Vegan Chai-spice Pumpkin Bundt Cake

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I wasn’t the biggest pumpkin purée fan all these years, and the culprit was definitely its association with cinnamon and “pumpkin spice”-everything. I don’t hate cinnamon but in the US, like clockwork, everyone craves cinnamon come September and it just don’t stop until New Years!. Anything made with pumpkin purée (store-bought) is just a cinnamon-scented assault.

But then I made pumpkin purée at home for the first time (thanks Instant Pot!) and ate a small portion of it warm, drizzled with coconut butter and just a dusting of cinnamon+nutmeg, and I was converted. I made pancakes with it, these brownies were wonderful too (vegan and gluten-free!), and then felt ready to graduate to cakes.

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Bhadang (savory rice snack)

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Please welcome Bhadang, the puffed up cousin of the Pohyacha Chivda! The process for both these “chivda” recipes is similar – toast the puffed or paper-thin flattened rice, fry up some salty goodies, make a tempering, toss everything together – but they have distinct flavor profiles. You might say that Pohyacha Chivda is the milder, well-behaved, buttoned-up cousin with a great balance of flavors, and Bhadang is wilder, spicier (uses red chili powder instead of chopped green chillies), bolder (fried garlic!) and more rustic.

The version shown here is mild, since I am making it for a crowd, but back in India I have seen Bhadang that is fiery red and irresistable!

Bhadang employs puffed rice, or murmura, or churmura, as opposed to the flattened rice flakes used in Pohyacha Chivda. Murmura is typically the base in Bhel Puri, a popular Indian street food item! This recipe also calls for Metkut, a very special, Maharashtrian roasted-lentil and spice mixture, which may be difficult to track down in the US, and in the worst case, can be skipped. Please do not substitute with Garam masala or Chaat masala, though!

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Pohyacha Chivda (savory rice snack)

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Pohyacha Chivda, or, Chivda (savory mixture) made of Pohé (flattened rice), is a popular snack item in India. Light, customizable and a perfect accompaniment to a cup of steaming hot chai, it is the perfect “in between” to hold you over until dinner time. It is also heavily featured in Diwali “faraaL” (feast) along with other savory and sweet goodies. It is easy to make, keeps for weeks, and at least in our neck of the woods, we don’t wait for Diwali to whip some up!

It’s important to source the right ingredients for this recipe, most important of all being the Pohé. There are many kinds of flattened rice flakes available in Indian grocery stores, so be sure to choose the “thin”, “ultra thin” or “nylon” variety for this recipe! You could use thick Pohé but that’s a different recipe (mainly you would have to deep-fry the Pohé instead of just dry roasting them). The ingredient list may seem overwhelming but ingredients should be easily available, and you can also leave a couple things out if you can’t find them!

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Leek and Tofu Potstickers

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Ever since I took the Wonders of Wonton class at San Francisco’s pop-up school The Civic Kitchen I’ve been on a bit of wonton bender. I had made two big batches of 2 types of wontons few weeks ago and I think I had them in the freezer but they seem to have disappeared, and they took some of the chili oil with them.

I had no option but to make more. Figured I would use leeks from my farm stand haul, with some tofu for bulk. I added some store bought lemongrass paste but it was quite intense, and a bit synthetic in flavor – the wontons tasted alright overall but not how I imagined they would. I guess I’ll need to try to a different brand or try to make my own – stay tuned! I’m not suggesting the paste in the recipe below but feel free to add 1-1 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite brand if you’d like to experiment (just adjust the salt and spice level accordingly)!

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Beckoning Spring + Rainbow Chard Crepes!

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A few weeks ago, we drove up couple hours north of San Francisco to check out some new places, early-Spring scenery and eat some oysters. We came back inspired, relaxed, and rejuvenated, already drawing up the schedule for a summer visit.

We went all the way north up to Cazadero and drove our way back south, visiting Tomales Bay, Inverness, Pierce Point (hello Elks!), Point Reyes, Bolinas and Stinson Beach, taking in the beautiful pastures, crisp air and grazing cows, as Northern California showed itself off preparing for an early Spring.

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Pretties from the Inverness, Point Reyes Station and Bolinas areas

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Chouriço Pão (Goan Chorizo Sausage Bread)

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The “Chorizo Scramble” has been dominating my breakfast/brunch order for years now, right from the first time I had it 7 years ago at a cafe on Catalina Island. Occasionally I’ll order poached eggs with hollandaise sauce if the restaurant is particularly spectacular, like The Table in Willow Glen, but most of the times its the Chorizo Scramble. And it doesn’t photograph too well, now that I think about it. And honestly, most of the time it tastes just about okay. If you order the version with all eggs (no egg whites), then it tastes rich enough, but 3 egg yolks in one go is dangerously close to my weekly egg yellow quota. If you order the version with egg whites…well, you may as well order saw dust. The egg whites are so overcooked that they are reduced to a pile of pea-size bits. Either way, you need some cheese to bring it all together and hide the inadequacy of egg whites, but cheese is something my body stopped processing gracefully 5 years ago, so that’s not an option. “Wow, you sure are demanding!” is what I get most of the times when I describe my scrambled egg problems to people, so I decided to just make it myself going forward.

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Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

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Few years ago, I used to watch Top Chef and Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV very religiously. I may or may not have bought several Top Chef Masters episodes on Amazon Instant Video. One of the finalists was Rick Bayless, an American chef who has mastered Mexican Cooking. Something about his mild demeanor, warmth and the fact that he went to Mexico as a young man and ended up living there for several years, enchanted by authentic Mexican cooking, just stayed with me. He ended up winning the Top Chef Masters title that season because he stayed true to his humble, warm self and made some delicious Mexican food. I can’t wait to eat at his restaurant, Frontera Grill, the next time I’m in Chicago!

Since then I’ve been following his recipes, and their simplicity and deliciousness can’t be beat. One of the most underrated salsas out there, “salsa verde”, is usually the “medium” in the trio of “mild, medium and hot” salsas in typical Mexican restaurants. Most of the times its watered down, pale and dull. This “medium” salsa recipe below by Rick Bayless is the highest calling of the humble tomatillo, and literally takes 15 minutes to whip up! Perfect for sprucing up a bowl of cooked quinoa, roasted vegetables, scrambled eggs or the tip of your tortilla chip, this Tomatillo Salsa will always be at the ready.

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