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Namaste all!

35 years ago today I landed in San Francisco from Bombay, India. Simple reason.... joining my husband.There were no deep intentions or aspirations. I had broken loose from a very close and loving family and travelled to a new place , a new culture and country.

A quick trip down memory lane and I realize that my heart is filled with gratitude to my family and elders!

A culinarian by profession I felt lucky in securing my first job in the USA in less than three months. Vocational Director at the Central YMCA working with refugees primarily from South East Asia. Met a soul sister (who happened to be my first boss) and made some new good friends.

Missing my family and the feeling of homesickness became like breathing.... I did it without thinking for my survival. This was a time of many learnings. I soon learned that the greetings of " Hi " and " Have a nice day" did not equate to the Namaste that I was taught by my family and elders. I could clearly see my baby hands being joined for me and loving voices say that the Divine in me was honoring the Divine in them. With time the voices were clearer and stronger in explaining that my true essence was Divine and I must know and recognize that TRUTH for the other when I namaste.

Time passed and our daughter came along. We also had the opportunity to live in another state and city for a decade but moved back to the San Francisco Bay area. While most experiences have been joyful in creating new family and friends there have been some harsh ones about racism, discrimination and hate.In all I have tried to live The Namaste life especially focused on the third element where one not only recognizes this truth of Oneness but Acts and Lives accordingly!

35 years ago every neighborhood did not have a yoga studio studded with the Namaste signs  nor did the Golden Milk Latte show up on the coffee shop menus! Today, I smile as I see these visual reminders for continuing on my namaste life !

Namaste to my family and elders!

Namaste to all!

 

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UnPlanned results !

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It all started with peeling garlic. My meditation this morning. That led to seeing the tomatoes, the red bell peppers, walnuts and the food processor came out. The peppers were charred. Sesame seeds and coriander was pounded and ground. The pickled dates and amla ( Indian gooseberry) were acknowledged. All this resulted in a beautiful paste/ dip.

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Tomatoes, charred peppers,sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds,ground white sesame seeds, ground fenugreek seeds, ground coriander seeds,pickled dates and amla, garlic and lime. I added a few walnuts later.All tastes were balanced from the ingredients.

  • 3 tomatoes
  • 2 large red bell peppers, charred over open flame
  • 1/2 cup sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons ground sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground fenugreek seeds( optional)
  • 3 tablespoons ground coriander seeds
  • 1 cup pickled dates and amla( vinegar - spice pickle aged 90 days)
  • 6-8 large garlic cloves
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts( not in picture)
  1. All ingredients except the lime was processed together to a fine paste. I like the gritty texture and feel. if you want a smooth paste, soak nuts, seeds and ground spices in 1/2 cup water for at least 30 minutes and grind in a high power blender.
  2. Finish paste with lime juice. 

Note: This required no added salt but you can definitely season to your taste .

This yielded  3 1/4 cups approximately.

Enjoy !

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GETTING THE CHILI GROOVE ON!

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GETTING THE CHILI GROOVE ON!

I always like to have a spicy hot sauce on hand. this one follows my simple equation of :

Hot peppers+Balancing act+acid+sweet+salt+spice = Chili Sauce

I follow equations especially when inspired by pantry items. So, this one is:

Serrano, jalapeños + summer Early Girl tomatoes,fresh garlic+lemon juice+dates+pink Himalayan  salt+coriander powder ,fennel  THAT'S IT !!!!

6 serranos, stemmed

6 jalapeños , stemmed

4 medium tomatoes, really ripe

10-12 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 lemons, juiced

3 dates ( I had Mejdool), soaked

1 tablespoon coriander powder ( the coriander was lightly toasted before grinding)

1 teaspoon fennel powder

Salt to taste

  • Everything , except the lemon juice was finely processed in the food processor.
  • Place the sauce in bowl. Add lemon juice and salt. Taste to adjust seasoning.

ENJOY!

Tips:

  1. Use with Tacos
  2. Use with stir fries
  3. Use as dip or add spice to your dip
  4. Use to spice up your marinade
  5. Use to up your BBQ sauce

 

 

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The Joy of making Paneer ( Indian Pot Cheese)

Rosemary paneer!

On this beautiful Monday morning, I decided to make rosemary paneer to honor the friendship of my friend Ryan. Many moons ago he introduced me to rosemary infused milk. This one's for you Ryan!

  • 1  quart whole milk
  • 1 quart half and half
  • 2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar
  • 3-4 sprigs of rosemary ( 4-5 inches length)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cheesecloth
  1. Heat the milk and half and half in a saucepan. Frequently stir so that the milk solids do not burn at the bottom of the pan.
  2. Just before milk comes to a boil add the rosemary sprigs and salt. Lower the heat as soon as the mixture boils. Stir so that it does not boil over.Simmer a minute to infuse the milk and add the acid to curdle the milk. Allow the mixture to come to a boil for a minute.
  3. The whey should look clear and not milky. 
  4. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and strain. I saved the top part of the sprig . Now, lift and fold the cheesecloth around the paneer and place under a weight to drain more of the whey out. 
  5. I needed a disc like shape and kept the paneer under weight for about three hours.
  6. Peel the cheesecloth. Cut and use as desired.
  7. I was inspired to make a Caprese Salad with a twist. Rosemary paneer, tomatoes, mint and touch of chaat masala !!
This is the underbelly of the rosemary paneer!   

This is the underbelly of the rosemary paneer!

 

I don't have a label for this cooking . This is where I am . Many influences. Many adoptions. Many adaptations. Many moods. Many Tastes. Mostly progressing forward on the path into the journey!!!

Enjoy!

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CAULIFLOWER 1 2 3 !!

The Minimalist cauliflower

The Minimalist cauliflower

This dish is simple and tasty.

  • 1 medium sized head of cauliflower, cut into florets , stem and leaves included, washed 
  • 4 Tablespoons cooking oil of choice ( olive, coconut, mustard or ghee)
  • 3 Tablespoons heaped coriander powder
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes ( fresh or canned)
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. In a small bowl mix the water, coriander powder, black pepper and turmeric . Let sit aside.
  2. Heat a large pan. Add the oil. Keep heat medium low.  Add the water and spice paste and cook for about 2-3 minutes. 
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir. Put a lid on and cook on low heat for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add cauliflower and salt. Stir well till all the cauliflower gets coated with the spice paste and tomatoes. Cover and cook 6-8 minutes, stirring once or twice in between. Check tenderness of cauliflower. The last couple of minutes cook without covering.
  5. Finish with a splash of the lemon juice. This dish can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature .

Enjoy!

 

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Cilantro Cucumber Dip!

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The cooking today was inspired by minimalism and availability of ingredients on hand. The perfect combination. This dip or chutney is simple and versatile in its use.

1 medium size cucumber, rough chopped

2 bunches of cilantro, washed 

1 teaspoon of fresh ginger- turmeric paste ( optional)

3 Tablespoons of almond butter

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1/8 teaspoon vanilla powder

1 Tablespoon Amla ( Indian gooseberry) powder ( optional )

2 limes juiced ( add 1 more if not using amla

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper powder 

  • Put everything in the food processor and grind to desired dip consistency.

Enjoy as:

  • Dressing for pasta or noodle salad
  • Spread on sandwiches
  • Sauce for grilled fish,chicken or vegetables
  • Potato or cauliflower salad for picnics
  • Sauce for tacos

Reaffirms that Simple is tasty. Less is better. 

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A Summer Cooling Spice Blend !

As the Spice Whisperer incarnation, spice blends have become the heart and soul of my everyday cooking. While some blends are purely regional the ones that I currently focus on are the No LabelNoBorders. These simply honor the seasons, reasons and balance of taste and flavor!

A simple Summer blend inspired last week :

2 Tablespoons fennel powder

3 Tablespoons coriander powder, lightly toasted

1 Tablespoon fenugreek powder

1 Tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves, crushed

1 Tablespoon dried mint leaves, crushed

2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tablespoon cardamom powder

2 Tablespoons amla powder ( indian gooseberry)

1 Tablespoon dried rose petals, crushed

1 Tablespoon hibiscus powder

1 Tablespoon turmeric powder

  • Mix well in a bowl 
  • Store in a glass, airtight container, away from direct sunlight
  • Best used within four months.

Some tips of using it :

  • Use it as a Taco seasoning or in equal parts with your taco mix.
  • Add 1 teaspoon to a cup of your vinaigrette.
  • Use it as a grilling rub or inspire your rub by adding a dash of this to it.
  • Use it in your vegetables when sautéing them or roasting .
  • Make a marinade with a dash of vinegar or lime juice for your meat, chicken , tempeh or tofu.

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Me BE ! Be ME ! Lesson from spices !

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Many years of reading spices has helped me learn significant life lessons. While Spice Whispering there is the realization that each spice that I connect with is unique . It is totally confident in what it is...appearance, aroma, taste, origins and value. Yet it allows me to work and partner it with others resulting in a one of a kind blend. 

The spices help me focus and generate a laser sharp concentration . Me is just BEing !! They also give me the confidence to be who I am . ME ! one of a kind but ready to partner towards a better self !

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My Roots are showing !

I am truly dual rooted now, having spent more than half my life in the US! This is definitely showing in my cooking! What a joy! The Tawa Bhindi Masala( baby okra slow cooked on the griddle with onions , tomatoes and spices. The spice blend included cumin, paprika,coriander, amla powder, a touch of turmeric, oregano and black pepper.

The result was very tasty especially when the okra became a delicious taco meal.

The Bhindi Masala Taco !

The Bhindi Masala Taco !

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The Avocado Hummus with an attitude ! 

   This is The Spice Whisperer's version of The Avocado Hummus !

1 can of garbanzo beans (13oz.) , drained slightly

2 medium  Haas avocados, perfectly ripe 

1 lemon, juiced

3 tablespoons tahini

1/2 teaspoon sumac

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon toasted cumin powder

2-3 tablespoons avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves fresh garlic

Salt to taste

  • Blend thoroughly till smooth in blender or food processor. 

Enjoy ! 

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Indian Rice Lentil casserole !Simple !  Easy ! Tasty ! 

A one pot lentil- rice casserole with a flavor inspired by South India ! An easy meal that satisfies traditional tastes.

1 cup Basmati rice, rinsed and strained

1 medium ,yellow onion, peeled , sliced fine

3 cups cooked Chana dal ( Bengal Gram lentils ) substitute split peas, garbanzo or black eye peas

1 small cauliflower, prepped into small flowerettes

1/2 bunch cilantro , washed, chopped, for garnish

3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped

3 tablespoons ghee or oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon  fenugreek seeds

8-10 curry leaves

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

2 dried red chilies ( optional )

1 large lemon , juiced

Salt to taste

2 cups water, hot

  • Heat a Dutch oven. Add ghee and temper spices in sequence starting with the whole chilies,  mustard, cumin and fenugreek.
  • Toast in ghee till for 2-3 minutes till they snap, crackle and pop!
  • Add curry leaves and turmeric. Then add the onions and ginger and sauté for about 5-6 minutes.
  • Add the rice and sauté it with the mixture for about two minutes .
  • Now add the cooked lentils, cauliflower , salt and the hot water.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer till water is almost absorbed.( 10-15 minutes)
  • Cover tightly.  Shut the heat and do not open the pot for 30 minutes.
  • Fluff the mixture and finish off with the lemon juice and cilantro!

Enjoy with cucumber raita, papad and favorite Indian pickle.

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California Living !

   

The Caprese salad ! Easy and delicious ! Assemble it on a plate, platter or jar .

4 thinly sliced Kumatoes

3 balls of  fresh, buffalo mozzarella 

10-12 fresh basil leaves

3-4 tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar 

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and fresh crushed pepper to taste 

  • Arrange the tomatoes , cheese and basil alternating it on the plate. 
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Drizzle with balsamic and olive oil 

Serve with a crusty Italian bread ! 

PS: I chose to not do the olive oil as the cheese had a higher fat content to it.

Enjoy! 

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Momopause!!

    Roses, brunches, chocolates, gifts ! Yes, it is the day to honor and thank the mothers! Let us pause on this day to think about the women that brought us into this world! 

I owe everything to my mum for being who I am today ! She guided me onto the path of discovering who I was . I remember her being there for me in all my tears, fears , scrapes, hurts, insecurities and joys. She taught me to be a good friend, a wife, a sister, a daughter , a mother and a strong woman. She taught me all of that by her living example. There was so much that I did not understand in my younger days but as I enter the fall of my life, I feel blessed, grateful  and thankful for my grandmother , my mum, my sister and my daughter! They are all truly my mother ! 

Technology has made it easier to stay connected  but I miss the actual touch and the real communication .The sitting together and having tea. But again, thankful for the lovely special tea memories at Flury's , Kolkata. The shopping trips at Dhangar Market, New Market  and Basak Stores . The very special shoe shopping memories at this Chinese shoe shop where my sister and I would get them custom made . Style, fashion, entertaining was all learnt by watching mom. 

A blog post will not do justice to all that I want to share about my mother but this is to remind all of us that we should go through " Momopause" everyday. Happy Mothers Day and pause each day to thank mom!

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Sisters ! 

   This is a tribute to sisters all over ! 

In going down memory lane, this picture not only inspired The Spice Whisperer's " sisters!" blend but also brought forth the desire to share the Thankfullness of having sisters ! 

What a Blend ! From the earthiness of cumin and coriander to the hot and smoky cayenne and paprika. The many miles of global travel between us adds the sweetness of vanilla powder and the tart notes of sumac and amla ! The Desi in us is highlighted by the garam masala, ginger, garlic, onion, ajwain, mace and more.

Sisters ! 

We embody love. We may show it in our uniquely different ways but that's what makes this love and bond sustainable. Time has aged us but we are still Smoking Hot Sisters !!!!!!

Sisters ! The Blend ! 

Unique.. Like us .

Totally rooted in the past but fragrant in the Here and Now . Like us.

Versatile. Like us.

Adaptable and Creative. Like us.

Lovingly handcrafted . Like us.

So, everyone reading this celebrate sisters and sisterhood. And for those who ask what is Spice Whispering? Inspired by the people ,  spices do their dance . They mix and match and create an experience for me and the people involved. Spices honor the balance of reason and season . Celebrate your cooking with " Sisters" in spicing up your grilling and BBQ season this year! 

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Masala Oats !!!!

  

Indian tastes are always inspired by the tempered spices ! 

On this day I used 

  • 2 cups cooked steel cut oats ( cooked pilaf style )
  • 1/4 cup raw peanuts
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida 
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric fresh, chopped ( powder is just fine )
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger fresh chopped
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
  • Salt to taste 
  • 3 tablespoons oil or fat of your choice
  • 2-3 jalapeños ( optional)


  1. Cook steel cut oats . I cooked this pilaf style , using the ratio 1:2 oats : water or stock.
  2. Heat oil in a suitable size pan. Add the whole spices( mustard, fenugreek, cumin). Toast  a minute or less till light golden. Add peanuts. Toast 5-6 minutes till cooked. Keep heat medium low.
  3. Add asafetida , curry leaves. Cook a minute. Add raisins and chopped ginger and turmeric and jalapeños . 
  4. Add the cooked oats. Stir to mix thoroughly. Season with salt. Add the lime juice and chopped cilantro.

Notes:

  • This is an intuitive recipe . Cooked by balancing tastes and ingredients on hand. You can customize it to your liking.

Enjoy! May your day be spiced with love .

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Taste the Earth! The Sun! The Moon ! The Stars ! 

    

There is so much about food that we discuss these days. We describe it with many words...healthy food, dietary food, fast food, slow food, nourishing food , soul food, nutritious food, real food and the list goes on. So much food and so much variety of foods available. So much to choose from leaves many of us confused , especially if we chase the food trends and the sales and marketing behind it!  Does it leave you utterly confused? Read further if your answer is Yes ! 

  • It all begins with my SELF ! 
  • What value am I adding to food in my life ?
  • What do I understand about it? 
  • What do I want from it? 
  • What am I willing to do about it?

My journey and relationship with food has been at many levels. I am filled with gratitude that my food today feeds my body, mind and spirit! 

  • As I begin to fully realize that my SELF is Universal, my view , my lens begins to change too.
  • I understand the connectedness of my food, from politics, to climate, to farmers and farms, health and wealth.
  • I want my food to nurture me, my family, my community and all the communities beyond.
  • To do this I make the effort to be conscious , mindful, intentional and recognize the spirit in foods.
  • I make a sincere effort to cook more of the meals at home and share .

The simple mantra that I shared with all my dear students was to " taste the earth, the sun, the moon  and the stars in your food " and see the Universe on the plate !!!!!!

So, take your viewpoint on food to another level . 

May you find the spirits of your food dance and rejoice with you! 

More food thoughts ! 



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East plus West equals Dual Rooted ! 



Three decades ago today, I landed in San Francisco . Seeking the American Dream ??? No! Just dutifully following my husband to the land he had chosen to reside in. I know I had a million thoughts and feelings but what I started with was my mother's blessing! She said, " you don't need to give up anything , just add the good of the new home and culture to yours! 

And so, I am totally dual rooted! And very proud of it ! It pervades into all aspects of my life. Definitely my kitchen. I seamlessly move to store my spices in my " masala dabba" ( the Indian spice box ) and the very professional set of restaurants.

My everyday cooking reflects this dual rootedness ! 

Rosemary parathas!

Paneer korma pot pie!

Vegetarian Irish Stew with jackfruit and spices ! 

Masala Tofu Tacos ! 

The list goes on ! Promise  for recipes to follow! 

As I sit and reflect on my life , and who I am today! I am grateful for my original roots and even more of my dual ones today. Our present is rooted in our past and it is not a bad thing ! 

Hello Namaste all ! 


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Falafel Patties !



These delicious patties were inspired by falafel ! 

A really simple recipe that began by soaking a pound of organic garbanzo beans. I chose Rancho Gordo Beans , a local company in the San Francisco Bay Area.

1 pound soaked garbanzo beans

1 bunch cilantro 

1 bunch curly leaf parsley

2 inches piece fresh ginger

2 inches piece fresh turmeric

1 bunch green garlic chives

1 tablespoon sumac powder

2 tablespoons fenugreek powder

2 tablespoons cumin powder

2 tablespoons coriander powder

1 tablespoon Himalayan pink salt

2/3 cup chia seeds

4-5 tablespoons raw, organic coconut oil

  1. Grind together the garbanzo beans, cilantro, garlic chives , ginger, turmeric and parsley. I used the food processor and ground till almost smooth. Remember it will not be smooth like a hummus paste as the beans are not cooked. Will be similar to cornmeal texture.( gritty). Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Add all the powdered spices and chia seeds and salt. Mix the mixture well and let sit for about 15 - 20 minutes. 
  3. Heat a non stick  or seasoned cast iron pan. Use a 1/2 cup measuring cup for sizing the patties. Scoop. Fill the cup and pat. Add a little coconut oil in the pan. Add the patties to the hot pan. Cook on medium heat for about 6 minutes on EACH side with a lid on . The steam helps cook the mixture ! 

Serving suggestions :

  • Great as veggie burgers with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup and mustard between buns .
  • Gluten free Paleo style with a favorite green salad...
  • As falafels in pita bread
  • I love mine with tamarind chutney, yogurt mint chutney Indian Chaat style 

Serves 16-18 

Would like to add that there is so much more that the recipe does not cover. The intentions and the mindfullness from the sourcing of the ingredients to the process of cooking , serving and eating .

Enjoy!!!

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