Friday, March 30, 2007

Off to India

Cameras stuffed in case. Passport - musn't forget that. Hold the mail. I'm off to LA tomorrow to spend the night at my brother's house. Must be at the airport a little before 5am. Keep fingers crossed that I can get on the early morning flight to Chicago. (I'm flying standby). From there.....
I'm off to India!
Praise the cat sitter!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Shiitake Mushrooms and Cancer Prevention

It's always been interesting to me to see what people have in their grocery carts. I don't shop in big, chain supermarkets all that often - only when I need some ingredient that isn't carried elsewhere. So when I do drop by the local mega-chain grocery, I often feel like an alien from another planet. I try not to let it show on my face. But for what people spend on those pounds and pounds of ground beef and sodas - diet or otherwise - plus all the other pre-packaged, processed foods, it seems to me that they could be spending less, eating healthier and helping to fight off diseases.

I heard a story once, which sounds like it could very well be true. Supposedly, during WWII, when the Nazi's invaded Belgium, they comandeered the butter, eggs and cheeses, as well as much of the red meat for their troops. The people were left to eat their meals without such luxuries. According to this story, the heart disease rates for the Belgians went down significantly during this period of hardship. After the war, when they were able to access the high fat diets they were used to, their heart disease rates went back up to where they had been before the war.

Is this story true? I don't know. What I do know is that what you put into your body has something to do with what you get out of it. I don't know anyone who would consider putting 30 octane gas in their car, but I see lots of people putting the equivalent in their grocery carts. And what boggles my mind is that it isn't based on cost.

I know that it's difficult sometimes, to connect our daily habits when we're, say, in our 20s, 30s or 40s, with the chronic ailments which often show up in our 60s and 70s. But just as the genetics of a tree, plus the nutrients in the soil and the water that helps it grow, creates a healthy tree or one that attracts disease and insects - so our genetics and our nutrition help us grow healthy or create disease.

So when I saw that Chris over at Melecotte was doing a Cooking to Combat Cancer event, my knee jerk response was: "I'm in!" I mean, as a healthcare professional, I find myself talking to my patients every day about healthy diet and exercise. But Chris' event is strictly about cancer. So I dug into my memory bank to come up with something that would be specific to cancer, and remembered shiitake mushrooms.

All mushrooms seem to have some cancer-fighting abilities, but shiitakes are the champions. Or should I say champignons? Sorry. Couldn't help myself there. Anyway, shiitakis have a polysaccharide called lentinan, a (1-3) β-D-glucan, (why does science always have to sound complicated?) as the active compound responsible for the anti-tumor effects. Shiitakes have many other health benefits, too, but mostly I cook with them because they're absolutely delicious. I buy the large bag of dried shiitakes from Costsco, and keep them as part of my larder.

I was tiring of chicken and not really drawn to another meat dish. What could I cook with the shiitakes? Fish. Any version of it would do. My mind scoured the fish layed out in our local Whole Foods market, and settled on the shrimp. Yes! That's what I started to crave - shrimp with shiitakes. And then snow peas begged to be let in. And, of course, scallions. OK....That should be easy enough. Since I wasn't in a rice mood, I decided on some Pancet (Pancit?) noodles from a local Vietnamese market.

I like to walk to the market. It's about 9 blocks away, and a brisk walk there and back, carrying groceries, is sometimes what constitutes my exercise for the day. Frankly, I prefer that to a stairmaster or a treadmill. (Exercise - another good disease-fighting technique!)

But I digress.

Arriving home, I began to concoct the following dish. Since I never measure, all measurements are approximate.

Shrimp With Shiitakes, Snow Peas and Pancet Noodles

1/2 pound shrimp - any size that works comfortably with chopsticks
1 large handful snow peas
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 C sliced scallions - I use most of the scallion, including the green part.
1 large handful dried shiitakes
1C boiling water
diced garlic to taste
diced ginger to taste
Oyster sauce
approx. 2 TBS oil - not olive. Canola or peanut work well. You can also use sesame oil.*
1 pkg. of pancet noodles.**

Rinse the shiitakes, place them in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them soften while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Slice the onions and the scallions
Peel and dice the garlic and the ginger

If you've bought raw shrimp, you will want to shell and devein it first. If you've bought cooked shrimp with the tail on, you will want to remove the tails first, before cooking. Wash the shrimp and let them soak in cold water till you're ready to use them.

At this point, you will want to remove any tough stems from your shiitakes, squeeze out any excess water and put them in a bowl. Save the soaking water.

Pour the oil into the pan over medium high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and stir for about 30 seconds. If you're using raw shrimp, add them now. If you're using cooked shrimp, you will want to wait.

Add the shiitakes, snow peas and scallions and stir for about 1 minute. Add the pancet noodles after you've cut the noodles in half. (Easier to eat that way.) Reduce heat just a bit, and continue stirring for another couple of minutes. Add shrimp if you're using cooked shrimp, the water from the mushrooms, and a good slosh of oyster sauce. Stir so that everything is coated, reduce heat, cover pan while you set the table. Remove cover and serve.


*I've read recipes that say you should add sesame oil by the drops - as in "Add a few drops of sesame oil for taste." This makes it sound like sesame oil might be a little overwhelming if you added more than a few drops. I have never found this to be true. In fact, quite the opposite. Unless I use at least 50% sesame oil, I don't really taste it.

**Pancet noodles can be found in Asian grocery stores. They look like hefty spaghetti. Not flat, like linguini, but round like spaghetti. If you cannot access this kind of noodle, I'm sure you can use any kind you might have on hand. Or substitute rice for noodles and just serve it on the side.

For more health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture

For a place to share what you've learned about vitamins, herbs, or any natural medicine, visit my other blog Second Opinion.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday Morning and Eggs

It's hard getting up early on Sunday. But I love that, because I have time to curl up with my cat and stroke her and tell her how beautiful she is. (She knows.) But eventually my phone will ring or my stomach will call, and it's time to start my day.

Mornings here in San Diego are gray. The morning clouds and fog lift by 11am, but until then it's usually gray. On a gray morning, (or any morning, for that matter!) I want my spiced chai. (See previous post). My cat (Boo) wants toy time. Have you ever tried to make tea and keep a cat amused with one of those "fishing poles" with a "mouse" on the end of it? It's not easy. It's even harder to do the simplest thing, like boil and egg. But that's what I do on Sundays. In fact, I've taken to doing that during the week, to make my "Curried Egg Salad", which is my entry into Sig's Weekend Breakfast Blogging event over at Live to Eat.

This dish is abysmally simple, but one of the nicer ways to start your day. I always keep some hard boiled eggs around, just in case I get the urge.....

1 hard boiled egg
3/4 teaspoon mayonaise
curry powder to taste

I usually take out half the egg yolk for my lower fat version, but you don't need to.

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mash.
Put on top of some bread and add salt and pepper if your curry powder isn't salty enough.

For health news visit Mission Valley Acupuncture

For a place to share what you've learned about vitamins, supplements, herbs, or any other natural health remedy, visit my other blog Second Opinion

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Meema's Noodles and Cabbage

We all called my mom's mom Meema (pronounced "mee-mah"). I don't remember which of the grandchildren came up with that one, but it was a child's attempt at "grandma" that came out meema, and the name stuck. My mom was so happy when her first grandchild began calling her meema - her eyes just glowed!

Meema was originally from Roumania, and came here at the end of the 19th century. This was way before health food, and the recipes she carried with her had the earthiness of fresh ingredients cooked over a slow fire. She died when I was 4 or 5 years old, so I know her more as a family legend, rather than as a grandmother. From what I can gather, she was a force of nature. I try to reconcile this image of her as a strong-willed immigrant, with the black and white photo of her that always sat on my mom's desk. There stood a woman in a dark dress with small, light colored flowers all over it, wearing a stylish hat with a small black veil that came down over her face.

The stories of meema didn't involve the kitchen, they involved the living room, where she would entertain guests. Her home would always have a piano, and her children were quite accomplished at playing it. Someone was always singing. Music seemed to be her centerpoint, more than food. She loved opera and Broadway, and probably jazz, though I don't know that for sure.

So it's surprising to me that her daughters and their daughters took to the kitchen so readily. And it's also surprising that the one thing which every one of us carries with us as her legacy should be this rather simple dish. Simple, yes. But in my family, this dish carries the family's DNA. This is the dish that unites us - the one none of us can resist, no matter what our cholesterol levels might be. Unfortunately, I have no digital images of my grandmother. Or my mom, for that matter. Meema lived well before the digital age. My mom thought computers were dangerous. So while my 3 siblings and I all have photos, they all reside in frames.

When I read about Ellie's Nostalgia event over at Kitchen Wench, there was no doubt that I would be making noodles and cabbage. In my family, we usually reserve this dish for Thanksgiving. But hey! I'm ready to give thanks today. And tomorrow. The advent of the food processor makes this dish much easier.

1 green cabbage
1 stick of butter
1 package of wide egg noodles - the widest ones you can find.

Melt the butter in a large pot.
Using a food processor, cut the cabbage into small pieces.
Add the cabbage and stir.
You may keep the heat on medium while you're cleaning up the kitchen, but then turn it down to low.

Find something to do. Anything. This cabbage will be cooking for the next 2-4 hours on low. You will need to remember to stir it from time to time so that the cabbage doesn't burn, but other than that, you're free to do what you wish. When it's ready, it will be a lovely, toasty brown color and soft.
When the cabbage is almost done, cook the noodles according to the directions.
Drain the noodles, add the cabbage.

In my family, we add more butter at this point. And salt. See what I mean? This is not health food!

For health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture
For a place to share what you've learned about vitamins, herbs, or any other natural remedy, visit my other blog Second Opinion

Monday, March 19, 2007

Strawberry and cream in chocolate cups, and a friend's birthday

I spent this past weekend up at , east of L.A. in the San Bernadino Mountains. I have a friend who had a birthday, and she decided to celebrate it by getting out of town with a few friends. One of her friends has a beautiful log home which, with the aid of a few air matresses and enough wine, managed to accommodate 8 of us.

The smell of hot pine needles during the day, and the night so still you could practically hear the stars crackling overhead, created an instant sense of peace. Only one night away from home, and I come back relaxed...less worried about "gotta", "shouldda", and all the rest of the self-inflicted pressures.

I did not make any of the meals. I just enjoyed what everyone else created or brought. And we spent most of our time, it seemed, eating. And drinking wine. And eating some more. And going for a small hike in order to eat some more.

One friend made a wonderful lunch of chicken, snow peas, scallions, onions and garlic with oyster sauce with a kind of Phillipine noodle, (which, after a few glasses of wine, I forgot to photograph). But I somehow managed to take this shot of the dessert.

The chocolate cups were purchased. I cut up the strawberries. She mixed cream cheese, whipping cream, sour cream and sugar together, added some Baileys Irish and spooned the mixture over the top. The proportions? I'm still waiting for them.

That's what I mean about "shouldda". After a weekend in the country, it doesn't really matter. I would still make this, even without knowing the proportions. After all, my taste buds have never failed to discern the so-so from the divine.

For health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture

For a place to share what you've learned about vitamins, herbs, or any other natural remedy, visit my other blog Second Opinion

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Sunday Fritata on Tuesday

It's been a week, let me tell you. I don't know what I did to make the technology gods so angry with me, but just about every electronic gadget in my life has decided it's time to "kick it up a notch". (You should pardon the expression). My computer began making strange noises, and my mouse was frozen. My computer at work has been acting as though someone has spilled molasses in it. I can click on a document to open it and go treat a patient, knowing that it will be open when I get back, but not much before.

I bought a new cell phone because my other one died. The woman at the store told me that I could use my new cell phone as an MP3 player. Cool! I'm going to be on a very long flight in the near future....maybe an MP3 player will come in handy. "All you have to do is get a card at Frye's." So I go to Frye's, wave my cell phone at someone and ask "How do I turn this into an MP3 player?" "Oh......go down that aisle, turn right, and when you get to the desk down there, ask one of the guys to get you a blah blah card. (Do I remember? Not at all.) So I go to the appropriate desk, ask one of the guys and he knew exactly what I was talking about. Found it in a heartbeat, he did. I walked out of there feeling quite ecstatic about the possibility of having a couple hundred songs in my phone. Got home, figured out where that little thing went, inserted it, closed the back and then looked at my phone. How was I supposed to get the songs into the phone? I didn't want to pay for them, as I have quite a few in my computer and on discs.

Back to Frye's, and this time it took a while for the guy to figure out what my question was about. "How do I get the songs into my phone?" You need a card." "I have a card. How do I get the songs from my computer into my phone?" The light bulb went on, and he showed me a cable that I needed, which would hook my phone up to my computer. Yes!! This time when I got home, I managed to create a playlist and download it into my phone.

Where are they? I haven't a clue. I've looked for them, but they don't seem to show up on any list in my phone. But the little chip in there supposedly has something on it, according to what my computer is telling me. (And I won't go into buying the back-up external hard drive. After all, I'm not here to drive you nuts!)

This world has gotten complicated. For some of you, all of this sounds ridiculously simple. You were born at a time when this stuff was just part of what you learned, like riding a bike. For me, it is complicated. I know that at some point, it will not be complicated. I can and will learn it. But right now, it takes up so much time, when all I want to do is seek solace in the simplicity of a meal.

So sit down and join me, won't you? We're having a fritata with onions, tomatoes and roasted asparagus. I think I read 2 blogs last week about roasted asparagus. ThenI found some on sale. Need I say more?

I read about fritatas in both The Joy of Cooking and Marcella Hazan's "More Classic Italian Cooking". You can pretty much mix anything in with the eggs and then pour the mixture into the pan. That's the basic difference between a fritata and an omlette, it seems. In Italy, the "filling" is mixed in with the eggs. Ahhh...simplicity! I had an onion, a tomato, and a lot of asparagus which I had roasted.

1 onion, diced

1 tomato, sliced

5-6 roasted asparagus

6 eggs, beaten, using only 3 yolks. (My reduced fat version).

1 TBS Earth Balance (Or butter, if you wish).

Since I prefer my onions well cooked, I heated the pan, put the Earth Balance in and added the onions, cooking them until toasty.

Cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces.

Add asparagus and tomatoes to the eggs.

When the onions have cooked, pour the egg mixture into the pan.

Allow to cook over medium heat until the bottom has set and there's only a little bit of runny egg on top.

Place in the oven under the broiler until the top has cooked and the eggs are set.

Serve slices with crusty bread.

It's hard to stop at one slice, I know. Especially when you're seeking comfort in simplicity. Go ahead -- help yourself to another slice....

For health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture
For a place to share what you've learned about vitamins, herbs, or any other natural remedy, visit my other blog Second Opinion

Friday, March 9, 2007

My Secret Obsession

When I was growing up, every time any of us felt sick, my mother always made us tea and toast. Lipton, of course. It was supposed to make me feel better, and I suppose the simplicity of it made sense, but the effect was always the opposite her goal. One lump or two made no difference - I would sip the tea and immediately feel nauseated. I guess it had a Pavlovian effect on me in later years, when the smell of tea would make my stomach queasy. I loved watching English actresses pouring tea into china cups and passing around lumps of sugar. It was all so civilized and lovely. I would have loved to have lived that civilized and lovely life, I thought, wearing those dresses, pouring that.....tea? Oh dear. I needed a substitute.

I really cannot remember when it happened. Honestly, I don't recall if I was still living in New Mexico, or if I had moved to California, but at some point in the distant past, I was with some acupuncturist friends who offered me a cup of bancha tea. "Um....I'm not really a tea drinker...." And before I could explain my Pavlovian response, they insisted that this was not like black tea, and I should try it. "Well.....OK...." It was not in my nature to argue with my hosts, after all.

I said a silent prayer and took my first sip. This is tea? Really? For those of you unfamiliar with it, bancha is a traditional , daily use, Japanese green tea variety that is made from mature leaves, plucked in the summer or autumn. Bancha's like a mature samurai - the extra time it's had to mellow in the sun makes it a bit toastier in color, with a sweet, earthy taste. It has nothing in common with the black tea favored by Europeans. It's ability to strengthen the metabolism and aid in digestion, makes it a favorite among those following a macrobiotic diet. All I knew was that it was delicious.

Bancha led to sencha and matcha - all from the same tea plant, but picked earlier in the year. These familiar green teas are slightly more arrogant - they have an edge to them, and an astringent quality. As long as they're not steeped too long, they are delicious. Leave the bag in the water for too long and you're probably not going to like the bitterness. Of course, it's easier to put up with the attitude when you know their antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties.
From there, I branched out into Earl Grey. The Earl was a huge step for me, as the basis here is black tea. But it is flavored with bergamot oil, which lends a distinct citrus flavor and aroma. With citrus as it's leading edge, I managed to sail past that black tea flavor without my stomach noticing it. I was making progress. The Earl and I are friends now, but we don't see each other too often.

Then I discovered Spiced Chai, or Spiced Chai Tea, as Trader Joe's calls it. Funny name, that. Since chai is another name for tea, it means that this tea's name is Spiced Tea Tea. Be that as it may, I used to take a teabag and pour boiling water over it, letting it steep for a while until it reached the right color. Then I'd add milk.
But back in 2000, a friend of mine who is a photojournalist went to India to photograph the first Kumba Mela of the new millenium. The Mela is an enormous Hindu festival, and that year it was held in Alahabad. There were about 75,000,000 people from all over the world who converged on Alahabad for the celebration, and my friend was swept up by the colors and sounds and smells of it all. He told me about drinking tea from a street vendor, who would have a pot of water with milk boiling over a fire. When someone ordered some tea, he'd throw a handful of tea and sugar into the pot, then ladel some into a small, low-fired ceramic cup. The cup was "disposable", meaning people would throw them away when they were done.

I was intrigued by the idea of boiling the milk in with the water, and wondered if it would make a difference. I don't eat much sugar, but I figured a teaspoon of it wouldn't make all that much difference.

With my first sip, I became a convert.

Ever since then, this has become my standard morning drink. Yes, I will still have a cup of coffee from time to time, but my morning chai has become my morning comfort. Different brands of chai will have different spices in them, but ginger and cardamom are fairly standard additions. In Chinese medicine, both of those spices are used to benefit the digestive system, and there is a whole school of thinking in Chinese medicine which says that all chronic diseases stem from a poor digestive system. As a student of mine once pointed out to me as I sipped my chai in an herbology class, declaring that my digestion was actually quite good, "Yes, but you self-medicate every day!"

She was right. I do. And intend to continue to do so, enjoying every sip!

I now have an entire pantry shelf devoted to teas. I don't know how that happened. Do they breed in there? And I've discovered something about me. I'm fickle. I'll fall in love, it will last for a while, and then I move on. So while bancha was my first love, my relationship with Earl Grey was more of an affair. Spiced chai is my steady partner in life. But I confess to having a few flings from time to time. There's genmai cha, a green tea with roasted brown rice in it. Genmai has a kind of popcorn flavor, which is appealing from time to time, but not as a steady romance. His first cousin houji cha, a handsome brew made from roasted bancha leaves. With a chestnut color and light, almost sweet taste, I flirt with him in the summer. (He's the most decafinated of the green teas.) And then there's a very special, decafinated rooibos (Afrikaans for "red bush") tea, which a local pastry maker calls Marco Polo Rouge. Marco is from the legume family, and he's oh so sweet and slightly nutty. Someday, I hope we travel together to his homeland. So far, he's been silent on the subject.

This is my entry into the Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Anna at Morsels and Musings.

For more health news, visit Mission Valley Acupuncture

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Not So Sweet But Nice 'n Spicy

I admit I was skeptical at first. I'm used to a sweeter arrangement - a little sugar with my spice, if you will. But I suppose that comes from my background. And when it comes to my background, well....I have a confession to make. I never tasted chutney until I was maybe.....oh....35? Something like that. And I thought Major Gray was chutney. I thought the combination of sugar and fruit and spice was the definition of chutney.

So I had this leftover cauliflower dish from my last post a few days ago. You know how that make something with enthusiasm. You are drawn to that recipe because it speaks to you with just the right combination of flavors - a little sweet talk, a subtle hint of sauciness, and just a dash of spice to get your attention. So why make just enough for 2 meals? I bring my lunch to work, and if I've had a success in the kitchen the night before, well, why not go back for more?

But after a couple of days, you want to shake it up a bit. Eat something different. An egg salad sandwich or a salad begins to sound gourmet. So that's what I did to give my taste buds a "cleansing". I polished off all the different lettuces and what-not from the salad bins, and added a fresh avocado to perk it up, the way a bright lipstick perks up a winter-weary face.
(She opens the refrigerator and looks.) Container with the leftover cauliflower - still there. And the event was coming up over at Kalyn's Kitchen. Can't use the cauliflower dish - it's already been posted.

But there was that coconut.....

I had gone to for those avocados, you see. While I was there I saw these beautiful young coconuts, brown part of the husks removed, tops taken off, wrapped in plastic and the liquid still in them. They reminded me of my last trip, which was to Vietnam. While there, we drank the coconut juice right out of the coconut, and then scrapped the insides with our spoons to eat the sweet flesh. I decided to relive that experience with one of these wrapped-in-plastic versions of the coconut. Ahhhhhh.....The juice was delicious! Just as I had remembered it. I carefully wrapped the coconut back up and put it in the fridge. Note to self: look up a recipe that calls for fresh coconut.

Enter . Unfortunately, I signed up for this site so long ago I cannot remember my username or password. This means I can't save any recipes to my recipe box, nor can I access the ones I stored in there. But that's another issue. They did have this recipe for chutney which was part of their "Chicken Curry With Green Apple and Coconut Chutney". How perfect! I had a curried cauliflower dish already made, and a chicken breast in the freezer. I was set. But there was that chutney recipe which didn't call for any sugar, and the apples were Granny Smiths, which are tart. Would it work?

Absolutely!!! The freshness of the cilantro coupled with the almost sweet taste of the apples are a cool backdrop to a shock of heat from the 1 serrano and 1/3 red jalapeno I had. If you like-a-da-spice, you'll love-a-da-chutney!

I'll give you the recipe as it appears in Epicurious, but as you know if you've read any of my previous posts, I'm a tinkerer. So I'll tell you in advance that I didn't have 3/4 C of coconut (it was a young one), and so I pared down just a little on the amount of apples I used. And if you've never baked a coconut before, which I hadn't, let me tell you it makes your house smell fabulous!

I did make the curry, too. Or at least my version of it. I sliced my chicken breast, cooked it in some canola oil in my trusty cast iron dutch oven on the stove, added a couple of dashes of ground cinnamon and ground cumin, splashed in some Yellow Curry sauce and a small handful of whole cloves. I skipped the rest of the dish as directed, but added the leftover cauliflower dish instead and simmered for a few minutes to heat everything. This time, I'm telling everyone at the office that lunch is on me. I don't want any leftovers after tomorrow!


1 fresh coconut
1 teaspoon cumin
1 pound Granny Smith apples
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 large bunch cilantro, stemmed
2 serrano or jalapeño chilies, seeded, stemmed, halved
2 garlic cloves, each cut in half
3/4 teaspoon salt

Chicken Curry

9 large garlic cloves
2 serrano or jalapeño chilies, seeded, stemmed, halved
1 3-inch-long piece fresh ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
5 tablespoons plus 1 cup water
1 4-inch-long cinnamon stick, broken in half
5 whole cardamom pods, cracked
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 small bay leaves
3 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 pound tomatoes, minced
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 3-pound chickens, each cut into 8 pieces, skinned
3 cups white rice, cooked
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For Chutney:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Pierce the "eyes" of the coconut with ice pick. Drain off liquid. (But do drink it!! - my note.)
Bake coconut until shell begins to crack, about 30 minutes.
Tap coconut shell all over with hammer to remove shell. (The white meat with its brown skin should fall away from shell; if it doesn't, use paring knife to release meat.)
Using paring knife, cut away brown skin, if desired.
Rinse coconut.
Coarsely chop enough coconut in processor to measure 3/4 cup (reserve remaining coconut for another use.)
Heat small skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds; stir until fragrant, about 3 minutes (do not burn). Transfer seeds to plate; cool.
Finely grind seeds in spice grinder or in mortar with pestle.

Core apples; cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Place apples in medium bowl. Add lemon juice and toss to coat.

Combine 3/4 cup coconut, cumin, apples and all remaining ingredients in processor. Chop finely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.

For Curry:

With processor running, drop garlic, chilies and ginger down feed tube and process until minced.
Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until brown, adding 2 tablespoons water during last minutes of cooking to prevent burning, about 10 minutes.
Add chili mixture and 1 tablespoon water; sauté 3 minutes.
Add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns; stir 1 minute.
Add 2 tablespoons water, bay leaves, coriander, cumin, cayenne and turmeric; sauté 1 minute.
Add tomatoes and salt; cook until almost all the liquid evaporates, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.

Add chicken pieces 1 at a time, turning to coat in tomato mixture. Add 1 cup water. Cover; simmer until chicken is cooked through, turning once, about 40 minutes.
Spoon rice onto plates. Top with chicken and sauce. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with chutney.Makes 8 servings.

I skipped the rice this evening. Didn't miss it!