Saturday, July 26, 2008

Garden Fresh Bittergourd with Red Chori Beans (Mung Beans) . What am I going to be? -3

The credit card saga continues ...
I read the statement for this month's credit card bill and was in for a bit of shock and disgust at myself for paying that one bill late. The bill that was due for 6/7 got paid on 6/11. This got me slapped with a finance charge and late fee the next 7/7month and thought that was the end of it. Nope! The next one 8/7 also had a finance charge on it since the second billing cycle had already started when I was late in my payment :( I have learnt my lesson and it is time to use all the alerts and reminder features available at my disposal.

Some banks also charge a few if the balance runs below a certain amount. But if you are familiar with their online banking service, lots of them have nifty features like alerts and such. Time to use those too!

What am I going to be?
Look at the next stage.

Lot of you had commented on how beautiful the bitter gourd vine looks. I started looking at the plant with brand new eyes and indeed they are spectacular. I feast my eyes on them every morning and a few days they are feast for our stomachs too. There are 3 different varieties one long and dark green, one long and pale green almost white and the third the small tiny dark green variety. Eating them fresh the bitterness is almost indiscernable. When cooked with Red Chori or Cow Peas which are sweet in taste they balance each other out. This recipe is from my mom and she says it is also called pitlai.


Serves: 4-5
1. 5-6 Bitter gourd, seeds removed and chopped
2. 2-3 garlic cloves sliced
3. 1/4 Red onion chopped
4. Tamarind juice from a lemon sized ball - 1 cup
5. 1 Cup Red Chori Bean - steamed but not mushy
6. Seasoning - curry leaves, mustard
7. 1 tsp jaggery
8. salt to taste and 1 tsp oil

For the Paste
1. 3 Red chilies
2. 1 tbsp grated fresh coconut
3. 1 1/2 tbsp chana dal
4. 2 pinches of asfoetida

Dry roast the red chili and chana dal. lend together to a paste.


1. In a wide mouthed pan add a tsp of oil and when hot add the seasonings.
2. Add the onion fry till translucent
3. Add the Bitter gourd and saute till they start to brown on the edges
4. Now add the tamarind juice and let them cook till the bitter gourd is completely cooked and soft
5. Add the ground mixture with about 1/4 cup water and when it starts to boil
6. add the cooked chori beans and the jaggery and salt.
7. When the desired consistency is reached remove from heat.

Serve with rice or it goes well with chapathis too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Best Friend's Picture and a Guess!

Can you spot my best friend?

Flower of which plant?

PS: Answer coming up soon unlike the last one which is going to be revealed when the flower becomes a vegetable.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mixed Greens with Pinto Beans and Turkey Sausage (or Tofu)

    Green Earth
    I particularly don't see eye to eye with one of my neighbors. But this does not mean I don't listen and take her advice on a few things which are actually sensible and very practical. A few years ago the tress in the park that backs our houses were hit hard by Tent Caterpillar infestation. The nests of these caterpillars were quite large, built spider web like in the shape of a tent around branches and were found in almost all mature trees. There are hundreds of them living in just one, and gave me the goose bumps every time I walked under a tree or happen to step on one. They crawled all over and the grass looked more black than green with these creatures clinging on to the blades and the 'put' 'put' sound when they were crushed under car tires. I am still cleaning out the cocoons from under the siding after all these years so you can imagine the sheer numbers in which they invaded our yards. Anyway a few of my neighbors simply got tired of them and tried to battle them with insecticides but to no avail. Some of the braver ones ahem like DH tried to pull the nest down and set it on fire.

    Needless to say, human intervention did nothing to get rid of them when my aforementioned friend gave me a simple advice, that will be the theme of this week's Green Earth.

    Avoid unnecessary spraying of insecticides on grown trees to stop an infestation. They do not control and in some cases lay the ground work for more resistant versions of these same pests. Like they say, let nature take its course. The insects are good tasty protein rich food for different types of birds. The rich diet helps birds reproduce and increase their population pretty rapidly and they are the tools in the battle to eradicate these pests.

    When spraying did nothing to control the creepy crawlies and pretty soon everybody gave up. It is also important to note that on the other hand, indiscriminate spraying might have had a detrimental effect on the birds where the insecticide meant for the caterpillars would have inadvertently killed off the birds. Luckily that did not happen in our backyards. The next year when we saw the beginnings of these caterpillars, and the birdstaking care of them before they could become a menace. This story has a good ending too - the increased number of birds is music to the years and a sight for sore eyes.

What does my not seeing eye to eye with this neighbor have anything to do with it? Nothing like a sprinkling of spice to liven up things! What say you?
Now on to the recipe,

This recipe goes to GYO 2008 started by Andrea of Andreas Recipes and hosted by Jugalbandi this time around.

Recipe Source: Quick Braised Swiss Chard with Beans and Chorizo


The regular cutting of the greens have actually made them grow that much faster. I am seriously on the look out for new dishes that use greens ever so tastefully. This recipe Washington Post used greens with beans. What more could I ask for. Well I had planned on making this dish with Tofu, now that I am more open to Tofu after this Stir Fried Tofu. But the Turkey Sausage caught my eye the other day at the grocery store while searching for some Soy Sausage which I could not find, I could swear that I have seen those Soy ones or maybe it is it just a figment of my imagination.

Tip: Always cook greens with the lid open for some time 5-8 minutes before closing the lid. My mom says this is to help the bad gases to evaporate. Mom is always right, so I follow her advice.

I cooked the sausage separately because my mom prefers hers strictly vegetarian.

Serves: 4-5
1. 1 bunch Swiss Chard (I used 2 cups of Mixed Greens)
2. 1 1/2 Cups Cooked Pinto Beans
3. 1/2 cup Vidalia Onion chopped fine
4. 5 garlic cloves sliced and pounded
5. 2 tsp doubly concentrated tomato paste
6. 2 tsp red chili powder (optional)
7. 1 lime
8. 6 Hot Italian Turkey Sausage (or use Extra firm Tofu seasoned with salt and chili powder)
9. 2-3 tsp of oil

1. In a pan heat the oil, when hot add the garlic and saute for a minute.
2. Add the chopped onions and saute till they are brown
3. Now add the chili powder and mix and add the tomato paste, mix well so all the onions are well coated.
4.Now add the greens and let them cook till the greens are thoroughly wilted.
5.Add a sprinkling of salt (be careful with the salt if you are going to add the sausage)
***You can stop the recipe right here too if you please, the greens tasted absolutely delicious.
6. Now add the drained beans mix and squeeze the lime.
7. Let it cook till all the liquids evaporate
8. Meanwhile in another pan heat a bit of oil, remove the casings from the sausage, cut them into bite sized pieces and add them to the pan. Let them cook completely.
9.Once the Vegetarian portion is set aside, add the sausages and mix well.

We had them in a pita pocket with some yogurt sauce and carrots.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mixed Greens Mashed

The small patch of land in my backyard that is my vegetable garden is a great source of joy and pleasure. It provides us all through the summer with a regular harvest of some delicious greens and vegetables. Trimming the greens regularly makes them grow that much faster. The frequent rains we have been having so far into the summer has helped tremendously. We have about 4 kinds of greens growing in pots and on the patch. Made into a stir fry or mashed with very few spices the taste of fresh greens is something to be savored.

The vegetable garden is my small connection to my forefathers. The day job I do today does not give even a fraction of the satisfaction that this patch of land provides. The travails and tribulations at my day job and my fond dreams of one day becoming a full time farmer is a story for another post.

This is going to Andrea's Grow Your Own episode #12.

Amaranth Green (Thandu Keerai)

Night Shade (manathakkali)

Swiss Chard

All the greens made their way into this delicious mash. It tastes a lot better than it looks :)


Serves 4-5
1. 3 Cups Mixed greens (Amaranth, Night Shade and Swiss Chard)
2. 1/4 Red Onion chopped
3. 4 green chilies
4. 1 1/2 tsp cumin, pepper and coriander seeds roasted and made into a rough powder
5. 1 tsp ghee

1. In a thick bottomed pan or a pressure cooker heat the oil and saute the onions and green chilies
2. Add the powder and mix
3. Now add the greens and saute till the greens start to wilt and leave it open for a few more minutes.
4. Add the salt and cover and cook till soft or in a pressure cooker for 1 sound.
5. Add a dash of butter and now either using the masher mash the greens or with a hand held blender blend for a few minutes

Serve with rice and a roast of raw banana or taro root.

Recipes for the perfect side dish
1. Raw Banana Fry
2. Plantain Fry
3. Taro Root Fry

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Kollu - Horsegram Chutney for Idli and Dosai

The past few weeks have been celebration time for Spain and looks like it is all set to continue for a bit longer. What with the Euro Cup win coming after 44 years and Raphael Nadal's Wimbeldon win in a marathon of a match. Though not a huge tennis fan in recent years, this match had me glued to the chair. After a sumptious lunch on a long weekend sunday afternoon, this was a lazy relaxing way to end the day, ofcourse a little saddened by the long weekend coming to an end.

Dee had asked about dishes that can be made with Horsegram(kollu) and around the same time my mom was talking about the chutney she had made for paniyarams with horsegram. So we set around to cooking this easy and quick chutney to be had as a side for dosai.

    Green Earth This summer has been especially wet in the North East with rains every couple of days or so and the lawn and plants not requiring any extra watering. But Rain Water Harvesting can be very useful during dry summer months. My neighbor has one of those oak barrles for harvesting rain water can be installed very easily. I have been considering investing in one. More information here.

Serves : 3-4
1. 1/4 - 1/2 cup Horsegram
2. 2 red chilies
3. 2 tbsp grated fresh coconut
4. tamarind a small piece
5. 6-10 small pearl onions
6. 2 cloves garlic
7. Seasonings: curry leaves, urad dal, red chili split, mustard seeds


1. Roast the horsegram till it start to crackle, keep aside
2. In a bit of oil saute the onions till brown, the garlic till it is soft, saute the red chilies and tamarind a bit
3. Mix with grated coconut and remove from the flame.
4. Add salt and blend to a paste. Preserve the water that is used to clean the blender.

Keep the chutney thick if you want to serve with rice. If serving with idli or dosai add the preserved water.

5.In a pan heat oil, add the split white lentil (urad dal) and when brown add the curry leaves,red chili and mustard seeds and when the mustard starts to pop, pour over the chutney.

Other Horsegram dishes:
1. Horsegram and Snake Gourd
2. The original Kollu paruppu chutney and rasam

Friday, July 4, 2008

Pad Thai and a Craving Satisfied!

I bet you heard that big happy burp! I had a craving for Pad Thai from the moment the crushed peanuts and chili sauce met in this Stir Fried Tofu. I couldn't leave the craving unsatisfied any longer, not while I had most of the ingredients ready.

I don't remember exactly where I heard or read this, but the gist of it is "to confirm if a Thai restaurant serves good food or not is to first taste their Pad Thai". If you cannot stand the Pad Thai it is a good idea to stay away from there. So applying the same standards to my kitchen, I need to cook a good Pad Thai before I can move on to other Thai dishes don't you think? Well I think I passed that test, the Pad Thai was indeed a big hit. I am not sure why I had procrastinated this long to cook it.

I loosely based the recipe on the Global Gourmet Pad Thai and Chez Pim's, Pad Thai for beginners. Chez Pim's especially is a treasure house of information on the subject. One noted exception was I did not add bean sprouts and Tofu. I have seen bean sprouts in my local grocery store, but I could not find them there when I needed them most and I was late heading home so did not stop at my local Asian store. I know what you are thinking my friends, why couldn't I have sprouted them at home, well I have a reason for that too - could not wait a day longer, my patience had run out and my craving was reaching uncontrollable proportions.

Note: My family members like the noodles really soft so my cooking times for the noodles are based on that. Follow your package directions and reduce the cooking time accordingly.


Serves 4 (Full meal)
1. a bit less than 1/2 pack of 16oz Rice Noodles
2. 12-15 Cleaned shrimp
3. 3 Eggs beaten
4. a small lime sized ball of tamarind soaked in water to make about 1/2 cup of juice
5. 1/2 Red Onion sliced thin
6. 2 bunches of scallions roots removed and sliced into small pieces
7. 1 tbsp of grated palm sugar
8. 2-3 tsp of Fish Sauce
9. 1 tbsp of Thai Chili Garlic Sauce (the one I have is slightly sweet)
10. 1 1/2 tsp of red chili powder
11. 4 cloves of minced garlic
12. 2-3 tsp oil
13. 1/4 cup of roasted unsalted peanuts crushed
14. Coriander leaves for garnish
15. Lemon wedges

Soak the Rice noodles in cold water for atleast 20-30 minutes

For the sauce
1. In a sauce add the tamrind juice, palm sugar gratings, chili powder and boil
2. Half way through add the fish sauce and boil till it reduces to a slightly thick consistency. Not too thick but pourable.

1. Drain the noodles from the cold water and if still thick to the bite, put them in boiling water for another 4-6 minutes. Drain and set aside. These are going to cook in the wok so don't overcook.
2. Heat a wok add the oil and when hot add the garlic, scallions and saute till the scallions are wilted. Add the sliced onions and saute till they just start to turn brown.
3. Now add the shrimp and saute till they start to turn pink about 2-3 minutes. Fish the shrimp and set them aside. Continue to saute the onions for a few more minutes. sprinkle salt and them set them aside.
4. Now add a bit more oil and add the eggs and scramble them. Now add a bit of salt and some of the chili sauce and 1/4 of the tamarind sauce and the shrimp and saute till the moisture evaporates. Set them aside
5.Now add the noodles and the remaining tamarind sauce and cook till required softness.
6. Add the onions, some of the crushed peanuts, eggs and shrimp and some of the chili sauce and toss them together.
7. Remove from the heat when they are heated through.

Serve with some more peanuts on top, squeeze of lime juice and coriander leaves.

The procedure seems long and winded but it is very simple and quick. I have no reason to not cook it at home and next time I am going to get the bean sprouts for sure.

Enjoy the long weekend and Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Greens Guess? Revealed


Who am I? Malabar Spinach!

Greens about to be cooked into something delicious!

Amaranth Green (Thandu Keerai)

Night Shade (manathakkali)

Swiss Chard