Savory semolina upma

I don’t know where to begin.  Let’s just say I’m here.  Back again, happy, optimistic… My mother-in-law makes a spicy, savory upma from semolina (sooji).  It’s South Indian any time comfort food, and takes minutes to make.  Last week my friend Sukanya made sooji upma as I stood watching.  I love her cooking, and I […]

Butter pasta

I know that restaurants all over America frequently carry “pasta with butter” on their children’s menu.  When I see these words, I always think, seriously?  no peas, no carrots, no broccoli, not even a soupçon of garlic?  Just butter and pasta? Until of course one day, when my friend Vrushali begins telling me about the […]

Beerakaya ulli karam: ridge gourd in onion masala

My sister and I dreaded those lauki-toru-parval days that tended to repeat themselves in never-ending cycles in our home.  Mom had decreed that every meal must have a green vegetable, and our green vegetable selection was limited, especially in the summer, to the gourds.  Bottle gourd, ridge gourd, snake gourd, ivy gourd, bitter gourd.  This […]

A good egg

A few years ago I began buying cage-free hen eggs that were fed an organic vegetarian diet, and were not injected with hormones etc.  The eggs I presumed would be healthier and would taste better.  I didn’t find anything remarkable about these eggs.  Pale yellow yolks, the usual whites.  There was a subtle taste difference […]

Potato curry with tomatoes, aloo bhaji

We spent last week in the Hudson Valley north of Red Hook.  The house that we stayed in dated from 1773, and it had an orchard that was brimming with apples that were beginning to turn red.  I loved the warm brick house with its generously sized rooms, well worn wide plank floors and white […]

Ivy gourd stir fry (by other names, dondakaya, kundru, tindora)

“Indian cooking is about the right balance of salt and chilli.  There’s not much else to it,” remarked my husband when encountering yet another subtly salted and chilli-less dish.  I had been cooking for the children and for us all together, in one big pot, for months.  That meant no chillies – no cayenne pepper […]

Savory toast topped with chickpea flour and vegetables

Every week I think about vegetable pakoras.  Deep-fried, piping hot chickpea flour (besan) fritter like creations that are full of minced vegetables.  Served with a side of Maggi tomato ketchup.  I had some delicious pakoras in Jersey City recently that were stuffed with chopped methi and coriander leaves and green chilli.  I will attempt to […]

Dosakai pachadi: a creamy cucumber relish

We had hot steaming rice for lunch today with a most unexpected side – a cooling cucumber relish made with a paste of black mustard seeds and white sesame seeds.  Not much else was needed for a satisfying meal.  I was surprised by how good the relish tasted rubbed into the rice – it was […]

Dahi vada

Vadas are savory lentil doughnuts that are made entirely with urad dal.  You can eat with them as is with coconut chutney or sambar or both or even just plain old ketchup, but my mother-in-law serves them dipped in salty yogurt that is flavored with a paste of green chillies and coriander leaves.  There’s a […]

Baghare Baingan

What’s on the menu today?  Baghare baingan, meaning tempered eggplants, from Hyderabad.  Agastya fondly calls this dish “eggplants in peanut sauce” but to be fair it also has an equal quantity of coconut and sesame seeds in it.  My husband’s cousin, Kasturi, made this richly flavored eggplant dish for me at our first meeting, about […]

Chilli cheese toast

Amul cheese, the medium cheddar kind that comes packaged in a canned tin in India, was my first love.  I remember creeping to our white fridge at night to steal slices of comforting white bread and cheese for a midnight snack.  It was the only cheese that was readily available when I was growing up […]

Capsicum paneer

When I left home, my mother gave me a few cookbooks.  Amongst them was a diminutive volume called Paneer by Tarla Dalal.  I had often seen my mother consult Tarla Dalal’s recipes.  Tarla was a prolific cook and writer, and her books tried to capture practically every cuisine in the world for the Indian vegetarian […]

Carrot loaf cake

I love carrot cake.  However, it’s usually drowning in frosting and while good frosting tastes delicious, sometimes I just want a simple, hearty cake that’s studded with nuts and raisins. My recipe is inspired by David Lebovitz.  I like this recipe for several reasons.  First it uses the basic cake mix that I love: 1 […]

Gujarati kadhi

During my second pregnancy nothing tasted better than a simple meal of Gujarati kadhi and rice.   Kadhi is a light yogurt curry that is flavored primarily with curry leaves and thickened with a chickpea flour called besan.  It is simultaneously spicy, sweet, salty and sour and has a mild, soothing texture. My recipe for kadhi […]

Bise bela bhath

Bise bela bhath means dal and rice in Kannada.  To me, the words always sound like a happy, anytime, tantalize-your-tastebuds type of one-pot comfort.  It’s because this dish engages all my tastebuds with its full bodied spicy, sweet and sour flavor.  The dish uses tamarind extract for the sourness and employs dried red chillies boldly […]

Perfect chole

I’ve always been envious of the tasty chole (chickpeas) that my Punjabi friends seem to make so effortlessly.  When I ask for the recipe, often the whole operation seems hopelessly complicated.  One friend slow cooks the raw chickpeas for over 2 hours.  Another places a tea bag in her chole while cooking.  An online recipe […]

Kala Chana: black lentil stew

My friend Antara tells me that she can’t cook.  “It’s too stressful,” she tells me when I try to probe.  “I should have ordered in,” she laments, when we arrive at her home, although an appetite whetting smell of roasted onions, ginger and garlic lingers tellingly in the air. “What did you make?”  I ask, […]

Aloo methi: potatoes with fresh fenugreek

I have recently begun to love cooking with fenugreek leaves.  It started with eating them kneaded into spicy rotis.  All as a result of becoming a frequent visitor of a take-out food counter called Rajbhog Foods in Jersey City. Rajbhog is a grimy, flourescent bulb-lit store that ladles out Gujarati food.  When I enter the store, […]

Pumpkin

I’ve grown to love the change of seasons in the northeast United States.  Each year I find that I wait for spring blossoms and fall leaves.  I’ve been here for fourteen years now, but this longing for the change in seasons keeps growing.  I crave it more with every passing year: there is something so […]

A daily soup

I’m often at a loss for weekday lunch meals for Agastya.  We did a one-pot khichdi for a long time, but after a while he seemed to crave variety, and I somehow couldn’t manage to gather a proper Indian meal with roti, dal and sabji in time for lunch.  For dinner, yes, but not lunch.  So […]

Vankaya Allam Karam

This Sunday morning we all woke up tired.  My husband rushed Agasyta off for an early soccer class after breakfast while I pottered around the kitchen, thinking about what to do for lunch.   Yesterday, I had found leggy thin-skinned purple Asian eggplant in an Indian grocery store.  I pulled them out this morning, wondering […]

Matar Paneer

This morning I wake up bright up and early.  I am going to make my mother-in-law’s matar paneer for the first time.  Her delicious recipe comes from various North Indian neighbors, such as “Singh Bhabhiji” from her old residential colony in Bombay.  So I call mummy who is back in Vizag to talk about the […]

Kattu, toor dal with garlic

In the winter, Agastya starts sniffling.  One sniffle turns into the next and we start on a progression of back-to-back colds. Sometimes they start with a fever, sometimes with runny sneezes and sometimes with a bad cough.  They last a week, sometimes two, and a new cold often starts before the old one finishes.  I […]

Paneer Butter Masala

I like looking at cook books, but the Indian cooking ones usually scare me.  The list of ingredients will be long and complicated and some recipes will say something to the effect of “two medium tomatoes” and “one large onion” and “a generous pinch of cumin.” I am unsure of what that means, having had […]

Andhra-style potatoes

My husband introduced me to the food from his native state of Andhra Pradesh when we were dating.  The cuisine and its cooking style was a revelation for me.  For instance, a simple sookha aloo-pyaaz or dry potato-onion dish tasted completely different because of the cooking process, the treatment of ingredients and a slightly different […]

Stir-fried Okra

Sometimes when I am in the kitchen, the strongest association that I have with the food, in this case okra, is the memory of a two-and-half year old Agastya hovering around, helping in some way or just getting involved in the vegetable that I am making.  My mother has always claimed that all little children […]

Cauliflower

Sometimes my tiny toddler clambers into his dad’s lap at dinner time and proceeds to messily eat everything on the plate, small fingers moving busily from table to mouth, with a look of intense concentration on his face.  This, in spite of having finished his own dinner just an hour ago.  During such moments, I […]

Khichri

Khichri, a dry (khilwa) or moist preparation consisting of rice and lentil in equal parts,  is one of my favorite foods.  With a pressure cooker, it is an easy one-pot meal to prepare.  My simplest khichri is rice and moong dal, with some salt, turmeric, heeng or asafoetida and ghee or clarified butter.  I then add any vegetables that I have […]

Santara ka Kheer

This slow-boiled milk dessert or kheer is traditionally made in winter in my Calcutta home with tangerines or santara that have been peeled, segmented and then the inner skin removed.  It is usually served during the festival of Diwali.  The kheer arrives at dinner on the main Diwali day, resplendent in a large silver bowl, the bits of orange […]