Saturday, September 20, 2008

Showing Appreciation with Food

I'm required to have departmental meetings quarterly, and it can be difficult to schedule them without interfering in someone's life. So, I decided that I would cook my staff lunch as a nod of appreciation for their efforts and sacrifices.

I wanted to do some easy Indian recipes, mainly because they scale up so nicely, and taste great. My original plan was to do Chana Masaladar (actually Punjabi, not Indian), which is similar to Chole, potato curry, and Kharee Masoor Ke Dal -- lentils flavored with curry leaves.

Due to a scheduling mishap yesterday, I was unable to go to Swad and buy the curry leaves. I tried Fiesta to see if they had them, but no dice. So, no dal. Oh well.

I got up early and made these two dishes, and some basmati rice.

Potato Curry with Yogurt Gravy
2 large potatoes (can also use paneer)
2 Tbs oil or ghee
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbs coriander powder
1/2 tsp tumeric powder
1/2 tsp paprika
a pinch of asafoetida
2 tsp gram flour, or all purpose
1 bay leaf
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp finely chopped green chile (serranos are great)
4 Tbs yogurt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp salt
1 cup H2O

Peel and cut potatoes into your desired size. Boil potatoes until a fork goes through them easily, drain and set aside. In a bowl, mix yogurt with tumeric, paprika, coriander, ginger, and chiles. 

Counterclockwise: Tumeric, coriander, ginger, paprika, serrano.

Over medium heat, heat ghee/oil. Add asafoetida*, cumin seeds, flour, bay leaf, and roast until the flour browns lightly (3o seconds - 1 minute). Add yogurt paste. Stirring constantly, stir fry until ghee/oil and paste separate, about 1-2 minutes. Add water incrementally, stirring constantly. Cook about 2 minutes.

Add potatoes and mix well, but very gently so you don't break the potatoes. Add cilantro. Remove bay leaf. Cook for 2-3 minutes. You can add more water if the gravy is too thick, but may not be necessary.

Cover and cook for up to four minutes. Add salt to taste, serve hot.

I heart pools of ghee. My doctor does not.

Chana Masaledar
4 Tbs Ghee or oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
a piece of fresh ginger, about 1/2 inch square, minced
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 can or 3/4 lb garbanzo beans
2 Tbs lemon juice
salt to taste

In a large skillet, heat ghee/oil. When hot, put in cumin seeds. As soon as they begin to darken (very quickly!) add the chopped onion. Stir and fry for 7 minutes. 

Slow and low, that is the tempo...

Turn heat to low and add coriander, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well, and add the garlic and ginger, stirring for three minutes. Add tomato paste, stir until evenly incorporated. 

Open and drain chick peas, reserving about 2 Tbs of the liquid (or if using dry garbs, soak overnight, cook for at least two hours or until tender, and use 2 Tbs of the cooking liquid). Pour this and the chick peas into the skillet. Add salt, cayenne, and lemon juice. Mix well, and cover, letting the flavors combine for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally, adding a few Tbs of water if too thick (not always necessary). Be careful not to break the chick peas. Serve hot, with basmati rice.

This recipe came from the back of  a Rumi poetry book. It is one of my all-time favorites.

Okay. Here's a tip on basmati rice. You know how when you go out for Indian food, and the rice is perfect -- each grain is separate, and laying on each other like some hot, white, starchy orgy. Well, there is a reason for that. Soaking. After you measure out the basmati, soak it in water for up to an hour. This will both make the cooking time less, and separate the grains. The ratios vary as well. For one cup of rice, use two cups of water (like normal), but for 2 cups of rice, you need 3 1/2 cups of water. It's weird, but it works out. 

These recipes are easy to do. Most Indian food recipes seem daunting because of the laundry list of spices that are used. It's okay, drink some wine; relax. Wheatsville carries most of theses spices in bulk, minus the asafoetida, and once you have them, measuring them out ahead of time really makes these recipes easier to follow. 

The staging of the spices also assists with the depth and levels of the flavor profiles of each dish. DO NOT ADD ALL THE SPICES AT ONCE!!! You will end up with a confusing tastsing, and possibly bitter meal -- I've done this with the Chana and it sucked. 

*Asafoetida - You need this. There is no substitute for this spice. You can get it at Fiesta, Whole Foods, Central Market, any Asian grocery. It is stanky, and almost unpleasant until cooked. Some say it smells like cat urine, I agree. It doesn't taste like it smells once it combines with hot ghee/oil. Do not be afraid, it is your friend. Oh, and a little goes a long way, so that bottle you buy will be around for a while. 

I like to serve most Indian dishes with condiments such as: yogurt (or riata), chopped onions, chopped cilantro, chopped serranos, and chopped tomatoes. Flat breads such as naan or roti are good as well.

Have fun. Happy eating.

"You think I'm torturing you. I'm giving you flavor, so you can mix with rice and spices and be the lovely vitality of a human being." -- Rumi


TexasDeb said...

Wow - what a great boss - fixing lunch for folks to eat while attending a mandatory meeting.

Just curious - did you go vegetarian as a courtesy or was that just a happy coincidence?

Y'all are the produce folks after all - you just representing?

Flapjacks said...

I have one vegetarian in the mix, and as a courtesy stayed veg.

I'll post Indian meat recipes as I work out more of them, and tweak them.

These are good recipes to start out with. But you need the asafoetida, which shouldn't be hard to find.

Shadd Scott said...

The thing I love about your cooking is the lack of boundaries and borders.
You are adventurous and have a passion for all kinds of cuisine.
Beyond that, you actually know what you are doing and pull it off with class.
All of your meals are gourmet comfort food from around the globe, French, Indian, Caribbean, Southern, whatever, made from quality organic usually local ingredients.
These are all plusses.
Keep exploring.

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