Monday, June 30, 2008

Pohe with Summer Corn

'Long time no pohe', was the refrain heard around here a few times. I knew it was true, and there was no excuse for it to be true either. Making pohe is simple, it tastes good, and it makes for a light and delicious breakfast or snack any time of the year, but not being too high in my list of favorites, it sometimes takes a backseat in the kitchen. I enjoy it every once in a while, and that is about it. While I am open minded (really!) about most things and don't mind trying all kinds of variations when I am cooking, I am rather finicky about the way I like my pohe. First of all, I like it to be well balanced in terms of the spice, tartness, saltiness and sweetness. The under-seasoned bland version isn't for me. For reasons unknown, I also don't like cumin seeds in pohe, and I much rather prefer red Indian chili powder to green chilies. What a whine, eh! I won't complain if someone made it some other way and gave it to me on a platter, but you get my point.

Growing up, pohe was a weekend ritual of sorts, and over the years, adding some kind of vegetable also became the norm. Usually peas, when they were in season, sometimes carrots or potatoes, but coming full circle, I now prefer pohe with onions, and without any other vegetables, which is called as 'kande pohe', in marathi, and only occasionally the potato version, or 'batate pohe'. Having said that, this time I added some succulent early summer corn, and it was great.

A combination that was possibly peculiar to our household was that of serving roasted papads alongside. Haven't heard of it? Outside of our family, neither have I, but there have been many converts to this combination, after having eaten it at our place. The papad of choice at home was usually poha papad (pohyAche pApaD), and the crispness of papads went perfectly well with the soft and chewy pohe. This is a tradition I have carried over, but have to make do with whatever papad is available on hand. Other things that were served alongside were grated coconut, chopped cilantro, and a small bowl of tamarind juice, for those who wanted to add some tartness to their pohe, and I suspect some of these too were somewhat non standard.

In Marathi, poha is singular, and would mean just one flake, and pohe is the plural, but I have always seen bags of it in Indian grocery stores labeled as 'poha'. So that is what you would look out for, in case you are unfamiliar with these rice flakes. For this particular recipe, I prefer to use 'extra thick' pohe, as sometimes even the ones labeled as 'thick' are not thick enough. 'Medium' or 'thin' pohe are not used here, they have other uses.

Kande Pohe with Corn

Serves 2-3 for a light breakfast

2 cups extra thick or thick pohe
1/2 of a medium onion
1 corn on the cob, optional
2 Tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
big pinch of asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
5-10 curry leaves
1 teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3-4 Tablespoons grated fresh coconut, plus more to serve
1/4th of a lemon or lime, or 2-3 Tablespoons tamarind juice plus more to serve
3-4 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

Place the pohe in a fine meshed sieve, and run it through tepid water until completely wet. Place it over a bowl, with a lid on so that it stays moist and plumps up, for 15 minutes to half an hour.

In the meanwhile, slice the onion thinly cross-wise, then chop it further to make small and thin slices. With a sharp knife, remove the corn kernels from the cob.

When ready to start cooking, loosen the flakes of pohe with fingers so that they are separate and there are no clumps.

Heat the oil in a large pan, and add the mustard seeds to it. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida, turmeric, curry leaves, onion and corn. Saute together for a few minutes until the onion has softened. Add the pohe, chili powder, salt, and sugar. Reduce the heat, and stir everything together until the pohe are coated with the spices. Add the coconut, place a lid on the pan, and turn the heat off. If using tamarind juice, add it at this point. Let it sit for a few minutes and steam the pohe with the residual heat, then add the lemon juice, and cilantro.

Serve with additional coconut, cilantro, lemon, tamarind juice, and roasted papads.


This is my much delayed entry to this month's special Click: Yellow for Bri. Hop over to read why it is special.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Quinoa Salad with Mediterranean flavors

Even though I started cooking with Quinoa not too long ago, I have managed to use it in several ways since then with enjoyable results each time. It is very easy to creatively substitute it in place of rice, rawa or couscous. Like in this particular salad which I used to make with couscous before, but now I find that Quinoa works just as well too, and provides an added protein bonus.

Since summer is officially here, and the weather has so far been very summer like, there are more dinners on the patio than in the dining room now, and the wish to spend more time outside than in the kitchen. Main dish salads that focus on seasonal produce fit the bill perfectly for such occasions, and this is one that I happen to like a lot. The quinoa can also be cooked ahead of time, which means that tossing everything together takes only a few minutes. If not, the quinoa can be cooked and cooled in the time it takes to prep the other things.

Quinoa Salad with Mediterranean Flavors: layered before tossing
Before everything is tossed together.

Ingredient Notes

The grain - Quinoa can be substituted here with regular or whole wheat couscous, bulgar, or cracked wheat, or even small shaped pasta, each cooked according to its needs. Israeli couscous is wonderful in this salad. In fact, I also make a very similar salad which uses mixed greens instead of grains, but if one uses grains, it needs much less oil in the dressing.

Feta - Unlike the imposter I bought some time ago, I used Valbreso Sheep's Milk Feta this time, which is quite deliciously creamy and salty and adds a wonderful dimension to the salad. It does not however keep for more than 2 or 3 days once the packet is opened, unless you keep it in a simple brine made with water and salt. Leave the cheese out or use a vegan cheese for a vegan version of the salad.

Olives - I used some picholines and oil cured provencal olives for a combination of tart and slightly bitter tastes.

Other add-ins and changes - Like most salads, this one is also quite free form, and one can add or leave out any ingredients one likes, but this particular combination is a favorite because everything works together harmoniously, and since I like to keep track of my favorites on the blog, this makes it here.

Quinoa Salad with Mediterranean flavors

Serves: 3-6 people, depending on whether it is eaten as a main or side dish, and what else is being served alongside.


1 cup quinoa
1/2 teaspoon salt

about a cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, or one diced tomato
1 small cucumber
15-20 olives
1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup cubed feta cheese
a few slivers of sliced red onion

about a tablespoon of lemon juice
a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
a Tablespoon of chopped leafy herbs of choice


Rinse the quinoa in a fine-meshed sieve and let drain. Bring 2-1/2 cups of water to boil, add the salt, and the quinoa. Turn the heat to medium, place a lid on the pan, and cook for about 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it sit for another 5-10 minutes, and then let it cool down to room temperature.

In the meanwhile, peel, seed, and chop the cucumber. Pit and halve the olives. Slice the onion. Cube the feta cheese.

To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper.

Fluff the quinoa, and spread it out in a large wide bowl. Add half of the dressing, and toss with quinoa. Add the rest of the ingredients and remaining dressing, and toss just once or twice. Add the herbs on top, if using.

Quinoa Salad with Mediterranean Flavors: tossed together

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cranberry Orange Bread

For the last few weeks I have been having house guests off and on, and while it has been a lot of fun, having many people at home is also quite an exercise in coordination.

The differences start early in the day and continue on till next day. There are early risers and late risers, coffee drinkers, tea drinkers, bournvita drinkers, and lactose intolerant soymilk drinkers. Cereal eaters, toast eaters, egg eaters, rice eaters, roti eaters, spice haters, spice needers, short nappers, long nappers, non nappers, slow walkers, fast walkers, early sleepers, late sleepers, and so on it goes. They are all excused though, they are family.

Cranberry Orange Bread/Cake: loaf

The gang was supposed to arrive in the late afternoon, too late for lunch and too early for dinner. So I baked this cranberry orange bread earlier in the day so they could have it as a quick snack. I skipped the glaze, since there is enough sugar in it already, and also because there were children in the party. This is yet another of those 'is this a bread or cake' conundrums, but whatever you call it, it is a moist, sweet, slice-able, delicious loaf that is easy to make, and disappears almost as soon as it is put out for consumption. Yes, it is darned rich too, which is why I usually bake it when sharing it with several other people.

Here is the recipe, nearly verbatim, but halved for one loaf.

Cranberry Orange Bread (with Grand Marnier Glaze)


3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for buttering pan
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups dried cranberries

For the glaze, if making

1 cup powdered (confectioner's) sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur


1. Preheat oven to 330°. Butter a 6-cup-capacity loaf pan.

2. With an electric or standing mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add orange juice, sour cream, orange zest, and vanilla; mix until blended.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture and cranberries to wet ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are absorbed; do not overmix.

4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of bread comes out clean.

5. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack set over a large baking sheet.

6. For the optional glaze: in a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and 3 tablespoon Grand Marnier. Glaze should have consistency of thick maple syrup or corn syrup. If it is too thick, thin with an additional liqueur by the teaspoon.

With a thin skewer or long toothpick, poke deep holes in the top of the loaf. Drizzle with Grand Marnier glaze so that it coats the top, runs down the sides, and seeps through the holes.

7. Let the loaf cool completely before slicing.

Cranberry Orange Bread/Cake: sliced
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