Cumin and Lemon Salt

I love cumin! It is my favorite savory spice and probably the most used spice in Indian cuisine. I love it in tomato soup, on roasted vegetables and of course in my curries.

Last week, the Splendid Table podcast featured Sally Schneider who made an herb salt with garlic and rosemary. Schneider talked about how salt is a great carrier for infusing flavors into food and I had to try it. Of course, I decided to make a spice salt with the flavors I love most – cumin and lemon with a touch of black pepper.

On the Shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin

…there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know, we don’t know.
United States Secretary of DefenseDonald Rumsfeld

Daniel Kahneman makes use of that famous statement in his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, which is about the many ways humans err in their thought processes. I’ve been thinking about that a lot today while contemplating the shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

I think it’s a safe assumption the shooter was targeting Muslims when he attacked the Sikhs at their temple. The event would have been no less tragic had the victims been Muslims at worship rather than Sikhs. The idea that a white-supremicist assassin would be so ignorant is not at all surprising, but is frustrating nonetheless. Ignorance upon ignorance.

Eating Guar, As In Guar Gum

Last weekend I got an unexpected lesson in food science when Puja and I went for lunch at her parents house.

Sometimes I feel like a freak because I not only read ingredient lists on food packaging, but I make an effort to understand what the more mysterious products are and why they are in there. I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but when Puja’s mom served us a “green bean shaak” and asked me if I knew what guar gum was, I could confidently say yes. A vivid picture of the white powder popped in my head with no effort.

Then she explained that the “green beans” we were about to eat were called “guar beans” or more correctly “gawar beans.” Gawar means cow food in Hindi as it used to be so cheap and common that it was most often used as cattle feed.

80% of the world’s guar comes from India. Today there are so many uses for guar gum that it is no longer used for domestic cow feed, but is exported as a cash crop.

Tomato Chutney Bruschetta

Tomato Chutney Bruschetta by

Tomato chutney was a special Sunday treat when I was at boarding school. My friend A, whose parents taught at the school, would let our group of four friends know that mom was making some tomato chutney later. We would quietly sneak up to their place (we had to be sneaky because we weren’t allowed to visit teachers in their home even if we were friends with their children — it was just one among hundreds of stupid rules probably made for the hell of it) and waiting for us would be a loaf of bread and the spicy, tangy, tomatoey relish.

Grilled Vegan “Meatballs” (Kofta)

Grilled Vegan Meatballs (kofta)

How many times have you been to a barbecue and been severely disappointed by the selection of store bought burgers and hot dogs with a bare minimum of condiments?  It happens to me all the time.

Since it’s 4th of July week, I’ve been thinking about barbecuing all week.  Even though I love grilled vegetables, I wanted to grill something with protein.  Store bought veggie burgers and soy hot dogs were not an option.  They always taste bland to me.

Mixed Veggie Casserole with Dumplings (Undhiyu)

Many of the ingredients and techniques in this recipe seem a little unusual. I mean, what the heck is a hyacinth bean? And what! You want me to use a pressure cooker? And, yes I’ll admit this does take a little time to make.

But I know if you make it, you won’t be sorry!

Undhiyu (Mixed Vegetable and Dumpling Casserole)

This mixed vegetable casserole, known as Undhiyu, is a much loved Gujarati dish that was traditionally baked in a clay pot buried upside down with a charcoal fire above. My mom just cooks it in a pressure cooker but  can also be baked in the oven.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Movie)

The Best Exitic Merigold Hotel movie poster

Ambitious young Indian, Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), wants to resurrect his father’s dream of restoring a grand hotel in Jaipur (the capital of Rajasthan, India). His idea is to take this inherited property, which he calls with great enthusiasm “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, and make it a luxurious retirement destination.

Indian Flame Grilled Corn (Bhutta)

I often think of eating warm corn on the cob or Bhutta as we call it in Hindi on cloudy, rainy days. I know it seems weird because here in America, we often associate corn on the cob with summer and barbecue. But in India, fresh corn becomes available in the rainy season. When the corn season starts, the streets are suddenly flooded with makeshift corn vendors, with their push carts piled high with freshly picked, succulent corn cobs.
Roasted Corn

When we were kids, my friends and I would stop at the corn cart to buy fire roasted corn while on break from boarding school in Panchgani (a hill station in India). We’d walk up to the vendor, select the cob we wanted to eat, watch him peel the husks away and throw it onto his tava (an iron wok like contraption) lined with sand and charcoal with a healthy flame going.