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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Groovy Vegetarian Indian Meal

I wrote a very depressing opening to this and have deleted most of it. It's too personal and you wouldn't want to read it. You'd have to double your Lithium prescription.

I'll be brief: suffice to say it was my fault for watching the HBO movie, Grey Gardens. I knew it would have this effect on me. The look in Edie's eyes, (bravo, Drew Barrymore) when she is standing in the balcony at the end, being recognized for the performer she always was, just like when Peter O'Toole waved to the audience at the end of the brilliant, My Favorite Year...if you knew me, you'd know why I'll now be haunted by those images forever.

The Show Must Go On and here is The Show:

Delightfully Tasty Vegetarian Indian
w/ Homemade Basamati Rice and
Multi-grain Naan bread

This recipe I adapted from many over the years. It's not earth-shattering but it's damn good. Indian food is sublime in the layers of taste AND how wonderful it is for leftovers. Let the Food Network Stars cook up fish we can't pronounce and vegetables we'd never is a real recipe for real people in real kitchens.

Keep in mind I think mild food is for people who need to live, so I cook spicy. Cut the spices in HALF if you MUST, but you will sacrifice taste if you do. As I've said before, I now know the benefits of a vegetarian diet. More energy, better biochemistry...plant-based foods are the way_to_go!

If you haven't cooked Indian before, it can be frustrating, so I've included lots of notes for this one.

Make this drinking loads of wine.

Let's cook!

What you'll need for the VEGETABLES:
  • 3 heaping tablespoons Madras curry powder
  • 3 teaspoons garam masala blend*
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 3 large yellow onions, chopped fine
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger**
  • 2 jalapeno, serrano or dried Mexican chili's, chopped fine***
  • 1 heaping tablespoon no-salt tomato paste
  • 1/2 head cauliflower florets, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) no-salt plumb tomatoes, squeezed with your hands
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) no-salt added chicken broth
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces) no-salt added chick peas
  • 1/2 head broccoli florets, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 10 ounce bag frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or heavy cream
Notes: *Masala is a blend of black & white peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves, long pepper (also known as pippali), black cumin (known as shahi jeera), cumin seeds, cinnamon, black, brown & green cardamom, nutmeg, mace, star anise and coriander seeds. It's a bitch to make at home, so buy it in the supermarket. An essential component to great home cooked Indian. McCormick's brand is the best.

**You only need a 2 inch piece of fresh ginger. Slice the very rough skin off of the ginger and either cut the flesh with a knife into tiny pieces or grate.
***You can use any chili here, just make sure you use one with heat. Dried Mexican chili's are fine. 2 will give you a nice base of heat, but 3 or 4 will really bring up the flavor!

What you'll need for the SAVORY RICE (this one is pretty much the one everyone makes):
  • 1 tablespoon corn oil
  • 3 inch piece cinnamon stick , broken in four pieces
  • 4 green cardamom pods*
  • 1 large yellow onion, very thinly sliced
  • 4 whole peeled cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup pure basmati rice**
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Salt to taste
Notes for rice:

*Cardamom pods - one of the most fundamental spices in Indian cuisine. They are intensely aromatic and small. Essential to true Indian flavor and imparts no calories or fat to the dish.

**Most common Indian rice by far. You can find it in any store, but look for the ingredients. It should ONLY say: "100% basmati rice", preferably imported from India.

What you'll need for the NAAN:

A credit card. For the first time in a long time, we finally found a GOOD pre-made, packaged Naan. It's called "Fabulous Flats" whole-grain Tandoori Naan. This is them:

You MUST serve the multi-grain with the meal. Very tasty, kinda high in sodium, but I'm SO not making Naan at home. Pain in the ass.

Let's cook!

Start your rice!

In a heavy-bottom pan (make sure you have a matching, tight-fitting lid), throw the oil, the cardamom pods and the cinnamon in the pan and cook over medium heat until they start to POP.

Then add the onions, cook for 4 minutes until soft. Add garlic, cook for another minute. Should smell yummy!

Add the rice, mix and saute for a minute or two, add the water, bring to a boil. COVER and simmer on LOW for 18 minutes, turn off heat, leave covered until you are ready to eat.

Now make the vegetables mixture!

Get a big dutch oven pan out -- heat up over medium heat and add the curry powder and the garam masala. Toast until the spices are dark. Be careful, as they can easily burn. Stir, stir, stir. Always toast your spices to intensify the taste, always, always, always.

Pour out of the pan, put into a side dish.

Add the oil, heat for 2 minutes, add the onions, cook slowly so they are a nice golden brown, up to 12 minutes. Add the garlic and the ginger. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add the chili's and the tomato paste. Mix thoroughly and cook for a minute.

Add the cauliflower; cook 5 minutes, until the cauliflower has the lovely curry yellow tinge to it.

Add the tomatoes (in can, with juice, breaking with fingers), beans, broth and cook, covered for 8 minutes over medium-low heat.

Take off lid, add the broccoli, cover, cook 5 more minutes. Taste for salt and tenderness of vegetables. If tender, add the corn and the cream and/or milk, mix to combine and serve!

Remove the cardamon pods, the garlic cloves and the cinnamon sticks from the rice, fluff with fork, put a portion on the plate and add the food atop.

Serve with the pre-headed Naan and you are set!

Taste of Indian in your own home!



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I deleted my post! Yikes...anyway what is "pre-headed Naan" - joking. This looks yummy...Is this going to bum me out....the opening photo is a tad bleak ;) I would want to add a protein..tofu? Love you! Carry on!