From India With Love

As Americans we share a diverse existence that is both unusual and beautiful. East Indian immigrants, my family settled in a small Amish town in the Mid West. There were no other minorities in town and we lived amidst buggies, horse drawn plows, and bonnets. As such, my mother’s cooking was the most significant connection to my culture. It was the one thing in our house that truly remained Indian.  Passed down from generations of Indian women with no written recipes, it felt like a direct link to my roots.

My mom, Olga, is an incredible cook and a supremely unique spirit. Effortlessly combining grace, kindness, and humor in everything she does, she’s just at home fixing an Indian feast for hundreds of people in our backyard as she is riding a John Deere lawn mower in her perfectly coiffed sari.  Our family loves to reminisce about the humor and beauty in the unexpected things she does.  Like the time she fell into a pond chasing dragonflies to help with my sister’s high school biology project.  And then there was the Christmas when we needed a tree and she went out chopped one down from our yard and drug it in by herself while we watched from the window.  She is the mother who sprinkles Indian Jasmines in her children’s beds at night. To know her is to love her.

I wish that I could invite each one of you to our home to experience my mom’s generosity of spirit and her wonderful food but in lieu of that I am happy to share one of her dishes with you.  This particular recipe for Mint Jasmine rice is one of her own creations.  It is not only delicious and elegant but it is also vegan, gluten free, and healthy.

There is nothing like smell or taste to bring back a memory.  There is nothing that makes me feel like home more than my mother’s cooking. To me it is the heart and essence of India.  Enjoy…

Mint rice

2 cups uncooked jasmine rice

3 cups water

1 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. canola oil (You can use any oil of your choosing)

1 or 2 Serrano chilies cut in half

1 cup chopped mint leaves

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 inch piece of fresh ginger root grated

1 tsp. salt more if needed

1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes cut into halves

1 cup lightly blanched sweet pea pods

1 medium carrot cut into small strips

3/4 cup raw peanuts with skins

2 tbsp. light corn syrup

1 tsp.  brown sugar

Wash rice and drain.  Combine rice and water.  According to your preference cook rice either in a cooker or on the stovetop. Rice should be fluffy not soft and mushy. While rice is cooking prepare the vegetables and seasonings.  Slice the cherry tomatoes and Serrano chilies in half.  Blanch the sweet pea pods.  Cut carrots in small strips.  Grate the ginger.  Finely chop the mint and cilantro.  When your prep work is finished and the rice is done cooking heat oil and butter in a large frying pan. Add chopped chilies and cook for 30 seconds. Add mint, cilantro and ginger. Fry for an additional 30 seconds. Then add cooked rice and salt to taste fry for 1 or 2 minutes. Add peas and carrots. Transfer the rice to a shallow serving bowl. Just before serving add tomatoes and caramelized peanuts

Caramelized peanuts

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.  There are several ways to roast the peanuts you can do this according to your choosing.  You can roast them in the oven, microwave oven, or on the stove top.  I have chosen to use the oven.  Spread peanuts on baking sheet with foil and roast them in the oven until lightly roasted.  Remove peanuts from oven and drizzle with corn syrup and brown sugar. Place them back in the oven and bake for and an additional 6 to 8 minutes.

Love, Pratima

 

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