Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Veggie Korma

I don’t have a tried-and-true method for coping with a bad day.   Maybe it’s blogging?  Eh, no, I’m much more of a cliché than that: I’m sure it’s food.  Yesterday I had a particularly angsty day (one of those “What do I want to do with my life?!” and “This is all I’ve accomplished so far?!” melodramas that is in no way unique).  Ah, the cries of the passionless….

Anyway, Matt and I have ate out four times last week, and indulged in brownies, cookies, cakes, and chocolates, and oh, the holidays are most definitely here.  So I had to take the ladle by the handle and say, “Enough!”.  I decided what we needed, in fact, was more food, but home cooked this time, and there is no other cuisine that I am more obsessed with lately than that of India.

On one of our many culinary excursions we dined at an Indian buffet for lunch on Friday.  I could positively bathe in curry.  That’s how much I adore it.  It was a sea of browns, oranges, and reds, mixed with cream and tomatoes and fried onions.  I had channa masala, then a rich dish with paneer (which is cheese, and which you have to be crazy not to love), then vegetable korma, then veggie masala.  And don’t forget the fried veggie fritters and the naan and heaps of basmati rice flecked with peas.  If you’re trying to eat vegetarian, there is no better place to start than with Indian food: the land of lentil dhals and chickpea curries.  Matt, of course, helped himself to some goat.  I think they are the most endearing creatures (after dogs, of course), and he thinks they are the most delicious.  We also made a deal that if we are to eat vegetarian at home, he could eat whatever he damn well pleases when we’re out, even if it includes, yes, goat.  Oh, and steak.  The boy has been eating his fair share of that lately, too.

So last night I threw myself into this dish: Vegetable Korma.  It’s simple but probably the most involved Indian dish I made to date because 1) I had to grind cashews to a fine powder which I found sort of thrilling, and 2) the spice list is a bit out of control.  I even, get this, tried to make it with tofu.  That’s how out-of-my-mind I was.  I love tofu out, namely because they fry/bake-that-bean-curd-to-a-crisp – what’s not to love?  My forays into tofu have been disgusting, at best.  Years ago we tried to make it in a stir-fry but DID NOT DRAIN IT, which is a fool’s mistake and tofu 101, but we’re amateurs.  Yesterday I put paper towels above and below that wobbly white cube and then, in a moment of divine inspiration, but my Kitchenaid Mixer above the whole mess for 45 minutes.  A Kitchenaid is quite possibly the heaviest thing in your home, let alone in your kitchen.

I then cut the tofu into rectangles and fried the darlings.  After eating one I screeched, “Psf!”  I know I had to marinate those suckers in the sauce, and that tofu can take on many flavors, but I was just so turned off by it, and not to mention I made something healthy into a fatty fry-y mess, I threw it out.  (Although Matt and Penny helped themselves to some.  That doesn’t say much as Matt, as you know, eats goat, and Penny has been known to devour banana peels.)

But nevermind the tofu, because this has broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, peas, and carrots to help keep you satiated (forget I ate an apple and some cereal later in the night).  Next time I’ll probably throw in some boiled potatoes to boot.  The recipe I followed didn’t include the broccoli and cauliflower, and I thought that was a travesty (and I had two near-rotting heads in the fridge), so I put them in.  The gravy is thick and flavorful and mimicked what I’d had out at restaurants.  The recipe, with the whole tofu debacle, took me over an hour to make, but was therapeutic in its own aromatic way: and that’s what I’d consider a culinary success.  My interpretation of Veggie Korma is below.

Vegetable Korma

  • 2/3 - 1 cup unsalted cashews or almonds (gently toasted in dry skillet)
  • 3 tsp poppy seeds (gently toasted in a dry skillet)
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 TB ginger paste (or 1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped)
  • 2-3 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 cup cooked peas
  • 4-6 cups steamed broccoli and cauliflower
  • 1 56 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried fenugreek 
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric 
  • 2 tsp red chili powder (to taste)
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • chopped cilantro to garnish

Using a spice grinder, grind together the cashews and poppy seeds into a fine powder. Set aside.

In a skillet with 1-2 Tb. oil, cook onions until soft. Add the ginger and garlic. Stir fry an additional 2 minutes and add the spices (salt, pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander, red chili powder, garam masala and the fenugreek). Stir fry for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the carrots, stir fry for just a minute and add the bell peppers. Continue to stir fry for a few more minutes. Then stir in the ground cashews.  Mix well and add the crushed tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas.

Add 1/2 - 1 cup water and let simmer on low uncovered for 10-12 minutes. Then squeeze the lemon juice over the dish and granish with cilantro.  Serve with rice or naan. 

 The dish before the tomatoes were added.  Those colors are like Christmas!

 The ground cashews and Matt's now-dirty coffee bean grinder.  Bwhaha!


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