Indian Archive

Monday, February 1, 2010

chana masala

chana masala

My latest snap of cravings for Indian food hit a couple weeks ago, and because I haven’t learned anything over my two stints in the East Village, we ordered in from a restaurant on 6th Street and received puddles of oily, listless and weakly spiced curries that we dragged our way through only to be rewarded with bellyaches. Also, regret. I have an archive of Indian recipes I make several times a year, that I crave like clockwork as soon as we hit a cold snap and never disappoint, a cabinet full of robust rust and mustard-colored powders and seeds and yet I let someone else put lackluster chana masala in our bellies.

finely chopped onion
canned whole tomatoes

I’ve made a slew of chana masalas — a Northern Indian chickpea stew with tomatoes — but none have made their way to you because while they’ve all been edible, with bowls licked clean as there are exactly no intersections of chickpeas and tomatoes that I won’t gobble down, I had yet to find The One. Many were closer to a spiced tomato sauce with chickpeas in it; few had the spice assault I was looking for and none had that thing, a sour note, you find in great Indian food but is more elusive to American home cooks with a curry habit.

a mutt of spices

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

red kidney bean curry

rajmah

I have a confession to make: For years, I have been cooking a dish that I love very very much but I haven’t told you about it because it comes from two words that I cannot bring myself to publicly own up to.* Especially on a site where if you suggested I use one, I’d suggest you haven’t been paying attention.

It’s a box mix, people. And it makes the most fantastic rajmah, or kidney bean curry. Wait! Let me explain. Long before I had cooked a single Indian dish, I was overwhelmed at the thought of it. I didn’t have the spices. I didn’t know which spices I’d want. I was sure I’d use them all wrong. There’s like an art and a science to this and I am a dilettante in the world of Indian cooking.

kidney beans

And one day we were at Whole Foods, and they of course had some cooking samples out, these provided from a company that was packaging Indian spice mixes for classic dishes, for which they helpfully provided recipes on the back. The aloo gobi was okay. The chicken tikka masala was, you know, not bad either. But the kidney bean curry? Swoon. We took it home with us that very night.

In the years since, I have found Indian recipes I can’t get enough of. There are Curried Lentils and Sweet Potatoes, Tangy Cabbage Salads and an Everyday Yellow Dal, Red Split Lentils with Cabbage, Indian-Spiced Vegetable Fritters and my favorite, the one that we make many times a year, Indian-Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes.

indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes

Continued after the jump »

Sunday, November 25, 2007

curried lentils and sweet potatoes

curried lentils with sweet potatoes

Thanksgiving usually marks the end of my yearly fall fanaticism, and the beginning of the inevitable resignation to winter that goes into full-swing after the New Years. I’m no longer obsessed with the myriad of fall flavors, its squashes and medium-body soups and wines, I just want to stay warm. I hibernate, so to speak. I start cooking meals at home with more regularity; I find excuses to stay in.

chard potato mise

After all of the holiday buzz this curried lentil and sweet potato dish landed exactly on that bridge, a lazy Sunday after a flurry of a holiday weekend. It’s from the New York Times Thanksgiving coverage two weeks ago, from an article by Melissa Clark about vegetarian dishes fitting the meal. But really, it had my name all over it, because the sweet potatoes were made spicy, not saccharine, and the Indian-spiced lentils and greens were exactly the health kick I needed after this weekend of heavy intake, with the ease of a one-pot meal. I don’t need a holiday dinner to find an excuse to make it.

sweet potatoes

I know it’s not easy on the eyes–heck, it would be a great contestant in an ugliest gourmet contest, but as Cathy so aptly notes, the best home-cooked food is rarely ready for its close-up. Honestly, it was so good, we couldn’t have cared less.

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, June 28, 2007

everyday yellow dal

black-eyed peas

I spent the summer in Israel when I was 15 years old, and while I know I did all of the expected stuff–day trips, stays at hostels and kibbutz, the big cities and the desert–one of the things that stands out most clearly in my memory is something sort of random–the way the Israeli kids dressed on hot days: black jeans and often long-sleeved shirts. I’d look at them, so covered, so dark, and want to scream. “Don’t you know how HOT it is here? I’m melting in my Tevas and tank top and you’re there wrapped as tight as you can in WINTER clothes.” Clearly this penchant for melodrama isn’t a recent phenomenon.

yellow split peas

I feel the same way on days like we’ve had this week, when the air is so oppressively thick and stagnant (seriously, I think the breath I left on our front step last night greeted me there this morning) and I see people, probably dressed for important jobs in aggressively air-conditioned offices in these woolen suit layers and shoes with covered toes and sleeves (fine, I’m talking about Alex) and I want to melt for them at the thought of having to walk more than a block in such a getup. My Eastern European genes are inconsolable in this swelter, thus if you need us we’ll be over in the corner, hugging it out with the a/c this weather stops being such a brat.

Continued after the jump »

Monday, February 26, 2007

recipes from a cumin junkie

pomegranate seeds, unrelated

Considering that I was on a two year extended Indian cooking kick before I started this site, I find it odd that I have included but one Indian-spiced recipe in the time since. I’m not sure if others do this, but I tend to go in and out of food crazes — currently, the absolutely only thing I want to eat after the gym is tofu pad thai, which doesn’t sound so horrible until you consider that I hit the gym three times a week, and no doubt reverse its effects just as often. I’ve gone through similar phases with poached eggs (atop anything), dinners of asparagus and roasted tiny red potatoes (only), dumplings, and for two torturous months of Alex’s life, a certain Belgian Endive and Grain Mustard salad of Nigella Lawson’s I fiended for, even first thing in the morning.

red split lentils with cabbage

The Indian cooking bender was no different. What I loved was that you would take the simplest ingredients and render them into hearty, filling and unbelievably healthy dishes, and blow your expectations of lentils out of the water. Their fiscal smarts also cannot be overlooked. Once we’d bought the six or seven spices we continually came back to, we’d stand flabbergasted at the register as our lentils, cauliflower, potatoes and peas came to a mere $5 — and created leftovers that were as good if not better than they were the first day. But the real Indian food addiction was those spices; once they got under my skin (and permanently stained several cooking implements), I couldn’t stop itching for more of them. I became, excruciatingly enough, a cumin seed junkie.

indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes

Continued after the jump »