Tag Archives: vegetarian

Cafe Menu Gallery – Summer

Hi!  Just a quick note to all of you Susitna Cafe’ Friends…we’ve updated the Cafe’ Menu Gallery again.   Just click on the “Cafe’ Menu Gallery” tab and take a peak for yourself!

There’s a delicious summer borscht…some flavorful Mediterranean tofu burgers and a tasty Indian saag paneer dish.  Go ahead and browse the updated menu for now, and I’ll be back to take your order :o

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Filed under August 2010

Eclectic Houston – “Little India”

Houston, TX USA…this city never ceases to amaze me…it’s sooo international…it’s sooo eclectic…it’s sooo tasty!

The Mahatma Ghandi District

Hi!  Welcome to the Susitna Cafe’!  We’re sooo glad you’ve stopped by for a visit.  Today we’re talking about one of Houston’s many ethnic enclaves, the “Mahatma Ghandi District”.  The ” Ghandi District” or “Little India” comprises the area around Hillcroft Avenue, Harwin Drive, Fondren Road and Westpark Drive.

Map of Mahatma Ghandi District, Houston, TX

Little India is identified streetside in Houston by temple-shaped street signs.

Photo Courtesty of Wikipedia.Org

There are more than 76,000 people of Indian descent who live in the Houston area.  Therefore, residents and visitors alike have the opportunity to enjoy the diversity offered amongst the Houston Indian community.  One of these opportunities is the ethnic enclave of Little India.

So, the Susitna Cafe’ hit the road and embraced what Little India has to offer, and we did so on a very hot India-like day in July.  In fact, our car thermometer read 109 degrees Fahrenheit!  Lucky for us, we did so amongst friends!

We ventured forth with approximately 30 adventurous members of the Houston Chowhounds group on “A Big Tour of Little India” led by Shubhra Ramineni, cookbook author of “Entice with Spice”.

Our first stop was Shri Balaji Bhavan, a family run restaurant specializing in southern Indian vegetarian food.  As soon as we entered the restaurant, I knew it had to be good!

The exotic aromas in the restaurant filled the air with all kinds of wonderful tasty possibilities…and a peek into the kitchen window revealed some very busy ladies cooking…

and smiling…

Of course, happy cooks means happy food and happy food means tasty lunch!  Ohhhh, the decision on what to order was very difficult…dosas?  samosas?  curry?  Oh my!

Thank goodness that Grace, our friend and official taste tester at the Susitna Cafe’ Chronicles, was along and ready to order–afterall Grace “was hungry!”  So, order we did!

Soon enough, along came an assortment of dosas, green coconut chutney and pigeon pea soup…

The dosas were sooo beautiful…i just had to take a peek inside…

The food all smelled sooo delicious.  So, we all had to Chow!

All the tasty bits were Chow Hounded in an instant…

Shri Balaji Bhavan on Urbanspoon

After laughing, talking, and eating….together, Shubhra led us to our next stop, Laxmi Sarees…

This was a place where we could all try on some beautiful Indian clothing…

So we did and, as you know, sometimes the clothing fits…

While at other times, it doesn’t…

Well, since the shoes didn’t fit, we didn’t wear them (ha-ha!), so Shubhra led us to our next stop, India Grocers…

Oooh,  i really like grocery stores!  Shubhra gave us a tour of the store and we learned all about Indian food and various tasty ingredients.  We even stocked-up on some yummy spices…

and veggies…

Once loaded with all of our goodies, Shubhra led us to our final stop, Bombay Sweets…

another delicious stop where we enjoyed an assortment of Indian pastries…

and some relaxation…

Bombay Sweets & Pure Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

We all had such a nice time!  We hope you’ll discover and enjoy a little of India too!  Or, at least join us at the Cafe’ for some tasty bits…

Okra with Onions

(adapted from Shubhra’s recipe in the India Herald article “Entice with Spice”)

Ingredients

1 pound fresh okra, cut into 1/4″ pieces and prepared

2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil*

lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

1 small onion, sliced thick*

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

cilantro, chopped for garnish

* Our preference at the Susitna Cafe’ is to use olive oil (vs. vegetable oil) and red onion in this recipe.  In addition, we’ve added some chopped cilantro for garnish and flavour.  However, it’s important to use the ingredients that you enjoy eating yourself!  Don’t forget to experiment some too!

Heat the oil in a non-stick saute’ pan til warm.  Add the okra and lemon juice and saute’ and stir for approximately 5 minutes.  Add the onion and spices to your pan and saute’ until the onions are transparent and the okra is tender (approximately 15 minutes).  Enjoy!

Cooks Notes:  Shubhra has some excellent tips on how to prepare Okra.  Check them out at:  \”Entice with Spice\”.  In addition, note that we added a little extra lemon juice to the okra and onions at the Cafe’–delicious!

Traveler’s Note:  Don’t forget to tour Little India when you’re in Houston.  Be sure to contact us at the Cafe’ if you find something tasty to share.  You may leave a comment on this post or email us at SusitnaCafe@gmail.com.

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Filed under July 2010

Cafe’ Menu Gallery – Spring

Guess what Susitna Cafe’ friends!  Did I tell you?  We have a new Susitna Cafe’ menu.  The menu is a collection of recipe favorites inspired by travel (of course) and gardening!

Just click on the “Cafe’ Menu Gallery” tab and take a peak for yourself!  There’s an aromatic lamb and artichoke tangine…some spring picnic foods including apple pie and a lemony herb potato salad…an al fresco bean salad…and a very delicious Thai curry.  Go ahead and browse the menu for now, and I’ll be back to take your order :o.

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Filed under May 2010

Spring Forward

Top of the mornin’ to you my Susitna Cafe’ friends!  We’re just chatting and enjoying our morning coffee here today.  As usual, I’m a wee bit late getting my first cup.

Seems like our routines in the wee hours of the mornin’ are about the same at our house in Houston, TX.  Here’s an example of our wake-up routine:

1.  Get nudged by cold, wet nose*

2.  Arise out of bed

3.  Take red-head outside

4.  Bring red-head inside

5.  Grind coffee beans

6.  While grinding, note that red-head has very sad Irish-looking eyes…

7.  Stop grinding coffee beans

8.  Feed red-head

9.  Grind coffee beans

10.  While grinding, note red-head looking at me followed by a glance at the front door…

11.  Grind coffee beans

12.  Note red-head pointing at front door with cold, wet nose as if he is pointing to something that I surely must agree is of utmost importance…

*Note:  This is not my red-headed husband’s nose

After the top of the mornin’ routine is done and we have alot of ground coffee beans (but, with no coffee to drink…sigh…), my red-headed Golden Retriever, Gus, takes “R” and me on a morning walk at a nearby park.

As we walk, Gus communicates to me as he usually does in his own very happy canine way.  This morning, however, he stopped during the walk to “speak to me” for a moment.  He not only stopped, but he also flopped onto the grass and pointed his cold, wet snoz downward.

I guess I wasn’t quite “listening”, so he made an effort to do so again.  He stopped, flopped and pointed his snoz downward to be sure that I understood the importance of his communication.

Well, I understood.  Today, he communicated, is a day to celebrate green…spring forward green…Irish clover green…

It was, indeed, a wonderful and inspirational walk this morning.  We saw spring forward green all around us.  We observed it on the park trail…

In the woods…

On the ground…

On the bushes and trees…

Yes, even in the Irish clover…

Sigh…when we were done with our walk, I decided to check and see if spring forward green might be elsewhere in Houston too.

So, I loaded up my Irish-looking dog in our car and drove to Georgia’s Farm to Market.  Upon arrival at Georgia’s, I was surprised to see a couple of leprechaun farmers from Richmond, TX.

They had a pot of gold…

It was all so fresh, colorful and green sort of like a rainbow…

So I got some of the pot o’ gold from the Leprechaun farmers amongst their rainbow, and decided to spring forward green at the Cafe’ today.  Would you like to spring forward green with me, my Susitna Cafe’ friends?

Let’s cook a pot o’ gold to celebrate a wonderful green St. Patrick’s Day!  Well then, away we go lads and lassies to cook some Colcannon, an Irish potato and kale pot o’ gold dish.

Susitna Cafe’ Colcannon


Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 large sweet yellow onion, rough chopped

4 medium russet potatoes, boiled and chopped

1 bunch curly kale, washed & chopped with base stems removed

salt and ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter in frying pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion.

Saute’ until the onions are transparent.  Next, add the boiled chopped potatoes (with peel) and mix with the garlic and onion mixture.

Saute’ while mashing the potatoes with the back of a fork.  Potato consistency should appear somewhat chunky.  Slowly add chopped kale, a small bunch at a time, incorporating into the potato and onion mixture.  Saute’ and allow the potatoes to brown on the bottom of the pan.

The brown bits have alot of flavor, so continue to turn the potato and kale mixture over to brown some more.  Continue to do so until the kale is wilted and the brown bits are evenly distributed throughout mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

“R”, who has some Boston Irish heritage in his family, enjoys Colcannon with eggs cooked over easy for breakfast.  You may wish to serve Colcannon as a side dish to corned beef or as a main vegetarian meal.

Enjoy your pot o’ gold on this wonderful green St. Patrick’s Day!

Cook’s Note:  Try substituting chopped cabbage for the kale.  You won’t be disappointed!

Traveler’s Notes: Georgia’s Farm to Market is located at 12171 Katy Freeway, Houston, TX.  Don’t miss the farmer’s market on Wednesday and Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm.

I haven’t been to Ireland yet.  However, “R” has been there.  He tells me that the land is the greenist green you ever will see.  Someday, we are going to visit Quigley’s Point in Northern Ireland where his mother’s family originates.  We’re looking forward to this trip together in the near future…

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Filed under March 2010

Hungary Anyone?

We’ve just returned from the Land of Paprika.  I don’t have a diary.  But, if I did, I would describe Day 1 as follows:

Just arrived in Budapest, Hungary feeling groggy.  The airport is much smaller than expected.  It’s mid-afternoon, Hungary-time…I’ve eaten breakfast twice…or, was it lunch that I ate twice and breakfast and dinner only once?  Even my watch, with multiple time functions, is confused.

Our Zona Cab driver, a friendly native Hungarian, promptly whisks us from the airport to Erzsebet Korut.  He is happy for us.  He wants us to love Budapest.  He’s proud of the people and  cultural heritage.  He speaks excellent English.

Thank goodness.  I’ve forgotten how to speak anything in Hungarian.  I am jet-lagged.

“We’re here” he says.  We step-out of the cab and look up.  Wow!  “R” and I have our mouths open wide.  The Hotel doorman, observing us, is surely wondering if we’re trying to speak Hungarian, and after having failed, have decided to fall back on the Charades technique to act-out our needs…

No, we are not Hungary hungry.  We are in awe.  The online hotel reviews simply did not depict the beauty of  the Corinthia Hotel.  The Hotel was described as having been “a former restored palace”…a bit “out of the way”…

As the winter sun began to set, the lights appeared all around us.  We gasped at the  Corinthia “Grand” Hotel, a beautifully restored palace, glowing on this winter day in all its splendor.

Home away from home...

We wave goodbye to our new Hungarian taxicab driver friend, and we step into the Hotel…

“R” is enthusiastic.  He wants to take my picture, although we haven’t checked-in yet.  “Limburger!”, he says while he takes a multitude of photos of me.  “R” shows them to me, and they appear a bit jet-lagged blurry.

"Limberger!"

We agree to check-in quickly, toss our baggage into our room and focus on exploring.  “R” and I love to walk when we travel.  We walk and we wander…

Our jet-lag begins to wear-off as we walk out onto Erzsebet Korut.  It is cold outside.  We take it all in…the Austro-Hungarian architecture, the stoic remains from the communist occupation, and the city dwellers walking home from work.

I take note of a cluster of locals carrying bags of groceries home.  I quietly think, oh joy!  I know there’s a grocery store nearby…Yes, my Susitna Cafe’ friends, a grocery store.  Can you believe it?

Who in the world travels all the way across the Atlantic from Houston, Texas to Budapest, Hungary to spend time in a grocery store?  We do.  Why?  Well, you would be amazed at what one can learn from the experience!

After spending about 20 minutes in the local Spar grocery store, one can assess the following:

1) the locals eat fresh foods and shop daily as typical Europeans do–this is determined by strolling around the entire store first in order to get an overall broad assessment of the situation–are we having fun yet?

2) pastries, and most particularly, cakes are popular–take note that the cracker, cookie and pastry isle is fully stocked with prepared cakes…carrot cake, chocolate cake… cake with and without marzipan…

3) there is paprika everywhere–we’re not talking about paprika in small jars.  We’re talking about paprika in bags and tubes.  If paprika is not packaged in a bag or tube, it is commonly found as an ingredient in food items.

At this point of my grocery store cultural assessment, my thoughts race as I consider all the recipes I could test and/or develop from this wonderful inspiration.

In the meantime, “R” is beginning to look tired and Hungary hungry.  I encourage him to be patient because I think I’ve found ITIT is that one source of cooking inspiration that I simply must learn about during our trip.  In this case, on our first day, IT must be paprika.  Paprika is Hungarian.  Hungary hungarians eat paprika.  We are in Hungary, so we must eat paprika.  We must learn about paprika too.

My thoughts continue to race…well, there are so many kinds of paprika to consider… special quality, delicate, excuisite delicate, pungent excuisite delicate, noble sweet, half sweet, rose AND hot paprika.  What is a girl to do?

I convinced myself to hold that thought until I could figure it out later.  After all, what is a girl to do?  So, we walk out of Spar and head towards Andrassy Ut.

Meanwhile, “R” is still Hungary hungry.  We observe many bookstores on Andrassy Ut.  We love bookstores!  We enter “Alexandra” bookstore, and I find the cookbook section quickly.  They have “Culinaria Hungary” in English!  I quickly glance at recipes and note some common ingredients…Hungarian peppers, tomatoes, paprika…

“R” waves at me wildly and encourages me to go up the escalator with him.  “R” has found food and art…

What a sight as we ride the escalator to the second floor–the ceiling is gilded.  Isn’t it marvelous?

Alexandra Guilded Ceiling

Look Up!

We are delighted as we sit at the “Alexandra Bookstore Cafe” table amongst friends.  But, there is a slight hiccup…our waitress speaks Hungarian.  We try speaking Hungarian…our waitress doesn’t understand us, and she smiles at our efforts…

Our smiling waitress then begins speaking German.  At this point, there is hope…I speak some German, and after doing so, she understands me!  We are now “connected”.  We enthusiastically order a hot tea, a latte and some sandwiches.

We dive into our sandwiches amongst the frescoes and books.  Occasionally I look up and see this:

Alexandra Bookstore Cafe Fresco

Art and Food...

I am, once again, inspired.  I become more energized by the minute.  As I bite into my sandwich, I ask the waitress, “Was ist das?” She tells me that we are eating Hungarian sausage laced with…what else?  Paprika!  Art and food…

Susitna Cafe’ Hungarian Winter Lecso (“LETCH-oh”)

Lecso is a popular Hungarian national dish.  Every Hungarian family has their own version.  The Susitna Cafe’ version includes an assortment of colorful organic vegetables combined with sausage and, of course, paprika.  It is a wonderful winter stew inspired by Day 1 in Hungary, our art and food experience.  Would you like to share the experience with me at the Susitna Cafe’?

This is what you’ll need to make Lecso that feeds 4-6 people as a main dish (feeds more if served as an appetizer):

Ingredients

Ingredients

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon bacon grease*

1 medium eggplant, sliced in 1″ slices, salted, rinsed, then chopped

1 red onion, chopped

2 yellow bell peppers, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces

2-3 small zucchini squash, diced

3 plum tomatoes, chopped

3 heaping teaspoons tomato paste

2 Tablespoons Hungarian paprika (hot is preferred, but sweet will do)

1 Hungarian sausage link*, chopped (kielbasa or your favorite sausage will do)

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream (for serving)

*vegetarians omit these ingredients

Begin by slicing the eggplant into 1 inch slices.  Salt the tops and bottoms and leave for 10 minutes.  The salt will extract any bitterness from the eggplant.

Salted Eggplant

Salted Eggplant

Heat the oil in a dutch oven at medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, clean and chop the red onion.  Next, rinse the salt from the eggplant slices, pat them dry, and chop them.  Throw the onion and eggplant into the heated dutch oven.  Saute and stir.

While the onion and eggplant cook, clean and chop the remaining vegetables.  After the eggplant and onion are cooked soft, add the remaining chopped vegetables.  Saute and stir.

Sauteed Mixed Lecso Vegetables

Colorful Lecso Veggies

The vegetables may begin to stick to the pan, so you may add about 1/4 cup of water, as needed.  Now add the tomato paste and paprika.  Cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.  The Lecso should have the consistency of a chunky tomato sauce.

Add the chopped sausage to the mix and continue cooking for 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Less salt is required if sausage is used in the recipe.

Now, turn-off the heat and allow the Lecso to come to room temperature.  Although you may skip this step and dig-in, a little patience will reveal a richer and full-flavored Lecso.  The cooling period allows the Lecso flavors to meld.  Once the Lecso is cool, then reheat and serve.

Serve with a dollop of light sour cream on top, some crusty bread,  and a tossed green salad.

Hungary Anyone?

Traveler’s Notes:  Since writing this post, I’ve discovered that the Alexandra Bookstore Cafe’ frescoes were painted by a 19th century Hungarian painter, Karoly Lotz.

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Filed under February 2010