Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Artist Feature: When Desi cuisine goes Global!!

Hello Aalayam family!

Welcome to the May edition of Aalayam replete with desi and videsi inspiration. Trust me, this month is truly global in its appeal. We start with an "Artist Showcase" – of a prolific Hollywood Screenwriter and Indian food blogger – Kathy Gori, who I chanced upon in the blogosphere, yes, thanks to the evocative imagery in her blog, but most interestingly due to her quirky and zesty interpretation of classic Indian dishes into global palate pleasers. Talk about a fresh perspective!

It's not everyday that you come across somebody who embraces an aspect of a culture that is not native to them, and does so wholeheartedly. It is even more heart warming when you see them make that culture their own, and give it their own signature seasoning. If this is not a true blue Aalayam story, for all that it espouses, I don't know what is! 

I am pleased to present a photo essay with this artist’s interview interspersed with pictures of her and her positively mouth watering work. Through this, I hope to weave a story on who Kathy is, where she derives her everyday inspiration from, and of course showcase her work, and the motivation behind it. So sit back, and enjoy this gastronomically pleasing post, its gluten free inspiration, and get amazed at the creative soul curry this artist dishes out!

Baked Samosas, Take Two! Or Three or Four.....Images copyrighted to Kathy Gori -

Supriya (S): Kathy, we all love the vibrant and verdant punctuation your cuisine "art" makes in the blogosphere. And we want to pick your brain to know more about it! First of all, what got you started?? And why Indian Cuisine? 

Kathy (K): I have always cooked and loved exploring all sorts of cuisines. Growing up in San Francisco, I was exposed early on to all sorts of ethnic foods. I was a vegetarian when I was diagnosed with cancer 25 years ago in my 30's. After surgery and while doing chemotherapy I switched to a macrobiotic diet which I thought would help me, instead it made me weaker since the food groups were so limited. My doctor suggested I try cooking Indian food for its Ayurvedic properties. 

My sister in law who has lived and worked in India for many years got me started. She gave me the proper books and showed me what to do. Since I already loved Indian food it turned out to be a real "no brainer" for me. I started hanging out at small Indian markets in Los Angeles, talking to the older ladies there and learning from them. I think they were amused at first but then started to take me seriously when they saw how I really wanted to learn. That was 24 years ago.  I'm still learning and cooking Indian food.

Yam Koftas, Gluten Free Holiday Party PoppersImages copyrighted to Kathy Gori -

S: Where do you derive your daily inspiration from? What gets you started crafting a dish?

K: I read a lot. I read Indian papers and cookbooks from India. I like traditional methods, and I'm interested in the variations on a dish from town to town, region to region.  I'm of Italian ancestry and I know that the same dish may take many different forms depending upon where in Italy one is talking about. There is not simply "Italian Food" anymore than there is simple "Indian Food". India is so vast and complex, and has so many cuisines. that every region has its specialties. When I shop in the Indian markets, I'm always interested in the vegetables. I get inspired by them and start to think about what I can do with them and how they may fit together. I also look for similarities to Western vegetables which readers in the US may have to use if they are unable to obtain bottle gourd, or ridged gourd.

Once my imagination is fired up I start reading everything I can about what I've gotten hold of, and I take it from there. In Los Angeles I had access to everything easily, but living in Sonoma in Northern California I have 50 mile round trip drives to get my more unusual Indian vegetables. That's another reason I like to cook with vegetables that are very universal as far as recipes go. Americans are always surprised to discover that Indian cuisine contains turnips, pumpkin, and a lot of other vegetables that they're familiar with. Bottom line is they discover that  it’s a pretty small world after all.

Kathy Gori is a Hollywood screen writer and Bollywood kitchen blogger, who is reinterpreting America's perception of Indian cuisine through her culinary adventures. Read Kathy's gastronomic chronicles in

S: How do you give a modern slant to age-old Indian recipes?

K: Mainly by cooking with a lot less oil and salt than is found in most restaurant dishes. This is true of every cuisine and not just Indian food. When I first started cooking Indian food one of the things that appealed to me was the ability to enjoy one of my favorite foods without worrying if it was healthy or not. 

Since I was a cancer patient at the time I wanted the food to be as fresh and clean as I could make it. I always reduce the amount of oil called for in dishes. I sometimes "sweat" the vegetables, tell people who are worried about sodium that lemon or tamarind are a great salt substitute, and if I'm doing any sort of frying I try to use the least amount of oil possible. Also, I cook almost exclusively with organic virgin coconut oil. For recipes that contain butter, the butter I use is grass fed or pastured butter which I can turn into ghee.

The Mystery Of One of The World's Best Bar Snacks, Chicken '65!! Gluten Free. Images copyrighted to Kathy Gori -

S: Can you talk to us a little bit about your creative process? Do you listen to music while you cook and stage a dish for the blog? Do you work with  your husband - one chops, while the other one sautés? How does it go? And finally, do you sit down and enjoy the flute with a glass of your favorite drink?

K: Yes, I listen to music while I cook. Mainly Indian music, or Cuban music. My husband is my photographer, and I help with the staging of the dishes. When my sister in law comes to visit we work together as she's done in India. She tells me that's what sister-in-laws are for. I do not drink for health reasons, my husband likes a good Indian beer, and we have friends in the wine business who always know how to bring the most appropriate wines for a dish. Chai is always served with dessert.

The Great Pumpkin, Kerala StyleImages copyrighted to Kathy Gori -

S: What are your favorite dishes? Any recipes you can share with us?

K: It's hard to pick a favorite dish, but usually when we are having a large number of guests (we entertain a lot) I will make a goat biryani, or prawn pulao. I have been doing a lot of Kerala recipes over the last several years since one of our best friends is constantly going back and forth. He will try a dish made by his school friends' wife in Trivandrum and then come to the US and have me make it. He is my "canary in the coal mine". He lets me know if I'm doing  things correctly. Gujarati friends have started me back on that cuisine again.

Two of my favorite easy company dishes are  Shrimp Thiyal and Gujarati Khandvi

An Italian Classic Gets an Indian Twist, Mango Panna Cotta With Salted Pistachio Brittle. Images copyrighted to Kathy Gori -

S: What have been the highlights of your career as a Hollywood Screenwriter and food blogger?

K: My husband and I write as a team and have earned our living this way for nearly 30 years. We love our work and have just finished our first TV pilot . We usually work in film so TV is new for us and very exciting. I've cooked for a lot of movie people we've worked with who have come to our house for dinner. Probably one of the biggest thrills was being invited to cook for the Dalai lamas monks when they visited Los Angeles from India.

S: Has your blogging changed your everyday perspective - at home, at work and at play?

K: Well, cooking has always been my recreation and my joy. It gives me the instant gratification one cannot get from earning ones' living as a screen writer. It sometimes takes years after one has finished a job to see the final product on the screen, it only takes a couple of days cooking goat in clay to enjoy a biryani! When I cook I love sharing what I'm doing and discovering. It's why I started the blog in the first place. I was invited to do a podcast on Indian food and there wasn't enough time to really get into the recipes or show anyone how to do things since it was all audio, thus The Colors Of Indian Cooking was born.

Super Slaw Goes Indian. A Super Food for Super Bowl PartiesImages copyrighted to Kathy Gori -

S: What does being a creative entrepreneur mean to you ?

K: I started my blog originally to share my love of Indian cooking , now after doing this for nearly 5 years I'm expanding my thinking to writing a cookbook and sharing what I've learned over the years with others. I've been asked to teach classes in Indian cooking so I'll probably expand my horizons to that also. I suppose it means growing in all ways that come naturally from what I'm already doing. Since I write for a living, I'd love to write about Indian food, and giving others a hands on experience with teaching seems a good fit for me.

Gluten Free Little Dumplings, Nettle Koftas in Yogurt SauceImages copyrighted to Kathy Gori -

S: How, in your opinion, does your art contribute to the preserving of culture?

K: I believe in old school, always have. When it came to my cooking I was always interested in how my grandmothers did it without all the modern conveniences. I'm interested in "from scratch" once one knows the basics about how something is done then one can have fun with the dishes. 

Popeye Goes Bollywood. Spinach Indian StyleImages copyrighted to Kathy Gori -

What I love about the work of the great cookbook writers/ chefs such as Tarla Dalal, Julia Child, and my friend and mentor Paula Wolfert is their love of and hunger for knowing how things were done traditionally. 

Their explorations and preservation of Indian, French, and Moroccan cuisine are invaluable in a  rapidly changing world.  Like them I'm interested in the methods that were passed down in families, the skills that are being lost every day. I always feel by learning how to cook a dish, the old way, in clay, or making something by hand I'm helping preserve the way things were done for anyone else that may be interested.

Dal Makhani, 2 Dals, 8 Hours, One Slow Cooker. Boom! Dinner! Images copyrighted to Kathy Gori -

Cooking From Boxes? Nariyal Ladoo, A Fast, Easy, Sweet and Gluten Free Answer. Images copyrighted to Kathy Gori -

S: Finally, what does a Day In The Life Of Kathy Gori look like?

K: My day???  This is it more or less:

8:00 am the alarm goes off..snooze alarm hit.
8:10 up and dressed
9:00 We drive to our local coffee place in town where we sit and get our conversation fix with the neighbors
10:00 Do the days shopping, on Fridays this means the local organic farmers market
10:30 Dog walk
11:00:  Alan and I write
12:30: I start preparing lunch which is our main meal of the day, unless I'm doing a big Indian dinner for friends
1:30: Back to writing
3:30: Out for air and to get away from the desk
4:00 Writing again
6:30 Dog walk
7:00: Light dinner , tweeting, socializing, movies
12:00 Uke practice
1:00 bed (maybe)

When we're deep into a script and writing to deadline however all bets are off and writing hours take over almost everything.

Kathy (background, with her famous Nariyal Ladoos in the foreground) is photographed by her husband Alan, shown here relaxing in their new home..a creative new space, where she looks forward to handcrafting artisanal recipes which are India inspired..and for the global palate. 

Kathy is eagerly looking forward to putting their sprawling yard to good use by planting a vegetable garden where she plans to grow bottle gourd, bitter melon and methi, and who knows, have a few chickens clucking around. 

Keep doing what you do Kathy, and keep delighting our gastronomic senses. Aalayam wishes you the best for the years to come!

Kathy Gori, you have touched our sensibilities, pleased our eye with Alan's scrumdelicious! (I am borrowing Winnie the Pooh's word here) photography, shared your very inspiring story, and most importantly, made us hungry!! 

Thank you for giving us a oodles of inspiration. We deeply cherish it!



  1. Lovely read, great pictures, an awesome new perspective, such an interesting personality..loved it...

    1. Thank you SJ!! Definitely a good fit for the Aalayam mantra - Kathy's story!

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

  2. great pictures.. and everything looks so yum.... great reading too... :)))

  3. Trust me Shaz! Putting this post together put me in a state of constant hunger!! :) Welcome back. Haven't seen you around for a while!


    1. Thanks Supriya... I recently shifted back to Delhi..and constantly unpacking all my cargo... still a little more to go.. seems like an endless process... but setting up our home here has been fun too. :) will definitely be posting more

  4. Supriya, It's 9.30 in the morning and I am hungry looking at the pictures....:-). Thanks for sharing about Kathy Gori here.

    1. I hear you Reshma! :) Thank you for stopping by and commenting. It was my pleasure to bring to our readers inspiring stories such as Kathy's! Here's to Indian cuisine!


  5. What a fascinating post, loved it!! Thank you so much for stopping by. Have a great week!

    1. Thanks a ton Anu. Appreciate your feedback!

      Great seeing you around Aalayam,

  6. Feedback from kathy gori
    May 4, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    Thank you sooooooo much! You make me blush. I love your site and am so flattered to be included. You two have done a great job.

  7. Facebook Feedback!

    Rashmi Srinivas: Inspiring, Kathy. I'm proud of our cuisine! Fantastic ayurvedic attributes in our traditional foods and herbs. It is coming a full circle now that the rest of the world is beginning to appreciate the wholesomeness of our cuisine and moving away from the processed foods that was created to cater to the fast paced life. It is a pity that the whole world is moving towards traditional Indian whole foods and some Indians are moving towards calorie and additive laden processed foods in the name of convenience.

  8. Ah lovely food photography, thanks for this intro to Kathy Gory and her website! Love!

  9. Ambika! Hello! Long time, no see.

    The gastronomic delight is all mine :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Hi Deepa and Supriya ,
    Kathy's blog is an absolute delight... And it's a digitalised treat to see it here too..

    New to your blog.. And it's is a beautiful space!
    Do blog hop at Sandhya's Kitchen when you get a chance...

  11. Sandhya - thank you for stopping by and commenting!!! Join the growing Aalayam family. We need food bloggers like you, foodies that we are! :)

    Your blog is pretty awesome. Keep on cooking!