Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Naye Varsha Ki Shubhkamanyen (Happy New Year)

I really can't understand why my oven still smokes after all this time. Aren't the last vestiges of butter drippings gone yet?? Evidently not.

So, January. The start of a new year. I've long thought about picking a different ethnic food category every month and exploring recipes, and since January is supposed to be the time to start new things, I thought why not actually do it instead of just thinking about it? (Yes, I know I got a late start, but February's a short month anyway, so two cuisines get gypped instead of just one.) And the country I have picked for this month is: India.

I don't have a lot of experience with Indian food. I went with friends to an Indian buffet once, and my old university had an annual international festival that featured foods from around the world, not to mention my job in a grocery store that sells a decent amount of Indian frozen and shelf stable entrees that I have tried via employee tastings. Even so, I consider these merely cursory experiences. Dabbles, if you will. I think the real way to become acquainted with a cuisine is to cook it yourself.

My quest began at SparkRecipes where I found a few quick and easily prepared vegetarian dishes. I chose chickpea cauliflower curry as my first experiment because the recipe suggests serving it over brown rice, and I have a box of brown minute-rice that I want to get rid of, as well as some leftover cooked carrots and 2/3 of an onion.

Reusable shopping bag in hand (or rather purse) I hiked over to Trader Joe's and picked up curry powder, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), canned diced tomatoes, and cauliflower. I decided to cut out peas because I didn't have any on hand and I didn't see them as particularly vital to the recipe. I also delightedly picked up some frozen garlic naan because, um, it's garlic naan. It is its own explanation. For the ground ginger, I hopped in the car and headed to Whole Foods. Ordinarily, I do not shop at Whole Foods because of their reputation for being expensive. However, though I was blown away by the outrageous prices they charge for produce and fresh cut flowers, I did not find the cereal, for example, to be that much more than Trader Joe's, and they obviously offer things that Trader Joe's does not. (Like a cocoa puffed cereal. I'm totally going back for that when my Joe's O's run out.)

The cauliflower from Trader Joe's comes in a bag designed to steam the vegetable in the microwave, and as we know, I lack a microwave. So I steam my vegetables in a colander resting over a pot of boiling water. It works! I had the minute-rice and cauliflower going at the same time and once they were done, I got my large frying pan (see? I learned from last time) and cooked up the remainder of the ingredients.

If you didn't recall the bit about the microwave, I hope you at least remember that I don't follow recipes. Rather than actual cloves of garlic, I substituted garlic powder. I also used the whole bag of cauliflower, and the entirety of the cans of chickpeas and diced tomatoes. Now, in addition to the dried bits of spinach that I never got around to scraping off even though I said I would, there are splashes of tomato sauce, as well. It's a colorful kitchen.

Minus the mess, my first foray into Indian cuisine turned out a delicious success! Cauliflower contains cancer-fighting sulforaphane while tomatoes help prevent both cancer and heart disease, and chickpeas are high in protein. I am also told there are health benefits to brown rice (I still prefer white). Not the kind of curry I am used to, but in the past, I have only made mild Japanese curry, and a quick search online for the word “curry” informs me that it has no particular meaning beyond “wet,” and this is definitely a wet dish, if not exactly saucy.

Āp kā khānā svādiṣṭa ho! (That's “bon appétit” in Hindi.)

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