Rasam is what I crave when we’ve been traveling or eating out too much. And on those days when I simply don’t want to mess with soaking tamarind, waiting for the toor dal to cook, and make rice in a different pot. A few years ago, I came across this method where you can make it all in one go and tried it in my pressure pan – this was before the OPOS days. Now, I have started using my instant pot for the same, and even the extra step of watching and turning it off is eliminated. It’s ready with minimal prep – no soaking tamarind, no making a pot of rasam, and rice separately, no waiting for dal to cook. All the ingredients go in the instant pot together, pressure cooked for 15 minutes, and a simple rasam rice is yours – hot, steaming, and will soothe your soul in under 30 minutes. And it tastes heavenly!
Simple hacks to store bought spaghetti sauce makes this a sublime, satisfying meal. I had this first at a Telugu friend’s place – she tweaked a storebought ragu sauce with some Indian spices, and chili powder and I loved it. As a new immigrant who wasn’t used to eating sweetish tomato sauce with pasta, this made it very palatable. Not just palatable, but it became a family favorite, when I added some vegetables – fresh carrots, spinach, broccoli… Try it! It comes in handy on those busy nights, but you won’t feel guilty about opening a jar of store bought sauce.
It was the summer of ’91. I was fat with my first child. A couple of our friends from our former Indian company were visiting us in Indiana, and the 4 of us decided to go see another couple who worked with us in India, who then lived in St Louis. It was a roughly 300 mile drive, and it was hot, and I felt like a house with a furnace in it, but boy, was it fun! Our friends took us to the airshow in St Louis. It was there that I first had this strange dish. It was masala vadai, but not, wrapped in nan, but of course it wasn’t nan, filled with raita, and what the bloody hell, it was not raita! It was falafel, in spongy soft pita bread, surrounded by gooey labneh/tzatziki! I would have never thought of masal vadai, raita, and naan in the same breath, let alone put it all together in a plate. And yet, it tasted amazing. And today, I made all of them at home for my mahjong group. The pita bread turned out a bit too chewy and tough, so I will post that recipe after I have perfected it and am happy with the results. But following is the recipe for the falafel, and the two dips – tahini dip, and the yogurt sauce which I’ve heard called labneh or tzatziki sauce. Here goes…this lunch was a big hit with my mahjong girls!
A complex dish with an unusual combination of spices, souring agents, and the star vegetable that’s actually a condiment! I have made bhaghare baingan which is very similar, but made with eggplant/brinjal. This year, I am getting a bounty of slim, long green chilies in my garden and was searching online for suitable new recipes, and ran into this. I have never actually had this dish in a restaurant but decided to make it, since we love bhagare baingan.
While looking for recipes, I did some research on the origins of the dish, and came across the fascinating story of how green chilies made their way into India. Hard to believe, but they are not native to India, considering how much every cuisine of India uses them, and how seamlessly integrated they seem, as to make one think they are native to India. Nope, just like tomatoes, they were brought to India by the Portuguese, specifically the famous Vasco da Gama who brought the saplings wrapped in moss as a gift — he picked them up from Spain, Brazil and Africa! In return, he took home the precious black gold, aka pepper!
Read all about how they made their way into Akbar’s and all the kitchens of India in this story:
By the way, I learned that Akbar was a staunch vegetarian! Wonders never cease, and Akbar continues to amaze me. This dish, with the influence of Karnataka, Telengana, and Marathwada cuisines, apparently appealed to Akbar’s “unifying Hindustan” sensitibilites. I love food stories! On to the recipe now.
Khobz is a bread that is a staple in Morocco. We first got introduced to Moroccan cuisine in Indianapolis at a restaurant called El Morocco, and we became addicted to the bread, and the various vegetarian accompaniments – served in multiple courses, starting with the golden warm bread. Alas, the restaurant closed within a few months, much to our disappointment. But it led me on a hunt for Moroccan recipes online, and I believe I may have found the bread. It’s a simple bread, and I have pretty much followed the standard basic recipe, without too much alternations. I made a warm, moderately spicy vegetable soup. The bread is wonderfully porous to mop up the soup. I make the soup fairly liquidy, to dip the bread in.
This is a very basic white bread, and I didn’t experiment with alternate flours, or toppings even though the original recipe in most websites call for sesame seed topping.