Okra! Okra!

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Last week I had the opportunity to attend a sit down dinner at The Ritz Carlton in San Francisco. Entree choices were steak, salmon and vegetarian.  I was so excited to see what the vegetarian plate would be. It revealed a spicy, exotic vegetarian Wellington served with a ” spiced tomato bhaji with okra”!! The Wellington turned out to be cabbage, sautéed with curry powder encased in a soggy dough. The tomato bhaji were big chunks of tomatoes and okra with a touch of nigella seeds, mustard and cumin . All this sat in a pool of a green sauce that was tasteless.

The event was inspiring but the food experience for me was sad ! Is it just my taste buds? Was it wrong for me to expect that the vegetarian plate would be tasty. Steak, salmon and dough encased cabbage? Sorry, it seems to me that vegetarians were considered second class!

Anyway, I found some lovely baby okra at the farmer market and decided to get over the “tomato bhaji with okra” served at the Ritz!

1 pound Okra   4 cups approximately, whole or cut into 1 inch pieces

1 onion yellow medium, sliced thin

1 tomato, medium, diced 1/4 inch size

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/4 teaspoon amchur( dry mango powder ) optional

salt to taste

2 – 3 tablespoons oil, olive, peanut, or coconut

  1. Heat a heavy bottomed sauté pan . Add oil.
  2. Add the onions and sauté for about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the okra and cook gently on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Okra should be half cooked.
  4. Add the turmeric, amchur, salt and tomatoes.
  5. Stir well so that the spices are evenly coating the vegetables.
  6. Cook another 5-7 minutes till the okra is tender.

Serve hot as a side dish!

 

” Lauki ” or Opo squash summer stew!


We can all relate to Comfort Foods ! The need at times for cooking and tasting a bowl of memories that soothes the body and heart. I have many such moments especially when I am homesick. Lately , I have been satisfying myself with several comforting dishes. It is not just the taste of them but the entire process of cooking that is ” comforting”. While I have added many dishes to my comfort foods list, there are some that belong to the many moons ago times of growing up in India.

One such dish is a simple , rustic style squash stew.  The squash is ” lauki” in Punjabi language and best known as ” opo” squash in the American markets.

1 medium sized squash , washed, peeled, cut into medium dice( 5-7 cups approximately)

1 large yellow onion, sliced

2 -3 large tomatoes, cored and diced

1 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped fine

2 tablespoons ghee or oil of choice

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 jalapeño , whole, ( optional)

Salt to taste

  • Heat a pan. Add ghee.
  • Add onions and sweat for 3-4 minutes, till translucent
  • Add the ginger and cook for a minute.
  • Add the squash, turmeric, coriander and jalapeño
  • Stir well to evenly coat all pieces with the dry spices
  • Add the tomatoes ,salt and a 1/4 cup water.
  • Bring to a boil. Then lower heat and let simmer, covered for about 15-20 minutes

Comforting when accompanied by stormed rice.

NOTE : I did not peel the squash as it was very fresh and tender at the Farmer’s market .

As I enjoy my bowl of ” lauki”, I also think of hot summer afternoons in Calcutta more than half a century ago!!!! A simple lunch of the stew over a bowl of hot rice , accompanied by lemon pickle and plain yogurt.

For those of us who moved far away from home and have become dual rooted in adopting another home, these comfort food memories are very special.

Wild West Smoking Hot Potatoes Desi Style ( Indian style )!

   
 
A few more weeks and we will be bidding goodbye to Summer and welcoming Fall. This potatoe dish is simple and easy and very versatile. Sits pretty with gifts off your grill! Works well as a warm potato salad or a base for chaat and chole( Indian style chickpeas).

6-8 medium red potatoes, washed and cut into quarters lengthwise

2-3 tablespoons coconut oil or an oil with a high smoking point

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

2-3 jalapeños , cut into half, lengthwise, seed it to reduce heat

1 tablespoon asafetida ( optional)

2-3 teaspoons amchur ( dry mango powder ) 

Salt to taste

1/2 cup water or more

  • Heat a pan on medium heat and add the oil. 
  • Add the cumin seeds and toast till they are dark roasted . They will smoke and snap crackle and pop. Lower heat and cover if they pop out of the pan. 
  • Now add asafetida , stir and quickly add the potatoes. Stir to coat the cumin seeds on the potatoes. Add the water and cover to cook the potatoes  on medium heat. Stir every 10 minutes. 
  • Add amchur , jalapeños and salt in about 20 minutes of cooking. Stirring well. 
  • Potatoes should be tender cooked in about 30-35 minutes and yield a sauce that has a coating consistency.

Note: the amchur gives a sour and fruity taste that balances the smoky and earthiness of the cumin. The best substitute for amchur would be a tablespoon of balsamic Vinegar.

This is an intuitive recipe for you to make it your own. Cook it by taste and your preference and it will be perfect for you. 

Enjoy

Kitchen and Life intersect in my dirty Chai !!!

   
 
It was my day to set yogurt. The milk was set on the stove, fired up and the spatula ready for stirring. Milk needs to be first boiled and then cooled a bit. The starter culture added and then set in a warm place for this to transform into yogurt. Today, it’s a gallon of milk which means it will take about 15-18 minutes to come to a boil and all that stirring creates a beautiful froth. I love brewing a cup of tea so that I can savor it with a head of frothy milkiness! A treat , a ritual, a time to ponder on life and kitchen wisdom. Yogurt setting days usually mean focusing on Transformation……milk into yogurt! 

So, a lovely rhythm sets to the stirring of the milk in a stainless steel pot. This is an important step or the milk  solids will scorch at the bottom and that burnt taste  ruins both milk and yogurt. I am one with this process. I even notice that I tend to stir clockwise three times and anti clockwise twice. I just notice that I do that ..no analysis to why ? Life lesson : I’m practicing just witnessing! Ten minutes or so into this milk boiling a nutty, hot milky aroma begins to pervade my nose and kitchen . I grew up with this smell and it brings back memories. It also reminds me that my daughter dislikes this smell and gets nauseated . Life lesson: not everyone likes the same things and it is ok. 

There is a lovely foam about an inch thick that has formed on the top of the milk pot. I see the small bubbles that come through and pop. And finally the milk is bubbling and rushes up to the top of the pot and I turn off the heat at the perfect moment and no boiling over. A strong cup of tea has brewed too. 

I am ready for my treat.  I pour the tea into my mug and DARN it makes it to the two thirds mark. My husband made some extra coffee and so my mug is now full. A dash of sugar and  a couple of ladles of the milky froth and I have my Dirty Chai. Life lesson: be innovative .

The sipping of that mug of tea was priceless. 

Khatti Mitthi California Gobi( tangy sweet california cauliflower)

  
It all started when I wanted to check the consistency of the balsamic reduction that had been softly simmering for about 45 minutes. The fun began on the plate . The cauliflower was being cooked with some cumin and nigella seeds.

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into flowerettes, washed and drained

1 teaspoon nigella seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon sumac

Salt to taste

3 tablespoons avocado oil

1 tablespoon balsamic reduction

  • Heat a large pan . Add the oil.
  • Add the cumin and nigella and toast on low heat till you hear the snap, crackle , pop!
  • Add the cauliflower , sumac and turmeric powder. Stir well to coat all the pieces.
  • Cook the cauliflower covered , on medium low heat till tender, stirring a few times. (10-15 minutes)
  • Serve drizzled with the balsamic reduction .

This dish tastes great. The smoky taste of the cumin is balanced with the slight bitter of nigella and there is nice fruity tang from the balsamic and sumac. This is Indian flavor with a California attitude.

You will taste the Earth, the Sun, the Moon and the Stars ! 

Indian Rice Lentil casserole !Simple !  Easy ! Tasty ! 


A one pot lentil- rice casserole with a flavor inspired by South India ! An easy meal that satisfies traditional tastes.

1 cup Basmati rice, rinsed and strained

1 medium ,yellow onion, peeled , sliced fine

3 cups cooked Chana dal ( Bengal Gram lentils ) substitute split peas, garbanzo or black eye peas

1 small cauliflower, prepped into small flowerettes

1/2 bunch cilantro , washed, chopped, for garnish

3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped

3 tablespoons ghee or oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon  fenugreek seeds

8-10 curry leaves

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

2 dried red chilies ( optional )

1 large lemon , juiced

Salt to taste

2 cups water, hot

  • Heat a Dutch oven. Add ghee and temper spices in sequence starting with the whole chilies,  mustard, cumin and fenugreek.
  • Toast in ghee till for 2-3 minutes till they snap, crackle and pop!
  • Add curry leaves and turmeric. Then add the onions and ginger and sauté for about 5-6 minutes.
  • Add the rice and sauté it with the mixture for about two minutes .
  • Now add the cooked lentils, cauliflower , salt and the hot water.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer till water is almost absorbed.( 10-15 minutes)
  • Cover tightly.  Shut the heat and do not open the pot for 30 minutes.
  • Fluff the mixture and finish off with the lemon juice and cilantro!

Enjoy with cucumber raita, papad and favorite Indian pickle.

Realize the Value not just the price !

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This creamy Cauliflower soup is made from the cast off trimmings that typically end up in the compost ! In cooking mindfully and Divinising the food , the cauliflowers encompassed so much more! I am filled with gratitude in recognizing it always !

Stalks and leaves of 4 medium sized cauliflowers
1 large potato, peeled, quartered
Smoked salt for seasoning to taste( 1.5 – 2 teaspoons)
1/2 gallon( approximately, )water
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands or one large pinch( optional)
1 lemon

In a large Dutch oven, bring all ingredients to a boil.
Simmer for at least 35-40 minutes.
Blend till smooth . Add more liquid to get soup consistency of choice.
Finish with a splash of lemon juice.

Find a sunny corner. Ladle into bowl. Be grateful! Savour!!

WTF!#* Turnip Tapas

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These began with pure inspiration and creativity. A by product of Mindfulness in the kitchen!

6 medium turnips, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons mustard seeds, yellow , brown or black
A pinch of saffron…6-8 strands
1 level tablespoon of paprika
2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a pan on medium heat.
Add the mustard seeds and toast them a couple of minutes till they snap, crackle and pop in sound and release a nutty aroma.
Add the saffron and toast a minute.
Now add the turnips , paprika and salt. Stir well. Cover and cook for about 5-7 minutes till turnips are tender.
Finish off with the vinegar and cook another minute or so to dry off the liquid.

Serve garnished with cilantro or parsley!
Here they were served with a plum grilling jam and spiced amaranth!

ABUNDANT SELF of the plum trees!

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The plum tree in our backyard is following its true selfless nature of bearing fruit. It provides the foragers, the birds and squirrels and yes, us!
Thankful for the Abundant tree a plum , vanilla, honey butter is born.
Cooking the plums for hours over a medium low heat is an amazing experience if you let it BE !
The whole house was fragrant with tones of plums and vanilla and then honey. There was a heightened sense of awareness especially for the nose and the eyes. As the plums cooked their color and smell changed. The added caramelization and reduction added a richness .
A truly MiNDFUL exercise.
Here is the intuitive recipe:

8-10 cups plums ( 7-8 pounds approximately ), washed well
2-3 cups honey depending on the sweetness desired
4 vanilla beans slit

Place plums in a large pot. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil on medium heat.
Lower heat and keep on simmer for about an hour and a half, gently stirring every 20 minutes or so.
The plums were truly mushy and falling apart. Let them cool and fish out the pits that had sort of settled at the bottom.
To get a smooth texture , put the plums through the food mill.
They , then went back into the pot with the vanilla beans in. Once again, simmering on a low heat and this time being stirred every 10-15 minutes. You don’t want them to be charred at the bottom.
I enjoyed the stirring as i am a follower of the traditional principle of transferring the cook’ s energy and intention to the food. This was my loving energy in the plum butter in the making. If you don’t have the time this can be done in the slow cooker/ crock .
After several hours( almost 5 hours for me ) the mush had thickened and it was time to sweeten it. Whether you add honey or sugar , you will need to cook again on low heat for 15-20 minutes at least.
Cool and Jar!
Share and Enjoy!

Yield :1/2 to 3/4 gallon depending on the consistency!

Birthing a WRACO !!

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Could not make up my mind about this being a wrap or a taco ! The WRACO was born!

1 pack, organic, extra firm tofu, sliced
12-14 corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce of choice or homemade
1 cup salad greens of choice
2 avocados
1 small red onion, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes , halved
3 limes, juiced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 Serrano chilies, chopped fine ( optional)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon toasted, cumin seed powder ( optional)

In a pan, simmer the tofu slices and BBQ sauce, till thick and it almost oats the slices.(15-20 minutes approximately)
In a mason jar add the oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, cumin powder and shake a few minutes.
Place the greens, avocados, onions, tomatoes, chilies and cilantro in a bowl.
When ready to assemble the taco or wrap , add the dressing and toss well.

To ASSEMBLE !
Put about half a cup of the salad in the middle of a warm corn tortilla . Top with a couple of slices of tofu. Wrap and fold ! ENJOY!

Makes about 6-8 servings !