Rava Upmaa


  • 1 cup coarse semolina/sooji/rava (roasted lightly)
  • 1 very large onion
  • 1 green chili
  • 1 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • salt to taste
  • 1 ½ cups of hot water
  • 2 tbsps Ghee/oil (Ghee gives a great flavor, coconut oil is also great)
  • Several curry leaves
  • 1 tsp ginger powder


  • Finely chop onion and green chili
  • In heated oil drop mustard seeds and curry leaves, then add chopped onion and chili. Once onions are sauteed and reduced a bit, add ginger powder and after a few minutes the diced tomatoes. Next add the semolina and hot water, mix and set aside in closed container.
  • It is easy to do variations with upmaa. The simplest upmaa you can make is without onions and tomatoes. Then anything you add makes it different.  To the above recipe I added some chopped cilantro and cashew nuts to give it just a little bit more. The end result is what you see as the feature image for this post. Have fun playing around with ingredients you like to make your own rava upmaa!

Quinoa Chickpea Salad – A Cooling Delight for a Hot Day!

Quinoa a super seed? But I thought it was a grain! I use it just like rice, barley…

While technically a seed, quinoa is identified synonymously with whole grains because it is used just like one.  It is a “super grain” as it is a complete protein source, containing even the essential amino acid lysine that other grains do not have.   This also makes makes quinoa perfect for vegetarians and anyone who wishes to reduce their meat consumption. To learn more about this “special grain” check out  the world’s healthiest foods web site.

I often will make a large pot of quinoa and over the next couple days enjoy it with grilled vegetables, braised meat, curry, or even as part of a salad.  Here’s a recipe for quinoa salad that I made recently.  It is perfect for lunch on a warm day.

Quinoa Chickpea Salad

quinoa (cooked and cooled) – 1.5 cups
red pepper – 1/4
red onion – 1/4
chick peas – 3/4 cup
olive oil – 1 tbsp
lime – 1/2
black pepper – 1/2 tsp

Chop red onion and red pepper into small cubes, and add with chick peas to quinoa.  Mix together lime,olive oil  and black pepper to make salad dressing and pour on salad ingredients.  Fork mix everything and serve cold.  Note this is a lightly spice salad.  Add more dressing or some sea salt if your taste buds ask for it.

Directions for cooking quinoa: Cooking and cooling quinoa is the most time consuming part in the entire salad creation process so do it in advance like I do.  The dried quinoa seed itself keeps really well if stored properly, easily lasting a couple years – no excuse for running out of quinoa!. And when you cook it you get about 3 cups of cooked quinoa for 1 cup of dried quinoa seed. The cooked quinoa can keep in the fridge about a week.
To cook quinoa start with a pre-soak in cold water for around 5 min (can do it for longer – I’ve done up to an hour with no issues.) and rinse vigorously under cold running water using a fine mesh strainer.  Rub the quinoa grains against the mesh as your rinse to aid in the removal of saponin, quinoa’s outer coating that can taste bitter/soapy.  Transfer the rinsed quinoa to a pot, add a little olive oil, and water in the ratio of 1;2 quinoa:water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for about ten minutes. Turn off the heat, close pot completely and let it sit for another 5 minutes. Open pot and fluff quinoa with a fork. (You should see tiny spirals (the germ) separating from and curling around the quinoa seeds.)

Variations:  Add items like chopped kalamata olives and feta cheese.  Sometimes I use scallions instead of red onions. You could also change the ratio of chick peas to quinoa, or add corn, peas, and carrots.  You can check out food and wine, also, for some other quinoa salad recipes.

Virgilio’s Twist on Tunisian Vegetarian Stew (45 minutes to your plate)

(Prep is 15 minutes for chopping carrots, onion, tomatoes; plus getting other ingredients together)
Onion – 1 medium/large
Tomatoes – 2 medium/large
Salt- to taste
Lime – to taste
Chickpeas – 1.5 cups
Corn/Peas/Carrots – 1 cup
Turmeric – 1 / 4 tsp
Cinnamon – 1 / 4 tsp
Coriander – 2 tsp
Black pepper – 1 / 2 tsp
Cayenne pepper – 1
Oil – coconut oil – 1 spoon
Raisins – a handful
Slivered Almonds – 1 / 4 cup

Cooking Process (25/30 min):
In spoon of coconut oil fry chopped onion until translucent. Add spices, fry for a couple minutes, then add chickpeas and other veggies, including tomatoes. Add 1/4 cup of water, and bring to boil quickly, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15/20 minutes.

(1) I use all organic ingredients, and rehydrate my chick peas and cook on a stove with electric coils. You can just as easily substitute canned/frozen ingredients, and use pre-chopped ingredients, and even use a different cooking oil to cut prep time to less than 5 minutes. Use a gas stove and you may cut cooking time as well. The idea is to have fun, and enjoy food, not get hung up over the little details.
(2) You can use whatever veggies you fancy. Most Tunisian stews on the web use cabbage. I didn’t have cabbage and so I did not. Perhaps that does not make it Tunisian stew. If it doesn’t then the fact that it is my take on Tunisian stew should mollify the purists. To me it is all about experimenting and playing around. Creating delicious food that looks good too.
(3) For understanding what one means by cooking onions and different stages of cooking them from sweated to translucent to golden and finally caramelized check out http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-onions-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-185575

Broccoli Raab

This week my CSA introduced me to raab.  Broccoli Raab, also known as rapini and broccoletti, is a common veggie in China and Italy.  Its’ many spiked green leaves surround clusters of green buds that resemble small broccoli heads – though no heads ever actually form.  Ironically, raab is not related to broccoli, but shares a relationship with turnips – probably the reason the leaves reminds me of turnip greens.  Nutritionally raab is a good source of vitamins A, C, K, and more.

Munching on broccoli raab raw I get the combination of nutty broccoli (particularly from the clustering buds) and then then pungent/bitter of mustard greens.  (Note, any blooming yellow flowers found among the buds are just as good to eat.)  The mustard is more of an after-taste.  Try it for yourself and see.  Doing a little google searching I see that it is typically used as a cooking green such as at Marquita Farm, but I often will also just snack on them raw.  That is just the way I roll.

Beauty In The Heart – The Ravishing Chinese Radish

The cool days of Fall are joined by root vegetables.  And the symphony of Fall colors are accentuated by new introductions to my taste buds.  This past week I discovered the Chinese radish shinrimei, otherwise known as horseheart or watermelon radish.  This ball shaped heirloom variant of the daikon radish is white and green on the outside with a vibrant pink flesh.  It is crisp with a mild and sweet flavor as compared to other types of radish.

While shinrimei can be braised, cooked, or even mashed, I cannot bear to bleed away the striking color in a cooked dish.  I usually have shinrimei raw as a snack, as part of a salad, or even served with dip.

Couscous: As quick as a flip of a switch

Not quite as fast as that, but the couscous found in most Western markets is the 5 minute pre-steamed kind.  Remove boiling water from heat, add couscous in the ratio of 1 cup couscous to 1 cup boiling water, and stir. Cover pot tightly for 5 minutes, then open and fluff with fork to serve.

I added coucous to a bed of greens, some beans/lentils, a little Greek yogurt, and had a delicious feast for the senses.  The best and only way to eat.

When cooking coucous salt and butter are often added to the water, just like pasta.  Want a different aromatic bouquet? Substitute water with a different liquid, such as vegetable stock.  And make any meal a treat of texture, color, flavors, and smell.  You can always quickly add slices of tomato, beets, carrots for a burst of color and more. Instead of yogurt there is sour cream, curds, or just forgo it altogether.  On the 15th coucous was part of my refueling meal after a great bike ride on a 66 degree sunny Fall day.

Couscous is one of the healthiest grain-based products you can find.  Originally made from ground millet in North Africa, it now typically is made from semolina, and even wheat. Whether made from wheat, millet, or semolina, coucous is simply a great way to add variety to the healthy carbohydrates in our daily diet.

Beans on Branches – Endamame

Enda what? Not many people have heard of Endamame.  I myself was just introduced to them through my CSA, this year, and am hooked.

Endamame from my CSA before I pick it for parboiling and freezing.

Endamame, meaning “beans on branches” is just a fancy name for fresh soy beans.   Containing all the amino acids required for human health, endamame is a great protein source for vegetarians and non-vegetarians, alike. A healthier alternative, they also provide a variety of minerals and vitamins without the cholesterol and saturated fat of meat.

Endamame is usually found in the grocery store frozen, either shelled or in the pod, and already pre-cooked (parboiled). The beans make a great snack, and taste pretty darn good too.  I just got some endamame from my CSA recently, and have enjoyed it tremendously.

According to WebMd this is what you will find in a half cup serving of shelled endamame (1 and 1/8 cups in the pod):

  • 120 calories
  • 9 grams fiber
  • 2.5 grams fat
  • 1.5 grams polyunsaturated fat (0.3 grams plant omega-3 fatty acids)
  • 0.5 gram monounsaturated fat
  • 11 grams protein
  • 13 grams carbohydrate
  • 15 mg sodium
  • 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C
  • 10% Daily Value for iron
  • 8% Daily Value for vitamin A
  • 4% Daily Value for calcium

Head over to your grocery store frozen section and enjoy!