Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pineapple saaru (rasam) - soul food to keep you warm on a rainy, wet day

Rim, Jhim, Rim, Jhim .. Bheegi bheegi ruth mein.. chalte hein... so start lines of an old favorite movie song. It is the time of the year when the rains start coming down steadily though not heavily in our part of the world. I have seen rains in many places but something is magical about the pitter patter of rains in our current home. They are not destructive, not even intrusive, very much part of our lives, here now, gone in a flash kind of rains. I smile when the first thing people talk about Seattle are the rains here. It is almost like a bad rap!, but for me, it is something that defines the gorgeousness of nature around me. People that have got used to this weather pattern, learn to love it in entirety including the grey skies that accompany the rains, we walk and go about our business in the rains as if we were going out with an old friend, very familiar though a little annoying at times :-).

We had our first rains of the season this week. Temperature has dipped but seems to be playing around going all over the chart. The rains though had held back, until last week. When I say rains, this is a steady, not stormy kind of heavy drizzle which soaks you completely if you are not covered but doesn't stay long on the ground as it flows towards its destiny. I love to go out in the rains but love it more if I can sit back with a book as the rain drops play music in the background. I am inherently a home bird, while I enjoy the company of friends, the long chatters, gales of laughter, I am happiest when I am home with a book for company or walking in the woods. How many of you enjoy putting your bare feet in splashing rain water, have done it many times myself :-)

Work week has been long and somewhat stressful as we are all rushing towards some deadlines before the Holiday mood sets in. Long week days always mean things pushed off on the home front or DD front and we look forward to the 2 day break when things do not get driven by early morning alarms, bus timings, lunch box menus etc. It has been one of those catch up weekends where I didn't plan anything but took things them as they came and stopped when the time & resources ran out (perfect agile implementation :-), that is my work life creeping into weekends, will explain the joke another time). As the rains continued, I made some anna, saaru & palya (rice, rasam & vegetable side dish) and enjoyed the hot, piping saaru as an appetizer and more.
A summer & half ago, DD did her Bharatanatyam arangetram, it was her graduation ceremony in an art that she has been learning passionately for over a decade. A very proud and happy moment to us as parents, the little girl was mesmerizing and mature beyond her age. As family gathered together for the occasion, I had to outsource food for the last 2 days before the big day. With quite a few elderly grand parents, we didn't want to get the food from a regular restaurant for both health and other reasons and went frantically looking for home cooks that was palatable to all. Armed with some recommendations from friends, we ended up talking to an elderly couple here in the town who gladly agreed to cook for the entire paltan for 2 days. Whew, that was such a relief and we didn't even put a lot of thinking into the menu and asked aunty to make whatever she felt like but keep it simple, homely and south Indian.
The first day breakfast started with the unmistakable idli, sambar, pongal and vada and everyone (including those who had said they were on strict diets) loosened up and enjoyed the breakfast. As we were hurrying in & out with last minute arrangements, all that extra artery clogging vadas got digested and pretty soon we were looking forward to the lunch :-). Lunch had the usual suspects like rice, sambar, green beans stir fry but the clincher was aunty's pineapple rasam. It was simply out of the world and on popular vote, we ended up asking for the same rasam the next day too :-). A couple of us were too excited and stressed out to eat much and the day after everybody had left, with no energy left to cook or clean, we took the left over rasam from the refrigerator and fell in love all over again.
Thus began the journey to master the delicious pineapple rasam and here is a perfect blend of sweet, sour, spice to give you company on a cold, wet day or any day you feel like you are missing home. I call it saaru true to my Kannadiga roots, you can call it rasam or chaaru (but don't use the word soup please :-( )

What do you need to make Pineapple saaru?
1/2 cup cooked toor dal
1.5 cup ripe pineapple - cut into bite size pieces
1/2 medium tomato
1.5 Tbsp saaru pudi
10-12 curry leaves
1 Tbsp grated coconut
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp jaggery/brown sugar
pinch of turmeric powder
chopped cilantro for garnish
1 Tsp ghee (clarified butter)
1 Tsp mustard seeds
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
1/4 Tsp asafoetida

How do you make Pineapple saaru? 
  • Wash, pick any dirt and cook toor dal until it is very soft and mushy. Use a whisk to make it a homogeneous liquid.
  • Peel, remove thorns and chop pineapple into bite sized pieces.
  • Grind saaru pudi, coconut, tomato and 1/2 cup pineapple into a smooth paste. You don't need water but use it if you wish. 
  • Put the cooked toor dal in a heavy bottom pan and heat it. 
  • Add the curry leaves and remaining cup of pineapple pieces, salt, jaggery and turmeric powder and let it come to a boil on medium heat. 
  • Add the ground masala paste and let the saaru come to a rolling boil. 
  • Add milk and let the saaru continue to cook in medium heat for a couple minutes. 
  • Adjust the consistency of saaru to be pouring. 
  • Add chopped cilantro and switch off. 
  • Heat ghee in a small pan, add mustard and cumin. Let mustard pop. Add asafoetida, switch off and pour it over the saaru. 
  • Let stand for 5 minutes before serving it as an appetizer or to mix with rice. Yummm!
  • Based on the sweetness of the pineapple, you can skip adding jaggery. Do a taste test and decide. 
  • If the pineapple is not tart enough, you may add a little bit of tamarind juice (soak tamarind in warm water and squeeze out the juice) to balance the taste. The saaru should be sweet, spicy, a little tart all at the same time. 
  • I use cilantro with stalks for saaru as they retain their personality when added to boiling saaru. 
  • This saaru tastes best after a few hours of standing time, better still, reheat next day and use. 
  • Make sure to boil pineapple pieces in the cooked dal on slow heat, the flavors need to get distributed. 
  • I add the spoonful of milk to saaru for both color and taste, this is nammamma's trick. Skip if you are not used to milk. 


Helene Dsouza said...

The rains started now? wow I wish we had the monsoon again, I like the rains =)
I don't think so I have tasted pineapple saaru in the past, it sure looks appetizing. cheers!

kitchen queen said...

delicious rasam.

NamsVeni Pothas said...

Pineapple rasam or chaaru is really wonderful... best friend of rainy day or a winter cold day also. very tasty i like it.