Grog and Vittles

Food and Spirits by an Vegetarian in Atlanta

Sunday, February 18, 2007

India

Tonight, we make Indian food.

A strange thing about ethnic Indian food: It is often quite a bit cheaper to make than most other ethnic foods, yet it costs more, without fail, when purchased from a restaurant. Weird.

Glossary:
  • Aloo - Potatoes
  • Chana - Chickpeas
  • Dahi - Yogurt, although less viscous and sweet than the stuff some Americans eat out of cups with fruit. Many "Lassi" drinks are smoothies made out of this and a fruit.
  • Garam Masala - A common Indian spice mix ("Chili powder" is a spice mix common to the US. [Chili powder is otherwise as unlike garam masala as it is unlike the hobby of cockfighting]). Garam masala has cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, black pepper, dried chilies, cardamom and/or mace. Others may be put in, and some may be left out. To me, I most noticeably smell the cinnamon and coriander when I sniff the mix I buy from Your Dekalb Farmers Market.
  • Lassi - To offend an entire subcontinent with a concise definition: A Smoothie made with Dahi
  • Masala - Literally, "Spice"
  • Naan - An elongated flatbread sometimes used to sop and eat foods without utensils. I doubt we'll have that much.
  • Panir - A fresh cheese, often served fried, but also useful in many other ways. Some people mistake it for "good fried tofu". It really is nothing like tofu except it is also white and compressed protien. Tastes quite different and has a different texture, especially when non-fried.
  • Tamatar - Tomato
Let's start off with one tried or true dish: Aloo Curry in Puff Pastry Hexes. I once wanted to cook with puff pastry sheets and made the mistake of buying these little hexes made of puff pastry (they were mixed in with the sheets). So add some spices (cumin, coriander and ground red pepper) and an herb (cilantro) and some diced potatoes, then finish with some green curry paste, stir then stuff into the puff pastries after they've been baked up into little towers with lids.

Now, lets get something with a little more fiber in it, Panir, Summer Squash, and Bell Peppers.This is basically, a large quantity of cubed squash with tomato and a slew of spices: Cumin, fennel, coriander, turmeric, garam masala, and a little coconut.

And to finish, one of my favorite indian dishes is Chana Batura. This is a bowl of chickpeas in a tomato based sauce served with a giant balloon shaped piece of bread. Now I don't have a pot big enough to fry a piece of bread like that, so I'll leave out the bread.

So instead, we'll serve this with the Naan and use what this here cookbook calls Tamatar Kabli Chana Usal. Its a similar red sauce and tastes quite close enough it will pass for me. I doubt anyone else eating tonight goes to Udipi Cafe enough to notice the similarity or difference. (You all should, especially on the weekend afternoons for the buffet). This dish is tomatoes, peppers, ginger, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, more garam masala, and some turmeric too.

As I mentioned before, this will be served with naan. I hope this goes over well. I've had all of these before except for the squash dish.

I'm probably going to make some Dahi as well to cool peoples palates. If it turns out, we might dessert on Lassi. To make Dahi, you take some milk, and put some (active culture, preferably Dahi) yogurt in it and keep it as close to 115F as possible for 5-10 hours. Most people add some powdered milk to up the protein content (and I will too).

To make Lassi, you do the same thing you do to make all other smoothies: You put yougurt in a blender, with some honey or sugar, and a couple other spices and fruits, and blend. I'm angling for banana.

Time to go start the yogurt now.

--Michael

Ps: This is all from Lord Krishna's Cuisine.

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