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Curried Sweet Potato and Lentils

Curried Sweet Potato and Lentils

I’ve been trying to use up all my winter foods before the much anticipated spring veggie takeover. While I could certainly eat sweet potatoes year-round, it’s likely they’ll soon be swapped for a greener, but equally sweet, starch. I’m talking spring peas, and buckets of them. I’m talking sweet pea soups and all the other early seasonal veggies I can pair with them. Man am I ready for that.

However, in the meantime, I’m still going strong with my long-term love of sweet potatoes and relishing in their convenience. Sweet peas are great, but to enjoy them at their best, you’re in for an hour or so of shucking away their pods. (Totally worth it though!) On the other hand, the sweets used in this dish needn’t even be peeled. In fact, after a good wash, you’ll want to leave on the skin as you chop. It’s this thin outer layer that holds much of the healthy tuber’s potassium and fiber.

Speaking of fiber, I’m not sure there’s an easier (or cheaper), cholesterol-lowering source than lentils. Lentils really don’t get enough credit in my kitchen, but I’m always happy with the results when they do make it to the stove. Filling and versatile, I hope to see more of these on my blog soon.

Here, they’re paired with a flavor-heavy variety of spices and sweetened with both the coconut milk and the potatoes. The potatoes every so slightly melt into the dish, complimenting the coconut which gives the low-fat lentils a slight richness. I recommend serving in a wrap with diced avocado, but any whole grain would work below them as well.

Note, this recipe is meant to feed a crowd. Cut the recipe in half or freeze for later use if yield is too much.

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Cucumber Raita

Raita is an essential part of an Indian meal. With all of the fragrant spices and heat that typically perfuse Indian cooking, a cool yogurt raita helps to chill the palate in between bites. Raita acts as a sort of condiment or chutney, cast on the sideline to accompany the centerpiece of your meal. While just a spoonful or two gets put on the plate, a good raita is hard to forget. So if possible, don’t skip out on this when making Indian for dinner. It’s easy to make and well worth your time.

Cucumber Raita

Serves 6-8 as a condiment

-1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
-1 cucumber, peeled and sliced lengthwise, then seeded and minced
-1 small tomato, minced
-1 1/2 tsp. black mustard seed
-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
-1 tsp. cumin seeds
-Scant 1/2 tsp. salt
-3-4 Tbsp. cilantro, minced (optional)

Mix all ingredients. Chill in refrigerator at least an hour before serving.

Curried Cauliflower

Today’s Indian dish is one of my favorites. It centers around that wrinkly brain of a veggie known as cauliflower. Cauliflower is kind of like the white rice of the vegetable kingdom. It’s inherently subtle flavor will take on the taste of pretty much any ingredient you pair it with. So if you like Indian food, cooking the veggie with Indian-styled spices will mean a victory for your taste buds.

In this recipe, there’s also the option of using half broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. The broccoflower isn’t essential but will add a nice hint of green to the dish. It’s flavor errs on the side of cauliflower, rather than broccoli, meaning it too will nicely melt into all of the surrounding flavors. Serve as a side dish with a handful of fresh cilantro tossed on top.

Curried Cauliflower

Serves 6

-1 head of cauliflower and 1 head of broccoflower, cut into small flowerets (may use all cauliflower or all broccoflower)
-2 Tbsp. olive oil
-2 1/2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
-1 – 2 whole dried red chilis
-2 tsp. turmeric
-1/2 cup water or more, if needed
-1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
-Salt, to taste
Saute mustard seeds in oil until they begin to pop.  Then add chilies and turmeric and saute, stirring, until aromatic, not burnt.  Add cauliflower & broccoflower flowerets and water, stir, and lower heat. Cover pot with lid and steam veggies for a few minutes.  Then uncover, and stir in tomatoes. Cover pot for a few more minutes until veggies are tender but not overcooked.  Add salt to taste starting with 1/2 tsp.

Indian Rice

The following rice is so simple, but filled with such wonderful flavor. The peas add a touch of natural sweetness and a wonderful pop of color to the staple grain. Sometimes I find myself wanting to make this recipe even when I’m not eating Indian food alongside it. And why not, right? For an Indian feast though, rice is an absolute must.  It’s the perfect instrument to sop up all of the flavors in many of the traditional creamy, stew-like dishes so that they don’t escape to the bottom of your plate. While this recipe can certainly stand on its own, the flavors are subtle in comparison to all of those full-bodied curries and won’t seem overpowering when paired with other dishes.

Up the nutritional value by swapping the white basmati for whole grain basmati if available. To make the switch, all you’ll need to do is add a little more water and increase the cooking time.

Indian Rice

Serves 6

-2 Cups white basmati rice
-Green cardamon pods, cracked open to give 1 1/2 tsp. seeds
-1 tsp. whole cumin seed
-1 Tbsp olive oil
-3/4 tsp. salt
-1 3/4 C water
-3/4 tsp. turmeric
-1 Cup frozen or fresh peas
Heat the oil in medium sauce pan and add cardamon & cumin seeds. Saute until seeds begin to pop.  Then add the rice and stir and saute until rice is fragrant (a minute or so).  Add salt and stir. Add water, and cover pan with lid.  When rice comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Then add turmeric and stir rice a little with a fork. Add the peas, cover and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and let sit until ready to serve.  When ready to serve, stir peas into rice, place in serving bowl and enjoy.

Indian Dahl

I had the pleasure of chowing down on a lot of good Indian food throughout my childhood. My mom’s not Indian, but she can certainly cook as if she were. Every so often, when the mood strikes, she’ll decide to make a whole vegetarian, Indian feast. After cooking all day, she’ll always comment on how it’s not quite the display you’d get at an Indian buffet. But believe me, it’s always a feast, and includes more delicious Indian food than I’ve ever seen in a buffet.

My dad is always sure to comment on this too at every Indian feast we’ve ever had. “Your mom’s cooking is so much better than anything you can get out at an Indian restaurant,” he says. And in many respects, he’s right. My mom makes some incredible Indian food.

She also keeps her recipes fairly light, eliminating much of the heavy cream and ghee (clarified butter) that fills many traditional Indian dishes. So even after sitting down to a table full of food, I’m not left with a total food hangover. That’s always a plus.

Over the next week, I’ll be sharing several Indian-styled recipes inspired by my mom. While I won’t be including every recipe my mom may make, by the end, you should have more than enough to create your own feast. Hope you enjoy Indian cuisine as much as I do!

The first recipe I’m sharing is for dhal, a traditional lentil-based stew, common in India, particularly in the Southern region. It’s a light, protein-packed dish full of aromatic flavor. The ingredient list below is lengthy, but notice many of the ingredients are optional. For optimal flavor, use all of the listed ingredients, but if you’re missing a few, no worries! The dish will hold intense flavor regardless.


Serves 6

-1 cup red lentils
-3 cups water
-1/2 – 1 tsp. salt
-1 Tbsp. olive oil
-1 tsp. brown mustard seeds
-1 tsp. cumin seed (or 1/4 tsp. ground cumin)
-1 clove garlic
-1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
-1/4 cup onions, minced
-1/4 cup carrots, minced
1/3 cup tomatoes, chopped
-1/2 red bell pepper, minced (optional)
-1/3 cup eggplant, minced (optional)
-1/4 cup red potatoes, diced
-3/4 tsp. turmeric
-1/2 tsp. coriander
-1/8 tsp. cayenne, or to taste
-1/2 tsp. garam masala (optional)
1/4 cup dried, unsweetened coconut (optional)
-Juice of a lime (optional)
-2 – 4 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
Place lentils, water and salt in pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Saute brown mustard seeds and cumin in the oil, and when the seeds begin to pop, add all remaining vegetables except ginger and tomatoes, if using, and saute until veggies are almost soft.  Stir in ginger and tomatoes.  Add remaining dry spices and stir.
Uncover lentils and stir in veggie mixture.  Add coconut, if desired.  Cover and simmer 5 to 10 more minutes.  Add more water if you’d like a thinner dahl.  Just before serving, add lime juice, if using, and the cilantro.