Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vazhaipoo Poriyal ( Banana Flower stir fry)

Banana flower is considered a very common vegetable in South India, especially in Tamilnadu state. It has lot of nutritional values and it is used in treating bronchitis, stomach ulcers, diabetes and menstrual problems. It also increases hemoglobin cell levels in the blood.

~Banana Blossom

We use almost all parts of the Banana tree. We use the tender innermost banana trunk (Vazhaithandu), Banana, Banana flowers ( Vazhaipoo) in cooking. We serve food in banana leaves (Vazhai Elai). The fiber ( Vazhai Naaru) from the outermost trunk of the banana tree is used as strings to tie fresh flowers and garlands.

Banana plant grows from under ground stem called rhizome. After the plant bore fruits, the plant dies and another stem emerges from under ground as a new plant and this process goes on and on for years. That’s why elders bless anyone with the saying “Vazhayadi Vazhaiyaha Vazha Vazhthukkal”, meaning live long like a banana tree.

Though cooking banana blossom is a tedious process, the end result is a very tasty and nutritious one. First remove the purple outer cover called bracts and take out the strip of flowers (tiny immature bananas) inside.

Keep on removing the bracts until the tough ones are removed. I usually remove till the tip of the flower (very tender cream bract) is seen.

Also remove string in the middle that looks like matchstick with a white tip and a rubbery skin with the pink hue. Remove both from each floret.

~The bottom two should be removed as shown

Whenever my mom worked on banana flowers, I and my sister would patiently wait till my mom came to the last part of peeling to get the tender most part of the blossom that can be eaten raw.


Banana Blossom - 1
Red chili - 3
Mustard Seeds - 1tsp
Urad Dhal - 1 tsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Hing - 1/4 tsp
Curry Leaves - 1 sprig
Grated Coconut - 4 tbs


Chop the florets into tiny pieces. Place the chopped banana blossoms fully immersed in a bowl of buttermilk to prevent oxidization when exposed to air.

Pour oil in a kadai and add mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds splutter, add urad dhal, red chili, hing and curry leaves. Add turmeric to the chopped florets and return the florets to the kadai and give a nice stir. Add salt and cover the pan with the lid. Cook until the florets become soft and tender. Add freshly grated coconut and mix well.

Serve with hot rice and sambar.


Wear a glove when you work with banana blossoms to prevent the sap from sticking on to your hands. You can also add few tablespoons of boiled toor dhal (My mom usually adds it- may be to neutralize the bitterness?) along with the coconut.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

White Pizza with Baby Arugula

My son loves arugula. I grow arugula in my garden during summer and whenever I make pasta, I grab handful of leaves and add it to the dish. For my son, any pasta dish becomes a winner when arugula is added. Recently I bought a pack of organic baby arugula. This time for a change, I wanted to use it as a topping for Pizza, as the dough I made that weekend was lying in the fridge.

I have adapted this recipe from Ina Garten.


Home made Pizza dough
Dried Basil Leaves
Olive Oil


To make Garlic Oil:-

Take olive oil, sliced garlic, dried basil leaves and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and cook it over low heat. Make sure the garlic doesn't burn. Set this aside.

Toss the baby arugula with lemon, salt and pepper and keep it aside.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Stretch the dough into an 8-inch circle. Brush circles with the garlic oil.

Sprinkle the pizzas evenly with Monterey Jack and Mozzarella cheese.

Bake the pizzas for 8 minutes until the cheeses begin to melt. Pull the pizza out from the oven; Sprinkle the seasoned arugula on top and bake for another 2 minutes.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Spicy Lentil Soup

Ingredients :-

Lentils – 1 cup
Carrot - 1 diced
Onion - 2 chopped
Cumin – 1 tsp
Corriander Powder – ½ tsp
Chili Powder – ½ tsp
Garlic - 2 chopped
Ginger - 1 tbs chopped
Vegetable Stock – 4 cups
Water - 1 cup (optional)
Bay leaves - 2
Olive Oil – 3tbs
Crushed Pepper - 1 tbs
Salt – 1-1/4 tsp


Soak the lentils for half hour and drain.

Pour oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and carrot and sauté until tender. Add bay leaf, lentils, chili powder, cumin powder and coriander powder. Add tomato puree and give a nice stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Add enough vegetable broth to cover the lentils. If needed add about a cup of water or broth.

Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cover and cook lentils until they are soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, place the Ciabatta bread slices brushed with olive oil; Bake until golden brown.

Dunk the bread into the soup and enjoy! Perfect dish for a cold winter evening!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hearty Lentil Soup and White Pizza

Hearty Lentil Soup

White Pizza with Baby Arugula

~ Our dinner tonight

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Crudité platter with Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush is a yummy Middle Eastern spread/dip made of smoked eggplant and Tahini(sesame paste) paste. I prepared this healthy appetizer for Thanksgiving dinner.

Baba Ghanoush

Ingredients :

Eggplant : 1 (medium size)
Tahini : 2 tbs (Increase the amount if you like)
Chili powder : 1/4 tsp
Cumin Powder : 1/4 tsp
Roasted Garlic : 2
Lemon Juice : 1 tbs
Olive Oil : 1-2 tbs
Salt & Pepper

Step 1

Prick the eggplants in several places with a fork . Grill the Eggplants on the stovetop under low fire, rotating the eggplant few times until the skins are black and charred. You can also roast the eggplants in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Step 2

Once it cools down, peel the charred skin and scoop out the flesh.

Step 3

Add roasted garlic, tahini paste, lemon juice to the mushed eggplant and puree until smooth. Add cumin powder and chili powder and olive oil while pulsing. Season it with salt and pepper.

Serve with toasted bread or Pita squares. I served mine with raw vegetables(some vegetables are blanched).

Oven Roasted Fingerling Potatoes


Fingerling potatoes (Russian Banana, Purple Peruvian, Ruby Crescent & French ) - 1 lb
Garlic - 4
Dried Rosemary Leaves
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Drop the garlic over potatoes. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle crushed rosemary leaves, salt and pepper. Roast for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve hot with Yogurt-Sour Cream Minty dip.

Chinatakaya Sorakaya Pachadi (Green Tamarind-Bottle Gourd Chutney)

Multigrain Roti with Val Dhal gravy


Ragi flour - 1 cup
Barley flour - 1 cup
Wheat flour - 1 cup
Salt - 1/2 tsp


Mix together all the flours and salt. Add water little by little and knead it into soft dough. Divide the dough into equal sized portions and press the dough alternatively with palm of your hands. Grease any polished surface (I used acrylic board) and stretch the dough further by using your palm of your hands slowly and steadily without breaking the circle. Remove the circle carefully and place it on a
hot tava. Cook both sides on a slow fire until brown spots appear on the surface.

Serve hot with your favorite gravy.

Val Dhal (Split Mochai) gravy


Val (Split Mochai) - 1 cup (Soaked for 1 hr)
Green Chili - 3
Chili Powder - 1/2 tsp
Corriander Powder - 1/2 tsp
Tomato - 1
Onion - 1
Ginger - 1" piece
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Corriander leaves - 1 tbs (chopped)
Mustard Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Cumin Seeds - 1/2 tsp
Salt - 1/2 tbs


Pressure cook val(split mochai) with turmeric, half a tsp of salt and water for just one whistle and keep it aside. Make sure the dhal is soft not mushy. Heat oil in a pan. Splutter mustard seeds,cumin seeds and curry leaves. Add green chilies, onion and ginger and sauté till the onions become soft. Add tomatoes, chili powder and corriander powder and sauté till it becomes nice gravy. Add remaining salt to the gravy and add the cooked dhal and let it boil for few minutes. Squeeze some lemon juice and garnish with corriander leaves.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

South Indian Thali

~ South Indian Thali - Today's Lunch

Simple Maharastrian Thali - Pitla Bhakri

I came to know about this simple yet yummy gravy very recently through my Maharastrian friend. I have already tried this twice in a week's time. It's a super-duper hit in my home.



Besan - 1 cup
Shallots - 5
Green Chilies - 5 (medium)
Garlic - 4
Methi Leaves – Handful
Curry Leaves – 1 sprig
Hing - 1/4tsp
Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
Red Chili Powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - 2 tsp
Water - 4 - 4 1/2 cups


Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
Corriander leaves- 1 tbs


Crush green chilies and garlic with a pinch of salt in a mortar & pestle and keep it aside. Dry roast the besan flour in a kadai on a low fire, constantly stirring until the raw smell of besan is gone. Keep oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds. Once the mustard seeds start to splutter, add onions, curry leaves and chili-garlic paste and sauté it well. Meanwhile make a smooth paste of besan by adding a cup of water, turmeric, chili powder and salt. Add the paste to the pan and add the rest of water. Let it cook in low flame, until the gravy thickens. Garnish with coriander leaves.



Jowar flour(Chola mavu) - 1 cup
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Oil (optional)

Mix Jowar flour with salt. Add enough water and knead it into a soft dough. Divide the dough into equal lemon-sized portions. Roll it into circles with the palm of your hands. Use a plastic sheet to expand the circle so that the circle won't break. Heat a tava, place the rolled circle and cook on both the sides on a low fire.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pitla Bhakri

Pitla, Bhakri (Jowar Roti), Jeera Rice, Mirchi-Lasun Thecha ( Chili-Garlic Chutney), Raw onion and Pomegranate seeds. ~ A perfect winter comfort meal