We're serving Indian-style vegetarian food for all the diverse April holidays here
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We're serving Indian-style vegetarian food for all the diverse April holidays here

Sacramento : CA : USA | Apr 12, 2011 at 10:08 PM PDT
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Making a vegetarian meal.

This holiday season, you have numerous religions in Sacramento feasting for the various holidays. How about serving a Hindu-style vegetarian meal this April holiday season--for many diverse ethnic groups? How are the Hindu festivals in April celebrated this year? Check out the Hindu festivals calendar this year. Also view the uTube video on an Indian vegetarian recipe called "Vegetable Korma."

Let's say you want to celebrate a Hindu festival with a nutritious vegetarian feast at the same time you want to celebrate Easter or Passover. In 2011, Sacramento can celebrate Easter on Sunday, April 24th. And Passover begins at Sundown on April 18th this year. The holiday of Pesach, or Passover, falls on the Hebrew calendar dates of Nissan 15-22. Passover in 2011 runs from the eve of April 18th to sundown on April 26th. What's next to celebrate with a feast of ethnic food? It's the Hindu festivals of April. Some Sacramentans like to combine vegetarian foods for the various ethnic groups and have a feast to celebrate everyone's holiday in Sacramento in the month of April.

For example, Tuesday 12 April, you can celebrate the Hindu festival of Swaminarayan Jayanti. This day marks the birth of Lord Swaminarayan for followers of the Swaminarayan tradition. You also can celebrate Rama Navami, the birthday of Lord Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu and the hero of the Ramayana.

Then on Monday 18 April, you can celebrate the Hindu birthday festival of Hanuman Jayanti. This festival marks the birth of Hanuman, the Monkey God. You can plan a vegetarian feast for the three Hindu festivals or holidays in April that are celebrated a few days before Passover and a few days before Easter Sunday, April 24th.

According to the Hindu Devotional Blog: Ram Navami Festival April 2011 - Rama, and the The Hindu Festival Calendar 2011, 2012, 2013: The Feasts, it has been said that Hindus celebrate many festivals. And anyone in Sacramento also can celebrate with food the many festivals of Sacramento's diverse community. There exists a vegetarian meal or feast that will please most people's tastes and religious requirements focusing on those particular vegetables and fruits.

Hindu festivals emphasize the birth of gods, death of asuras, victory of the gods, marriage of the gods, the new year, new months, full moons, new moons, harvests, birthdays, initiations, marriages, deaths, anniversaries - you name the event, and it is reason for music, dance, processions, and also for healthy, nutritious plant-based foods.

Celebrate an organic religion with organic plant foods. Followers of Hinduism have over time considered anything, animate or inanimate, to be sacred and aspects of divinity. Secular events like harvests may take on religious overtones, with the patron deity presiding over the festivities. As soon as something happens, there is a kind of thanksgiving to the divine that follows it.

You don't have to be born a Hindu to eat a vegetarian-based feast and celebrate numerous festivals in Sacramento such as Dussehra, Diwali and Ganesh Chaturthi. You can eat the food, listen to the ethnic music, and enjoy the spring season idea of nature's renewal.

Have you ever planned nutritious meals from inspiration obtained from browsing through the Hindu almanac? You'll find a mention of holiness or sacredness against almost every day of the year.

Is your spring festival meal private or public? Maybe this year you might enjoy a vegetarian Hindu festive meal to celebrate your holiday. For Hindus, there are rituals for phases of the moon, solar and lunar eclipses, days of the week, or for a person's auspicious star or zodiac sign.

And for you, in Sacramento, whatever your holiday celebration this spring, religious or secular, you might try a Hindu-style vegetarian feast for your meal. The Hindu holidays this month are celebrated on April 4, 12, 14, and 18. Hindus celebrate in 2011, during the month of April, the following holidays or festivals and/or feasts: April 4, Monday Bikrami Samvat (Hindu New Year), April 12, Tuesday Ram Navmi , April 14 Thursday, Baisakhi, April 18 Monday, Hanuman Jayanti, and April 23 Saturday, Akshaya Tritiya/Akha Teej.

Now what vegetarian meal would you serve if you were honoring the Hindu community in Sacramento for these holidays in the month of April, regardless of your own religion or ethnic ancestors? How about each month of the year honoring a different group of Sacramento residents by enjoying a favorite meal of that group?

Let's say you usually celebrate Easter or Passover during the Spring holiday season. You might try this Silk Road recipe. The symbol of the Silk Road is that it is a link between East and West. The recipes for this meal are vegetarian. Almost anyone can savor a meal that introduces new or familiar tastes using vegetarian ingredients. It's one more way to bring people's food histories closer.

Along the Silk Road, you'll find similar Passover vegan feasts in the Persian style from the Caucasus to Azerbaijan. When some of the Jews (called Mountain Jews of the high Caucasus) migrated from Persia in 700 BCE to settle in the Caucasus mountains, some of their traditional recipes focused on numerous vegetarian entrees for Passover in the Mizrahi style, which differs from the Ashkenazi style of Passover cooking.

Here are some Persian Passover gluten-free vegan recipes for your March 29th Seders. Sacramento has a varied population including a sizeable Mizrahi Jewish population from the Middle East with numerous families living in the Folsom area.

Regardless of your faith or ethnicity, try these recipes and enjoy these traditional delights of the Silk Road. Leave out the yogurt garnish for the holidays when you're not allowed to eat fermented products on Passover, for example kefir, cheese, Japanese-style tempeh, Chinese-style tofu, almond cheese, or other cultured milks, fermented nut milk substitutes, or soy products.

Let's call this a Mizrahi version of Ashkenazi kugel. Without matzo meal, eggs, or potato starch, it's also favored among some of the Krymchaks of the Crimea, and it's also gluten-free. You can find the zatar and sumac spices in any Middle Eastern or Mediterranean-style grocery.

(Looking for a paperback time-travel novel similar to this type of ambiance? Check out this Sacramento author's book set in the medieval, 10th century Caucasus about a family in the time-travel adventure novel, Adventures in my beloved, medieval Alania and beyond.)

Persian Variation of Kugel (served with pomegranate punch)
Serves a dozen people.

Ingredients:

2 large onions, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

2 red bell peppers

4 shredded carrots

8 Idaho potatoes

4 tablespoons of ground, milled flax seed and 3 tablespoons of water

1/2 cup of shelled pistachio nuts, ground

A pinch each of the following spices and herbs: black pepper, thyme, celery seed, oregano, sumac, garlic, onion, turmeric, curry, cumin, parsley, saffron, and zatar.

Directions
Preheat oven to 375°F and grease a 9x13 pan or two 8-inch pans with sesame seed oil.

  1. Saute veggies (aside from potatoes) till limp and slightly colored.
  2. Grate potatoes.
  3. Add vegetables, pistachio nuts, ground, and ground flax seed with water to grated potatoes and mix well.
  4. Pour into prepared pan and bake 45-60 min or until light brown and crusty.

Garbanzo/Chick Pea Patties ( or fava bean tameya)

(Don't use fava beans if you're allergic to them. Use chick peas/garbanzos instead).

2 cups cooked or canned (drained and rinsed) chickpeas/garbanzos

1 clove of peeled garlic

1 tablespoon of tahini paste or ground sesame seeds to a paste consistency in a blender or food processor. You can blend chick peas with a little water or a little olive oil, grape seed oil, or sesame seed oil to form a paste consistency or use raw tahini paste/sauce. Or make your own tahini paste by liquefying sesame seeds to a paste consistency in your blender with some water, lemon juice, and/or oil.

1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, celery seed, or any other spice you prefer

1/2 teaspoon red cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon of honey (optional)

1/2 teaspoon of turmeric

1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander

1 teaspoon of cumin

1/3 cup of chopped fresh dill or cilantro

2 cups of healthy oil for frying such as olive oil, macademia nut oil, grape seed oil, rice bran oil, or sesame seed oil.

1/2 cup of sesame seeds

2 tablespoons of ground, milled flax seed and 3 tablespoons of water

Garnish: chopped parsley, cilantro, basil, and mint or plain nonfat yogurt.

Matzo for eating with the patties. You can substitute cooked fava beans (tameya) for the chick peas.

Method:

Combine all ingredients except the garnishes in your blender or food processor. Pulse until you have a soft patty. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.

In a deep wok, skillet, or frying pan, heat up a cup or two of oil over medium heat.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Spread the sesame seeds on a plate. Place a bowl of warm water next to your cooking area to wet your hands. Separate the dough into lumps the size of walnuts. Flatten each lump of dough in your palms into a patty the size of a burger.

Fry the patties for three minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Add more oil when necessary. You may have to use 2 cups of oil for all the dough. Each patty should be covered with oil. When light brown on each side, remove the patties and drain on paper towels.

Arrange each of the patties on a serving dish. Garnish with parsley, basil, mint, and serve with warm matzoh and yogurt or kefir. This is in the Silk Road tradition for Passover. If your Ashkenazi tradition forbids the use of chickpeas on Passover, save this recipe for Hanukkah. However, since the usual leavening has been left out of the chick pea dough that would be used on days other than passover, it is used by some Mizrahi on Passover from the Caucasus and Silk Road locations.

The non-Passover recipe adds baking soda leavening to this recipe. However, on Passover, the baking soda leavening is left out. Asheknazi customs, of course, are different when it comes to serving garbanzo/chick peas on Passover.

Mizrahi and some Sephardic Passover traditions also allow rice to be served on Passover. In the Mizrahi tradition of the Mountain Jews, Azeri, and Persian styles, the brown rice served as a side dish with this vegan feast would be Persian saffron rice with chelow (golden crust).

For more information on chelow, see, Chelow kabab - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia or Iranian Recipes: Polow (Chelow). To make a vegetarian version of this saffron rice dish using brown rice instead of white rice, cook 3 cups of washed, long-grain Basmati brown rice in 8 cups of water.

Add 1 cup of nonfat plain yogurt to the cooked rice. Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of ground saffron threads in 2 tablespoons of hot water. Mix the saffron into the cooked rice.

If you want a crust on top of your rice, (the chelow) then whisk 3/4 cup of nonfat yogurt with 1/4 cup of oil, 1 tablespoon of saffron, 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds with a little water, and a few tablespoons of the cooked rice and spread this on the bottom of a pan. Then put the rice on top of it and bake the rice until the rice and yogurt mixture on the bottom of the pan forms a crust.

If you're not making a vegan meal, two beaten eggs or egg whites can be mixed into the chelow/rice crust mixture before baking on the bottom of the pan. This forms a thicker golden crust. Add saffron and water mixture (dissolved saffron) to this crust mixture before baking.

Bake the rice until a golden crust forms on the bottom of the pan. Then turn the rice mixture upside down so that the golden crust is on top. Cut into squares. Remember that Ashkenazi customs on Passover do not include rice dishes. Mizrahi and Sephardi Passover customs include rice. If you don't want a rice crust, substitute six layers of spinach or collards (stems removed) fitted into the bottom of the pan. But the rice crust is more aesthetic than the baked lettuce.

Variations include rice and cardamom (kermani polow with saffron and pistachios) in the Persian, Azeri, and Caucasus Mountains tradition. As condiments, you'd add a tablespoon of organic rose petals and a cup of fresh, chopped dill. Chopped almonds may be substituted for pistachio nuts.

Passover rice dishes in the Mizrahi and Persian traditions as well as the Azeri and some of the Caucasus Mountains and Krymchak traditions may also mix ice with 4 cardomom pods, crushed, and 1/4 teaspoon of saffron threads dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water to add to cooked rice. The rice can be cooked in vegetable stock. Use brown basmati long-grain rice because it has more nutrition than white rice.

Serve fresh fruit for dessert such as dark cherries and blueberries, strawberries, or apples baked in pomegranate juice. The Ashkenazi may serve carrot tzimmas for Passover. But the Mizrahi along the Silk Road traditionally eat carrot palov with cumin.

To make Silk Road Passover Palov with Cumin, use short grain rice. In a nonstick pot or wok, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add a handful of almonds and currents (raisins and almonds are familiar to Ashkenazim). Stir fry the almonds and currents in the wok and set aside after draining off any oil on paper towels. But save the oil in the wok, skillet, or frying pan.

Add a pinch of cumin and cook for a few seconds, until you smell the perfumed aroma. Use a cover if the cumin seeds start to pop at at you. Add a handful of chopped onions and fry for 10 minutes or more until golden brown.

Add a cup of chopped or shredded carrots along with 1/2 seeded red bell pepper. You can also add a pinch of cayenne or chopped, seeded serrano chili.

Add two cups clean, washed, long-grain brown Basmati rice. Stir fry for a few minutes. Then add a pinch of turmeric and some water to cover the rice. You can substitute 1/2 teaspoon of saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water for the turmeric or use both.

Add 2 cups chopped fresh cilantro just as the rice is about to finish cooking. About 3 cups of water may be needed to soften the rice enough for cooking until chewy.

Simmer the rice for 30 minutes. To keep the cilantro fresh and crisp add it only as the rice is done. Add to the cooked rice a handful each of chopped almonds, currents, and any other chopped green vegetable you prefer such as parsley or spinach along with the cilantro.

Serve with fresh sliced or chopped tomatoes and sliced cucumbers. If desired, add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves, and 2 pinches of ground cardamon. This variation also is known as Chahar Masala. Enjoy a Silk Road Passover in the Mizrahi style. The vegan-style Passover feasts of the Silk Road are traditionally served with pomegranate punch.

Pomegranate Punch for Passover with Rose Petal Extract (Water)
To make Silk Road Passover pomegranate punch, mix a quart of pomegranate juice with your favorite spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, and lemon-tasting tart sumac spice. For a slightly peppery zest, you can add a pinch of ginger.

Or serve a punch made of pomegranate juice and a teaspoon of chopped crystallized ginger topped with a pinch of almond meal. Also you can mix rose petal water with pomegranate juice, about 1/4 cup of rose petal extract to a quart of pomegranate juice.

The pomegranate juice also may be mixed half and half with dark red cherry juice topped with a sprig of mint. Or you can mix dark purple grape juice with pomegranate juice. Another version is to mix a quart of pomegranate juice with 1/4 cup of lime or lemon juice and float dehydrated nectarines on top.

If you're looking for Persian-style and Silk Road area recipes, try the book, Silk Road Cooking, A Vegetarian Journey, by Najmieh Batmanglij, 2004. (Mage Publishers, Washington, DC).This wonderfully illustrated cookbook is chock-full of vegetarian recipes in the Silk Road adventure style of cooking. Excellent for ovo-lacto vegetarians.

Try the stir-fried celery roots or the chickpea vegetable fritters, and the Armenian bulgur and pomegranate stuffed with grapevine leaves in this book of recipes. You mix lentils with bulgur wheat, pitted prunes, spices, mint, parsley, and pomegranate paste with lime juice and chili flakes in the sauce.

It's on page 84, under the "salads" chapter. It's great. When you're allowed to eat fermented items again, try the yogurt and cucumber cold soup with walnuts and rose petals on page 100 of Batmanglij's book.

If you're looking for Hindu recipes that emphasize vegetarian recipes from India, check out the site, Indian vegetarian recipes: Ayurvedic Cooking. Also see the site, Indian Vegetarian Recipes. For recipes on the vegetarian recipes of India see the videos on the Show Me the Curry website.

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View the recipe on uTube on Rajasthani vegetarian cooking.
AnneHart is based in Sacramento, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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