Rasam from Cooking at Home with Pedatha

I’m pretty sure I’ve raved about Cooking at Home with Pedatha before. I can’t share today’s recipe because it was a faithful following of the rasam recipe in that book, but I do want to urge you to consider buying this book if you are at all interested in Indian food. Although it’s very pretty (there are pictures of all the dishes, and even a picture glossary), there are a few factors that would ordinarily prevent it from being one of my favorite cookbooks: it’s quite short, it calls for some ingredients that I have difficulty obtaining (and I live in an extremely ethnic food-friendly area), and the authors use unfamiliar names for even those ingredients I can get, requiring me to have to translate many of the recipes. Several of the recipes call for other recipes, increasing production time.

But don’t let those things scare you away! Where this book excels, other than its inherent charm (it’s a loving tribute to a grandmother compiled by two family members), is the podis and all the dishes that call for them. A podi is a “powder”, or spice combination, usually calling for various whole spices to be roasted then ground together, which is then used to flavor dals, rice, and soups. Every podi-related dish I have made from this book has been magical. When I commented above that some recipes call for other recipes, I was referring mostly to the use of these podis. It’s unfair, however, to ding the book for this because the podi recipes make about a cup and the recipes calling for it use about a tablespoon each, so once you make a podi, you won’t have to go through that process the next several times you make the recipe. And believe me, you’ll want to make these recipes again and again.

Friday night I made up a batch of the rasam podi and made Pedatha’s rasam. Rasam is one of my favorite soups. I did a post on it a long time ago, and I posted a picture of some homemade rasam a co-worker sent me home with when once I proclaimed my love of it. Pedatha’s rasam is, of course, AWESOME. Mark and I ate the entire batch in one sitting. And the great thing is, now that I have the podi prepared, I can whip some more up from some late summer tomatoes in mere minutes!

In other food-related news, I bought a dehydrator last week and am currently going crazy dehydrating everything possible. I’ve literally had the dehydrator going non-stop since it arrived. Skeptical Mark has pointed out that I tend to enthusiastically start projects and then quickly lose interest in them and he seems to think dehydrating will be another such fad. I don’t think so. Dehydrating is so easy that I don’t think it will take up much time I could later decide I’d rather be spending doing other things. Really the only time investment is chopping and I enjoy chopping. And buying dehydrated fruits and vegetables in incredibly expensive, so I’m very excited about the money I’ll save, for example on my trail mix. Plus, I can use the dehydrator for making tempeh and yogurt, both of which I’ve been meaning to get back into doing and now I have a great reason. I can also raise dough in it. I’ve never had a problem raising dough in the house, but if I want to time it a bit more precisely, the dehydrator’s temperature regulation will allow that. Also, although there are a couple of months left before I’ll need to come to terms with it, at some point the farmers market is going to close for the season and I’m going to freak out. So I’ve been trying to capture an essence of it by dehydrating what I can so I can use it over the winter.

Here’s what I’ve dried so far: tomatoes (there a another huge batch of tomatoes nearly ready to leave the dehydrator tonight), bananas, strawberries, (I have another quart and two huge bunches of bananas to get to this week), onion powder, carrots, and bell peppers. The latter two I may combine along with some potatoes, onions, and celery into a “soup mix”. When I’m desperate for a lunch to take into work, I’ll sometimes whip up a super-quick soup from a can of tomatoes, some bouillon, some dehydrated veggies, and orzo. I used some of my dried tomatoes on pizza last night and they were quite good.

I have also dried some garlic and am drying a whole bunch more right now, which I’ll grind into garlic powder. The dehydrator will also save me money at my notorious Penzeys binges! I’m also planning to make tofu jerky as a treat for Mark. I’ve made it before but it’s been a long time – anyone have a favorite tofu jerky recipe? What are your other favorite things to dehydrate? Any other creative uses for the dehydrator?

Not much else food-related has been going on. I’ve been super busy lately; annoyingly so. I can’t even remember what I’ve been cooking, I’ve been so busy. Lots of stuff involving farmers market fare, but I guess nothing earth-shattering enough that I’ve felt compelled to make a post, or maybe I just haven’t had time. I’m enjoying blackberry season; my current favorite snack is Daiya jack on crackers topped with blackberry:

As for animal news, I transported a baby chimney swift the other day and he was by far the cutest baby bird I’ve ever seen. This is a bad picture, but it’s all I have:

Today as I pulled into the raccoon sanctuary, there was a family of deer standing about five feet from my parking spot, so I wasn’t able to drive down the driveway. Instead I slowly got out of my car and started snapping pictures.

They eventually got tired of that and ran off, so I was able to park. Today was a big day for the last six raccoons in the nursery, who graduated to the big outdoor enclosures! I coined a new saying to replace one I hate, “curiosity killed the cat”: “curiosity captured the raccoon”. Unfortunately, out of context it sounds like a saying I would dislike just as much as the original because in general capturing raccoons is a bad thing. But raccoons who want to leave their baby cages in the nursery and move to their big-boy (and girl) enclosures outside need to be temporarily captured in a carrier in order to be transported. Many of you with cats may be familiar with the difficulty of putting an unwilling cat into a carrier. It CAN be the same, possibly even worse due to their super-dexterous fingers and toes, with raccoons, however, we were lucky with these six. We put some pork rinds (a raccoon favorite) in some carriers and simply waited for their curiosity to prevail and soon enough all six had climbed into a carrier and were briskly locked in and carried out to their new home. Raccoons are so curious we probably didn’t even need the pork rind incentive, but it sure didn’t hurt. I was so into this task I forgot to take pictures, but here is a picture from last week that I love, which incidentally is of a raccoon eating a pork rind…and smiling about it!

Comments (8)

Saag

I started this post – which isn’t even very long – three days ago and I’m only now finding the time to finish it. What’s more, I ate this dinner a week ago! I’ve always written up and published posts the same day as I’ve eaten the meal in the past. Unfortunately, that’s how busy I’ve been lately. The good news is that after a slump of a couple of months, I’m getting excited about cooking again so you should be seeing more from me. Of course, on the other hand, it’s about to be baby wildlife season which means the small amount of free time I have now is about to go away. But there’s good news there too because baby wildlife season means tons of pictures of baby raccoons – and maybe, JUST MAYBE (cross your fingers!), baby skunks – to share.

Enough blabber. On with the food. One of my favorite Indian dishes is saag, or spinach and mustard greens, but it’s often made with paneer, which is cheese, in restaurants, which means I can’t have it. What’s a girl to do but make it at home, right? Here’s what I did.

Saag

All the “1/2 tsp”s below? Yeah, I just wrote “1/2 tsp” as a guess. I didn’t really measure any of the spices.

10 oz spinach, chopped fairly well
1 small bunch mustard greens, chopped fairly well
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 heaping Tbsp grated garlic
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 dried chili peppers, lightly crumbled, or 1/4 tsp dried chili flakes
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp asofoetida
dollop vegan plain yogurt or vegan sour cream
salt to taste

Heat some oil in a large pot or skillet (a wok would work well) over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and stir a bit. When they start to pop, turn the heat down and add the fenugreek and cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until the fenugreek is beginning to brown, then add the turmeric and asofoetida, then the onions, chilis, garlic, and ginger. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the greens, in batches if you have to, letting some cook down a bit before adding another handful. Add a little bit of water if seems a little dry. Reduce heat, cover, and cook until the greens are soft. Salt to taste. Stir in a dollop of sour cream or yogurt (this is optional but adds a little bit of creamy tang that you’re not getting from the paneer that is so often added to this dish).

Here is the saag with some perfectly cooked basmati rice (thank you, rice cooker!).

Also served with chana masala and some naan. Yummy and makes for a good lunch the next day or two.

I came home well after dark most nights this week. Leaving work after the sun has set is always depressing to me, but it gets better when I come home and see this:

The fat one is Torticia and the prim one is Gomez. 🙂

Comments (3)

Chole Saag

Mark’s been sick this week and wasn’t up for dinner tonight. Long-time readers may know that when Mark doesn’t eat dinner, dinner is Indian! I’d been planning a nice autumn meal of seitan, kale, and delicata squash before he announced he wasn’t hungry, so I decided to save it for tomorrow instead of eating it alone. But then I eyed up the kale and considered how much I’d been looking forward to eating it…so I didn’t put it away.

Like a lot of my Indian meals, because they are generally impromptu affairs born of Mark’s refusal of dinner, this recipe was made up on the fly using ingredients I had on hand and needed to use up. I’d done a really smart thing Sunday afternoon after returning home from LA: I cooked up a pound of dried chickpeas, reserving some for salads, and freezing the rest. I also cooked up a large batch of rice and portioned it into single serving sizes, which were also frozen, ready for me to grab for a quick meal down the road. Tonight that quick meal was realized.

Chole Saag

1/2 large or 1 small onion, small dice
about 1″ of ginger, grated
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bunch kale, chopped into fairly small pieces
8 oz spinach, also chopped into fairly small pieces
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water, plus additional (I start with 1/2 cup broth and add plain water)
salt to taste (I used Indian black salt, but regular old salt is fine)
asafoetida to taste (optional; I love the stuff)
lemon wedges, for serving

In a large pan, pot, or wok, heat some oil over medium high heat, then add the onions, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, turmeric, garam masala, and asafoetida if desired. Cook until soft, then add the kale. Stir and cook down slightly, then add the spinach. Stir and cook down again, then reduce heat to medium and add about 1/2 cup broth or water and the chickpeas. Cook for about 20 minutes, adding 1/4 cup of water or broth periodically if it looks dry. Salt to taste. Serve over basmati rice with lemon wedges.

Since I didn’t take prep photos (I didn’t know it would be blog-worthy!), this post seems uncharacteristically short. To make up for it, here are some pictures I took shortly before our vacation, when I spotted a cardinal outside the window taking a bath in an overturned planter. Not the greatest pictures since I was taking them through both a screen and dirty glass, but the subject is pretty.

I wasn’t the only one charmed!

Comments (7)

« Previous entries