The wooden stick that conductor Zubin Mehta worked with yesterday, Nov. 20, wasn't a baton, because Mehta hadn't come here to lead the L.A. Phil.

Instead, it was the slim trunk of an Albizia julibrissin, or silk tree, which Mehta planted in Griffith Park to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the L.A. Mumbai Sister City Affiliation. The tree was obtained by the city Department of Recreation and Parks through the Million Trees Los Angeles program.

Mehta, who maintains a home in Bel-Air, was born in Mumbai and is a long time friend of the L.A.Mumbai group's chairperson, Mira Advani. Here for a week with his wife, Nancy, he arrived in a limo at the park's pony rides, where the tree now stands in a large brick-topped circle near the concession stand.

After shoveling on dirt and watering the base, Mehta lined up at an Indian buffet, spooning onto his plate chicken tikka and aloo gobhi supplied by Mantra Indian Cuisine's Temecula location. The carbs — naan and potato samosas — were tempting, but Mehta bypassed these to splurge on ice creams from Saffron Spot in Artesia.

Zubin Mehta at Griffith Park; Credit: Barbara Hansen

Zubin Mehta at Griffith Park; Credit: Barbara Hansen

Although he tried three flavors, saffron silk, pistachio and rajbhog, which contains one of his favorite spices, cardamom, Mehta wasn't concerned about calories. He'll work them off on a grueling, multi-city concert tour of China that starts next month.

Fond of spicy Indian food, Mehta contributed recipes for shrimp patia and yellow coconut rice to The Cook & the Cadenza, a cookbook published by the International Committee of the Southern California Symphony/ Hollywood Bowl Association in 1969 to benefit the L.A. Philharmonic.

At that time, Mehta was the orchestra's music director. Now he's music director for life of the Israel Philharmonic.

If you want to cook like Mehta, you can still get that book through Amazon, but if you want to eat like he did yesterday, here is Mantra's recipe for aloo gobhi.

aloo gobhi and other dishes; Credit: Barbara Hansen

aloo gobhi and other dishes; Credit: Barbara Hansen

Aloo Gobhi (Potatoes and Cauliflower)

From: Mantra Indian Cuisine

Servings: 8

3 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 onion, chopped

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped gingerroot

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon garam masala

Hot red chili powder to taste

2 white potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 cauliflower, leaves and core removed, cut into large florets

Squeeze of lime juice


1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Add the cumin seeds and stir. When the cumin seeds start to pop, add the onion and cook until tender. Add the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, salt, turmeric, garam masala and chili powder and cook uncovered until the tomatoes are tender and the mixture is dry

2. Add the potatoes and cook uncovered 5 minutes, then cover and cook 5 minutes longer. Add the cauliflower, cover and simmer until the cauliflower and the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

3. Turn into a serving dish, sprinkle with lime juice and garnish with cilantro.

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