By Lindsay Arbuckle
I spent my childhood in rural Kansas, the land of meat, wheat, and corn. Going out to eat where I lived meant fast food, a few mom and pop diners, or Mexican restaurants. I had never eaten Asian cuisines—not even Chinese—until I moved to Seattle right before high school and suddenly had friends of Japanese, Filipino, and Indian descent.
My friend Tiana’s dad, whose ancestors were from the Philippines, made delicious Filipino egg rolls, called lumpia. I ate my first Indian cuisine at my friend Ateqah’s house, and explored Thai, Vietnamese, and Japanese food a stone’s throw from campus at the University of Washington.
Now I love all different types of food, and am beginning to realize that cooking exotic meals is easier than it once seemed. Once you have a few key ingredients for each cuisine, the recipes are as simple as any.
Here are a couple Indian recipes that we like, especially on cold, snowy days. These dishes call for vegetables that can be sourced locally in Vermont in the dead of winter. Also, spices like cumin and turmeric have medicinal properties to ward off winter colds and illness. And though I enjoy meat, these dishes are hardy and vegetarian. They will really fill you up, and warm you up.
Turnips or Rutabaga with Cumin
This recipe is adapted from Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey. I encourage you to buy your spices at the Rutland Area Food Co-op. The spices are in bulk jars and are much fresher and less expensive than what you find at the grocery store. You can buy as much or as little as you need, allowing you to experiment with these spices for less than a dollar a piece.
- 1 lb. turnips or rutabaga
- 2 T. chickpea flour
- 12-16 oz. canned crushed tomatoes
- 2 T. oil
- ½ tsp. cumin seeds
- 2-3 dried cayenne peppers
- 1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
- ¾ tsp. salt
Peel the turnips or rutabaga and cut into cubes. Put the chickpea flour in a bowl and slowly add 2 T. water, breaking up lumps as you go. Add the tomatoes and set aside.
Put the oil in a skillet over med-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the cumin seeds. Stir once or twice, then add the cayenne or other chiles. Stir once and add the turnips and turmeric. Stir a couple times and add ½ c. water, the chickpea flour paste, and salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the turnips are tender. Serves 4.
Spinach (Saag) with Spices
During the summer months, when we need a quick bite between farm and home, we often stop to get Jia Indian food, sold as take out from the gas station at 377 West Street. You may have met Bobby and Rina selling their delicious food and mango lassi drinks at the Rutland Farmers’ Market. This dish was inspired by Jia’s Saag Paneer, which we love.
- 1-2 lb fresh, local spinach
- 2 T. oil
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh ginger root (find in the produce section)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp. garam masala
- ½ tsp. turmeric
- ½ tsp. ground cayenne (or more to taste)
- 1 tomato, diced, or diced dried tomatoes
- ½ -1 cup buttermilk (or yogurt or cream)
Place washed spinach in stockpot and cook until wilted down. Blend spinach in food processor or blender, or with immersion blender, and set aside.
Peel and grate the ginger root and set aside. Chop the onion and garlic. Heat oil in wok or big skillet until quite hot. Add the cumin seeds, stir for a few seconds, then add the onion. Cook the onion over med-high heat for a few minutes or until translucent. Add ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the remaining spices and cook for a minute or so. Add the spinach and tomato and stir until combined. Then add buttermilk and stir. Use salt & pepper, and additional cayenne, to taste.
We like to eat this spinach with hard-boiled eggs over rice. This dish is often made with paneer, a traditional Indian cheese that does not melt. If you want to make paneer yourself, you’ll find a recipe on Tangled Roots Farm’s website: http://tangledrootsfarm.com/recipes
Lindsay Arbuckle & Scott Courcelle own Alchemy Gardens, a farm business growing vegetables and herbs in West Rutland. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Originally published in the Rutland Herald.