Chana Masala or Chole Masala

IMG_2657     Popular in Northern India and Pakistan, chana or chole (cho-lay) masala is made in a variety of ways.  It can be cooked on the dry side, or with a sour tang, but here I’ve made it richer with lite coconut milk, and served it with a spoonful of mango chutney for a sweet/hot finish.  Serve over fragrant rice, with naan or pappadums, etc.  I love the hint of cinnamon and other floral notes in Garam Masala, which can be found in most grocery stores in the regular spice section.  I’ve added a few other spices to round out the chana-spice flavor profile.  Canned chickpeas make this a more-convenient weeknight supper, but it’s delicious enough for company.  Please check out the Indian Category on this site for other recipes, including Dal Makhani and a Hawaiian Coconut Curry.


Makes about six servings

2 Tablespoons coconut oil,  or vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
one medium onion, diced
1 Tablespoon finely-grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons garam masala spice blend
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon amchoor  (amchur, dried mango powder)  (optional)

1 Tablespoon tamarind paste  (optional)
1 large tomato seeded and diced
15 oz. can lite coconut milk  (or water)
2  (15-oz.) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

chutney, such as Patak’s Mango Chutney (found in many regular grocery stores)

In a medium-to-large saucepan or small stockpot, heat oil over medium heat.  Stir in onion and ginger, and turn heat down a click.   Cook until onions are beginning to brown, stirring often.  Stir in spices and garlic, and cook for about one minute, stirring constantly.  Add tamarind (if using), tomato, coconut milk and garbanzos, and simmer for a few minutes.  Stir in salt.  With a potato masher, mash at least half the chickpeas, so the mixture begins to look finer and thicker.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 15-20 minutes.   Pick out the cloves and discard them.  Add a teaspoon of chutney on each serving, and serve with naan bread, pappadums, Basmati rice, etc.  When reheating, I stir in a little water for better consistency.  Can be made a day ahead.

NOTES:  My favorite brand of tamarind paste is CTF “Pure Fresh Tamarind,” it comes in a 14 oz. plastic jar with blue label and blue lid.  Chole (cho-lay) means chickpea curry,  and Chana means chickpeas or white garbanzos (as opposed to black).  I like the Garam Masala spice blend from Penzeys, but any will do.  If tomatoes are out of season, I would not hesitate to use a can of chopped tomatoes drained well.
IMG_2670  Instead of using a thickener, just mash some of the chickpeas like some Indian cooks do.

IMG_2668  My favorite brand of tamarind paste.

vegan Hawaiian Coconut Curry

IMG_1909     This vegan coconut curry is adapted from an old recipe I got from a friend in Hilo, back in the 1980’s.  In Hawaii, locals love their chicken curry!  I’ve tweaked it over the years, and made it vegan, but it’s still a classic 1970’s American-style curry that brings the flavor.  It’s a really good, easy, and flexible recipe that doesn’t take too long to make.  Serve over rice and/or with naan bread or papadums,  with chutney and any of the toppings suggested below.  p.s. For other dinner ideas, there are about 60 recipes in the Main Dish category.


Serves 5-6

1 Cup vegetable stock  (I use Better Than Bouillon, either Vegetarian or No-Chicken)
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 Tablespoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon curry powder  (I use McCormick Curry Powder)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 small clove garlic, crushed and minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh peeled grated ginger (my favorite),  or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
15 oz. can Lite coconut milk
Any extra protein you want, including any one of the following:  Butler Soy Curls (3 oz.), Beyond Chicken, crispy tofu cubes,  nuts such as peanuts, cashews or walnuts, chick peas,  etc.

Saute onion and celery in butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Stir in curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, sugar, salt, garlic and ginger.  Turn heat to low, cover and cook 10-15 minutes.  To the pot, add the lite coconut milk and only 1/2 Cup of the stock, and stir.  Cover and cook 5 more minutes, but do not let it boil.  With a fork, whisk the flour into the remaining 1/2 Cup of stock until it’s smooth, and set this slurry aside.  When the 5 minutes are up, add the slurry to the pot, and stir until the curry thickens, just a few minutes.  Add your extra protein now and heat through.  Serve over hot rice, or with naan bread.  Serve it simply like this, or add toppings such as mango chutney (my favorite), toasted coconut, salty peanuts or cashews, etc.

Notes:  This can be made a day ahead, and it tastes even better the next day.  Jasmine rice is the traditional rice to serve with this, but I found it delicious even with Trader Joe’s sprouted red rice.  My favorite chutney is Patak’s Mango Chutney (the plain one or the hot one).  If you don’t have chutney, you can always just put out some raisins to sprinkle on top.  Other vegetables can be mixed in when cooking, such as green bell pepper (tiny dice), or even fresh corn at the last minute.  I do like the McCormick Curry Powder–it’s not gourmet, but it’s got the classic 1970’s flavor of this particular dish.

Vegan Dal Makhani

IMG_2613    Dal Makhani is my favorite dal.   Translated from the Hindi, it supposedly means Buttery Lentils.  A Punjabi dish from the North of India, it was so heart-cloggingly rich and time-consuming that it was usually made only for special occasions.  With this relatively-quick, vegan Dal Makhani, we can have it whenever we want.  There are many online recipes for this traditional dish, all remarkably similar.  All I did was substitute in vegan butter, and coconut milk creamer.  I used products from Whole Foods, and substituted a jalapeno pepper for the traditional Indian chili peppers.  Nutritional values are below.  Despite being lower in fat, this still tastes rich.  This balance of heat is for our Western palates, but if you can find the real Indian chili peppers, feel free to set it on fire.


Makes six generous one-cup servings  (about 6.5 Cups total)

3/4 Cup whole black lentils  (urad dal)  (soaked overnight)
1/2 Cup kidney beans  (rajmah)  (I use canned kidney beans)
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced and chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter
1 teaspoon cumin seeds  (not ground)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds and pith removed,  do not chop
(protect your hands with gloves when handling the chili pepper)
1 cinnamon stick,  3-4 inches long
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
15 oz. can plain tomato sauce
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 Cup water
3/4 Cup So Delicious Creamer  (original plain flavor)
2 Tablespoons freshly-chopped coriander/cilantro leaves for garnish

Sort through lentils, rinse in a very-fine sieve, and soak in water overnight.  Drain and keep aside.  Put 3 Cups water in an uncovered saucepan and simmer lentils for about 25 minutes until soft and a bit overcooked.  Drain.

Mash garlic and ginger together into a paste.  In a small stock pot, heat butter and add cumin seeds.  When seeds crackle, add chili pepper, cinnamon stick, ginger/garlic paste and onions, and sauté over medium heat until onions turn brown.  Add cayenne, turmeric and tomato puree, and cook over medium heat until oil begins to separate from the tomato gravy (10 minutes or so).  Add the cooked legumes, garam masala, salt and the 3/4 Cup water, and simmer 10-15 minutes.  Add half the cream and stir to blend.  Just before serving, swirl the remaining cream onto the top of the dal, so streaks of cream are visible.  Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, and serve hot, with naan or parathas, etc.  I served mine with Trader Joe’s vegan Uttapams this time.

Notes:    To save money, hit the bulk spices at your local health food store.  This freezes well.  If using dried kidney beans instead, soak and cook them with the lentils.  I like the Punjabi style garam masala from Penzey’s, but you can find Garam Masala in most grocery stores now.  Garam masala often has cloves and cardamom in it, and saves trying to fish cloves and pods out of the stew when it’s done.  Whole Foods has whole black lentils, the Organic 365 brand.  I will sometimes also add chopped garden tomatoes too.  I never increase the amount of cayenne, even if I don’t add the hot chili pepper.

Nutritional Values per 8-ounce serving:  Calories 199.  Fat 5.  Saturated Fat 1.  Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5.  Monounsaturated Fat 1.  Trans Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 226 (depending upon tomato sauce).  Carbs 28.  Fiber 7.  Sugar 7.  Protein 8.

Cilantro Chutney

IMG_0882    You might think of chutney as a chunky concoction, but many are velvety smooth, like this one.  There are at least hundreds of recipes for the favorite Indian Cilantro Chutney, and many are similar.  Some have peanuts or cashews, or lime juice instead of lemon, coconut meat instead of oil, garlic or green apple, etc.  I adapted this one by Indian chef, Vikas Khanna, and fell in love.  The salt, sugar and oil melt down the pungent onions and spicy ginger while they’re being whirled in the blender.  What really hit me was the fresh brightness of the lemon.  This tastes as good as it looks, the flavors are complex, but it’s so simple to make.  I cut the salt and oil in half, and it’s still amazing.  I also decided to freeze the leftover chutney in an ice-cube tray and keep it in the freezer, it’s that good.


1 large bunch cilantro, washed and roughly chopped  (I discarded most of the stems)
6 scallions, coarsely chopped  (both white and green parts)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
one knob of ginger, chopped  (I chopped a 1″ by 2″ piece of peeled ginger)
1/4 Cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a blender, and start on low.  Slowly increase speed and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender as you go.
Store refrigerated for up to 3 days.  Freeze any leftovers in an ice-cube tray.

Notes:  To save time, I used Lakewood Organic Pure Lemon Juice.   The original recipe calls for 2 hot chilis, such as Serrano or Thai chilis.  I often do not have such a thing in the house, so I substituted the cayenne, and then I put Sriracha on the table, because I like it hotter than Lars.

IMG_0889  If you want to elevate a bowl of Nissin Top Ramen (Oriental Flavor is vegan), this is the ticket!   If you find you like this, then you might also go crazy for this chunky Ginger Scallion Sauce.

Easy Vegan Chai Latte – Santiva Chai Latte

Here’s my personal Chai Latte recipe, and it blows Starbucks out of the water.  Easy and quick, it’s evolved over the years.  It tastes rich without that sickly-sweet quality that coffee-shop drinks have.  In rural parts of India, they use jaggery sugar, but here I’ve substituted 1 Tablespoon of palm sugar, and you could also use coconut sugar, Demerara or brown sugar.  It’s traditional to use black tea and I prefer Assam for this, but you could also use Darjeeling, or even Oolong, with great results.  Or you can do like I did, and make your own personal chai blend by switching up the teas and spices.  You could add a single star of anise, for example.  The almond milk brings it over the top flavor-wise, and adds nutrition and protein.  This takes about 10 minutes to make and then you can keep the rest in the fridge and have it iced.  Remember that scene in Monsoon Wedding, where the prospective groom takes his fiance out into the streets to the best Chai Wallah in Delhi?  Over chai, Aditi confesses her adultery with a married man, puts her cards on the table so she can leave that old affair behind, and begin anew on a foundation of truth with this new man in her life.  Love that movie!

Santiva Vegan Chai Latte

Makes 4 servings

2.5 Cups water
3 teabags of Assam tea (or Darjeeling or Oolong)
1 Tablespoon palm sugar (or coconut sugar or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger,  or a 2-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, sliced.
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 inch cinnamon stick
6 inch vanilla bean, cut into 1″ pieces, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 whole cloves
3 Tablespoons agave syrup
2 Cups organic almond milk (plain flavor)

Set almond milk aside.
In a saucepan, bring water to boil, toss in teabags and all other ingredients except almond milk.
Reduce heat and simmer 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add almond milk, bring just to a boil and remove from heat.
Strain and serve hot, or in tall glasses filled with ice.
Refrigerate any leftover.

Notes:  You can stretch this by adding another tea bag, another half cup of water and/or almond milk, it’s very forgiving.   Because we use sweet, rich almond milk, nobody gets hurt, and no veal calves are killed.   Also, by using organic almond milk, no farm workers are harmed by pesticides, nor is the earth.  Santiva means “Aiming at Peace.”

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burger

We had these little Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burgers as a main dish for lunch a couple of times, and liked them.  It’s not that they’re stellar, it’s that they’re pretty good if you dress them up, and they are convenient.  Lars had his on a bun with lettuce and stuff.  I had mine without the bun, and used some red-pepper mayo I made by blending a jar of roasted red bell peppers with 1/3 Cup of Vegenaise and a clove of garlic.  I topped it with some of my Pickled Red Onions and some Patak’s Lime Relish.  This could accompany any of the other items in the Indian category on this site.  Yes, I love Indian food, and Indian restaurants are sometimes vegan friendly, but certainly not always, so I hope to expand this category this year.

Squash Curry Soup

Here’s a beautiful Fall soup with warming Indian spices for the cold weather.  It takes advantage of the early Butternut squashes, and it makes 4 pints,  so some can go in the freezer.  I originally saw Padma Lakshmi making this soup on the Martha Stewart show back in 2006 (video here).  I made her version but we could not take that level of heat and spice, so this is milder and does not obliterate the taste of the squash itself.  Use my easy method of baking-before-cutting, and you won’t have to struggle with a knife and a fresh, rock-hard squash.  Vegan Mofo 2012.
Squash Curry Soup

Makes about 4 pints, serves 6-8

2.5 lb. Butternut squash, baked and seeded (yields 1.3 pounds, supposedly)
1 Tablespoon oil
1 large onion diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger grated
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 Bay leaf
1.25 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 Cups vegetable broth (I used Better Than Bouillon)
1 Tablespoon palm sugar  (or brown sugar)
15 oz. can low-fat coconut milk

Wash and pierce squash, and set in a glass baking dish with 1/2 inch of water.
Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.
Cool squash, and discard seeds.
Peel, and chop squash meat into a bowl.
In a Dutch oven or stock pot on medium heat, heat oil and cook onions for 3 to 5 minutes.
Add ginger, garlic, cayenne, curry, and turmeric, and stir another minute.
Add squash, salt, vegetable broth and Bay leaf, and cook 5 more minutes.
Add palm sugar and coconut milk, and cook 5 more minutes.
Remove Bay leaf from the pot.
Now you have a choice; you can use a potato masher or immersion blender to make the soup however chunky or smooth you like.
Or you can cool the soup and then puree it in a blender for later.

Garnish with curry leaves, chives, pumpkin seeds, croutons, etc.

Notes:  I would prefer 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, but Lars doesn’t like it that hot, so I just use a little Sriracha at the table.  If making this for kids, definitely keep the cayenne and ginger light.

Trader Joe’s Masala Dosa

Here is another vegan heat-and-serve food product from Trader Joe’s.  I like seeing the bold little “V” on the front of their packaging, which indicates that it’s vegan.  I served these Masala Dosa with Kim Barnouin’s delicious Curried Chickpea Cakes, and Trader Joe’s Biryani Rice.  Since I had the Chickpea Cakes in the freezer, it all made for a quick, tasty meal for us and my visiting parents.  I zapped the Dosa in the microwave and then did a quick fry on medium heat in a cast-iron skillet to make them nice and crispy on the outside.  I like the Indian condiments in the grocery store, so you could also serve these as a small plate with those, and some microwavable poppadoms too (which are surprisingly good).  I would say the prominent flavor and texture of these  Dosa is potato, and they give you a small amount of coconut chutney on the side.  Check out my Indian recipes category, for other suggestions on side dishes to serve with these.

Curried Chickpea Cakes by Kim Barnouin

These Curried Chickpea Cakes are easy and delicious, with a definite-but-light Indian flavor profile.  This recipe is from  Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook by Kim Barnouin.  I made a quick condiment for them by mixing one part Patak’s Mango Chutney (from a jar), with two parts Vegenaise.  It makes ten cakes, and I ended up freezing 5 or 6 of them for another quick meal.  The cookbook says this makes ten servings, but we easily ate two each and a hungry boy or man could wipe out three with no problem.  I switched out the bread crumbs for Quinoa Flakes and had good success.  I guess this makes mine gluten free, except that I rolled them in Panko before frying.  However, you could also use crushed vegan Corn Flakes for the coating instead of the Panko.  I think if you made these really petite, maybe one tablespoon each, they’d make great appetizers topped with a little dollop of chutney and a cilantro leaf or something.  This is also a great recipe when you have some leftover brown rice you want to use up.   p.s. This is a pretty, reader-friendly, sort of California-chic cookbook and would make a great gift.


Makes 9-10 cakes (approximately 5 servings)

15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 Cup sliced green onions (both white and light green parts)
1/3 Cup light coconut milk
2/3 Cup Quinoa Flakes or bread crumbs or Panko
2/3 Cup crumb coating, such as bread crumbs, Panko or vegan corn flakes crushed
2 teaspoons cane sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional but I use it every chance I get for its health benefits and golden color)
2/3 Cup cooked brown rice
1/4 Cup grapeseed oil for pan searing

In a food processor, combine chickpeas and green onions, and pulse until combined  (see photo below for my consistency).   Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Dry whisk sugar, all spices and salt to evenly incorporate them.
To mixing bowl, add coconut milk, sugar/salt/spices and Quinoa Flakes.
Stir together with a wooden spoon until well combined.   Stir in the brown rice.
Mold into ten patties, using a scant 1/4 Cup measure.   Roll patties in crumb coating.

In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat.    Add chickpea cakes to the pan in batches and saute until there’s a nice golden sear on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Transfer to paper-towel-lined plate to drain.  Continue with remaining cakes.

Tip:  You can make these ahead and re-heat them in the oven or microwave.  They freeze well too.  For a quick condiment, mix 1/4 Cup of mango chutney with 1/2 Cup vegan mayonnaise, such as Vegenaise.

Nutritional Values:  Servings 123 g.  Calories 170.  Fat 7 g.  Saturated Fat 1 g.  Cholesterol 0 mg.  Carbs 23 g.  Fiber 3 g.  Protein 4 g.

Spiced and Roasted Chick Peas

I first saw this recipe being made by Toni Fiore on itunes, back in 2010.  Toni’s short videos on itunes are totally worth watching, and are listed under Delicious TV VegEZOh, she’s also got youtube videos and phone apps.  I did check, and this particular video is no longer on itunes, but there’s a new one, also for roasted chick peas, using garlic and sage.  I’ll have to try that sometime, but I doubt it could be better than this flavor profile of exotic spices.  I could not find this recipe online either, but a year ago or so, I did type it into a Word document.  I’m not sure if I amended the recipe, but I probably did.  Either way, it’s close enough and so good.  The cinnamon and brown sugar somehow work with the savory spices.  Again, there is a little kick to these, and Lars complains about it, but then he keeps eating them, ha ha.  Cayenne is powerfully healthy; increasing blood flow to all parts of the body, and restoring circulation health and balance.  So, if you’re a wussy when it comes to hot peppers, try to build up your tolerance.  I crave hot-pepper-spiced foods in the depths of winter, or if I have a cold.  Upon eating it, you breathe easier, have more energy and feel warmer.  This is why our nose runs and we perspire after eating cayenne.  Just because it’s summer, don’t let that stop you from making this dish, because hot spices also cool the body in hot weather, but that’s another story.  Toni (yes, I’m pretending I’m on a first-name basis with Ms. Fiore) says she likes to serve these with cocktails, but I think they’re good any time.  This recipe is quick and simple and something different.
Spiced and Roasted Chick Peas

Serves approximately 6,  as an appetizer

2  15-oz. cans of chick peas (garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon curry
1/8 teaspoon garam masala  (I just bought some, did not mix my own)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, not until just before serving.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
Line glass baking dish with parchment paper.
Toss chick peas with oil and spices (but not salt), in a bowl.
Bake approx. 40 minutes, stirring once.
Bake until chick peas turn brown, and a few of the beans will puff up, and a very few of them will wrinkle and turn almost black.  Most will be crispy.
Remove from oven and toss in a glass bowl with the sea salt.
Serve hot or warm from the oven.
Store any leftovers in fridge.

Note:  If you add the salt earlier, the beans will not crisp up, as they should.  In my electric oven, I think I baked mine approximately 45 minutes.  I tend to use a small baking dish, so that the chick peas are not in a single layer, because I think it helps the flavors meld and bubble, instead of simply soaking into the parchment paper.  Once you make this, you can tell if you want to increase any spice quantities to your liking next time.  One time I mixed up the spices and oil and then realized I only had one can of chick peas.  I made the dish anyway with what I had mixed up, and it still came out great.

Tasty Bite Channa Masala

I’ll keep this short and sweet; I like the taste and the convenience of this Tasty Bite Channa Masala.  Trader Joe’s has a frozen Biryani rice that this is good on top of, along with some Patak’s Hot Mango Chutney.  I prefer to heat this up (it’s already cooked) in a very small saucepan on stove top.  If I can help it, I try never to cook anything in plastic, which is what the directions on the package would have you do.  A quick, convenient vegan meal when you need one!

Tandoor Chef – Dal Rajasthani

We tried this last night, and we liked it.  You can do a quick zap in the microwave, or use a conventional oven.  There are not a lot of ingredients, and they include water, split lentils, onions, diced tomatoes, spices, etc.  You get two servings per box.  I made a vegan curry last night, and some rice, and I ladled this Dal over the rice, and Lars volunteered that he liked “the brown stuff on the rice.”  The packaging ingeniously looks like a Stouffer’s box, ha ha, and so that possibly appealed to him since he used to eat of lot of Stouffer’s lasagna at lunchtime.  This Dal is pretty soupy, almost a thick gravy, but not gloppy, and would be good scooped up with a bit of Roti bread too.   You could easily doctor this up with chopped sauteed vegetables, and with some rice, you’d have a nice meal.  You could also serve it with vegan raita and Naan bread, etc.  Dal is a staple food all over India, and in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan.  Different regions prepare it in different ways because it’s so versatile, and you could explore these.  I plan to make my own Dal soon, but in a pinch, this is a great convenience to round out a meal!  p.s.  Their web site has a list of their vegan products, and some recipes.  And I found it at my regular grocery store, not the health food store.

Corn Perfumed with Indian Spices

I adapted this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s “Corn With Aromatic Seasonings.”  This year, the New York Times did a big spread on Vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes, and that’s where I spotted it.  We can’t get fresh corn here right now, so I resorted to a 16 ounce bag of frozen corn.  Jaffrey’s recipe calls for two 10 oz. bags of corn, so I also adjusted amounts of spices.  This came out well enough that I’ll definitely be making it next year when the fresh corn is ready; it would be so succulent with fresh corn.  Even my picky husband liked it.  I thought this dish was perfect to use with Spectrum Organic Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil.  In the cookbook “Skinny Bitch in The Kitch” they call a lot for cooking with coconut oil, and it turns out that the health benefits are many.  Refined coconut oil is a neutral flavor and can be used with medium-high heat.  Unrefined coconut oil does have a coconut flavor, although a very natural one, not like the strong artificial flavoring, and should be used only on medium heat.  One of the big advantages of cooking with coconut oil is that it has a higher smoking point, is less prone to oxidization than say, olive oil at certain temperatures.  It’s just a health thing in that respect but the coconut flavor of the unrefined oil lends a classic exotic taste to the Indian spices.  The start of this dish uses a common method of Indian cooking; where you heat the oil and then add the spices so they pop and release more flavor.  It makes me think of scenes in the Indian novels I like so much; where the women crack the cardamom pods between their teeth before adding them to the hot oil.  You’ll see that it’s a lovely moment; when the spices pop and sizzle and release their aromas into the air.  Now that I’ve made this particular dish, I might also add some lime zest if I had a lime in the fridge, but it’s not necessary.
Corn Perfumed with Indian Spices 

Serves 4-6

1 T Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil, such as Spectrum brand
1 tsp whole brown or yellow mustard seeds
2 cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1 one-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced finely  (or one pinch cayenne = 1/16th teaspoon)
4-6 ears of fresh corn, cut off the cobs,  or one 16-ounce bag of frozen corn
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 C  So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer,  Original Flavor  (plain flavor)

Combine mustard seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf in a small cup.
Pour oil into an 8-10 inch frying pan (no larger), and set to medium heat.
When oil is hot, put in all the whole spices.  As soon as mustard seeds pop (a matter of seconds), add the ginger and green chile.
Stir once or twice, then add in corn.  Stir for 2-3 minutes.
Add the salt and cream.
Continue to stir and cook for another minute.
Turn heat to low, and cook a few more minutes, until all cream is absorbed.
Remember to pick out and discard the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaf, before serving.

Notes:  I do not use my largest frying pan for this.  I want to give the oil a bit of depth, so it can heat and pop those spices, in the Indian way, without using more fat.

Chat Masala Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

So I had these pumpkin seeds left after cooking a pie pumpkin but I hadn’t roasted pumpkin seeds in years.  I’m sorry to say we didn’t save our pumpkin seeds when we carved our Halloween jack-o-lantern this year.  If I had tasted these Chat Masala Pumpkin Seeds before we carved the pumpkin, we would have saved the seeds.  The word “chat” (also spelled chaat) in modern-day Hindi means snack, derived from the word chatna, which means tasting.  I ordered my Chat Masala online (see photo at bottom) and it was not expensive.  Chat Masala is a very popular spice blend in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, and sweet fresh fruit can also be dipped into a little dish of Chat Masala.  This makes sense to me, since I remember that as kids we would sometimes sprinkle salt on fresh watermelon, or crisp apples, or make our pickled mangoes extra salty by marinating them in shoyu.  We’d bring the long slices of green mango to high school in recycled glass mayonnaise jars, floating in Kikkoman soy sauce.  And then of course, we would “share share.”  We’d also eat Li Hing Mui or crack seed and it was incredibly salty.  My girlfriend Shandra, when she was pregnant, would even take a salt-encrusted dried plum and press it into into the center of a lemon half and suck the seed and the lemon juice simultaneously.  My mouth would pucker just to see her and I would involuntarily shudder.  But no worries, these Chat Masala pumpkin seeds are baby food compared to that.   So I looked around online and hybridized a couple of cooking times and amounts and then added my own spices and some lime juice.  I was a bit worried when I smelled the Chat Masala, that the end result would be too pungent, but the baking with the vegan butter and lime juice mellows them out and they are zingily delicious.  They would be perfect before an Indian-inspired meal, or with a cold glass of something, or a hot cup of plain tea.  Make sure to share them with someone.  p.s.  Here’s my super-easy method for baking a pie pumpkin.
Chat Masala Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 Cup raw pumpkin seeds, stringy stuff removed
I did not rinse or dry my pumpkin seeds, feeling that the minute bits of pumpkin flesh on them would only add flavor and give the spices something to cling to.
2 tsps melted Earth Balance vegan butter.
1 tsp Chat Masala ground spice blend
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt (I like sea salt)
2 tsps fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a medium bowl, melt Earth Balance vegan butter.
Add spices and lime juice to melted butter and stir with fork to blend.
Add pumpkin seeds to butter and spices and stir to coat seeds.
Spread on rimmed baking sheet.
Bake 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and stir seeds all around.
Return to oven and bake 15 more minutes.
Cool and enjoy, or store in a covered glass jar.

Timatar Ka Salad (Indian Tomato Salad)

I love Indian food, and want to work on building up a repertoire of dishes to make at home.  This simple tomato salad has one major requirement, in my opinion;  use only freshly picked tomatoes from the garden or your farmers market.  I don’t eat “fresh” (raw) tomatoes in winter, because they taste like cardboard.  The tomatoes in this photo are of the Cherokee Purple variety and that’s why they’re not the traditional bright red.  If you’re like me, you’ve got a lot of late tomatoes right now and need to use them up before the bounty of summer gets hit by the first frost.  This recipe is from the cookbook Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey.  This was a book I bought BV (before veganism) but I kept it when I was culling all my old cookbooks because many Indian recipes are either already vegan or easily adapted to be so.  Maybe some of this has to do with Hinduism which holds the principle of nonviolence (ahimsa) in very high regard.  There is a conviction that eating other sentient beings as food is detrimental for the mind and body and spiritual development.  So, if you’re looking for a vegan restaurant meal, sometimes you’ll have good luck at Indian restaurants.  The one caveat is that many Indians are ovo-lacto vegetarians and so they do consume dairy and butter (ghee) and eggs, so you must request your meal to be vegan.  But many vegans find understanding and warmth at Indian restaurants, and many modern-day Indian restaurants are vegan also!  On with the recipe:

Serves 4-6

1.5 lbs. tomatoes
fresh basil leaves (or cilantro or mint leaves)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T peanut oil  and  1 T mustard oil  (or substitute grapeseed oil)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (not ground cumin)
1/2 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds (not ground)

-Cut tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices and arrange in slightly overlapping layers on a large plate.
-Tuck the basil (or cilantro or mint) leaves in the center.
-Sprinkle the salt, black pepper, cayenne and lemon juice over the tomatoes, avoiding the leaves.
-Put the oil in a small saucepan and set over high heat.
-When oil is hot, put in cumin and mustard seeds.
-As soon as mustard seeds being to pop (this takes a few seconds), lift the saucepan off the heat and spoon the oil and spices over the tomatoes, being careful to avoid the leaves.
-Serve immediately.