This handsome man is Hari Nayak, the man responsible for getting me comfortable cooking Indian food. I think what intimidated me all these years was the long list of spices listed in most traditional Indian recipes. I remember watching a television special on Indian cuisine, and I thought to myself that an Indian chef is like an artist, the spices on the tray the paint. A two-finger pinch of this, a spoonful of that, a 3-finger pinch of the other.

Hari and I got to know each other through his first book, Modern Indian Cooking (check out the Sparkling Ginger Lime CoolerSweet Yogurt Sundae with Saffron and Pomegranate and Scallop Salad with Sweet Vanilla Chili Dressing) that really made Indian recipes within reach for me with simple ingredients found in any grocery store and just a few spices that I already had on hand.
I introduced him to the publisher of Steamy Kitchen Cookbook and look! Now he’s the proud author of My Indian Kitchen with Tuttle Publishing.

The recipe we chose to share is this Zucchini with Lentils and Roasted Garlic, simple and healthy!

Other recipes that caught my eye in the My Indian Kitchen book:

– Spiced Meatballs that are pan fried in oil infused with cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods.
– Spicy Coconut Green Beans
– Street Style Corn on the Cob
– Tandoori Skewered Shrimp
– Indian-Style Fried Rice


Zucchini with Lentils and Roasted Garlic

Servings: Serves 6

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Recipe by Hari Nayak, My Indian Kitchen

The combination of lentils, vegetables, garlic and cumin gives this satisfying side dish a unique flavor that goes perfectly with Plain Basmati Rice or Whole-Wheat Griddle Bread . To make it a meal i suggest adding a stir fried shrimp or chicken curry along side this dish. If zucchini is not available, use any other common squashes such as summer squash or calabash, aka bottle gourd. The addition of lentils in this dish makes it a nutritious main dish for vegetarians with rice or bread and a raita or plain yogurt.


1 cup (175 g) yellow mung lentils, rinsed and drained
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoon salt
4 cups (1 liter) water
2 tablespoons oil
6 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small onion (about ¼ lb/125 g), thinly sliced
4 small zucchini (about 1 lb/500 g), cut into ¼-in (6-mm)-thick half-moons
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)


1. Place the lentils, turmeric, salt and water in a large saucepan. Bring it to boil, skimming off any surface scum that collects on the top. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are cooked, about 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Cover the bowl and keep warm.
2. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until golden brown. Add the cumin seeds—they should sizzle upon contact with the hot oil. Quickly add the onion and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes, until onion soft and zucchini is cooked, but not mushy.
3. Add the ground coriander and cumin..
4. Remove the pan form the heat, add the paprika, and immediately pour over the hot lentils. Swirl lightly to mix and sprinkle on the fresh coriander leaves. Serve with your choice of Indian breads or rice.