Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vegetable Pulav and Pan fried Tilapia

My goal every evening when I make dinner is to try to incorporate the food groups and I try to include 5 colors of vegetables in my cooking. I am huge fan of fresh food. Frozen, pre-made food, unless pre-made and frozen by me, don’t usually make it to the dinner table unless I have absolutely no other choice.

Vegetable Pulav Recipe:
I make this rice dish for my kids as it has excellent flavor and helps me sneak in their daily serving of vegetables.
I cook enough rice to where it will act as dinner for 4-6 people + lunch for 3.
This rice dish can use any and all varieties of vegetables with the exception of the green pepper which is a must. The green pepper is the star of this dish with everyone else along for the healthy ride.
Here are the vegetables that went into making the rice last night.
                                  Green pepper, colored peppers, sliced carrots, cabbage, zucchini

1 Large onion
3 Serrano peppers
Grated Ginger – 1 TBSP
Cumin seeds (1.5 tsp)
Turmeric powder (1 tsp)
Mustard seeds (1.5 tsp) (optional)
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 large green pepper – chopped – required ingredient
Chopped vegetables (1.5 cups) (your choice – I used carrots, zucchini, colored peppers, purple cabbage)
3 cups basmati rice
Cilantro, 2 chopped tomatoes and some shredded cheese for garnish
Olive oil – about 3 TBSP


1. Cook the rice with Salt. For 3 cups of basmati rice (from Costco) I used 1.5 TBSP of salt and 4.5 cups of water. The rice should not become too soft. Once cooked, the individual grains of rice should be long and firm.
2. While the rice is cooking, in a large sauté pan, add the olive oil. When it is hot (not too hot), add the mustard seeds and cumin. Once the mustard seeds pop, add in the turmeric powder. If not adding mustard seeds, once the cumin has been added wait about 20-25 seconds before added the turmeric. After about 10-15 seconds after adding the turmeric, add the onion, Serrano peppers and grated ginger.
3. When the onion is transparent add in the green pepper and the vegetables. Cook till the vegetables are done. Then add 1.5 TBSP salt. Mix.
4. Now add the cooked rice to this vegetable mixture. Mix thoroughly till the rice and vegetable mixture are completely blended. You may need some salt, depending on your taste.
5. Add the lemon juice and chopped tomatoes and mix again.
6. Let sit covered for 15-30 minutes before serving
7. Garnish with shredded cheese and cilantro just before serving.
8. In the mean time prepare the tilapia dish below.

Side note: This rice dish can be a meal by itself. You can add shredded chicken or shrimp or pork or beef right after sauteing the onion. Then add the vegetables and proceed as above. This is my variation for really busy evenings.

Pan fried Tilapia Recipe:

1/3 cup rice flour
1/6 cup semolina (rava)
1.5 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp asafetida powder (http://www.food.com/library/asafetida-355)
1 TBSP salt
1 egg – beaten
6 frozen tilapia fillets (I buy mine from Costco)
Fresh lemon juice
Olive oil

1. Defrost the tilapia by submerging them in hot water. I defrost enough to where I can easily get them out of the individual plastic bags they are wrapped in. No need to defrost too much.
2. Start warming up the frying pan. Add in the olive oil
3. Mix together the first 7 ingredients and pour into a large plate. Makes it easy to dip the tilapia.
4. Keep the beaten egg handy. Keep this in a large bowl so that it is easy to dip the tilapia.
5. Coat the tilapia in the dry mixture, dip in egg and re-dip in the dry mixture.
6. Fry in the pan. Since the tilapia is still frozen, I cook the fish uncovered and drizzle some olive oil on the top of the fish when I first add it to the pan, to avoid drying. Cook on both sides till the fish is firm to the touch in the center…about 3-4 minutes each side.
7. Once all the fish fillets are cooked, drizzle some lemon juice on top and garnish with cilantro

Serve the rice and fish with a side of fresh fruit and you have yourself an amazing dinner.

Below is a pic of just the rice dish and the tilapia.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

I did it!!

I treat today as the first day I began work on the cook book. And all of you are my witness. I have started simple. 2 vegetarian dishes for the book from state 1. A rice dish and a pickle. I even wrote about them. Phew! I feel so much better now. I just need to keep at it.
No more distractions! Just today, Julia Child's book "Mastering the art of French cooking" arrived in the mail for me. Woohoo!! So excited!
But it is ALL about MY cookbook now. ok..maybe one day a week I will cook from Julia's book. French cooking...what an adventure that will be.
For the next week...I plan to cook a non vegetarian rice dish, a curry and a dessert from state 1. With that it will be time to move on to state 2.
I will keep you posted on how next week goes! Love to you all.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Just need to cook and write about it!

Or so I thought. Turns out writing a cookbook is a lot harder than that.
My idea was to cook a few recipes per state and write about it. Throw in an anecdote or two, a little history and a little geography and voila! a book in the making! Boy, was I wrong!
I did cook (a little), but writing about it, writing a story, keeping it honest yet interesting and educational is a lot harder than I thought.
Part of the reason I haven't made progress on the book is because I am like a kid in a candy store. I want to do it all. Baking for fundraisers, trying any new recipe I come across, gardening, traveling, all of it.
How quickly a year has gone by with no progress on the book. Lesson learned!
I have to focus. Make completing the cookbook my goal. Hence it is my new year's resolution!
What I did learn while working on the book is that I know very little of India's rich history and geography. I hope to use the book as an opportunity to educate myself too.
Here's to 2011 and a completed cookbook!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A new journey begins.....

I have found my writing project at last! Something that combines my desire to always try something new with my desire to write something meaningful.
Each week I will make a meal for my family from a state or territory in India until I have cooked from every region in India. Once this project is complete I plan to make a book out it for my boys.
Recently my friend asked me what inspired me to do this. Was it watching "Julie and Julia"? Actually various things have inspired my decision.
Julie and Julia was awesome. It inspired me to want to do something like she does. I love escaping from everything work related at the end of the work day and throwing myself into things at home. Cooking, homework for the kids, activities for the kids, cleaning, gardening. But it would be nice to have a project like hers. But I never knew what. Till now.
Ashok has been bringing me books from the library lately from cooks from different regions of India and they talk about the region's history and the history of the food and provide recipes. Their passion inspired me.
I have been on a kick of trying various cuisines lately thanks to my foodie FB friends. So much fun. But I don't think writing a food blog is for me.
I never thought I could bake. I still cant bake very well, but I am not too bad at it. So did I want to write about baking, my new found hobby!?
All these were awesome, but not for me...or so I thought. Hence my blog post called "A pinch of this and a dash of this". It was me wondering about what is that one thing meant for me. It was the truth what I said in the blog. I love trying new things constantly.
It has taken me a long time wondering what it is that I would find interesting to write about. The next Harry Potter maybe? Last night it hit me. The book I want to write. A journey through the cuisines of India. It is something I think my boys will appreciate, maybe not now but when they are adults. It will be a challenging project as I have never tasted and most certainly not made all the different types of Indian cuisine.
It will not be just about cooking though. It will also be about what is going on in our life at the point I making a dish, some anecdotes from India and hopefully a history and geography lesson thrown into the mix. Ashok is very excited about this project and wants to help in the writing the book.
It is so amazing to me how various things in our life inspire us. I think the pieces were there I just never put them together. I think this book goes well with my idea of "A pinch of this and a dash of that". Hence I will make it the title of the book.
The journey begins soon. I will blog along the way on the progress of the book. Thanks in advance to all for your support.
The picture I used in this post is of the apron that my friend Rob sent me yesterday. How very nice of her! The apron is a sign that I need to start cooking and writing soon for my book. Eek! So exciting.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Getting down and dirty.

It is that time of the year again! Gardening, gardening, gardening! I had the day off today, so I spent the entire day getting my garden ready. Lots of getting down and dirty. Getting the dead plants from previous season out, getting the soil prepped and planting the new plants.
I became a serious gardener about 3 years ago. Before that I was a gardener who knew nothing about gardening. I took on ambitious projects which were left unfinished and resulted in lots of dead plants.
Three years ago I took a step back, took gardening seriously, read up about it and asked everyone I met about how to do this or do that, and I had a pretty successful year. I was most successful two years ago. And you can read all about it here. I know it must have been a very successful attempt because my husband who used to cringe at me mentioning gardening before that, looks forward to my gardening projects since then.
Last year was good but definitely not anything to blog about. I became busy with other things mid way through the season and did not give the plants the attention they deserve. If there is one thing I learned from last year it is that plants need care. In 2008, every evening after I came home with the kids, the first thing I did after I had given the kids a snack and had them doing homework was to go outside and spend quality time with the plants. Every evening I made sure my annuals were good and the perennials were doing as good as they should. But last year I paid just enough attention to keep the plants alive but not thriving.
But I am back. Back with a vengeance. I am going to give gardening my very best this season. I notice that the more I give to the plants in terms of attention, the more they give back. I feel so at peace and happy when I see the flowers blooming and/or the herbs doing well and/or the vegetables growing well. There is nothing better than home grown herbs and vegetables. I couldn't do this without Michelle though. My neighbor who has my gardening back. She waters my plants when I am on vacation and always has advice or a sympathetic ear based on what I need. Thanks Michelle!
Candi, thanks for your enthusiasm and support! Much needed and appreciated.
I will update this post later in the season when the plants have matured a bit.
I am exhausted, happy and exhilarated today after the hard labor. Here's to a great season for my plants!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dinner is now served....

Tonight I had the pleasure of making a most amazing dinner for my family. I made a Thainese dinner. Thai style shrimp-asparagus and Chinese broccoli-chicken served over a bed of cellophane noodles. I got the recipes for the two dishes from blogs of Lisa and Rob. It took me about two hours to get both the dishes done and clean up the kitchen. But the food was gone, ALL gone, in 20 minutes flat. LOL!! I guess the dishes turned out GREAT! Makes me so happy.
It was such fun trying out the recipes. The fun started yesterday with shopping for the ingredients. I spent a long time walking through the specialty foods aisles of the store. I was intrigued by so many of the ingredients wondering what I would make with them. All this intrigue actually ties back to my desire of wanting to be on "Chopped" on Food Network. Ha!
It was nice to come back home after a long day at work and immerse myself in making the dishes, as my sons and my niece played, fought, screamed, yelled and played some more in the kitchen. My idea of a spa treatment. It was a very relaxing experience.
The nervousness set in right after though as I was serving for the family. Would they like it? Yikes!! But everyone absolutely loved the food. They have now requested I make it again. Woohoo!!
I do not have a wok. So I treated the stainless steel pan I have as a wok. Definitely let the oil get HOT before adding in the ingredients. What a difference that heat made. I now have to get me a wok!!
What a joyous PERFECT evening. A big thank you to Lisa and Rob. Hats off to you ladies!
Thai Shrimp Asparagus:

Recipe Link: http://chezlittley.blogspot.com/2010/04/family-friday-feast-thai-asparagus.html
Chinese Broccoli Chicken:

Recipe Link: http://housewifecooking.blogspot.com/2010/04/chinese-style-fried-beef.html
I replaced the beef in the recipe with chicken and just stir fried it in a little bit of oil. The sauce recipe was amazing! You can make this any way you like and the dish will be still be amazing because the sauce is the boss!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

A pinch of this and a dash of that...

Recently Dee asked me to start a cooking blog. I told her I couldn't because my recipes would be a joke in the blog world. That is because, most of my recipes involve a pinch of this and a dash of that. The 'this' and the 'that' vary each time even though I make the same dish. That conversation actually led me to this blog post.
I have met so many people along the way who are very passionate about a specific hobby. Some like reading, some like sports, while others like cooking and so on and so forth. I am unable to find that one thing that I would feel so passionately about.
But thanks to the simple conversation above, I realized that my passion is 'a pinch of this and a dash of that'. One day I love to cook, the next day I like to play baseball or the third I busy myself gardening. Or maybe do a little of all of it on the same day.
It has been fun to learn this about myself and to accept it. It is not that I don't know what I want, it is that I want a little bit of everything I can try. Trying new things is my passion, my hobby.
If and when I look at new opportunities in my life, I hope to apply my philosophy of cooking. That there is no fixed recipe, just add in a pinch of this and a dash of that and improvise along the way. Some dishes turn out great others not so much. But the joy lies not in the end result of the dish but in the journey of making it, in adding in a pinch of this and a dash of that and walking away with the sense of joy at having tried something new and something different.
Here's to always trying something new!!