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Indian cuisine

Indian Samosas

Tina Wasserman

Did you know that India's Jews come from four distinct groups and can trace their roots there back to ancient times? As in all Jewish communities around the world, Indian Jews translated their culinary tastes and the laws of kashrut to embrace the foods of the region.

Is it possible that potatoes are the number-one culinary choice for stuffing, or does the choice of filling have more to do with the cost of food and being frugal? Whatever the answer, potatoes show up in India as well for wonderful little packets of spicy potato and pea filling. There is no need to make your own dough when wonton skins are readily available. Serve with some raw mango chutney.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 medium Yukon Gold, California whites, or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 cups water
One 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 pound wonton skins
Oil for frying filled dough

Yield: 1-2 dozen

  1. Heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan, and add the red pepper, ginger, garlic, and onion.
  2. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion is golden. Do not burn the garlic.
  3. Add the salt, potatoes, and water, and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 20 minutes over medium heat, until the potatoes are tender.
  4. Add the peas and the curry powder, and cook until the peas are hot and any excess water is evaporated.
  5. Brush the edges of the wonton skin with a little water. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the center and fold over into a triangle, sealing the edges well. Continue with the rest of the dough and filling.
  6. Heat the oil to 375°F in a frying pan or wok to a depth of 2 inches. Do not let the oil smoke.
  7. Fry a few samosas at a time in the hot oil until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve.
Tina's Tidbits: 
  • Stir potato mixture occasionally, using a rubber spatula so that the potatoes don’t break up. Yukon Golds or California long whites break up less than russet potatoes, which are the traditional choice.
  • Do not use too much filling or the wontons will open in the hot oil and lose their contents.
  • Use only enough water to dampen the edges so that they stick together. Too much water will cause steam when the samosas go into the oil and the wonton skins will open.
  • Do not try to fry too many samosas at a time. If the samosas are not crowded when they are frying, the temperature of the oil won’t drop and the dough won’t absorb excess oil. The finished product will be light, crisp, and not greasy.

Indian Chickpea Stew

Chef Katie Simmons

Did you know that India's Jews come from four distinct groups and can trace their roots there back to ancient times? As in all Jewish communities around the world, Indian Jews translated their culinary tastes and the laws of kashrut to embrace the foods of the region.

In India, religion stipulates the vegetarian diet.  About 80% of the population in India is Hindu, abstaining from meat.  Hence, the focus of most dinner tables is a celebration of vegetables, lentils, and chickpeas. Nothing says Indian cuisine quite like the classic and aromatic chana masala (literally "chickpea spices").

This vegan, gluten- and oil-free version offers healthy, satisfying protein, and a warming, comforting blend of spices, including cumin, ginger, and turmeric. 

1 onion
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic
2-3 small green chilies, minced with seeds (Indian chili or serrano)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika (or Indian red chili powder)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt

Yield: 8 cups

  • In a medium pot, combine the onion and cumin. Cover and cook over medium heat 5-7 minutes, until the onions are soft and the cumin becomes aromatic.  If the onions start to burn, reduce the heat and add a splash of water.
  • While the onions soften, make your spiced paste. In a food chopper, combine the ginger, garlic, green chili, coriander, paprika, and turmeric.  Roughly chop until you get a paste-like consistency.
  • Once the onions are soft, add the spiced paste to the pot. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, until you can smell the ginger and the heat of the green chilies.
  • Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Roughly chop the cilantro. Add the drained chickpeas, chopped cilantro, and canned tomatoes to the pot, along with 1/2 cup of water (you might want up to 1 cup for a thinner consistency). Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 10 minutes, until thick.
  • Remove from heat.  Stir in the garam masala and season with salt.
  • Serve immediately.

Chef Katie Simmons' Tips

  • If you can't easily find small green chilies, substitute serrano or jalapeño peppers. Because of their size, the equivalent of three small green chilies is one jalapeño pepper.
  • This recipe is freezer-friendly.

    Classically-trianed Chef Katie Simmons is a personal chef in Chicago. Her journey to cooking has been a winding path from Kentucky to backpacking in New Zealand through culinary school at Kendall College and working for Whole Foods Market.  Her own frustrations of being an overweight fitness professional finally led her to embrace a plant-based, vegan diet. 

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