MS 12#: Huevos rancheros with Rajas de chile Poblano

Summer- vacation time and mango time. I come from a really really hot part of India - Gujarat - so actually in summer it is too hot to go out of the house after 9 am. Average temperatures were around 48 degree centigrade or around 118 Fahrenheit. So most of the summer day was spent indoors, reading or just lounging around. The real fun began after 6 pm. The big maidan near my house would fill up with wannabe sachin tendulkars, my brother and I would play badminton. At 8 in the night, we would go to the big lake near my house and enjoy really strong and cool breezes and golas! My favorite is kala khatta:). Most of my neighbors would sleep on their terraces because night temperatures really dropped and the best part is this sort of communal sleeping meant that people would be up until two or three in the night playing antakshri or just chatting.

Sia of Monsoon spice is hosting this edition of WBB Summer, the weekend breakfast blogging event started by Nandita of Saffron Trail. This is my entry for this cool and healthy event.

Summer in the US seems much milder than my childhood summers, and yet , now - I escape to central AC at the merest hint of heat. Oh well, Ive always enjoyed summer more on my plate than in any other form.

My entry for WBB Summer is Huevos Rancheros. It is a Traditional Mexican breakfast with eggs and tortillas topped with beautiful roasted summer Poblano Peppers and onions ( the rajas part) and a spicy and tangy tomato sauce. The recipe may seem long but it is easy if you break it into its four components, the sauce ,the tortillas, the eggs and the Poblano Peppers. The sauce and peppers are do ahead and may be made the night before. You can "outsource" tortillas from your supermarket( or make your own), and the eggs are simple- just fry them up at serving time. If you donot have Poblano Peppers, you could try using green bell peppers or capsicums.

Ive always liked Nanditas emphasis on health and nutrition and this breakfast is very healthy too - it has eggs , tomatoes and a lot of veggies along with carbs from the tortillas. Traditionally , this dish is topped with a little queso or cheese. But its just a garnish so a little cheese is more than enough.

This recipe is from Diana Kennedy's The Cuisines of Mexico. In her other book, Diana Kennedy also mentions a variation on this recipe, called Estate huevos rancheros which has fried tortilla and refried beans

Huevos Rancheros(Serves two hungry adults :)) :
2 cups Salsa Ranchera
Small frying pan
2 tb oil
4 small tortillas
4 eggs
Raja de chile Poblano

Simply assemble the Huevos Rancheros - heat the tortillas on a hot tava or pan briefly with a little oil- just to make the tortillas pliable. Top with eggs fried however you like. Top generously with Salsa Ranchera Sauce and a generous fistful of Rajas de chile poblano.

Salsa Ranchera
5 tomatoes
1 Jalapeno Pepper
1 Clove garlic Peeled

1 Onion

Broil the tomatoes in an oven( or take a tava on a flame, and keep rolling the tomatoes around until they turn brown all over) , add chopped Jalapeno pepper and Garlic. Blend. Chop the onions , saute. Pour the blended tomato sauce and cook for about five minutes until it thickens a little.

Rajas de chile poblano:
Chile poblano strips

5 chiles poblanos, charred and peeled( see here for how to char and peel poblanos)
A frying pan
6 tbsp oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt

Remove the stems, seeds and veins from the chilies and cut the flesh into strips about 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onions and cook gently without browning for about three minutes. Add the chili strips and salt, and cook stirring from time to time, for about 8 minutes.


GYO: Mulai keerai / Amaranth Kootu

Grow Your Own is an event started and usually hosted by Andrea of Andreas Recipes. This fortnight, GYO is being hosted by Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi. This is my entry for this edition of GYO.

I finally managed to out my kutti inner green thumb. My little amaranth is all growed up. Growing a food plant for the first time was interesting- it played into my little fantasy where all urbanites are forced to grow their own food in little pots on their window sill- driven by high costs of food transportation. Being a locavore(someone who eats food grown within a 100 miles) may be trendy now, but will soon become a necessity. When I first realised my grape tomatoes came all the way from the DOMINICAN republic and my Okra from CHINA, boy was I mad. Everybody is only now sitting down to calculate the true costs of flying your food in from all around the world.

My plants did not really look like any of the amaranths Ive seen at Indiras Mahanandi - perhaps it is a different sub species. So for my first experiment with Mulaikeerai or Amaranth - I decided to play it safe and made Mulaikeerai/ Amaranth Kootu( Amaranth leaf lentil curry).

I served this traditional Iyengar rendition of Kootu with crisp Brinjal Podi Karamad( Brinjal Dry vegetable curry with ground spices) , Carrot Kosumalli( Carrot salad) and yoghurt. It was finger licking delicious!!

For the Kootu Spice Powder:
2 tbsp Urad dal
1 tsp Black Pepper
3 Red Chillies or to taste

Saute in a heavy bottomed pan until the urad dal turn golden brown and you can smell the roasted urad. Grind. This will keep for ever and is enough to make Kootu twice.

For the Kootu:
Take two cups of fresh amaranth greens or any other greens you have with about 3/4 cup yellow moong dal, and pressure cook for about two whistles. Add a tablespoon of the Kootu spice powder, salt to taste and boil briefly until the Kootu bubbles.

At this point the Kootu is basically done. You could temper the Kootu wih mustard, curry leaves and perhaps a tomato. Tomatoes in my grandmothers times were expensive, so she used them but rarely. Today it is a question of taste.

The Kootu does need an acid , sometimes I use a tomato - sometimes I just go with a Kosumalli. Kootu is as difficult to photograph as soup - the result just looks like yellow goo. This kootu speaks of home and simple pleasures and is infinitely customizable and has too many variations to keep track of.


Vegetable Carving: Radish Flowers

Roma of Roma's space is holding a unique vegetable carving event this July. These are my entries. I made the flowers above from Red Radish. The second is a more elaborate fruit bouquet that I made for my daughters first birthday. I used a fruit baller, knives and cookie cutters for both these.


Book Review: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

During my grad school days in the US I travelled via bus to and from my University. On the bus, I was struck by how many poor people, who could not even afford their own car- were huge, overweight and obese. I was puzzled. In India being fat and obese is a mark of prosperity and wealth. If you think about the poor in the US, the reasons are clearer - Coke 1.89 litre is cheaper than water. Fast food burgers are the cheapest food and the most fattening. It is a very disturbing that it takes a lot more money and effort to buy vegetables, or meat and make healthy meals at home. It takes a lot more money to afford a gym. Being thin , slim in the US therefore, is a sign of being well off.

In 'In Defense of Food', Michael Pollan calls this phenomenon, "being overfed and undernourished". Why is this happening and what can we do about it? These are the primary questions raised and answered by Michael Pollan in 'In defense of food'. I am a longtime fan of Michael Pollan, and his many articles on food in the New York Times and via his books - two of my favorite works are Botany of Desire and Second Nature.

Michael Pollan begins with outlining the rise of "Industrial Agriculture" in the US, and its devilish spawn- the processed food industry. He is very entertaining and lucid as he reveals the true extent of their lobbying and marketing power. The extent of their manipulation of government and media is frankly frightening.

These might sound like big words, but everyday we, you and me; hear & see & read news reports saying that X ingredient is good for your health and then within six months we read that no, no actually X ingredient is bad for your health. In short, the scientists really donot know.

This is a direct result of Food Companies "sponsoring" research in food. Yesterday Oat bran was in fashion, today it is Omega 3. I guess they will put Omega 3 in your french fries too tomorrow- does that actually make your french fries healthier?

He names this manner of studying food, one ingredient at a time, nutritionism.He points out that this food fashion buisness does not really lead to any benefits in the long run and then goes on to suggest some really practical rules for all eaters leading to a healthy life and happy stomach.

Personally, i think this book is a MUST read for every foodie who wants the best for their family. Unless we realise how we are being manipulated by the food industry, in every meal and every snack - we cannot resist or more importantly - fight back.


MS #11: Plum Salsa with homemade Pineapple vinegar

Mexican Series #11: Plum salsa mexicana with home made Pineapple Vinegar

Back home, I once took a summer of salsa(the dance) lessons with my friend S. as a lark. It turned out to be the most fun thing we did in Bangalore. Only through reruns of Seinfeld( remember the double dip?:)) did I stumble upon the fierce chip and dip American culture. After we started hitting the gym this summer, we had to bid a teary farewell to all our deep fried friends and welcome low fat low calorie salsa into our bowls and over our enchiladas :)

The most common salsa is salsa mexicana. Jugalbandi's perfect Tomato Salsa s really a perfect version and their Papaya Green Apple salsa is a colorful fruity version.

While I was going through Diana Kennedy's From my Mexican Kitchen, I came upon an interesting and totally simple recipe for Pineapple Vinegar( All it involves is keeping some pineapple(I used one whole peeled pineapple) and brown sugar in water in a closed bottle in a warm dry place for about a month). Mexican cooking uses mild fruit based vinegars for salsa and pickles of all sorts- the other favorite being Banana Vinegar. When you look at a picture of the pineapple vinegar in progress it looks fairly gross,

DONT WORRY!! This thick glutinous layer is called the 'mother' and it indicates that the vinegar is now ready for use.

I will sign off with the

Plum Salsa Mexicana Recipe :
3 Ripe Plums
1 Peach / Nectarine
1 Small Red Onion
1 Jalapeno( or according to taste)
2 tbsp pineapple vinegar or 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
cilantro leaves
salt to taste

Chop in to fairly small pieces, mix all ingredients an hour before use - to let the flavors blend. Serve with tortilla chips or heavily spiced mexican dishes like enchiladas.