Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Journey to India...(if only in my kitchen!)

While I have really enjoyed exploring my Nordic Roots through food this winter, the cold weather in Minnesota dragging on into spring has me longing for a warmer, sunnier climate.  Seeking inspiration, Tom Thulen, a Minnesota photographer, and I took a field trip to some local Middle Eastern and Indian markets.  It was kind of like a mini-vacation, and in Minneapolis, you don't have to go too far to find beautiful exotic food ingredients.  We first visited the Holyland Restaurant and Grocery where they have a lovely selection of produce not found in conventional grocery stores.  We found gorgeous fresh green almond, tiny tart apricots, fresh garbanzo beans in the pod, and perfect okra.  I started planning ways to enjoy these treasures.  We also found an amazing selection of spices, which is exactly what was needed to warm up a cold drizzly day.  Next stop was Little India for fresh curry leaves, which are essential to a tasty curry, and more spices.  I couldn't wait to turn on the oven and start cooking!

I love cooking Indian food, and have had wonderful instruction from my dear friend Nasreen, who showed me that there was so much more to Indian spice than curry powder.  Traditional Indian cooking, however, is very time consuming, and while it is great to have an entire day to slowly cook rich and fragrant dishes, I find that I seldom have that kind of time.  So, I wanted to be able to enjoy the aromatic spices and soulful flavors without spending hours stirring a pot.  Roasting veggies in the oven seemed definitely the way to go, and I have always loved roasting carrots, so why not try it with the addition of Indian spices?  Here's what I came up with...

Roasted Carrots with Ginger, Curry Leaves and Cumin
serves 4-6
1 bunch green top carrots, scrubbed but not peeled, green tops removed.
1 Tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
6 thin slices of fresh ginger root
10-12 fresh curry leaves
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
pinch of sea salt
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the carrots in half lengthwise.  Brush a baking sheet with the ghee, and add the carrots, ginger slices, curry leaves and cumin and toss to coat with the ghee.  Sprinkle with sea salt and roast in the oven, turning occasionally to roast the carrots evenly. Roast the carrots until they are tender.  You can check them by poking them with the tip of a knife.  Smaller carrots will roast in about 10 minutes, but larger carrots may take up to 25 minutes.  Serve warm.

I was so excited to find nice okra, I just had to buy it...and wanted to find a really great preparation that wouldn't leave it slimey, as okra can sometimes get.  So, I found a recipe online as a springboard for this dish...

Okra with Coconut and Cashews
serves 4-6

1/2 pound fresh okra, cut into 1/2" slices
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut, or unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground aleppo peppers
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
6-8 fresh curry leaves
pinch of sea salt
In a heavy skillet, heat the coconut oil and fry the okra quickly.  Remove to a separate dish, and then fry the coconut and cashew separately to toast, and add to the okra.  Pour out excess oil, leaving 1 tablespoon, and then add the spices.  The mustard seeds will begin to pop, (sounds a lot like popcorn!) .  Once they have popped, add the curry leaves, okra, cashews and coconut and stir.  Cook to warm through and season with salt.  Serve with a wedge of lime, if you like.  

I have always loved a good Aloo Gobi, but sometimes tending to a pot that needs stirring isn't possible for me...so here is my version of a quick 'Aloo Gobi' roasted in the oven...

Oven Roasted Aloo Gobi with Green Garbanzo Beans
serves 4-6

6 fingerling potatoes, cut in half length-wise
2 cups Broccoli Romanesco, cut into florettes (okay, it looks like chartreuse green cauliflower....and the kind I found isn't quite as lovely as I might have wanted to, but our farmer's market has not opened yet!)
1 cup fresh shelled garbanzo beans or fresh shell peas
1 Tablespoon ghee
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
pinch of sea salt
1/2 fresh chopped cilantro
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a heavy baking sheet with ghee.  Add the potatoes and broccoli romanesco to the pan with the spices and toss to coat the veggies with spices.  Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, and when the potatoes are just tender, add the fresh garbanzos and roast for another 5 minutes.  Season with sea salt and serve with chopped fresh cilantro.  

Enjoy!  Here comes the sun!