Green Bean Varai

A fresh, green element on the dinner plate.

1 medium onion, minced
1 tsp black mustard seed
1/4 rounded tsp turmeric
1-3 dry red chilies, broken into pieces (optional)
1 lb green beans, chopped finely (in a food processor is fine)
1/4 rounded tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 rounded tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

  1. Cook onions with turmeric, black mustard seed, and chilies in a dry pan over high heat, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until semi-cooked.
  2. Add green beans, pepper, and salt, and cook a few minutes more, enough to take the raw edge off. Green beans should still be crispy.
  3. Turn off heat, stir in coconut, and serve with rice.


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Sourdough Soup Bowl & Watermelon Salad

One consequence of writing a cookbook is that now when I eat out, I find myself taking mental notes and/or critiquing the food. These are two dishes from the Marriott I was staying at in Walnut Creek. The clam chowder was delicious, but the best part was how they served it in a little individual bread bowl, that they had buttered and crisped up before filling it with soup. Great contrasts of crispy bread exterior with soft, soup-soaked interior. Would make a fabulous autumn / winter appetizer or light meal.

I also liked this watermelon salad appetizer — so pretty! But the raspberry dressing was too sweet; it needed to be more citrus, to contrast with the candied nuts. And while the long cucumber slices are pretty, they required pulling out a knife, which none of the rest of the salad did, which was sort of annoying. I’d do it on a bed of round cucumber slices instead.

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Curried Chicken Livers with Onion

Note to self — on a day when you had a fair bit of blood drawn (routine check-up stuff, not to worry), maybe it’s not the brightest choice to a) eat lightly and then b) go workout with the trainer at the gym. I had to sit down partway through because I got light-headed! It’s all fine; a few minutes of rest put me right.
Then I came right home and made myself a quick batch of curried chicken liver — high in iron, rich and fortifying. You could eat it with rice, but I like it best on buttered toast. Small portions would make a great (intense) appetizer. I’m feeling much better now.
Curried Chicken Livers with Onion
(15 minutes, serves 2)
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 T butter or ghee
1 t. red chili powder
1/2 t. Sri Lankan curry powder
3/4 t. salt
1/8 c. ketchup
1 T lime juice
1/2 lb. chicken livers
1/4 c. coconut milk
1. Sauté onions in butter on high, stirring, until golden.
2. Add chili powder and stir about 30 seconds, then turn heat down to medium and add curry powder, salt, ketchup, lime juice. Stir to combine, then add chicken livers and fry for a few minutes, stirring very gently.
3. Stir in coconut milk and simmer about 5 minutes more, until livers are cooked through. Serve hot with rice or bread.
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Beef and Pickle

Short-grain rice, Sri Lankan beef curry, Thai carrot salad, my friend Kat’s watermelon radish quick pickle, and some sliced bell pepper. Yummy — I especially like how the pickle enhances the spiciness of the beef curry. Also, it’s ridiculously pretty.

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Thai Carrot Salad

Thai Carrot Salad
1 T ginger & 3 cloves peeled garlic, grated very fine
2 T fresh lime juice & zest of 1 lime
1-2 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce (optional; vegetarians can skip it)
2-3 T brown sugar
1-2 green chilies, minced (optional)
1 carrot, shredded
Combine all ingredients and let sit five minutes. Serve cold with rice and Thai curry.
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Cauliflower Poriyal

(Lunch today: cauliflower poriyal with a little beef curry on top. Yum. Smells so good when frying the onions in ghee…)

Cauliflower Poriyal
(25 minutes, serves 4)

The key to this dish is sautéing the cauliflower until it’s browned—the browned bits will be the tastiest. I generally like to serve this dish with beef or pork curry; the slighty salty flavor complements those meats well. This is, oddly, one of my picky children’s favorite dishes, and has often proved popular with my friends’ children as well. I think it’s all the frying.

3 medium onions, chopped coarsely
3 TBL vegetable oil or ghee
1/4 tsp black mustard seed
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1 medium cauliflower, chopped bite-size
1 rounded tsp salt
1 rounded tsp turmeric

1. Sauté onions in oil on high in a large nonstick frying pan with mustard seed and cumin seed, until onions are slightly softened (not brown). Add cauliflower, turmeric, and salt. (I’ve made this in a regular frying pan, and found that it’s difficult not to burn it; if you don’t use non-stick, you’ll need to stir constantly.)

2. Cook on medium-high, stirring frequently, until cauliflower is browned (mostly yellow, but with a fair bit of brown on the flatter parts). This takes a while—don’t stop too early, or it won’t be nearly as tasty. Serve hot.

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Curry Leaves by Mail

I was excited to hear that you can buy fresh curry leaves by mail on Amazon now — I had to try it because even though I have a little curry tree at home that I pick from, I’m constantly hearing from people who want to make my recipes and can’t find curry leaves locally.

I’m glad to report that these are just fine. They’re not the strongest curry leaves ever — you might want to double the amount for full flavor.  But they certainly work.  I threw one stalk into a beef curry, and since I’m not making curry again for a few days, put the rest of the bag in the freezer, and will pull more stalks out as needed.  This is one ounce’s worth, sold by Monsoon Spice Company.

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Mixed Grains

Okay, this is slightly tricky, since you need to cook it in two batches, but a) tasty, b) nutritious, and c) pretty! I cooked a mix of red rice and quinoa in the rice cooker (on the brown rice setting, which is very slow, so allow extra time). And then cooked some short-grain white rice also in the rice cooker (faster). And then mixed them all together. Yum!

Nutrition comparison below (based on quick googling).

One cup cooked of:
– short-grain white rice (267 calories, 58.9 g carbs, 4.8 g protein, 0 fiber)
– long-grain white rice (205 calories, 44.5 g carbs, 4.3 g protein, 1 fiber
– red rice (216 calories, 45 g carbs, 5 g protein, 4 g fiber)
– quinoa (222 calories, 29 g carbs, 8 g protein, 5 g fiber)

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Composing a Vegan Sri Lankan Dinner

This was a fun one for me — an entirely vegan dinner, that I did for last week’s board game night. Pretty easy with Sri Lankan food. Going around clockwise: lentils in coconut milk (tons of protein), carrot in coconut milk, kale sambol, coconut sambol (spicy), seeni sambol (spicy and sweet), eggplant curried in coconut milk, with red rice / quinoa in the center.

If I were doing it again, I’d make more of a bed of red rice / quinoa — I had to go back for seconds on that to happily eat the rest, get the balance right in each bite. And I’d dice the onions for the lentils instead of slicing them — they were a little too noticeable when paired with the sliced onions in the seeni sambol.

This was plenty of food for the number of people we had, but for a larger dinner party, you could expand the plate’s options.

I’d add papadum for crunch, probably some lime-masala mushrooms for the tang. Devilled potatoes would add a luscious spicy-tomato element, though you could also just add tomatoes and potatoes to the eggplant curry for similar effect. Cashew curry or chili cashews would add another hit of protein in rich, nutty form. And while I’ve never had a raita without yogurt, I wonder if you could do something similar with coconut milk, for another cold element.

Proper balance of varied flavors for a Sri Lankan dinner party is an art form! But making it vegan was no more difficult than vegetarian or with meat, it turns out.

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