March 9, 2010

Art Museum @ St. Louis

The Art Museum at Forest Park in St. Louis has become one of our favorite places to visit in the city. It is free ~ which is nice, but the best thing about the place is that it is open late on Friday nights - till 9 pm! Isn't that awesome. In addition, their special exhibits which are usually ticketed are also free on certain days. The last time we went, the special exhibit was African Ceremonial Cloths. In addition to the exhibits they also had AV exhibits on the processes of weaving and making these cloths. I am hoping to use some of the patterns as an inspiration in my paintings hopefully.  Another must-visit in St. Louis!

March 8, 2010

Carrot Rava Idli

Idlis are one of the staple breakfast items growing up. These days, they are a delicacy made only when I manage to grind up a batch of batter (mostly in the summer). Or when I can get pre-made batter from a store. But Rava Idlis on the other hand, are pretty easy to make, no fermenting of the batter and makes for a quick brunch or dinner. I am sending this recipe to Jihva - Breakfast blogging event, hosted by Suma of Veggie Platter.

To get this color for the idli, I blend together a few tablespoons of grated carrots with a cup of yogurt before mixing the other ingredients. To this add 1 cup of rava (semolina), a quarter of diced onion, 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger, a few chopped coriander leaves. I also add a 1/4 teaspoon on Eno fruit salt. Whisk everything together and let sit for a few minutes. In the meantime, temper mustard, urad dal, and small pieces of cashews and add to the batter. Season with salt and stir in another cup of yogurt; whisk again and steam in an idli mold for 5-7 minutes. Serve hot with a garnish of grated carrots.

I served these with tomato-peanut chutney made by grinding together a handful of roasted peanuts, a couple of tomatoes - chopped and microwaved for a couple of minutes, a red chili, salt and a pinch of asafoetida. Garnish with a temper of mustard seeds.

March 6, 2010

Frijoles Negros from Cuba

The Cuban classic black beans was my dinner, with some left over Zucchini pie during a busy weeknight. I adapted the recipe for this vegetarian version from Beverley Cox and Martin Jacobs' book Eating Cuban: 120 authentic recipes from the streets of Havana to American shores .

Start with slicing one capsicum and a red bell pepper. Chop one onion, two cloves of garlic. Reserve some of the onion, peppers for garnish. In a pan, add a spoon of olive oil, saute the chopped onion and garlic, add the bell peppers. Add two cans of drained and rinsed black beans. Let them cook for a few more  minutes. Take half of this mixture and blend to a puree along with a couple of pinches of cinnamon, a teaspoon on cumin/coriander powder, salt, half a teaspoon of brown sugar and a couple of teaspoons of vinegar. I used a mango balsamic vinegar that became the magic ingredient transforming the soup to absolute delish. Return this sofrito to the pan with the rest of the blackbeans and peppers and cook for a few more minutes. Add water (or stock) if needed and adjust the seasoning. Garnish and serve!

March 5, 2010

More Tigers!

These are two of the five Amur Tiger cubs at the St. Louis zoo, born in April 2008. And no, they don't look like they are cubs, but they have a lot more to grow! I think there are 3 females and 2 males and they are absolutely beautiful to watch. Except when I see them frolicking in the mud, there is a temptation to hold them down and give them a nice bath :)

March 4, 2010

Algerian Cucumber Salad - Salatat Khiyar

I am surprising myself with eating more salads these days, but still only those that have a spicy, yummy dressing and without a lot of raw leaves. This Algerian cucumber salad adapted from here, is a winner with complex flavors, and can be made as spicy as one wants.

In a bowl, add a thinly diced cucumber, half a diced capsicum, and a few pitted and chopped green olives. Add a handful of chopped cilantro and mint to this. Top off with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Season with salt, black pepper, and paprika. Instead of paprika, I used a mixture of really hot chili powder. Toss well and serve! This acidic salad was a wonderful palate cleanser and helped to highlight the flavors of the dishes that followed.

March 3, 2010

M'chicha - Tanzanian Spinach & Peanut Curry

Here is my first contribution ever to a blogging event - Blog Bites #1: Cookers by Nupur of One Hot Stove. I was initially tempted to send in my Mualle or the Spicy Sweet Potatoes for this event, but I didn't use another blog for their recipe. One more country ticked off too, for my Cooking the World during African Dinner night :)

Back in St. Louis, I had to make do with the big pressure cooker Shankar has here, and cook for three people. Nonetheless, the dish turned out really good and was our friend Karthik's favorite from last evening. It took about 5 minutes of prep time and 10 minutes for cooking ~ all I had to do was throw in all the ingredients in the cooker! I am an avid user of pressure cookers, having 3 of them in Madison, and this one in St. Louis.

Here is how I made the M'chicha: Chop one red onion, two tomatoes, a bag of spinach and add them to the pressure cooker. Add a cup of raw blanched peanuts. Alternately you can use peanut butter, but the crunchiness from the peanuts was what made this dish a highlight of the evening. Add a small can of coconut milk, salt according to taste and three tablespoons of curry powder. Add one cup of water or less depending on how you want to eat it (with rice, bread or a stew). Mix everything together, pop the cooker on the stove and cook for 3 whistles. I am sure I will be making variations of this dish quite a bit!

This recipe is adapted from Ambika's Kitchen, though she did not use a pressure cooker.

Kalki & Snowballs

We spent last weekend @ Hayward, WI with some friends. We were glad that the doggies could go with us and they had a great time running in the woods, playing with sticks and running on the lake. Kalki was particularly very enthusiastic about snowballs. The snow on the lake was pretty powdery and the snowball was falling apart even before I could throw it. However, that was not to deter our Kalki! As you can see, Amy - the smart one, decided thats not fun for her after a couple of attempts :)

March 2, 2010

Kenyan Lentil Stew (Dengu)

Tonight was African Night for dinner - we had an Algerian cucumber salad, Lablabi - a chick pea stew from Tunisia, Tanzanian spinach and peanut curry and the Kenyan Lentil Stew. This dish is similar to the Indian Dal - usually made with mung beans. I used Toor Dal instead as Shankar had some frozen from last week.

Heat a tablespoon of butter (or ghee) on a pan, add one chopped onion, two cloves of minced garlic and cook till the onions are soft. Add two chopped red or green chilies - I used the hot Thai variety. Add two tablespoons of tomato puree, cook for a few more minutes. Then add two cups of cooked and mashed dal, add water to adjust consistency. Then add half a diced capsicum and another diced red bell pepper. Season with salt, according to taste. Simmer and cook for another 5 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro or mint and serve. I adapted this recipe from Just Food Now.
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