Tag Archives: Indian

Sunday Supper: When cauliflower calls

The date: Sunday, July 10, 2011

The menu: Baked chicken curry, fresh cauliflower salad, basmati rice, and strawberry cardamom upside-down cake

The inspiration: At Home with Madhur Jaffrey and Joy the Baker

If you blink an eye, you’ll miss it. That precious time when your cauliflower is finally ready to harvest. The head hides itself beneath huge, blue-green leaves. You think nothing is happening with that plant that’s taking up so much valuable gardening real estate and then, BAM! There’s a huge head of cauliflower under there.

I read that it’s best to harvest cauliflower when the head is about 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Once it reaches that size, you should harvest it quick lest it bolt or get eaten by those stinkin’ cabbage worms. So, I guess tonight I’ll be eating cauliflower again.

I had some good friends over for Sunday Supper this week, the lovely friends that trade me French pastries for eggs. So yes, I had a delicious local strawberry and pistacio tart for breakfast the following day. But that’s beside the point. Also, it should be noted that I made dessert – an amazing, rich strawberry cardamom upside-down cake – for a French pastry chef. Yeah, that’s right. And I made whip cream for said chef who had to whip cream by hand in pastry chef school so as to not over whip the delicate peaks. I think I deserve a major gold star for that.

They got to share in my bountiful crop of cauliflower too. And wouldn’t you know it, I made Indian food again. I just can’t stop! This time, I found a super interesting cauliflower salad to try. My instinct with cauliflower is to roast it, put it in a quiche or cake, or add it to a soup or stew like aloo gobi. This salad, however, serves up the cauliflower basically raw and cold. But don’t turn your nose up yet! Because it mascerates in salt and then some lemon juice before it’s served, it softens just a bit, causing it to lose its crisp, raw-tasting edge. It’s like cauliflower ceviche. Another bonus is not having to turn on the oven to cook it as I’m often inclined to do during these warm, summer months. It’s a summer salad like you’ve never had before. So I guess it deserves a gold star too.

Cauliflower Summer Salad (a.k.a. Cauliflower Cachumbar)
adapted from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey

The headnote for this recipe says that it will last several days in the refrigerator if kept covered. I think it’s even better served the next day. 

1 large cauliflower,chopped (so no piece is larger than 1/3″ x 1/4″)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3-4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1/2 teaspoon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds

Put the cauliflower in a large bowl. Add the salt and rub it in, mixing well. Let macerate for 1-3 hours.

If any liquid has accumulated, drain it. Add the cayenne, cilantro, sugar, lemon juice, and vinegar. Mix.

Put the oil in a small pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds begin to pop, a matter of seconds, pour the contents of the pan over the cauliflower. Stir to mix. Serve immediately or better yet, the next day. Enjoy!

Tea Time: Homemade Chai

Ok, so I may be a little bit of a chai snob. And it’s not just because I was schooled early on that chai means tea (thanks, r). Chai tea latte? Now that’s just plain redundant.

Maybe it’s because the first chai I ever had was with my friend Maria in a dark, little teteria (tea cafe en espanol) in the Arabic neighborhood of Granada. Chai wasn’t really even on my radar until I was sitting on a cushion, pouring loose leaf, spiced black tea out of a tea pot into a mug with milk and sugar. For a girl who doesn’t drink coffee, it was a revelation and I’ve been hooked ever since.

And it’s not just any old chai that I’m interested in drinking. You can hold your chai tea lattes and cartons of chai syrup. I want spice. That’s probably why I know exactly where I can go to get a really good chai.  Tell me a neighborhood in Seattle and I can probably tell you where you can get the best cup of chai. The folks at Cloud City know exactly what I want before I even have to order. If they serve Morning Glory, I’m in! And in a pinch, a chai tea bag with some steamed milk will do the trick. I’m no chai expert – I just know what I like. I want the spice to come through. I want it to taste like tea. If there is any sweetness at all, it’s just a highlight, not the main attraction.

To be honest, chai is a special comfort. It’s like my morning mac ‘n cheese. I don’t buy one everyday – it’s something I save for a weekend treat. Cupping my hands around my warm cup of chai is an experience that allows me to slow down and tune into my senses. There’s a ceremony to it and even more so now that I’ve discovered how to brew my own.

This process takes a little bit of time, so it probably won’t make sense for a hurried weekday morning routine. And besides, that kind of ruins it. This is an opportunity for delightful, conscious consumption, not for mindless satisfaction on the go. Enjoy it. Take in the smells while it simmers. Pour it into a quaint little tea cup and take the time to enjoy a spot of tea.

Homemade Chai
Adapted from Jam it, Pickle it, Cure it

I put all the whole spices directly into the water and then strained the liquid using a fine sieve when I was ready to drink it. Alternatively, you could put the spices into some cheesecloth and remove when you’re ready to serve.

3 cups water
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 star anise
4 cloves
8 cardamom pods, cracked
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 Tbsp black or Darjeeling loose leaf tea (in a tea ball) or 2 tea bags
1 cup milk, cream, milk alternative (soy/rice/almond)
honey (optional)

Place the water in the saucepan and add the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Keep close by in order to take in the delicious aromas that will start to fill your kitchen.

Add the star anise, cloves, cardamom, and peppercorns, and continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Turn off the heat, toss in the tea ball or tea bags, cover, and steep for about 5 minutes. Strain, stir in the milk and honey, if you like. Stir to combine and return to medium-low heat, just until heated through – don’t let it boil. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!

You can refrigerate this chai for up to 1 week, but I really don’t think mine would ever last that long.

Sunday Supper: Asparagus Curry

The date: Sunday, May 8, 2011 (Mother’s Day)

The menu: Asparagus Curry with tofu and basmati rice

The cookbook: Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

This morning, my sister and I went to the hippy church our mom always used to take us to for the Mother’s Day service. It was an emotional morning, as it usually is for me as I remember my mom and think of all the things I wish I could share with her. This year, the minister asked us to think of the gifts (not physical gifts) our moms gave to us and one thing that came to mind was food. My mom was an amazing baker, cook, and dedicated healthy eater. She would have loved all the dishes I make nowadays.

So, she was on my mind tonight as I made a super simple curry with my first asparagus of the season. Not my own homegrown asparagus – I have yet to plant asparagus in my yard. It takes a few years before you can start harvesting asparagus so I suppose I should get on it and finally get some crowns in the ground. I think I’ll add that to my “not this year” list.

I bought a bunch of locally grown, organic asparagus at the market and put it to use, taking some liberties with Heidi’s recipe for Weeknight Curry. This recipe is so simple, you really could make it on a weeknight when you don’t have much time.

This is the fourth recipe I’ve made from her new book Super Natural Every Day. I seem to be working my way through the book and have yet to make something I didn’t like. So far, I’ve made Spinach Chop Salad, Kale Salad (with coconut and farro!), Wild Rice Spinach Salad, and now the curry. I didn’t think it was possible, but I love this book even more than her first one. The dishes are so easy to put together and there are a lot for recipes to choose from. I especially love how she lists the main ingredients that stand out in the dish under each title. That way, at a glance, you can tell what you’re going to get. I just love it all! On the cover of the cookbook it says, “Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Asparagus Curry
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

1 yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons curry paste (I used Patak’s Indian Curry Paste)
1 bunch asparagus spears (I used about 1 1/2 lb. bunch), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup coconut milk (or one 5.46 oz can)
1/2 cup water or broth
1 15oz. package firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
kosher salt
olive and peanut oil

Heat about a teaspoon of peanut oil in a skillet and saute the tofu until lightly golden. Sprinkle with a bit of salt to taste. Set aside.

Heat about a teaspoon of olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in the onion and saute until the onion starts to become translucent at the edges, a couple of minutes.

In the meantime, in a small bowl, mash the curry paste with a few tablespoons of the coconut milk. Add this to the pot and stir until the onions are well coated. Stir in the remaining coconut milk. Bring it to a simmer, then add the tofu, asparagus, and broth. Cover and cook until the asparagus is crisp tender, stirring a few times, about ten minutes. I checked the biggest chunks for tenderness periodically. Once the asparagus is cooked to your desired tenderness, season with salt to taste. According to Heidi, the salt adding step is crucial. She say, “Add a little at a time until the flavors in the curry really pop.”

Serve over basmati rice and enjoy!

Serves 4, generously, or dinner for one and three delicious lunches for the work week.


Sunday Supper: Red Lentils with Cumin and Cabbage

The date: Sunday, March 20, 2011 – the first day of spring

The menu: Red Lentils with Cumin and Cabbage over basmati rice

The inspiration: Smitten Kitchen and Madhur Jaffrey

A few weeks ago on my drive home, in the midst of my obsession with Indian food, I heard an interview on NPR with Indian chef, Madhur Jaffrey. She was talking about her latest cookbook, At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, and I was enthralled. I grabbed a piece of paper from the console of my car, precariously held it in place on the steering wheel, and hurriedly scribbled down her name. I know, Dad, I might as well have been texting. I realize in hind sight that this wasn’t a good choice, but I couldn’t let this resource slip away! A good Indian cookbook is just what I need to take this obsession with Indian food to the next level. Radhi said she was going to get it for me for my upcoming birthday, which is really quite fitting now that I think about it, since she’s the one that got me hooked.

I later realized that all of the Indian recipes I was making from Deb at Smitten Kitchen were adapted or inspired by the aforementioned Mahdur Jaffrey, so I think it’s meant to be. Yep, I foresee many an Indian dish in my future. So this Sunday, I made another one and it really hit the spot, not to mention being easy on the budget, which is especially important to me this late in the month.

I initially had a hankering for some more cauliflower aloo gobi, but there was no cauliflower to be had at the market. After all, it’s still pretty early in the season for that. What I did find was beautiful savoy cabbage, so I changed gears and went with Deb’s recipe for red lentils and cabbage.

I had a culinary flashback the moment I tasted the cumin seeds that were toasted and then flavoring the sauted cabbage. I immediately texted Radhi and asked her if the potato curry she used to cook for me in college had cumin seeds and sure enough, they did. I am generally not a big fan of cumin, but cumin seeds are a different story. They taste exotic and aromatic and best of all, reminded me of an amazing friend.

Red Lentils with Cumin and Cabbage
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

The original recipe suggests boiling the lentils for twice as long as I did. I find, however, that every time I cook with red lentils, they cook to the point of tenderness/mush very quickly. In my version of the recipe below, I’ve outlined how long it took me. I’d just keep an eye on them though, try them often, and call it good when they’re tender and cooked through. Also, the original recipe says to cook the cabbage until it begins to brown and turns slightly crisp, but I think I might have used too much cabbage and too little oil to achieve that. I’d do it the same way again though.

Serves 4 to 6

1 1/4 cups red split lentils (masoor dal), picked over, washed and drained
5 cups water
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into fine slices
1/2 pound cored and finely shredded cabbage (half of a medium head of cabbage)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 medium tomato, peeled and finely chopped (I used one from a can of organic canned tomatoes)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
red pepper flakes

Put the lentils and water into a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Remove any scum that collects at the top. Add the turmeric and stir to mix. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, turn heat down to low, and simmer gently for about a half hour. Stir a few times while lentils are cooking.

When the lentils cook, heat the oil in a large (8 to 9 inch) skillet or frying pan over medium heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 3 to 4 seconds. Now put in the garlic. As soon as the garlic pieces begin to brown, put in the onion, cabbage and a few good pinches of red pepper flakes. Stir and fry the cabbage mixture for about 10 minutes or until it is tender. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Turn off the heat under the frying pan.

When the lentils are just about done, add the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, the tomato and ginger to the pot. Stir to mix. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Add the cabbage mixture and any remaining oil in the frying pan. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.

Simmer uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cabbage is heated through.

Serve over basmati rice and enjoy!