Saturday, December 18, 2010

Home-Made Sun Dried Tomatoes

I've never been a fan of raw tomatoes and seldom use them in my salads because I dont appreciate the raw tartness of a tomato. So, I was looking for a way to make sun dried tomatoes when, seeing this recipe on PurpleFoodie, I was completely sold over into making these little babies at home.

Mine is a bit different, in that I didn't take the lazy shortcut of putting my tomatoes into an oven to speed up the drying process. Mine are lying in the bare goodness of the sun on my window sill. I'm blessed with over 5 hours of direct sunlight in the morning-afternoon on my window, so might as well use nature's oven than waste electricity or gas. It also used to be my personal tanning bed until a taller building next door sprung up and ruined the fun of having no prying eyes. I used normal tomatoes that we get in India, not the recommended meaty variety, used rock salt, and lastly used basil instead of oregano because basil and tomatoes are best buds, flavorwise.

I do not have pix of the final product yet and I have only just laid out my tomatoes for drying - I'd imagine they'd take about 2 days to dry out in the sun. But am so excited for them - they smell delicious already and I keep using the excuse of stray birds landing on my window to keep checking on my tomatoes, when really, I just want another whiff.

Update on 21st Dec: I now have my gorgeous sun dried tomatoes ready with me - after 2 whole days of the Indian sun to scorch the tomatoes into 1/4th of their original size. But size isn't everything. The flavor is so concentrated!

Sun Dried Tomatoes

  • 5 small-medium tomatoes
  • Teaspoon of rock/black salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 5-10 black pepper corns
  • 2 teaspoons of dried basil
To make:
Cut the tomatoes into quarters (If they are really tiny, cut them into halves). You may want to remove the seedy pulpy center of the tomato - I haven't.
Pat each quarter with a tissue to take away any excess moisture.
Pummel your rock salt into smithereens and make about 1 teaspoon of rock salt powder.
Smash up your garlic cloves and pepper corns.
Combine the garlic, basil, pepper, and salt. Add the olive oil and mix well.

Dip each tomato quarter into your oily mixture and lay on a tray.
Cover with a net or fine cloth and lay out in the sun to dry.
After 8 hours in the sun:
After 2 days of sunning:
Next time, I'll make a bigger - much bigger - batch, for sure. My twenty tomato slivers are going to be gone in no time! :)

Zesty Spinach Salad 2

Well, this one's just another twist of my original zesty spinach salad recipe, since Mr. Spinach doesn't just eat itself and goes bad real quick.

  • 2 cups of spinach
  • 1 cup cabbage
  • ½ a large pomegranate
  • 1/2 a sweet lime
  • 1 spring onion (onion, plus the entire green stalk)
  • Teaspoon of olive oil
  • Juice of half a sweet lime
  • Roughly 10 black pepper corns
  • Dash of basil
To make:
Wash and chop all the ingredients roughly the same size. Make the salad dressing and pour over the salad ingredients.  

Ah, well, you live and learn (or you're dead and none the wiser)

I’d read somewhere that only 1% of all the plants in the world are toxic. So if you are famished, you theoretically can pick up any ol’ weed or plant off the road side and eat it with a lesser chance of dying than being killed in a traffic accident.

Hands up: Who knew raw Elephant Ear (Colocasia) leaves are inedible and in fact, toxic?! What  we commonly called Patra in India. Still lost? This plant:
No wonder my throat and mouth were severely burning and itching (like there's a bunch of ants doing a tango in my mouth) last night and had an upset stomach after I had one raw. More precisely, I was trying to have one leaf raw, and just couldn’t take it anymore and threw it all away.

I was looking for a raw alternative to rotis for my wraps - and came across these little beauties at the market, and they're a real bargain, too, for just Rs. 1 per leaf. Plus, my mom got a tub of Undhiya, which is a popular winter time Gujarati vegetable stew. I thought that would make the perfect base for my Elephant Ear raw wraps.
My mom did warn me to remove the stalks off the leaf as they will result in a burning sensation, which I did. So, then I thought maybe its an allergic reaction and was praying I don’t wake up with yet another swelling to my mouth (thankfully didn’t!).

So, today while I have some free time, I looked up Elephant Ear and did find that the plant is mildly toxic and should not be attempted raw. All parts of the plant contain the compound calcium oxalate, which is destroyed by cooking. Soak the leaves overnight in water to reduce some of the toxicity and then cook them with a pinch of baking soda. And Its supposedly best combined with milk (yuck!) to further reduce its side effects. My verdict is, to just say no to the plant from now on!

I was more than happy to donate what was remaining of my Elephant Ear leaves to my mom who can make some delicious Parsi-style Patra.
 Anyway, here's my disaster of a recipe. Probably a good idea, but badly executed.

Warning: Do not have these leaves raw unless you have the immunity/impugnity of a, well, elephant.

Raw Patra Wrap with Undhiya and Veggies

  • 1 Elephant Ear leaf
  • 2 tablespoons of Undhiya
  • About a cup of chopped assorted veggies - I used cabbage, carrot, and spring onions
  • 2 jalepeno peppers, chopped
To make:
Wash the Elephant Ear leaf.

Spread the Undhiya mixture all over the leaf.
Lay the chopped veggies and peppers on top.
Roll up the sides of the leaf first and then make a tidy little roll/parcel.
EDIT: Boil/steam the roll in water for 10 minutes to remove any toxicity or replace the leaf with a large spinach or cabbage leaf.

As they say, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Ah, well.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Taste of India - The Vegan Way

I cannot say this enough - Vegan Culinary Experience's monthly newsletters are fantastic and, did I mention, free. This month they have a dedicated India special with 45+ recipes and I really love the article 'The Sacred Cow of Vegetarianism, Religion, and Animal Protection in India'

Download the December India-special ebook at

Visit to subscribe. I promise you there's no annoying spam or "buy this" follow up emails once you subscribe.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Subway Snafu

Speaking of Subway subs, I was shocked to learn that my favourite Southwest and Ranch dressings have eggs and milk.Says who? Check this out. I was taking a break from work and fantasizing about which dressing I'd try later that day - Only the dressing is up for debate; the sandwich is always Veggie Delight. So, I started looking up what each of them is made of, how many calories etc on the Net. I couldn't find much information relevant to Subway India, so the parent company had to suffice.

Well, I shouldn't really be surprised or disappointed - nothing that great tasting ever comes without a little suffering - be it animal or human. Even so, I guess we all prefer living in sweet ignorant bliss. Somethings are just better off not knowing, right?

So, taking a printout of the Subway Allergen chart, I demanded an explanation from the Subway guys at my local outlet - How could they not label the dressings as veg and non-veg?! In bloody INDIA! Or at least mention to customers standing in the veggie section of the store that hey, your veggie sandwich isn't all that veggie anymore?!

But they explained that all their dressings in India are vegetarian and contain no eggs. PHEW! Now, whether any of them contain milk? I didn't ask.

Zesty Spinach Salad

Portion sizes are a bit of a joke with me – as I end up making way more than required quite often. Let’s just gloss over the fact that I end up throwing the remains of a perfectly good salad to go and buy, not one, but two Subway sandwiches each day over the course of this week. So, today I made a new rule - No buying outside stuff until my salad bowl is empty; after that you can eat what you want to your heart's content. But actually, I have been eating dinner on the go because I have relatives staying over at my place and I’d rather just have my dinner out of their sights, than be subjected to more mock taunts. “Why are you not eating meat?” “Whats wrong with cooking food?” “You are already thin enough, you don’t need to diet!” and “Well if you’re so health conscious, how come you smoke?” – All perfectly legit, but sometimes you just don’t want to have to explain to someone for the nth time.

So, today I made a bit less than usual. But I underestimated the appeal of fruits to spruce up a salad. Normally, my big bowl of salad lasts till about 7 PM, with me portioning it in 2-3 batches. But this salad with spinach, grapes, pine apple and pomegranate with a black pepper dressing was so delightful; I’ve polished off the whole bowl by lunch time.

Fruits are expensive, though – Rs 40 for one pomegranate! BTW, the last pomegranates I bought from the farmers market were organic. This one I bought yesterday was not. You can just tell by all that extra membrane/pith-y yellow stuff inside the pomegranate. My organic one was one giant ruby ball with almost no unnecessary yellow stuff in between that we need to sift through. This one I bought had a ton of it – adding to the weight (and hence the cost), plus the effort required on your part to clean the whole fruit.
Zesty Spinach Salad

  • 2 cups of spinach
  • 20-30 black grapes
  • ½ a large pomegranate
  • 1 cup of pine apple
  • 1 spring onion (onion, plus the entire green stalk)
  • Tablespoon of olive oil
  • Juice of half a lime (mostly only to ensure my salad would stay good all day - Dont really need it)
  • Roughly 15-20 black pepper corns
To make:

Wash the spinach thoroughly and chop it up into bite sized slivers.
Chop the spring onion and pine apple in roughly the same sized portions as the spinach.
Clean and peel the pomegranate to get to the red nuggets inside.
Mix all the salad ingredients.
Make a dressing of olive oil, lime juice and black pepper (ground up).
Pour evenly over the salad. Mix well.
Zesty Spinach Salad on Foodista


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