Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cucumber Raita or Yogurt Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Raita or Yogurt Cucumber Salad:
Raita serves a calming side dish for many spicy Indian foods; however this also can be made hot and spicy.   It can be spiced in many different ways and can also be made with a variety of veggies and herbs.  I am posting a very simple version of Raita that can be made by everyone.  Please do read notes and try different variations.  This will serve as side dish to my earlier post (Rice Pulav or Rice Pilaf).
2 Cups Plain Yogurt (Non Fat or low fat will do fine)
½ cup small diced fresh Cucumber
Seasoning (try any one at a time,  ¼ tsp roasted & ground Cumin seeds, or ¼ tsp black pepper)
Herb (try any one at a time, 1 tbs fresh chopped mint or Basil or Cilantro (Coriander leaves) or Dill)
Salt to taste
Take yogurt in a bowl and smoothened it with a spoon add seasoning and herb and mix.  Add Cucumber and mix it again.  If you are not going to eat it right away don’t add salt because salt will start releasing water from Cucumber.

Notes:  Black pepper or Cumin will work fine with Mint.  Cumin goes well with Cilantro.  Black pepper will go nicely with Basil or Dill.  One can make this with individually or in combination with fresh Tomatoes, red, yellow or white or green Onions, Colored pepper or green peppers,  Zucchini, or softer long verities of yellow Squash, Carrots (any veggies that one can eat raw).

If you make it with Greek yogurt and granted veggies then it works very well as spread or dip (Add salt just before serving!!). 
Curative Properties:  Yogurt- Do you know that majority of vitamin B complex daily need is provided by intestinal flora of bacteria?  These day commercial yogurts are trying to charge you lot more money for same thing by labeling it as “Probiotic”.  It is nothing but yogurt.  Yogurt not only provides protein and minerals (from milk) but it also provides “Lactobacillus” (bulgaricus, or casaei  and other species) bacteria that is part of our microbial flora in intestine.  Yogurt seeds our flora with fresh bacteria.  Yogurt is wonderful after or during consumption of antibiotics.  Because of its consistency it is very calming for intestine after a spicy meal.  Due to its acidic nature and emulsifying properties  it help to break down fat in our food that can cause indigestion.  Next time if anyone asks I will post how to make homemade yogurt!
Cucumber- Cucumbers are member of cucurbitacea family.  Almost all melons belong to the same family and provide similar health benefits.  Cucumbers contain three beneficial lignans (lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinal) that reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer such as breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate cancer.   Fresh cucumbers extract posses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  Cucumbers help in scavenging free radicals, inhibit activities of pro-inflammatory enzymes (e.g. cyclo-oxygenase-2 or COX-2, medicine based on inhibition of this enzyme, “Celebrex” is used for pain management in arthritis) and prevent overproduction of nitric oxides that pose health risks.   Other group of chemicals “Cucurbitacins” blocks signaling pathways in various cancerous cells.  It was used extensively in traditional medicine for taking care of inflammation.  Look for curative properties of various herbs in future posts.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rice Pulav, Rice Pilaf, Indian Rice

Rice Pulav (Pilaf):
Our friend Sheila wanted to know how I make Rice Pulav that she loves.   So here is the basic recipe that can be modified in many ways to accompany different foods.  I am writing vegetarian version of it but one can add different meats as well
2 Cups Basmati Rice (if not use any long grain Indica rice which is non sticky such as Jasmine rice)
2 Table spoons Clarified butter also know as Ghee (or any oil except extra virgin olive or mustard oil)
1/2 Teaspoon Garam Masala (recipe given at the end notes) if you don’t have Garam Masala use ½ teaspoon of Cumin seeds.
1 Bay Leaf
1/8 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
½ Medium size onion finely chopped
½ Inch very fine chopped fresh ginger root
2 Cloves of chopped Garlic
Fresh Coriander (Cilantro) leaves for garnish
1   large potato peeled and diced or cubed
1 cup green peas
½ cup of cubed carrots (small cubes)
1 cup cauliflower florets
Any other non leafy veggies that you like (optional, such squash, zucchini)

If you have already washed and dried your rice that is best (in that case don’t soak it and use 4 cups of liquid for cooking), if not then wash your rice in warm water few times and let it soak for at least ½ hr.  Heat clarified butter or oil to medium heat (marked by oil moving as fine lines in pan, don’t let it start smoking, that is high heat).  Add ½ of garam masala or all of cumin (1/4 tsp garam masal ) for 15 to 20 seconds (cumin will start turning light brown) and bay leaf followed by onion, garlic and half of chopped ginger, gently stir few times.  Lets it sweat (onion will turn translucent).  Add potato, cauliflower and carrots, stir for few minutes, then peas followed by other veggies with higher water contents, keep stirring few times gently and then add rice after draining all water. You can add turmeric just before adding rice. Mix everything for a minute; add remaining ginger and garam masla. After mixing everything add two cup of liquid (veggie, or chicken broth or water), salt to taste and let it come to a boil.  Once it starts boiling reduce heat to low and place a paper towel before putting the lid on (this will help even cooking by not allowing condensation on top).  Let is cook for ~ 10 minutes then check rice by pressing it with your finger to make sure it is cooked (it will be soft, not gritty).  After cooking mix it very gently with a fork (fluffing), garnish with Coriander (cilantro) leaves, serve with Cucumber Raita.

Notes:  This will serve 4 as main dish or 8 as side dish.  One can add meats with onion and cook till it is ¾ done.  

Garam Masala:  Every family makes it different.  I don’t like garam masala that is sold in store because it is full of Coriander seeds (cheap).  I am giving you my easiest version ie take equal amounts (by volume) of Cumin seeds, Black Pepper, Black Cardamom seeds, and Cloves (optional: little bit of mace, nutmeg, green cardamom seeds, and cinnamon).  Grind it fine and store in freezer up to 3 years, at room temp it will be good for 6 months.   All these spices are lot cheaper in Indian Grocery stores.   For St. Louisians,  Global food market’s Indian aisle is a great place to get it all.

Curative properties:  Onion and garlic help in digestion.  By sweating it loses its bad property of producing gas.  These also have high sulfur content.  Cauliflowers (all mustard family) also have few sulfur compounds that act as very good antioxidant (good for cancer).  Carrots, as mentioned earlier are full of beta carotene i.e. Vitamin A that helps skin and serves as antioxidant as well.   Black cardamom and Black pepper is very good for health of heart.  Cinnamon is good diuretic (removes toxins from body).  Turmeric help in any kind of internal injury, it is good anti bacterial and is extensively used in herbal remedies. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

For Rory's Kids:

Peeled and diced Butternut Squash (2 cups)
Diced Carrots (~ 1 Cup)
Chopped sticks of Celery (~ 1/2 cup)
Chopped onion (to your taste ~ 1/4 cup)
LIQUID: 3 Cups Chicken broth (or vegetable broth or water) to cover all veggies
1 or 2 Bay Leaves, (if you dont have, dont worry)
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
Sugar (2 tbs)
1/8 spoon of cinnamon, or nutmeg, or mace (not all of them)
Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon.

Put all veggies and Bay leaves in a pan. Cover it with liquid and let it simmer for few hrs (till all is real soft,  one can do this in slow cooker such as crockpot). Remove bay leaves and discard. Put all veggies in a blender and purée them (or use stick blender to do the same in pan). While blending add all your seasonings i.e. pepper, salt, sugar cinnamon (or nutmeg or mace) and lemon or lime juice. Serve (it should give you about 3 to 3, cups). For garnish you can use 1 to 1/2 teaspoon heavy cream. To make it more luxurious add 1/4 stick of butter while blending.  When cooking for Helen and others you can add some white wine, twig of fresh French Tarragon (don’t overdo) !!

Soup will be great source of Vitamin A (for eyes, skin etc), and antioxidents.

Send me a note after tasting it ....Good luck !!

Lets eat healty, cheap and tasty

I am starting this blog after waiting for very long. I hope to help anyone who wants to cook healthy, cheap and tasty. You can ask me any question and I will try to help you to my best ability.

My background is "molecular genetics and biochemistry". I had “nutrition” as a minor during my masters in biochemistry.  My heritage is Indian and my love for food is from "All Over the Globe" so don’t restrict to "Indian Cooking" (I don’t like to toot my horn but I am very good Indian cook and cook from scratch). I learnt my basic cooking from my late mother.  She cooked in "Chulha" and Angithi" (primitive cooking ovens) but I use any means of cooking. She was 100% vegetarian but I am not, in fact I am an omnivore but an ethical consumer of food who cares about the planet. So let’s begin: You send me a question and I will get you an honest answer.  (There you go Dave finally after 2 years !!).