Tuesday, February 11, 2014

POTOLer DOLMA: STUFFED POINTED GOURD IN A RICH GRAVY

Happy new Year People !!! Its a bit late, I know, but we are still in the first quarter of the year. So do accept my super late wishes. Hopefully the year started with a bang for everyone. It almost did for me. I am planning a trip to india, and what can be a bigger high than that !!

 Its been ages since I wrote. So today I said to myself, lets write. Even though I am still in the middle of cooking, I convinced myself that I can type away.


I have been cooking almost every alternate day. Also diligently taking photographs. But when it comes to putting it all together, I have been a tad lazy. So I am not going to bring on the new Mom cribbing anymore, as its more than 10 months. So I thought, why not begin this year's writing quota with a very popular Bengali delicacy: Potoler Dolma . Don't confuse it with the Greek Dolma. It something totally different. Cored pointed gourd, are stuffed and then they are simmered in a rich gravy.Its one of those dishes, which you cannot make everyday, as it involves some prep work and time. But surely something, which every Bengali worth her/his salt, loves without a doubt.

We do not get Potol at our neighborhood grocery store, so we have to wait for it, till we drive down to the desi/Indian stores. Whenever we do manage to go there on Fridays, we pick it up. Why only Friday, you might ask?! Well, the fresh stock of vegetables comes in on Friday afternoons, with treats like Potol or baby Okra. And if you are late, or act lazy, then they just fly off the shelves, in no time. So sometimes picking up mere veggies you grew up with, needs almost a Game-Day like prep. After all this trouble(read: Co-orodinating Baby's schedule with all this madness), if we can lay our hands on some Potol, we try and make something special. So that at least its worth the trouble. While Potol can be cooked numerous ways, the more tedious recipe, is my favorite: Potoler Dolma.



When it comes to the choice of stuffing,sky is the limit. You can customize it, while keeping with the basic Bengali flavors. You can either keep it vegetarian, or do otherwise. While the obvious choice is cooking the cored out insides of the Potol with some shredded coconut, mustard paste, chili powder and then grinding it all together. That makes for a pretty decadent stuffing or sure. But if you are like, you will surely up the ante a bit more. How does Chopped Shrimp sound? It just spells magic in this particular preparation. So lets not waste any more time, and let the pictures do the talking.

POTOLER DOLMA: 

Ingredients: 
Potol/Pointed gourd: 10-12
Prawns: A handful
Mustard paste: 1 to 2  tbsp(according to how hot you want it to be)
Red chili Powder: According to Heat preferences. If you still want the color but not as much heat, then use Paprika.
Shredded Coconut: Frozen/Fresh: 1/4 cup
Salt
Coriander Powder
Mustard Oil
Cumin seeds: 2 tsp
Tomato Paste: 2 tbsp
Ginger paste: 1 tsp
Onion-Ginger-Garlic Paste: 2 tbsp

Procedure: 

Scrape the pointed gourd in alternate stripes. Be careful not to remove the whole skin.Scrape out the shiny green bit of skin. With a knife, cut at one end, and use a spoon to core out the vegetable. Keep the seeds and the innards in a separate plate.

Heat Mustard oil in a large non stick pan, and lightly fry the cored out Potol. Remove and keep aside. Ensure that the potol is still soft and pliable. Let it cool down.


In the same oil, add in the cored out seeds and flesh, coriander powder, red chili powder, shredded coconut(if using), prawns and onion ginger garlic paste. Fry these on a medium heat, stirring frequently, Season it well.


After a few minutes, add in the mustard paste and mix everything well. Cook this mixture through.



Remove the mixture from the stove top and let it cool down. Blend it all together to form a smooth paste. And then fry it once more for a couple of minutes if you feel it has not been cooked through.


The puree and the fried potol should have both cooled by now. Stuff the potol carefully.


Now in the same pan, start making the gravy or the sauce for the Potol. Add in some mustard oil, and let the cumin seeds splutter. Add in the tomatoes paste, salt, Coriander Powder, Ginger paste and fry the masala well for a couple of minutes.  You can add in a few spritzes of water if you feel your masala might get burnt.


Add in water for a gravy and let it all come to a boil. Carefully introduce the Potol and reduce to a simmer.


Check or seasonings. Let the gravy reduce to a thick consistency and should ideally stick to the potol. Turn off the heat, and serve with hot steamed Basmati rice.


Bon Appetit !!! 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

KEEMA PULAO

I haven't written in what seems like ages. Yet everyday I wake up with an idea or two in my head. But by the time, slumber takes over again for the day, I realize that I haven't yet completed a post.So here I start scribbling again, with a will to complete it.

Keema Pulao anyone?? !!!


Anyone who reads my blog, or knows about my cooking, will be aware of the fact, that Rice Dishes are my biggest nemesis. Pulaos and Biriyanis make me sweat like no other. I am always on the look out for recipes which provide a simple take on complicated Pulaos, but do not compromise on the taste.

So when recently PreeOccupied made her signature Keema Pulav, I knew I had to re-create it yet again. I had first come across this lovely Pulao, when I was heavily pregnant and forever hungry. The fact that it was a one pot meal lured me. I had overcome the initial fear, and given it a try. It was just superb. The rice was not mushy. The meat was perfectly cooked. And the whole kitchen and dinning room weighed heavily with the aroma of decadence on a plate. Thank you so muchPreeOccupied !! You are an absolute darling.

So here we were again. The Makings of Keema Pulao, just when Baby finished her apple sauce dinner. The best part of this recipe is how quick you can whip it up. If You have already de-frosted the Keema(ground goat or ground beef) earlier, which I did this time. While running chores around the house, I had de-frosted a bag of Ground Goat, in some cold water. Voila, all it needed was some tender love and care to make its way to our plates.


It was a couple of days before my daughter's Annaprashan , and I was running cold sweats in the sub zero temps of the Midwest. Planning and Planning. Making sure everything fell into place on the D-Day. In all these Mega sized plans, dinner made me groan a bit louder than usual. So it had to be one of the easiest and tastiest one pot meals. Finally dinner turned out to be quite a breeze. While Pree's recipe is perfect in very way, every one adapts a recipe to their own taste. So I did too.

As Rice dishes are a scare for me, I decided to go with one of my Mom's age old tips while making Pulao. After washing and  straining the rice, I added some ghee to it, and mixed into the rice with my hands. So that all the rice grains were coated pretty well, with all the ghee. It prevents the rice from sticking to each other, while its getting cooked. Mom swears by it. Secondly, I had heard from a brother in law of mine, that he cooks his Pilafs(as he calls his Pulaos) in Chicken Stock. I had wanted to try that for a long time. So rather than cooking the Pulao in plain water,I decided to opt for Chicken Stock. Thirdly, I was in a hurry as usual, so while adding fried onions would have been better, I added the onions, when the Keema was getting caramelised. Finally, I also added a dash of Cayenne Pepper. Can't help it, I just love me some Cayenne Pepper. Must have some Southern Connection from some previous life. Oh forgot to add, I had run out of mint too. So my version of Keema Pulao only had Cilantro/Coriander Leaves to boast of. I know there are Cilantro Haters in this world, as Ina Garten had pointed out, but I love Cilantro.

So go ahead and give it a try. For cold nights like these, its an awesome dinner.


KEEMA PULAO :

Recipe Adapated from PreeOccupied

Ingredients: 
Basmati Rice: 2 cups: Washed and strained
Keema(Ground Goat or Beef): 1 lb
Nutmeg Powder : 1/4 tsp
Garam Masala Powder: 1/2 tsp
Ghee
Chicken Stock: 3 3/4 cups
Garlic and Ginger Paste: 2 tbsp
Lemon Juice
Cumin seeds
Green Cardamom: 3 -4
Cloves: 3-4
Mace: A little bit
Peppercorns: 10-12
Bay Leaves
Cinnamon Stick: 1/2 inch
Cayenne Pepper: 1/2 tsp( adjust according to heat preferences)
Green Chilies: 2-3 : chopped
Onion: 1 large : Sliced thinly
Salt
Cilantro/Corainder Leaves: 1 bunch: Chopped finely

Procedure:

Wash and drain the rice and take a tbsp of ghee and mix it to the rice. Keep it aside

In a non stick pan, add in some more ghee, cumin seeds, whole garam masala, pepper corns, green chilies, bay leaves and let them crackle.


Add in the Keema ,ginger garlic paste, sliced onions and cayenne pepper, and let it all caramelise. Mix well.




Once the meat has been browned, and the onion has turned soft, add in the rice, some more dry garam masala, nutmeg powder and fold everything carefully. Season with salt.



In a microwaveable bowl, add in the rice mixture, chopped cilantro,chicken stock and lemon juice and cover with a cling film. Microwave for 15 to 18 minutes. Check in at 15 minute mark, as rice varieties and microwave brands differ.


Let it rest for a few minutes, before you  remove the cling film and start serving, as the starch congeals a bit.


Dig in !!

Bon Appetit !!





Wednesday, October 16, 2013

LUCHI-CHHOLAR DAAL-SHADA ALUR TORKARI: PUJO SPECIAL


Pujo is here.And with it magic in the air. Even the grey Midwestern sky is all golden and bright for the past few days.As I type away, Saptami Pujo begins in my homeland. I sip my black coffeee, with  my baby babbling in her crib to the  heady dose of Dhak playing on the music system, my city, Kolkata, engulfs itself in the biggest party of the year. Its sheer frenzy which spreads across the state of West Bengal, and to everywhere Durga Puja is celebrated. Its not surprising that every major country in the world, will have some sort of Durga Puja celebrations. As its said, you can take a Bengali out of Bengal, but you cannot take Bengal out of the Bengali.

For the uninitiated, Durga Puja is the biggest festival of the Hindu Bengalis. A five day long affair, which marks the arrival of Goddess Durga along with her four children, to her maternal home on Earth, from her abode in the Himalayas. A celebration of the triumph of good over evil. Pandals housing idols of Ma Durga are created all across. Milling crowds, with sleepless eyes, and unmatched energy levels take to the streets,visiting pandal after pandal. 

If you are one, who is not much of a crowd person, then fear not. The food fest is sure to floor you. The five days of the Pujas have their iconic menus, which are made in most homes.What sets the drool factor, are the make-shift street food stalls which come up. Phuchka tops the list for me always. 

Faraway from my homeland, I get ready to celebrate Durga Puja over the weekend. Here in the US, we do not have the luxury of a 5 day affair. A weekend closest to the actual Pujas is selected, and Bengalis immerse themselves in a similar frenzy. The Dhunuchi Naach is replaced by a dance with incense sticks. But its the same spirit which prevails. Offering Anjali in the morning, to queueing up for Bhog, and indulging good ole Adda,as Ma Durga watches over all of us. Did I mention the new clothes !! Deciding what we will wear on each of the days, is a celebration in itself. Planning goes on months in advance. The right clothes, the right accessories and striking a somewhat co-ordination with your partner. Now with baby in tow, this Puja is extra special for us. Cannot Thank Maa Durga enough for the wonderful gift she has given us. 

While we wait for the weekend, we decided to indulge in some Pujo special delicacies: LUCHI-Shada Alur Torkari -Chholar Daal. Pillowy soft deep fried bread served with a somewhat runny-somewhat dry potato dish flavored with nigella seeds and Chana Daal with shredded coconut. This is a combo which is the usual fare for the first couple of days of the Pujo. Dunking the luchi in the thick Chholar daal, is a decadent experience which defies verbal expression. 

So if you want to have a taste of Pujo special food on your plate, lets get cooking. 

LUCHI: 
serves: 4




CHHOLAR DAAL: 

Ingredients: 
Chana daal: 1 cup
Whole Garam Masala: Cloves, Cinnamon, Green Cardamom
Bay Leaves
Ghee
Salt
Sugar
Shredded Coconut: 1/4 cup( I use dthe frozen variety, but feel free to use fresh)
Ginger Paste: 1 tbsp
Shukno Lanka: Dried Red Chilies: A few

Procedure: 
Boil the Chana Daal, with one and half cup water in the pressure cooker, till it gives off two whistles. 

In a deep pan, add in ghee. Once it melts, throw in the whole garam masala ,shukno lanka and bay leaves and let it splutter.



Add in the boiled daal , season with salt and sugar and add in the ginger paste.


Add some water, if all the water has dried up.Mix well and let it all come to a boil.


Lower heat and add in the shredded coconut and let it thicken. 

Serve with Luchi or white steamed rice.



SHADA ALUR TORKARI: 

Ingredients: 
Potatoes: 2 medium sized
Nigella seeds: 1/2 tsp
Salt
Sugar
Green Chilies
Mustard oil

Procedure: 
Dice the potatoes to 1/2 inch cubes. Wash them well. Par boil them,drain and keep aside.

In a pan, add in the mustard oil, and once its hot, add in the green chilies and nigella seeds.

Once they splutter, add in the half boiled potatoes. Season with salt and a pinch of sugar. Add in  1/4 cup of water, and cover and cook. Keep stirring infrequently.

With the back of the cooking spoon, break a few of the potatoes. Check for seasonings. Dry out the cooking liquid.

Serve with Luchi, chapati or parathas.

Bon Appetit !!!






Tuesday, August 20, 2013

CAPRESE SALAD AND PESTO PASTA: FATHER'S DAY SPECIAL

Recently, we dropped in at our local Olive Garden, for lunch. The food was anything but good.The calamari was over salted and rubbery.The stuffed mushrooms, did not have any seasoning. The Pasta was superbly mediocre. That really prompted us both in saying, that as a couple, we make much better Italian food. Case in point: The Father's Day Dinner. So despite a fussy baby, I knew it was time to pen down the long delayed post. So I sip my caramel machiato, at the local coffee shop and type away, to tell the tale of another evening, which began right here. Cheers !

Being First-Time Parents, every milestone with our baby, is a celebration for us. Some cake, some good food, some pictures for sure, and a great memories, to last a lifetime. Needless to say, we were majorly excited for our First Mother's Day and Father's Day this year.

While the Mother's Day Celebrations did not take place as planned for some undesirable elements, I made sure that at least D-Boy got his First Father's Day, as memorable, as possible.

So a few clicks, and lil bit of time in the kitchen, and it was all set. Co-ordinating Tshirts for both father and daughter, and the evening started off, at our local coffee shop.

Click , click went Mommy, as Daddy and Baby exchanged smiles and smiles and sometimes no smiles at all.







Going to the Farmer's Market, by the Missouri River is  something I look forward to always. This time around, it was extra special. I was going there, a day before, to pick up supplies for an all out Italian meal at home, for the First Time  Father. Fresh produce makes cooking so much easier.


The stars of the day were surely Fresh Mozzarella and some good sun dried tomatoes. So i had to spin my dinner around them. The answer was quite simple.

As I had also picked some sweet Italian Basil. Did I mention, some juicy heirloom tomatoes. Yes, the first course was undoubtedly Caprese Salad. It made for some decadent platter, and honestly, I did not even need a second course. But hey, I was planning it for the man,not myself. Each bite was a juicy one. The velvety mozzarella, the firm yet soft tomatoes, and some good EVOO.How can you go wrong with something as classic as this.  I could have added a dash of Balsamic, but then, I always forget things on my grocery list, don't I !


Some fresh pesto, some al dente thin spaghetti, sinful sun dried tomatoes,some sharp Parmesan cheese, and  handful of meatballs. Easy Peasy Pesto Pasta. What better way to make sure that the sweet basil does not get freezer burn ! Hard core Pesto fans, would not be comfortable with the idea of julienned sun dried tomatoes, but I must say, its a great combination of flavors. Not to forget, it also makes a colorful plate. As they say, a great looking plate, satisfies half the hunger. No, I didn't make the meatballs myself on that very day. I just used some frozen, store bought all beef meatballs, with a touch of fennel. Feel free to add in a protein of your choice. Bacon, chicken or even prawns would do well. But please, no Tofu !

It was one big hearty Italian Plate, which was washed down with some crisp Moscato. Baby entertained us with her Cooing, and it surely made for one memorable celebration. A lil secret for  all my readers: if your day is spoiled, make sure at least, some one else's day is a good one. It does give you a warm fuzzy feeling, to see someone else smile.

CAPRESE SALAD: 


Ingredients: 
Fresh Mozzarella balls: 1
Heirloom tomatoes, or large ripe Roma Tomatoes: 2
Sweet Basil leaves: 5 to 6
EVOO(Extra Virgin Olive Oil) : A dash
Salt
Freshly crushed Black Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar: A dash (I had run out of it)


Procedure: 

Cut thick rounds of the mozzarella and the tomatoes. Arrange the tomatoes slice son a large plate. Top that with the slices of fresh mozzarella. Place a couple of sweet basil leaves on every slice. season with salt and pepper, and drizzle EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar. Voila ! First course is ready.

PESTO PASTA:

Ingredients: 
Thin Spaghetti: 8 oz
Broccoli Florets: 1/2 cup
Chopped Mini Portabella Mushrooms: 1/2 cup
Frozen Meatballs: 1 cup
Pesto Sauce: 1/4 cup
Salt
Sun dried Tomatoes: 1/4 cup
Pepper
Parmesan Cheese
EVOO



Procedure:
If you're using store bought Pesto sauce, then you can skip this step. In a small blender, throw in a bunch of sweet basil, some Parmesan cheese,a few gloves of fresh garlic, salt, pepper, and EVOO and churn, till its a smooth green, thick sauce.

Boil the pasta according to package instructions. It should have a bite(al dente). Strain and keep aside. Make sure that the pasta water is well salted. reserve a cup of the pasta water.


Cook the frozen meatballs according to package instructions. I like baking mine in the oven, rather than cooking over the stove top. Keep aside.

In a large non stick pan, add in some EVOO. Throw in the veggies and toss them around for a couple of minutes.Throw in the sun dried tomatoes,and the pesto sauce.Season with salt. Cook the pesto sauce for a few minutes, then toss in the noodles and meatballs. If you feel that the sauce is too dry, then add in some pasta water,to incorporate things better.







Bon Appetit !!







Sunday, August 4, 2013

MISHTI DOI : SWEETENED BENGALI YOGURT

You are all set to host a party and you have jotted down an impressive menu. The only problem is that, the dessert might just take a beating, as the preps and cooking for the rest of the courses is taking the better of your time. Fear not. Just whip up some Mishti Doi. No, I am not asking you to pick it from the neighborhood sweet shop. Only the lucky few in Kolkata can afford to do that. For the rest of us, its equally simple. A dessert which has minimum preps,and minimum effort. A dessert which can be prepared a day in advance, and stays quite good in the refrigerator for  a few days. 

Have doubts about how good an idea that will be? Ask anyone, just back from visiting Kolkata for the first time, what did they like the most. The answer, cutting across all diversities, will most commonly be MISHTI DOI. Needless to say, its one of the most popular desserts of Kolkata, next only in line to Roshogolla. Mishti Doi screams decadence.An absolute favorite at Bengali Weddings. Its always been a favorite of mine, so I had to get my fix at home.

My Mashi came to the rescue. Ever since, I made Kansas City, my home, I have not missed much of home cooking, as my maternal aunt, makes sure, we are a regular at her place, for so many weekends. Amongst all the feasts,she prepares for us, Mishti Doi strikes the loudest chord. So I had to ask her to share her secret with me, so in turn, I could pass it on to all those of us, who miss Mishti Doi. 

Its basically a sweetened yogurt, which has an unmistakable caramelly/reddish tinge to it. Milk is boiled, till its reduced to a creamy consistency, and then sweetened and fermented in earthen pots. Its said, that the pores of the earthen ware, help in making the yogurt creamier, by helping in losing moisture. 

But fear not, if you do not have a steady supply of earthen ware like the proprietors of sweet shops have. None of us do. So we tweak the cooking process and make it  much much easier. I can assure you, the taste does not take a beating at all. Rather than boiling the milk for hours to reduce it, and get that caramelly tint, we simply open a can of Evaporated Milk. Voila !

So whip up some Mishti Doi and dig into some rich, creamy, velvety goodness.


MISHTI DOI: 

Ingredients:
Evaporated Milk: 14 oz
Sweetened Condensed Milk: 14 oz
Plain Yogurt: 14 oz( 1 cup is equal to 8 oz)

This measurement yields 18 individual servings in cup cake liners in a muffin pan.

For a serving the size shown in the pic, just double the ingredients.

Procedure: 

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Crank open the cans.


In a large mixing bowl, mix in the evaporated milk, condensed milk and plain yogurt.




Whisk away with a wire whisk, till there are no lumps.


Select any baking dish of your choice, and pour away the mixture.

Bake at 350F for exactly 15 minutes and then turn off the oven.

Let the baking dish stay in the oven for at least 6 to 7 hours. I usually bake it just before going to bed, and turn off the oven, and let it cool down and ferment overnight.

Remove the set yogurt form the oven in the morning and put it inside the refrigerator.

Serve cold.

If you want individual servings, then use cup cake liners, in a muffin pan, and pour equal amounts of the mixture and bake. I had done it recently and it was a big hit at a potluck. But forgot to take pictures. 


Bon Appetit !!