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Published: Sunday, 8/12/2012

23rd annual Festival of India celebrates food, music, dance

Aloo aur Anarkali Salad

BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
(left to right) Sumiran Shah and Kimi Shah perform an Indian Fusion dance at the Festival of India held at the Hindu Temple of Toledo in Sylvania in August 2011. The festival showcased dance performances as well as food and jewelry and clothing for sale. (left to right) Sumiran Shah and Kimi Shah perform an Indian Fusion dance at the Festival of India held at the Hindu Temple of Toledo in Sylvania in August 2011. The festival showcased dance performances as well as food and jewelry and clothing for sale.
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Bollywood is the colloquial name for India's thriving movie industry. Spices are what make Indian food so distinctive. Put them together and you have Bollywood Spices, the theme for this year's Festival of India, held Friday night through Sunday afternoon (but primarily on Saturday) at the Hindu Temple of Toledo.

Now in its 23rd year, the festival will once again be a celebration of culture from all parts of India, the second-most populous country in the world. Along with the distinctive music of the subcontinent, the brilliantly colored costumes, and the precisely controlled forms of dance, the festival this year will pay particular attention to the movies and music of Bollywood, unquestionably the most important driving force of Indian popular culture.

Though much of the focus will be on the movies, as much of it will also be on the country's food. Three restaurants, including Sylvania's Deepam India, will be selling a wide variety of both traditional dishes and Indian street food.

Deepam India will feature lemon rice, samosas (the popular fried appetizer), vegetable burgers made with potatoes, the fried elephant ears called jalebi, the refreshing drink mago lassi, and kulfi, which is more or less like ice cream, though it is less smooth.

The Ann Arbor restaurant Hut-K Chaat will offer pani puri (fried dough puffs stuffed with a savory filling and served with a thin, spicy sauce), bhel puri (a spicy and salty snack made with puffed rice), papdi chaat (fried dough crisps topped with potatoes, chick peas, and sweet and savory spices), dahi sev puri (another tangy, sweet, and spicy snack), and bread stuffed with chutneys, vegetables, and paneer cheese.

Priya Restaurant, from Farmington Hills, Mich., will serve dosas (rice-and-lentil crepes), chola bhatura (fried, puffed dough served with spicy chick peas), and aloo tikki (fried potato dumplings stuffed with spiced vegetables).

Friday's and Sunday's programs are generally for members of the temple, and include prayers (pujas) and community events. The festival will be open to the public on Saturday from noon-10 p.m. at the Hindu Temple and Heritage Hall of Toledo, 4336 King Rd., in Sylvania. Admission is free. For more information, call 419-843-4440 or visit hindutempleoftoledo.org.

Meanwhile, to get you in the mood for the festival or to continue an exploration of Indian food, the festival's Atul Agnihotri has provided two traditional vegetarian recipes.

Aloo aur Anarkali Salad

3/4 cup chick peas

1 1/2 pounds potatoes

⅓ cup fresh pomegranate seeds (see cook's note)

5 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons chaat masala (see cook's note)

4 tablespoons cooking oil (not olive oil)

2 small onions, sliced thin

1 medium tomato, sliced thin

⅓ cup mint leaves, washed, no stems

Cook's note: To obtain fresh pomegranate seeds, split a pomegranate in half and remove seeds. Chaat masala can be purchased at Indian markets and some Asian markets.

Soak chick peas overnight in a bowl of water. Drain, place in a small pot, add fresh water to about double the height of the beans in the pot, add salt, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Drain, and set aside.

While the chick peas cook, boil the potatoes until done. Drain, and let them cool. Peel and cut in a 3/4-inch dice.

Mix chick peas, potatoes, and pomegranate seeds in a serving bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, cumin, cayenne, chaat masala, and oil. Pour this dressing over the chick pea mixture, and toss.

Arrange the onions and tomatoes on the sides of the bowl, and garnish the salad with fresh mint leaves. Serve chilled.

Yield: 4 servings

Source: Atul Agnihotri

Shahi Paneer

1 cup cashews

8 ounces heavy cream, divided

3 tablespoons cooking oil (not olive oil)

2 medium onions, grated or processed to a paste

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon turmeric

6 ounces tomato puree

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste (see cook's note)

1 1/2 cups water

Salt to taste

14 ounces paneer, cut into 24 pieces (see cook's note)

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Cook's note: Ginger-garlic paste and paneer are available at Indian markets and some Asian markets.

Soak cashews in 4 ounces of the cream for 30 minutes. Grind or process into a fine paste. Set aside.

Add cooking oil to a large pan over medium heat, add onions, and saute until they become golden brown.

Saute the onion paste in oil on medium heat till it turns light golden brown. Add the cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cumin, and turmeric and continue frying with the onion paste for 4 minutes. Add tomato puree, sugar, and ginger-garlic paste and continue frying until oil starts to separate from the paste. Add cashew paste slowly while stirring, making sure it mixes well. Add water and 2 ounces of heavy cream, and let the curry boil for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Gently add cheese (paneer) blocks to the curry, a few at a time. Keep stirring gently until thoroughly combined, adding more water if desired. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt, if needed as required. Serve hot, garnished with remaining 2 ounces of heavy cream and cilantro leaves. Serve hot with naan bread or white rice.

Yield: 4 servings

Source: Atul Agnihotri

Contact Daniel Neman at: dneman@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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