Thursday, November 27, 2008

Spicy Mango Avocado Sushi

Besides vacation, summer in Pune meant the mushrooming of Mango stalls pretty much everywhere there was space available. If one had a sky view, the entire city would look like it had a case of saffron coloured chicken pox with the abundance of mangoes everywhere. The Alphonso mango is the greatest fruit on the surface of this planet and the naysayers who pooh-pooh the notion just haven’t had one from Ratnagiri. Mango, the Alphonso Mango, especially remains by far my favourite food and I have tried to come up with recipes that use mango, even where it is not needed. We have recently embarked on a heart-friendly diet trying to cut a lot of the fat and sodium from our diet leaving me to find new ways of make food interesting and edible. The mango never fails to come to the rescue of such ambition and I have managed to forge a couple of good heart-friendly recipes. Here's one such triumph.

For Rice
3 cups cooked Brown Rice
3 tbsp Rice Vinegar
2 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
Nori Wraps (Seaweed sheets)

For Filling
1 semi-ripe peeled Mango sliced into extremely thin julienne pieces
1 Carrot sliced as above
1 Cucumber (white part) sliced as above
1 Avocado sliced as above

For Sauce
Flesh of 1 ripe Mango
1/2” piece of Ginger
4 tbsp light Coconut Milk
Pinch of Chilli Flakes

Mix the vinegar, salt and sugar in a pot and heat on a low flame till the sugar dissolves and allow it to cool.
Spread the cooked rice while it is warm and gently flatten it
Drizzle the vinegar mixture on the rice and fold the rice to make sure the vinegar is spread evenly
On a Sushi mat place one Nori Sheet aligned with the edge of the mat
Cover the sheet with a very thin layer of rice
Place the sliced vegetables lengthwise parallel to the edge of the mat
Make the roll (Click here for video directions on making a roll)
Once the roll is done, cut into small pieces
To make the sauce, mix all ingredients and blend till it is a fluffy, homogenous mixture
Place a tiny dollop of sauce on each of the pieces
Serve with pickled ginger and wasabi

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cabbage Paratha

At the intersection of BMCC Road and Fergusson College Road stands Hotel Rangoli. A place that in all respects is pretty low key, tries too hard to be cool and for the most part, would not be missed if it ceased to exist. This is one of the third tier hotels in terms of places you want to be. If Vaishali is closed and Roopali is too crowded and you really want to eat, then Rangoli is a semi-decent option. It is also a great option if a young man has befriended a young woman whose entire family hangs out at Vaishali and the two lovebirds want to have a date, but not have the young man beaten to a pulp and at the same time have the illusion that they can express their love in public freely.... you get the idea. Rangoli's food, although pretty decent, tries to hard to be everything to everyone, but really doesn't do justice to any of it. I did spend a decent amount of time there in the days when Vaishali was undergoing reconstruction and the parathas there weren't bad. However, it failed to convert any real customers, myself included, during that period. I do fondly remember the parathas at Rangoli as that was the only thing that Vaishali didn't serve. And they were'nt bad. Of course, I haven't been there since Vaishali reopened in 1996 and that doesn't say a lot about Rangoli.

1 Cabbage finely chopped
1/2 tsp ginger paste
2 Green Chillies finely chopped
1/2 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Turmeric
Salt to taste
3 tbps cooking oil

Click here for dough recipe

In a wok heat the oil and add ginger paste.
Once the ginger starts for bubble add green chillies, turmeric and chili powder
Add cabbage and salt and toss
Cook on medium heat stirring occasionally till cabbage is fully cooked
Place aside and allow to cool fully

To make the paratha, take a golf ball sized ball of dough
Flatten and cup it
Put some cabbage in the cup and close the cup so that the cabbage is completely stuffed
Flatten the ball gently and roll it out into a flat paratha using hands of a rolling pin
Heat a skillet to high and put the paratha on the skillet
If the skillet is hot enough, no oil is required
Cook both sides evenly
Serve hot with yogurt and garlic chutney

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Citrus Beet and Fruit Salad

In Pune, there are two seasons; the one where you need rain gear and one where you don’t. Sure there are temperature variations throughout the year, but this is pretty much the only difference. Summer clothes are not that different than winter clothes, with the exception of a light sweater and I really don’t recollect there being a spring in Pune. It’s pretty much either hot or wet and the only seasonal touch to your wardrobe comes from a worn out jacket or sweater. Even after a decade here in New York, I am still not really used to the four specific seasons. Especially summer, which is so short here in the city. And even though we’re soon approaching the end of the fall season, I am still enjoying my summer salads.

2 Beets peeled and pressure cooked and cooled
1 Apple
1 Orange
1 Mango
4 Figs cut into quarters
Zest of one Orange
1 tsp Mint chopped
2 tbsp Orange Juice
3 tsp chopped Pecans

Cut the Beets, Apples and Mango into cubes and place in a bowl
Peel the orange, separate flesh from skins and add to bowl
Add figs, mint, orange zest and pecans to the bowl
Drizzle orange juice evenly
Toss the salad gently and serve

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Whole Wheat Pizza

In 1998 when Pizza Hut came to Pune it was greeted with the same kind of fanfare normally reserved by the Congress junta for Sharad Pawar’s motorcade. Residing on Jangli Maharaj road in a new construction built on the grave of a typical Puneri corner bungalow; Pizza Hut projected itself as an example of American fine dining. The Puneris ate it with a spoon, or by the slice to be precise. During the first few weeks, the line to get in was around the block. There was a host table outside the restaurant taking reservations. At the time the host had the same attitude as Sachin Tendulkar’s public relation’s manager. Everyone was apparently wasting his time and no one really seemed good enough to have a Pizza Hut slice. I, along with a few friends managed to get a table without waiting, as we knew “people”. Even at this low level of government, corruption did butt its ugly head. Once inside we were greeted with interior decoration that was trying too hard to be cool, arrogant waiters and lacklustre food. Once we placed the order, our waiter announced that the pizza would be ready in 37 min. One of my dining companion’s reminded the waiter that (in spite of it being Pizza Hut) we’re in Pune and they both knew that the 37 min means nothing, so he should just bring it when it comes out.” The food didn’t come out for a good 45 min. In the interim we were treated to an extremely embarrassing and poorly choreographed dance to the then popular song “Backstreet’s Back” courtsey of the Pizza Hut waitstaff who seemed just ashamed to be part of it. It was definite You Tube material. That was my first and last visit to any Pizza Hut, ever. To compensate, I have been experimenting at making pizza at home from scratch and getting somewhat successful at it.


For the base
5 cups Durum Wheat or Whole Wheat flour
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 packets Yeast
1 cup tepid Water
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Cornmeal
Salt to taste

1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 sliced Capsicum (Green Pepper)
1 cup sliced Mushrooms
1 sliced Onion
1 sliced Tomato
6 sliced Olives
1/2 cup sliced Chicken marinated in Salt and Pepper

Click here for the sauce recipe.

Add yeast and sugar to the tepid water, stir and place aside for 10 minutes
When the mixture doubles in volume, the yeast is active
Add the mixture to the flour along with olive oil and salt
Knead the mixture to a dough adding water as necessary
Place dough aside for a hour; the dough should double in size
Knead the dough again and leave aside for 15 min
On a greased pizza stone (or a large baking pan) spread cornmeal evenly
Toss the dough into a 12” round base and gently place on top of the corn meal
Spread 1/2 sauce evenly over the base all the way up to the edge
Spread cheese evenly on pizza
Add toppings making sure not to add too many
Pre-heat oven to 400ยบ F
Place pizza stone on centre rack
Bake pizza till edges of the base appear deep brown
Serve with red pepper flakes