Category Archives: brunch

Product Review: Ninja Mega Kitchen system and a recipe for Masala Dosa

 One of the biggest reasons for attending conferences is the priceless experience of meeting fellow bloggers and get an invaluable exposure to all things  culinary. This includes vendors with new products to savor and get inspiration from.

I had no complaints about whatever appliances I had for making traditional Dosa (Traditional South Indian rice & lentil crepes) batter, a sturdy tabletop stone grinder that you could add the Urad dal, turn the timer on , and 30  minutes later, come back to a container full of fluffy, batter with the consistency of whipped egg whites. The
The cons of this is the cleaning up, of the various parts, the roller, the grinding bin, the multiple trays on which the rollers need to be placed while transferring the rice & lentil batter, the invariable drips of thick batter on the counter…. you get the point, It takes quite a bit of time.

I was pleasantly surprised when the appliance company, Ninja asked me if I’d like to try any of their appliances (the Ninja team at BlogHer Food ’13 were real stars in terms of the delicious food samples they made on site). I accepted their offer and picked the  Mega Kitchen system. Unlike smaller passive gadgets such as scoops & knives, Electrical appliances cannot be verified with one successful try. I had to run the machine through multiple testing sessions before I could bring myself to vouch for it (even though , the delighted cook within me was already raving about the machine to anyone who listened).

In my opinion, Dosa batter is definitely one of the toughest tasks that any kitchen blending system can be tested with. First, soaked, hydrated rice turns to the consistency of concrete when blended and this puts quite some strain on the motor. The Urad lentils have a glutinous texture and grinding this to a smooth paste is non trivial, let alone eventually whipping the batter into a light airy texture.The aerating part seems to be tackled perfectly by the design if the blender has to survive for a number of years in a traditional Indian Kitchen. (we Indians lay a lot of emphasis & importance on the durability factor).
In Ninja’s blender jar, 6 blades (which can be removed for cleaning easily)  stacked up over each other ensure that the lentils & rice are pulverized with out having to go through that whirlpool motion of the conventional models that draw the ingredient down. The Ninja system packs a punch in terms of power – 1500 watts of power.

The entire system consists of a Large blender jar (which I’ve been regularly using for making Dosa batter), a dough & food processor attachment, and a small single serve smoothie attachment which I find perfect for grinding masalas & dry spices such as the classic Milaga Podi (pictured above).

New York Times  had published an article last year about pairing Dosas with Champagne,  and of course, I simply HAD to test it for myself. The yummy  (and pleasantly tipsy) brunch that followed the photography session verified NYTimes claim to a T, with the emphasis that it paired best with  Dosas made with Ghee instead of sesame oil (as the regular day to day breakfast menu goes). While the recipe below describes the traditional way of dosais, I opted to make miniature versions of the dosas topped with a marble sized scoop of the Masala.


Masala Dosais:

  • 1.5 cups Jasmine rice
  • 1/2 cup Spilt dehusked Urad Dal
  • 1 teaspoon Salt.
  • Melted ghee (for drizzling over the dosai) and Sesame oil (for brushing over the griddle)
  1. Rinse & soak the rice & lentils separately in plenty of water for about 2 hours (preferably overnight).
  2. Grind the rice to a thick paste in a blender. Transfer to a large container. Repeat with the lentil, taking care to add sufficient water while blending to obtain a batter which is somewhat fluffy in consistency. (like beaten egg whites). Combine the rice & the urad batters with the salt taking care to mix well using your hands (yeah , its messy, & the batter isn’t even worth licking!).
  3. Cover & place in the oven with the light switched on over night. Alternatively bloom a packet of yeast in warm water and add to the batter. Allow to rest for an hour. Mix well before making the dosai.
  4. Heat a cast iron griddle. Add a teaspoon of oil & wipe it using a paper towel. When the pan gets really hot, pour about 3 oz of the batter in the center & spread it around using the rounded side of the ladle. Drizzle with 1/2 a teaspoon of sesame oil. (the batter will bubble up leaving nooks & crannies on the surface. when the lower side begins to turn golden brown carefully flip the dosai over & cook till the other side turns a similar color. Serve with your choice of chutney, or jam, or even just a dollop of yogurt.

  1. For making dosais with the potato filling, spread the batter on the griddle & drizzle with the melted ghee. (Cover with a large lid & allow the top side to steam cook.). Remove the lid, and place a scoop (ice cream scoop ) of the potato masala in the center. Using the spatula, gently roll the dosai around the filling. (Like rolling a burrito, but without tucking the sides in, I guess like a cannoli). serve with your choice of chutney, or sambhar.

Potato masala:

  • 4 large idaho potatoes, boiled & peeled
  • 1 large onion, quartered & thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded & finely chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  1. crumble the boiled & peeled potatoes. Set aside
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet, when it just begins to smoke, add the mustard & cumin seeds & allow to sputter. Add the curry leaves and the onion. saute till the onion turns translucent.
  3. Add the crumbled potatoes, salt and turmeric powder. Sprinkle with some water, stir, lower the heat, cover & cook till the flavors combine. remove from heat, add the lime juice.

The Ninja Mega Kitchen System is available online via their website , or Amazon.com ( Ninja Mega Kitchen System – Model BL771)  or at any retailer in the United States or Canada.

A big Thank you to the folks, especially Sarah Knutson at Ninja Kitchen Systems for the opportunity to test this appliance!

Bon Appetit!

Soup and a salad?… or Soup ON a salad?

Have you ever been through those moments where all you want to do is put your feet up, with a nice cup of tea, and a chick flick (or if you’re Indian, a nice masala Bollywood offering?), & deeep within your brain runs an exquisitely choreographed simulation of everything falling into place, “The refrigerator automatically ridding itself of expired tins of half used refried beans & crushed tomato (the ones that were just waiting to be used up in a rajma the very next day… except that the next day was a fortnight ago), the kids putting away their books and toys, & happily playing within the deck without running off towards the road or screaming “MOMMIEE, Gubbi’s eating the dandelions!!..

 Screech back to reality.. the house is as chaotic as ever, the tea has gone cold, &  yes, I have to risk a limb (or at least a finger) trying to pry the remains of a crushed yellow weed blossom out of the 2 yr old. Its only later that I realise that dandelion blossoms make for a great ingredient for desi Bhajia, If you don’t believe me, take a look at this fabulous offering from a food52 member. But that’s for another day!

 Its on days like these that your mind & heart scream for something simple & down to earth with whatever you have in the fridge. And short of someone making this for you while you indulge in your chai & cinema, there are few things more filling & comforting than a simple soup & a salad combo. (probably why Panera bread has cashed in on this genre of quick lunches), something simple and as close to Mother Earth.. I’m talking root vegetables..Carrots…

Carrots are probably one of the few vegetables that are incorporated equally well into a whole range of dishes. From decadent desserts like carrot cake & halwa all the way to spicy Indian pickles. You really don’t need much to dress this vegetable up. It comes with inbuilt bright colors & flavors. Maybe just a complementing herb a dash of black pepper and a pinch of salt.
There are nearly countless recipes for carrot soup and here are a couple of tested & validated ones :

A recipe from epicurious.com: A recipe relying on garlic & cloves to support the earthy root flavor of Carrot;
 A prizewinning recipe from Food52.com and  this recipe from thestonesoup.com using baby carrots, both using exactly five ingredients and,
An exotic healthy & low calorie offering (Yes, these terms can & do go together!!)  from  chefinyou.com

I’ve been toying with the idea of ordering Monica Bhide’s book ‘Modern spice’ ever since I dashed off a request to use an image from her page for my blog.  Poring through the books table of contents in the Amazon.com page, keeping a mental note of the proportion of vegetarian offerings in the book, something that struck me was that she has a very fresh approach to Indian food. Her inertial frame of reference from which she views standard Indian fare is very Americanized and it lends the cuisine an aura of light glamor, the kind one associates with exotic springtime brunch parties ,  rather than a stuffy sit down tuxedo / evening dress dinner appointment. In the interest of full disclosure, the book is till in my ‘cart’ at amazon.com waiting to be dispatched along with the mandatory purchases of baby diapers, soaps, creams & wipes. (I’m done with ordering baby food, the two year old eats regular, standard home cooked Indian food. And ice cubes.. And the occasional dandelion.

I followed the recipe from Mark Lipinski’s blog. with a few tweaks of my own. The paneer croutons were cubed really tiny, about an eight of the size of a regular cube, This helped in flash frying them on a non-stick skillet with minimal oil, just tossed them around till they turned golden brown. I also tossed in a geriatric parsnip that had been patiently biding its time in my crisper drawer. And lastly, garnished with a few crumbs of greek yogurt that had been strained.

Curried Soup of Carrot, Bell Pepper and Ginger with pan-fried paneer
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup paneer, cut into crouton size -small cubes
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium leeks, peeled and coarsely chopped (white and light green parts only)
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
1 old parsnip
1 (orange colored) bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 tablespoons minced ginger root
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon ground coriander
5 cups vegetable stock (used plain water, not a fan of pre prepared, store bought stock)
1 cup light cream
1 teaspoon salt or to taste, if desired
Fresh cilantro to garnish
1. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the paneer and fry for 6-8 minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Remove paneer with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
2. Melt the butter in a medium (3-quart) saucepan on medium heat. Add the leeks and cook for about 6-7 minutes or until translucent.
3. Add the carrots, bell pepper and ginger and cook for another 5-7 minutes or until the carrots begin to soften.
4. Add the turmeric, cayenne, coriander and mix well. Cook for another minute.
5. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender.

6. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
7. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender.
8. Stir in the cream, salt and pepper
9. Serve warm topped with the paneer.

 Of course, You really didn’t think I wouldn’t attempt to ‘panfusine’ the soup did you?

 I’ve been a big fan of working with agar. its vegetarian, has no odor or flavor by itself, and best of all it does not need to be served icy cold like gelatin does. It holds up shape very well without too much jiggle as jelly (or jello) does. When I came across this recipe for a savory carrot pannacotta , all that remained was to find a suitable recipe to use agar with.  If Monica Bhide ever does chance upon this blog, I’d like to hope that this innovation brings a teensy weensy smile rather than a frown!

For the panfusine version you need: (per 8 oz cup of soup)

2 tablespoons unflavored, colorless agar flakes (the long strings from Asian stores, cut into 1/2 inch pieces),
1/3 cup of water (or stock)

Boil the agar flakes till completely dissolved.
Strain the liquid into the soup, stir well.
Pour into silicone molds (silicone baking cups work just as well) or small ramekins. At this point you may drop 8-10 of the deep fried Paneer morsels into the soup. They stay suspended within and provide a lovely textural contrast.
Allow to set in the refrigerator.
To serve, slide a thin blade spatula between the soup and the ramekin, dislodge the soup & set gently on a plate. Serve immediately with a salad of your choice.

Agar over time tends to leach out the water its dissolved in. I’ve yet to figure out a strategy for a long term setting using the ingredient. If this happens, Simply drop the soup into a pan & heat up gently to serve in the regular manner. The agar does not impart any taste or texture to the soup.

Bon appetit!