Monday, June 30, 2014

Paan Polo ( Neer Dose)





"Paan" means leaf in Konkani and "Polo" means dosa/crepe. So " Paan Polo" literally means "leaf dosa" in Konkani. This nomenclature of this dosa/crepe is due to its leaf like thinness. It is also known as "Neer dose"in Tulu which is one of the local dialects of South Canara and Kundapur districts of Karnataka/India. "Neer" means water and "dose" means dosa/crepe in Tulu language which essentially refers to the water-like consistency of the batter. This batter is very thin , simple and easy to make. It contains just rice, a little bit of freshly grated coconut  and water. In olden days it must have been extremely economical for the labor-class people to make this dish. Rice is something all households have and most people have coconut tree in their yard. Urad dal was expensive and fewer people could afford it. Paan Polo is very versatile as it can be eaten for breakfast with jaggery syrup, or for lunch/dinner with nice spicy chicken/ fish curry. This is one of the few dosa batters that does not require to be fermented. Dosa can be made instantly! My mother makes the best Paan polo. She does not even add grated coconut to the batter, yet the dosa comes out soft and tasty! The trick to this dosa is that the griddle has to be hot, well-oiled, the flame medium-high,the batter thin, spread from out to in and removed quickly. If left for too long the dosa develops cracks!

You don't want this to happen!

So, lets check this easy recipe out!

Servings: 4-6 


Ingredients:


Raw rice: 3 cups
Freshly grated coconut: 1 cup
Water :1+2cups
Salt: to taste

Soak rice in water for 4-5 hours ( or overnight). Grind it in a blender to a fine paste with 1 cup water,coconut and salt. Now dilute this paste using water as needed to a free flowing liquid consistency.





Heat the griddle/tawa until hot. Smear coconut oil using a basting brush. Pour one ladle of batter starting from the outside in. Now shake the tawa in such a manner that the batter is spread all around the skillet.




As soon as the batter appears cooked fold it into a triangle and remove it off the griddle (the dosa cooks really fast).



Keep it in a closed container or hotbox until ready to serve.





Serve hot with Godda Ravo( sweet syrup made from jaggery) or with chutney of your choice/ stew/ spicy chicken curry/mutton curry/egg curry.The dosa in the steel plate has been served with cilantro chutney and dry peanut chutney. In the picture above it has been served with ridge gourd peel chutney , dry lasun/garlic chutney and godda ravo( jaggery syrup).

Enjoy!

Cooking made easy:


Neer dose or paan pole is one of those few dosas that can be made on the spur of the moment and the batter does not require overnight fermentation.

If you do not have time even to soak the rice, then you can quicken the rice soaking process by soaking it in hot water for an hour and then making the batter as you usually would.

Another super-easy way of making this dosa batter is by mixing rice flour with coconut milk into a fine paste and then dilute it to the required consistency.

Tip for healthy living:


The best way to take care of cast iron pans is to avoid using soap on it.To clean cast iron pans, just scrub it gently with a gentle brush and rinse it with water.Dry immediately, apply a thin coating of oil and store until next use.
References:
http://www.lodgemfg.com/useandcare/seasoned-cast-iron
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/16/cast-iron-skillet-care-tips_n_4102093.html


Food for thought:


Love is not only something you feel, it is something you do. David Wilkerson

Basic Coconut Sauce( Masala/ masolu )for Konkani ( GSB) Dishes



Cooking Konkani food is super easy! I am talking about the South Canara Gowda Saraswath Brahmin ( GSB) cuisine.  This is a relatively small community of people who are konkan and originally were Kashmiri Pandits but migrated along the Saraswati river and settled along the konkan coast of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. Each group has been influenced by the local regional traditions and culture. Hence you will see konkans speaking different konkani and significant variations in their cuisine. Majority of the GSBs settled in the Udupi- Kundapur- Mangalore ( South Canara) region of Karnataka. Coming back to the cuisine,most of the dishes are coconut based and use coconut oil.

The most common gravy based curries (randayi)are called:


1.Ghashi :when tempered with mustard and curry leaves.
2.Ambat : when tempered with onions, and
3.Koddel :when tempered with garlic.
4.Sasam: when mustard seeds are added to the masala while grinding.

The most common dry side dishes are :


1. Sukke :when masala has oil- roasted urad dal in it.
2. Sagle :when masala has oil-roasted coriander and methi seeds in it.
3. Bhutti : when masala has oil-roasted coriander seeds in it.
4. Song :has nothing additional in the masala, but is cooked with sautéed onions and is dry.

The common denominator is the basic coconut-red chilli-tamarind masala. Here is the recipe for the basic masala enough for one dish that would serve 4-6 people.


Ingredients:


Grated fresh coconut: 1 cup( from 1/4 coconut).
Dry Red chillies:4-5 nos ( depends on the spice level of; the chilly), roasted lightly in in 1/2 tsp oil.
Tamarind: marble sized if dry, 1/2tsp if pulp.
Water: 3/4 cup( could add more as needed).

Method:


Grind all the above ingredients in a blender using little water at a time into a fine paste.

You could use it immediately or store it in a airtight container in the freezer until you need it the next time. You could keep it in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Note:for the sukke masala, the coconut does not need to be ground to a fine paste. For everything else, it tastes best when the coconut is ground to a fine paste.

Cooking made easy:


The above coconut paste can be made from fresh or frozen grated coconut. If using frozen grated coconut, make sure that you thaw it to room temperature. Also, while grinding use lukewarm water.

Whenever I grate fresh coconut, I make sure I grind a batch of coconut masala enough for 3-4 different dishes and keep it in airtight containers in portions in the freezer. When needed, I just thaw a portion and add any additional ingredient if needed and blend it once or use it as is depending on what the recipe calls for.

Tip for healthy living:


In recent years, there was a huge uproar that coconut, coconut oil should be limited in your diet as it is a saturated fat and would increase the cholesterol in the body and clog your arteries. Many people I know either switched to "healthy" oils like canola or corn. I have always believed that the way our ancestors lived was a healthier way. They lived closer to nature, and had healthier eating habits. So I wondered could all out previous generations who cooked exclusively in coconut oil were all wrong? In fact my  mother eats exclusively eats food that has been cooked only in coconut oil . Any other oil upsets her stomach and makes her sick. We now understand that the whole"coconut oil is bad for you" was a myth propagated by the big companies who wanted to promote canola and corn oil industries. In fact canola and corn production is a big industry! Today, we know that health proponents are strongly promoting the use of coconut oil and sing praises of the health benefits of coconut. People are even encouraged to eat dry coconut pulp as a snack! Coconut is a great source of dietary fiber and vitamins C& B. It has healthy fats, breakdown of which might actually help the liver function more efficiently.

References:
http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/health_benefits_of_coconut_coconut_oil_coconut_milk_coconut_water_coconut_flour
http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil


Food for thought:


The best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Meatless Monday Zucchini-Walnut Salad



During summer, I am always on the lookout for newer ways of making salads. I came across this particular one a few months ago on one of my favorite websites, mindbodygreen.com, and after that first time I made it, it has been a regular in my home. I was skeptical initially about eating raw zucchini, but it was a super-hit with everyone at home.

Source: mindbodygreen.com





Servings: 4


Ingredients:


Zucchini: 2 large
Spring onions: 2, chopped fine.
Cilantro: 6-8 springs, chopped
Walnuts: 1/2 cup, toasted 
Craisins: 1 tbsp
Olive oil: 3 tbsp
Lemon juice: from 1 lemon
Lemon zest: from 1 lemon
Sea salt:1/2 tsp
Black pepper: 1/4 tsp, freshly ground

Method:


Toast the walnuts until it leaves a faint aroma and keep aside. When cooled, crumple it into small pieces with your hands.

Using a regular peeler, shave the zucchini into thin slices until you reach the seedy core. Discard the core. Put the shavings into the salad bowl.



Now add all the other ingredients listed above into the bowl. Mix well.




Top with crumpled toasted walnuts.



Serve immediately.

Enjoy!


Cooking made easy:


This salad tends to get soggy if not served immediately. If you intend to serve it at a later time, then make the marinade separately and keep aside.Mix the marinade just before serving.



The zucchini core discarded above can be used in dishes like sambar.

Walnuts can be toasted in the microwave by placing in a microwave-safe bowl and heating for 1 minute. You can increase the time gradually in 30 sec increments until done. Then chop it roughly using your hand or a knife.

Tip for healthy living:


Yogurt is a great way to get relief from sunburn. Just apply it to the affected area for 15-20 minutes and wash the area with cold water.


Food for thought:


Each day provides its own gifts. Marcus Aurelius





Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sungata Randayi (Mangalorean Shrimp Curry)




"Sungat" means shrimp and "Randayi" means curry in Konkani language. Mangalorean Konkanis ( Gowda Saraswat Brahmins)have a unique way of currying shrimp. The sauce/ gravy/ base is simple without any onion or garlic in it. It is a coconut- based gravy with most of the flavor coming from hing( asofoetida) and coconut oil. No,there is no frying involved and therefore is a very low calorie and healthy dish, unless you are allergic to shrimp ;)!



I have very fond memories of Sungata Randayi. I get nostalgic just thinking about it. One of my earliest childhood memories is my Amma ( mom) picking me up from school in the afternoon and coming home to this amazing appetizing aroma of Sungata Randayi. I must have been five or six years of age at the time! Every time I make shrimp curry I try to recreate that taste and aroma. Through trial and error I have realized that you don't achieve the same flavor and aroma with the frozen shrimp as opposed to fresh shrimp. Also, using shrimp with head-on gives more flavor to the dish as opposed the shrimp without the head.Traditionally, back home a vegetable called magge( dosekai) is used with the shrimp. Here in the US, even though you get dosekai occasionally in the Indian store, it is rare. Hence thanks to my cousin Kavita, I learnt that winter melon ( known as Ash gourd in English, kuvale in konkani, kumbala kayi in Kannada) proves to be a good and successful substitute!



Here is the recipe for the quick and easy finger-licking shrimp curry.

Servings: 4-6


Ingredients:


Shrimp with head on : 1 lb medium or large sized ( around 25-30
Winter melon : 1 lb, cut into medium sized cubes.
Hing/Asofoetida: 1/8 tsp if using powder, less than pea-sized if using solid version dissolved in water.
Salt : 1/2 tsp+ 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
Coconut oil: 1 tbsp

For the sauce( gravy/masala):
Freshly grated coconut: 1 cup
Dry Red chillies: 6-8 ( you can adjust based on your level of spice and he spice level of the chillies used).
Tamarind: marble sized.
Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp

Method:


Peel, devein and clean the shrimp. Cut the head. Don't trash it. Keep it with the shrimp. Once cleaned marinate it with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp haldi/turmeric powder and keep aside for at least 30 mins.

Boil 1/4 cup water in a saucepan with 1/8 tsp salt and add the cut and cleaned winter melon. Cook it on medium flame until just tender. yo. Generally takes around 10-12 minutes. Keep it aside.Make sure that you don't overcook it as it will turn into mush!

The sauce:
Add all the ingredients listed under "for the sauce" in a blender with 1/4 cup water. Blend it to a fine paste. Keep it aside.

Putting it all together:
Pour the ground masala ( sauce ) in a pot. On medium heat bring it to a gentle boil. Add the marinated shrimp , the cooked winter melon and the asofoetida( either the powder or the diluted form). Cook on medium flame until the shrimp turns pink. Turn off the flame. Add 1 tbsp raw coconut oil on top. Cover and keep until ready to serve.


Serve hot with white rice/brown rice/appam/ idiappam/bread.



Enjoy!

Cooking made easy:


You can save a lot of time while cooking if you make sure you have all the ingredients in front of you before you start cooking.

You can cook smartly and efficiently by paying attention to the various processes and planning the steps. For example, in the above dish, you can first marinate the shrimp and keep it aside. Next cut the winter melon and let it cook. When both these are being done, you can grind ( prepare)the sauce and also bring it to a gentle boil!One can save a lot of time while cooking if one is smart about it. Cooking does not have to be tedious!

Tip for healthy living:


While a small percentage of the general population may be allergic to shrimp, there are quite a few health benefits of consuming shrimp.Shrimp is a great source of dietary protein while also being low in calories! It also contains all the essential amino acids. It is also rich in zinc and selenium, both minerals essential for optimal cell function and good immune system. Shrimp is also rich in vitamins A and B-12. But remember, everything in moderation! Shrimp is also rich in sodium and cholesterol which could negatively impact our health!

References:
http://www.healwithfood.org/health-benefits/eating-shrimp.php
http://health.wikinut.com/10-Health-Benefits-of-Shrimps/2ya8c3oj/
http://www.livestrong.com/article/520767-the-advantages-of-shrimp/#page=1


Food for thought:


Calmness is the cradle of power. Josiah Gilbert Holland

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mushroom Bruschetta




My favorite accompaniment to my evening tea is tea-rusk or toast. I love bruschetta. But not anymore. Not since I decided to avoid gluten. Interestingly, other day I came across and episode of Dr. Oz wherein there was a lady who was in a similar situation as me. She then suggested this amazing swap for toast in bruschetta. She swapped it with mushrooms!This caught my attention.I immediately filed it in my mind to try it. We always have mushrooms at home as both my husband and I love it! We use it in several different ways: with my salmon (most of the time), in noodles, fried rice, omelette etc. This was a novel use for my mushrooms. Earlier during the week I got a chance to try them and they tasted amazing! It was pretty quick and easy to make. Without further ado, let me share this amazing recipe with you.



Servings: 4 ( about 5 mushrooms each)


Ingredients:


Baby Bella mushrooms: 20, cleaned
Onion: 1 medium,chopped fine.
Garlic: 2-3 cloves, minced
Tomato: 1 medium, diced small
Vinegar: 1/2 tsp
Cilantro: 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Salt: 1/8 tsp
Black pepper powder: 1/4 tsp, freshly ground.
Olive oil: 1- 2 tbsp

Method:


Remove the stems of all the mushrooms and keep aside the mushroom caps.

Preheat the oven on broil.

In a bowl mix together chopped onion, tomato, garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper and vinegar.

Grease a baking sheet and keep ready.

Fill the mushroom caps with the above mixture and arrange them upside down on a baking sheet.

Lightly sprinkle/spray, olive oil on top.

Place the baking sheet in the broiler for 12-16 mins depending on your oven.

Serve immediately.




Enjoy! This plate tonight is going to Fiesta Friday!

Cooking made easy:


Quite often when we buy fresh herbs, we end up using only a small portion of it and the rest goes bad. We can solve this problem by taking out a portion of the herbs, wash them in cold water, air dry on paper towels. When the moisture has gone, chop them and store them in small Ziploc bags in the freezer. You can take out a small portion and use it as needed.

Tip for healthy living:

Mushrooms are highly nutrient-rich. They are a source of lean protein and fiber with no cholesterol and fat.Apart from several important nutrients like niacin, riboflavin, potassium and vitamin D, mushrooms are also rich in selenium which is an antioxidant. They are purported to have significant anti-carcinogenic properties due to the significant presence of beta-glycans and conjugated linoleic acid.

References:
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=97
http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/health-benefits-of-mushroom.html


Food for thought:


High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation. Charles Kettering



Dali Thoy ( Split Pigeon Pea Lentil Soup)




A konkani ( Gowda Saraswat Brahmin) meal is incomplete without Dali Thoy. Dali Thoy is something you cannot live without! It is a comfort food for us. Dali Thoy is what we come back to after traveling and tasting the world! Only konkanis know how to eat Dali Thoy with their hand. We are known for slurping dalithoy all by itself. Ahh the taste of well made dalithoy! The secret to good dalithoy is making sure that the dal is homogenous,the right amount of spice level and of course the tantalizing aroma of hing. My husband likes the tanginess of lime juice while I like mine without. I must mention though that my husband makes the best Dali thoy !Here is the recipe for my Dali Thoy.



Servings: 6


Ingredients:


Tur dal (Split Pegion peas): 1 cup( washed and rinsed)
Water: 3 cups
Green chillies: 2 slit
Salt: 1 tsp
Cooking oil:1 tsp( I use coconut oil)
Mustard: 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves: 1 sprig
Asofoetida: a pinch if using powder, 1/2 tsp if using solution.
Lemon juice: 1 tsp ( optional)

Method:


Cook one cup dal with 3 cups water and slit green chillies  in a pressure cooker.



It takes around 8 whistles on medium heat or 20 mins after first whistle on low heat. The bottom line is when done, the lentil has to be well cooked.


Now add the salt in and with a whisk blend the cooked lentil until homogeneous.



Add a little more water to dilute it if needed. Place it on the stove and bring it to a boil. Turn off the stove.

Tempering:
Heat oil in a small frying pan/ skillet on low flame.Add mustard seeds.Once the mustard seeds splutter, turn off the stove, add  the curry leaves and hing (asofoetida)powder. Mix this into the lentil. If using hing ( asofoetida) solution, mix it directly into the lentil/ dal after the whisking is done.


Squeeze lime juice ( optional).

Serve hot with steaming hot white rice .
(If you are a konkani like me, serve on a plate and slurp it with a spoon/ hand :)))!)

Cooking made easy:


My mother always said that lentils/ legumes cook well and faster when you don't add salt during the cooking process. Salt should be added after the lentil/ legumes are cooked and before the tempering process.


Tip of healthy living:


Dal ( lentil) is an integral part of Indian meals. They are a rich source of much needed protein and are complimented at each meal with either rice or roti( flat bread) which are carbohydrate sources. This when combined with a vegetable becomes a complete balanced meal. All the traditional combinations of carbohydrate and lentil/ legumes are now found to compliment the amino acids that are lacking in one but present in the other food group.

Food for Thought:


It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without  accepting it. Aristotle

Monday, June 23, 2014

Meatless Monday Cucumber-Avocado Salad



Salad is an integral part of meals in my home. This is especially true if I make one-pot rice dishes like pulao and biryani. I often play around with the ingredients in my salad depending on what is available in my refrigerator at that time.When I made this particular salad, I had lots of ripe avocados which I feared might go bad and wasted if I didn't use them quickly! I decided to toss them into my regular cucumber-tomato-onion salad. The result was a nice and creamy salad which even the kids enjoyed. Since I avoid dairy, most of the time I use olive oil-lemon juice marinade.I again play around with the herbs, the most common one that I use being cilantro( coriander leaves). I cannot help it, it is the Indian in me.:)

Servings: 4


Ingredients:


Cucumber: 1 medium sized.
Avocado: 1 medium sized.
Tomato: 1 medium sized.
Onion: 1 medium sized(Any onion can be used, I have used yellow)
Scallions( spring onion): 3
Lemon juice: from 1/2-1 lemon ( depending on the size)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: 3 tbsp
Cilantro: 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Sea Salt: to taste
Black pepper: 1/2 tsp, freshly ground

Method:


Peel one cucumber and dice it. Dice one tomato, one onion( I have used white onion) and one avocado & add to the bowl. Chop up 3-4 scallions( spring onions) and add to the bowl. Now squeeze1 tbsp lemon juice into the bowl. Add 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbsp chopped cilantro/coriander leaves, 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, sea-salt to taste and toss well.

Serve chilled.

Enjoy!

Cooking made easy:


The avocado when tossed like this in the salad, it gives a nice creaminess to the salad.

Lemon juice in the salad prevents the avocados from discoloring.

You can also add black/ green olives , carrots diced small, red radish diced,small cauliflower florets, feta cheese or cottage cheese to this salad and make it even more interesting and nourishing.

Tip for healthy living:


Cucumber slices may help alleviate the dark circles underneath the eyes. Cut cucumber into 0.5 cms thick slice and place them on your eyes with your eyes closed for 20-30 minutes. Take a nap. You will wake up feeling refreshed.


Food for thought:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.Confucius


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gluten Free Sandwich Bread



I have been avoiding food with gluten for a year and a half now. Successfully, most of the time. Being that I am a South Indian, my diet has always been rice-dominant. This has helped me with the gluten-free diet. I don't miss the rotis and the parathas( flatbreads) and the regular bread even.. That's because I never ate it on a regular basis anyways! I ate bread mostly on weekends, when my husband makes his special American omelette  with lots of fresh veggies and herbs. I love that breakfast. Now he brings gluten free bread from the store for my occasional use; usually Udi's or Ezekiel brands. Both are pretty good and the loaf lasts me for a while!


I always thought of baking bread as a tedious process and since I didn't have the necessity, I never made an attempt. I would always drool over the wonderful bread pictures posted by the amazing members of this 40,000 strong group called Chef at Large( CAL).Recently, they had an event titled #yeastmadness. I saw that even novices were participating. I too wanted to make something. I figured this is the right reason to do my research on gluten-free breads. Making gluten free bread is tricky and most of them taste like cardboard anyways! I was looking for something that is soft and as close to the regular flour sandwich bread.You know what they say.. "Seek and you shall find". I came across this wonderful recipe on this website called alittleinsanity.com. I decided to give the recipe a try with modifications of my own. I must say that the bread came out really well.You can tell though that it is not the regular flour, but still good;soft and with a nice texture. Here's how I made it:

Source: alittleinsanity.com

Servings: makes  1 regular 9x5 loaf

Ingredients:


Yeast Mix:

Milk: 1 1/2 cup
Honey: 4 tbsp
Dry active yeast: 2 1/4 tsp ( 1 packet) I used Fleischmann's Active Dry yeast.

Dry Mix:Brown rice flour: 1/4 cup
White rice flour: 1/4 cup
Sweet rice flour: 1/4 cup
Tapioca starch: 1/4 cup
Xanthan gum: 2  3/4 tsp
Baking powder: 4 tsp
Salt: 1 tsp

Wet Mix:Apple Cider Vinegar: 2tsp
Olive oil: 1/4 cup
Eggs: 2 large

Method:


Mix honey and yeast in lukewarm milk and set aside 10 minutes for proofing.

Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan and keep aside.

Add all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Keep aside.

Add all the wet ingredients to another bowl and beat for a few seconds on high with a hand mixer.Now add the yeast mix and beat for a few more seconds.

Now slowly add in the dry mix little at a time and beat for 3-4 minutes. Your dough will be wet and sticky. 




Transfer the dough to the greased 9x5 loaf pan. Cover with a cling wrap and keep it aside for 20-30 minutes or until the dough doubles in size. Do not let the dough rise above the loaf pan as while baking it will spill over.







Preheat the oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Mine was done in 30 minutes.

You can check for doneness by inserting a wooden skewer into the middle. If it comes clean, then the bread is done.

If the crust seems to be darkening too fast, halfway through the baking, loosely cover the bread with a foil and continue baking.

When done, take the pan out of the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5- 10 minutes. Now overturn the loaf pan on a wire rack and let the loaf cool down. Slice the bread only when it has cooled down completely.





Enjoy with a slice of cheese or butter.



Store the remaining bread in an airtight container in the freezer.

Cooking made easy:


Cooking is a breeze if you make sure if you have everything ready in front of you when you start. Make good use of the time when you are waiting in between steps of cooking a dish. Do some clean-up and dish washing so that you don't have too much cleaning up to do at the end of the cooking process.

Tip for healthy living:


One of the best ways to eat healthy is by avoiding processed ready-to-eat meals and food which may contain preservatives to increase it's shelf life.These preservative may affect our body in ways unknown to us.


Food for thought:


When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves. William Arthur Ward.