Dig-In Meals – A column highlighting Indian spices in recipes that take traditional Indian food and add a western twist!
The holidays are a great time to reflect on the new recipes that I developed and shared with all of you which, hopefully, became crowd-pleasing favorites and part of your permanent recipe archives.
As we enter the busy holiday season, I also want to share a few services you can avail of, if you are too busy to cook, or are in the midst of cooking up a storm and just need a break. Here’s hoping that this New Year is better than the last with a lot of cooking, baking, and cocktail making!
Toor (Pigeon Pea) Daal w/ Kale
You can use any greens here: fresh fenugreek/methi, spinach, arugula.
- 1 cup toor dal
- 4 cups water
- 1 bunch washed sliced kale or any greens you are using
- 1/2 tsp. canola oil or vegetable oil (ghee/clarified butter is preferred if you have it)
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp. finely minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp. coriander
- 1/2-1 tsp. red chili pepper
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp. asafetida/hing
- 1/8 tsp. garam masala (optional)
- salt to taste
- Cook the dal in the water until it is soft. (IP about 10 mins, natural release, stovetop about 35 mins or until soft and mushy.) Use a hand blender to completely puree the dal. Set aside.
- In a deep skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and the garlic, and cook for one minute. Add the ginger and kale and stir. Add one tablespoon of water and cover the pan. Stir every minute or so, and cook until the kale is wilted for about 4 minutes.
- Add the dal and remaining ingredients to the kale. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Optional tempering: Heat some oil in a small pan. Once hot add some jeera seeds, once they sputter add red chili powder and pour over the daal right before serving. Garnish with cilantro.
Curried Cauliflower Street Tacos
You can substitute cauliflower for pork. I garnish with avocado, cilantro, cashew, yogurt crema, pico de gallo, cotija cheese, and finely chopped jalapeño. You can add any garnish of your choice.
- 1 large head of cauliflower
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Achaar Masala (I use Pur Spices Achaar Masala powder)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup red onion (grated or chopped)
- 2 cups spring greens
- 1″ ginger (fresh ginger, peeled)
- 2 garlic (cloves)
- 1/2 tsp red pepper powder (mild paprika)
- 1/2 tbsp curry powder
- 1/2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 8 crispy tostadas
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 lemon cut into wedges
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower and cut them into small, bite-sized florets.
- Heat oil in a pan, add the cumin seeds, once they pop, add the onion, cook till translucent. Add the achaar masala and salt.
- Add the cauliflower and toss until well-coated.
- Cook till the cauliflower is tender. Alternatively, you can also spread the cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, tossing halfway through, until it is tender and slightly crispy.
- To Assemble Tacos: Warm tortillas shells in microwave or oven.
- On each taco add 2-3 tablespoons of curry cauliflower, top with avocado, cilantro, cashew, yogurt crema, pico de gallo, cotija cheese, and finely chopped jalapeño. Add a dash of lemon/lime juice before eating.
Black Pepper Tofu
You can substitute tofu for any meat.
- 1 packet extra firm tofu drained and pressed to release all the water
- oil for shallow frying
- corn or rice flour to dust the tofu
- ½ stick of butter
- 10/12 small shallots, thinly sliced
- 8 fresh red chilies thinly sliced (I have used Diaspora Co.’s heirloom Sannam Chillies)
- 12 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
- 3 tbsp sweet soy sauce (or make your own by boiling 1 cup of regular soy sauce with ½ cup of brown sugar)
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- 4 tsp dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 5 tbsp coarsely crushed black peppercorns (I have used Burlap & Barrel’s Ea Sar black peppercorns)
- 16 spring onions, cut into thin angled matchsticks
- Start with the tofu. Cut into thin cubes and toss them in cornflour or rice flour. I use a combination of both, I find the rice flour gives it a nice crunch. Shallow fry or air fry till they are crispy and golden on all sides.
- In a separate pan, add butter. Once it melts, add the shallots, chilies, garlic, and ginger. Sauté on low to medium heat till they turn soft.
- Add the soy sauces, caster sugar, and crushed black pepper. Stir to mix.
- Add the tofu to warm it up in the sauce for about a minute. Stir in the spring onions.
- Inspired by the recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty
Chilled Cucumber Soup with Yogurt and Dill
A wonderfully cooling soup for hot summers or for any time you desire to have a light meal.
- 1 clove garlic – minced
- 1.5 cups cucumber – diced to medium
- 1/2 cup cucumber – diced fine – for garnish
- 1 cup dill leaves – de-stemmed. Save 1/4 cup for garnish
- 1/2 cup spring onions – chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt/sea salot
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- Mince garlic and set aside for about 10 minutes. Cut the ends off the cucumber and dice them into 2″ pieces. No need to peel if it is organic. Chop the green portions of the spring onions.
- Add garlic, 1.5 cups of cucumber, 3/4 cup dill leaves, spring onions, and salt into a high-speed blender and puree for 1-2 minutes. Add a little yogurt or coconut milk if the consistency is too thick for the blender.
- Pour soup into a serving dish. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber, 1/2 cup yogurt or coconut milk and 1/4 cup finely minced dill as garnish. Chill soup for 1 hour (optional) before serving.
Hazari Paneer Tikka
Paneer marinated with green chutney and wrapped in hazari masala.
- ½ cup Greek yogurt or thick yogurt
- 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
- 2 tablespoons mustard oil
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon chat masala
- 3/4 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/4 teaspoon green chili paste
- 1 teaspoon thick spinach puree
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 lemon juice of
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons chopped mint
- 150 grams paneer cut into big cubes, around 2 heaping cups of cubed paneer
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 1 large bell pepper cut into 1-inch cubes, I used a mix of red and green peppers
- Whisk the yogurt in a large bowl until smooth. I used Greek yogurt here, you can use regular yogurt just make sure to strain it for several hours until you have thick yogurt left, and then use it in the recipe.
- Add all the ingredients for the marinade to the yogurt- ginger garlic paste, mustard oil, coriander powder, chat masala, garam masala, spinach puree, green chili paste, and salt.
- Whisk to combine everything together. Add in the juice of 1 lemon along with chopped cilantro and mint. Mix well.
- Stir in the paneer cubes and bell peppers.
- Mix until all the paneer pieces and veggies are well coated with the marinade. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Overnight also works!
- After 1-2 hours, take the marinated paneer and veggies out of the refrigerator. Take a skewer and arrange paneer, onion, and peppers on a skewer, alternating with each other.
- Make all skewers similarly. Coat paneer with chopped onion Meanwhile heat clay oven or (regular oven) to 896F (480C) degrees.
- Arrange all the prepared skewers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spray the tikka with an oil spray. This is important so that the veggies don’t dry out.
- Cook at 896 F degrees for 10 minutes and Broil for 2 to 3 minutes until paneer pieces look a little charred.
- Remove from the clay oven, sprinkle chat masala and serve.
South Asian Food Delivery Services
Here are some services you can use for a fast, semi-homemade meal when you are too busy or too tired to cook.
A cool option that offers meal plans inspired by authentic regional cuisines of India. With plans starting at $5 per meal, the startup delivers pre-cooked meals that take under 5 minutes to prepare. I tried them and they are very close to authentic homemade meals. It’s a great alternative for those with a busy lifestyle. Healthy food habits can co-exist in this new model of ‘hasty, yet healthy’ meals. They are direct-to-consumer, shortening the time it takes for the food to reach us, making the need for preservatives (natural or artificial) obsolete, providing an easy and healthy solution to weekday meals.
Started by an Indian immigrant, while studying at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the startup aims to bring the convenience of meal plans to busy Indian-American households and vegetarians across the US. “It is hard to find vegetarian recipes that are protein-rich and nutritious, let alone source all the ingredients and prepare the meal from scratch at home.” They offer popular Indian dishes such as poha, pongal, kichdi, pav bhaji, bisibelabath, and dal makhani. Customers can fully customize their meal plan by adding their favorite dishes to the plan.
I love this service and use it often. Shef connects talented cooks with local customers, so the cooks are chefs in our community — individuals who have always dreamt of building their own food business, but are home cooks that provide a tiffin service. All shefs are required to pass an accredited food safety certification exam before joining the cooking community. So, the food has built-in standards to make it safe.
The site is very intuitive, you pick your cuisine, pick your shef, and order whatever you want from that shef’s menu offerings. They deliver via DoorDash.
Really good quality vegetarian food delivered to you. They ship ready to heat and eat North Indian and South Indian food, desserts, spice powders, pickles, and dosa batter all over the USA.
For the Bay Area locals, this is a great service! Ingredients are sourced from local farmer’s markets and quality is a priority. Numerous vegetarian and non-vegetarian options make it perfect for anyone who would like home-cooked meals throughout the week!
For those with more of an expendable income, Indian Bento sources its ingredients from Whole Foods. Based in San Francisco, it is the perfect service for a young techpreneur with little time to spare!
Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. She can be reached at: [email protected]