Though I don't adhere to a vegan diet as I do so enjoy cheese, yogurt and eggs on occasion, most of my main meals are decidedly vegan. That's easy as I happen to enjoy Indian cooking and there is a plethora of dishes that are superb without any dairy. And it is not just Indian cuisine either that can be made without dairy. When a recipe calls for yogurt or cream, I think creamy coconut milk. Traditional potato and Caesar salads can be dressed up with an avocado-based alternative. Just to cite a few examples. But moving along to the recipe… and a short review;
Surely I have enough cookbooks to start a small bonfire. In addition to the books, I have tons of bookmarked recipes and printouts waiting to happen. So I don't really need any more cookbooks, but sometimes there are a few that catch my interest and all restraint is thrown into the wind.
My latest purchase was a copy of Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen. I have been following Richa's blog for a good many years now, and there is a wealth of creative and innovative recipes to keep me going for weeks on end, but the idea of a hard copy with carefully selected favorites, complete with beautiful photos, all packed into a neat little volume, piqued my curiosity. And I was not disappointed. In fact, it is one of my newest favorite cookbooks. The beauty about Richa's offerings is that they are traditional, creative and geared also toward home cooks. The recipes are easy to follow with the unique twist that Richa adds to everything she shares. Between the covers are recipes for breakfast, small plates and snacks, vegetable curries, legumes, one-pot meals, mains, flat breads, spice blends, chutneys and even desserts.
The first one I tried was this aromatic chickpea dish. The original recipe calls for sorghum flour, and though I have enough different flours to fill a small freezer, this is one I didn't have on hand. I used whole wheat flour instead. At some point, I am sure I will pick up some sorghum, but in the meantime this dish is not only easy to make, but so flavorful that all you need is some rice to balance out the meal. Buttery soft chickpeas are dressed up with an array of spices and seeds that make your kitchen smell so heavenly you can hardly wait to sit down and enjoy the meal. Spicy yes, but not overpowering because of the aromatics, this one can be made soupy or drier, depending on your preference.
I'm trying to switch cooking gears from warming soups to cool and refreshing salads after summer made a quick and dazzling appearance after what seemed like a long cold winter and short cool spring. My first thought upon the arrival of hot weather was to make a simple chickpea salad with some fresh crunchy vegetables and my favorite Kalamata olives and sheep milk Feta cheese from a local Greek grocer — easy, nourishing and delicious with tantalizing contrasts of texture and color.
Using quality ingredients always makes these summer bean salads appealing, but what makes this salad different is the use of an Indian spice blend in the dressing. It may seem odd to combine an Indian spice blend with Mediterranean salad ingredients, but chat (or chaat) masala is such a vibrant spice blend that it deserves a wider scope than in just Indian food. A combination of dried mango powder, black salt and various seeds and spices, chat masala is hot, sour and salty all at the same time and goes wonderfully with cool or tangy foods — like a summer salad!
I am passionate about savory Indian flat breads. They are a perfect accompaniment to curries and are easy to make too. They do require a bit of patience however because usually only one can be cooked in the skillet at a time. No matter. The effort is well worth it, and in this case the bread requires no kneading.
These pancakes feature fresh fenugreek leaves — also known as "methi" — an annual herb that I was lucky enough to get my hands on. It is commonly used in Indian cooking and that includes the seed and ground powder from the seed. Slightly sweet, with a hint of bitterness, it is well worth using the fresh herb, but if you can't find it — and this is sometimes a challenge — substitute about 3/4 cup dried fenugreek instead. Most Asian and Indian grocers carry the dried leaves, seeds and powder, and often the fresh leaves. These grocers will also carry chickpea flour and chapati (or "atta") flour, but for 1/2 cup of chapati flour you may substitute 1/3 cup sifted whole wheat flour and combine with enough pastry flour to make 1/2 cup.
I never used to be a fan of lima beans. I think part of the reason is that the first time I had them was from a can and I put them in a salad with a rather dreadful dressing. Thankfully I have now mastered the art of homemade dressing. The salad was massive and I don't like to eat the same thing for too many days in a row — leftovers are fine, but there is a breaking point.
Now that I have discovered dried lima beans, I actually enjoy them. Although hummus usually is associated with chickpeas, here is an interesting twist made with lima beans and served up with crispy quinoa flatbreads and a somewhat spicy salsa with avocado. As the temperature heats up, hummus is just perfect, served up with favorite raw vegetables. If I didn't tell my dinner guest that lima beans were the shining ingredient, I think he would have figured that he was dining on a chickpea hummus. A thoroughly enjoyable culinary experience.