When I moved to New York City almost fifteen years ago, a friend took me on a downtown tour of inexpensive places to fill my belly. One stop was the Lahore Deli, a Pakistani joint on the edge of Soho where for four dollars I could have a little box of rice, dal and veggies plus a hot cup of sweet milky chai. The chai's share of that bill was one dollar; these days it's a buck fifty.
It was there, inside Lahore Deli, where my love for chai blossomed and as I made my way farther afield in the city, I scouted out other places for great chai, but I never found one that matches Lahore's and so when the craving comes — and it comes almost daily — I either meander over to Crosby Street, or I make my own.
Are you in the mood for some comfort food? Of course you are; it's January. In the interest of resolutions and energy, you might, however, be leaning towards something with vegetables — perhaps even a vegetarian dish? I have a proposal for you: Fresh baby spinach and chickpeas seared with ginger, garlic, and onion in a creamy coconut milk sauce, finished off with a healthy dash of lemon.
But it doesn't stop there. No — this spicy, tangy dish of greens was designed to be served over a sweet potato. Want to see how it looks when all put together? Here you go...
Garam masala is a classic spice mix in Indian cooking, but this mix of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and other spices also includes the warm and cozy flavors we usually associate with the holidays. This year I've pushed aside my bottle of pumpkin pie spice and am experimenting with the comforting but slightly more exotic taste of garam masala.
Okra is in abundance this time of year and we're often at a loss for what to do with all of it. There's only so much roasted, fried, and pickled okra a person can take. So what of the rest (short of giving it away)? Make Bharvaan Bhindi, an Indian dish of stuffed okra.
One of my favorite ways to dress up vanilla ice cream is with a big spoonful of bright orange mango puree. Sold in big cans at Indian markets, the sweetened fruit sauce turns a simple scoop into a tropical sundae.
We've all probably tried a mango lassi at our favorite Indian restaurant, but have you ever tasted a papaya lassi? Full of sweetness and tang, this dreamy drink will cool you off and transport you to the subcontinent. Acha! (Hindi for 'All right!').
Q: I'm throwing an India-themed party this summer. To keep the beverages simple, I plan to have nonalcoholic punch, wine, beer, and something alcoholic that can prepared in pitchers (so I don't get stuck mixing drinks all night).
Vikram Vij and his wife, Meeru Dhalwala, own maybe the most splendid Indian restaurant I've ever eaten at: Vij's, in Vancouver, BC. It has many unique facets: A women-only kitchen, run by Meeru; a warm, welcoming environment dim and flickering with candles, presided over by Vikram; an incredibly fragrant, fresh interpretation of Indian dishes that each take your breath away. These two passionate and ambitious restauranteurs also have a home life infused with the good food they share at their two restaurants. But until just a few years ago, they didn't have a proper dining room. The journey to creating a dining room, and cooking at home more often, is detailed in their new cookbook: Vij's at Home: Relax, Honey.