Thursday, January 27, 2011

South Indian-Style Moong Dal and Vegetable Poriyal

If I had to choose....and really, when would I ever have to....I would have to say I prefer South Indian food to North Indian. I don't mean to offend; that's just my opinion. I love them both, obviously! It does seem to me that North Indian cuisine is more popular here in the states, at least judging from the menus at most Indian restaurants I've been to. But as for me, I'm in love with the powerful mango pickle, mustard seeds, curry leaves, spicy chiles, hearty lentils, tangy tamarind and sweet coconut that shine in South Indian cooking. And that's just a short list...did I mention dosa??? Anyway, here is my white girl attempt at capturing those wonderful flavors and techniques, while also using just what I had in my kitchen. I think I could make this every day. It's been three days in a row already! I served mine with homemade roti (whole wheat flatbread) and a yellow tomato and apple chutney I canned in the early fall. Try serving it with your favorite sides and condiments! South Indian-Style Moong Dal and Vegetable Poriyal (serves 4-6)
1 cup moong dal, rinsed
8 cups vegetable broth or water
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs black mustard seeds
1/2 Tbs cumin seeds
2 tsp moong dal
12 curry leaves, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 green Thai chiles
2 cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)
2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp ground black pepper
12 curry leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup green peas, frozen or fresh

Bring moong dal and broth to a boil. Reduce to medium-low and let cook for 30 minutes, until the dal are tender but not mushy. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the curry.
Combine the onions, carrots, bell pepper, garlic, chiles, coconut, turmeric, ground cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, pepper, and curry leaves in a large bowl. Stir to combine well and set aside.
In a large wok or deep pan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and let cook about 1 minute, until they start to sizzle. Add the cumin seeds and 2 tsp moong dal and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the curry leaves and cook 2 more minutes. Add the vegetable and spice mixture. Saute for 10-12 minutes, until the vegetables have begun to soften and the mixture has cooked down slightly. Add the cooked moong dal, with about 1 cup of its cooking liquid to the pan. Stir well and reduce to a simmer; cover and let cook for 10 more minutes. Fold in the peas, salt and pepper to taste and let cook 2 more minutes to warm the peas. Serve hot with roti or other flatbread, chutneys and pickles.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Peas to Please: Saag Matar

Continuing with my Indian food obsession is the super tasty and healthy Saag Matar, which is a curry of greens, peas, and lots of amazing spices (saag=greens, matar=peas. fyi.). I adapted this recipe from a wonderful Indian cookbook called Cuisines of India by Smila Chandra. I love this cookbook! Creative yet traditional recipes, beautiful illustrations, clear and educational explanations of ingredients and interesting history of cuisines throughout different regions of India. Lots to love, except there are no pictures. So, if you're really into pictures in a cookbook, I'm warning you ahead of time...but try it anyway! It's wonderful!I served this chunky, spicy curry with brown basmati rice, whole wheat roti bread (I bought it pre-made at the Indian grocery store. I'm a cheater.), and a mango-gunda pickle. Gunda is an Indian berry that, when pickled, is reminiscent of a green olive, but sweeter. It has a pit, so be careful! Anyway, this curry is so great, it should please just about everyone....except for those crazy pea-haters, of course!

Saag Matar (Indian Greens and Peas) serves 6-8
adapted from Cuisines of India

1 bunch fresh greens, such as mustard greens or kale, chopped
1 bunch fresh spinach, chopped
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seed
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh if it's summer
1/2 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tsp garam masala, homemade or store-bought
2 cups frozen or fresh green peas--not canned!
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth

In a large wok or deep pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add cumin seeds and cook 30-60 seconds, until they start to pop. Add the onion and garlic, and saute 3-5 minutes until lightly browned. Stir in the tomatoes and spices and cook for 3-5 minutes, to allow the tomatoes to cook down slightly. Stir in the greens, peas, and water and reduce to a simmer. Cover pan and let cook for 10-15 minutes, until the greens have cooked down and the sauce has thickened. Salt and pepper to taste, add more spice if you're so inclined...I know I am! Serve immediately with rice, roti and plenty of chutneys!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Eat Your Greens: Saag Tofu "Paneer"

The Indian food saga continues with a fabulous and healthy dish: Saag Paneer! Traditionally, this is made with the Indian soft cheese, paneer, but the dairy can easily be substituted with tofu. I used firm tofu since that's what I had, but I'm betting soft would give an even more "real" texture closer to the traditional cheese cubes. "Saag" is the Indian word for greens, here I used collard and mustard greens, but you can use any greens you like and it would still be delicious!

I've adapted this recipe from the HUGE and amazing cookbook, 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer (probably should've added a sixth recipe. just sayin). This book is packed full of all sorts of curries, especially vegetables and legumes, as well as appetizers, rice, breads, drinks and desserts. All of the meat and dairy dishes can easily be made vegan, too! I have it checked out from the library, but I think this might need to be on my "to-buy" list now! Saag Tofu "Paneer"
adapted from 660 Curries and various internet sites

2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large red onion, thinly-sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
3" fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 cardamom pods, ground (or 1/4 tsp)
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 cup warm water
3-4 bay leaves
2 Thai chilis, minced (or 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper)
2 bunches greens, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 lb tofu, pan-fried
1/2 cup vegan creamer or coconut cream
1/2 tsp garam masala (homemade or store-bought)

Heat oil in a large wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and cook 5 minutes, until the onions have softened and are golden brown. Remove from heat and add spices turmeric through cardamom to the onion mixture and stir to coat the onion mixture. Place in a blender along with the tomato paste and 1/ 4 cup water. Pulse to form a thick paste. Add puree back to the pan. Rinse the blender out with the 3/4 cup water to get all the spices out, and add the rinse water to the pan as well. Return skillet to stove over medium heat, and add bay leaves, chilis, and greens; stir well to combine. Cover pan and reduce heat to low. Let greens cook 5-10 minutes until slightly wilted. Stir in salt, tofu, "cream" and garam masala. Let simmer 2-3 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve.
Serve with rice, chutneys, pickle and roti or naan.

I served mine with brown basmati rice and Makkai Ki Roti, a cornmeal-based roti bread. It's so good!! The bitter greens and creamy sauce go perfectly with the sweetness of corn and chewiness of roti bread! That recipe is also in 660 Curries. It's seriously a must-have!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I've Got a Crush...

...on Indian food! I have fallen in love with the wonderful flavors, varied textures, and interesting ingredients of Indian cuisine, so I've been making a lot of it lately. A whole lot. I checked out three Indian cookbooks from the library and have been researching it on the internet. I'm kind of nerding out about it. Anyway, here is one of my favorite dishes I've made so far, Cabbage Thoran. It's a dry curry with lots of mustard seeds and shredded coconut laced into simmered cabbage and spices. I've adapted it from a wonderful cookbook, Cuisines of India, and I'm just crazy about it! Cabbage Thoran (serves 6-8 with other dishes)
Adapted from Cuisines of India and various internet sites

2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
4 cups cabbage, shredded
2 Thai chilis, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
10 fresh curry leaves, chopped (if unavailable, use Thai basil leaves)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs black mustard seeds
10 fresh curry leaves,chopped (or use 4 dried bay leaves)
1 large onion, diced
2 cups cooked yellow split peas--optional, to make as a main dish

In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut, cabbage, chilis, garlic, salt, spices (turmeric through cumin), and curry leaves. Stir to mix well.
In a large wok or deep pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds to the pan and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, until they sizzle and begin to pop. Add the curry leaves and onions and saute 3-5 minutes, until the onion softens and begins to brown. Add cabbage mixture to the pan and cook 8-10 minutes, until the cabbage has softened and cooked down a bit. You may need to add water, a few tablespoons at a time, during the cooking process if the mixture becomes too dry. Fold in the cooked split peas and add 1/2 cup water. Reduce heat to low and cover pan; let simmer for 3-5 minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly. Top with sprigs of fresh cilantro and serve with basmati rice, roti, and plenty of pickle and chutneys.

I served mine with hot mango pickle and a cooling cilantro raita! Balance! For this, and many, Indian recipes you will likely have to take a trip to your local Indian or Asian market. Those places are like field trips for me, they're so great...I get sucked in for at least an hour every visit!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Playing Catch-Up: Christmas Food!

WOW. I just realized I haven't posted in two whole months! That's slightly embarrassing, and just a bummer because I love blogging! I've been super busy with the holidays, traveling, and working, but my resolution for the new year is to blog regularly again! And that means taking pictures of my food again, too! I finally got my camera working, so that will be easier than just using my phone! Now I've just got to get back into the discipline of blogging. I'm making lots of good food....I'll just have to prove it now!

To get things rolling, I'll show you my Christmas was super traditional, which is how I usually like my holiday meals, and it was fantastic!!

The usual suspects (at least in the vegan world!): Tofurkey Roast, with roasted veggies, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, garlic-roasted Brussels sprouts, citrus cranberry sauce, and olive bread. Duh. And for dessert, Christmas cookies out the wazoo!
Clockwise from the left: Almond Crescents (adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe), Rocky Road Cookies (from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar) with the modification of subtracting white chocolate chips and adding Dandies vegan marshmallows!!, Vegan Caramel Delight Cookies--made with shredded sweet potatoes, my recipe here, and Chai Chocolate Chip Shortbread from VCIYCJ. I loved them all so much, I think I ate a dozen cookies on Christmas day. It had to be done!! If I had to pick a favorite....well, I just can't! Hope all your holidays were wonderful, too! Now it's back to normal life--and back to blogging for me!