Tag Archives: Vegetarian

Vermicelli Biryani

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I am sucker for sweets, especially North Indian sweets. So when my stock of pedas ran out in August, one that my long suffering wife had replenished on a trip to India in July, I was looking for my sweet fix. With the Eid season here, I started thinking back to my childhood and the dry Sevian (Vermicelli) dessert that some of our family friends used to make around Eid. So I decided to try my hand at making some.

Before I got there though, the wife called and reminded me that I had dinner duties that night. Since I was already at the Indian store and had procured the aforementioned Vermicelli, I decided to repurpose it to making a Biryani. Armed with a handful of vegetables, I got to work. I looked to the great sage Sanjeev Kapoor’s and Vahrevah chef’s websites for guidance and put a dish together. The verdict was that the dish was – Meh! It filled but didn’t satisfy. I did try it again a couple of days later and ate it with some Egg Curry and it tasted a lot better. So, in my opinion, it works very well as an accompanying rice-substitute dish but not so well as a main dish.

INGREDIENTS (for 4)

2 Tbsp Oil (I used EVOO)

1 Tbsp Black Mustard Seeds

12-14 Curry Leaves

1/2 Medium Onion – diced

1 medium Carrot – peeled and cut into bite sized chunks

3 small round eggplants chopped into bite sized pieces

1 cup frozen Green Peas

1 cup Soy chunks (Nutrela) – cooked according to instructions

1.5 Tbsp Coriander Powder

1 Tbsp Turmeric

Salt to taste

1 cup dry roasted Vermicelli

2 cups water

STEPS

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan
  2. Add the mustard seeds till they start to sputter
  3. Add the curry leaves
  4. Add the onion till they are transparent
  5. Add all the veggies and soy chunks, coriander powder, turmeric and salt
  6. Saute till the eggplants just start to darken
  7. Add the vermicelli and mix well
  8. Add two cups of water and increase the heat
  9. Evaporate the water off while constantly agitating the mixture
  10. Voila! you are done

 

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Herby Paneer Parcels – a BBQ idea for Vegetarians

Herby Paneer Parcels

Herby Paneer Parcels

My brother-in-law and I have a tradition of sorts. For the past few years, every Mother’s Day, he and I get together and cook brunch for our better halves. This year, we started out by thinking of doing a grill-based brunch. However, lacking time and ideas, we ended up with just one dish that used the grill. And it was this one.

Surprisingly easy to make, it tastes great. The trick is to really get the paneer (recipe here) to marinate. With summer and Memorial Day approaching, I thought I’d put this out there as an idea to throw in a vegetarian BBQ dish in the mix.

For a change I followed the recipe to a T so here is the link for it.

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A couple of tips for Veggie Chili

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash

Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash

While we cook a lot at home, there clearly was a repetitiousness that had crept into our menus. So a few months back we started using Green Chef every other week for a few meals. For those of you who don’t know, Green Chef is a meal prep service where they ship you the recipe and ingredients for making a meal with the appropriate portions apportioned out and you do the assembly and cooking. It has been good to have these meals for a change.  While not every meal has been to our liking, there have been a few that have absolutely stood out. One of these was the Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash.

As some of you know, I have been making Chili for a while and have posted some recipes (click here, here and here) on this blog. The chili usually turns out well and is pretty easy to make. However, there were a few things that the Green Chef recipe did, that took this particular recipe to a different level.

  1. Adding more body – The recipe used peeled, shredded butternut squash in the body. It made for a slightly sweeter chili but it was thicker.
  2. The Chile in the Chili – A paste of tomato and chipotle was added to add some flavorful heat. I suspect Chipotle in Adobo sauce will do nicely (it is available in most Mexican stores)
  3. Baked Tortilla Strips – The recipe called for tossing corn tortilla strips in Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper. They were awesome and made a great alternative to fried tortilla chips (or strips) usually used. They were so good, that my younger daughter couldn’t stop eating them and wanting me to make an entire batch for her to eat with Salsa and Guacamole.

I will definitely post another Chili recipe incorporating these ideas into my recipe. But since I have been a slacker at posts lately, I thought I’d post some ideas for you guys to try instead of waiting to have a full blown recipe.

 

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Paneer Pizza with Tandoori Masala

Paneer Pizza with Tandoori Masala

Paneer Pizza with Tandoori Masala

Indians know their food. Restaurants with mediocre (read that as not finger smackingly good) fare tend not to last very long. While there is a slew of trendier places that have opened up in the last couple of decades, where people go to see and be seen, food is still front and center and places simply can’t survive on the glitz. And so it is in this mix, that Mickey D’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and their ilk have decided to test their mettle. Without exception, ALL of them have had to come up with a different, some might call tastier, menu for India. And the menu is good, in fact as fast food goes, it is great. Our family looks forward to it every time we visit India. After all, where else would you find dishes like McAloo Tikki Burger (a Potato based patty Burger), Kathitto (a Kathi Roll sold by Taco Bell) and Rawalpindi Chana Paneer Pizza.

While I have been able to replicate, or come close to, getting my Burger and Kathi Roll fix in the US, making a good Indian-style Paneer Pizza has eluded me. I have tried and failed in the past (click here).  So this time around I kept it simple. I started out making a standard Margherita (see here). I started with some cold fermented dough and some homemade Tomato-Basil Sauce. Then I added some minced garlic, some chopped tomatoes, Paneer, and Fresh Mozzarella. Sprinkled the whole thing liberally with some Tandoori Masala powder(available in Indian grocery stores) and baked it on my Baking Steel.

When it was done, some more Tandoori Masala powder, freshly ground sea salt and a topping with chopped Basil completed the Pizza. It was a beautiful thing.

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A Lentil loaded Veggie Burger

Lentil loaded Veggie Burger

Lentil loaded Veggie Burger

If you are going to experiment, be prepared to fail. A lot. And so it was with this particular version of veggie b’s. While not exactly a failure, it wasn’t a resounding success either. The burgers were perfectly edible but not even close to the Veggie Chop inspired Burgers that I make (recipe here). But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind the tape a little.

It was another day of meal planning and thinking about what to make for dinner. The larder was somewhat low on produce since we hadn’t been to the grocery store recently but there were multiple types of lentils and a potato. So as the saying goes, when life gives you potatoes and lentils, you make veggie burgers. The recipe is below. The good part – they were super easy to put together and healthy. The bad – they were somewhat bland.

INGREDIENTS (for 8 patties)

1/4 cup Toor Daal (Pigeon Peas)

1/4 cup Chana Daal (Split Peas)

1/4 cup washed Mung Daal

1/4 cup Green Lentils (Masoor with skin)

1 medium potato

For the masala

1 dry Red Chili

1 Tbsp Coriander seeds

1 Tbsp Cumin seeds

1 Tbsp Fennel seeds

1 tsp Black Peppercorns

1 inch stick of cinnamon

Salt to taste

To assemble

1 egg

Panko breadcrumbs

Oil to pan fry the patties

STEPS

  1. Boil the Daals and the Potato till cooked. I used a pressure cooker.
  2. Dry roast the masala (without the salt) and grind to a powder.
  3. Mash the Daals, peeled potato and the masala. Add salt to taste.
  4. Break and incorporate an egg into the mash (to hold the patties together).
  5. Make patties about 3 inches in diameter, cover with breadcrumbs, pan fry and you are done!

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Eggplant Schezuan Style

Eggplant Schezuan Style

Eggplant Schezuan Style

As somebody who loves to cook, if there is one thing that becomes glaringly obvious pretty quickly, its that things that look simple, aren’t. So it has been for me with making any kind of stir-fry. They are devilishly hard. They look simple and easy to put together and while it is true that you can put a palatable concoction pretty simply, getting the flavors and the crunch right is very, very difficult. The primary reason being that different ingredients have different rates of cooking but since you are making a stir fry on high heat, getting the timing right is tricky, since you have very little time to play with. One tip that seems to work well is to individually prep the ingredients and then bring them together in the sauce. And that is what seems to work beautifully with this dish.

After much trial and error, I think I have finally figured out how to get this one right. The trick is in preparing the eggplant and Tofu separately. The best part is that it is something that can be done fairly quickly and makes for a great weekday dinner. And so, without further ado, I give you Eggplant Schezuan Style…

In the wok - Schezuan Style Eggplant

In the wok – Schezuan Style Eggplant

INGREDIENTS (for 4)

1 large Japanese Eggplant (about a foot and a half long) – use two if needed

Salt

Pepper

Sesame Oil (or Vegetable Oil)

Extra Firm Tofu – half a block – cut into small cubes

4 cloves minced Garlic

Soy Sauce

3-4 Green Onions – the whites sliced thin and the greens sliced into 1/2 inch pieces – keep them separate

1 dry red chili

For the sauce (mix all the ingredients in a bowl)

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 cup water or vegetable stock

Sriracha sauce to taste – because Rooster Sauce is good in everything – start with 1 Tbsp

1 Tbsp Corn Flour

Brown Sugar to taste – start with a couple of Tbsp

STEPS

1. Slice the eggplant into chunky diagonal slices and massage some salt and pepper into them.

2. In a skillet heat some oil and sear the eggplant on both sides. You want them to just start softening but not be over cooked – a good idea is to watch the purple skin turn light, that is a good sign that you are done. Keep aside.

3. Heat some more oil in the skillet and saute half the garlic, you can also throw in some chili flakes to make some chili garlic oil.

4. Add the Tofu and pan fry on high heat. Add some Soy sauce to glaze the Tofu. Keep aside.

5. In a wok, heat about a Tbsp of oil on high heat. Add the remaining garlic and red chili. After a few seconds add the whites of the onion.

6. Let the onion just start to brown and add the sauce. Let it come to a boil.

7. Throw in the prepared eggplant and Tofu once the sauce has started to thicken, and bring everything to a boil.

8. Adjust seasoning and serve on boiled rice topped with the greens of green onion.

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Stuffed Tomato Curry

Stuffed Tomato Curry

Stuffed Tomato Curry

In all honesty, I had forgotten about this dish altogether, though it was such a part of my life growing up. When I was a kid, this was the dish that was pulled out when we were having company over or for a special meal at festival. Years have passed since then and gradually, this dish took a deeper and deeper place in the pantry of my mind to where it was largely forgotten. Till last weekend.

My sister and my brother-in-law were visiting us from overseas and she wanted to cook for us. The dish that she wanted to make and was justifiably proud of, was this very dish. Having a chance to eat this after so many years, I, of course, jumped at the chance and so she made it. It was good. Very good. And kind of like the food critic eating Ratatouille, in the eponymous movie, it took me back to my childhood. Here it is, based on what I could gather from watching my sister cook.

INGREDIENTS (for 6-7 Stuffed Tomatoes)

6-7 Medium Sized Roma Tomatoes

For the Stuffing

1 tsp cooking oil (I use EVOO)

1 Medium Potato – Boiled

1/2 cup Frozen Peas

1/2 tsp Dried Mango Powder (Amchur)

1/4 tsp Red Chili Powder

Salt

For the Gravy

1 1/2 Medium Onions

1 Medium Tomato

1 inch piece of Ginger – peeled

4-5 small Garlic Cloves

1 Tbsp Oil (I use EVOO)

1 tsp Coriander Powder

1/2 tsp Turmeric

1 Tbsp Garam Masala

1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder

Salt

Some Cilantro to garnish

STEPS

1. Cut a small “cap” in Roma Tomatoes and core them, preserving the shape and structural integrity. Keep the pulp from the inside.

2. Mash the potatoes and mix the spices and and the peas in it.

3. In a frying pan, heat the oil and pan fry the potatoes till the freshness of the spices have gone and the peas are thawed. About 10 minutes. You can add some chopped cilantro to the potatoes.

4. Fill the hollow tomatoes with this stuffing and put the “cap” back on. You may want to use toothpicks to keep the lid in place. Set aside.

5. To prepare the gravy, blend the onion, tomato, ginger and garlic till it is smooth. Add a little water if needed.

6. In a saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp of oil and stir in the blended paste from step 5.

7. Add the other spices, and the pulp from the cored tomatoes and let it cook on low heat till the fat starts leaving the masala.

8. Add the stuffed tomatoes to the gravy, adjust water to achieve a nice thick consistency of the gravy and cook covered till the tomatoes just start shedding their outer skin.

9. Top with some chopped cilantro and serve hot with an Indian bread of your choice.

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