A recipe for a simple and flavorful herbed coconut yogurt curry with tender zucchini from Chitra Agrawal’s beautiful debut cookbook Vibrant India. Jump to recipe.
I’ve started challenging my daughters with more assertive flavors at the dinner table. They’re old enough, I think, for aggressive amounts of garlic and other alliums (my fave), not-so-sweet smoothies (we refer to these as dirt-flavored smoothies), and spicy dishes. I know spicy food is the norm for younger kids in many cultures, but I’ve tended to cook milder meals for for the girls after seeing spicier meals go completely uneaten. But as they’ve grown more adventurous, I’m giving their palates a little push.
So when Chita Agarwal‘s book, Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn arrived in the mail, the inspiration was welcome. As the title promises, Chitra’s book is bursting with vibrant flavors. But almost as important, she synthesizes the complex flavors and layered ingredients of Southern Indian cuisine in a way that’s approachable and weeknight-friendly. To make the most of the recipes, you’ll want to find an Indian grocer and properly stock your pantry, but after, you’ll have everything you need to turn simple ingredients into wonderfully flavorful, satisfying vegetarian meals.
Even if you’re not a vegetarian, Chitra’s book is a must-have. The lively dishes offer interesting takes on familiar vegetables and beautiful flavors. And if you’re unfamiliar with Indian cooking, it’s a great introduction with its array of quick and simple curries, rice dishes, dal and lentil recipes, and a host of bright chutneys and inspired pickles. Taken as a whole, it’s an excellent source of inspiration for creative vegetables and sating pantry meals.
I’m giving away a copy of Vibrant India to a reader! To enter, leave a comment below sharing your favorite vegetarian meal. Giveaway open to US residents only. Giveaway closes May 2 at noon EDT.
Chitra’s Summer Squash in Herby Coconut Yogurt Curry, Majjige Huli, is a dish I know I’ll go to again and again as the abundance of my CSA share hits full force. The dish is meant to showcase a single vegetable; here, tender zucchini are the focus, though Chitra suggests that many summer vegetables will work well. The dish is a wonderful mix of creamy and punchy. The vegetables are cooked in a deceptively simple creamy yogurt curry sauce made with coconut, black mustard seed and cumin, green chiles, cilantro, and yogurt. The zucchini are tossed with toasted black mustard, curry leaves, and asafetida powder, and then just simmered in the yogurt coconut curry and served over rice.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Vibrant India by Chitra Agrawal.
"Summer is when my refrigerator is stocked to the brim with zucchini, pattypans, and yellow squash from the farm share. One year I applied my bounty to my mother's recipe for majjige huli, a green yogurt curry that she often makes with watery squash such as ash gourd and chayote squash. This dish is traditionally made with just one type of vegetable at a time and also works well with eggplant, spinach, cucumber, potatoes, green bell peppers, okra, and green tomatoes.
In Kannada, majjige means "buttermilk" and huli means sour. Traditionally majjige huli is prepared with buttermilk, but it can be made with yogurt too. The dish is flavored with a paste of ground coconut, green chilies, cilantro, and spices. Roasted chana dal, which are roasted, skinned, and split black chickpeas, are also ground and used in this recipe as a thickener, but you could substitute blanched almonds for this purpose."
- 1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut (fresh, frozen, or dried)
- 1 tablespoon roasted chana dal (chana dalia)*
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 or 3 Indian green chiles or serrano chiles
- 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 2 cups plain yogurt , lightly beaten by hand
- 1 pound summer squash (2 or 3 small yellow or green zucchini)
- 2 teaspoons mild-flavored oil such as canola
- 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- pinch of asafetida (hing) powder
- 1 sprig curry leaves (about 20 leaves)
- 1 dried red chile , broken in half
- cooked rice , for serving
- chopped cilantro leaves , for garnish
To make the curry sauce: Thaw frozen coconut or place dried coconut in a little hot water to plump it up.
In a blender, grind the roasted chana dal to a powder. Add the cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, and turmeric powder and grind. Have about 1 cup of water by the blender. Next, grind the coconut and green chiles, adding a little water to help the blades along. Then add the cilantro and slowly add just enough water to keep the blender blades moving, about 1/2 cup, depending on the size of your blender container. Grind until you have a smooth paste, add the yogurt. Blend well so that all of the paste is incorporated.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Then cut each half into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, with large pieces cut into half again.
In a sauté pan, fit a steamer with water at a level that is just below the steamer and not touching it. Place the summer squash in the steamer basket. Cover and steam over medium heat until just tender, about 10 minutes. Immediately immerse the squash in a bowl of cold water to avoid overcooking.
Put the oil in the sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add one black mustard seed. When the seed sizzles and pops, add the remaining mustard seeds and the asafetida. Keep a lid handy to cover the pan while the mustard seeds are popping. When the popping starts to subside (a few seconds), turn the heat to medium-low. Rub the curry leaves between your fingers a little to release their natural oils, and drop them and the dried red chile into the oil. Cover immediately, as moisture from the curry leaves will cause the oil to spatter. Then stir to evenly coat everything with oil, a few seconds.
Mix the steamed summer squash into the pan. Next, add the curry sauce and 1 teaspoon salt. Turn the heat to medium. You want the mixture to boil once. When it does, turn it off.
Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve with rice. The dish is served either just prepared or chilled. If eating the next day, do not reheat before serving.
*If you have chana dal that is not roasted, soak it in hot water for 15 minutes. Otherwise, use blanched almonds or almond flour or leave it out.
This looks delicious! My current favorite vegetarian dish is chana masala, and I’d love to learn more about vibrant Indian flavors!
I have to go with the classic butter Tikka masala. So yummy!
Alexandra Robertson says
My favorite vegetarian meal is sweet potato black bean enchiladas. This looks absolutely stunning and delicious and now I want to whip it up!
Aysegul Sanford says
What a creative recipe. Like you, I always have zucchinis in my fridge during the summer months. This recipe is a must try this summer.
My favorite vegetarian meal is usually brown rice pasta prepared with seasonal vegetables.
Hi Elizabeth! I’m local (and slightly new) to Cville and was wondering if you have a preferred store for south Asian ingredients. I’m thinking the place on W Main or Food of all Nations? I have yet to visit either, but I’d be curious to know what you think!
Favorite (vegetarian) meal is anything with mushrooms. Mushroom marinara or stuffed portobello caps rank high on my list.
Liz Lo. says
My favorite veg meal is a summer squash pasta bake. But this green curry looks like it could take first place in my recipe book!
What a beautiful recipe!! My favorite veggie meal is usually some sort of rice bowl with roasted veggies and chickpeas on top – whatever is in season! Right now lots of raddishes, asparagus, and little carrots.
Katie Wohl says
My favorite vegetarian meal is Malai Kofta or Dal Makhani neither of which are healthy at all but the flavors are so good. It’s eating a warm hug. I am a vegetarian and love veggies but sometimes it’s nice to eat veggie comfort food.
kelli winter says
When it’s cold out I love making a vegetable massaman curry. When it’s warm out I make enormous everything salads. I am excited to explore the book!
You gave this curry new life — lovely! To keep with the Indian theme, I could never get enough baingan bharta. Bring on the summer eggplant…
A hard call-but right now I’d say roasted potato and lentil tacos. I also love chana masala….
Amy Wissekerke says
I need this book! My fave vegetarian dish is curried cauliflower and potatoes, or dosas served with lentil sambar.
a tray of roasted veggies and whatever spices inspire at the moment is always a good start of a vegetarian meal.
This recipe looks incredible! Such beautiful colors. My go to veggie meal is roasted veggies with harissa and a fried egg
This looks divine – I love that bright green! I may not have appreciated it at the time, I can’t remember, but I am really glad now my parents pushed our flavour palates a bit growing up with frequent spicy food and interesting vegetables (though I have to admit my younger brothers are still not too keen on eggplant and zucchini…I don’t understand it!).
Jo-Ann Trusz says
The book looks wonderful. My favourite Indian dish, at this time, is rajma chawal (kidney beans and rice). I learned the recipe from Vij’s At Home. Everyone who tries it loves it.
Looks beautiful – the recipe and the book. Vegetarian lasagne would be one of my faves, gooey and luscious and flavorful.
My favorite will always be vegan mac and cheese, with peas on top!
my favorite vegetarian meal is falafel 🙂
Nyssa Jayne says
That book sounds fab! My fave vegetarian meal would have to be roasted chickpeas, broccoli and peppers with a blend of spices that I switch up every now and then (I start with cumin and work from there usually). I like to serve this on tortillas, baked rice, with an egg… so flexible!
Excited to make this dish this week! The vibrant green makes it feel like spring has sprung! I am a huge fan of Red Curry with assorted veggies and crispy tofu if I’m going meatless.
Brittney Knight says
My fav vegetarian meal is one I make almost every night but with whatever ingredients I have on hand. I usually start with a steam of cubed zucchini, carrots, broccoli, sliced kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, or any other veggie you like. I put a tiny amount of water in the bottom of a pot and cover to lightly steam the veggies. I add whatever spice blend I have on hand (garam masala lately) and 1/2 lemon juiced and stir before adding some chopped spinach (or other greens) to wilt. I’ll turn the heat off and add 1/2 or whole avocado diced and/or some grassfed butter for added good fat. I used to cook the meal with the butter but learned its best not to heat. Often I’ll add soaked/sprouted chickpeas to the mix for added protein or even start with grassfed ground beef and then saute the rest of the veggies in the fat the drips off.
My favorite meal is eggs with peppers. Either just fry eggs and red peppers and eat on a tortilla or spend a little effort and make shakshuka
Delicious!! Majjige huli comes from Southern part of India. Majjige means buttermilk (in kannada language) and huli means sambar (thickened version of rasam but thickened version made with a different curry powder ). This is a comfort food, If chana masala ramps up everyone with enthusiasm , majjige huli is calming and soothes your senses. This is a good english version and being an Indian and living in California, can’t wait to add Zucchini in my majjige huli next time. One can make a different version of this by adding cooked toor dal (a type of lentil available in indian store) instead of adding chana dal while grinding.
Thank you for recognising this soothing dish that is known to over 200 million people in India. This is a healthy dish. Since you are adding less of dal here, this is actually a semi-keto dish and can be had with cauliflower rice or quinoa too.