Category Archives: General

Iraqi and Sudanese cooking classes as well!

At Veena’s Market, we love so many cuisines! I just shared the South Indian cooking class in a previous post. Here are two more really cool opportunities!

Project Feast’s pilot training sessions have been in full swing these last two months. We have a Burmese group that started a month ago, and a Middle Eastern group that is almost done training. We also have a large group that will start training at the King County Housing Authority’s Greenbridge Center next week. Exciting times!

Recently, we taught cooking class facilitation skills to a Middle Eastern group in partnership with the Lutheran Community Services Northwest. Brian Donkersley, a volunteer with Project Feast, attended and took these pictures below.

Some of the women who completed the training, will be teaching cooking classes!

Rana and Sundus, both from Iraq will be teaching a class together on July 13th, Saturday from 11:30-2:30, also at Lutheran Community Services Center. Their initial menu had 10 dishes on it and we really had to work with them to bring it down to 6! We will be learning how to make chicken beryani, maqluban (a dish with cauliflower and chicken), oat soup, date halawa, vegetarian salad and nabulsi kunafa, a dessert with cheese. Tickets are $35 each and can be purchased here.

Rehab, a soft spoken lady from Sudanhas designed a menu with many middle eastern favorites such as falafel and hummus. There will also be Sudanese chicken and rice, chickpea salad, and a Sudanese dessert called kunafa. We are offering her Sudanese cooking class to the public on July 9th (postponed to July 23rd from 6-9pm where you will not only learn Rehab’s recipes but also get to eat as a group. This class will be at the open kitchen at the Lutheran Community Services Center. Tickets are $35 each and can be purchased here.


Photo credit for all photos: Brian Donkersley

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Announcing a South Indian cooking class!

Sambhar, a South Indian lentil curry for dosa cooking class

Sambhar, a South Indian lentil curry

It’s been a bit quiet around Veena’s Market…this is because I’ve taken a break to start up a nonprofit called Project Feast. We work with refugees and immigrants in the Seattle area, offer basic training that helps them find jobs in the food industry.

This is one of the hardest and most fulfilling “jobs” I’ve ever had. We’re a long way from being fully established but working really hard to make a difference and show strong results from the beginning.

As part of our work at Project Feast, we like to offer cooking classes and events where we can help provide exposure to the refugee and immigrant community and create opportunities for interaction with the broader Seattle community. These events also help us generate a small amount of revenue to support our training programs.

Since I can teach Indian cooking classes, I’m doing my bit too! Next week, I’ll be offering a Dosa making extravaganza at the Fremont Abbey.

We will be making the popular Masala Dosas with a curried potato filling as well as Kheema Dosas that are stuffed with curried ground meat. We will have the South Indian lentil curry called Sambhar as well as a couple of chutneys as accompaniments. You will leave with recipes as well as some of the ingredients so you can repeat the dishes at home. Tickets are $55 and the classes will be held at the downstairs kitchen at the Fremont Abbey in Seattle.

For more information and to buy tickets.


Filed under General, India

Beyond the Beaches in Hawaii

Today, it’s pouring rain in Seattle. In fact it’s rained so much that we’ve set a new record and according to NPR, Nov 19th is officially the rainiest day of the year! I badly need a new pair of rain boots that are actually waterproof. Sigh.

I’m recently back from a 10 day trip to Hawaii. This was my first time! We were on the Big Island and Kauai. While I enjoyed the beaches and got to do some scuba diving while on the Big Island, there was a lot of other things to like about the Hawaiian islands. Here’s a photo essay of some of my favorite things: bananas, sweet potatoes, taro fields, lu’au, kalua pork and of course the flora.

I haven’t traveled much since getting hit with all the food allergies and I’ll confess that I was slightly worried about how it would all go. We rented cottages on Airbnb and made sure we had a kitchen for me to cook in if needed. This helped a lot. I ended up cooking about 50% of the time and you can see below some of the produce I found at local farmers markets.

Fortunately, there were a few things I could eat out. Plate lunches included meat and white rice and often came with a salad. I got the grilled fish, kalua pork or poke (raw fish salad dressed in sesame oil) options and skipped the salad dressing. Laulau was another wholesome meal where the meat was covered in taro and ti leaves and steamed. Simple, yummy and very filling with rice. It was great for me that meats are usually simply prepared without a lot of sauces by grilling, steaming or roasting.

I’m counting on the memories, the remnants of a tan and hopefully lots of stored up Vitamin D to get me through another Pacific Northwest winter! The thought of the ski slopes opening soon does help too.


Hawaiian bananas, pink limes and sweet potatoes big island farmers market

Hawaiian bananas, pink limes and sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes had a very floral flavor when steamed. The local bananas were starchier and I liked them a lot bananas than what you normally get in the US.

quail eggs and hawaiian bananas

We treated ourselves to quail eggs one day! And those bananas went from green to yellow just in 2 days.

Taro field

Fields of taro, the starchy tuber used to make the Hawaiian staple poi. The leaves are used to wrap around meat and steam, adding flavor and helping keep the moisture in.

banana tree

Banana tree blossom

kalua pork cooked in imu

Opening up the imu – the pit constructed in the ground to cook a whole pig in

Kalua pork

Kalua pork when cooked the traditional way in the imu

After a luau

After the luau feast and show, very touristy but great show.

palm tree braids

Palm tree jewellery


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Just Label It, WA state

You might have already heard about the Just Label It Campaign. It’s about specifying which food ingredients have been produced through genetic engineering, information that more than 90% of Americans would like to see. I’m writing about this today because here in WA state, the Label It WA campaign is working to get 320,000 signatures in order to get I-522, Washington state initiative to label GMOs, on the ballot in 2013.

Registered voters in WA state: here’s your chance to do something. Please go add your signature to get I-522 on the ballot at any of these locations. Around Seattle, you can sign at any of the PCC locations in addition to many others. It must be done in person, it cannot be done online.

As a consumer and a small business, I think this is fantastic. Today, the only way to know for sure that you are not eating anything that is genetically modified is to buy organic. For many, this is unfortunately prohibitively expensive. For a small business owner like me, this labeling law would be more work initially. It may mean that my sourcing strategy will change. It will definitely mean that I will need new labels. But I’m happy to do this since it means better information and potentially improved food systems for all.

California will be voting on their initiative to label GMOs. Let’s make sure we can do the same next year! Thanks for reading and making a difference!

I wish you a fantastic weekend full of delicious food.



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Raghu Dixit – India’s Rising Star

raghu dixit project performing at Neumos in seattle

Raghu dixit project performing at Neumos in Seattle. Photo credit Susan Wojahn

A couple of weeks ago, Raghu Dixit, an upcoming Indian music star was on tour in Seattle. I’d never heard of him (I must admit that I’m pretty dense about any music scene) but my friend Susan had. I went though I was tired and it was a weekday evening. And boy am I glad that I did. Raghu Dixit is originally from Mysore but is based in Bangalore, where I grew up. And his music is at once Indian and modern, folksy and popular, soulful and lively. Those are each tough combinations, and he (and his awesome band) does them all with ease and authenticity. And I think that this is what I like most about him and his music: his music is rooted in South Indian folk music and poems but it has wings.

Not only does this guy have an amazing voice, but his music is multilingual: Raghu sings in Kannada, English and Hindi.

So with that, I leave you with a few clips of awesomeness. Crank up the volume and enjoy!

Hey Bhagawan

Yaadon Ke Kyari

(for the Kannada speakers, don’t you love the mosoru anna references?!)

Mysore Se Aayi

Neene Beku

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How to Make Saag Paneer

saag paneer

Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer has got to be one of the most popular dishes in Indian restaurants! I helped my friends produce this video for Allercipes on how to make authentic saag paneer. Don’t want to round up all the spices yourself? Check out our Saag recipe kit!

How to Make Saag Paneer



Filed under General, India

Meet My Herb Garden

curry leaf plant

Meet Gopi – my new curry leaf plant

apple mint and chili plants

Chilies and Apple Mint

cilantro plant with coriander seeds

The cilantro plant bolted. But I can plant these coriander seeds!

There is supposedly a green thumb gene that runs through my mom’s family. My grandmother’s garden used to be full of fruit trees, roses and different flowers every year. That garden bears witness to many childhood memories. We spent many summers there with my cousins playing Shark, a game we made up, climbing trees, enjoying tea parties on the lawn and getting bit by the biggest mosquitoes known to seven year olds.

I’ve never grown anything before. I mean I’ve watered potted plants and sprouted seeds for a Biology class experiment. But I’ve never really had a garden. I’ve even managed to kill cacti. Yes multiple ones. And we (here I share the blame with my husband) even managed to kill an indoor palm tree that was supposedly a pretty easy plant to take care of. It’s a long story, but we think the nursery was at least partially complicit.

So it was with some hesitation that I decided to start an herb garden this year. Where we live, we have access to a great backyard. Now, every time I *must* have curry leaves, it involves driving all the way over to the “Eastside” where the Indian grocery stores are. It’s such a chore. So I really wanted to grow my own curry leaves.

There are a few nurseries in the US where you can buy plant starts online. After one order fell through as the nursery had actually oversold their curry leaf starts, I found another source. They were fantastic, they shipped right away and the little plant arrived in a shipping tube all bundled up. I had to name him. He’s Gopi.

Once bit by the planting bug, I went further and planted apple mint, cilantro and two different chilies. The cilantro has already bolted (flowered) which means I won’t get herb from it. But, I can plant those seeds you see for new plants. The mint plant though is doing really well.

I’m crossing my fingers for chilies, cilantro and most of all for curry leaves. I hope I don’t kill Gopi in the weeks it will take for the plant to get well established and I can harvest the leaves.

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Filed under America, General, Spices

Forage Kitchen on Kickstarter

Two of the biggest challenges for small food startups like Veena’s Market is to find affordable commercial kitchen space and a community of food businesses to learn from. This is especially important when you are starting out with very little capital.

This is why I love what Forage Kitchen, a San Francisco based start-up is trying to do. Iso Robbins, who I do not know and have never met, wants to open an incubator for fledgling food producers. This includes commercial kitchen space and office space for coworking. Isn’t that a brilliant idea?! I hope to see something like this in Seattle soon! More businesses there are that are passionate about making great food products = yummier world.

I’d like to share the link to Forage Kitchen’s Kickstarter funding page if you’re interested in backing this project. They are close. And I hope they make it.

I’ll be back soon with a recipe post 🙂


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Eating Indian food Indian style

Ever see anyone eat sushi with a fork and knife? I did once. At a Japanese restaurant. He didn’t even want to try. I know it takes practice – it took me months of diligent practice before I could eat somewhat gracefully without half my stir fry falling on the floor. As much as a fork and knife feel out of place in an Asian restaurant, chopsticks feel alien at a steak restaurant. So if table manners are contextual, why do I see so many people at Indian restaurants eating with implements? And does it matter?

Honestly, I love that Indian food is so popular in many countries outside of India. I’m proud of my heritage and I think it’s great that people enjoy their chicken curry and rotis in their own way. Still, I do wish that people would try. It’s fun to tear off a piece of the bread and use that to spoon some curry into their mouths. As my dad says (and if he hasn’t said it, it’s what he would say), it just tastes better that way. Like eating on a banana leaf. But I digress.

So instead of just bitching about it, I thought I’d be the Indian friend who shows you how. I hope this helps you get started!

So the next time you’re at an Indian restaurant, go ‘native’ and impress your date! Just make sure you’ve washed up first.


Filed under General, India

My 3 tips for mindful eating

It seems like writing about mindful eating is in these days.  It has been the subject of a few discussions between my husband and I in the last few months. He almost inhales his food, it’s gone before I’m done chewing the second mouthful. He finds it comical that I chew every bite about 30 times. Yes I actually do. He grabs a sandwich or whatever he can lay his hands on when he’s hungry. The thought of eating something that doesn’t taste good and is likely not healthy makes me squeamish.

And then he sent me this NY Times article to read. And this was in my Facebook stream. It was a sign. I’m always right of course, but this time, there was proof! And I just had to jump on the bandwagon.

For me, I think mindful eating started with wine tasting. It was because of all the attention paid to what wine I was drinking, where the grapes came from, how the wine looked and tasted, how old was the wine, what style was it made in? All this even before the first, careful, gurgling sip. The wine foreplay? And then of course, it continued with how did the wine taste after certain foods? How did the food taste after the wine?

Though I had always cared about how food tasted like, it’s been a couple of years since it mattered to me where the ingredients came from and how they were grown.

I started enjoying the layers of flavor of everything I ate and with it had a new appreciation for crispy food. There was a turning point where desserts went from just sweet to: a hint of honey, the deep sweet of molasses, the secret, je ne sais quoi flavor of jaggery, the bittersweet of really dark chocolate to disgustingly sweet cakes.

Ever since I started avoiding white rice, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the nuttiness of brown basmati, the texture of Bhutanese red rice that almost confronts you with texture, the good feeling in your tummy when you eat Thai purple rice and the heavenly plumpness of boiled Doddabaira Nellu (red rice from my home state of Karnataka). On an aside, I was shocked to find out that there are more than 40,000 varieties worldwide. And I can only get 5 in my local grocery store. It’s a shame isn’t it? Anyway, I digress.

Both articles mentioned earlier have already shared some great tips on how to eat more mindfully. What can I add to the NY Times? These three tips are what helped me the most.

  1. Cook your meal with texture in mind. Steaming or sautéing vegetables, remove them while they are still crisp. Use whole wheat in your breads. Switch up rice with quinoa and give your mouth a surprise.
  2. Wine tasting helped me be more mindful. Consider this your excuse to do more ‘tasting’. Responsibly please.
  3. Eat a meal alone once in a while. It forces you to focus on the meal. And no, you’re not a loser if you do eat alone. I, in fact, have a lot of respect for those who take themselves out to dinner.

And an easy weeknight recipe that will delight the senses and help you practice!

Thai Red Curry

  • 1 cup mixed vegetables cut to bite size pieces (I love broccoli, beans, bell pepper or anything with some crunch)
  • 1/2 lb or stir fry meat or tofu (I used chestnuts as an experiment and they were fantastic and talk about texture!)
  • 2 thin slices of ginger cut into ‘matchsticks’
  • 1 small onion or shallot, sliced
  • A handful of chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons of Thai red curry paste
  • 1 15 Oz can of coconut milk (first pressing preffered)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan on medium heat. Saute the ginger and shallots for 2 minutes or till the shallots are lightly browned. Add the thai red curry paste (have a lid handy when you do) and stir for 30 seconds. Add the meat/tofu and brown slightly before including the vegetables. Stirfry everything for 3 minutes before adding the coconut milk and cilantro. Cover and cook for another 3 minutes or till meat and vegetables are done. Add salt to taste.

Serve with Thai purple rice or Bhutanese red rice. I used my favorite Indian red rice.

thai red curry with chestnuts and vegetables

A quick Thai Red Curry made with chestnuts and vegetables

red rice

My favorite rice - Doddabaira Nellu from South India

Cheers! And now if I could only get excited about doing the dishes.


Filed under General, Thai