Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Beautiful Roasted Carrots

So last week I celebrated a rather big birthday. I turned twenty-nine for the second time. To celebrate, we went on a little culinary walkabout around Los Angeles, and we ended up at Huckleberry, an establishment I adore.

As my husband and I were admiring their roasted carrot and avocado salad, I thought to myself, "I should try something like this." I used different spices, and I didn't use the avocado (because I didn't have any on hand), but here is what I did.

I took four carrots and introduced them to my mandoline slicer. This is what happened to them:

I put them straight into my casserole pan. Then I seasoned them with the following:

3 cloves of pressed garlic
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of thyme
1 teaspoon of oregano
and some ground sea salt (to taste)

Oh, so pretty! (I love the color orange.) I popped them in the oven, which had been pre-heated to 400 degrees and kept my eye on them. Can I just say they made the whole house smell wonderful?

I think it was twenty-ish minutes or so before they looked like the carrots at the top of the post and the ones pictured here:


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

How to Roti

No, that's not a typo. When I think about the artistry involved, I can only conclude that roti deserves to be a verb as well as a noun. I've added a "Roti" tab to the top of the blog, and I will be posting step-by-step instructions (with lots of pictures) of the roti making process. I'm teaching a group of fourteen and fifteen year-olds how to do it tonight. It should be fun!

Update: We came, we saw, we roti'd, and I've updated the results on the roti page.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Go-To Dal

This is straightforward, simple yellow dal. I must make it at least four times a week. Yellow split dal is my husband's favorite, and while I do change it up by putting other things in it sometimes (see my recipe for palak dal), sometimes unadulterated dal is just the way to go, especially when serving a dal as an accompaniment with an entre.

You start by cutting up a large yellow onion. I don't usually put any garlic in my dal, but you can do that, too (a couple of cloves in the garlic press usually does the trick).

Set your pressure cooker to saute and pour in 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Add in a teaspoon of black mustard seeds and a teaspoon of cumin seeds and wait a bit until they start to crackle.

Then add in the onion. Add a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of turmeric, a half teaspoon of cumin powder and a half teaspoon of red pepper and saute until the onions are translucent. Then add in one cup of dal and one tablespoon of coriander powder and toss a bit.

Cover the mixture with 2 and 3/4 cups of water, seal the cooker. Cook for 20 minutes on high.

Dal is most often eaten as a side, but I frequently make a light meal out of this dal, rice, and a salad.

Steel-Cut Oat and Raspberry Scones

If you're like me, you worry about your health. I was terrified, terrified after I watched that 60 Minutes piece on sugar being toxic. I am addicted to sugar. One of the things we love to eat of a morning are fresh, hot, yummy vegan muffins and scones. And what do you put in muffins and scones? Sugar! Brown sugar, white sugar (and I do get the vegan kind), maple sugar: sugar!

When my husband asked me, "Do you think you can make muffins without sugar?"

My answer was, "Um, no."

I take it back. This creation is a cross between a muffin and a scone (scuffin?) and contains no added sugar. I know that sounds gross, but it isn't. See, the bananas and raspberries contribute all the sweetness these muffins need. Here's what you do.

Cook 1/3 of a cup of steel-cut oats and a pinch of salt in 1 cup of water, preheat the oven to 375, then pour the hot oats over three ripe bananas and mash the mixture together.

Okay, next you're going to add

1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1/4 cup of canola oil
2/3rds cup of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

Mix the batter until everything is well-blended:

Then, go ahead and add your raspberries. I use just over a 1/2 cup. Spoon  mixture into well-greased muffin tins. I fill each tin a little over half full. This recipe will make a dozen scones.

Bake the scones in the oven at 375 for about twenty to twenty-five minutes. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Sweet Potato Masala Chips (Baked!)

That, of course, is a sweet potato. It is also, in my opinion, proof there is a god who loves us. That something so delicious would be found growing in the dirt and prove to be good for us? Yep. God who loves us.

Above the sweet potato are the masalas I am about to enhance it with.

Now, this evil-looking thing is my mandoline slicer, and I freely admit to both loving and fearing it in a way that would make Niccolo Machiavelli himself deem it fit to rule a small principality.

This is some of what it did to my sweet potato in under two minutes (and it would have gone even faster if I weren't so scared of slicing myself open).

Of course, you don't need a mandoline slicer to do this to sweet potatoes. A sharp knife and prodigious chopping skills will suffice. I don't think my mother in-law has a mandoline slicer, but she does have two women who help her in the kitchen and, wow, can those women handle knives!

However you slice your sweet potato, and here I should probably mention that I leave the skin on, make sure you end up with thin, even slices and that you have preheated your oven to 375.

Now you'll want to combine

3 pressed cloves of garlic
1 generous teaspoon of garam masala
1/2 teaspoons of turmeric
and salt to taste (I like mine salty, so I use a teaspoon)

with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and toss the uncooked chips in this mixture

Then lay the chips on a baking sheet so that none of them overlap. Please note: Since there is turmeric in the marinade, you might want to use parchment paper. Also, you are going to have to turn them halfway through baking, too, so leave some room.

Bake each side until the chips are done. How long does that take? It depends on how thick your slices are and how hot your oven really is. These needed about eight minutes on each side.

Oh, are they good...and pretty...and reasonably healthy:

Friday, 18 May 2012

Pickled Radishes

Do you grow radishes? I do. They make me feel like I have some talent in the garden. They are miraculous. You plant them one minute, and the next they're up and ready. All at once. Tough radishes are disgusting, so you really do need to pull and eat them all in a matter of days. I would end up with dozens of radishes and no place to put them. I mean, there are only so many radishes you can put in a salad.

But then I put my Indian housewife thinking cap on. See, before I was married, I thought pickling was only for cucumbers. Not so! Radishes make DELICIOUS pickles. This one is ridiculously easy. I pulse the radishes in the food processor first, but you can pickle them whole, too.

Get yourself a clean, dry canning jar (jars). I use the little ones so I can give 'em away as gifts.

Put the washed and dried radishes (diced or not) into the canning jar.

Boil some apple cider vinegar, and pour it over the radishes, leaving a little bit of room at the top of the jar.

Then, you can either follow good canning practices (you know, the whole boiling water, turn upsidedown, flip, make sure the jar goes "ping" thing), or store them in the fridge (which is what I do). The pickled radish pieces taste great and look colorful sprinkled over dal, or as a side with most Indian entres. I've even put them on my veggie burgers. Yum!

Vegan Blueberry Flaxseed Waffles

We have had a lot of requests for blueberries and flaxseeds over here. They are, I know, very healthy. Still, I promise to change things up. I make no pretense that waffles are in any way Indian. My Indian husband eats them and loves them, and they are delicious, so I thought I'd share.

Add to a bix mixing bowl:
2 bananas
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of flaxseed meal
1 tablespoon of broan sugar
1/2 tablepoon of maple syrup
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder

and 1/2 cup olive oil (Yes, olive oil. Trust me.)

Mash everything together. I like to use a potato masher for this part.

Next, add 1 and 1/2 cups almond milk and mix until smooth.

Gently mix in about 3/4 of a cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Spray your wafflemaker with nonstick spray (this is important as these guys tend to stick).

Cook until the wafflemaker tells you it's done. I like to leave mine in just a minute or so longer. I serve mine with powdered sugar, blanched almonds and extra blueberries. My husband likes maple syrup on his.

Gardens and Indian Cooking

Any Indian housewife who can cultivates some kind of garden. In Indian culture, flowers are not just for fragrance, but for worship and for cooking! These jasmine might make a nice offering, or could be used to flavor tea.

I am about to plant my summer vegetable garden, but I still have some lovely mustard greens that I use in the kitchen (recipe to come):
Like many winter vegetables, mustard greens are quite easy to grow and absolutely delicious (but a bit sharp) in salads. Once they're cooked, they acquire an almost sweet flavor. I like to saute mine with onion, garlic, ginger, and some other spices.

I keep meaning to experiment with vegan lavendar ice cream. We have gobs and gobs of lavendar this year, and I adore both the scent and the flavor. Apparently the trick is infusing the lavendar flavor into the sugar. The bees are absolutely loving the lavendar. If I weren't terrified of bees and was very crafty, I'd find where they lived. Last summer when we were in the South of France for our friends' wedding (I know, tough life), I bought the most lovely miel de lavande (lavendar honey). Yeah, that did not last long. Not long at all.

Probably the most important flower in Indian cooking is the rose. I love roses. I come from a very long line of rose gardeners (my dad in particular is a fanatic). I favor roses with a very pronounced scent, like Double Delight.

Then I have this other rosebush that was labeled as a Double Delight, but I don't think it is. It is far too pink, and although it has an incredible fragrance, its scent is subtly different from the Double Delight. Anyone know what it is?

Rose is used to flavor all manner of desserts. I make a mean kheer, but I make it with cow's milk. I am working on a vegan recipe, and once I perfect it, it will appear here.

So what is my favorite plant in the garden? That's easy. I adore sweet peas. Last year I had quite a crop, but this year, they're struggling. Still, they are so prim, and their fragrance is just so amazing. Someday, someone is going to figure out how to infuse that scent into a dessert, and then I will swell to the size of a small dwelling.  I will be reporting more on my garden as my summer crop comes along. I am planning tomatoes, eggplant, marigolds, lemon cucumbers, and a variety of squashes. Yum!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Two-Minute Comfort Food (the Ultimate Mug Cake)

Okay, so I know this isn't exactly Indian. But Indians eat cake, too. I promise. I have an incurable sweet-tooth, and I have been experimenting forever with mug cake recipes. The idea of the goodness of homemade cake never more than two minutes from my grasp is a siren's song--it's like, better than alchemy. Who needs to turn base metals into gold when you could have fresh, hot cake two minutes from whatever time you decided you wanted it? It seemed too good to be true. I had never exactly found one that was entirely to my satisfaction. They all lacked the yumminess of a real cake. "Well, duh," you might say. "You bake it in the microwave." I know, I know. But after years of experimentation, this is it. I would rather eat this two-minute mug cake than most cakes available for purchase. Once you try it, you'll believe!

1 tablespoon of wheat flour
1 tablespoon of white flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
and a pinch of salt

in a mug:


1/4 tsp vanilla
1 scant tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons of almond milk (yes, you can use regular milk, too)

Mix and add a generous tablespoon of vegan (or not) chocolate chips:

Mix again and microwave for 45 seconds:

Cake. Vegan. Moist. Delicious. Whenever you want it.

Palak Dal (Saag Dal) or Spinach and Yellow Split Peas

So when I tell you that Indian food can be healthy, I mean it. This dish is full of things that are good for us, but you wouldn't know it to taste it. It is also crazy easy to make and ready in under a half an hour. It makes a meal in itself, but you can also serve it with brown rice.
Here is what you will need

one large yellow onion, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (these are generous half teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder (again, generous)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper powder

Saute in the pressure-cooker until the onions start to become translucent.

Add three heaping cups of fresh spinach (which is what I had today, but you can use a geneous cup of frozen spinach, too) 

Saute until the spinach cooks down quite a bit:

Add 1 tablespoon of coriander powder, 2 small roughly sliced tomatoes, and one heaping cup of yellow split dal and saute the whole mixture for about a minute or so:

Cover this with three cups of water, seal the pressure-cooker and cook on high for 18 minutes.

Take the lid off, add a squeeze of lemon, 1 teaspoon of garam masala, and check for salt (mine usually needs a pinch). Garnish with fresh coriander (cilantro) if desired. Serve on its own or with rice.

Serves 4-6.

Basic Mango Chutney

The grocery stores these days are well-stocked with red mangoes (nearly all of them from Mexico). One of the more depressing things about the culinary scene in these United States is our lack of mango varieties. The word for mango in Hindi is ahm. Ahm is also a word for "common" or "good." This tells us something about status of mangoes in Indian culture, I think. There are dozens and dozens of varieties of mangoes available this time of year in India. When I think of how wonderful and delicious and multifarious they are, and then I compare them with the sad green-red things in our grocery stores, it depresses me.

The Indian grocery stores aren't much help here, as there are laws against importing things like fresh mangoes halfway around the world. Some of those restrictions have gotten a bit little laxer, but still, to experience a true mango, one must have a passport, I'm afraid.

But let's not let our despair consume us. Some of those red mangoes are delicious! The trick is picking out a good one, like the one shown here:

You are looking for color (not a lot of green on this one), firmness (it should give a bit when you give it a squeeze, but it shouldn't be mushy), and smell (if it doesn't already smell vaguely like a mango, don't take it home--it's an imposter!).

You'll want to peel it and cut all of the yummy, brightly colored, beautiful mango-flesh off (I find that the mango slicers just don't do the job) and put it in a food processor.

Then, you'll add 1 heaping tsp of cumin (you can go with a little less if you don't like things too spicey)
1 tsp (or to taste) red pepper (this will make it hot, so you may want to go with less)
1/2 tsp (or to taste) salt


Voila, a fantastic, delicious, mango chutney that goes with everything. We eat this as an accompaniment with many meals, but it goes especially well with theplas (coming soon to this blog). It would also work very well as a dip for tortilla chips at your next party.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Flaxseed and Blueberry Chilras (Pancakes)

Okay, so flaxseed and blueberries are maybe not the most commonly used Indian ingredients, but the chilra is most certainly an Indian dish. My mother in-law makes the most delicious sweet chilras for breakfast. These are just a little bit healthier for the addition of blueberries and flaxseed meal. Here is what you'll need:

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 T brown sugar or maple syrup (I like the maple syrup)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 and 1/4 cups almond milk

Mix all of this together:

Add 2/3rds of a cup of blueberries, gently mix, and then cook the chilras like pancakes in a frying pan on medium heat. Make sure that you spray the pan with non-stick spray every so often or they will stick.

Enjoy them with maple syrup, honey, fresh berries, and/or powdered sugar!

This recipe will yeild 8-10 chilras, depending on how big you make them. If you're not so into the vegan thing, you can make them with cow's milk, but don't use eggs. They are right out in Indian vegetarian cooking, and they will change the consistency of the chilra.