August 8, 2005

What's cookin', good lookin'?

What a nice, laid-back weekend. X was home for most of it, so we started out our Saturday morning by going for breakfast to our favorite pastry place, Napoleon’s . Then, we went to the Rivermarket to pick up some veggies. The nice thing about X going with me, is that he will pick out things that I normally would have no clue as to what to do with them. This trip, he pointed to beets and said “Can you do that?”. I made sure that it was a veggie that his mother used to actually cook and and not just some random request. When he verified that yes, she did used to cook beets, I knew we were in business and that this would be fun. After all, the only beets I ever saw growing up came out of a can. In turns out, I already knew how to do the beets, I just didn’t know it yet. In south Indian cooking, there is a dry veggie curry called thoren - basically, you can take just about any veggie and make a thoren out of it - I have only done green beans and spinach so far, but I am quickly learning the possibilities are endless.

Truth be known, I don’t know how to cook many American dishes.* My mother was never very interested in cooking and when my parents divorced, she abandoned all pretenses. This is exactly why I HATE sandwiches and never keep cold cuts in my house.** Therefore, when I went off to college, I didn’t know how to cook. When I met Asshole #1 he and his friends taught me the only dishes that THEY knew - Pakistani and north Indian. My north Indian roommate was pretty helpful, too. While preparing Indian dishes appears to be a cool party trick for my white friends, I really just feel more comfortable cooking that way. So, when I met X, I was already well-versed in the ways of a north Indian kitchen, but cooking south Indian was as foreign to me as making an American brisket or tuna casserole.*** When I realized that X had “potential”, I decided I better bone up on south Indian cooking. God bless Amazon. I discovered a book that would soon become my cooking bible - in fact, it could be said this book is the one that “won the west” because it surely helped me burrow a way into X’s heart. The book, Savoring the Spice Coast of India by Maya Kaimal , was a double bonus for me because it not only provided some south Indian staples such as the thoren, it also provided some specific dishes from Kerala, the state where X is from. Furthermore, Kaimal writes her cookbooks in such a way that I now have a certain standard for cookbooks and won’t buy one unless I can really look at it first. She presents her recipes in a straightforward way that makes it easy to replicate. I have had very few misses and believe you me, X doesn’t sugarcoat it when I have missed the mark. Let’s face it, though - when you are married to an Indian and he states that something you cooked is like his mother’s - that is a compliment, indeed. I did purchase Kaimal’s other cookbook that has more generic south Indian dishes as well. I have been equally pleased with that book and can credit her with the fact that I can make paneer (an Indian soft cheese) now - not bad for a white chick, eh?

Beet Thoren
Ingredients:
4 fresh medium beets (about 1 lb)
3/4 cup grated unsweetened coconut
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 fresh green chili, split lengthwise
1 tsp salt
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dried red chilies
10-12 fresh curry leaves
1 tbs uncooked long grain rice
Ground Masala:
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp turmeric

Steps:
1. Peel the beets and grate them using using a food processor fitted with the coarse shredding disk, or on the coarse side of a box grater. Set aside.

2. In a bowl combine the coconut, garlic, green chili, ground masala, and salt with about 1/4 cup water to form a moist ball. Set aside.

3. In a large wok heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cover. When the seeds have popped toss in the dried red chilies and curry leaves. After the leaves crackle for a few seconds, put in the rice and stir for 5 seconds or until the rice turns opaque white. Add the grated beets and stir thoroughly. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally until the beets become soft. Add the coconut mixture and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and check the salt.
Prep time: 35 minutes
Serves: 6
Recipe may be prepared in advance and reheated.

Sorry this is such a blah post, but the weekend was not very eventful. Unless you want to hear the latest results of Baby Stroller Research 2005 (no??) or how my kid's closet is already filling more quickly with clothes than he even possibly wear them, then be glad I only posted recipes.

*THANK GOD, for Average Jane’s ziti . When I am desperate for a “showcase” American meal, this is the one I pull out. MUY tasty and very impressive to serve. Even better - I can spice it up super hot for our Indian friends.

**In life’s little ironies, I have to wonder if my own children will bitch in their adulthoods about the fact that they will not be getting sandwiches in their own childhoods.

***In my hunt for something stereotypically “American”, this was all I could come up. Feel free to elaborate, if I missed the mark. What do you hate now as an adult because you ate your fill of it as a child?

1 comment:

Modern Day Hermit said...

Is there a comment time-out limit?

I often times wonder if my little guy will bitch about all the "weird shit" his Mom made him eat while all he wanted was a damn sandwich.

While my American food repetoire has dramtically increased, I still usually leave that to Richard, who's much more proficient.

However, I do make a BADASS Thanksgiving meal. One year we had 25-30 people over, most from India but some from China and they cleaned house. It certainly changed their mind that American food = McDonalds. It did make the week of cooking worth it.

Signed,
Ramblin' Rose aka Captain Random