Friday, February 29, 2008

Click some flour, will you?

Click! Click!! Click!!!

Like always, morning of the last day of the event. This has *got* to change! Seriously! :)

Anyway, another bout of being creatively challenged. But a ton of fun, nevertheless! Thanks, Bee & Jai for organizing this. When Bee first announced the theme for this month - I got insanely excited. Flour! Such a rockin' idea!

I was reminded of our crazy get-covered-in-flour-while-pretending-to-help-with-roti parties! White and dusty all over, we soon start sneezing as we try to clean the flour off fast enough so we can start eating!

So, I was trying to capture the image of flour falling and create a notion of it turning into these cute-as-a-button pasta shells ... I don't quite think I achieved what I wanted - a sense of the coarse (the flour) combined with the refined (that urbane pasta) ... but the idea has gotten me excited enough to want to keep working on it.

Being a natural wheat junkie, I can't help but get excited about this theme. More so with the DB challenge happening ... and I've been experimenting with a ton of different flours lately - soy, spelt, besan, millet flour ... the list goes on! I can't wait to finish up this post so I can go check out all the awesome flour pix out there :)

Camera: Nikon D70

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Veggie Gratin + a twist on that mornay sauce :)

Several days ago, I was reading about a mornay sauce - basically a bechamel sauce to which cheese has been added. I've made this a few times in the past - and the key is usually to simmer it gently and stir in the cheese right off the heat so the sauce does not get too thick, but is instead smooth and creamy.

Well, all that sounds fabulous, but I wasn't really looking for a super cheesy/creamy sauce for dinner. But then again, the idea of a gratin of sorts sounded really yummy! Well, that's when I realized I had a bunch of silken tofu remaining from that fabulous chocolate pudding attempt. Hmm ... I could totally try using that as the base for the sauce! And season it with some cheddar and nutmeg ... would that work?

So, what's the deal with this recent tofu craze, this health kick, some kind of fad? I hope not! :) I've mostly been trying to incorporate a lot more protein into the daily diet - without compromising on flavours. We eat pretty healthy in general - lots of greens and vegetables, the occasional fish, lots of fiber and what not. But it has been good to take that a step further. We're running again, spring is in the air, just feels right to be working on improving that protein fix! Besides, morphing recipes and experimenting is highly entertaining - can't quite pass on that one!

I just hope all them traditionalists won't scream murder when they see me touting a mornay sauce with tofu in it! C'mooonnnn! It has the cheese, the nutmeg, it is flour-based, can't a sauce get some tofu love? :)

Vegetable Gratin with a tofu-mornay sauce
Julia Child, please forgive me!

Servings: 3-4

1 medium cauliflower
10-12 shiitake mushrooms
1 onion - sliced
1/4 cup of egg beaters (equivalent to 1 large egg)
8-10 cherry tomatoes - halved

For the sauce

1 T vegetable spread (I use Earth Balance)
1/3 cup of soy flour
1.5 cups of nonfat milk or a combination of milk and vegetable stock
1/2 cup grated lowfat cheddar cheese
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup of silken tofu - ground to a smooth puree

Trim the cauliflower into even sized florets - maybe even slice the thinner parts of the stalks.
Bring a large pan of slightly salted water to boil and cook the cauliflower, onions and mushrooms for 4-5 minutes until just tender. Do not overcook.
Drain the vegetables (I reserved the water and reused it in the sauce) and arrange them in a baking dish.
Scramble the egg substitute and toss it in with the veggies.

Preheat a broiler or the oven to 450 F.

To make the sauce, melt the vegetable spread in a pan and stir in the soy flour.
Cook gently for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally and taking care not the brown the flour.
Slowly add the milk+vegetable water, whisking constantly.
Bring to a boil, whisking until smooth and thick.
Lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the silken tofu puree along with the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Pour the sauce over the vegetables and dot with the tomato halves. Sprinkle with the cheese and broil until bubbling. Scoop out and serve in bowls.


Love it, love it, love it. This crazy silken tofu thing is a perfect base for sauces and dips (and puddings :)) - it was smooth and creamy, not as rich as a real bechamel or mornay, but perfect for a lighter meal. Plus, the gratin had this really neat nutty flavour - I'm suspecting that's a tofu thing.

Next time around, I'll probably cut down on the milk/water added, the sauce was a bit runny, I need to work on that whole consistency thing. And maybe a handful of breadcrumbs would be fun too - to make the gratin even more crispy.


Swirly 3-Greens soup

What do you do when your fridge seems to be bordering on empty and you're too hard-pressed for time to contemplate going shopping?

(1) Call a friend or sibling and shamelessly pile on for dinner
(2) Run to the first restaurant you can think of
(3) Order delivery
(4) Force yourself to drag your lazy ass to the grocery store
(5) Close your eyes, make a wish and check the contents of your fridge again :)

Guess which one I picked? Yep, #5 it was! I closed my eyes and willed my fridge to become a cornucopia! I opened my eyes and dug around the fridge again ... well, it didn't quite become a horn of plenty, but I did remember to check my freezer this time. Lo! An assortment of frozen greens left over from an overabundant PO delivery! Weeeeee!!! Could I ask for more?

So, the fabulous freezer of plenty had 3 varieties of greens - kale, collard and beet. Hmm ... a green soup? And I found one plump juicy heirloom tomato waiting to be eaten ...

Swirly 3-Greens Soup
A red swirl ... a white swirl ...

Servings: 2


1 cup chopped collard greens
1 cup chopped beet greens
1 cup chopped kale
1/2 granny smith apple - chopped
1/2 cup dry curd cottage cheese (I used Sunshine)
1 t olive oil
1 t cumin seeds
1 t cayenne powder

Heat the oil in a saucepan and roast the cumin seeds till browned.
Add the chopped greens and apple bits along with 1/2 cup of water.
Cook covered on medium-low for 8-10 minutes till the vegetables are softened.
Once cooled, puree the mixture along with the dry curds, adding enough water to get the right consistency.
Bring the mixture back to the stove, add the salt and cayenne and simmer for another 1-2 minutes.

Swirly drizzle

1 small heirloom tomato
3 cloves garlic
1 T persian saffron
1 T lemon juice

Coarsely grind the ingredients to make the red drizzle. I used a spoon of buttermilk for the white drizzle.

To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl and top with the tomato and yogurt drizzles.


*very*! This worked out way better than I expected! Lots of yummy green flavours, pungent seasoning, and a load of protein - those dry curds are pretty awesome!

This goes off to Zorra from Kochtopf for WHB (that fabulous Kalyn creation!)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Taste & Create VI - Chocolate Tofu Pudding!

This whole idea of trying out recipes from fellow bloggers is really fun - I've been indulging in this a lot more lately, sometimes trying to follow the recipe as closely as possible, other times I add my twist - as is what I often do with most recipes :) Either way, it is always really exciting to try something suggested by a fellow blogger, see how it turns out and be able to talk about our successes and misadventures.

So, when Chris suggested that I should check out Taste & Create started by Nicole, I was intrigued. This event basically pairs up food bloggers who proceed to try out a recipe (any recipe) from each other's blogs. The first time I checked out the list of bloggers who were interested in trying this out, I realized there were *tons* of folks out there who I had never visited. Obviously, we all reach a saturation point in terms of how many blogs we can check out, how many posts we can read, how many comments we can submit, even how many recipes we can try out! But the whole random pairing aspect of this event seems pretty neat - the way I look at it, I might be hooked up with a blogger whose food tastes vary vastly from mine, but an event like this could entice me to expand my horizons and try out something I wouldn't have stumbled upon otherwise. Or maybe I would just find a totally new twist to something I've made many times over!

Well, the latter is what happened in my first Taste & Create experience. I was partnered with Katie who blogs at Other People's Food - sounds like her blog is tailor made for the Taste & Create experience :) Katie seems to be awfully versatile at picking really interesting recipes from fellow bloggers and trying them out - something I've been attempting to do a lot more of lately. Thanks Katie, for being an awesome blog-discoverer :)

As I was being sorely tempted by all the delicious fish recipes on Katie's site, I stumbled on this post about chocolate tofu pudding. Chocolate + tofu? Sounds a bit insane! The recipe calls for using silken tofu - something I've started experimenting with in soups and sauces, it even works as a great option for making a light version of a flaky pastry shell - more about that in the week to come.

So, I went ahead and tried out Katie's recipe - I ended up using molasses instead of maple syrup and stuck with dark chocolate chips instead of a combination of semi-sweet and dark. Simple, elegant, easy.

Chocolate Tofu Pudding
Silken chocolate? Can it get any better?!

Servings: 2

1/2 container of silken tofu (200 gms)
2/3 cup of dark chocolate chips (Guittard is divine, Ghirardelli works too)
1 t molasses (I used this instead of maple syrup)
1 t vanilla extract

Heat the chocolate in a double boiler till completely melted.
Stir in the molasses and vanilla extract till smooth.
I noticed that the molasses increased the thickness of the chocolate dramatically and it took a ton of effort to keep stirring it to keep it smooth! Totally unexpected side effect :)
Beat the silken tofu to a smooth paste and stir it into the chocolate mixture.
I noticed that the tofu still seemed a bit chunky after stirring it into the chocolate, so I ended up running the mixture through a blender again before pouring it out into ramekins.
Chill for atleast an hour.

Whoa! The pudding ended up being super thick and creamy! I'm assuming the molasses had a lot to do with this. Sweet! :)

Serving suggestion:

Ladle a scoop or two of the pudding into a bowl along with a side of chopped kiwis. Garnish with a sprig of orange mint.



This was fabulous! Creamy, smooth and fabulously decadent! And to think that I added no fat other than what the chocolate had - this whole silken tofu + molasses mojo makes me super happy! I can't wait to play around more with these.

Thanks Katie & Nicole for a really fun Taste & Create experience!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Burger Time!

Homemade burgers have got to be one of the most cooking fun projects ever. Not only do they make for a tasty alternative way to work with varieties of beans, it is so cathartic to make those "burger-dough" rounds and flatten them into patties. Hmm ... burger dough - is there an official word for that? :)

Black bean burgers have always been a favourite - all the more since I've managed to perfect that recipe to a science! This time around, I wanted to work with kidney beans - so incredibly earthy, chewy and flavourful. And I was contemplating making these patties vegan - just a little olive oil, maybe use soy flour instead of indulging in bread crumbs as a binding agent.

Every once in a while, impromptu cooking works to perfection - no recipe to work off of, we just start throwing stuff together and things fall into place. Ingredients mingle and dance, flavours stand out, all happy goodness! Love it when that happens! Don't you? :)

As the burgers started coming together, I started wondering about making some kind of dressing to go with it -maybe an aoili? I realized I had a slew of sunchokes from PO that I was yet to try out in anything but a salad - was there anything I could do with it?

The first time I saw sunchokes, I couldn't help but wonder "What are these crazy things? They kind of look like round wonks of ginger, but they're not. They smell super earthy. And they look *nothing* like artichokes! Hmmm ...." Well, a dig into Joy of Cooking told me more about them:

The Jerusalem artichoke, also known as a sunchoke is the tuber of a native sunflower. And it has no relation whatsoever to Jerusalem, the tuber was originally named Girasole by the europeans who discovered it. The current name is some kind of folk pollution of Girasole which is the italian word for sunflower. Yay for vegetable etymology! :)

Ok, back to our dressing - it kind of evolved naturally - with a mix of sunchokes and garlic, a dash of vinegar, some hot sauce, feta cheese ...

3-Chilli Burgers with Sunchoke-Garlic Chutney
3 kinds of chillies? Wooooo!


3-Chilli Burgers

Servings: 10-12

1 can of kidney beans - drained
1 onion - chopped
1 red bell pepper - chopped
2 carrots - chopped
1/4 cup walnuts
1/2 block (200 gms) of tofu - finely shredded (we use Nasoya extra firm tofu)
2-3 T soy flour
1 guajillo chilli
1 dried indian red chilli
1 chili padi (thai bird's eye chilli pepper)
1 t olive oil
1 t cumin seeds
salt for seasoning

Heat the oven to 350 F.
Heat the oil in a wok and add the cumin seeds.
Once they splutter, throw in the onions and saute till browned.
Now add the bell peppers, carrots and walnuts and saute for 1-2 minutes.
Add the kidney beans after rinsing and discarding the water and saute for another minute.
Run the veggies+beans through a food processor to make a coarse, chunky mixture.
Mix in the shredded tofu.

Roast the 3 chillies till they start to brown - grind them into a coarse, sticky powder.
Mix this powder along with salt into the bean mixture.

NOTE: You might want to check the spice level as you add this chilli powder. We like it super hot, you may not :)

Add the soy flour, 1 T at a time, mixing constantly till the mixture looks firm enough to be made into patties.

Lightly grease a baking tray lined with foil.
Make a ball of a handful of the "burger dough" at a time and flatten it into a thick patty and place it on the baking tray.
(This mixture freezes really well too, in case you don't want to make it all into patties right away)
Bake the patties at 350 F for about 12-14 minutes till they feel firm.


Sunchoke Chutney
sunchokes ... garlic ... parsley ... feta ... mmm!

4-5 sunchokes - peeled and chopped
5-6 garlic cloves - peeled
1 green chilli - chopped
2 T red wine vinegar
1 cup curly parsley
1/4 cup feta cheese (we used a reduced fat version)

Cook the sunchokes, garlic and green chilli in a covered saucepan with the red wine vinegar for 3-4 minutes.
Once cooled, grind the vegetables along with the parsley to a fine paste.
Mix in the feta cheese and season with salt, maybe even a dash of chilli powder.

What did we think?

These burgers rock! So simple, yet so tasty! I think they're my current favourite now - yes! I choose them over the black bean ones!

As for the sunchoke chutney - it was fabulous - one of the best dips *ever*! Creamy, earthy, a vague artichoke flavour, love it.


More burger recipes:

Black Bean Burgers
Spicy Kidney Bean Burgers @ Jugalbandi
Pav Bhaji Burgers @ One Hot Stove
Chipotle Bean Burgers @ We [heart] Food


This goes to Lia at Swirling Notions for Weekend Herb Blogging (that awesome food blog virus started by Kalyn!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Paanch Mishuli - Bengali Vegetable Medley

Rosogolla ... rasmalai ... sandesh ... mishti doi ... malpoa ... cham cham ... *drool* ... bengali sweets rock! I love making them, love eating them, love writing about them ... Wait! This blog doesn't have a bengali dessert post yet! That sucks!

Note to self:

Make some yummy rasmalai this week just so I can write about it!

Ok, so this post isn't about bengali sweets. Sorry! But it comes close. It does involve bengali spices and a multitude of vegetables, all goodness. I haven't cooked much bong food, so it was fun to pick up one of those simple postcard cookbooks - this time Bangla Ranna was my choice. It has a slew of bengali recipes - reasonably well written out. I particularly like the fact that the author Satarupa Banerjee dedicated this book to the countless housewives in Bengal who keep the tradition of Bengali cuisine alive. Got to love that :)

As I flipped the pages, page 75 caught my eye - Paanch Mishuli - a vegetable medley that uses a choice of vegetables that are in season. Hmm ... I could extend that to apply to the vegetables that are in season and available in my fridge, right? :)

So, that's what we went with - a medley of acorn squash, plantain, bitter gourd, edamame, beans and snap peas - *lots* of green goodness!

Paanch Mishuli
Variation of the traditional vegetable medley

Servings: 2

1 acorn squash
1 bitter gourd - deseeded and chopped

1/4 lb green beans - chopped into 1" pieces

1 cup of shelled green peas

1 plantain - grated

1 cup edamame

a small ball of tamarind soaked in 1 cup of boiling water

2 t Paanch phoran (recipe below)

3 green chillies - sliced long

1 " ginger - ground into a paste
2 T mustard oil

1 t turmeric powder

1 T brown sugar


Soak the bitter gourd pieces in the tamarind water for atleast 30 minutes.

Cut the acorn squash in half, place the cut faces down in a pan filled with 1/2" of water.
Bake the squash for 10 minutes at 400 F.
Once the squash is cooked, scoop out the meat with a spoon and discard the skin.
Heat the oil in a wok and toss in the paanch phoran.
Stir in the ginger paste.
Add the grated plantain and saute for 4-5 minutes.

Throw in the rest of the vegetables - beans, peas, edamame and bitter gourd (after discarding the water) and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Now add the squash, salt, turmeric, sugar and green chillies.
Stir and cook covered on low till the vegetables are almost done.
Now, cook uncovered till most of the moisture evaporates - this should be a moist, but not runny curry.

This medley goes well with most indian breads or rice.


Paanch Phoran Recipe

This is usually a combination of 5 whole spices, though I've encountered a few variations.

1 t cumin
1 t kalo jeera

1 t mustard

1 t fennel
1 t fenugreek

Lightly roast the spices before grinding to a powder.



The paanch phoran flavours rock! I honestly don't know how the traditional mishuli is supposed to taste, but this medley with some garlic naan made for a terrific dinner!

I'm dedicating this post to Sandeepa, the awesome Bong Mom whose blog is inspiring me to try more Bengali recipes - we haven't seen her post in a while, I'm waiting for her to come back :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Can 7 words be enough?

Open a bottle of wine. And let it open up :)

Swirl, smell, sip, savour, swallow ... and finally get around to describing it. IN JUST SEVEN WORDS!!!

You got to be kidding me! We usually swirl...swallow and screw up our faces and spend the next many many minutes talking about how it tastes. And we don't even know what the hell we're talking about. Yeeaahhh ... I can taste the tannins, sort of ... wait, berries? cherries? leather? Whatever! Our noses are more nostalgia-driven than anything else - a fabulous sip or gulp often flashes back to some crazy memory, a place we visited, some familiar smell from childhood, or some food we enjoyed, early spring, late fall, basically anything - *so* much of fun!

And now, with Wine Blogging Wednesday, Senor Spittoon threw out a novel challenge - he wanted us to taste an Italian Red and describe it in 7 words - no more, no less!

One thing we learned - nothing as cool as a discarded envelope to get our word juices flowing :)

Our very own vino almost-haiku :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Roasted Bell Pepper'n'Squash Soup

In the social state to which we have come today, it is hard to imagine a nation which would live solely on bread and vegetables.
- Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savari
The Physiology of Taste (1825)

If tonight's meal was any indication, Monsieur Brillat-Savarin is totally in the wrong! Well, I'm not sure if a whole nation could survive just on flavourful soups and some tortillas, but I think I could.


Simply the thing that I am shall make me live.
- William Shakespeare

And so said the bell pepper to the squash :) And the squash nodded vigorously as she said "Me too! Me too!" And then, both of them jumped into a pan, got roasted and ended up living in this fabulously tasty soup.

Roasted Bell Pepper'n'Squash Soup
I'm easy, I taste good, what more could you ask for? :)

Servings: 2 as an entree (or 4 as an appetizer)

2 red bell peppers - quartered
4 yellow squashes - sliced long and cut into chunks
1 t thyme
1 t marjoram
1 t olive oil
1 t red wine vinegar
1 t red pepper flakes
1/2 t honey
1/2 cup yogurt
salt'n'pepper to taste

Toss the bell pepper and squash chunks in a large bowl along with the herbs, pepper flakes, oil, honey and vinegar.
Pour the vegetables into a pan and broil them in the oven till the veggies just start to get charred.
Once cooled, puree the vegetables after adding the yogurt and some water.
Season with salt and pepper.
Garnish with a few drops of yogurt.


*bliss* The pepper and squash truly came to life in this soup, with the herbs making for a nice, mild seasoning. The soup was a happy dip for some whole wheat tortillas.

Erin, you got to have this one for WHB :) Thanks Kalyn for starting this trend!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chocolate Love!

Mmm ... Death by Chocolate ... that sounds delectable :)

Chocolate is one of things that I've had dreams about. And woken up feeling super happy. And sometimes hungry :)

So, when Culinate announced this event, I started skipping around. It actually took me about 4 days to decide which of a zillion chocolate recipes I wanted to use. And then it took procrastinating till the last day before I baked one of my chocolate fantasies. Sad, but I really am this last-minute junkie!

Anyway, friday was the last day for submissions for DbC, but the Obama rally took precedence over sending in a timely submission. Guess I'll write about these anyway :)

After dithering between various recipes like an intensely decadent gateau, a fabulous ganache cake topped with chocolate curls, bitter chocolate mousse, mocha pots and more ... I finally settled for baking these delicious chocolate mousse tartlets. I adapted a recipe from one of my favourite dessert books - The Ultimate Dessert Cookbook.

The original recipe called for white chocolate - for a cocoa freak like me, that is tantamount to sacrilege! But I finally gave in and mixed some white chocolate with 72% chocolate to create a mild creamy version - this turned out *good*!
Also, I really wanted to add some zing to the tartlets, so I went with a dark chocolate drizzle mixed with some cayenne, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla - *like* it :)

Chocolate Mousse Tartlets with Greek yogurt
With a diablo touch :)

Servings: 6


1.5 cups pastry flour
2 T cocoa powder

2 T icing sugar
1/4 cup of butter

2 T whipped spread (I use Earth Balance)


2 oz white chocolate (squares or broken)

4 oz dark chocolate (squares or broken)

1/2 cup of nonfat milk

2 t pectin or agar (you could use gelatine too)

2 T caster sugar
1 t vanilla essence

2 eggs separated

1 generous cup of greek style yogurt (I used nonfat)


melted chocolate

1 t cayenne powder
1/4 t nutmeg powder

1/4 t cinnamon

Making the tartlet shells

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Sift the flour, cocoa and icing sugar into a bowl.

Place the butter and whipped spread in a pan along with 4 T of water and heat gently until just melted.

Once cooled, stir in the flour to make a firm dough.

Chill the dough for atleast 30 minutes, preferably an hour.
Roll out the pastry and line 6 10 cm tartlet pans (I used the loose-based flan tins).
Prick the base of each tart shell with a fork before lining with parchment paper and weighing down with baking beans.
Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the beans and parchment and bake for 15 more minutes till the pastry is firm.

Let the tartlet shells cool in the tins.

Making the filling

Melt the chocolate (white and dark) in a heatproof bowl over hot water.
In the meantime, pour the milk into a saucepan and heat on low.
Add the pectin slowly,stirring constantly until dissolved completely.

Remove the milk mixture from heat and stir in the chocolate.
Whisk the sugar, vanilla and egg yolks in a large bowl.
Add the chocolate mixture and beat till blended.

Now, beat in the greek yogurt till evenly mixed.
Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl till stiff (peaks should form and stay in place).

Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture gently till mixed completely.
Divide the chocolate mixture across all the pastry shells and chill to set.
Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and cayenne to the melted chocolate and drizzle it over the tartlets to decorate.


*love* it! Obviously, I need to get more opinions here, since I'm a certified chocolate freak :) But I think this turned out great! And I love the cayenne touch - it leaves a gentle after-spice on the tongue - spicy chocolate after taste, spicy chocolate after breath!!!

Mmm ... think I'll just curl up on the couch with my current read and dig into a yummy chocolate mousse tartlet - life can't get much better than that! :)

Wait, chocolate is an aphrodisia

'In most countries chocolate is associated with romance, and with good reason, it was thought by the Aztec's to have aphrodisiac qualities, invigorating men and making women less inhibited. So when it was first introduced to Europe, it's small wonder that chocolate quickly became the ideal gift for a man to bestow on a loved one.'

Obviously, there was no dearth of info about chocolate and its ostensible turn-on strength :) Read more here and here and here ... or maybe you know all this already!

So, guess if chocolate has any aphrodisiac properties at all, it is probably well-contained in these tartlets that have 71% cocoa in them! I used the Valrhona Le Noir Amer in my tartlets (yes, I'm a serious chocolate snob) - the flavours truly seemed to stick around forever!

And as much as I don't care for V'day and think of it as this consumer-driven day of red, I can't pass up on a food event! So, this goes off to Pooja's My Creative Ideas for her Theme of the week - Valentine's day. This definitely celebrates the love for chocolate - that counts, right? :)

Hold please! I can even send this off to The Mini Pie Revolution - these are sweet tarts! Yay!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Chili 1-2-3

Cold and wet outside.

Winds gusting.

Snow in the mountains.

Mmm ... something warm and earthy starts sounding good. Hot soothing liquid, full of flavour and spice.

This pretty much sums the mood that often prevailed over the last couple of weeks - this craving for "warm+spicy+soothing" led to several chili cookouts :)

So, is vegetarian chili an oxymoron?

Isn't chili the quintessential texan dish that is meant to have just beef, chiles and spices. Not mounds of chopped up vegetables. No peppers, not even beans! CASI apparently has really strict regulations about what goes into a chili and what doesn't.

The meat is the medium, but the chile is the message.
- Cheryl and Bill Jamison, Texas Home Cooking

And to paraphrase Didi Emmons: With vegetarian chili, we're just changing the medium, not the message!

You say chile, I say chilli ...

Hmm ... I'm in a quandary of sorts as I type this post. There is chili - that fiery bowl of goodness. And there is chile - the peppers that define the chili. And there are chillies - what we use to refer to all the members of the Capsicum family. So many variations!

Anyway, chile peppers truly rock! They're not just about heat, but about flavour. Every chile has its own unique taste, the flavour even varies depending on whether the chile is ripe or raw or dried or not. And they have fabulous aromas to boot! For the most part, atleast for veggie chili afficionados as well as non-traditionalists, just the plethora of chile flavours and smells seems to hit the spot. And once we start combining varities, the flavour level totally skyrockets. And we can't help but believe "Chile makes the chili, not the meat!" :)

White Bean Chili with Spicy Mango Salsa
Chili 1 (adapted from Didi Emmons' Vegetarian Planet)

Servings: 4

White Bean Chili

2 cups of dried navy beans

1 t olive oil
1.5 cups chopped onions
6 cloves of garlic - minced
3 cups chopped green cabbage
1 rutabaga - diced
1 t dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Soak the beans in cold water overnight.
In a large pot, cover the beans with water and bring to a boil. Cook 1+ hours till the beans are tender. A great alternative is to throw the beans into a crockpot and cook on low for a few hours.
Drain the beans and reserve about 3 cups of the liquid (add water if necessary to make up 3 cups).
In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the onions.
Saute for about 5 minutes till softened.
Throw in the garlic and cabbage and saute for another 5 minutes.
Now add the reserved bean liquid along with the rutabaga, salt and oregano. Cook for 15+ minutes till the vegetables are tender.
Mix in the beans along with freshly ground pepper.

Spicy Mango Salsa

1 large guajillo pepper
1 pinch of freshly ground ancho pepper
1/2 semi-ripe mango -diced
1/2 green bell pepper - finely chopped
1/2 red onion - finely chopped
1/4 cup lime juice
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
salt to taste

Mix all the veggies and spices in a large bowl.
Using tongs, hold the guajillo pepper over a medium flame until it gets charred.
Once cooled, pound the chile using a pestle and add the powder to the salsa.
Season with salt.

Serve the chili in large bowls, topped with a few spoons of the fiery salsa.


*good*! The salsa was my favourite part of it all :) I think the chili itself could have used a little more flavour/spice, but then again, I'm the one who buys a new bottle of hot sauce pretty much every second week! :)


Chili Verde (of sorts!)
Chili 2 - (adapted from Joy of Cooking by Rombauer & Becker)

Servings: 3-4

1/2 onion - chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped yellow squash
1 cup chopped bell pepper
3 cloves of garlic - minced
3-4 fresh chile peppers - I used these long not-super-spicy chillies I found at the indian store
4 T chopped cilantro
1/2 semi-ripe mango - chopped into chunks
15-20 cherry tomatoes
1 can black beans (drained)
1 block of tofu - diced
1 T coriander+cumin powder
1 t olive oil
salt to taste

Grind the chile peppers, mango, tomatoes and cilantro into a puree.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the onions and garlic for a few minutes.
Add the carrots and saute for 2-3 more minutes.
Throw in the bell peppers and squash and saute for another 3-4 minutes.
Add the coriander and cumin powders along with the black beans and stir.
Pour in the puree and cook covered for 10-12 minutes.

In the meantime, spray the tofu bits with some olive oil and toast till the edges get crispy.

Throw the tofu into the chili and stir for a few more minutes.
Season with salt and maybe some red pepper flakes if you want more zing!


Hmm ... this was good too! I think the tofu was a little overwhelming - maybe I added too much. I'll definitely try this again and scale back on the soy love. Otherwise, the flavours were great - the spicy mango+tomato+cilantro was really good - totally worth a reuse as a gravy for other veggies.


Veggie Chili with Rainbow Chard
Chili 3 (the recipe was pretty much whipped out of my behind!)

Servings: 2

1/2 cup red onions - chopped
4 cloves garlic - minced
1 can cannellini beans
3 vine tomatoes - blanched and pureed
1 bunch of rainbow chard - chopped/shredded
1/2 red bell pepper - chopped
1" ginger - grated
1 t olive oil
1 t cumin powder
1 large ancho chile
1 arbol chile
salt to taste

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and saute the onions.
Once they get translucent, add the ginger and garlic and saute for a couple more minutes.
Add the bell pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes.
Now throw in the chard along with the tomato puree and cook covered on low for 10+ minutes.
While the veggies are cooking, char the ancho and arbol chiles over a medium flame till they get charred.
Grind the charred chiles into a fine powder and add to the veggies.
Stir in the cumin powder and season with salt.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or just garnished with chopped cilantro.


Yum! I think this was my favourite chili - the perfect consistency, flavours well blended and lots of chard goodness!


Wow! This is serious legume overdose! Which means this post gets shipped off to Susan, the well-seasoned cook for My Legume Love Affair. Yum!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Green = good, Green+Tofu = better!

Eat your spinach, you no good infink. Eat it. EAT IT. Eat it.
- Poopdeck Pappy

Saag Paneer has always been a household favourite - aromatic and flavourful greens cooked up with toasted, crunchy cheese bits. Saag and Palak are used interchangeably so often, more so because there is no exact equivalent for those greens in the U.S. For the most part, palak is just spinach and saag is a combination of spinach and mustard greens. But most folks I know often use a variety of greens when making saag - the more flavourful and diverse the greens, the merrier, right? :)

In line with the recent push for healthy, high-protein and high-fibre recipes, I embarked on a variation of this popular greens dish from North India. I had a bunch of collard greens as well as some spinach and microgreens - this olio of leaves could definitely make for interesting saag, right? Also, in an effort to cut back on the fat, I decided to try this out with tofu instead of paneer. That was a big sacrifice - there are few things as delicious as fresh homemade paneer - the subtle residual lemon smell blending with the pungency of the curds ... *so* good!

Anyway, the idea was the toast the tofu bits till they turned out crispy - that was the closest I could think of as a paneer alternative. Also, I went with a blend of cashews and almonds to enhance the creaminess of the palak instead of just cashews - it seemed like this would enhance the diverse palak flavours.

Saag Tofu
High Protein Vegan Bliss

Servings: 4

1 bunch of collard greens
1/2 bunch of spinach
2 handfuls of microgreens (arugula, baby endive, baby chard, mizuna, tatsoi, sorrel, etc)
1 medium sized tomato
1/2 red onion
1/2 block of tofu (160 gms)
4 cloves of garlic
1" ginger
3-4 green chillies
1 t cumin seeds
1/4 cup cashews+almonds
1 T coriander-cumin powder
1 t turmeric powder
1 t red chilli powder (cayenne would work)
1/2" stick of cinnamon
2 cloves
1 cardamon pod
1 T sesame oil

Lightly roast the cinnamon, cloves and cardamon before grinding them along with the cashews and almonds into a fine masala.
Grind the ginger and garlic into a thick paste.
Blanch the tomato in hot water, peel and puree.
Blanch the spinach and microgreens in hot water for 2-3 minutes before grinding to a fine paste.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and roast the cumin seeds.
Once they brown, add the onions and green chillies.
Saute for a few minutes till the onions turn brown.
Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute a bit more.
Now add the red chilli powder, turmeric and coriander-cumin powder and stir for a minute.
Throw in the tomato puree along with the collard greens.
Simmer covered for 6-7 minutes till greens are cooked.
Cool before pureeing this mixture - you could leave it somewhat coarse or make it into a smooth paste.
Add the spinach-microgreens puree along with the masala (spices+nuts mixture) and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Season with salt.

Dice the tofu, lightly douse with oil spray and toast or broil till the pieces get crispy and brown on the edges.
Add the tofu to the saag and cook on low for a couple more minutes.

Season with cilantro or even a dollop of malai or creme fraiche.

Serve over seasoned rice (jeera rice is a great option) or with rotis.

Any good?

This was great! For some reason, it felt much lighter than regular saag, but totally flavourful. And the mix of greens was awesome ... got to love those collards! :) The only thing I would change going forward is to make the dish a little thicker. I got carried away with adding water when I was trying to puree the greens - sometimes patience is a noble virtue!


Similar greens recipes

Sailu's Food - Palak Paneer
Mahanandi - Palak Paneer
Nupur's Spinach recipes


Off this goes to Ulrike from Kuchenlatein for WHB (Kalyn's brainchild).

Saturday, February 2, 2008

'shroom soup

Earthy, pungent, nutty, meaty, garlicky ... the range of adjectives go on! Yes, we're talking about mushrooms here - that whole world of dark, dingy fungi that taste *so* good!

I've never been a big fan of mushroom soups - most of them seem so creamy and heavy, a few spoonfuls and I'm sated. But Vegetables and Vegetarian Cooking made me think again. As I was flipping the pages, this homemade mushroom soup recipe caught my eye. It looked pretty light and flavourful, so I had to go for it. With a couple of variations of course!

The original recipe called for white mushrooms as well as shiitake - I skipped the white mushrooms since I wanted my favourite shiitake to dominate the flavour of the soup. Also, instead of using rice, I went for a bunch of grated toasted tofu instead - this served as the perfect base for the soup! And yes, I skipped the celery -wouldn't be caught dead eating it!

Homemade Mushroom Soup
A whole lotta shiitake love!

Servings: 2

1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 t safflower oil
1/2 white onion - chopped
2.5 cups of water or vegetable stock
1 T soy sauce
1 cup tofu
1/2 cup milk (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste


chopped fresh cilantro
sliced almonds

Grate the tofu, place it in a baking pan, spray with oil spray and broil till the tofu gets browned.

Put the mushrooms in a large saucepan with the oil and onions.
Heat until sizzling, then cover and simmer for 7-8 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.
Add the stock or water, soy sauce, broiled tofu and seasoning.
Cover and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked.
Run a blender through the soup mixture and coarsely process it leaving small chunks behind.
Stir in the milk (if desired), reheat until boiling and taste for seasoning.

Serve hot, sprinkled with some cilantro and chopped almonds.

We ate this with a light salad of spicy rocket, apples and walnuts in a sesame-soy-orange dressing.

An alternative is to strain and reserve the soup liquid and process the chunks in a food processor before adding it back into the saucepan - this will make for a much smoother soup.

Was it any good?
Mmmm ... mushroom love all over again! And the tofu was really a killer idea - the slightly charred tofu perfectly complemented the delicate flavour of the shiitakes.

Related posts:
Mushroom Sabji
Mushroom and Asparagus Pulao