Worldrunner3's Blog

July 14, 2011

Chickpea Curry My Way, i.e. Inauthentic but Delicious

Filed under: Uncategorized — by worldrunner3 @ 12:43 pm
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A vegetarian meal my husband actually mostly likes

When my parents came to visit us a few months ago, we went out to an Indian restaurant in Woodbridge. Kevin and I try to make a point of finding interesting, un-chain places to eat, and love taking my parents to holes in the wall.

This place beyond qualified, thanks to its storefront location in a run down strip mall, the dim lighting, the server who had a barely rudimentary grasp of the English language (complicated by a thick accent), and enough typos in the menu to make my eye twitch. But the food, oh the food. I had an absolutely divine chickpea thing, loaded with turmeric and flavor, and maybe some sort of ridiculous heavy cream. Not spicy, but rich, and a great bite to the chickpeas. I ate my weight of it, and had the rest for lunch the next day.

The dish haunted me, and I vowed I would re-create it someday in my own kitchen. That day arrived earlier this week, when I finally decided to make a recipe I’d found on the Betty Crocker website. Now, this recipe called for curry powder, but as we are moving and I seriously don’t have the money or inclination to buy one more bottle of spices that we have to move, I improvised my own “curry powder.” Anyone who is a true connoisseur of Indian food will cry with shame, but I thought the results were delicious, and even better the next day (and the day after!). Even Kevin, a devoted eater of meat, thought it was pretty good, though he’s no fan of whole chickpeas.

Please make this. It’s not exactly what I had in Woodbridge, but I like it even better without the cream. It’s just plain yummy.

*Edit: I used fire-roasted canned tomatoes, which really add some serious yum to the whole mess. I should’ve put that in. My apologies. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.*

Chickpea Curry My Way (adapted from Betty Crocker’s Chickpea and Tomato Curry)

olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/4 onion, minced

2 cans garbanzo beans

2 cans whole tomatoes

large pinch of coriander seeds

cumin

ginger powder

turmeric

ground red pepper

salt

lemon juice

cooked white rice

Put the coriander seeds in a plastic baggie and crush with a can or rolling pin. (If you are not a loser and have a fancy-pants spice grinder, feel free to toast the seeds, and toast cumin seeds, and grind them all up together. That’s not me. I use a baggie and a can.) Heat a skillet or big, shallow sauce pan over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the oil and let it heat up. Saute the onion and garlic, adding the crushed coriander, cumin, ginger, turmeric, and red pepper. Because I didn’t measure, I can’t tell you how much I used of anything. There will be a good chance to taste and adapt in a few minutes. Just make sure it’s good and yellow by adding plenty of turmeric!

While the onion and garlic are softening and cooking down, put the tomatoes in the blender with the juices and puree them. (Whole tomatoes taste better than the diced ones, and Kevin won’t eat tomato chunks. If your friends and family eat chunks of tomato, lucky you; you can skip this step if you want, and just break them up into more manageable pieces with a fork.) Drain and rinse the garbanzos. Add tomatoes and garbanzos to the onion and garlic. Stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste it about midway through; is it spicy enough? Smokey? Do you just want more turmeric (that’s me, always)? Go ahead and add it. Curry is a personal thing, so just go with how you’re feeling today!

At the end of the simmering time, put in a good pinch of salt and a squirt of lemon juice. Taste. Maybe a tiny bit more salt. Good.

Serve over rice, maybe have some falafel on the side, or pita bread. Whatever your heart desires.

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June 15, 2010

6 Months of Real Food

Filed under: Uncategorized — by worldrunner3 @ 10:34 am
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My mother is an adventurous cook, and rarely meets a new recipe she isn’t game to try. I was raised eating meals that were at times delicious. At other times, they were, charitably described, unusual. One meal that immediately comes to mind is her “Athenian Stuffed Cabbage.” Looking back at the meal, I am forced to examine it through the taste buds of a 7-year-old. Frankly, it wasn’t terribly delicious. Maybe I will always have a strong aversion to raisins and cabbage, at least when they are combined.

Mom never lets these failed forays bother her. Her motto is, “There are too many recipes out there for me to spend my time worrying about this one.” She moves on, and dinner the next night will be something wholly different. I admire her for being so casual and playful in the kitchen. I am not like her.

When I got married, I had plans to spoil my new husband with delicious (but also nutritious!) food every night. He would always be blown away by the perfection of my cooking, and everything would be made from scratch. (Also included in these plans was the our-home-will-always-be-spotless clause, the I-will-never-wear-sweatpants-past-8:00-AM clause and the we-will-never-argue-about-anything clause.) Unfortunately, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and my cooking turned out to be like my mom’s, except without tasting good. It was always adventurous, especially for my poor husband, who had to try to eat a little before he gave up and put a pizza in the oven as a last resort against starvation.

I finally discovered the wonders and joys of…the boxed dinner! With just a pound of beef (or chicken, or a couple of cans of tuna) and some water or milk, I could create some dish that tasted like food. I got all the satisfaction of “cooking my husband dinner,” and my husband got all the satisfaction of having a meal he could actually eat.

Fast forward several months, after turning to boxed dinners and frozen pizza each appearing on the dinner menu at least once a week. I read the most amazing book on the way to Virginia: Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” This book reads like an extended essay on the intangible (and admittedly tangible) benefits of eating real food in the context of traditional diets. Pollan observes that many of the items filling the shelves at the grocery (or grocery section of your local supermarket) are not actually food; they are edible food-like substances, manufactured by scientists who cannot quantify the benefits of eating an apple, a carrot, or a small piece of beef. The fact is that many foods and the chemicals in them interact in ways when they are digested by the human body that scientists cannot reproduce in laboratories. As one scientist was quoted, “You can’t do a study on broccoli.” (But you can do one on folic acid, or beta carotene, or omega-3’s!)

I have been inspired to cook real food, and to cease relying on boxed dinners or frozen pizza to keep us from starvation. Bye, chemicals whose names I can’t pronounce, and high-fructose corn syrup. If the item isn’t what it says it is on the label, better not to buy it. Over the next few months (let’s say 6) I will post what I’ve been cooking and how I am doing with avoiding processed food. I will probably have a few posts unrelated to food, because I don’t exclusively think about cooking. (Or I try not to. Yeah.)

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