I want to begin by thanking every single person who came to the VEGETARIAN COOKING WITH AN INDIAN TWIST cooking class last night at KINGS COOKING STUDIO, SHORT HILLS, NJ.
One of the best experiences ever. I can walk you through the KINGS COOKING STUDIO mentally for those who missed it-
The Cooking Studio at Kings is one of the best teaching studios in NJ and seats upto 20 people in an exquisite setting. It is so well equipped and has anything and everything required for any cooking class. There is a television for people to watch the Chef/ Instructor cook and the camera is placed in such a way that it covers every angle and corner of the Chef working.
If you missed it, I would highly recommend you to register for one of the classes. They have classes all through the year.
Randi, the main cooking lead and who heads the Cooking Studio is very friendly, extremely helpful and passionate about it!
Yesterday, my menu was Indian Vegetarian and so I made a:
Lentil Soup with Caramelized Onions, Cumin and Cilantro for a starter,
For Main Course, Skinny Basmati Rice Pilaf (the one with low glycemic index- came across it for the first time and is very good avaialble at Kings!) with Indian Cottage Cheese prepared two ways:
1) Indian Cottage Cheese in a Rich Creamy Tomato Sauce with Colored Bell Peppers;
2) Indian Cottage Cheese with Veggies in a Rich Creamy Cashew Nut Sauce
For dessert, Sweet Lentil Pudding with Coconut Milk, Raisins and Cardamom
My cooking class asked for Voluntary Participation. So I welcomed all my students with a warm “NAMASTE” and all of us introduced each other and they took their seats.
Barbara and Sarah were a mother daughter team who from what they told me are such opposites. Barbara is such a fun loving person who enjoys delicious food – she doesnt mind some butter being thrown in or some rich cashewnuts!!! as long as it tastes good.
Whereas Sarah on the other hand is very healthy vegetarian:) She said to me she turned a vegetarian at the age of 13 and has never looked back ever since. I wondered why she took up Vegetarianism and she simply said to me” I simply dont like eating meat ”
Then we had Lynne and Walter – another wonderful couple. They were so warm and appreciative of all my cooking and food. I also had one of my very good friend Sumukha and her daughter Dolly who are always such great supporters!!! Dolly was my little helper giving me bowls/ plates and serving everyone :), clicking away pictures!!
I took a few minutes to explain the menu and what I planned to do for the class. Then I said to them” All of you get to jump in and help”. And trust me, they were so delighted to participate:) Sarah and Walter impressed me by their chopping skills. I assigned every one responsibilities simply because I wanted everyone to feel involved and enjoy themselves at the same time.
I must mention ELSA- my assistant at Kings Cooking Studio. She is an amazing organizer, helper and a great assistant to have whenever I needed anything. Whenever I was missing something, it was like she would wave a magic wand and it would appear:)
We first cooked the starter, the Lentil Soup topped with Caramelized Onions, toasted Cumin and Cilantro and served everyone. Everyone enjoyed the hearty soup, Lynne said to me that she never would have thought of topping it with Caramelized Onions and she loved it and everyone agreed.
Then all of us were back in action to make the main course. Sumukha who is also from India helped me with grinding my spices. I let everyone smell the spices and everyone thoroughly enjoyed some spice knowledge.
For a sweet ending, we made a Lentil pudding with Raisins and ground Cinnamon. Finally we clicked some pictures and said Goodnight.
I want to thank every one who came last night once again and not to mention I completely enjoyed my cooking class experience with such wonderful students!and I hope you all did too:)
I always end up buying produce from farmers market sometimes and they have such fresh veggies and fruits that I feel like a kid in a candy store. I got some yellow summer squash and wanted to make something quick and simple.
I chop the squash up to thin round medallions.
Then I place them in a baking sheet and sprinkle salt, cayenne, cumin powder, coriander powder and lemon pepper. Then I coat them with EVOO and place them in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes at 375 degrees. Check the medallions in the oven after 3 minutes or so and turn them so they cook on the other side for the rest of the 3-4 minutes.
Meanwhile , I get my pan going on my gas range with some olive oil, chopped serrano/ green chili’s (remove the seeds to take off the heat from the chilis),onions cumin seeds and garlic with salt and pepper. Sweat out the garlic and onions till they turn transparent.
Take the baking sheet out of the oven and plate with onions and roasted garlic on top. I used some fresh cilantro for garnish.
A healthy delicious dish ready in less than 10 minutes!!
With much love as always ……..
Growing up in a small city called Cochin in the southern part of India -Kerala, this spicy lentil soup that my grandmom and mom made filled the house with fragrance of freshly ground spices. This soup is called”Sambhar” in Kerala and is made a little differently than the regular “Sambhar”. My mom and grandmom freshly ground all the spices needed to make this dish and sauted them with coconut and blended them to form a thick paste. The veggies are chopped and thrown in water till they cook, then lentils added, and for acidity/ tang- (this is the good part) we added some fresh tamarind juice!!! Finally I use a tad bit of clarified butter with mustard seeds to garnish this bowl of heaven!!!unlike my mom/grandmom who just poured ghee or clarified butter like noone’s business:)
I would also like to mention that we were raised very religious and spiritual and so today is a function that we celebrate amongst a caste of people known as Brahmins in India. Caste system prevails in India and there are both good and bad sides to it. I try to look at the good side and say that India is rich in culture because of its diversity and castes and I do not believe that it divides us but that it brings us together. I have learnt to respect other cultures/ castes growing up! So today is a day known as “Avani Avittam” which is an important ritual associated with the Brahmin community in the world. All Brahmins , the men wear a sacred thread through the year and on the day of Avani Avittam, the sacred thread worn is changed and it is usually a community observance and takes place on the banks of a pond or river. Avani is the name of the Tamil month and Avittam is one of the 27 stars.
My mom and grandmom always cooked delicious authentic meals and “Sambhar” on this special day and this was one dish that we all enjoyed !!
Thinking of my family on this special day when I cooked this delicious “Sambhar” dish. It can be served with rice or just drink it up!!!!
I must begin by saying that I had the most wonderful time cooking for such a wonderful crowd at Whole Foods at Montclair in NJ yesterday.
Carmen, the lead for cooking demos at the store was such a cheerful person and helped me out completely with the set up of my station and making me feel like I was at my home kitchen:) Evelyn ran every single time to get stuff whenever I ran out of sampling plates or spoons. I dont remember stopping for a single minute to even drink a sip of water. I was completely in my zone once people started coming in and thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of it that I dint want to miss any of it:)
So what did I cook? I had exchanged several emails with Carmen before coming up with this menu. Knowing Montclair and its residents, I knew QUINOA was one of my choices. A lot of people came up to me with difficulty pronouncing Quinoa and I had to break it up for them as (pronounced as K-i-N-WAH) 🙂
I decided to go for a Quinoa Salad. One, the reason being -Tuesdays at Whole Foods is Local Tasting meaning I was asked to make the best use of as much as local produce that was at the store. I instantly felt like a kid in a candy store- especially if you ask a vegetarian like me to pick local produce/veggies!!!!
The second reason being- Quinoa is a grain-like crop grwon for its edible seeds and is a complete protein as per nutritional evaluations. Quinoa high in dietary fiber, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also a source of calicium and is popular amongst vegans and for those who are lactose intolerant. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest.
I decided to incorporate as much veggies possible, like zucchini, summer squash, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers…..and made a Quinoa Salad. Of course I sauted my onions, tomatoes, zucchini and squash with my special blend of freshly toasted and ground Indian spices! or freshly ground “curry” powder.
My demo was to start at 3 pm but I reached the store early so I have enough time to set up and start cooking the Quinoa. Carmen said the expected crowd between 3 and 6pm on a Tuesday at Whole Foods was about 150!!!! So I cooked for that many :))))
I had this huge pot that was simmering away with my Quinoa and veggies in it. I had just begun making my sauce- I wanted to make an Indian curried sauce to layer on top of the quinoa to take the salad to a next level. Meantime, I saw many people approaching my station and urging me to make samplers. Being the person I am, I started making samplers of just the Quinoa while working on the making that sauce at the same time. I was so happy to hear wonderful comments from people who merely tasted the Quinoa with veggies. A lot of them said, they got the package of quinoa but when they took it home and tried cooking it- it was dry or that they werent able to get the proportion of quinoa versus water right.
A simple trick is- I never follow package instructions because it always says 1: 1!!!!! No way- you will end up with a plate of undercooked quinoa. Always, add extra broth or water to check if the quinoa is cooked completely. You know its done is when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Also, while cooking the Quinoa always try and keep it covered or use a lid to cover.
Now I make my sauce with garlic, ginger, onions, tomatoes and my freshly ground spices. I layer the Curried sauce over the Quinoa. I wanted to use a layer of crunch on top of the sauce so I used Organic Tempeh from Whole Foods and crumbled it, seasoned it well with cumin, coriander and “curry powder”. I saute the crumbled tempeh with a tad bit of oil in a pan till it gets a crisp coat on the surface. Now Tempeh is a meat substitute made of Soy and is very high in protein.
So I layer my sauted crumbled tempeh over my curried sauce and quinoa with veggies. I garnish the whole dish with some green scallions, colored bell peppers and some tomatoes and top it off with some cilantro!
A lot of you them who stopped by my station asked me if I sold the Sauce in a jar and they wanted to buy it:)LOL
But I promised them, I will look into it- its a possibility I would explore!!!!
They loved my sauce and the dish and were very encouraging and appreciative,
All the kind words, words of encouragement and love is what motivates me so keep it coming guys…..can never get enough!!!
Thanks much to my friend Rob and his sister April Peters for coming out, tasting my dish and being so supportive!
Thanks again to every single person who came out to Whole Foods, and stopped by my station to taste my dish-Appreciate your time and I hope I was able to answer every one of your questions on the dish and otherwise…..
(This pic was taken at the end of the cooking demo at 6pm and I am exhausted, struggling to smile for the camera but my husband and kids came to pick me up and I was thrilled to see them !!!!Thanks so much for being so supportive!)
With much love ……. and looking forward to more events so keep tuning into my blog for updates on events and where to find me:)