Tag Archives: dinner

Vermicelli Biryani


I am sucker for sweets, especially North Indian sweets. So when my stock of pedas ran out in August, one that my long suffering wife had replenished on a trip to India in July, I was looking for my sweet fix. With the Eid season here, I started thinking back to my childhood and the dry Sevian (Vermicelli) dessert that some of our family friends used to make around Eid. So I decided to try my hand at making some.

Before I got there though, the wife called and reminded me that I had dinner duties that night. Since I was already at the Indian store and had procured the aforementioned Vermicelli, I decided to repurpose it to making a Biryani. Armed with a handful of vegetables, I got to work. I looked to the great sage Sanjeev Kapoor’s and Vahrevah chef’s websites for guidance and put a dish together. The verdict was that the dish was – Meh! It filled but didn’t satisfy. I did try it again a couple of days later and ate it with some Egg Curry and it tasted a lot better. So, in my opinion, it works very well as an accompanying rice-substitute dish but not so well as a main dish.


2 Tbsp Oil (I used EVOO)

1 Tbsp Black Mustard Seeds

12-14 Curry Leaves

1/2 Medium Onion – diced

1 medium Carrot – peeled and cut into bite sized chunks

3 small round eggplants chopped into bite sized pieces

1 cup frozen Green Peas

1 cup Soy chunks (Nutrela) – cooked according to instructions

1.5 Tbsp Coriander Powder

1 Tbsp Turmeric

Salt to taste

1 cup dry roasted Vermicelli

2 cups water


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan
  2. Add the mustard seeds till they start to sputter
  3. Add the curry leaves
  4. Add the onion till they are transparent
  5. Add all the veggies and soy chunks, coriander powder, turmeric and salt
  6. Saute till the eggplants just start to darken
  7. Add the vermicelli and mix well
  8. Add two cups of water and increase the heat
  9. Evaporate the water off while constantly agitating the mixture
  10. Voila! you are done



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Grilled Veggies on Garlic Naan with Lemon Yogurt and Sumac

Grilled Veggies on Garlic Naan with Lemon Yogurt and Sumac

Grilled Veggies on Garlic Naan with Lemon Yogurt and Sumac

First of all, apologies for my rather dramatic slowdown in posts. We just launched a new business and that has taken a lot of my time lately.

Today is Diwali. The Hindu festival of lights. In India though, it is everybody’s festival, a little like Christmas in the US. Diwali is said to mark new beginnings. To celebrate that, I am posting a new recipe. A new recipe for a new beginning.

This recipe is not original. Having got weary of the cooking the same regular set of staples, a few weeks back, the wife and I decided to sign up for a service called “Green Chef“. This is a food delivery service where you get the ingredients for three recipes a week delivered to you. They are pre-measured, and come with the recipe associated with them. You do have to cook and assemble but it is usually a 30 minute job. The best part is that they send you recipes and combinations that you otherwise would not think of or make. Even though it is a bit of hit-or-miss (about 60% of the recipes have been good so far), it does offer variety. We are sold and have signed up for a delivery every other week.

This recipe came a few weeks back and we loved it. Since the ingredients came pre-measured, I recreated it to the best of my abilities and it works pretty well. Since I was winging it, the quantities are approximate.


2 Naans (you can buy them at a grocery store)

Minced Garlic

Olive Oil

Veggies for Grilling – Cauliflower, Broccoli, Carrots, Red Onion, Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini – chopped into bite sized pieces

Minced herbs – I used Basil and Rosemary

Salt and Pepper

Greek Yogurt




  1. Rub Olive Oil and Garlic on Naans and toast them till they just start to brown – about 2 mins. Set aside.
  2. Toss the veggies with some Olive Oil and salt and pepper and grill them.
  3. Toss the grilled veggies with herbs.
  4. Spoon the grilled veggies on top of the Naans and broil/grill them in the oven – about 2-3 mins (if high heat).
  5. Whisk some Greek Yogurt with Lemon juice (to taste).
  6. Top the veggies with yogurt and Sumac and serve with a salad (I served it with a Cranberry Kale Salad)


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Cheese Tomato – a taste of Roorkee

Cheese Tomato

Cheese Tomato

I went for undergrad to an institute in a small town in Northern India – Roorkee. Our idyllic campus was located close to the foothills of the Himalayas (we could see snow-capped mountains on clear days from our campus) and was home to our institute (the oldest engineering college in India, now IIT Roorkee), the Irrigation Research Institute and a large Army cantonment. That’s it. Nothing else. The reason for this town’s existence were these three institutions.

While it made for a near-utopian existence, Roorkee wasn’t exactly an epicurean paradise. There were, however, a few shining points of light. Bhatia’s Bun Omelette – imitated often, never equaled (a version here), and Cheese Tomato were two of them. Cheese Tomato, a variation of Paneer Makhani (a version here), was a staple at pretty much every restaurant in town. Though I have traveled far and eaten plenty since my Roorkee days, the taste of Cheese Tomato has remained with me and one I have never been able to replicate, till now.

Recently an old friend and excellent cook, Hani Gupta, posted a recipe for Roorkee-style Cheese Tomato. As inclined as I am to never following recipes exactly, I decided to follow this one to the letter to see if I could recreate the taste of my youth. I am happy to report the recipe comes pretty darn close to the Cheese Tomato I remember. So without further ado, here it is.

INGREDIENTS (for 8-10 people)

1 lb paneer (cut into triangles about 1.5 inches on 2 sides and 1/2 inch thick)
1 Tbsp grated paneer (for garnishing)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp butter (or ghee)
1 large or 2 medium onions (peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces with layers separated)
1 Tbsp heaped ginger garlic paste
10-13 medium tomatoes – about 2.5 – 3 lbs. Use Heirloom tomatoes if you can for better flavor. Blanched, and chopped into 1 inch chunks.
½ cup low fat milk (heat the milk just before adding)
1 tsp garam masala (or to taste)
2-3 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder (for color) – totally optional
Red chilli powder (optional, to taste
1 Tbsp Kasoori Methi (crush Kasoori Methi well, you will need 2-3 Tbsp kasoori methi to get 1 Tbsp powder. Sieve the powder to remove the stalks)
Salt (to taste)
2 Tbsp honey (or to taste. This is the secret ingredient for that restaurant quality flavor)

1. In a thick bottom karahi (wok) or saucepan, add 1 Tbsp oil and heat.

2. Add ginger garlic paste and fry for a few seconds. Don’t let turn pink. This is just to cut the pungency of garlic.

3. Add onions and fry till they sweat to translucence.

4. Add chopped tomatoes, and stir.

5. Add cashews, a little salt and cook covered till the tomatoes and onions are well cooked but not pink. Ensure that there is no raw smell of ginger, garlic, onion or tomato at this point. It doesn’t matter if you don’t see the oil separating out yet.

6. Let the cooked mix cool down and then grind into as fine a paste as possible. Make sure you don’t see any tomato seeds in the paste.

7. Heat another tablespoon of oil and let it warm. Then add butter. This will prevent the butter from turning brown. To this add red Kashmiri chilli powder. This will give a beautiful red color to the oil. NOTE: If your tomatoes are of good quality you don’t need to add color.

8. Add the ground paste and stir well. If you are adding the canned tomato sauce, add it now. Tomato sauce can be a little sweet or tart depending on the brand.

9. Add salt, stir well and cook well covered on medium, making sure the paste does not stick to the bottom. When the gravy is cooked, add the honey and Kasoori Methi and stir again.

10. Add Garam Masala and Red Chilli powder.

11. Now add hot milk and incorporate well into the gravy. Remember not to boil or the milk may curdle.

12. Finally add the Paneer pieces and gently fold in the gravy so as not to break the Paneer pieces.

13. Cover and cook for another 5 mins on sim. Serve garnished with grated paneer (and more melted butter if you want, but I don’t). This is an excellent accompaniment with an Indian bread of your choice or some Basmati rice.

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A Lentil loaded Veggie Burger

Lentil loaded Veggie Burger

Lentil loaded Veggie Burger

If you are going to experiment, be prepared to fail. A lot. And so it was with this particular version of veggie b’s. While not exactly a failure, it wasn’t a resounding success either. The burgers were perfectly edible but not even close to the Veggie Chop inspired Burgers that I make (recipe here). But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind the tape a little.

It was another day of meal planning and thinking about what to make for dinner. The larder was somewhat low on produce since we hadn’t been to the grocery store recently but there were multiple types of lentils and a potato. So as the saying goes, when life gives you potatoes and lentils, you make veggie burgers. The recipe is below. The good part – they were super easy to put together and healthy. The bad – they were somewhat bland.

INGREDIENTS (for 8 patties)

1/4 cup Toor Daal (Pigeon Peas)

1/4 cup Chana Daal (Split Peas)

1/4 cup washed Mung Daal

1/4 cup Green Lentils (Masoor with skin)

1 medium potato

For the masala

1 dry Red Chili

1 Tbsp Coriander seeds

1 Tbsp Cumin seeds

1 Tbsp Fennel seeds

1 tsp Black Peppercorns

1 inch stick of cinnamon

Salt to taste

To assemble

1 egg

Panko breadcrumbs

Oil to pan fry the patties


  1. Boil the Daals and the Potato till cooked. I used a pressure cooker.
  2. Dry roast the masala (without the salt) and grind to a powder.
  3. Mash the Daals, peeled potato and the masala. Add salt to taste.
  4. Break and incorporate an egg into the mash (to hold the patties together).
  5. Make patties about 3 inches in diameter, cover with breadcrumbs, pan fry and you are done!

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Chana Daal with Lauki(Bottle Gourd) and Bell Pepper – who knew?

Chana Daal with Opo Squash and Bell Pepper

Chana Daal with Opo Squash and Bell Pepper

Lauki in Hindi, Bottle Gourd in English aka Opo Squash and Long Melon, this vegetable is a staple of Indian cooking and one that I absolutely hated growing up. Eggplants were also on the list of disliked vegetables but I love them both now. In fact, the only vegetable that I disliked as a I child that I continue to consider unfit for human consumption is Karela (Bitter Gourd). I love just about everything else. Funny how tastes change with age. But I digress.

I had bought a Lauki from an Indian store to make Sambar. These veggies tend to be on the massive side, so I had just used half of it. The other half was calling my name for dinner last week and I was ready to make the standard Lauki/Chana Daal but there was a Bell Pepper that had been whispering my name in the fridge as well. So for a lark, I decided to go to one of my favorite go-to Indian sites for ideas – Vahrehvah.com. Sure enough, there was a recipe for Chana Daal with Lauki and Capsicum (Bell Pepper) – link here. I made a variation of this that night along with Parathas. It turned out quite well, though you may want to go a little easier on the red chili than the recipe calls for.

Anyway, when dinner was served that night, my older daughter turned to me and said – “Daddy, where did you get the Parathas from?”. When I replied that I made them, I was greeted with an incredulous “Really? You know how to make Parathas?”. Jeez, I get no respect. Anyway, my variation is below (it is approximate since I was winging it). Enjoy.

INGREDIENTS (enough for 4)

1 cup Chana Daal (Split Pea) – soaked in water that just covers the daal for 2 hours or so. Longer is better

1/2 a medium sized Bottle Gourd – peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces. The Bottle Gourd I stared out with was about a foot long.

Salt to taste

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Cumin seeds

1/2 medium Onion sliced thin

4 cloves of garlic – minced

1.5  inch of Ginger – peeled and minced

1 tsp Coriander powder  (preferably fresh)

1/2 tsp Red chilli powder

1/4 ts Fennel seed powder

1 large Tomato chopped

1 Bell pepper, cut into cubes

1/4 tsp Garam masala powder


  1. Boil the soaked Daal, Bottle Gourd pieces and a little salt in some water (enough to cover them all but no more). Lower heat to medium and allow them to cook till the Daal is soft and the Bottle Gourd is cooked. Try and get as little water remaining as possible.
  2. In a pan, heat the oil on Medium High, add cumin seeds. When they sputter, add the onion slices and a pinch of salt. Saute till the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the Ginger, Garlic and cook till the raw smell is gone. Add the Coriander, Fennel and Red Chili powders.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook till pulpy. Add a little water (about 1/2 cup)
  5. Add the cooked Daal and Bottle Gourd and the Bell Pepper.
  6. Cook the mix for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add the Garam Masala, mix well and serve with an Indian bread of your choice.


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Greek Style Eggplant with Feta

Greek Style Baked Eggplant and Stuffed Tomatoes

Greek Style Baked Eggplant and Stuffed Tomatoes

We went to Greece last year for a holiday. As is the case when one travels, when in Greece, you eat like the Greek. What we hadn’t accounted for is that the Greek eat Greek food, ALL the time. There is no respite. At least that is how it felt since we were hard-pressed to find restaurants that served anything but Greek food. I had written about my experience here.

Being vegetarian, we had our choice of the three or four dishes for every meal – Greek Salad, Stuffed Tomatoes and of course, the ubiquitous, Baked Eggplant with Feta. I love eggplant and especially loved it baked with Feta. However, I OD’ed on it, having had it for virtually every meal in Greece. A year having passed, I developed a hankering for the dish and decided to try making it.

Since I live in Texas, good Feta is really hard to come by. The grocery store Feta is terrible, now that I know what great Feta tastes like. The only tolerable Feta I found was a Sheep’s Milk Feta at Whole Foods. So I started with that. I then used some of the leftover Tomato-Basil Sauce(recipe here) and a long Japanese eggplant since I just happened to have it in the fridge.

Making the dish was easy. I first cut the eggplant diagonally into 1/4 inch slices that I seasoned with some salt and pepper and pan fried with a small amount of Olive Oil. The eggplant should brown slightly. I then greased a baking dish. Then I assembled the dish, putting a layer of eggplant, topped with the Tomato-Basil sauce, then another layer of eggplant, finally topping the whole thing with a generous helping of Feta.

The dish was then baked for about 40 mins at 400F in an oven, till the Feta started to brown. I then took it out, mashed everything together and threw in some shredded Basil leaves.

We had this with some crusty French bread and Stuffed Tomatoes (recipe here). Polí nóstimos!

Baked Eggplant with Feta, Stuffed Tomatoes and French Bread

Baked Eggplant with Feta, Stuffed Tomatoes and French Bread



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Arugula Artichoke Farfalle in a Balsamic Vinaigrette

Farfalle Arugula with Breaded Artichokes in a Balsamic Vinaigrette

Farfalle Arugula with Breaded Artichokes in a Balsamic Vinaigrette

A few days back I had the pleasure of teaching a pizza class with a good friend. There were a lot of ingredients left over at the end of the class and I ended up coming home with some arugula, artichokes and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I had not really done much with either Arugula or Artichoke but my friend suggested I look at throwing the arugula in with some pasta and a vinaigrette. He also suggested giving the artichokes an egg wash, coating them with breadcrumbs and deep frying them.

Not really keen on deep frying and having a grill on the patio (being the cheap Desi that I am, I need to find every occasion to use it since I bought it), I took the artichoke pieces, gave them and egg wash, coated them with a mix of Panko, salt and pepper, and then grilled them. I set these aside.

I then boiled some water and made Farfalle al dente. Some Balsamic Vinaigrette (3 portions Extra Virgin Olive Oil to 1 portion Balsamic Vinaigrette – shaken to within an inch of its life in an airtight jar till it emulsifies) was put together and tossed with the Farfalle & arugula.

To serve, I made a bed of the Farfalle/arugula salad, topped it with some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and then placed some grilled artichoke on top.

The verdict – the Farfalle/arugula combo with freshly grated cheese was incredibly good – there is something to be said about using simple, high quality ingredients in Italian cooking. I was not too happy with the artichokes. For me they didn’t work with the rest of the dish. But I guess food taste is subjective because the wife liked how the dish came together. Anyway, easy to put together and definitely worth trying.


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