Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Arisi Upma

It's amazing how quickly days fly by and before you know it a week is gone, then two and then an entire month slips away in an instant... Things have been way too busy on all fronts.. work and home - it leaves me pretty much no time to relax and get to my hobby of blogging. There has been a fair bit of cooking going on though and i have quite a backlog of recipes and pictures waiting to see the daylight but the one I have picked today screams comfort food to me and is perfect for the rainy days we've been having - it's the classic Arisi Upma. I remember my paati's version ever so clearly... tasty upma, doused liberally with nallennai (sesame oil) and the crispy crunchy bits on the bottom of the pan... so good!

When my mom was here, I asked her to make it quite often and here is her recipe for this tasty upma.


Raw Rice - 1.5 cups
Toor dhal - 1/4 cup
Coconut, grated - 2 tbsp
Red Chillies - 5
Cumin seeds and whole Black pepper - half tsp each, pounded to a coarse powder
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Split Urad dhal - 1/4 tsp
Channa dhal - 1 to 2 tsp
Asafoetida (hing) - a pinch
Curry leaves - few
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste

1) Soak Rice and dhal together for 20 mins, drain and while still moist grind to a coarse powder.

2) In a pot (or the pressure cooker if you prefer that method), heat oil and season with mustard seeds, urad dhal, channa dhal, hing, curry leaves and the 5 red chillies broken into bits.

3) Once the mustard splutters and the dhals are a bit toasted, add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

4) Add the coconut and salt at this point and the powdered cumin seeds and pepper powder.

5) Next add the powdered rice and dhal, cover and allow to cook on a low-medium flame till well cooked. If using a pressure cooker, wait for 1 whistle then lower the flame and wait 5 minutes before switching off the stove - your upma is now ready, once the pressure subsides.

However, if you want the crispy bottom part, the stove top method works better.

Wishing everyone a very happy Navarathri season :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Summer Vegetable Pasta

It's quite saddening that we are nearly running out of summer and the weather has been quite challenging lately... what with Irene first (which thankfully didn't wreak much havoc for us) and then the remnants of Tropical storm Lee - which caused nearly 5 days of non-stop rain! But it has been a fun and busy summer for us otherwise... we managed to squeeze in a trip to the beach, visited Niagara (a first for my kids and parents), moved to a new home, had a renuion with cousins, took the kids to a farm and a zoo, hosted a party & went on a few picnics.

This pasta dish was made for one such picnic outing and it turned out pretty tasty. My daughter planted a few stems of basil (after I used the leaves from the storebought one) and they grew to be a nice beautiful plant and I've had no dearth for basil this entire summer. Infact when the plant gets big, I cut the stems, wash and dry the leaves and grind them with some olive oil and store them in the freezer for later. I also made a few batches of pesto and froze that as well. Here are some pictures from our garden:


Pasta - 1 lb (16 oz) - I used colorful Rotini
Red onion - 1 small, sliced thinly
Garlic cloves - 3
Green Beans - 10, cut into half inch pieces
Carrots - 2 medium, julienned into slices
Bell Peppers (Red/Green) - half cup, cut into 1 inch strips
Broccoli florets & stalks - 1 cup
Yellow Squash / Zucchini - half, cut into thick strips
Pesto - 2 to 3 tbsp or to taste
Red Chilli flakes, Salt & Pepper - to taste
Olive oil - 1 tbsp + 2 tsp
Shredded Parmesan Cheese - 1/4 cup

1) Cook Pasta according to pasta directions, drain and reserve abt half cup of water.

2) Toss the vegetables with 2 tsp olive oil & a bit of salt, place in a wide bowl or plate and microwave for 5 minutes (no water needed or covering) - this will make them tender crisp.

3) Heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, add onion, garlic and chilli flakes - cook till soft and tender on medium flame, Then add the microwaved veggies and some black pepper & toss for another 5 to 6 minutes...

4) Mix the pesto with about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and add to the drained pasta along with the microwaved vegetables & parmesan cheese. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Go with any kind of veggies you have and love.. some cherry tomatoes would be a great addition as well. This would also be great to take on picnics or for kids lunchboxes.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chocolate Mousse Cake (with Eggless Option)

This particular cake has been on my mind since the time my husband bought one for my birthday.. it had a chocolate cake base with a light, airy chocolate mousse topping, not too sweet but chocolatey. I've been scouting for recipes since then that would come close and I had to combine several elements from different recipes to fit what I had in mind. Inspite of all that, this cake is fairly easy to make and I used a boxed chocolate cake for a base which turned out to be very moist, thanks to the chocolate mousse layer on top. But you could just as easily substitute it with any chocolate cake recipe that you prefer or even this eggless version and make this a totally eggless chocolate mousse cake! Isn't that neat?


Cake Layer:
1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Devil's food cake) , eggs, oil as specified in the box of the cake mix. I followed the baking directions for a 9 X 13 inch pan
this Eggless Chocolate Cake (double it to make it fit a 9 X 13 inch pan)

Method For the Cake Layer: Follow directions on the box and bake in a 9 x 13 inch pan. Allow to cool and refrigerate. If you use a 9 inch spring form pan then you can layer the cake, mousse and then remove the sides for a beautiful presentation. Since i wanted a bigger cake, I just referigerated it in the pan itself. If the top is not level (mine had risen more in the middle), slice the top to make it level.

Chocolate Mousse Layer:
Heavy Cream - 2 cups (ensure it's very cold)
Semi sweet chocolate - 9.33 oz (measured using a weighing scale)
Cocoa powder - 2.5 tbsp
Hot water - 6.5 tbsp
Sugar - 1.5 tbsp
Salt - 1/8 tsp

Dissolve cocoa powder in the hot water and keep aside.

2) Melt the semi sweet chocolate in a medium bowl - i microwaved for about a minute to 90 seconds in 30 second intervals, stirring every 30 seconds, until smooth. Ensure there is no water in the bowl or the spatula to prevent chocolate from seizing (and becoming crumbly).

3) Mix the dissolved cocoa powder with the melted chocolate

4) Place bowl and whisk in freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes before making whipped cream.

5) In the well chilled bowl, put the 2 cups of cream, salt and sugar and whip until mixture begins to thicken and soft peaks form.

6) Using a rubber spatula, fold / mix a third of the whipping cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten.

7) Then fold in the remaining two-thirds of the mixture using the spatula until there are no white streaks. That's it! The chocolate mousse is now ready. Spoon or pipe this mousse mixture onto the cooled cake. Refrigerate for about 2 to 3 hours atleast.

Whipped Cream Layer:
Whipped Cream - 2 cups (ensure it's very cold)
Sugar - 2 to 3 tbsp
Vanilla - 1 tsp
Salt - a small pinch

Method for whipped cream:
1) Place bowl and whisk in freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes before making whipped cream.

2) In the well chilled bowl, put the 2 cups of cream, vanilla, salt and sugar and whip until mixture begins to thicken and soft peaks form. Beat some more until peaks stiffen.. (ensure you don't beat too much and turn it into butter) :)

3) Top the chocolate mousse layer with this whipped cream topping as a uniform layer.

I decorated the cake with some drizzlings of melted chocolate (lightened with a bit of milk) and some shaved chocolate curls. Mine was refrigerated for more than a day before we served it and it was extremely moist and stayed that way for nearly 2-3 days after.

I made this for a family reunion we had 2 weekends back - we had a lovely celebration.