Monday, January 10, 2011

An old picture, a lovely platter

What you see is lunch from a few months back, maybe even last year. Paraanthas made of cornflour, whole wheat flour and methi leaves, a sabzi containing sprouted moong, chopped tomatoes and onions, garnished with coriander/cilantro leaves, a bowl of homemade yogurt garnished with a spice mix.

I used the Kitchen-Aid to make the dough for the paraanthas. Just threw in corn flour, whole wheat flour and fresh methi leaves. Sesame oil (my oft-used cooking medium), some salt, a smidgen of red chilli powder (or more?), some garam masala. Add water and run the mixer until you get a dough that's soft and pliable. Roll into rounds, put on a warm pan, add some ghee, flip it a couple of times, until nice and brown and cooked. YUM.

I sprout moong a lot during summer. I tried doing it this winter and it was a bad bad bad idea. Firstly, sprouting is tough due to the low temperatures. Secondly, sprouts are not the best thing to eat during winter simply because they generate vata (unless well-cooked) and winter is a vata-aggravating season anyway. You are far better off eating vata-pacifying and grounding foods this time of the year. I am no Ayurveda expert but a HUGE enthusiast. There are many wonderful books out there that can give you more information about this amazing science of health.

How to sprout moong? Take a cup of whole green moong seeds. Rinse with water thoroughly. Now cover with water making sure that all seeds are completely submerged and there is a couple of inches of water above them. This is important because the seeds absorb the water and expand in size. So you want to have extra water in the bowl. Check the seeds after a few hours (you can leave them overnight too). Now drain out the excess water, if any. Take a clean handkerchief, wet it with water, wring it out, wrap the soaked seeds in the wet cloth and place back in the bowl. Check back in a few hours. The cloth would have dried out. Wet the cloth again, wring it out, wrap the seeds again, repeat. In a couple of days, you will see tiny shoots sprouting through. You can repeat the process until the sprouts are nice and long. Now take them out and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can add them to salads, sabzis, even pulaos/pilafs and biryanis. I must mention, in this above mentioned sabzi, I don't toss in the sprouts as is. I steam them beforehand so that they're easier to digest.

How to make home made yogurt? In another post.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cafe Sunflower, Sandy Springs

I had written about Cafe Sunflower in the beginning days of this blog. That post was about the branch in Buckhead. This weekend, we visited the one in Sandy Springs. I recall going to this one and feeling like the place lacked energy. It felt dull, the decor lacked vibrance of any sort, and there were very few folks eating there. It must have been a couple of years ago.

All that has changed. I visited Cafe Sunflower in Sandy Springs with a friend two weeks back, and then again this weekend with P. Both times, the restaurant was bustling, most tables were occupied, the menu had changed (maybe) and there was a definite energetic vibe going on that caught my interest.

Above our table was a wooden cabinet that stored teapots and packets of herbal tea. The whole place is done up in earthy tones of brown, crimson, maroon, dull gold. The servers are cheerful, hip and friendly, and as expected, fully understanding of what it means to be vegetarian, issues linked with eating soy in excess (yes, I was eavesdropping on a conversation going on at a nearby table) and how to use the Scoutmob application too! This IPhone application gave me a 50% discount on eating at Cafe Sunflower - I guess that explains why we landed there on a rainy Saturday evening, first day of the year, to boot! But I really like this place too, didn't I say that already?

I ordered a pot of the peach tea. I wish it was peach-ginger but it was plain peach. On a day as rainy as that, I would have gone for anything-ginger but they didn't have any such combination. P, on the other hand, ordered a bottle of the Outrageous Ginger Ale! Both of us are avid ginger fans, obviously. That ginger ale was a fantastic combination of spicy and sweet. I do wish it had less sugar... :( Even our other favorite ginger ale, Reed's contains a little more sugar than I am comfortable with. It is an occasional indulgence, end of story.

For the entrees, P ordered the Spicy Pad Thai Noodles. I asked for the Tuscan Sandwich. The dinner entrees come with house salad and dinner rolls. P asked for the soy sesame dressing and I went with the creamy Italian (after confirming with our sweet server that it was vegetarian/vegan).

Yum! I think the salad contains greens, shredded carrots, white beans, bulgur wheat. Generally, I find Italian dressing a little too tart for my taste but this was rather mild. P's soy sesame was nice too, not too oily or heavily sweet. I wish I could recall what other ingredients the salad contained. I am not a salad fiend, meaning I am not going to be ecstatic if you give me a plate of lightly sauteed kale for lunch. But I am a fairly dispassionate person and so I will be satisfied (!). Anyway, I really liked this salad. The greens and the bulgur together provided a nice leafy-nutty flavor combination plus both dressings were very good too!

The dinner rolls... I thought I'd get full eating them, sigh. They were made of whole wheat and came with a tiny bowl of buttered jam (or jelly, as is called in the US). Raspberry flavored, I think. I always love dinner rolls, I wish I had taken them home or something. I only ate half a roll but they were wonderful.


The entrees were fantastic. P is what I would call a Pad Thai afficianado; he really likes the dish. Hmmm, I wonder why we haven't tried making it at home.

Rice noodles, oyster mushrooms, chopped red peppers, baby corn, roasted (or sauteed?) tofu, kale, all swimming in a gloriously flavored coconut peanut sauce. Honestly, the picture on the left cannot do justice to this dish. It was not overwhelmingly garlicky or spicy neither was it over-the-top peanutty. It was perfection in that lovely burnished bowl. I must mention, my friend and I shared this dish when I visited earlier, and loved it that time as well. The kale is a definite healthy touch to the dish but it is very crisp and lightly cooked, hence does not ruin the taste at all.

My Tuscan Sandwich was wonderful too. It is a generously portioned dish, split into two halves. Oh, it came with a side of baked sweet potato fries and coleslaw. The fries could have been crisper. They were too soft, I thought. The coleslaw was nice but I didn't eat much of it due to the briny dressing (didn't want to risk pitta aggravation). 

The filling?

Deliciously oozy basil goat cheese, giant chunks of portabello mushrooms, caramelized onions, juicy tomatoes and sauteed spinach. Oh, the bread is rosemary focaccia. I couldn't eat both halves, ended up taking one home for lunch the next day. Can you believe, it tasted as delicious?

Dessert was a flourless chocolate ganache with a nut crust. I don't recall if it was vegan (most probably, it was) but it was certainly gluten-free and DELICIOUS. Again, I had gotten this dessert on my last visit as well. Oh, it tastes so silky and chocolate-y without being too sugary or cloying. It is dark chocolate but not too bitter. I think it's a dessert best shared.

Cafe Sunflower is certainly no cheap joint but I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone, vegetarian or not. This is not your vegetarian restaurant that has fake meat dishes on the menu. Instead it is all about fresh ingredients, full flavors and innovative preparations.

If you think I gushed too much in this post, you should just go check the place out.

Cafe Sunflower
5975 Roswell Road
Atlanta GA 30328