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Wake Up Vegan Meals With Indian Fare

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Anupy Singla wants to spice up your vegan diet with some Indian flare.

"If you look at Indian cuisine," the food writer tells NPR's Michel Martin, "it really is one of the only cuisines that highlights vegetarian food, so it's not a far stretch."

Singla's latest cookbook is Vegan Indian Cooking: 140 Simple and Healthy Vegan Recipes. A mother of two, Singla was born in India and now lives in Chicago. She was inspired to cook at age 10, when her paternal grandfather, visiting from his tiny village in Punjab, taught her how to cook eggplant "properly," and she has been cooking ever since.

"Americans are seeking more and more flavor," Singla says. "[That's] precisely why in America now folks just cannot get enough of Indian cuisine — especially when they also learn of the many health benefits of the spices."

Singla says misconceptions about Indian food run rampant. It doesn't have to be spicy, she says, and it's anything but heavy and unhealthy. In fact, she contends that Indian spices can treat everything from a common cold to a stomachache and even help heal broken bones.

Several years ago, Singla gave up a career as a TV reporter to focus on her culinary career. Her food stories have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago-Sun Times. Her first cookbook was The Indian Slow Cooker.

Anupy Singla blogs about her culinary journey on www.IndianAsApplePie.com.


Chickpea Poppers

Yield: 4 cups

4 cups cooked chickpeas, or 2 (12-ounce) cans chickpeas

1 tablespoon masala (garam, chaat, chana, or sambhar — also, feel free to substitute any other spice blend from Chinese to Italian)

2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon red chili powder, cayenne or paprika

1. Set an oven rack at the highest position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum for easy cleanup.

2. Drain the chickpeas in a large colander for about 15 minutes to get rid of as much moisture as possible. If using canned, rinse first.

3. In a large bowl, gently mix together the first four ingredients.

4. Arrange the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on the baking sheet.

5. Cook for 15 minutes. Carefully take the tray out of the oven, mix gently so that the chickpeas cook evenly, and cook another 10 minutes.

6. Let cool for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the red chili, cayenne or paprika.


Street Corn Salad/Bhutta

Yield: 4 cups

4 ears corn, husked and cleaned

Juice of 1 medium lemon

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 teaspoon black salt (kala namak)

1 teaspoon chaat masala

1 teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne

1. Roast the corn until slightly charred. This can be done many ways. I simply do it right on my stove top. I have gas burners, so I turn them to medium-high and roast 2 ears at a time, turning them slightly as they roast. If you have an electric stove, you can do the same, but put a small metal rack over your burner so that the corn does not sit directly on it and make a mess. If you don't want to go this route (though I find it to be the simplest), you can roast the corn on a grill.

2. Remove the kernels from the corn. Either use a fancy gadget designed for this purpose, or do as I do: Take a serrated knife, hold the cob with one hand and work your way carefully down the length of the cob with the knife.

3. Put the corn kernels in a bowl and mix in all the other ingredients. Serve immediately.

Try This! If you truly want to go traditional, put the spices in a small plate, and serve the ears of corn whole, accompanied by the spices and a lemon half. Have your guests pat the lemon (flat side down) in the plate of spices and rub the spiced lemon down their corn cobs until all of the corn is seasoned. Squeeze the lemon slightly as you go down the length of the corn to give it as much flavor as possible.

Note: If you wash the corn first, be sure to dry the cobs completely before putting them on the stovetop, or they will splatter when cooking. I learned this the hard way.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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