Easy Eggplant

easy eggplant recipe without onions or coconut

Easy Eggplant curry with idlis and spicy chili pickle

Alright, I’m just gonna say it. How can anyone not like eggplant?!?!

My favorite thing to make with eggplant is my mom’s South Indian style curry with coconut. And one of the dishes I’d love to get right one of these days is Ennegai (with a link to the good folks over at the Monsoon Spice blog). But, sadly, the doc has cut me off onions and coconut for  at least the next few months. In this period of mourning, I still need to eat eggplants.

So I came up with this simple variation of a curried vegetable dish. What I realized was that no onions actually meant less prep time! And you know what? My South Indian heart rejoiced when I had this eggplant dish for lunch with freshly steamed idlis and a side of green chili pickle. It hit the spot.

Among other foods, I avoid most ingredients on the FODMAP (a diet the fructose intolerance have to follow) list. If you want to make this dish 100% FODMAP compatible, just eliminate the lentils.

Easy Eggplant

serves 3-4

  • 1.5 lb eggplant (I used the small Indian eggplants but you can use the big kind)
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 green chilies, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons urud dal (split black lentils, optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3 teaspoons sambhar powder (or curry blend)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1/2 lime

Cut the eggplants into roughly 2 inch long and 1/2 inch wide pieces. If you’re doing this ahead of time, place in a pot of water so they don’t brown.

Heat the oil in a large wok or pan over medium heat. When you see ripples on the surface of the oil, throw in a mustard seed. If it sizzles, the oil is hot.

Sizzle the mustard seeds for 5 seconds or till they start popping. Stir in the curry leaves, chilis and urud dal and let them sizzle for 10 seconds. Be careful, the oil may splatter. Add the garlic, eggplant, turmeric and sambhar powder and cook for 2 minutes while stirring frequently. If anything starts sticking to the pan, add more oil.

Add a cup of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for 10 minutes or till the eggplant is soft and cooked.

Add salt and lime juice to taste.

Serve with idlis or rice.

yummy eggplant

Yummy eggplant

easy eggplant

Easy Eggplant




Filed under India, Recipe

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.



Filed under America, General

Sambhar – South Indian Lentil Curry

sambhar south indian lentil curry with vegetables

Sambhar, a hearty lentil curry

Do you have food allergies or intolerances? When you first hear about them, you feel really sad to have to cut out something you love to eat. And you wonder how you can do without. Well, I think when you don’t have a choice, you find a way to continue to eat food that tastes great and is nourishing.

I’ve mentioned my food allergies before. I now have fructose intolerance to add to that list and can’t eat onions, tomatoes or coconut anymore. If you know anything about Indian food, you know how often these are used. I’m following a FODMAP diet and have also eliminated soy, dairy, gluten, lima beans, and kidney beans. So I’ve been wondering what to eat lately and very importantly, what to blog about!

Do you have food allergies? How have you adapted your cooking to your lifestyle? I know completely changing your diet can be a huge challenge. And to make sure that what you eat is tasty and varied. To help those of you with food allergies, I’ve been trying to remember to tag recipes with allergy information where applicable. You can do a search on the left.

That brings me to today’s post. Ever had dosa or idlis in a South Indian restaurant? The lentil curry that always comes on the side is called Sambhar. Now I think it’s a delicious dish in it’s own right and can be eaten as a main meal. The best part is that you can easily make 2 or 3 times the recipe and have a big pot to last you all week. It’s one of those rare curries that I don’t get tired of easily. I made this sambhar without onion but still included tomatoes and green beans (also on the FODMAP list). But they were easy enough to pick out.

The other thing I love about sambhar is that it is so flexible. You can eat it with rice or other grains like millet. We often cook pearl millet instead of rice at home. You can also eat it by itself as soup. It’s delicious with a spicy Indian pickle on the side or with papadum.


typical vegetables for sambhar

Typical vegetables used for sambhar

cooking the sambhar vegetables

Cooking the sambhar vegetables 

Serves 4

  • 1 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 2 dry red chilis
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida
  • 10 curry leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons sambhar powder (buy in Indian store or see below)
  • 1 scant teaspoon tamarind extract, dissolved in 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup vegetables (3 of any of green beans, potatoes, carrots, bell pepper, tomato, etc), cut to 1 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • Cilantro to garnish

Rinse the toor dal thrice. Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes or till the lentils are soft and fully cooked.  Mash the lentils with a masher or large spoon.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a thick bottomed pot. When you see ripples on the surface of the oil, throw in a mustard seed. If it sizzles, the oil is hot enough. Sizzle the whole spices just for 5-10 seconds before adding the turmeric, sambhar powder, and tamarind extract in water. Stir well.

Add the vegetables, salt and enough water to just cover them. Bring to a boil, and simmer covered on low for 10 minutes or till the vegetables are cooked. Add water to just cover the vegetables if needed.

Transfer the vegetables to the pot in which you cooked the toor dal. Mix well. Simmer on low for 15 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice.

Sambhar Powder 

  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons urud dal (dehusked, split black lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • ½ tablespoon black peppercorn
  • ½ tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon asafetida
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 20 curry leaves
  • 10 red chilis

Dry roast the whole spices and urud dal for 3 minutes on medium low heat. Grind to a fine powder in a spice blender along with the turmeric and asafetida.

a pot of sambhar

A pot of sambhar


Filed under India, Recipe

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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Filed under General, India

Baingan Ka Bharta

baingan ka bharta

Baingan ka bharta, smoky eggplant cooked with onions, tomatoes and garam masala

As summer draws to a close and the days shorten, I’m sometimes at a loss as to what I want to eat. Something cooling or something warming? Something light or comfort food? In a few more weeks, this won’t be a problem. In a few more weeks, I’ll be wanting Daal or a hearty stew almost every day. Till then, I want to enjoy what’s left of the sun before it disappears from Seattle skies for another eight months. Till then, I want something light and comforting.

That’s where this brilliant dish comes in. Once you make it, it’s up to you to eat it piping hot, scooped up in warm naan or eat it cold mixed with a swirl of yogurt and a bit of rice. It can be made into a light meal or a substantial one. It’s also great for weekend brunches as you can spread some of that smoky eggplant goodness on crusty slices of baguette and top off with gruyere.

In this Punjabi dish, the eggplant is traditionally smoked by placing it whole in a fire or on hot coal. At home, I roast the eggplant in the oven. You could also use the broiler.

Baingan ka bharta is easily one of my favorite eggplant dishes. I love eggplant. I have an unabashed and unapologetic desire for it’s taste and texture. If you’re not sure about this glorious vegetable, be warned, this recipe might not be for you!

And finally, here’s the recipe after the pictures.

Oven roasted eggplant

Oven roasted eggplant, shriveled up but oh so tasty

peeling the oven roasted eggplant

Peeling the oven roasted eggplant


Roasted eggplant curry served with pita bread

Roasted eggplant curry served with pita bread

pita bread with baingan ka bharta

Baingan ka bharta in pita! Served with a side of roasted cauliflower for a delicious vegan meal.


Baingan Ka Bharta

(Printer friendly recipe for baingan ka bharta)


  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 teaspoons + 4 tablespoons high heat oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • 3 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • Roughly 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 a lime or to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Tomato slices for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Rinse and dry the whole eggplants. Smear them all over with high heat oil. Place the eggplants on a tray lined with foil or parchment paper. Bake for 40 minutes or till the eggplants are wrinkly and shrivelled up. Don’t worry, they’ll taste all smoky and rich! Broiling them should speed it up but unfortunately we have an old gas oven and the broiler is inconsistent. You can roast the eggplants ahead of time and refrigerate them if you like.
  2. Once the eggplants are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and cut the ends. You can remove the seeds if you dislike the bitterness of eggplants. Chop roughly.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan or wok over medium heat. The oil is hot enough if a cumin seed thrown in sizzles.
  4. Sizzle the cumin seeds for just 10 seconds before adding the onions, garlic and ginger.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently or till the onion is slightly brown.
  6. Add all the spices, tomatoes and 1/2 glass of water. Cook for another 10 minutes or till the tomatoes are mushy and the oil has separated.
  7. Add the eggplant, cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
  8. Salt to taste and squeeze half of a fresh lime. Garnish with chopped cilantro and slices of tomato.
  9. Serve with naan, pita bread, spread on baguette or with rice.

Have a glorious weekend!


Filed under India, Recipe

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

Curried Turnips and Cauliflower

curried turnips and cauliflower

Curried turnips and cauliflower

October 24th is National Food Day, a celebration of sustainable, healthy and more affordable food for all. Food Day was started as a movement to get America to eat better, to eat real food. Since eating is such a social act, Food Day is organizing events and parties around the country. So mark your calendars and check the Food Day website to find fun events in your area.

Here at Veena’s Market, we love great food! And great food starts with using the best ingredients. And where do you get the best produce? At Farmer’s Markets, of course. Other than growing vegetables yourself, it’s hard to find fresher and tastier produce than directly from the farmer herself.

Today, Food Day showcased my recipe for Aloo Gobi. What I made though was a version inspired by what I found at my neighborhood market. The recipe is on the Food Day blog.

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Filed under America, India, Recipe

A Friend at First Bite

spicy cashew coconut chicken thighs

Spicy cashew coconut crusted chicken

chicken thighs encrusted with spicy cashew coconut pesto

chicken thighs encrusted with spicy cashew coconut pesto

It usually takes years to become really good friends with someone. But every once in a blue moon, you meet someone who Just Is A Friend. It’s like falling in friendship. They might be much younger or older or dissimilar is every way from you. But you feel comfortable with them right away and just appreciate the moments you have together. Thinking about them brings a smile to your face however long it’s been since you last saw them. Kurt Vonnegut would have said they’re in your karass.

Last night, I met someone in my karass. She’s younger than me but feels so much more worldly. She’d come over for dinner and I had changed the menu last minute from making my company chicken curry to baking chicken thighs in a spicy coconut cashew crust. It was just so hot and it was boiling in the kitchen.

It might have been the spicy coconut cashew crust. Or the fact that we cooked together, in my opinion, the best way to meet people. That it was because she is just one of the friendliest people might have had something to do with it. In any case, we made this chicken. This post is for her and all my amazing friends, made fast or slow. I know I don’t keep in touch often enough. But I do think of you all. Often. And my life is so rich for knowing you. I hope you all know who you are. And thank you.

Now I have a confession to make. I used a magical spice blend that I was given by the lovely lady who owned the guest house near Ooty when I was traveling around South India. And I don’t know exactly what goes into it. As best as I can tell, it is called Uduka Maasu Hudi and you can find the recipe if you scroll down a third of the way on the page. One of these days, I will have to make it for myself as I’m almost out.

But you can always use a garam masala blend or even better, mix 50% garam masala with 50% store bought South Indian sambhar blend. *

The rest is very easy. Like the best friendships.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1/3 cup cashews or 1 handful
  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut flakes (unsweetened)
  • 2 tablespoons spice blend of your choice*
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put all the ingredients except the chicken in a food processor and process till you achieve a pesto like consistency. Smear each thigh with a generous amount of your spicy paste. Line a tray with parchment paper and place the chicken thighs on it. Bake for 40 minutes or till the juices run clear. I like to turn over the chicken after 30 minutes.

Serve with roasted broccoli.

Enjoy and here’s to good friends.



Filed under America, India, Recipe

Gluten Free Upma

south indian upma with rolled oats gluten free

Rolled oats upma – gluten free and so fulfilling

gluten free upma with rolled oats

Upma with zucchini, peas and carrots, perfect for a savory breakfast or lunch.

Back when I wrote the post on Upma – South Indian Soul Food, I didn’t have to worry about gluten. Upma is made from semolina, a durum wheat product. In the last few months, I’ve made upma with broken rice or gluten free cereal blends. They were good but not quite as satisfying. Today I made upma with gluten free rolled oats. It was still different from the original but highly satisfying and elicited a sigh of contentment from me. Upma is a dish in which the final consistency is important. It can’t be too mushy or too dry.

While you can use any oats, the rolled oats resists getting too soft and soggy, a problem with quick cooking oats.

You might have noticed that I’ve been using a lot of Bob’s Red Mill products. If you’re wondering, no I don’t have any affiliation. I like that they are certified gluten free and are readily available in the stores where I normally shop.

Since I was in a hurry and was out of big pots, I modified the Upma recipe. For simplicity, here’s the modified recipe.


  • 2 cups rolled oats, dry roasted for 3 minutes on medium low heat
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal (split skinless black lentils)
  • 5-10 fresh curry leaves
  • 2-3 green chilies (optional), chopped
  • ½ onion thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas and carrots mix
  • 1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup grated unsweetened coconut (if dessicated, rehydrate in 1/3 cup warm water for 10 minutes)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (or to taste)


Heat the oil in a large skillet (should hold the oats and the water) over medium heat. You know the oil is hot if you drop in a mustard seed and it sizzles.

Add the mustard seeds and wait 5 seconds or till they start crackling.

Add the curry leaves, urud dal and chilies and stir constantly to prevent from burning. Saute for just 10 seconds.

Add onion and sauté till soft translucent.

Mix in the veggies and turmeric. Cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the water and cover the skillet. The oats should be cooked after about 6 minutes. Stir halfway through.

Add salt and squeeze lime to taste. Mix in the grated coconut.

Serve hot with yogurt on the side.


Filed under India, Recipe

My Trip to India

So many travel to India to discover themselves through meditation. I was born in India and didn’t leave till I was 17. As some of you may remember, I went to India last December and discovery or rather re-discovery, especially of my culinary roots was top of my mind. I thought a six week trip would be long enough. When it was time to leave though, I was very tempted to extend my stay for another month. There were so many things I still wanted to do and learn. For example, there was a week long coffee tasting and marketing course that was starting the day after my flight. I had to skip a trip to Chennai for cooking lessons in order to accommodate a few days relaxing in Goa. And with all the hustle and bustle of getting around in a big city like Bangalore, I didn’t have as much time to go shopping for kitchen tools as I would have liked (nor luggage space really, but that’s a different point). I’d also really wanted to spend some time on rural farms. Instead, I stuck to my plans and headed back to Seattle.

Perhaps it was the snow storm that hit the day after we got back, but the hectic pace of India that I’d been complaining to everyone about when I was there, suddenly seemed vibrant and exciting rather than annoying and hassle filled.  Rather than family offering me food all the time, I had to go shopping and cook. There was a void. It took about a week to get over the jetlag but about a month to get over the mindlag.

I regret not having had a longer time to spend in India, but I know what things I’ll be focusing on for my next trip. In the meantime, I realized that I hadn’t pulled together as many blog posts of my trip as I had wanted to! Here’s a start. These are all the posts related to my trip. I do have more video material that I haven’t processed due to technical issues. Here’s hoping I can afford to buy a new laptop soon and get more cooking videos completed soon!

Bangalore City Market

Heaps of kumkum and turmeric at the Bangalore City Market

Romantic Red Hills in the Nilgiris

Red Hills Guest House, Ooty

How Seven Beans Changed the World: Indian Coffee Part 1

The Story of Indian Coffee

The Story of Indian Coffee

From Bush to Bean: Indian Coffee Part 2

Coffee Harvesting

Coffee Harvesting

Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Curry

Mangalore pineapple curry

A Sweet and Spicy Pineapple Curry from the West Coast of India

An Afternoon with Sabudana

Sabudana Khichdi

Learning How to Make Sabudana Khichdi

The Third Most Expensive Spice in the World

Cardamom: The third most expensive spice in the world

Cardamom: The third most expensive spice in the world

Swiss Chard and Yogurt Curry Sauce

swiss chard and yogurt curry sauce

Swiss chard in a Mangalore style “Thambli” or Yogurt Curry Sauce

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