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Progressive Indian: Beyond Curries - Red Greens with Split Pea Saute

Progressive Indian: Beyond Curries - Red Greens with Split Pea Saute

In this post, I talk about typical South Indian meals, the flavors and preparations, and how I have come back to these simpler flavors - the reason why I started this series.

I reflected a lot about what to title this post/series; Calling it another Indian recipe did not seem sufficient, since my intent with this post was to break away from the stereotype of Indian cuisine often seen, well, outside India, viz. curries and spices. In the end, I decided to call it neither 'everyday' nor 'real' or 'regular' because, well, it is none of those in my present context. I decided to go with 'Progressive' because whether you are an Indian living abroad or a non-Indian falling in love with the cuisine, cooking the simpler dishes is actually more a labor of love and courage than the standard issue curries. 

Today's recipe is a throwback to the nostalgic memories of uncountable varieties of leafy greens that we consumed on a daily basis in various simple preparations. Recently, I found a bunch of red veined and red leafed greens at the neighborhood Indian store. Understandably, I got super excited. I remembered this type; it was one of my favorites. It was called Mulaikeerai, Amaranth Greens. So, I made a Poriyal of it with boiled chana dal.

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Me(al) Time: Absolutely Vegetarian

Zucchini Pasta Primavera

Recently, one of the amazing photographers I follow on Instagram, posted an image of a few books that she gets inspired from while cooking vegetarian. It struck a chord with me.

For one, there are fewer of us eating a vegetable heavy diet and fewer still of non-meat eaters. Even I am guilty of the same. A lot of times, it is simply convenience. The thing is, meat is so easy to cook. They are pick up flavors easily and in a lot of cases, their own flavors are so bold that you need little else to do. When you get a good piece of fish or a lovely leg of lamb, the simplest and easiest of preparations suffices. It can be almost mindless.

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Another reason, I used to give for eating far fewer vegetables than what I grew up with was the much reduced selection of them I have to contend with. Over the recent few years, when I have been consciously eating more veg, I realize that while it is indeed true that my choices now are limited in comparison to living in a tropical country, say, it is by no means limiting.

I commented on the photo saying that eating vegetarian feels simply like luxurious dining and honestly, I do believe that. When I decide to cook a vegetarian meal I find that I am lot more involved in the creative process. I take more time to think about the flavors and composition. Sometimes, an idea begins, germinates and gets cooked over several days. I will see something on the tele or in a magazine or increasingly online and that may not even be a vegetarian meal. But it set my subconscious in motion and it then comes up with a composed dish of sorts. One I am always excited to try and test. Every time.

Spring Radishes

It certainly is more rewarding to make vegetarian. The thought that goes into it, connects me more to the food and brings me closer. And, the fact that I have less to work with means I am more focused and more creative to make the most and present them in interesting and inspiring ways. One can test the depth of creativity in being a vegetarian. Of course, you can cook the same few dishes and love it but I am a restless eater and I really do not like eating the same meal twice in a month, much less twice in a week! LOL.

Anyway, that long prelude was to say that today's recipe is entirely vegetable based to be point of not using any grains or dairy. It is gluten free, vegan, wholesome and absolutely delicious!

Zucchini Pasta Primavera

You may have seen zucchini noodles pop up around the webosphere, especially, those that post gluten free recipes. Before my predicament with wheat, I hardly ever gave that a second thought. Now, I know I was being rather silly! To miss out on something so delicious is plain myopia. They are really awesome. A few out there call for it raw. I tasted it that way and it did not do much for me. But, quickly blanched? Now, that was something to write a post about! Light, chewy and flavorful. What more need I say?! Just this. Even you love traditional pasta and no reason to not live your life without it, make this vegetable one. You will love it, even if for nothing more than variety and writing a song about being adventurous... ;-)

Also, I realized I had let the Me(al) Times series of posts with recipes for solo eaters hibernate for far too long. It is time to revive and shake out the cobwebs. So, here we go!

To see more vegetarian recipes, click here.


Zucchini Primavera

{for one}

This is very much a Summer dish. The zucchini is best eaten in the season and I would highly recommend getting local as much as you can. The earthiness of it is a wonderful addition to the flavor profile

I used a cheap peeler to get my 'spaghetti'. Really you don't need a fancy machine for it. You can even use a knife but it takes too long unless you are a ninja in knife skills.

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1 zucchini, julienned

1/2 small yellow squash, diced

1 radish sliced thin

1 small tomato, diced

1/2 head of small broccoli

1 shallot, diced

1 cloved of garlic, minced

1/2 avocado, sliced

basil to garnish

1 tsp of lemon juice

salt, pepper and olive oil as needed

Bring a pot of water on medium heat and salt it lightly.

In a pan sauté the shallot and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add the tomato and cook till water is released. Add the yellow squash and broccoli flowerlets and cook for a few minutes until soft but not mush.

Meanwhile, add the julienned zucchini to the boiling water and blanch for 1 minute. Remove and place aside. You don't need to use an ice bath to stop it cooking if you remove in a minute. If you leave it longer then plunge into ice bath to stop cooking.

Toss the 'pasta' into the quick vegetable sauce and transfer into bowl.

Top with the avocado, squeeze of lemon juice, basil and a drizzle of olive oil and serve immediately.

South indian "Street" Food - Sundal (Chickpea Salad)

Sundal


Apologies for the short interruption in scheduled programming. I had some time management issues. anyway sorted out now. :D.

So, I am back today with something that I grew up with on the coastal shores of South India! Sundal, is a savory snack that is very popular inside and outside the homes of Tamilians.

This is one dish that cannot be termed as just street food as it also shares the venerable place as "Prasad", something that is blessed by the gods and shared with friends and neighbours on good and festive occasions.

Sundal Packets


If you visit a Tamilian house on certain festivals, you are sure to be greeted with a bowl of this simple and flavorful salad. In temples, you get them served in little bowls made of dried beetel leaves or banana/palm leaves.

It is also one of the most popular snacks munched on while sitting on the cool sands of the beach in the evening watching the sea lapping at the shores. Growing up in Chennai, a coastal city, I loved going to the beach at dusk and listening to the waves hitting the coast.

I find the sea at night a beautiful place to be... putting your troubles in perspective, a asynchronous tones of the waves soothing your heart and soul and making you smile through anything... It's the best place to sit with a friend or loved one, chat or not, just spend time quietly.

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I distinctly remember, vendors selling Sundal to those sitting on the beach. They carry the sundal in iron buckets and a number of handmade paper cups to serve them in. They would cost 1 or 2 rupees (yes, that is ridiculously low converted to $) and even then we would haggle for to bring it down. LOL. But that's the thrill of it ;-)

That and cut raw mangoes.. Oh YUM!! :)



Sundal (South Indian Chickpea Salad)

Sundal

Prep Time: 3 hours to overnight
Cook Time: 15 min
Total Time: 20 min

1 cup dried chickpeas
2 tsp whole mustard seeds
7-8 fresh curry leaves
3-4 fresh green chillies, diced
3 T fine desicated coconut (or use unsweetened coconut)
water to cook the peas
salt, oil as needed

Soak the beans, in enough water and a little salt, overnight. Cook the beans in salted water in pan or in a pressure cooker (2-1/2 whistles) until just done. Drain and set aside. This can be made upto 2 days ahead.

In a shallow pan, saute a bit or oil (ghee is best!). When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and wait for them to pop. Add the curry leaves and chillies. As they start to crisp up, add the cooked beans. Toss and cook on low for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle the grated coconut and toss and cook for a few minutes. That's it. Serve! :)
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