Indian Stuffed Okra

I love the okra. My mom used to cook fried okra and it was so good, but I don’t eat it much any more. I learned from my friend Todd about stuffed okra – an Indian dish that calls for stuffing okra with a mix of intense spices. We cooked it once during one of our Thursday night regular cooking sessions and it was an instant favorite.

Below: Start with fresh organic okra. Preferably from Texas, if you happen to be a Lone Star stater like me. 🙂

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You make a slit down the side of each okra. Your goal for making this cut is to create a pocket inside the okra into which you can stuff a half teaspoon or so of powder. To make my mix, I used 2 tsp mango powder, and one tsp each of chili powder, cumin, and turmeric. Next, you toss the okra in the leftover spices and saute them with some chopped tomato in a hot pan. I sauteed them in some ghee, which is clarified butter. (I can handle ghee since the proteins have been removed.)

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Now, after a super hot meal (I also added some whole dried chiles), I needed something to cool me off. Luckily I had some NadaMoo! in the freezer. Ahh…

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Dosa!

I love dosa. I think I might go out to Swad and get some dosa later. I just think I could over-dosa on this delicious gluten-free flatbread from India.

Dosa, Basically

Dosa is made from ground urid dal (a white legume) and ground rice. Some methi seeds (fenugreek) are added for flavor. The blend is mixed with water and left to ferment, which gives it more flavor. The batter is spread thinly and cooked to crispy, golden-brown-and-delicious perfection. If you’re in Austin, I recommend the aforementioned Swad (up North) or Nomad Dosa (South). Then, make it yourself.

Below: Chanha dal, soaking. We used this to make a thicker dosa.

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One of our recipes called for fresh coconut water AND we had a recipe to make a chutney from fresh coconut shreds. So, Chef Maya showed us how to open a mature coconut. Up to this point, we’ve only worked with young coconuts, which are relatively easy to hack open with a cleaver or even a regular chef knife. Mature coconuts required a bit more force, however…

Step one is to drive a pointed object into the coconut so you can drain the water.

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Below: Chef Maya about to pierce the coconut with a screwdriver.

20120701-111514.jpgBelow: Draining the coconut.

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Below: You have to smash up the mature coconut to get at the white fleshy part.

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Below: Making a perfect dosa takes some skill as the batter lacks gluten to make it stick together. I’m still working on my technique…

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Below: A fresh dosa with yummy chutney and savory potatoes. Welcome to yummytown!

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Ayurvedic Cooking

Time to cook Ayurvedic stuff!

I loved macrobiotics – the theory made sense to me and the food was very grounding. But at times I found myself craving some pungent spices and heat. Garlic, cinnamon, chiles, and sweet fruits are not things you get in large quantities in macrobiotics.

Ayurveda, on the other hand, comes from India, where spicy foods rule (or so I’m told). Depending on your dosha, you may be encouraged to pump up the salty, sour, pungent and sweet.

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One of my first tasks in our Ayurvedic cooking labs was to make a chutney from cilantro, chiles, salt and coconut. Yes! Yes! Yes!

Chutney is a salty, sweet, spicy condiment. Kind of like a jam or a sauce – it can be sweet or savory. More on chutneys in a later post…

Below: Blending up a chutney.

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Cooking Par-Tay: India Style

Wednesday night a few fellow students and I rocked it, India-style, for a little extra-curricular cooking. Some of the ingredients we used that you may not have heard of: kokum, asafetida, mango powder, and Pakistani rose petal spread. Six dishes in four hours. All vegan and gluten free, and chock full of vegetables and traditional healing spices.

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Below: Spice-stuffed okra bombs. Delicious!

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Below: I love the color contrast of the blue Le Creuset pot against the purple cabbage and green broccoli.

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Below: This one is for Chef Alex (aka The Food Diva), food stylist extraordinaire and culinary instructor at The Natural Epicurean.

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Below: The sixth and final dish, orange slices with rose petal spread, which was sweet, thick like a jam preserve, and floral. Very unique.

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Chanha Masala

I love Indian cuisine. The use of spice, the use of vegetables and legumes, and the absence of overwhelming quantities of meat (if there is any at all) make me feel great when I eat Indian.

So, it’s been one of the cuisines I’ve tried to learn and master, with varying degrees of success.

Below: The primary ingredients – tomatoes, onions, mustard seeds (the yellow round ones), cumin seeds, whole cloves and chanha masala (a spice powder).

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Below: Chickpeas, otherwise known as garbanzo beans. I LOVE chickpeas. They are creamy and tender. I feel better when I eat them. Loaded with thamin, B6, fiber, protein, and folate, it is commonly mentioned in lists of “superfoods.”

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Below: Using the cast iron skillet for extra iron. Cooking acidic foods, such as tomatoes, in cast iron really helps pull the iron out and supplement your iron intake.

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Below: The creamy result of chana masala. Sweetness from the onion, acidity from the tomato, texture from the chickpeas (the chana), and intense flavor from the masala (spices). Serve on warm basmati rice and enjoy good health!

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