This month I happened to notice that Ali of the Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen was hosting the wonderful monthly blogging event called Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free, and I was inspired to join! This event was created by the lovely Naomi Devlin of Straight into Bed Cakefree and Dried. Ali chose the inspiring theme Ideas for Packing a Healthy School Lunch! I always love planning lunches, especially when I can get inspiration from countries that have wonderful packed lunch traditions like Japan and India. I have waxed joyous many times on the Japanese onigiri, or rice ball, and the Japanese Bento Box. But India has quite a bit to offer the packed lunch as well with their practical but chic stainless steel tiffin lunchboxes. When I was lucky enough to go to India in person, I snatched up quite a few tiffin lunchboxes and started a personal small but treasured tiffin collection.
Once Ali threw down the challenge, I started thinking about what dishes would be good in a tiffin. Lately I’ve been eating more quinoa than rice, and so a quinoa dish was a given. I could have packed my favorite quinoa masala recipe, but this time I thought I’d make a more basic recipe that would be the base note for the meal, rather than the star component. I riffed on a favorite rice cooker recipe, adding more spices and peas for fun. Lately I’ve been reveling in the fresh offerings at the Farmer’s Market, and I’ve got a serious crush on baby zucchini and zucchini blossoms. I decided to make a highly seasoned and decadent (but still healthy!) baby zucchini and baby pattypan dry curry that would travel well and complement the quinoa pilaf. And then, influenced by Japanese bento where a high-protein fried treat accompanies rice and vegetables, I decided to end on a slightly decadent note with a pakora (chickpea flour fritter) zucchini blossom. It tastes lovely hot, cold, with ketchup or simply kissed with salt, and marvelously blends the fresh flavor of the blossom with hearty, savory chickpea batter.
And so, a healthy Indian vegetarian (and vegan) lunch menu was born. Baby Yum is too little for such lunchbox menus as yet, but I think you’re never too old to treat your adult self with a healthy and delicious lunch, whether it be in a paper (or eco-reusable) bag, tiffin, or bento box. And when Baby Yum is old enough for school, I hope she’ll enjoy eating this type of International, vegetarian feasts as much as I will enjoy making them for her.
I also entered this post in Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays
More International Lunches from the Book of Yum:
Vegetarian Bento with Burdock and Lotus Root and Inari Zushi
Fusion Tiffin with Thai Lemongrass Corn and Quesadillas
Spinach Sesame Onigiri (Japanese Rice Ball) for Bento
Assorted Avocado Fusion Onigiri recipes for Bento
Looking for more inspiration for your Bento or Tiffin Box? Here are some of my favorite sites which have recipes that can be adapted to be gluten-free:
Just Bento (Japanese recipes)
Just Hungry (Japanese recipes)
Maki of Just Bento and Just Hungry’s Cookbook:
The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches To Go
Cooking Cute (Japanese recipes)
The Cooking Cute cookbook:
Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches
Lunch in a Box (no longer being updated)
Week of Menus (How about a Korean recipe bento?)
Hapa Bento (Japanese cuisine)
Indian Baby Zucchini, pattypan squash, and tomato dry curry recipe
1/2 lb baby zucchini
1/2 lb baby pattypan squash
2 small tomatoes or one medium tomato, cubed and dusted with salt
2 tbsp. of olive or canola oil, divided
Clean zucchini and pattypan squash and towel dry. Cut Baby zucchini in half lengthwise, and cut pattypan squash in half horizontally so that you have two circlets, one having a pumpkin-like stem and os one not.
Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a large nonstick pan on medium high and then add your baby zucchini so that you have one layer in the pan. You may have to do this in batches. Let it brown for a minute or so and then lower the heat. Let brown for 8 minutes, turning halfway through to get even browning. Remove zucchini from pan and reserve. Heat the remaining oil on medium high again and put a single layer of your pattypan squash in the pan. After a minute or so, lower heat and brown for 5-6 minutes. Turn halfway through or as soon as the bottom layer is brown and brown the other side. Add the zucchini back into the pan and add your spices, mixing thoroughly. Let the spices heat up and brown slightly. Add the cubed tomatoes and mix again. Let the tomatoes cook down slightly and then take off burner. Taste and season with additional salt if needed. Serve!
*vegetables can be replaced with Okra if desired.
zucchini blossom pakora fritter recipe
1 cup chickpea flour
pinch baking soda
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or 1/4 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp chipotle pepper)
1 tsp roasted ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
canola oil for deep frying
1 farmer’s market package of zucchini squash blossoms
salt for taste
Combine pakora batter ingredients in a small bowl.
Pour enough canola oil in a small, deep pan for deep frying. Heat on high until hot but before reaching smoking point. If oil is too hot, fritters will burn. If not hot enough, the fritters will absorb too much oil. Oil is ready when a drop of batter rises to the surface immediately and sizzles. Lower heat to medium high to keep at correct temperature.
Dip your squash blossoms into the batter, coating all sides evenly. Drop them into hot oil, turning frequently so that the blossom browns evenly.
Remove fritters from oil with tongs or metal strainer and set on rack to drain. You can reheat them later in the oven on 375 and they will taste hot and fresh!
Sprinkle lightly with salt if desired.
Good with ketchup, chutney, or even plain!
*this photo is of whole baby zucchini and blossom from my first experiment with this recipe. However, I found it better to just batter and fry the blossom separately, and those are the versions pictured in the tiffin photos!
Special Indian Quinoa Recipe
5 tsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 – 1 cup green peas
3 1/2 cups water
3 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2-1 tsp sea salt
Heat sesame oil in your rice cooker and then add your black mustard seeds and cumin. Heat until seeds pop and then add your quinoa. Heat the rice cooker again (by pressing cook), stir the quinoa, and let it cook a few minutes. Open rice cooker and add your peas, water, lime juice, turmeric, and salt. Stir. Start your rice cooker cycle again and let cook. Can keep warm in the rice cooker for a bit or serve immediately. Enjoy!