Vazhakkai Roast (Raw Banana Stir Fry)

My colleague and friend, Kalpana, brought a similar dish for lunch. It looked interesting and I had a bite, it was really good – spicy and the banana was cooked perfectly. When I usually cooked raw banana, I cut into smaller pieces and stir-fried them. But this way, it is almost crispy on the top and soft inside. This was inspired by her dish.

These raw bananas are usually of a certain variety (nendrakai or the Kerala plantains). It is widely available in India and is available in Asian/Indian supermarkets in the US.

Ingredients

  • 2 raw bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 9-10 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (add more if you would like it spicier)
  • salt to taste

Directions

  • Peel raw bananas. Slice them into 3/4 inch pieces. Place them in a bowl of water mixed with a tbsp of yogurt. This will help avoid oxidation of the banana. Also slightly oil your knife before cutting to avoid the knife to get sticky
  • Heat oil in a large flat bottomed skillet.
  • Add asafoetida, mustard seeds, and curry leaves.
  • When mustard starts to splutter, add the chopped onion and garlic.
  • Fry till golden
  • Drain and add all the spice powders to the slices and mix and coat well
  • Add banana slices to the pan and stir gently.
  • Cover and let it cook.
  • stir gently every 5 minutes. If required sprinkle some water and let it cook
  • It should not be overcooked, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside but there should be a bite to it
  • Turn off heat and serve as a side dish with roti or rice or even as an appetizer.
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Diet, You Say!

Our Zumba instructor, Bhavana, has been asking us to go on the GM diet for a few months. We always had excuses – dinner party, special lunches or travelling to places with amazing seafood. Even though I told her I eat in moderation, she thought it would be good to cleanse the system. It was three of us who decided to go on the diet and we decided to diet for 3 days, maybe 4, because we had a lunch on the 5th day and did not want to miss that. So you can see that we all love food! We had fun dieting (again not a word you think of when you think of the D word). Fun, because we dieted together, sharing food and sharing lots of laughs at our misery! So this recipe is dedicated to Bhavana, Uma and Ram. Thank you Bhavana for putting up with us and our moves. We are like Lucy in this video ‘I love Lucy’. https://youtu.be/XYvr6U5xv9w . We really feel for you but are so thankful to you for pushing us to exercise and eat healthy. I cannot believe I ate fruits while everyone else was eating pooris!

Diet conjures images of insipid food, boiled, tasteless, boring. But for me it was a challenge. How do I make food interesting, tasty, scrumptious even. The path to good food is flavour. I hardly used oil in this but packed it with flavour!

The first day was just fruits, except for bananas. My friend and I brought our cut fruits and ate it for snack and lunch. I made some fresh watermelon juice for the evening. Btw, if you prepare to eat fruits the whole day, be prepared to visit the restroom many times.

Day 2, was only vegetables, no potatoes except for breakfast. Food can never be boring for me. I went to the vegetable market and picked up different vegetables. Stir fry, it was. Cauliflower rice seems to be the craze in the USA, so I decided to try it out. Day 3, fruits and vegetables, no bananas and potatoes, so soup it was. The truth is I feel good. My stomach has gone down a bit, the weighing scale is being good to me. But of course I will start eating carbs and sweets again, but surely will add more fruit in my diet. Eat anything you want but in moderation is my motto!

Cauliflower Rice

  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into flowerlets, washed and drainer
  • 2 tbsp onion, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Directions

  • Pulse cauliflower in a food processor. It should be powdery, not a paste
  • In a pan, heat oil. Add onions and cauliflower and saute for a few minutes. Sprinkle some water, add salt and fry till cooked. It should not be overcooked.
  • Serve instead of rice

Stir Fried Veggies

Pack it with flavours and you will not miss the oil, the soy sauce and the chilli sauce you might add otherwise. There is added sugar in almost everything processed, so read the labels.

  • 2 cups of 3-6 veggies of your choice (carrot, beans, mushroom, capsicum, broccoli, baby corn), cleaned and cup into pieces
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oil (when on a diet; otherwise increase it if you want)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil ( I had both, so added both. you can add just one)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  • Heat oil in a wok.
  • Add onions and fry for a minute. Add chillies, garlic and ginger. Add vegetables according to their cooking time. Add the broccoli and capsicum last as you do not want them to overcook and get mushy. Add salt
  • Fry till vegetables are cooked, not overcooked.
  • Sprinkle and mix the herbs.
  • Add lemon juice and mix. Taste for seasoning.
  • Serve with cauliflower rice

Throw It Together Vegetable Soup

How do I make soup with no readymade stock, my friend asked! Pack it with flavour, you do not need Maggi. Throw in vegetables you have, maybe some leftovers (you get my drift) and make a hearty soup. I always make a batch for atleast two meals. Since it had no stock, I made a paste of grilled tomatoes and eggplants to give it heartiness and depth. Grilling tomatoes brings out a sweetness

  • 1 eggplant, grilled on stove and skin removed
  • 3-4 tomatoes
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 green chillies
  • veggies of your choice (I used the same as above).
  • Also had some grilled pumpkin which i threw in (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp leftover cauliflower rice (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 4-5 cups water
  • 3-4 tbsp chopped coriander
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Directions

  • Grill tomatoes and 3-4 cloves of garlic in the oven. Remove skin of tomatoes (Heat oven to 200ºC/400ºF, grill for 25-30 minutes)
  • Grill eggplant, remove skin.
  • Grind together grilled tomato, garlic and eggplant to a paste.
  • Keep aside. (Add some olive oil, sumac or chilli poser and a dash of lemon juice and you can serve it as a dip)
  • In a pot add onions, rest of the garlic, chillies and vegetables that take longer to cook. Save broccoli, capsicum for the last.
  • Add 3-4 tbsp of the tomato – eggplant paste
  • Add water and salt and let it cook on a low flame for 30 minutes
  • Add rest of vegetables and cook for a few minutes
  • Add chopped coriander and lemon juice
  • Serve hot

Mushroom Spinach Pasta with Roasted Pumpkins and Carrots

I come home after a couple of days from a trip and look into my fridge. I have been eating out and all I wanted was some home cooked food. In the fridge, I have one small onion, two slices of pumpkin, a bag of spinach, a packet of mushrooms and a carrot. So I whipped up pasta with all these ingredients in less than 40 minutes. This is an easy and quick weekend dinner recipe.

Ingredients

  • 200 g button mushrooms
  • 2 cups chopped spinach, washed
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 carrot, quartered and sliced into big cubes
  • 1 cup pumpkin, cubed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 150 – 200 g spaghetti
  • salt to taste
  • pasta seasoning
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk (optional)
  • 2 tbsp goat cheese (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF
  • Toss pumpkin and carrots in 1 tsp olive oil. Sprinkle some salt and pasta seasoning
  • Roast this in the oven for 20 minutes, make sure the pumpkin is cooked
  • Boil water in a large pot. Salt it and add a tsp of oil
  • Add spaghetti and let it cook for 10-12 mins or till the pasta is cooked al dente. Drain and save 1/4 cup cooking water
  • In a saucepan, heat olive oil
  • Add onions and garlic and saute
  • Add mushrooms and saute. When cooked, add spinach and saute for 4-5 minutes
  • Add the roasted pumpkin and carrots.
  • Add cooked pasta, 1/4 cup cooking water, salt, and pasta seasoning
  • At this point, you can serve the pasta
  • Optional – Add coconut milk, mix and serve
  • Optional – Grate some goat cheese and add. Serve hot

Vegan Lentil Mushroom Burgers

Leftovers, what do we do with that. Cooking for 2 or 3 is something I cannot do. In our family, we are small eaters but I still cook for an army. I can eat the same dish for another day, maybe. But then, I have a yearning to make something completely different with all the ingredients.

In my fridge, I had finely chopped sautéed mushrooms (which I usually have – I throw them in soups, in omelettes or in pasta), Indian mashed potatoes and soaked lentils and pita bread. The inspiration here was falafels. I threw the veggies and lentils together, some chopped onions and made a burger, tucked it in pita bread and dinner is ready.

These burgers are delicious, healthy and protein rich. If you have some of these leftover, which is highly doubtful, make a curry and toss them in.

Ingredients:

  • 200 grams mushrooms, (button, oyster or a mix of different mushrooms) chopped
  • 1 big potato, cooked and mashed
  • 1/2 cup channa dal (split chickpeas) or any lentil of your choice
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1-inch piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander/cilantro or parsley
  • 1-2 tbsp oil

Method:

  • Wash and soak lentils in water for at least an hour.
  • Grind coarsely in a mixer or food processor and keep aside.
  • In a frying pan, heat 2 tsp oil.
  • Add one chopped onions, garlic and ginger and saute till golden brown.
  • Add chopped mushrooms and saute until they are cooked.
  • Take off heat and cool Transfer to a bowl, add mashed potatoes, chopped chillies, rest of onions, cilantro, cumin powder, and lentils and mix.
  • Shape into patties, pack the mixture tightly so it will not break.
  • Place on an oiled baking tray.
  • Bake in a preheated oven (350ºF / 180ºC) for 15-20 minutes
  • It can also be fried in a pan. Heat some oil in a pan and pan fry them.
  • Turn them halfway through.
  • Serve on a burger bun or toasted pita bread.
  • Top with condiments of your choice (cheese, pickles, jalapenos, goat cheese, chutney, thinly sliced tomatoes or thinly sliced cucumbers)
  • This can be eaten without the bread or served as an appetizer with some chutney or sour cream.

Quick and Easy Garlic Mushrooms

I love mushrooms and you will always find some in my grocery cart. I can eat them sauteed, in a curry, biryani or an omelette, pasta, pizza or in a bowl of soup. Earlier, I have posted a recipe for stuffed mushrooms and mushroom curry and added mushrooms in my stir fry, fajitas, etc. (search for mushrooms and you will find all the recipes). This will not be my last.

This recipe usually calls for butter but I have used olive oil. This is a healthier version but tastes as good, actually tastes mouth watering delicious. It is quick to make and uses basic ingredients which you would have in the pantry. I could eat a bowl of this by itself but you could serve it as a side. Depending on the spices you add, you can make it Indian, Chinese or Italian. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 – 2 tbsp olive oil (can substitute 1 tbsp oil with butter)
  • 400 grams (approx 1 pound) button mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup shallots or 1 onion
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Indian spices – 1 tsp red chilli flakes or powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • Chinese – 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp chilli sauce, 1/2 tsp vinegar, 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • Italian – 1 tbsp white wine (optional), 1 tbsp Italian spice, 2 tbsp parmesan cheese (substitute with vegan cheese if required), 1 tsp chopped parsley or basil

Direction

  • Heat a heavy bottom wide pan add some olive oil
  • Add sliced onions or shallots and fry for a few minutes
  • Add mushrooms and garlic and saute till the mushrooms are golden
  • Keep stirring to avoid burning
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • At this point, you can decide if you want Indian or Italian or Chinese
  • Indian – add the cumin powder and chilli flakes or powder and saute for a minute. Sprinkle with coriander and serve hot
  • Chinese – Mix corn starch, vinegar, chilli and soy sauce. Add to the mushrooms and toss. Serve hot
  • Italian – Deglaze the pan with some white wine. Add the spices and cheese and mix. Garnish with parsley or basil and serve hot.

Mexican Roasted Pepper Sauce

When I made this sauce the first time, I could not believe how good it was. It was tangy, spicy and I was easy spoonfuls just like that. I mixed it with some fresh tomato sauce and poured it over some pumpkin and baked it. You can saute some vegetables and a tablespoon of sauce. You can also serve it with tacos or enchiladas or even rotis.

Ingredients

  • 2 green capsicums / green peppers
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 6 dried red chillies
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 6 small or 4 big garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • salt to taste

Directions

  • In a pan, roast the red chillies for about 30 seconds Be careful not to burn it. Remove from pan and soak in a bowl of hot water for 15-20 minutes.
  • In the same pan, add oil and fry garlic. Keep aside
  • Roast capsicum on stove. Pierce the capsicum with a knife and place on gas stove. Keep turning as the skin gets charred. (I have one knife just for this)
  • Immerse capsicum in a bowl of cold water and remove charred skin
  • Discard water from the red chillies
  • Transfer the red chillies, capsicum, and garlic into a mixer or food processor. Add vinegar, salt, and cumin and blend to a fine paste.
  • Use this sauce with grilled vegetables or anything else you may choose to use it with.