Monday, December 29, 2014

Grain of the Week - 50, 51 & 52 - White Quinoa

I started the 'Grain of the Week' project Week 1 of this and even I am surprised it has survived for 52 weeks albeit a few grains sharing multi-weeks like this one today. The project has helped me in discovering new grains that I have never used before and learned about a quite a few new ones. Thanks also to readers who shared the grains that they have come across and liked.

The project started with Red Quinoa and fittingly comes to an end with White Quinoa. Quinoa as we all know is an ancient grain of the Andean region of Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Columbia, closely related to the Amaranth grain. Domesticated about 5000 years ago it has suddenly become a super grain for the rest of the world. Wiki. Thanks to the Andean people who have preserved it for future generations.

2013 was declared as the 'International Year of Quinoa' by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Rightfully so 2013 was the year when the Quinoa popularity was at its peak.

Quinoa is related to the Chard, Beets and Spinach family and is more of a seed than grain.

Quinoa is rich in protein making it a perfect for vegetarians and vegans who want up the intake of protein. It is also gluten free and has a low glycemic index making it a good source of carbohydrate for those trying to control blood sugar. It is also rich in minerals like Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc and Iron. It is also rich in antioxidants, those chemicals which are essential for fighting disease and aging.

Quinoa needs to be soaked and washed to remove the outer coating which is bitter. I rinse it in several changes of water after soaking for about 20 minutes or so.

Quinoa can be cooked and eaten like rice, used in salads or to make dosai and idli. Listed are some recipes that I have tried with Quinoa.
  1. How to cook Quinoa?
  2. Quinoa Puliyodarai - Tamarind Spiced Quinoa
  3. Quinoa Patties or Cutlets with green chilies and Cheese
  4. Red Quinoa Idly - Steamed Quinoa Cakes
  5. Quinoa Pudding with dried fruits and nuts

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Olive Oil Squash Bread

I have learned a little something about baking after all these years of trying to substitute one thing for another and the final product not turning out as expected. It is always best to stick to recipes for baked goods and when a substitution is done it should not deviate much from the original ingredient.

I came across this Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread in the Washington Post Food Section. As I saved the paper I knew I was going to make it with Acorn Squash instead of the the pumpkin. I had an Acorn Squash sitting on the counter top ready to be used.I roasted the Acorn Squash for the puree. Roasting squash or pumpkin is a very easy process. Look here for how to roast Squash and extract the pulp/puree.

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Beat the eggs till it is nice and frothy.
Add palm sugar to the egg mixture.
Add honey and the squash pulp.
Add olive oil and mix them all together.
Pour the batter into a greased 9 inch rectangular pan. Bake for 50 minutes till a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool and cut into slices.

This is an easy bread to make, soft and delicious and not too sweet.

Olive Oil Squash Bread
Preparation Time:20 minutes
Cooking Time:55 minutes
  1. 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
  2. 1 tsp baking soda
  3. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  4. 1/4 tsp of nutmeg powder
  5. 1/4 tsp of powdered dried ginger
  6. 1/4 tsp of salt
  7. 1/2 cup of palm sugar (substitute with brown sugar)
  8. 1/4 cup honey
  9. 1/3 cup of olive oil
  10. 2 Eggs
  11. 1 cup of Acorn Squash puree

  1. Preheat the over to 350F.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients - whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and ginger powder.
  3. In a cup beat the 2 eggs till it is nice and frothy. To this mix in the sugar, honey, squash pulp and olive oil. Mix them altogether.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix it till fully mixed using as few strokes as possible.
  5. Grease a 9inch baking pan and pour the batter in.
  6. Bake for 45-55 minutes till a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Cool on a wire rack till ready to slice.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Roasted Nut Chocolate Clusters

Dear Readers,

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a joyful Holiday Season!

Living in the US most people I come across often ask if we celebrate Christmas. I tell them that we do not but that does not necessarily mean we do not celebrate the season especially if the season involves enjoying cakes, candies and cookies. Let's see, it's hard to get into the festive mood during Deepavali, being far away from home and without the festivities going on around you. On the other hand its hard not to get into the spirit of the season during Christmas when everything around screams of Christmas. The stores, the radio, the TV all are full of holiday music, movies and of course the gifts.

Every year I save the cookie recipe supplements but never get around to making them. Cookies require time and a bit of effort whereas these chocolate clusters are easy and very hard to mess up.

Get the double boiler ready for melting the chocolate.
Keep the nuts ready and melt the chocolate with the butter.
Once the chocolate is smooth and shiny take it off the heat and mix in the nuts till they are well coated.
Place clusters of the chocolate coated nuts on parchment and let them dry for a few hours or overnight.

So if you are thinking of a quick something to make to make the kids happy here is the perfect recipe. I used 3/4th roasted unsalted cashews and 1/4 mixed roasted unsalted nuts (almonds, pecans and pistachios).

Roasted Nut Chocolate Clusters
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:15 minutes
  1. 1-2 cups roasted unsalted nuts (I used 3/4 cashews and 1/4 other nuts like almonds, pecans and pistachios)
  2. 8 oz semi sweet baking chocolate
  3. 2 tbsp butter

  1. Get a double boiler ready - keep a sauce pan of water to boil only such that a mixing vessel placed on it does not touch the water.
  2. Add chopped chocolate and butter to the mixing vessel and place it on the boiling sauce pan of water, reduce the heat so the water is just on a simmer.
  3. The chocolate and butter start to melt. Mix it with the spatula so the chocolate butter mixture is smooth and shiny.
  4. Quickly add the roasted nuts and mix it into the chocolate.
  5. Place clusters of chocolate covered nuts on a parchment paper of desired shape.
  6. Let it cool and dry about 3-4 hours or overnight.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

How to Roast Squash/Pumpkin for puree - Squash Puree

Roasting of vegetables increases their flavor we all know that. There are a bunch of recipes from cookies, pies. cakes, breads to soups that all require puree of pumpkin usually. I am not very fond of pumpkins but the taste of squash is more like my thing. Butternut, Acorn or Delicata are all mildly sweet and perfect for making puree and they work very well in all the recipes that require pumpkin.

Roasting the squash is a very simple process. The flavor of roasted squash cannot be compared to the canned ones. If you sprinkle some brown sugar or red chili powder for a savory version, the roasted squash can be eaten just like that - as a snack.
Split the squash and rub either olive oil or butter and roast the squash at 350F for about 1 hours 15 minutes.
Cool and using a spoon remove the pulp.
Using a fork or the back of the spoon mash the pulp.

I roasted Acorn Squash but the same process can be used for any of the other squash or pumpkin. The recipes I made with the puree are coming up soon.

Roasted Acorn Squash - For Puree
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Baking Time:1 hour and 15 minutes
  1. 1 Acorn Squash Cut in half or 3 pieces
  2. a few dabs of butter or olive oil for a vegan version
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Rub the butter or olive oil on the cut squash and roast for an hour for it to be fully cooked and soft. Bake for another 15 minutes to be used for making a puree.
  3. Let the roasted squash cool and scrape the flesh out with a sharp edge of a spoon.
  4. Mash with the back of the spoon.
  5. Use the require amount and freeze the leftovers.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Revisting some old recipes

Some recipes are tried once and forgotten. Some are regulars that get made over and over again. Some make an appearance every now and then till a much better recipe takes over.

I have 2 recipes here that were posted a long time ago.

The first one is Vaangi Bhath which I tried again after a long time. It tasted good but the Basmati rice I was using was a new brand which required a lot more water than what I normally use. So it took a while for the rice to cook and that posed some problems. Here is the line for Vangi Bhath or Kathrikkai Sadam.

The second recipe is a favorite that keeps getting cooked over and over again,
Raw banana roast with some powdered spices makes it a perfect side dish for dal or any bland curries or even as a snack. Here is the link.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Vietnamese style Fish Curry with Rice Noodles

There was this good Vietnamese restaurant (for those of you who live in the area) called Taste of Saigon which we used to frequent for all special occasions. As with everything we stopped going there and when I noticed it it has been 10 years or so. Recently I looked up the location to go there again and all I saw was this news. After all this time all I can remember was the food was very good but one specific food memory is of Vermicelli Fish Curry. Though they called it Vermicelli it was more like rice noodles. A brothy fish curry with rice noodles.

I have been making this recipe in my head for a while now until I finally settled on making it last weekend. I was also ready to use the earthen ware pot my friend had given me. My mom successfully uses it to often to make fish curries. Nothing like cooking fish curry in a mud pot.

The curry itself is very simple. Keep handy either home made or store bought curry powder and coconut milk. I used meat masala powder which is the latest curry powder I am using. Chicken Masala Powder, Chicken Masala Powder or just plain curry powder are all variations of the ground spices. I use them interchangeably. As for you vegetarians be assured that meat masala powder or chicken masala powder does not mean they carry any sort of meat or chicken in them. Be assured they as vegetarian as they come. Meat or chicken just means it can be added to meat or chicken dishes.

The rest of the ingredients minus the fish are what anyone would normally have around the house.

Vietnamese fish curry would have benefited greatly in the aroma department by the addition of lemon grass. I usually do not have these and my nearest international market did not have it either. Use it if you have it and there is no great harm done by skipping it.

Heat oil and add the seasonings. Add the shallots and saute till translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a couple of minutes.
Add the spice powders - turmeric, chili and curry powder and mix. Add in the chopped tomatoes.
Add the tamarind pulp and let it come to a boil.
Reduce the heat and salt and add in the coconut milk while continuing to stir. Reduce the heat and let it simmer in low heat till the required consistency is reached.
Add the fish pieces and let it cook for 8-10 minutes by which the fish should be cooked. Add the coriander leaves and let cook for a couple of minutes more and turn off the heat.
Cook the noodles. Add the fish curry to the bowl first and then topped with the noodles.
Sprinkle coriander leaves and coarsely crushed peanuts.

As for the noodles or just plain steamed rice? This is a personal preference.

Vietnamese style Fish Curry with Rice Noodles
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:35 minutes
  1. 8 Hake loins - fish (I used frozen, use any firm white fleshed fish) (see note:)
  2. 1/2 cup of chopped shallots or red onion
  3. lemon grass pounded about 4-5 1 inch pieces (I did not use them)
  4. 1/4 cup of finely chopped tomatoes
  5. 6-8 sliced or whole garlic cloves
  6. 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
  7. 1 heaped tbsp of curry powder
  8. 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder
  9. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  10. 1 1/2 cups of thick coconut milk (use lighter or as little as you want)
  11. 1/2 cup of tamarind pulp from a small lime sized ball of tamarind
  12. salt to taste
  13. 2 handful of coriander leaves (one handful for garnish while serving)
  14. 3 tbsp of coarsely pounded roasted peanuts for garnish
  15. seasonings: cumin seeds, mustard seeds
  16. 2 tsp of oil
  1. Wash the fish and cut them into bite sized pieces and set aside.
  2. In the pot heat oil and add the cumin and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds pop add the shallots and saute till they turn translucent.
  3. Add in the garlic and ginger and saute for a couple of minutes more. Add the pounded lemon grass at this time also.
  4. Add the turmeric, chili and the curry powders and mix it in.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute for 3-4 minutes till it starts to turn mushy.
  6. Add in the tamarind pulp and let it come to a boil about 4 minutes or so.
  7. Now reduce the heat and salt and the coconut milk while continuing to stir and let it simmer in low heat till the gravy reaches a thick consistency (about 8 minutes) (see note:)
  8. Add the fish pieces and let it simmer for another 8-10 minutes. The fish should be cooked by this time.
  9. Add the coriander leaves simmer for a couple of minutes more and turn of the heat.
  10. Note:
  11. It is preferable to use de-boned fish rather than fish with bones.
  12. When cooking fish be aware that when fish is added to the curry it leaves water which makes the curry watery so it is important to cook the gravy first to a consistency thicker than required then add the fish.
  13. Cooking the curry for a long time will either make it rubbery or completely dissolve in the curry.
Cooking the noodles
  1. Cook the rice noodles as per the directions, rinse in cold water. Drain and set aside.
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