Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Plum Thoku (chutney, pickle, spread...whatever you want to call it)

I had a lot of plums sitting in my fridge. I have been getting them in my weekly organic produce box from Tiny's organic. I love plums, but eating ATLEAST two a day for more then 3 weeks gets boring, so I had to find out some ways to use them up:). I have one more organic produce box due tomorrow, and I am sure I am getting more plums:)
I looked up online for spicy/savory eggless and vegetarian recipes using plum, but couldn't find anything that I liked. So, I thought of using them up by making plum thoku, just like I made the tomato thoku to use up the whole lot of tomatoes I got from my veggie garden.

While I was getting the plums out of my fridge, I saw that I also had a small bag full of tomatillos. I had planned to make tomatillo salsa out of them, but then I thought that the sourness of the tomatillos will go well with the sweet plum, and I might get a very good tasting pickle (thoku) with this combination. I wasn't wrong!!. My husband and I were licking our spoons when I emptied with pickle from the cooking pan to a jar:). Here is the recipe for the Plum-Tomatillo thoku I made.

Note: As mentioned above, I added Tomatillos as an after thought. My initial plan was to make the thoku using the plums. If you do not have tomatillos, you can add about 1.5 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to give some tartness to the thoku/chutney/pickle.

5 Medium Plums, Finley Chopped (about 1.5 cups Chopped)
5 Medium Tomatillos, Finley Chopped (about 1.5 Cups Chopped)
Salt to Taste,
2 Tablespoon Jaggery (Gud), Grated (adjust the amount based on the sweetness of the plum)
1/4 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder,
2 Tablespoon Sāmbhar Masala,

To Roast and Grind:
1/2 Teaspoon Oil,
5 Dried Red Chills
1.5 Teaspoon Fenugreek Seeds (Methi Seeds)

To Temper:
1/2 Teaspoon Oil
1 Teaspoon Mustard Seeds,
1/4 Teaspoon Asafoetida,

Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a pan. Once it is hot, turn the heat to medium-low and add the dried chilis and fenugreek seeds. Cook on medium-low flame for about 3-4 minutes, or until the fenugreek seeds start changing color. Do not let the seeds turn dark brown. This will give a very bitter after taste. Just roast the seeds until golden brown. Take off the stove, and transfer to a mixer grinder and set aside. Grind to a coarse powder. ( I used mortar and pastel).

Heat the remaining 1/2 teaspoon in the same pan. Once hot, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds stop spluttering, add the Asafoetida and tomatillos and cover immediately. Turn the heat to medium and cook covered for 30 seconds. Take off the lid, then add the turmeric powder and salt. No need to add any water as far as the heat is set to low, and the tomatillos are getting soft and releasing water. Cover and cook stirring often.
When the tomatillos are half cooked, add the plums. Cover and cook for 1-2 minutes. Take off the heat, and roughly mash the fruits in the pan with the help of a potato masher. Add little water if the mixture is getting too dry and if the fruits are not completely cooked yet. (I didn't have to add any water).
Once the plums are almost done, add the ground methi-chili powder, Sāmbhar powder and jaggery. Stir well. Cover with a splatter screen. Cook until the mixture gets thick (like chutney/spread consistency). Turn off the stove and let the mixture cool down completely.

Serve as a side with puri, paratha, roti or spread it on toast. Tastes good on its own too.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Delicata Squash Soup (Panera Bread Style Autumn Squash Soup)

Yesterday my husband and I went to Panera bread for lunch. We usually order our "regular stuff" (Tomato soup or Garden Veggie soup and Mediterranean veggie sandwich) here because they have limited options for vegetarians.

Yesterday, I saw the Autumn Squash Soup on their menu under the vegetarian section. I have to confess, I am not a big squash soup fan. I have tried squash soup many times before, but it has always tasted pretty bland to me with over powering squash flavor.
Since Panera Bread is one my favorite places for soups, I wanted to see if I would like the soup here. I asked the cashier if I can taste the soup before ordering. He was happy to provide me with a small portion for tasting.

Both me and my husband loved it, and instead of going for the two different personal size soups mentioned above, we ended up getting a big bowl of the autumn squash soup. The soup wasn't bland at all, but it didn't have any spicy flavor to it either. It was sweet with mild spicy flavor. Since I loved the soup (and luckily I had received a squash in my organic basked last week), I had to try it at home.

Panera Bread's website mentions Butternut squash, pumpkin, apples, honey, and curry powder in the list of ingredients for the soup. I tried to look up for a recipe online. I saw many versions of "copycat" recipes for this soup, but none of them listed pumpkin in them. So, I made up my own recipe.

Since I had delicate squash at home, that is what I used. You can substitute with Butternut Squash if you like.

Okay, enough of the history:). Here is the recipe.

1 Medium Delicata Squash, Peeled, Seeded and Chopped into 1inch Cubes (Yields about 3 Cups of Chopped Squash)
1 Cup Pumpkin, Peeled, Seeded and Chopped into 1 inch Cubes,
1 Medium Honey Crisp or Gala Apple, Seeded and Chopped into 1 inch cubes, No Need to Peel (You can try a bit sour varieties like Granny Smith too to impart some tartness to the soup),
Salt to taste
5 No. All Spice, Crushed (1 Teaspoon Powder), Optional
1 Leek, (about 1/3 Cup Chopped) Green Portion Removed, White Portion Chopped Finley (You can substitute this with Onion).
3 Tablespoon Honey,
1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Crushed Pepper,
2 Teaspoon Garam Masala (or Curry Powder)
1 Tablespoon Oil
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Milk

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chopped squash, pumpkin and apple in a deep baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the squash and pumpkin get soft. Take out of the oven, take off the foil and let it cool.

In the meantime, heat oil in a pan. Once it is hot, add the leek (or onion) and cook on medium heat until translucent.

While the leek is getting cooked, mash the squash, pumpkin and apples with the help of a potato masher. Add the milk and mix well. Add the mixture to the cooked leek. Add salt, honey, garam masala(curry powder), all spice (optional) and the crushed black pepper and mix well. Add water as needed (I used 1/2 cup).

Let this mixture cook for about a minute and then turn off the stove. Let it cool a bit.

In a mixer grinder or a food processor, puree the mixture in small batches. Return the puree to the cooking pan and simmer covered for 5 minutes.

Serve hot garnished with toasted squash or pumpkin seeds.

Note: See this post for the toasted seeds recipe.
Tip: I put the seeds in the oven when I put the squash and pumpkin. The seeds were done in about 15 minutes.

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Homemade Oven Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (and Delicata Squash Seeds)

I made Delicata squash and pumpkin soup two days back. When I scooped out the seeds, and was about to toss them in the compost can, I just remembered how much I love toasted seeds, so I thought of giving it a try at home.

Toasting the seeds at home is very easy, and doesn't take a long time either.

Method: Cut open your favorite squash. With the help of a spoon, scoop out all the seeds. Clean up as much  fiber/pulp you can as possible.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Transfer the seeds to a baking tray (cookie sheet). For about 1/2 cup of seeds. Sprinkle some salt and mix well. Toast in the oven for 15 minutes or until crunchy.

Take out and let them cool down.


Here is a picture of my new super crunchy office snack:) My homemade oven roasted pumpkin seeds.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sabudana Ladoo

During navaratri, we make some sweet everyday. Yesterday, I made sabudana ladoo. My daughter loved them. The following recipe will make about 8-9 small ladoos.

3/4 Cup Sabudna  (Sago/Tapioca Pearls),
1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar,
5 Tablespoon Melted Ghee,
1/4 Teaspoon Cardamom Seeds,
1/4 Teaspoon Ginger Powder,
1 Tablespoon Desiccated Coconut, (Optional)
1 Tablespoon Poppy Seeds (Optional)

In a heavy bottom pan, dry roast the sabudana on low-medium flame for 20-25 minutes, or until it just starts changing color to very light brown. At this point, add the cardamom seeds. Roast for another minute. Turn off the stove, and spread the sabudana on a plate to cool down.

Once cool enough to handle (warm), transfer to a mixer grinder and grind to a fine powder. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and add the sugar, ghee, and ginger powder. Stir and mix well. While still warm, shape into small ladoos. Spread the coconut and poppy seeds in a plate. Roll each ladoo in the coconut and then in poppy seeds (or in just one of them). Serve.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup (Fresh Tomatoes)

Last week I received huge heirloom tomatoes and a big bag full of fresh basil in my weekly organic produce box from Tiny's Organic. Everyone in my house loves tomato soup. So as soon as I saw those big juicy tomatoes and the bountiful of basil, I knew what I was going to make. I make many different versions of creamy tomato basil soup.

One of the recipes I had posted earlier uses carrots, garlic and Ricotta cheese and garlic. I didn't have any carrots or Ricotta cheese at home this week, so I made another version with of the soup this time.
This time, I used onions, and fresh cream in my soup.

4 Big and Juice Tomatoes, Chopped (Or about 5-1/2 cups chopped tomatoes)
1.5 Cups Fresh Basil Leaves, Chopped
1/2 Cup Onion, Chopped
1/4 Cup Cream, (Optional, Omit the cream if you want Fat-Free Soup)
2 Tablespoon Olive Oil,
1 Tablespoon Sugar,
Salt to Taste,
3 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper,
2 Cups Water,
3 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1/4 Cup Cilantro, Chopped (You can use parsley too).

Heat oil in a pan. When hot, add the onions, and turn the heat to medium low. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions turn translucent. Now add the tomato paste and 1/4 cup water. Cook again for 5 more minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, sugar and the remaining water. Cook covered on medium heat until the tomatoes start to soften. Add the basil, ground black pepper and cream. Cover and cook again for 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat.

If you have a hand blender, you can use it directly in the pan to blend and puree the tomatoes. Otherwise, wait until it has cooled down completely. Transfer to a mixer grinder and make puree. Transfer it back to the pan. In either cases simmer for 10 minutes or until bubbly. Switch off the stove, and serve hot.

Sorry, forgot to take a picture.

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