Monday, March 27, 2006

On a blogging break!

Since the move to Toronto is getting closer, I'm going on a blogging break. It might take a while for me to settle down and start blogging again.

I hope to come back and play catch up with you, dear blog friends, in about 2-4 weeks. Until then, Byebye! Take care!
- Kay

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sandavai / Idiyappam with Tomato Kurma

Ooooh! Sandavai! I remember the fresh 'Eat-me-right-now' smell that comes when my mother steams the Idlis for making this kind of Idiyappam. I have no clue why, we, people from Kongu Naadu area of Tamilnadu, call it Sandavai, instead of the well known name, Idiyappam. This is not an everyday dish - It takes some time to prepare it and so it is usually a delicacy or a special-occasion dish. Many people make Idiyappams using different recipes, but you goto a house in Kongunaadu for Idiyappam, you'll know, the smell is totally different, because of the coconut and cardamom used while grinding the batter and while steaming it. Remember the 'Eat-me-right-now' smell?
In our community, this is one dish, which HAS TO BE SERVED as the first meal, to the new bridegroom ('maapillai' in Tamil), when he goes to visit his in-laws, for the first time, after the wedding. It usually is a pain (you'll know why, soon) to make this special dish for a lot of people, but since it's just the two of us and since we both, are crazy Sandavai fans, we make it often. These days, I've been posting some 'Kongu cuisine' recipes, because I've been missing home crazily. Now, I guess, I'll just make this into a series of Kongu cuisine. I'm giving the recipe for 2. This recipe doubles, triples very well. :)

Parboiled Rice - 2 cups (I use Parboiled Ponni rice)
Freshly grated Coconut - 1/2 to 1 cup (dried/dessicated just won't do! Sorry!)
Cardamom pods - 5 (just the seeds, not the skin)
Salt - 1/2 tbsp
Wash and soak the rice for 3-4 hrs. While grating coconut, be careful not to use the red colored skin near the shell. This will change the color of the Idiyappam. (See mine! The color has changed, I forgot to scrape of the red colored skin!). Grind coconut and cardamom seeds in a blender/mixie to a fine paste. (This is important, a modern Idli grinder like Ultra/Sowbhagya will not grind cardamom seeds and coconut fine enough to pass through tiny holes of the Sandavai press). Add the coconut paste to the rice and grind them together in a Idli grinder (Look at Indira's Idli Grinder) to a thick batter. The consistency should be thicker than Idli batter. It tastes GREAT if the Sandavai is made right away, as soon as the batter is prepared, but for time saving purpose, I prepare the batter the previous night and put it right away in the refrigerator before it has the slightest chance to ferment.
Grease the idli plates or line with a wet cloth, and pour batter on the idli plates. If the batter is thin like Idli batter, it will overflow. So, remember! Thick batter it should be. Steam the idlis for about 9-10 mins (I always use a timer). Grease the inner sides of the Idiyappam press / Sandavai nazhi (Look at Shammi's Sandavai nazhi and her sevai) and put 2-3 idlis in it. Keep cold water in a bowl, nearby, to dip your hands into, often. The idlis will be very hot and it has to be pressed hot. If it cools down, it is really hard to press the Sandavai. When you press, you'll see yummy strings of rice noodles coming from the bottom of the press.
This is traditionally eaten with coconut milk or sugar+ghee+banana (I hate this! but, most of my relatives go crazy for this combo). In the above picture, I served it with Tomato Kurma. But, the best combo for this type of Sandavai/Idiyappam is Potato Kurma or Chicken Curry or Prawns curry. The Potato Kurma is made exactly like the Tomato Kurma, substituting tomatoes for boiled and slightly-mashed-into-small-pieces of potatoes. It goes wonderful with this Idiyappam or dosas.
Remember? I said, it's painful to make this for a lot of people - That's people, it's so yummy that people just can't stop eating. And it's very labor intensive because you have to manually press the Idiyappam for all those people. But well, the taste compensates for everything! :)

Idiyappam with Vegetable Kurma

Idiyappam / Sevai / Sandavai / Stringhoppers - Call it by any name, I Love Idiyappams - both types - one that my mom makes at home and also the ones that restaurants serve. You might wonder what the difference is. Well, there are two types of Idiyappam - based on the method that it is prepared. First method is the long process - where the rice is soaked for 5 hrs and ground to a batter and idlis are made of this rice batter. The idlis are then pressed using a special equipment called 'Sandavai Nazhi / Sevai Nazhi' to get strings of rice noodles which are ready to eat. This is what my mother makes. I'll write more about this, in my next post.

Second method is the easy method - Here the rice is made into a flour and stored for later use. This flour is mixed with salted hot water to form a thick dough and the dough is pressed through small discs with tiny holes using a 'murukku maker / chakli maker'. These strings are pressed on a plate and steamed. This is the method that is predominantly followed in Kerala and Srilanka and all the restaurants. The beautiful white color comes from the rice - raw rice (Pacharisi) is used here (Not parboiled / boiled rice / ukkada chaval that we normally use for Idlis).

In the below picture, I used the frozen Idiyappam from Indian store and thawed it and microwaved it for 2 mins. This Idiyappam was prepared using the second method mentioned above. It is very easy to make this at home. My special recipe book ('Arusuvai Amudham' by Srimati P.V.Rajammal - will write about this in one of the next few posts) has a wonderful recipe for this kind of Idiyappam. Let me share it with you here.

Preparation of the flour: Soak 1 kg raw rice (Pacharisi) in water for 2 hrs and wash it very well. Dry it on a thick towel for a few hrs and then make a fine flour out of this. (Like puttu flour, but even finer than that) using an industrial grinder or a mixie for small quantities. Cover this flour in a cloth and steam it (in a idli maker or pressure cooker, without whistle) for 10 mins or so, until the flour doesn't stick to your hands, when touched. This can be done in batches because 1 kg flour will not contain in the steamer at one go. Break all the lumps in this and dry it in hot sun for an hour. Sieve it once and let it dry in hot sun for another 2 hours or so, until the flour is totoally dry. If you let it dry in hot sun, the flour will stay fresh for a long time. Store in an airtight container.

Making the Idiyappam: Take required amount of the above Idiyappam flour. Boil water in a small pan, with required amount of salt. Pour this hot salted water into the flour and mix it well using a steel ladle. Beware, it will be very hot. This should come to the consistency of the dough of murukku/chakli dough. Heat water in the Idli steamer or pressure cooker and line each idli plate with a wet cloth. These days, there are special idiyappam steamers available in the market (Sorry, don;'t have one, so, no picture!), but it's easy to make Idiyappam with idli plates. Apply ghee on the insides of the murukku maker so the dough doesn't stick to it. Use the sev maker disc (one with the tiny holes in it) for making Idiyappam. Put the dough in and press the murukku maker, go in circles on the Idli plates. Repeat the same process for all the idli plates. Steam for 8-10 mins and serve piping hot with the below Kurma. Some people also eat it with ghee, coconut and sugar. Some people eat it with sweetened coconut milk. I love it with Kurma.
Vegetable Kurma - S.Indian Restaurant style
Potato - 1
Carrot - 2
Green beans - handful
Green peas - 1 cup
Onions - 1, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Olive oil - 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Warm Milk - 1 cup
Yogurt - 3 tbsp
Coconut milk - 2-3 tbsp

Wet Masala:
Green chillies - 4
Salt - a pinch
Garlic - 2-3 cloves
Ginger - 1"
Cinnamon - 2 small sticks
Clove - 2
Poppy seeds/ Khus Khus - 1 tbsp (soaked in 4 tbsp water for 20 mins)
Fennel seeds - 1/2 tsp
Dhalia or roasted channa dal - 1 tsp (or cashews - 4)

Grind the ingredients for wet masala, to a fine paste.

Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan (not cast iron) and saute the onions, till they turn translucent. Add the other veggies (all cut to the same size, see picture) and saute for 2 mins. Sprinkle some water (1-2 tbsp) and let it cook covered. (Alternatively, you can cook the vegetables, in the microwave, with 2 tbsp water for 4-5 mins- The container should be tightly wrapped with a paper towel. Without paper towel, the vegetables will dry out.)
When the vegetables are half cooked, add the ground masala+turmeric powder+salt and some water and stir once. Let the vegetables cook. Once the vegetables are done, reduce the flame and add the yogurt and stir once. after 2-3 mins, when the yogurt has fully mixed with the masala and it comes to a boil, switch the stove off and add the milk and coconut milk. Leave it on the stove for 10 mins, for the flavors to fuse together. Serve hot with Idiyappam or S.Indian style Parotta or Idli / Dosas. This Kurma tastes very similar to one served with Idiyappam or Parotta at S.Indian restaurants.

Roasted Tilapia

For a person who doesn't have much preference for fried-anything, I liked the taste of fried fish. Not the concept of frying, but the taste of fish, fried. Even then, I did not think I'll be cooking fish often! Fish curries are yummy and fish fries taste wonderful, but the time it takes to sweat in front of the stove to fry fish, the process of deep-frying and the stink in the kitchen after cooking were major put-offs. Fortunately, I discovered the pleasure of roasting meat / veggies in the oven and there! there was no looking back! We roast a LOT of fish at home and enjoy it, without any calories from fat. Roasting gives the meat or veggies a unique taste, even better than fried ones, and yes, it's crispy!

Here are our latest roasting episodes with Tilapia! Tilapia fillets that we got from Sam's club, look like a leaf with a split in the center. I went ahead and cut the split all the way till the end. Like any frozen fish, Tilapia has to be thawed before marinating. Just immerse the fillets, in cold water (yep, with the plastic covering that comes with it) for about 20 mins. Peel the plastic cover and cut the fish fillet to your preference and marinate them. 20-30 mins time is good for the marinade to soak in and they are ready to be roasted. Unlike Salmon, Tilapia is not an oily fish, so you might want to add 1-2 tbsp oil extra in the marinade. Also, Tilapia is a very light fish when compared to Salmon.
Roasted Tilapia - with homemade marinade

After reading Tony's idea on using Asafoetida on Fish that asafoetida masks the smell from the fish, I decided to try it. I made a marinade of asafoetida+turmeric+chilli powder+salt+olive oil and smeared it all over the fish fillets and marinated for 30 mins. Roasting time was (At 375-400 F, baking 4 mins on each side + broiling 5 mins). There was no stinking smell involved at any stage and the fish tasted great. Thanks Tony! We had Rice, a simple rasam and roasted Tilapia and it was a very nice meal. We LOVED it.

Roasted Tilapia using store bought marinade

This time, it was a last minute meal without any planning. And I wanted to finish off all my masala powders before moving. Shaan's Tandoori Chicken Tikka BBQ powder is what I used, with no extra salt. Just the powder + 2 tbsp olive oil . Same method for roasting (At 375-400 F, 5 mins baking time + 5 mins broiling time) Oh! It tasted great, but I won't be buying anymore of this powder again because of the food colors added. I also, suspect that their might be more chemicals than what's printed on the package. I didn't have to bake on both sides, because the fish was cooked at the first 5 mins baking time. So, I just moved onto broiling mode. We had Roasted tilapia with Rice, Chayote Squash kootu and Rasam. I usually don't combine two heavy proteins together, but as I said, before the meal was unplanned and also, was a way to finish my freezer stock.

1.Use greased Al foil sheet on baking tray or lined grilling tray for roasting.
2. Baking is done at the bottom shelf of the oven and broiling at the topmost shelf (that's where the heat comes from, for each of these processes).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Kongunaatu Kozhi Rasam and Kari varuval (Chicken soup and Spicy Chicken fry)

I've seen this Rasam made in almost all the families from Kongunaadu. The people from Kongunaadu were mainly landlords and farmers (in Coimbatore, Salem, Erode and around areas). These days, like any other community, they have branched into other occupations and businesses as well. Since these people have a strong rural connection, many of their recipes are like a typical rural cuisine - the importance is given for health and taste. Some of the typical Kongunaatu recipes are 'Kozhi rasam and Varuval', a dessert called 'Vazhai', 'Kadaa Paniayaram' (a sweet dish that looks like adirasam with a hole, but is prepared in a different way), etc... The above are the only ones I know remember now, I've to ask Mom for more typical KonguNaatu recipes. I'm sure there are more.

Here's one recipe that I've grown up, with. Anytime somebody catches a cold in the house, my mother makes this Kozhi Rasam. It's very spicy and hot and most often, the cold says 'Bye-bye' the very next day. Me and my sister used to make a big fuss about eating this spicy dish, when we were kids. But over the time, we've grown to LOVE it. Every time we miss mom and home, we make one of her special dishes and when we have it, we always feel 'at-home', if you know what I mean. I know, a few other cuisines from Tamilnadu, also make Chicken rasam and varuval, but the flavors are different from this one. I wanted to write about this when Indira asked me to blog about Cold-Remedies. I didn't have much time to prepare this dish, at that time. So, here's it is now, when I'm craving for mom's food.

Kongunaatu Kozhi Rasam

Kari varuval

Cinnamon - 2
Cloves - 2
Poppy seeds - 1 tsp
Saunf / Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
Cummin seeds - 1 tsp
Pepper - 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds - 1/2 to 3/4 cup (Yep!) or 3-4 tbsp Coriander powder
Dry red chillies - 2
Curry leaves - 2-3 sprigs, just the leaves
Small pearl onions - 8-10
Sesame oil - 1 tbsp (I forego olive oil, for sesame oil, for authentic dishes that need typical flavors) + 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp
Chicken - 2 pounds (We used organic chicken. Use a small chicken with bones. Boneless stuff wouldn't give the rasam, it's taste or flavor or the medicinal property needed to fight cold)

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a cast iron pan and and roast Cinnamon, Cloves, Fennel seeds, cummin seeds, Peppercorns, dry coriander seeds and Red chillies with the Curry leaves. Add the poppy seeds and roast for 2 more mins. If you are adding coriander powder instead of the seeds, now is the time to add that. Transfer this to the mixie/blender (Don't grind yet, let it cool down). In the same pan, wipe it with a paper towel and add one more tbsp oil and saute the pearl onions. Let it cool down and add to the mixie. Grind all these to a fine paste. Add water when necessary to make the paste, fine.

In a pressure cooker, heat oil and saute chicken for 10 mins till it the raw-smell leaves. Add the ground paste and five cups of water. Pressure cook upto two whistles. Use a soup strainer to filter the rasam and chicken and keep aside.

For the Rasam, add salt to the drained rasam/soup and keep it covered with a lid. You can call this a Kongu naatu chicken soup.

Varuval: Saute the chicken pieces in 1 tbsp oil, after saute'ing curry leaves, ginger garlic paste (2 tbsp), onions (1, finely chopped), little salt, freshly ground black pepper (1 tbsp), turmeric powder (1/4 tsp). Taste and add salt accordingly. Add 2 ladles full of rasam and let it get absorbed in the chicken while saute-ing. Adding the rasam, helps in blending the flavors of the spices with the chicken pieces and bring it all together. Unlike other chicken-frys, this one is very soft and goes very well with the above rasam. Alternatively, You can use green chillies or red chillies or ground black pepper or a combo of these to spice it up. Feel free to explore.

Serve these piping hot, with steamed rice. Yep, pour the rasam over hot, hot rice and enjoy it with the varuval. No fun eating it cold. Everything has to be piping hot! You'll work out a sweat!

My entry for this weekend's Tony's Currymela.

Monday, March 20, 2006

What's going on?

I don't get it! I used to eat very healthy before this whole pregnancy thing started - Tons of Greens, Loads of Veggies, Wholewheat rotis, Smoothies loaded with fruits, etc etc etc... But since January, I couldnt eat anything because of the morning sickness and the feeling of no-appetite. Everything seemed tasteless, I guess this is what happens during the first trimester. I understand this part.

What I don't understand is - Now that my morning sickness has settled down a bit, I almost feel hungry once in a while. But I am craving for junk!!! Potato chips like Lays, Dorritos, the noodles from Ramen/Maruchan - all these darn things have MSG/Ajinomotto in them! and plenty of other crap! And as they say, 'No one can eat just one'. Ofcourse, to my credit, I missed the MSG part while I was at the stores. But that is no excuse! Even after I read it, I'm craving for these darn things. Before December, I wouldn't have touched them even with a 3 foot pole. But now, I BUY AND EAT!!! This is just plain crazy. The bulk of these chips and stuff will eventually end up at dear husband's office. But, Why am I craving junk? Any scientific reasons or is it just some pregnancy - psyco/emotional stuff?

Anybody else went through this?
And are there any oriental soup recipes out there that has noodles, shrimp/chicken flavor etc but without any chemicals and stuff ? (I'm so embarrased to admit, that I'm looking to imitate that noodle soup that is the end product of $1 chinese cup-o-noodles thingie from Maruchan.)
Thanks guys for your immediate help! I needed it! As of this moment, I've got rid of all junk foods in the house. Ofcourse, I ate one last bowl of that darn maruchan (once -last week and once today! That's all. Hope it doesn't do any harm) before I got rid of everything else. Mr.Bee was more than glad to pack away all those pringles, chips and crap to his office. I'm so glad I had poor appetite and I didn't pig out on any of those crap.. I'm not planning to buy them anymore... My resolve slipped through one small crack based on the cravings caused by this pregnancy! I won't let it happen again. Thanks for warning/scaring me enough! LOL I really needed this.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Besan Cheela - The Vegetarian Omelette!

Besan Cheelas are vegetarian omelettes for breakfast, I learnt about, during my dieting days (Yep, I've had a share of those). But my dieting was more focussed to a new lifestyle eating healthier and better. I've never starved (I can't!) just because I wanted to lose some extra pounds. My body responds beautifully to exercise. And I'm so glad it does.
The first time I read about this, it was in 'Crossword' - a nice bookstore in Pune. I was browsing through the cooking books and found a tiny booklet on healthy breakfasts or fat free breakfasts (Sorry, I forgot the author's name!). This recipe got me curious because I've never heard of a 'besan dosa like thing' until then. I was discussing this with a friend in the office cafetaria and that very day, the cafetaria happened to have 'Vegetarian Omelette' for evening snack. What a coincidence! :) We tried it and liked it, except the Omelette was dripping with oil. I've tried it often since then, it is a very quickie breakfast. And you can use any vegetables you like - tomates, onions, cabbage, carrots, etc. These Omelettes are full of proteins and make a healthy breakfast. But, if you are allergic to besan, stay away from this.

Besan/Gram flour - 1 cup
Onion - 1 finely chopped (Lengthwise or any way, but it should be very fine)
Coriander leaves - a handful (finely chopped)
Hing/Asafoetida - a pinch (optional)
Green chilly - 1 (finely chopped, should not be identifiable)
Cummin seeds - 1/2 tsp (slightly crushed in hand, not pestle and mortar)
Salt to taste
Oil - to make cheelas (less than 1/2 tsp per cheela)
Vegetables of your choice - finely grated (I skipped, since I was in a hurry)

Take the gram flour and break any lumps (Use an egg whisk). Add water and mix it to a thick batter, using the whisk. I use the whisk for everything - from rava dosa batter, pancakes and cheelas and even during the preliminary stages of upmas (SShhhh! Don't tell!). Add in the onions, cummin seeds, hing, coriander leaves, green chillies, salt and finely grated vegetables (Carrots, Cabbage, Tomatoes, Greens, squashes etc - qualify, root vegetables don't.)

Make pancakes in a hot tava/griddle and serve piping hot, with green chutney! Red colored onion/tomato chutney tastes good with this too. (Note: The hing helps in digestion of this proteinaceous pancakes.)

This is my entry for Tony's Curry Mela for this week.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Curried Lobhia - The black eyed beans in Indian style

Sailu had once asked me if I had tried sprouting black eyed beans. I hadnt tried it then, but I was intrigued by her question. Any kind of dried beans, which can be used as seeds, should be able to sprout, but would it taste good? would it be bitter? I wondered and wondered and then decided to try it anyway. The wastebasket isn't very far from the sink, is it? ;)

Yes, It sprouted after soaking for 10 hrs and using this rinse & drain method for about another 8 hrs. And yes, It was delicious and didn't make the original recipe taste any different. Sprouts are a nutrition power house and that fact helped us relish the dinner even more.

The first time I had this dish, I was amazed. Jayshree, a Punjabi friend and colleague had got this for lunch; But we ended up eating out that day. When we returned back, She said her mother had specially made 'Lobhia and Rotis' for lunch and she was wasting it. Ofcourse, we offered to polish it off for her and boy! we did with the 'Ooohs' and 'Aaahs' the simply deliciously dish deserved. Only later did I come to know that it was ridiculously simple to make. Punjabis refer to this beans as Lobhia, whereas Maharastrians and many others call it 'Chowli'. I don't know what it is called in other regions, would love to know. Oh, btw, Black eyed beans are traditionally eaten on New year's day/eve in US for bringing good luck.
Black eyed Beans - 1 cup (soaked for 8 hrs or sprouted)
Onion - 2, finely chopped
Tomatoes - 2, finely chopped
Cummin seeds - 1 tsp
Chilli powder - 3/4 tsp
Coriander powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt to taste
Olive Oil - 2 tsp
Heat oil in the pressure cooker and add the cummin seeds. When the cummin seeds are roasted in the oil, add the onions and saute it until the onions turn slightly brown. Add the tomatoes and sprinkle a pinch of salt. Saute for 2-3 mins.

Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder and stir once. Add the soaked black eyed beans and add about 2-3 cups of water (You can more water too, it will evaporate when simmering, later). Pressure cook for about 4 whistles. When it cools down, open the cooker and add the remaining salt. Stir once and then turn on the stove to a low heat and simmer for about 10-15 mins and Serve piping hot. This goes very well with Rice or Roti.

(Apologies for no pics.. We polished it off, before I remembered to click a picture. Will add it when we make it next time!)

Note: You can add ginger-garlic paste too, but it will make the dish hot and spicy. The above dish is very mild and soft like a dal, but the blackbeans retain the shape (unlike dal).

Friday, March 10, 2006

Tamarind Rice

Dear Husband of mine cooked this dish for me. :) Been craving for 'Amma kai Sapaadu' (Food prepared by loving mom) these day and he took it upon himself to re-create one of my favourite foods cooked by my mother. He followed the same recipe and I should say, it was almost like my mom's. Hers is not a typical pulihodhara recipe with ground powders, but a very simplified one. And Oh! It never gets spoiled atleast for a day or two, even without refrigeration, if prepared carefully with dry and clean hands (No wet spoons/lids too). It is a picnic food and the yummiest picnic food, I know of. Let me submit this for Anthony's Currymela.

Tamarind - lemon sized ball (soak in hot water for 1 hr and extract thick pulp
Red chillies - 2
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Channa dal/kadalai paruppu - 1 tbsp
Garlic cloves - 4 (chopped lengthwise)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida - 2 pinch
Salt to taste
Sesame oil - 1 tbsp (for pulikaachal) + 1 tbsp (for rice)
Heat oil and add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the channa dal and asafoetida. When the dal is roasted to light brown color, Add the red chillies, curry leaves and garlic cloves. Saute for a while, till these are slightly browned. Add the tamarind pulp and turmeric powder. Add salt and let it boil. Stir once in a while using a ladle. After a while, the oil will float on top and this is the time to know that the pulikaachal is almost ready. Test for salt and adjust accordingly. Let it boil for a while, if the tamarind still has that raw smell. This is Pulikaachal.
Prepare rice in a rice cooker and let it cool down. Add 1 tbsp of sesame oil to this and mix carefully with a wooden spoon. After the rice has cooled down, add the Pulikaachal to this, little by little, and mix with the wooden spoon. Serve with potato chips and curd (yogurt).
Note: The pulikaachal can be stored in refrigerator for 2-3 weeks and used when needed. You can add roasted peanuts too, if you like. Use unsalted ones.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Palak Paneer - Cottage cheese in Spinach sauce

When in India, somehow some form of Keerai (greens) would get in my food, atleast twice a week - Palak, Methi, Araikeerai, Mulaikeerai, Ponnanganni, Pulichakeerai (Gongura! yumm), Line Keerai etc etc. After coming to US, the only greens I've been eating regularly are - Palak(Spinach) and Methi leaves(Fenugreek). I've tried Kale once and didnt like it much. Beet greens are yummy with potatoes. And IMHO, mustard leaves suck! :P Punjabi Sarson Ka Saag is yummy but not with the mustard leaves in US. Maybe I havent found a good recipe to use the American greens yet. If you find some recipes, do send them my way.

Spinach/Palak is very healthy. But, there are only so many times you can make Dal Palak. So, We try to add it to our day to day food in soups (check out Lulu's Spinach soup) or dishes like Palak Paratha, Palak Paneer, Aloo Palak, Spinach rice, Spinach raita etc. Some people add it in dosas or adais and some like me, even add it to Omelettes. When we saw paneer in Indian store and when Bee asked if I want to buy them, I decide to try my 'Palak Paneer' recipe on him.

Many of the typical Palak Paneer recipes aren't very healthy. They require us to fry the paneer in oil and add cream or a big dollop of butter to make the sauce thicker and richer. And as I mention in most of my recipes, I'm not a big fan of rich creamy food. No, I don't make a fuss at family gatherings or get-together with friends, but when given a choice, I prefer simple food. And no, I will not compromise on the taste. After a few trial and errors and also using a few tips I learnt from Shwetha (a volunteer friend of mine), I arrived at this following recipe. I've tried it on many friends and have received compliments and requests for this simple recipe. Simplicity works! I'm not a big fan of Paneer. So, Bee gets to eat extra Paneer, when I make this dish and he enjoys it. :) I love this dish (Yep, even without the Paneer part) and I hope you like it, too.

Spinach - 1 big bunch (I used half a packet of organic spinach)
Paneer - 2 oz (storebought or homemade)
Whole Green gram dal - 2-3 tbsp (soaked in water for 4-6 hrs)
Green chillies - 3
Garlic - 2 cloves
Cummin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Olive oil - 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp (former to brown the paneer cubes, later for seasoning)
Salt to taste

Heat oil and roast the cummin seeds. Add the garlic and green chillies and saute for a few mins.. Add palak and green gram and add a cup of water and pressure cook for a whistle or two. Let this cool down. Blend to a fine paste using a blender.

Heat oil in the kadai and brown the paneer pieces, till they reach a golden brown color. Add the blended paste to this and add salt. Let it cook together for a few minutes. Serve it with hot rotis, phulkas or parathas. I served mine with parathas and the dinner was well received.

1. You can add moong sprouts, instead of soaked moon, for more nutrition.
2. You can use roasted potatoes instead of paneer and call this Aloo Palak or Saagwale Aloo.