Shavige Payasa: Vermicelli Noodles in Sweet Saffron Milk #ImmigrationIsTasty

Vermicelli Noodles in Sweet Saffron Milk, Shavige PayasaMaybe it’s the general uneasiness I’ve been feeling since the election or that I’m 7 months pregnant, but I have never indulged in sweets to this level in my life. I’m thinking it’s a little of both. Recently a good friend of mine and food writer, Cathy Erway asked me, in light of the recent executive order on immigration, if I would take part in contributing my thoughts on immigration to this country through the lens of food.  Cathy invited several food bloggers, journalists, photographers and podcasters to do the same on President’s Day this year as a way to collectively celebrate the diversity of America’s cuisine thanks to all the immigrants who have made it their home over the course of history. She dubbed the campaign #ImmigrationIsTasty and you can share yours or find more stories like mine on social media using that hashtag.

It’s safe to say, I would not be writing this blog or a cookbook or have started Brooklyn Delhi were it not for my parents emigrating to the US from India. Since 2009, my goal has been to convey a bit of my cultural perspective through recipes.  Over the years, I have connected and made friends with other food writers and chefs that share a similar goal to mine and together I believe we are contributing to a cultural and historical body of work that is representative of American diversity in our day and age.  Food is one of the easiest ways to experience and understand a culture; it transcends language barriers and provides history and context effortlessly.  We are of course not the only ones.  It’s difficult to ignore the influence of immigration on the restaurants we eat in or the products we buy at the grocery store today.  What once seemed foreign like hummus, sriracha, guacamole and even our beloved pizza and spaghetti to generations past is now part of the fabric of American cuisine.  I don’t think there is a more varied or interesting foodscape on the planet and I am excited to see it change and evolve in the years to come.

My parents in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois where they got married.

My parents in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois in the 60s.

My parents landed as students in this country in the 60s, right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.  Oddly, it seems like we are entering a time not so different from then.  I am a believer though that positive change can come from unrest and that America will return to characterize itself once again as a Melting Pot – remember that phrase? I hope we can bring it back!  In celebration of immigration to the US and all of the delicious food that has come our way because of it, I am fittingly sharing my first ever dessert recipe on the blog.

Ingredients to Make Shavige Payasa

I’m not the biggest fan of Indian desserts but there are a few from my childhood that I hold dear. One of them is shavige payasa or vermicelli noodles in sweet saffron milk topped with fried cashews and yellow raisins.  My mother would make this dessert for us on special occasions or festival days.  I can remember standing by her at the stove as she would fry broken cashews in ghee until golden and then raisins until they just plumped up.  She’d fry a few extra cashews for me to munch on as I waited for her to make the rest of the dessert. They were deliciously buttery and roasted, almost caramelized in their flavor.

Fried Cashews and Nuts for Shavige Payasa

Now when I make this dessert in my home, it transports me back to our old kitchen in New Jersey as I’m sure the recipe took my mother back to her childhood home in Bangalore where my grandmother would make shavige payasa for her. Don’t get me wrong making sweets of any kind is a magical experience but making one that has been passed down from generations carries with it all of these other emotions and feelings.  It’s a full sensory experience that hits sweet notes in your mouth and memory all at once.  This is just one recipe in homes throughout America that is reflective of our country’s rich immigrant culture. I hope you will join me in making or sharing a recipe from your family’s heritage using #ImmigrationIsTasty today too!

Below is my mother’s recipe for shavige payasa. I hope you enjoy!

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Posted in Autumn, Dessert, Easy, Noodles, South Indian, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian, Winter | Leave a comment

Beet Rasam (Spicy & Sour Lentil Soup)

South Indian rasam made from beets

I’ve shared a number of recipes for rasam, a spicy and sour South Indian lentil soup, on the blog from the traditional tomato one I grew up eating to the roasted squash and coconut milk version inspired by Thai curries. This time, my rasam recipe takes a turn with beets from the Greenmarket.

beets from the Greenmarket

In teaching cooking classes and now writing a book on South Indian recipes, I’m constantly trying to provide students and readers with a number of ways to use Indian ingredients. I know when I buy special items to make a recipe out of a new cookbook, it always irks me to see those same ingredients sitting in my cupboard months later. My goal is that if you do go out and buy rasam powder (made from a blend of roasted spices, red chili peppers and curry leaves) for instance, you’ll be able to use it in a variety of ways, whether it be in this recipe or maybe in a greens stir-fry.

beet rasam

The sourness in this rasam comes from lemon and for herbs I had parsley but you can also use cilantro. I served the beet rasam over brown rice with Greek yogurt.

 

 

 
Posted in Autumn, Dinner, Easy, Gluten-Free, Recipes Index, Soups & Dals, South Indian, Vegan, Vegetarian, Winter | Leave a comment

Roasted Delicata Squash Rings (Hot Chip Style)

roasted delicata squash
Before I start this post, I must say that I am not ignoring this space or you. After turning in my cookbook manuscript, Brooklyn Delhi has really monopolized my time lately, but in a good way. Ben and I just came back from the Good Food Awards in San Francisco where my tomato achaar at Brooklyn Delhi won in their Pantry division. The Good Food Awards are given to producers that are responsibly and sustainably making tasty food products. They reward makers who are idealist but also put those ideals into action. I am proud to be included in that group. You can view a complete list of winners here. I was an undergrad at Berkeley when I first learned about the local food movement and it has greatly shaped the work I do here in Brooklyn. At the Good Food Awards, it was an honor to share the stage with luminaries in the field such as Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Carlo Petrino, Founder of Slow Food.

Ok and now for the recipe…

This recipe was one I came up with at the tail-end of our farm share season. Delicata squash is a squash I came to later, after toying with butternut, acorn, spaghetti and kabocha squashes. In comparison, delicata is easier to work with and you can eat its skin since it’s so thin. The skin is also nutritious and adds good texture and contrast to the sweet and tender meat of the squash.

delicata squash recipe

I went through quite a few rounds of testing a recipe for baked hot chips made from bitter gourd this summer for my cookbook so I thought I would loosely apply that recipe to the delicata. Hot chips are somewhat of a phenomenon in South India. There are whole shops devoted to spicy chips made from all sorts of different vegetables.  Before roasting the squash, I batter the cut rings with some rice flour, chili powder, spices, lemon juice and oil. This adds some additional crunch, which pairs well with creamy yogurt, sweet peppers and herby parsley.

First step is to slice the squash.  I wanted these to be part chip, but still hearty enough to be a lunch salad so I cut them about 1/3 inch thick. cut delicata squash

The squash gets a nice golden yellow color from the turmeric I put in the batter.

roasted delicata squash

The week I made this recipe, we had received parsley and all of these wonderful peppers from Sang Lee Farms in our CSA. I just cut up the bright red ones to put on top. I’m sure pomegranates would also be great to add a crunchy sweetness and a burst of color. I topped these delicata squash rings with yogurt, also known as lazy person’s creamy dressing:)  It complemented the spices in the rice flour batter and the crunchy texture of the rings well.

locally grown farm peppers

 

 
Posted in Appetizers, Dinner, Easy, Gluten-Free, Mains, Salads, South Indian, Vegetarian, Winter | 2 Comments

Roasted Acorn Squash & Coconut Milk Rasam

roasted acorn squash and coconut milk soup

Rasam is a South Indian soup, usually on the tangy side and prepared with an intoxicating spice powder made from coriander, cumin, black pepper, black mustard seeds, fenugreek, turmeric, red chili peppers and more depending on what region of South India you’re from.  In researching my family’s rasam powder for my cookbook, I realized the recipes vary even from household to household.  Rasam powder is readily available at the Indian shop and now even online – MTR and 777 are good brands.

In Bangalore, where my mom is from rasam is sometimes referred to as saaru. On most days at home, we’d have saaru made from tomatoes, toor dal (split pigeon pea lentils) and tamarind and finished off with curry leaves and cumin seeds fried in butter.  In other parts of South India, coconut is also included in preparations for rasam, which is the inspiration for my roasted acorn squash and coconut milk soup (along with my love for Thai coconut curries).

acorn squash

We got this nice looking acorn squash in our farm share this week, which I promptly halved and roasted. With the rainy hurricane going on outside, it was the perfect time to finally turn on my oven.  I tend to roast my Fall and Winter squashes on the weekend and store them away in my fridge to prepare a quick dinner during the week.

roasting acorn squash
The roasted squash is so flavorful even by itself, but imagine blending it with coconut milk and rasam powder!

roasted squash
After bringing the soup to boil for a bit, I just add lemon for tang, a little brown sugar for sweentess and some curry leaves, green chili peppers, ginger and spices fried in coconut oil to finish off the flavor.

roasted squash and coconut milk rasam

If you find yourself wondering more about what to do with your winter squash, head over to Men’s Journal where I’m sharing my two cents on the topic in their ‘Ask A Chef’ column.

 

 
Posted in Autumn, Dinner, Easy, Gluten-Free, Mains, Recipes Index, Soups & Dals, South Indian, Vegan, Vegetarian | 6 Comments

Chaat Tostadas / Seven Spoons Cookbook

chaat tostadas from seven spoons cookbookWriting this blog has brought many amazing people into my life including Tara O’Brady, the author and photographer behind the food blog Seven Spoons and the new cookbook of the same name.  I think it was around the time that I launched Brooklyn Delhi, that I first got a message from Tara full of support and congratulations on embarking on the new endeavor.  Having been a huge fan of her work for some time, I was quite flattered to hear from her.  Tara’s stunning photography is equally matched with her writing that seems to always draw me in even if I’m just passing by her blog to see what’s new.  Similarly, her cookbook has that same magnetic quality to it, full of her favorite recipes inspired by her Indian heritage, Canadian upbringing and taste for international cuisines.

seven spoons cookbook by Tara O'Brady

Although we have not met in person as Tara’s home is in southern Ontario, we have struck up a friendship from afar.  When I was in the deepest throws of writing and recipe testing for my cookbook, I’d always feel a little less frazzled when I’d receive a note of encouragement from Tara.  And when her cookbook came out, I was ecstatic to get a copy from her in the mail. In return, I sent her a couple bottles of my achaar which she of course put to good use right away.  And so the easy back and forth goes, almost like pen pals.  I’m anxiously awaiting our first meeting in person this November when Tara’s book tour arrives in New York.  Until then, I have her beautiful book of recipes to cook from.

seven spoons cookbook by Tara O'Brady

Upon flipping through the cookbook, I zeroed in on Tara’s Chaat Tostadas immediately because papri chaat is one of my favorite Indian street foods and years back, I used to run a Mexican-Indian supper club called Masala Loca with my friend Sabra. We had served several varieties of chaat using golgappa or papri chips but never on tostadas – genius idea!  And I don’t know how you could go wrong really with chickpea curry, sprouts, yogurt, green apple herb chutney, tamarind chutney and sev (fried chickpea flour strands) on top of a fried corn tortilla, right?  Tara aptly describes the texture and flavor combination of chaat as ‘perfectly addicting.’

The thing I love about chaat is that there are a million ways to configure the dish and you never eat the same chaat twice.  In her header notes, Tara gives the idea of piling all of the chaat toppings into a baked potato if you so desire.  Taking a page from her improvisational style, I adapted Tara’s recipe for a New York heat wave, produce I received in my Crown Heights Farm Share and what I had in my fridge at the time.  I have left her recipe untouched below, but just added notes where I have subbed in ingredients I had on hand.

Since we were experiencing 90 degree temperatures in Brooklyn last week, I decided to opt for tostadas from the Piaxtla Tortilla Factory in Bushwick so I would not have to fry anything in my already steamy kitchen.  I have included Tara’s instructions for frying up corn tortillas for fresh tostadas below, which I will for sure give a try once things cool down here.

tostadas from bushwick tortilla factory in Brooklyn

Got a sweet white onion and some cherry and plum tomatoes from Sang Lee Farms in the farm share last week which I diced for garnish on the chaat.

onion and tomatoes from Sang Lee Farms

Ben and I have been on a rajma kick so used leftover kidney bean curry (without the spinach) in place of the chickpea curry. Rajma is the Indian equivalent of Mexican refried beans or chili and I often use it for filling in tacos or enchiladas.  I decided to sprout some mung beans at home because my corner bodega was out of sprouts.

Mung Beans and Kidney Bean Curry

You can soak the mung beans overnight and use them as is or wait another day and you have sprouts. I couldn’t wait so I used just the soaked beans the first day and then the sprouts the second day (yes we had chaat tostadas two days in a row!). Here’s how to sprout mung beans.  I love Tara’s idea of sprouts in this recipe, adds a great texture.

mung bean sprouts

For the chutneys I prepared Tara’s Fresh Green Chutney with green apple, cilantro and mint (recipe below) and used a few dabs of my tomato achaar from Brooklyn Delhi in place of tamarind chutney.  I had sev left over from my last Tangra dinner for the crunchy topping.

chaat tostada from Seven Spoons cookbook

We loved these so much and will definitely be making them again with Tara’s chickpea curry next time. Congratulations Tara on your first cookbook (hoping there will be more:). Am excited to cook more recipes out of Seven Spoons and to cheer you on when you arrive in New York!

 

 

 

 
Posted in Appetizers, Mains, North Indian, Recipes Index, Salads, Snacks, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

My Indian-Chinese Dinner Series Pops Up September 20th

tomatochaat_616

Tangra sweet & sour tomato chaat

Diana and I have picked up the momentum with Tangra, our vegetarian Indian-Chinese dinner series inspired by the seasons and the cuisine of the Calcutta neighborhood of the same name.  Our original take on Tangra cuisine was recently featured in Edible Brooklyn.

To make room for the demand, we have shifted our operations to 61 Local in Cobble Hill to accommodate more guests. Our next 7-course dinner served with local ciders, beers and special non-alcoholic beverages will take place on September 20th and will be our last Summer installment of Tangra this year.

Our menu is always changing but to give you an idea, here is what we served at a past Tangra:

Indian-Chinese Menu

The venue, 61 Local is a special place for me in particular because they have been huge supporters of my achaars at Brooklyn Delhi. On their daily menu, they serve Brooklyn Delhi Eggs flavored with my roasted garlic achaar. Order them next time you’re there!

Indian deviled eggs @ 61 Local
I’m offering a special 10% discount to ABCDs of Cooking readers so use promo code SPICY when you reserve your Tangra tickets here.

Tangra Endless Summer
When: Sunday, September 20th
Where: 61 Local, 61 Bergen Street, Brooklyn, NY
Buy tickets

Photo credits
Sweet & sour tomato chaat by Ethan Finkelstein
Brooklyn Delhi deviled eggs by Renee Baumann

 
Posted in Events & Classes | Leave a comment

Steamed Eggplant with Garlic and Chilies / The Food of Taiwan

Steamed Eggplant with Garlic and Chilies

I have been waiting until summer to try this steamed eggplant recipe from my friend Cathy Erway’s new cookbook, The Food of Taiwan.  The time finally came when I received these scallions and a white and green eggplant in my farm share recently.

Scallions and eggplants

Cathy’s book is a thorough intro to the cuisine of the island and includes stunning photography by Pete Lee of the recipes, scenery, markets and people of Taiwan.  I am a big fan of her writing and am an avid reader of her food blog, Not Eating Out In New York. I always learn something new from her, whether it be about an esoteric ingredient or the origin for a well-known dish. And I love her tone, which is always to the point and never flowery – a refreshing and unique point of view in the sea of food blogs out there. She is also the host of Eat Your Words, a weekly podcast on Heritage Radio, where she interviews cookbook authors.

The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway

The minute I got Cathy’s book, I read it cover to cover.  She does an impressive job of weaving together the complex history, cultural makeup and diverse food traditions of Taiwan with her own family’s roots in the country.  You get to see Taiwan from her eyes as an American college student living there for the first time and then again as she delves deep into its food culture as an adult. This is the type of cookbook I seek out because not only do you learn new recipes and techniques, but you also get a sense of place and context from where they were derived.

The Food of Taiwan by Cathy Erway

I was drawn to the steamed eggplant dish because believe it or not I have never steamed the vegetable.  I always saute, roast or bake it.  I guess the majority of recipes I have made with eggplant have either been Indian or Italian so that may explain it.  I do love the soft texture of steamed eggplant and decided it was finally time I went the distance.  This recipe also seemed like a relatively easy place to start having never cooked a Taiwanese dish before.  The eggplant is first steamed and then flavored with soy sauce, scallions, chili peppers and garlic.  These ingredients permeate the soft eggplant beautifully and I actually couldn’t wait to eat it so I ended up using the photo I took after I dug in;/

Steamed Eggplant with Scallions and Chilies

Congratulations to Cathy on a beautiful book and I’m looking forward to cooking more recipes in The Food of Taiwan.

 

 

 
Posted in Dinner, Easy, Gluten-Free, Recipes Index, Sides, Summer, Vegan, Vegetarian | 1 Comment