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Dahi Vada – An Indian Street Food Affair

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[ I wrote this post last week before the baby’s arrival; am simply posting it  today. We are at home, resting, nursing and catching up on sleep. Will resume blogging soon!]

Pushpa: Le Dahi Vade kha le.

Urmila: Nahi mann nahi kar raha.
Pushpa: Arre Dahi Vade khane ka mann nahi kar raha. Agar kisi ladki ka Dahi Vade khane ka mann nahi karta to do cheeze ho sakti hai,

  • ya to woh dheere dheere ladki se ladka ban rahi hai…
  • ya to usse PREM ho gaya hai

Ek din mujhe bhi Dahi Vade khaane ka mann nahi kiya, teen din baad pata chala ki mujhe Bunty se Prem ho gaya hai 🙂 (and bluntly blushing)
Bol ri! Kya naam hai unka?

Urmila:(sharmate hue) Lucky naam hai…

[Don’t worry if you don’t understand the dialog exchanged in Hindi above. The humor will be lost in translation.It doesn’t really impact the recipe or why you should make it. You should make this recipe to get a taste of India, regardless of movie scene that recommends it.]

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This is a classic scene ( copied from being desh blog) from a very popular oldie- goldie Hindi movie “GolMaal”. Its hilarious in its reasoning.

Dahi vada’s have been on my mind lately. At least since mom is here. And they always remind me of GolMaal.

There is a reason why these are not on the menu of any and every Indian restaurant that you have visited. Unlike Saag Paneer, Chole or Alu- Gobi, dahi vada’s are tricky, need a lot of patience and muscular strength.

The lightest,fluffiest melt in your mouth vadas are made solely by whipping the batter with your hands. Whip and whip till you feel that your arms are going to fall off. And then some.

Then this fluffy batter is deep-fried in hot oil.

Once golden brown, they are dunked in a buttermilk bath to soften the core and then immersed in cool tangy yogurt sauce. It is served with a variety of spices – cumin powder, red chilli powder and a tangy tamarind chutney.

But once made and chilled, they are these lightly puffy yogurt soaked lentil balls that you will fight  over.

One bowl or serving will never be enough. At least plan on 2 to 3 servings per person.

This is one recipe that is worth the effort. Every single time.

Here is mom’s recipe below.

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Dahi vada Recipe

For vadas 

  • 3/4 cup urad dal (black lentils)
  • 1/4 cup moong dal 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger (optional)
  • Pinch of asafoetida (optional)

For buttermilk bath

  • 1/2 cup curd
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste

For the Dahi ( Spicy yogurt sauce)

  • 3 cups thick yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

For garnish

  • Tamarind – date chutney (store-bought, to taste)
  • Green chutney (store-bought, to taste)
  • Finely chopped cilantro ( for garnish)

1. Wash both the urad and moong  dal well ( at least 7 – 8 times in plenty of water) till the water runs clear. It will be milky at first and then run clear.

Soak dal in plenty of water for at least 5-6 hours to overnight.

2. Discard water from the dal and finely grind it with as little water as possible. Set aside the dal batter for 1 – 2 hours.

3. In the meantime prepare the buttermilk bath. Whisk all the ingredients listed till you get a thin batter. Set aside in a large shallow bowl.

4. Heat oil in a wok on medium-high heat.

Add salt and ginger to the dal batter. Whisk the batter with hand for at least 10 minutes in a flat plate. Whisk and whisk some more till you feel the batter to be light and fluffy.

4. Fry small golf ball sized vadas in hot oil till golden brown. Test one vada to ensure that the vada is cooked evenly through the center. If not, lower the heat and cook till they are golden brown.

6. Soak the vadas in buttermilk bath for at least 2 hours. Remove the vadas from the buttermilk bath and keep aside covered. They can be kept at room temperature.

7. Prepare the yogurt sauce by missing all the ingredients and adjusting to taste. Keep the yogurt in the refrigerator to chill till ready to serve.

8. When ready to serve, layer the vadas in serving bowl. Pour the yogurt sauce over the vadas.

Garnish with chutneys and cilantro.

Serve with additional bowls of chutney, cilantro, cumin and chili powder to add per taste.

A healthy dessert – Ricotta Stuffed Strawberries

Strawberries Stuffed with Ricotta

We have been on the healthy eating bandwagon since earlier this year. It was our only New Year Resolution, if you will.

And although there have been occasional slips ( French-Creole food from Brenda’s, Fish curry from Gajalee and Vada-Pav from DOSA), largely we have stuck to the game plan. More veggies, moderate amount of protein, no sugar, no artificial processed foods and whole natural fat.

After nurturing years of sweet tooth, its hard to go without a sugar fix. Thankfully two deserts have come to our rescue. Ricotta stuffed strawberries and Oatmeal-applesauce cookies.

Made with all natural ingredients both these desserts are naturally sweet. Now I know, sweet is a very relative term. My parents can’t have their cuppa of tea without a teaspoon or two of sugar in it. That’s their baseline. For me, more than half a teaspoon sugar makes it too sweet.

Thanks to the south beach diet and the palate cleansing, we can actually taste the natural sweetness in vegetables – tomatoes, bell peppers and even squashes. Sadly that means we find traditional desserts at restaurants too sweet.

To indulge in our sweet tooth while still maintaining the diet, I made us some ricotta stuffed strawberries. I know strawberries are not in season but I got them on sale at Whole Foods so there they were. I am sure the ricotta would go well with grilled peaches, pineapples or whatever fruit is in season.

This is a recipe where ingredients shine – so don’t buy the prepackaged ricotta which is grainier but get some freshly made ricotta. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other natural food markets carry them next to fresh guacamole,salsa etc. Or make it yourself. There are tons of recipes online.

I used to always think that bloggers who ask to get premium ingredients are snooty – but really after having this I change my mind. The fresh ricotta melts in your mouth. I added a little bit of maple syrup and Meyer lemon juice to the ricotta to brighten this further but it was good even as is.

A take on strawberries and cream, this is one dessert that I think we can make over and over again especially once spring brings fresh seasonal berries.

Strawberries Stuffed with Ricotta

Ricotta Stuffed Strawberries Recipe

  • 10 – 12 strawberries, washed and core removed
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon juice from Meyer lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon zest of Meyer lemon

1. With a light hand, core the strawberries and scoop out the flesh. Save it to make some strawberry jam.

Set them aside in a serving dish.

2. Whip the ricotta cheese with 1 tablespoon maple syrup, lemon zest and juice. Taste and add more syrup if necessary. Whip again.

3. Using a small spoon (or pastry bag if you really want to be fancy and make swirls), spoon the ricotta cheese in strawberries.

Refrigerate for couple of hours at least. Garnish with Meyer lemon zest. Serve chilled.

Pear Ginger Smoothie

Pear and Ginger Smoothie

I am on a smoothie kick these days. Mostly because they are so easy to make.

Once I have fruits and veggies on hand, it’s just mix and match and then whirl in my Magic bullet. Single container. Easy cleanup. Tasty. And filling.

I learnt recently that home-made smoothies are healthier than juicing as we retain the fiber in the smoothie v/s discarding the pulp. The fiber makes them filling and low glycemic index.

I mean seriously whats not to love.

I saw pear and ginger combination on Pinterest recently. Had it on hand and this came about.

If a recipe can be so-called, then here it is.

P.S. If you are looking for more smoothie inspiration, just check out Pinterest Smoothies board. There are tips and tricks, combinations and beautiful photos.

Pear and Ginger Smoothie

Pear Ginger Smoothie Recipe

  • 1/2 red pear , washed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, chilled
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, washed and chopped
  • 1/2″  knob of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped

1. Swirl everything in the blender till well mixed.

Serve immediately.

Are you on a smoothie kick? Which flavors are your all time favorites???

Healthy Veggie Loaded Artichoke Dip

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Need I say more?

Dips are something I cannot eat in moderation. Salsa’s and Hummus are ok. They can be had without restraint. Possibly some seven layer dips. But what about the warm cheesy dips? They are inviting and very scrumptious.

In restaurants, I manage to finish the dip as I eat it as is.

So much cheese can’t really be good for anyone in a single serving. But sometimes heart (or rather taste buds) don’t listen to your brain and then next think we know is that the dip bowl is empty! Now satisfaction kicks in. Later regret kicks in.

I needed something that was amazing to taste with no regrets.

That’s where a healthified artichoke Spinach dip came into picture.

Its full of veggies and using less cheese compared to traditional recipes. Thick Yogurt is what gives it extra creaminess and protein without the excess fat.

We topped it with finely diced bell pepper and ate them with veggies ( as well as multi grain toast fingers) for a filling afternoon snack.

It makes about 3 cups of dip and can be made ahead, frozen and then thawed before serving. We have a stash in our freeze for days when the baby arrives and we are hungry for “something fun/interesting”. It tastes yummy even as is out of the fridge.

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Healthy Veggie Loaded Artichoke Dip Recipe

Makes ~ 3 cups of dip

  • 1 can Artichoke hearts drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water removed
  • 1 cup milk , divided
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 goat cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup finely diced bell pepper and red onion ( for Garnish)

1.  In a skillet, add artichoke hearts, spinach, 1/2 cup milk, garlic, cumin seeds and paprika. Mix well and let cook for a few minutes on medium-low heat.

2. Stir in the parmesan cheese and let cook for another 2-3 minutes till the cheese melts and is incorporated in the mixture.  Lower the heat if necessary. Once cooked, let cool for a couple of minutes.

3. In the meantime, in a bowl, whip greek yogurt with goat cheese. Set aside.

4. Once the artichoke-spinach mixture is cooled, blend it till desired consistency. I like the dip to be smooth with some chunks of artichoke. Skip this step if you like the dip to be chunky.

5. Add the yogurt – goat cheese mixture to the artichoke mixture. Add salt. Mix well.

6. Top with bell pepper and red onions.

Serve immediately or freeze for later use.

Crunchy Raddichio, Beans and Broccoli Salad In Soy Sriracha Dressing

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I was getting tired of the green salad recipes. I suppose Vipul was too so to mix things up a little, I made him a crunchy salad.

I had celery, broccoli, green beans and raddichio on hand. The last was an impulse buy. This is a winter vegetable. In season here in US. A new one to add to our routine. Its purple and white ribbed leaves are so beautiful. Tempting. Inviting.

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I didn’t really know what to do with it and was torn between roasting it and eating it as is. I ate one raw, and it was so bitter. I know based on my Indian cooking experience that if a vegetable is bitter, blanching it in water removes the bitterness. I decided to go with that approach.

Raddichio was chopped and soaked in hot water.

Broccoli and green beans were blanched in hot water.

Kidney beans were marinated.

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Everything was tossed in a soy sriracha dressing and served with salmon.

It was crunchy, flavorful, a little spicy and a little tangy.

Vipul was tired of chewing all the crunchy vegetables so if your guy is like him then serve it as a side rather than a main salad. I topped mine with cold soba noodles in sesame oil and let me tell you it was 100% yumm!

Will make this again, in a heart beat.

Note: Sriracha sauce has sugar in it. So if you are on no sugar diet, replace sriracha sauce with another hot sauce of your choice.

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Crunchy Raddichio, Beans and Broccoli Salad In Soy Sriracha Dressing Recipe

  • 1/2 head of raddichio thinly sliced (about 2 cups of sliced leaves)
  • 3 cups hot water + 2 cups water to blanch vegetables
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce (use less if you want it to be little less spicy)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly.
  • 1 1/2 cups brocoli chopped roughly
  • 1/2 cup green beans diced
  • 1/2 cup celery diced

1. Soak the raddichio leaves in hot water for about 20 – 30 minutes to remove the bitterness from the leaves. Set aside.

2. Whisk together siracha, soy and sesame oil. Toss some of the dressing over the kidney beans. Set aside in a large bowl.

3. In the meantime, boil water in a saucepan. Once you have a rolling boil, blanch broccoli and green beans in hot boiling water till they turn bright green.

4. Once the vegetables are blanched, scoop them out and add them to the kidney beans bowl.

5. Drain the water from raddichio leaves and add the leaves and celery to the kidney beans – vegetables bowl. Add some more of the soy -siracha dressing.

Toss well. Taste and add more dressing as appropriate.

Serve immediately with grilled salmon or tofu.

Braised Leeks and Fennel Salad

Leeks and Fennel Salad

Vipul is on to Phase 2 of South beach diet. This simply means he can introduce carbs back into his diet.

One serving for a few days and then add another for a total of 3- 4 servings of complex carbs and two servings of low sugar fruits ( apples, pears etc).

The idea of the whole exercise is to eat more vegetables ( 4 1/2 cups non starchy vegetables), complex carbohydrates, good fat and good protein.

Leeks and Fennel Salad

As goes with diets, you get bored with the routine and need something warm and bold to shake up the routine.

Leeks and Fennel provide that exactly. Both have their own unique flavors. And I was worried how they would pair. I have never cooked with leeks before and have only recently “discovered” fennel. I saw online recipes that paired them with citrus fruits, tomatoes or even potatoes. But since all of those were out of question, I decide to give a try with red bell pepper and zucchini to tone down the flavors.

Leeks and Fennel Salad

And this was an experiment, I prayed would succeed. Else poor Vipul has nothing for dinner 😦

Luckily this is one pairing that worked in favor. Vipul liked the salad. The crunch of red bell pepper and zucchini is satisfying. Mushrooms and celery would be good too.Next morning, he even used this salad as a base to make fried eggs and he loved that combination even more.

Serve this salad with poached eggs, some citrus fruits and you are set for a healthy and nourishing meal.

Hope you like it as well.

Leeks and Fennel Salad

Braised Leeks and Fennel Salad Recipe

  • 2 Leeks, roots trimmed, outer firmer leaves removed and washed.
  • 1 Fennel bulb, trimmed and quartered (discard stalks; save some fennel fronds for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (or orange juice )
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • Salt to taste

1. Quarter the leeks and cut them into 1 inch segments. Wash again if necessary and set aside on a towel to dry.

2. Thinly slice the fennel bulb , discarding the tough base. Marinate it in lemon juice and salt for at least 30 minutes.

3. Heat oil in a pan. Once heated, add garlic and cumin seeds. Saute them taking care not to burn it for a minute or so.

4. Add the leeks and cook for a minute, working the pan to avoid charring the leeks. Add the chili powder. Mix well.

Saute for another couple of minutes till tender.

Taste and adjust salt.

5. Remove the leeks in a bowl. Layer the fennel with the marinade over the leeks. Layer the zucchini and lastly the red bell pepper.

Toss well and serve immediately garnished with fennel fronds.

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