A psychiatrist, she lives in Nesconset with her husband, Rohith Nandagiri.
Who is your culinary inspiration?
My father. He was born in Tamil Nadu in South India and has always been very inventive with vegetarian dishes. I've been a vegetarian since age 11. Indian cooking can be very unhealthy, but he would figure out inventive ways to make it healthy. And he taught me how to find my way around the kitchen -- how use a knife, how to use vegetable products, like tofu, that could substitute for meat.
Any culinary input from your mother?
My mother is from Newport News, Va., and her background is rooted in Southern traditional cooking. She's also a meat eater, but she's always tried to cater to my vegetarianism. And she does make a heck of a pecan pie.
What are some of the dishes you make regularly?
Tofu Parmigiano sandwiches, spicy mac and cheese, roasted vegetable lentil salad. And, because my husband is from Texas and also a vegetarian, I've found ways to make healthier versions of Tex-Mex items like enchiladas, burritos and fajitas.
What's your game plan for making dinner most nights?
Generally, I go to the store every day or two, so I'm always cooking with something fresh. I buy tofu in bulk and freeze it. It's a lot easier to cook with than meat; you can't overcook it and don't have to worry about undercooking it.
Where do you two like to go when you eat out?
We like Curry Club in East Setauket. And Thai House in Smithtown. I usually get Thai basil tofu, and he gets drunken noodles with mock duck, made with a soy product. We also go to Ragazzi in Nesconset quite a bit, because it's walkable from our condo. And they have a lot of vegetarian small plates.
LENTIL SALAD WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES AND TOFURKY
1 17.6-oz. package steamed ready-to-eat lentils (sold at Trader Joe's) or 18-oz. package lentils cooked according to package directions
1 medium zucchini, quartered
1 red or yellow pepper cut into one-inch strips
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
About 12 asparagus spears cut into 1-inch lengths
1 small head of broccoli cut into small florets
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 package of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 Tofurky Italian sausages, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, or to taste
1/8 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts, optional
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves, optional
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic or white balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. With lentils in a large bowl break up clumps with a fork.
3. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet, pour olive oil and vinegar over all, add salt and pepper to taste. Mix vegetables together with hands to distribute seasoning. Roast about 20 minutes, stirring once after 10 minutes.
4. While vegetables cook, spray a skillet with cooking spray, brown sausages over medium-low heat 5-7 minutes. Add to lentils.
5. When vegetables have roasted, add to lentils and Tofurky.
6. If using, toss in pumpkin seeds or pine nuts and basil. Mix in crumbled goat cheese.
7. Combine dressing ingredients and mix into salad. Serve warm or refrigerate and reheat in microwave. Makes about 4 servings.