Monday, March 19, 2007

Give me Red!!! - A greens story !

Isn’t it funny that when we left India, we thought we had packed all that we could in our four suitcases… Amma, we get everything in the U.S…No, I don’t need the pickles…I know you make the best puli-inji curry and I am tired of your bragging but I can’t take it through customs…Yes, we get curry leaves – you don’t have to powder it for me…don’t worry, we will be fine’

And then late in an afternoon you sit back, relax and are either watching TV or reading a magazine, when out of nowhere a remark made by someone about the taste of kapaa with kandhari chutney…or jackfruit payasam…or ripe mango slices – just makes your mouth water. For an instant you are lost and you actually picture yourself in the kitchen with your mom serving you the dish!!!

How many of you have been through this ordeal??? – I would like to hear your cravings – let us see who misses India the most?

There was a time when I used to similarly crave for something as simple as ‘Red cheera’ (Red greens). The very memory of my food turning red when mixed with the cheera thoran and the taste with a spoon of ghee would drive me crazy. Nirmal, however adapted well to the U.S varieties and so was comfortable with all varieties of greens. So I ended up using spinach, collard greens, methi, drumstick leaves etc to cook cheera thoran for him. But I was never satisfied.

And then during pregnancy, the cravings got worst. Anybody who knew me in Orlando was required to keep a lookout for ‘Red cheera’. Finally a family friend of ours got some seeds from India, planted the seeds in their backyard and grew the plant for me. I finally got to make my ‘Red cheera’ thoran in Orlando – it was so sweet of them. I however told them they had to work on their timing the next time – it was a full 2 months after my pregnancy that I got the Cheera!!!

However, did the craving just go away – NO WAY!!!

So here I am in Atlanta, shopping at the farmers market and we chance upon ‘Swiss Chard’ a beet family vegetable with green leaves and red stalk. For all those ‘red cheera’ lovers out there, you have to believe me when I say that ‘Swiss Chard’ is the closest you can get to the kerala red cheera taste.

You can never take my word for it, can you? – So try this recipe…it will rock you back to your mom’s kitchen.


  • Swiss chard - 3 stalks
  • Tur dal - 1/2 cup
  • Grated coconut - 1/4 cup ( 2 hands full )
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Chilli powder - 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Tomato - 1 small
  • Oil - 2 tsp
  • Dried red cillis - 1
  • Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves - 1 spring
  • Salt - to taste


  • Wash and pressure cook the dal . Make sure it is not over cooked.
  • Chop the swiss chard finely. Boil the swiss chard and chopped tomatos along with dal and salt.
  • Grind together coconut ,cumin seeds ,chilli powder and turmeric powder. Add this to the dal-swiss chard mixture and cook till done.
  • Heat the oil in a small pan and splutter mustard seeds .Add red cilli and curry leaves to the oil and pour it on top of the curry. Serve hot wit rice/roti.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Banana blossoms right on your plate!! - Banana flower stir fry.

When you are on a vacation for 3 months, you really want to be back with a splash – and the ‘Stop Plagiarism’ effort by the blog community was just the perfect setting. I am so glad that we were able to stir the corporate waters and justify our stand.

While Yahoo can work on clearing the mess they have at their hands, I had a challenge at my hands this weekend. My mother and I were shopping at our local farmers market and I chanced upon Banana flower (vazha poo). Back in the days when I was pregnant I was told to have lots of banana flower as it was supposed to be rich in fibre content. But none of the grocery stores in Orlando carried one. So seeing a whole rack of banana flowers in Atlanta got us excited .

How to select?

So here we are standing in front of this rack of banana flowers – rich magenta color. I look at it and know that they are good. But how do you know? What do you look for when selecting a banana flower? Here is what my mother has to say – The outer leaves have to be tightly overlapping each other, when you peel the leaves (make sure nobody is looking) the little flowers around the base on the inside need to be fresh. So armed with all this information I ransack the entire rack and pick one!!!

Nutritional value

On the nutritional part, I checked the internet and though there is no mention about the fibre content – the flower is considered a very effective cure for menstrual disorders like painful menstruation and bleeding. It is also supposed to be a good lactating agent and maybe that is why our grandmothers recommend that we have it during the pregnancy period and after. It is also a good source for Vitamin A,C.

However eventhough the banana flower has all these nutritional values and is excellent for women, the flavor is a little starchy and bitter. Therefore it becomes a challenge when you have to convince your husband that though it does not increase his lactation, it tastes great!!!

The trick I believe is in the ingredients. Just like most of our Indian recipes, the banana flower dish can be concocted in a hundred different ways but some ingredients really tend to remove the bitterness and add flavor to the dish.

Here is one such recipe. Try it and let me know if your husbands fall for it!!!!


  • Banana flower - 1
  • Whole moong dal-1/2 cup
  • Onion - 1 small
  • Green chillies - 5 ( more /less according to ur taste)
  • Shallot -1
  • Garlic - 1
  • Cumin powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Turmeric powder - a pinch
  • Coconut grated - 1/2 cup
  • Oil -1 tbs
  • Curry leaves
  • Salt


  • Remove the outside leaves (petals) until u get to the inside portion (cream edible portion) . Chop the edible portion finely . The chopped flower is in lumps because of the sticky fibrous material around it. To remove, apply a little coconut oil to your palm ,take a handful of chopped flower and rub to remove the lumps . Re-apply oil and repeat the procedure unitl you have removed all the lumps. Set it aside
  • Wash and pressure cook the moong dal. keep it aside.
  • Crush the shallot and garlic together using a stone morter & pestle. ( or u can crush it using the back of the knife)
  • Heat the oil in a pan and splutter mustard seeds. Add dry red chillies, chopped onion, green chillies, curry leaves and saute till the onions are light brown in color. Add the prepared flower,crushed mixure ,cumin powder ,salt and turmeric powder . Cook it covered for 5 minutes in medium heat. Do not add any water. Add the cooked moongdal and mix well. Cook for another 5 minutes until its completly dry.


  • Generally the chopped banana flower is soaked in butter milk to remove the bitterness. However I feel that doing so will result in loosing some of the nutrients . Hence i would recommend using oil instead of buttermilk.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Art heist - Yahoo guilty as charged !!

The Malayalam story was provided to us by (the content provider) on the express representation that they are duly authorized by the author of the story to publish it. In the circumstances therefore, we do not admit of any copyright violation, as alleged by you.Although there is no copyright violation and without prejudice to our rights, the said story has been removed from our web site, to avoid any further controversy.Should you have any further concerns on copyright violations, please write in to and it will be addressed by the webdunia team” – Yahoo, India (replying to accusations of plagiarized content on their website)

Is cooking really an art - Is it ok to copy it?

You watch your grandmother cook at home and start to pick up the basics – cooking then is all about the magic touch of grandma. You go shopping with your mother and you start to understand the ingredients that make-up your daily food – you start to realize that cooking is about the right ingredients. When your husband starts comparing your cooking to the excellent dinner that his friend’s wife had prepared – you realize that cooking is all about taste. And then when your kids become very selective in their eating habits and you have to fool them into eating healthy with appealing entrees - you realize that cooking is all about being creative, it is an art.

And creative cooking is about getting as close to the perfect taste as possible. It is about getting the timing right – how long to sauté the onions, when to add the spices, how long to heat on simmer etc. And then when you get it right the satisfaction you get out of documenting the recipe and sharing it with others is what makes this art so universal. Again it is not the recipe but how creative you can get with it and describe it in your own words & pictures to appeal to a large audience that really makes the recipe unique.

So what makes it ok for someone to take your recipe, publish it to the world and call it their own – NOTHING !!! And what do you call someone who is blatant enough to take your recipe and then change some lines to call it their own – A THIEF!!! And what do you call someone who would partner with this thief for making a profit – A CORPORATE THIEF!!!

Plagiarism has become so easy these days with the internet age. Sometime back a few recipes that I had posted on ‘’ (link,link)were lifted work-to-word by ‘ ( link, link) . All the complaint letters that I sent heeded no reply. It got me to think that probably when a crime becomes too easy to commit then it will rarely get caught and punished. So what do I do, I naively believe that having a blog of my own with copyright protection will protect me against these corporate thieves. Less than a year later, my beliefs are shaken.

A corporate giant like Yahoo gets an email from a ‘nobody’ accusing it of plagiarizing content from the internet. Yahoo understands that its reputation is at stake so they have three options –

  • Option 1- Conduct an investigation and if true then remove the content off their page and apologize to the ‘nobody’ or if false then clarify their stand and keep the page on their site.
  • Option 2- They have so much trust in their content provider that they just ignore the ‘nobody’ and go ahead with their daily activities confident that their content is genuine.
  • Option 3 – Hmmm.. maybe the content was plagiarized so let me go ahead and take it off my page. However there is no way I am going to apologize to a ‘nobody’ since it might stir a lot of controversy. Also after all the time and money that I have spent on having ‘Web Dunia’ as my content provider there is no way I can conduct an investigation and fire them – where will I find a new content provider. So I will take the content off and let this ‘nobody’ just rant till they shut-up.

As we have always seen, given an option, people tend to take the path of least resistance and less work. And so did Yahoo – what a shame!! To really see that a corporate giant like Yahoo did not have the spine to stand up and admit a mistake – how do we trust that their content will be suitable for our kids???

I am sincerely hoping that this protest on 05 March by all bloggers will help prove otherwise and that corporate leaders like Yahoo will take responsibility for their actions.

Read more about this in inji's blog.

Icon Courtesy -Sandeepa.

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