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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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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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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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For the love of Spices !!!!!!

20140711-175426-64466337.jpg Namaste !

Spices inspire my life ! We roast them and toast them We pound them We grind them and selflessly they give their fragrance, taste and themselves to our food and our health! A spoon of cumin seeds rubbed together between my palms is a connection to the beautiful women on the farm who have toiled hard to harvest the seeds. Crack the peppercorns and you spike the dish with stories, travel and long forgotten history! Spices keep me totally mindful when cooking a dish. It could be the simplicity of one spice or the complex layers of flavors of many, many spices. Jeera Aloo , a simple rustic dish of potatoes and cumin seeds. The complexity of food of the royal Courts of India ....more than 20 different spices in one dish. Spices are wrapped around traditions . The Masala Dabba..... A common spice box in every Indian household. Picture the continuity of blessing when the mother packs the spice box for her daughter when she gets married. I moved far away from home after marriage and everyday when I used the spices from my box, I was connected to family . This deep connection to the spices for so many decades resulted in The Spice Whsiperer. Just recognizing the gift of people and connections on the path of self discovery.

Namaste all !

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WTF!#* Turnip Tapas

20140709-164952-60592859.jpg These began with pure inspiration and creativity. A by product of Mindfulness in the kitchen!

6 medium turnips, peeled and sliced 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons mustard seeds, yellow , brown or black A pinch of saffron...6-8 strands 1 level tablespoon of paprika 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and toast them a couple of minutes till they snap, crackle and pop in sound and release a nutty aroma. Add the saffron and toast a minute. Now add the turnips , paprika and salt. Stir well. Cover and cook for about 5-7 minutes till turnips are tender. Finish off with the vinegar and cook another minute or so to dry off the liquid.

Serve garnished with cilantro or parsley! Here they were served with a plum grilling jam and spiced amaranth!

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Kitchen ! Go from Stressed to Blessed

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20140526-141522-51322239.jpg With busy lifestyles, it is is not uncommon to be stressed about the kitchen. Healthy food that needs to be tasty, convenient and trendy! Follow these tips and feel less stressed: 1. Open your mind. 2. Be Creative. 3. Build a recipe by available ingredients and favorable tastes. 4. Add the intention of love and good health to the dish when you are preparing it. 5. Be joyful , keep it simple and have fun cooking.

RECIPE for a BLESSED PASTA DISH !

1/2 kilo or 1 pound whole wheat pasta ( fusili, penne or your choice ) 1 kilo or 2 pounds of vegetables in season and choice( asparagus, baby tomatoes, spinach or other market greens, carrots, peas....) 1/2 pound fresh paneer or 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 6-8 garlic cloves chopped or 1 teaspoon asafetida if you don't use garlic 10-12 basil or tulsi leaves, chopped fine 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings ( optional) NO need to run and get some ! 4 tablespoons olive oil or ghee

1. Prep the vegetables that you are going to be using. 2. Heat a pan . Add the fat. Add the garlic or asafetida . Add the pepper flakes. Add the prepared vegetables. Sauté a few minutes till they are tender. 3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add some salt. Cook pasta as per instructions. Drain. 4. Toss pasta, vegetables , basil leaves ,crumbled paneer or Parmesan cheese together. 5. Season with salt if necessary. Enjoy with the family.

This will serve 4-6 people.

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Spring ! Spring! Sprung !

Seasons and Time have a way of surprising us! Just the other day I was Happy New Year- ing !! Of course I knew that winter would end , no matter the temperatures in California, and yet here I am into Spring! I am not ready but who cares..SPRING has SPRUNG upon us . So, I surrender to it. A walk through the Farmer's Market and my bags are filled with citrus , three different colors of cauliflowers and asparagus that is sweet and tender! Baby portabellos, nestled next to garlic chives and you know The Poetry goes on!

So the intention to RE Balance my life is on. And how do I do this ? SIMPLY - FIVE

1. Being present in every moment.

2. Being Accepting of Me.

3. Being Grateful ! No matter what.

4. Being Joy and sharing it.

5. Being Thankful of every moment.

For the Solar calendar this is the joyous New Year and I choose this time to simplify by Simply-Five !

Did you think this would not translate into the kitchen?

My Spring Bowl of Cauliflower with Paanch Phoron! The Five spice blend of Bengal.... Cumin seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, nigella seeds and fenugreek seeds.

2 cauliflowers, cut into flowerettesq, washed and rinsed 3 tablespoons of the five spice mix(Paanch Phoron ) 3 tablespoons olive oil 2 medium lemons, juiced Salt to taste Cracked pepper to taste

Heat a large pan on medium heat. Add the oil. Keep the heat low as you do not want the olive oil to reach smoking point. Add the spices to the oil and gently toast them till you hear some Snap! Crackel! Pop! Add the cauliflower and salt. Raise the heat to medium high. Toss the cauliflower pieces well. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove lid and toss the cauliflower. Check for done ness. You want them to be fork tender . Cook for a few more minutes without the lid . When done, remove to another bowl. Add the pepper and lemon juice. Toss well and serve. This can be served hot, warm, at room temperature and chilled! If using 2 cauliflowers for their color, this will serve at least 8-10 servings!

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East meets West !

Three decades ago, I replanted my roots in the Bay Area. Having become deeply dual rooted over the years, it is no surprise that my food reflects this .These Poached Pears with Saffron Semolina ( Sooji ka halva ) are representing that dual rooted ness. Sooji ka Halva ( a sweet semolina polenta) is a very special dessert in North India. It is served on all auspicious occasions . I remember the way the house smelled when the semolina was being toasted in ghee. Many wonderful memories are attached to the halva.

So when the garden provided pears, pears and more pears, I decided to make these poached pears in raspberry, rose and hibiscus and pair it with saffron Sooji halva.

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Beat the heat !!

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Beat the heat !!

2013-06-27 13.17.54

2013-06-27 13.17.54Namaste Hello All! Nostalgic food! When the heat hits !  I crave for the salted lassi ! So, while I am walking down memory lane, I am also walking in my backyard gathering a few mint leaves .

This was my lassi today !

2 cups plain, low fat yogurt

5 cups water

2 cups ice cubes

10-12 large leaves mint

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground, toasted cumin seeds

Blend all ingredients . Enjoy !!

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Welcoming Mother's Day !

20130506-202058.jpgSagging boobs, miles of wrinkles and stretch marks are my testament to years of nurturing and learning!  With THANKS to my mother, and her mother before her, and her mother before her and all the mothers before them, for this true gift. She is my source ! With utter surety her hand guided me on this path and journey. With love and grateful humbleness I wish all A Happy Mother's Day !

I dedicate the basic food of Punjab.....the roti, an unleavened flatbread, to this Mother's day. My mum still enjoys this with a dollop of freshly churned butter, a pinch of salt and a few chili flakes !

Whole wheat rotis

2 cups whole wheat flour ( my favorite is from Community Grains communitygrains.com )

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup water ( or more) for a smooth but wet dough

  • Knead the dough. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
  • Portion the dough into 6 to 8 balls and roll them into medium to thin circles ( about 6 inches circle)
  • Place a griddle on medium high heat. When hot place a rolled out roti on the griddle.
  • Let cook for a minute or so, then flip to the other side. Lift after about 2 minutes to see tiny brown spots.
  • Now turn over and with a wadded tea towel, gently press to puff up the roti.
  • Remove from heat , smear with a touch of butter or ghee and eat ! ENJOY !

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Lemon Pickle

In the last few months, our lemon tree has been generous and given us a basketful of lovely fruit. They looked so beautiful that they inspired me to make an Indian pickle. A lot of people ask me what the difference is between "Western" pickles and "Indian" pickles. Western pickles, like dill pickles, are submerged in a brining solution made up of water, vinegar and spices. Indian pickle, or "achaar", on the other hand, is made up of traditional spices and vegetables in oil. You can delve into a jar a mere week after you've prepared it.

Preparing my achaar brought back memories from more than 40 years ago of me in the Northern India city of Lucknow. My maternal grandparents had their home there and all of our family gathered there for both summer and winter vacations.

Winters were lovely outdoors in the afternoons. The women would gather and some food activity would always be going on. Making massive amounts of pickles was what I remember the most: Large amounts of vegetables, spices and big huge cooking pots to prepare everything. One very popular North Indian pickle was a mixture of cauliflower, carrots and turnip. The spices with these particular vegetables create a slightly sweet and spicy flavor.

Our grandmothers and great aunts would sit and give directions to the daughters and daughter-in-laws and kids. All the women and girls in the family would be a part of the pickle process. It's amazing how some actions force you to recall memories, as if you were right back where you were all those years ago. Last Monday, I once again felt the cool on my skin and the warmth of the sun. I smell the  prepped vegetables and the warm love of generations of wonderful women.

Picture a beautiful courtyard with a patch of velvet lawn. Sheets are spread on the lawn and blanched veggies are drying on it. Mounds of deep red carrots, white cauliflower and turnips with a shy shade of purple. Portable stoves have huge pots, oil gets heated, and spices are toasted. The pungent and spicy smells fill the air, eyes watering at times with the pure mustard oil. I remember an aunt who smoked the hookah, shouting instructions while seated on the "charpai," a simple woven bed. And then I return -  back in my kitchen in California thousands of miles away from Lucknow. It's a different time but a familiar and wonderful sense of continuity.

My kitchen fills with aromas, memories and a lot of love that will be shared both through the recipes and little samples with family, friends and students.

Pickle can be enjoyed with so many things - an Indian meal of curried lentils and rice - or think outside the jar - try alongside grilled pork chops or topped on pita chips. So many possibilities!

Lemon Pickle ("Nimbu Achaar")

Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Yields: 2.5 cups

Vegetarian/Vegan/Low-sodium

Ingredients:

2 cups lemons with peel, diced into quarter inch pieces 6 chilies, jalapeno or Serrano 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1/4 cup fenugreek seeds 1/4 cup whole mustard seeds (yellow or black are fine) 2 tbsp ground cumin 2 tbsp ground coriander 2 tbsp ground sesame seed 2 tbsp garam masala 2 tbsp ground paprika 4 tbsp red wine vinegar Juice from three large lemons 1 tbsp salt Optional: 12 curry leaves

Method:

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan; add fenugreek and mustard seeds. Heat until the seeds start to pop!

2. Add the curry leaves, cumin, coriander, sesame seed, garam masala and parika. Stir this mixture over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes - you should really start to smell the toasted spices coming together.

3. While the spices are toasting, wash the chilies and pat dry with a towel

4. Once the spices are toasted, add the chilies and lemon to the saucepan. Stir so that all the lemons are coated with the mixture.

5. Add the lemon juice, vinegar and salt. Lower the heat and stir frequently for about 8-10 minutes. Constant stirring will prevent the spices from burning at the bottom of the pan.

6. Transfer to a glass bowl and tightly cover with plastic wrap or an air tight lid. Leave out of the refrigerator to sit for at least a week. Stir twice a day during the first week.

7. After a week, transfer the pickle to mason jar/jars, making sure that the pickle is packed down, ensuring that oil covers the jar. This will help preserve the pickle for up to a month. If you can't cover each jar with the oil, put it in your refrigerator. It will keep for up to three months there.

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Dal Palak (Lentil Spinach Soup)

I love when my entire meal can fit into one bowl. When it's soup season, why not call upon the spices that help make our bellies feel warm and satisfied? This lentil soup gets its flavor from mustard seeds, turmeric powder and chilies. Grab some crusty bread or some hot naan, and you're all set.

Dal Palak (Lentil Spinach Soup)

Ingredients:

1 cup red lentils, rinse and soak 3 1/2 cups liquid ( water,broth, stock, brewed tea) 3 cups baby spinach,ready to use 1 cup carrot chunks, medium size 2 cinnamon sticks 1 teaspoon prepared mustard* 1 teaspoon turmeric powder 2 dried chilies 1 teaspoon mustard seeds ( brown or black) 1 teaspoon cumin seeds 1 teaspoon minced ginger 1 teaspoon minced garlic 1 lemon , juiced 1/2 teaspoon , cracked black pepper 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil) Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Place the lentils in the liquid of choice, together with the carrots,ginger,garlic,cinnamon,turmeric ,mustard and pepper in a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes or so, till the lentils are very tender.
  3. In another small saucepan, heat the oil and add the mustard and cumin seeds till they snap, crackle, and pop!
  4. Add the dried chilies till they are lightly toasted. Then turn off the heat.
  5. Pour this tempered mixture into the lentils.
  6. Add the spinach. Let this simmer a few more minutes. You can add more water if you like a more soupier consistency. Leave it out if you prefer it to be on the stew side.
  7. Season with salt and fresh lemon juice.

*A note on prepared mustard: Some people may not be familiar with this term. Unlike mustard seeds or powder, this is the mustard that you buy in the condiment aisle. Dijon, ballpark mustard. I prefer Creole or Dijon mustard for this recipe. Something with a kick.

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