When I was writing my pasta book, Sensational Pasta, over 20 years ago, I
matched pasta with flavorings I love, including sauces from France and from
India. Pasta, after all, can take subtle or robust flavors because of its
The same is true of pizza. When I came across naan pizza
at this year’s Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, I found it
intriguing. The pizza, produced by Tandoor Chef, was delicious. To the Italian
combination of mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, basil and garlic, the chefs
added a subtle Indian touch – fresh coriander and sesame seeds. The crust of
naan, an oval Indian bread traditionally baked in a tandoori oven, tasted more
like laffa than a typical pizza crust. For another naan pizza they turned a
popular Indian vegetarian dish, spiced spinach with paneer (Indian cheese), into
Mike Ryan of Tandoor Chef explained to me that the company
created this fusion pizza in order to gradually introduce Indian flavors to
pizza-loving Americans and to provide Indian vegetarians with new
Chef Sanjay Jaitley of Haldi Root (haldi means turmeric in
Hindi), an Indian-Italian restaurant that just opened in Woodland Hills,
California, vigorously opposes the idea of combining cuisines. A purist, he
keeps his Italian and Indian menus completely separate. When I asked him if he
might consider introducing Indian flavors to an Italian entree, his unequivocal
answer was “fusion is confusion.” For example, an Indian sauce would be
much too heavy for the delicate taste of veal scaloppini, he said.
late chef Raji Jallepalli, author of Raji Cuisine: Indian Flavors
, felt that European cuisines could be beautifully married with the
flavors of India. Although she loved classic French food, she began thinking,
“This food could use some of the assertive flavors of my
“Using very simple ingredients, such as potatoes or tomatoes,
prepared in the style of each cuisine, you would find that the French dish would
result in a sublime expression of the precise flavor of the main ingredient,
while the Indian one would give you an intense explosion of a combination of
heat and spice that would almost overpower the main ingredient. In my kitchen...
I retain the basic principles and balance of French cuisine while introducing
the profound bouquets of Indian cooking.”
AT HER POPULAR restaurant in
Memphis, Tennessee, she added Indian spices like black mustard and cumin seeds
to enhance such French dishes as ratatouille, the stew of Mediterranean
vegetables, and finished it with fresh cilantro. She didn’t shy away from veal,
combining it with lentils and flavoring the entree with French herbes de
Provence, and olive oil, as well as Indian toasted mustard seeds and a curry
blend that she made from roasted Indian spices. Even her foie gras gained an
Indian touch, with fennel seeds and a crust of sauteed chickpea flour and
ginger. She also recommended wines to accompany her dishes.
Jallepalli added Indian tastes to French dishes, my friend, cooking teacher
Neelam Batra, takes fusion in both directions. Her reason: “With people of
different cultures and ethnic backgrounds living together, our seasoned palates
now demand something more exotic in terms of flavor.”
“I make pasta sauce
with garden fresh tomatoes, ginger and mint, pizza with green cilantro chutney,
hamburgers with scallions and garam masala,” she wrote in Chilis
“This innovative swapping of flavors carries into my traditional Indian dishes
as well, when I borrow aromatic herbs, spices and foods (like tortillas...
premade pizza crusts and stuffed pastas) from other cuisines to make some of my
favorite Indian recipes.”PASTA SHELLS WITH INDIAN-SPICED VEGETABLES
traditional Indian vegetarian choice for protein, enhance the flavor of this
pasta dish and make it more satisfying. Instead of the lima beans, you can
substitute 11⁄2 cups cooked lentils, chickpeas or white beans, or a 400 gr. can
of drained beans.
Most pasta shells cook in 5 to 8 minutes and thus can
be cooked together with the broccoli florets and zucchini, which cook in the
same time. If you are not sure of your pasta’s cooking time, cook it separately
to avoid overcooking the vegetables.
For a richer sauce, add 1 or 2
tablespoons butter to the oil when sauteing the vegetables, and finish the sauce
with 1⁄4 cup heavy cream.
3 to 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil or
1 onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 fresh hot peppers, minced
finely chopped fresh ginger
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
tsp. ground coriander
1⁄2 tsp. turmeric
a 400-g. can tomatoes, drained and
diced, juice reserved
a 400-g. can tomato sauce
1⁄2 teaspoon hot red pepper
flakes, or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
11⁄2 cups cooked frozen
lima beans or fava beans
1⁄2 cup frozen peas (optional)
225 to 350 g.
medium-size pasta shells or other pasta shapes
11⁄2 cups small broccoli florets
2 white squash (kishuim
) or zucchini, diced
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped cilantro
Heat oil in a heavy medium saucepan. Add onion and cook over
medium-low heat, stirring often, for 7 minutes or until beginning to turn
golden. Add hot peppers, ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1
minute. Stir in cumin, coriander and turmeric and heat for a few seconds.
Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, pepper flakes, salt and pepper and mix well. Cover
and bring to a boil. Uncover and cook over medium heat, stirring
occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add peas and cooked lima beans and heat through. If
sauce is too thick, add reserved juice from diced tomatoes. Taste and adjust
Add pasta and broccoli florets to a large pot of boiling
salted water and cook uncovered over high heat for 3 minutes. Add zucchini and
cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes or until pasta and vegetables
are tender but firm to the bite. Drain mixture well, reserving 1⁄2 cup of the
cooking liquid and transfer to a large, shallow serving bowl.
reheat sauce. If it is too thick, add a little of the reserved cooking liquid or
a little of the reserved juice from the diced tomatoes.
Toss pasta with
two thirds of sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve sprinkled with cilantro,
with remaining sauce in a separate bowl.
Makes 4 servings.TROUT
WITH GINGER-FENNEL VINAIGRETTE
This recipe, from Raji Cuisine
, is inspired by
the cooking of southern France, with fresh ginger and ghee-sauteed zucchini
adding an Indian touch. Ghee is Indian clarified butter; Yemenite samneh is
similar. You can substitute melted butter. The fish is roasted briefly at a high
temperature. Jallepalli recommends pairing it with a
1⁄4 cup fennel seeds, crushed
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
Tbsp. dry white wine
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 to 12 large fresh rosemary
6 whole boneless trout
3 Tbsp. ghee
3 cups diced zucchini (1-cm. dice)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to
260ºC. Blend fennel seeds and ginger well in a blender or mini food processor.
For a bold flavored vinaigrette, use all the mixture; for a more delicate taste,
remove about half the mixture and set aside. (You can add it to soups.)
spice mixture in the blender add the wine. With the motor running, pour
in the olive oil and process until well emulsified. Strain through a fine sieve
into a nonreactive container and set aside.
Put 1 or 2 rosemary branches
inside each fish. Rub both sides of the fish with some of the
gingerfennel vinaigrette. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Drizzle fish with 2 tablespoons of ghee.
Roast fish in oven for about 5
minutes, or until skin has crisped and fish is cooked through.
is roasting, heat remaining ghee in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat.
Add zucchini and saute for 3 minutes, or until heated through but still firm.
Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
Place a trout
across the center of each of 6 dinner plates. Drizzle reserved vinaigrette over
top of each fish and spoon a portion of zucchini under tail end.
servings.Faye Levy is the author of