Sauteed Kale – Asian-style

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

This is a surprise result for me.  I set out to wilt & flavor some kale for a sushi recipe & didn’t really bother to get a pretty shot of the final result.  As this dish cooled (so I could incorporate it into sushi) – I kept taking little bites.  It was so delicious – I ate nearly all of it – just like it is here.  SO easy – and really incredibly good for you!

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Sauteed Kale – Asian-style

1 bunch kale – chopped into 1-2 inch pieces

1-2 TBS sesame oil

2 TBS tempura dipping sauce

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oil & add the chopped kale.  Once it begins to wilt a bit – probably 5 minutes.  Add the tempura sauce & cover the pan for about 5 minutes – to steam the kale down.  It should still have a bit of crunch.

Serve.

Ridiculously good!!!

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Garlicky Garlic Green Beans

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

These are unapologetically garlicky!!!   The garlic is cooked to the point that it looks burnt but – trust me – it tastes delicious.  And these are very easy.

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Garlicky Garlic Green Beans

INGREDIENTS

1 lb green beans – ends trimmed

1 tsp olive oil

1 TBS sesame oil

1 TBS black bean garlic sauce (or oyster sauce if you cannot find this wonderful garlic stuff)

1/4 cup water

10 (or more) garlic cloves chopped

Sesame seeds for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Heat the olive & sesame oils in a large saute pan.  Add the green beans & saute for about 2-3 minutes.  Add the chopped garlic & saute another 2 minutes – stirring frequently – until the garlic turns to a light brown.   Add the water & cover your pan – letting the beans steam for at least 5 minutes – or until they are nearly done to your liking.

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Uncover & add the Garlic Black Bean (or oyster sauce).  Saute until all the water cooks off – and be sure to stir so that all the beans become covered in the sauce.  Add more sauce – if you like.  Continue to stir fry until the garlic gets to a nice deep brown – even black – and seems on the verge of getting crispy.  Add salt to taste – if you think it needs it.

Transfer to a serving dish & sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds (regular or toasted are fine).

If the garlic clumps & looks burned – that’s OK.  That was how mine was & I found both my guest and I were fishing around seeking those burnt clumps out because they were so delicious!

Bangluck Thai Market

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

I touched upon this place a while back in my Drunken Noodle post.  I feel it deserves another, more complete review.

First of all – I suppose I could be accused of being a shopaholic.  I shop & shop & stock up & buy multiples of the same thing.  I have nowhere to put stuff – and still I buy more.  But – I’m not talking about clothes or shoes or any other items typically the object of desire in a shopper’s life.  I am fascinated by & cannot resist ethnic spices & sauces & condiments etc.  Let me prove it by showing you my pantry & spice drawers (and cabinet).  I realize some of you might see these & call one of those hoarder reality shows on me – but I am gonna show you anyway.

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Before you ask – NO – I do not eat Spaghettios.  Those are for my boyfriend who has unusual tastes of his own.

The best thing about ethnic markets whether they be Spanish or Indian or Thai or whatever – they tend to sell spices REALLY CHEAP.  I saw a std jar of cardamom pods at Gelson’s today for $16.  This size (stock photo)

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I bought this whopper of a ten ouncer at the Indian market for $20.

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More than ten times the quantity for $4 more.  The same supermarket size of turmeric was $8.  I got 16oz today (the biggest jar here) for under $6.

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Often the cheapest spices come in cellophane bags and you will need a jar to transfer them into – but you will save SO much money – buying some cheap spice jars won’t hurt you at all.

Here is the store front at Bangluck – 5170 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027 –

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And here are some shots of the wealth of treasures to be found inside:

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8000 brands of bamboo shoots.

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An entire aisle of dried noodle varieties.

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EVERY Asian condiment ever conceived.

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Your favorite brand(s) of canned quail eggs.

And then canned curries & soup stocks from which you can make restaurant quality Thai food by just adding a can of this stuff to some noodles or veggies or rice.

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I have no idea what that hotdog & balls are (Better penis jokes to follow.  Be patient).  Nor do I want to eat a can of smiling fish – whatever the Hell that is.  Whatever it is – it seems fitting that it is right near the phallic/testicular wonderland above.

Oh, wait.  They are seasoned cockles.  Ew.  I tend to be a purist when it comes to cockles.  No seasoning. Ever.

Speaking of penises – there is no shortage (pardon the pun) of cock jokes to be had at BANGLUCK.  Perhaps intentionally so.  Here – somebody pickled ma-cock.

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Wooohooo!  It sure is fun making fun of things I don’t understand.  It keeps me from feeling inferior.

Speaking of things I don’t understand – last time around I shared this completely unmarked package with you:

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There was a great deal of guessing as to WTF these could be – in the frozen section of meat & fish department.  I think they are silkworm pupae.  Click that phrase there – see if you agree.

Today – I found something even more upsetting.  WAY down in the secret meat & fish section – see?  Way back there?

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Ready?  Because – I mean – yuck.

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Yup!  That’s right!  For $4.49 – you could be the proud owner of four frozen giant water bugs.  Come on!  Who hasn’t – in college or some time – gotten a terrible case of the munchies and bemoaned the dearth of  – you know – Ben & Jerry’s or – YES – giant water bugs in the freezer???  You know who you are.  Anyway –

Good news!  Bangluck has LOTS of them!  AND – for those of us watching our waists – you can guiltlessly eat the entire package for the low, low count of only 35 calories – only 15 calories coming from fat.  (That’s actually almost 50% fat.  Are avocados that fatty?  Who knew exoskeleton was so rich?  Or are these guys the equivalent of an eclair?  Egads!)

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Among the other exotic selections are – BALLS – made of I-don’t-know-what.

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CHEAP produce & what seems to be cheap meat:

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And shallots the size of apples

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Hot outside?  Want somebody’s forgotten soda?  No worries!  Bangluck has THAT, too!  Right there is fridge #15.  Just keeping it chilled for you!

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Cooking tools & serving dishes:

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Need rice?   YEAH!  Got THAT!

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How about some shrimp crackers in a really cool package?  CHECK!  And you can feel good about eating these because they were made under the VERY strict manufacturing oversight of China!

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Fish chips?  Yeah – even that frothy beer doesn’t make that very wet & raw white fish there a decent sales rep for a CRACKER.

“Love these crackers.  I just wish they were more like raw scrod,” — said NOBODY EVER.

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So – in closing – I’d just like to promote Bangluck as an amazing source of FRESH noodles

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like I used in my vegetarian PHO recipe.  And the wide flat variety from the Drunken Noodles.

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Every sort of curry in a rainbow of varieties can be found here – powdered, canned, as a paste, as a curry ready for just adding vegetables to.  Spices dirt cheap.  EVERY kind of Asian dry noodle.  Rices you have never heard of in quantities from under a pound to “feed a prison system.”  Produce is really cheap & if you are brave or – or if maybe you just really enjoy lower intestinal distress – you could sample the meat & fish offerings.    You can buy nori here for making sushi for .99 cents – where the EXACT SAME THING a mile away at the evil Gelson’s costs $5.

And the best thing is – you can fill your little red basket thing until it is too heavy to carry – and still get outta there for under $30.

Don’t forget the giant water bugs for the kids!!!

And PS – the Thai place next door – Samalammadingdong?  If only I could PHOTOGRAPH how good the smells coming out of there are – ALL THE TIME.  Also – definitely worth a trip!

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Gluten-Free Bhajji or Onion Pakoras or Indian-style Onion Rings

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

OK – I am going to post this recipe despite the fact that I am going to instruct YOU to do it differently than I did last night.  I will also instruct you not to try both a fried AND baked version at the same time of ANY item when it is 100 degrees outside & you don’t have any air conditioning.  The oven roasting away at 425 while you fry battered delicacies in boiling oil makes for one sweaty chef.  It was downright unpleasant…as were the unfortunate & soggy baked version of these.  So – I will only post the more successful fried version now.

The traditional recipe calls for besan flour (chick pea flour) but I had my dogs in the car waiting (like an arsehole) while I shopped for ingredients – and remember – it was 100 here yesterday.  They love rides in the car & in trying to give them a little excitement – I forgot how hot it was until I pulled up to the supermarket.  So – I had under 5 minutes to get the job done & besan wasn’t immediately discoverable.  Gluten-free flour was – so I grabbed that.  I stood in the check-out – twitching impatiently & craning to see my car (windows half open – moon roof open, too – so it wasn’t gonna KILL them- don’t worry) while the cashier sleepwalked through scanning the items of the customer ahead of me.  I was so fidgety as the cashier moved like cold molasses  – I am certain the guy in front of me either thought I was tweaking & scanning for my dealer or a wanna-be felon looking for cops before I pulled out a gun and held up the store.

Four years later, I got out of there for – I might interject – an outrageous sum.  That GD Gelson’s is like going to the vet: it costs $50 just to walk in the door.  Groceries are added to that so that you can never seem to get out of there for less than $65 – even if you just buy three bullshit little things like my $8 (I realized later) Gluten-free flour.

Anyway – in reality – I was gone probably less than 5 minutes.  The dogs were panting – but they were panting when they got IN the car & they no worse off than they were 6 hours later – after dark – near a fan and just laying in bed.

 

 

See?  It’s a short face thing.  But I was certain some well-intentioned stranger (unfamiliar with the regular strained-looking breathing of my French Bulldog & my pug) was gonna smash the windows in or call animal control.

In short – they didn’t.  And please – no lectures.  I know the dangers of heat & dogs  –  and TRUST that my dogs are routinely pampered & spoiled & kept safe due to my paranoid obsessiveness.

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NOTE:  I cut my onions in short, thick-ish slices.  THAT WAS WRONG!  You will have far greater success if you cut them into longer but VERY thin slices – so they tangle into little nests better & have more nooks & crannies to trap the batter.

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Gluten-Free Bhajji or Onion Pakoras or Indian-style Onion Rings

INGREDIENTS

Vegetable oil – enough to get about an inch of depth in your frying pan.  I used about 1/2 a regular size bottle.

2 medium onions – any variety

1 cup gluten-free flour (or gram flour which is also called besan or chick pea flour)

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 TBS turmeric

1 TBS ground cumin

1 TBS garam masala

1/2 tsp chili powder

salt & pepper to taste

1/3 cup water

fresh cilantro for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Mix all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl & blend well.  Add the water & whisk into a batter.  You can make this batter thicker or thinner with the amount of water you use.  Thinner batter makes for a lighter final result.

Slice your onion up into thin slices maybe 3 inches long.  NOT LIKE YOU SEE PICTURED HERE.  These were too short & fat to nest together well.

Add the onions to the batter & stir until every onion is well-coated.  Heat your oil.  Add one slice of onion to the oil.  Once that has browned – remove it.  Make little nests (balls, patties – whatever) of the onion-batter mixture & CAREFULLY place into the hot oil.  Turn if you need to – so that they are nicely golden all over.  Remove from oil & drain on some bunched up paper towels.  Repeat until all your onion pakoras are cooked.

Put them in a serving dish & sprinkle with chopped, fresh cilantro and a little salt – if you desire.

These are good dipped in raita or a mint chutney – or all on their own.

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Tomato, Jalapeno & Cucumber Yogurt Raita

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

Ok – I finally did it!  I made a raita that I actually like and it was EASY.  Again – a food processor makes this a supremely easy thing to make.  Raitas are condiments used as a sauce, a dip or something to cool one’s palette during a spicy meal.  They vary from firm to watery in texture. I find I prefer the watery ones.  This one is right in the middle.

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Tomato, Jalapeno & Cucumber Yogurt Raita

INGREDIENTS

1 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 small onion

1/2 cucumber

1 tomato – quartered

2 Jalapenos – seeded

1 tsp (or more – to taste) ground cumin

Salt & pepper to taste (go LIGHT with the salt as it overpowers this dish quickly)

Cilantro – for garnish

Extra diced tomato or Jalapeno makes nice garnish, too.

DIRECTIONS

Put the yogurt in the food processor & whip it smooth.  Add the cumin & pulse until it is blended.  Drop the onion in & pulse til it is chopped finely.  Add the cucumber & jalapenos and pulse until they are chopped but not as fine as the onion.  Add the tomato & pulse a few times so that it appears diced – but bits are still clearly identifiable as tomato.

Put it in a bowl & garnish with cracked pepper, cilantro & tomato & jalapeno – if you are using them.

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Tikka Masala

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

This is SUCH an easy dish to make – I cannot recommend highly enough that you try it.  This was my first ever effort at a Tikka Masala and the only warning I will give about making this dish is that you either wear an apron or some old painting clothes while you cook it.  Like with a pen leaking ink – no matter how careful you think you are being – you end up covered in the stuff.  This recipe uses red food coloring & it WILL get on you.  You will splash or touch or bump or smear & it will ruin whatever you have on.  Another option is cooking this nude but then you run the risk of scalding or searing your naughty bits or your pendulous lower abdomen (fine – maybe YOURS isn’t pendulous) or even your low slung lady parts.  That isn’t nice.  So – just wear an apron.

I made this with a package of frozen albacore from Trader Joe’s.  I just defrosted it & cut it into big chunks.  If this doesn’t appeal to you – feel free to use chicken or shrimp or a few substantial vegetables – like potato and cauliflower – or tofu.  Whatever.  There isn’t any real limit on how you can reinvent this dish – because it is really all about the fiery red gravy.  So – if you own a food processor – this is one simple meal to create.  This recipe will EASILY feed 6 people – likely with much left over.

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Tikka Masala

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs (or so) of: fresh seafood or chicken or tofu or mixed vegetables of your choice – cut into chunks

1 large onion

1 28 oz can of tomatoes and their juices

8 garlic cloves

1 3″ piece fresh ginger or 4-5 heaping TBS jarred minced ginger

2 jalapenos

1 TBS turmeric

2 TBS garam masala

1 tsp red food coloring (BE CAREFUL & don’t get it everywhere!)

1/3 cup Greek yogurt

salt to taste

5 TBS butter

1 tsp coriander SEEDS (not ground)

1 tsp cumin SEEDS (not ground)

1 TBS paprika

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 lb bag frozen peas (or FRESH if you can get them!)

8-10 carrots – chopped

Cilantro – for garnish

DIRECTIONS

In the food processor, chop (puree almost) the onion very fine.  Set aside.  Then – puree the turmeric, garam masala, red food coloring, garlic, ginger & jalapenos with 1/2 cup water.  Pour into a bowl & set aside.  Without cleaning the processor bowl – puree the tomatoes.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, blend the yogurt, salt and 3 TBS of the red puree and then add either your fish or chicken or tofu.  Marinate this for half an hour or more.  If you are going all veggies with this dish – you can skip the marinating.

If you are using fish or chicken – cook it now on your stove top.   I used a round grill pan – but any frying pan or cast iron thing works.  Once it is cooked through, set it aside.

Melt the butter in a LARGE saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the cumin & coriander seeds & fry for 3-4 minutes.  Be careful NOT to burn the butter.  Add the onion & paprika.  Cook until onions soften & begin to change color – 5-6 minutes.  Add the red puree & blend well.  Add the tomatoes and blend well.  Add the cream & a cup of water.  Blend well.  Add all the vegetables you are using – including the peas & carrots.  Simmer this until your crunchiest vegetables are cooked to your liking.  Add water if the gravy starts getting too thick.  Once you feel the vegetables are cooked – add the COOKED fish or chicken (if using).  Stir it in.  Let this simmer another few minutes & add salt to taste.

Serve over basmati rice with chopped cilantro for garnish.

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BASMATI RICE

INGREDIENTS

3 cups basmati rice – rinsed several times in a colander

1 TBS olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp salt

20 green cardamom pods (if you can get them)

DIRECTIONS

Heat the olive oil in a pan.  Once hot – add the cumin seeds & the cardamom pods – again being wary of their popping & spitting.  I used 20 cardamom pods because mine were a bit old.  You might want to use fewer if yours are fresh & really pungent.  After a minute – add the rice & stir until it is all covered in oil & the spices are well blended.  Add 3 3/4 cups of water (or whatever ratio of rice to water your package suggests) & bring to a boil.  Use less water for firmer rice.  Once boiling – reduce heat to low & simmer, covered, for however long the rice package instructs you.  Remove from heat.  Fluff with a fork.

North Indian Chana Masala or Sour & Spicy Chick Pea Stew with Basmati Rice

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

While this blog is not devoted to economic meals nor low calorie (or specifically healthy) ones – the fact is, most of us appreciate a low cost & delicious dinner that satisfies without moving us that much closer to an unsightly bedonkadonk.  A few months ago, a Facebook follower responded to one of my incessant food posts with the remark, “I wish I could afford to eat like you do every day.”  Little did she know – I was in the middle of a self-imposed challenge to go as long as possible without buying any food and force myself to live on all the collected crap in my freezer & pantry.  This wasn’t the first challenge of this sort I had exercised.  The first time I tried it – I went a month and spent only $5.  Of course, by the end of the first week – all fresh produce was gone from my diet and within a week from that – so was all frozen & canned varieties.  I mostly lived on rices & pastas.  It was an all-carb-all-the-time diet that began to alarm my friends.  The day the Facebooker made her remark – concerned friends had anonymously delivered about $500 worth of fresh EVERYTHING to my door.   In fact – both times I did the “pantry cleanse” diet – concerned & WAY TOO generous friends delivered a farmer’s market’s wealth of produce to my door – so I can’t do this diet anymore.  Or – at least – if I do, I need to keep it on the QT.  I felt like I was fleecing my friends for lettuce & broccoli.  So – anyway – my point is, pizza, pasta & rice dishes happen to be what I like – but they are also very cost effective.  Pasta & pizza needn’t be the pound-packers they are reputed to be, either.  If the crust is very thin & you are reasonable with the cheese (and skip meat altogether) – they are really just open faced sandwiches – but SO much more emotionally satisfying.  And – homemade pasta is WAY lighter than the dried variety.  No post-Thanksgiving dinner style bloated gut EVER from homemade pasta.  So – it is just a matter of getting creative & artful with how you present these dishes.  Mix it up.  Got a funny mish mash of ingredients – and no idea what to do with them?  Google them followed by the word recipe.  I then like to click IMAGES & find the prettiest result from the ingredients I listed.  You would be amazed how effective this can be as a source for an exciting new dish without a run to the grocery store.

OK – I’m rambling.  Today’s post is the result of my having one large can of chick peas & a bunch of onions, some leftover tomatoes & leftover jalapenos.

When it comes to Indian food, I prefer the heavily gravied dishes over the drier ones.  This dish is almost all gravy (ymmm) and it is a gravy made up almost entirely of pureed onions.  Sounds funky.  It is not!  It is delicious!  Delicious – of course – if you like the juxtaposition of spicy & sour.  But this dish makes a large quantity (easily enough for 4 – with rice) and the only calories in it really are from the chick peas (which are VERY good for you & CHEAP) and the tiny bit of olive oil.  Cheap, LOW fat, low calorie & yummy as fuck.  And easy to make.  Why not give it a go?

The one drawback with Indian is the initial investment in spices.  All of my versions of Indian dishes will call for 2-3 times as much of each spice as most other versions you will see.  I like the dishes heavily seasoned.  My suggestion for the spices is that you find a local exotic spice store – and not a fancy Williams-Sonoma type one but a local family-owned one – and go in there with a list.  The fact is – these stores tend to sell every day spices at deep discounts, too.  My supermarket charges like $8 for that traditional size container of an average spice – like say – cumin.  My Indian spice store sells a giant container – ten times as much – for like $5.  Amazon.com is also a good source – believe it or not.  So – if you are in an area that lacks ethnic opportunities – don’t forget the interweb!  Everything you want can be found there.

The basic spices that most Indian dishes will call for are:

Garam Masala – which you can make (garam masala recipe) or buy prepared

Cumin – both seeds & ground

Coriander – both seeds & ground

Turmeric

Green Cardamom pods

Fenugreek

Fennel seeds

Bay leaves

Tamarind paste

Mango Powder (Amchoor)

Asafoetida (read this Wiki thing Asafoetida) – which STINKS (good Lord!) in the container but cooks up nicely.  Trust.  Despite its alternative name “devil’s dung.”

Mustard seeds of all colors

Cinnamon

Curry powder

and – as an aside –  fresh ginger, garlic & onions are used in nearly everything — unless you are unfortunate enough to have stumbled upon a Hare Krishna Indian recipe.  They think garlic leads to lewdness.  But I’ve covered this in the past.  Just know – if you are making an Indian dish & do not see onions or garlic in the ingredients – you might want to look for a version of the recipe that has them.

SPECIAL NOTE – I have yet to succeed in creating a mint or cilantro chutney OR a decent yogurt raita myself.  My spice store is attached to a restaurant that sells these items in any quantity you wish.   It is easier & cheaper to do it this way for me – so that is what is pictured here.  I will persevere, though, and try to work out a homemade version – eventually.

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This dish is very easy to prepare.  Don’t be thrown by the amount of onion.  A food processor is kinda critical with this one, though, in order to get the onions pureed gravy-style.

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North Indian Chana Masala or Sour & Spicy Chick Pea Stew

INGREDIENTS

1 29 oz can chick peas (garbanzo beans)

1 cup diced tomatoes

2 large red onions – chopped roughly (some reserved & chopped for garnish)

fresh cilantro (fresh coriander) – chopped for garnish

2 inch piece of fresh ginger – peeled & chopped

8 garlic cloves

3 jalapenos (some reserved & sliced thin for garnish)

2 TBS olive oil

1 TBS turmeric

1/4 tsp cinnamon

10 green cardamom pods – gently crushed under the flat side of a knife (to release their flavor)

3 bay leaves

6 TBS yogurt (or prepared raita – if you have it)

3 TBS garam masala

pinch of asefoetida (not critical – so don’t sweat it if you don’t have it)

2 TBS ground cumin

2 TBS ground coriander

1 tsp sugar (raw – preferably)

1 TBS tamarind paste

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns

salt to taste

1 1/2 cup water

DIRECTIONS

Puree: the red onion, ginger, garlic, jalapenos & 1/2 cup water – into a paste in the food processor.

Heat: the oil in a large, heavy saute pan over medium heat.  Saute the cinnamon, bay leaves & cardamom pods for a minute then add the onion puree & tomatoes.  Saute until the liquid begins to evaporate & the onions start changing color  to – a nice pale brown.

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Stir in the tamarind paste.  One blended add: salt, sugar, garam masala, coriander, cumin, turmeric & lemon juice.  Stir this until blended then add the yogurt & stir in in until blended.  The puree should now how a rich chocolate color.

Add the chick peas & the liquid from the can along with another cup of water.  Simmer this on low for an hour or more.  Be sure it doesn’t dry out.  Add water if the rich gravy starts looking sparse.  It should be a pretty wet stew – the gravy being the primary element here – rather than the chick peas.

Serve on individual plates over basmati rice & garnish with cilantro, red onion & sliced jalapeno.

Serve with mint chutney & a yogurt raita on the side – if you can.  No worries if you cannot.

BASMATI RICE

INGREDIENTS

3 cups basmati rice – rinsed several times in a colander

1 TBS olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp salt

20 green cardamom pods (if you can get them)

DIRECTIONS

Heat the olive oil in a pan.  Once hot – add the cumin seeds & the cardamom pods – again being wary of their popping & spitting.  I used 20 cardamom pods because mine were a bit old.  You might want to use fewer if yours are fresh & really pungent.  After a minute – add the rice & stir until it is all covered in oil & the spices are well blended.  Add 3 3/4 cups of water (or whatever ratio of rice to water your package suggests) & bring to a boil.  Use less water for firmer rice.  Once boiling – reduce heat to low & simmer, covered, for however long the rice package instructs you.  Remove from heat.  Fluff with a fork.

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