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!


  1. David Said,

    August 19, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

    Hi Renae,
    I really enjoy following your blog! Maybe I can help with your Indian needs…

    I happen to live very close to “Little India” in California and have about 25 Indian markets to choose from in a 3 block area.

    Just last night for dinner I went to Little India and had a Mung Bean and Rice Flour Dosa filled with sauteed vegetables, it was HUGE and came with a red pepper chutney, a coconut mint chutney and a peanut red pepper chutney.

    If you make a list of what you want/need (you can even use the unfamiliar/untranslated names as I have many friendly shopkeepers and restaurant owners I can ask) and I will let you know what an Indian spice rescue package would cost to ship to you. (Shipping will probably be more than anything else as most of the spices I buy are very inexpensive at those shops).

    No charge for my footwork here, consider it a bonus for sharing your life with the world. 🙂

    Take care,

  2. renae Said,

    August 20, 2012 @ 12:06 am

    David, thank you so much for your kind offer! That is very generous of you. We have a few Indian groceries around here so I don’t have a problem buying spices; it’s more the Indian vegetables, like drumsticks, the book calls for that I don’t have. I have actually found frozen versions of most of them, although I prefer just substituting something fresh.

  3. Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy Said,

    August 19, 2012 @ 10:10 pm

    oh my gosh that’s so exciting that you got a dehydrator! that’s on my wish list:)

  4. Megan Said,

    August 20, 2012 @ 12:37 am

    Thanks as always for a great blog.

    My favorite dehydrated treat would be green onions. I don’t particularly enjoy onions usually but when they are dehydrated they are crispy and their “bite” is mellowed to the point that just the plain onions can be eaten as chips would be. They are so good! And would also be handy crumbled into a soup mix.

  5. renae Said,

    August 20, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    Megan, I’m glad to hear that because I bought a few bunches of green onions at the farmers market to try them out! They are in the dehydrator now.

    Jennifer, it’s a 9-tray Excalibur. I’ve only had it a few days, but so far I love it. A friend gave me his old round Ronco years ago and I never really liked it. The Excalibur blows it away, although it’s a lot more expensive.

  6. Jennifer Said,

    August 20, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    Thanks for your wonderful blog. I loved the raccoon smiling picture. I’m curious about what kind of dehydrator you bought. I would love one, but I’m never sure which one to get. Thanks again.

  7. V Said,

    August 20, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

    i too just got a dehydrator! i heard corn is quite the treat. i cant wait to literally go bananas.

  8. Josiane Said,

    August 22, 2012 @ 12:33 am

    I love the idea of using the dehydrator when making tempeh! Worries over being able to find a way to maintain the right temperature have kept me from trying to make tempeh, but this sounds like a great way to have more control over that part of the process. And the idea of getting a dehydrator just got even more appealing than it already was… because yeah, if I got my hands on one, I would certainly go on a dehydrating binge just like you’ve been doing this past week! Soup mixes! Dried fruits! And more!

    I love your pics of the family of deer! They are such beautiful animals. It must have been a magical moment.

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