Monday, July 14, 2008

A Quick Lunch

It's no secret that I love spicy food, and curries were something I indulged in from an early age. Whether it was Chinese - restaurant takeout or an old teacher's freshly made, crispy samosas, I would lap up every last bite with abandon.

Now, some years later, both the samosas and Chinese takeout have exited my diet, but my curry love remains. Workman Publishing relit the flame when they sent me 660 Curries (and I do apologize to them for taking so long to write up this review), which is a delicious (albeit very lengthy) read. It's length is testament to the detail of both the recipe ingredients and the preparation, and also gives the reader a view into the historical roots of the complex cuisines of India. Most of the recipes have me chomping at the bit to make, filled with aromatics and vegetables I've never used before but would love to try!

However, most of these ingredients are not found in any typical grocery, and since I don't live near an Indian marketplace and can't order certain ingredients online, I'll have to wait for an excursion downtown (and a free weekend - most of the recipes are time consuming) to see if the recipes taste as delicious as they sound. Even then, the majority of the taste testing will be done by people other than me... the amounts of ghee, oil and coconut cream in the dishes - though reduced from the traditional amounts - would not bode well with my digestive system.

If you do happen to be blessed with a well-stocked pantry (with plenty of rice) and a family of curry hounds, I urge you to look through the book and try whatever strikes your fancy. The sections are well marked, with indications as to the star players (be it legume, meat or seafood) as well as a well-written section on accompaniments. There are even recipes for the basic elements of curry, from a myriad of masala blends to instructions on creating ghee or yogurt at home. Again, granted you have the time (though several of the basic recipes can be made in bulk and kept for later), you can experience the delights that are the authentic Indian curries, much like those piping hot samosas I indulged in years ago.

If you aren't graced with an entire free day to cook beans or simmer sauces, there are solutions in the pages of 660 Curries. This is my (de-oiled, very inauthentic but ARF / 5-A-Day - worthy!) version of a dish Raghavan Iyer titles Lilva Nu Shaak - green beans with tomatoes and spices. I can't find the asafetida (or hing) powder that Iyer raves about using, but until I can track it down I'll use garlic and onions, which apparently reflect the taste of this overwhelmingly "aromatic" spice.

Lilva Nu Shaak
Serves 4
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 - 1 1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp brown sugar (or jaggery if available)
1/2 tsp asafetida (optional, swap in a clove of garlic and 1-2 tbsp minced onion)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cup water
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  1. Heat a spray of PAM (or similar) in a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high.
  2. Add mustard seeds, and cook 30 seconds.
  3. Add coriander, salt, cumin, cayenne, sugar, asafetida and turmeric. Stir off the heat 30 seconds longer.
  4. Add the beans and return the pan to the heat.
  5. Toss beans with the spice blend.
  6. Pour in water and tomato.
  7. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.
  8. Divide between serving bowls, top with cilantro and serve.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 46.9
Total Fat: 0.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 11.1 mg
Total Carbs: 10.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.4 g
Protein: 2.5 g

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