Savor The Earth

eat tastier, eat greener, eat cheaper

Potato Bake April 8, 2010

Filed under: easy,Indian,locavore,potatoes,spice blends,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 3:19 pm

spinach 'n' taters

come 'n' git it casserole

If you didn’t get a chance to grab a bag of organic russets on sale recently at Newflower Market, Texas farmers have granted you a reprieve.  You can find Texas-grown new red potatoes right now at Central Market for $1.99 a pound.  No small potatoes for small potatoes, but sometimes you gotta have your spud fix.  Either way, boil up some ‘taters for this comforting casserole and store any extra boiled potatoes in the fridge for quick breakfasts.

This dish used up my leftover cottage cheese (from Mackin’ Cheese) and incorporates fresh Texas cool weather produce, still available for a little while longer.  Serve as is or gild with your favorite salsa or a tangy tamarind chutney.


  • 4 medium-sized cooked potatoes, or 9-10 new potatoes.  I boil up a few and keep ’em in the fridge for quick starching.
  • 1 good-sized Texas leek, trimmed, washed, quartered and sliced thin
  • 1 (or more) good-sized local green garlic bulb, or 1 (or more) clove  of organic or local garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika, smoked is good
  • 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala.  You can use your favorite recipe, or try this basic blend.  Or you can buy it ready made in bulk spice departments.
  • 4 Tablespoons plus ½ Tablespoon ghee or organic butter (click for a coupon on Organic Valley), plus more for greasing you baking dish.  Click for my instructions on making your own ghee.
  • 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon asafetida,  optional but yummy.
  • 1 10-ounce bag of Cora Lamar’s triple-washed Texas-grown spinach (ready to cook) or other local spinach, trimmed and cleaned.
  • ½ teaspoon plus ¾ teaspoon salt.  I use Real Salt.  Plus some kosher salt for the potatoes—I like Diamond Crystal.
  • 1 cup organic or local cottage cheese.  I used Organic ValleyFull Quiver Farm sometimes makes cottage cheese.  Ask at their booth the next time you’re shopping Austin Farmers Market or Barton Creek Farmers Market.
  • 1 local egg
  • a few sprigs of local cilantro

Combine the ground spices, paprika through the garam masala, and stir in 3 Tablespoons water.  Heat up a large saute pan with the 4 Tbls. ghee or butter.  Add the asafetida and give it a quick stir before stirring in the spice mixture.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat for a minute or two, until the spices begin to look dryish and separate from the butterfat.  Stir in the leeks to get them well covered with the spices and add about 3 Tablespoons more water.  Saute, stirring and adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent scorching, until the leeks have softened.  Stir in the garlic to release its fragrance.

Break each potato into two halves (unless they’re small) and smash each spud into coarse chunks with the heel of your hand.  Add the ‘taters to the cooking pan as you go.  Stir the mixture well to get all the potatoes covered with the seasonings, sprinkle them with a good pinch of kosher salt and let them sit and brown for a couple minutes.  Stir and salt again and let brown some more. Turn the potato mixture into a bowl.

Heat up the ½ Tablespoon ghee or butter in the same pan over high heat and wilt the spinach.  Place spinach on a plate to cool for a minute before chopping it up and pressing most of the liquid out.  You don’t have to squeeze it totally dry.  Mix the spinach into the potatoes.

Meanwhile, combine the cottage cheese, egg, ¾ teaspoon salt and cilantro in a small food processor bowl and process until smooth.   Stir the cottage cheese into the potato mixture.  Scrape into a large buttered casserole dish (I used my 3½ quart Le Creuset “buffet casserole”) and bake at 400° for about 20 minutes, until piping hot and steaming in the middle when stabbed with a butter knife.

It certainly wouldn’t hurt to serve this with some juicy grilled local sausages, such as Dai Due‘s fat and juicy spicy wild boar sausage.


Turnin’ Turnips into Radishes March 30, 2010

Filed under: easy,fast,Indian,locavore,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 10:26 pm

look what turnip'd up

Sporting precocious pompadours of perfect jade, darling baby turnips from Ringger Family Farm (Barton Creek Farmers Market) tastily replaced the usual radishes in my “Ravishing Radishes” recipe.  I love those greens, of course, and the young turnips’ softer coiffures rendered a gentler verdant cloak for the tender roots.

With spring debutantes asparagus and artichokes exerting their presence, humble cool weather crops, nearing their adjournment, still satisfy.


Cabbages! February 26, 2010

Filed under: easy,fast,Indian,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:11 pm

eat your veggies!

The kindergartner’s basketball schedule keeps interfering with our farmers market visits.  The little hotshot’s worth it though, and luckily we can pick up Texas produce at the grocery store.  Central Market is still selling Cora Lamar’s triple-washed spinach, Kitchen Pride mushrooms, and Texas greens, herbs, sweet potatoes, citrus and the occasional leek bunch.  Just this afternoon we purchased Texas-grown broccoli (not always widely available, even in season) from Whole Foods.

Here’s an easy, exotic but accessible, inexpensive and quick stir fry to take advantage of Texas cabbage, readily found right now.


  • one quarter of a medium (’bout 3-pound) Texas green cabbage.  You can find these at our local grocery stores as well as farmers markets.
  • ½ teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 or 2 Tablespoons high smoke point oil.  I like Spectrum‘s organic peanut oil.
  • about 1 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste.  I use Diamond Crystal.

Cut the cabbage wedge in half (so you have two eighths!) and slice each wedge into ¼” or finer shreds.  Place the spices in a large (12″) skillet (NOT nonstick) and get it going over high heat.  You’re dry toasting the spices here.  The mustard seeds will lighten color, wiggle and pop as they roast and the cumin seeds will darken and develop a toasted aroma.  When the spices are as roasty as you like—you can take them all the way to black if you dig that bitter edge—add the oil, followed quickly by the cabbage.  Stir fry until the cabbage picks up some brown spots.  You’ll smell the Maillard and the tantalizing caramelization taking place.  Add the salt and continue to stir fry until the cabbage is as wilted as you please.  Serve.


Pepper in Your Pot: Dai Due Kielbasa and Rice with Cabbage February 19, 2010

Filed under: Dai Due,Indian,meat,rice,slow cooker,thrift — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:56 pm

sausage and rice is nice

The house smells great right now.  I’m brewin’ up some pepper broth (finally!) with the frozen bag of pepper trimmings that has rested undisturbed since the last local bell graced our kitchen—some weeks ago, at least.  Before a friend enlightened me about her family’s practice of distilling sweet peppers’ essence from the stems, seeds and ribs, I had always tossed the remains into the compost.  What a waste!  Now the pepper parts warrant their own freezer bag.  Augmented by the occasional onion end (not too many, please), the bag broths up savory and deeply aromatic, with nary a meat scrap or bay leaf.

Taking it easy on myself (somebody has to), I just dump the capsicum contents into the crock and slow cook ’em on HIGH for a couple hours or so.  The mouthwatering fragrance fills the air with a delectable scent that promises a delicious dish ahead:  Dai Due sausage and rice.  Again?  Yes.  Thankfully, again!  And an easy Indian-style cabbage side for a bonus.

You’ll be using 2 separate large skillets for this two-pot meal.  Remember you can purchase most spices in small amounts from your grocery store’s bulk department.  I bring in my own containers.

SAUSAGE AND RICE serves the family plus leftovers

  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed well (3 times!) soaked in water and/or pepper broth for 10 minutes, drained (save the soaking liquid) and rested for at least 10 minutes
  • 4 Tablespoons ghee.  I make my own ghee from Organic Valley butter.  Click for instructions.
  • 1 Tablespoon high smoke point oil, preferably organic.  I like Spectrum‘s oils.
  • 1 pound excellent local sausage links, such as Dai Due’s kielbasa (which blends seamlessly with these seasonings)
  • 1 local or organic onion, halved and thinly sliced pole to pole.  Hillside Farms, at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, was still selling reds and yellows the last time I checked.
  • a couple of thin quarter-sized slices of organic ginger root.  I almost never peel fresh ginger.  Handle your own root as you please.
  • 1″ piece cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 black cardamom pods (or 3 or 4 green, but I prefer the large smoky pods of black cardamom for this dish.)
  • 1 bay leaf.  Get growin’!
  • 1 star anise
  • pinch of turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at Central Market.

Heat 2 Tablespoons ghee in a large (12″) skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon salt (I like Real Salt) and stir and fry until the slices are well browned.  Remove pan from burner and replace with another large skillet (not nonstick here).  Heat it up on HIGH and add the tablespoon of oil followed quickly by the sausage linksBrown the sausages on both sides .  Place the links on a plate and set aside (they shouldn’t be cooked through).  Set the pan aside, as well.

Transfer the onions to a separate plate and put the onion pan back on the burner over medium heat.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee and the spices and toast them until they smell good and roasty to you.  Add back the onions plus the ginger slices and drained (and rested) rice and stir and saute until the rice grains glisten and separate.

Pour in the soaking liquid (use 1 2/3 cups) and sugar plus another ¼ teaspoon salt, turn the heat to HIGH and bring to a boil.  Place a tight-fitting lid on top, lower the heat to lowest and cook for 10 minutes.  Quickly remove the lid, slide the sausages on top of the rice and replace the lid.  Continue cooking for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let rest 10 minutes before fluffing the rice and removing the whole spices.  Serve with the cabbage.

This easy cabbage preparation, revelatory in its combination of caraway and cardamom, plays cross-cultural ambassador with the Indo-European flavors of the  kielbasa and rice.

NORTHWEST INDIAN STYLE CABBAGE serves the family, with leftovers a possibility depending on their love of kohl

  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons ghee
  • 1 local or organic onion, halved and sliced pole to pole
  • ¼ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • heaping ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds (from green cardamom pods).  You can buys these already popped out of the pods (decorticated) but I just crack the pods and pick them out myself.
  • heaping ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika or cayenne—I have to keep this dish rated G for the young ‘uns
  • 1 cup organic canned whole tomatoes, crushed.  I use a potato masher for this.  If you didn’t stock up on Muir Glen when it was on special recently, you can find Whole Foods 365 brand and Central Market brand organic canned tomatoes at reasonable prices.
  • 1 clove organic domestic garlic, pressed or minced
  • half a 3-pound local cabbage, outermost leaves removed if tough, cored, quartered and sliced into shreds.  You’ll find plenty of affordable Texas-grown cabbage at our farmers markets and local grocery stores.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala.  Click for a recipe.
  • several Tablespoons fresh chopped local cilantro, easy to find right now.  Try growing your own.  Tis the season, before it gets too hot.

Heat the ghee in the sausage skillet on medium heat.  Add the whole spices and fry until toasted to your taste.  Add the onion and saute until softened.  It’s quite alright (and deliciouser) for the onion to pick up some brown patches.  Dump in the ground spices (except garam masala), give ’em a stir and then add the tomatoes and garlic.  Cook and stir until thickened, then add the cabbage and salt.  The pan will be very full.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is wilted to your liking.  If the sauce sticks to the pan and browns a bit, that’s fine.  Just add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze.  The tomato fond will enrich the dish, deepening the flavors.

When your cabbage is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro.  Correct the salt if necessary and serve.


Rutabaga Rice January 28, 2010

Filed under: Dai Due,Indian,meat,rice,sunset valley farmers market,vegetables — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:01 pm

luscious links

A recent purchase of Dai Due‘s bison and ginger sausage (Thunderheart Bison and local(!) ginger root) got me hankerin’ for Indian food (no, really?).  Armed with a rotund rutabaga, courtesy of Johnson’s Backyard Garden at Sunset Valley Farmers Market, I assembled a one-pot meal, spiced rice dish.  Carnivores dug in, lured by lengths of meat.

I don’t cook rutabaga much.  It tastes good and sweet and rooty-tooty, and I totally go for that kind of thing.  But big bad ‘bagas just don’t show up in our local markets with the same frequency as turnips, radishes and kohlrabi.  I offer a cooking suggestion anyways:   Cut it into small cubes (take care busting into it–rutabaga’s a tough tuber to crack), then simmer it in a little apple juice with a dab of mustard, a dash of garam masala, a pinch of turmeric and salt to taste. Finish the dish with your best butter (I recommend Lucky Layla from Texas or Organic Valley Pasture butter), fresh cilantro or parsley, and a squeeze of lemon juice.  I’d pepper it with lots of cracked black pepper, too, but not on the kids’ portions.

If you just can’t get enough rutabaga—I mean if you can get enough, to grace your table again, that is, try this Indian-inspired pilaf.

RUTABAGA RICE WITH SAUSAGE serves a family with possible leftovers, depending on your family size!

  • 2 cups Indian or Pakistani basmati rice, rinsed well, soaked in water for 10 minutes, then drained and rested in a sieve for another 10 minutes.  I buy 10-pound bags at Fiesta or MGM.
  • 1 pound local sausage.  Dai Due’s bison and ginger sausage, seductively succulent, blended well with the Indian-spiced flavors in this dish, but a local kielbasa would work, too.  I’d also consider it in a bun with sauerkraut and spicy mustard.  But that’s a different post.
  • 1  good-sized local rutabaga, about as big as a largish grapefruit, well peeled and cut into batons (about 1/3″ thick “short french fry” pieces)
  • 3 Tablespoons yogurt.  I make my own and it’s easy.  Click to see how.  I usually use Swede Farm Dairy‘s goat milk, available at SVFM.  Other local options include Wateroak Farms’ goat milk (SVFM) and now Way Back When’s cow’s milk available at SVFM and Austin Farmers Market.
  • 2 teaspoons minced or grated fresh ginger root—I use a Microplane.
  • 2 teaspoons minced hot green chile, if you have it and you wanna.  Otherwise use about ½ teaspoon paprika.
  • 2 Tablepsoons minced local cilantro—growin’ right now!
  • ¼ cup organic dessicated shredded coconut—I like Let’s Do…Organic brand, available at our local grocery stores like Central Market and Whole Foods.
  • 1 or 2 Tablespoons organic coconut oil.  Nutiva in the big ole jar or Whole Foods 365 are usually the best buys.
  • 9 whole cloves
  • about a 2½” piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 large bay leaf, preferably fresh.  Try growing your own!  Bay is hardy and easy to care for.  My specimen is proof.
  • 2 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 ½ to 3 teaspoons salt.  I like Real Salt.  Whole Foods carries it in the bulk department.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar—I buy this in bulk at Central Market.
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice from a local and/or organic lemon.  I got a mind to puttin’ in a lemon tree soon.  Ask your neighbors.
  • 3 ¼ cups water
  • several very well peeled broccoli stems, diced small.  Yep.  I’m still going whole hog on broccoli.  Use it or lose it!
  • lemon wedges, if desired

Combine yogurt with the next four ingredients and mix in the rutabaga.  Let the mixture sit while you prepare the rest of the recipe.  Combine the whole spices (cloves through the cumin) in a small dish and combine the powdered seasonings (salt through the turbinado sugar) in another small dish.  Keep these spice stashes handy.

In a large saute pan or wide casserole pan (stovetop safe), brown the sausage links on all sides over medium-high heat.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  Add the coconut oil and whole spices to the pan and toast on medium-high heat until the cumin smells as browned and toasty as you like.  Dump in the rutabaga and stir and fry until the tuber has browned some.  Add the powdered spices, lemon juice and water, raise the heat to high, cover the pan with a lid (I prefer a see-through top) and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to LOW and cook for 10 minutes.  Quickly lift the lid and scatter the broccoli stems over the surface and place the sausages on top.  Replace the lid and continue cooking on LOW for another 10 minutes.  When finished, place the pan on a cooling rack or trivet and let sit for 10 minutes before carefully fluffing the rice.

Slice the sausages if you want to.  And squeeze some lemon juice over individual servings for a little zing.

  • 3 ¼ cups water


Glazed Veggies January 23, 2010

Filed under: easy,Indian,thrift,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:56 pm

eat your veggies!

We’re gettin’ back to our roots around here.  Winter roots, that is, plus the ubiquitous broccoli stems (I confess I’d eat broccoli almost every day if it were available year-round locally).  Here’s a fantastic glazed veggie recipe, gleaned from that essential tome, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine,  The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. Yamuna Devi‘s invaluable reference, this encyclopedic guide will learn you a thing or twenty about Vedic cuisine, including many south Indian and Bengali recipes and techniques.  Even dedicated carnivores can appreciate the wealth of dishes explained and the breadth of styles explored.  Devi, a warm and engaging woman (these Hindus must be on to something), sang back up for the Beatles(!) and has written several other cookbooks, but this text, her magnum opus, constitutes a culinary education.

I first cracked open Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, a treasured gift from a lost friend, almost two decades ago, and the experience, expertise and spirit of Devi (no, I’m not a Hindu) drew in this young foodie as if it were my own bildungsroman of cookery.  I grew as a cook, albeit a conscientiously meat-eating cook.  You could take away all my other cookbooks–that would be hundreds–and I would miss only cake (I don’t need formulas for frying bacon!).  But of course, I’ve been in love with the flavorful foods of the subcontinent for many years.

Though I do sometimes add onions and garlic to Devi’s allium-less recipes (an unfortunate Vedic principle), nearly every dish I’ve tried from her book is perfect.  So I respectfully present to you this very slightly modified version of  her “Gajar Sabji–Glazed Carrots.”


  • about one pound glazeable local vegetables such as carrots, radishes, turnips, kohlrabi or rutabagas, plus—you guessed it—very well peeled broccoli stems
  • 2 Tablespoons ghee or organic butter plus one Tablespoon butter  (divided use)—I make my own ghee out of Organic Valley butter.  Click to find out how.
  • 2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar, light or dark.  Central Market’s organic brand is usually the best buy.
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 Tablespoons Texas orange juice—you’ll find Texas oranges, sweet and succulently juicy, at local grocery stores as well as our farmers markets right now.  Whole Foods is even offering bagged organic Texas oranges on special right now.
  • 2/3 cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice from a local and/or organic lemon—ask your neighbor!
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • chopped local cilantro

Chop your veggies into bite-sized chunks.  You can halve or quarter radishes and baby turnips depending on their size.  Combine your hardest veggies—carrots, mature turnips, kohlrabi, rutabaga and large daikon radishes–in a skillet or small straight-sided saute pan–I use a 2-quart saute pan.  Add the two tablespoons ghee or butter and the next seven ingredients.  Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  I like to use a glass lid so I can keep an eye on the process.  Not all cookware lines come equipped with handy see-through lids so check out your local thrift store to find assorted brands of glass lids for a buck or two.

After simmering for 10 minutes, add your tenderer vegetables like broccoli stems and baby turnips.  Continue to cook for about 6 minutes or so until the veggies are about done to your liking, then remove the lid and raise the heat to evaporate the cooking liquid, leaving your roots glossily glazed.  Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter plus the lemon juice and nutmeg, an black pepper and cilantro to taste.

Do eat this hot, preferably at one meal.  I have a high tolerance for leftovers but I’ll confide that this dish is best when freshly prepared.


Dal Duo December 29, 2009

Filed under: beans,easy,fast,Indian,pressure cooker,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 5:17 pm

dueling dals---mung dal left, urad dal right

All dalled up and nowhere to go.  Nowhere I need to go right now anyway, and that’s great ’cause it’s cold and wet out and holidays—and rhinovirus round-robin– have done done me in.  Here are two different Indian-style dals to warm your hearth and belly.  The first, a mung dal based creamy chowder chunked with plenty of radishes (softened to mellowness), comes together straightforwardly.  Urad dal provides the base for the second soup, the small skinned and split beans swimming swimmingly with diced kohlrabi, caressed by silky slips of spinach.  Though requiring multiple steps, the assembly is not tricky, and the process yields a flavor and texture quite distinct from the mung dal potage, despite the a similar brassical and leafy constituency.

All that and dal is a cheap source of good nutrition, too.  I usually buy mine at Fiesta because I don’t make it up to MGM as often as I’d like.  The pressure cooker makes quick work of a pot of legumes, but you can simmer these soups the old-fashioned way if you’re not pressure-equipped.  Boil the dals 20 to 30 minutes before adding your vegetables, then continue to simmer until the base is cooked before finishing the recipe.

If you’ve got basmati rice on hand, enjoy it with these dals.  I always have a cooked pot of Texas-grown Lowell Farms organic jasmine rice in the fridge, so that’s my usual dal dais.

mung dal and rice


  • ¾ cup mung dal, picked through for pebbles and the like, well-rinsed and drained
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 to several cloves organic garlic
  • 1 bay leaf.  Grow your own if you can.  Bay needs little care.
  • heaping ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • 1 Tablespoon ghee or butter, plus 2 Tablespoons ghee (not butter).  See my simple instructions for making ghee.
  • 1 or 2 bunches of local radishes, sliced about 1/6 ” thick.  If the greens look sprightly, chop ’em up, too.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 dried red chile.  Crush it up for some heat or leave it whole to accommodate the kids.
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida powder.    This stinky spice, with its natural antiviral compounds, shows promise as an H1N1 fighter.
  • ½ to a whole local onion, quartered and slice thin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • chopped fresh local cilantro to taste.  A cool weather treasure around here.

Combine the mung dal, water, garlic, bay leaf, turmeric, salt and 1 Tablespoon butter in a 6-quart pressure cooker.  Bring up to high pressure on high heat, lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure with the quick-release mechanism.  Carefully remove the lid (watch out for the steam!), and add the radishes and greens, if using.  Replace the lid and bring to high pressure again over high heat.  Cook at high pressure for another 5 minutes, remove from heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure and removing the lid—be careful!

While the dal rests, heat the ghee and cumin seeds in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  If your stove top is electric, you can use the same burner to save energy.  Add the chile.  When the cumin smells as toasty as you like, add the asafetida, followed quickly by the onion slices.  Add the salt and stir it all around.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is well-browned.  When fully browned, stir the onion mixture into the dal, put the lid on the pot and let the dal sit for a couple minutes to infuse.

Stir in the cilantro and serve, ladled over rice if you wish, with a squeeze of lemon if desired.

This soup is seasoned with a wet masala .  (Masala means spice mixture.)  The technique is easy and results in a more mellow rendering of the spices’ essence.


  • ¾ cup urad dal, picked through for pebbles and such, well-rinsed and drained
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 to several cloves organic garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt.  I like Real Salt.
  • heaping ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • dab of ghee or butter, plus 3 or 4 Tablespoons ghee (not butter).  See my simple instructions for making ghee.
  • 3 medium-sized local kohlrabi, trimmed and very well peeled, diced
  • 1 bag Cora Lamar’s Texas-grown savoy spinach (10 ounces).  Triple washed and ready to cook, you needn’t prep it further.  Available at Central Market, today it’s on sale for $2.50 a bag.
  • 1 local onion, quartered and sliced thin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • medium pecan shell-sized lobe of ginger root, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon asafetida powder
  • 1 medium-sized mild whole green chile, if available, halved, seeded and sliced.  You probably won’t be finding any more local peppers at our markets right now.  If you’ve got one leftover, use it.  If not, just leave it out.

Combine dal, water, garlic, bay leaf, salt, turmeric and dab of ghee in a 6-quart pressure cooker.  Bring up to high pressure over high heat, lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure with the quick-release mechanism.  Carefully remove the lid (watch out for the steam!), and add the kohlrabi and spinach.  Replace the lid and bring to high pressure again over high heat.  Cook at high pressure for another 5 minutes, remove from the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes before releasing the pressure and removing the lid, carefully!

While the dal is cooking, heat up a couple tablespoons of ghee with the onion slices and ¼ teaspoon salt in a small to medium skillet.  Stir and cook, regulating the heat as necessary to thoroughly brown the onion.  This will take a while, don’t try to rush it.  Meanwhile, grind the whole spices (cumin through peppercorns) in a spice grinder.  Combine with the ginger and a few tablespoons of water.

While the dal pot enjoys its second 10 minute rest, use the hot burner to heat up another couple of tablespoons or so of ghee in a medium skillet (you can use a small one if you’re out of peppers).  When the ghee is hot, dump in the asafetida, followed quickly by the chile slices.  Saute the peppers until they pick up some brown spots, then add the wet ground spice mixture.  Stir and fry until the masala dries but hasn’t scorched.  Stir the spices and onions into the cooked dal and let the soup rest for a couple minutes before correcting the salt, if needed, and serving with rice, if desired.


The Green Greenie—(don’t) Throwaway Puree December 25, 2009

Filed under: Indian,pressure cooker,thrift,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:16 pm

sak it to me!

About the only food I won’t reuse around here is a dead guppy (What’s up with that, Santa?).  Actually the kindergartner is saving the carcass to take to the Austin Nature and Science Center‘s trade counter.  I hope he doesn’t forget, cause I’m not cookin’ it!

Come to think of it, I don’t make a salad out of banana peels either (like they do in Laos).  And I eat far too much citrus to freeze or candy all that zest and peel.  But I will not throwaway greens unless unfortunate circumstances have allowed them to languish beyond flaccidity.  Smoothly combined with the ever-versatile broccoli stems I accumulate, assorted winter vegetable tops yield a nutritious and nummy Indian-spiced puree to stir into rice or scoop at with pappadams, tortilla chips (we love El Milagro unsalted) or crostini.

Get out your 6-quart pressure cooker for this dish.  Pressurized steaming produces a more evenly cooked potful more quickly than conventional steaming.


  • lots of assorted greens.  My last batch included the tops of kohlrabi, carrots, beets and turnipsWash them very well (nobody likes gritty greens) and trim the leaves off the stemsYou need enough to nearly pack up your pressure cooker (with a steamer insert).
  • 2 large or 3 or 4 smaller broccoli stems, peeled ruthlessly and diced
  • a couple small to medium potatoes, organic and/or local (very hard to find local right now, but you might get lucky), diced.  I don’t peel spuds for this dish (or almost any other).
  • a couple of thin slices—“coins” as Barbara Tropp would say—fresh ginger root.  I almost never peel ginger.  You decide.  If you’re out of the fresh stuff (it happens), you can use a ½ teaspoon or so of dried ground ginger.
  • a couple cloves of garlic, peeled
  • heaping ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt.  I like Diamond Crystal.
  • 2 or 3 Tablespoons ghee.  See my simple instructions.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • onion slices from ½ or more of a medium or larger local onion—still available at our farmers markets!
  • local hot chiles, 1 to 4, to taste, whole or chopped, as desired
  • 1 teapsoon garam masala.  Click for a recipe.
  • 3 Tablespoons organic or local (Promised Land) heavy cream.  Organic Valley is great.  Click for a coupon.
  • lemon wedges—local backyard lemons are readily available at the farmers markets, and maybe even your own neighborhood, right now.

Pour about ½ cup water into your cooker and place a steamer basket inside.  Pack in the greens, leaving some room for the broccoli and potato.  On top of that lay your ginger slices and garlic, then sprinkle with the ground spices and salt.  Bring to high pressure over high heat, then lower the heat to just maintain the pressure and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let the pressure go down for 10 minutes before releasing the quick-release pressure mechanism before lifting off the lid.  Stand back from the steam!

In 2 batches, puree the greens in a food processor with the cooking water.

Heat up your ghee in a large (12″) skillet and add the cumin seeds.  Toast the cumin to your taste, then toss in the onion slices and whole chiles.  Stir and cook until the onion is well-browned, adding chopped chiles about halfway through, if using, then add the pureed greens.  Stir and cook, scraping the pan frequently, until the puree thickens and dries to the point of pulling away from the sides of the pan.  Stir in the garam masala and cream, correct the salt if necessary, and serve.  Squeeze a little lemon juice over your helping if you wanna.



  • 6 ounces paneer, cubed.  You can also use extra-firm tofu–not the least bit traditional in India, but increasing in popularity there as elsewhere.

Brown the paneer or tofu cubes on all sides in ghee.  Cook the pureed sak just enough to heat through before blending in the garam masala and cream—you want a little looser texture.  Gently fold your cubes into the Sak and adjust the salt.


À la Kerala—South Indian Style Curried Vegetables December 4, 2009

Filed under: easy,Indian,vegetables,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:17 pm

Finally the baby will eat cauliflower!

If you’ve made a batch of the garam masala from the Dilly Dal post you can also whoop up an easy veggie side to round out your Indo-meal.  All kinds of seasonal vegetables (any time of year) will work.  My most recent batch juxtaposed the last of this year’s summer squash (that exceptional variety from Finca Pura Vida) with my second Texas cauliflower of the season.  Plus fall peppers, spicy green jalapenos and serranos, and those sweet little orange cuties from Flint Rock Hill.  Almost any combination will unite harmoniously.  Green beans get along graciously right now.  Organic potatoes and frozen green peas can round out the chorus any time of year.


  • 1 Tablespoon organic extra virgin coconut oil.  Whole Foods 365 brand usually offers the best price.
  • ½ teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
  • 1 inch chunk of fresh gingerroot, minced.  I almost never peel ginger but I’m not gonna try to tell you how to handle your root.
  • chopped local or organic onion—as much as you like
  • 1 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • peppers, if available, spicy or sweet, cut up how you like or left whole (if desired) if spicy
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 more Tablespoon garam masala
  • about 5 cups raw vegetables, cut into bite-sized chunks or pieces
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup organic coconut milk
  • turbinado sugar if necessary
  • about 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro—Yay!  Local fresh cilantro is back!
  • fresh lemon, if desired

In a large pan, such as  3-quart saute pan or Dutch oven, heat the oil with the mustard seeds.  Allow the little orbs to sputter, turn gray and go “Pop!” then add the ginger and onion.  Stir fry until the onion softens and browns, then add the garlic, peppers and 1 Tablespoon garam masala.  Stir around then add the turmeric, a scant teaspoon of salt and your veggies, being mindful of varying cooking times, and stir and fry until browning.  Harder vegetables such as potatoes and cauliflower will require more cooking (and probably a little water and a lid to steam them through) than summer squashes .  If you are using frozen peas, DO NOT add them now.  They’ll jump in much later as they need only a thawing heat-through.

When all your veggies have taken the plunge (except the peas) and are nearing doneness, add the second Tablespoon of garam masala and the coconut milk and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and reduce the coconut milk to a creamy sauce.  Add the frozen peas now, is using.  Taste for salt and sweetness, correcting if necessary.

Festoon with cilantro and brighten with a squeeze of lemon if you like.


Dilly Dal

Filed under: beans,easy,Indian,spice blends,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 4:16 pm

Dilly Dalling--not to be confused with dilly-dallying

Cooked dal is not so photogenic. Check out chana dal in the raw.

I’m cold and I have a cold so I want soup.  Fresh local dill is easy to find right now and I bought a large, lush frondly bunch from Finca Pura Vida at the fledgling HOPE market on Sunday.  If it snows today, and it might, I’ll transport myself to Shangri-la via Kashmir with a warming bowl of hot dal and rice.  Keeping things simple and utilizing the pressure cooker to speedy up my fantasy.

Potentially exotic ingredients are called for here: chana dal, garam masala (you can make this yourself—see bonus below), and asafetida. Down south (Austin), you’ll score the best buys on harder-to-find Indian staples at Fiesta (Stassney and I-35).  Up on the north side, I patronize MGM.  Those folks are nice and the selection is great.  Sometimes you can even find little potted curry bushes.  You can keep them in a (bigger) pot to bring inside for the winter, or you can transplant them outside.  They’ll freeze to the ground, even covered up (although we haven’t tried Christmas lighting them for warmth).  But when the weather heats up again, and you know how it will, your curry bush will greenly resurrect and once again you’ll be wondering when you’ll ever get a chance to make up a large batch of curry leaf-based curry powder to share with your friends.  Happens every year.

DILLY DAL makes a big potful

  • heaping 1 cup of chana dal, picked through, soaked for 5 hours and rinsed.
  • 6 ½ cups water
  • 1 bay leaf–We’ve been growing for years, so we use ’em fresh.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt.  I use Real Salt.
  • 1 or more cloves of garlic, smashed.  Local garlic not synchronizing with local dill this time of year, you can omit this ingredient.  Or use domestic organic.
  • 1  heaping teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ cup chopped fresh locally-grown dill.  Easy to find right now.  Maybe in your own yard!  I save the stems for stock.
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala.  See Bonus recipe below.
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 2 Tablespoons ghee (divided use), preferably homemade from organic butter.  See my simple instructions.
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 to 6 dried whole red chiles.  You can crush these up a bit if you want to feel the burn.
  • ¼ to ½ teapsoon powdered asafetida.  Click the link to read about this odiferous spice’s potential for combatting H1N1 as well as other respiratory afflictions.  I wouldn’t omit this unless you use plenty of garlic.  Then I still wouldn’t leave it out.  I love that stank!
  • ½ a small to medium local or organic onion, chopped
  • 3 whole organic canned tomatoes  (use fresh when in season), crushed with your fingers or chopped with a knife
  • fresh lemon, if desired—Local Meyers or regulars are great—otherwise go for organic.
  • cooked basmati or Lowell Farms Texas-grown organic jasmine rice, optional but complementary
  • toasted Margarita’s (outta Manchaca) organic whole wheat flour tortillas or chapatis, optional but appreciated

If using a pressure cooker, place dal and the next seven ingredients, plus the 1 Tablespoon of ghee in the pot.  Lock the lid on and bring to high pressure over high heat.  Turn the heat down to maintain consistent pressure and cook for about 20 minutes.  The cooking time for softening your dal will depend on the age of the beans.  If the chana dal has been sitting in your pantry for a while, or languished at the store for too long (less likely at an Indian foods market), expect a lengthier cooking time.  At any rate, check the dal after 20 minutes.  Take the pot off the heat and let the pressure drop for 10 minutes.  Release the rest of the pressure by flipping the quick-pressure release switch (however that works on your appliance).  Be sure to open the lid AWAY from your face and arms to avoid steam burns.  The dal should be soft and broken down.  If it’s undercooked, give it another five minutes or so.  If you’re not in a hurry you can finish cooking the dal without pressure.  If you’re really trying to kill some time, you can do all the bean boiling in your regular soup pot.  It’ll probably take at least an hour.

Using an old-fashioned egg beater or a whisk, agitate the dal into a rough puree and correct the salt, if necessary.  Now for the chaunk (or tarka or bagar or a number of other similar terms).  Heat the 2 Tablespoons ghee in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  As soon as it melts add the cumin seeds and chiles.  Monitor the spices as they fry and toast and when they look and smell just right to you—as browned and roasty as you please—quickly dump in the asafetida and give the pan a swirl before adding the onions.  Get ’em browned a bit then add the tomatoes and fry the mixture until the tomatoes break down and glisten with ghee.  Pour the chaunk into the dal pot and let the flavors get acquainted for a couple minutes before serving.

Ladle over rice, or not, and brighten with a little lemon juice if you think it needs it.  No one minds a flatbread on the side, either.

BONUS RECIPE:  GARAM MASALA makes about ½ cup

  • 2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 9 cloves
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 ½ to 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Place all the spices in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Toast, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the coriander seeds have browned a shade or two darker and the spices smell righteously roasty to you.  This is YOUR garam masala, so trust your senses, especially your smeller.  When the spices have finished blooming, transfer them to a shallow baking pan, preferably aluminum or other thinner metal, to cool.  When fully cooled, decorticate (remove the pods from) the cardamom and grind all the spices together in a spice grinder.  I use a Krups coffee grinder from the thrift store (of course).  Stir the ground mixture to blend well and store in a jar in the refrigerator for greatest shelf life.