Sunday, March 24, 2019

Green Onions Zunka (A Rural Maharashtrian Farmland Recipe)

They say every recipe has a story to tell. The older the recipe, the better is that story as generations of home cooks give a part of their times and lives to that story; making the story more and more richer, along with the recipe.

This is one such recipe. It's a well loved recipe native to the vast farmlands of central India - close to my homeland. Farmer's life is a hard life in that region subjected to the many whims of weather and landlords. This recipe originated in one such farmland out of necessity. 

As the story goes, a poor farmer's wife was looking to put together a lunch for her family working in the unusually strong heat of the mid-day farmland. The crop that year had been ruined and all she had to go with were onions - green onions. 

She was driven by the necessities but was very creative, so she picked up few large bunches of green onions, separated the whites from greens and chopped both very very fine. Then she made a simple saute with toasted gram flour (besan) and seasoned with cumin powder - and she called this a zunka, simple preparation of toasted gram flour with seasonal vegetable at hand. 

In her basket which she delicately balanced over her head, was this zunka, a handful of freshly made bread and a pickle. But the zunka was so tasty and creative, her family and even other farmer's working nearby devoured it to the last bit and so hence forth zunka and bhakar became the farmer's rich meal, a farmland staple - and took an unmistakable place in the vast array of Maharashtrian cuisine.

Fortunately I wasn't under any such duress but I also came up with only two bunches of green onions from farmer's market yesterday :). This has been an unseasonal wet spring delaying the onset of usual vegetables of this time and leaving us with mere basics. So I did just what the farmer's wife had done - I made a simple zunka which was well loved by everyone.

The recipe is super simple. Toast 1C gram flour or besan taking care to not burn and set aside. Then add oil to a preferably non-stick pot. When hot, temper with 1/2tsp mustard seeds and chopped green chili. 

Add finely chopped onion whites and let them caramelize stirring often. Then add 4 cloves of chopped garlic, saute until fragrant. Follow up with the finely chopped onion greens and the toasted gram flour. Mix well. Add salt 1/2tsp cumin powder and mix well. If too dry, sprinkle a bit of water. The consistency should be crumbly. Remove from heat - serve hot with roti, a slice of raw onion and a pickle or peanut-garlic relish. Enjoy! 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sauteed Broccolini (Spring Broccoli) w/ Garlic and Noodles

Just as the weather starts warming up, our local California farmer's market welcomes the onset of spring with baskets and baskets full of broccolini. 

For a long time I thought broccolini was the young broccoli, just as spring onions are the young onions. Turns out not so per our farmer's market vendor lady who is as knowledgeable about her vegetables as wikipedia, truly, and on top will be more than happy to give you tried and tasted recipes from her kitchen - just in case you need that extra push trying out something unfamiliar.

And she is quite right of-course; broccolini is similar to broccoli but with smaller florets and very thin and long stocks. Wiki pronounces it as a hybrid. It also has a slightly stronger punch than regular broccoli so you may find it slightly bitter if you cook it without steaming first. Steaming takes the edge off of it and it's just delightful steamed and sauteed and finished with a good quality finishing salt.

My favorite way to enjoy broccolini is as a simple side for stir-fried noodles with lots of vegetables. You can use any noodles at hand and even spaghetti works just fine if that's what you have.

To prepare broccolini, I use my instant pot for steaming. Add 1C water to the instant pot in saute mode. Meanwhile prep broccolini - there is not much to prep, but I usually look at the ends and snip off any tough ends and wash broccolini well in water. Add the instant pot steamer insert and add broccolini to instant pot, close lid, change to steam mode with 0 minutes of steam time. While the broccolini is cooking, you can chop the vegetables for the stir-fry and get that going.

With 0 minutes of cooking time, instant pot will stop right when steam builds up - which is just enough steaming for these tender vegetables. Quick pressure release, and drain them well in a colander. 

Heat olive oil in a saute pan, add 2 chopped garlic cloves and a pinch of crushed ref peppers and saute in low heat so the oil is infused with garlic flavor but taking care to not burn the garlic. Add steamed broccolini, use the best finishing salt at hand (my go-to is a Himalayan pink salt), mix well and serve immediately!

One of the beauty of seasonal eating is that you associate a season with the seasonal bounties that it provides. And I bet once you try these fresh broccolini at the best of their season, there will be one more reason for you to look forward to spring - always!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Almond Biscotti

It was one of those perfect Saturday mornings when you wake up to the pounding of an unceasing rain on the window panes and you silently say a prayer for the little pleasures of life: for this day being a weekend - to be able to sleep in late and to avoid a rainy messy bay area commute that otherwise would have been the morning.

Instead I woke up to a steamy hot cup of coffee and spent the next hour enjoying an elaborate breakfast flipping through the news and recipes on nytimes - my favorite weekend boot me ups.

As one thing leads to other, daughter and I decided that this morning called for baking! I truly find baking therapeutic - there is something about the act of mixing the dough and then waiting for the baked goodies to be ready while your entire kitchen wafts with an aroma that is so reminiscent of your favorite bakery or your coffee shop - just acts as a very positive, rejuvenating force for me, signalling the start of the weekend, the start of winding down and of that quality family time.

Anyhow, we had a half used package of slivered almonds in the fridge which needed using up, and so I chose this almond biscotti. The recipe from Joy Of Baking is pretty much fool proof even for new or casual bakers. 

And best of all the batch turns out just fine by hand mixing and does not need a stand mixer (which I have resisted owning so far).

I like my biscotti a little chewy and not super crunchy. So I can dunk them in my coffee but I can enjoy them just by themselves as well. To make them chewy I stay with the lower end of the cooking times - 11min when it says 10-15mins for example.

It's a relatively long process but largely hands free.

To make them extra special, you can also make chocolate dipped biscotti by dipping them into melted chocolate at the end. 

I am hoping this batch gets us through he next few rainy weeks on the horizon until spring gets here! Enjoy the biscotti with your favorite hot cup of coffee or tea!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Creamy Polenta with Shiitake Mushrooms & Truffle Oil

This polenta dish is my new go-to weeknight favorite. It is an ultimate comfort meal but also looks and tastes quite sophisticated to deserve a place at a sit-down dinner! 

Polenta serves as a departure from the usual noodles and pastas that attend the weeknight last minute meals. Sometimes varierty is all your need to keep weeknight dinner rotations interesting!

The Creamy Polenta:
I use Bob's Red Mill's polenta corn grits. The regular corn meal might work as well, but this one is specially made for polenta and it cooks up really quickly. I use the ratio 1:5 for a ceamy polenta - ie, add 1C corn grits to 5C of hot water gradually stirring constantly. Then drizzle in some olive oil, add salt to taste and let it cook away partially covered for about 20-25 minutes stirring every few mins. 

I use a large pot to cook polenta because it sputters a lot and can sting your hands while stirring, so be careful!

Mushroom and Tomato Sauce:
While the polenta is cooking, I start the sauce. While any mushrooms will work, I must say I am absolutely in love with the fresh shiitake mushrooms our farmer's market carries, particularly in the rainy season, they are just a delight to cook with and devour! I highly recommend you to try buying freshly picked Shiitake if you can, but if not any regular supermarket mushrooms will do.

Heat olive oil in a pan, add 2 cloves of crushed garlic, pinch of chilli flakes and saute for a minute or two until oil is fragrant with garlic and chillis. Then add handful of chopped mushrooms, season with salt & pepper and cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms have released all their juices. Then add 2 large tomatoes chopped, season with fresh or dried basil and cook for 5 more minutes until tomatoes have softened. If tomatoes aren't very juicy, please feel free to add 1/4C water along-with tomatoes to create "sauce". 

Finishing Touches:
To serve: add creamy polenta to a small pan or bowl. Then laddle some sauce and drizzle with a good quality truffle oil (or just regular olive oil if no truffle oil at hand) and finish with some finely chopped basil. 

Eat while warm and enjoy!  

Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Holidays - Holiday Baking!

It is that time of the year again - when homes everywhere are adorning beautiful Christmas trees dazzling with twinkling lights, cherishing family memories over the years as pretty ornaments. Love and laughter of friends and family is everywhere. And the tiny kitchens and ovens become stars of the homes churning out wonderful dishes and wafting beautiful baking aromas that are so reminiscent of the holidays!

When my daughter turned two, we started an annual Christmas Eve cookie baking tradition - we don't have many traditions in our house, but we have that one and we have been on it year after year. As a toddler, all she could do was lick the dough and be the eager taster - but now, she helps select recipes, makes dough and takes charge of decorating half the batch. 

Life gets soo busy and stressful year around that I have really come to cherish these small pleasures and tiny moments of baking together on Christmas Eve!

We rarely bake cookies otherwise in the whole year, so it's something we both eager look forward to just as December rolls in.

This year we made 3 cookies:
  1. Simple sugar cookies which we decorated with icing. 
  2. Gingerbread cookies
  3. For grown-ups of the house, a fresh batch of almond biscotti to dip into afternoon tea or coffee.
Of the three biscotti's were my favorite. I skipped almond liquor but instead added almond extract. It came out wonderful. At baking times of 35-10-15 mins, the biscotti were not super hard - a pleasure to dunk in but also could it on it's own too. I'll definitely be making these again and again!

I made only one change to the gingerbread cookies recipe. I really avoid to buy large portion of an ingredient, when only a little bit is used in a year - so in the spirit of limiting waste, I substituted molasses with dark honey we bought from farmer's market the day before. It turned out just fine.

This year we also experimented a lot with icing decorations - specially using unique patterns by mixing colors using toothpicks. A cookie then becomes only but an empty canvas to express yourself with colors - as my daughter called it, it's just like painting!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my friends and readers! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Everyday Granola

Do you make granola at home? If not, I'll highly recommend giving it a try. It's super simple - no recipe needed and highly customizable to your taste! Just mix the dry and wet ingredients together and bake at low temp while stirring every 10 minutes. 

Organic pre-made granola can get pricey and besides you can make endless variations to suit your taste buds when you make it at home. As an added benefit, home is filled with cinnamon and nutmeg baking aromas for hours afterwards - just as I like it. 

There is no recipe as such but these are some very general guidelines I follow: 3C rolled oats + 1C nuts & seeds to 3/4C wet (sweeteners + oil) to 1C dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, dried cherries, dried coconut flakes) and finally the flavorings - my favorite combo is cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg powder or just substitute pie spice if you have at hand. Granola bakes at a low temp - like 300F for a long time (40 minutes) - all you need to do is keep stirring every 10-15 minutes.

We enjoy granola as a snack to munch on, with milk as cereal or topped on Greek yogurt as dessert. One thing is for sure, once you make it at home, it's going to be difficult to go back to store bought one :)

Recipe:
Makes ~5C

Ingredients:
3C rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant)
1C chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios)
2Tbsp seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
1C chopped dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, strawberries etc)
2Tbsp packed brown sugar
1/2C maple, agave syrup, honey or molasses
2Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2tsp cinnamon powder
1/2tsp ginger powder
pinch of nutmeg powder
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2tsp salt

Recipe:

  • Pre-heat oven to 300F
  • Mix all dry ingredients except dry fruits and coconut flakes.
  • Mix all the wet ingredients (syrup, oil, vanilla extract)
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well to quote thoroughly.
  • Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Spread the granola mixture in a thin layer on sheet pan.
  • Bake for 40 minutes until granola turns golden brown. Spread around with a spoon every 10-15 minutes during baking.
  • Remove from oven. Immediately add dried fruit. Mix well.
  • Let cool. Once cold, store in an airtight container.
  • Serve as a cereal with milk, or on top of yogurt or just munch on their own.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Black Bean and Sweet Corn Enchilada

We love Mexican food at our place. Enchilada in particular is a crowd favorite - served hot, bubbling with freshly baked melting cheese, it's quite a treat! And much less messier to eat for the little ones compared to tacos or burritos.

The only hindrance to making Mexican feasts often is time, or the lack of it. It takes a while to put together Spanish rice, black beans, guacamole, salsas and for enchilada, the enchilada sauces and baking is additional time on top of it. It just doesn't fit my dinner time budget - which on most days is no more than 20-30 minutes. 

But that's where this new line of Mexican sauces and condiments I found from chef Rick Bayless comes in so handy! We have tried their red chili enchilada sauce, green chili enchilada sauce and roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce - and all were great! None of that pre-cooked and packaged taste but instead brimming with fresh flavors and no-one could tell sauces were not home made. I bought ours from Whole Foods but I believe many other grocery chains like Target carries the brand.

I use the roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce to make green salsa or spoon over as a cooking sauce. To make green salsa from this sauce just add some freshly chopped onion, coriander and season with salt & lemon juice per taste. I also find heating the sauce once and then letting it cool brings more umpf in the sauce.

The red chili enchilada sauce is a personal favorite - it's perfectly mild making it good for kids but at the same time rich in flavors. I have tried many enchilada sauces but with this one, I don't miss making sauce at home. It's just as good or may be better.

So this was our dinner on a lazy Saturday when we skipped doing groceries and fridge was looking bare.

Photos are not great, but that's only because we couldn't wait to dig in!
Spanish rice: 1.5C rice, 1Tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic minced, 2 small tomatoes chopped, 1tsp tomato paste, 1/4tsp oregano dried, salt & pepper, 2.5C water. Recipe here.

Enchilada filling: 1 small can black beans - rinsed, kernels of one white corn, handful of edamame, 2Tbsp of roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce, Mexican shredded cheese per taste (we put just a little bit), salt & some salsa seasoning (optional). Mix together, using the back of your spatula crush some black beans so the filling holds together better. And set aside. 

Green salsa: roasted tomatillo and poblano sauce, finely chopped onion, coriander, salt & lemon juice (per taste).

Guacamole: 3 small avocados, finely chopped 2Tbsp green onion, chopped coriander, salt, lemon juice. Recipe here.

Assembly: pre-heat oven to 375F. Brush an oven-safe large casserole dish with oil. Warm up 8 corn tortillas in microwave or on a skillet. Fill 1Tbsp filling in each tortilla in the middle, roll, add it to the casserole pan. Keep adding until the tortillas are snuggled to each other. Then drizzle red enchilada sauce over the tortillas. Sneak in any remaining filling. Add some shredded Mexican cheese on top. Bake for 15 minutes on a middle rack until cheese is bubbly and sides of enchilada look cooked well.

Remove and serve with Spanish rice, guacamole and green salsa. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings

For a long time I was not enthusiastic to eat at a dumpling place. I love dumplings but having strong vegetarian preferences, I rarely found entrees I could enjoy - vegetarian menu options always seemed like an after-thought at dumpling places I visited. But that changed the first time I ate at Din Tai Fung - it's the best dumpling place I have come across and hands-down awesome for vegetarians dumpling fans!

So it was only a natural next-step that I ventured on a quest to make the Din Tai Fung style vegetarian dumpling at home :) I don't think I have gotten 100% there yet, but close enough and it's a version we devour at home so that's good enough for me!

These are steamed dumplings - not pan fried. I prefer the steamed version but you could pan fry and then steam by adding a cup of water to hot pan and put the lid on.

(photo isn't great - we could hardly wait to dig in!)
Making dumplings can bring the whole family together. Rolling the dough disks, filling them and then locking them into a dumpling is a process ripe for parallelism and more than one pair of hands. To little ones, it's also a time to unleash her creativity and make different shaped dumplings! 

And to be sure it is a slow process, takes time, but the results are very rewarding; and if you have good enjoyable company, what's not there to love making dumplings as family bonding cooking activity!

You can make your own dough and wrappers; but to save time you can also buy pre-made gyoza or wonton wrappers from your local supermarket Asian refrigerated section, which is what I do. They are quite cheap - $3 for 52 wrappers or so.

This is how I made the dumpling filling:
Serves very hungry 3, or moderately hungry 4 (made about 32 dumplings)
Ingredients:
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu (extra firm is important)
  • 1C finely chopped mushrooms (shitake would be great, but I used regular brown mushrooms and they work well too)
  • 2 carrots - grated
  • 1 bok choy (finely chopped)
  • 1Tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1-2 spring or green onions (finely chopped)
  • 1C finely shredded cabbage
  • few mint leaves - chopped (optional)
  • handful of thin rice noodles
  • 1Tbsp soy sauce
  • salt to taste (go low as soy sauce has salt)
  • 2Tbsp vegetable oil
Vegetables - prepped

Recipe:

  • Prep all the ingredients before starting.
  • Try to drain as much water from tofu as you can - pressing it between two paper towels. Then break into small pieces.
  • Heat oil in a wok or large bottom pan.
  • When hot, add ginger and saute a minute until oil is fragrant.
  • Then add tofu and mushroom. Add a little salt to release mushroom juices. Saute until mixture looks dry.
  • Then add rest of the veggies, mint and saute until mixture looks dry.
  • Add say sauce, mix, taste - season more salt if needed.
  • Remove from heat. Spread the mixture in a large plate and let it cool completely.
  • Meanwhile soak rice noodles in hot water in a covered pan to cook the noodles for 10 minutes. Remove, check for done-ness. Chop into small bites and add to the filling mixture. Mix well.
Dumpling vegetarian filling
Assembly is very straight forward once you get the hang of it. Take a dumpling wrapper. Wet the edge of the wrapper using wet fingers dipped in water. Add filling in the middle (I add about 1Tbsp per dumpling). Fold the dumpling and press and pinch the edges together to make a half moon. 

Then make a sliding folding pattern on the edge to lock in the edges using your thumb and index finger (optional for that distinguishing decorated dumpling edges). Set them on a plate with seam side up. Steam in a steamer for 10 minutes. It's great if you have the special bamboo steamers - but regular vegetable steamer works well too.

Serve hot with dipping sauce (= soy sauce + very thinly sliced ginger)

Enjoy!
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This page and all of its contents is copyright of Prajakta Gudadhe. All rights reserved.

This is a web catalog of the recipes that I have tried and tasted in my kitchen. While these recipes and instructions have worked well for me, please use all the information and the recipes from Ginger and Garlic at your own risk.