Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.
I love having people over for dinner - Manoj stopped complimenting my cooking years ago and the kidlets are not appreciative anyway. Therefore, I like to invite people over and then force my captive audience to ply me with compliments. Genius, no?
In particular, I enjoy planning a menu for guests and trying to come up with a menu that is fun and different for my guests to try. As I mentioned earlier this week, I invited "Emily" and "Victor" over for dinner. When I invite folks over for the first time, I like to do a general inquiry as to taste, allergies and aversion. Nothing worse than trying to serve fish to a person who can't stand the sight of it, right? However, when I asked "Emily" if they had any allergies or food preferences, her reply stumped me a bit:
"Our dietary requirements are kind of strange, so please feel free to say, "WTF?" and tell me that we need to go out instead. I failed to really consider this when we set things up. Right now, Victor is a vegetarian that also does not eat chocolate, eggs or cheese. Oy. I, on the other hand, am supposed to eat meat or eggs at every meal and typically stay away from rice and pasta at night because they cause my blood sugar to shoot up. Awesome, right?"Whoa, Nellie.
Normally, when I cook for Indians, I prefer to make Average Jane's Baked Ziti with Roasted Vegetables. It is a dish that has a beautiful presentation and it can easily be modified to suit most taste preferences (meat, no-meat, spicy, no spicy, less pasta for low-carb options, etc.). However, I already knew about "Emily's" low-carb needs and I had started to toy with serving Chicken Marsala. But then, the semi-vegan bit threw that out the window. What initially gave me pause is that I would need to do TWO main dishes, one vegetarian and one with meat. And that meant that I was going to have to go with Indian because it is the only cuisine where I have a broad enough skill set to come with such a variety of dishes. It also meant that I was going to have pull out the big guns (er... Santoku knife?) and make a Super Speshul Indian Meal since"Emily" and "Victor" know their Indian food.
Fortunately, Emily's and my fellow Gori In Arms, The Big, Bad, Blonde Bahu, had recently linked to this black-eyed peas recipe which was To Die For. I made it on New Year's Day and as I was cooking it, Anjali and I were constantly stealing bites from it. So! There it was... the all-important veggie main dish I needed. In the end, for the main dishes, I went with the black-eyed peas curry with coconut and spinach and a Malayalee-style chicken curry with coconut and cashews. For the sides, I served a green bean thoren and a spicy tomato dhal along with parathas and basmati rice.
For record, both Emily AND Manoj were like "Um, maybe we should go out?" and I was all "Um, no. This is FUN!!"
So, thank you, Emily, for that culinary gauntlet.
I did make a few small modifications to the original recipe. Also, I prefer my recipes to be simply stated in steps, so I retyped it and thought I should share it here. This is seriously one of the BEST new dishes I have made in a long time and it will definitely become part of our rotation. Even though it is a vegetarian dish, it is rich with flavor and very satisfying. Yum.
Black-Eyed Peas With Spinach and Coconut Curry
2 cans of black-eyed peas,drained rinsed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 bundle of fresh spinach, finely chopped
1 can of coconut milk
2-3 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola)
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
Ground Spice Mixture:
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chili powder, to taste
2 tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp ground coriander powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper, to taste
1. In a large pot on medium high heat, add the oil. When hot, add the onions and fry until softened and brown. Then add the garlic and ginger - fry for 1-2 minutes.
2. Add the ground spice mixture and stir for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is fragrant. Add the tomatoes and the black-eyed peas.
3. Stir well and add in the coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes.
4. Add the chopped spinach and mix well. Simmer for an additional 5-6 minutes.
5. Garnish with freshly the chopped cilantro and serve with rice.