How I met the Panzanella Salad (with recipe of course)

By Pratiksha Thanki (https://pratikshathanki.wordpress.com/)

So you are in Lucca, a small Italian town near the Ligurian coast, thinking of Luca Brasi from The Godfather and how amazing it is that you have managed to come to this town where you had no idea you will end up until the hotel was booked. There is no reason why you should be there, and that’s the best part of it.

There is a Puccini concert at 6 PM at the church. You reach there at 6:05, and the tickets are still available. Half your friends are not keen on it. You could listen to Puccini any old time on one of those free classic radios you play on the internet. But you will get to breathe the outside Lucca-air only for a few hours, till you leave in the morning that is. This is just a stop on the way after all.

So you are outside on the square where the locals are celebrating some festival since two days. You are at the tail end of it. Three different tents are preparing food, but they are not selling it yet. You don’t understand it at first. You look around, there are signs that a rock concert had just finished before you arrived. Long haired men are winding up on a stage, looking cool and formidable at the same time. There is a sports corner with a tent full of sporting equipment. Kids are playing badminton.

And suddenly people start filling up the square. They line up in front of those three carnival food tents. You line up too. Your friends split up to go check out other tents. You decide to meet at a bench under a tree. You reach the counter, and you realize the food is free. Why? Because it is a state-sponsored food festival. You feel awkward accepting free food, but carry on with your pack anyway. And take it to the bench. Friends have their own loot. There is a baguette sandwich with prosciutto. There is a pasta pack, obviously.

And then there is a salad in your pack. You start on it with your plastic fork. One bite, hmmm. Second bite, this is Delicious. Third bite, hey there are big chunks of bread in it. Bread soaking with olive oil, vinegar, Italian herbs and something else, you guess it must be that Lucca-air you were so fascinated with. There were some shallot pieces, peppers, basil, tomatoes, olives, chunks of feta cheese and something else, that surprise that bread can be turned into something so satisfying and intriguing at the same time.

You have to get home, google Lucca Bread Salad and find out it is called a Panzanella Salad. You keep making it weekly till you get tired of it. Then you feel like sharing it with your friends. And you find a way to do it. There you go:

Panzanella Salad Recipe:

Ingredients:Ingredients.jpg

  • A hunk of bread, chopped into cubes (preferably a ciabatta, baguette or any whole wheat bread will do)
  • 2 big tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 cup chopped peppers (green, yellow, red, orange, any colour you get or all of them)
  • ½ cup cheese of your choice (preferably feta cheese or Parmesan)
  • salt, pepper, oregano flakes to taste
  • A chopped fruit (a peach, an apple, a plum, anything that can be cubed in the same size as the bread, peppers, tomatoes and onions)
  • Generous amount of olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar or any fruity vinegar you can get your hands on
  • Freshly chopped basil leaves

Method:panzanella-salad

Chop everything preferably in the same size (this is a personal preference), though it can be in any shape or size. Throw in the vegetables, cheese and bread together in a big bowl, drizzle some olive oil on it and mix it well. Now add the salt, pepper, oregano, chopped basil any other Italian herbs or spices of your choice, add balsamic and more olive oil and mix it well. Put the bowl on the side to set for an hour, or just simply dig in right away if you can’t wait. It tastes better after things have settled in.

You can control the amount of oil used in the salad and skip the cheese and that makes it a very healthy thing that gives a good balance of carbs, proteins, vitamins and what not. It can also stay in the fridge for a day or two, you can make it ahead. But don’t keep it lying on a fridge shelf for longer than two days.

Then you think of the Lucca-air and think of how something so non-complicated can make you feel so fancy just because it is called Panzanella and you got hold of it in Lucca.

Enjoy!

Moraiyo idli: Steamed, savoury barnyard millet cakes

Yesterday was the birthday of the person who has given me #careergoals and #leadershipgoals. Mr Ajay Umat is the editor of Navgujarat Samay, a Gujarati newspaper from the Times Group. He is one of the few celebrated journalists in Gujarat.

He is an example of how being a gentleman never goes out of style. Most of my friends in the media admire Mr. Umat for his journalistic

skills or aspire to be like him someday.  It’s his interpersonal networking skills that make him such an endearing personality. But what sets him apart as a leader is his ability to keep his team happy. I know a lot of his team members but am yet to come across a single person who is unhappy with his boss. And that’s some achievement for a boss in a world where most work environments are toxic and most employees are unsatisfied with their jobs.

For someone who follows a restrained diet, Mr. Umat comes across as a person who loves to talk about food. And today’s Indian recipe is dedicated to him because I heard about some healthy ingredients from him, long back. In spite of being born in Gujarat, I had never heard about Moraiyo (barnyard millet) till Mr. Umat mentioned to me about it (Although, I don’t remember the context). Low in calorie, Moraiyo has a lot of health benefits and is generally eaten in India during fasts.

Moraiyo Idli 
Savoury, steamed cakes made from barnyard millet

 

Processed with MOLDIV
Moraiyo Idli

 

Ingredients:
1 cup Moraiyo, soaked for 2 hours
1 cup Water
1/2 cup Yogurt/Buttermilk
Salt to taste
1 tsp Baking powder

Method:

Grind the soaked moraiyo in a grinder with water to form a pancake batter-like consistency. Add baking powder, buttermilk and salt and leave it for 30 minutes to ferment. Pour the batter into a stove-top idli maker or a microwave idli maker and steam for 10 minutes. Serve with coconut chutney.

Note: These idlis may not be fluffy and white but they will definitely satisfy your idli cravings in a healthier way. They are diabetics-friendly and perfect as a Shraavan/Navratri fasting dish.

Simple, healthy Upma

I’ll eat some breakfast and then change the world!

It took me a long time in life to realize the importance of a good breakfast. And after that realization, I have been really good with planning my breakfast well in advance. So this morning, i decided to have the traditional South Indian breakfast–Upma or Upmaav as we call it in Kerala. Really quick and easy to make, Upma not only fills your appetite but is also highly nutritious. Whenever I have had a discussion about Upma (yes, i discuss Upma like other people discuss global issues :D), the most common question has been of how to make it soft without making it sticky. The answer lies in the method of making it in the traditional way, which you will find in my recipe below.

breakfast quote Upma

Ingredients:
200 gms of Semolina: The hero of this dish, semolina or rava is a coarse flour made out of durum wheat
2 cups of Water
4-5 sliced Shallots or Madras Onion
2 slit Green Chillies
A small piece of ginger, chopped
Mustard seeds
1 tsp of urad dal (split, skinless black gram)
2 tbsp Coconut oil
Curry leaves
Half a cup of shredded coconut for garnish
Salt to taste

Processed with MOLDIV
Upma served in a coconut shell

Method:

Roast the semolina in a non stick pan, making sure that it doesn’t turn brown. Keep aside.
In a pan, heat the oil, add mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add urad dal and saute till they turn golden. Then add the sliced shallots, chopped ginger, curry leaves, green chillies and saute till the shallots turn translucent. Add water and salt. Now, the consistency of your upma will depend on how much water you add. Generally, the proportion of water is the same as that of semolina. So, if you are using one cup of semolina, then add one cup of water and so on.

Once the water boils, add the semolina slowly while stirring continuously with the other hand. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or till the water absorbs the semolina. Once cooked, add shredded coconut and stir the upma before you turn the stove off. Simple, isn’t it?

 

Veg Clear Soup

hot and healthy

So, I have been away from the blog for almost a month now. For the beautiful reason that my childhood friend Ragi Pillai was getting married. The wedding was as special as my dear friend and my partner in innocent crimes during school and college 🙂 Am back from the wedding and the vacation with truckloads of happy memories, one of them being planning a diet chart for my bestie…

Rags had started having soups, salads and fruits for dinner a month before the D-day. Sharing with all the would-be brides an easy, low cal, nutritious clear soup recipe to make you look fit and glowing on your special day…dedicated to the most amazing, gutsy, beautiful, intelligent and loving girl…love u Rags! ❤

Veg Clear Soup

Fresh vegetables floating in clear stock

Ingredients

Following vegetables 1/4 cup each:

Carrots chopped

Spring Onions chopped

French Beans chopped

Lettuce (Use cabbage if you are fine with the taste)

Button Mushrooms cut into halves

Green Peas

Green Chillies (optional) chopped

Soy Sauce

Salt to taste

Pepper

Tabasco

1 tsp Oil

Method:

In a medium-sized pan, boil all the vegetables till tender. Drain vegetables and keep the stock for further use. In another pan, heat oil, add the vegetables and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, soy sauce, salt, pepper and 2-3 drops of tabasco.  Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve hot.