Monday, April 30, 2007

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

We read volumes in school about great scientists and their inventions. Most of the objects that we touch in our day-to-day life have a rich history of its own. Somebody invented something and this something triggered an idea in somebody else’s brain and so this somebody did a lot of things over a long period to come up with this something that we use today.

On similar lines, have you ever sat down to think who must have invented some of our Indian dishes like ‘Idli’. My gut feeling tells me that it should be some Muthulakshmi in remote India in 100 A.D. She must have heard about this invention call a stone grinder from her next door neighbor kalyanikutti and decided to try this recipe in her kitchen. But how did she figure out how to ferment it or that it had to be steamed any why the round shape!!!

In our generation I believe it is fair to say that our creativity is limited to experimenting with known recipes. So here I am – Neither do I know who concocted this dish ‘Spinach & Artichoke’ dip nor do I know how many other ingredients he/she must have tried to get this combination. But for all I care – I love this appetizer and am so sharing it with you all.

The best part of this dip is its cheesy taste –i just loved it when i first had it in a restaurant. Also ,you don’t have to tell your husband/kids what it really contains and can count on them liking the taste. You can serve it with bread or chips during snack time.


  • Frozen chopped spinach -1 box ( 10 ounce)
  • Artichoke hearts. - 1 can( 14 ounce)
  • Freshly ground black pepper - 1/2 tsp
  • Garlic cloves - 2
  • Mayonnaise - 1/2 cup
  • Sour cream - 1/2 cup
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese - 1 cup
  • Grated pepper jack cheese - 1 cup


  • Preheat the oven to 350◦ F. Grease a glass baking dish with nonstick spray.Squeeze all excess liquid from spinach. Put it in a food processor with sour cream, mayonnaise,Parmesan, garlic and pepper . Process until just blended but still slightly lumpy. Drain the artichoke hearts and add to the food prosessor . pulse to form a chunky mixture.put this mixture in to the baking dish and sprinkle the jack cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve it hot with tortilla chips and toasted bread.


  • If you r allergic or do not take egg then substitute mayonaise with more sour cream.

Basic recipe courtesy Paula Deen.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nenthrapazha Pradhaman


Back when I was a kid – that was 3yrs back (before marriage came along) – VISHU was all about Legs & Money. I count the legs in the morning and then money in the evening! Every leg in the vicinity was a prospective money bearing tree and differentiating between a good and a bad tree was an art!

So how do you spot a bad tree? – watch from a distance and you can hear coins jingling in his/her wallet – I liked to avoid these relatives/neighbors and so outsource the collection responsibility to my brother - hehehehe!!!

Wasn’t those days fun??? Did you gals have as much fun?

Life just comes at you so fast that before you realize you are the home maker of the family. VISHU now is more about the offerings you make to the divine (vishukkani), your prayers for prosperity of your family and the great FEAST that you host for friends and family. Hmmm…sounds very interesting!!!

With me in the US, imagine how happy my relatives should be – their pockets must be full this time of the year!!!

Anyway when you talk about the VISHU feast, one major item that kids & diabetic people love the most is the ‘Payasam’. So I made ‘Nenthrapazha pradhaman’ for this Vishu and am posting the recipe here. I had posted this recipe 2 years back on '' and to my disgust the recipe was copied word for word and posted on a couple of websites. Anyway, our ‘Stop Plagiarism’ effort helped me get over the disappointment and here I am again.

Please try this and let me know if you like it.


  • Ripe plantains(Nenthrapazham) - 1 kg.( I used 3 big plantains)
  • Jaggery(Sharkkara) - 1/2 kg /according to ur taste.
  • Ghee - 3tbs/ as required
  • Coconut milk – from 2 coconuts / 2 cans
  • Coconut pieces (Thenga kothu) - 3tbs
  • Cashews - 2 tbsp
  • Raisins - 2 tbsp
  • Cardamom powder - 1 tsp


  • Extract thick(first) and thin(second) milk from the 2 coconuts and keep them aside. Or you can use canned coconut milk.
  • Steam the plantains in a steamer / idili maker until it is soft. Cut the plantains and remove the black portion inside and mash them with hands. Yes hands - don't use a food prosessor. It shouldn’t have any lumps.
  • Heat ghee in a thick bottomed pan. Fry the mashed plantains.
  • Add crushed jaggery and fry well for apporoxmatly 15 -20 mins. You should stir it every now and then to prevent it from burning.
  • Add the second extract of the coconut milk ( 1-can coconut milk diluted with 3 cups of water) and boil well.
  • When it thickens, remove from fire and add the first extract (1 can coconut milk mixed with 1/2 cup of water) and cardamom powder .
  • Fry the coconut pieces, cashews and raisins in ghee and add it to the payasam.


  • when you dilute the canned coconut milk , add water more or less according to the thickness and quality of the milk.
  • After adding the jaggery, check the level of sweetness and add, if required.
  • Use good ripe plantains. If you don't get them, Buy good raw plantains from any grocery stores and keep it in the container in which you keep rice. The plantains will turn very ripe within 2 - 3 days.

My friend Becky Anderson made this wonderful cake for us for the vishu feast. it is a raspbery cream cake roll with almonds.. The cake was so good that we just loved it..

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Bisque.

Traditionally Indians, especially my 'Made in India' husband, just hate salads and soups. Their aversion is so much that it sometimes becomes contagious to the extent that you feel like a cow in their company when you are munching your favorite salad or soup. You have to pinch yourselves every now and then to get back to womanhood!!!

Talking about soups…isn’t it odd that though our Indian cuisine is so rich in vegetables we have to brand the South Indian rasam as a soup and serve it in our Indian restaurants. I guess that goes back to my initial claim that traditionally Indians have been averse to soup - we just haven't explored the realm of soups much.

In such a scenario, imagine my surprise when Nirmal orders a half-and-half at Panera with a tuna salad sandwich and a roasted red pepper & tomato bisque. I call it a well balanced diet while Nirmal calls it a to-stay-alive (he is referring to his high cholesterol) diet. So as i enjoy my soup while keeping an eye on his plight, I can’t help thinking about my cow in India bending over to drink water from its container – hehehehehe !!!

Long story short – Nirmal loved the soup. So here I am trying to make a homemade version of the soup with less fat to make it healthy for him. If there are any more copy-cat versions of my husband then I guarantee that they will love this soup. Try it out for yourself.


  • Red bell pepper - 2 big
  • Canned diced tomatos - 2 cups
  • Chicken stock - 2 cups
  • Red onion - 1
  • Garlic - 5 cloves
  • Oregano ( dried ) - 1 tsp
  • Basil ( fresh) - 1 tbs
  • Sugar - 2tsp
  • Black pepper ( freshly ground) - 1/2 tsp
  • Salt - to taste /1 tsp
  • Heavy cream - 2 tbs
  • Olive oil -1 tbs


  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the onion into 4 quarters. Seed the red peppers and cut it length wise into two pieces. Brush a baking sheet with oil and place the red peppers skinside up. Fill the spaces with the onion quarters and whole garlic cloves. Drizzle 1tbs olive oil on top of the veggies and roast for 20 minutes or until skins of pepper turns brown. Remove the skin from the peppers and chop it to big chunks. Set aside with the roasted onion and garlic.
  • In a large saucepan, combine diced tomatoes, oregano and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium ,add peppers, onions and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree it . It tastes better if it is a bit chunky.Place puree in saucepan and add basil, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook for 2 -3 minutes. Remove from heat and add heavy cream. Serve it hot with sour cream on top.
  • Serve with your choice of a portion of roasted Sour dough bread or French bread.


  • Replace heavy cream with regular table cream for a healthier version.
  • Use a hand blender to avoid accidental spalsh of the hot liquid from the blender (happened to me). Otherwise wait for some time until the soup mixture become little cold and then put it in the blender.

This appetizer for the JFI tomato feast is already late. I hope R.P will serve it as a last minute entree - if not appetizer atleast as a desert !!!!!

The basic recipe was from this wonderful website.

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