Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Easy-dinner : foil-wrapped baked salmon and penne with vegetables

These days I am on the look for simple and healthy recipes that doesn't need a lot of watching over the pot. This baked salmon and pasta dinner meets all the requirements and tastes wonderful too.

Wash and pat dry the salmon fillets. Mix together fresh parsley or rosemary or any herb you fancy(fresh herbs give the best results), minced garlic, a little lime or lemon juice, a pinch of freshly crushed black pepper, salt and rub it on the salmon fillets. Add a dab of butter on each fillet and wrap each fillet in foil. Place then on a baking dish and bake in apre-heated oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. This way the fish remains flavorful and very tender. Time saver tip : line the baking dish with foil so that juices running out of the wraps will not mess up your dish. I usually marinate the fish fillets in the morning, cover them in foil and leave them in the fridge.

Pasta :
One cup penne pasta
1 zucchini, sliced
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
1 large tomato, diced and crushed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 spring onion, chopped
a pinch of crushed dry chilli
a little parsley, chopped
Olive oil , 1 tablespoon

Cook and drain the pasta. Meanwhile heat the oil in a large pan, add minced garlic and dry chilli flakes, throw in the mushrooms and spring onion and leave it until the mushrooms are fairly done. Now add the tomato and salt and simmer for three to four minutes. In goes the zucchini and parsley, and when the zucchini is done -this should take just two or three minutes- add the drained pasta and mix well and serve hot.

Colours for your baby: Avocado and Cherry

Purple for breakfast and green for lunch

Bring in the colours to your babies your diet - that's an easy way to make sure baby gets a variety of food and help you from setting into a pattern feeding your baby the same old food everyday. I didn't think of avocado as a feasible baby food until I came across this site. High in fat and calories avocados are a boon to babies who are busy all day climbing stairs and crawling all over the house. They can be served as such or mixed with other fruits. Cut the avocado into halves, remove the seed, scoop out the flesh and mash it with a fork. You can wrap the other half in a plastic foil and store in the fridge for a day or two and mash it when needed. To make watery fruit and vegetables puree thicker and easier to feed, add a spoon ful of mashed avocado.

This week we got some sweet juicy cherries. Last evening my other-half fed our baby a cherry from his hand, and she eagerly ate it all up and clamoured for more. What relief when baby asks for food! Today morning she had pureed cherries with oatmeal cereal for breakfast, and made it known that she really likes this new food with a toothless grin. To puree cherries remove the seeds and cut the flesh into small bits. Add a little water and simmer it until its soft, and mash it up with a spoon or use the blender. To detect allergic reactions to new food, make sure you introduce them one at a time. (More on food allergies.) Have a colourful day!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fiery Tales : Moluttathu with kappa

Thankfully, recreating the tastes of home doesn't always mean hours spent in the kitchen chopping, slicing, stirring and watching over the pot. This fish curry, endearingly called Moluttathu or Moliyar ( molaku meaning chilly) around Malabar region is so easy to make and such a tease for your tongue that it is a daily fare in most of the homes around the region. A yellow coconut based curry, a red moluttathu, two or three sides of colorful vegetables, our lunches back home always have been colorful.This curry can be made with a wide variety of fish, but smaller fish like sardine, mackeral, silver belly fish are more commonly used.

Ingredients :

Half an onion , sliced
One tomato, sliced
An inch piece of ginger, crushed
One or two cloves of garlic, crushed
One green chilli, slit length wise
Two teaspoons chilli powder
Half teaspoon turmeric powder
A pinch of powdered fennel seeds
fish of your choice
juice of a lemon sized piece of tamarind

Simply put together all these, except the fish and the tamarind juice in a sauce pan or pot , mix it up nicely with your hand giving it a squeeze or two, pour the tamarind juice and bring it to a boil. Add the fish pieces, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Make a tadka of fenugreek seeds, one or two small red onions sliced and curry leaves, and pour it over the curry. That's it, no grinding, no sauteing, no stirring. Enjoy the curry with a rice-dal combination, or with kappa.

Today we had mullan moluttathu and kappa for lunch. Mullan (silver belly fish)being a small bony fish, you actually spend more time picking up the delicate flesh from the bones and eating the dish than cooking the curry; perfect for a day when you don't want to spend too much of your time and energy in the kitchen and yet want a nostalgia inducing meal.

Mullan or Silver belly fish

A fiery fish curry and kappa, my entry for RCI: cuisine of kerala event.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Warming up

It's been too long a break. Long enough to make me feel like a newcomer into food blogging :) She gave me the push I badly needed to get back to food-blogging. Her piggy bank story inspires me, but even more than that the sheer joy with which she shares her recipes and their stories warms me up. Keep going, girl!

Years back, watching my friend's newborn snuggle up resting his teenyweeny face on her breast, I was hit by a painful yearning to become a mom. A few months back, watching my mom carefully feed my baby her first solid food, nature or love or whatever it was struck again and am already looking forward to becoming a grandma:). Where I come from, homemade rice cereal called kurukku is given as the first solid food to babies because it's easy to digest, and generally a brownish variety of rice called navara ari is preferred for its higher nutritional value. My little girl was five and a half months old when she first tasted it- a spoonful the first day, a little more the next day, and a little more, thus my mom got her eating almost half a cup of rice kurukku thrice a day by the time baby and I had to come back to the U.S. Grandma magic, you see. She also packed finely powdered and roasted rice, ragi/muthari and wheat, doing all the work by herself to make sure her grandchild's food stays fresh.

navara ari

Rice (or ragi or wheat) is soaked in water for an hour, drained well and finely powdered in small quantities. This is then slowly roasted over low heat in a thick-bottomed pan to ensure no moisture is trapped. Carefully made, these powdered grains stay good for months in the fridge, and it is common practise to make and store these powdered grains in larger quantities. Mix about a quarter cup of this powdered grain in one cup of water and bring to a boil in a heavy- bottomed pan. Once it gets boiling reduce the heat to low and cook till it becomes a smooth and fairly thick paste, stirring all the time to avoid cleaning up a messy pan. If her kurukku is watery my girl thinks it is some game and starts blowing rasperries as I try to feed her, so I make sure it is thick enough. Back home a dash of salt and ghee is added to these kurukkus. If you would rather keep the salt away from your baby, a ripe fruit like banana or apple can be added to make these more appealing for your little gourmet. I sometimes use coconut jaggery too, by simply melting a tiny bit of jaggery in hot water and passing it through a sieve to remove any coarse lump, and then adding it to the pan.

coconut jaggery

This page says "Sweet coconut toddy is boiled to 1100C to 1200C and allowed to cool for solidification This so­lidified material is coconut jaggery or ‘gur’."

...and then my princess feasted on navara ari kurukku and a steamed nectarine, kissed me, and fell asleep.