There is no need to limit yourself to spicy curry, bland rice and sweet chutney. The Indian cuisine has so much more to choose from.

In the North of India saag, a puree of whatever fresh greens are available, is daily fare in many peasant households. Further north, in the wealthier state of Kashmir, korma is rightfully regarded as a very classy way to prepare vegetables. Throughout the country freshly made chutney is preferred over the bottled kind. The fragrant aroma of basmati rice is a perfect complement to this quick-to-prepare East Indian meal.

Kohlrabi is a nutritious and delicious relative of cabbage. It is available at this time of year with pale green bulbs attached to dark green leaves. This menu makes use of both parts.

In order that all the dishes are ready at the same time, start by frying the onions for both korma and the saag. Then prepare the chutney and start the rice cooking. Finally, finish the korma with kohlrabi bulbs and saag with their leaves. The traditional thickener for both these preparations is chickpea or gram flour, available in Indian and some natural food stores. Fresh coriander (cilantro) is available in Indian, Chinese, Latin American and many greengrocer shops.

Korma

  • 4 servings
  • 15 minutes preparation
  • 10 minutes frying

I first savored this dish of braised vegetables on a hot June day in the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar. The following day snow flakes were in the air and it tasted equally delicious.

  • 3 tbsps. clarified or unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 pods green or white cardamom,¬†cracked open
  • 4-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups peeled and diced kohlrabi bulbs
  • 1 cup peeled and sliced carrots
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. chickpea or wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Chopped fresh coriander

Heat butter in a medium saucepan on medium-low heat. Fry onion, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon until onion is very soft (about 15 minutes). Raise heat to medium- high, add water and bring to a simmer. Add kohlrabi and carrots and cover. Meanwhile, whisk together yogurt, flour and salt in a medium bowl.

When the carrots have softened (about 10 minutes), pour half the vegetable mixture into the yogurt mixture. Then pour all this into the saucepan of remaining vegetables. Return to heat and stir until korma reaches a simmer. Lift out and discard the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Serve right away beside, on, or mixed with rice. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Saag

  • 4 servings
  • 10 minutes preparation
  • 15 minutes frying

Traditionally the greens are cooked until they turn to a mush (i.e. are overcooked). Spinning them in a food processor or blender gives them the traditional pureed texture without the overcooked taste.

  • 3 tbsps. clarified or unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 hot chili, minced 3 cups chopped kohlrabi greens (with¬†stems removed)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. chickpea or wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Heat butter in a medium saucepan on medium-low heat. Fry onion, garlic, ginger, cumin and chili until onion is very soft (about 15 minutes). Raise heat to medium-high and add greens and water. Steam until greens are tender, but still bright green (about five minutes).

Put in a blender or food processor with flour and salt. Spin until the leaves are broken into small pieces. Reheat and serve as a side dish.

Banana Chutney

  • 4 servings
  • 5 minutes preparation

Serve this quick and easy condiment with any meal.

  • 1 medium banana
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • 1/2 hot chili, minced
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • Pinch salt

Mash banana in a small bowl. Mash in coriander, chili, lime juice and salt. Serve right away or let flavors mingle for up to an hour.

Basmati Rice

  • 4 servings
  • 5 minutes preparation
  • 20 minutes cooking

Basmati is a naturally white rice grown in the north of India. It costs a bit more than other rices, but the wonderfully distinctive aroma that develops during cooking makes it worth every penny.

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups basmati rice

Bring water and salt to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Meanwhile, rinse and drain rice. Stir into boiling water. When it returns to a boil, adjust heat to low and cover.

Simmer, with no stirring, until all the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes). Serve by fluffing the rice out of the pan onto a plate with a fork.

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