Summer Squash Kootu

What would you do if your CSA bombards you with a variety of Squash- Zucchini, yellow, grey!Try to eat as much as possible and pass it on to neighbors. What if neighbors grow Squash and are eager to double your kindness and send you back with two squash for every one that you tried to get rid of? You will try novel ways  to use up the squash.. So that is what happened here. Loads and and loads of squash and I used them all up! Yippee...this one is the simple Kootu

We will need,

Summer Squash of choice  1 lb
Whole Moong Dal      1/2 Cup
Coconut grated          1 Cup
Cumin seeds             2 tsp
Green Chillies  + Red Chillies 3-4 each (according to taste)
Black Pepper corns  1 tsp

Ghee   2 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/4 tsp
Hing a dash
Turmeric a generous pinch
Curry leaves a handful
 Salt and lime juice to taste.
  • Pick and wash the whole moong dal. Soak it in water for a few hours. Drain and wash a few more times. 
  • Chop the squash into 1cm cubes. Combine the dal and the squash with about a cup and a half of water and turmeric in a pressure cooker. Cook till the dal is soft. (My mother says, till the beans' belly bursts -"hotte odi") Remove from heat.
  • Grind together the coconut, cumin, pepper and chillies into a smooth paste.
  • Bring the coconut mixture to a boil. Add the cooked dal and squash. Simmer till the Kootu is fragrant about 15-20 minutes.
  • Now prepare the Oggarane - Heat the ghee, toss in the mustard seeds, hing and curry leaves. Once they stop crackling, pour it over the Kootu. Cover the Kootu. Adjust salt and lime juice and serve immediately with rice.

Vangi Bhaat

I have always had Vangi Bhaat at the top of my 'Bucket List' it is now slightly refined. It ought to be the Eerinagere /Mysore Badanekayi aka fingerling eggplant Vangi baath. How can I describe the serendipitous reappearance of this miraculous vegetable (or botanically a fruit) and all the joy it has brought....This summer, we have been going to pick-your-own-farms. Just could not resist the freshness of the vegetables there. And imagine my delight when I see these beauties hanging in the thorny bushes!
Ah! I said, 'we are in for some serious luck'. We snipped all the eggplants we could find and dumped them in our wagon.

Once we were home, it was all about Vangi baath or brinjal rice. I cannot figure out the origins of this dish. Vangi sounds so much alien in Kannada, or may be 'Vangi' was the old Kannada usage. Or may be it came to Karnataka with the Maratha invasion, and we indigenous Kannadigas tweaked the recipe to mke it our own. Never know where it all started. There are several recipes in my family for this particular dish, but my Mom makes it the best. Sorry Ammaji (my maternal grandma and the best cook in my world) you loose to Amma (Mom) when it comes to Vangi Baath.  This time when my Mom was here, I standardized her recipe.  The spice blend can be make in large quantities and used for both BBB and VB but I prefer to make small batches and using it all up. The longer the spice blend sits on the shelf,  the more it will resemble saw dust!! So here it goes.

We will need,

Fingerling eggplant / Mysore Badanekayi  2 lbs
Expeller pressed peanut oil  1/2 cup
Mustard seeds  1/4 tsp
Cummin 1/2 tsp
Hing a generous dash
Curry leaves a generous handful
Tamarind  extract  3-4 tsp (or tamarind the size of a lemon soaked in a 1/4 cup of water)
Copra/ Kobbari  grated, about 1 cup loosely packed
Rice   2 to 2.5 Cups
Ghee and lemon juice to taste (optional)
Salt to taste

For the spice blend

Dhania 4 tbsp
dry red chillies (Byadagi) 15-20 (adjust according to taste)
Channa Dal / Kadalebele  2 tbsp
Urad Dal/ Uddinabele 2 tbsp
Marat Moggu 2
Cinnamon 1"

  • Wash rice in several changes of water and cook it with about 4-5 cups of water till al dente, soft but still has its integrity. Spread it on a large plate and allow it to completely cool.
  • Toast the spices for the blend on a heavy and hot skillet one by one till fragrant. Remove and cool. Pulse it in a coffee grinder till the mixture is fine-coarse, finer than say breadcrumbs, but not as fine as the prepackaged spice powders. 
  • As the skillet is hot throw in the Copra and heat it through. Keep stirring and once fragrant remove from heat. Cool down and  pulse it in the grinder to get a coarse powder. Set it aside.
  • Wash and clean the eggplants. Remove the tops and cut it lengthwise into 1 to 1.5 " strips. Place the cut eggplants in a large bowl of cold water. This prevents the eggplants from discoloring.
  • Heat oil in a large and heavy Kadai/ Bandali. Throw in the mustard seeds, cummin, hing and curry leaves in quick succession. Once the spices crackle, throw in the cut eggplant strips. Sprinkle some salt and stir a few times gently. 
  • Once the eggplants change color and cooked half way through, throw in the spice blend. Stir well to coat the eggplants. Reduce heat to 'low' and cook the mixture for 5-10 minutes till the spices sizzle and are fragrant. 
  • Now add the ground Kopra, tamarind extract. Cover and cook till the  mixture oozes oil on top. Keep stirring at regular intervals else it will burn. Remove from heat.
  • Once the mixture or gojju is ready, Take a small quantity of gojju about 1/2 cup and start mixing it into a cup of rice, gently making sure that rice does not break. Add more of gojju or rice to get at the desired taste. (I like mine with a lot of gojju) A tsp of ghee and a dash of lemon will be a great addition at this point. Adjust salt and serve immediately. 
A note on the quantity: This quantity should normally serve about 4 people, but if it me and Honey, then may be two or three !!! This is the reason I never specify about 'number of servings. Well each persons appetite is different! How are we to know how many servings this recipe will yield!! 

Badanekai Donnemenasina Palya / Curried Eggplant and Capsicum

Continuing with the celebration of summer bounty here comes more vegetables, absolutely fresh and no sign of wax what so ever! The taste of fresh vegetables had actually become vague after years of consumption of the waxed supermarket stuff. But it is all coming back. The only gripe, the shortness of the season. Why cannot the sun be munificent for a few more months? Nothing can beat 'pick your own' produce, well may be 'grow your own' would!!

Here is a simple Palya, a staple during the Capsicum season back home. My little sister loves this preparation and MIL sets the benchmark. Honey loves it and this time around he was quite impressed. I give credit to the fresh vegetables, they are the actual stars. The best part of course were the India-style eggplant and capsicum. They really made my job easy.

We will need,

Eggplant/ Brinjal/ Badanekayi (preferably irinagere) 1/2 Lb
Capsicum/ Green Bell Pepper        1/2 lg
Potatoes         2 good size
Green Chillies  3-4
Tomato  1 large
Onion 1 large
Peanut Oil  1/4 cup or more
Mustard seeds  1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a dash
Huli Pudi /Sambar Powder 2 tsp (adjust according to taste)
Coriander fresh a handful
Salt to taste

  • Wash and clean all vegetables. Wipe dry and dice them so they uniform in size.
  • Heat oil in a wok. Throw in the mustard, Jeera, Hing in quick succession.
  • Once the spices sizzle, throw in the onion, chillies. Saute till onion is golden.
  • Throw in the Potatoes. Add a pinch of salt, cover and cook till the potatoes are slightly soft.
  • Throw in the brinjal. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. Now throw in the rest of the vegetables and the sambar powder/ Huli Pudi. Cover and cook till all the vegetables are tender crisp. Sprinkle some water if needed. (Water not needed if the vegetables are fresh)
  • Finish with some fresh coriander adjust salt. Serve hot with Chapatis or Akki Rotti

Tomato Kayi Chutney / Green Tomato Chutney

I cannot get enough of summer. Love the fresh vegetables that comes with it. Yesterday we got some as fresh as it could possibly get. We went to a pick your own farms and got a carton load of vegetables and we are loving every bit of it.  After a long time I chanced upon raw tomatoes. I started drooling right then and there thinking of this chutney. I pulled a few right off the vine. Although the hostess did not seem take it kindly, I was not thinking of anything else but this chutney.
We also managed to find from 'Eringere aka Mysore' Eggplant/ Badanekayi.. So it is going to be Vangibhat festival later today :) For now it is just the chutney

We will need,

Raw /Green Tomatoes  4 medium
Green Chillies         about     3
Dried red chillies (Byadagi) 3
Garlic  4 cloves
Pepper corns 1/2 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Mustard 1/4 tsp
Expeller pressed Peanut oil  4-5 tbsp (or more if you like)
Salt to taste
Tamarind (if needed)
Jaggery a small piece

  • Wash and wipe the tomatoes clean. Dice them into big chunks. Taste the tomatoes, if they are tart enough do not add the tamarind.
  • Heat oil in a wok. Throw in the mustard and jeera. Once they stop crackling throw in the rest of the ingredient except Jaggery and cover and cook till the tomatoes are mushy and cooked. Remove from heat and allow it to cool.
  • Once the mixture is cool, transfer it to a food processor, add the jaggery and adjust salt. Process till the mixture is smooth. Serve with hot rice or Ragi Mudde.

Carrot Palya and an experiment

Hmm...summer in full swing and I am not complaining. Love the fresh local produce and the farmers market overflowing with vegetables and fruits. Suburban Organics is sending us all bounty of the season.. fresh strawberries, apricots, peaches and berries..
Amidst this bounty I decided to do some experimentation on myself. Inspired by fellow bloggers who found certain dietary changes beneficial, I decided to tweek my diet. 
Very honestly I have never gone on a starvation diet. Thanks to my parents, who encouraged good eating habits early on, my diet has always been very balanced. When I was younger and lived with my parents, we generally ate plenty of vegetables, rice, ragi, plenty of fresh fruits, plenty of dairy, 2-3 eggs a week. Home made cakes and sweets in tiny quantity (A Starbucks chocolate chip cookie would feed my entire family twice !!!) and deep fried food would be once in a blue moon. This diet was much like what my grandparents ate (except for the egg, cake part). I never had any health related issue during that phase of life. My problem started once I left home for University. The hostel food was very alien to me. Chapati and potatoes were the staple. Yogurt was served just once a day for lunch..No yogurt at dinner? I was heart broken. We had to wait for the winters to see any trace of vegetables. The first six months were ok, the damage started to show up during the next six months.
* First sign of problem was my hair fall.
*Second sign was weight loss. I lost about 3-4 Kgs. Which was very unlike me. I have always maintained my weight.
*Third sign was breakouts. Wow, I never had them in my teen years...
*Then aunt-flow messed up my calender, again very unlikely. 
After a while I realized that it was partly due to academic stress and of course the diet. Diet I could not help as long as I was there except supplement the hostel food with some fruits and dairy. That was not enough however.  Then after the university days, I was on my own and the recovery process started. Shortly afterward I moved to the US to be with by husband. Here again, some more problems started.
Aunt-flow was screwing me big time now. Boy o boy... what was going on?? It ought to be either the weather or the food. Weather cannot be controlled, food can. Growing up in sleepy towns in India, we were always used to wholesome foods, be it produce, be it dairy, be it legumes and grains. Lot of the legumes and grains were from the family farm as well. But here everything were done factory style. God knows what ever was in that creepy looking contains of dairy,produce everything got from the supermarket indeed. Then switched over to organic dairy, organic fruits and organic produce when ever possible. That seemed to have solved the problem, aunt-flow is now benign. Breakouts gone, hair fall back to normal. My weight is normal. Yeah! I was never quite able to shed the last 2-3 Kgs after giving birth to my son. But it does not bother me as long as I am able to fit into my jeans.  I find it amusing when people pick a certain health issue and try to isolate it for treatment. Breakouts? oh! must be the oily foods, so go zero fat! How logical can it be?Should it not always be a wholistic view? Breakouts can be a part of larger problem. Somethings are just not right.

Now to experiment part. Eating real foods. The adjustment was not much. me and Honey together consumed over 1 Kg of vegetables each day. We also ate around a cup of rice per head per meal (lunch and dinner). We ate 3 eggs each week (of course when I say eggs, I mean everything inside the shell, never thought of separating the while and yellow except for the souffle!!! I laugh when people say 'whole eggs'.. eggs are supposed to be whole, aren't they!). My sweet tooth always meant a stash  of dark chocolates, an occasional chocochip cookie and dry fruits. But Honey is already sugar-free, so we have indeed reduced out sweet intake. Eliminating vegetable oil was not a problem because I already use Ghee in most of my cooking for my own reasons (1. that is what my great grandparents ate and lived a healthy life 2. Ayurveda recommends consumption of ghee in moderate quantities 3. Nothing can beat the taste of home made organic ghee)
To stick to the experiment, I had to reduce consumption of rice, eliminate sweets and increase the quantity of vegetables and protein consumed. Protein was easy. I just had a gulp down a mug full of milk or fill my plate with the home made organic yogurt which I love. I did it religiously for about two weeks.

The results were hmm surprising- I started to crave for sweets and cool foods like Salads. Most of the time, our bodies know better. Any imbalance in the Vatta-Pitta-Kapha, your dietary preference will change. Craving for sweets meant Pitta dosha. So this experiment screwed up my Dosha-balance... Looks like it is not for me! I am good with the traditional Kannadiga meals. Give me my rice, and I am a happy lark. So for now, it is back to our original diet even as I think of some warm Jelebis... 

We will need,

Carrots chopped 2 cups
Expeller pressed peanut oil 2 tsp
Mustard seeds   1/4 tsp
Jeera 1/2 tsp
Hing a dash
Channa dal split 1 tsp
Urad dal  split 1 tsp
Dry red chillies (Byadagi) 3
Coconut grated
Salt and black pepper to taste
Lemon juice to taste

  • Heat oil in a wok. Throw in the mustard, jeera, hing, channa dal, urad dal and the chillies in quick succession.
  • Once the spices are fragrant, throw in the chopped carrots. Sprinkle a little water about 3 tbsp, add salt to taste and cover. Cook till the carrots are crisp tender.
  • Throw in the coconut, stir, throw in the black pepper and the lemon juice and remove from fire. Serve as a part of a South-Indian meal.