Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Roasted Tomato Soup

Tomato soup is probably the most common of all the vegetarian soups available. Restaurants serve it, moms make it, wedding dinners have it and people of all ages enjoy it! The name of the soup remains the same, but the taste is different everywhere. No two chefs will make the soup that tastes exactly alike. Some people add carrots, some add cream and some add fried croutons to this soup before serving.



While tomato soup is made by cooking garlic, ginger, onions and tomatoes and pureeing it before boiling, another variation is this Roasted Tomato soup. The recipe is a close cousin of the Cream of Tomato Soup. Made from oven roasted tomatoes, onion and garlic, this soup gives a rustic flavor to the classic. It is difficult to say that this one is better than the traditional Tomato Soup, but I can surely say it is just as good! 



Tomato soup is considered a comfort food in Poland and United States. In the USA, Grilled Cheese Sandwich is considered a natural accompaniment of the soup. A lot of restaurants here serve this soup topped with Sour Cream, quite different than the Indian way of serving Tomato Soup with fried croutons. A healthy alternative to the fried croutons is this recipe of baked garlic croutons. We enjoyed this soup with the guilty version of fried croutons and a simple pasta salad. Comfort food at its best!



Ingredients
Tomatoes, 3-4 large ripe and red
Onion 1 medium
Garlic, 2-3 cloves 
Black Pepper, Salt
Water 
Olive oil




Method
The first step is to roast the vegetables. In order to do so, wash and cut the tomatoes into half, onion into quarters and garlic into half. Lay them in a baking tray in a single layer and sprinkle some salt, pepper and olive oil on the vegetables. Place the baking tray in a preheated oven at 300 F/ 200 C and roast for 20-25 minutes, until the flesh of the tomatoes is soft. Remove from the oven and separate the skin of the tomatoes. Reserve the liquid that is at the bottom of the baking dish. 



Transfer the onions, tomatoes and garlic to a blender and blend to a smooth paste. Sieve the mixture back to the saucepan and bring to a boil. The soup is ready to serve! Serve this soup in Homemade Bread Bowls topped with some fresh cream or sour cream or bread croutons. 




Homemade Bread Bowl

One of the famous eateries in San Francisco is The Boudin Bakery that serves breads in various shapes along with soups, salads and sandwiches. Their signature Sourdough Bread bowl is simply superb. Warm soup of the season served in freshly baked bread is a perfect meal by the ocean on Pier 39!!

Having had this bread bowl pretty often there, I decided to try out a Rosemary Bread bowl at home, without the sourdough. These bowls are crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. A simple recipe with just the same ingredients as any other bread, this bowl can be used to serve soups like Roasted Tomato,French Onion or Roasted Butternut Squash or any soup of your choice. Or use it as a bowl to present dips at a party. Make a bulk of these bowls and use as required.



Ingredients
Allpurpose Flour/Maida 3 cups
Rapidrise Dry Yeast 1 sachet (2 1/4 tsp)
Olive Oil 3 tbsp
Herbs ( I used fresh Rosemary and Oregano)
Salt 1 tsp
Sugar 1/2 tsp
Warm Water 1 cup (100-110 F)
Butter 1 tsp



Method
In a cup of warm water add Yeast, sugar and 1 tsp salt. Let the mixture stand for ten minutes till it foams. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, 2 tbsp Olive Oil and herbs. Pour the frothy yeast mixture into this mixture and make a soft dough. Add little water if required and knead well. The mixture may be sticky at first, knead it well till it converts to a soft dough.  Apply oil over the dough and place it in a large bowl, cover it with a moist cloth and let stand for 45 minutes. 

After 45 minutes, the dough will be almost double it's size. Punch down the dough and knead it for 5 more minutes. Divide the dough into four parts and from each part roll out a tight round ball. Place the bread balls in a greased baking tray with the seam side down. Let the balls rise again for 20-25 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 F/ 200 C. 

Bake the bread balls for 20-25 minutes or till the crust turns golden brown. Remove from oven and quickly brush some butter on it. To serve, cut 1/8th of the top using a sharp knife. Using a spoon, core out the bread from inside, ensuring not to core till the bottom else the soup will flow out :( Use the bowl to serve hot soups like Roasted Tomato Soup, French Onion Soup or Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.





Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bow-tie Pasta in Pumpkin Sauce

Pasta is one of the favorite item on our dinner table. However, over a period of time, Arrabbiata sauce and Alfredo sauce tends to get boring and so do the usual shapes like penne. It is then that I would try and experiment with new ingredients, combinations and flavors. 

This recipe is a combination of the bow-tie pasta, Farfalle with a vegan sauce made from canned or fresh pumpkin puree. All this recipe needs is dry pasta, pumpkin puree and a few vegetables that are easily available at home. Add some more vegetables if you like and make this dish your skinny dinner!!   


Ingredients
Farfalle Pasta 1 cup
Pumpkin Puree 1 cup, canned or fresh
Red Bell Pepper 1 medium sliced
Yellow Bell Pepper 1 medium sliced
Spinach 1/2 cup
Garlic 2-3 cloves minced
Onion 1 medium diced
Butter
Mixed Herbs 
Salt and Ground Black Pepper
Parmesan Cheese (optional)



Method
Heat water in a large pot and add salt. Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook till it is el-dente. You can use any pasta of your choice. Once done, drain and set aside.

In a pan, heat a tsp of butter and saute garlic in it. Once the raw flavor is lost, add the onion and sliced peppers in it. Saute till soft. Add the pumpkin puree and mix well. Cook the puree on medium heat till it is completely cooked. At this stage also add the washed and roughly cut spinach. Put in the cooked pasta, mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Add water or vegetable stock if necessary. You can also add the pasta water in this. Mix everything well and top with some shredded Parmesan cheese if you like. To enjoy a vegan version, eliminate the cheese. Serve warm with a bowl of soup and a side of herb bread.





Friday, January 16, 2015

Skinny French Onion Soup

French onion soup (French soupe √† l'oignon) is a type of soup usually based on meat stock and onions, and often served gratin√©ed with croutons and cheese on top. Although ancient in origin, the dish underwent a resurgence of popularity in the 1960s in the United States due to a greater interest in French cuisine. French onion soup is usually served as a starter. 

This is a vegetarian adaptation of the French classic and made skinny by doing away with the cheese layer on top and prepared in Oilive oil. No flour or cream used in this one! The soup essentially has caramelized onions, garlic and vegetable stock. The cheese on top can be skipped to make it vegan. Healthy and yummy soup to beat the chill this January.



Ingredients
Yellow Onions 2 large
Garlic 1-2 cloves
Vegetable stock/water 1 1/2 cups
Olive Oil 2 tbsp
Salt and Pepper to taste
Shredded Cheese



Method
De-skin the onions and cut them into thin slices using a mandolin or a sharp knife. Ensure the slices are almost the same thickness to enable even cooking. Add Olive oil in a large bottom pan and add chopped garlic to it. Let the garlic brown a little. Now spread the onion slices in a thin even layer and season with salt and pepper.

Keep the flame on low to medium and let the onion cook and caramelize. This process can take anywhere between 30 minutes to 45 minutes depending on the water content in the onions. Make sure the onions are completely caramelized so that you get the perfect sweet taste and not the uncooked onion flavor.

Once the onions caramelize, turn down the heat and let them cool. Blend them in a blender and sieve the mixture to do away with the pieces if any. Return the soup to the medium flame and add the vegetable stock or water, the amount depending on the consistency you desire. Turn down the heat and serve topped with some shredded cheese, which is absolutely optional! Enjoy the warm soup with a side of garlic bread or soup-sticks or top them with these Guilt-free Baked Garlic Croutons.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Brown Rice and Sprouts Pulao

Brown rice is sometimes boring to cook and eat; and so are sprouts!! The rice takes forever to cook and do not even give the satisfaction of having RICE. And sprouts are probably the most boring diet food ever discovered. However, both these boring ingredients can come together with a few veggies to make an interesting dish!

This recipe was an experiment by me to combine the benefits of brown rice which has low saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol along with the protein, vitamin and iron rich Moong sprouts to stir up something tasty. Hardly any oil goes into this dish, yet it is tasty and flavorful.

Ingredients
Brown Rice 2 cups
Moong Sprouts 1 cup
Mixed Vegetables 1 cup (I used Corn, Carrots, Peas, Cabbage, Orange Cauliflower and Broccoli )
Onion 1/4 cup
Green Pepper 1/4 cup
Olive Oil 1 tbsp
Salt, pepper, lime juice
Red Chilli 1 dried

Method
Wash and cook the brown rice in 3 1/2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Just cook them till they are done else the Pulao will become mushy. Cool the rice thoroughly before using it in the recipe. Sprout Moong beans as shown here. Heat two cups of water in the microwave and add the sprouted moon to it. Keep it in hot water for 10-15 minutes so that it becomes soft.


Blanch the vegetables except onion, pepper and cabbage separately in warm water and set aside. Heat oil in a skillet and add the dry red chilli. Add the onion and green pepper and saute till soft. Add the corn and peas and mix well. next add carrots, broccoli and cauliflower and mix well. Drain and add the Moong Sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Add the cabbage last and mix well.

Let everything cook for a couple of minutes and then add the cooked rice. Lightly mix the rice ensuring that the grains do not break. Turn down the flame, adjust salt pepper and add lime juice. Healthy Sprouts Rice is ready!! Serve with a bowl of Greek Yogurt or enjoy with Kadhi or Garlic Raita. The rice tastes absolutely amazing with this Greek yogurt Mixed Vegetable Raita.







How to make perfect Moong Sprouts

So often we need Sprouts in our cooking and we end up buying the sprouts from the store. However, it is super simple to make perfectly sprouted moong beans at home too!! This way we can ensure the quality of the beans, the water used and have them fresh when we need them. 

After several failed attempts in sprouting Moong where sometimes the seeds start smelling or often half of the moong sprout and the others fail; I have this fool proof method to sprout them evenly. It is fairly simple to do this, even in winter!!



All you need is a cup of good quality Moong beans, water, Kitchen towel and a salad spinner. The salad spinner I use a pretty simple gadget from Ikea. This is where I got it from: Ikea Salad Spinner

Wash the Moong beans thoroughly and soak them in 1 1/2 cup of warm water. Using cold water often leads to failed sprouting of some beans! Let them soak overnight. 

The next day, drain all the water. At the bottom of the salad spinner, keep a folded kitchen napkin. Lay the Plastic net basket and spread the beans on it. Place another Kitchen napkin on it and close the spinner. Let the spinner rest for 12-14 hours in a warm dry place.

After 12 hours, open and mix the moong beans. Cover again and let it stay for another 12 hours. Post that the sprouts should be ready. You may keep for an hour or two more or less, depending on the weather and temperature in your house. The sprouts are ready to go into any dish you like!! Have them fresh or store them in an air tight container with kitchen napkin below and on top to ensure they do not get soggy!!

Enjoy Perfect Sprouts everytime!!


Monday, January 12, 2015

Til Ladoo | Sesame Brittle

The festival of Makar Sankranti is just a couple of days away. Apart from the importance of the kites and enjoyment on the terrace, this festival holds a different significance in Maharashtra. People from this state of India believe that this day is the one on which you forget the past ill-feelings and hostility towards each other and start afresh. 

Til Gud; which literally means Sesame seeds and Jaggery are combined and balls are made out of the mixture. People from Maharashtra exchange these sweets and tell each other:' Til gud Ghya ani god god bola' which means eat these sweets and start talking sweet things from this day onwards! So here is the simple method to prepare these Til Gud or Sesame brittles.   

Ingredients
Sesame seeds 1 cup
Jaggery 1 cup
Clarified Butter/ Ghee 1 tbsp


Method
In a large skillet, dry roast the sesame seeds on low flame till they are crunchy. Do not keep them on high flame else they will burn. Set aside.
In a large pan heat ghee. Once the ghee melts, add jaggery. Let the jaggery melt slowly on medium flame. Do not keep the flame very high else it will burn. The jaggery will melt slowly and convert to a rich yellow liquid. This is the step that requires maximum patience in the process!
Now that the jaggery has melted, slowly add the sesame seeds and mix well. Do it quickly as the brittle will start setting. This is the bit that needs to be done quickly. Turn down the heat and mix till all the sesame seeds are coated with molten jaggery. Quickly grease your palms with ghee and take a spoonful of the mix between your palms. Make a round ball of sesame and press well to form a smooth round ball of the brittle. Alternatively, place the mass on a greased plate and cut into squares or diamonds. Store in air-tight containers and enjoy for 10-15 days!!




 Also try these Peanut brittles and Puffed Rice Brittles.


http://herbivorecucina.blogspot.com/2015/01/shing-chikki-peanut-brittle.html

http://herbivorecucina.blogspot.com/2015/01/mamra-chikki-puffed-rice-brittle.html


Friday, January 9, 2015

Mamra Chikki | Puffed Rice Brittle

The word Makar Sankrant means different things for different people. For some it signifies the end of winter and the onset of summer. For some it is the harvest festival in most parts of the country. For many it means spending hours on the terrace enjoying Undhiyu and Chikki. For most people from Gujarat it means WAR!! 

Sankrant is a war where the battlefield is the sky, the weapon is kites and glass rubbed string called Manja and the opponent is probably your neighbor or cousin!! The winner of the war is the person who is able to cut the opponent's kite by the power of his alertness, speed, agility and sharpness of the Manja. While flying kites, kids and adults enjoy Chikki or brittles made from Sesame, Peanuts, Puffed Rice or Dry-fruits mixed with sugar or jaggery. Here is the recipe for puffed rice brittles with jaggery.

Ingredients
Puffed Rice 3 cups
Jaggery 1 1/2 cup
Clarified Butter/ Ghee 1 tbsp

Method
In a large skillet, add the puffed rice and dry roast on low flame till they are crunchy. Do not keep them on high flame else the puffed rice will burn. Alternatively, lay the puffed rice in a baking dish. Preheated oven at 300 F/ 150 C and then switch it off once hot. Let the puffed rice be there for 10-12 minutes till they are crunchy.

In a large pan heat ghee. Once the ghee melts, add jaggery. Let the jaggery melt slowly on medium flame. Do not keep the flame very high else it will burn. The jaggery will melt slowly and convert to a rich yellow liquid. This is the step that requires maximum patience in the process! While the jaggery is melting, prepare a baking dish or likewise to set the chikki. The simplest way would be to tape down a piece of Aluminum Foil on the kitchen counter and grease with little ghee. This eliminates the cleaning process as the foil can be discarded!! Also line a rolling pin with foil and grease it.

Now that the jaggery has melted, slowly add the puffed rice and mix well. Do it quickly as the brittle will start setting. This is the bit that needs to be done quickly. Turn down the heat and mix till all the puffed rice is coated with molten jaggery. Transfer the mass to the greased foil and roll out with the pin. The thickness should be abut 1/2 inch or so. Once done, use a pizza cutter or sharp knife and make markings to cut the brittle into squares, rectangles or diamonds. 

Let the brittle cool. Once cool, use the markings as guide lines and cut the puffed rice chikki. Store in air-tight containers and enjoy for 10-15 days!!



Also try the Peanut brittles or Shing Chikki here. Do not forget to try these Til Ladoo or Sesame Brittles!!


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Shing Chikki | Peanut Brittle

Come January and it is time for Makar Sankranti, the festival of kites. The Harvest Festival of India, this day is believed to mark the beginning of Spring in the country. Celebrated as Makar Sankranti in most parts of the country, the festival is also known as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Bihu in Assam, Uttarayan in Gujarat and Lohri in Punjab. This festival is one of the few festivals that is always celebrated on the same day according to the English Calendar; i.e. 14th January.



Traditionally, Gujaratis prepare Chikki or Brittles made from varied nuts, puffed rice, bengal gram or coconut and either sugar or jaggery in Uttarayan. Women generally prepare these ready to eat sweets a couple of days before the Sankranti, and it is enjoyed while flying kites. These traditional sweets are enjoyed with wholesome servings of Spicy Undhiyu; a Gujarati delicacy. 




Ingredients
Peanuts 1 cup, shelled
Sugar 3/4 cup powdered or Jaggery 3/4 cup
Clarified butter/ Ghee 1 tbsp
Saffron (optional)



Method
Take the shelled peanuts and dry roast them on medium flame in a large saucepan. This will take some time but ensure it is done only on medium flame, else the peanuts will burn. After the peanuts are lightly roasted, remove from flame and set aside.

Using a pestle or rolling pin, lightly crush the peanuts. If you want, you can grind them in a blender and make the chikki out of peanut powder. I just crushed them a little with a pestle here.

In a large pan heat the ghee. Once heated, add sugar or jaggery and saffron. Let the sugar melt slowly on medium flame. Do not keep the flame very high else the sugar or jaggery will burn. The sugar will slowly change form from white powder to white semi-solid to transparent liquid and finally to a rich yellow liquid. While the sugar is melting, prepare a baking dish or likewise to set the chikki. Also line a rolling pin with foil and grease it.



Now that the sugar has caramelized, slowly add the peanuts and mix well. If using jaggery, let it dissolve completely before adding the peanuts. Do it quickly as the brittle will start setting. This is the bit that needs to be done quickly. Turn down the heat and mix till the peanuts are covered with sugar. Transfer the mass to the greased foil and roll out with the pin. The thickness should be about 1/4 inch or so.Once done, use a pizza cutter or sharp knife and make markings to cut the brittle into squares, rectangles or diamonds. 

Let the brittle cool. Once cool, use the markings as guide lines and cut the chikki. Store in air-tight containers and enjoy for 10-15 days!!






Try this Puffed Rice Brittle or Mamra Chikki here. Do not forget to try these Til Ladoos.

http://herbivorecucina.blogspot.com/2015/01/mamra-chikki-puffed-rice-brittle.html


http://herbivorecucina.blogspot.com/2015/01/til-ladoo-sesame-brittle.html

To complete the Sankranti meal, try this Surti Undhiyu too!!


http://herbivorecucina.blogspot.com/2014/07/surti-undhiyu-undhiyu-seasonal-gujarati.html