Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Asparagus Koottu (Asparagus with Lentils)

Hi, Hey & Hello! I am back.. and I hope everyone is doing great in the New Year! Happy New Year to all of you! I was gone to India for a month and had a great time there! I received emails from many of y'all, asking to come back soon. Thanks so much for remembering and visiting my blog :) I know I would have missed some incredible recipes and great posts from you all, but will sure catch-up soon by checking out your blogs and yummy recipes.

As I always say, the hard part of a great vacation is coming back to routine after that. Especially, visiting India is so exhilarating and tiring that it makes us more harder to get back to normal. We came back last week, and it has taken more than a week for me to get back to my routine. Coming back from a perfect December weather in India to a 1° F is a torture. But it was shocking to hear from my friends here, that it feels like spring now after experiencing a brutally horrible -18°F just a couple of days before. I felt like running back to India. In addition to the weather, the jet-lag etc., setting up the kitchen and loading the fridge, is a torment. Well, finally I'm back to routine.

As usual, we had a great time there! Madurai is still the same nice town. Ofcourse, I may be biased because its my hometown :) Who wouldn't like their hometowns?! Like anyone thinking back of their hometown days, I fondly remember growing up there, and everytime I visit there, I get more drawn-in to my old memories! What I like about Madurai is, its just big enough to have everything we need like a big city, but a lot more peaceful and quieter than a "big" city. Its a great feeling to be in my favorite streets, favorite restaurant, favorite movie theatre, favorite stores etc. And surprisingly, for the most part, they haven't changed. Same appearance, same arrangements and even same people!

There was just so much going on in the last month. We had a couple of family events planned during our visit there. We also visited Kerala and stayed in a hill-resort for a few days. It was a fun trip. After a long time, we all sisters met and had a great time! It was so much fun to wear traditional dresses almost everyday, shopping together, eating at our favorite restaurants and having an upset-stomach next day :) With all of us visiting at the same time, mom and dad were so busy with people and kids always around them. And, now that we all sisters are moms, it was also good to see our kids getting along with each other, having fun together and sometimes clashes too :)

Well, I can go on and on chatting about my India trip, so I better stop here :) There are more stories to share, but will save them for my upcoming posts. Alright, I made this great dish for the first time today, after coming across this recipe in a cookbook in India. Ever since I relished some creamy soups and dips made with Asparagus in a few restaurants, I fell in love with this vegetable. I was always curious to make a Indian version with asparagus, but just didn't know how to pick good quality asparagus from the grocery store. Coincidentally, I came across this kootu recipe while I was glancing through a cookbook at my aunt's place in India. That recipe even had tips on selecting and storing this vegetable. It asked to look for thin and firm stems with deep green closed tips and the bottom end should not be too woody or dry. I had taken a note of it and last weekend, I blindly followed the tips and bought it for the first time. The kootu came out wonderful and it tasted awesome with plain rice and some ghee! Hope you all like it too..

  • Asparagus - a bunch (about 10-12 stems)
  • Moong Dal (Pasi Paruppu) - 1/2 cup
  • Onion - 1 medium
  • Ginger/Garlic paste - 2 tsp
  • Tomato - 1 medium
  • G.chillies - 2
  • Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Cumin seeds - 2 tsp
  • Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • Shredded coconut - 1 tbsp
  • Chop off about an inch from the bottom side of the stems and trim a little on the top too. Now chop the stems to about 1 inch length pieces.
  • Grind the coconut and 1 tsp cumin seeds to a smooth paste.
  • Pressure cook the asparagus, dal, remaining 1 tsp cumin seeds, g.chillies and a little salt. Just allow the same time you would for cooking just the dal. Asparagus is a tender vegetable and would get cooked fast.
  • In a pan, heat oil and season with mustard seeds. Once they pop, add the onions and saute for a few mins.
  • Then add the ginger/garlic paste and fry for a min. Add tomatoes and chilli powder and saute until the tomatoes lose shape. Cover and cook for 5 mins.
  • Now add the pressure cooked contents, coconut paste and mix well. Mash the vegetable slightly and let it boil for 2 to 3 mins. Remove from heat.
Enjoy with plain rice and sambar, or just with plain rice and ghee.