What comes to mind when you hear the words “Indian food?” If you’re like many people in the U.S., you likely think of an all-you-can-eat buffet full of heavy butter-laden, orange-colored homogenous “curries”—an umbrella word for gravy or sauce—often overwhelming the meats and rice they cover. If you even think of vegetables at all, it’s probably peas and spinach, again frequently obliterated by sauce and overcooked. But that’s the Americanized version of a cuisine that, in fact, isn’t reflective or respectful of the actual origins of Indian food. Chef Bella Sangar, of Village Kitchen in Seattle, a catering company and soon-to-open restaurant, is seeking to change that perception. Born on a farm in India, Sangar moved to Vancouver as a child and grew up connected to beautiful produce and meats—food that she says is, in fact, “feminine, inherently plant-based protein-rich, and exceptionally delicate and healthy.” She adds, “with a strong fermentation culinary streak, one could make the argument that Indian food and Ayurvedic culture contributed to the makings of the world’s healthiest cuisine.”
The other misconception about Indian food is that it’s difficult and time-consuming to make. All those spices, right? Wrong. Sangar explains that it’s not about dumping a dozen different spices in one dish but, rather, choosing a few perfect ones to accentuate a beautiful piece of fish, a gorgeously-roasted vegetable, even a light, composed salad of grains and veggies. And while she’s helping pioneer a movement to debunk these fallacies about Indian food, she admits that her philosophy isn’t really hers, but one informed by a culture that has existed for centuries and is actually pretty simple. “The subcontinent of India is a vast geographical wonderland with distinct growing regions for coffees, teas, spices, lentils and ancient grains. Not to mention a wondrous coastline serving up the freshest seafood. Let the seasons guide what you eat and don’t overthink it. Okra is in season? Great. Let’s toss it with some caramelized onion and chili powder. Add a ginger compound butter to leftover whole wheat roti and a scoop of probiotic-rich yogurt, and you have a stellar vegetarian meal.” Nothing complicated about that!
In fact, if you were to come to Sangar’s house on a Saturday for Indian “tapas,” you’d find her serving her family bright, seasonal, aromatic food that is as good for your body and spirit as it on your taste buds. Take this dish of Golden Turmeric Roasted Vegetables that is certain to be the easiest and most flavorful item on your dinner table. While she suggests serving it as a vegetarian main for lunch alongside some crusty bread and whole milk yogurt, she also says it will work well as a side with perfectly roasted fish or roasted pork loin with quince relish. We think it might also look—and taste—divine on a beautiful Thanksgiving table, celebrating the fall bounty.
GOLDEN TUMERIC ROASTED VEGETABLES
Enjoy, warm, hot or room temperature.
1 lb golden beets, peeled and quartered
1 lb white turnips peeled and quartered
1 lb red onions, sliced 1/4 slices
1 lb organic carrots, peeled and sliced on a bias
Olive Oil Mixture
5 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)
1. Peel and slice all vegetables as directed. Rinse, Dry and set aside.
2. Combine all ingredients for the mixture. Toss all the vegetables in the mixture and spread over a full sheet pan, careful not to layer.
3. Roast for 30-40 mins on 350F, until beets are tender and onions are perfectly browned.
This holds up great in the refrigerator for four days as a vegetable accoutrement for quick lunches, a savory pastry filling, or compliment to a perfectly-roasted meat.