As seasons pass, the energy of the earth changes according to its relationship to the sun. These changes are reflected in nature as well as in the human body. According to ayurvedic doctrines established by the ancient sages of India, we should adapt our diets to stay in harmony with the changing seasons.

Harish Johari explains this philosophy in Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine. According to Johari, seasonal changes can aggravate particular doshas(weaknesses) in our bodies, so at certain times it is beneficial to eat foods that subdue those doshas.

In late September, as the equinox approaches and the North Pole drifts away from the sun, the coming of the fall season marks dramatic changes. In parts of California, early autumn is cool but not cold, so moist and nourishing foods with sweet and sour tastes are recommended. Keeping this in mind, here are some recipes that are suitable for an outdoor barbecue on an autumn day.

For most people in the United States, the word barbecue means cooking raw meat over hot coals. However, the pleasure of cooking outdoors is not reserved for meat eaters. Buddhist monks on pilgrimage, busy farmers in their fields, city folks on holiday, and vegetarians around the world cook in the open air—some out of necessity, others for fun.

Cooking with friends in the open air is a satisfying change from an over-heated kitchen where the cook is often isolated from guests. At a “cookout,” chores can easily be shared, and cooking becomes a cooperative event. Here are some tips to make your cookout enjoyable and successful.

If rice, pasta and salad dishes are part of your menu, prepare them ahead of time.

Pick a barbecue location that is away from heavy wind.

Familiarize yourself ahead of time with your grill, coals, or whatever cooking medium you plan to use.

Grilled food is very hot! Be careful serving it.

Bring plenty of beverages, especially water.

Don’t forget to bring appropriate utensils, some water in a spray bottle, and plenty of garbage bags.

Leave the site as clean as possible.



Among my fondest childhood memories is the sight of farmers sitting around an open fire in the field roasting freshly picked corn. Fresh corn is sold by sidewalk vendors in town, cooked on a bed of hot coals on their portable carts. To barbecue corn Indian style, follow this method:

Ears of corn
Lemons or limes cut in half

Husk the corn to expose all of the kernels, leaving a “handle” at the end. If the handle is missing, use a sturdy skewer instead. Hold the corn by its handle over the fire or a bed of glowing coals, turning it as it cooks. If you are roasting many ears, you can lay them on a rack.

Roast the corn until it is reddish brown all over. It is all right if some of the surface is charred. Rub half a lemon or lime over the roasted corn, and sprinkle it lightly with salt and cayenne. Serve it hot. The sweet corn flavor pairs wonderfully with the sour lemon juice.



Barbecued Paneer or Tofu with Spicy Cashew Sauce Marinade

Cooking in an oven is still a novelty in India, as most cooking is done on a stovetop. The Mughal Empire, which ruled India for over 200 years, brought the concept of a pit oven, or tandoor, to India. The Mughal invaders of the early 16th century were originally from Turkey, Persia, and Afghanistan. When they settled in India they brought their native arts—music, architecture, painting, and cuisine—which were integrated into India’s indigenous art forms. This marinated paneer recipe is a good example of a dish that combines traditional Indian spices with Middle Eastern ingredients.

If you are lucky enough to have a tandoor in your back yard, this dish can be made in a tandoor. However an open fire, charcoal, or any other type of grill works just as well.

2 tablespoons olive, peanut, or corn oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons (or less) jalapeno pepper, minced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 to 3 cloves of minced garlic
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powders
1 teaspoon garam masala or 1/3 teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom powder
2 cups plain yogurt, blended with 1/3 cup of water
½ to ½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup finely ground cashews (use a food processor, ­­a blender, or a mortar and pestle)
1 pound paneer or firm tofu cut into 2″ x 2″ x ½” pieces*

*Paneer can be found at Indian grocery stores, or it can be made using a recipe found in many Indian cookbooks. If paneer is unavailable, tofu makes a good substitute.

Prepare the marinade as follows: Heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the onion and pepper and sauté for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the ginger and garlic, and cook for a minute or two. Turn the heat to a low flame, add the ground spices, stir for a minute more, and turn off the heat. Allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes. In a mixing bowl, blend the yogurt with the water and salt. Add the cooked spice mixture and ground cashews and mix well.

Cut the paneer or tofu into pieces as described above. Gently fold them into the yogurt/spice mixture. Allow them to marinate in this mixture for an hour or longer. Take it to the barbecue site in a closed container. When the grill is hot, place the marinated cubes directly on the grill, brushing more of the sauce on top. As they cook, turn them once or twice until all sides are blistered and lightly charred. Save the remaining marinade mixture to use as a dipping sauce.

Transfer the cooked tofu or paneer pieces to a cutting board and cut them into smaller bite-size pieces. Arrange them on a platter with a bowl of the marinade in the center as a dipping sauce. Serve with rice and/or any type of Indian bread or pita.

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, author of Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, lives in San Francisco, where she is a manager of Other Avenues, a health-food store. Serena Sacharoff is a chef, illustrator, and art student. Visit Shanta’s Vegetarian Ethnic Kitchen