Kala Chana Quinoa Sundal | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Six

Week One: Inspiration Week
This week is all about using different things as your inspiration for great food.

I didn’t actually intend to make nearly the entirety of this week’s MoFo posts India-themed. In fact, I have a post inspired by a wholly different country ready to go, but I keep pushing it back because I can’t stop making Indian food!

Thus, tonight’s dinner: sundal. Sundal is a South Indian recipe, though not one we tried during our visit. But Vaishali’s spin on the dish adds North Indian kala chana, or black chickpeas, and a bit of a fusion twist by mixing the kala chana with quinoa. (I recommend reading Vaishali’s blog post about the recipe for a really interesting deep-dive into the dish and the holiday where you’re likely to find it!) I don’t quite remember how I stumbled on the recipe, but it looked like just the thing for an early September dinner. I love big-batch recipes you can then use as leftovers for lunch!

I originally thought I’d use plain old chickpeas rather than the kala chana, but since I needed some other ingredients from the shop, I asked Steven to pick up dried kala chana at Global Foods, our local world cuisine market. Alas, I should’ve also asked him to find fresh curry leaves, but I totally forgot, so this dish is admittedly even less authentic than it should be! I omitted the zucchini and subbed carrots instead, and augmented the green peppers with some purple peppers from the farmers market. I used frozen grated coconut (which is a total beast to handle, let me tell you) and some rogue mint that sprouted in the herb garden. It was filling and quite healthful, but I think I need to make it with the curry leaves; most of the seasonings got lost and all I could really taste were the black chickpeas. Next time!

Vegan Semiya Payasam, or Vermicelli Pudding | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Five

Week One: Inspiration Week
This week is all about using different things as your inspiration for great food.

It was the penultimate night of our trip to India, and we were dining in the sky. Our group was in Munnar, a cool, rainy, cloudy town-on-a-hill surrounded by tea plantations. The drive up to Munnar in our 17-person van had been intense, with hairpin turns, sheer drops off cliffs, and rubble-strewn, broken roads that seemed impassable* to me, yet were somehow navigable thanks to our stalwart driver. We’d barely found our hotel — the Parakkat Nature Hotel — in the dark, but find it we did. By 8:00 we were gathered in the restaurant, the open plate-glass windows revealing nothing but inky black and admitting the chill night air. In the morning we’d gather there gain for breakfast, this time surrounded by fog and clouds, marveling at the sudden breaks that let through bright sunlight and painted the surrounding tea plantations a dappled gold.

Munnar by day.

Now it was dinnertime, though, and we’d stuffed our faces on chapati and parathas and gravies and noodles and a tandoori cauliflower dish that was perfection on a plate. Over at the other end of the table, I saw our dear, thoughtful hostess Jamuna conversing with a waiter. Then she turned to us.

“The chef can make payasam with coconut milk!” she announced. “The restaurant is closing soon but they can deliver it to your rooms. Who wants some?”

I was full, but Steven ordered a bowl, as did a few others. Pragathi explained that payasam was a milky pudding, often made with vermicelli noodles. This version, however, would be made with rice. A rice pudding was easy enough for me to visualize, but a noodle-based pudding? Not so much. I filed it away in my head as something to try later.

And so, back in the States, I turned to Vaishali and Richa for inspiration, using a mix of their two vegan semiya payasam recipes to try it for myself.  I used rice vermicelli noodles since I had them in the pantry and forewent the golden raisins (Because, ugh. Sorry, authenticity.). Flavored with cardamom, cloves, and vanilla and lightly sweetened, the payasam was a pleasant surprise.  Richa has you toast cashews in a little vegan butter first, reserving some of them for a yummy, rich topping. The noodles were a bit slippery and difficult to grasp with a spoon, but we didn’t mind. Steven ate his warm, but I chilled mine a bit first. Both options served us just fine.  This simple recipe is going on my dessert rotation for sure. My only modification? Adding a little cornstarch dissolved in cold water so that the pudding would thicken up a little more.

*A few weeks after we left, Munnar was absolutely ravaged by the horrific flooding in Kerala, with hundreds of people requiring rescue from the mountain after the roads became truly unsafe and literally impassable. Scary stuff.

Recreating an Indian Meal | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Two

Week One: Inspiration Week
This week is all about using different things as your inspiration for great food.

I don’t think I tried Indian food until college. Not that my parents were unadventurous eaters, but we didn’t splurge on meals out much during my childhood, and for the most part we were pretty unaware of Rhode Island’s Indian restaurants during that time. But during college in small-town Minnesota, of all places, I would occasionally splash out for dinner at Chapati, the local Indian joint. The flavors were new to me and utterly delightful; I quickly fell in love with paneer-based dishes in particular. (I was a vegetarian at that point. Isn’t paneer always the gateway ingredient?!) Sure, I wouldn’t have been able to point out any differences between North and South Indian dishes — much less regional or state-based variations — but I was game to try just about anything veg.

Since then, I’ve broadened my affinity for Indian food, and our trip to South India this summer deepened it further. What surprised me most about the dishes we enjoyed was how few of them included rice. Sure, the lunchtime thalis featured a big scoop of rice, and we had some delicious fluffy local rice during a traditional meal in Kerala, but for dinner? Not so much. Instead we’d order platters full of bread: pillowy garlic naan, flaky paratha, simple chapati. It would arrive, piping hot, alongside small tureens of rich gravies, three or four or five to share. We’d tear into the breads, using them to scoop up the gravies, everyone sharing everything. For a lighter dinner, I sometimes ordered a dosa, the crispy, thin crepe-like bread served either stuffed or plain, with chutney and sambar for dipping.

It was all very different from the typical Americanized Indian food experience, where you order a bowl of rice and a curry and eat it for yourself. So, after being back in the States for a few weeks, I wanted to recreate — on a small scale! — a more authentic Indian-inspired meal. I knew just where to turn: to my two favorite vegan Indian bloggers, Richa and Vaishali.

Dal is one of my all-time favorite dishes of any cuisine, so Richa’s dal fry recipe was a no-brainer. Yellow lentils are tempered to create a creamy, flavorful, rich dish that’s perfectly scoopable. I paired the dal with Richa’s okra and onion stir fry. I’ve been buying okra just about every week at the farmers market, and my go-to preparation is to halve it and roast it with olive oil, salt, and pepper. This time, I sautéed it with lots of onions, turmeric, and a little chili powder. Delicious! On the side? Kachumbar, a simple tomato, cucumber, and onion salad, also featuring veggies from the farmers market. Finally, I turned to Vaishali for the bread: Her flaky oil-based parotta came together easily (and quite tastily).

Although this meal was smaller in scale than some of the epic spreads we enjoyed in India, the experience — sitting at the table with Steven, using our hands to tear the bread and scoop up portions of dal — was just reminiscent enough of our trip to satisfy me. And the tastes? They were pretty close, too. 

I’m calling this India-inspired dinner a win.

Small-Bite Sundays: July 16, 2017

Small-Bite Sundays

Just popping in briefly tonight. I’ve been in Rhode Island visiting family for two days, and I’m heading out on a six-day work trip tomorrow. It’s a busy summer. And a busy past week — I haven’t spent too much time  on the ol’ interwebs, so I have just a few bites to share today.

Small bites: to read

From rock-star feminist Lindy West, this piece about how men can truly be there for women. It’s not exactly groundbreaking advice; in short, she’s telling men to stand up for us and use your voice to fight against sexism. But West also candidly acknowledges the risks men take when they do so: that they’ll be considered “a dorky, try-hard male feminist stereotype;” that they’ll “lose their spot in the club.” I think it’s always helpful to honestly acknowledge what’s at stake when you ask someone to use their privilege for you, and I appreciate West doing so. I’m also excited that this is just the first installment of West’s new weekly column on the New York Times’ Opinion Pages. Get it, Lindy.

(P.S. Her piece introduced me to the new (?) concept of the “dirtbag left,” which makes me sigh loudly and want to go to sleep for a million years.)

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Amey’s wrap-up of her time in Tallinn, Estonia, has me itching to book a flight! I’ve been reading great things about Estonia, and Amey’s post about the incredible vegan options in Tallinn just helped this country rocket up my travel bucket list.

Small bites: to watch

This clip has been making the rounds, but it’s too good not to share. The inimitable Andy Serkis brings back his Gollum voice to… read a few classic Trump tweets. He’s a great sport about it, too.

Small bites: to eat

Vaishali’s cauliflower makhani dosa crepes are going on my to-make shortlist. Creamy makhani gravy and a quick dosa recipe? I’m there.

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Colorful rainbow saladSalad days. I’m finally becoming a master of the kitchen-sink salad. Salads don’t need a theme; who knew? This one features mixed baby greens, tomatoes, roasted Turkish eggplant slices, sautéed paprika chickpeas, and a zesty lemon-turmeric-tahini dressing. I also added a crumbled veggie burger and hemp seeds for extra protein. Side note: those Turkish eggplants (also called scarlet or Ethiopian eggplants) are a new favorite. I spotted them at the farmer’s market and had to try them. They look like persimmons but taste like  a slightly milder version of the regular ol’ eggplants we all know and love (or tolerate).

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Right! Now to sleep. Expect some radio silence for the next week or so; I’ll be off the grid. :) Happy Sunday!

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