Dal Bati (Spicy Lentil with Baked Wheat Balls)

Dal Bati

NOTE: Gluten-Free recipe for Bati included. You have to try this recipe
Whenever I used to visit my grand parents at their village in India, I always used to look forward to eating some awesome home cooked meals cooked with fresh picked vegetables from their farm. The vegetables were picked once they were ready – be it fresh tomatoes, corn, mangoes etc. The fresh picked produce has so much flavor compared to the ones available in the supermarkets that travel long distances and has to be picked when it is not completely ready. The food always tastes better when it is ripened on the vine or plant or tree. I am really enjoying the fresh farm produce that I get every week from the food choice box that includes local Washington grown produce.

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Braised Spring Vegetables

Braised Spring Vegetables

We started getting produce from Local Choice Food Box based in Washington state. Every week we get to choose vegetables and fruit, then pick it up every Thursday evening. The produce is all organic and locally grown in the state. It’s fresh, tasty and not genetically modified in any way. There are amazing number of farmers, companies and various groups that are providing wholesome, nutritious food that’s good for you. I really encourage you to support these farmers, companies, organizations. Over the last several weeks, I have been learning and discovering various organic foodfarmers that use sustainable agriculture, restaurants that use local ingredients and companies that care about the environment.

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Muthia (Pan-fried Spinach Dumpling)

This week I decided to make a classic Gujarati dish called Muthia. Gujarat is one of the western states of India and muthia’s are a staple that are eaten for breakfast, as a snack etc. They are not only healthy but tasty too. They are made with various kinds of vegetables along with spices. They are then steamed to cook them and pan-fried with a little oil along with mustard and cumin seeds. You can even add sesame seeds and sprinkle it with some fresh grated coconut and finely chopped cilantro. There are innumerable variations that can be applied to the recipe. I made with spinach but feel free to substitute with squash, zucchini etc. They are easy and quick to make without too much effort.

Muthia (Pan-fried spinach semolina dumpling)

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Rice and Garfava Flour Patties

Last weekend we had one of our friends over for dinner since they were leaving for Hawaii and wanted some advice from us as to the places to see during their stay there. Since my wife, Cheryle, is from Hawaii and I have lived there for 5 years, we gave them a long list of both tourist and non-tourist type of things to see and do. We gave them suggestions of the various beaches and eateries where the locals go to in Oahu and some of our favorite places to eat and visit. There are a lot of things to see and do in Hawaii – snorkeling, wind surfing, hiking etc. And of course, the food there is amazing. There is bakery called Leonard’s bakery that sell malasadas. Malasadas are Portuguese confections that are deep-fried and coated with granuated sugar. If you ever visit Honolulu, do not forget to go there as they are delicious. Get the traditional malasadas and not the ones with various fillings. Some of my favorite Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants are in Hawaii. The Chinese food in Hawaii is a little different from the mainland because it has local Hawaiian flavor that adds to the tastiness factor with a heaping Aloha factor! We were so used to the Chinese cuisine of Hawaii that when we moved to the mainland, we had to readjust to a different taste. Another of my favorite restaurants is Roy Yamaguchi’s Roys restaurant. It is a fusion of European techniques and Asian cuisine using fresh local produce. I love restaurants when they use local organic ingredients without any of the additives that the big corporations add in their food. Nothing like eating wholesome, organic and nutritious food.

potato rice flour patties

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Basics of Cooking with Indian Spices

If you are not used to cooking Indian food or cooking with spices, it can be overwhelming experience. Lot of my friends have told me that they would like to cook Indian food but are not sure of how to cook with the various spices. So I thought it might be a good idea to have a article on basics of cooking with spices. Once you get used to cooking with these basic spices, you can move on to lots of other spices that Indian food has.

When I first started cooking with spices, I had no idea how to cook with them. The spices would either get burnt or remain undercooked thus affecting the taste of the dish. What I want to do in this section is try to simplify the process of cooking with the various spices and hopefully make it less intimidating.

Usually, every Indian kitchen has a masala dabba (spice container) that makes it very handy to have. I encourage you to buy one. You can find it in any Indian grocery store or you can get one from Amazon – Stainless Steel Masala Dabba Regular (Traditional Indian Spice Box). You can add the basic spices listed below to the individual containers.

Masala Dabba

Masala Dabba


Also, there are lots of places where you can buy spices from – either online or from Indian grocery stores. I used to buy spices from Indian grocery stores but I am finding that they do not have the aroma that I would like in them because either they are not stored properly or are old. Also, I was looking for organically grown spices. I finally found a company online that sells organic spices and works with organic farmers from different countries. The company is called Frontier Natural Products Co-op. I have started buying my spices from them. You can also buy their spices either from the Amazon store or from any organic food grocer like Whole Foods. Coriander powder is the only spice I recommend you either get from an Indian store or by following the link. The reason is the coriander powder that is used in Indian cooking is different from the ones sold by non-Indian store. Or at least that has been my experience. The food came out tasting completely different when I used a non-Indian coriander powder.

Anyway, here are the most basic spices that you will need to cook Indian food. You can make a lot of Indian recipes with these basic spices.

Set of Basic Spices

A lot of Indian dishes can be made with 5-6 basic spices listed below. Each of the spices cook differently and need varying amount of heat. I have tried to explain below how to cook them. Once you cook a few recipes using the following spices, you will get the hang of it. Not every recipe requires all the spices. They can be used on their own or a combination of a few. I have divided the spices into different sections to help you out. I will start off with the basic spices you will need to have to have in your pantry.

  • Brown Mustard Seeds
  • Cumin Seeds
  • Coriander Powder
  • Red Chili Powder
  • Turmeric Powder

Brown Mustard Seeds

If using brown Mustard seeds, make sure to cook it first before using other spices. Heat the oil on medium-high heat until it is just about to smoke and then add the Mustard seeds. Make sure to have a lid or screen handy since as soon as it starts to cook, it will start popping. Lower the heat to medium as soon as it starts popping. You know the seeds are done once the popping subsides.
Mustard Seeds

Cumin Seeds

The next step is to add Cumin seeds (if using). The Cumin seeds do not require high heat. So turn the heat to medium and add the Cumin seeds. You will know they are cooked as soon as they turn light brown approximately 10 seconds or so. Make sure not to burn them. If the oil is too hot, move the pan away from the heat for a few seconds.
Cumin Seeds

Coriander Powder

The same steps can be followed for coriander powder. It does not require high heat either. So cook on medium heat. Once you add Coriander powder, make sure to stir it. It will cook in 10 seconds or so after which it will start to smoke.
Coriander Powder

Red Chilli Powder

At this point, you can add onions, green chilis, garlic etc. Once they reach the required consistency, red chili powder can be added. Cook for another 10-20 seconds. Then add the vegetables and Turmeric powder.
Red Chili Powder

Turmeric Powder

Turmeric powder is the last ingredient that needs to be added. It does not require much heat and hence added along with the vegetables. It gives an excellent color to the food and has nutritional and healing properties.