Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tillamook Cheese, Vegetable Augratin and Casseroles


                                            After driving through the Cascade mountain ranges, and watching 
the beautiful sceneries splashed with green forests and cool blue rivers, we reached a city called Tillamook, “The land of many waters”. (Tillamook is the name of one of the native tribes). The early settlers found the climate of this region most unfriendly for growing food crops. But the profuse lush green grass helped them to rear healthy cows and set up dairies. In the course of time their milk and butter business matured into small cheese manufacturing units and finally paved the way for the establishment of The Tillamook Cheese Factory which is the                                                      ultimate destination for all cheese lovers.

Tillamook cheese factory is celebrating its centenary this year.
We took a self-guided trip into the factory and walked thrugh a corridor on the first floor, which was encased in huge glass windows on either side. From there we got a full view of the cheese manufacturing process going on in the ground floor. The employees, all dressed up in white aprons, gloves and caps, looked up now and then to smile and wave at us visitors.

Milk was being pasteurized, curdled, separated from the whey, and finally pressed into cheese blocks. This whole process was carried out inside huge boilers or vats, which looked like gigantic towers, and we could see only the pressed cheese blocks rolling out on the conveyor belt. The huge cheese blocks seemed to take a slow roller-coaster ride towards the curing unit, and were back again on the conveyor belt where they were cut to sizes, shaped and weighed by the employees before they were packed and sealed by machines. Traditional antiquated gadgets used in cheese making were all on display.

Since it was the last weekend before the schools reopened, there were a number of children visiting the factory with their families. The cheese cubes and the spoonfuls of ice-cream samples attracted not only the children but adults as well. We walked past the long queue into the gift shop where a number of knick-knacks, and lots of cheese and other eats were sold, and ended up as usual in the food court. The star attraction was a great many variety of Tillamook ice creams sold in cones, cups and tubs.
                                                We bought special cheese called Pepper Jack to which spicy                                                         jalapeno, and habanero chillies are added during processing.
                                               Habanero  chilli is one of the most intensely spicy species of chilli                                                 peppers.                              
 The packet of Squeaky cheese – the thick curd separated from whey but not pressed- was an interesting munch for the road. Many varieties of cheese are manufactured in the factory using vegetable based rennet. Tillamook Vintage White Medium Cheddar and Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar are the only two varieties where animal rennet is used, for the extra softness.

We left the “Cheese Heaven” with great amazement and wondered at how a mere cheese factory could be turned out into a great tourist attraction, which provided the visitor with a great learning experience as well.

Au Gratins with crusty browned cheese and bread crumb toppings have long been a favourite with my children ever since they first had the Spinach and Corn Augratin at an eatery called Chit Chat in MG Road Bangalore. The Tomato & Squash Au Gratin below is made by my son.

Assorted summer squashes and zucchinis – 4
Onion – 2
Garlic – 6 cloves
Salad tomatoes – 6
Cheese (grated)- 2 cups
Breadcrumbs – ½ cup
Butter – 1 tbsp
Dehydrated Thyme – few springs
Olive oil – 4 tbsps
Salt and pepper – as required
1. Wash and cut the squashes to ¼ inch slices.
2. Wash and cut tomatoes into thick slices and leave them on a paper towel to drain
3. Slice the onions
4. Mince the garlic finely
5. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in the griddle on the grill
6. Add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté until glassy but not brown.
7. Grease a gratin dish (or any baking pan) and spread the cooked onion and garlic evenly at the bottom and keep it aside.
8. Place the griddle back on the grill and add one more tablespoon of oil to it.
9. Add the summer squash and zucchini and sauté. Add some crushed thyme, pepper and salt to taste. Cover and cook till they are just crisp and tender.
10. Add pepper and salt and toss well and remove from grill.
11. Arrange a layer of the squash slices over the onion garlic spread in the gratin dish.
12. Now place a layer of drained tomato slices over the squash slices and dust with a little pepper powder and salt and sprinkle with little oil.
13. Repeat the process alternately until all the squash, tomato slices and oil are used up, making sure to get the tomato slices on the topmost layer.
14. Rub the dry thyme in between your palms over the gratin and garnish with the thyme powder.
15. Top the dish lavishly with grated cheese
16. Mix breadcrumbs (toasted in butter) and sprinkle over the gratin.
17. Cover and grill, and keep checking till the cheese turns brown and crusty.

Let the gratin cool for about 15 to 20 minutes after cooking. Enjoy the gratin while the top is still warm and crusty.CAULIFLOWER, CAPSICUM & RICE CASSEROLE
The delecious spicy cauliflower and rice casserole below is adapted to Indian taste buds, and was prepared by my daughter. You can find the recipe here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Grilled Lemon Basil Pesto Pizza

Grilled Lemon Basil Pesto Pizza
The super markets here are all well stacked with merchandise and produce, to satisfy the needs of the cosmopolitan people of the city. A visit to one of these stores triggers off our imagination and inspires us to decide on the dinner menu then and there! On once such taste-bud- inspired occasion, my daughter-in-law picked up a packet of ready made pizza dough and prepared a mouth watering family sized Grilled Lemon Basil Pesto Pizza for us.
Pesto is a kind of 'Italian chutney' or paste that comes from the word pesta meaning to 'pound' or 'crush'. A Pesto is a combination of ingredients -- usually few strong flavored leaves or herbs, some garlic, and olive oil pounded together. At times cheese and nuts are added as well. This flavoursome paste can then be added to a variety of dishes such as pastas, soups or even used as a spread with bread.
To prepare Lemon Basil Pesto
Lemon Basil Leaves – 2 cups
Onion – 1 big
Garlic – 1 clove
Pine nuts – 1 cup
Olive oil – 4 tbsps
Salt and pepper – to taste
1. Gently roast pine nuts and keep aside.
2. Chop onion and garlic.
3. Wash and shred basil.
4. Blend all the ingredients to a coarse paste.
5. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and a dash of limejuice if you like, and give it one more swirl in the blender.
6. Store Pesto in a clean, dry container.
Refrigeration will keep the pesto fresh for up to three days.
To Prepare Pizza Topping


Green bell pepper – 1
Yellow bell pepper – 1
Red bell pepper –1
Onion – 1
Tomatoes – 1 red and 1 yellow
Mushrooms – a few
Jalapeno slices – to taste (If you like it spicy)

Fresh Lemon basil – for garnishing

1. Cut all the peppers into halves.
2. Cut the onions into cubes.
3. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and wash.
4. Clean, grease and pre heat the grill.
5.Arrange the onion cubes on the skewers.
6. Place all the vegetables except the tomato slices directly on the grill
8. Grill the vegetables till they are tender and crisp
9. Cut the grilled peppers and mushrooms into long slices and toss them in a spoon of warm olive oil along with the grilled onions. This makes the vegetables succulent
10. Slice the tomatoes (not very thin ) and set aside.

To Prepare Pizza
Ready-made pizza dough - 1 packet
Pesto and Topping prepared above
Grated Pepper Jack cheese – 1 to 2 cups as required.
1. My daugther-in-law used the back of a baking tray to spread the pizza dough. Grease the back of a baking tray and sprinkle little flour evenly. This will prevent the dough from sticking.
2. Place the dough in the middle of the prepared tray and start patting evenly using fingers. Patting the dough on the backside of the tray helps to slide the pizza easily on to the grill.

3. Pat the dough and shape it into an even, moderately thick (about ¾ inches), rectangular or oblong pizza.

4. Gently slide the pizza directly on to the prepared grill, cover and cook, opening to check now and then, till the dough puffs up here and there.

5. Lift up the pizza with a spatula and check if it is brown and crusty enough.

6. When the pizza is done flip it to the other side.

7. Now apply a thick layer of Pesto on top of the pizza.

8. Arrange the grilled and cut vegetables, tomato slices and jalapeno on top.

9. Garnish with freshly chopped up basil.

10. Top the pizza with as much grated cheese as you wish with a sprinkle of pepper and salt.
11. Cover again and cook till the cheese melts.

It is a lot of fun and quality time spent together, when all the family members come together to prepare the huge family sizes Pesto Pizza. We did enjoy every bite of it with a good helping of tomato ketchup, chilly sauce and mustard sauce as desired.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Vegetarian BBQ Special - Zucchini Burger, Grilled Asparagus, Mushrooms and Corn

Vegetarian BBQ Special
Millions of years ago man started to make, and use FIRE from its natural sources. This led to community cooking with the fire in the open. The custom thrived even after homes with hearths came into existence and is still flourishing as a much sought after recreational activity.
Barbeque is the first and foremost method of cooking invented by the early man. The method of cooking food slowly on firewood, later led to the invention of charcoal grills. Soon electric grills and gas grills caught up. With the introduction of portable grills and grills with stands, barbequing is great fun during holidays and parties.

My son and daughter-in-law are vegetarians by choice. I was greatly impressed when they cooked a vegetarian barbeque dinner for us on the grill, which stands in their yard. Thank you children, for the great garden vegetable barbeque treat and your recipes with the special touch.



Buns – 4 (We used potato buns)

Zucchini – 1 big
1 Sliced Onion
1 Sliced Tomatoes
Lettuce leaves – a few
Breadcrumbs - to coat the zucchini.
Pepper Jack Cheese slices – as required
Pickled Jalapeno slices and / or Pickled cucumber slices – as many as you like.

Rice Vinegar – ½ cup
Soya sauce – 4 tbsps
Limejuice – 2 tbsps
Crushed garlic – 2 tsp
Shredded Onion – to taste
Sugar – 1 tsp
Black pepper powder – ½ tsps
Salt – 2tsps
Combine all these ingredients and the marinade is ready.
1. Cut zucchini into moderately thick slices, cover them with the marinade leave them to soak in the refrigerator over night.
2. Clean, oil and pre-heat the BBQ grill. (You can use an iron tava – if you don’t have a bbq grill)
3. When the grill is heated, drain the marinated zucchini slices and roll them in breadcrumbs.
4. Place the coated zucchini slices on the grill, cover and cook till the vegetable is done and the breadcrumbs cling to it.
5. Remove the lid and press down the zucchini slices with a spatula so that they are impressed and seared with the marks of the grill.

6. Cut the potato buns in halves, brush with little olive oil and gently grill on both sides till they are slightly toasted.
1. Prepare a bed of lettuce on the lower half of the bun.
2. Place a grilled zucchini slice, followed by tomato, onion and pickled cucumber and/or jalapeno slices.
3. Top it with a slice of Pepper Jack cheese.
4. Dribble with tomato ketchup and/or chilly sauce and mustard sauce (as per your taste).
5. Finally cover the pile with the top half of the bun and gently press down.
6. Enjoy with French fries and other condiments and sauces as required.

Asparagus – 1 bundle

Olive oil – 4 tbsps
Barbeque spice – 2 tsps (You can buy BBQ spice ready made – or make your own mix. It’s a mix of few ingredients such as salt, chillie powder, garlic powder, dehydrated tomato powder, onion powder etc)
Garlic Coves – few (4 to 5)

1. Gently bend each asparagus stem until the hard portion at the bottom snaps off. (This discarded portion can be used to make soups). Preserve the top portion of the stem with the flower.

2. Rinse and wipe the edible tender stems and place them on a griddle on the grill.
3. Drizzle olive oil liberally, sprinkle with barbeque spice, shredded garlic and cover.
4. Grill for a few minutes, remove lid to check and cook without cover till you get a pleasant aroma and the asparagus stems are – tender crisp or “al dente”.
White button mushrooms – 12
Olive oil – 4 tsps
Pepper – 1 /4 tsp
Salt – 1/4 tsp

Crushed garlic – 1 tbsp

1. Wash and remove stems from mushrooms (stems can be used for mushroom soup).
2. Heat oil and add garlic in the griddle placed on the grill.
3. When the oil is infused with the aroma of garlic add mushrooms and turn once to coat with oil.
4. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
5. Grill till tender.
6. Add crushed herbs like basil or thyme if you like.

Corncobs – 2 or as required

Garlic butter or any other spiced butter


1. Slide the husks backwards and wash corn. Take care not to tear away the husks.
2. Pull back the husks over the washed corn (making sure to completely recover the corn with the husks) and wet the husks. This will help the corn to cook in the steam in the grill.
3. Place the corn cobs with husk in tact on the grill, which will impart a smoky flavour.
4. Rotate the corn now and then for even cooking.
5. Once the moisture evaporates and the corn is steamed, the husk will start to burn. Take care to put out the flame on the husk by tapping it with a spatula.
6. Once the corn husk appears crisp and burnt, remove from grill and pull out the entire burnt husk.
7. Grill the corn for a few more minutes, and then brush it with any butter of your choice.
Serve the garden vegetable burgers with crispy golden corn, flavoursome asparagus, luscious mushrooms and french fries, with a liberal serving of chilly tomato sauce and mustard sauce.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Recipe Index - Portland

Recipes from our Portland Kitchen

I have spent close to two delightful months here in Portland with my son and daughter-in-law, and our trip is drawing to a close. We’ve had quite an eventful time, with several interesting trips and excursions in and around Portland. As usual, one of our major interests were with different kinds of foods and recipes! People from different parts of the world converging in the US over the years have not forgotten to bring along with them, their traditional culinary expertise. Consequently arrays of global cuisines are available here.

During our picnics and visits to various places of interest, we enjoyed multi-national cuisine from various restaurants and food courts from Oriental to Lebanese - Ethiopian to Western, and not to mention all time favourites from Mexican and Italian cuisines and so many more. Since vegetarianism and vegan foods are in high demand these days, there is no dearth of these dishes in any of the eateries.

I wish to share about all the travel and food experiences we enjoyed here in this new series. I will also be posting the recipes of the different dishes that we prepared at home.

Thank you Yosee for the lively mascot of this series as well.

Blueberry Smoothie
Fruit Punch
BBQ Special - Zuchini Burger
BBQ Special - Grilled Asparagus
BBQ Special - Whole Grilled Musrooms

Grilled Lemon Basil Pesto Pizza
Cauliflower, Capsicum & Rice Casserole
Summer Squash and Tomato Au Gratin
Masa Corn Tortilla
Tomatillo Salsa

Check our other recipe index for traditional South Indian Recipes.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

U Pick and a Punch!

We’ve been thinking about doing posts and recipes beyond ‘Traditional South Indian’ for quite some time now. While we started this blog mainly to document our traditional dishes, being ardent foodies, we do eat numerous other dishes from different states, and all across the globe – as long as they are vegetarian! I have kept postponing posting other dishes – mainly thinking we’ll do it, when we make our own site, in our own domain with our own design – and then we can have several sections, videos ..blah.. blah…blah…
Well I haven’t yet been able to all that yet, and by the looks of it may not happen in a looooong looong time! And so … with Chitra Amma visiting my brother in Portland, and sharing all these exciting travelogues, food experiences – I decided not to wait for any ‘muhurtam’ (auspicious moment)!! We will of course continue with the traditional recipes as well!
And so we begin with our first in a new series of different tastes – called U Pick and a Punch …and a Smoothie as well.


On a Lazy Saturday Portland morning a friend of ours called up to say that they were in a ‘U PICK’ blueberry farm and asked us if we were interested to join them. A number of 'U PICK' sign boards on many intersecting highways have been attracting my attention all along and I was only too glad to grab this opportunity to get a first hand experience of this mysterious ‘U PICK’.
After a twenty-minute drive from home we reached a blueberry farm with the 'U PICK' signboard. We parked the car and walked towards a shack with a counter, where a number of plastic buckets were stacked up. We picked up a bucket and walked across the fence and entered the farm.
It was an expansive piece of land under the bright sun with rows and rows and rows of blue berry bushes, positioned like an army of disciplined soldiers wearing green and blue uniforms. We were amazed to see the bushes about four feet tall, weighed down with thousands of bunches of blueberries covering them from top to bottom. The surplus yield was a feast to the eye.

Picking the berries was great fun. With just one touch the ripe berries rolled down into our palms without any resistance. The two little tots of our friend toddled under the bushes and picked up the berries from the bottom, while we took care of the top most ones. We also ate some berries as we picked and they tasted juicy, pulpy and moderately sweet. Blue berries are anti cholesterol, antioxidant and anti carcinogenic fruits. No wonder there were a number of people hovering over the bushes to exploit the richness of the berries during the season.

The bucket was only half full, but when weighed at the counter we were delighted to note that we had picked up nearly five to six pounds of blueberries and we paid only one thirds of what we would pay at the stores.

After dinner as we sat on the deck, ruminating on U picking, my son surprised us with a luscious and nutritious blueberry smoothie which he had just prepared. And here is how he made it.

Blueberries – 1 and 1/2 cups
Strawberries – 1 cup
Ripe banana – 1
Vanilla ice cream – 4 scoops
Fat free milk – 4 cups
Sugar – 1 tbsp
1. Blend blueberries, strawberries and peeled banana with sugar.
2. Add ice cream and blend.
3. Finally add milk and run the blender for one more minute until you get a thick frothy smoothie.
Each sip was a treat in itself and the taste buds yearned for more! The next day he prepared a PUNCH. There was a blueberry treat every day until all the berries we picked were exhausted!

To make FRUIT PUNCH blend ice, with blueberry, banana, strawberry and orange juice. Enjoy!