Quick and Easy Indian Tomato Soup (Vegetarian)


I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel a little stale posting the same ole stuff, so I’m going to digress a bit with this one.  I certainly don’t want to lose you!  Tonight I’m posting a recipe instead.  I’ve found food to be one of the greatest forces on the planet to pull people together.  It seems no matter how angry anyone is, if you bring up the topic of beloved eats it’s not long before everyone’s smiling and sharing favorites.  So I’m going to share one of my favorites with you!

This is an Indian twist on tomato soup.  It’s not your standard.  This one has a bit of body to it but I absolutely love it.  It’s a rib sticker.  If you’re a vegetarian like we are, it’s a great way to slip some light protein into your meal.  Although I wouldn’t consider this a classical Indian dish, it carries all the techniques and the flavors.  It’s also easy and quick to prepare which is a plus in the summer heat.

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped tomatoes
½ cup yellow moong dal* (also known as split yellow gram)
1 tablespoon ghee or butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 green chilies, chopped
2 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp garam masala
Salt and red chili to taste

Preparation:  (About 30 minutes)

Boil the dal and tomatoes in 4 cups of water.  I use a pressure cooker and give it 4 whistles.  If not, cover and cook until the dal is soft and disintegrating.  When the mixture has finished cooking, puree in a blender and strain the mixture to remove any solids.  Set aside.  Heat your ghee or butter in a skillet fry the onion, chilies and garlic until onions are slightly browned.  Add your strained tomato/dal mixture and your spices.  Heat to bubbling while stirring constantly.  No need to cook it much longer than that.  Can be served with croutons and cream, I prefer parathas and curd.

*Moong dal is a light yellow lentil.  Other yellow lentils could be substituted.  Moong, also known as mung bean, is available at your local Indian market if your grocery store doesn’t carry it.

Life Without a Can Opener


Typical Indian kitchen.

I like to joke that I’m probably one of the world’s most reluctant vegetarians.  I’m not vegetarian due to an ethical point-of-view or because of my religious beliefs.  I’m vegetarian simply because my husband is.  He doesn’t require it of me, I’m free to eat meat any time I like.  It’s just that I’m lazy and I cook what we have here—fresh, lovely, wonderful vegetables.

Momos

As a result, all of our food is cooked in my kitchen from ingredients that are fresh and whole.  On Sundays my husband brings momos from the market and I get a break.  If you’re not familiar with Tibetan cuisine, as I wasn’t before I moved here to India, momos are whimsical little steamed dumplings filled with shredded veggies, spices and heavenly goodness.  I’m absolutely mad about them and affectionately call them “the new cheeseburger.”  They’ve replaced an old bad habit.

My life is not quite THIS rustic.

Moving to India has haphazardly replaced a lot of old bad habits with much better ones.  The pace has slowed down.  Things are now simplified; life has become rustic.  There’s a lot to be said about the perspective one gains when life is stripped down to its bare bones.  I don’t even own a can opener.  I’ve been here, cooking up a storm, for almost 8 months now and I’ve never needed one.  What an odd thing for this American.

Not my kitchen, but you get the idea.

I guess I’m a typical first-worlder.  I filled drawers and cupboards with “must-have” gadgets and electronics.  You live in India for any length of time and you discover quickly, reliance on anything electrical is utter folly.  The electricity grid here is as reliable as the weather in the American Midwest.  It isn’t.  If you had told me a year ago I would be living without all my gadgets and “must-haves” I would have told you, and quite unabashedly, “no way!”  Now I own no coffee maker, toaster, microwave, juicer, food processor or mixer.  What I do own is a paring knife and a hand-held grater and I have the scabs on my knuckles to prove it.

Now, before you groan about what a poor thing I must be I can tell you I’m enjoying this.  No more drawer full of specialized knives and do-dads for me.  I don’t even have cupboards.  Just a cup on the counter that holds our silverware and my little knife.  There is no oven.  Just a countertop cook plate with 2 gas-powered burners.  Any of this giving you heart palpitations yet?  It did me too, at first.

Ahhh, simplicity.

But there is a quiet beauty in simplicity and in simplicity is clarity.  I think back to how little I thought I had back in the States and remember how much it turned out to be when I had to get rid of it.  I think about how much more I thought I needed and reflect on how little I have now; and I can’t help but smile.

What I have is enough.  It’s enough to get the job done and just enough to require me to invest a little bit more of myself in everything I do.  No more flicking a switch and letting a gadget do all the work.  There’s more satisfaction knowing I participated so fully in the things I’ve done.  I may not own a can opener but at least I own more of my day.