Tag Archives: Indian Food

Five Easy, Healthy, Flavorful Indian Recipes

My dad is an amazing cook. We go there for dinner almost every week, mainly because it’s fun to hang out with my dad but also because I get to eat his gourmet meals. The thing with Indian cooking is it can go one of two ways:

  1. Really tasty, but super oily and full of fat (curries are made with butter, ghee, oil, cream, etc.) or
  2. Really tasty, with inventive ingredients and substituting spices for the oil – making it healthy and flavorful

The dinners I grew up with at home were more like option #2 above. My dad can make a “sabji” or “bhaji” (vegetable Indian dish) out of pretty much any veggie. It’s awesome. We have “Butternut Squash” sabji, “Collard Greens” sabji, “Beets and Beet Greens” sabji–the list goes on and on. It’s a great way to add a twist on a regular vegetable dish, and it’s not something you’d traditionally get in Indian Cooking. So these recipes are straight from my dad, and represent what I think is Indian Home Cooking at it’s best: easy to prepare, really nutritious and good for you, but so flavorful you keep going back for seconds, and thirds, and fourths… you get the picture.

Here are five easy and healthy Indian recipes, straight from my dad’s kitchen:

Moong and Toor Daal, Beans and Carrots Sabji, Whole Moong Daal, Zucchini Sabji, and Spelt Rotis (yes – that’s right – spelt!). The only note on these recipes is my dad’s “measurements” are super old-school — in that, there aren’t any. What I’ve found works well is to just play around with the spices and taste as you go. The recipes are really easy so you can’t totally mess them up.

Recipe #1 Moong and Toor Daal

The ingredients: 1 Tbsp EVOO, 1/4 cup Moong and 1/4 cup Toor Daal, equal parts Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds and Turmeric; a pinch of Hing (asafetida), a pinch of Cayenne pepper, Salt & Brown sugar (gud) to taste, 3-4 pieces Dried kokam fruit (you can get this at the Indian store, or try dried sour plums), Cilantro

The directions: Cook the daal in the pressure cooker. Once the daal is done, fry the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric and hing in 1 Tbsp EVOO. Put the spice mixture into the daal and stir until combined. Add the cayenne, salt, brown sugar and kokam fruit and heat through. Sprinkle cilantro in at the end

Recipe #2: Blue Lake Beans & Carrot Sabji

The ingredients: 1 Tbsp EVOO, 1 pound of Blue Lake Beans chopped, 1 Carrot chopped, equal parts Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds and Hing (asafoetida); Turmeric, pinch of Cayenne pepper, 1/8 cup Urad dal, Salt & Brown sugar (gud) to taste, Masala (curry powder), Cilantro

The directions: Fry the spices (mustard seeds, cumin, hing, turmeric, urad daal) over medium heat in 1 Tbsp EVOO for about 1 minute. Add the vegetables and stir until combined. Cook, covered for 10-15 min until the vegetables are cooked through and the spices have been fully absorbed. Stir in cayenne, salt, brown sugar, and masala. Top with Cilantro and serve.

Recipe #3: Whole Moong Daal


The ingredients: 1 Tbsp EVOO, 1/2 cup Whole Moong Daal, equal parts Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds & Hing (asafetida); Turmeric, pinch of Cayenne pepper, Salt, Masala (Curry Powder) & Brown sugar (gud) to taste, 3-4 pieces Dried kokam fruit (you can get this at the Indian store, or try dried sour plums), Cilantro

The directions: Cook the daal in the pressure cooker. Once the daal is done, fry the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric and hing in 1 Tbsp EVOO. Put the spice mixture into the daal and stir until combined. Add the cayenne, salt, masala, brown sugar and kokam fruit and heat through. Sprinkle cilantro in at the end

Recipe #4: Zucchini Sabji

The ingredients: 6-8 Zucchini chopped, 1 Carrot chopped, equal parts Mustard seed, Cumin seeds & Hing (asafoetida), Turmeric, 1 Serrano pepper cut in half, Salt & Coriander powder to taste, Cilantro

The directions: Fry the spices & serrano pepper over medium heat in 1 Tbsp EVOO for about 1 minute. Add the vegetables and stir until combined. Cook, covered for 10-15 min until the vegetables are cooked through and the spices have been fully absorbed. Stir in salt. Top with Cilantro and serve.

Recipe #5: Spelt Rotis/Chapatis

The ingredients: 5 parts Spelt flour to 1 part Quinoa flour, Water (enough to form into a sticky dough – about 1/3 of the amount of dough) very small quantity of EVOO

The directions: Combine all ingredients to make the roti dough.  If you have a gas stove, hold the roti/chapati over a medium flame and it will puff up immediately. Turn quickly to flame-bake the other side. Do this several times, taking care that the edges are well cooked. Otherwise you can preheat a cast-iron tawa over medium heat. Place the rolled dough on the palm of one hand and flip it over on to the tawa. When the color changes on the top and bubbles appear, turn it over. When both sides are done, use kitchen tongs (chimta) to remove the roti from the skillet.

These rotis are soft and fluffy – you’d never guess that it’s unleavened bread. When I was growing up, it was common for us to have four out of five of these dishes for dinner: 2 sabjis, one daal and the rotis. This is completely my version of comfort food: warming, nutritious, delicious, and filled with nostalgic memories of dinners at home.

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Elegant, modern and playful Indian cuisine at All Spice

A few nights ago, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to dinner at All Spice Restaurant in San Mateo.

We heard about the restaurant’s opening about 3 months ago from a friend, and given that we LOVE modern twists on Indian food, thought we should give it a try. The chef at All Spice used to be the chef at another one of our favorite Indian Fusion restaurants in the Bay – Sakoon. So we figured we’d be in for a treat at All Spice as well. We were not disappointed!

The service was excellent: each of the waiters were extremely knowledgeable about the dishes and ingredients, and were very friendly and welcoming. Since All Spice had just opened, they didn’t have their wine list completed – and only had non-alcoholic drinks. We started with a Tangerine Soda and a Pomegrate Apple Cider.

Both were excellent! We didn’t miss the alcohol at all. Soon after our drinks came out we were served an Amuse-bouche: a treat from the chef – a cauliflower and mushroom gratin.

We had a hard time deciding on which appetizers to get – everything on the menu looked so good! Eventually we decided on the Indian Bread Fritter “Ma Mere”

It was stuffed with mushrooms, potatoes, and Indian spices, served over stewed chickpeas. It reminded me of a much fancier, elegant version of the samosas you often get in traditional Indian restaurants, and had the perfect blend of spiciness and sweetness. We also ordered the Roasted Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup, which was absolutely divine.

It was served with minted spaghetti squash “noodles,” that the soup was then poured over at the table – very cool presentation. The soup itself might have been the best butternut squash soup I’ve ever had. Every bite enveloped my palate with flavor, and the warmth of the soup was a perfect balance to the cold weather outside. If you get a chance to visit All Spice, you MUST order this dish!

Our entrees were equally inventive and satisfying – rounding out the meal perfectly. We ordered the Pumpkin Dosa

Which was basically a crisp rice and lentil crepe, stuffed with a nigella seed-flavored pumpkin and creamy goat cheese filling. It was served with a roasted garlic tomato chutney which provided the perfect sweet balance to the spiciness of the dosa filling. I’ve had a lot of dosas before in my life, and nothing compares to the experience I had at All Spice!

I loved the addition of pumpkin and goat cheese to the filling, stewed with Indian spices. It was a wonderful balance of flavors: rich and delicious. Our last entree was the Khaman Chickpea Flour Pasta, sauteed with mustard seed, curry leaves, baby tomatoes and artichokes.

Again, this dish provided a very modern take on meals that my husband and I ate growing up. I loved the addition of artichokes to this dish, and the chickpea “pasta” just melted in my mouth. After this amazing journey through the menu at All Spice, we were stuffed and had no room for dessert – although the Chili-Mango Bread Pudding with ginger creme anglais was tempting. We’ll definitely be visiting this restaurant again and will be sure to try the desserts next time.

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Spiced Potato and Curried Yogurt Flatbread!

Ok – so for some reason this week I’m really into flatbreads 🙂 I think it’s just because you can make anything you want with them – it’s like customizing your very own personal pizza hehe. This recipe was another one of those “rummage through my fridge and pull something together” dinners. I think my husband was a little skeptical when I pulled out the Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Masala Burgers from our freezer and said I was going to make an Indian “pizza” on naan with them. The good news is – it took less than 30 min to make and turned out to be SUPER tasty and flavorful! And, my husband LOVED it! So here is my recipe for Spiced Potato and Curried Yogurt Flatbread – hope you enjoy it!

The Ingredients

  • Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burgers (you need one patty per flatbread – the great thing about these burgers is that they are mostly made with potatoes and spices – so it tastes like a spiced potato patty instead of a veggie burger!)
  • Trader Joe’s whole wheat Tandoori Naan (Note: you can also use sprouted wheat tortillas for this – which I did for my portion! I gave my husband the Naan though because he likes it better :). But using the sprouted wheat tortilla tastes great too!)
  • Fage 0% Greek Yogurt (I didn’t have 0% in my fridge so I used 2%, but I’d recommend 0% if you can find it!)
  • 1 Roma Tomato, diced
  • Romaine lettuce leaves, chopped
  • 1/3 Red Onion, diced
  • Trader Joe’s Mango Ginger Sauce (optional: I thought we’d end up using this, but the curry yogurt was so good we didn’t need it!)
  • 1 tsp curry powder (I used the one from Trader Joe’s – of course!)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Directions

  1. Cook burgers according to package directions. While they are cooking, heat the naan in a toaster oven.
  2. Create the curry yogurt sauce: Combine the Greek Yogurt, curry powder, cumin, salt and garlic powder – stir until fully combined. Take about 1/3 of the yogurt and put into a separate bowl. Mix that part of the yogurt with a bit of water (1-2 Tbsp) until the sauce has thinned out slightly. After this – you should have two types of yogurt sauce – a thicker version and a thinner version.
  3. Once the burgers are done cooking, chop them up so they will fit on the flatbread.
  4. Spread the thick yogurt sauce on the flatbread. Top with the burger, tomato, onion and romaine. Drizzle the thinned out yogurt sauce on top. Eat and enjoy!

Pictures!

The curry yogurt sauce, before separating into two bowls…

Veggie patties cooking

Flatbread assembly part 1` (yogurt sauce spread, and veggie burger crumbled on top)

Flatbread assembly part 2 (veggies piled on, and thin yogurt sauce drizzled on top)

Ready to eat! YUM!

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Thursday Night Dinners with my Dad!

Sometimes, there’s nothing better than eating food with family in the house you grew up in. 🙂 A lot of people don’t get the luxury of doing this very often (because they don’t live close to their families, etc.) And most of the time, I sort of take my Thursday night dinners for granted, because they’re such a routine part of my life. Every Thursday night since I got married, my husband and I go to my dad’s house and he cooks dinner for us! It’s always an amazing home-cooked Indian meal and is such a nice end to the week. Every Thursday, I walk into this kitchen…

… which is the same kitchen I walked into for 23 YEARS before I got married and moved out of my dad’s house. Crazy huh? And we always have a warm meal waiting for us – this week, my dad cooked us moong daal and cauliflower sabji – sooo good!

Moong Daal Ingredients: EVOO, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, hing, turmeric, curry leaves, salt, 1/2 green mirchi (green chili pepper), pinch of goor (which is like Indian brown sugar), cilantro, moong daal

And the cauliflower…

Cauliflower Sabji Ingredients: EVOO, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, hing, turmeric, cumin powder, salt, cilantro, cauliflower, potatos & peas, 1/2 green mirchi

We serve ourselves in the plates I used to eat in when I was a kid… how funny is it that I still eat Indian food out of compartment plates?? 😛

And it’s so cute how my dad buys us special treats that he knows we’ll enjoy but won’t buy for ourselves – like these ice cream cookie sandwiches from Trader Joe’s that he bought for my husband…

If you haven’t tried these they really are super yummy – and perfectly portioned so eating one won’t ruin your diet!

For the next few hours, we eat together, chat, catch up on the week and sometimes watch Larry King or a movie or whatever happens to be on TV at the time. It’s seriously one of my favorite parts of the week – totally relaxing (because my dad is like the most relaxed, calming person on the planet – and we have an amazing relationship which I am so grateful for!) and it’s nice to not have to cook at the end of a long week too 🙂 I’m so lucky to have an awesome father (who also happens to be a great cook) who lives only 30 min away from my husband and me. Thursday night dinners will definitely be a tradition for many years to come.

Do you have any special traditions you do every week or month? I’d love to hear about them from you! 🙂

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Indian Inspired Dinner: Cauliflower & Sweet Potato “Sabji” with Lentil Stew!

Last night, I was really in the mood to COOK. Normally, I’m more of a 30 minute meal kind of girl (not to be channeling Rachael Ray) – but I really like to be efficient in the kitchen and have a one pot meal ready to eat soon after I’ve started cooking. But with the weather changing, and the days becoming a bit shorter, I just felt like taking some time to make a warming, spicy meal for our Sunday night dinner. I came across two recipes – one from VegetarianTimes.com and one from Cookingchannel.com, and thought they would go great together. Here are the links: Cauliflower & Sweet Potato “Sabji” and Lentil Pilaf Stew. Both of them turned out super flavorful and ended up being a really balanced meal (sweet potatoes have tons of antioxidants and fiber, and the lentils/rice combination made a complete protein!) My modifications to the recipes are below, enjoy!

Cauliflower & Sweet Potato “Sabji”

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (Note: I just used 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil – honestly you don’t need 2 Tbsp for this recipe! Omitting 1 Tbsp saves 120 calories 🙂 )
  • 1 onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds (Note: This adds great flavor, but this is a LOT of coriander seeds – I think it was a bit much for me and my husband. Next time I’ll probably use half the amount)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

Directions

  1. Place the oil in a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onion and ginger and cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, and salt and toast for 15 seconds and then add the tomatoes and sweet potatoes, and cook until they are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. Add the cauliflower and stir well to combine. Place a tight fitting lid on the pan and cook until the cauliflower is crisp- tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Lentil Pilaf Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and sorted (Note: I used the already cooked/steamed brown lentils from Trader Joe’s – cut down on the cooking time and still tasted great!)
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil (Again, I only used 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/3 cups) (I used red onion)
  • 2 large carrots, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup basmati rice (I actually used 1/4 cup of brown rice. The reason was – I wanted to make this more like a stew or “dal” so I wanted some of the liquid to remain in the pot instead of getting absorbed by the rice)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs.)
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 14.5-oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • cilantro for garnish, optional

Directions

  1. [If you are using dry lentils, follow this step. Otherwise start at step 2]. Bring lentils and 4 cups water to a boil in large pot or Dutch oven. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes, or until lentils are firm-tender. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup cooking water (only reserve the water if you are planning on making a pilaf instead of the stew), and transfer lentils to bowl.
  2. Wipe out pot; heat oil over medium high. Sauté onion in oil 4 minutes, or until just golden.
  3. Add carrots and rice, and cook 3 minutes, or until rice is toasted and fragrant, stirring constantly.
  4. Add garlic, ginger and garam masala, and cook 1 minute more.
  5. Stir in tomatoes, broth, reserved lentil cooking water (omit this ingredient if you are making the stew) and lentils, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes, or until liquid is mostly absorbed and rice is tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper (mine didn’t need any additional salt or pepper). Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.
  7. [This step only applies if you’re making a pilaf] Fluff with fork , then spoon pilaf into shallow bowls, and garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serve hot.

Pictures!


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Rajma (or Indian Spiced Vegetarian Chili)!

I found this recipe for “Rajma” on FoodNetwork.com a while back, and decided to try it out this past weekend. For those of you new to Indian food, Rajma is basically a North Indian vegetarian dish consisting of red kidney beans in a thick curry with lots of Indian whole spices – it’s usually served with rice or naan. When made without tons of oil/butter/cream, Rajma is actually a super healthy one pot meal – think of it as vegetarian chili with lots of yummy Indian spices! This recipe is especially healthy because in addition to the kidney beans (which have tons of fiber, protein and are low in calories), there are tons of veggies to round out the meal as well. The recipe with my notes are below – it only took about an hour to make and that’s including cutting all the veggies, heating the naan and waiting for the curry to simmer and cook through!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (Note – I only used 1 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and it was enough. Save the extra 120 calories and only use 1 Tbsp!)
  • 1 cup minced onions (I used a red onion, and probably used more than a cup – I just used 1 small red onion and cut the whole thing)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I actually used 4 cloves for more taste/flavor)
  • 4 firm, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (Roma tomatoes work great here. Note: Make sure you use all the seeds and pulp from inside the tomato, it makes a great base for the curry!)
  • teaspoons minced gingerroot, or 1 teaspoon ground ginger (I ended up using closer to 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional) (I would highly recommend adding this in – gives the curry a nice kick without being too spicy!)
  • 2 cups drained kidney beans (19-ounce can)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced, or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan set over medium heat, add the oil, onions and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, tomatoes, gingerroot, cumin seeds, Garam Masala, lemon pepper, and dried red pepper flakes, if desired, and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the beans and salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more. (Note – I ended up cooking it for 10 min) Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro (and then I let it heat through for 1-2 min)

Pictures!


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Curried Chickpeas and Quinoa Flatbread!

A couple days ago, I decided to try a recipe I found on Fat Free Vegan Kitchen’s Blog. It looked absolutely delicious, and really easy to make. My husband was a bit skeptical but open to trying it – especially if we used his favorite Tandoori Naan Flatbread from Trader Joe’s (see picture below) as the base 🙂 I made a few modifications (see my notes in purple) to the recipe to amp up the flavor/spicy-ness – and it turned out great! My husband liked it so much he volunteered to finish the leftovers at another meal. This meal is also extremely healthy – really balanced with veggies, protein and whole grains. The Tandoori Naan Flatbread isn’t the “healthiest” base, but it’s ok (one of them will run you about 250 calories and 2g fiber). I actually tried using a whole wheat pita and a slice of toasted whole wheat bread as alternate bases and they turned out great too (and those are healthier/lower calorie options than the flatbread). But any way you make it, this is a great recipe! Hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients – Curried Chickpeas/Flatbread

  • 1 medium onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I actually used about 4 cloves garlic for more flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger (I think I used a little more than 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons good curry powder (or adjust to taste) (I ended up using closer to 1 Tbsp)
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne or other ground red pepper (or to taste) (I used 1/4 tsp and it gave it a good enough kick for my tastes!)
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted preferred)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • salt to taste (Definitely don’t omit this step – this recipe needs salt added, otherwise it will taste bland!)
  • Whole wheat pita, or toasted whole wheat bread, or Naan Flatbread

Ingredients – Tomato “Salsa” & Other Toppings (I added this to give some more flavor dimensions to the meal)

  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered/halved
  • Diced red onion
  • Diced red bell pepper
  • A few squirts of lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Mixed greens / baby romaine – chopped

Directions

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions
  2. Heat a medium-sized, non-stick sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring, until onions soften. Add garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the chickpeas, curry powder, and cayenne pepper, and stir briefly. Add the tomatoes and cooked quinoa, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for about 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend (I simmered mine for longer – probably about 20 min total). Add salt to taste.
  4. Mix tomatoes, onions, red peppers, lemon juice and salt together.
  5. Make flatbreads: Top your pita/bread base with chopped romaine/baby greens, 1 serving of the chickpea / quinoa mixture, and the tomato salsa. Enjoy!

Pictures

Quick cooking quinoa from Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's Tandoori Naan Flatbread

Tomato salsa!

Chickpea Quinoa Mixture

My husband's flatbread

Flatbread part 2

My version on whole wheat toast!

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