Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hearty Vegetarian Curry -- Finally, a Winter Success.

For all that I bitch about post-collegiate life, there are some aspects that I'm really going to miss when grad school starts up in the fall. I mean besides the paycheck, all you cynics out there :) No, really, I underestimated how much I would enjoy the workplace camaraderie. My coworkers are awesome: we trade recipes and favorite food blogs, we go to gym class together then whine about our sore muscles the next day, and we share stories from our weekend without it becoming a confessional. I really appreciate that folks are friendly without there being some awkward sense of forced personal intimacy; in college, social interactions were much more an 'all or nothing' deal. I wonder what the social culture will be like in grad school?

Another thing I really appreciate about the working world is that guilt doesn't hover over you like an omnipresent rain cloud. Take yesterday. I left work, I came home, and I spent about an hour cooking. With comfy slippers on, D working on his laptop close by, a glass of Riesling from a bottle that my dear Brooklyn friend sent to us, I just took my time. It was so satisfying. No inner alarm button going off beeping, "You should be studying/reading/writing up that essay." No opportunity cost that is not self-assigned. It's a much more sane rhythm. I can really leave work at the door, and enjoy the evening however I damn well please... which happened to be cooking a seasonally-appropriate, vegetarian dish.

Regardless of what the blooming tree outside our bathroom window claims, it's not spring here yet. No asparagus, tomatoes, or fresh greens that aren't the prodigal children of California or Chile. As I whined in yesterday's post, this has made our self-imposed vegetarian diet somewhat uninspiring. However, Victory! Who does hearty, flavorful vegetarian dishes better than the South-East Asians? I should have spent more of this month working through my two Indian cookbooks.

This stew/curry-like dish is potato based, making it sort of like a Hindu take on St. Paddy's Day. It's hearty with a complex flavor, and managed to hit the sweet spot where we were both quite happy with the heat level. (D keeps a sizable collection of hot sauces nearby for whenever I cook!). As a warning, fenugreek is a salty spice, so be sure to taste-test before adding more salt... chef's perogative!

I also made rice as a side, just in case the two dried chili peppers turned out overwhelmingly hot. Pretty simple rice recipe from the same cookbook: heat oil, throw in some mustard seeds till they pop, add a cup of rice and stir to coat. Add 1.5 cups of broth and simmer sloooooooowly till the rice is cooked, then add frozen peas (well, you Californians can add fresh peas, but those of us less blessedare stuck with frozen). It turned out to be a really versatile, fragrant, subtle dish... interesting enough flavor to eat on it's own, but muted enough that it was still refreshing against the spicy potato curry. D foresees that this rice recipe will be a regular addition to our weeknight repertoire.

Recipe: Madhur Jaffrey's "Potatoes in Thick Sauce"

5 medium-size boiling potatoes
1 piece of fresh ginger (2"x1"x1"), peeled and coarsely chopped
1 Tbs ground coriander (I roast whole seeds and then grind)
1 tsp ground cumin (ditto)
6 Tbs tomato sauce
6 Tbs vegetable oil (less couldn't hurt)
1 tsp whole fennel seed (I didn't have any, so I used celery seed. eeh)
10 fenugreek seeds, whole (I didn't have any, so I used ground. Not recommended, since fenugreek is so salty)
1/2 tsp black onion seeds, if available
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1-3 whole dried hot red peppers (I used two, and it was surprisingly pleasant)
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp salt (too much. Add to taste)
1 tsp garam masala.
  1. Boil potatoes in their jackets at least 2 hours ahead and leave to cool. (I boiled, rinsed in cold water, and fridged while I did the next steps).
  2. Roast and grind coriander and cumin if necessary. Put coriander, cumin, ginger in the electric blender and vroom-vroom for a few seconds to break up the ginger. Add the tomato sauce and 3 Tbs warm water. Blend to a paste.
  3. Break each potato into 6-8 pieces. (Madhur Jaffrey peels them and breaks them up by hand. I like peels and had under boiled them, so I used a knife).
  4. Heat oil in a 10-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the fennel, fenugreek, onion, and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, put in the red peppers. As they darken, put in the paste from the blender. Fry for 5 min, stirring frequently. Add the potato and fry another 3-5min, stirring constantly. Add 1 1/2 cups of water and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, cover, lower flame, and simmer gently for 15-20 min. The sauce should be fairly thick.
  5. To serve, sprinkle with Garam Masala and stir. Serves 4 as a main with rice.


Lisa said...

I just love Madhur Jaffrey's recipes. I own a few of her books, including the one you have used here. I haven't made this before, but I see what I am missing. Sounds like something I would really enjoy!

Kevin said...

I like curry in all forms and a potato based curry sounds good. Rice and peas goes well with curries.