cumin seed

My default winter squash is either kabocha or butternut. I rarely buy acorn but they were so fresh when I spotted them last week at the Alemany Farmers Market that I couldn’t resist. Plus it was a bargain: organically grown and it cost me less than a couple of bucks!

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

I borrowed the idea of baking and stuffing it with rice from Martha, though stuffed acorn squash is really a classic. You can check out her recipe here.

Because acorn squash is already a bit sweet I altered the way I made the rice stuffing so it would be more on the savory side with a bit of heat. For that I used sundried tomatoes, black pepper and cumin.

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

1 medium sized skin on acorn squash, halved and cleaned
½ cup wild rice, rinsed
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
1 tsp tellicherry peppercorns
½ tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
¼ cup chopped white onion
3 tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt to taste
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Set oven temperature to 350F.

Sprinkle some salt over inner part of acorn squash halves. Rub one tablespoon olive oil over skin and flesh. Place acorn squash in a shallow baking tray flesh side down. Wrap aluminum foil around it and bake for about one hour. Test for doneness via piercing the skin with a fork. It should slide in easily otherwise bake it for a little longer.

Place wild rice in a pressure cooker, add 2 cups of water and a sprinkle of salt, cover the pan and cook on high temperature until it starts whistling. Once it does, turn temperature down to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and let the pan rest until pressure is gone. Drain rice if any water remains in the pan. Alternatively you can just cook it on the stove top. That will take about an hour or so. Watch while it cooks because water evaporates very fast.

In large sauce pan add two tablespoons of olive oil followed by chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add cumin, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns. Stir around for a minute, just long enough for the garlic to cook and the spices to release their flavors. Add basmati rice, salt, and 1¾ cups water. Toss to combine. Bring temperature to high, and when rice starts to boil, reduce temperature to low and cook covered for about 15-20 minutes until water has been absorbed. Add cooked wild rice, sundried tomato and finish it with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cover and let it rest for another 5-10 minutes for flavors to marry.

Remove squash halves from the oven. Slice off a bit of the bottom of each half so they lay flat on a plate. Sprinkle the inside of each acorn half with a bit of salt and pepper. Fill each with the rice mix and serve decorated with some rosemary.


I am a big fan of lentils of all kinds. They’re super versatile, tasty and perfect for a vegetarian diet, as this legume packs a good amount of protein. This recipe, adapted from the book Homestyle Vegetarian published by Bay Books (strangely there’s no author named) is nice because it has an Indian flair, which I like. Any time I cook with red lentil (dal) I get sentimental (it even rhymes!) and enjoy revisiting other dal recipes, like this soup, this pilaf, or this red lentil cabbage soup. I think I’m obsessed.

fried red lentil patty with leafy salad

fried red lentil patty with leafy salad

I made this dish for an early dinner on the day we happened to have a solar eclipse. We are blessed with having our kitchen, dining and living rooms with a Western exposure. So in the afternoon on most days, these rooms are flooded with beautiful sunlight. On that Sunday at a certain point the sunlight dimmed in an odd way. We’d just assumed that the fog was rolling in. But not so: the sky was clear. For five or perhaps ten minutes, it all looked strangely dark and ominous. Could Edward, Bella and the Cullen entourage be joining us for dinner? Would we be the dinner? I heard vampires don’t like garlic so I think we’d probably have been safe.

eerie view of the solar eclipse

eerie view of the solar eclipse: full sun yet it's dark out

The original recipe for this latest dal delight calls for breadcrumbs, which I lacked at the time. It also asks for green peas, another item I didn’t have. So I improvised. This was supposed to be made into patties and fried in oil. I tried that but thought they got too oily. So I prepared a few patties or rissoles and the rest ended up as balls, which I baked in the oven till golden brown.

large plate of baked red lentil croquettes

large plate of baked red lentil croquettes

red lentil (dal) rissoles, patties or croquettes

2 cups red lentil, rinsed
1 large white onion, cubed small
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander
3 carrots, diced small
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup fresh frozen organic lima beans – steamed al dente
3 tbsp canola oil
Olive oil
1 cup oatmeal
~1 cup cream of wheat
Black pepper
Kosher salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Put canola oil in a saucepan, crank temperature up, add cumin and cook until aromatic, about a minute or so. Throw in onions and cook until translucent. Add carrot, garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Then add lentils, salt, pepper, and 3 cups of water. Stir to combine then cover. Bring to a boil then lower temperature to medium and cook, stirring every now and then, to the point lentil dissolves and becomes pulpy, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid towards the end if lentils look ready but still watery this will allow the mix to firm up a bit. Likewise add a bit more of water if not ready. You don’t want it to be soupy.

frying up the red lentil patties

frying up the red lentil patties

Remove from heat and let it rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. Mix in lima beans, walnuts, nutritional yeast and oatmeal. Adjust flavors if needed. Add just enough cream of wheat to allow the lentil dough to be shaped. Mine needed approximately 2/3 of a cup.

If you are frying add a layer of oil to a frying pan, while oil heats up, shape patties to the size and thickness you like, coat with cream of wheat and fry them for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towels to soak up oil excess. I fried 4 of them.

these red lentil croquettes just need a splash of olive oil to be ready for the oven

these red lentil croquettes just need a splash of olive oil to be ready for the oven

With the rest I shaped them into ping-pong size balls, drizzled them with olive oil and baked them in the oven at 450F for about 12 minutes.

Serve with leafy salad.


spicy urad dal soup

by Heguiberto on February 9, 2012

spicy urad dal soup

spicy urad dal soup

Every now and then I try recipes from the journal, Gastronomica, published by UC Berkeley. I’m a big fan of this academic culinary periodical. Primarily the articles are stuff related to food history and culture. Their subjects are always off the beaten path. I savor each of issue.

Here’s what it says on Gastronomica’s about page:

Since 2001 we’ve been renewing the connection between sensual and intellectual nourishment by offering readers a taste of passionate inquiry through scholarship, humor, fiction, poetry, and exciting visual imagery. With its diverse voices and eclectic mix of articles, Gastronomica uses food as an important source of knowledge about different cultures and societies, provoking discussion and encouraging thoughtful reflection on the history, literature, representation, and cultural impact of food. The fact is, the more we know about food, the greater our pleasure in it. Welcome to our table!

And it is true! And no, I’m not receiving a cash payment for promoting this quarterly. Though if a check arrives in the mail I won’t be too sad about it.

Alas, what does all this flattery have to do with today’s post? Before we started this blog (that seems like a while ago!) I made a dosa recipe from a lovely article I read in the magazine etitled The Masala Dosas in My Life.

That one called for a small amount of split urad dal, but overenthusiastic, I bought a large bag. After having stored it in the pantry “for a while,” it was time to get inspired again. This urad dal soup has some of the features of my other red dal soup but with a creamier texture. This was excellent and I really don’t know why it took me so long to prepare this gourmet pulse.

I found a great pic of several kinds of urad dal on this excellent site, Manjula’s Kitchen, which I’m re-posting here.

several kinds of urad dal

several kinds of urad dal

spicy urad dal soup

2 cups split and hulled urad dal, picked over and rinsed
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 small russet potatoes, skin on, quartered
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 white onion, chopped
2 Serrano chili peppers, minced (seeds and ribs removed partially)
1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 branch curry leaves
1 bay leaf
½ tsp chili powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 28oz can unseasoned chopped tomatoes and juices
Kosher salt
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Put dal, turmeric powder and 6 cups of water in a saucepan. Place it on stove, temperature on high and boil for 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove any foam that may form at the top. Add carrots, celery and potatoes and continue cooking until everything becomes soft. Add more water if needed. Keep it warm.

Meanwhile put oil, mustard and cumin seeds in a large skillet on high. Cook until aromatic and mustard seeds start to pop. Add onions, Serrano chili and cook until onion becomes translucent. Add garlic, ginger, bay and curry leaves. Continue cooking until raw aromas of the garlic and ginger are gone. Next add coriander and chili powders and salt. Give it a good stir. Fold in tomatoes, add a cup of water, stir and cook for about 12 minutes on medium temperature. Mix it in the dal, taste and adjust salt. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Just before serving, transfer half of the soup to a bowl. Using a stick blender, blend everything together then return it back to the pot to thicken the soup a bit. Add chopped cilantro and serve! We had it with Brazilian style rice though it would also be excellent with roti.


Savoy cabbage curry

by Heguiberto on February 3, 2012

I am always on the lookout for the next cabbage recipe, or for that matter any new recipe for Brassicas. It sounds super-glamorous when I put it like that, don’t you think? Sort of like I’m scouting little towns or obscure places for the next movie star or pop music sensation, American Idol style. Move over Randy, I’m here!

Savoy cabbage curry

Savoy cabbage curry

What can I do? I just love cabbage and all of her bewitching sisters. We’ve tons of stories already. Look here for refreshing cabbage mango salad, one of my all-time faves. Too cold for that right now? Then try this hearty and tasty vegetarian red dal and Savoy cabbage soup. Don’t know what to do with a Brussels sprout? Make this delicious shaved Brussels sprout sauté. Your guests will love you.

Having said all that, and contemplating checking into the Betty Ford Clinic for my Brassica addiction, I think this Savoy cabbage curry has become my newest darling for the Brassica Hall of Fame. I hope that you will like it, and if not, well… there’s always next time. I bet you thought that I was going to write something mean, didn’t you? Go ahead and admit it. But you, my dear readers, are all that matter. If you object, then let me know! Though personally when it comes to this one, I think that you might be a little bit silly. I’m just saying.

Savoy cabbage growing in our community garden

Savoy cabbage growing in our community garden

I’ve adapted the dish from this nice blog I have been reading lately, Vegetable Platter.

Savoy cabbage curry

½ head of a medium sized Savoy cabbage
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 branch curry leaves
2 green chile peppers, sliced fine
2 red chile peppers, sliced fine
1 tsp ural dal (hulled & split black mung beans)
1 tsp chana dal (hulled & split chickpeas)
½ tsp turmeric powder
3 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt

Rinse and shred Savoy cabbage, add to a saucepan with half cup of water, sprinkle turmeric over, cover pan. Cook on high temperature until cabbage has wilted and reduced in volume by a third. You want it to be parboiled, al dente but not squishy soft and wimpy. Reserve ¼ cup liquid and drain the rest.

Put oil, mustard seeds and cumin in a skillet on high heat and cook until mustard seeds start to pop. Add chile peppers, urad and chana dals. Continue cooking for another minute just to soften the pepper and toast the dals. Sprinkle with salt. Add curry leaf branch and immediately remove from heat. Toss cabbage in pan, transfer to a serving platter and drizzle with some of the reserved cooking juices.

Serve as a side dish.


I adapted this marvelous garbanzo bean recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook, Plenty.

sautéed chickpeas with Swiss chard, spinach and labneh sauce

sautéed chickpeas with Swiss chard, spinach and labneh sauce

I like so many things about Ottolenghi’s book: plenty of them. In particular, from reading and trying out his flavorful recipes, I realize now that unknowingly we’ve been using principles from and eating PLENTY at home all along. Ottolenghi focuses my attention on the process and the order in which ingredients are added or combined to a dish to maximally preserve the individual flavor and freshness of each, while combining harmoniously in a final dish that will taste even better. Here the aromas and volatile components present in herbs such as mint and cilantro, and the powerful presence of garlic all play their individual roles, adding layers of complexity to this meal. I feel I am acting sort of like one of the Iron Chefs today, trying awkwardly to explain myself to the panel of celebrity judges. Yet in a simple dish made with ingredients as prosaic as beans sometimes you truly can find poetry.

sautéed chickpeas with Swiss chard, spinach and labneh sauce

6 cups cooked chickpeas
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 medium sized carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks
2 bunches rainbow Swiss chard
2 cups pre washed spinach leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tbsp fresh mint, julienned
2 tbsp cilantro, julienned
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

for the labneh sauce:

¾ cup labneh
Kosher salt
Olive oil

Wash Swiss chard in lots of water. Separate stalks from leaves. Cut stalks into ½ inch segments. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop the Swiss chard stalks in, cover and cook for a couple of minutes. Add chard leaves and cook for a couple of minutes more. Add spinach leaves in the last 30 seconds. Drain.

Add half of the olive oil to a sauce pan on high heat. Next add cumin seeds followed by the carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes. The olive oil will get tinted orange from carrot and the air will be infused with the scent of cumin.

Add chick peas, chard and spinach, give it a good stir. Cook for about 8 minutes. In the last minute of cooking add garlic, cilantro, mint, salt, pepper and the rest of the olive oil. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust flavors if needed. Transfer to a serving platter

To make the labeneh sauce, place labeneh in a bowl, add about 1/3 cup of water and whisk until it reaches the consistency of a thick yogurt. Add salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. Spoon it over the chick peas and serve.


tofu and green-pea dal

by Heguiberto on February 4, 2011

By now my Indian dal soups are all about improvisation. I feel comfortable using most of the Indian ingredients and can sort of predict what a soup will taste like if I add more of one spice versus another. It is fun to have that confidence because now I can utilize whatever ingredients are available in my kitchen pantry and still make a delicious meal.

tofu green pea dal

tofu green pea dal

Of course my Indian cooking knowledge is still miniscule! I’m not putting on airs, here. Indian cuisine varies widely between regions and the country itself is enormous. But I’m learning and I’m still enchanted by it, and that’s what matters.

One of the most important lessons that I’ve gotten so far is not to be too exacting about ingredients. And that brings me to tofu. Yep, tofu. That’s not something that you’ll ever see in an authentic Indian kitchen, though if you ask me, it should be.

I find it intriguing that tofu never “made it” in Indian food. You’d think that it would be a sensation! Just look at the wildly successful introduction of some New World ingredients like peanuts, tomatoes, potatoes, hot peppers or cashews. Tofu didn’t need to travel nearly as far as the potato. What’s the problem? Could it be politics that kept it out?

This soup is totally vegan and extremely healthy and flavorful. There is something magical about tomatoes, ginger, cumin and mustard seeds combined with lentils!

tofu and green-pea dal

1 package firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
1½ cups red lentil, picked over and rinsed
¾ tsp turmeric
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 28oz can of tomatoes with juice
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp grated fresh garlic
¾ tsp yellow mustard seeds
½ Poblano pepper, minced with ribs and seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp canola oil
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
2 cups fresh or fresh frozen English peas
Kosher salt to taste
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Soak tofu in a warm saltwater bath for about a half hour to absorb some flavor. Rinse and set aside.

Add lentils to pressure cooker with enough water to submerge by an inch. Add onion, turmeric, celery and carrot. Cook for 4 minutes after pan starts to whistle. Shake the pan a couple of times to prevent sticking. Remove pan from heat and let cool. Using a stick blender, blend soup till smooth. Set aside, keeping it warm.

Meanwhile, add canola oil to a pot on high heat. Add cumin and mustard seeds. Cook for a couple of minutes. Mustard seeds will pop. Add ginger, garlic and minced Poblano pepper and sauté until raw flavors are nearly gone. Be careful not to burn it. Add tomato paste and stir, add canned tomatoes, salt, pepper and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add peas and tofu then fold sauce into blended lentils. Lastly gently fold in chopped cilantro.

Serve over rice, like this one with carrots and cumin.


red quinoa, carrot and cumin basmati rice

I made this rice dish before without the quinoa. This time around I decided to add the quinoa for more protein and texture. How can you go wrong with rice or quinoa? I served it with chole masala.

red quinoa, carrot and cumin basmati rice

2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup basmati rice
1/3 cup red quinoa
Kosher salt to taste

Rinse quinoa. Add to a pan with about a cup of water and boil for about 8 minutes. Drain. Using the same pan, add oil, carrot, salt and cumin then sauté until cumin is fragrant and carrot tints the oil a bit orange. Add rice and partially cooked quinoa. Add two cups of water. Bring to a boil with pan uncovered. Reduce heat to low. Cover pan and simmer for about 15 minutes until liquid absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand with lid on for 5 minutes before serving.


chili pepper mobile

Steven’s parents have just returned from an Alaskan cruise. They didn’t see Sarah Palin or the Cullen vampire clan, but loved it nonetheless. Their pictures made it look really exciting though quite cold, even in summer.

I want to visit Alaska sometime in the future, but I don’t think I can do it by sea. I just get terribly sick on boats. Last year we went with them on a Caribbean cruise. I can tell you that despite great company and the beauty of the Caribbean, I suffered the entire time on that eight day trip. Everything seemed in motion constantly. I couldn’t take it.

The Alaskan-bound cruise ship left from Seattle. They spent a day or so there on the way back. They always bring us back cute souvenirs from their trips. This time, they got us matching Alaska hats and T-shirts as well as some smoked salmon and this lovely chile pepper mobile.

That was really thoughtful: thank you, Lynda and Stan!

On the way back home, they detoured to San Francisco so we got to spend the afternoon with them. We took them sightseeing to the new Cartoon Museum and to Sausalito where we had a delightful lunch at Scoma’s.

But back to the chile pepper souvenir… the whole thing was made with several types of peppers in different ripening stages with a head of garlic at the base to hold it down. There were Thai bird’s eye, chili de arbol, jalapeño and Serrano chiles, all beautifully arranged and suspend by a fishing line. It was very creative. The mobile toy lasted for a few days in the kitchen but then it started to wilt. Since I don’t like waste, I disassembled the mobile and I’m using all the ingredients in my cooking.

sundried chili peppers

I simply rinsed then cut the stems off the small peppers and left them in the California sun for about a week to dry. They’re excellent in recipes that called for dried hot chiles like Roman style pasta or in Asian style dipping sauces.

I made the large peppers into this Indian inspired pickle:

Indian style chili pickle with mustard oil

Indian style chili pickle

1lb mixed chili peppers (different stages of ripeness is fine)
½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp whole black mustard seeds, roughly ground in a mortar
Juice of 4 limes
1 tbsp wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp cumin seeds partially ground
¼ tsp coriander seeds partially ground
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp kosher salt (or other non-iodized salt. Sea salt works, but use less because it’s saltier)
~2 tbsp mustard oil
1 clove of garlic minced

Wash peppers. Slice in halves then discard seeds and ribs and stems. Lay them on a paper towel and let dry in the sun for a couple of hours.

Mix ginger, turmeric, mustard seeds, lime juice, vinegar, cumin and coriander seeds, sugar, and garlic. Add chili peppers and toss to coat. Pack chilies tightly in glass jar. Top with mustard oil. Leave it at room temperature for four days. Taste it. It should have a mellow flavor with a bit of a kick but none of the rawness of garlic, ginger or pepper. If the flavor is harsh, leave it out for another day or so. Transfer to the fridge and serve as a side for rice and beans or for any other Indian, Middle Eastern, or Morrocan dishes.

It’s the mustard oil that really makes this preserved pepper dish taste “Indian.” You can find mustard oil in Indian grocery stores. It is labeled for external use only as it is not approved by the USDA for consumption because a compound present in the oil, erucid acid, which supposedly may cause cardiac lesions based on tests made with animals. But Indian people eat it all the time and seem very healthy as a people, so I don’t know. But you are warned.

moody Alsakan landscape

Alaskan iceberg

Alaskan glacier

lumberjack contest and show

Alaskan mountain range

another Alaskan glacier

Alaskan sunset


Kashmiri eggplant

June 1, 2010

I am enchanted with the Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India cookbook by Lachu Moorjani. I’ve been really engrossed by it since discovering it at Viks Chaat Corner on our food excursion to Berkeley a few weeks ago. It caught my attention because it was the only book for sale at that place. That might normally […]

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mung bean dal pilaf

May 27, 2010

This recipe comes from the Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India cookbook. I made it by special request as Heguiberto wanted it to go with his Kashmiri eggplant dish from the same book. I’ve never cooked with mung bean dal before. Hegui tells me that “dal” means “split” so “split peas” would become “pea dal” for […]

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