Monday, April 30, 2018

Cooking With Lotus Roots

While on a recent trip to the Asian market to buy ingredients for sushi (my current obsession - more on that later in another post!), my husband spotted a packet of lotus stems or lotus roots. 

Lotus roots in Indian style yogurt soup (kadhi) is a childhood dish we grew up eating. The roots looked just as I remembered them and my curiosity peaked enough to grab a packet in my shopping cart.
Stir-fried lotus roots
It turns out that the terms lotus roots and lotus stems are used quite interchangeably - but they are the same thing, circular inner parts of lotus under water adorned with beautiful pattern as only what nature can make! 

They can be boiled, sauteed, stir-fried - very versatile. They are also super rich in anti-oxidants. They are very mild in taste - which make them an ideal blank canvas to add any flavorings in.

I decided to cook it two ways. First the traditional Marathi way of boiling it with Kadhi and serving with rice. The second was a stir-fry. It just felt like they were made for stir-fry with that super beautiful shape and crunchy texture! My personal favorite was the stir-fry; next time I'll cook them with spring peas, mushrooms and some greens and season with soy sauce & vinegar.

Lotus roots stir fry:
Prepare lotus roots by boiling them in water for 5mins. Drain and set aside. Heat oil in a wok or non-stick pan, when hot, add lotus roots, seasoning of choice (I added few pinches of my go-to everyday seasoning which is a blend of many common spices), salt & pepper. Cook on high heat for a minute or two. Transfer to a plate. Add lemon juice, serve with rice, add to salads or just munch on their own!

Kadhi with lotus roots:
Prepare lotus roots by boiling them in water for 5mins. Drain and set aside. 
Meanwhile, mix 4C yogurt with 2 Tbsp besan, mix well. Then add enough water for desired kadhi consistency. Set aside.

In a big pot, heat 1tsp oil. Add 1tsp cumin seeds, pinch of asafoetida powder, few curry leaves, 1Tbsp freshly grated ginger and saute for one minute. Then add 1/2tsp turmeric powder, followed by yogurt mixture, salt to taste and let cook on low flame until kadhi starts gently boiling. Add cooked lotus stems and boil for a few more mins.

Serve with rice and ghee! 
Lotus Roots Kadhi (Indian Yogurt Soup)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Picnic food: Pita Pockets w/ Lentil Stuffing

Impromptu picnics are so much fun. All you need is good weather, a yummy picnic basket, a nearby park and you can look forward to a sunny afternoon filled with good food and company of the people you love!

There are a bunch of very nice parks near our place, some boasting of lakes and boating, others with tennis courts and huge play structures for kids and yet others with cool redwood coves - so any given weekend morning when the picnic fever sets in, we pack our lunches, grab some toys for the little ones and a cozy book for the older ones and head out the door with our rusty picnic mat.

I have a couple of go-to picnic recipes which rely on ingredients that are always in my pantry or fridge. And these pita pockets with lentil stuffings are one of the family favorite ones. It needs a bit of prep time but it's very filling and the variations of "make-your-own-pita-pocket" always keeps the fun going for the kids and grown-ups alike.

The basic recipe is borrowed from this Mark Bittman classic. Idea is simple: you cook lentils, prepare (or buy) your favorite yogurt dipping sauce and then provide a range of vegetable fillings like sliced avocados, cucumbers, arugula leaves or even some store bought falafels would be great. Then top it all up with your favorite hot-sauce and there you have it! Easy to pack, easy to assemble this is a very good picnic basket stuffer.
To prepare lentil, I usually saute chopped onion, garlic and tomatoes (one by one) in few Tbsp olive oil, then add lentils (1C dried is more than enough for 4-6 people), water, a seasoning like some chopped or dried thyme, salt & pepper and cook per the lentil package direction. Super simple.

Yogurt dipping is mostly yogurt + chopped mint + salt & pepper + dash of red wine vinegar to taste + pinch of chilli flakes. Mix, keep cold.

Then when you are ready to assemble, warm up the pita on a grill if you want, or room temp is fine too. Cut the pita in two half-circles. Gently slide your fingers to tear the two pita halves apart from the diameter side. Take care to not tear the circular side apart. Using a knife spread yogurt sauce, add lentils, veggie stuffing like sliced avocados, top it off with some hot sauce. 

Goes great with a chilled beer and lunch is served!  

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Steamed Broccolini w/ Garlic & Reading Charlotte's Web

Spring is a great time to enjoy broccolini. For last few weeks I have been seeing large bunches of super fresh broccolini at our farmer's markets in California for $1/bunch. Since it's grown in abundance in spring, it's also super cheap in spring.

Contrary to perception (and what I believed for many years), broccolini is not baby broccoli. Though they are so much alike in looks and taste! It is a spring vegetable similar to broccoli but with long thin stem and a slightly stronger taste. Wikipedia calls it a hybrid between broccoli and gai lan.

We love broccolini at our house and always devour it in spring for as many weeks as it's on market. While you can steam it, saute it or roast it, my favorite cooking method is to steam it and then saute lightly with garlic oil. 

We bought an instant pot mini duo a few months ago and it's great for quick steaming tasks. I used the steam setting with 0 minute cook time; and released the pressure manually right when it built up. Broccolini are very delicate and over cooking is about the worst thing that could happen to them.

Meanwhile saute a few chugs of olive oil and add chopped garlic (2 cloves); once the garlic has infused the oil, add steamed broccolini and sprinkle some salt & pepper. A minute in pan and it's done!

Since this is a very simple preparation, good quality ingredients go a long way. I always go for the best quality ingredients I have at hand - which means a good extra virgin olive oil and a fancy salt (we use pink Himalayan salt from Trader Joe's for all of our drizzling salt needs). 

It's a great side for any soups, pastas or noodle dishes. I hope you get a chance to enjoy broccolini while the season lasts!

Last few weeks I have been having a really cool time reading Charlotte's Web with my daughter! As she is growing up, she is in that middle age of overgrown the toddler section books but not yet ready for the big kid books either. I thought it might be a great time to introduce her to some of the classics that I could read to her and we can enjoy spending that time together. 

Now I myself haven't read any of the American children's classics, so picking a book meant a lot of Amazon searching. Finally we landed on Charlotte's Web and it seemed like a great story with animal characters she still loves but a complex and long plot.

Image Credit:
We read a few chapters a day and took about 2-3 weeks to finish the book. It was very engrossing, even for me :) And we quickly felt the characters like Wilbur, Charlotte and Templeton come alive. It's a lovely story about love and friendship and is sure to keep children guessing. It also provides a lot of opportunities for discussions particularly about topics like being kind to others, helping a friend in need, feeling sad and helpless etc.

The only unfortunate bit was the sad ending, which I had to run-time edit slightly. But all in all, it's a great read and I am so happy we chose it for our first big book!   

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Hello Again... (after a hiatus)

It has been a very long time, blog, but I have missed posting here a lot. I guess life happened, things got crazy at work and at home with a new kindergartner in tow this year! 

I am also not cooking as much these days, but I am hoping to change it now that I have a bit of a breather for next few months. 

Last year we started on an Indian Tiffin service plan for the weekdays (one of the perks of bay area!) so I rarely cooked on weekdays for the past 6 months. It was hard to let go of food for me, but that was a practical option for our family and so we embraced it. I try to make up for it by going a bit overboard over the weekends :)

One of the new entrees making a round at our dinner table these days is this veggie General Tsao's stir fry. It is a very versatile recipe - and becoming my go-to Friday evening dinner. 

The thing that really pulls this together for me is this general Tsao's stir-fry sauce I ordered from Amazon. It's not fishy or spicy and is a very nice blend with umami! We are almost through our first box of 6-pack and I have ordered for more!

Simply stir-fry any combination of chopped veggies (bok-choy, asparagus, arugula, mushroom, spinach, carrots - anything lurking in the fridge by end of the week) in hot sesame oil one by one. You can also add protein (tofu or chicken), stir-fry sauce, salt & pepper and finish it up with garnish of roasted peanuts and chopped green onions. 

Serve with steamed jasmine rice with a side of some sautéed greens and meal is ready in as long as it takes for rice to be ready!

General Tsao's stir fry served over steamed Jasmine rice with a side of sautéed garlic chrysanthemum leaves

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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.