Bean Salad with Artichoke Hearts


My go-to way of cooking beans for lo these many decades has always been in the form of a stew or braise—be it a curry of some kind (like so, so, so, so, so, so or so, to take just a few examples) or in a non-Indian style (like so). This changed at the end of last year when I cooked up a pot of Rancho Gordo flageolets and used them as a base for grilled pork and poached fish. This acted as a gateway drug of sorts and I”ve been preparing beans more in this style. The recipe I have for you today takes it to the logical conclusion: the beans becoming not the base for something more flavourful placed atop them but the main story in and of themselves. I first made this salad for the New Year’s Eve dinner we shared with the friends we have been podding with (please forgive the unintentional pun) and have since made a few variations. Here’s the “original”. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 46: El Triunfo (Northfield, MN)


It’s been a while since I’ve checked in on Northfield’s house of Mexican deliciousness, El Triunfo. Which is not to say that we hadn’t eaten their food since my last report. Indeed, today’s pandemic takeout report covers things eaten over four meals. Since my previous report they’d opened for dining-in, closed it down again when the governor mandated it (not a given in these parts) but have not yet restarted it after the restrictions were once again loosened in January. They are still ticking along but business is not exactly booming. The food is as delicious as ever though and if you are in town or within easy reach I urge you to give them a call. Continue reading

Sabut/Whole Masoor Dal


On Tuesday I had a recipe for sabut or whole, unpeeled moong dal and today I have a recipe for sabut or whole, unpeeled masoor dal—is this what Americans call brown lentils? I’m not sure. Like moong/moog dal, masoor/mushoor dal is a staple Bengali dal but is made predominantly with the peeled and split versions. Or at least that’s the case in my slice of Bengal which may or may not be representative. As I noted on Tuesday, whole moong and masoor dal were never cooked in our home growing up. I’ve learned to enjoy their more robust textures and flavours relatively recently but I do very much enjoy them now. They do take longer to cook than their peeled and split versions but what is time during the pandemic? And once the pandemic is done I’ll just make them in the pressure cooker. As with Tuesday’s dal, this is a very simple affair: you boil the dal with haldi and then add a tadka to amp up the flavour. If you make a similar dal I’d be interested to know what tadka variations you use but this one is very tasty. Give it a go. Continue reading

Sabut/Whole Moong Dal


This week’s recipe comes a couple of days earlier than usual. Please excuse this segue but it’s also for a dal that until recently was not a usual part of my repertoire. As I mentioned on Twitter some weeks ago, sabut or whole versions of moong and masoor dal were not made in our home when I was growing up. My family’s dals are/were split and peeled masoor/mushoor, moong/moog and chholar/chana dal. My mother occasionally made whole kali urad dal (a very conscious Punjabi prep) but never whole masoor or whole moong (or for that matter chhilka moong dal). I hesitate to say that this is a Bengali thing more broadly because even at my advanced age I realize more and more how much my sense of “Bengali” is sliced by sub-region, community/caste, class and then just family preferences. Cooking outside the “tastes” we inherit from our homes/families is one of the marks of middle-class Indian modernity, I think, brought on by greater movement within India (and for those of us outside India by stores that sell to non-regional customer bases). I have grown to like these more robust dals quite a lot, especially in the broadly Punjabi style represented here. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 45: Bangkok Thai Deli (St. Paul, MN)


It has somehow been three whole months since our last Thai meal. That was from On’s Kitchen on University Ave. in St. Paul (the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street, as I never get tired of repeating) and was a very good meal. Here now is a report on a large meal brought home from their peers, Bangkok Thai Deli, a little further up (or down, depending on your perspective) University Ave: Bangkok Thai Deli. We’ve got food from them earlier in the pandemic as well—back in the summer when it was possible to eat outside with friends. Now it’s best not to be outside in Minnesota. The last week and a half has been unfeasibly cold (the minimum today/Sunday is forecast for -24f and the maximum only at -7f). Thankfully, at a maximum of around 0f things weren’t quite that bad on Saturday when I drove up to pick up this meal. Here are the details. Continue reading

Indo-nesian Beef Curry


I’ve mentioned before that in the pre-pandemic times (you may or may not remember them) I had been hosting bi-monthly dinners for eight in our town that I call India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal. I was getting ready for the 15th iteration when the first lockdown hit. These were 5-7 course meals, a mix of dishes traditional and less traditional. The fourth of these dinners featured an improvized beef curry that I called Indo-nesian beef curry. I’d started out making a slow-braised curry with South Indian accents and then decided to hit it with some Southeast Asian touches. The results were excellent—an intersection between Indonesian rendang and beef curry from some place between Kerala and Chettinad. There was only one problem—the dish had been improvized from beginning to end and in the rush of dinner prep I hadn’t taken any notes whatsoever. I’ve long planned to try and recreate it but until a few weeks ago I never got around to it. Well, it’s hard to say for sure after almost three years but I think this comes pretty close. It’s very tasty at any rate. I’ve made it with beef on both occasions but it would probably be just as good with goat or lamb and probably also very easily adapted with chicken. Give it a go and see what you think. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 44: Fasika (St. Paul, MN)


I’ve been going on for a long time about how I’ve been jonesing for Ethiopian food. But it took almost a whole year of since pandemic restrictions hit the US before we finally got around to going up to the Twin Cities for some Ethiopian takeout. I’m not sure why it took so long but I’m glad we finally got around to it. In a sad twist, however, the dish that I have most been wanting to eat is one that we did not end up eating at this meal. Why not? You’ll have to read on to find out. Where did we get the food from? Quite appropriately from St. Paul’s Ethiopian institution, Fasika. Despite the missing dish it was a good meal. Continue reading

Salmon, Two Ways


I have for you two recipes for salmon or rather two recipes in one. The second is the first plus one ingredient and a couple of very minor time adjustments. Both are centered on flavours from southwestern coastal Indian fish preparations, sometimes involving rawas or Indian salmon. These kinds of preps are pretty much the only Indian fish dishes in which I think American salmon works very well—but that may just be me.

This is not, however, a traditional preparation. It does not follow any particular regional recipe but instead seeks to approximate vague taste memories of dishes eaten in friends’ homes and in restaurants. There are two ingredients that are certainly not traditionally Indian in any way: balsamic vinegar and Sichuan peppercorn. But both work well here, the balsamic playing a role similar to tamarind and the Sichuan peppercorn doing the work that its South Indian relative tirphal might otherwise do. Despite the ersatz nature of these recipes and two unorthodox ingredients the results are excellent and I recommend both dishes to you highly. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 43: Pho Everest (Lakeville, MN)


We’ve been trying very hard through the pandemic, even in the winter, to get in a long family walk every weekend before picking up takeout. We’ve managed it most weeks, though sometimes a bit farcically. Two weeks ago, for example, we arrived at a park in Richfield to find the walking trails entirely covered in sheet ice—we ended up walking a couple of miles on very unattractive sidewalk through the adjoining neighbouhood instead. Some weekends, however, we succumb to laziness. And so even though this past weekend was warm by January in Minnesota standards the family ended up vegging indoors while I drove a scant 20 minutes to Lakeville to pick up Vietnamese food from Pho Everest in the Crossroads strip mall at the corner of Dodd and Cedar Avenue. Continue reading

Oxtail Curry


Oxtails are at a premium in our home. Korean-style oxtail soup as made by the missus is one of the boys’ absolute favourite foods and so any oxtail we purchase almost always goes into making that. Alas, good oxtail is not always easy to find. In December, however, I connected with a small farm in the far south of Minnesota that sells their beef and lamb both directly from their website and from a trailer they bring up north once a month and park in a lot, usually in Burnsville. As it happens their route takes them right past the exit on Highway 35 to our town and so I made a date to meet them in the parking lot of the Flying J gas station (aka The Big Steer). The tryst was originally going to be for the purpose of purchasing lamb shanks. I asked if they had oxtails as well and they said they did. I took their entire inventory (less dramatic than it sounds: they had five left). With that many in the freezer at once, and the promise of a re-supply when done, I was able to claim two for my own uses. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 42: (Mostly) North Indian Food at Kabob’s (Bloomington, MN)


When I came upon Kabob’s Indian Grill in late 2019 they immediately became my favourite Indian restaurant in the Twin Cities—not that that was saying very much. This was largely on the strength of their weekday lunch thalis—my favourite restaurant meal in Minnesota. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy their a la carte menu as well. We got food from them a couple of times last year as well after the pandemic started and mostly enjoyed those meals too. However, when it came to my first-ever rankings of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro, I couldn’t put them into the top tier—where sit Godavari and Indian Masala. My rankings last year were driven largely by the South Indian offerings on the new(er) places that have opened in the last few years. Kabob’s focus too is on South Indian food, particularly Chettinad food. In 2021, however, my goal is to expand the rankings with an evaluation of the North Indian food scene in the Twin Cities metro, the food more familiar to most American diners. Before I get to the North Indian specialists proper, however, I’m scoping out the North Indian offerings at the South Indian specialists. I’ve already reported on our recent meal from Indian Masala in this genre. Here now is my take on some of  Kabobs’ North Indian offerings. Continue reading

Chicken “Korma”


A couple of times a year a local farmer sells these massive chickens that weigh roughly 8 lbs each and we buy a bunch at a time and freeze ’em. You’d think at this size the birds would be older and the meat tough but that’s not the case at all—must be some kind of large breed grown for meat. I usually separate the breast, take it off the bone and cube it up for chicken tikkas and use the dark meat for a curry. Right before Christmas I defrosted and cut up another one of these birds. But this time I turned them into two curries, one for the boys, one for us. Both started out the same way, more or less, with identical marinades, except added extra-hot chilli powder for this one. Both were marinated for quite a while and cooked in the marinade and the chicken’s own juices. They were finished very differently though and the final dishes were very different. I’ll post the milder recipe sometime next month (probably). Here now is this iteration that ended up resembling a korma even though it doesn’t follow a strict recipe for one. Whatever you call it it’s very tasty. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 41: Nawal (Burnsville, MN)


It has been almost five months since our pandemic takeout runs took us anywhere but to an Asian restaurant, be it Indian, Chinese or South East Asian. But this week finds us some distance away, in terms of culinary distance if not driving miles: at Nawal, a Somali restaurant in Burnsville. I last reported on a meal there almost exactly four years ago. That was right on the heels of the announcement of Trump’s first Muslim ban. It feels very good to be posting this review just before President Biden will finally nullify all of that nonsense. Continue reading

An Incomplete Guide to Regional Indian Cookbooks, Part 2


Back in late November I’d posted an annotated list of regional Indian cookbooks available in English. This post was quite widely read, having been shared by a large number of people online. In the wake of that post friends and others wrote in to suggest other regional cookbooks that I had either missed/forgotten the first time around or that I had not known about then. I’d originally thought I’d post this second list in December but as anyone who actually follows my blog knows, I am very bad at follow-ups—some people are still waiting for the annotated list of 1960s Bombay films I’d promised back in September.  Even with these additions this remains an incomplete list and I hope to receive even more suggestions and recommendations. If you’ve made some in the past and don’t see those reflected in this second list, please don’t be offended. This is a list that I have to vouch for and so for books that I don’t actually have on my own shelves I am only comfortable listing those recommended to me by people I can also vouch for. But please know that I will do my best to track down your suggestions for myself and they may yet appear in further entries in this series. Continue reading

Seafood Rasam


If you are familiar with rasams the idea of a seafood rasam may seem outlandish to you. Indeed, it would probably seem so to most Indians in India as well. In North India, in particular, South Indian food has long been associated with vegetarianism, and the same is true to an even larger extent outside India. The truth, in fact, is that the South is far more massively non-vegetarian than the North. Of course, in recent years non-vegetarian South Indian food has made more inroads into the North: the food of Kerala in particular has become more available and popular. Certain dishes, however, continue to be associated with vegetarianism, among them rasam, familiar to most North Indians as the peppery broth one drinks before getting stuck into a meal of idli-dosa-vada with sambar and coconut chutney. But, of course, that’s merely the hegemony of upper-caste Hindu norms at play. Non-vegetarian rasams abound in the South. All this to say that there is nothing very unusual or creative about the fact that this is a recipe for rasam with seafood. Which is not to suggest that what I have for you is a traditional recipe for seafood rasam. I have merely taken my usual prep for simple tomato rasam and enhanced the broth with the shellfish. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 40: Back to Indian Masala (Maplewood, MN)


As I mentioned in my write-up on Sunday of Spice Bazaar, currently the major/only Indian grocery in Woodbury, that we were up that way on account of having a date to pick up more takeout from Indian Masala. Yes, Indian Masala is in Maplewood but Maplewood is a very weirdly shaped town and for all intents and purposes you could say that Indian Masala is in Woodbury. We first got food from Indian Masala in October. I gave it a glowing review and later in the year placed them, along with Godavari in Eden Prairie, in the top tier of my rankings of Twin Cities Metro Indian restaurants. We’ve been planning to go back for more for a while. And given how much we enjoyed their South Indian offerings I’ve been keen to try their North Indian dishes even though that’s the genre that has soured me on Indian restaurants in the US for almost three decades now. Here now is a report on one such meal of North Indian dishes. Continue reading

Spice Bazaar (Woodbury, MN)


Yesterday we went back to pick up takeout from Indian Masala (at the southern end of Maplewood where it’s almost Woodbury). As we did on our last takeout run there, we stopped first for a walk on the trails by the Battle Creek dog park. Here we discovered that those trails are now closed for anything but skiing. Luckily, the walking trail on the other side of Upper Afton road was open for regular bidness and we got in a nice walk around that area with friends we’ve met for these walks a few times during the pandemic. When we got done with the walk we still had 30 minutes before our takeout pickup time (I’d placed the order the night before) and so we repaired to Woodbury proper to check out a South Asian grocery there that I’d read about on the excellent East Metro Foodies Facebook group: Spice Bazaar. There were some things I needed to buy—curry leaves, ginger etc,—and it seemed like a good opportunity to see what else could be combined with Indian Masala outings in the future. Herewith a quick look at the store. Continue reading

Kolkata via Bangkok: Red Lentils with Coconut Milk and Lime Leaf

Almost five years ago we hosted some friends for an elaborate lunch to thank them for taking care of our dogs while we were in India for a month. I made multiple courses of traditional and non-traditional dishes and printed a menu and everything. This was the origin of India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal, the bi-monthly dinners for eight that I’d been hosting for a couple of years before the pandemic hit. Those dinners too featured a mix of traditional and not-so-traditional dishes (there have been 14 dinners so far featuring 5-7 courses and only a few dishes have yet been repeated). This dal/soup which was enjoyed by guests at the 7th IGTBM dinner could in fact be said to be the seed of the whole enterprise as I’d first made it for that lunch in February 2016. My intention was to play on the boundary between Bengali and Thai cooking. At base this is a fairly traditional Bengali preparation of mushoor dal. Indeed, the core recipe is one I’ve posted before. The departures are that it’s blended and then simmered again with coconut milk and infused with the flavour of lime leaf (a play on the squeeze of lime typically added to traditional mushoor dal with rice). The fish sauce adds some umami depth. It works very well both as soup and as a dal with an untraditional texture. Continue reading