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Please begin with an informative title:

This week I'll share a few favorite Indian dishes. I like most of the world's cuisines, at least the ones I've tried, and I live in Silicon Valley surrounded by Indian immigrants and Indian food and restaurants. Within about a mile of my home there are 3 Indian grocery stores, two Korean, one Mexican, and only one American chain supermarket.

I make no claim to authenticity, but these recipes have some resemblance to what I've eaten in restaurants and I like them.

tandoori chicken on plate
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Tandoori Chicken

I don't know how much chicken is eaten in India, but this is a standard in restaurants here. The marinade can also be used on other kinds of meat or seafood. Everyone has their own variation on the yogurt marinade, and I do mean everyone; the google search for "recipe tandoori chicken" returns "About 896,000 results". If you have an Indian grocery nearby to get things like whole cardamom and want maximum authenticity and effort, try this food network recipe. When testing last week I used this one from food.com; this one from about.com is pretty similar but with subtler spicing.  

This is my mashup of the food.com and about.com recipes, serving 4 to 6:

1 cup plain yogurt (either whole or skim-milk)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon peeled and grated or crushed ginger root
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon thai chili paste with garlic (optional)
2 teaspoons garam masala powder (or sub to taste cinnamon, ground coriander, ground cardamom)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

12 pieces chicken (drumsticks, thighs, or breast quarters)

3 slices of red onion, separated into rings, for garnish
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
1/2 lemon, cut into slices, for garnish

In a bowl, mix the lemon juice and all the spices into the yogurt. Divide the chicken pieces between two one-gallon ziploc bags, put half the marinade in each. Roll the chicken around in the marinade so it's evenly coated, seal the bags, and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the fridge half an hour or so before cooking and allow it to come to room temperature. Grill or bake.

Look at the linked recipes for cooking details. Bone-in pieces need more time than boneless skinless pieces. I preheat the Weber gas grill, then turn down to medium-low when the chicken goes on, and cook about 40 minutes, turning every few minutes. That's for whole leg quarters, bone in. Baking in a normal oven works too (30 min at 425?). Serve with raita and the mentioned garnishes.

Aloo Jeera


This would be an excellent side dish for the chicken. The spices would amaze most Americans but it's really just fried potatoes. I used this recipe, though leaving out the asafetida and the mango powder which I've never used and didn't want to make a special trip out for. This is to serve 4.
   5 medium size potatoes boiled peeled and cut into bite size cubes, this will make about 4 cups of cubes potatoes
    2 tablespoons oil
    1-1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
    1/8 teaspoon asafetida (hing)
    1 tablespoon ginger thinly sliced
    2 green chilies seeded and sliced length wise
    1-1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander (dhania)
    1/4 teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
    1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
    1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
    1 teaspoon mango powder (amchoor)
    2 tablespoon chopped cilantro (hara dhania) to garnish

     Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Oil is the right temperature when cumin seeds crack immediately after being put in the pan.
    Add cumin seeds and asafetida after seeds crack add ginger and green chilies and stir for few seconds.
    Reduce the heat to medium. Add all the remaining spices, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, mango powder, and salt. Stir for few seconds.
    Add potatoes and mix well with Masala. Stir fry for 4-5 minutes. All the potatoes should be coated with spices.
    Turn off the heat and add cilantro. Mix it well and serve it hot.

finished potatoes on plate

Chana Dal


Dal is a generic term for legumes or dishes made with them, which are a foundation of Indian cooking.   Chana dal are a kind of chickpea. Despite what some recipes say, chana dal are not yellow split peas, but those are probably the closest substitution if you can't find the real thing.
bag of chana dal
dish of uncooked chana dal
This is my favorite vegetarian main dish. I always think of the nursery rhyme about pease porridge because I'll eat it hot, cold or leftover.

Google will find you any number of different versions, most of them more authentic. None of the recipes I found on line has all these vegetables and most have different spicing. Possibly no cook in India has ever put celery in this dish, but I like it. Serve with rice or bread (in restaurants often with pooris, hot fried bread) and raita. This serves 6.

2 cups chana dal (about 1 pound)
8 cups water
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
4 tb olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery (optional)
5 medium garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (about a 4-inch piece)
1 medium serrano chile, stemmed and finely chopped (or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes)
3 tb Madras curry powder
2 cups chopped tomatoes (1 14.5 oz can)
8-10 ounces baby spinach (1 bag), washed and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 medium lemon)
Steamed rice or naan, for serving

Place the chana dal in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Transfer to a large pot, add the measured water, salt and turmeric and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dal are completely soft, about 45 minutes. Watch carefully toward the end of cooking and stir more to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Add more water if necessary as it starts to thicken, or turn up the heat if it doesn't get thick enough. If you're going to serve it over rice you might want it on the thin side; if you're going to dunk bread in it make it thicker.

A few minutes before the dal is ready, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery if used, and chile or red pepper and cook a couple of minutes, then add the ginger, garlic and curry powder and cook until the vegetables are softened. Add this mixture and the tomatoes to the cooked dal and mix well. Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is completely wilted, about 4 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and serve immediately with steamed rice or naan on the side.

chana dal dinner on plate
In addition to raita, chutney is a mandatory accompaniment. The Indian markets have several brands of Indian-made chutneys but I haven't tried any yet; this one from the UK is my favorite, it's got a great intense ginger flavor.
jar of chutney

Raita


Raita can be served with any of the above dishes and just about anything else. The cooling yogurt sauce is a perfect accompaniment for anything peppery, somewhat like the role of cole slaw with American barbecue. This recipe is from epicurious.com.
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup chopped seeded English hothouse cucumber
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons chopped green onions
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt. Chill raita, covered, until ready to serve.

This is infinitely variable.  You can treat it as a sauce with some chunks of cucumber or more like a salad with yogurt dressing. I add a dash of white pepper. Chopped tomato is a good addition. (Raita is pictured above both with and without tomato). Chopped mint instead of cilantro is good too. I don't think I've ever purchased an English hothouse cucumber to find out how it's different from the American kind which are cheaper.

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And if you haven't had dessert, it might interest you to know that today is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day.
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