Sunday, November 29, 2009

A savory snack - Saanja

I find it very interesting how our mind correlates food with memories and these correlations are so strong (well, atleast for me :-)). Warm smell of freshly made tortialla and spanish rice reminds me of my San Diego days when I used to frequently visit old town to satisfy mexican food cravings..... similarly thinking of Maggi noodles takes me back to my college days back in India preparing for exams late into the night and relying on Maggi for a larger part of sustainance! What a treat it used to be to enjoy hot Maggi noodles in the middle of a cold wintry night!

Saanja has some similar memory lane associations for me: it is a very common marathi snack made out of semolina (rava). I find Saanja as a lesser-known but equally potent cousin of the ever-so-famous Upma! When I was growing up my Masi (Mom's sister) would stop by few afternoons to visit us. We used to look forward to Masi's visits because each of her visits would be filled with warm talks, laughter and a fresh batch of gossip! On most such days my mom would make Saanja when she would know that masi is coming. Mom, masi and I would sit around the kitchen savouring the saanja with a hot cup of Chai and an equally exciting chatter! More than 15 years have passed since then but still whenever I think of Saanja somewhere subconciously the image of us sitting in our kitchen and laughing on something silly flashes by....

Anyways, so here is how I make (or rather my mom makes) Saanja: If you have toasted rava ready in your pantry then this dish hardly takes 20mins to make and can be cooked with a near-empty pantry (always a plus!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Winter has finally arrived! Evenings are chilly, skies are more cloudy and my good old thick comforter is out of its summer package... that means bringing back two of my favorite winter activities: scarf knitting and making big pots of hot bubbling soup!

I am a soup lover; on many wintry days I am perfectly happy with a dinner of hot soup and a nice rusty bread. This one is one of my favorites. It has a lot of healthy vegetables, red peppers are full of anti-oxidants and vitamin A/C and roasting brings out a really nice slightly sweet flavor to them.

I first saw this recipe a year ago on one of the recipe shows on TV (unfortunately don't remember which show now). Original recipe called for some cream and a dollop of cream cheese. I am not a cream lover so I made it first with no cream but instead added lemon juice and it still tasted great! Over the last year I have made this soup more times than I can count and everytime I switched a few things here and there. This one is extremely forgiving; you can skip an ingredient if you don't have it or replace it with something similar.. its all good!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Spaghetti squash with Sun-dried tomatoes and capers

"What!! this is not pasta??" I asked surprised to my office cafeteria vegetarian station server. I had just asked him for a pasta dish that a coworker in front of me had ordered and he was shaking his head saying "no pasta, vegetable only". He pointed me to the menu board written "spaghetti squash with pesto". Hmmm, I had never seen something that looks so much like spaghetti but is not! I was intrigued and ordered one. Well, like any other dish served in our cafe this one was barely appetizing.. pasta (or squash) was overcooked and to hide that fact the server was drenching it in pesto sauce. I could hardly taste the spaghetti squash but it looked interesting enough to give it a second try!

The weekend after that I found myself roaming in our local farmer's market looking for spaghetti squash. I found one vendor carrying one. While I was staring at the squash trying to make sense of how I am going to make "pasta" out of it, the vendor possibly sensed my confusion and stopped by suggesting I try it, its really good and all I have got to do is roast it for 40-50mins and then the strands will come out. I bought one and couldn't wait to try it out!

Spaghetti squash is an interesting vegetable ( It is a very good low-cal veggie alternative for regular spaghetti. Its readily available in winter and is very nutrient rich; taste is mild so it pairs very well with various sauces! This is how I prepared mine:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Couscous mint salad

This salad (for lack of a better word!) was a very unexpected hit with us! It was one of those times when I found these really fresh bunches of mint in indian market and thinking of all the possible ways to use it, I overbought! These couple bunches of mint were sitting in the crisper for many days when I realized that there isn't much innovative I am going to do with these :-) Then I made what I knew: a simple mint chutney with lemon, cilantro and green chilis.

The recipe is very simple: process in food processor 2 bunches of mint, 1 green chili and 1 clove of garlic (optional). Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth with juice of 1 lime and salt to taste.

My favorite way to enjoy mint chutney is to mix it with some fresh rice & butter! yumm... but since I was out on rice, I decided to mix it with some couscous instead! I was a bit worried about how couscous and mint chutney would go together but they were perfect! I added some chopped tomatoes and cilantro for the extra salad-ish feeling :D The results were surprisingly good! I hope you try it :)

1 C couscous
1.5 C water
mint chutney (as many or as little as you want)
some chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp oil/butter
salt & pepper

Follow the package directions to cook couscous (I heated 1.5C water. When the water starts to boil add couscous & salt to taste, remove from heat, cover and let stream for 5mins. Remove the lid and fluff up using a fork). Couscous is a great fast cooking grain.. I find it milder in taste and so lends very well to indian spices.

To the cooked couscous, add oil/butter, add tomatoes, season per taste and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Whole wheat pita sandwiches

This is the simplest and quickest lunch possible -- and yet very delicious! There aren't a whole lot of ingredients and there is hardly any cooking at all so it really helps if the ingredients are fresh and of good quality. This is perfect for a takeout lunch -- to office or to a weekend hike!

I love whole wheat pita bread but many times the whole wheat pita that I get from supermarkets are very cardboardish.. specially when eaten cold. If I eat the pita warm then it tastes much better but if you need to eat cold pita then I feel the quality of the pita really matters. Anyway, for some time now I have been buying whole wheat pita at Trader Joe's and have been really happy with them.

This lunch is more of an assembly than cooking :) The ingredients are really versatile as well, its usually what I have at hand.

2 whole wheat pita
dressing -- my favorite is Trader Joe's cilantro jalapeno hummus, but a regular hummus or a yogurt-cucumber-mint sauce or a sun-dried tomato pesto works equally well.
Veggies - slices of heirloom tomatoes, roasted red peppers, cucumbers
Greens - spinach or salad greens
Herbs - basil
salt & pepper

Cut the pita in half and toast on a hot griddle for a few minutes toasting both sides. Then carefully open up the pita and spread the dressing on one of the inner sides. Add rest of the ingredients; stuff the pita well so the veggies will not spill out (specially if you are packing it). Enjoy! If its a to-go lunch then wrap the sandwich well in a cling-wrap.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quinoa Salad

Recently we have fallen into this ritual of visiting local farmers markets every weekend. The good part of living in a large city is that we have two different choices for farmers markets: Saturday @ Sunnyvale or Sunday @ Mountain view! There is just something about the fresh produce and fruits that gets me the fuel to cook at home for the week ahead....

This is our lunch on most days after coming back from farmers market. This salad comes together so quickly and is so wonderful! The fresh produce is exactly what makes this quinoa salad so yummy!

Recipe: Quinoa Salad
2 C quinoa
2 tomatoes
1 red pepper
1/2 red onion
3 celery sticks
1/2 C chopped cilantro or parsley or basil
olive oil/lime juice/red wine vinegar/salt/pepper/lemon rind
1 tsp cumin powder
pinch of oregano

Cook quinoa per package directions. I buy my quinoa in stock from Bob's red mills which comes pre-washed; but if its not pre-washed, you may need to rinse it clear first. I boiled 4C water and then added quinoa and cooked covered for 14mins (or until quinoa has absorbed all the water and has fluffed up well). Remove from heat and set aside.

Chop all the veggies in byte sized pieces. Mix all the ingredients together; adjust the seasonings per taste. Let sit for half an hour before serving for flavors to develop.

Variations: This would go great with some black beans and fresh corn added for a southwestern twist. Another variation which I love is to add some toasted slivered almond slices and raisins.

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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.