Sunday, June 29, 2008

Zucchini Soup

One of my dreams is to have my own garden sometime in the future, where I can relax and breath fresh air. Recently we had been to my friend Geeta's house in Pasadena. She has a beautiful house and even more beautiful garden. It was really a treat to see her hard work and passion for plants. I could find Mint, zucchini, tomato, corn, strawberries, green chillies, and many more everyday fruits and vegetables in her garden. I was really inspired by all this and was more happy to know that I will be preparing zucchini soup produced from her garden. :)

Long time back I bought some really interesting recipe books from borders. They were on sale, super cheap, $2.99 each and are super useful, for soup lover like me. So this recipe is from one of those books called soups and stews.

So here it goes-:

2 Zucchini sliced I used 1 from Geeta's garden and other I bought from the store.
half onion chopped
2 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of all purpose flour.
2 cups of chicken stock
1 and half cups of milk
dried/ fresh thyme
half a cup of cream
Parmesan cheese.

It can make 5-6 servings.

Start with buttering a pan on low- medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Don't allow onion to be brown. Then add sliced zucchini. Cover it and continue for 5 minutes. Add all purpose flour and cook for one more minute. Now it's time to add chicken stock and milk stirring it after every addition. Add the thyme and crank up the heat to bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool. Puree the mixture in batches until smooth. Reheat gently and add cream and Parmesan. Add salt to taste. Garnish it with fresh thyme leaves and shaved Parmesan cheese. Do not allow the soup to boil.

You can store this soup in the refrigerator for about 1 day without adding cream and cheese.

Serve it with garlic bread. I will save the recipe of garlic bread for some time later.

Thanks to Geeta for her home grown zucchini.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Watermelon Juice

A really simple recipe to keep you off the heat.

It was really hot this afternoon here in Los Angeles. That's when I came up with this amazingly simple recipe. I happened to have 2 watermelons that we bought from Costco yesterday.

I started with making a puree of watermelon chunks until fairly smooth. Added freshly ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons of honey, added salt to taste.
Oh and I minced fresh leaves of mint and added it in to the grinder along with the watermelon chunks.

After grinding the chunks I squeezed 1 juice of lime in to it. Mixed well and kept it in to the refrigerator. To keep the chilling factor I added ice cubes.

Made my afternoon really refreshing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Green Rice (Pulav)

Today, I am craving for Green Pulav, an extremely aromatic dish made up of rice and all kinds of spices and vegetables. I can't imagine how many versions of pulav one can find in India. Peas pulav, vegetable pulav, keshar pulav to name a few and the list is unending. All the regions in India have local taste to this dish. Usually basmati rice is used for it's rich flavor. One can really be creative and find endless ingredients to make this dish scrumptious.
I get really satisfied when I smell this dish way before it gets ready to eat. So let me start with the recipe otherwise I will be satisfied right at this moment just by imagination.

Ingredients you will need-
2 cups of Basmati rice
1 bunch of Cilantro (we call it coriander in India) roughly chopped

4-5 leaves of mint (optional) I really like the smell of mint.
half lemon, lime will also do, whatever you have on hand is fine. I used lime here.
Olive oil 2 tbsp.

salt to taste.

2 cloves
2-3 Cardamom whole

3-4 peppercorns whole
1 stick of cinnamon
1 bay leaf

1 and half inch ginger- roughly chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic- roughly chopped
2 green chillies ( If you think it will be too spicy for you, I would suggest start with 1 chilli )

4 cups of water.

Indians are comfortable with all these spices. If you feel that it will be too spicy for you palate , you can cut down on spices to half than what my recipe suggests.

Start with washing the basmati rice and keeping it aside.

We are going to make a paste of some ingredients which will give the green color to this rice. So put Cilantro, mint leaves, chopped garlic, chopped ginger, and green chillies in to a blender/ mixer, or a food processor. Blend it to make a paste. Squeeze lime on it. Lime holds the green color of the paste.

Take a deep heavy bottom pan which has a lid on it.
Coat the pan with olive oil. Add cloves, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf. After a minute add onion to it. Fry for a minute and then add green paste that we made in a blender. Fry it for couple of minutes, and now its time to add vegetables that you like. I usually add cauliflower, potato, peas, green beans, but today I ran out off those, so I m
ade my today's version with only onions. After you add vegetables mix all the paste and the vegetables together. Now add salt as per your taste.

The rice which we kept aside by washing it, now it's time for it to go in to the pan. Mix rice well with all the mixture in the pan. The measure for water is 1:2. So add 4 cups of water for 2 cups of rice. I always heat the water before adding it to the pan. This way, rice immediately starts to cook, keeping the temperature of the mixture constant. This tip is shared by my mother in law. Thanks to her, it made sense.

Allow rice to cook for about 10 minutes on a medium to high flame. I always check after 8-10 minutes, that way I feel comfortable. It' a good idea to take off the lid and check in between. But usually it takes about 10-12 minutes.

Your nose will know when it's ready. Turn off the flame. I usually add fried onion on top of it for crispiness. You can also add cashews if you want.
Serve it with yogurt, or a pickle. For me this rice is so full of flavors that I really don't think it needs any side dish.
Just enjoy it with plain yogurt.

Coming up: Zucchini Soup

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fruit puff

I have been on diet for a while. Although this dessert is not meant for the people who are dieting, fruit can always be on the top of the list.

The recipe is an updated version of my mother's recipe. She is one of the those cooks, who has the magic of taking any simple dish to an extraordinary level. May that be an Indian staple food or any delicious party menu, she has it all. So here it goes to her.

Pineapple Puff recipe-:

1 can of Pineapple chunks

1 Jello, preferably strawberry
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup to 1 cup of Sugar depending on your taste.
About half a palm full of almonds
4-5 walnuts- powdered
Saffron to decorate

You can use any kind of fruit you like as chunks as well as in the jelly. I think the combination of strawberry and pineapple goes very well with each other.

The key to prepare this dessert is to make it ahead of time and give it some time to settle . Let's say you want to get the dessert ready for lunch. Start with making Jello first about 24 hours before. Per the instructions on the packet make the Jello. A really smart tip I want to share with you all here, is when you add the water while making the jelly, use the syrup that is already in the pineapple can.
If the packet says, add 2 cups of cold and 2 cups of hot water, then measure the syrup in the can, if it comes out to be 1 and a half cups, then use that syrup and add the remaining measure as a water. This incorporates the flavor of pineapple in to jelly. Set the jelly aside in the refrigerator for at least for 4 hours.
Whip the cream, while adding sugar in to it. whip it until it stands still and does not drop.
Remove the jelly from the refrigerator, and smash it with a fork or a spoon so as to divide it in to small chunks.

Setting the dessert altogether-:
Take a big deep bowl.
Start layering with Pineapple chunks, jelly chunks, whipped cream, almonds one after the other up to the top. Do not forget to sprinkle walnut powder on top of the cream in between two layers.
Decorate the dessert with saffron.
Keep it in to the refrigerator overnight and enjoy!!

Coming up: Green Rice (Pulav)