Vibrant India Cookbook Launch Party

Vibrant-India-Poster_616

Many of you have been reading this blog since I first started writing it in 2009. As a special thank you I would love to have you join me at the launch party for my cookbook Vibrant India. We’ll be serving appetizers featuring Brooklyn Delhi achaars and recipes from the cookbook. In addition Greene Grape Annex will be hosting a special happy hour including a Vibrant India cocktail. I’ll do a short reading and sign copies of books. Books will also be on sale at the event.

March 22 @ 7-9PM
Greene Grape Annex
753 Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11217
RSVP

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Vote For Me: Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Competition

Chitra Agrawal: Tory Burch Foundation Fellow Finalist

Me and my staff at St. John’s Bread & Life

As many of you know, in 2013, I took a leap of faith to start Brooklyn Delhi, my Indian condiments company. It was my first foray into becoming an entrepreneur, one that has been exciting and liberating and at times downright scary. There’s been lots of ups and downs but in general I feel the business is slowly but steadily moving onwards and upwards. And today, I am happy to share some exciting news with you, but I will need your votes to help make it a reality.

I was just chosen as a finalist in the Tory Burch Fellows Competition for women entrepreneurs and need your support to make it to the final round. The fellowship would provide me with valuable mentorship, education ($10K worth) and capital ($100K!) to help scale Brooklyn Delhi and bring Indian flavors to a wider audience.

You can vote for me once everyday starting today until April 4th here: http://bit.ly/2mj5ipH

Why vote for Brooklyn Delhi:
• We are making the grocery aisles more diverse with Indian home cooking.
• We support local farmers.
• We produce our batches at St. John’s Bread & Life, the largest soup pantry in Brooklyn and provide work opportunities for their staff.
• We are a majority-owned minority and woman business.
• Our products are delicious and made with all natural ingredients and no preservatives.

Please share widely and don’t forget to vote everyday!

Here are some ways to share:

Facebook: Brooklyn Delhi owner Chitra Agrawal is a finalist in the Tory Burch Foundation Fellows Competition for women entrepreneurs! Vote now to help her become a #ToryBurchFellow http://bit.ly/2mj5ipH
Twitter: Vote now for @brooklyndelhi owner @abcdsofcooking to help her become a #ToryBurchFellow. http://bit.ly/2mj5ipH
Instagram: Vote now for @brooklyndelhi owner @chitra to help her become a #ToryBurchFellow. Click the link in bio to vote [place http://bit.ly/2mj5ipH in link in bio]

 
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My Cookbook: Special Pre-Order Price + Bonus Recipe Bundle

Vibrant India by Chitra Agrawal

I still can’t believe it was March of 2014 when I announced I would be writing a cookbook and 3 years later, we’ve finally arrived at pre-order time!  And after several title changes I am happy to present Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn, now available from Penguin Random House. (33% off at select booksellers for limited time, plus get a special bonus recipe bundle available when you pre-order – details below).

The stunning photos were shot by Erin Scott and styled by Lily Kang. Interwoven throughout the book are exquisitely intricate illustrations drawn by my talented Aunt Karen Vasudev in a traditional Madhubani style, an ancient Indian art form.

Writing this manuscript has been a real labor of love for me.  I  devoted myself to gathering, documenting and meticulously testing my family’s recipes passed down through generations (some in the language of pinches and handfuls and others transcribed from fading Aerogram letters). I worked hard to adapt them to be accessible for the home cook while still maintaining their integrity. The 80+ recipes, which are all vegetarian and for the most part gluten-free and vegan naturally, are rooted in traditional South Indian Brahmin home cooking and inspired by seasonal fruits and vegetables from my Roasted Kabocha Squash ‘Sambar’ to Apple, Ginger and Coconut ‘Kadabu’ Hand Pies.  My passion for preserving food traditions in the spirit of the local food movement is very much alive in this book.

In addition to my adaptations are classic recipes such as dosa, savory lentil and rice crepe which I explain in detail bordering on OCD, a mix of kosambris, fresh salads made with chopped veggies, coconut, lemon, fried spices and curry leaves, lemon saaru, a tangy aromatic lentil soup that is equal parts delicious and healing and one of my favorites beet and coconut yogurt raita. Sprinkled throughout are fun snacks I grew up eating in Bangalore like addictive bitter gourd chips and Congress peanuts, desserts I crave often like shrikhand, sweetened thick yogurt flavored with cardamom and saffron and refreshing drinks like majjige, herbed buttermilk.

The book gave me an opportunity to write about my family’s history, our cuisine and Bangalore, my mom’s hometown and where my parents first met.  I also wrote  about my story – how I discovered and eventually become a part of the vibrant food scene in Brooklyn..and how I eventually found myself at a crossroads where I had to choose to take a leap of faith and pursue food full time, which led me to writing this book and starting Brooklyn Delhi.

I’ve learned so much during the process of writing this cookbook (on Instagram you can view some of the behind the scenes using #bangalorecookbook).  Besides getting elbow deep in the nuance of testing a gazillion recipes, I got to see and participate in the photo shoot in Berkeley, CA, become somewhat of an archivist by collecting old family photos and laying them out into collages that tell a story, against my natural tendencies, become more organized than I have ever been to figure out how best to arrange the contents of the book and last but not least to stop second guessing myself and go with my gut.

I am thrilled with how the book came out and cannot wait to show you the literal fruits of my labor!

Where to Buy

US
Pre-Order Sale: Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Target
Additional Retailers: Indiebound //  Powell’s // Books-a-Million // Hudson Booksellers // Walmart

Canada
Amazon.ca // Indigo

Worldwide
Book Depository – Free Worldwide Shipping

Electronic Versions
Google Play // Kindle // Kobo // Nook

Pre-Order Bonus Recipe Bundle

Also, when you pre-order Vibrant India before March 21st, you can receive a bundle of bonus recipes! Here’s how to redeem these exclusive recipes via email:

  • Purchase Vibrant India from one of the retailers above. Take note of the order number when the retailer shows/sends you confirmation of your purchase.
  • Add vibrantindiacookbook@gmail.com to your email contacts list.
  • Send an email to vibrantindiacookbook@gmail.com with your purchase order number in the subject line.
  • You will receive an email with the recipe bundle and tips to help you get started cooking from Vibrant India.
  • If you don’t receive your recipe bundle email within a week, email me: chitra@abcdsofcooking.com

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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 | Comments Off on Shavige Payasa: Vermicelli Noodles in Sweet Saffron Milk #ImmigrationIsTasty

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 | Comments Off on Beet Rasam (Spicy & Sour Lentil Soup)

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