Tuvar Dal (Pigeon-Pea lentils)

While growing up, dal, or lentils, was a staple part of a meal. Tuvar dal, moong daal, chana dal, it didn’t matter. There were so many different recipes, and all were so nutritious and delicious. When you were sick, you had a simple dal soup, and on occasions, you had some more complex recipes. This recipe is a staple in our home. It’s flavorful and can be just had with rice. On some days, the perfect accompaniment to dal and rice is fried fish, stuffed with red masala…..but more on that fried fish later!

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes Total Time: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup tuvar/tur dal rinsed
  • 3/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large tomato, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 medium onion, diced fine
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • .5 tsp red chili powder
  • .5 tsp garam masala powder
  • .5 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • Salt, to taste
  • Optional: 1 tsp lime juice

Method:

  • In a pressure cooker, or Ninja Foodi or Instant Pot (both on sear setting) heat oil
  • When oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds, they will splutter
  • Add in the onion, ginger and garlic and fry for 2 minutes until onions are soft and translucent
  • Add in the tomato and fry for 2 minutes
  • Add in the dry powders and stir for another minute
  • Add in the dal and 2.5 cups of water along with the salt
  • Put the pressure cooker lid on (for Foodi or Instant Pot, turn setting to Pressure cook and put timer to 16 minutes)
  • Pressure cook for 16 minutes
  • When done, wait until the lid can be safely removed. You can change the consistency of the daal by adding more water
  • Stir in the cilantro leaves (and lime juice, if using) and serve with rice or chapatis

Sesame Garlic Bok Choy

A delicious, crisp vegetable that comes together in minutes. Bok Choy, a Chinese cabbage, can be braised, stir-fried or roasted. You can eat all of it, which reduces prep work. It has a crisp texture with a slightly nutty flavor.

Bok choy is 90% water, negligible fat and full of vitamins A, C and beta carotene. Pair it with soy sauce, sesame seeds, chili flakes, ginger and garlic, and you have a flavorful side on the table.

Sometimes bok choy is harvested when not yet mature and sold as baby bok choy. It’s usually 3-6 inches in length, sweeter and can be cooked whole.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb baby Bok Choy (quartered or halved)
  • 1 small White Onion (diced fine)
  • 2 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 tsp Sesame Seeds
  • 1 tsp Red Pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 5 large Garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 tsp Ginger (minced)

Method:

To clean Boy Choy: Under running water, rub off any dirt from the leaves and especially at the bottom of the stalks. Chop the boy choy into quarters or halves. Place them in a bowl until you are ready to cook.

To cook: In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 10 seconds. Add in the onions, and ginger and cook over high heat until fragrant, 20 seconds. Add the bok choy and stir-fry until the leaves start to wilt, 2 minutes. Add in the soy sauce and sesame seeds. Stir for about 20 seconds. Remove the bok choy from the heat and serve.


Sauteed Spinach with oranges and almonds

Sauteed spinach gets a nice twist with the addition of garlic, orange segments and almonds. Another easy, healthy, quick week night option that takes less than 10 minutes to get to the table. And you won’t regret this approach to getting greens into your diet!

Servings: 4

Prep time: 2 minutes Cook time: 4 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound baby spinach leaves, washed
  • 2 big garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 small navel orange, peeled, and each segment cut into three
  • 4 almonds slivered
  • Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan
  2. When oil is hot, add the chili flakes and garlic, let sizzle for about 30 seconds
  3. Add the spinach in heaping batches, stirring as you go
  4. Add in the orange and almond slivers
  5. Toss till all spinach has wilted about 3 minutes
  6. Add salt, if needed, and according to taste
  7. Serve hot


Sauteed cabbage

My nana Helen had the simplest of vegetarian recipes but they were always absolutely delicious so much so that even as kids we enjoyed eating the vegetables she cooked. This dish is one of those…simple, vegan, low sodium, low carb and full of flavor. Try this and you will be rethinking cabbage!

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup Green Peas (I used frozen)
  • 1 small Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Oil
  • 1/2 tap Turmeric Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon /Lime Juice
  • 1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds (see note)
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds (see note)
  • 1/2 tsp Red Chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
  • Salt, to taste (optional for low-sodium recipes)

Note: this dish tastes delicious even without mustard and cumin seeds and I’ve made it with and without those two ingredients

Method:

  1. In a work or large pan, heat oil
  2. When oil is hot, add in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and red chili flakes
  3. When they splitter, add in the onions
  4. Turn flame to medium, saute the onions for 1-2 minutes until the onions turn soft and translucent
  5. Add the cabbage, tomato and carrots. Stir. Add the turmeric and salt
  6. Turn flame to low. Cover and cook for 2 minutes
  7. Remove lid and add the green peas. Cover the pan again and cook for 2 minutes
  8. Remove the lid, add the lime juice and cilantro, stir and then turn off the flame
  9. Serve hot with naan, chapatis or with my mom’s pilaf

Val Papdi – Flat Broad Beans

This Indian winter vegetable is long, flat with a slight curve. The pods are smooth, thick, and pale green, tapering at both ends. Each pod contains 2-4 seeds that are slightly flat. This vegetable is widely used in Indian cuisine and also in Chinese cooking. According to the site tarladalal.com, it is a low calorie, low carb vegetable that is good for weight loss. It’s packed with nutrients and can provide your daily intake of calcium, iron and magnesium. In the US, this bean can be found in the frozen section of an Indian grocery store. Here’s a recipe that is simple and flavorful and can be made in a jiffy when you want a side of greens for your meal.

Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 10 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 12oz bag frozen val papdi
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp tamarind pulp (take a small ball of tamarind, add a few spoons of water to it, microwave for 1 minute and when warm to touch, squeeze out the pulp)
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut (normal, not sweetened, can use frozen)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan. When oil is hot, add in the mustard and cumin seeds, let them splutter for a minute
  2. Add in the garlic and red chili flakes and let it sizzle for 1 minute
  3. Add in the val papdi, season with salt and turmeric powder, stir well
  4. Cover with a lid and let it cook in its own steam for 12 minutes
  5. Remove the lid and stir in the shredded coconut. Stir for 1-2 minutes
  6. Remove from flame. Serve with hot chapatis or as a side
Picture courtesy Tarladalal.com

Pea Pulav (Basmati Rice)

No Indian meal is complete without the fragrant Basmati rice. And, in our house, no birthday or celebration was complete without my mom’s flavorful pea pulav – an aromatic dish made with long-grained Basmati rice and green peas, and flavored with cardamoms, cloves, and other spices. It was inviting enough to eat on its own, no sides needed. When I make it for a Sunday-special lunch, I will often mix in other vegetables and have a delicious meal on-hand in no time at all.

Interestingly, each of the spices have a health benefit – so why not take a couple of minutes and add flavor and nutritional benefits to plain ol’rice:

  • Bay leaves are a rich source of vitamins A, and C, iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, promoting general health
  • Cloves are rich in antioxidants and minerals and known to strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, and aid in digestion
  • Thanks to it’s anti-inflammatory properties, peppercorn improves circulation, reduces joint pain and also helps combat high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases
  • Cardamom helps improve oral health and may have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Turmeric is said to ease joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Basmati Rice
  • 4 tbsp Ghee (or vegetable or olive oil)
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 8 cloves
  • 8 Peppercorns
  • 1 inch Cinnamon stick
  • 4 Cardamom – crushed
  • 1 large Onion (chopped finely)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 cup Green Peas
  • 1/2 cup Carrots (diced) – optional
  •  1 tsp Salt
  •  2 cups Broth ( veg, chicken or beef) – For perfectly separated rice – use the same cup to measure the rice and the broth

Instructions:

  1. Wash the rice very gently and drain all water. Rinse twice more so that the water is clear (this removes the starch from the rice). Drain water completely each time
  2. Place a large pan on the stove on medium heat
  3. Add the ghee to the pan
  4. Once the ghee is hot, add the Bay leaf. (Note: If the bay leaf sizzles immediately, you know the oil is hot. If not, wait a few more seconds, until you start to see the leaf sizzle)
  5. Add the rest of the whole spices to the ghee – cloves, pepper corn, cinnamon and cardamom
  6. Fry for 30 seconds
  7. Add the onions and fry for 2-3 minutes until the onions are translucent
  8. Add the turmeric powder and stir for another minute
  9. Add the rice to the pan, and fry for 1-2 minutes
  10. Add the stock, salt, and stir once, very gently
  11. Let the stock come to a boil then reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid
  12. Let the rice cook – will take about 10-12 minutes
  13. After 10-12 minutes, check rice. If all the water is evaporated, turn off the flame. Keep the container covered – allowing it to sit covered for 5 minutes
  14. Fluff the rice and vegetables with a fork and serve

Hummus

When Nilesh thinks of Hummus, it takes him back to his childhood in Dahran where his dad whipped up bowls of hummus that were wiped clean at parties. Even when his parents visit, we leave it to his dad to make the tastiest, most garlicky, finger-licking hummus around.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup roasted red bell pepper (Use only if you want red pepper hummus)
  • 2.5 cups soaked and cooked chick peas / garbanzo beans
  • 0.25 cup tahini paste
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 0.25 cup lemon juice (usually 1 lemon)
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic (chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder

Instructions:

  1. For Roasted Red Peppers:
    1. Move the over rack closer to the broiler, about 6 inches away. Turn broiler over
    2. Remove core of the red peppers and cut into large, flat pieces
    3. Lay flat on an oven tray with skin side up. Broil 5-10 mins until charred
    4. Remove from oven, when cool enough to handle, gently peel away the charred skin and discard
  2. For Hummus:
    1. Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor
    2. Process of 2-3 minutes
    3. If the hummus is too thick, add a tablespoon of water at a time, until you reach the desired consistency
    4. To serve, put hummus into a bowl, make a little well and add a 1/2 tsp of olive oil, with a sprinkle of red chili power. Serve with pita chips, or vegetables like carrots and cucumbers.

Serving Suggestions

  1. Pita pockets – layer hummus, cooked and diced chicken, tahini, and greens in a pita for healthy pita pocket for school lunches
  2. Serve with cucumbers and carrots
  3. Wraps – layer hummus, long, thin carrot and cucumber slices, greens and deli meat for a school lunch or an on-the-go wrap


Beetroot cutlets (Tikkis)

When my dad mentioned he tried to eat beets daily, I googled the health benefits and found there is an impressive amount of goodness packed into that little vegetable. They are low in calories and a great source of fiber, vitamin C, iron, and magnesium and potassium. According to health.com, your risk of heart disease can drop and you can also lower your blood pressure.

While I typically served beets just boiled with a dash of lime juice, my friend Chaavi made some delicious beet cutlets that I had to make at home. Try it out – it’s as simple as aloo tikkis but with a chockful of nutrients!

Servings: 10 cutlets

Ingredients

  • 2 medium beetroots (grated – about 2 cups)
  • 2 large potatoes – boiled in pressure cooker for 7 whistles, and mashed
  • 1/4 onion – finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp fennel powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin power
  • 1 tbsp dhania powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • 1 tsp aamchur/dry mango powder
  • 1/2 tsp ginger/garlic paste
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs or 2 slices of bread (white/brown) – soaked in water, squeeze the water out
  • 1/4 cup semolina also know as rava or cream of wheat
  • Oil to fry or optional – bake in air-fryer

Method:

  • Squeeze out the water from the beetroot and then add to a large mixing bowl
  • Mix in the potatoes
  • Add in the remaining ingredients
  • Mix everything well
  • Now shape them into round cutlets or tikkis
  • In a large mixing bowl, first squeeze out pan or pressure cooker, boil both the beetroot and potatoes together with some salt and enough water for 7 to 8 whistles on medium flame. 
  • Drain all the water. Then peel and grate the beetroot in a bowl. 
  • Grate the potato in the same bowl. This is done to get a even smooth mashed potato mix.
  • Add all the spice powders, green chili, salt and corn starch. Instead of corn starch you can also add rice flour or soaked bread slices.
  • Mix everything well with your hands. Now shape them into round cutlets or tikkis.
  • Now, add the semolina to a plate
  • Place each cutlet on the semolina to coat evenly on all sides by the semolina. Dust off any extra semolina

Shallow-fry option

  • In a pan, add in 2 tbsp of oil, and when heated, fry the cutlets in it, flipping over, till it is crisp and golden on all sides
  • To shallow fry on a stove, heat a nonstick pan on medium heat
  • When hot, spray oil and arrange patties in single layer on the pan
  • Continue cooking on medium heat until golden brown at the bottom
  • Spray a little oil on the top of the cutlets and use a spatula, to flip them over
  • Cook until the bottom layer is golden brown
  • Turn off the heat and remove from the pan
  • Serve hot, with a side of mint chutney

Air-fryer option

  • Arrange cutlets on a sheet in a single layer. Spray some oil on the patties. Bake at preheated 350°F for 12 minutes. Flip them upside down halfway for even baking.
  • Serve hot, with a side of mint chutney

Notes

  • Do check the salt in the mixture before coating and frying the tikkis or cutlets.
  • If the beetroot culet does not hold it’s shape or is too soft, add another slice of bread (mashed up) to the mashed beetroot mix