Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tofu Sambal

A sambal is basically a chilli based sauce and there are several varieties of this spicy sauce. The sambal oelek sauce that one finds commercially typically contains shrimp paste. It's easy enough to make this at home with the dried red chillies that we almost always have at home. This spicy sauce is a perfect combination for the bland tofu and this was the first dish that had my tofu-hating husband start appreciating tofu. Nowadays he is perfectly fine with tofu in any form and I make quite a few dishes using it.


Firm Tofu - 1 pack (16 to 19 oz), drained & cut into 1 inch cubes
Medium Onions - 2, sliced thinly and cut into 1 inch pieces
Tomatoes - 2 small (roma), chopped
Garlic - 4 cloves, chopped, finely
Ginger - 1 inch, chopped, finely
Tomato Puree/ Paste (canned) - 1 tbsp
Dried Red Chillies - 7 to 8 (or adjust based on spiciness desired)
Sugar - 1 tsp (recommended since it gives a caramelized flavour)
Soy Sauce - 1 to 2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tbsp
Coriander leaves - 2 tbsp, chopped for garnish

1) Saute chopped fresh tomatoes with a bit of salt & a wee bit of oil till mushy.

2) Place dried red chillies in a bowl of water, bring it to a boil and let boil for about 5 minutes. Switch off the stove, cover and allow to stay for about 10 mins. Drain the chillies.

3) Grind the drained red chillies with the sauteed tomatoes & the tsp of sugar to a smooth paste.

4) Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wide saute pan, sprinkle a bit of salt and add the tofu pieces, allow them to brown on one side, sprinkle more salt on top and flip them over, allowing the other side to brown as well. Remove from the stove and keep aside.

5) In the same pan, heat the other tbsp of oil and saute onions, ginger & garlic till browned. Add the fried tomato -chilli paste along with the tbsp of tomato paste and fry till thick & the raw taste has gone - about 5 to 8 minutes.

6) To this, add about a cup of water, mix well and stir in the tofu cubes. Cook until the tofu absorbs the masalas on a low-medium flame. The mixture will be semi solid. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Semiya - Javvarisi Payasam

This used to be my favorite payasam as a kid.. I loved the little glassy, chewy balls of tapioca/sago/javvarisi in the payasam. I remember crushing the appalams into this milky payasam when this was served at weddings. It was a nice salty + sweet taste and it also enabled sopping up the runny payasam off the plantain leaves that served as plates (because the appalams/papads made the consistency thicker). I haven't eaten this way in many many years since I rarely make this payasam with papads but would love to just to see if I still like the combination as much as I used to :)

This payasam/kheer could very well be made with just semiya/vermicelli and the javvarisi/sago could be skipped.


Semiya/Vermicelli - 3/4 cup, broken into small bits (in case you have the long variety)
Javvarisi/Sago - 1/3 cup
Milk - 1.5 litres or 6 cups (I used 2%)
Sugar - 1 cup (or a few tbsp more)
Cardamom - 3 to 4 cardamom pods, crushed with some sugar finely
Ghee - 1 tbsp + 2 tsp
Raisins - 1 to 2 tbsp
Cashew pieces - 1 to 2 tbsp

1) In 1 tsp of ghee, roaste the javvarisi/sago for a few mins.. It will turn a bit shiny and translucent. Transfer this to a heavy bottomed, preferably deep pan, add about half cup or so water and allow to cook on a low flame. The roasting will ensure that the sago pearls don't stick.

2) Roast the Semiya/Vermicelli separately in another tsp of ghee until golden brown and keep ready.

3) Once the javvarisi/sago has almost cooked through, add the roasted semia followed by all the milk. Allow this to come to a boil and simmer on a low-medium flame taking care to ensure it doesn't boil over. I typically sprinkle a few drops of water if I think it's going to boil over and also keep a wooden spoon in the milk at all times. This mixture has to simmer until the milk thickens and reduces a bit... Typically, I let it reduce to about 3/4 of the original volume... it doesn't have to thicken too much like Paal Payasam. During this process, the semiya will be cooked and so will the sago.

4) When thick enough, add the sugar & cardamom powder and stir. Switch off the stove. This payasam/kheer, typically thickens upon cooling thanks to the starchiness of the tapioca.

5) In a separate pan, heat the 1 tbsp of ghee and roast cashews and raisins till cashews turn golden and raisins plump up. Toss the entire mixture into the payasam and now it's ready to serve when warm. My husband loves this cold.

If you notice that the payasam is very thick upon standing, adding some milk will help thin it out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bagel Crisps

Kids and consistency (especially when it comes to their likes and dislikes in food) don't go hand in hand - atleast in the case of my daughter. What is her favorite one day may not be all that appealing to her a few days later and I have to constantly think of new ways to keep her interest engaged and go with what her current preferences. So, what once seemed like the perfect lunchbox idea - bagels and veggie cream cheese (since she couldn't get enough of it & it was an easy fix for me when paired with some baby carrots and fruit) was quickly dismissed and that too soon after I bought a pack of mini bagels. So, these poor guys just hibernated in one of our refrigerator shelves waiting to see the light of day... until I got the idea to use them and make bagel crisps so it could serve as a crunchy snack for tea time. Now, I have a good way to use these leftover bagels and have also figured out my daughter's latest craze which is heart shaped stuff.. so i can send her anything i want for lunch (bread, dosa, idli) as long as they are shaped like hearts... so it all ended well - atleast for the time being :)


Left over Bagels - about 6 mini bagels, sliced very thinly (mine were a bit hard due to the refrigeration so it was easy to do this with a sharp knife)
Olive oil - 1/4 cup
Garlic powder - half tsp
Red Chilli flakes - 1 tsp
Italian seasoning - half tsp
Salt & Pepper - 1/4 tsp each or to taste

1) Preheat oven to 300F and line baking sheets with foil and spray lightly.

2) In a small bowl, combine olive oil and heat gently until warm. Stir in the seasonings and remove from the stove.

3) Place the sliced bagels on the baking sheet in a single layer and brush this seasoned oil evenly.

4) Bake in the preheated oven for about 5 to 7 minutes till golden brown and then flip over and bake the other side as well until crisp and golden.

These are delicious as is for a snack or when served with soup.