Saturday, February 23, 2008

Going green: Chard and mushrooms :)

Having gotten back to blogging very recently, i have been full of enthusiasm :). So after posting the recipes celebrating kokum, the plan was to post another recipe the very next day. That would have made it a hat-trick :-D. A post a day, i would have been onto a blogging spree! But how could i, Ms. Musical (the lazy one), get around doing that :-D. So, here i am, after having put the pictures in draft a cpl. of days ago, finally typing the recipe ;).

This is a quick one, but immensly delish! A hearty combination of the beautiful chard and the delectable mushrooms,
something that can be prepared in a matter of minutes and is a great accompaniment to any meal :).

I've used rainbow chard and baby-bella mushrooms here, but other varieties also work fine. Here's how we go about it.

Chard and mushroom sabzi:

We need:

  • 1 bunch (7-8 leaves) Swiss chard (regular, red, rainbow-they all are good. I love red and rainbow varieties though, because they look so pretty)-chopped coarse.
  • 1 and half cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion, sliced fine
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • red chilli powder to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • A pinch of garam masala (equal proportions of cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds: roasted, cooled and ground into a fine powder. This recipe is one of my favorite masala recipes and works really well with green leafy vegetables. Its a very typical Kerala style spice recipe and i was first introduced to this one by my very dear friend, Ms. Moon).
  • 1 tsp. oil
We start by the obligatory (ahem!) step of heating the oil in a pan and spluttering the cumin seeds (which can be replaced by mustard seeds for another delicious variation). Next, sliced onions are added and saute'ed. We then add the chopped mushrooms and stir fry them till tender (takes about 4-5 minutes). Next, we add the chopped greens and stir in the salt, red chilli powder and turmeric. We let the veggies cook on low heat till done.
Finally, we sprinkle a pinch or two of the garam masala powder and enjoy this dish with chapatis and dahi or sambar- rice or (you guessed it right) as a sandwich stuffing :).

Other variations:

Add a lil' bit of grated coconut to this dish (use some chopped green chillies in this case, instead of red chilli powder). Try eggplants (the Chinese and Japanese varities) instead of mushrooms, or even green peas or corn. Each results in a delicious quick fix side-dish. Enjoy :).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kokum: celebrating the surprise and a wonder ingredient :).

Time to flaunt the lovely surprise in my mailbox :). The lovely surprise that i got from Nupur is the tangy, beautiful and fragrant kokum. Kokum (botanical name: Garcinia indica) is also known as amsul/amsool and mangosteen (English). It is widely celebrated in Marathi, Konkani, Mangalorean and Coorgi cuisines, to name a few and adds a mellow tanginess and a beautiful pick blush to the dishes :). The kokum seed oil/butter is considered to be very good for the skin and has found immense use in the cosmetic and food industry. Several health food stores here in the US now flash products using kokum butter :). Read more about its myriad uses here.

Sra brings an interesting question to fore: The Wiki link claims that Kokum=Mangosteen. However, as it turns out, Mangosteen is Garcinia mangostana. Close cousins, but not the same. Her question is: Can we make kokum from Mangosteen? It should be theoretically possible-i guess they have similar fruits, and its a matter of drying the peel. I am very positive on this, because apparently kudampuli (a prized ingredient in Kerala cuisine) is also from genus Garcinia (Garcinia gummigutta, Garcinia combogia) ! No wonder they look quite similar :). So, if anyone knows here how to prepare kokum from the fruit, please do share the information :). Sra kindly shared the following links, do check them out:

The two yummy dishes i associate kokum most with, are amti and sol kadhi :). The former is daal (mostly toor daal) cooked with kokum extract (prepared by soaking kokum in water), gul (jaggery)/sugar and phodni (tempering: includes asfoetida, mustard seeds, curry leaves and turmeric) and the latter is a delicious blend of coconut milk, kokum extract, gul, green chillies and cilantro :).
And surely i am going to use this lovely surprise to make amti and sol kadhi. But i wanted to enjoy this present by trying it with something different :). So i went ahead and though of the following:
  • Chayote squash curry
  • Quick aloo-matar
I chose these dishes randomly, the former because of what i fancied in the grocery store and the latter to fit my plans to make a quick fix dinner :). Hope you'll enjoy these!

Chayote squash curry:

There is something about the kokum-coconut reminds me of Goa, each time i think of it, each time i relish it! I took the chayote squash, paired this lovely vegetable with coconut milk and dressed up the combo with kokum. The result was a delicious curry, which totally made me nostalgic about my Goa trip and the food i enjoyed there. Here is how i made it:

We need:

  • Two chayote squashes (cubed into bite sized pieces)
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • Kokum extract (4-5 pieces kokum soaked for 20-30 minutes in 1/2 cup water)
  • 1/2" piece of ginger, grated (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, grated (optional)
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • 7-8 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • Red chilli powder to taste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. oil
Boil the cubed squash pieces in water (enough to completely cover the pieces) along with turmeric and salt, till tender. Add coconut milk, grated ginger, garlic, kokum extract, red chilli powder and sugar. Bring to boil. Prepare the tempering by heating the oil, spluttering the mustard seeds and adding the curry leaves. Add the tempering to the curry and simmer to desired thickness. Enjoy hot with rice and pickles :).

If you are short on time, you can also cook the kokum pieces directly with the vegetables, after addition of coconut milk. I leave the kokum pieces in, they add a certain flavor to the dish. It is really fun to chew on a fruity piece of kokum as you relish the curry :-D. If you want the curry to have a subtle flavor, you may omit ginger and garlic. I have to add; this kokum was so good, that despite using ginger and garlic, i could feel the distinct aroma from these purple-pink fruits. Do include sugar in the preparation to balance the tangy flavor, it adds a lot to taste.

Quick aloo-matar:
This is quick indeed and involves use of microwave :-D. Yes, when i rush, i resort to microwaving the aloo/potatoes :). To top it all, this version of aloo-matar is a no-oil recipe!

We need:

  • 1 potato (wash, microwave for 4-5 minutes and peel)
  • 2 cups shelled green peas/matar
  • 1" ginger piece (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • Red chilli powder (to taste)
  • Extract from 4-5 pieces of kokum
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary leaves (fresh or dried, your choice)

We start by microwaving the potato. The potato is peeled, cubed and kept ready to go. We heat the pan and roast the cumin, add 2 cups of water, ginger and garlic and bring the water to boil. We now add the microwaved and cubed potatoes and cook these while mashing it a lil' bit. Now its time to add the shelled green peas, salt, red chilli powder and kokum extract (or kokum pieces, if you are like me). We stir the dish gently once or twice, add 1/2 cup more water, cloves and simmer the aloo-matar on low/medium flame till the gravy is thick. Time to garnish the aloo-matar with rosemary leaves and we are all set to enjoy :).

Kokum here gives a subtle tanginess and pretty color to aloo-matar and lifts the dish to a whole new level. Rosemary and garlic (simmered, not roasted here) together create a warm and sweet-spicy aroma along with cloves, and build on the subtle warm notes from kokum. I enjoyed this variation of aloo-matar a lot!
Hope you'll enjoy these dishes too :). Here's to friendship, here's to the beautiful ingredient!

More ways to enjoy kokum:

Bakar Bhaji (Anita)
Bhendi Sukhem, prawns kokum garlic, lobster pepper kokum (Upper Crust India)
Daanyachi Amti (Tee)
Drumstick vegetable (Alpa)
Footi Kadhi/Kokum kadhi without coconut milk (Red Chillies)
Gujarati Daal (Vegetarian Delight-1, Amisha-2), Thanks Richa, for the pointer (now bring you recipe too) :-D.
Kalya vatanyachi amti (Anjali)
Kokum aloo (ARAD)
Kokum Fish/Sola Bangade (Shilpa)
Kokum Shrimp/Sola sungat (Shilpa)
Kokum Sharbat (Mehak)
Moong daal aamti (Indira)

Do let me know if any one of you have any related recipe ideas or links to share, i'll update the post accordingly :).

Thanks Nupur, the flavors from your kitchen have brought with them a message of friendship and sharing! I am truly enriched!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Here's to fun and friendship :)

Hi, friends! I finally am back from my hibernation :). Now, haven't you heard similar stuff on this blog before :-D. This probably could have ended up as one more of those posts :). But what makes this one different is a very special word called "Friendship". Its the power of friendship that's finally brought me back.....

I'll narrate you a lil' story. Sometime ago, i prepared a simple soup for dinner-a simple fair, yet something that tasted great! It was then, that i felt this sudden urge to share.....share that bowl of goodness, that thrill of enjoying good food! It was then, that i felt that i would love to get back here again.....

Several days later, i received a heart-warming note in my mailbox, from a person whose enthusiasm and passion for food is infectious. She, who weaves foodie dreams at her "One Hot Stove", wanted me to send a foodie surprise. The note had "hello friend" written all over it. The spirit behind the Arusuvai Friendship Chain is to share foodie surprises and extend a hand of friendship through blogosphere. This exchange of lil' surprises first started in India, and is the brain child of Latha ji and her daughter Lakshmi from from The Yum Blog. Dear Latha from Masala Magic has now brought this wonderful concept here.

And the surprises now travel from one kitchen to another, carrying along smiles, thoughts, flavors and fun :). Nupur, thanks for thinking of me, dear friend.....

Also, thanks Sunita and Sia, for the tempting events that totally got the better of me. I'll be sending my entries soon :).

Last weekend, i received a package, full of lovely surprises :). I now take you through those beautiful surprises, one picture at a time :).

The surprise:

This had to be the freshest, tangiest and most fragrant and vibrant kokum i have seen in recent time, paralleled only by what i relished at my friend Golden Girl's house, a home grown treat, which her Aayi had brought all the way from India :). It was so tempting that soon as i opened the package, i popped a cpl. of pieces in my mouth :-D. And i knew that the meals in the coming few days would be livened up by this beautiful surprise :). Watch out for the recipes tomorrow :).

The sweets:

Trust Nupur for her innovative creations. The tangy kokum was accompanied by what has to be one of the best chikkis ever! The caramel treat loaded with almonds was topped by chocolate and more nuts :). YUMMY!

The suvenir:

This chappal has to be special :-D. Guys, this is no ordinary slipper i am talking about. Its a lovely suvenir from Kolhapur, the place where our buddy Nupur comes from. Yes, the famous Kolhapuri chappal :). The miniature is just as gorgeous as the real deal!

The thoughts:

And all this, along with a beautiful note on a pretty card, made from hand-made paper :). Thanks again, Nupur......for all the affection, for all the goodness you packaged in that envelope and for all the yummy foods that you've shared through your hot stove. Above all, for thinking of me as a friend. Here's to the power of friendship :).

From my kitchen to yours:

The Arusuvai Friendship Chain would like the fun to travel along. So, time for me to mail lil' surprises to few friends. It really means a lot me, dear friends:

Sig, Richa and Pel, thanks for all the affection and for being the great friends that you are. Hope you enjoy the lil' surprises. This is so exciting and am really looking forward to the yummy creations from your kitchens. Let the fun times roll :).

And now a special recipe. Remember that soup i mentioned about in the beginning. That is the friendship soup, my friend and embodies the warmth of friendship :). This one is to friendship :).

Coconut milk-beans soup:
This soup combines the milky sweetness and aroma of coconut, with the hearty and comforting
texture of beans. Topped with the lively and fragrant ginger, flavorful garlic and spicy sambal, this one is perfect for relaxing after a long day :).

We need:

  • 2 cups cooked (boiled) beans, i used canned Pinto beans (1 can)
  • 1/2 can coconut milk (preferably light/low-fat variety, i used Chao-Koh brand)
  • 1 bunch spring onions, chopped
  • 2" piece of ginger (julienned)
  • 1 clove garlic (grated)
  • 1 tsp. (or to taste) sambal oelek
  • Salt to taste
  • Ground pepper (to taste)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. oil
Heat oil and saute' the spring onions. Add the cooked beans and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, sambal oelek and water. Bring to boil, and add the salt and coconut milk. Cook till the soup thickens to desired consistency. Add a lil' ground pepper and serve hot :). Enjoy!

Variations: The variations on this are endless. I've made the soup so many times, and it turns out yummy each time. Try it with corn or peas instead of beans, try it with bell peppers and tomatoes, try changing the spices to dried herbs instead of ginger and garlic. I've even used sour yogurt instead of coconut milk once and ended up with an entirely different, but equally yummy soup.

Have a wonderful day. I will see you all tomorrow with the recipes with this lovely surprise :).