Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cauliflower, Green peas & Potatoes in Spicy Herb Sauce

Anticipation is a wonderful thing. Anticipation stimulates imagination, and gives even the dull chores of the day a kind of momentum. Like when I was was a potter in the mountains of New Mexico. I would fire a kiln, and then have to wait for it to cool before I opened it. Would it contain unexpected treasures created by the magic of fire and air and chemicals, or would I have yet another "learning experience"?

During the hours it took for the kiln to cool down, I would often turn into "The Mad Gardner": pulling weeds, watering, squinting at the tomato vines in order to find those cleverly camoflaged tomato horn worms. The garden flourished because I had to wait. Sometimes the house got cleaned and the laundry washed and hung out to dry in the warm, juniper scented New Mexican air.

While I was waiting to hear from the State to know if I had passed my acupuncture boards, I drove up the coast to Big Sur with a friend. I had always wanted to visit this spectacular section of the California coast, and it certainly lived up to my anticipation. The winding roads, the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, the bold, craggy rocks jutting out of the sea, the weathered houses dotting the hills, the brisk air.....all of it brought to mind stories of Henry Miller and Jack Kerouak. Anticipation became limited to what we might discover around the next bend in the road....a place to pull over and watch the sea otters. A funky restaurant with out of this world soup. A group of bikers from Germany who played guitar and sang at night.

These days, I'm focused on my website and writing articles on a variety of health issues and publishing them on the web. It helps divert my attention from the fact that on April 2nd I travel to Chicago, and on April 3rd I fly to Delhi. I must not spend too much time thinking about it. If I do, the laundry would not get done, the house would not get cleaned. INDIA!

There. I wrote it. It's real.

Why am I going? Because my eldest brother called me and asked "Wanna go to India?" What was I supposed to say - "No"? I don't think so. The photographer in me is shaking in anticipation. The foodie in me couldn't wait. So while Hollywood was lavishing awards on their best and most talented, I decided to make a dish which I found in Classic Indian Cooking, by Julie Sahni. Needless to say, what I did wasn't exactly what the recipe called for. It reflected what I had in my kitchen. I've discovered a gap in my spices, which will be filled the next time I go to the store. I will give the recipe as it's given in the book, and you may tinker with it as you wish.

1 small head cauliflower (about 1 - 1 1/4 pounds)
2 medium sized potatoes (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup ghee or light vegetable oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbs ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1/2-1 tsp. red pepper
1 1/2 cups shelled fresh green peas, or 1 ten ounce package frozen peas, defrosted
1 1/2 cups pureed or finely chopped fresh ripe tomatoes, or 3/4 C canned tomato puree
4 tsp. Kosher salt
3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh coriander leaves (or 1 1/2 Tbs dry coriander leaves)

1. Wash cauliflower in running cold water. Break or cut it into about 1 1/2-inch flowerets. Peel the central stem and cut into 1/4 inch thin slices.

2. Peel potatoes and cut each into 6 pieces

3. Measure out all spices and place them, and all the veggies next to the stove.

4. Heat the ghee over medium-high heat in a deep heavy-bottomed pan. When the fat is hot, add the cumin seeds, and fry until they turn dark brown (about 20 seconds). Add cumin powder, coriander, turmeric, and red pepper all at once. Stir for a moment and immediately add cauliflower, potatoes, and fresh green peas. (If you are using frozen peas, do not add them yet). Fry, stirring constantly, until the vegetables begin to sear a bit (about 5 minutes). Add tomatoes (or puree) and continue frying until the puree thickens and the fat begins to separate from the sauce (about 3 minutes). Add 3 cups boiling water along with th esalt. Reduce heat and simmer vegetables, covered, until they are tender and cooked through(about 15 minutes). If you are using frozen peas, add them now, and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Check for salt, and serve sprinkled with chopped coriander leaves.

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Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

India! Lucky, lucky you. It's a destination that has been on my list for many years. I must admit that I'm not a cauliflower person, but I would eat it every day (preferably out of your beautiful ceramic pot) if it would get me to India. How exciting!!

Patricia Scarpin said...

OMG, Toni, India!!! This is so exciting. I hope you share everything with us when you get back!

I love cauliflowers - my mom used to make it a lot when I was a kid, and she used to say "I made little trees for you today". I'd eat all the little trees in a second. :)

Freya said...

The food looks so good! You will have a wonderful time in India I am sure! Somewhere I have always wanted to visit! We can't wait to see what you come back with for your blog!

Toni said...

Lydia - I've never actually gone out of my way for cauliflowers, either, but I actually love this recipe. Tweaked, of course - more salt, more coriander and turmeric, and I used red chili from Hatch, NM, of course!

Patricia - I love it! "Little trees" wonderful! Your mom sounds great.

Freya - Well, I can't believe I'm going. It's still like a foggy dream. But if I don't get a visa soon, it will STAY that way!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I not only love every ingredient in this recipe but I also am enticed by your photo. It makes me wish I had a hot bowl of it right now as my stomach is grumbling....

India--I'm so happy for you. It is sure to be magnificent!

Toni said...

Thanks, Susan! You are one of the bloggers who inspires my photos.

Rachael Narins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachael Narins said...

Why am I never the recipient of these phone calls, I wonder. I really do. :-)

This is a fantastically beautiful shot, I am excited to try the recipe!


Anonymous said...

Yum Yum Yum! I am a pretty big fan of cauliflower, so I am all about this deep bottom pan of goodness!

India - girl!!!! I can't wait to see those pics! Go now...and blog the pics tomorrow. Hee hee :)

Toni said...

Rachael - I thought of you when I made this -- it's vegan! At least, my version of it is. I did not use ghee - I used a vegetable oil.

The trip will go on the credit card. Fiddle-dee-dee, I say! T'marrah's another day. (And here I was, finally getting out of the hole my Vietnam trip put me into! Oh well.......I choose these holes.)

Toni said...

Chris - I'd have gone yesterday if I could have afforded it! At least I'll have the month of March to try and "fill the well", as it were. ;-)

Unknown said...

Toni - Cauliflower has never looked so good, but I'm afraid of it still.

India?!? Soooo jealous. Will you be traveling around or staying in one area? I had an anthropology professor in college that spent most of his time talking about his graduate work/partying in Goa. I hear it's tropical and lush. Can't wait to see your pictures!

Toni said...

Fear of cauliflower? I must look this one up in the literature.....;-)

I can't wait to see my pictures either! Since I shoot digital, I will be able to view them when I take them!

Anonymous said...

Excellent news! Have a fabulous time, Toni. Besides coming back with loads of pictures, prepare to come back with lots of new ideas and perspectives.

Some years ago, an art director I know spent a month in India. When he came back, he suddenly started injecting lots of vivid color into his work, particularly oranges and bright greens. This was long before these became the hot colors they are today.

Toni said...

Terry - I am sending off my visa application today. (!) I know I'll be coming back saturated - with color, ideas, photos, and possibly even a few "props" that will make my food photos more interesting!