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Ugh. I don’t mean no disrespect to carnivores, but they honestly have no inkling of how you can possibly make a meal without flesh. I can’t tell you the number of people who asked me last month whether we were cooking a tofurkey for Thanksgiving. Listen, meat-tards. If you would care to look up from your mountain of over-fattened, top-heavy, saline-injected Butterball bird, you might notice that pretty much every other dish on your table is vegetarian. HELLO! Thanksgiving is MADE for vegheads, and besides, anyone who eats fake meat should just man up and accept the fact that they crave hamburger.

Anywhoo, all this to say that whenever I go outside the confines of my carefully crafted gluten-free, veghead world for more than a day or two, I come home craving leafy greens and flave-tastic vegetarian food. In other words, give me Indian food or give me death.

With a little direction from my favorite veghead muse, Madhur Jaffries, I came up with the following version of Saag Aloo. Spinach. Dandelion greens. Inspiration.

Saag Aloo

Serves 2-3

  • 3 medium potatoes (about a pound and three quarters)
  • 1.5 lbs spinach (frozen or fresh), finely chopped
  • 1/2 lb. dandelion greens, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (ok to omit)
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1″ square fresh ginger, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 fresh green chile (serrano or jalapeno)
  • 2 tsp roasted, ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-2 T ghee
  • 1/4 c. milk or cream
  • vegetable oil

Cube the potatoes and fry with salt and garam masala in a deep-sided fry pan until translucent. Remove from pan. In a food processor, puree the garlic, onion, ginger and green chile with 1/4 cup of water. Place into the frying pan and saute for 1 minute. Add the cumin and saute another minute. Add the spinach, dandelion greens, and dried fenugreek leaves and cover. Turn heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a tablespoon or two of water if it begins to scorch on the bottom. Add the potatoes back into the mix and cook, covered, for another 5 minutes, or until they are cooked through. Add the cream and butter at the last minute. Salt to taste and serve over rice.

Snack food is hard to come by for gf peops. Luckily, there are plenty of other cultures that have thousands of years of experience with grains other than wheat and they’ve made them highly snackable. Have you discovered these delicious treatsies? They come in many varieties from many brands as far as I can tell, they consist of some combination of spicy crispy noodles and beans. The three I have pictured here are called Moong Dal, Aloo Bhujia, and Dal Muth. For the salty and/or spicy snacker, these are a delight. Made with chick pea flour and beans or lentils, they are naturally gluten-free (but obviously check the label for ingredients b/c different brands might slip sinister ingredients in…) Dig in.

Indian Gluten-free Snacking. Yum.

Indian Gluten-free Snacking. Yum.

Northern Indian cuisine (what most of us think of when we think of Indian food) is full of delectable but tragically wheaty breads. But India is a huge country. Have you explored Southern Indian food?

Here in Chicago, we enjoy the benefits of a thousand Indian restaurants on Devon (pronounced, inexplicably as “Dev-ON” rather than “DEVon”), many of which are Northern Indian, but there are also Pakistani, Mughlai, and Southern Indian (also vegetarian – bonus!!!) It is at one of these vegetarian Southern Indian places that we discovered the dosa. For the uninitiated, dosas are thin, crispy lentil & rice pancakes filled with various vegetabley delights. Wikipedia has a great explanation on dosas if you’re looking for more.

This weekend I decided to give the dosa a try. I had bought some urad dal, the lentils they use in the batter, the last time I was in an Indian market up north.

Urad Dal

Urad Dal

Tonight the batter was ready, so I whipped up some dosas and filled them with veggies I had on hand. The results? Pretty dern delish. Have a gander:

Dosa with Kale & Spaghetti Squash Filling

Dosa

  • 3/4 c. uncooked basmati rice
  • 1/4 c. urad dal
  • salt to taste
  • water
  • veggie oil or ghee

Soak the rice and the dal in separate bowls of water overnight. The next day, drain the rice and place in a blender with approximately 1/4 cup of fresh water (or whatever it takes for your blender to properly grind the rice to a smooth paste). Do the same with the dal, using slightly less water. Combine the rice paste and the dal paste into one bowl and mix with 1 1/2 cup water. Cover lightly and let sit out on counter overnight.

The next day, add salt to taste and enough water so that the batter is very thin and has the consistency of 1% milk when it pours. Heat a nonstick frying pan with some ghee or oil on high. With a 1/4 cup measuring cup, pour the batter into the pan and swirl the pan so the batter covers the entire bottom in a thin film. Cook until bottom is golden brown and crispy (no soft crepe wannabes). No need to flip – dosas are usually only cooked on one side.

Dosa with Veggie Goodness

South Indian Flatbread: Dosa with Veggie Goodness

Kale & Spaghetti Squash Filling

  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 a spaghetti squash
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 1″ piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin seed
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1-2 hot green chilis
  • veggie oil or ghee
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Slice spaghetti squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Lube lightly with olive oil. Turn face down in a pyrex dish and bake for 30 minutes.

With 5 minutes remaining on the clock for the squash, heat oil or ghee in a large pan. Slice onions into thin strips and saute. Add garlic and chilis, saute. Add ginger and spices, saute for another minute. Slice the kale into thin strips and add to the mix. Saute until slightly limp. When the squash is done, remove from the oven and flip over the halves. With a fork, tease out the spaghetti strings and add them to the kale filling. Salt to taste and fill the dosas, folding them into thirds, kind of like a cannoli. Serve with hot Indian chutneys of your choice, plus a little yogurt to cool the fire.

Chicago is a funny town. It took me a while to realize when I first moved here that there was indeed ethnic diversity in this city. The diversity is not like New York where everyone is piled on top of one another and jumbled together so that at any given moment you may have all seven continents represented in any given public space (yes, penguins frequent NY in the colder months…) Chicago is neighborhoody. Chinatown on the south side, Koreaville up on Lincoln, Greektown on Halsted, and oh-baby take me to India on Devon! If you have a car and the gumption, there are some fabulous ethnic markets to visit with wild and crazy ingredients that’ll make ye li’l heart sing.

Needless to say, my aforementioned Rhode-Island-sized spice cabinet is due in a large part to the Indian markets on Devon. They sell lifetime-supply bags of cardamom pods for $4. Who can resist such spice gluttony?! So, the question arises: what does one do with buckets of cardamom, coriander, and clove? Make buckets of chai, of course.

chai-spicesChi-town Chai

  • 5 cups water
  • 3 cups milk of some sort (cow, soy, whatever)
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds, slighty crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds or 1/2 a star anise, depending on your tolerance for licorice flave
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 half-inch thick slice of fresh ginger
  • 1 black tea bag (I like earl grey, but experiment around with what you like)
  • honey to taste

Put water and spices in a pan and bring to a boil. Boil down until just overĀ  half the water has evaporated and 2ish cups of a healthy brown liquid remain. Set a fine seive over a bowl or measuring cup and pour the liquid through, separating the spices out. Discard the spices and return the liquid to the pot. Add milk and heat over medium-low heat until steaming (don’t let it boil over – major mess potential here!) Add honey to taste. Makes approximately 2 big cups of spicy goodness.

P.S. The cool thing about this recipe is that you can leave anything out at any time. Mix and match to your heart’s desire.