Vegetarian Skillet Lasagna

Lasagna is a favourite in our home. What is not to like, it is pasta, with lots of vegetables and cheese; perfect for parents who are trying to get their children eat veggies. I add veggies that suit my mood or my fridge; it is sometimes spinach, mushrooms, eggplants, zucchini. The usual lasagna recipe also has ricotta cheese. I being lactose intolerant, make a small pan for myself with no cheese(!) or sometimes add some goat cheese since I can tolerate that. Making lasagna is usually time consuming; making the filling, the sauce and then cooking the sheets, then layering them and the baking for atleast 50 minutes; then letting it sit for 15 minutes before you serve so it does not fall apart. I always misjudge the time (and sometimes the amount of filling required) and dinner always runs late when I am making lasagna.

I came across this recipe in another group posted by Phillip Nicholas. His was with meat and ricotta cheese and I adapted it to a vegetarian version with teh cheese I had at home that day. It was easy (no pre-boiling of pasta sheets, layering or baking), all in one skillet and delicious. This recipe is a keeper!

Ingredients

  • 8-10 lasagna noodles (do not use the no-boil sheets)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or 1/2 tsp chilli powder)
  • 1 large eggplant , 1 inch dice (add salt and let it sit for 15 minutes, rinse and place on paper towels to remove excess water)
  • 1 green pepper (capsicum), 1 inch diced
  • 8 oz (approx 250 g) white or bella mushrooms, finely chopped (I like to add mushrooms for the meaty texture. If you don’t like mushrooms, you can add veggie crumbles or other vegetables of your choice or just more eggplant)
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (can use fresh tomatoes, chopped to very fine)
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella (or 16 oz ricotta cheese) – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • pepper and salt to taste
  • 8-10 fresh basil leaves, sliced or torn

Directions

  • In a large skillet (with a lid), heat olive oil
  • Add chopped onions and cook till soft (about 4-5 minutes)
  • Add garlic and red pepper flakes and mix
  • Add chopped mushrooms and fry till almost dry (about 4-5 minutes)
  • Add eggplant and fry till almost cooked. Add green peppers and cook for a minute. add 1/2 tbsp italian seasoning (Since I was making two pans (one lactose-free), I transferred some veggies to a smaller pan)
  • Break lasagna sheets into 1-2 inches and spread over the vegetables
  • Add water,crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and rest of the italian seasoning, salt and pepper
  • Bring to boil, cover and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until the pasta is cooked, al dente. Taste for seasoning
  • If using ricotta, mix all the cheeses together.
  • When the pasta is cooked, drop dollops of cheese mixture (ricotta cheese mixture) or fresh mozzarella over the pasta and sprinkle the shredded cheese all over (For a lactose-free version, add goat cheese or vegan cheese)
  • Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and let it cook for a minute. Take off pan and let it sit covered till all the cheese melts
  • Top with fresh basil and serve

Sheet Dinners

This seems to be the craze right now and I know why. It is really easy, throw all your vegetables on a tray and bake. Makes an easy weekday dinner. I add spices depending on my moods. Make some rice, pasta or just have it with some nice crusty bread and cheese.

My son would like to start cooking when he gets back to college. He likes to cook and I was telling him that using an instant pot and a sheet pan will make his life easy.

So here are some sheet dinners.

Roasted Butternut Squash

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)
  • Peel and slice a butternut squash – 1 inch slices
  • Mix in a bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
  • Toss and add to a greased sheet pan. I sometimes use parchment paper
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes
  • Serve as a side

Roasted green beans

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)
  • Wash and trim 1 pound (1/2 kg) string beans
  • Toss in a pan with a tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • Slice 2-3 pieces of lemon
  • Add beans to a greased sheet pan. Add lemon on top
  • Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes
  • At the last 2-3 minutes, add some sliced almonds and roast
  • Squeeze lemon juice on beans.
  • Serve hot. It can be eaten as a snack or a side

Roasted and Smashed Potatoes

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)
  • Wash and parboil a pound of baby potatoes
  • Smash potato using a masher or a spoon
  • In a bowl, add potatoes, salt, pepper, chilli flakes, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, corinader powder, garlic and onion powder
  • Pour on to the greased sheet pan onto a single layer
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes
  • Serve hot

Roasted Vegetables

I usually use what vegetables I have in hand. Cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin roast well. I sometimes add italian spices, sometimes add indian spices like coriander, cumin, garam masala, sometimes Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning salute or chili lime or everything but the bagel. I also like to roast a head of garlic and then squeeze it on to the vegetables.

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)
  • Wash and slice vegetables to equal sizes
  • Toss in a pan with a tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and 3 cloves finely chopped garlic or any spice you like
  • Slice 2-3 pieces of lemon
  • Add vegetables to a greased sheet pan. Add lemon on top
  • Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes
  • Squeeze lemon juice on vegetables.
  • Serve hot.

Sandya’s Sunday Lunch

JEERA RASAM, PARAPU USILI AND MOR KOOTAN

Sandya, my niece sent me some more recipes. this would be sunday lunch at her home. Serve with steamed rice and some papadum. I make a different version of jeera rasam; I tried this after she sent me the recipe.The only change was that I added 4-5 cloves of garlic, which of course is optional. The rasam was spicy, tangy and perfect with rice. I had to pour some in a cup and drink it as a soup. This is perfect if you have the sniffles; it surely clears up your sinuses.

Jeera rasam

  • Soak 1tsp tur dal, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp pepper corns, and a handful of curry leaves for 30 min and grind in a blender
  • In a kadai or saucepan, take the juice of a lemon sized tamarind (lemon sized tamarind soaked in hot water and squeeze and discard tamarind and use the juice. Alternatively, use 1 tsp tamarind concentrate with 2 cups water). Add 1 chopped tomato, 1/4 tsp asafoetida, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 3-4 cloves of garlic (optional) and boil well.
  • Add the ground paste and adjust consistency by adding one cup water if required. Let it boil until it is frothy on the top.
  • Add ghee to a pan and add a tsp of mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter add to the rasam. This is called tempering. Add coriander leaves as garnish. Serve hot with steamed rice or drink as an appetizer soup.

Parupu (Lentils) usili

This is a dish you will love to eat over and over again. The lentils are roasted and golden and have a nutty flavour; the chillies combined with stir fried beans. I could just eat this by itself!


Courtesy: Geethas Kitchen

  • Soak 2 cups tur dal, 2 tsps channa dal, 3 red chillies in 3 cups water for 2 hours.
  • Grind without adding water with a few curry leaves and 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder into a thick paste
  • Steam as balls in a steam or on an idli tray
  • Once it cools, pulse in blender till it crumbles (pulse 2-3 times-do not grind). Set aside
  • Stir fry any finely chopped vegetables of your choice- beans/ cluster beans/ broad beans/ vazhai poo (banana flower). Set aside.
  • In a kadai or pan heat 3 tbsp vegetable oil. Add 1 tsp mustard seeds, 2-3 red chillies, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and a couple of curry leaves.
  • To this add the crumbled dal/lentils and saute on a medium flame until it becomes mildly crispy and brown.
  • Then add the stir fried vegetables and saute for another 2 minutes and serve with steamed rice.
  • The is a perfect dish to eat if you do not want carbs, just leave out the rice

Mor kootan (Coconut and yogurt sauce)

Mor kootan is a curd/yogurt based sauce which is perfect with rice. In the north of India a similar dish called khadi is made. In the south we use coconut and has a very different taste. It is a mild sauce with the coconut and yogurt mellowing down the flavours of the chillies.

  • Grind 1 cup sliced or grated coconut, 2-3 green chillies or jalapeno chillies, 1 tsp rice powder, 1 tsp cumin seeds and 2 cups curd/yogurt. Do not add water; grind till coconut and chillies are finely ground. Keep paste aside
  • Add 2 tsp coconut oil to a kadai/ sauce pan
  • Add 1 tsp mustard seeds, 2-3 red chillies, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and a couple of curry leaves.
  • When mustard seeds splutter add 1 cup of bhindi(okra)- cut to 1 inch pieces or cooked arbi (colocasia) or green peppers (capsicum) and fry till the vegetable is cooked. You could also use raw plantain, ash gourd or pumkin.
  • Add ground paste and mix. Add salt and 1 cup water
  • Take off heat once it starts bubbling.
  • Serve with steamed rice

Paneer And Veg Kathi Rolls/ Frankies

Kathi rolls and Frankies were not something I grew up with in the south of India. We had our masala dosas which are rice crepes filled with a potato filling and a coconut chutney on the side. In the south, people believed in sitting down for meals and eating and relishing it. I have read that Khati rolls originated in Calcutta and Frankies in Mumbai; two cities hustling and bustling even back when I was a kid. I had not visited either place until I was an adult. I grew up in a sleepy small town called Bangalore where street food included masala puri, nippatu chat and gobi manchurian. Since I had not travelled beyond the Vindhya mountains I had not come across food like kathi rolls and frankies. Kathi rolls are found on almost every street in Calcutta and oh, so scrumptious. Both Kathi rolls and frankies are rotis stuffed with meat or veggies and maybe cheese and rolled to be eaten on the go. Sometimes, an egg is added to the roti. Today you find this everywhere even in the ‘not so sleepy’ city of Bangalore.

This is my version, inspired from the streets of Calcutta and Mumbai. To be more decadent, a nice flaky ceylon parantha could be used instead of a whole wheat roti. It is spicy and tangy. You could fill it with chicken tikka or panner tikka or any vegetables or meat of you choice. Kebabs go really well with this. I have used tamarind and coriander chutney but a yogurt dip (yogurt mixed with coriander chutney) may also be used.

Paneer Masala

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet paneer 200 g
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • To be mixed to a paste: 1 tsp garlic paste, 1 tsp ginger paste, 2 tsp chat masala, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 -1 tsp chilli powder, salt, 1 tbsp yogurt (optional)
  • 1 tbsp coriander leaves

Directions:

  • Cut paneer into cubes. Coat paste on paneer and let it marinate for 30 minutes
  • Heat oil, add onions and fry till golden brown
  • Add tomatoes and fry till tomatoes are well cooked and oil separates (you see some oil on the sides of the pan)
  • Add the paneer and keep cooking till it is almost dry. Keep mixing to avoid burning

Mushroom Capsicum Pepper Stir Fry

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp chat masala
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp oil

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a pan
  • Add onions and fry for a few minutes
  • Add mushrooms and stir fry for 3-4 minutes
  • Add the capsicum/green peppers and stir fry for another 3-4 minutes. Season with salt, chat masala and chilli powder
  • Set aside

Onion garnish

Slice one red onion, squeeze 1/2 a lemon on it. Add 1/2 tsp chilli powder and 1 tsp chat masala, 1/4 tsp salt. Mix and set aside.

  • tortillas/ chappati/ ceylon paratha
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • coriander chutney, store bought
  • sweet tamarind chutney, store bought

Method

  • Heat rotis/ paratha drizzling some oil on it
  • Place some paneer or veggies on the rotis
  • drizzle some coriander and tamarind chutney on it
  • Add some onion garnish
  • Roll and serve hot

Breakfast and dinner- Recipes by danya

Maharashtrian Poha (Beaten Rice) and Punjabi Dal

When I started asking recipes from family, Danya was one of the excited nieces who sent me recipes. I remember visiting her in Mysore and showing her how to bake banana bread years ago. I heard she makes a really good banana bread. Her husband raves about her cooking. Danya is working on her PhD and will soon be Dr. Danya! In her spare time she enjoys cooking.

Here are two recipes. This is her version of a maharashtrian poha – a quick and tasty breakfast or anytime snack and punjabi dal (lentil soup eaten with rice or roti/naan). Danya said that the punjabi dal was a recipe her mother has been using for almost 30 years. The recipe was given to her mother by her aunt, Shanti.

Poha is beaten rice and you get both white and red variety. She has used red poha. In Tamil, poha is called aval and in Kannada it is called avalakki. In the south of india, a similar dish called aval upma or avalakki uppittu is made. Usually potatoes are not added and mustard seeds are added instead of cumin seeds. Garnish with grated coconut.

  1. Rinse two cups of poha and drain using a strainer. (Do not let it sit in the water; it will get soggy)
  2. Sprinkle salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and set aside.
  3. In a pan, heat 2 tsp oil and add 1 tsp cumin seeds.
  4. Add 1 cup chopped onions, 1-2 chopped green chilli (optional), 1/2 cup peanuts, 1 tbsp curry leaves (optional) and saute till onion turns golden.
  5. Add 1 chopped potato, salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder. Sprinkle a little bit of water and let the potato cook. Keep stirring.
  6. Once the potato is cooked well and dry, add the poha (beaten rice) and mix gently. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 minutes.
  7. Garnish with cilantro leaves and a tsp of lemon juice(optional).
  8. Serve with a cup of masala chai, tea or filter coffee (that would be another post)

Punjabi Dal

  1. Measure 1/3 cup each of toor dal, masoor dal, yellow moong dal, urad dal and channa dal.
  2. Pressure cook all the dals with three times the water.
  3. Soak 4 red chillies in warm/hot water. Chop one onion, four tomatoes and 5-6 cloves garlic. Grind the chopped onions, tomatoes and garlic along with the chillies and the water the chillies are soaked in. (This gives it a mild color). Remove the seeds from the chillies if you prefer less spice.
  4. Heat oil in a pan. Add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and 2 bay leaves.
  5. Once the cumin seeds splutter, add 1 1/2 chopped onion and saute till golden brown.
  6. Add the paste, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, a 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, chilli powder, crushed kasuri methi and salt.
  7. Bring to a boil and cook it well.
  8. Add the cooked and mashed dal and boil.
  9. Check salt and adjust. You can add 1/2-3/4 tsp amchur powder for a tangy taste (optional). Amchur powder is dried mango powder.
  10. Simmer for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and garnish with chopped coriander/ cilantro leaves and ghee. Serve with rice, roti or naan.

VERSATILITY of a Banana (Plantain) Plant- using every part of the plant

Banana/ Plantain plants are one of the most versatile plant you can find. Almost every part of the plant, not just the fruit, is eaten. What is the difference between a banana and a plantain. A plantain is a starchier banana which is used both raw and ripe. They are usually larger than a regular banana. The raw plantain is used extensively in cooking and is cooked extensively in India, the Caribbean, Central and South America and parts of Africa and South Asia. The ripe plantains can be steamed or deep fried. The spices added to it are different in different parts of the world but it all starts with the humble plantain. The plantain stem, flower and fruit can be eaten. The banana stem is very high in fibre and good for you. The leaves are used as plates or package food and they are biodegradable.

South Indian meal served on a plantain/ banana leaf

I had posted a raw plantain roast sometime ago: https://chaiwithpreethi.com/2019/03/22/vazhakkai-roast-raw-banana-stir-fry/ and podimas- substitute raw plantain for potatoes https://chaiwithpreethi.com/2018/04/01/mashed-potato-the-indian-way-potato-podimas-urulaikizhangu-podimas/and here is a recipe of my banana bread: https://chaiwithpreethi.com/2016/11/02/banana-bread/

My sisters in law, Pushkala and Brinda, sent me recipes that they had cooked with the banana stem and banana peel. You can also cook the banana flower too. These recipes are traditionally from the South of India.

pushkala’s Vazhai Thandu Pachadi (Plantain Stem Curry)

  1. Oil hands before cutting the plantain stains as they can stain your fingers. Cut vazhai thandu (plantain stem) into small pieces and wash in water mixed with little yogurt. This avoids discoloring of the stem. Use a wooden stick or chopstick and twirl in the water. A lot of the fibre entangles in the stick, remove and discard. You may find chopped plantain stem which will make your life easier
  2. Soak one lime sized tamarind and extract juice or use 1/2 tsp tamarind concentrate
  3. Pressure cook cut vazhai thandu (plantain stem) in tamarind extract with salt, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and 1 tablespoon jaggery/ brown sugar
  4. In a blender, grind 3 tablespoon grated coconut, 1/4 spoon mustard seeds and 2 green chillies into a paste
  5. Add paste to cooked vazhai thandu and cook well
  6. In a pan, take a tsp of coconut oil, add mustard, red chillies and curry leaves
  7. Garnish with 1/2 tsp mustard seeds,5-6 curry leaves and 2 red chillies. When the mustard seeds splutter, pour over pachadi and serve with steamed rice or any indian breads
banana stem
Vazha thandu pachadi

Plantain peel with green gram (moong) curry

This is a recipe from Brinda: Invariably every year I buy some raw nendran banana fruit for making chips. For the chips, the fruit is peeled, sliced and deep fried in oil.
Then, I use the peel to make a curry.
Before peeling the fruit, I wash it thoroughly in water and then peel. This peel, rich in fibre and nutrients is cut into small pieces. To one cup of peel, add one cup of green gram or cow pea and cook in a pressure cooker with little water and turmeric powder under medium flame for about 10 minutes. (Allow about six whistles in an indian pressure cooker). (or in instant pot for 4 minutes). When the pressure subsides, open the pan add salt and cook. Grind one tablespoon of grated coconut, 3 red dry chillies and one teaspoon peppercorns. Add this mixture into the pan and cook for about five minutes. Remove from flame and garnish with curry leaves and add a tablespoon of coconut oil. Serve with steamed rice or chapati/ roti.