The "L" of Indian Vegetables
The letter L inspired eighteen luscious Indian flavors!
Let's start off with a bright and cold splash of color. L stands for laal which is the color RED in Hindi and a bunch of other Indian languages. We have two red favorites represented here...
Vee of Past, Present and Me chooses the intensely vivid beet, that vegetable (or is it a food dye?) which will paint your kitchen red if you let it. She cooks some beets and beet greens into a colorful and nutritious (not to mention kid-friendly) Laal Bhajji or red greens!
Manasi of A Cook At Heart uses a more delicately hued vegetable that is popular in many parts of India, lal bhopla, literally, the red pumpkin. Given the round shape of the pumpkin, this poor vegetable is often colloquially used to describe the number "zero" or to refer to "zip zilch nada". Manasi gives the lal bhopla the respect that it deserves and cooks it into a light and tasty Lal Bhoplyachi Bhaji.
The L vegetables...
A very popular vegetable in India is the lauki or bottle gourd, also popularly known as the dudhi. A large vegetable with a mild taste and a high water content, the lauki is widely available in India and lends itself to a variety of preparations, from mild to spicy, from savory to sweet. To convince you of its versatility, we have here a complete meal of four dishes based on the lovely lauki!
First, a tasty appetizer to start off our lauki meal. Richa of As Dear As Salt takes slices of lauki and stuffs them with a flavorful mixture of home-made paneer, potatoes and spices, resulting in a delicious platter of Lauki Bharwa.
Next, a simple, ready-in-a-jiffy entree: Pooja of Creative Pooja makes a traditional Gujarati preparation with the Lauki, stir-frying lauki with split gram and mild spices to make a nutritious and flavorful dish of Lauki Chana-Dal by .
Then, it is time for a rich entree, a lazeez (a delicious-sounding word that indeed means delectable) dish. Ayesha of Experimenting on Taste Buds takes whole lauki, stuffs it with nuts, spices and khoya (khoya is basically milk reduced to its solids, although the bland term "reduced milk" does not even begin to describe it), then cooks the beautiful stuffed lauki in a delicate saffron sauce to make an amazing, rich platter of Lazeez Lauki. For more L goodness, Ayesha serves the dish with lacha paratha, a crispy, layered bread.
I hope everyone saved room for dessert, the final course of the lauki feast! Suma of Veggie Platter cooks grated lauki with ghee, nuts, sugar and cardamom to make a dessert that is beloved and highly popular all over India, Lauki ka Halwa.
The next L vegetable is the Lady's Finger, a decidedly more picturesque term for the long, tapering, elegant vegetable better known as okra! Here, we have a restaurant-style dish, Lady's fingers stir-fried with onions and spices into a golden Lady's Finger Masala by Reena of Spices of Kerala.
The L beans...
The first bean is the beautiful black-eyed pea, often known in India as Lobia/ Lobiya (spell it as you will). Here are two zesty ways to use them.
First, an appetizer recipe. Lobia are tossed together with a variety of appetizing ingredients like onions, boiled potatoes, tamarind chutney and fried goodies to make a big lip-smacking bowl of Lobiya Chaat by Pinki of Desi Fusion Corner.
Then, an entree recipe. Recognizing the rather bland and mild taste of lobia, Musical of Musical's Kitchen jazzes up the beans with green peppers and cooks them into a tasty tomato-onion curry to make a typical Punjabi-style Lobia Shimla.
The next L bean is the Lima bean! Lima beans also have an unfair reputation for being bland and monotonous. Swapna of Swad is about to change all that. She combines lima beans with eggplants (also called brinjal), a culinary match made in heaven, and with the help of a spicy coconut masala, transforms lima beans into a savory curry of Lima Beans with Brinjals.
Next, an L fruit, the Lemon, which often plays a supporting role in our kitchens, but here, takes center-stage with four great recipes...
First, Sheela of Delectable Victuals shows us a way to take leftover cooked rice, add some simple touches of tempering and a generous dose of fresh lemon juice, and transform the rice into some tasty Lemon Rice that looks perfect for summer picnics and road trips.
Next, Ranjani of Eat and Talk makes a delicious breakfast/ brunch dish of Lemon Sevai with simple pantry ingredients like delicate rice noodles, frozen peas and some fresh lemon juice.
Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine gives us another appetizing version of Lemon Sevai, made in typical Tamilian style with a tempering of chilies and curry leaves, garnished with roasted cashews, with lemon juice adding the final tangy note.
Lemon's powers to perk the palate and soothe seasonal coughs and colds is invoked in our next recipe. All kinds of flavorful ingredients- cumin, pepper and tomato- mingle with fresh lemon juice in the Lemon Pepper Tomato Rasam by Sapna of Indian Monsoon. I want to reach into the screen and take a sip right now!
While we are on the subject of sipping something tasty, here are two wonderful drinks that are just right for the upcoming sweltering summer months...
Lassi is a common term for chilled yogurt-based drinks that can range from sweetened versions to spicy, minty ones. Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi take Lassi to a whole new level by blending yogurt with herbs and cucumber into a frothy beverage- a delicious way to drink your vegetables.
Sigma of Live To Eat comes up with a beautiful drink using lemon's cousin, the Lime. She combines lime juice with seasonal blood orange juice to make a thirst-quenching Limeade with Blood Orange- the color of sunset.
We can't talk about L foods without bringing up the beloved Indian sweet treat, the Laddu. Here, these goodies are represented with a recipe for heavenly Laddus with Coconut by Asha of Aroma/Foodie's Hope.
Finally, an anonymous cook known only as Cooker e-mailed a recipe using an L vegetable that was absolutely new to me: Lacinto Kale, also known as Dinosaur Kale, a highly nutritious green leafy vegetable related to the cabbage. In Cooker's own words, "Lacinto Kale??? That was my response a couple years ago. But now, this vegetable has been fully integrated in our Puneri kitchen. From Kale Amti, KaleKoshimbir to Kale Bhaat, we enjoy Kale in all its avataars. Here is a simple, weekend bhaat recipe. Not spicy but very satisfying."
Lacinto Kale Bhaat
2 cups cooked rice
2 cups chopped kale, loosely packed
1 cup carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 mirchi, chopped
1 tbsp dhana-jeera powder (cumin-corriander powder)
2 tsps oil
1 tsp mustard seeds,
Pinch of hinga
½ tsp turmeric
Juice of half (average sized) lemon
Salt to taste
1. Do the phodni/ tadka (Heat the oil in a kadai. When hot add the mustard seeds, when most of the mustard had sputtered add the hinga and then the turmeric).
2. Add the garlic and mirchi. Let them cook for a minute, don’t let the garlic brown.
3. Add the carrots, stir and put on a lid and let them cook for a few minutes.
4. Add the kale, stir.
5. Add the lemon juice. Put on the lid again and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium-low heat.
6. Add the dhana-jeera powder and salt.
7. Mix in the rice.
Many thanks to Cooker for introducing this vegetable to me and providing a lovely recipe too.
P.S.: Do you love thinking of vegetables by alphabet? I do! Now that the veggie evangelist, Alanna of Veggie Venture, has put up a new alphabet of vegetables. Alanna is also challenging us to try new vegetables this month with a contest. Check it out!
P.P.S.: Last week, I was very dismayed when Swapna pointed out that I had left out her entry from the K round-up. I do try to be very careful about including all entries, and yet this happened...I sincerely apologize for this omission! Please check out her entry in the updated K round-up.
L is for Lasuni Dal Palak: Vegetables with Dal
We are nearing the half-way mark of the A-Z series, so it is exciting to finally reach the letter where I am celebrating the combination of vegetables and beans/lentils in Indian cuisine. Vegetables are delicious by themselves, and dals and lentils need no company to produce a tasty dish, but when the two get together- the combination of beans and vegetables can only be described by the Hindi expression sone pe suhaga, an idiom that is loosely translated as "better than awesome"!
In putting together a well-balanced Indian vegetarian meal, the cook has to make sure to include a protein-rich dish, usually a dal or bean curry, as well as a dish or two of vegetables. All in all, complete Indian meals often call for the investment of time to prepare multiple dishes. Dishes that include combinations of veggies and dals are a two-in-one deal that can save time and effort. As a bonus, the combination also maximizes the nutrients that the body is able to absorb from food. For instance, the Vitamin C that is abundant in many vegetables helps the absorption of iron from beans and lentils.
Some combinations of beans/lentils and vegetables that I know about, that are classics of regional Indian cuisines:
1. Sambar, that tangy and versatile dal found in different avatars in the Southern Indian cuisines. Sambar can be made with single vegetables or combinations of vegetables. In recent years, fellow bloggers have inspired me to try okra sambar and radish sambar, two examples of how tasty and special single-vegetable sambars can be. But I often just made sambar as a fridge-cleaning recipe, using up whatever odds and ends of vegetables I have on end, and the result is always satisfying and nutritious, even if not very authentic!
2. Kootu, a Tamilian dish, which combines lentils and vegetables into a thick curry.
3. Paruppu Usili, another interesting Tamilian dish. Dal/ lentils are ground to a thick paste that is shaped into balls and steamed. Then the steamed lentil balls can be crumbled into several vegetable stir-fry dishes to add an instant boost of protein and flavor.
4. Marathi cuisine has two methods to quickly add dal-power to vegetables. First, soaked chana dal is often added to vegetables as they are cooked into simple stir-fries. I always add chana dal to cabbage and cauliflower, for instance. Second, chickpea powder (besan) is sprinkled on stir-fries of vegetables such as cabbage, spring onions and green peppers.
5. Punjabi dishes of rajma (kidney beans) and chana (chickpeas) often include vegetables such as onion, potato and tomato. Potato gets a bad rap these days, but we often forget that it is a rich source of vitamin C and potassium, and is very nutritious when cooked in such curries.
Any other common dishes than I have forgotten to mention? Please leave a comment on how your favorite dish combines veggies and lentils/beans.
Today, I decided to go with a classic Northern Indian style dal that combines a common dal (toor dal or yellow lentils) with a common vegetable (spinach) and a common spice (garlic) to make a uncommonly delicious dish of lasuni dal palak or "garlicky lentils with spinach"! Garlic, beloved spice of so many cuisines, is called Lasun in Hindi (and Marathi, although pronounced differently). I can't think of many scents more heady and appetizing than the aroma of garlic and spinach being sauteed together. In this dish, I use golden-brown slices of garlic as a garnish. Raw garlic can be quite over-powering, but cooked garlic has a delicate taste all of its own.
Lasuni Dal Palak
(about 4 servings)
1. The prep: Cook 3/4 cup of toor dal. Chop 2 packed cups spinach into strips (I used fresh baby spinach, but frozen spinach could be used too). Chop 4 cloves of garlic into thin slices. Chop another 2-3 cloves of garlic finely. Chop 1 small onion into thin slices. Chop 1 fresh or canned ripe tomato into cubes.
2. Heat 1 tbsp oil. On medium heat, gently fry the garlic slices to a pale brown (takes only a few seconds, be careful as garlic burns quickly and becomes bitter). Remove the slices with a slotted spoon and set aside.
3. Add 1 tsp cumin seeds to the oil and let them sizzle. Add the minced garlic and sliced onion. Saute for a few minutes until the onion is lightly browned. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp red chili powder, salt to taste and chopped spinach. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes until the spinach wilts.
4. Stir in the tomato and fry for a minute or two. Add the cooked dal and a cup of water (more or less, depending on how thin or thick you prefer your dal).
5. Add 1 tsp garam masala and simmer the dal for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (don't skip the lemon juice as far as possible- it enhances the taste, plus the Vitamin C from lemon juice helps the body absorb much more iron from plant-based foods like spinach that it can otherwise). Garnish with the reserved fried garlic slices and serve hot.
Variations on a theme
Another recipe for Lasooni Dal Palak from Saffron Trail, and this one is from a real five-star-restaurant chef, no less!
How do you serve this dish?
Make a thicker dal to serve with breads, such as rotis or parathas. Make a thinner dal to serve with steamed rice, with any vegetable stir-fry on the side.
Fellow bloggers have come up with many delicious combinations of lentils/beans with vegetables. Here are some of my favorite finds:
Pacha Sambar from Mahanandi,
Okra Sambar from Masala Magic,
Matki with Green Beans from Happy Burp,
Methi Chana from Food-In The Main,
Mixed Vegetables Kootu from Mysoorean,
Pappu Pulusu from Sailu's Food,
Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry
G is for Gobi Paratha: Vegetables in Breads
H is for Hariyali Tikki: Vegetables in Appetizers
I is for Idli with Vegetables: Vegetables for Breakfast
J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables: Restaurant Style
K is for Kati Roll: Vegetables and Paneer