Monday, January 17, 2011

The Joy of Creation

 As far as I can tell, the meaning of the word “masala” is “gravy” (or similar substance), so I think I am all right in calling this dish paneer tikka masala. This is by no means a recipe, though. It is only what I did after consulting numerous recipes online, not being able to follow any of them, and then using what I had on hand to cobble together dinner. And what a pretty bento it made!
Here is what I did:
  1. Chopped a handful of onion and sauteed over medium heat until softened.
  2. Added half a can (about 7oz) of diced tomatoes. Sprinkled on powdered garlic and powdered ginger. Let cook down a few minutes.
  3. Because I don't have a food processor, I squished the tomato chunks down with a spoon to de-chunk the mixture as best I could.
  4. Turning the heat to low, I added dashes of cumin powder and turmeric powder, then some ground cinnamon because it's delicious, and ground nutmeg for the same reason.
  5. The tomatoes can be a bit strong, so I would not begrudge anyone to sprinkle on a little sugar to cut them a bit.

About this time in the process, I started wondering what Indian food was like before the introduction of tomatoes, a fruit (yes, fruit) native to the Americas. My former roommate Sherelle, a fellow cook, often talked of making a meal of traditional European food before the introduction of tomatoes. I know my Italian family recipes would be considerably more limited without tomatoes!
But I digress.

  1. Cut the paneer into little chunks and added it to the mixture.
  2. Stirred and heated thoroughly. Et voila! 
I served my concoction with brown rice and garlic naan, a combination I highly recommend.

A quick note on rice: I have stated before that I do not like brown rice, and I stand by this general statement, but I am trying it out with my attempt to revolutionize the way I eat and to get healthier. (PS- I've already lost five pounds since starting this blog!) However, I have found a brown rice that I like, Trader Joe's brown basmati. Others may sell brown basmati rice, but I have only had it from Trader Joe's on the recommendation of my friend Ryan (who makes pizza from scratch, including the dough, and it's awesome). Jasmine rice is also pretty amazing. My all-time favorite rice is short-grain white, but it is admittedly not practical for all purposes (though totally a requirement of onigiri and sushi). 
Between the quiches and Indian dishes, I have learned a lot about spices this winter. Ground cinnamon and ground nutmeg, for instance, have become fast favorites, and I add them to almost any dish that I can. Though the health effects of nutmeg are up to debate, you can read here 10 health benefits of cinnamon
Wow, I feel healthier already! (And look forward to losing another five pounds. *wink*)

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