The "Q" of Indian Vegetables
(Note: I had written this round-up and was a couple of minutes away from posting it, and very unluckily, blogger wiped it off and I lost the whole write-up! :( :( This is the painfully re-written version. If I accidentally left an entry out during the re-writing process, please let me know and I will include it right away).
The letter Q inspired twenty-three quirky Indian flavors!
First up, the only bona-fide English language Q ingredient that I can think of: the ancient seed, Quinoa. Quinoa is used as a grain, although botanically, it is closer to a vegetable than to a grain. Quinoa has remarkable nutritional value and it is worth the effort to get to know it. Here are two ways to enjoy quinoa, Indian style!
TC of The Cooker tells us that "Cooked quinoa doesn't have a distinctive taste of its own, which is a good thing as it means one is free to improvise." She marries the South American seed with traditional Marathi flavors to great effect, making a delicious dish of Quinoa with Goda Masala.
Suganya of Tasty Palettes talks about her experiments with quinoa and her efforts to use more of it in her diet. She creatively uses quinoa in the ever-popular dish, upma ("A savior for those women who have no idea what to cook for dinner") along with vegetables and a flavorful tempering to make some tasty Quinoa Upma.
Next, the quick-witted Cook of Live To Cook turns to a different language to find a Q fruit: it turns out the fragrant cantaloupe melon is Qawun kantalubi in the Arabic language! She cooks shredded cantaloupe, milk and barley into a creamy and delectable Qawun kantalubi kheer.
We now come to two rich and royal dishes from Northern India that are just fit for a queen!
Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi make an impressive tray of a layered rice dish called Qabuli. In their own words, "Qabuli is the poor man’s version of biryani. The meat is replaced with plant protein in the form of chana dal (split bengal grams), which has a sweet, nutty flavour and holds its shape while cooking. It is coated in yogurt and spices and baked between layers of rice, fried onions and mint for a one-pot meal. The saffron and rose water give it a wonderful aroma." You have to see this Qabuli to believe it!
Asha of Aroma/ Foodie's Hope makes a rich and creamy curry called Qorma. Asha tells us that, "Since Qorma in this recipe is Afghanistani,they mostly use yogurt as the base and add Nuts for more flavor.Either way,it tastes great". Her recipe uses a most unusual ingredient, the Tropical American tuber, Jicama, to make a flavorful and alliterative Qorma with Jicama.
Next up, Richa of As Dear As Salt sings an ode to India's very own cheese, the Quintessential Paneer and pays a tribute to it with some puffy, golden paneer puris.
Now for a dish that is not Indian but enjoys international popularity: the Quesadilla! This Mexican dish is made with tortillas (akin to chapatis), cheese (as the glue which holds the dish together) and a variety of fillings that can be tweaked to make a quasi-Indian dish. Here are a variety of quesadillas...
Swapna of Swad uses a savory filling of onions and mushrooms to make her Mushroom Quesadillas.
Neelam of Recipe Factory opens up a can of baked beans to make her Quick Quesadillas.
Manasi of A Cook At Heart makes a duo of Quesadillas, one with a spinach and cheese filling, spiced with taco seasoning, and the other with a filling of kidney beans (rajma) and lettuce.
Well, Q stands for Quick, and while I am all for slow-simmering, time-consuming recipes that are a labor of love, it is also nice to have a bunch of quick and delicious recipe in one's repertoire for those inevitable busy days.
We start with an array of Quick Snacks...
Aarti of Aarti's Corner gives us a healthier alternative to dep-fried potato chips and tortilla chips...indeed her fresh turmeric-tinged bright yellow Quick Popcorn, made with a whole grain (corn) is a nutritionally sensible snack.
Smitha of Andhra Food Network makes Instant Noodles with mixed vegetables and tomato, just like on the pack!
Dhana of Fresh Kitchen takes two pantry staples- chickpea flour and peas- and cleverly turns them into a duo of snacks, the first is a pancake (chila) with a savory filling of peas and carrots, and the other is a microwave dhokla with a bright green peas filling.
Coffee of The Spice Cafe makes a sweet tea-time snack in minutes- mixing condensed milk with desiccated coconut to make these adorable coconut ladoos.
Tee of Bhaatukli magically transforms a boring ol' can of tomato soup into some spicy and fragrant Tomato Saar with the help of some spices, herbs and coconut.
The next set of recipes is all about the Mango, Unquestionably the most beloved of all Indian fruits. This is the very season for mango mania, so read on for a quartet of quick mango pickles, and a duo of quick mango desserts...
Suma of Veggie Platter mixes tiny cubes of raw mango with a few select spices, then bathes them in mustard seeds and oil to make a devastatingly delicious Quick Mango Chutney.
Manasi of A Cook At Heart uses a tried-and-tested store-bought pickle masala mix to make a tasty Quick Mango Pickle in minutes.
Coffee of The Spice Cafe writes a drool-worthy account of mango pickles and goes on to share recipes for Two Quick Mango Pickles; both call for the same ingredients but one is uncooked and the other is cooked, resulting in two very different tastes!
And now for some quick mango desserts. Nandita of Saffron Trail teams up with a friend to make a cool and creamy Quick Mango Sandesh: slices of fragrant and juicy mango are sandwiched between some milky fresh chenna.
Sreelu of Sreelu's Tasty Travels shares a recipe for a fool-proof crowd-pleaser: her Quick Mango Cheesecake can be whipped together in mere minutes with delicious results.
The final category is just right for the summer months when the sweltering sun results in our quest for cool drinks and melt-in-the-mouth ice cream. Here is a slew of cool and refreshing quenchers!
Dhana of Fresh Kitchen turns to the orange mini-me, the kumquat! She turns the kumquat into a refreshing Ice cream: topped with fresh berries, it simply screams SUMMER!
Pooja of Khana Pina makes a beloved raw mango squash that just hits the spot on a sweltering day; her Panha blends cooked tangy mango and sugar with a touch of saffron and cardamom.
The final two drinks both use two summer favorites: lemon and watermelon...
Ramya of Mane Adige tells us of her memories of beach-side outings followed by a sweet treat. She recreates her favorite Watermelon Slush; icy watermelon juice topped with a luscious scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Aarti of Aarti's Corner takes everyone's favorite summer drink- lemonade- and gives it a spin; her Melon Lemonade is spiced with a touch of black salt to bring out the flavors!
We set out to prove that Q is an exciting culinary letter after all...and what can I say, except, Q. E. D.!!
Q is for Quick Carrot Pickle: Pickles!
Today, following the chutneys and the raitas comes the last of the tasty trinity of Indian condiments: the pickles! Like the other two condiments, a dollop of pickle on the side of the plate can magically transform a ho-hum everyday meal into a memorable one.
Pickles are a time-honored way of preserving vegetables for a "rainy day", for all those months of the year when fresh vegetables are not easily available. Indian pickles capture the flavor spectrum from salty to spicy to tangy to sweet, often all in one delirious bite. In India, pickles are made with fresh vegetables- cauliflower, carrot, chilies; with fruits- lemon, mango; and every permutation and combination of these. Pickles can be anything from pungent and garlicky to syrupy and sweet. Some pickles are made to be eaten fresh and only last a week or two (in household with strong-willed individuals anyway), others are made to last and get better as they age. Mango deserves a special mention in the world of pickles- for most Indians, the thought of mango pickles evokes a rush of memories- of hot summer days and lazy school-free holidays, and baskets of mangoes, and beautiful jars of pickles being laid out in the sun, and chubby little fingers stealing cubes of pickled mangoes when no one is looking. The four delicious mango pickles in today's round-up are testimony to the popularity of this pickle!
For all my love of pickles, and the unhealthy way in which I consume jars of (store-bought) pickles at an alarming rate, I have never tried making pickles at home. Until now! This is my first attempt at pickle-making, and I chose to use carrots. Colorful, crunchy and naturally sweet, carrots lend themselves very well to being pickled. I used a combination of two recipes in putting this pickle together: the idea of microwaving the carrots briefly comes from a pickle recipe from Tarla Dalal's Microwave Desi Khana, and the combination of spices comes from the iconic Marathi cookbook "Ruchira" by Kamalabai Ogale. The main reason why I never tried my hand at pickle-making before this was- I always thought of it as a laborious and difficult process. I was thrilled to see that this pickle came together in minutes! There are only two potentially time-consuming steps: (1) the cutting of carrots into matchsticks, which I did by hand (one could use a food processor with the right type of blade). (2) making the fenugreek powder: roasting fenugreek seeds lightly, cooling them, then grinding them to a fine powder. Be aware that this pickle needs to be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within 3-4 days...it is not a long-lasting pickle (and tasty enough that you will never have to worry about it).
If one is interested in making long-lasting pickles to store for months and years, it is important to learn how to do it properly! Pickles that do not have enough salt/ sugar to retard microbial growth, or that are filled into improperly sterilized jars can be pretty dangerous if consumed. With a quick pickle (quick to make and quick to eat), you don't have to worry too much.
Quick Carrot Pickle
(makes about 1 and half-2 cups of pickle)
To be mixed:
Carrots, cut into matchsticks, 2 cups
Garlic, 1 clove, sliced
Red Chili Powder, 1 heaped tsp, or to taste
Fenugreek Seed Powder, 1 tsp
Turmeric, 1 tsp
Salt, 1 heaped tsp, or to taste
Lemon, 1, juiced
Oil, 2 tbsp
Mustard Seeds, 2 tsp
Asafoetida, 1/4 tsp
1. Mix all ingredients, except the tempering, in a microwave-safe bowl (glass is best, as plastic can leach into food).
2. Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add mustard seeds and asafoetida. Add the hot tempering to the rest of the ingredients.
3. Microwave the bowl on HIGH for 1 minute. Let it cool for 15 minutes, then place in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours. The pickle is ready to eat!
I was delighted at how properly pickle-y this stuff looked, with a thick spicy layer clinging to the carrot sticks! The garlic adds a great deal of pungent flavor, fenugreek adds a touch of bitterness and the lemon juice brings it all together.
I served the Carrot Pickle with some fresh-off-the-griddle Rajma Parathas, inspired by this recipe (don't miss the gorgeous picture on the post!) from the blog Talimpu, written by Raji. I wanted to try the recipe the minute I saw it: the addition of fresh tomato and cooked kidney beans to whole-wheat flour results in a protein-rich, fiber-rich paratha that also happens to be delicious! The method is very simple too, and this is how I made these parathas:
1. I soaked 1/2 cup of kidney beans overnight, then pressure-cooked them.
2. In the food processor fitted with a metal blade, I blended the cooked kidney beans (discarding excess cooking water), 1/2 cup tomato puree, cumin-coriander powder, cilantro and a sprinkle of salt to a thick paste.
3. I replaced the metal blade with the plastic dough blade. I added 2 cups atta to the food processor bowl and blended everything into a firm dough (adding only a few tablespoons of extra water).
4. After letting the dough rest for 30-40 minutes, I divided it into 12 portions and rolled each out into a paratha, cooking the paratha on a hot griddle with a few drops of olive oil.
The addition of soft cooked beans made the dough soft and delightfully easy to roll out. The parathas were also soft and tasty, and perfect for packing into lunch boxes and picnic baskets. The combination of the crunchy carrot pickle and the soft mild parathas was beautiful!
How do you serve this pickle?
1. A highly popular way to enjoy pickles is with parathas, as above.
2. Serve as a side with dal and rice, or a side dish with any Indian meal.
3. Spoon some pickle into a sandwich or pita pocket for a taste explosion.
Fellow bloggers have come up a spicy-tangy-sweet array of pickles. Here are some of my favorite finds, and I can't wait to try them all:
Two Punjabi Pickles from Musical's Kitchen,
Tomato Pickle from Saffron Hut,
No-Oil Lemon Pickle from Indian Food Rocks,
Lemon Date Pickle from My Workshop,
Mango Sweet Pickle from Aayi's Recipes,
Avakkai from Green Jackfruit,
Two-Minute Ginger Pickle from Vyanjanaa,
Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry
G is for Gobi Paratha: Vegetables in Breads
H is for Hariyali Tikki: Vegetables in Appetizers
I is for Idli with Vegetables: Vegetables for Breakfast
J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables: Restaurant Style
K is for Kati Roll: Vegetables and Paneer
L is for Lasuni Dal Palak: Vegetables and Lentils
M is for Malai Kofta: Dumplings
N is for Nargisi Kebab: Vegetables and Eggs
O is for Onion Chutney: Vegetables in Chutneys
P is for Pattagobi Pachadi: Vegetables in Salads