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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Greek Pizza

This is a very simple, and elegant dish. It's colorful, full of flavor and textures. It is also a whole meal, hearty and filling. The best part is that this takes less than half an hour to put together. I orginally ate a version of this at a friend's place. She was inspired by a pita pizza she had eaten at a restaurant and wanted to try it out. I have taken the concept and used the same base, but created a Greek salad to top the pizza.  This recipe makes about four to five pita pizzas. This can be used as an appetizer recipe too or finger food for a party. Just cut the pita into slices and serve.

4-5 pita rounds
1 cup hummus
4-5 greek olives, diced
2 cucumbers, diced
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 tomato, diced
1 cup sweet bell pepper mix, diced (yellow/red/orange)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 onion, sliced
salt to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 lemon, juiced
2-3 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled

Mix together the diced cucumber, bell pepper mix, onion and olives. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, oregano and lemon juice. Pour this over the vegetable mixture. Add the salt and pepper and mix all the ingredients together. Heat the pita bread on a flat pan so that they become a little crisp. Apply a layer of hummus  over the pita bread round. Then spread a layer of the vegetables. Add some spinach leaves over the pita and then sprinkle some feta cheese. Eat this as soon as you have added all the layers, else the base will become soggy.

You can use a flavored hummus to add more flavors to the recipe. Dice all the vegetables in similar sized cubes.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Apple Cobbler

Hope you all had a great Christmas and spent some quality time with your loved ones. We spent a nice relaxing day with friends and good food. There were several challenges putting this year's potluck menu together and we finally decided to have an assortment of food. I must say it was one of the healthiest and tastiest meal that I have eaten in a while. I decided to make the salad and dessert. The challenge was to come up with a dessert that would be easy to make, yet tasty. I considered several recipes and finally my husband suggested that I should make my apple cobbler recipe. After forty minutes, the cobbler was ready and the house was smelling of apples and cinnamon, adding the perfect touch to the holiday ambience. I must add that the recipe was a tremendous success and we didn't have any leftovers.

2 apples, cored and diced into small pieces
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
3/4 stick/cup butter
1/8 tsp cinnamon powder
1/8 tsp salt
2-3 graham crackers, crushed into coarse crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Add the butter to your baking pan and place it in the oven. While the butter melts, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon powder and salt. Then add the milk in and whisk it all together. Add this to the melted butter in the pan and mix it together. Then add the apple slices and fold it into the batter. Sprinkle a layer of the graham crumbs over this to completely cover top of the pan. Bake this for 30-40 minutes. Take a knife and insert it into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean then the cake is ready. If not, bake for a few more minutes. Serve warm.

Cut the apples when you have measured all your ingredients and are ready to work on the recipe. If you cut the apples well in advance, the slices will turn brown due to oxidation and lose some texture. Do not over beat the mixture after adding the milk to the flour. You can serve it warm with some vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Aamti - Maharashtrian Sweet and Sour Dal

Most of the spicy dal preparations are called aamti in Maharashtra. Though when I talk about Aamti, I am referring to the sweet and sour dal preparation. Of course, this changes from home to home, however the basic theme of adding something sweet and sour stays the same. My mom makes this frequently and I enjoy eating it with hot chapati and ghee. Since it is a sweet and sour dish, it is generally quite popular with kids and a great way to get them to eat their protein. Healthy and tasty, the perfect combination for an everyday meal. The lentil/legume used in the recipe is known by many different names, some of those that I am familiar with are "tur, toor, tuvar, arhar, and split pigeon pea". It can be easily found at any store that sells Indian groceries.

1 cup tur/toor dal
3-4 cups water
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
couple of pinches of asafoetida
1 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp cumin/jeera
1/8 tsp mustard
1-2 chillies, diced into large pieces
6-7 curry leaves
salt to taste
1 tbsp jaggery powder or 1 inch piece of jaggery (adjust to taste)
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp goda masala
1/2 inch piece ginger piece

Wash the tur dal a couple of times. To this addtwo cups of water, a pinch of asafoetida and turmeric. Pressure cook it till it is cooked completely. Mash the cooked dal and keep aside. In a pot, add the oil. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once the mustard crackles, add a pinch of asafoetida, chillies and the mashed dal. Add a cup of water, curry leaves, ginger, salt and goda masala. Boil this for a few minutes, then add the tamarind and jaggery. Cook for another few minutes. Add more water if required. Serve with white rice or hot chapati.

To make tamarind paste, take an inch piece of tamarind, soak in a couple of tbsps of warm water for a few minutes and then squeeze out the pulp. Use the pulp and tamarind water. If you do not have goda masala, substitute with dhana-jeera/corriander-cumin powder. If you are using a jaggery piece, make sure that it has completely dissolved.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Karlya Che Kaap - Bitter Gourd Chips

Karela/Karala/Bitter Gourd, are all names for a green color gourd which has a spiny skin and tastes very bitter. It is supposed to have medicinal value and I have heard that it  helps reduce blood sugar levels. Surprisingly, although it is so bitter, it tastes great when it is cooked. Though, I must note here that it is an acquired taste for most people. As a kid, I used to enjoy the fried version. This dish definitely certifies that everything tastes great when fried, even something so bitter!! Eventually I developed a taste for other gravy preparations too. Bitter gourd is definitely something you should try if you haven’t and start off with the fried version.

1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1/8 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
4-5 bitter gourds, diced into thin slices
1 spoon of sugar
¼ tsp mango powder/amchur
salt to taste
2-3 green chillies, slit lengthwise
8-10 curry leaves
2 tbsp oil

Heat the oil in a flat open pan. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once the mustard seeds begin to crackle, add the chilli, curry leaves and then the bitter gourd slices. Stir well and let it cook till the slices are well fried. Since we are not deep frying it, it will take about 30 minutes on medium heat for the slices to get crisp. They will turn brown. Then season with mango powder, salt and sugar. Serve with chapati.

To reduce the bitterness, apply salt over the bitter gourd slices and keep aside for 10-15 minutes. They will release a lot of water, then rinse these slices and pat them dry. You can also peel away the larger spines, before slicing. Cook it in an open large pan. This will help the slices to brown faster and get they will get the crisp fried texture.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Egg Curry

Egg Curry is a dish which always reminds me of Dad. He introduced me to eggs and how tasty the various preparations could be. It’s funny how I associate the dish with Dad though it was Mom who always made it. I made this quite frequently as a student and a few friends came to associate this dish with me. So whenever it was my turn to cook, this dish was often requested. I generally make a lot of gravy with it and serve it with some white rice. It tastes great with some hot chapati too. Add a side salad of onions, green chillies and it is a wonderful meal. This dish tends to taste better after a few hours or the next day when the eggs have had some time to absorb the spices.

2 tbsps oil
2 black cardamoms
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
1 red onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
red chilli powder to taste
1-2 tsp garam masala (add 2 tsp for spicier taste)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 inch ginger, grated/crushed
3 or 4 hard boiled eggs, sliced into two along the length of the egg
1-2 cups water
salt to taste

In a pan, heat the oil and add the cardamom, cloves and the bay leaves to the oil, fry till you can smell the aroma, but take care not to burn them. Add the onion, ginger and garlic. Fry this till the onion is well browned. Ideally, cook this on a medium heat setting and fry the onions till you see a little oil being released. Then add the tomatoes, and cook till the tomatoes are browned. Add garam masala, red chilli powder and cook for another minute. Then add the water. Add salt. Boil this till the gravy thickens to your liking. Gently, slide in the eggs to the gravy. Boil the gravy for a few minutes with the eggs, so that the eggs absorb the spices. Serve hot with white rice or chapati.

The eggs should be hard boiled, so that the yolk does not run into the gravy. When stirring the gravy take care to not damage the egg halves. If you want to adjust the seasoning, scoop out the egg pieces, stir the gravy and then add them back in. If the eggs are boiled in the gravy, they get well marinated and tasty.
To reheat, if possible do not use the microwave, as eggs tend to burst. You can scoop out the egg pieces, heat the gravy for a longer time till it is piping hot. Then, heat the eggs for about 30 seconds in the microwave and add them back to the gravy.