Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cabbage Salad with Cranberries

Yes, a healthy salad can be tasty. A little imagination can go a long way in sprucing up the not so favorite, but immensely nutritious Cabbage. Fresh cabbage adds a unique crunch to salads while adding fiber and a bunch of essential nutrients like vitamin K,C and A along with plenty of manganese, vitamin B6 and manganese. This recipe us inspired by my grandfather's original contribution to the family dinner table.

To make this salad, you will need:

1/2 a cabbage: finely shredded
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
1 apple: chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 cup of peanut powder: roasted peanuts ground to a powder using a standard food processor

Salt, pepper and jaggery to taste: you can use golden brown sugar as a fantastic substitute for jaggery

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice: you can add more than this if you like your salad tangy.

In a large mixing bowl combine the cabbage, cranberries and raisins.

Then, add the diced apple, salt, pepper, lemon juice and jaggery. Mix thoroughly.

Finally, add the peanut powder, mix, and let the salad sit to marinate in the lemon juice for about 30 minutes before serving.


Leeks with an Indian Twist!

For someone who has grown up in Mumbai, the act of buying vegetables and other produce in a closed-door, artificial environment is well, not exactly fun. I want to feel the vegetables, look for any marks on the cauliflowers, smell the herbs and above all, be able to chat with the vendor or, if one is lucky, the farmer who actually grew the produce. When I moved to California, after several years in Scotland, I was introduced to the Farmer's Market on UCLA's busy campus. I was hooked. Cooking Indian cuisine with fresh produce feels right and the process of cleaning, pealing and chopping the vegetables makes it a very personal experience. While I had tasted leeks in an entrée in Edinburgh, the dish was distinctly not Indian but what I soon came to realize, the very popular 'Baked Leeks with Potatoes'. The mild taste of the leeks stayed with me and I was thrilled to see some fresh ones in the local farmer's market a couple of months ago. I decided to try them in an Indian curry (a.k.a. sabzi in 'Hindi'). I contemplated what spices would go with my ingredients of choice: the leeks of course, potatoes and peas. I came up with a recipe that tingled my taste buds just right. Pair up the curry with fresh 'Phulkas' and some dal and you have a healthy meal that will satisfy a hungry stomach like nothing else! So here is the recipe for the sabzi. Enjoy!
Leek and potato sabzi:

Three leeks - Washed, cleaned and sliced.Five medium-sized Potatoes - Washed, peeled and chopped into 1/2'' pieces.
Green peas - 1 cup, boiled and part cooked (the peas will start wrinkling at this point).
Grated fresh ginger - 1/2 teaspoon.
Grated fresh garlic - 1/2 teaspoon.Cumin seeds - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric - 1/2 teaspoon.
Everest sabzi masala - 1/2 teaspoon (get this in any Indian grocery store).
Jagger or golden brown sugar - 1/2 teaspoon.Salt to taste and some water.

In a saucepan, take 2 tablespoons of canola oil and heat the oil on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds to the oil when it is hot. At this point when added, the seeds will brown and sputter. Traditionally, this step of adding whole spices to hot oil while cooking is often referred to as 'tadka' in Hindi, or 'phodni' in Marathi, the language I speak in Mumbai and is local to the state of Maharashtra. Once the seeds start to crackle, add the sliced leeks and saute them until they turn translucent, with the flame on medium to low heat. Now is the time to add the ginger paste, garlic paste and turmeric to the sauce pan. At once, you will get an earthy aroma with the leeks getting coated with a nice orange hue. Saute some more, say for about 1 minute and add the chopped potatoes. Saute for another two minutes and the part boiled peas. Stir all the ingredients thoroughly. Now, add some water to the sauce pan, I would say about a 1/4 cup and cover with a lid. Let the potatoes cook until just right. We do not want to lose the vegetable shapes to a liquid mush. Hence it is necessary to use as little water as possible. Once a fork can easily insert into the potato pieces, remove the lid, and turn the heat to a low setting. Add the sabzi masala, salt and sugar. Stir well and serve piping hot with the Phulkas.

Lentil Dal with Baby Grape Tomatoes

Brown lentils make a great base for satisfying and nutritious dals. I always sprout the lentils before using them. It takes about 24 - 48 hours. I never store the sprouted lentils for more than a few hours before using them. Grape tomatoes add a unique flavor to this dal. I always make this dal when the tomatoes are in season and available in plenty at the local farmer's market!
Brown lentils: 1 cup, soaked overnight in 1 cup of water and then sprouted to the point where you just see the seed germinate.
Red onion: 1 small, chopped.
Grape tomatoes: 1/2 cup, washed and halved.
Cilantro: fresh, chopped, 2 tablespoons.
Asafoetida: A pinch
Cumin seeds: 1 teaspoon.
Turmeric: 1 teaspoon.
Garlic: fresh, grated, 1 teaspoon.
Red chili powder: 1/2 teaspoon.
Cumin powder: 1 teaspoon.
Coriander powder: 1 teaspoon.
Salt to taste.
Jaggery or Brown sugar: 1/2 teaspoon. (I buy it from the local Trader Joe's)
Pressure cook the lentils the day before if you are hard pressed for time on the day you plan to cook the dal.
In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil and add the cumin seeds. We want them to brown but not sputter. Then add a pinch of Asafoetida and stir. Add the chopped onions and saute them until they turn pink and translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a minute. Then, add the turmeric and saute for about half a minute or so. At this point add the halved tomatoes and saute until the tomatoes sweat and begin to soften. Now add the cooked lentils and mix the ingredients thoroughly. Bring the lentils to a boil by adding about 1/2 a cup of water. Add the cumin powder, coriander powder, chili powder, salt and sugar and mix well. Cook on low heat for another five minutes. Serve with the chopped cilantro either as decoration or mixed into the dal as shown in the picture below.

Beetroot Salad/Raita

When one thinks of Beets, a deep crimson color immediately flashes in our mind. This root vegetable is full of essential nutrients that our body needs. I like to eat it after it is boiled, sliced with a dash of salt as a side or as a raita. Here is a simple recipe for a raita that I often make to accompany dal and rice.

You will need:

2-3 beets: I buy the organic ones sold in the local farmers market.
Yogurt and some chopped cilantro.
Cumin powder
Salt to taste
Brown sugar to taste.

Pressure cook the beets. Remove the skin and grate in a large bowl.

To this, add:
Yogurt (as per taste, the picture below should be able to guide you), chopped cilantro (about a tablespoon), a teaspoon of cumin powder, salt to taste and a teaspoon of brown sugar.

Mix thoroughly and serve as a side dish.


Split Pigeon Peas Dal or Toor Dal

Split pigeon peas, also knows as "toor" in India are a staple source of protein in a daily meal. Here is a simple recipe using green chillies and tomatoes for a quick and nutritious dal.


1/2 cup of toor dal, soaked for about half an hour and then pressure cooked.
Six small tomatoes chopped into smaller pieces.
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds and mustard seeds each.
A pinch of Asafoetida.
1 teaspoon of turmeric.
2 green chillies chopped into smaller pieces - For a less spicy dal, use only 1 green chilli.
1 teaspoon Goda masala - this is a unique blend of spices used in the cuisine of Maharashtra (India)

Take about 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a deep saucepan. Add the cumin and mustard seeds once the oil is hot (the range setting should never be higher than medium) so that they crackle once they hit the oil. Then, add the turmeric, asafoetida and green chilli pieces. Saute the spices for about half a minute. Then, add the chopped tomatoes and let them sweat.

Now add the cooked toor dal and 1/2 a cup of water to the saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. After boiling the dal for about 2 minutes, set the range to a low setting and add 1 teaspoon of the Goda masala. Allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Serve hot with Rice.


Butternut squash sambar

Sambar is a type of dal made in the southern states of India to accompany rice, rice cakes (idlis) or crepes (dosa). It can be made with an endless combination of vegetables. This version, made with butternut squash, is one of my favorites. The gently cooked squash cubes perfectly complement the dal. They just melt in your mouth. You can substitute the squash with small red radish pieces. Needless to say, this sambar packs an impressive amount of nutrients including protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese and omega 3 fatty acids and calcium.


1 cup toor dal (pigeon peas).
1 small red onion, finely chopped.
3 small tomatoes, chopped.
1 packet of butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes (I use the one from my local Trader Joe's).
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds.
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds.
A few curry leaves.
A pinch of Asafoetida
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric.
1 teaspoon Sambar masala.
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste (available at any Indian grocery store, alternatively, try 1 teaspoon of lemon juice)
Salt to taste.
A pinch of brown sugar.

Pressure cook the toor dal separately.

Cook the squash cubes until just tender in a pot by putting them in a pot of water with some turmeric and getting the water to a rolling boil. Once almost cooked, turn of the heat and drain the water away.

In a large sauce pan, take about 1 table spoon of canola oil and add the mustard seeds once the oil is heated. The seeds should crackle as soon as they hit the oil. Then, add the fenugreek seed, asafoetida, turmeric and curry leaves. Saute briskly for about 20 seconds.

Now, add the finely chopped onion to the oil and spice mix. Saute the onion until it becomes translucent. At this point add the tomatoes and let them sweat. One this stage is reached, add the cooked squash cubes and cooked toor dal and stir to mix. Add about 1/2 to 1 cup of water to the saucepan and bring the contents to a slow boil. Finally, add the salt, tamarind paste and sugar and mix thoroughly.

Serve hot with rice.

Yellow Moong Dal with Spinach

Here is an attempt to mix the flavors of North and South Indian cuisine. The result, is an incredible dal that you will want to cook when you feel down or want to feel nice and warm on a cold wintry day. Yellow moong dal is routinely used in cuisine from North India while the sambar masala is a ground mixture of roasted legumes and spices that is used to make the famous "sambar" in the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu.

I use pressure cooked yellow moong dal (mung beans that have been skinned and split) and use them often as a base in dals because they are so easy to digest. The addition of spinach, onions and tomatoes, makes it a complete meal when accompanied with rice or whole wheat rotis.

Here is the recipe:

3/4 cup yellow moong dal soaked for about 4 hours and then pressure cooked.
1/2 onion, chopped finely.
1/2 cup frozen spinach.
1 small tomato, diced.
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds.
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds.
1 clove of garlic, crushed.
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder.
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder.
1 teaspoon sambhar masala powder: you can get various versions of this masala in any Indian grocery store.
Salt and brown sugar to taste.

In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. The hot oil will make them sputter. Immediately add the onion followed by the crushed garlic clove. Saute n medium heat. When the onion becomes translucent, add the turmeric and the chilli powder. Saute for another half a minute and add the tomato, followed by the spinach. Let the vegetables cook on medium heat and let the vegetables sweat.

Now, add the cooked moong dal and 2 cups of water to the vegetables and bring the dal to a rolling boil. Add the sambar masala powder, lemon juice, salt and sugar and stir. Let the dal boil for another minute or so. Serve with rice or fresh rotis!

Whole Mung Bean Flour and Almond Meal Ladoos

Just in time for Diwali........

I was looking for a relatively healthy recipe to make an Indian sweet called a "Ladoo" - it is a round ball of cooked flour (chickpea flour, wheat flour) or semolina and powdered coconut. Ghee is a basic ingredient. On a visit to my cousin's sister-in law's house (Swati Deshpande), she offered me these ladoos that she had made with whole mung bean flour. They were delicious and I was hooked. The recipe was immediately handed over to me to try. So here I am sharing it with you. This is not my original recipe. I have tweaked it by reducing the amount of ghee and sugar. To compensate, I increased the amount of reduced fat milk.

Whole mung bean flour is very healthy, and the recipe also called for almond meal. So you have a sweet treat that is packed with calcium, iron and the goodness of almond meal. You can look up the nutritional data on mung bean flour to get a complete list of nutrients.

You will need:

2 cups of mung bean flour.
1/2 cup almond meal.
1.5 cups of sugar (I used Trader Joe's dark brown sugar).
1 cup of ghee.
1/2-3/4 cup reduced fat milk.
1/2 teaspoon of powdered cardamom and nutmeg each (fresh powders of the whole spice work the best).

Preheat a thick bottom pan and add the ghee. It will melt instantly. Note that the pan should be warm enough to melt the ghee and not burn it. Now add the mung bean flour and saute it in the ghee using a wire whisk or a slotted spoon. I prefer to use a silicone spatula. Make sure that the flour is evenly cooked and gives off an earthy fragrance as it cooks. At this point, you are ready to add the other ingredients. I like to slightly brown the flour, it gives the ladoos an amazing flavor. Now add the almond meal and continue roasting the flour. After two to three minutes of roasting the almond meal add the sugar. Let the sugar melt and add the milk immediately. It may bubble. Let it calm down. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Now add the spice powders and give one final stir to distribute the spices in the mixture.

Allow the cooked flour mixture to cool down to a temperature that you can handle with your fingers and palms. Mix the flour once more, thoroughly with your hands. No take small amounts of the mixture in your hand and roll into small balls. Place each ball into a small muffin cup.

The ladoos are ready to serve! These ladoos store very well in the fridge for up to two weeks.


Swiss Chard and Green Onion Rice

Swiss Chard has to be one of my most cherished culinary discoveries in California. This leafy vegetable comes in a myriad of colors with the stalks ranging from a deep red to a warm yellow. The large leaves are a refreshing green and when available fresh in the local farmer's market make a dramatic entry in your grocery list! I cannot even begin to describe how nutritious this vegetable is. Check out my link above to for a complete nutritional profile of chard. This vegetable pairs very well with rice and I tried a wonderful combination of swiss chard with green onions to make this rice dish that literally invites you to the dinning table. You can serve this rice dish as a hearty main course with traditional Indian pickle (I recommend products from chef Sanjeev Kapoor's new line of pickles available at any Indian grocery store if you do not make your own at home) and a yogurt based raita.

For this dish you will need:

1/2 bunch of swiss chard and green onions each, chopped, retaining the stalks of the chard.
1 cup white basmati rice.
3 tbsp peanut powder (made with roasted, unsalted peanuts in a food processor).
1/2 tbsp tamarind paste or lemon juice.
1 tbsp dark brown sugar.
1 tsp asafoetida.
1 tsp mustard seeds and cumin seeds each.
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
Salt to taste
Canola oil for cooking.
1 tsp ghee (optional).

Precook the rice to get a fluffy texture. Parboil the chard, draining out the water and set aside. This removes acids as mentioned on

In a large wok or kadhai, heat about 1 to 2 tbsp of oil. When the oil is heated, add the mustard and cumin seeds. When they crackle and the asafoetida and turmeric. Saute the spices briefly. Now add the chopped green onion and saute for about two minutes. The onion should sweat. At this time, add the par boiled chard and keep stirring until the green onion and chard mix. Reduce the heat setting to low-medium at this point. The vegetables should not get mushy. Finally, add the red chilli powder, salt, sugar and peanut powder. Stir thoroughly. Add the lemon juice or tamarind paste. Mix thoroughly with the remaining ingredients in the wok.

With a fork, fluff the cooked rice and then add it to the wok. Mix thoroughly with the vegetables in the wok. If available at the very end, add the ghee to the rice. This will help keep the individual rice grains from collapsing into each other.

Serve hot!

If chard is not available in your local markets, try this rice recipe with other leafy greens such as beetroot greens or spinach leaves.

Baked Sweet Potato with Black Beans and Greek Yogurt

Here I am back to blogging about some new recipes again. It has been a long time since I posted a recipe, but then, I have been spending a lot of time making up stories about elephants and spiders, going to the park and mentoring summer students. Recently, I whipped up this dish with black beans and sweet potato that was a happy combination of some of my favorite ingredients. Toddlers will really enjoy this one!

You can make your own variations with the base of black beans, I kept it simple.

Olive oil to saute.
A small red onion, finely chopped.
Frozen black beans, about half a packet; approximately 8 ounces.
Cumin, paprika and chopped garlic to taste.
A quarter cup chopped fresh cilantro.
Shredded string cheese (mozzarella).
Plain Greek Yogurt.
One baked sweet potato.
Water to cook the beans.

To make the base with the black beans, saute the chopped onions in olive oil. When they turn translucent, add the garlic, cumin and paprika. Saute for another minute and add the frozen black beans. Mix thoroughly,cover and cook on medium heat until the water from the frozen beans melts and the beans begin to cook. Now add some more water and salt to taste, cover and cook until the beans are fully cooked. Note that you do not want a lot of water in this bean dish, just enough to cook them. When the beans are thoroughly cooked, sprinkle the chopped cilantro leave and cover and allow to cool.

To serve, when the beans are just warm, heap about a half cup of the cooked beans on to half a baked sweet potato. To finish, serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and sprinkle with the shredded cheese.

You can also use some oregano while cooking the beans or add some Chipotle peppers to the beans for a little more punch!

Happy eating.