On the menu: Cauliflower Curry
Ah, summer as a graduate student. When classes aren’t in session, the campus goes nearly silent. The tiny town surrounding the campus becomes…well, a tiny town; you see more locals and far, far fewer rascally undergraduates. I’m mostly alone in my usually bustling office, as my colleagues are spending their days in the field collecting data. Hopefully I’ll be joining them soon. The days are going by so fast, and yet they go by sooooo slow. Monday through Thursday goes by quickly; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in the office each last forever. I’ve been coming into the office early and leaving late in an attempt to eke out enough work to make up for the inevitable distraction the World Wide Web brings. I’m doing okay at staying focused, but I definitely could be doing better.
We climbed a mountain last weekend. The tallest in the state, in fact. It was pretty rad, but also incredibly painful and at times quite terrifying. We were fueled by Italian sandwiches (not the Maine kind; there was no ham involved) and granola bars-cum-Rice Krispies treats laced with seeds, nuts, dried cherries, and pork rinds. Other than the fact that I gulped down all 3 liters of water I was carrying before we were halfway down the mountain, we were gloriously sustained.
Let’s talk about a classic cookbook that’s not the Joy of Cooking. You guys know about The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, right? Full of hand-written and illustrated vegetarian recipes, it broke ground when it was originally released (in 1977!). These days it has a home in countless kitchens. I’ve had my copy for about a year, and I’ve…well, struggled with it. I think the recipes reflect the stereotype of early vegetarian cooking–the ingredient lists are intimidating and lengthy, and the whole book has a hippie vibe that doesn’t really resound with the way I usually cook. But one day I opened it up and said, “Damnit, this book deserves to be used. It’s a classic!” And I nervously cooked an eggplant curry for dinner that week. It was magical. It was an eye-opener, for sure.
A couple of months went by and I wanted to try something else from Moosewood. I’m not so good at trying new things, so I went with what was familiar and made this cauliflower curry. Like the other curry recipes in the book, you make your own curry paste from a boatload of spices and very little liquid. Coconut milk is absolutely not involved. You simmer heaps of chopped vegetables in a second dose of very little liquid and add this thick, pungent paste. And there it is. Magic in a pan. It works!
This curry is heavy, weighed down with lots of starchy vegetables and spices you can literally chew on. It needed something to brighten it up, to help it fit in to our new alfresco dining situation. The Indian restaurant near where I work/where we used to live has this green chutney that I dream about. This curry needed that. I must have Googled “green chutney” in four or five different iterations before I found this recipe on Design*Sponge. It was so, so close to what I was looking for, and I knew I could modify it to get the texture I was looking for. It was the perfect complement, for sure. Puckery, bright, and fresh, with a hint of heat that made this dinner shine.
Satyamma’s Famous Cauliflower Curry
minimally adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
2 three-inch diameter potatoes, cut into small chunks
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
3 medium-sized cloves garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup lightly toasted peanuts
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water and more, as needed
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 large head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed
Cooked brown rice, raisins, and green chutney for serving
Start your rice. Bring enough water to cover the chopped potatoes by one inch to a boil in a large sauce pan. Boil the potatoes until just tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside. Place the spice paste ingredients in a food processor and puree until fairly homogeneous. Add extra water as needed to form a soft workable paste.
Heat oil in skillet and add onion and salt. Saute for 5 minutes over medium heat, then add cauliflower and carrot and mix well. Cover and cook about 10 minutes, then add the paste. Mix well. Cook, covered, over low heat until the cauliflower is tender, stirring every few minutes. Add more water, if necessary, to prevent sticking.
Add potatoes and chickpeas and cook a few more minutes. Taste to adjust salt, and serve hot, with rice and condiments.
Fresh Green Chutney
adapted from Tara O’Brady for Design*Sponge (link in post)
1 Granny Smith apple
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 jalapeños, seeded
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, loosely packed
Leaving the peel on, core the apple and chop the flesh into small chunks. Place all ingredients into a small food processor and pulse until everything is uniformly chopped into fine pieces. Add salt to taste. Makes approximately 1 cup. Use immediately.