This week on Tonia's Kitchen

We start the week talking Indian food with Chef Raghavan Iyer. His new book, Indian Cooking Unfolded, is a great resource to learn to cook Indian food.

Monday - August 19th

Today we talked about a delicious recipe using potatoes and split peas.

Smoky Yellow Split Peas

Tamatar Chana Dal

Dals are a cornerstone of India’s meals since they are an inexpensive way of infusing proteins, fiber, and bodybuilding nutrients into one’s diet, vegetarian or otherwise. Common to fi nd, yellow split peas are easy to cook and do not require any presoaking. The spicing techniques in this recipe hail from the southeastern region of India where roasting spices to yield nutty-hot fl avors is key to creating a layered experience. I have simplified the number of spices used but have kept the authenticity in terms of assertiveness and balance. Oh, and best of all, no added fat! For the foldout meal I have chosen a rice pilaf to accompany the dal, but for an everyday meal, be sure to have some steamed white rice (page 27) to absorb all that saucy goodness.

Gluten Free

Makes 6 cups; serves 6

1 pound potatoes, russet or

Yukon Gold

1 cup yellow split peas

14 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 to 4 dried red cayenne chiles

(like chile de árbol), stems


1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 medium-size tomato, cored and


2 tablespoons fi nely chopped fresh

cilantro leaves and tender stems

112 teaspoons coarse kosher or

sea salt

1 Peel the potatoes and cut them into ó-inch cubes. Transfer the cubed potatoes to a bowl large enough to hold them. Add enough cold water to cover the potatoes to prevent them from oxidizing and turning black.

2 Place the split peas in a mediumsize saucepan. Add water to cover and rinse the peas, rubbing them between your fingertips (I just use the fingers of one hand to do this). The water will become cloudy and may have some debris like the odd skin from the peas (even though they are skinless) or dust from the packaging. Drain this water. Repeat 3 to 4 times until the water, upon rinsing the peas, remains clearer. Add 4 cups water to the pan with the peas and let it come to a boil over medium-high heat. You will see some foam rise to the surface; scoop it out and discard it.

3 Drain the potatoes and add them with the turmeric to the peas, stirring once or twice. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Cook the mélange, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender but still firm looking and the potatoes are cooked 20 to 25 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet feels hot (when you hold the palm of your hand close to the bottom of the skillet you will feel the heat), usually after 2 to 4 minutes, add the chiles, coriander, and cumin. Toast the spices, shaking the skillet every few seconds, until the chiles blacken and smell smoky hot and the seeds turn reddish brown and smell incredibly aromatic (nutty with citrus undertones), 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately transfer the spice blend to a blender and plunk in the tomato. Puree, scraping the insides of the blender as needed, to make a smooth, reddish brown paste with a smoky aroma that is sure to knock your socks off.

5 Once the peas are cooked, add the tomato and spice paste to the pan. I usually pour some of the liquid from the peas into the blender and process it for a brief second to make sure I get every last bit of the tomato paste, and then pour it back into the pan. Stir in the cilantro and salt.

6 Increase the heat to medium-high and let the dal boil vigorously, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the fl avors mingle and the sauce thickens slightly, 12 to 15 minutes. If you would like the sauce to be thicker, mash some of the peas and potatoes with the back of your spoon. Serve the dal warm.

1 Once you’ve cubed the potatoes, rinse the peas in water, draining them

2 Scoop out and discard any foam as the peas come to a boil.

3 Add the potatoes and the turmeric to the peas.

4 Cook the potatoes and peas, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and

peas are tender.


Tuesday - August 20th

Basmati rice is so delicious and easy to work with. Try this recipe for a quick side dish.

Sweet-Scented Pilaf

Masala Pulao

Perfuming oils with whole spices has been classic to north Indian cuisine for thousands of years (no, I am not exaggerating). Western cultures call it blooming (or tempering) but we call it tadka. Whatever the nomenclature for this technique, the results play a pleasing game with your palate of how-much-can-you-eat-without-stopping. Give in and savor the pilaf as a side to any main dish, salad, soup, or even a starter. It makes an elegant bed for the Ultimate Chicken Curry and Smoky Yellow Split Peas in our foldout menu.




Makes 3 cups

(serves 6 as a side)

1 cup Indian or Pakistani white

basmati rice or long-grain white


2 tablespoons ghee, homemade

(page 31) or store-bought, or

canola oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

12 teaspoon whole cloves

6 green or white cardamom pods

2 fresh or dried bay leaves

2 cinnamon sticks (each about

3 inches long)

1 small red onion, cut in half

lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt

1 Place the rice in a medium-size bowl. Fill the bowl with enough water to cover the rice. Gently rub the slender grains between the fingers of one hand, without breaking them, to wash off any dust or light foreign objects (like loose husks), which will float to the surface. The water will become cloudy. Drain this water. You don’t need a colander for this; I just tip the bowl over the sink to pour off the water, making sure the rice stays in the bowl. Repeat this 3 or 4 times until after you rinse the grains the water remains relatively clear. Now fill the bowl halfway with cold water and let the rice sit at room temperature until the kernels soften, 10 to 15 minutes, then drain the rice.

2 Heat the ghee in a mediumsize heavy pot or saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it appears to shimmer, sprinkle in the cumin, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. The spices will sizzle, turn reddish brown, crackle, and scent the air with sweet aromas in 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the onion and stir-fry the slices until lightly brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes.

3 Add the drained rice to the spiced onions, tossing them gently to coat the rice. Add 1ó cups of cold water and the salt. Stir the rice once or twice to incorporate the ingredients. Bring the water to a boil, uncovered, still over medium-high heat and let boil without stirring, until the water has evaporated from the surface and craters are starting to appear in the rice, 5 to 8 minutes.

4 Now (and not until now) stir once or twice to bring the partially cooked layer of rice from the bottom of the pan to the surface. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Let the rice steep for 8 to 10 minutes (8 if you are using an electric burner, 10 for a gas burner). Then turn off the heat and let the pan stand on that burner, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.

5 Uncover the pan, fluff the rice with a fork, and serve. You may choose to remove the cloves, bay leaves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks before you serve the rice. I usually leave them in since they continue to perfume the rice and just instruct the folks eating the rice to watch for those whole spices and eat around them.

1 Place the rice in a bowl and have all your ingredients prepped.

2 Fill the bowl with enough water to gently rinse the rice, separating the grains with your fingers.

3 When the water gets cloudy, gently rinse the grains without breaking the slender grains.

4 Once the rice is ready, sprinkle the whole spices into the hot ghee and allow them to sizzle.

5 Quickly add the sliced red onion to the sizzling spices to prevent them from burning.

6 Stir-fry the medley to coat the onion with ghee.

7 Allow the onion to brown around the edges.

8 Add the rice and fresh water to the pot and cook until most of the liquid evaporates from its surface and craters start to appear.

9 Once cooked, uncover the pan and fluff the rice to release any pent-up steam.

Extra Credit

The whole spices used here are some of the spices most commonly used in versions of garam masala. Here they are left whole, gently infusing the nutty clarified butter with subtle aromas and tastes—great proof that in northern India not all garam masalas are ground.

Wednesday - August 21st-

This is a perfect dish for your weekend brunch.  Turmeric has such great health benefits along with providing a nice spice to normal hash browns.  Enjoy!

Turmeric Hash Browns

I am not lying when I say this is one recipe I succumb to every Saturday or Sunday for breakfast. Not having potatoes piled into the beautiful ceramic bowl given to me by my friend Richard Bresnahan, a potter of national and international renown, is cause for panic and a quick trip to the store. For you see, I am a self-confessed potatoholic. I need them, I want them, and I covet them with unabashed lust. In India we were not privy to this tuber prior to the sixteenth century and we thank the Spanish and the Portuguese settlers for that gift from the New World. Now, no meal in India is replete without the inclusion of potatoes in some shape, size, or form. These shredded wonders incorporate one spice (turmeric) and two fl avorings (cilantro and chile) to yield a golden-colored, perfumed, and pleasingly hot cake that is crisp on the outside and moist inside.



Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a breakfast

2 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes

(see Extra Credit)

12 cup fi nely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and

tender stems

112 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt

12 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 habanero chile, stem discarded, and

fi nely chopped (do not remove the seeds;

see Extra Credit)

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 Peel the potatoes. Shred them in a food processor using the shredding attachment or by scraping them against the large holes of a box grater. Pile the potato shreds into a medium-size bowl. Mix in the cilantro, salt, turmeric, and chile. Because you are dealing with the heat of a habanero, use a spoon to do the mixing.

2 Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or well-seasoned cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil appears to shimmer, spread the turmeric-colored potatoes in the skillet in an even layer that is about 2 inches deep. The sizzle as soon as the potatoes hit the skillet is a good sign that the skillet is the right temperature.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook the potatoes covered, without stirring, until they are nice and crispy brown on the underside, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the thick patty over using 2 spatulas and brown the second side the same way, 10 to 12 minutes.

3 Serve the potatoes immediately to experience the crispy exterior and the soft interior.

Extra Credit

• A combination of turnips and rutabagas, instead of or in addition to the potatoes, adds a deeper dimension (keep in mind the total amount for the recipe is 2 pounds). Using sweet potatoes adds a sugariness that markedly offsets the habanero chile’s capsaicin (the chemical that gives chiles their characteristic heat). If you really want to take the easy way out, buy preshredded potatoes from the refrigerated section of your supermarket. I won’t judge, I promise.

• The Cubans may be known for their infamous cigars but let’s not lose sight of their other gift to the world—that addictive member of the capsicum family called the habanero (which means “from Havana”). Potent, perfumed, pungent, the habanero may sometimes be labeled as a Scotch bonnet, even though the latter is a different variety of the same species. It is widely available among the chiles and the peppers in the vegetable bins of neighborhood grocery stores. It is the second hottest cultivated chile and with a reputation to hurt so good. Please be advised to use disposable gloves while chopping it. The habanero's fruity aromas are unmistakable as soon as you cut it open. Discard the veins and seeds if you wish a gentler heat. Serranos or jalapeños are okay alternatives but keep in mind they don’t possess that fragrance I so adore.

Chef Kevan Vetter - McCormick Spice Kitchens

Thursday - August 22nd

Chef Vetter joins me to talk about using a variety of wood chips to enhance your grilling adventures. Pecan wood is one of his favorites and might be yours if you give it a try.

Listen to the interview.

Friday - August 23rd

Chef Vetter shares a quick and easy marinade.

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