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The Telangana Science Journal

Health and Nutrition

(An International Electronic Science Digest Published from the United States of America)
(Click here to subscribe to this free e-journal)
(Dedicated to one of the most backward regions in India, "Telangana," )

Chief Editor: Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, PhD, LLM


Issue 83

5106 Kali Era , taarana Year, kaartika month
2062 Vikramarka Era, taarana Year, kaartika month
1926 Salivahana Era , taarana
Year, kaartika month
 2004 AD, November


Diet and Exercise
Women's Health
Men's Health
Vegetarian Jello
Olive Oil
Fruits and Vegetables
Airlines v. Waistlines
War Against Waistlines
Coffee and Cigarettes

Educated Mothers
Body Weight
Male Supplements
Prostate Hyperplasia
Male Contraception
Antioxidants for Men
Your Fertility
Race-Based Medicine
Optimist Lives Longer
Oral Health in Elderly
Exploring India's Myriad
Stuffed Bell Peppers
Cilantro and Mint Raita
Purslane Stuffing
Mixed Fruit Shake

Diet and Exercise

PURSLANE (gangapaayala, bruhalloani, verdolaga)
Scientific name: Oleracea portulaca L. or Portulacca oleracea. Common English names: pigweed, purslane, little hogweed, postelijn, pourpier, portulat, garden purslane, fatweed. Spanish: Verdolaga. Telugu:  gangapaayala, peddapaayala or peddapaavila; Sanskrit: bruhalloani; Mandarin Chinese:Gwa tsz tsai; Filipino: ngalog.
Family: Portulacaceae.

Purslane or Verdolaga is a vegetable green used in many Indian states and Latin American countries. It is also popular as a salad green in France and other European countries with a taste similar to watercress. Verdolaga is also valued in Latin America for its medicinal properties. It is believed to be native to Ancient India. In Andhra it is mostly used in lentil soups and curries.  It has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. Tenth-century Arabic treatises provide detailed information on varieties and cultivation. Seventeenth-century English recipes used by the cooks of Charles II list it as a salad ingredient. See also:

Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant we know of. According to Dr. Artemis P. Simopoulos, purslane is a good source of vitamin E, A and C and omega-3 fatty acids which help build cell membranes, especially of the brain and eyes, and reduce inflammation and blood pressure. It is reputed to be the richest vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids (which lower lipid levels in the blood). The principal type of omega-3 fatty acid is linolenic acid. It has six times more vitamin E than spinach.  Omega-3s aid the body in the production of compounds that effect blood pressure, clotting, the immune system, prevent inflammation, lower cholesterol (LDL), prevent certain cancers and control coronary spasms. In addition recent studies suggest that Omega- 3s may have positive effects on the brain and may aid in such conditions as depression, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer's disease, autism, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and migraines. See below for a purslane recipe.

Vegetarian Jello
Jell-O, like all gelatin products (including those made for photographic and laboratory use, as well as for desserts) is made out of hides, bones, and inedible connecting tissue from animals.  Gelatin can be extracted from any kind of animal, but cows are most common.

You can make vegetarian jello with 4 tablespoons agar agar flakes (kanten) and 1 quart fruit juice. Bring the mix to a boil. Let it simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into a dish and add fruits if you like. Chill. (See also:

New York based, Hain Pure Foods, one of the top producers of vegetarian food products in the United States, has created a delicious alternative to Jello, "SuperFruits." "SuperFruits" gel exactly like traditional Jello, but taste more like real fruit. "SuperFruits" come in strawberry, orange, raspberry and cherry flavors. "SuperFruits" are available at Whole Foods and other health food stores, and you can call Hain at (800) 434 HAIN, Monday through Friday 7AM to 5PM Mountain Time to find out where this product is carried in your area.  Whole Foods also carries FruitGels, 100% vegetarian product from Horizon. (

Olive Oil
Food containing olive oil can carry labels saying it may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, the Food and Drug Administration said. There may be a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease when people replace foods high in saturated fat with the monounsaturated fat in olive oil.

Giant bass, mackerel, squirming eels etc. link family dinner tables to poisons in the sea.  Besides mercury which can damage the brains of fetuses and young children and can affect healthy adults, there are PCBs, dioxins and flame retardants with unknown long-term effects. Industrial waste permeates every ocean. It is the same from ancient Mediterranean towns like Sete to big city docks in Asia, America's Gulf ports, or harbors in seemingly pristine Nordic waters. Although rich in omega-3 fatty acids vital to the heart and brain, many fish contain toxins that build up over time in the human body.  Scientists express alarm at what they call inadequate government warnings, lax attitudes toward fishing industries, and insufficient data to assess the risks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration coordinated its warnings on fish with more stringent EPA guidelines, but fell short of the risk and that not enough controls were in place.

There are alternatives available such as purslane, urad, flax and many more rich in omega-3 fatty acids without such poisonous contamination.

Fruits and Vegetables
A multiyear study involving more than 100,000 participants provides added support that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is good for the heart reported the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.  The report supports the American Heart Association's recommendations to consume at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Participants who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily had a slightly decreased risk of heart disease. Among vegetables, those most closely related to better heart health were green leafy vegetables.

Vegetable oils found in leafy green vegetables, nuts and flaxseed reduce a woman's risk of dying from heart disease, U.S. researchers reported in a study, presented in November to a meeting of the American Heart Association.  The Study offers an alternative to mercury ridden fish and fish oil supplements that have also been shown to lower heart risk.

Red meats and processed meats such as hot dogs appear to increase the risk of diabetes, as does a heavily "Western" diet, according to new research released by U.S. investigators in Archives of Internal Medicine, November 8, 2004.  The study found that people that ate mostly Western foods - including sweets, French fries, refined grains such as white bread, and red and processed meats - were nearly 50 percent more likely to develop diabetes over a 14-year period than people who ate minimal amounts of Western-type foods. The researchers also found that women who followed a largely so-called "prudent" diet -- consisting of high amounts of legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains -- the risk of diabetes appeared to decrease. The prudent diet appeared to offer particularly strong protection from symptomatic forms of diabetes, which are typically more advanced than non-symptomatic diabetes.

One in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes during their lifetime, according to predictions by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. The incidence of diabetes has risen fast in recent decades along with the increasing number of people who are overweight or obese in developed countries. Diabetes already affects 194 million people and the number is expected to rise to 333 million by 2025. But even a moderate weight loss can delay onset of the illness.  Half the world's diabetes cases could be eliminated by curbing the soaring number of people who are overweight, health experts said.

In earlier studies, rabbits that were given cholesterol developed features of Alzheimer's. Removing cholesterol either through the diet or with cholesterol-lowering drugs reversed the Alzheimer's path in animals.  Researchers have also shown excessive levels of cholesterol in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.  Reduction in cholesterol is shown to have an effect on Alzheimer's disease.  According to researchers, significant changes in a small group of patients, which involved the drug Lipitor (generic name atorvastatin), were observed.  The study was presented at the American Heart Association's scientific sessions in New Orleans. During the study, LDL levels dropped by more than 50 percent, while total cholesterol dropped by more than 40 percent. Studies have shown up to 70% reduction in AD incidence in individuals who reduced cholesterol levels by using statin drugs. In addition to recent studies presented at major medical conferences, published peer-reviewed studies include, for example, International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 2004;19:327-32; Neuroepidemiology 2004; 23:94-8; Neuron 2004; 41:7-10; Arch Neurol 2000; 57:1439-1443; Lancet 2000; 356:1627-1631; Arch Neurol 2002; 59:223-227; J Gerontol Biol Sci Med Sci 2002;57:M414-M418; and J Am Geriatr Soc 2002;50:1852-1856.

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Airlines v. Waistlines
A new government study reveals that airlines increasingly have to worry more about the weight of their passengers. America's growing waistlines are hurting the bottom lines of airline companies as the extra pounds on passengers are causing a drag on planes. Heavier fliers have created heftier fuel costs, according to the government study. Through the 1990s, the average weight of Americans increased by 10 pounds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The extra weight caused airlines to spend $275 million to burn 350 million more gallons of fuel in 2000 just to carry the additional weight of Americans, the federal agency estimated in a recent issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

War Against Waistlines
As many middle-aged and elderly individuals can attest, keeping fat from settling around the middle gets tougher and tougher as you age.  Abdominal fat also carries special risks to health, since "it's associated with an increased risk for diabetes. Doctors have long known that belly fat tends to accumulate with aging, just as DHEA levels begin to fall.  When we're 70 years old we only have about 20 percent of the DHEA we had when we were young.  Researchers say an over-the-counter hormone supplement might help elderly people shed stubborn belly fat.  Preliminary evidence suggests that increased levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a natural hormone secreted by the adrenal gland, might also help older people keep diabetes at bay.  The replacement of DHEA brought back DHEA levels in older persons to the range seen in youth. This resulted in a reduction in abdominal fat that was accompanied by an improvement in insulin action.  The findings appear in the Nov. 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. DHEA supplements might be harmful for people with a history of hormone-sensitive cancers, such as tumors of the breast or prostate. Participants in the St. Louis study who took DHEA supplements experienced a "significant" rise in blood levels of estradiol (an estrogen-like hormone) and testosterone, hormones commonly connected to breast and prostate cancers, respectively. Also, the supplements industry remains largely unregulated and the quality of DHEA varies from store to store. Also, visit:

There is another reason to fight obesity.  A study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention finds that overweight and obese women age 55 and older may have double the usual risk of developing acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).

Not so surprisingly, waistline affects below the waist also.  Yet another reason to fight obesity.  Obesity greatly impairs sexual quality of life for men and women, Duke University Medical Center researchers found in a quality of life study of about 1,200 participants, affecting enjoyment, desire, frequency of sex and even mechanics. Obese people report sexual problems such as lack of desire, lack of enjoyment, avoiding sex and performance difficulty. Overall, women experienced more difficulties than men among both weight groups, but the gender differences were small compared with the disparity between the obese and normal weight study populations.  Two-thirds of obese people seeking treatment reported sexual impairment in at least one of four areas, compared with about 5 percent of normal weight people. In some cases, obese people are 25 times more likely to report sexual problems, according to the Duke study.  The results were presented in Las Vegas in November at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity.

Disability risk increased along with increasing abdominal fat; and this was often true even among normal-weight study participants, study findings show. The greatest risk of disability, however, was found among those in both the highest body mass index and the highest abdominal fat categories, according to a study presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity meeting in November.

Another study presented at the meeting found that low-fat diets to be the winner in the latest round in the low fat vs. low-carb weight loss debate. The study found that people who follow low-fat diets appear to keep weight off better than people on low-carb plans.  Yet another study presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity meeting found a strong link between sleep deprivation and obesity. Getting a good night's sleep may help people keep off excess weight. Owners and pets both lost weight and kept it off when they started a diet and exercise regimen together, according to a study presented at the same meeting.

Cholesterol Drugs and Grapefruit
The problem occurs because grapefruit contains a chemical that inactivates a liver enzyme involved in drug metabolism. As a result, regular consumption of grapefruit juice can lead to excessively high levels of medicine in the blood.  The risk of serious muscle problems also increases when these cholesterol pills, or statins, are taken along with some other drugs, including HIV protease inhibitors.  The grapefruit hazard is not significant for other statins, such as Novartis AG's Lescol, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co's Pravachol and AstraZeneca Plc's Crestor. But muscle toxicity is still a recognized adverse reaction with high doses of all statins, leading in rare cases to rhabdomyolysis -- a condition in which muscle fibers break down and are released into the circulation, damaging the kidney.  Worries about rhabdomyolysis have been a particular issue for Crestor, the most potent of the anti-cholesterol drugs, with U.S. consumer group Public Citizen calling for its withdrawal following a handful of cases.

Coffee and Cigarettes
People who like to start the day with coffee and a cigarette may be doing particular damage to their arteries, new research suggests. In fact, the effect of the cigarette-caffeine combo was more than just the sum of the effects of each, according to findings published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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Low-carb v. Low-glycemic
Eating good carbohydrates, instead of low-carb is better, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Carbohydrates with a low glycemic index won't cause blood sugar levels to spike after meals the way that sugary or processed carbohydrates do. The low-glycemic menus featured such foods as steel-cut oatmeal, barley and whole-grain breads.
Women's Health
Cervical cancer is caused by infection with human papilloma virus, or HPV, which is spread through sex. There are dozens of HPV strains.  But  HPV-16 and HPV-18 account for more than 70 percent of cervical cancers. Worldwide, 511,000 women are stricken with cervical cancer each year, and about half die. It is the leading cancer killer among women in the developing world. In the United States, about 15,000 women get it and about 5,000 die annually.

An experimental vaccine appears to be highly effective at preventing the viral infection that causes most cases of cervical cancer. A study presented this week at an American Society for Microbiology meeting suggests that the vaccine provides long-lasting protection against the strain of human papillomavirus (HPV-16) that causes half of cases of cervical cancer. The study followed some 1,500 women age 16 to 23, about half of whom got the vaccine -- three doses over six months -- and half of whom were injected with dummy shots. Four years later, seven of the women who'd gotten the vaccine were infected with HPV-16, but none had precancerous changes in their cervix. Among the women who got the placebos, 111 had HPV infections and 12 had precancers. Researchers say they will seek Food and Drug Administration approval as early as next year for an expanded version of the vaccine, covering HPV-16 and a second cancer-causing strain (HPV-18), that could be used to prevent both cervical cancer and genital warts in women and men.

Researchers say a second experimental cervical cancer vaccine appears to broadly protect against infection and risky precancerous conditions for more than two years, affirming scientists' belief that the disease could be progressively eradicated in a global campaign much like smallpox and polio.  The study was conducted in the United States and Brazil.  Patients given the vaccine sustained a high level of immune response against the virus that spreads cervical cancer, and that it would prevent infection for many years. Whether revaccination ultimately would be needed must be determined by an additional, longer trial, researchers said. Details appear in the British medical journal The Lancet.

Educated  Mothers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the rising birth rates among older women show a continuing trend of delayed childbirth as more women enter the work force. These women are actively engaged in education and pursuing their careers" in their 20s.  U.S. women in their 30s and early 40s had higher birth rates in 2003, while births among teenagers fell for the 12th straight year. The latest report also found that fewer mothers-to-be smoked during pregnancy, while the percentage of women who received early prenatal care increased in 2003, continuing a pattern that began in the early 1990s. Last week, the CDC reported the birth rate among younger females aged 10 to 14 reached a 58-year low in 2002.

Mens Health
 Body Weight
Body weight has already been shown to affect a woman's ability to conceive. Obese women, for example, have a heightened risk of menstrual irregularities and infertility. In a study of nearly 1,600 young Danish men, the investigators found that those with either a low or high body mass index (BMI) had differences in reproductive hormones, as well as lower sperm counts than normal-weight men. In some cases, these weight-related effects would likely be enough to reduce a man's fertility.

Middle-aged men who are obese are doubling their risk of suffering a stroke, according to a study of more than 7,400 healthy men followed for 28 years. The new findings are reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Male Enhancement Supplements
Men looking for non-prescription treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) should avoid some "male enhancement" supplements. The Food and Drug Administration is warning men not to use the supplements sold under the name Actra-Rx or Yilishen, since they can cause blood pressure to drop to unsafe levels. The supplements contain prescription-level doses of sildenafil, the active ingredient in the ED drug Viagra, the FDA says. Like Viagra, Actra-Rx may interact with prescription drugs that contain nitrates, used to treat conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease, The Associated Press reports. Men taking the supplements should stop immediately and see a doctor about alternative treatments for ED, the FDA says. The FDA is blocking imports of the supplements, which are made in China, and is continuing an investigation of the matter.

Prostate Hyperplasia
Benign prostate hyperplasia, or BPH, refers to the slow growth of the prostate gland that commonly occurs as a man ages. The condition often causes symptoms bothersome in some older men.  An enlarged prostate can put pressure on the urethra (the tube through which urine passes) and irritate the bladder.  BPH symptoms include a weak urinary stream, inability to completely empty the bladder and frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom.  Men have several options for combating them, including the herbal product saw palmetto, according to the current issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch. Extracts of the berries of saw palmetto, also known as the dwarf palm, are widely used in Europe as an antidote to BPH symptoms. Saw palmetto is also the best studied of the herbal products marketed for treating the condition.

Male Contraception
So far male contraception has been limited to condoms and vasectomies.  A new method of male contraception may change that.  The method worked in experiments on male monkeys in Bhaarat (India), most of which regained their fertility when the treatments were stopped, researchers report in November 11th issue of the journal Science.  Eppin is a protein produced in the testis and epididymis, the tightly coiled ducts that carry sperm.  Monkeys were immunized using a form of eppin.  Male monkeys that developed a strong immune response to the eppin were still able to copulate but could not impregnate females, the researchers said. It is hypothesized that the immunocontraception works by preventing the sperm from freeing itself from the seminal fluid to make its way to the uterus and oviducts to fertilize the egg.  The experiments were designed in the United States and were outsourced and carried out in India. Seven of the nine males tested developed high antibody levels.  Five of the seven recovered fertility once the immunization stopped. They were injected with eppin about every three weeks to maintain the immunization.
Antioxidants for Men
Antioxidants including beta-carotene, ascorbic acid, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc may prevent some of the harmful effects caused by free radicals. It has also been suggested that a low dietary intake of antioxidants increases the incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Low-dose antioxidant supplementation may reduce the risk of cancer among men, but not in women, according to an article in the November 22 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine.

Your Fertility
Serono, Inc. launched "My Fertility Profile", a new interactive way for people to learn about factors associated with their risk of infertility. Available for free at Fertility LifeLines(TM) ( ), My Fertility Profile offers users a personalized summary of the factors that may affect their ability to conceive and steps they can take to protect their fertility health.

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Race-Based Medicine, Genomics, and You
Matthew Herper, 11.09.04, 6:00 AM ET

NEW ORLEANS - When the human genome was unveiled in 2001, researchers made a point of saying that there is no genetic basis for what we call race--whether someone is Asian, African-American, or Caucasian. Mostly, that's true. There is much more variation within any single racial subgroup than there is between them.

So how do we explain the new heart failure pill tested by NitroMed?

The pill, a fixed combination of two generic ingredients, is the first drug tested only in African-Americans. Results unveiled this morning here at the American Heart Association meeting and published online in the New England Journal of Medicine are stunning. On top of the best treatments available, BiDil still increased survival of African-American heart failure patients by 43% compared with a sugar pill, while cutting hospitalizations by 33%. That's particularly impressive because heart failure, a chronic weakening of the heart's ability to pump blood, has a 50% mortality rate over five years.

Previously, BiDil had never been a true success in clinical trials containing both whites and blacks, but seemed to work well in African-Americans. Thanks in part to hard work by the Association of Black Cardiologists, it was tested in that group--and will now probably save many lives.

Gregg Bloche, a doctor at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins, says he expects that this could be the start of a trend. "Ultimately," he says, "what makes for these differences is that there's biological variation in how diseases work."

The difference, however, is not necessarily genetic. It could be caused by environment, or culture. But researchers are hunting for a genetic explanation. The study itself contains a study designed to look for genes that might explain why some people respond and others don't.

"All drugs given to populations work in some members of the population and not others," says Jay Cohn, a cardiologist at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. This is true for cancer drugs such as those made by Genentech and heart drugs made by Pfizer and Merck. If there is a difference between African-Americans and whites, it is how many people in each group will respond to the drug. If this response is caused by a gene or some other biological signal, it should be possible, someday, to separate out those people who the drug helps.

Some researchers even argue that the drug may work in non-whites as well. Salim Yusuf, a professor of medicine at Canada's McMaster University who has done a great deal of research said at a news conference that he would expect the results to extend to people of other races. Some doctors expect that BiDil may be given to patients who are not African-American if they needed another drug for their heart failure.

There is some evidence, though that African-Americans with heart failure may differ in the way their cells behave--particularly in how much of the signaling chemical nitric oxide is available. The genetic portion of this study, which has still not been completed, may lead to a better understanding of how that process works. And that may lead, in turn, to ways in which all people who might benefit from this medicine could be identified, says Anne Taylor of the University of Minnesota, who presented the results. That would be a big step toward a revolution: an age when genetic tests let doctors match patients to the drugs that will help them most. Says Taylor: "We have to start somewhere."

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
Thousands of years ago, ancient Indians used a combination of diet, herbal remedies, and mind-body approaches called Ayurveda commonly for disease prevention and treatment. Ancient Greeks used tree bark and willow leaves to treat pain and fever. Chinese doctors prescribed herbs, acupuncture, and massage. Everything old is new again, at least in the New World- America. According to a recent study, more than a third of Americans use some kind of CAM and spend more than $36 billion of their own money to do so. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines CAM as "a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine." The NCCAM classifies CAM therapies into five categories:

Alternative medical systems — built upon complete systems of theory and practice, like traditional Indian medicine Ayurveda and Chinese medicine.
Biologically based therapies — use substances found in nature, such as herbs, special diets, or vitamins, that aren't scientifically proven therapies.
Energy therapies — use energy fields. Examples include Reiki and unconventional use of magnetic fields.
Manipulative and body-based methods — based on manipulation or movement of one or more body parts. Examples include chiropractic and massage.
Mind-body medicine — a variety of techniques designed to enhance the mind's ability to affect bodily function and symptoms, involving meditation, dance, and prayer, like Indian traditional Yoga.

CAM has become more popular in America and health insurers support some CAM treatments in health benefits. Bhaarat (the Indian Union) is trying to catch up with the New World and is shedding its disrespect for the Hindu traditions such as Ayurveda, Yoga etc., e.g. visit:
Optimist Lives Longer
Patients who described themselves as highly optimistic had lower risks of all-cause death, and lower rates of cardiovascular death than those with high levels of pessimism, according to an article in the November issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry. The researchers also found an inverse relationship between level of optimism and risk of death, with a stronger protective effect of optimism in men than women for all-cause mortality, but not cardiovascular mortality.

Oral Health in Elderly
Poor oral health, characterized by inadequate hygiene results in the formation of extensive (plaques), promotes oral colonization by potential respiratory (microbes) and increases the risk for serious lower respiratory tract infections. Bacteria in dental plaque can cause pneumonia in elderly nursing home residents.  Patients with bacteria in their dental plaques were at increased risk for developing pneumonia and had a poorer functional status than their peers without bacteria, according to a report in the medical journal Chest.

Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis
Symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knee are eased more when acupuncture is added to treatment with the painkiller diclofenac, Spanish researchers report in the British Medical Journal, November 20, 2004. Benefits include greater pain relief, easing of stiffness, and improvement in physical functioning.

Exploring India's myriad, distinct cuisines
New books help home cooks explore subcontinent's myriad and sometimes confusing cuisines

By Bill Daley
Tribune staff reporter
Published November 3, 2004

India's cuisines are as dauntingly distinct, complex and colorful as the subcontinent itself. A land of 1.6 billion people, at least 15 major languages, at least seven religions and enough cultural taboos to drive Miss Manners to an early death from exhaustion, India is a world within a world that defies easy categorization.

A new batch of fearless authors have taken on the challenge. Some have written cookbooks, and one has written a sorely needed work that seeks to place Indian food in the large context of history, religion, ethnicity and climate.

"Indian Home Cooking" (Clarkson Potter, $32.50), by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness, is the most polished book of the lot. It's stylishly handsome, opinionated and personal--just like Saran himself. This young Indian-born chef, who just opened Devi restaurant in New York City, has made a name for himself through his cooking, his Web site, and his highly visible role on, the food Web site.

Saran moved to the United States 10 years ago, and his cooking reflects the modernity of India today. The recipes are fast, simple, and easy-to-do. Yet the recipes are grounded in tradition and intertwined with stories of his travels through India. While visiting Chicago recently, Saran spoke of what he views as the needless complication of Indian cuisine in this country.

Although clearly from an affluent background, Saran is no snob. This is home cooking, he tells us, and that "home" could be anywhere. His recipe for vanilla pudding (easy and fool-proof) could stand tall in any American luncheonette. The only giveaway that a master is at work in the pudding's elegantly fine texture and sweet purity of vanilla unclouded by additives.

The book is described as a fresh introduction to Indian food. But fresh doesn't mean unfamiliar ingredients or weird presentations. He has a gift for making the ordinary seem exciting, like the vanilla pudding or potato-stuffed red peppers that glowed like jewels. The 150 recipes, many of them meatless, are dead-on doable. The writing is clear, soothing and encouraging; the book is a resource to use again and again.

Meena Pathak is billed as the creative force behind Patak's, the English-based Indian food company begun more than 40 years ago by her father-in-law. As such, she's director of product development and a roving ambassador for Indian cooking. Commendably there are very few plugs for Patak's in "Indian Cooking for Family and Friends" (New Holland, $14.95), her second cookbook. She focuses her considerable enthusiasm instead on touting Indian food as a viable cuisine for every day, not special occasions or restaurant outings.

Pathak (the family dropped the "h" from the company name) wrote that her inspiration is "really all about showing people how to cook good Indian food for themselves on an everyday basis. It is a recipe collection that reflects my life and how I like to cook and eat--I really wanted to prove you do not have to attempt the whole Indian restaurant banquet experience in your home every time you want to cook Indian food." She succeeds.

Recipes are arranged under such user-friendly headings as "everyday family meals," "quick fixes," "home comforts." The recipes are very accessible and clearly phrased. These are dishes you can use every night. I especially like Pathak's way of taking everyday ingredients and making them taste new, like topping cooked pasta with a curry sauce, or mixing ground beef with spinach and spiking it with ground cardamom, turmeric, mint leaves and fried onions.

Pathak offers the practical advice a busy home cook needs. She offers directions for preparing garlic, ginger and onion in bulk so you can add them whenever needed without starting from scratch each time. She tells you how to store spices and offers basic recipes for such seminal products as garam masala spice blend and "perfect" basmati rice. And she doesn't shy away from processed food. There's even a recipe using a 14-ounce can of baked beans.

London-based Atul Kochhar is author of "India's Essence: The Fresh Face of Indian's New Cuisine" (Whitecap Books, $29.95). This slim, paperbound volume skips much of the boring (maybe) details and paints India's culinary and cultural traditions in broad strokes. Anyone who can talk of a "Muslim north, the Hindu south, the Catholic west and the Buddhist east" is clearly a big-picture kind of guy. His recipes tend to roam equally wide. Yet he is a bit too blithe when discussing the preparation of food itself, especially the all-important question of seasoning.

"The essence of good Indian cooking revolves around the appropriate use of aromatic spices," he writes. How true.

"Spicy is not a difficult concept," he adds. "In the same way that salt and pepper are used in the West, the skill lies in using spices to enhance, rather than overwhelm the intrinsic flavor of a particular dish." Americans may not quite be ready to agree on the difficulty. We're no longer scared of spice as a concept, but the idea of concocting a dish using some half-dozen or so spices could be daunting. The why of spicing--why a recipe needs so many different flavors in such minute quantities--is never fully explained.

Yet Kochhar's simple approach can be useful. His list of suggested menus, with colorful dots to set off first courses from main dishes from desserts, is particularly easy to use and covers a variety of dinner situations.

The most fun chapter in the book is devoted to Indian snacks. The very first recipe, for seasoned puffed rice, uses a ready-made product and can be assembled by the greenest kitchen novice.

Almonds are featured in two lamb recipes, a rice pudding and a flavored yogurt dish. This in and of itself doesn't raise eyebrows--but the book's sole thank you is to the Almond Board of California for "all their help and support." As a consumer, I'd like to have the board's involvement in this book spelled out more clearly.

Recipes are workable although there are a few quirks. Eighteen ounces of ground lamb is called for in one recipe--16 ounces is the standard pound--and a recipe calls for one "small" egg when the standard size for American recipes is "large."

Not a cookbook but an invaluable source of the "why" of Indian cooking is Colleen Taylor Sen's "Food Culture in India" (Greenwood Press, $49.95), part of a new book series called "Food Culture Around the World."

Sen does an admirable job sketching out the history of India and its myriad food cultures. She manages to remain clear and accessible while trying not to overlook any one region, ethnicity or economic class.

Dishes or foods that may seem strange or unfamiliar to the average American reader suddenly make sense when placed in the broader societal and historical context. Ingredients are explained, cooking techniques explored, everyday and holiday eating defined. The book even offers a few representative recipes.

This is a work that belongs in the kitchen library of any serious lover or preparer of Indian foods.

Stuffed bell peppers (Bharwaan mirchee)

"The connection between food and visual arts has always fascinated me," writes Suvir Saran in "Indian Home Cooking," a cookbook co-authored with Stephanie Lyness. "These spiced potato-stuffed peppers in particular caught my attention as a very young boy because they were the first food that looked as good to me as they tasted. They showed me how easily food could become art."

Ingredients: 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, 4 small bell peppers (red, yellow and/or orange peppers), 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper, 1/2 fresh hot green chili, minced, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, Juice of 1 lime or lemon, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons canola oil.

Directions: Put the potatoes in a saucepan with cold water to cover and boil until very tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, cut around the stems of the peppers, removing about a 2-inch round from the top of each. Pull out and discard these tops. Scrape out the ribs and the seeds with a small knife. Set the peppers aside. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Coarsely grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. When the potatoes are cooked, peel and mash them in a large bowl. Add the ground toasted coriander-cumin mixture, the ground red pepper, green chili, cilantro, mint, lime or lemon juice, salt and black pepper, and stir to blend. Taste for salt, then spoon the mixture into the peppers. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, dip the peppers, cut sides down, to coat the potato stuffing. Put the peppers in the pan and cook about 3 minutes. Then turn the peppers right side up and put the pan in the oven. Bake until the peppers are tender, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Cilantro and mint raita

"The lovely bright green raita is delicious as a dip for poppadums, koftas or other fried snacks," writes Meena Pathak in "Indian Cooking for Family and Friends." " In an Indian household it will be made fresh every day, but you can keep it for up to a week in the refrigerator."

Ingredients: 5 ounces fresh cilantro, 2 ounces fresh mint, 1 green chili, chopped, 4 cloves garlic, crushed, Juice of 1/2 lime, 1 cup thick natural yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, Salt to taste

Directions: Place the fresh cilantro, fresh mint, green chili and garlic in a food processor or blender and process to a fine paste. Add the lime juice and a little water, if required. Place the yogurt in a bowl and whisk in the green paste. Stir in the sugar and salt. You can prepare this ahead by freezing the green paste without the yogurt.

Curried Dipping Sauce

1/2 tsp.-1 Tbsp. curry powder, or according to taste, 3/4 cup fat-free plain yogurt, 3/4 cup fat-free mayonnaise
Salt and white pepper, according to taste.

Make dipping sauce before the wraps to allow flavors to meld. In a bowl, mix together the curry powder, yogurt and mayonnaise until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Dip can be made ahead and stored, refrigerated, overnight. Bring sauce to room temperature before serving.)
Makes about 1 1/2 cups of sauce.

4 whole wheat tortillas or small pita pockets, 4 large lettuce leaves (iceberg or a leafy green), washed and dried
3/4 lb. grilled chicken breasts (skinless and boneless), cut into very thin strips, 3/4 cup very thin strips of peeled and seeded cucumbers, 1/4 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, stem removed 1 mango, peeled and cut into long, thin strips (optional)

Make one wrap at a time. Place a lettuce leaf on a tortilla or, if using a pita pocket, gently insert a lettuce leaf so that it lines the interior. Without adding too much filling ingredients, add to each about 1/4 of the vegetables, chicken and mango (if using), in the following order: cucumber, chicken, spinach and mango (if using). Spread a thin layer of the dipping sauce along the tortilla’s edges that will be exposed once the wrap is rolled up. Roll up the tortilla, pressing the outer edges in so the sauce will help seal the wrap. Serve immediately or wrap each individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2-3 hours before serving. (Bring refrigerated wraps back to room temperature.) Serve with the dipping sauce. (If using pita pockets, dollops of the sauce can be added before serving.)

Mexican Purslane Stuffing
Ingredients: 1 to 1 pounds fresh purslane, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic, 1 small onion, finely chopped, 1 medium-size ripe tomato, chopped (not skinned), 1 SERRANO or jalapeno chile, finely chopped, or freshly cracked black pepper, according to taste, 2 to 3 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce.
Directions:  Set aside a few raw springs of purslane for garnish. Steam or blanch the rest until tender-crisp (three to five minutes). Drain thoroughly, transfer to a plate covered with several layers of paper towels and blot dry.  In a large pan, saute garlic and onion in vegetable oil until soft. Add tomato and chile, and saute until the mixture becomes sauce-like. Season with soy sauce. (If you aren¹t using the chile, add freshly ground black pepper.) Saute until mixture is warm and the flavors marry.

Mixed Fruit Shake

Serving: 2

Ingredients: 1 banana, chopped, 1 cup non/lowfat mixed-berry yogurt, 1/2 cup skim milk, 1/2 cup sliced strawberries or 3 1/2 tablespoons strawberry jam, 1/4 cup kiwi, peeled and sliced, 1/4 cup orange juice concentrate, 1/4 cup chopped dates
2 tablespoons wheat germ, 6 ice cubes.

Direction: Place all ingredients in blender, add ice~cubes and blend well.
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Source: The primary sources cited above,  New York Times (NYT), Washington Post (WP), Mercury News,, USA Today, Intellihealthnews, Deccan Chronicle (DC), the Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, AP, Reuters, AFP, etc.

Copyright ©1998-2004
Vepachedu Educational Foundation, Inc
Copyright Vepachedu Educational Foundation Inc., 2004.  All rights reserved.  All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for special medical conditions or any specific health issues or starting a new fitness regimen. Please read disclaimer.

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