Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cream Of Wheat Pilaf With Carrots and Nuts

Uppuma, (pronounced oop-mah) is served for breakfast in India. If you want to get away from the usual breakfast or you'd like a change of pace, try the following fluffy nutritious cream of wheat pilaf. The long list of ingredients should not discourage you; they are simply added one after another to perk up the relatively bland taste of cream of wheat. Low in calories, it is made extra nutritious by adding nuts and vegetables.
For an authentic taste use sooji, Indian cream of wheat from local Indian stores. The dal and kari leaves are available at Indian groceries, if you cannot find don't worry about it.

Serve this light balanced meal for weekend breakfast or brunch when you have the time along with a mango-banana smoothie.

2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
1 teaspoon white split gram beans (urad dal) (optional)
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons roasted salted or unsalted peanuts or cashews
10 kari leaves (optional)
½ cup chopped onion
1 fresh green serrano or jalapeno chile, stemmed and chopped
¼ cup carrot cut into ½ -inch sticks
¼ cup green beans cut diagonally into ½-inch pieces
1 cup Indian semolina (sooji coarse) or cream of wheat
2¼ cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Juice of ½ lime
Fresh chopped cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet or sauté pan over moderately high heat. Add the dal, mustard and cumin seeds; immediately cover with a spatter screen, and cook until the seeds stop popping, about 30 seconds. Add the peanuts and kari leaves and stir 1 to 2 minutes. Add the onion, chiles, carrot and green beans. Cook stirring occasionally until the onion is soft but not brown, 3 minutes. Add the semolina and lower the heat to moderate. Cook stirring frequently until toasty smelling 5 to 6 minutes; if you're using the Indian sooji be sure to stir-fry at least 10 to 12 minutes, until toasty and you begin to smell the nutty flavor taking care not to brown. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2. Add the water to the same skillet and bring to a boil. Add the salt and sugar. Lower the heat to moderate and gradually stir in the farina. (Water is critical here, the rule of thumb is twice the amount of grain, but I prefer a tad more, which helps the grains to soak and plump.) Mix a few tablespoons at a time, stirring constantly in one motion until all the water is absorbed, be careful while stirring because the mixture starts to spatter; reduce the heat to low at this time. Sprinkle the lime juice and mix gently. Add the desi ghee, cover and cook at least 5 minutes (do not peek) until the grains are fluffy and plump and meld with all the flavors. Let the uppuma rest, covered for 5 minutes.

3. Turn on the oven to your lowest setting and warm some plates in it. Just before serving, spoon the uppuma into individual custard cups or decorative mold. For an attractive arrangement, place a warmed serving plate upside down on top of the decorative mold. Invert the mold over the plate holding both securely, and let the uppuma slide down onto the serving plate. Top each serving with tomato roses if you prefer and serve hot, sprinkled with fresh cilantro. I like this uppuma best when it is warm, as it cools it looses its fluffy texture. Serves 4

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Mother’s Heirloom Whole Pickled Limes

I am hosting a get together this weekend. I like to pay attention to every detail. I think, it’s really the small things that make a big difference. Take pickles, for instance, they can enhance and glorify a meal. At my local farmers market I came across an abundant of luscious, plump limes. Walla! All I could think of was my mother’s whole lime pickles. My mouth started watering looking at the plump bright green limes.

If you think pickles are something only your grandmother would make and that they’re hard to prepare, then this recipe (I’m sure even my grandmothers would’ve agreed) will prove otherwise. Pickle is the soul of the Indian kitchen and, when it’s lovingly handmade, and passed from generation to generation like family heirlooms it is a perfect gift to the culinary world.

This oil-free, easy and straightforward preparation is my mother's 50-year-old recipe I’d like to share that with you. She makes it every year in summer for family, friends and neighbors. Preparation of pickles used to be an elaborate process involving a lot of attention. I can recollect mother plucked 500 plump juicy limes, right from her organic garden and carefully screened each one. Then they were meticulously rinsed and wiped with linen. Earthenware crocks of approximately 5-gallon capacity were cleaned and sun-dried. Plump, fragrant spices were hand picked and dried in sun. The choice of chile powder (cayenne) was very important. It was always freshly pounded and mother went a step further with her innovative mind, she mixed three to four different varieties of dried chiles to achieve a deep ruby-red color so the finished pickle attained a beautiful hue. The pickling process was carried out only on a bright sunny day to avoid moisture from the atmosphere. The care and love that went into the preparation was worth the time and effort. Mother made beautiful little baskets with bowls of fresh homemade pickles to all our friends, relatives and neighbors. Although I make these here in late summer when limes are large and juicy, each time I visit India I still get enormous refills of my mother’s handmade pickles.
These are lovely with vegetarian as well as fish and meat dishes.

2 pounds (10 large) limes
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ tablespoon mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ cup sugar
1/8 cup cayenne
¼ cup salt

1. Wash the limes and wipe dry with a kitchen towel. Slit each lime crosswise into fourths leaving ½-inch uncut at one end (similar to the 'X' you make while blanching the tomato, this should be a deeper ‘X’). Place in a large mixing bowl. You don’t have to remove the seeds leave them in for a rustic appeal.

2. Combine the fenugreek, cumin and mustard seeds in a small dry frying pan. Toast over moderate heat until aromatic and mustard seeds start to pop, shaking the pan frequently, about 5 minutes. Cool and transfer to a spice grinder or coffee mill and grind to a fine powder. Dump into a small bowl. Add the turmeric into the same frying pan and warm it on low heat for 1 minute. Add to the bowl. Stir in the sugar, cayenne and salt. Mix thoroughly. Gently spread the cuts open of each lime and sprinkle the spice mix between the slits. Place limes into a crock. Cover with lid and store in a cool dry place. Let the pickle cure for 3 to 4 days before serving. Occasionally give a shake, so the bottom pickles come at the top and the top ones move to the bottom. Shake the crock a couple times for about 4 to 5 days. Refrigerate after a week. (To be on the safe side I recommend refrigeration.) Makes about 3 cups

Variation – Chile-Lime Pickles
If you prefer, using gloves, slit 10 to 15 long slender fresh hot green chiles do not stem, (be sure to use the gloves), sprinkle some of the pickling spice mix into the slits and toss into the crock.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fresh Mixed Veggie-Yogurt Spread at Sprouts Cooking Club

Last week, I had the pleasure to teach children at the Sprouts Cooking Club in Berkeley. I believe they were between the ages of 5 to 14 years. The class was full with 18 children. Several adult volunteers supervised the kids. The class was held at the Whole Foods parking lot under a cozy tent. The Whole Foods Market supplied the ingredients for the class.

I was so impressed by the young children’s enthusiasm and participation. They were well organized with their cutting board, mixing bowl, small pots and knife. They cut the vegetables with great interest (of course, under adult supervision), so finely and in uniform pieces they would put us professionals to shame. I was told some of them were very good at mincing, dicing, and cubing. Best of all, they were proficient at rolling leafy green or herbs and chopping into delicate strips referred to as chiffonade. As they assembled the following mixed vegetable spread, we passed along slices of crusty bread. The little kids were even happy to enjoy it as a cool crunchy salad in small cups by itself. It was nice to see the youngsters enjoying wholesome mother earth’s bounty.

Use this light and easy mixed vegetable concoction as a dip or spread on crusty bread to make vegetarian sandwiches. You can also serve as a side dish salad for lunch.

2 large tomatoes
2 medium cucumbers, such as English, pickling (about 10) or regular
1 bunch red radishes
1 small white, red or yellow onion
¼ cup chopped cilantro
4 cups plain yogurt
2 teaspoons or to taste salt
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Core the tomatoes, chop finely and transfer to a large bowl. Peel and seed the cucumber; chop in half inch pieces and transfer to the bowl. Finely slice the radishes then stack and julienne the slices; transfer to the bowl. Peel and quarter the onion and slice thinly lengthwise; add to the bowl. Sprinkle with the cilantro.

2. Just before serving, in a bowl, combine the yogurt, salt and sugar. Beat with a fork until smooth. Fold into the prepared vegetables. Serves 6 to 8 as an accompaniment or use as a vegetarian sandwich spread.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Red And Golden Beets Kachumber With Orange

It has been so long I created a new post. I was traveling; also, someone hacked into my gmail account. You see the ‘followers’ down below someone added my name and photo. Anyone knows how to delete it? Thanks in advance for your help.

The following is an Indian style salad, called kachumber. This type of fresh salad relies on chopped, crisp vegetables moistened with oil-based dressing rather than yogurt flavored with spices. It can be made from raw or cooked fruits and vegetables, standing alone or in combination.

Kachumber is not nearly as well known outside of India. In texture, kachumber resembles coleslaw, but contains no mayonnaise. A light coating of spice-infused oil seasoning takes the place of vinaigrette. It is added to give shine, smoothness and flavor. Most kachumbers use one or two grated or shredded vegetables, either raw or cooked, with a flavorful boost from the zesty spice-infused oil, a touch of fresh herbs and a sprinkle of lime juice. Whether the salad uses vegetables that are raw or blanched, sliced or shredded, they are meant to be refreshing contrasts to the accompanying dishes.

This recipe is a variation on a salad I tasted several years ago at the Culinary Institute of America, in St. Helena. Golden and red beets make all the more interesting combination added by the subtleties of tangy green mango.

1 large red beet
2 medium yellow beets
1 small orange, separated into sections and white parts removed
1 small green mango, peeled and grated
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or kari leaves

1. To prepare the beets, cut off all but 1-inch of stems and roots. Rinse; do not peel. Cook covered, in boiling salted water till crisp tender for 40 to 50 minutes. When cool enough to handle slip skins off the beets.

2. Dice beets into 1/8-inch wedges. Transfer to a decorative serving bowl. Add the orange and mango. Drizzle the lime juice. Top with nuts.

3. Heat the oil in a small skillet over moderately high heat. Add the mustard seeds; immediately cover with a spatter screen, and cook until the seeds stop popping, about 30 seconds. Toss in the cilantro. Cook few seconds until crisp. Cool slightly and pour over the kachumber, scraping the pan with a rubber spatula. Serve right away. Serves 4 as a complimentary dish

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spinach Crusted Tandoori Chicken for Memorial Day

This is easily one of my favorite twists on tandoori chicken a little green than the red version. The marinade is one of the most beautiful spring-green colors. I have infused it with a unique combination of leafy greens, cilantro and green chiles. Here the raw onion is caramelized to make it more flavorful.

Grill this chicken on your Memorial Day weekend and impress your guests with delightful and unique flavors.

4 pounds (4 medium-large) chicken legs, skinned
1 ½ -inch thick slice of fresh ginger
6 large garlic cloves
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ teaspoon turmeric
2½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup plain yogurt
½ cup sliced onion
1 fresh hot green chile, stemmed and chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cups chopped fresh spinach with tender stems
1 cup chopped fresh Swiss chard with tender stems
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter for basting
Beautiful sprigs of watercress
Yellow pear and red tomatoes, sliced
1 lime or lemon cut into wedges

1. Rinse the chicken legs well, then pat dry. Score the meat by making shallow slits or slashes at intervals over the legs. Place in a large bowl.

2. Combine the ginger, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, turmeric, 2 tablespoons oil, and ¼ cup yogurt in a blender. Process until pureed and smooth. Transfer to a medium glass bowl. Whisk in the remaining ¾ cup yogurt. Pour the marinade over the chicken and rub into the flesh. Cover and set aside at cool room temperature for 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

3. Heat the remaining ½ tablespoon oil in a skillet over moderate heat. Add the onion and sauté for 10 to 12 minutes, until it turns a rich brown. Add the chile, coriander, spinach and Swiss chard, stir 1 minute. Cover and cook until the greens are wilted, 4 minutes. Transfer to a blender. Add the salt and blend to a smooth puree. Pour the spinach mixture over the chicken. Rub the mixture into the flesh. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight. Turn the chicken pieces occasionally in the marinade.

4. Prepare a charcoal fire, letting the coals burn until they are covered with a gray ash and are medium-hot. Position the grill grate about 8 inches above the coals and lightly oil. Lay the chicken pieces on the hottest portion of the grill, cover, and let them cook about 12 minutes on one side, baste with butter if desired, then turn and finish on the other side until tender 10 to 12 minutes more.

5. Line a warm serving platter with sprigs of watercress and surround with thick slices of yellow and red tomatoes. Use tongs to transfer chicken to the platter and you’re ready to serve. Pass the lime wedges on the side for your guests to sprinkle on the chicken if needed. Serves 4

Friday, May 14, 2010

Appearing on TV ABC 7’s “The View From The Bay”

Please join me on TV ABC 7’s “The View From The Bay,” on Monday May 24th. I am going to cook Chicken Breasts in Korma Sauce, from my cookbook, "The Dance of Spices."

I would like to extend a special invitation to participate in live studio audience for FREE. Audience members have the chance to Meet Spencer Christian and Janelle Wang and see the behind the scenes of a live television broadcast. Tickets for the show are FREE but must be reserved in advance. Audience doors open at 2:15pm with a cut-off time of 2:30pm, the show is live from 3-4pm.
To reserve your seats please call the ticket request line at (415)-954-7733 or visit and click on “be in our audience” and fill out a ticket request form. Or click on the link below to go to online ticket request form. Simply fill out your information and press submit.
Please be sure to note under “comments” the name of the guest to be on the show if you are requesting a specific date to support someone.

During one of my book signings and presentations at William Sonoma, in San Francisco I prepared the chicken korma recipe it turned out to be a great hit.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Those Magnificent Marvelous Green Mangoes

I just got back from my travels to India. I was fortunate to be there during the mango season. I had the privilege of eating green mangoes straight from my mother’s organic garden. My mother had planted two three-year-old mango saplings when I was about the same age.

Now the mango trees are big and spreading, full of luscious bright fruits. Its changing foliage, mass of budding feathery blossoms and hanging fruits present a spectacular view. The cool trees are an abode for tropical parrots and parakeets. The full-grown mature tree produces 400-600 mangoes at a time. Green mangoes start to appear in early April on Indian subcontinent. Some branches were so heavy with fruits that they almost touched the ground. Every time I went shopping I would cut a green mango into slices and take it in ziplock bag, my valuable vitamin C in the sweltering tropical heat. There was something gratifying about cutting down a stalk of green mango and chopping the fruit into small pieces. During leisure I would dip the pieces in a mound of salt and enjoy.

In India the green mangoes are not only used in pickles but utilized like a vegetable as well. It is really white inside, appearing more like daikon, jicama, or green papaya than mango. Its juicy tart flavor is a natural bonus to an imaginative cook. India is the abode to hundreds of varieties of magnificent marvelous mangoes. There is a surprising selection of just green pickling mangoes that vary in tartness, shape and size—literally from, 1-inch to 12-inches in length.

The mango tree is very much a part of Indian customs. It has an honored place in cultural and religious observances. Its slender pointed leaves, the branches and blossoms are used for various purposes. The leaves are skillfully arranged to decorate the thresholds and doors during feasts and in marriage banquets. The farmers have a special place for the mango tree since it signifies richness. A special spot is reserved for the mango tree in the field, it provides shade and a place to relax. Some dip the flat mango pit in ghee (clarified butter) and honey before planting the seed so it grows into a healthy tree. The young growing plant is then anointed with milk so there is a harvest of sweet fruits.

The green mango is not only nutritious but is cultivated since ancient times for various medicinal properties found in the leaves and bark of the tree. The raw mango is a vital flavoring part and cooked like a vegetable in curries, stews and salads. It is used in making chutneys, pickles, preserves and sherbets. Sliced and sun-dried, it is ground into fine powder to make the mango powder. Both the dried slices and powder are used as souring agent in curries, meat dishes, soups, and in preparation of tangy spice blends.

Buy an actual ‘green’ mango in the following recipe. The fruit it is quiet hard and nearly impossible to puncture with a fingernail, available in Indian, specialty and some supermarkets. Usually they are placed separate from the ripe ones and labeled ‘green mango’. Your grocer can probably find a very green mango from his stock, if you ask.

Warm Garbanzo Beans and Green Mango Salad

Here, I have paired the green mango with bland garbanzo beans and contrasting sweet coconut. The result is—warm, inviting salad with a wonderful hint of tangy taste. Try this vegetarian spring salad for light lunch or as an appetizer for dinner. If you have leftover cooked chicken or lamb in your refrigerator, by all means use in this salad.

I make this salad so many times and forget to take a photo of the dish, I will take the picture next time and share it. In the meantime, enjoy the easy salad.

1 medium green mango, unpeeled

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ teaspoon brown or yellow mustard seeds

2 dried red chiles, such as cayennes or chiles de arbol, stemmed, and broken into rough pieces

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (freshly cooked or canned, drained)

2 tablespoons grated fresh or defrosted frozen coconut

½ teaspoon salt

1 small avocado

1. Wash and wipe the mango thoroughly. Peel the mango with a vegetable peeler. Using a hand grater (the fine holes of a hand grater result in a fine, fluffy texture) grate the mango, about half inch on all sides, then grate remaining fruit carefully, avoiding the large flat pit. Measure 1 cup and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds; immediately cover with a spatter screen, and cook until the seeds stop popping, about 30 seconds. Toss in the chiles. Cook few seconds until crisp and lightly browned in spots. Add the mango, garbanzo beans, coconut and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, 5 to 6 minutes.

3. Mound the salad in the center of a decorative deep dish. Peel, pit, and dice avocado, and sprinkle over top of the salad and serve right away. Serves 4 to 6 as an accompaniment

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gulfood Awards 2010

I am happy to share our product, Organic Lemony Flaxseed Spread with Ginger and Honey was selected finalist in the New Functional Food and Beverage category at the Gulfood Awards Gala in Dubai recently.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Indian valentine, Spice it up for your sweetheart

Last February when I visited my alma mater in
India, I was amazed to see boys and girls carrying
red roses. Street vendors selling flowers close to the
campus were doing a brisk business. When I asked
what was going on, a teacher replied, "Don't you
know today is Valentine's Day?"

Yes, I knew it was Feb. 14 but I did not remember
it being a big celebration in India. I was surprised at
how popular Valentine's Day had become on the
subcontinent. Later, I also found out many stores
had run out of Valentine's cards and even notepads.

When I was in college in the late '70s, my friends
and I would often read and talk about the festivities
of Valentine's Day in America, but didn't dare
anything beyond talking to boys once in a while.

Yet, it makes sense that Valentine's Day would
appeal to many Indians. With pleasant weather,
February (month of Magha in Hindu calendar) is the
month of love. Magha is also one of the Indian
classical melodies -- gentle, soulful and romantic.

In this season, it is believed goddess Parvati did
penance to win the love of Lord Shiva. Rati,
Parvati's friend, came to her aid by advancing the
season of spring and dancing to make Shiva's
penance-hardened heart fall for Parvati. During this
romantic period Lord Krishna also played St.
Valentine for his sister and her friend to help bring
together two loving hearts.

India is also the home of the monument to eternal
love, the Taj Mahal. The mighty marble tomb was
built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to enshrine the
body of his beloved wife, Mumtaj Mahal.

No celebration, especially for a day of romance,
would be complete in India without special foods.
The accompanying recipe is perfectly suited for
the occasion.


Serve with warm naan or a crusty bread of your
choice, or on a bed of fragrant jasmine rice.

2 to 3 dried red chiles, stemmed and broken into
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
4 garlic cloves
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 crab (about 2 pounds), cleaned and cracked
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves

Soak the chiles in the vinegar for 15 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger to the chiles and, using a blender or food processor, blend into a paste. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl.

Add the cumin, coriander and cinnamon to the
mixture; mix thoroughly. Add the crab pieces and stir to coat them well. Cover and refrigerate for from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high
heat. When the oil is hot, add the crab and brown on all
sides. Add the salt, water and sugar to the pan. Bring to a
boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 12 to 15
minutes, stirring occasionally, until the crab is
cooked through and the flavors have blended.
Garnish with cilantro. Serves 2.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fancy Food Show in San Francisco

Recipient of NASFT Outstanding New Product Award

Good morning everyone! Please visit us at the Fancy Food Show booth number 608 in San Francisco at the Moscone Center January 17 to 19, and come by for a taste of New, Organic Flaxseed Spread with Tropical Mango. My boutique company Laxmi’s Delights, is the recipient of Outstanding New Product by the NASFT sofi award standing for "Specialty Outstanding Food Innovation," the specialty food industry's most prestigious award competition.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Seared Zesty Zucchini-Eggplant With Sesame

A very Happy and Healthy New Year to you all! I have had too much party food and now I am gone on to my old habits. I went back to my cookbook, “The Dance of Spices,” and leafed through the Vegetable Kingdom.

I savor the lightness of seared veggies so much that this style is an integral part of my everyday cooking. Sautéed vegetables blend well as an accompaniment with a variety of foods. They are at their best when served immediately. In addition to serving as a side dish, you can add the leftovers to cooked tortellini or spaghetti for a light meal, turn plain rice into a pilaf or cook in light cream to make a quick curry. This dish also makes a great topping on open vegetarian sandwiches.

1 medium (½ pound) regular oval or 3 Japanese eggplant
3 medium (½ pound total) zucchini
4 teaspoons salt
¼ cup mild sesame, peanut or olive oil
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon lime juice
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

1. Slice the eggplant and zucchini into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Place the slices in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Toss the veggies so that each slice is coated with salt. Set aside for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a nonstick 12-inch frying pan or large skillet over moderate heat rotating the pan so that the oil coats the bottom and the sides. Add as many eggplant and zucchini slices that will fit in a single layer in the pan. Cook until the bottoms are lightly golden in places, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a platter and set aside. Repeat with the remaining oil, eggplant and zucchini in 2 or 3 more batches.

4. Return the cooked eggplant-zucchini slices to the pan. Sprinkle in the turmeric, cayenne, sugar, sesame and lime juice and toss very gently. Transfer to a heated serving platter. Garnish with cilantro and serve. Serves 4