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Archive for the ‘Indian’ Category

A quick snap of the quick veggie curry I enjoyed for dinner recently.

So you guys know that I mainly focus on Middle Eastern cuisine here on this blog, with an emphasis on Persian food and also Arabic food of the Levant region. Or, if you’re new to this blog, now you know ;-)

That being said, a little bit of curry never hurt anyone. So let’s take a detour, just for today. Today’s quick curry is fast, fresh, and useful. Useful? Yes, especially if you have an abundance of summer vegetables around and you’re wondering what the heck to do with them all.

That’s exactly what happened to me recently. A friend hooked me up with not one, but two big batches of organic farmer’s market veggies. Verdant emerald zucchini, sunny yellow squash, lavender hued eggplants, ruby red sweet peppers, and more. I was grateful, excited, and nervous, all at the same time, because I wanted to make excellent use of the goodies, and not let anything go to waste.

Eggplants were part of the haul of fresh summer produce gifted to me.

I made a few dishes–grilled veggie subs, pesto with pasta and fresh veggies, chickpeas with, you guessed it, more of the fresh veggies. I dipped the raw veggies in hummus and smeared sunflower seed butter on them, too. Then one night, I was in a big hurry to get dinner on the table (who am I kidding–that’s every night!) I remembered a fast curry my friend Erica once showed me when I visited her in Florida.

Coconut milk is the base. Don’t worry, the fat in coconut milk, while saturated, is GOOD for you.  You dump in the veggies and spices of your choice into the silky coco milk, and heat everything up for just a few minutes. The variations are endless. For added flavor, cook the onions, fresh ginger, and spices together for a moment. You can garnish as you wish, swap out the veggies to your heart’s content, and play around with the spicing. Here’s what I threw together the other night:

Curry in a Hurry (Quick Summer Veggie Curry)

Coconut milk is the base of this simple curry. Feel free to get creative with the veggies, the spicing, and the garnishes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, or neutral cooking oil of choice
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • Curry spice mix of choice (I used Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie spice, plus 2 teaspoons of turmeric, and a half teaspoon each of cardamom, coriander, and cumin)
  • 1 14-16 ounce can coconut milk (can use light)
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 2 pounds veggies of choice (I used zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and mild red peppers)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Heat oil over a low heat in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven. As oil heats, clean and chop all veggies into chunks. Leave the peels on if you like to save time and add fiber.

2. To the oil, add the onion pieces and fresh ginger. Cook to soften over the low heat for about 2 minutes. Then add in the curry spices of your choice, mix well and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute (you should smell the spices).

3. Immediately add in the coconut milk, veggies, and water. Stir thoroughly. Add in a bit of salt and bring to a boil. As soon as the curry begins to boil, drop the heat to low and cook for 2-5 minutes, until veggies reach the desired texture. (You can test veggies with a fork or knife). I don’t like mushy veggies, so I cook mine around 3 minutes. Depending on your preference, you may shorten or extend the cooking time. Taste, and adjust the seasoning.

4. Serve over cooked rice or other grain of  your choice, with garnish if desired. Some garnish ideas: fresh cilantro, fried onions, raw scallions, a red hot sauce.

Serves 4.

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Avocados are the foundation for today's recipe, a smooth, cooling, and creamy no-cook chilled soup.

Ahhhh summer. The ice in your tea glass melts instantly.  When your inner warmth might just start to feel more like a raging fire inside. And yes, when tempers (and sometimes complexions) flare.

Can you tell summer isn’t my favorite season? ;-)

I suppose I’d like summer much more if I had a cool mountain cabin, or a beach house, or a luscious, breezy  island to escape to. But, alas, I don’t. At least not yet! What do I have instead of a quiet, soothing getaway? Two busy jobs in a sometimes hot, sometimes fetid, and always crowded city.

Enjoying a cooling and refreshing green smoothie, something I do a lot these hot days.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m grateful for my work, enjoy New York City much of the time, and am not immune to summer’s charms. Free concerts in the park, the occasional beach day, the ice cream truck’s passing jingle.  It’s just that for me, making it through the season is a bit of a project. I thrive more in fall, spring, and to a lesser degree, winter. I find winter’s chill refreshing and invigorating, but I don’t necessarily long to spend days on ski slopes or anything like that, if that makes any sense.

For all of the above, I blame/credit my dosha. I’m a Pitta, with a bit of Vata and an even tinier dash of Kapha thrown in. Dosha, you say? Is that some sort of wrap sandwich? Nope, it’s actually our individual constitutions, according to Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga. Constitution meaning things like energy levels, temperament, skin tone, and body type. Curious to know more? Click here for a quick, easy, free dosha test.

So, with my dosha in mind, one of my strategies in the summer consists of  enjoying yet more smoothies, minty teas, cold, crisp salads, and cold soups. Today’s cooling avocado soup is the perfect antidote for those occasions when you’d like a velvety, cool soup, but prefer not to cook. I served it recently at my Bollywood themed dinner party. It’s rich and creamy without being heavy.  The version I’m sharing today has a bit of a Persian flare, because I added in fenugreek.

And, full disclosure, this is an adaptation of a recipe I got from my new favorite spa/holistic clinic, Pratima, right here in New York City. I just started going there this past week, and already am seeing improvement from my seasonal eczema and breakout flareups. Pratima herself literally wrote the book on Ayurvedic beauty, and uses a holistic, natural approach to healing the skin and entire body. Go see her if you’re in New York. Her presence is powerfully calming and reassuring. If you’re not in NY, never fear; she does phone consults. And no, they did not pay me or compensate me in any way for the enthusiastic shout-out. It comes from my heart :-) They have no idea I even have this here blog.

Ok, so now for the recipe, with my slight tweaks:

Chilled Avocado Soup

Recipe adapted from a recipe by Erica Corte, Ayurvedic therapist and jewelry designer.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 2 cups fresh carrot juice
  • 1 kirby cucumber, skin on, halved
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground fenugreek (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Braggs’s amino acids
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • Celtic or sea salt to taste

Directions:

Put all the ingredients,  in a blender or a food processor fitted with the stainless steel blade. Blend or process until contents are smooth. Season to taste with salt and cover. Chill in a refrigerator for 20 minutes before enjoying. I served mine straight from the blender (classy, I know ;-) ), but feel free to transfer your soup to a serving bowl.

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Vintage Bollywood poster. Bollywood movies are popular in the Middle East.

I adore dinner parties. Love giving them, love attending them, and love, of course, all of that wonderful eating and socializing. Dinner parties are such a civilized way to re-connect in our GO GO GO world. But let’s face it–dinner parties can be WORK.

My friend Khat and I at her brother's traditional Afghan wedding in April. She will be at my Bollywood dinner party. Her dress is a traditional Afghan getup, while mine's a more Bollywood style outfit.

I’m having one in a few days, and this time, I’ve resolved to let it come together in the most chill way possible. A little pre-planning will go a long way. I hope ;- )

It will be a Bollywood Night, complete with a campy Bollywood movie and optional glittery costumes (if anyone is so inclined to go there, wardrobe-wise. I know I am, having a couple of shimmery Bollywood style outfits I’m eager to debut).

In the spirit of keeping things chill, I have to say, “Sorry, guests, but no homemade cheese and bread from this kitchen, at least not this time.”  To combat the summer heat, our spread will be seasonal, with invigorating and cooling recipes and  influences from both Persian and South Asian cuisines.

Why South Asian specifically, besides the obvious Bollywood theme? Well, first of all, I just love the cuisines of India, Pakistan, and the many other countries in that whole amazing part of the world. Middle Eastern cuisine and South Asian cuisine have many elements in common, and have exerted their respective influences on one another for centuries. Plus, these cuisines have many wonderful recipes that are cooling. Perfect for steamy summer heat!

Plus, we happen to have a very fun Desilicous dance party to attend after our Civilized Dinner Par-tay. A Gay-Themed Bollywood party, if you will, all in honor of Gay Pride Week. Yes, love my gays. They kinda own my heart :-)

Here’s what I have planned for our menu:

My Watermelon and Mint Cooler. Like a slushy, but much better for you, and better tasting.

A pre-dinner Cocktail (and Mocktail) Hour with my Watermelon Mint Cooler as the star.

A to-be-determined app, for which one of my friends has signed up to provide. (Key component of dinner parties: let others share in the fun, by either contributing an item of food or drink, or, if they’re so inclined, helping with light food prep or selecting music or lighting candles, etc. Keeps things interactive and who knows, it’s interesting to see what novel ideas our guests have about music or lighting or how to slice a scallion).

Salad of roasted golden beets on a bed of arugula with cucumbers and whatever goodies look appealing that day. Perhaps a yogurt or tahini based dressing. Something very simple, elegant,  and cool.

A summery Chilled Avocado Soup I haven’t tried this recipe out, but I simply can’t wait, as I’m in love with avocados and no longer afraid of the good fat they so generously provide!

Summer squash kuku sabzi, an Iranian omelette. Love this Persian souflee sans drama!

My Summertime Squash Kuku (Perfect for dinner parties, because it tastes great at any temperatures. Any late arrivals will feel well-fed, not deprived.)

Dessert will be So Delicious coconut-milk based ice creams. Because I’m seriously addicted to this stuff, it has that cooling, South Asian vibe thanks to the hint of coconut, and the company was nice enough to send me coupons to sample some of their product line. Thanks, So Delicious. You’ve just made my dinner party a heck of a lot easier, creamier,  and tastier.

I’ll be sure to snap some pictures of our festivities, and report back. Don’t wait up, my loves!

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Khatera (left) and Bria (me) at her brother Zem's wedding. Khat is in traditional Afghani dress for a dance that's performed to honor the bride and groom. The rest of the time she had another fabulous dress on, which I sadly didn't get of pic of. I'm in a Bollywood style outfit that I was thrilled to have an excuse to wear.

This past weekend was so amazing in many ways. No, I didn’t get married–don’t let that headline throw you. But it was my birthday on Easter, which I think is quite auspicious and refreshing. After all, my birthday should be a major holiday every year. At least that’s what I think! (I kid, I kid!) ;-) Well, only half kidding.

Plus, I got to do something I’ve long wanted to do–attend a Big Fat Afghani Wedding. Whoo hoo!

The bride and groom. Aren't they a lovely couple?

The opulent festivities didn’t disappoint, the peeps I hung with were cooler than cool, and the food was nothing short of amazing. There was so much of it and every bit was delectable. I was (mentally) playing detective with every bite, wondering what spice was in this chicken dish, if this bird was quail, pheasant, or pigeon, and how long this sauce had to simmer to reach perfection in flavor. For me, eating is one of life’s pleasures, but cooking is a close second, so if I can figure out how to reverse engineer some amazing dish, then it’s pretty thrilling. Of course, simply scoring the recipe will do.

Flavorful chicken kebabs. I was sort of surprised these weren't made with lamb, but I totally dug the lighter flavor of the chicken, the juicy texture, and the depth of flavor thanks to plenty of spices.

Of course, I was lurking near the buffet as they put out every dish, snapping pictures for myself this blog. Photojournalism, I tell ya! Luckily, the photography and videography crew at the wedding was also snapping pics of the food, so I’m telling myself I didn’t look like too much of a weirdo snapping pics right alongside them.

The full outfit. I snagged this beauty on my trip to L.A. back in October. I got it at an amazing price--much less spendy than what similar outfits go for out here on the East Coast.

Confession time: I haven’t been to a Persian wedding in many years, but I do remember the dinner being eaten very late, and the festivities running into the wee hours. Apparently Afghani wedding roll like this as well. We probably didn’t eat dinner til around 10:30 p.m. But food tastes better when you’re hungry, and we danced before and after the meal to work up that appetite, and then work off some of the meal.

Throughout the meal, I kept noticing how Afghani food is so varied, absorbing influences and exerting its own influence onto many different cuisines. I guess it makes sense when you look at a map of the Middle East and Central Asia. Geography lessons another day. For now, let’s let the food do the talking:

Torshi. Spicy pickled veg appetizers. Hmmm, I've seen these in both Irani and Arabic cuisines.

Note the East Asian influence in the manti, aka dumplings. I LOVE dumplings and could've easily made a meal out of these lamb-filled beauties. My friend Nilofar was loading my plate up with them. I had to tell her to stop, but not because I didn't want them ;-) Just had to save room for other goodies.

Like Persians, Afghanis are all about their rice. This carrot and raisin topped rice was delicious and gorgeous. I'm such a rice girl. So I had to make the pic of the rice bigger ;-)

The question of the night on this poultry dish was "what bird is it?" I'd hazard a guess that it was quail or very small pheasants. Pigeon is a distant second possibility. I had to restrain myself from picking up this little birdie and eating the meat off of the bones.

Look at that gorgeous yellow color! This was my possibly my favorite chicken dish of the night. I detected turmeric, possibly some saffron, and some sort of tangy citrus in there. If anyone knows exactly what this is or how to make it, hollah at me in the comments section!

Curry in a blurry! Sorry for the blurry shot, I'm just including it because it's a mild curry-like dish, which reminds me that there Indian and Afghani cuisines have influences one another quite a lot through the ages.

Nilofar (left), and her sister Mary. My girls! It was great seeing them again. Aren't they gorgeous?

As well all know, weddings are a great chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, so I was so happy to get to hang with Mary and Nilofar, among others, and to meet their adorable nieces and nephews.

Dancing was a big part of the festivities, and I even took some video of one of the more traditional dances. I hope I can get it uploaded soon. (Can you tell I’m not the most tech-savvy blogger out there! Ha! ;-)

This shot is blurry (again, not very tech savvy over here, and still learning how to use my new camera. But at least you get a (vague) sense of the traditional costumes. No, these folks weren’t walking around like this the entire time, but they changed into their gorgeous costumes for a dance honoring the bride and groom:

Traditional dance moment. Loved it! Gonna try to get some video I took of it uploaded.

And as we know, weddings are a great time to meet new friends as well as catch up with old friends. Here’s one of my sweet new little friend:

Fast friends!

Overall, it was a fun evening and quite entertaining. I do plan to feature some Afghani cuisine on this blog very, very soon. As you can see, it’s creative, delicious, and full of beautiful flavors.

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