After a complicated and year long immigration process, Muntasim moved to the US in March of 2008. We had decided long before he moved that we would pursue both our dream of owning a business. I had been working in publishing in Mahanttan for more than a decade and although loved my job was not satisfied with its many limitations and corporate structure. I wanted to be my own boss, have my own hours, do something that fueled me daily and most importantly have Mondays off. Have always been allergic to Mondays!
We tossed around many ideas one of which was to open an Indian restaurant in our neighborhood in Harlem. But the cost of doing business in NYC proved prohibitive. That summer on a trip to visit my parents in Niskayuna Muntasim saw a sign in the window for rent in downtown Schenectady. At first skeptical about moving from the city "back home" upon seeing the space and meeting Paul S. (tina thats your brother) who was the landlord I agreed. Financially the numbers worked and we were able to open a Moroccan and Indian import shop called "Tara" at 426 State Street in the heart of the developing downtown scene, just a couple doors down from Proctors.
That fall the Schenectady Greenmarket (SGM) opened in Robb Alley inside Proctors. We would see droves of people walking by the store and going inside to the market. We wanted to get a booth at the market and when I made inquiries I was told I would not be able to sell any of my store products as they were imported, but they mentioned there was a need for food vendors. Aha! I can do this I thought.
Next Muntasim and I started exploring options of how we could become food vendors at the market without having access to a commercial kitchen to cook at. I spoke to the health department and they had some ideas on how we could cook on site. In the spring of 2009 we entered the outdoor SGM and started selling "Street Foods of India". The rest as they say is history.
This is one of the many recipes I created for my SGM booth.
4 s e r v i n g s
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 medium onion chopped
• 6 cloves of garlic
• 1 tbs ras-el-hanout
• 1 whole preserved lemon pulp removed
• 12 green olives
• 2 lb bag frozen spinach
1. Sauté the onions in olive oil until softened and then add garlic, spices, green olives and preserved lemons.
2. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes allowing all the flavors to
3. Add spinach, stir and cook with the pot covered on low heat for about
15 minutes or until the spinach is completely wilted.
4. Remove from heat and blend with a hand blender or in a food processor, adding additional
olive oil if needed.
Serve warm with bread or use as a spread in sandwiches or spoon over grilled fish and chicken.