Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rye Crepes / Dosai

I was looking up the Indian term for rye when I came across this hilarious Q & A on a forum. Apparently some other person was seeking the answer to this question too and had posed that question on the forum. The answers ranged from suggesting to the questioner to look up Aishwariya Rai (an Indian actress) to suggesting that it could be rai as in mustard seeds.So even though I did not find the answer to my question I enjoyed a  hearty laugh at some of the creative and innovative replies to this question.  Apparently rye does not seem to have an Indian equivalent term or if it does I have not been able to find it yet. 

Rye is a cereal grain that looks like wheat but is longer and more slender. It has immense health benefits including being fiber rich and also rich in magnesium. It is also said to decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes and is said to protect against certain types of cancer. I bought rye on my last trip to whole foods with the idea of baking bread with it. But when I was researching about rye I learned that baking bread with rye is a little more difficult since it has lower levels of gluten than wheat. 

So I decided to use the rye flour in some Indian preparation, the first thought was to add it to roti (Indian flat bread) . Later though, I decided against rye roti in favor of rye crepes (dosai) since dosai is almost always a sure fire success in my home. So I added rye flour along with other flours to make a batter and ground some spices to add the element of flavor for the crepe.These crepes were quick and easy to make and turned out tasty, tender and crisp.I served them with classic cilantro coconut chutney but you can serve it with any chutney of your choice. 

Ingredients and Method to make Rye Crepes/ Dosai 

3/4 cup rye flour 
3/4 cup semolina (medium rava)  
 3/4 cup rice flour   
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (atta) 
salt to taste (I used approx about 2 tsp) 

Grind together
10 curry leaves
1 to 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger
3 serrano peppers (or according to taste)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp asafoetida (hing)
handful of cilantro

3 1/2 cups of water
A few drops of sesame oil or any other oil to shallow fry the dosai 

Add all the ingredients from1 through 5 in a large bowl, mix well and keep aside.

Grind all the ingredients mentioned in grind together along with half a cup of water until fine and  add to the dry flours.

Add the balance of  the water (3 cups) a little at a time, mixing thoroughly while doing so.

Let the batter rest for a few minutes

Heat a griddle/ flat pan on medium to medium high heat

Pour a ladle of  the batter on the center and spread quickly in a thin circle as thinly as you would like it

A very thin crepe would be crisp whereas a thicker crepe would be soft and tender so you can make the thickness of the crepe depending on your likes 

Sprinkle a few drops of oil on the side facing upwards. When the lower side is browned, flip the crepe over and cook the other side for a few minutes until pinkish/ brownish spots appear on the other side.

Serve hot with chutney of choice or sambar of choice

Yielded approximately 14 to 15 average sized crepes

You can use brown rice flour instead of plain rice flour too
With serrano peppers this was very very mild and not very spicy so if  you  like more heat try using Indian variety or thai variety of green chillies
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pesto Pizza with Oat Wheat Crust

Oat and Oat flour are fast becoming my favorite resource in baking breads. Oats,  in addition to being ultra healthy, add such a wonderful texture to bread. Also unlike whole wheat flour, oat flour does not seem to make the bread too dense and makes it easier to make bread healthier without compromising on the lightness of the bread. 

After having experimented with oat flour in loaf bread a few times, I thought of trying oat flour in pizza crust. I have also been wanting to try the idea of adding a small amount of cornmeal to the pizza crust, since I read somewhere, that doing so,  makes the crust a little more crunchy. The verdict....the pizza crust turned out fantastic, we loved it even more than the whole wheat crust I regularly make. The crust was slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, just the way I like  it:-)    Try this if you are looking for a healthier alternative to the all purpose flour crust but find the whole wheat a little too dense for  your liking.

Ingredients and method for the crust
1 1/4 cup oat flour (I powdered Rolled Oats in my spice jar of my blender to get flour)
1 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
1 cup all purpose flour (maida)
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 heaped tbsp cornmeal
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning (optional)
3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk

For the pizza
2 tbsp pesto 
toppings according to choice (I used onions, mushrooms, bell pepper)
Crushed red pepper (according to taste) (Optional)
Shredded pizza blend cheese (a combination of cheddar and mozzarella) (according to taste) 

Mix the oat flour, wheat flour, all purpose flour, cornmeal, salt and Italian seasoning in a large bowl and keep aside

Place warm water in  a bowl add active dry yeast and sugar to it and mix well. Keep aside for about 5 to 10 minutes until it froths up.

Pour this water and warm milk as needed to knead into a soft pliable dough. Knead for about ten minutes.

Add olive oil to this and knead again for a few minutes.

Keep covered in a warm place for about an hour to an hour and a half. (I place this in my oven with the light on)

Remove, punch down gently and knead again for a minute or two and divide the dough into three parts and keep covered in a warm place to rise again.

Pre heat oven to 425 deg F

Roll the dough to required thickness and apply pesto sauce.

Top with toppings of choice and finally add grated cheese

Bake in oven for about 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese on top is melted and beginning to brown slightly.

Remove, cut into wedges and serve  hot.

This yielded me about 3 eight inch crusts of medium thickness.

You can use store bought oat flour instead of grinding rolled oats.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Schezuan Fried Rice

Are you one of those persons that tear up at the mere thought of cutting onions, if yes, you may find this post interesting. I have seen people at both ends of the spectrum, some who do not shed one tear while cutting onions and some who tear up when others are cutting onions across the room.  I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle,  I tear up when I am cutting onions and if I am standing close to the person cutting onions.   And when I tear up I really do,   I never shed dainty tears the way some do,  I tear up to the point where my eyes look like I have been bawling for an hour :-)  

So when I came across a tip that may reduce tears when cutting onions I was obviously interested. The tip is to place the onion you are planning to cut,  in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes before starting to cut it. So the last time I was using onions,  I first placed one onion in a plastic cover (like the zip loc covers) zipped it closed and placed it in the freezer while I was doing the prep work for the rest of the dish. About 20 minutes later I removed the onion from the freezer and cut it and sure enough, I cut the entire onion without a single tear....Yea I am always happy with tips that make my life easier in the kitchen:-)   My only suggestion when you try this tip is to make sure that your onion is in a tightly sealed plastic bag so that the onion smell does not get into your freezer.

Moving on,  R loves Indo-Chinese cuisine, and would love to have it more than once a week if possible. But we do not have it as much as we used to, buying Indo- chinese from restaurants got complicated when I started learning about MSG and how it is not good for us. Making this cuisine at home does not happen as regularly as R would like it. So when I came across this recipe  on Chitra's site for Schezuan rice, I thought this might be something R would like and decided to surprise him with it. This was a simple and spicy dish that was much appreciated by both of us. I made it using brown basmati and loved the taste of it. The convenience of using brown rice in this is that brown rice holds its shape and texture more easily, so I do not have to wait for the rice to cool down thoroughly as I would if using white rice.

Ingredients and Method to make Schezuan Fried Rice 

1 1/4 cup brown basmati rice soaked in 2 cups of water for about 1/2 an hour and cooked until done
I cooked this in a rice cooker but you can use a pressure cooker for this too.

1 yellow onion cut fine
2 cups cabbage cut fine
3 cups of other veggies ( I used cauliflower florets+ peas+ carrots)
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp schezuan sauce (recipe below)
1 tbsp soy sauce
salt to taste

Soak basmati rice for about 1/2 an hour and cook it either in a rice cooker or pressure cooker until done.

Spread it out on a plate to cool 

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan and add onion to it and saute until transparent.

Add cabbage and all other vegetables and saute until cooked and still crisp (Do not add any water in the process of cooking vegetables)

Add the schezuan sauce, soy sauce and mix well with vegetables.

Add cooled rice and salt to taste and mix well and heat on a low to medium heat until ready to serve.

Serve with steamed vegetables  or any other chinese style veggie preparation. This one was hearty enough to be had on its own too.

Serves approximately 3-4 

Schezuan sauce
Soak 12 dry red chillies in warm water for 15 minutes. Remove from water and drain
2 tsp minced garlic, 
3 tbsp white vinegar 
2 tsp sugar 
1 tsp salt 
1 tbsp sesame oil

Grind the drained red chillies with all of the above ingredients EXCEPT  sesame oil and keep aside.
Heat sesame oil to smoking point and pour over the ground mixture and mix well.
Keep in an airtight container and refrigerate and use as required. For the quantity of schezuan rice I made this sauce lasted for two rounds of use.

If using white rice, cook it earlier and cool thoroughly before using in this dish.

Mix very gently with white rice since it tends to break faster.

If using white rice, short grain rice may be more effective than basmati.

Also if using white rice you may need to use lesser amount of sauce.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Onion Chutney (Thogayal)

One funny episode that occurred soon after my marriage. My brother in law's  marriage occurred within six months of mine and my sister in law and I, both new brides were quite new to traditional cooking, we were more interested in fun stuff like samosas and bajji's/ fritters,  I guess :-).  R's grandparents had come out to visit us and we all had gone out shopping together. While shopping as we became aware of the time, we realized that dinner would be delayed if we all hung out till the shopping got done entirely. So my mother in law suggested that the two of us  head home and get a start on the dinner. The plan was to have dosai (savory crepes) and chutney as a light dinner. So both of us came home ahead of the rest of the family and started out making the chutney.

Once we started on the chutney,both of us realized that we were not sure about the correct recipe. Both of us knew that there was coconut and chillies but not sure which chillies, is it red? is it green? does anything else go into it?....basically we were clueless.  Now this was before cell phones were common, so we could not call up our mother in law to ask her and we were too nervous to wait until everyone was home.  So we decided to wing it and hope it worked out well.. The two of us created a chutney with red chillies and coconut and I cannot even remember what else :-)   As you know, the traditional coconut chutney uses fresh green chillies not dried red ones, it also need a whole lot of other ingredients that we missed :-(  

Anyway we got everything " ready"  and the family arrived and my mother in law came to the kitchen to see how things were going. We fessed up to her as soon as she walked into the kitchen and asked her if what we made was okay. She was quite surprised to see the "chutney" we made and a little surprised that we would know how to make this  basic chutney. We were so embarrassed that we did not know something this basic and we were having guests too. My mother in law is such a sweet heart, she did not make a big deal out of it and just fixed the chutney the best she could to make it as tasty as possible.

Now I look back at that episode and laugh about it, but at that time it seemed like such a disaster to me and I felt so mortified and determined to learn things the right way. I have since spent a lot of time writing down traditional recipes from my mother in law  and learning as much as possible from her. Thogayal is one such traditional south Indian recipe that is a chutney with hummus like consistency. Thogayal is made either out of herbs like cilantro, veggies like onions or lentils too.It can either be mixed with rice or served to pair with dosais (crepes) or idlis (steamed cakes) or any other snack/ breakfast item. This one  is versatile enough to be used in a  sandwich or used as a dip for veggies or chips.

Ingredients and Method to make Onion chutney (Thogayal)
Onion 2 medium (cut fine)
lime sized tamarind soaked in enough water to cover it fully 
Dry red chillies 5 (or according to taste) 
2 1/2 tsp split or whole black gram lentil (udad dhal) 
1/4 tsp asafoetida (hing) 
2 tsp oil 
salt to taste

Place the tamarind along with the water in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for about 10 to 15 seconds until the water is warm.

Extract tamarind juice by pressing the tamarind and pour into another container or bowl and keep aside, discard the pulp and seeds of the tamarind.

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan and when hot lower heat to medium and  add black gram lentil to it. 

When the black gram lentil turns reddish add the dry red chillies and asafoetida and saute once or twice

Immediately add the onions and saute until onions are almost transparent. Add the tamarind juice to this and let it boil until the juice is boiled down to a thick consistency.

Cool this mixture and grind in food processor or blender until it is a smooth puree.Add salt to this and mix well. Serve as required

This thogayal can be refrigerated and used within 3-4 days.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Oat Barley Roti/ Indian Flat Bread

Consider this, every can of soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar, 150 calories, 30 to 55 mg of caffeine and artificial food colors and sulphites. And diet soda has a whole lot of artificial sweeteners that are not a whole lot better.Can you believe that?................ 10 teaspoons of sugar is about 1/4 cup, I know this.....because I measured :-).This is absolutely crazy, if I wanted to use 1/4 cup of sugar in one go, I would not be giving up on so many desserts that I like much more than I like soda :-)

Soda is one of the easiest things that can be removed from our diet because it provides zero nutrition (what I call empty calories).It is also something that can easily be substituted with something healthier like fruit juices,even though fruit juices may contain sugar, they provide some amount of vitamins that our body needs.A lot of people do not realize how truly bad soda can be for health or how quickly the (empty) calories can add up, especially if you have more than one can of soda in any day. If you are trying to lose weight or eat healthier this is the simplest first step you can make to improve your diet, just cut out soda whenever possible.

Talking about healthy diet, I always try to make my everyday food a little more healthier if possible. With this end in mind I made this oat barley roti as a way to include all three of these important grains in our diet effortlessly.This recipe is ideal for those who have family members who may balk at having something with barley flour or oat flour in it but will have it if it is sneaked into their food. The taste of the other flours is not discernible in this roti making this a very easy way to include these grains into our everyday diet.

Oat Barley roti 2

Ingredients and Method to make Oat Barley Wheat Roti (Indian Flat Bread)

2 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
1/2 cup barley flour
1/2 cup oat flour (see notes)
1/2 tsp carom seeds (ajwain)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp coriander powder (optional)
salt to taste
5 tsp olive oil (or any other oil)
a few drops of oil or ghee to shallow fry the roti

scant 1 cup water (approximately)

In a large bowl mix together the wheat flour, oat flour, barley flour, chilli powder , coriander powder and salt to taste. Keep aside.

In a spice grinder coarsely powder the cumin seeds and carom seeds and add to the dry powders and mix well. Add olive oil and mix it into the flours.

Add water a little at a time and mix the flours to form a dough. Knead until dough is soft and not sticky. Add additional one teaspoon of olive oil if required.Keep the dough covered for at least about 30 minutes or so.

Divide the dough into equal lemon sized balls and with the help of some flour roll it out into even circles (circles should be about the thickness of tortilla or slightly thicker).

Heat a flat pan/ griddle/ tawa and when hot place the rolled out flat bread on it and cook one side. Flip over, add a few drops of oil/ ghee and cook the other side. Flip over once again if required and cook till done. (when done pinkish spots will appear on surface of the roti)

Serve hot with curry of choice.

Yields approximately 12-13 medium sized roti's

For oat flour I processed Quaker 1 min oats in the spice grinder until it turned into fine powder.
Store bought oat flour should work fine too.

The dough should be a little softer than the regular roti dough for this one
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lemon Pasta Salad

After all the cold and freezing temperatures we have had recently, this week we saw a surprising warm up. The weather was almost spring like, so what did I do to celebrate? Other than using the opportunity to go for long walks that I missed a lot these past few weeks, I also made a light summery lemon pasta salad. The idea was to recreate a dish I remember having in a  restaurant once, and I put together ingredients that I thought would have been used in the original recipe. The bad news was that this was not exactly what I was looking for,  and the good news....this tasted pretty good too and I am looking forward to making this many more times in the spring and summer. I thought the earthy taste of celery and the light citrusy taste of the lemon provided an interesting contrast in flavors and the spice from the crushed chilli flakes added the right hint of spice without making it spicy. 

Before moving on to the recipe I just wanted to share a tip I picked up from my mother in law. Just before extracting juice from a lemon, place the lemon (uncut) on a flat counter or a flat surface and with the palm of your hand exert gentle pressure and roll the lemon a few times. Then cut the lemon and proceed to extract the juice as usual. This makes it easier to juice the lemon and yields more juice from the lemon. Try this tip the next time you use a lemon, it really does make a difference :-)


Ingredients and Method to make Lemon Pasta Salad
250 gms (8.8 oz ) of whole wheat spaghetti  (half of a regular pack of spaghetti) (can be substituted with equal quantity of angel hair pasta too)
1 large carrot grated
2 stalks of celery cut very fine
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 small lemon (or to taste) (see notes)
handful Italian parsley (cut fine)
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
Crushed red chilli flakes (according to taste)
salt according to taste

Cook spaghetti as per manufacturers instructions and drain and keep aside.
In a large bowl add grated carrot and cut celery and mix together.
Add cooked spaghetti to this and mix well.
In a separate bowl add olive oil and juice of one lemon,salt according to taste and Italian seasoning and give it a good mix.
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Pour this mixture on the pasta  + vegetables and mix well.
Add crushed red chilli flakes as per taste and mix again.
Garnish with Italian parsley and serve cold.
Serves approximately 3

In case you do not plan to use red chilli flakes, you may need to reduce the amount of lemon juice slightly maybe use half the quantity
You can also use other types of multi grain spaghetti or even plain regular spaghetti for this dish.

I am sending this pasta off to Its a Vegan World - Italian being hosted by Vaishali
Since this pasta got created entirely in my kitchen this one also is off to the Original Recipe Event being hosted by Lore

Lemon-dill Lentil Orzo Salad on Foodista

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Baked Peppery Potato..... Fries?

Wouldn't  that be a contradiction in itself, I wondered, when I was thinking about the title to this post, if I used both baked and fries together. But after giving it some thought I concluded that no other term I could think of, describes this post better and decided to go with it....:-) Well moving on from the title to the substance of this post, what is it about fries that makes it so likable I wonder, is it the potato part, the fried part, or a combination of both. I haven't been able to figure it out as yet, but suffice to say that there is something about potato fries that makes it irresistible to most people. 

Unfortunately this has been one of the first casualties since I began watching my diet and I haven't had fries at any restaurant for a very long time. R who gave these up right along with me, occasionally feels a little pang when he remembers the good old times, when we used to order these without a single thought to stuff like saturated fat and trans fat, calories, etc etc. Last weekend,in one of my rare ventures into using potatoes in my kitchen, I decided to make these fries for R, and I was really glad I did, since I got to enjoy them too :-). R paid these fries the ultimate compliment, he said he could not tell that these were baked and tasted just as good as the fully fried ones. So try this  healthier version of fries as a snack or enjoy them as a side with your veggie burger :-)

Baked Potato

Ingredients and method to make Baked peppery potato fries.

2 large russet / or other baking potato (peeled and cut into even sticks about 1/4 inch wide)
freshly ground black pepper to taste( I used black and red pepper blend from McCormick )
salt to taste (I used freshly ground sea salt )
3 tbsp olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 425 deg F

Line a baking tray with foil or parchment paper and keep aside

In a bowl add olive oil, salt to taste and pepper to taste and mix together.

Add the dried potatoes to the bowl and toss together until each of the potatoes are evenly coated with olive oil mixture.

Place the potatoes on the lined baking tray in a manner that they are not touching each other.

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes turning them over once in between to ensure even baking.  I baked for about 20 mins but if your potatoes are sliced thinner you may need lesser time.

Remove when potatoes are golden and serve hot with ketchup.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Instant Ragi Oat Dosai ( Finger millet and Oat crepe)

Ragi or Finger millet is a very nutritive grain. Millet is said to be non acid forming food, so it is easier to digest and soothing.Millet is also a good source of fiber and protein. This is probably why ragi flour is used in making a kind of a porridge called kanji in south Indian households which is very healthy and filling. You can find more information on ragi/ finger millet here 

I have always known that ragi is healthy, but never really tried to include this important grain in my diet very much. The only times I remember having ragi is when I have had the aforementioned porridge/ kanji when I was younger and had my mother give this to me saying it is good for me:-) Now that I am trying so many different grains in my diet like oats and quinoa,  I decided to try this grain too and see if I could form a grown up perspective on it. 

After keeping the flour in my pantry for a good two weeks I finally came up with the plan to try and make instant dosai/ crepe with this along with one of my favorite grains, oats.So I proceeded with making up the recipe as I went and cautiously added the ragi flour constantly worried that this one was going to flop and mentally reviewing my other options if this did fail.Luckily the dosai was a hit at home and the ragi flour did not lend a very overwhelming flavor here, making this an ideal way to sneak in this healthy grain for picky eaters.

Ingredients and Method to make Instant Ragi Oat Dosai (Crepe)
1 1/2 cups of oat flour (see notes)
1 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
1 cup ragi ( finger millet) flour
3 cups of water
salt to taste
handful of cilantro cut fine

for tempering
5 small Indian/thai variety of green chillies (cut very fine)
1 tsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida (hing)

a little extra sesame oil or other oil to sprinkle on dosai

Mix together the dry flours in a large bowl.Add water slowly, about half cup at a time and keep mixing it  to make batter.

Heat oil in a pan add cumin seeds and green chillies to it. When the cumin seeds start spluttering add asafoetida to it and give it a quick mix and add this oil+cumin seeds+ chillies mixture to the batter.

Add salt to taste and mix well. Add cut cilantro to the batter and mix well.

Heat a griddle/ flat pan and pour a ladleful of the batter in the center and spread into a thin circle evenly.

Sprinkle a few drops of oil around the batter. Let it cook for a few minutes on medium heat and when the lower side starts browning flip the dosai/ crepe and cook the other side.

When the pinkish/ brownish spots appear on the other side remove from heat.

Serve hot with chutney of choice or molaga podi/ spice powder  or even just plain ketchup.


The tempering in this dosai is very important as it imparts the main flavor to the dosai, so if you skip the tempering it will change the flavor of the dosai considerably

For the oat flour I processed quick 1 min oatmeal (Quaker brand) in the blender till it turned to fine powder but if you have store bought oat flour that should work too.

If you are looking for instant dosa varieties, here are a few more....

Instant Multigrain Dosa ~ Savory multigrain crepes

Instant Ragi Oats Dosai ~ Nachani dosa ~  Savory Finger millet and oats crepe

Instant Buckwheat dosai ~ Kuttu atta dosa ~ Buckwheat flour crepes

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