Have you noticed how much beluga lentils look like caviar? When cooked, they look like small shiny black pearls, just like caviar. They don’t taste like caviar though. They are loaded with protein, fiber and antioxidants, just what is needed for a healthy diet. Beluga lentils are very easy to cook within a half hour, unlike some Indian dals that must be soaked overnight.

As I incorporate more lentils and beans into our diet, I look for less common varieties to keep our meals interesting. Since they keep their shape and have a delicate bite when eaten, I thought incorporating them into an Indian-based recipe would be a perfect change to traditional Indian dal recipes.

Spiced Beluga Lentils

Incorporating Indian spices and vegetables for flavor, healthy Spiced Beluga Lentils are delicious with any meal.

Spiced Beluga Lentils are easy to make. Simply season some oil with cumin seeds and bay leaf, then add chopped onion and carrot. The vegetables are added before the lentils because they take so long to become tender. Next the usual garlic and ginger are added to the pot.

Once everything begins to get come color and become tender, the Indian spices are added. Since they could burn easily, they are added just seconds before adding the lentils and water. The Spiced Beluga Lentils will simmer until the water is absorbed and the beans are tender.

When I serve Spiced Beluga Lentils, I like to top them with a dollop of plain yogurt and a pinch of freshly chopped cilantro. This recipe can be served with steamed rice and bread on the side. Adding one or two vegetable dishes will add color and a variety of texture to your meal.

Spiced Beluga Lentils

Spiced Beluga Lentils are easy to make in no time.

Spiced Beluga Lentils are easy to pack to take to work or for even a picnic.

 

In this recipe, I wanted to combine two of my favorite ingredients to create a healthy vegetarian recipe for Zucchini Farro Pulav. I wanted to incorporate the health benefits of farro, a grain that has been around since the times of the Fertile Crescent, Indian spices and summer vegetables.

Zucchini Farro Pulav

Zucchini Farro Pulav substitutes rice with healthy farro. This vegetarian recipe is loaded with goodness and flavor. It is easy to make.

Farro is loaded with protein and fiber as well as other vitamins and minerals. It has a delicately chewy texture when cooked so you will feel satisfied after eating it. It is a very forgiving grain in that it can be cooked ahead and then used in a recipe the following day. I have even reheated it and eaten it for breakfast with a bit of milk and honey on top. Delicious!

Farro is much easier to cook than rice which must be boiled just the right number of minutes or it is overcooked. Farro has a wide window of cooking time without turning mushy. I use pearled or semi-pearled farro because it is easy to cook and doesn’t require an overnight soak.

Zucchini Farro Pulav is a very easy recipe to make. It uses vegetables that are already in your refrigerator: zucchini, onions, carrots, garlic and ginger. The spices are a traditional mix of cumin, garam masala, red chiles, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and a single bay leaf.

To prepare the Zucchini Farro Pulav, the sliced onion and carrot matchsticks are cooked in seasoned oil. The zucchini is added at the end because it cooks so quickly. Once the vegetables are ready the cooked farro is added to the pot and mixed in with the vegetables and spices until evenly coated. This really is an easy recipe.

Zucchini Farro Pulav can be served hot as a side dish accompanying any meal. It is great with chicken and meat. It can be served as a main dish with other vegetables on the side. In addition, Zucchini Farro Pulav can be served cold as a salad or on top of a bed of fresh greens.

The other day I was thinking about potato skins and stuffed potatoes. My family frequently orders them as an appetizer when we eat in restaurants. They are a tasty item to include on a menu when you have people over for a party or just to watch a game on TV. Potatoes, in my mind, are the ultimate comfort food. An idea suddenly popped into my head: why don’t I create a recipe that is stuffed with Indian spices?

Twice Baked Potatoes

This Twice Baked Masala Potatoes recipe combines comfort food and Indian spices for a change of pace from the traditional recipe.

It didn’t take long for Twice Baked Masala Potatoes to appear in my mind. Fortunately, it is a really easy recipe to make.

While baking four russet potatoes, I prepare the masala, spice mixture, which will be combined with the potatoes after they are cooked. In a seasoned oil, I fry a chopped onion, garlic and ginger until it turns golden brown. This brings out the sweetness from the onion and contrasts with the flavors of the spices.

Once the potatoes have baked and cooled enough so I can hold them in my hands, I cut them and scoop out the inner flesh, leaving the skins intact. I gently mash the potato flesh and mix in the masala I made while the potatoes were baking. I add a bit of milk and butter to add some richness.

Simply fill each skin with a generous amount of the spiced mashed potato. Bake them again until they are hot. Remove from the oven and top them with a sprinkle of paprika. Serve the Twice Baked Masala Potatoes with a dollop of plain yogurt and a spoonful of chopped green onions.

These are a great addition to any meal and are full of flavor without being spicy. Your family will love these potatoes. In fact, my Indian mother-in-law loves them!

While I was at the grocery store last week, I saw a display of Dutch yellow potatoes. These waxy potatoes are small with light yellow skin and yellow flesh; they look like baby Yukon golds. Their flavor is light with a creamy texture so they are perfect for roasting. Of course, I had to buy a pound since they are so cute!

Spiced Roasted Potatoes

Easy to make Spiced Roasted Potatoes add flavor to any meal. Lightly spiced they are easy to make and delicious.

The recipe for Spiced Roasted Potatoes is extremely easy. Make a simple masala of mustard seeds, turmeric, red chile powder, garam masala, salt, pepper and minced garlic. Mix the masala with some olive oil then toss in the potatoes. Simply roast the potatoes in the oven.

You will know when they are done by the delicious aroma that fills the kitchen. Transfer the roasted potatoes to a serving bowl and serve. Be careful to let the potatoes cool a bit before popping one into your mouth. They are temperature hot!

Spiced Roasted Potatoes can be served as a side dish to any meal.

Tacos are always fun to serve. My family likes the fact that they can be customized to suit everyone’s palate. The best part is changing up the ingredients to make each dinner an exciting experience. Creating Balchao Style Pork Tacos was fun and tasty!

Balchao Pork Tacos

Balchao Style Pork Tacos are easy to make and tasty to eat with the trademark flavors of Goa.

In this recipe I used country-style boneless pork ribs. This cut of pork is called ribs even though the meat is cut from the shoulder area. They are large strips, about 2 by 2 by 8 inches which makes them easy to handle. They are easy to prepare by cooking slowly in the oven or a crock pot. When the meat is done, it is very tender and tasty. It is easily shredded into strips which makes them perfect to use in tacos.

The recipe for Balchao Style Pork Tacos is based on a preparation that originated when Portuguese explorers visited Goa during the 16th Century. For more information on the history of Balchao, click here. The result of this meeting was the creation of a thick and tangy dark red sauce for flavoring pork or seafood. It tastes sweet, sour and spicy all in one bite for a mouth-watering treat. In this recipe, I use tamarind to provide a gently sour flavor.

Balchao Pork Tacos

Country-style boneless pork ribs are marinated in a Goan inspired masala then cooked slowly in the oven.

A marinade is prepared with tomato, onion, garlic, ginger and an array of Indian spices. This is cooked together until the onion turns sweet and is ground into a paste. The pork is liberally coated in this spicy marinade and roasted in the oven until tender. Once it is done, I simply shred it into small bite-sized pieces.

The Balchao Style Pork Tacos are served in fresh chapatis. They are topped with generous servings of salsa, romaine and plain yogurt. The flavor of the rich and flavorful pork is contrasted by the tangy yogurt and salsa. Delicious!

Balchao Pork Tacos

The meat is tender and tasty. It is easily shredded for tacos.

 

Israeli couscous has been a favorite of mine for years. It has very little flavor but enhances the ingredients and spices that are combined with it. Israeli couscous, or pearl couscous, is made from whole grain wheat flour so it is essentially pasta that has been extruded through a press in the shape of tiny balls, or pearls. When it is made, it is toasted rather than drying it like other pastas; this gives it a bit of a nutty flavor and a chewy texture. Israeli couscous can be added to soups, salads, vegetables or any recipe in which you want to add interest.

Spiced Israeli Couscous with Grape Tomatoes and Wild Mushrooms can be served as a side dish or as a main dish for lunch. In this recipe, I use a selection of wild mushrooms to give it variety. I used oyster mushrooms cut into bite-sized pieces, sliced shitake and a few creminis. The shitake mushrooms shrink a lot so add extras and don’t slice them to thinly if you use them. One could use all cremini mushrooms for convenience since they are available at all grocery stores.

Spiced Israeli Couscous

Spiced Israeli Couscous with Grape Tomatoes and Wild Mushrooms is a delightfully easy recipe for a vegetarian dish, seasoned with Indian spices.

To make Spiced Israeli Couscous with Grape Tomatoes and Wild Mushrooms, I start by pulling out the flavors from the spices in hot oil. The shallots are then cooked in the spiced oil. The grape tomatoes are cut in half and added to the pot; they are cooked just until they start to lose their structure. I like to see that they are really tomatoes and not just red specks in the food that I serve. Next it is time to add the mushrooms and cook them until they become tender. During this time, the sauce will start to thicken.

Before boiling the couscous, I roast it in a dry skillet it to give it more flavor. After it is boiled, I add it to the pot along with a bit of cilantro and toasted cashews. The cooked couscous absorbs the flavor from the sauce creating a very tasty dish.

The recipe for Spiced Israeli Couscous with Grape Tomatoes and Wild Mushrooms is very simple but the flavors are delicious. Enjoy!

Recently I had a craving for steamed mussels. The most popular recipes for mussels steam them in a delicately seasoned broth of white wine, tomato, garlic and parsley. I wanted something with a bit more spice and attitude.

When I was planning the recipe, I decided to prepare them in the cooking style of Kerala where my husband was born. Since Kerala is on the southwestern coast of India, the residents there eat a lot of fresh seafood, including mussels. The preparations usually involve a curry. After the mussels are steamed open, the meat is added to a well-spiced sauce filled with tomato, green chiles, ginger and garlic. The dish is usually served with rice or parotha.

Malabar Spiced Mussels

Malabar Steamed Mussels bring the flavor of Kerala to a traditional recipe. The rich tomato broth is flavored with saffron and spices for a delicious dish.

In my Malabar Steamed Mussels recipe, I start by browning onions and garlic in a large pot with some cumin. After a few minutes, I add tomato and two green chiles. After another minute, I add dry white wine to release the fond and deglaze the pot followed by fresh water. At this point I add a mix of turmeric, red chile powder (not too much) coriander, fennel seed and homemade garam masala. The secret ingredient to add richness to the broth is a generous helping of saffron threads. To give the broth the flavor of Kerala, I add a sprig of curry leaves.

When the broth is ready, I steam the mussels in it to allow them to absorb the flavor of Kerala. After they open, I serve the Malabar Steamed Mussels in individual bowls and top them with a bit of chopped cilantro. I serve the mussels with a hot fresh naan or layered parotha. Serving the steamed mussels in a large bowl over a mound of steamed basmati rice ensures that all the vegetables and rich broth are eaten and enjoyed.

This recipe can generously serve two as a main course or four as an appetizer.

Brown basmati rice has long been known as a healthy grain known for its fiber and mineral content. Add it to quinoa, a tiny seed that is packed not only with fiber and minerals but with protein, and you have the basis for a supercharged recipe.

Brown Basmati Rice and Quinoa

Brown Basmati Rice and Red Quinoa gets its flavor from a special blend of spices that are commonly used to season rice in India. This easy recipe is nutritious and flavorful.

My recipe for Masala Brown Basmati Rice and Red Quinoa gets its flavor from a special blend of spices that are commonly used to season rice in India. Whole bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves and black peppercorns are added to the water in which the brown basmati rice cooks to give it flavor before it is even combined with the quinoa.

Additional flavor comes from the thinly cut onion slices that are fried in a spice mix of mustard seeds, cumin, garam masala, coriander, chile and turmeric until they caramelize, bringing out their mild, sweetness. Garlic, grated carrots and fresh spinach are cooked in this seasoned oil until tender.

When everything is ready, all the ingredients are combined in a large pot and cooked together until the grains absorb the flavors of the spices and vegetables.

Masala Brown Basmati Rice and Red Quinoa is a simple recipe that can be served as a side dish to accompany any meal. I like to serve it at lunch as a healthy vegetarian dish along with a cup of hot soup.

Now that the weather is getting cooler, soups are back on my menu. This week I am featuring my Cranberry Bean Soup. When I mentioned to my husband that I was making Cranberry Bean Soup, he was very confused. He thought I was using fresh cranberries and thought that would make a very odd soup. After I told him that cranberry beans are beans, not fruit, he was very happy to eat this soup for dinner.

Cranberry Bean Soup

Cranberry Bean Soup is an easy to make vegetarian recipe with light Indian spices for a healthy lunch or dinner on a cold day. Also called borlotti beans.

Cranberry beans are one of the most underutilized beans in the U. S. They are very popular in Italian cuisine for their mild, creamy and nutty flavor. There, they are called borlotti beans and are found in many soups, casseroles and salads.

Cranberry beans look like red kidney beans except they are white with dark red spots when dried and turn dark pink when boiled. Cranberry beans are highly nutritious, rich in fiber and packed with protein.

Cranberry beans should be soaked to reduce the cooking time. I simply put them in a bowl of water and let them soak overnight.

To make this vegetarian soup, the onions are cooked in oil that is seasoned with a bay leaf. Garlic, tomato, fresh green chile and dried spices are added next to build the flavor base. The beans and broth are added next and simmer until the beans are tender. This takes about an hour or more.

The next step is to purée the soup so it is creamy. The soup can be purée in a blender or using a handheld immersion blender. A traditional blender yields a creamier texture but the immersion blender is less work and requires less clean up.  Before blending the soup, I remove some of the beans to add back later for variety in texture. This is an optional step. Just before serving, I add some freshly chopped cilantro.

Cranberry Bean Soup makes a fantastic main dish for lunch or dinner on a cold day along with a few pappads or a hot, fresh paratha. It is also a great starter for any meal.

For another recipe that features cranberry beans, check out Cranberry Bean Masala.

When I was planning the recipe for Masala Chicken with Mushroom Sauce, I knew I wanted a simple sautéed chicken breast with a brown butter sauce. Brown butter sauce is one of the easiest to make. It is always successful without any problems. When I started to make the sauce for this recipe, I realized that I had a lovely selection of fresh mushrooms that I knew would add the substance the sauce needed to stand up to an Indian masala, or spice mix, that I had created for the chicken. I used two of my favorite mushrooms, cremini and shitakes, for their different textures and shapes. I sliced them and added them to the skillet with a bit of chopped shallots, garlic and butter. To this I added a dry white wine which I allowed toand intensify in flavor followed by more butter. Ahh, what a glorious combination. My brown butter sauce became a buttery mushroom sauce.

Masala Chicken with Mushroom Sauce

Masala Chicken with Mushroom Sauce is an delicious, easy to make sautéed chicken recipe served with a butter sauce flavored with wild mushrooms.

Since I seem to be discussing the sauce before the chicken, let me regress to the main ingredient in this recipe. Over the years, I have learned that it is easier to cook chicken if all the pieces are the same size and same thickness. To do this I use my meat mallet and pound them so they are a bit thinner and all the same thickness. This is good therapy after a stressful day and no one is harmed in the process. Take care not to get too aggressive with the pounding; getting too forceful can cause the chicken to tear and have unattractive holes in it. After the chicken is pounded I feel the pieces look larger so everyone will think they are getting more food. Only I know the truth!

To flavor the chicken, I make a masala with ground spices. Authentic Indian cooks would use whole spices, roast them over a fire or in a hot skillet, and then grind them to a powder for the richest flavor. I wanted to make this a quick and easy recipe so I opted for ground spices. I use so much spice in my house, I think they are fresh.

Once the masala is mixed, I sprinkle it generously on both sides of the chicken. The masala has enough character to stand up to the sauce so feel free to use it liberally. After a few minutes of allowing the chicken to rest with the spices, they are sautéed in a large skillet until golden brown.

When the chicken is done, I remove the pieces from the skillet so I start working on the last step of preparing the mushroom sauce.

This Masala Chicken with Mushroom Sauce recipe is easy to make for a perfect weeknight dinner. Add some vegetables and rice for a complete meal.