Saturday, October 31, 2009

Palak Paneer - Fried Homemade Cheese Curds in a Flavorful Spinach Puree

By: Jennifer Kumar


1 Packet of Paneer (Make your own homemade paneer, recipe, with video, here.)
5-6 oz spinach (generally a small pack of spinach ready to use, prewashed from produce section)
1 cup roughly cut onion, then pureed
1 cup diced tomato, then pureed
1/4 tsp garlic paste
1/4 tsp ginger paste
1 cup water
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
3/4 tsp garam masala
salt to taste

1. Thaw paneer or make homemade paneer.
2. Heat water in a pan. When the water boils, put in the spinach. Let the spinach wilt, and drain the spinach. Keep the drained spinach water aside.
3. Heat a pan with three tablespoons oil. Fry the paneer cubes until all sides a golden brown. Set fried paneer on a plate with a paper towel on it. For a treat, try a fried paneer piece plain, it's very tasty! (Do not wash or put that pan in the sink, it can be reused to make the dish in, with the tastes from the fried paneer already in it, it's tasty.)
4. Keep ready the purees.
Roughly dice the onions, puree. Set aside.
Roughly dice the tomatoes, add in 1 cup water (use drained spinach water if desired), ginger and garlic paste and spices. Puree together. Set aside.
Puree the spinach with 1 cup water (use drained spinach water if desired). Keep aside.
5. Heat the same pan again and put in a tablespoon oil. Heat oil and put in ajwain seeds (this is optional but it gives a nice taste if you can add it, and adding the ajwain and smelling the aromas will tell you the oil is hot enough to sautee the pureed onions.).
6. When the oil is hot and/or the ajwain releases some aroma - add in the pureed onion. Stir this in the oil until the oil seems to look as if it's separating from the onion.
7. Add in the tomato puree and stir. Turn down the heat to medium. Keep stirring about 5 minutes.
8. Add in the spinach puree. When spinach puree is added, it may be necessary to put a top over the pan and turn down the heat a little, as it may begin to splatter out. Stir these all together, mix a few minutes. Once the heat reduces a little (between low and medium) let this simmer about 5-10 minutes to let the spices settle in.
9. After about 10 minutes just take a little bit out on a spoon and try it. Taste it to see if the spices have blended in nicely. If not, stir and simmer this for about 5 minutes more and repeat the tasting process.
10. When the spices seemed to mix well, add the fried paneer into and mix nicely.
11. Let this settle for 5-10 minutes.

Enjoy with rice or roti.

About 3-4 servings.

Tips: If you want to reduce the amount of oil, some people do not fry the paneer but put it in 'raw'. If desired one can do this, but the taste will be different and the paneer may crumble rather than staying in cubes when you put it into the paneer mix (step 10). Some may also bake it in the oven. Though I have heard of people baking it in the oven, I have not tried this.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Indian Cooking Coaching Classes for Indian H4 Wives, Others, In Rochester, NY

Authentic Journeys
Indian Cooking Coaching Classes

Are you?
A H4 wife or dependant parent from India new to cooking and Rochester?
Looking for ways to pass time- by learning Indian cooking through one-on-one coaching in your home?
Are you an international student from India (girls, only, please)?
A working professional woman from India on assignment in Rochester, New York?

Who am I?
I am Jennifer Kumar, an American married to a Malayalee and lived two years in Chennai. My love for India and vegetarian cuisine crosses more than 10 years. I have learned how to make dishes from North and South Indian cuisines with the use of ready-made and home-made masalas and spice mixes.
More about me on my blog:

What kinds of foods do I cook?
Here is a sampling of foods I make:
South Indian: Sambar, Rasam, Kozhumbu, vegetable curries, puttu kadala, dosa, idli (from scratch- not the ready made batters), other types of “crepes” like besan pancake/omelet (eggless), moong dhal crepes, adai (mixed dhal crepe), sundal dishes (dry fried curries made with chenna, black-eyed peas or other beans), chutneys, others.
North Indian: pav bhaji, palak paneer (homemade paneer), dhal curries and tadkas, aloo matar, dhal makhani, chapatti, chole masala, rajmah, others.
I use readymade and home-made spice masalas. Many times with dishes I will mix powders (cumin, coriander, chili, etc) with ready-made powders (chole masala, rajmah, etc.).
If you’d like to see a sampling of recipes I make see my recipe blog:

How can I help you?
Are you home-bound? Unable to drive or feel shy to go out alone during the day? Do you rely on your husband to take you to the store? Does he get less rest because after work, he comes home and has to go grocery shopping or help you adjust to the lifestyle here? I can help with all that- taking pressure off your husband, giving him much needed rest, you a companion and you a break from your daily routines.
Interacting with me, an American who is well versed and comfortable in the ways of Indian culture, is also a good bridge to American culture. Through these classes, you can gain some confidence in interacting and socializing with an American through the comfort of your Indian culture!

Coaching Class Offerings:
I am available to help home-bound Desi h4 wives and mothers to take you to the store to go grocery shopping.
A two hour class introducing you to a wide variety of Indian spices, dhals, etc.
One-to- two hour coaching classes in your kitchen cooking various Indian vegetarian foods (or American foods, too, if you so desire.)

Prices for in-home services – involve your friends for discounts:**
$15 per hour for one person
$25 per hour for two people
$35 per hour for three people
$45 per hour for four people (max)
Details on Fees:
* For car trips, an extra $10 is charged for transportation charges.
* Fees over one hour are billed on ¼ hour increments.
* Unmarried students deduct $5 per entire class fee (not per person) as a student discount.
** These are introductory prices – lower than going rates.

If this offer interests you, you’d like to participate or ask more questions, don’t hesitate to contact me:
Jennifer Kumar (subject line Rochester Desi Cooking Classes)
Phone: 585-387-9325

*I am a licensed Social Worker and graduate of a Life Coaching Program. Cultural adjustment services extend beyond the scope of cooking- I offer life skills training and life coaching services also with this same rate pricing structure (again introductory rates). See
Thank you and happy to help you!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Want to see Yogurt from a different perspective?

Review of Viji Varadarajan’s book, A Healthy Taste of Indian Culture: Cooking with Yoghurt
Jennifer Kumar

Americans are used to seeing and tasting sweet blends of yogurts with fruits and sweet flavorings.

Cooking with Yoghurt book - Viji with the 'Best Health and Nutrition book in the World' certificateIndians, and South Indians particularly don’t omit all sweets from yogurt, but we can get to taste a different side of yogurt with the yogurt dishes of Viji Varadarajan’s book, A Healthy Taste of Indian Culture: Cooking with Yoghurt- the spicy and savory side of yogurt. (Gourmand book award, image, right, click on it to see a bigger size.)

Ever tried salty or spicy yogurt mixtures? Maybe the closest Americans would get to this, without trying Indian food is through the Greek dish tzatziki- yogurt with cucumbers and dill. In fact there is a slight variation of this in the cookbook- Tamil South Indian Tzatziki better known in Tamil as Vellarikkai Thayir Pachadi. Like Tzatziki, this dish has cucumbers, salt and yogurt. Adding of oil, mustard seeds, coriander leaves, green chilies and coconut then turn this into a South Indian cool delight.

Those who know Indian cuisine also know that yogurt has a different consistency in Indian dishes than American. Viji also shows us in the introduction how to make homemade yogurt that has a thinner, and sometimes curdled appearance as compared to the American gelatin inspired blocks of yogurt.

Another interesting yogurt side dish may appeal to the Mexican in you. I like to call it Indian cooling salsa. Like salsa, but find it too spicy but just can’t stop yourself? Want a salsa that is both spicy and cooling at the same time? Try making the Thakkaali Thayir Pachadi, this yogurt tomato puree infused with mustard seeds popped in oil, salt and curry leaves is a unique substitution for salsa and without jalapenos or chilies!

In addition to a wider variety of these yogurt side dishes, there are main dishes to be eaten with rice like Mor Kozhumbu- a spicy vegetable stew with yogurt mixed in. Also highlighted is a regional specialty Paruppu Urundai Mor Kuzhumbu. I made this dish long back with the use of a recipe from a blog. That being said, Viji’s methods are much more straight forward, simple and less time consuming with very tasty results. This is a tasty dish of a spiced yogurt soup with lentil dumplings. It’s simply tempting.

And, of course no south Indian meal, Tamil Brahamin three-course meal is complete without a plate of curd rice, or thayyir sadham- which she has displayed with the addition of pomegranate seeds, irresistible in my book!

Beyond regular meal time foods, there are a few varieties of rava idli (steamed sour cakes), good tea time snacks or breakfast items, and sweet dishes like mor kali or sourdough steamed cakes and thayir badusha, which reminds me of the North Indian gulab jaman (and can maybe taste more so with the substitution of rose water). I have yet to try to sweets, but in good time, all will fall into place!

Thank you to Viji Varadarajan for creating this one-of-a-kind yogurt lover’s cookbook!

See Viji's profile, along with links to her website, Facebook fanpage, links to her other books and acquaint yourself with her friend and editor, Padmini Natarajan.

Thank you for spending time on

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cornbread with Cream Corn and Red Bean Curried Gravy

This dish is inspired by a dish we love at Cheesecake Factory called "Sweet Corn Tamale," and my love for the layered, flavorful tastes of India and Mexico. I hope you're tempted to try the same!

Small -sized sweet corn cakes (ready made in the store)

For gravy:Cornbread with Homemade Corn Jalapeno Gravy
2 tbspn oil of your choice (vegetable or olive)
pinch cumin seeds
1/2 cup small diced red onion
1/2 of 1 jalapeno, finely diced
1/4 cup red bell pepper finely chopped
1/4 cup orange bell pepper finely chopped
1/2 cup water
pinch turmeric
3/4 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp coriander powder
1/8 tsp garlic salt (or 1/2 tsp garlic paste, salt to taste)
1/3 canned ready-to-use red beans (about 5 oz)
1 can (14.75 oz) can creamed corn
1 tbspn finely diced cilantro (coriander) leaves
to taste, garnishing - sour cream, optional

1. Warm oven to 250F for warming the corn cakes.
2. Keep all vegetables diced ready to put in the pan as needed- onions and jalapenos together, red and orange pepper in another.
3. Heat wok, put in oil. When oil seems warm put in cumin seeds.
4. As the cumin sizzles and an aroma comes out, drop in onions and jalapenos. Stir fry a few mintues until the onion becomes translucent, not browns.
5. Add in red and orange peppers and red beans. Stir fry about 5 minutes so the peppers soften.
6. Turn heat to medium, add water and all the spices (cumin and coriander powder, garlic salt, turmeric). Let this simmer about 5 minutes, stirring every minute.
7. Add in the entire can of creamed corn, stir in. Simmer 15 minutes or until all the flavors combine.
8. While the corn gravy is simmering, place corn cakes on an oiled pan, cut in half, place in oven to warm about 10 minutes.

Taste for salt, it may not be necessary to add more because the canned corn may have salt in it.

To eat- place the warmed corn cakes cut side up on the plate, Ladle a generous heaping of corn gravy on the corn bread pieces. The finished product is a blend of different flavors, with a mild hot spice from the jalapeno. Eat with a side of sour cream. If not hot or spicy enough, eat with an additional side of salsa rojo (red salsa) or salsa verde (green salsa). YUM!

Hope you get a chance to try this and the one at Cheesecake Factory. Let me know what you think!!

Related Posts:
Our visit to Cheesecake Factory
Burritos with Ginger/Tamarind Sauce: A Mexican Indian Delight

Thank you!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Okra Curry- the Martha Stewart Way and the Jennifer Kumar Way

This post is just for fun!! There is a video below. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!


olive oil
1 red onion cut in long pieces

1 tbspn yellow mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp coriander powder

1 lb whole okras not cut

long cut tomato


See, or at least, hear, her make this recipe, below in a really raw video.

The method is so different from the Indian way. No popping of seeds

This is how I would make it

3 tsp oil
pinch black mustard seeds.

heat oil and put in the mustard. When it pops add in-
10 okras cut into slices, pinch salt, red chilies (2 broken), 5 or so curry leaves, urad dhal uncooked (a pinch), 1 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp coriander powder.

Stir fry until it's golden brown...

Hopefully the stickiness would go off on it's own.

Any remedies for ridding of the stickiness?


I eat it as a side dish with sambar rice or with rotis.

Sorry about the quality, I recorded with my Iphone, purposefully. I wanted you to hear what she has to say, even if you can't really see it very well!