it, the reason being that they have very little water content. Incidentally, Viruppāchchi is the name of a village (in the Palani Hills) where this particular variety of plantain is grown and marketed. Crushed plantains apart, Panchāmirtham consists of kandasari sugar from Kangeyam area, dates, kismis, sugar candy (kalkandu), cardamom and ghee in proper proportions.( from Palani.org)

It was my daughter’s birthday last week. Had a small Sai Bhajan at home. Decided to make panchamirtham for the prasad. Holy goodness ! It’s the most delicious thing I have ever made. The aroma while making it gave me a feeling that I just had a darshan of Lord Muruga.

Ingredients:                                  Cooking 037

  • Banana- 1.
  • Raisins-1tsp.
  • Dry dates- 6.
  • Apple-1.
  • Jaggery- 3/4 cup.
  • Honey-1/4 cup.
  • Ghee-3 tsp.
  • Kalkandu or sugar candy- 1tsp.
  • Cardamom powder-1/2 tsp.
  • Almonds- 6( optional)-Indu’s touch.
  • Pomegranate seeds- 1tsp (optional)-Indu’s touch.

Method:

  1. Chop banana and apple into small pieces.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a clean dry bowl, with a ladle, adding honey and ghee at last.
  3. Mix them to a consistency shown in the above picture, until the jaggery kind of dissolves.
  4. Store in an airtight container and enjoy.

Note:

  • The five ingredients that go into making the panchamirtham is really debatable. There are versions that add Cow’s milk, Curd/yogurt, Cane Sugar, Coconut scrapes. However, adding milk and yogurt, would make the panchamirthamtoo pasty and panchamirtham can get spoilt quickly.But from my understanding, the five main ingredients that are needed to make panchamirtham are banana, honey, jaggery, kalkandu and ghee.
  • I added almonds to give some richness and crunch- and to lower LDL cholesterol-(LOL).
  • I also added Pomegranate seeds for a boost of antioxidants and Vit B5. Pom seeds are believed to cure cardiovascular diseases and breast cancer.
  • Other ingredients like fresh grapes, chopped jackfruit, Cashew nuts and even Tulsi leaves, edible camphor(pacha karpooram) can be added for that extra pizazz.
  • Use banana that is firm and not too soft.

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Cooking 001-1

Summer is here. This fruit basket is all geared up, just in time for the patio season. Look at the beautiful color. I am totally in love with watermelons. The taste, the water content, the color-what an amazing fruit. My dad would buy this fruit every summer because he knows that I simply love it. My husband got a huge watermelon from the grocers and I decided to try my hand in fruit carving. Walla!- what a beautiful serving bowl for the bright fruit.

Watermelon Tulip

Watermelon Tulip

It reminds of beautiful tulips of Skagit Valley. Talking about cooling your body, Let me tell you more than a dozen simple ways to beat the heat and stay cool.

  1. Fruits like Watermelons, Cantaloupes and Honeydew melons- with abundant water content.
  2. Cucumber salads.
  3. Vegetable like bitterguard/Karela.
  4. Green Moong Dhal-soaked and can be used with cucumbers in Kosambari’s.
  5. Tender Coconut water.
  6. Barley water.
  7. Buttermilk.(see my previous post)
  8. Lemonade or Nimbu paani.
  9. Fenugreek seeds, leaves(Methi or Menthya)- in cooking as well as ground paste can be applied to head, and washed.
  10. Avoid Spicy food and drink plenty of water.
  11. Applying Henna, which is a hair colorant is also  a great way to cool off your body.
  12. Applying Kajal( Men -dont attempt this) will help cool your eyes. Cucumber rounds around  your eyes.
  13. Exercise- Sweat from workout, will make the heat get away from your body and will help you stay cool.
  14. Last but not the least, the good old practice in India-Oil Bath with sesame or gingelly oil. Sesame oil is highly effective in cooling your body. A little oil can be warmed and applied on center of the head and massaged. leave for 1/2 hour and shower. There  is no medicine to cool your body, better than a refreshing oil bath. This is the reason why Sesame oil  and methi are used in preparations like pickles and thokkus. The idea is your body could get heated up from the spices and chillies. So, to offset the heat, sesame oil and methi are used. Your heat boils, prickly heat and burning eyes would vanish after the oil bath.
Cooking 011

Water Melon Juice

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Homemade YogurtMy previous post Morekuzhambu, inspired me to write a post about making curd/Dahi or Yogurt at home.The pic above doesn’t do justice. Will try to post a better picture, when I make yogurt the next time.

Making Yogurt at home is as easy as 1 2 3. Lot of my friends ask me, do u make yogurt at home. Living in the US, people have forgotten how to make yogurt and with the busy lifestyle, people tend to use store bought yogurt. Also with the weather getting very cold in some parts of the United States, yogurt making could be in vain, if right temperatures are not maintained. Even I tend to buy yogurt from store occasionally. But for the most part, I make my own at home. Store bought yogurts are expensive, pasty, firm and less sour. Home made  plain yogurt  is really in- expensive, has a soft texture, mildly sour with a wonderful aroma. 

Back home in India, making Yogurt is like a daily routine for women.Yogurt can be made from any milk. It’s traditionally made with Cow’s milk or Buffalo’s milk. The only time, I remember eating a different type of yogurt is, when we went to Jaipur- Rajasthan for touring, had a chance to eat Camel’s Yogurt, which was thick and tasting different. Was good though.

Coming to the science behind it………Yogurt has two main bacterial cultures. Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Pasteurization, Homogenization, Inoculation, Incubation, Fermentation are involved in yogurt making. Pasteurization is a process that slows down microbial growth in foods. Homogenization is a generic term which refers to processing a solution so that it becomes uniform. Since milk is an oil in water emulsion, it has to be homogenized for the fat molecules to be dispersed evenly. Inoculation is adding live starter cultures to the Luke warm milk. Incubation is keeping the inoculated milk at right temperature. Bacterial fermentation of milk gives yogurt. The milk sugar or lactose is fermented by these bacteria to lactic acid which causes the characteristic curd to form. The acid also restricts the growth of food poisoning bacteria. The presence of lactic acid, produced during the lactic acid fermentation is responsible for the sour taste and for the improved microbiological stability and safety of the food.

Store bought milks are pasteurized and homogenized. How ever we have to take care of  inoculation and incubation ourselves to get yogurt. Accurate temperature control assures rapid coagulation. I hope I am not making it sound too complicated. Its actually as simple as telling 123. I use Garelick farms 2% milk for making yogurt. Whole milk will give much firmer yogurt. So, all you need is

Ingredients:

  • 2% milk or Whole milk-1 gallon.
  • Starter culture- from store bought yogurts having live cultures-3 tsp.

Method:

  1. Boil milk in a pan and let it become Luke warm.
  2. Remove the top layer of skin from milk and transfer to a new container.
  3. Add 3 tsps of live yogurt culture and mix well.
  4. Cover and keep it near in a warm place like inside the oven with light bulb turned on(in winter).
  5. Keep in undisturbed.Do not stir or move while its still forming.
  6. After approximately 8 hours yogurt will be done. You can make its done,out by the firmness.
  7. The fermented yogurt can be stored in refrigerator
  8. When the yogurt is about to be done, use 3tsp of  yogurt you made as a starter culture to make fresh new yogurt.

The shelf life of yogurt is about a month. The reason why yogurt has a better shelf life than milk is because of the pH and the number of beneficial bacteria present in them. In general the pH of yogurt is 4.4 -4.2 , which is not favorable for other bacterial growth except lactic acid producing bacteria, the bacteria our starter culture has.

Note:

  • The key thing to note in yogurt making is the lukewarm milk. If the milk is too hot or too cold, the yogurt will not form properly.
  • Casseroles or thermos bottles can be used to make yogurt.
  • When I run out of culture, I get it from my friends or even Indian grocery stores & Indian restaurants will be happy to give you some starter culture.
  • Making buttermilk is a snap-if you have yogurt- 2 tsp yogurt, salt, a pinch asafoetida, curryleaves, crushed ice-all mixed in a glass of water would be heavenly to beat the heat during summer.

                                      Buttermilk

Health benefits of Yogurt:

  1. Great source of calcium, great addition to low fat, low calorie diet.
  2. Facilitate digestion of milk. The enzyme lactase digests milk sugar Lactose. So, yogurt is good for “lactose intolerance”.
  3. Nutritious cocktail of  proteins, calcium and minerals.
  4. The 9 amino acids help maintaining muscles.
  5. Builds bone density.
  6. Friendly bacteria in yogurt maintains the digestive tract.
  7. Great source of Vit B6 and B 12 especially for vegetarians.

 Yogurt not just satisfies your taste buds, its also a balanced diet.

 Eat healthy! Live happy!

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