Changing Times…

These past few months have been quite an escapade for me. Exciting, tiresome, anticipative and even nervous. With the arrival of fall, I am not only looking forward to cooler temperatures and a pleasanter weather; but memories that are going to last a lifetime. Recently, this blog is experiencing a slow down, and this may continue for some more time. Because, in a few weeks time, my hands are going to be full. Quite literally :)

This Thanksgiving I will have another reason to be thankful for.

Mixed Sprouts Burger

Just as there are endless possibilities for making parathas (Indian stuffed flatbread), there are infinite ways one could make vegetarian burgers, while still keeping them unique, nutritious and tasty. I never get tired of trying new kinds of burgers. With simple ingredients on hand, its easy to put together one. Like I did with leftover sprouts.

Packed with a mighty nutritious punch, these burgers were very filling, but still moist and tasty. They are mildly spiced with Indian flavours; hence were served with fresh cucumbers, instead of pickles. I made a double batch and froze some for later use. They were god sent during our house move.

Mixed Sprouts Burger
(yields about 9 medium sized patties)


Mixed sprouts – 2 cups, cooked until soft (I have used chickpeas, moong and peas)
Grated onion – ¼ cup
Grated carrots – ½ cup
Baby spinach – 20 leaves, finely chopped
Cilantro – ¼ cup, finely chopped
Ground almonds – ¼ cup
Ground flax seeds/flax meal – 2 tbsp
Grated ginger – 1 tbsp
Garlic – 2 cloves, minced
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Red pepper flakes – 1 tsp

Bread crumbs – ½ cup or as needed
Corn flour – 1 tbsp or as needed (1 egg can be substituted)


Mash the cooked sprouts while they are warm, and add all the ingredients except bread crumbs, corn flour and oil. Mix gently until well combined. Depending on the moisture in the mix, start with ¼ cup of breadcrumbs and add more as needed. Finally add 1 tbsp (or more) of corn flour, to help the patties hold their shape. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 20 minutes.

When ready, shape them into equal sized patties. At this point, you can freeze them individually on a plate for 30 minutes, then double wrap in foil and store in the freezer for six weeks. When its time to serve, sear the patties on a hot griddle with a drizzle of oil. Serve on a burger bun with lettuce and tomato. Or, serve the patties by themselves with a side salad. They are quite filling.

Its been long since I participated in any of the ongoing blogging events. But I can very well send this in to My Legume Love Affair. This month’s edition is hosted by Sia of Monsoon Spice.

Dark Chocolate Cups With Raspberries

House shifting is a mammoth task. I speak from experience here. There is so much to be done before, during and after a move. If you are an organizing junkie like me, you will have more things on your plate. Its been a couple of weeks, and there are still boxes and stuff lying around the house. We both were exhausted thoroughly. Adding to our misery is the triple digit temperature and excessive heat warnings. I am so looking forward to fall.

As you can see, I have umpteen number of things to take care of. But before I get engrossed into that, I want to share with you a quick and easy dessert that I made last week. I am not saying that this is first of its kind, but I woke up with this image one morning. The image of chocolate cups, some berries and whipped cream. It was stuck to my head, and there was no other way but to try it. As I sat thinking on how to go about it, G couldn’t help but notice. He asked and I explained, hesitantly. ‘So, what do you think?’. ‘Dark chocolate and raspberries – That sounds delicious’, he said. And delicious it was. I loved the ease with which it came together, and he loved how delectable it was. So there we were, sitting on the floor amidst boxes, enjoying this lovely homemade dessert. A memorable moment and a much needed slowdown amidst this frenzy!

Dark Chocolate Cups With Raspberries
(makes 4)


Dark chocolate – 4 oz
Whipping cream – ¼ cup
White chocolate – 1 oz
Raspberries – 1 cup

Dark chocolate curls for garnish
Muffin liners – 4


Line a muffin tin with muffin liners. Take the glass bowl that you are going to use for whipping the cream, and put in the freezer for 15 minutes. The cream whips and holds better.

Melt the dark chocolate in microwave for a minute, stirring once in between. The chocolate should be uniformly melted with a sheen. With a pastry brush, brush the insides of the muffin liners, coating thoroughly. It may be tricky at first, but you will get the hang of it. Freeze for 30 minutes. Take cups out, and give a second coat with the remaining chocolate. Return back to the freezer and freeze for 2 hours.

In a separate bowl, melt the white chocolate in the microwave for 30-40 seconds, stirring every 10 seconds. Take the frozen glass bowl from the freezer, and whip the cream until it forms hard peaks. To the melted white chocolate, add 1/3rd of the whipped cream. Gently fold the cream into the chocolate. The cream will deflate now, but will hold its shape during subsequent additions. Add the rest of the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture. Gently fold and do not mix vigorously. When it is combined, scoop the chocolate-cream mixture onto a pastry bag fitted with a nozzle of your choice, or onto a zip-top bag with a corner cut. Refrigerate this mixture for at least an hour.

The chocolate cups and the whipped cream-chocolate mixture can be made up to this point and stored in freezer and refrigerator respectively, for up to 5 days. When you are ready to serve, set the chocolate cups on the countertop for 5 minutes. This makes the peeling of the muffin liner easy. Once the liner is peeled, set on the serving plate. Fill the bottom with whipped cream-chocolate, top with raspberries, and finish off with another swirl of whipped cream-chocolate. Garnish with dark chocolate curls, if desired.

  • Swap the white and dark chocolates. Make white chocolate cups with dark chocolate-cream, with a hint of orange zest.
  • Use plain ole’ whipped cream from a can.
  • Use mixed berries instead of just raspberries.
Its summer and berries are abundant. Do you folks have any suggestions for enjoying this dessert over fall and winter? Otherwise I just have to make this with just chocolate whipped cream. Not that I am complaining ;).

Quinoa And Summer Fruit Salad

Summer in the blazing hot desert. Do I even have to elucidate anymore? Its been 110F+ for the past 10 days. We are now like vampires; the curtains are always shut to block day light and we go out only after the sun goes down. Yesterday, I didn’t even want to set foot in the kitchen. So, with ingredients on hand, I tossed a salad that was quick, easy, and refreshing.

Succulent seasonal fruits, nutty quinoa and a light-sweet dressing – a perfect summer salad. Just the thing I needed. As if agreeing with me, the rain gods showed mercy upon us last night. Today was a cool 106F. I will take anything below 110.

Quinoa And Summer Fruit Salad
(serves 2)


Quinoa – 1 cup
Fruits – 2 to 3 cups, cubed
(I have used nectarines, apricots, strawberries, red grapes, green grapes. Apples, any berries or any stone fruits can also be used)
Pecans or walnuts – ½ cup, roasted and chopped
Scallion – 1, chopped, green parts only


Juice and zest of a large lemon
Honey or agave nectar – 1 tbsp
Olive oil – 1 tbsp

Whisk everything together until blended completely.


Cook quinoa as you normally would. I usually pressure cook 1 cup of quinoa with 1¼ of water for 2 whistles. Fluff and cool completely. Toss quinoa with the dressing, nuts, fruits and scallions. Enjoy cold or at room temperature!

  • Use other grains in place of quinoa. I have made a similar salad with wild rice mix.
  • Instead of mixed fruits, use cantaloupe, green grapes and fresh mint.
  • Try orange juice and zest instead of lemon.
  • Loose the dressing, and enjoy with low fat yogurt for a satisfying breakfast.

Pavakkai Sadam – Spiced Bittergourd Rice

There are few standard bittergourd recipes that we enjoy year round. Pitlai is a family favourite, followed by oven baked chips. This time G asked for something different. ‘Why don’t you just do a sauté or a simple curry?’, he asked. Very well. The recipe he was mentioning was an old one that my mom makes often. The gourd is cooked and lightly seasoned with mustard seeds, urad dal and chana dal.

When I set to prepare the curry, I thought why not make this into a mixed rice. I haven’t seen bittergourd rice around, so why not extend this curry idea into rice? So I concocted a little spice mixture and prepared this curry. We Loved it (yes, with a capital L). This is definitely a keeper.

One technique that I adopted from the curry is to cook the bittergourd in tamarind water to tame its bitterness. Also, 6 red chillies may sound hot, but it is needed to compensate for the bitterness, along with tamarind and jaggery. Enjoy this slightly bitter and lightly spiced rice with cool raita.

Pavakkai Sadam – Spiced Bittergourd Rice
(serves 2)

Rice – 1 cup
Bittergourd – 8, about 6 inches long
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp, divided
Tamarind paste – 1 tbsp, divided
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – a few
Jaggery – 1 to 2 tsp

Spice Mixture

Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Bengal gram – 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Dried red chillies – 6 to 8
Cardamom – 1
Clove – 1
Cinnamon – ½ inch piece


Cook rice with 3 cups of water and ¼ tsp of turmeric powder. Adding turmeric powder gives a golden hue to the finished recipe, which may otherwise be a dull brown. The rice grains should be separate after cooking. Fluff and cool. Cut the bittergourd into half moon rings. If the seeds are very tough and mature, scrape and discard. Otherwise retain the seeds; they add a mild crunch to the rice.

In a wide, deep skillet, roast the ingredients for the spice mixture in a tsp of oil. Cool and grind to a fine powder. In the same skillet, boil bittergourd in 2 cups of water along with salt, turmeric powder and ½ tbsp of tamarind paste. When the gourd has turned soft (but not mushy), drain and discard the liquid.

Return the skillet back to heat. In a tbsp of oil, splutter mustard seeds and roast curry leaves. Add the cooked bittergourd, along with ½ tsp of turmeric powder, jaggery and rest of the tamarind paste. On a medium fire, gently roast the gourd. When they start to caramelize, add the spice powder, rice and salt. Mix thoroughly and heat through. If the rice seem very dry, drizzle a tsp of oil. Check for seasoning and serve hot with raita and chips.

Pavakkai sadam with cucumber+tomato+cilantro raita

The Last Slice...

...waiting to be devoured. A weekend well spent.

Recipe - Hershey's 'perfectly chocolate' chocolate cake.

Vegetarian Phyllo Pizza

A cook can never have too many cookbooks. My bookcase somehow seem to grow and have room for good cookbooks. Vegetarian Meals Good Housekeeping Favorite Recipes is one such cookbook. It is filled with recipes that are quick, easy and fun. A good find, considering that I picked this book in a rush without flipping even a single page, from my local library.

Back at home, when I had the time to patiently flip the pages, vegetarian phyllo pizza caught my attention. A pizza in 20 minutes? Sounds easy. I had to give it a try. And try I did with great results. We were treated with a light and flaky pizza, that we totally loved. Will it replace a traditional pizza in my kitchen? Definitely not. Its not like your usual pizza with chewy crust. But this is definitely a fun idea that’s worth a try. I will definitely make this often for a quick snack or a tasty side.

I have tweaked the original recipe by replacing butter with garlic flavoured olive oil. After being smitten with pepper jack cheese on a pizza, I seldom make pizzas any other way. Sorry mozzarella, you have to take a back seat. You can also add a variety of toppings, provided they don’t mush the phyllo crust.

Vegetarian Phyllo Pizza
(serves 2 as a side or snack)


Phyllo sheets – 6
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Garlic – 1 small clove, fine grated
Cherry tomatoes, yellow and/or red – 20-25, halved
Pepper jack cheese – ½ cup, shredded
Dried oregano – 1 tsp
Parmesan – 2 tbsp, shredded


Preheat the oven to 450F. In a small bowl, combine olive oil and garlic. Mix well and set aside.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper (I used a 9x12 pan). Lay 2 phyllo sheets on the parchment paper. Brush with olive oil + garlic mixture. Repeat twice to finish layering all 6 sheets. Brush the top with remaining oil mixture. Evenly spread pepper jack cheese and tomatoes. Sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve warm.

I served mine with orzo salad loaded with tomatoes, olives and tons of fresh herbs. A delicious lunch that we enjoyed very much.

Getting Back…

Caught in the whirlwind called life, with all its glorious twists and turns, I had kept myself from blogging longer than anticipated. An impending house shift in a month’s time is not helping either. To say that I didn’t enjoy this time off would be a lie. Other interests, both old and new, took precedence, keeping me occupied. But, last week, when I was packing my blog props in the moving boxes, I realized I do miss blogging. The excitement of stumbling upon a new recipe, the joy of capturing it in a perfect click, and the delight of sharing it with others, is definitely absent now. ‘I will return to blogging after the move, when all this hustle and bustle is over’, I said to myself. But when is life not chaotic? There is always one thing or the other happening. Just like the Tamil proverb that my mom often quotes, ‘If one waits for the tides to subside, he may never bathe in the ocean’.

With those words of wisdom, I have impelled myself to return to blogging. Not that thousands of food enthusiasts are cheering for my comeback (wouldn’t that be nice). But this blog is my virtual kitchen, and I refuse to neglect it. Some of you were kind enough to check upon me, while I was away. I thank you and all the others for patiently waiting during my period of silence.

‘Now, where do I start?’, I asked myself while I was sipping the watermelon juice that G had made. This has been my absolute favourite this summer, far better than my mundane version. Thanks to G, who concocted this recipe to give the juice some body and zing. Why not blog about this? I instantly started taking some photos right on our coffee table. With the sound of the shutter, G came rushing to see me working behind the camera. His meaningful grin conveyed that he was more than happy to see me doing what I enjoy the most. I am glad too…

Watermelon Juice With A Zing
(makes 4 to 6 servings)


Watermelon cubes – 3 cups
Ripe tomato – 1
Ginger – 1 inch, peeled and chopped
Juice of half a lemon


Blend the first 3 ingredients smoothly. Strain, and mix the lemon juice. Refrigerate and enjoy within a week. Serve chilled.

Like I had mention before, most of our stuff is packed and I have a little to work with. And, I had only recently cleared my backlog of old recipes (what a timing). I am going to blog about those simple meals that I whip up from my half-empty kitchen. I may not be blogging as frequently as I used to. But I will not abscond too.

Tasty Palettes Turns Two

I have been MIA for the past two weeks. But today is a special day and I cannot resist a peek into this web space that has become my virtual kitchen. My blog turns two today. Two years back, I wouldn’t have believed that this blog would become an integral part of my life. But, it is today.

There are so many people I am thankful for, G being the first and foremost. He has always been the gentle guiding force behind me, encouraging when I am down, and reminding to slow down when necessary. Not to forget that he is an excellent sous-chef and my guru in photography. Next, my friends and family, who never fail to encourage me with constructive feedback. Last, but definitely not the least, my blogger buddies, readers and visitors from whom I learn new things every single day. This forum has brought me in touch with some amazing personalities, whose friendships I will always cherish. I am thankful for your constant support and enthusiasm.

This spontaneous blogging break that I am currently on, may extend for a few more weeks. Its more like a fuel-stop, to charge my brain and get the creative juices flowing once again. I will be back shortly. And I request you to bear with me while I am away. Hoping to see you all then!

Black Bean Tortilla Soup

In my earlier post, I mentioned I made a creamy black bean soup along with those vibrant corn muffins. Here is the recipe. The creamy part is due to corn tortillas that gets cooked right in the soup along with the vegetables. As the soup boils, the tortilla melts into the broth, leaving you with velvety soup. I have used an Ancho chilli (a dried poblano), which is mildly hot. You can also use any other Mexican chilli you have on hand, for a different flavour. If you don’t have any of these chilli peppers, use regular red chilli powder. Since I served ‘em corn muffins, I didn’t add corn kernels. But that would be a nice addition if the soup is served on its own.

Black Bean Tortilla Soup
(serves 2)


Oil – 2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Onion – ½ cup, diced
Carrot – ½ cup, diced
Celery – 2 ribs, chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, chopped fine
Tomato – ½ cup, diced
Corn tortilla – 3 or 4, cut into strips
Ancho chilli – 1
Red chilli powder – ¼ - ½ tsp
Better than boullion – 1 tsp or use 1 cup of vegetable stock
Black bean – 2 cups, cooked until soft
Cilantro – ¼ cup, chopped

Lime wedges – to serve
Tortilla chips – to serve, if desired


Soak ancho chili in hot water for 20 minutes. Once it is soft, puree with the soaking water until smooth. Reserve.

In a soup pot, heat oil, roast cumin seeds. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add chopped tomato, corn tortilla strips, pureed Ancho chili, stock, and salt and bring to a brisk boil. Add the cooked black beans, red chilli powder and 1 cup of water. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. If you have a stick blender, partially puree the soup right in the soup pot, so that it remains chunky. Or else, in a blender, puree 1 cup of cooled soup, and add back to the soup pot. This gives the soup its creamy texture. Of course, if you want it chunky all the way, ignore this step. Check for seasoning, and serve hot with lime wedges, tortilla strips and corn muffins.

I hope Vaishali will enjoy this creamy, but vegan delight. Sending this off to her event It’s a Vegan World: Mexican.

Spicy Corn Muffins

Creamy black bean soup was on the menu last night, creamy and very tasty. It was almost dinner time, but, I was in the mood for corn bread. Takes long to cook…hmmm…I will cook them in muffin molds to cut back on the cooking time, I thought to myself. A little bit of this and that, and these muffins were done in no time. I made only 6 (2 for the master, 2 for the dame, 2 for…er… the dame again for snacking), not wanting to have too many leftovers. I made 3 of ‘em with marinated feta, which added a sharp, but subtle punch to the muffins. We loved both versions.

Spicy Corn Muffins
(yields 6 medium ones)


Cornmeal – 1/3 cup
All purpose flour – 1/3 cup
Baking powder – 1 tsp
Salt – a pinch
Egg – 1, small
Vegetable or canola oil – 2 tbsp
Yogurt – 1/3 cup
Sugar – 1½ tbsp
Corn – ¼ cup, fresh or frozen
Scallion/green onion or Cilantro – ¼ cup, chopped
Red pepper flakes – 1 tsp, more if desired
Marinated feta or goat cheese – ¼ cup, crumbled (optional)


Preheat oven to 375F. Line 6 holes in a medium muffin pan with paper liner.

In a larger bowl, mix the first four ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the next four ingredients until mixed well. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture. Mix gently until just combined. Finally, mix in corn, scallion or cilantro, red pepper flakes and feta (if using), to form a uniform mixture. Take care not to over mix. Pour into the prepared muffin molds, bake for 18-20 minutes until firm. Serve warm or at room temperature with soup or salad.

Karadayan Nonbu Adai

Apart from Deepavali and Pongal, the Tamil lunar calendar is dotted with many small scale festivals. Each one of them, with a mythological story behind, is celebrated with specific rites. More importantly, they have their own menu. Some of these menus are time consuming, that they are seldom done a second time in the same year. As a kid, I associated these festivals only through food. The rituals didn’t seem to be of much importance to me. But, as a teenager, I slowly learnt some of these recipes from my mom. She would take me through every step of the preparation, like explaining the different stages of sugar syrup, making a perfect kozhukattai (rice flour dumplings with coconut filling), or shaping a vada. She would also recite the stories and meanings behind the rituals that we perform, giving insights into the Hindu mythology. Not to mention the gossip and giggles we shared. I was a kid with lots of questions, she used to say. Partly curious and partly sceptic. My silly questions and her thoughtful answers is the reason why I know what I know today. These festivities are some of the best bonding moments we had. Thanks Amma!

Karadayan nonbu, which was celebrated last Saturday this year, is one such festivity. The story goes like this. Girl falls in love with a guy who is destined to die within a year. She marries him anyway. On the day of his dying, she tricks the Lord of Death by her ingenuity, brings her husband back to life. And they lived happily ever after. It is believed that the girl prepared these adais as an offering to the Gods, before her husband’s death.
(Characters: Girl – Savirtri, Guy – Satyavan, Lord of Death – Yama. Full story here.)

This nonbu (pronounced no-n-bu, Tamil for fasting) is observed during the first hour of the Tamil month Panguni, which occurs mid-March. The prescribed menu – sweet and savoury adai (steamed rice patty), served with a dab of butter. The rice flour is prepared at home, which makes the adai moist enough. You can also make this with store-bought rice flour. Make sure to use less water in that case.

Making rice flour at home

Soak 1¾ cups of rice for an hour. Drain and spread on a clean, cotton kitchen towel, and let it dry under shade. When it is almost dry, grind into a fine powder in batches. I find that Indian mixers do a good job than food processors. A good coffee grinder may do the job too. Roast the flour in a dry skillet, until the flour is heated through. You don’t have to wait for it to change color, but you should be able to smell the aroma of rice. Let cool, sieve and use in the recipe. This flour can be prepared in advance and stored in air-tight container. This will yield 2 cups of rice flour.

Vella Adai – Sweet
(makes 14)


Rice flour, prepared as mentioned above – 1 cup
Jaggery – 1 cup
Water – 2 ½ cups
Black eye peas/Karamani – 2 tbsp, dry roasted and cooked till soft
Coconut – ¼ cup, cut into small pieces (optional)
Ground cardamom – ¼ tsp
Banana leaves or Sesame/gingelly oil – for lining/greasing the plates


Over medium heat, dissolve jaggery in water. When it comes to a boil, add black-eye peas and coconut. Add rice flour slowly, while whisking briskly with the other hand. If there are lumps, keep stirring until they are gone. Cook until the mixture forms into a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Let cool just until warm. With moist palm and fingertips, take ¼ cup of this mixture, shape into a patty, about ¼-inch thick. With your index finger, make a hole in the center. Arrange the patties on idly plates (or bamboo steamer) without overlapping. You can line the plates with banana leaves, if available. Otherwise, generously grease the plates with sesame oil. Steam cook for 10 minutes.

Kara Adai – Savoury
(makes 13)


Rice flour, prepared as mentioned above – 1 cup
Water – 2 cups
Black eye peas – 2 tbsp, dry roasted and cooked till soft
Coconut – ¼ cup, cut into small pieces (optional)
Banana leaves or Sesame/gingelly oil – for lining/greasing the plates


Oil – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Ginger – 1 tsp, finely chopped
Fresh green chilli – 1, chopped, seeded if desired
Asafoetida – a pinch
Curry leaves – 5 or 6, torn


Over medium heat, heat oil, and add the ingredients given under seasoning, in the same order. Once they are toasty, add water and let it come to a boil. Add black-eye peas, coconut and salt. Stream in the rice flour while simultaneously whisking with the other hand. Cook until the mixture forms into a ball and pulls away from the sides. Shape and steam as mentioned above.

Enjoy sweet and savoury adai with a dab of butter.

This festivity, celebrated by a small community in one corner of the world, may sound strange to many of you, quite understandably. But, this may help a few of you, if you too practice these rituals. Most importantly, I don’t have to scratch my head next year over the measurements.

Varuthu Araitha Kootu – Vegetable Dal With Freshly Ground Spices

Varuthu – roasted, araitha – ground, kootu – medley. That’s all. Freshly ground spices with cooked dal and vegetables – healthy one pot meal. Poricha kootu and varuthu araitha kootu are stand-ins for the traditional sambar. They are usually made without tamarind. But what the kootu lacks in tang, is made up by the freshly roasted spices. My mom usually made this kootu with odd vegetables lying in the crisper. I used to be puzzled why this kootu was followed by my Appa’s visit to the market :). In the later days, my mom prepared it, even if the fridge was brimming with produce. She used to happily oblige with a tenderly request, knowing how much I loved it.

Varuthu Araitha Kootu

(Serves 2)

Moong dal – 1/3 cup
Mixed vegetables – 3 cups, cubed
(potato, peas, elephant yam, drumstick, chayote squash, white pumpkin, turnips, cluster beans)
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Oil – 2 tsp, divided

Spice Mixture

Red chillies – 4
Black pepper – 6
Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Grated coconut – 2 tbsp
Asafoetida – a pinch
Curry leaves – 7 or 8


Cook moong dal until soft. Cook vegetables in water with salt and turmeric until soft. While the vegetables are cooking, heat a tsp of oil and roast red chillies, black pepper and urad dal until golden. Let cool and grind along with coconut, asafoetida and curry leaves to a smooth paste. When the vegetables are cooked through, add cooked dal, the ground spice mixture and salt and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Finish off by adding spluttered mustard seeds in the remaining oil. Serve hot with rice and gingelly oil or ghee. We enjoyed ours with urad dal appalam(South Indian savoury wafer).

This is my entry to No Croutons Required: Indian Soup or Salad, co-hosted by Lisa and Holler.

Ravishing Radish Sandwich With Poppy Seed Dressing

Easter egg radishes - crunchy, peppery and downright colourful. Who could resist that? I seldom cook these beauties. They end being mushy and smell awful. The only time I would do that is while making sambar. Otherwise, they are good to go with just a squirt of lemon juice and salt. The radish greens, with a mild radish-y flavour, taste equally good too. If you haven’t cooked the greens, you should definitely give a try. In addition to being nutritious and tasty, its economical. I have paid for those organic greens along with the roots. And I am going to use every bit of it.

A good place to start, is to cook them with lentils. Also, Kalyn’s crustless quiche is a very good recipe for radish and beet greens. Otherwise, you can enjoy them in sandwiches like I did. Garlicky radish greens are piled along with sautéed sweet peppers and onions. Complementing the vegetables is the creamy poppy seed spread. Those tiny little seeds add an interesting crunch making this a regular in my kitchen. On the whole, I think this sandwich will also be nice as a warm salad, served with toasts on the side.

Poppy Seed Spread

Tofutti or cream cheese or mayonnaise or thick yogurt – ½ cup
* I used a combination of tofutti and yogurt
Poppy seeds – ½ tbsp
Lemon zest – 1 tsp
Lemon juice – 2 tbsp
Sugar – ½ tsp
Red pepper flakes

Whisk all of the above in a bowl into a smooth mixture.

Ingredients For the Sandwich

Bunch radish – 5 or 6, sliced into thin rounds
Bell peppers of any colour – 2, sliced
Red onion – 1 cup, sliced thin
Radish greens – 2 cups, chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, chopped fine
Red pepper flakes – a pinch

Sliced bread – as needed


In a skillet, sauté bell peppers and onions separately with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate. In the same skillet, stir fry radish greens with garlic and red pepper flakes, until wilted but green. Its always a good practice to wait till the last minute, while adding salt to any greens. They cook down so much, and may end up too salty. So, just before removing the radish greens from the skillet, add a pinch of salt, toss and transfer to the plate with peppers.

Toast bread, apply spread on both the slices, pile sautéed greens, peppers, onion and sliced radish, cover with the other slice, slightly press, cut and serve.

Fig - Red Onion Confit

I was in the mood for a three course meal the other day. Cornmeal crusted mini-tarts, store-bought mango sorbet (made with alphonso, I can’t get enough of this stuff. Its always in my freezer) were on the menu. I still wanted something to nibble, for starters. Inspired from a meal at Café Flora, I made this onion confit. What’s better? It can be served at room temperature. That is a rule of thumb I follow for entertaining, even its for just the two of us. One make-ahead course, one course to be enjoyed hot and for the other course , a little help from the store. The order doesn’t really matter, but it takes the pressure out of entertaining.

I have used aged, thick and syrupy balsamic vinegar, which is added toward the end. For the price you pay, it’s a crime to boil aged balsamic vinegar, IMO. But if you have the regular kind, go ahead and use it. But add 5 minutes before finishing the dish, to let it boil and reduce. I have also used fig preserves that I found at my local market. But if you can’t find it, soak dry figs in hot water, grind to a smooth paste along with sugar and use in the recipe.

Fig-Red Onion Confit
(makes about 1½ cups)


Red onion – about 3 cups, thinly sliced
Sugar – 1 tbsp
Salt – as needed
Pepper – few cracks
Fig preserves – 3 tbsp
Thick, aged balsamic vinegar – 3 tbsp
Oil – a splash


In a skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat. Add onions, sugar, salt and pepper and cook the onions for about 15 minutes, stirring in between. If they get stuck to the bottom of the pan, sprinkle a tbsp or two of water, vigorously shake and deglaze the pan and continue cooking. Once the onions turn soft and brown, add fig preserves and balsamic vinegar. Remove from heat, mix thoroughly, let cool in the pan and serve cold or at room temperature.

I served the confit in a platter along with olives, capers, toasts and tofutti. Tofutti is cholesterol-free and is as good as its dairy counterpart. It’s a standard spread for my sandwiches. We also enjoyed it cold, on plain toast with coffee, the next day. This is my entry to Heart of the Matter – Finger Foods. HOTM celebrates its second anniversary.

Marinated Feta

What a way to infuse flavor into spoilt milk.. ahem.. cheese? It quickly caught my attention when the uber-talented and famous David Lebovitz posted it. The idea was as delightful as his blog. As simple as it may sound, the tangy feta mellows down after soaking in the fruity olive oil. The herbs add a nice touch and so do the chillies. I too refrained from using garlic due to ill effects as mentioned in his post.

Here's the method. Feel free to be creative.

  • Feta cheese cut into cubes
  • Any fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, basil, etc
  • Whole or crushed black peppercorns, and/or slit red chillies, and/or red pepper flakes
  • Good quality olive oil

In a clean, non-reactive bowl/jar, stack the feta cubes. Throw in herbs and pepper in between the cheese layers. Fill with olive oil, cover the jar and leave it in the fridge for a few days , to let the flavours develop.

Marinated feta on toasted focaccia

It is plainly divine as such, slathered on a crostini(fancy talk for a thin toast), or as a spread for your favourite sandwich (like I did with this omelet sandwich for lunch today). Kevin adds roasted red peppers and olives to his mixture. Sounds delicious. I will definitely do that next time.

Quick Paneer-Mint-Vegetable Sauté

Its already March? When did that happen? Time sure does fly. But I have something to look forward to this month. Its Zlamushka’s Tried and Tested. Yes, its back. Its one of my favourite blog events and better yet, its my blog that is in spotlight this month. Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf has generously accepted to host an edition featuring "Tasty Palettes". I am little nervous knowing that my recipes would be tried and tested by fellow bloggers. The recipes that are featured were tested in my kitchen first. I hope you will like 'em too. So, with fingers crossed, I await your judgment. My sincere thanks to Zlamushka and Sweatha.

Now, coming to the recipe, if there is one, is a medley of vegetables, paneer and tons of herbs. My MIL once made this curry for a quick dinner. I loved the simplicity of the dish, and set to make it on my own. I stuck to the original preparation in using sambar powder, but added a few touches of my own (when do I cook without that). Just like I took liberty in adding local vegetables, you can add whatever you have on hand. Just make sure all the vegetables would marry well. But mint is a vital ingredient in this recipe. It made a huge difference that pushed me to blog about this simple sauté.

Quick Paneer-Mint-Vegetable Sauté
(serves 2)


Onion - 1
Garlic -1 clove, minced
Carrot – 1
Parsnip - 1
Potato – 1
Red and/or Green bell pepper – 1
Paneer – 200g/7 oz
Mint and Coriander – packed ½ cup, finely chopped
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Cardamom – 1, crushed
Clove - 1
Oil – a splash

Spice Mixture

Home made or store bought sambar powder – 1 tbsp
Your favourite spice mixture like garam masala or kitchen king masala – ½ tbsp
Coriander powder – 2 tsp and Red chilli powder – 1 tsp


Cut all the vegetables into ¼” thick and 2” long strips. Cut paneer similarly.

In a wide pan, heat oil over medium heat, and gently roast crushed cardamom and clove. When they start to sizzle, add onion and garlic and sauté for a minute. Add all the vegetables, turmeric powder, your choice of spice mixture and salt; mix well. Cover and cook the vegetables, sprinkling water intermittently. Keep gently stirring, so that the vegetables don’t stick to the pan. When the vegetables are cooked, add paneer and chopped herbs. Mix well and let the cheese heat though. Serve warm with roti or any flatbread.

Indian Spiced Millet And Black Bean Timbale

Its no secret that even an ordinary dish can look extra ordinary with proper plating. You don’t have to go to great heights to achieve restaurant-like perfection. With a little creativity and attention to detail, this can be a snap.

Like I did with this timbale. Creamy millet imitating mashed potatoes, black beans dressed with Indian spices instead of the usual Mexican flavour, and a little raw vegetable for crunch and colour are stacked, rather than being scooped onto a plate. It may look fancy, but is really simple. Of course, this is just an idea, rather than a recipe. You can change the grain, bean and the vegetables per your liking. The medley of different flavours and textures was gratifying. All-in-all, this recipe is definitely a keeper. “It tastes like pongal” G said, after the first bite. I took that as a compliment, knowing how much he loves pongal.

Creamy Millet and Black Bean Timbale
(serves 2)


Millet Layer

Oil – 1 tsp
Onion – ½ cup, fine dice
Garlic – 1 clove, minced
Green chilli – 1, slit
Millet – 2/3 cup
Water – 2 cups
Yogurt – ½ cup
Water – ½ - 1 cup, or as needed
Cilantro – 1 tbsp, chopped finely

Bean Layer

Black beans – 2 cups, cooked and slightly mashed
Zest and juice of half a lime
Ground coriander – 1 tsp
Red pepper flakes – a pinch

Tomato and/or red bell pepper – 2 cups, small dice
Scallions, cilantro or green garlic – 2 stalks, sliced thin


In a thick bottomed pan, heat oil, toast cumin seeds, followed by onion, garlic, and green chilli. Once the onion starts to soften, add millet, water and salt. Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes. Alternately, pressure cook for three whistles. The grain should be soft and mushy. Let cool slightly, add yogurt and ½ cup of water. The mixture should have the consistency of pudding. Add more water, if necessary. In another bowl, toss all the ingredients listed under bean layer and set aside.

To assemble, oil the insides of a mold ring, or an empty can with both the top and bottom off. Fill half the mold with millet. With wet finger tips, slightly push the mixture to form a solid layer. Top with tomato/bell pepper mixture. Finally scoop the black beans. Gently remove the mold, garnish with a herb of your choice.

If you don’t have a ring mold or an empty can, use a ramekin, build the layers backwards, unmold and serve. If layering is not your thing, don’t worry. Fill any bowl of your choice with the millet mixture in, unmold onto a serving plate, scoop beans and vegetables on top and enjoy. Your kitchen, your rules!

Timbale sprinkled with green garlic; enjoyed with tangerine soda

This is my entry to My Legume Love Affair, eighth helping. After visiting other blogs, this event is back at home this month.

‘Shrooms In My Pizza

Pizza – a good canvas for.. whatever. Anything goes on a pizza, as long as you figure out what flavours go well with each other. Pizza base is a crucial factor for a good pizza. Although I have tried various pizza dough recipes, I always, always come back to Slash Food’s recipe. This dough makes for a mean pizza margherita. But it does equally well with other toppings too. Be it a vegan pizza , or a pizzette served on the side with soup/salad, this recipe has withstood all my tests. This is, by far, my favourite pizza dough ever.

I spotted some gorgeous mushrooms in store last week. I bagged some (gosh, the organic ones are very pricey) with wild-mushroom lasagna on mind. After a sumptuous hunter’s omelet, I ditched lasagna and decided on pizza. I am so glad I did. It was The Best pizza we have ever had. The flavors were harmonious and the pizza was just divine.

After so many failures, I have discovered a good way of getting restaurant style sautéed mushrooms. As a rule, I always sauté mushrooms in a dab of butter. I let the skillet get screaming hot, melt a little butter, swirl the pan to coat the fat evenly, lay out mushrooms in a single layer and do not disturb for 2-3 minutes. When it has caramelized on one side, toss and brown the other side. Add salt just before removing from the skillet. I’ve had consistent results with this method and this is the only way I cook mushrooms.

Coming to the pizza, there is not much of recipe, but here’s what I did. Sauté mushrooms (any kind would do) as said above. Roll out the dough thinly, top with sautéed mushrooms, sliced red onions, thinly sliced garlic, thyme, pepper jack cheese and red pepper flakes. Slide into a 500F oven, and bake for 10-12 minutes. If your oven can go to higher temps, bake for lesser time. When browned around the edges, pull the pizza out, top with shredded parmesan and serve hot.

This recipe makes two pizza dough. For the second one, I used leftover eggplant stacks. I scraped off the tomato sauce, brushed the dough, laid the eggplant slices, and topped with feta cheese. I was surprised how delicious and versatile these eggplants were. A keeper, definitely!

Edited to add: This is my entry to Click-Cheese.

Goodness Stacked – Easy Eggplant Bake

G and I love a good eggplant dish at any meal, any day of the week. I can’t remember a single grocery trip that we spotted, but skipped buying Indian eggplants. If its in the store, its in our shopping cart. We have some favourite eggplant recipes, and eggplant-parmesan is way up the list. There is a restaurant that serves it just the way we like it. But after I happened to know how much calories it packed, I always make it at home. One time, I accidentally (ahem, lazily) made up an easy method, with fantastic results. Now I make this much often.

These stacks are baked in a ramekin and are done in just 20 minutes. Not to mention, they make for an elegant presentation. Or you can bake them in a casserole for family style meal. Just remember to bake longer.

Easy Eggplant Bake
(serves 2 as main course, 4 as side dish)


Large eggplants – 2, sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds
Juice of a lemon

Parmesan cheese - optional for vegan version


Tomato puree – 1 28 oz can
Red onion/shallot – ¼ cup
Garlic – 1 clove, minced
Red pepper flakes – 1 tsp
Fresh herb (thyme, oregano, rosemary, parsley or cilantro) – 1-2 tbsp, chopped
Oil – a splash


Preheat oven at 375F. Heat a large skillet, lightly coat the bottom with oil. Toast eggplant slices in batches, laying them in a single layer on the pan. When you take the slices off the pan, hit with a quick squirt of lemon juice.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a sauce pan, sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add tomato puree, red pepper flakes, salt and ½ cup of water. Boil for 12-15 minutes the sauce comes together. Stir in herbs and take off the heat.

Lightly coat 6 ramekins (or a casserole) with oil. Spoon a tbsp of sauce in the bottom. Divide eggplant slices among the ramekins. If needed, apply a little pressure to fit. Spoon remaining sauce, transfer ramekins onto a baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, flip the stack onto a plate and serve with shredded parmesan cheese, if desired. Boil some whole wheat noodles and serve as a main dish. Or load up your plate with eggplants and a couple of crusty toasts.

For making this a vegan delight, loose the cheese and enjoy with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The eggplants soak up the tomato juices, and the tomato itself condenses leaving an intense flavor explosion in your mouth. We totally loved it.

This is my entry to Vaishali’s new event It’s A Vegan World. Each month features a world cuisine and this month, its Italian.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

My yoga master once said that we all go through energy blocks twice a year. Once around the beginning of the year and once around your birthday. You either feel sluggish, lacking energy, or downright fall sick. Surprisingly, I have noticed this to be true during more than one instance (or that my mind is playing tricks on me). Last year this time, I felt the same energy slump; 'Burn out’ as one of my blogger friends put it. I was uninspired for the better part of last month, and I am slowly reeling out of it. A clear day with plentiful sunshine and a shopping spree for new props was just the motivation I needed. I hope this vim continues for rest of the year.

To break free from the monotonous mood, I set to make ‘pillows of heaven’. No, not idly, its gnocchi this time. I have been wanting to try making it with sweet potato, rather than the usual potato. I had no recipe in mind, just mixing a little of this and that. And as the dough came together, so did the clouds. ‘Oh snap’, I thought, ‘there goes the photo shoot’. A little upset, I proceeded with the rest of the procedure. As I sat down by the French window making gnocchi, sheets of rain had started pouring down, tapping the glass door. That moment was so therapeutic that I forgot about the passing time. There is something mesmerizing about rainfall; bringing time to stand still.

But a meal had to be served, and I hastened to the kitchen. Once the dumplings are shaped, the rest is a breeze. Cook ‘em in pot of boiling water and serve with pesto or vinaigrette. The gnocchi was delicious. The texture was just right, neither too soft nor tough. I served mine with a pecan salad inspired from this recipe. I also managed to click few shots bent in awkward positions.

I made a double batch and froze the rest, but I could barely resist using them within a week. This time I pan fried the cooked gnocchi in a little butter and sage, and tossed them with a generous helping of roasted winter vegetables. Funny that my mind associated sweet potato gnocchi with rain even this time.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
(serves 4)


Sweet Potato – 4, small, yielding about 3 cups of pulp
Flour – about 2¼ cups, plus more for dusting
Egg – 1


Microwave or steam the sweet potatoes. Peel and mash the pulp in a bowl. Add egg, salt, pepper and 2 cups of flour and start mixing lightly with a fork. Add more flour if needed. When finished the dough will be slightly sticky, but workable. Avoid over-working the dough, else you will end up with tough dumplings.

Transfer the dough to a well-floured working surface. Divide the dough into 4, and roll them into long ropes, about ½ inch thick. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes. While the dough rests, clear the working area.

Take the dough ropes from the fridge, and cut 1 inch pieces with a floured knife. Gnocchi is good to go just like this. If you want ridges, coat a fork lightly with flour, and press against the little dough pieces, like the ones here. But if you want the classic rolled, ridged shape, take the fork and lightly coat with flour. Take one piece and press and stretch the dough against the fork using your fingers, like the letter ‘C’. Now, roll the backside of the flour slightly toward the end of the fork. With practice, the backside of gnocchi will lift as you press and stretch the front end. Gently lift the dough from the fork and transfer to a large plate or a baking sheet liberally sprinkled with flour. Make sure the gnocchi is well coated with flour, as they tend to stick together.

When ready to serve, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Gently shake excess flour off the dumplings and add to the pot of water. They are cooked when they float to the top. Drain, and serve immediately.

Serve tossed in your favourite cream sauce, pesto, vinaigrette or with roasted vegetables.

Pecan salad

Pecan – 1 cup, lightly roasted
Salad greens – about 4 cups (more if you like)


Lemon juice – ¼ cup
Garlic – 1 clove, minced
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Parsley or cilantro – ¼ cup, chopped
Olive oil – 2 to 4 tbsp
Red pepper flakes – a pinch


Whisk all of the ingredients to make the vinaigrette. The hot gnocchi instantly absorbs the flavours of the dressing. Toss with pecans, salad greens, and gnocchi, and serve with a crack of black pepper.

Even if you are cooking for one or two, go ahead and make the whole deal. Gnocchi is time consuming and requires patience. And, if you are going to dirty a bunch of dishes, you might as well double the batch, right? Cook and clean once, but enjoy twice. Cook as much gnocchi as you want. Spread the uncooked gnocchi on a floured plate or sheet and slide into the freezer. Once they are completely frozen, transfer them to a freezer safe bag and store. When ready, directly transfer the gnocchi from the freezer to the pot of boiling water.

This goes to Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen, who is hosting Food In Color – Orange.