Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's for dinner

I've always thought of Indian food as healthy. I don't know where this perception came from; perhaps it was the pictures of thin, bony bodies stooping in fields for rice, or the Mahatma, or maybe even the association between Indian and vegetarian. Either way, the truth is that lots of Indian food is cooked with copious amounts of oil, and plenty of it has meat, which is usually chicken or lamb, or sometimes fish in coastal areas.

Since I've made a point of cooking some kind of curry every week this summer, I've decided to test some of these recipes with decreased amounts of oil and see how they turn out. I'll keep you posted.

Also, as a note to my dad, notice that none of these recipes call for "curry powder." The shit from the store is nasty, and in real Indian dishes it just means garam masala, NOT the shit from the store.

Here's tonight's menu:

Tomato Salad ("recipe" follows)

Brown Basmati Rice

Palak Paneer (recipe follows - from the book 50 Great Curries of India)

Green Chicken Korma (recipe follows. Also, if you do it right, it does turn out really pretty and very green. I got it from the same book)

If you're going to be brave and try any of this, here are two important tips:

1. DO NOT try to use random chili peppers from the grocery store in Indian food. Go to a specialty market and get the ones they use in India. I don't know their genus and species, but they are about half the size of my little finger, cost next to nothing, and keep in the fridge for a long time. As a further aside, readers would never know this, but I had to work hard to edit the redneck out of that last sentence. It's good to laugh at yourself.

2. It's very important to use the spices as they are called for. You can't interchange powdered and whole spices. Don't try using dried cilantro or cilantro paste. Finally, be careful about timing. If it says to add one thing and then thirty seconds later to add another, the recipe writer is serious about that. 30 seconds does matter.

Without Further Ado -

For Tomato Salad: Slice some tomatoes thinly. For Joel and I, probably 3-4 is a good number, depending on the size. It's ok to use the crappy little Roma tomatoes from the store, but the big juicy summer ones fresh from the vine (whatever kind you grow) are better, naturally. After that, tear up a few mint leaves and carefully stir them in. Use as much or as little as you like. Then, use a metal ladle that you don't care about to heat 1 or 2 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil over the stove and toss in around 2-3 teaspoons of black mustard seeds. They will pop and splutter for a bit. When they stop, pour the oil and seeds over the tomatoes. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare whatever else you're having.

Palak Paneer:

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
oz  spinach

/2t ginger

T  (I'm going to try it with 1T)  canola oil



clove  garlic

/2t cumin seeds

Step 0 - You can make your own cheese by boiling milk, adding lemon or vinegar, letting it clump up, and then straining. I don't think the taste is worth the effort. I just buy Paneer cheese from the Indian shop on McCarty.

Step 1 - Cook spinach, chilis, ginger, a pinch of salt, and like 2 tsp or so of water in an open pot. Open pot and salt help the color to stay vibrant. Then, puree it all in a blender.

[Step 2 - ???

Step 3 - Profit

Wait, no, that's for something else.]

Actual Step 2 - Heat oil in a skillet. Add fenugreek seeds and fry for 30 seconds. Then add onions and fry until lightly golden. Next, add garlic and cumin. 30 seconds later, add tomatoes. Let this fry for about 5 minutes.

Step 3 - When the juice from the tomatoes has evaporated, add cheese and the spinach mixture. Let that heat through and it's good to go.

For Green Chicken Korma

c  cashew

T  (or maybe 4?) canola oil


c  mint

stick  cinnamon

T  ginger

cloves  garlic

t  ginger

oz  spinach


t  sugar

t  mace

Step 1 - Soak cashews in 1c water for 15+ minutes

Step 2 - Pour 4T of oil in a skillet or wok. Fry the onions until you're certain they will burn in .5 microseconds. Don't chicken out. This adds color and depth to the dish, as well as serving as the primary thickening agent.The recipe says 20-30 minutes and that they should be crispy but not burned.

Step 3 - Put the onions, cashews, cilantro, mint, chilis, and 1/4 cup of water in the blender and puree.

Step 4 - In the same pan, heat remaining 2T of oil over low heat. Add bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and garlic. Then raise heat to medium and add chicken. Let that cook for 5 minutes in the spiced oil or until the chicken is seared. Then add cumin and coriander powders and saute for 2 minutes or so, stirring to keep the chicken from sticking. Then add the green puree and saute for a further 2 minutes.

Step 5 - Add salt, sugar, lime, and 1c of water. Let this boil until the chicken is done and the sauce is as thick as you may want. Add cream.

Step 6 - Just before serving, heat around 1tsp of oil and add a single blade of mace to it. After 20 seconds, remove the mace and stir the oil into the pot. Then, serve it up.

1 comment:

  1. The tomato salad sounds delish - I will definitely be trying that!