Friday, December 26, 2008

Zesty Red Beans And Rice (Rajma Chawal)

Vegetarian red beans and rice (Rajma Chawal) is a common dish in the northern part of India, specifically Punjab, Kashmir, and Hariyana. The dish is simple to prepare, yet hearty, making it a good vegetarian recipe for beginners. We usually eat it dinnertime, but it can be eaten earlier in the day. Over the years while living in America, we have modified the dish into a zesty vegetarian red beans and rice using ingredients found in our local supermarket.

As an overview, this meal requires 3 separate preparation sequences (detailed below in the Directions). The 3 parts are the red beans, the rice, and the tadakaa. The tadakaa is a special Indian preparation of spices. The spices are first heated in oil before being added to the main dish, which in this case is the red beans. However, tadakaa can be used in other lentil-based dishes for flavoring.

Ingredients (Serves 2 adults):
  • 1 cup red beans
  • 1 cup rice (Jasmine rice)
  • 1 teaspoon of butter
  • 1 can (12 fl oz) of V8 vegetable juice. You can also substitute this with your own diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon of spices in a 6:3:1 ratio of coriander powder : chili powder : tumeric powder. We feel these spices are mild but feel free to adjust this to your own tastes
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 9 cups water
  • A pinch of asafoetida (optional)


For red beans:
  1. Soak the red beans in 4 cups of cold water 6 to 8 hours prior to cooking in order to soften the beans.
  2. After soaking, drain the water and add 3 cups of fresh water to the red beans.
  3. Heat the red beans on medium heat to boil.
  4. After the beans begin to boil, add the tadakaa (see preparation details below).
  5. Next, add the entire can of V8 juice.
  6. Keep the beans simmering 20-30 minutes after they start to boil. Stir occasionally. The beans are ready when they are soft. To test, remove one bean using a spoon and see if it can be crushed against a plate easily.
For rice:
  1. While the beans are cooking, measure out 1 cup of rice and rinse it.
  2. Boil 2 cups of water in a pot.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of butter.
  4. When it begins to boil, carefully add the cup of rice.
  5. Cover the rice and heat it on low to medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Do not let the rice sit for too long, otherwise it will become sticky. The rice should have soaked up all the water. To test if the rice is ready, use a spoon to take a grain of rice and see if it easily mushable.
For tadakaa:
  1. In a small 1 cup pot, add the tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Start heating the pot.
  3. To see if the oil is hot enough, add 1 or 2 cumin seeds first. If the oil is ready for the spices, the seeds will dance vigorously in the pot. If not, wait another minute and add another seed. Repeat until the seeds are moving in the oil.
  4. Add the spices in the ratio described above.
  5. Add a pinch of asafoetida (optional)
  6. Stir it for 1/2 to 1 minute and then add the mix to the pot of red beans.

That's it! Your vegetarian red beans and rice are ready to serve! Simply plate the rice and add the beans in the middle. You can also add plain yogurt as a side, which has the effect of blunting the spices. Enjoy!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Zesty Grilled Cheese Sandwich

A grilled cheese sandwich is a simple quick snack or meal replacement. However, with a simple additions, it can become a much more zesty meal.

  • 2 slices of bread (I prefer wheat)
  • 2 slices of American cheese
  • 2 tbsp of pasta sauce or salsa
  • Diced bellpepper
  • Several sliced olives

  1. Grill the inner surfaces of the bread slices, where you will eventually put the cheese. Use a frying pan with stove set at half max.
  2. Wait til the inner surfaces are crisp and lightly brown, then flip the slices and put the stove on quarter max heat.
  3. Lightly spread one tablespoon of pasta sauce (or salsa) on each side.
  4. Place one slice of cheese on top of the sauce.
  5. Place the diced bellpepper and several olives on one side.
  6. Flip the other side on top of the side with the olives and bellpeppers after the cheese has slightly melted.
  7. Grill both sides until lightly brown. Then, place on a plate and turn off the stove.
So, a straightforward grilled cheese sandwich, but with a few extra steps, it is now a more flavorful experience. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Patriotic Pasta

Pasta is a very simple dish to make. I personally prefer tricolor rotini (see above). I also like to add peas, and top it off with pasta sauce and parmesan cheese. Pretty simple, but pretty filling as well. Why patriotic, you ask? Well, orange, white, and green are India's national colors.

Ingredients (for one serving):
  • 3/4 cup of tricolor rotini
  • 1/2 cup of frozen green peas
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 3 cups of water
  • Pasta sauce
  • Parmesan cheese

  1. Add salt to water and let it boil. Set stove to half of maximum heat.
  2. Once boiling, add pasta and peas.
  3. The pasta will start boiling in 2-3 minutes.
  4. Once it starts boiling, set timer to 10 minutes.
  5. After 10 minutes, drain the water from the pasta and turn off the stove.
  6. You can garnish the pasta with pasta sauce and parmesan cheese as you like.
Bon appetit!