Sunday, May 25, 2008

256 Types of Cookies

Multiple Choice Cookies
Years ago the kids gave me a couple of books by Joanne Fluke for my birthday.
'Since you like reading and cooking, we bought these books because the main character owns a bakery. The books also have recipes'. This is by far one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received.

We've been planning to cook from these books for a long time. This week we actually did. Yes, it was a collective effort. To be fair, my son did most of the work; I occasionally chimed with expert comments.

These cookies provide instant gratification. My son made these on his own and was immensely thrilled with himself. He definitely seems to have been bitten by the baking bug.

Multiple Choice Cookies
½ cup unsalted butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
One ingredient from each of the following columns:

Column 1Column 2Column 3Column 4
(1½ cups)(2 cups) (2 cups)(1 cup)
Graham cracker crumbsSemisweet chocolate chips Rice crispiesChopped pecans
Vanilla wafer crumbsRaisins Frosted cornflakes (crushed)Chopped pistachios
Animal cracker crumbsChopped dates Frosted cornflakes (crushed)Chopped mixed nuts
Sugar cookie crumbsMilk chocolate chips Marshmallows, smallChopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Grease just the sides of a 13x9 in baking pan.
Melt the butter and pour it in the pan.
Sprinkle the chosen ingredient from column A.
Drizzle the condensed milk over the butter.
Sprinkle the chosen ingredient from column B, then column C and lastly the one from column D.
With the palm of your hand, press down the layers.
Bake for about 25 minutes.
Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Note: Given that there are four ingredients in each column, and four column in all, 4x4x4x4 varieties of cookies are possible.

I'm sharing these cookies with Bhags for her This book makes me cook event. These cookies were made from the Blueberry Muffin Murder.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Maharashtrian Kaccha (raw) Masala

Lagna-cha Masala

When going thru a new cookbook, I always go to the TOC to check if there is a section on condiments/ masalas etc. Most cookbooks on regional Indian cuisines do have such a section and usually provide a preview of the cuisine.

For various reasons I hadn't ever read the small section at the beginning of each Ruchira volume which presents simple masalas along with basic techniques used in cooking such has making a one-thread sugar syrup (ek taari paak). The main reason I skipped the part on masalas is that my Aai is the main supplier of home-made masalas.

Tucked away in this section was the recipe for a masala called kaccha masala. None of the ingredients are fried or roasted, hence the name (kaccha=raw). Even after it was made, I wasn't sure of this masala. Though the masala was quite aromatic on its own, it didn't have any special zing to it.
I first made a masale bhaat similar to this one but making sure to fry the masala before adding the vegetables and the rice.

At the very first whiff one is transported into a wedding mandav (pandal), right in the midst of the bustling, anxious folks from the girls side, and the uber relaxed, glad-we-don't-have-to-work-as-hard folks from the boys side, the rustling silks, the glittering jewelry, the cumulative fragrance of mogra, zhendu (marigold), chandan (sandalwood), agarbattis (incense), and kaapoor (camphor), small kids randomly running around, conversations that begin with 'Did you hear...?', gossips exchanged or started, everyone except the bride and groom having a gala time.

Right there I knew that this masala would have to be rechristened to Lagna-cha Masala.
Use the masala in a rassa such as this or this or Ashwini's masale bhaat (mentioned above) or Manasi's version of Ashwini's masale bhaat!

Here is a slightly modified version of this masala.

Kaccha Masala (Lagna-cha Masala)

½ cup coriander seeds (dhane)
¼ cup cumin seeds
1 tbsp kala jeera
12-14 cloves
2 1-inch cinnamon sticks

Grind the ingredients in a spice grinder to a get coarse powder.
Store in an air-tight container.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Papad Ki Subji

With so many events going on in the blogsphere, it is difficult to keep track of them all and much less actually participate.
Each time I read about a new event I make fancy plans of sending in a dhinchak (for those not from Pune or Mumbai, this loosely translates into cool, fantastic, incredible) entry. But when each day of the work week pans out like a manic Monday, all those plans fall by the wayside.

I was not able to participate in several RCI events and felt terrible about that. Wasn't going to let RCI:Rajasthan slip by in a similar fashion. This wonderful blog event, initiated by Lakshmi of VeggieCuisine , urges us to explore the varied regional cuisines of India and is one of my favourite blog events.

The only problem this time around was that I didn't posses a single book that had Rajasthani recipes. I couldn't even rely on previous Rajasthani meals as I had Rajasthani food just once; daal-baati served with an outrageous amount of ghee.

After hunting around for inspiration I settled on papad ki subji. The idea of using papad was rather intriguing. Going by the many versions I found for making this subji there didn't seem to be a right or a wrong way to make it. This suited me just fine as I'm notorious about not sticking to a recipe.

(Standard disclaimer: the food in the picture is tastier than it appears.)

One of the versions that appealed to me used methi seeds. I happened to have fresh methi leaves on hand so I added those as well. If one type of methi is good, two types will be better. Right?

This subji came together in no time. Almost no preparation required.
The dahi (yogurt) made it nice and tangy. Had I used regular or low-far yogurt, it would've been creamier. The papads get incredibly soft and the resulting texture of the dish is similar to the Maharashtrian Daal-Phal (waran-phal) or the Gujarati Daal-Dhokli.

Papad Ki Subji
(serves two)
2-3 avegage sized papads (I used Lijjat plain urad papads)
2 tbsp methi seeds, soaked in a cup of warm water
3 tbsp dahi (yogurt)
½ tsps each mirchi powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder
1 cup fresh methi leaves, chopped
1 tbsp oil
dash of hing (asafoetida)
4-5 stalks of cilantro, chopped
a pinch of garam masala, optional (I didn't use any)
salt to taste

Soak the methi seeds soak in warm water for ½ an hour.
Break the papads into small pieces.
Heat the oil, add the mirchi, turmeric and cumin powders.
Add the hing and the methi seeds (with ½ of the water).
Cover and cook for a few minutes, till the methi seeds soften slightly.
Add the methi leaves and cook for a few more minutes.
Add the yogurt and a cup of water and let it come to a boil, stirring frequently.
Add the papad pieces and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
Taste and add salt accordingly. I didn't need to add any salt.
Enjoy with hot rotis.

My entry for RCI: Rajasthan, hosted by Padmaja.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tamale Pie: Stacked

Tamales are made usually made by steaming corn dough (masa) wrapped in corn husks. A filling is optional. More about them here.
Though I used similar ingredients, the method of preparing them is not the same (didn't steam them in corn husks). So what I made is technically not a tamale pie. But it is so good!

This is one of our new favourites. I made it for the first time a few weeks ago and I've already made it twice since then.
Instead of making individual pies, I stacked the ingredients in a pan and baked it. Much easier to make and serve. But you can get fancy-shmancy and serve individual portions like in the picture.

The base of this pie is polenta. Make your own or buy it pre-made. Either is fine. Making polenta is easy, just ask her.
The polenta is topped with a bean & green mixture and some sharp cheddar. A few minutes in the oven is all that is needed. Top with fresh salsa and dinner is served!

It is with the bean & green layer that you can get really creative. Literally anything goes.
So far I've used a combination of black beans, cannelini beans, leeks, and mustard greens. But a garbanzo bean, spring onion, and kale combination won't be too far behind.

Tamale Pie
(Inspired by a recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics.)
Enough for four quasi hungry people.
Use the quantities given below just as a guideline.

Prepare the polenta
You will need about 12 polenta slices.
Cook both sides of each slice, till it is slightly crispy.
Set aside.

Prepare the (simple) salsa
Mix together 2 cups cherry tomatoes (halved), 4-5 stalks of cilantro (chopped),
½ cup chopped onions, salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare the beans and greens
You will need:
2 cups cooked beans
4 cups cooking greens
1 cup leeks, chopped
8-10 stalk cilantro, chopped
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp oil
salt, to taste.

Heat the oil and add the cumin & oregano.
Add the leeks and cook till they soften (4-5 minutes).
Add the beans. With the back of a spoon mash most of the beans, leaving some intact.
Add the greens and mix well.
Cook for about 10 minutes.

Assemble the pie
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Lightly grease a 13x9 baking pan. Arrange the polenta in a single layer.
Spread the bean & green mixture over the polenta.
Top with a couple of cups of shredded cheese (sharp cheddar is recommended).
Bake for about 10-15 minutes.

Before serving top with salsa and chopped cilantro.

Sending this pie to DK's A.W.E.D: Mexican Food event.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Who You Calling Weird?

Haven't I done this before?

That was my reaction when Sra tagged me for the weird things meme.
What I had been tagged for earlier was the random things meme.
Clearly I must've misread the theme of that meme b'cos weirdness was what came out rather than randomness. Take another look to see what I mean.

Anyway, here are some food-related weird things:

  • Supermarket cakes.
    I'm done with them, finito, khatam. At birthday parties if I notice the cake is from a supermarket, I go to great lengths to avoid it. Same routine at work.
    Even if I don't notice the box it came from, a small taste and it is immediately apparent where it came from.
    Can one even call such cakes food? What are they made of?
    Not everyone will find this weird. But some find these tendencies extremely weird and snobbish. What e.v.e.r!

  • Idli-bhajji
    I had this years ago and still remember how annoyed I was then. You take a perfect idli, dip it in perfect bhajji batter and fry it. In the process waste two perfect ingredients. What a shame!

  • Ripe Mango-vegetable Salad
    Have a salad; enjoy a mango. Don't put them together; unless it is a fruits-only salad.
    Plain mango, aamras (mango juice/ pulp), mango milkshake, mango ice-cream. All ok.
    I will not cannot eat a mango in any other form. Not even aamrakhanda (mango shrikhanda).
    So to see a mango in a savoury dish or to see a mango rubbing shoulders with an onion... That is just wrong. So wrong.

  • Poli/ Chapati/ Roti
    I can't make decent ones even if my life depended on them. Frankly I gave up trying years ago. Parathas, I can manage. Not polya.
    Growing up, we'd have a lady come in every morning to make polya for the family. What a luxury.
    Now I have a nice Indian lady who lives in our neighbourhood make polya for me several times a week. Lucky me!

  • Bowl matters
    I prefer eating in a bowl rather than a plate. This drives the significant-other nuts.

Anyone who hasn't been tagged and would like to do this meme, consider yourself tagged by TheCooker.
But specifically I'd like to tag a fellow Punekar, the person behind Adhi Potoba.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Agretti Parathas

The CSA season is in full swing. Every week the bag brings us just-harvested, lovingly grown, organic vegetables. A recent bag contained, amongst other things, bok choy, cilantro, broccoli, baby carrots, kale and agretti. While reading the newsletter that accompanies the produce, I mentally made plans for each item; but at the last one I hit a major speedbreaker.

Each year we get introduced to a couple of new vegetables/ cooking greens. Last year it was lamb's quarters. This year it is agretti. More about agretti here.

When presented with a new cooking green, I usually try them for the first time in a daal or in parathas. Both don't need a recipe per se which make them ideal for experimentation. If the green is not welcomed in the daal or paratha avatar, it is unlikely we'd like them prepared any other way. But so far we haven't met a cooking green we didn't like.

This time I made agretti parathas. Here is a picture of the parathas and a spring (bunch?) of agretti.

We were quite happy with the results. The inherent sourness came through quite well.
The only herb/ spice I used was chopped garlic and some mirchi powder. Next time I can load up on the spices as this is quite a sturdy green. Owa (ajwain, carom) with agretti already sounds good.

2 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
1 cup chopped agretti
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp mirchi powder
4-5 stalks of cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp oil
salt to taste

Heat the oil over medium high heat, add garlic. Don't let it brown.
Add the mirchi powder, salt, and agretti.
Cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the cilantro.
Let cool slightly before adding the flour.
Add water as need to make a soft dough. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into about 20 pieces.
Roll each piece into parathas of even thickness.
Use a little oil and cook both sides of the parathas on a heated pan.
Enjoy with yogurt!

These parathas go to Srivalli's Roti Mela.
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