Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lavash Crackers with Fruit & Sprouted Beans Salsa - A sweet n sour accompaniment to a crunchy cracker

I made Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Followed his relatively simple recipe, resulting in this "snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids". Needless to say, my daughter was instantly hooked on to it and the cracker ended up being her dinner...almost. I had to bribe her so she would save some for snacktime tomorrow. Served it with this colorful chunky salsa.

Fruit & Sprouted Bean Salsa
The key to making a yummy salsa that not only tastes good but also looks good is to make sure the ingredients are all chopped up to almost same sizes. Adjust the level of sweetness/sourness/spicyness to your liking. You may not have to add sugar at all, if the fruits are sweet enough.

Sprouted Azuki beans (red beans) - 1/4 cup Or alternatively, sprouted mung beans - 1/4 cup
Fresh pineapple, chopped - 1/4 cup
Fresh cherries, washed, pitted and chopped - 8 or 10 - about 1/4 cup
Fresh cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced into small pieces - 1/4 cup
Paprika - 1/4 teaspoon
Lemon Juice from 1 lemon
Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
Sugar (optional) - 1/4 teaspoon
Fresh Cilantro - washed, chopped - 3 or 4 sprigs
Turmeric powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Salt - 1 pinch

Method -
Sprinkle the salt and turmeric powder on the sprouted beans, shake well to coat. Steam the sprouted beans for 8 to 10 minutes; I usually use my idli plate for all steaming purposes. Remove the steamed beans to a flat plate, allow to cool.
Add the cooled beans, the chopped up fruits, cucumber, lemon juice and seasonings to a mixing bowl and toss to mix well and to distribute evenly. Check for salt/sugar/spicyness. Chill for at least half an hour before serving.

While the salsa chills in the refrigerator, proceed to bake the crackers. In order to do this, you should have the lavash dough kneaded and fermented, waiting to be baked.

Lavash Ingredients -
Unbleached bread flour - 1 & 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces) - I used King Arthur's Unbleached bread flour.
Salt - 1/2 teaspoon (.13 ounce)
Instant yeast - 1/2 teaspoon (.055 ounce)
Honey - 1 tablespoon (.75 ounce)
Vegetable oil - 1 tablespoon (.5 ounce)
Water - 1/3 to 1/2 cup ( 3 to 4 ounces)
The recipe called for 1/3 to 1/2 cup of water but I had to use 2 additional tablespoons for the dough to come together. I am guessing this must be due to the difference in measuring a cup. If I had weighed the flour to be an exact 6.75 ounces, the amount of water that the recipe called for would probably have been sufficient.

The key to crisp lavash, according to Peter, is to roll out the dough paper thin. The method to make Lavash is mostly as described in Peter's book. I have only altered it very slightly.
  • In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, honey, oil and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball.
  • Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  • The dough should pass the windowpane test. It is a simple test to make sure the gluten formation is sufficient. It took me about 12 to 13 minutes of kneading to pass the windowpane test. The website has detailed information of the windowpane test. Click here to read it. Towards the bottom of the page, the concept is clearly explained.
  • Ferment at room temparature for 90 minutes. Or alternatively, mist some oil on the kneaded dough, cover it with plastic foil so the foil is in contact with the dough, leave it in the refrigerator overnight. If you are following the second method, leave it in the fridge immediately after kneading. (This is what I did - I mixed it the night before and left it in the fridge. About 2 hours before baking, I took it out of the fridge and left it covered, on the countertop).
  • When you are ready to bake, divide the dough into two halves and press the first half into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet. You may have to stop from time to time so the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, then lay it back down.
  • Cut the rolled out dough into diamond shaped crackers with a pizza cutter, transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. If you would like to add spices like fennel, caraway seeds or sesame, mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds. I used just sesame seeds but the baked crackers wouldn't hold the seeds. In my second batch, I sprinkled the sesame seeds on the ball of dough and pressed them in before rolling out the dough. This was more effective, however I ended up with sesame seeds everywhere :)
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. The crackers were done at exactly 15 minutes. Half way into the baking cycle, I turned the crackers upside down once. This way they would be evenly browned on both sides.
  • Remove the baking sheet from the oven, remove the crackers to a plate to cool.
  • Proceed with the second half of dough.
These crunchy crackers were perfect to be enjoyed with the chunky sweet, savoury, sour and mildly spiced salsa with sprouted beans & chopped up seasonal fruits.

..another view :)

This chunky sprouted bean salsa goes to My Legume Love affair - 13th Helping, conceptualized by Susan and hosted by SunshineMom, of TongueTicklers. For Susan's original announcement with the host lineup, click here.
The fruit & bean salsa is my own original creation, so I am also sending it to the Original recipes round up #14 hosted by Lore.
I am also sending it to Susan's YeastSpotting. Thanks a bunch Sadhana & Muskan.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pineapple Pachadi - Pineapple Curry in coconut paste with spices

Pineapple Pachadi is a regular in our kitchen during summer when pineapples are in season. The sweetness of the chunky pineapple pieces and the mild tangyness of the tamarind makes it a mouthwatering delicacy; the hint of mustard in the ground coconut paste adds a subtle yet distinct flavour to it. This sweet-tangy-yummy side dish is one of the delicacies in Palakkad Iyer wedding feasts. For the festive wedding look, fresh ripe and quartered grapes are added as a garnish.

Ingredients –
Ripe, Sweet pineapple pieces, cut into 1 inch cubes – 2 cups ~ ½ a medium sized pineapple
Tamarind pulp extracted from a marble sized ball of tamarind ~ ½ cup
Grated Coconut, fresh or frozen - ½ cup
Mustard Seeds – ¼ teaspoon
Thai green chillies – 2 or 3
Water - ¾ cup
Grated jaggery – 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder – ¼ teaspoon
Salt – ½ teaspoon or according to your taste
For Tadka -
Oil - 1 tablespoon
Mustard seeds – ½ teaspoons
Curry leaves – 1 or 2 sprigs, cleaned
Dry Red Chillies – 1 or 2
Methi(Fenugreek) seeds – ¼ teaspoon

Method –
  • In a pan, add the pineapple pieces, water, salt, turmeric powder, jaggery.
    Cover with a lid, cook for 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Add the tamarind pulp, bring it back to a boil. Let it boil for a couple of minutes so the raw smell of tamarind is lost. By now the pineapple pieces would have got soft and mushy.
  • Grind the coconut, mustard seeds and green chillies in a blender/mixie to make a fine paste. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water as required to assist grinding.
  • Add the ground coconut paste to the boiled pineapple pieces, mix well. Adjust the consistency by adding 2 or 3 tablespoons of water as required, check for salt.
  • Bring the curry to a boil, simmer for 1 minute on low heat, remove from fire.


  • Add oil in a tadka pan. When hot, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the fenugreek and fry without burning. Add the red chillies, curry leaves and remove from fire. Add this tadka to the curry, mix.

Serve with Rice, Tomato Rasam and papads. My mom makes an instant rasam with only tomatoes that goes well with this. Will post it soon.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Quinoa, Peanuts & Beet Greens Pilaf with a refreshing Summer Drink

This pilaf is inspired from one of my favourite tiffins - Sabudana khichdi. The simple combination of roasted peanuts and jeera makes the khichdi very yummy. I substituted Sabudana with Quinoa. Quinoa is getting popular as a supergrain these days. This in fact is my first quinoa experience. Check out quinoa facts & history and its nutritional profile here and here respectively.
I had fresh beets that I had bought yesterday. All pretty in purple and green, they were looking at me and smiling - I couldn't ignore them! I like to use the greens that come with the veggies - the cleaned and cut up stalks usually go in dals or sambar and the chopped up greens go in with veggie stirfries. For this reason, I look at both the veggie and its greens when I go vegetable shopping. If one or the other looks questionable, most likely I won't pick it up.
To keep us hydrated during summertime, we drink a lot of Sambharam which is essentially spiced up buttermilk. Sambharam is a very popular thirst quencher in Kerala (also called Neermor in Tamil). I paired this Pilaf with Sambharam and it was indeed a lovely combination.
Update on 7/10 - I forgot to mention when writing this post that I had used pre-rinsed quinoa. This means that the quinoa has already been soaked and is ready to be cooked. Presoaking and rinsing reportedly releases the saponins that make it bitter tasting. The brand I used is called Ancient Harvest Quinoa and is available in most grocery stores in the US. I would feel horrible if someone made this pilaf and it ended up tasting bitter because of incomplete information.

Quinoa, Peanuts & Beet Greens Pilaf
Quinoa - 1 cup uncooked (I used the traditional white variety)
Peanuts - 3/4 cup
Thai Green chillies sliced lengthwise - 8 or 10 - adjust according to your liking
Beet Greens - 7 or 8 leaves - I separated the vein in the center of the leaves for this dish so it didn't overpower the crunchy chewy nature of the quinoa.
Cumin seeds (Jeera) - 1 and 1/4 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch
Salt - according to taste
  • To cook quinoa, I followed an energy saving method that was described in the box it came in. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add 1 cup of quinoa, mix well. Bring it back to a boil. Remove from fire and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. Leave it closed for 20 minutes.
  • After about 20 minutes, the quinoa would be cooked. Spread in a flat plate to cool it.
  • In another pan, add peanuts, toast to a golden yellow colour evenly without burning. No oil is required for this. Remove to a plate and cool. When cool to handle, peel them by rubbing between your palms, discard the peel. (If you are using store bought blanched peanuts that are already peeled, you can skip this peeling step).
  • Powder the peanuts in a spice grinder to make a coarse powder. Keep aside.
  • In a pan, add 2 tablespoons of oil. When it is sufficiently hot, add the jeera(cumin) seeds.
    After they splutter, add the chopped green chillies and curry leaves. Sauté for a couple minutes.
  • Add the chopped beet greens and a pinch of turmeric powder. Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt and sauté for another 3 - 4 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the fire. Add the cooked quinoa, the powdered peanuts and mix evenly.
  • Check for salt and transfer to a serving bowl.
Sambharam (Buttermilk whipped with ginger, green chillies & curry leaves)
Traditionally this summer drink is made using buttermilk, I make this at home by blending together 1 part of plain curd(yoghurt) with 3 to 3 and 1/2 parts of water. If you have buttermilk, you can use it as well.
Yoghurt - 1 cup (Or alternatively, buttermilk - 1 cup)
Water - 3 to 3 1/2 cups (If using buttermilk, add about 2 to 2 and 1/2 cups of water)
Fresh curry leaves - 3 or 4 sprigs
Ginger - 2 inch piece, chopped coarsely
Lime juice - squeezed fresh from 2 limes
Thai green chillies - 1 or 2
Salt - 1 and 1/2 teaspoon

  • In a blender jar, add the curry leaves, ginger, green chillies and blend well with 1/2 cup of water.
  • Add the yoghurt, salt, lime juice and another cup of water, whip.
  • Pour it through a strainer, discard the waste. Add the remaining water to the strained buttermilk, check for salt.
  • Pour the whipped up spicy buttermilk into glasses and serve. Enjoy!
I am sending this to the July edition of No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa this month.
Also sending this dish to JFI:Peanuts, conceptualized by Indira of Mahanandi and hosted by Pavani at Cook'sHideout. Since this is my own original recipe, I am also sending this to the Culinarty Original Recipes #13 hosted by Lore.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Minty Tomato Rice and my very first Award

If this is not one of the easiest of rice dishes, what is? Not only is it easy, the handful of fresh mint makes it lipsmackingly delicious. Paired with Beets & Black eyed peas & plain curd, it makes a very lovely and healthy meal. This combination is one of our favorites for work night dinners. Minty Tomato rice is yummy with curd and papads for lunch at work. When I heat it up in the break room, hungry coworkers usually go, 'mmm, that smells gooood!'

Ingredients -
Basmathi Rice - 2 cups, uncooked
Tomatoes - 4 or 5 large, chopped
Onion - 1 large, sliced
Ginger - 1 inch piece, sliced
Garlic - 1 or 2 pods, sliced
Thai Green chillies - 5 or 6, according to your desired level of heat
Fresh mint - leaves from 7 or 8 stems, ~ 1 cup
Fresh Curry leaves - 1 or 2 sprigs
Turmeric powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Salt - according to taste
Whole Spices -
Cinnamon - 2 inch piece
Cloves - 5 or 6
Cardamom - 5 or 6
Saunf(Fennel Seeds) - 1/2 teaspoon

Method -

  • Add 1/4 teaspoon salt to the chopped tomatoes and mix well to coat. Leave aside. This will release the juices of the tomato by the time it is ready to be fried in the pan.
  • Rinse the basmathi rice, pressure cook in 4 cups of water with 1/2 tespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon oil. Spread the cooked rice in a flat plate to cool it.
  • In a pan, add 2 tablespoons of oil. When sufficiently hot, add the saunf(fennel seeds), followed by the rest of the whole spices and toast without burning.
  • Add the sliced ginger, garlic, green chillies and curry leaves, fry well for a couple minutes.
    Chop the mint fine and add to the pan, sauté well.
  • Add the sliced onions and a pinch of salt, fry well until the onion turns transluscent.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes with the released juices and a pinch of turmeric powder.
  • Mix well, sauté for a good couple minutes and close with a plate or a tight fitting lid. Turn the heat to low and let the tomatoes get mushy in the pan. The low heat will also keep the juices in the pan without drying out the mixture. The juice gives the rice its pretty reddish orange colour.
  • After the tomatoes have turned mushy, remove the pan from heat and cool the mixture for about 5 minutes. Add the cooled rice and mix well without any lumps, check for salt.

Tomato Rice is ready to be served with curd and papads. To make it a complete meal, pair it with a legume & veggie combination.

I am very happy to receive my very first award from my fellow blogger buddy, Jyoti. Thank you so much dear. Thanks for your encouragement. You made my day.

I would like to pass it on to Kalaivani, Sadhana & Muskaan, Usha, Parita & Hari Chandana. I love visiting your blogs and have learnt immensely from each one of you. Thanks a bunch for all your encouragement. It really means a lot to me.