Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup

Ever since I tried the roasted bell pepper soup from Trader Joe's (a grocery store here is US) few years back, I had instantly fallen in love with the flavor and the simplicity of the soup. Believe it or not my first experience of this soup was right out of a tetra pak carton ๐Ÿ˜›. Its quite amazing how just the roasting procedure gives such a boost of flavor to the the peppers and the soup. 

So today I will be sharing my version of roasted red bell pepper soup. The first time I made this soup I had included tomatoes as well but somehow I didn't like the addition of tomatoes or I think I may have added a little too much tomatoes as compared to red bell peppers.  So this time around I made the soup only with red bell peppers and skipped the tomatoes and kept it very simple using very few ingredients. I also have not added any kind of cream in this soup. The end product in itself is so creamy that you will not need cream at all. This soup is perfect for this weather with the warm smoky taste of the red bell peppers and its beautiful creamy texture. Top it off with any of your favorite soup toppings or with some garlic croutons. 


This is a small recipe and serves 2 -3 people.

Ingredients:
3 large red bell peppers
1 medium onion chopped
1/3 cup of chopped carrots
3 - 4 cloves of garlic minced
3 cups of low sodium chicken stock/vegetable stock 
1/4 tsp of smoked paprika (optional)
1/4 tsp of chili powder
2 tbsp of chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 - 3 tsp of oil 
Croutons and cilantro leaves for garnishing

For variation in flavor you can also use fresh thyme, bay leaf and or basil. 

1) First step is roasting the bell peppers. This is the only time consuming part of this recipe. There are 3 ways in which you can roast the bell peppers. 
Stove top: You can roast the bell peppers on the stove top by placing it directly on the gas burner (just like the way we roast eggplants for baingan bharta). Roast and the keep on rotating till the all the sides of the bell pepper has blisters all over and is charred.  

In the oven: Pre heat the oven to 500F (260C). Simply wash the bell peppers cut them in half deseed and remove the core. Toss and coat them in little oil and place them cut side down on to a baking sheet and put them in the oven for 25 to 30 mins until they form blisters. Another way is you can place the whole bell pepper on to the baking sheet and put it the oven for 30 - 35 mins. 

You can also roast the peppers on a grill if you have one.


So far I have tried the first two methods, stove top and in the oven. Personally I think it is much more easy and less time consuming when they are roasted in the oven.

1) Pre heat the oven to 500F (260C). Wash and wipe the bell peppers. Coat them with little oil and put them on a baking sheet (I did not cut them) and place the baking sheet on second from the top rack of the oven. Set the timer to 30-35 mins and remember to keep turning the bell peppers every 10mins with the help of tongs so that they are roasted evenly. 

2) Once they are nicely roasted remove them from the baking sheet and place them in bowl and cover the bowl with a cling wrap or lid and let it rest for 10 - 15mins or until they are warm enough to handle. This process will help to peel of the skin of the peppers very easily. 

3) After 15mins or so remove the peppers from the bowl. Cut them in half deseed and remove the core. And then start to peel off the skin. Repeat this procedure with the remaining two peppers.

4) Once all the peppers are cut, deseeded, cored and peeled, roughly chop them and keep them aside. Also do not throw away the liquid that oozes out during this process. 

5) In a stock pot or a heavy bottomed pot heat up oil. I used my everyday cooking oil but you can also use olive oil or even butter. Once hot add the minced garlic and cook it on a low to medium flame for few seconds. Now add the onions and saute them for a min. Now add the chopped carrots. Cook until the onions are translucent. 

6) Add the smoked paprika and chili powder and saute for few mins. Now add the chopped cilantro and saute. Finally add the roasted red bell peppers with its juice and saute for a min or two. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

7) Finally add the chicken stock or vegetable stock. Let it simmer on a low to medium flame for about 15 mins. Check for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if required. Switch off the flame and remove the pot from the stove. 

8) Now if you have an immersion blender or hand blender you can blend the soup right inside the pot. If you don't have an immersion blender then blend the soup in batches in your normal countertop blender. Before you start blending the soup keep it aside for a while to cool down a bit. Do not try to blend the mixture when its too hot.

You have to be very careful while blending. DO NOT fill the blender more than half else your soup will be over the kitchen. Use a kitchen towel to hold the blender and the lid to save your hands from the steam. Also here is a tip, initially give it a few pulses then open the lid and let the steam out. This way there will be less vacuum created because of the steam. Do this a couple of times and then go ahead  and blend the soup until it looks smooth and creamy. Remember to blend the soup in small batches. 

9) Transfer the soup again to the pot and reheat as required. Check again for seasoning. 

Serve hot with you favorite soup toppings or simply with some croutons. I quickly made some homemade croutons with some left over multigrain bread by using some butter, minced garlic and grated parmesan. 




Saturday, 21 January 2017

Kothimbir Vadi (Cilantro/Coriander Fritters)

Hello all!!!!! Today I will be sharing the recipe of an Indian snack which brings back fond memories of Mumbai.  ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Being born and raised in Mumbai and surrounded by Maharashtrian friends had its perks cause I got to eat some delicious food. I love love Maharashtrian food, be it vada pav, misal pav, komdi vade, puran poli, sabudana vada, kande pohe or just the plain old amti bhaat. And Kothimbir Vadi is one such favorite Maharashtrian snack item of mine. Kothimbir Vadi or Cilantro/Coriander Fritters is a popular Maharashtrian snack and I absolutely love munching this with a cup of hot ginger chai. There is an old bakery near my home in India which makes delicious Kothimbir vadis and this used to be one of the regular evening snack at my house and I made sure I grabbed some hot hot vadis on my way back home from college. 

Kothimbir Vadis are made using lots of cilantro/coriander leaves, gram flour and spices which is then steam cooked, cut and then shallow fried or deep fried. Kothimbir is the Marathi word for cilantro or coriander leaves. These crispy crunchy fritters are gluten free and can be a healthy snack if it is just pan fried rather than deep fried. My mother in law taught me how to prepare these yummy vadis. This recipe has the perfect amount of cilantro and gram flour. There are other ways of making these vadis which calls for more gram flour in comparison to the cilantro leaves and a batter is made rather than a dough which is then steamed. But I like it this way since the flavor of cilantro/coriander stands out and also has the perfect balance of gram flour (besan). So lets check out the recipe. ๐Ÿ’





Ingredients:

3 - 4 bunch of cilantro leaves/coriander leaves washed (roughly 4 cups)
2 cups of gram flour (besan)
1 tsp of green chili crushed
1 - 2 tsp of grated ginger
1-1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of chili powder
1 tsp of coriander powder
1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
2 tbsp of roasted peanut powder (optional)
2 tsp of sesame seeds
Salt to taste
2 - 3 tbsp of water or as required
Oil for pan frying or shallow frying

Method:

1) Separate the cilantro leaves from its stem. Wash thoroughly and squeeze out all the excess water. Spread them onto and paper towel. Pat dry and let it air dry for sometime. 

2) Roughly chop the cilantro leaves and add it to a big bowl. To the chopped cilantro leaves add crushed green chili, grated ginger, cumin seeds, chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, roasted peanut powder (if you are allergic or do not like peanut this is optional) and salt to taste. Mix everything nicely and keep it side for 5 mins. 

3) Now start adding the gram flour to the chopped cilantro mixture little at a time (approx half a cup at a time) and start kneading with your hands. If you feel the mixture is dry and needs water add very little at a time around 1 tsp or so and keep kneading until you use up 2 cups of gram flour (besan) and the mixture forms a soft dough. (As shown in the pic below)


4) Apply oil to your hands and carefully divide the dough into 2 or 3 equal balls. Make logs out of the balls (As shown in the picture below). I made 3 logs since my steamer is small in size and can only fit 2 at time. Also keep in mind that the logs will expand a little when steaming. 

5) Get you steamer ready with water. I used Idli steamer for this. Once the water is boiling place the cilantro logs into the steamer plate and stem cook them for 15 - 20 minutes or till they are completely cooked. 

6) Remove the cilantro logs from the steamer and let them cool completely. 

7) Once cooled cut them into small discs. 

8) And then pan fry, shallow fry or deep fry these discs as desired. I pan fried them with 2 - 3 tbsp of oil. 



Serve hot with ketchup or green chutney and enjoy these crispy yummy fritters with your evening cup of hot chai or coffee. 




Friday, 6 January 2017

Swiss Chard Stir Fry (Swiss Chard Paruppu Thoran)

Happy New year everyone ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

I am going to keep my first post of 2017 simple and healthy by sharing an easy everyday side dish recipe. This is a very simple recipe and works best on days when you just want something with less oil and masala. 

After moving to US I really miss the fresh green leafy vegetables that we get in India. It is really difficult to find really good and fresh leafy vegetables in Indian stores here and the varieties sometimes are limited to spinach and methi. It is only recently that I stumbled upon some good drumstick leaves. Anyhow all of this prompted me to try the local leafy vegetables available here in US. So far I have tried Collard greens, Kale (curly ones and plain ones) and Swiss chard. And I must tell you that amongst these Swiss chard is by far my favorite. Swiss chard is not only delicious but is also rich in vitamin A, K and C. It also has significant content of vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, potassium and iron. 
I always have a bunch of swiss chard in my weekly grocery list. I just love the flavor of swiss chard compared to the other greens. Also it goes without saying that it makes very delicious thoran. You can easily replace the swiss chard in this recipe with collard greens, kale, cabbage, cauliflower or longs beans. I have already shared long beans thoran earlier on my blog (you can find the recipe here) the only difference in this recipe is that I have included split bengal gram (chana dal) and ginger in this recipe. So lets get cooking shall we?







Ingredients:

2 medium bunch of Swiss Chard or 1 big bunch (I used rainbow chard for this recipe you can use any like red, rainbow or green)
1/2 cup of par boiled split bengal gram/chana dal (cooked till al dente, do not overcook)
1 medium sized onion finely chopped
4 - 5 curry leaves
1/2 tsp of mustard seeds
1 - 2 tsp of oil
Salt to taste

For the coconut masala
1/3 cup freshly grated coconut
1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
1 -2 cloves of garlic
1 inch of ginger
1 - 2 green chilies
1/4 tsp of turmeric powder




Method:

1) First prep the swiss chard leaves. Wash the leaves thoroughly. Tear or cut the leaves and separate it from the stalks. Chop the stalks into small pieces and keep this aside. 

For easy chopping of the leaves, stack one leaf over other, do this with as many leaves as you can and then roll it and then chop it as finely as possible. No hard and fast rule on chopping it finely. Keep it as big or small as you want. Keep the chopped leaves and stalks separately. Also chop the onion and keep it aside.

2) Now in a mixer/blender bowl add the grated coconut, garlic, ginger, green chilies, cumin seeds and turmeric powder. Give it a few pulse until all the ingredients are nicely combined. You just need to give it 2 - 3 pulse else it will form a paste and we don't want that.

3) In a wide pan or kadai heat oil. Once hot add the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Now add the curry leaves and chopped onions. Saute for few mins till the onions turn translucent.


4) Now add the stalks, saute and cook it for a min or two. The stalks should be added before adding the leaves as it takes a bit more time to cook as compared to the leaves.

5) Now add the prepared coconut masala and the cooked split bengal gram/chana dal.  Saute for a minute till the raw smell of ginger and garlic goes away.

6) Finally add the chopped leaves and salt to taste and mix everything thoroughly. Cook on a low to medium for 10- 12 mins until the leaves are nicely cooked and looks a little dry.

That's it. Serve hot as a side dish with chapatis, rotis or with rice and any curry.





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