During a recent trip with my husband to New Orleans, I had the most wonderful surprise at dinner one evening. I had ordered blackened fish, which was delicious and perfectly cooked, and it was served with a side of popcorn rice. I had never heard of popcorn rice but instantly fell in love with the scent and taste of it! Yes, it really smells like popcorn!

The next day I scoured the French Quarter looking for a bag of it to bring home. I bought two 2-pound bags which will have to last a while. When going through airport security on my way back home, I packed the rice in a small bag thinking that it would alert the agents. Of course, the dense rice did cause the agent to pull the bag aside and inspect the contents. I told the agent that I couldn’t buy this variety of rice at home. She let me go with the rice. I think she felt sorry for the crazy tourist and had a story to tell when she got home.

What is popcorn rice? It is a variety of long-grain rice, grown in Louisiana, which has a wonderful rich, nutty aroma and flavor that really does smell like popcorn. This variety is considered an artisan grain and is a hybrid of basmati rice, with the same texture. It even pairs well with curries and meat dishes. Popcorn rice is cooked in the same way as other rice varieties. It is delicious and has become a staple in my kitchen.

This special variety of rice inspired by recipe for Baked Spiced Popcorn Rice. It is based on a basic spiced Indian rice recipe.

Baked Spiced Popcorn Rice

Popcorn rice is delicious when prepared with Indian spices, formed into cakes and baked until the outside is golden.

The first step is to season a little olive oil and butter with whole spices including cumin, bay leaf, cloves cardamom and cinnamon. I fry some white onion and garlic so it can become tender before adding the rice. The popcorn rice is fried in this oil for just a few minutes to bring out the flavor of the grain before the broth is added. I boil the rice in the broth until it is tender.

When the rice is ready, I form individual rice cakes using a small ramekin and bake them briefly in the oven just before serving so they keep their shape.

These easy to make Baked Spiced Popcorn Rice cakes will impress everyone at your table. They are as much fun to eat as they are to make. Enjoy!

Finishing my series on soup, I am switching from vegetable to lentil based soup this week by making Toor Dal Soup.

Toor Dal Soup

A special blend of Indian spices complement this vegetarian Toor Dal Soup recipe. Carrot and tomatoes are added for color and texture and make it delicious.

One of the most popular lentils in Indian cuisine is toor or red gram, even though it takes longer to cook than other lentils. It has a tan skin with a pale yellow pea inside. The meaty, nutty texture is perfect for spicy dishes. When its skin is removed and split in half it is called toor dal. In the U.S. it is sometimes called pigeon peas.

Toor dal cooks in about a half hour. I simply put it in a pan with some water and simmer until the dal is tender. If it isn’t fully cooked, it will yield a lumpy or gritty soup. To see if the dal is done, press a few lentils between your fingers. If they squish without resistance, it is done.

While the dal cooks, I season some olive oil in a pot with an assortment of Indian spices. In this oil, onion, garlic and tomato are cooked until they fall apart and become a thick paste. When the dal is ready, it is added to the pot and mixed well. I add a cup of water to loosen consistency so I can use my immersion blender to purée it. After it becomes smooth, add more water to reach your desired consistency.

I add a thinly sliced cooked carrot to the soup for color, variety and just for fun. I like finding vegetables that are hidden in my soup.

This vegetarian Toor Dal Soup can be served at lunch or dinner as the main dish with a piece of naan or as a starter with dinner. It is a warm treat on a cold day.

It appears that I have started a series of recipes for soups so I am sharing my Spinach Soup recipe this week. I am cooking soup recipes that are hearty but do not need heavy cream or a lot of oil to make them taste good. Now that the weather has dropped 25 degrees from highs in the high 90s, soup season is finally here!

Spinach Soup

A special blend of Indian spices complement this vegetarian Spinach Soup recipe. The main ingredients of spinach and a potato make it creamy and delicious.

I start making my Spinach Soup by seasoning just a little bit of olive oil with select Indian spices: mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and, of course, red Madras chile powder.

I cook the onion, garlic and potato in this oil until they are tender then add vegetable broth. When the broth is hot, I add the spinach one handful at a time until all of it is tender. Using an immersion blender, I purée the soup.

The finished soup is topped with a pinch of dry roasted cumin seeds before it is served.

The potato, as well as the spinach itself, make this Spinach Soup recipe creamy. It is a healthy and easy recipe to make.

I serve this vegetarian soup at lunch with a piece of French bread or as a starter at dinner. My mother in law loves this soup; I hope you do too.

I started working on the concept for an Indian-styled Roasted Pumpkin Soup a year ago. By the time, I had enough of the recipe written, Thanksgiving was over and the fresh pumpkins had disappeared from the store. I was so disappointed all last winter that I couldn’t finish the recipe but I wasn’t inclined to try using canned pumpkin. I had to put it away for nearly a year until I discovered the new crop of fresh pumpkins a few weeks ago.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Incorporating Indian spices with roasted pumpkin is a perfect match. Roasted Pumpkin Soup features vegetables, roasted spices and coconut milk.

This recipe uses a whole 4- to 5-pound pie or sugar pumpkin and roasts it in the oven. I simply cut it in half, oil it and cook it in the oven until it is tender. I love the pumpkin aroma that fills the house while it cooks! When it is done, it is easily pierced with a fork and some parts of the pumpkin may seem to cave in.

While it cools, I prepare the base for the soup by frying chopped shallots, garlic, ginger and green chiles then adding roasted ground cumin and roasted red chile powder in addition to other spices, the roasted pumpkin, vegetable broth and coconut milk. Roasting the spices first helps to enrich their flavors. I use an immersion blender to blend everything together so it is smooth and creamy.

The final step is to create the special seasonings that are used as a garnish. In Indian cuisine, spices are fried in hot oil and stirred into a dish just before serving it. This step is called tempering. In my Roasted Pumpkin Soup, I temper the spices along with a few curry leaves and pour them on top of the soup as a garnish.

My Roasted Pumpkin Soup is delicious for lunch or dinner as it has a rich flavor but isn’t spicy hot. It is a great recipe for vegetarian or vegan meals.

Now that everyone is back in school and fall projects are underway, the need for quick and easy recipe is at a peak. I designed my Indian-Style Grilled Chicken recipe to be just that.

Indian-Style Grilled Chicken

Indian-Style Grilled Chicken marinated in a special mix of Indian spices then grilled to perfection in this easy to make Indian recipe.

I love to serve chicken during the week because it is easy to cook without much fuss. Using boneless chicken breasts make it even easier because they cook evenly without those end pieces overcooking while the center is still raw. To make it even easier, wrap the chicken between two pieces of wax paper or plastic and pound it with a meat mallet, if you have one, or with your fist (as I do) to make the overall pieces have a consistent thickness.

I start making this recipe by combining garam masala, cumin, red chile powder, turmeric and other spices with minced garlic, ginger and yogurt. After mixing it together well, transfer it to a zip top bag. Add the chicken pieces and coat them evenly with the marinade by squeezing the bag. Refrigerate.

I let the chicken marinate for 3 to 4 hours before grilling it. I tend to cook the chicken indoors on my grill pan to save time running back and forth to the outdoor grill. The chicken can be placed in the marinade in the morning then cooked in the evening to facilitate dinner prep.

The cooked Indian-Style Grilled Chicken can be served whole or sliced. Since the chicken breasts in my local grocery are so large and serve two people comfortably, I slice them before serving.

Any leftover Indian-Style Grilled Chicken is delicious for lunch the next day on top of a salad or as a sandwich. Enjoy!

I love to eat quinoa because it is such a healthy grain and it tastes great. In this featured recipe, I decided to make Quick Quinoa, which has just a few spices, a bit of garlic and a chopped carrot for color, so I would have a healthy side dish that can be put together quickly using ingredients I already had on hand.

Quick Quinoa

Quick Quinoa is a delicious and easy recipe that is high levels of protein, fiber and other nutrients. Perfect for vegetarian and gluten free menus.

The recipe for Quick Quinoa is really super simple: boil the quinoa until the little tails appear and it is tender (about 15 minutes), cook the garlic and carrots in spiced oil, mix it all together, and serve. I garnish the top with sliced green onions for their bright color and complementary texture.

Quinoa is a wonder food compared to most grains. It has more than double the amount of fiber of other grains and has an impressive amount of protein. A gluten-free grain, it is loaded with nutrients like iron, antioxidants, manganese and magnesium.

Enough about the wonder grain. Let’s talk about how to serve it. I think it can be served with almost any entrée. I like it with chicken, pork, beef, vegetarian and seafood. If served with seafood, I recommend reducing the cumin, coriander and chile powder in half so it does not dominate the delicate flavor of the seafood.

A half cup of Quick Quinoa tastes just as good the next day served on a bed of fresh dark greens and lightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Enjoy!

Since my last post focused on Brussels Sprouts I thought I would continue the trend and feature them again – this time in a delicious pulav recipe. Brussels Sprouts Pulav is a delicious savory dish that can be served as a side or as the main dish. In addition to the featured ingredient, it incorporates other vegetables as well, like onions, garlic and carrots.

Brussels Sprouts Pulav

Brussels Sprouts Pulav is a delicious spiced rice dish that is prepared with shredded Brussels sprouts and traditional Indian spices.

To make Brussels Sprout Pulav, a bit of olive oil is seasoned with a selection of whole and ground spices to give the ingredients flavor during the cooking process. Shredded Brussels Sprouts are then cooked in this oil. I let them sit, undisturbed for a few minutes so they can turn a delicious golden brown on one side. Once they are caramelized, I add the other vegetables and more spices. Adding spices in layers is a common technique in Indian cuisine to optimize the flavors in the finished dish.

When the vegetables are just tender, I mix in cooked basmati rice and allow the dish to simmer for a few more minutes to allow the flavors to be absorbed into the rice. When removing the pot from the stove, stir in a bit of fresh lemon juice to brighten up the flavor. The Brussels Sprout Pulav is garnished with a bit of toasted sliced almonds.

This recipe is a great vegetarian dish to make during the week. It can be served as the start part of a meal or as the main dish. At my house, I serve it with plain yogurt and a bit of Kerala Prawn Pickle on the side.

As a child. I wasn’t happy when my mother served Brussels sprouts. They always tasted bitter, bland and mushy. They really did not look very appealing to someone with a macaroni and cheese palate. Consequently, I excluded them from my menu until a few years ago when I saw a recipe on TV for roasted Brussels sprouts that looked delicious. I tried it and I loved it. My opinion of those baby cabbages shifted 180 degrees!

A few years ago, just before the holidays, I saw a stalk of Brussels sprouts for the first time. I was shocked. I didn’t realize they grew on 2 feet long stalks that are about 3 inches in diameter. They are shipped to the store that way so they are fresher when sold.

Apparently, this is the central stem of the Brussels sprouts plant. The Brussels sprouts grow on the stem just above huge leaves. As the plant grows, the old leaves fall off leaving many little gems attached to the sides of the stalk. At the top of the plant are more large leaves, at the center, which look like a large cabbage. Each Brussels sprout plant grows to about 3 feet tall in just 2 to 3 months.

Spiced Brussels Sprouts

Spiced Brussels Sprouts are prepared with Indian spices to complement the recipe. Easy and delicious vegetarian dish.

High in fiber, potassium, folic acid and vitamins C and K as well as many other nutrients, Brussels sprouts are very nutritious. Research shows that they may be good at fighting some forms of cancer. This is good news. I will have to increase the frequency with which they appear on my table!

I created my Spiced Brussels Sprouts recipe when I wanted a very simple vegetable side dish to serve with grilled chicken and mashed potatoes. Just like most Indian recipes, I fry some cumin seeds for a minute until they sizzle to flavor the oil then I add the powdered spices and fry a chopped red onion just until it softens. I add halved Brussels Sprouts, cut side down in the skillet and let them cook until they start to brown. After that, I stir and flip the Brussels Sprouts so they can cook evenly. When they are done, I give them a quick squeeze of fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavor.

The entire cooking time for Spiced Brussels Sprouts is about 15 to 20 minutes. Just enough time to cook the chicken and set the table. This recipe is a perfect, healthy addition to a weeknight dinner.

If you like Brussels sprouts as much as I do, check out my Brussels Sprout Pulav recipe that will be posted in two weeks.

Cauliflower and green lentils are a perfect match to create a delicious recipe. In case you haven’t noticed, the recipes I have posted this summer are all healthy, easy to make and vegetarian. My husband is on a diet and I want to provide him with healthy menu items. I have increased the number of lentil dishes dramatically while reducing the number with meat.

I like to use lentils because they are filling and full of nutrition. Green lentils are my favorite to use over brown and red lentils because of their distinctive peppery flavor, firm texture and high levels of protein, fiber, iron and many other nutrients. Even though they take 45 minutes to an hour to cook they look good when added to a recipe. French green lentils are the same variety of lentil as lentilles du Puy but are not grown in the Puy region of France.

One of my favorite vegetables is cauliflower. My daughter and I love to roast a whole head of cauliflower for dinner. Unfortunately, most of the time, the cauliflower would not make it to the table. Occasionally, 3 or 4 florets would be the token share for my husband when he arrived home.

Cauliflower and Green Lentil Masala

Cauliflower and Green Lentil Masala is a tasty Indian fusion recipe that combines delicate spices, tender cauliflower with green lentils for an easy vegetarian dish.

Getting back on track, making Cauliflower and Green Lentil Masala is easy to do. The hardest part is waiting for the green lentils to boil.

While the lentils cook, a masala is made by cooking onion, garlic and ginger in a special blend of Indian spices. When it is ready, I add the cauliflower florets and let them steam in the masala. The cooked green lentils are added to the pot when the cauliflower is tender. After stirring everything together so it can heat evenly, the dish is ready to garnish with a bit of chopped cilantro. Serve this dish with plain rice or chapati. Cauliflower and Green Lentil Masala can be served as a main dish or as a side.

If you like cauliflower and lentils and much as I do, check out my Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Masala recipe that will be posted next month.

One of my family’s favorite vegetables is zucchini. I am always searching for new zucchini recipes so we don’t eat the same thing meal after meal. In this recipe, I decided to spice it up with a simple masala made of onion, garlic and spices. Spiced Zucchini is a recipe that is so quick and easy to make that you will have it on the table in no time.

Spiced Zucchini

Spiced Zucchini incorporates the flavor of fresh summer vegetables with the taste of Indian spices. This easy to make recipe is a welcome addition to any meal.

To make Spiced Zucchini, simply fry the onion in cumin flavored olive oil. As it cooks, add the garlic, tomato and other common Indian spices. Tomato is added for the moisture it provides and a bit of color. Once the masala is ready, simply add zucchini pieces and sautée them just until they are tender when pierced with a fork. Before serving Spiced Zucchini, stir in a bit of lemon juice to brighten up the flavor.

My family loves this quick recipe. I hope yours does too!