Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Monday, 4 August: clean out the pantry curry and rice

Today was one of those evenings when there wasn't much to cook with in the fridge. Usually, I take whatever I can find and throw it into some kind of omlette (I always keep eggs, some kind of cheese, and something that can be used as a sauce for this) but I had already done that for late breakfast (last night's leftovers, squeezed between tortillas). I found a number of things in the fridge and pantry. We live in a mixed neighborhood, so I have access to alot of Latin American and Mexican ingredients that aren't so cheap and available in the more frou frou groceries in town. After scratching my head over the fact there wasn't a single green vegetable in the house, I present to you Muttar Panir, Mexican-Caribbean style

Monday night Mexi-Caribbean Muttar Panir with simple rice pilaf
(Serves 2)
approx prepation/cooking time= 35 minutes
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch of ginger, grated
1 jalepeno or other small hot pepper, chopped (can substitute with cayenne powder, approx 1/4 tsp.)
~1/2 tsp. turmeric
~1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1-2 plum tomatoes, diced
2 Tbs. of tomato paste (these prior two ingredients can be replaced with low sodium canned diced tomatoes)
1 15oz. can of pigeon peas, drained (Goya brand, can be found at local Latin American market, feel free to replace with 1 1/2 cups of frozen peas or canned lentils)
1/2 of queso fresco/blanco, cut into 1/4" cubes (this can be eliminated/substitute with fried tofu for vegans, or increased depending on your tastes, also if you like it crispy, feel free to quick fry them in some oil)
1/2 veggie bullion cube
1 1/2 c. boiling water
1 c. white basmati rice
garam masala to taste
salt to taste
1/2 lemon or a lime (or vinegar- or skip it entirely, this just adds more acidic tastes)
plain yogurt
cooking oil (i use olive b/c that's all i have but die hard Indian cooks recommend ghee which is just clarified butter, or safflower oil. avoid the cheapy huge bottle of corn oil sold in gallon sized plastic containers)
possible garnishes: cilantro, chopped cashews, thinly sliced cucumber

First, saute over medium heat the about 1/3 of the chopped onion in a small pan (for the rice), about 2-3 minutes in the oil until translucent. When they start to yellow a bit, add about 1/4 teaspoon of the cumin. Saute an addition 1-2 minutes
Add the rice to the onion mixture. You want to coat each rice kernel. Mix the boiling water with the half buillion cube. After the rice is coated enough (about 2 minutes of gentle stirring), increase the heat, add the broth, wait till it boils, lower the heat, add the lid. This should cook about 20-25 mintues. In the mean time you move on the curry.
Start again with sauteeing the rest of the onions over medium heat in the oil (i never measure this, but be conservative- about 1 Tbs and you can always add more if it looks dry). After 2-3 minutes, add the garlic and the jalepeno. Stir occasionally for about 2-3 minutes and then add the cumin (start around 1 teaspoon and add more if you think you need it later) and all of the turmeric (a wonderful, if staining spice).
After adding the spices, add the tomatoes. Let it boil then simmer until it starts to look watery, then add a little water (maybe 1/4 cup). When this boils, add the paste and mix it up, let simmer 1-2 minutes
Next, add the drained pigeon peas, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Squeeze the juice of the lemon and stir. Follow this up with the Garam Masala and Queso Fresco
The final steps are to add the yogurt (it makes a creamy texture) and any garnishes you may have standing on hand.

My roommate and cat were very pleased with the dinner (even if the kitty only devored the aromas). If I had a camera, i'd post a picture... Next time, perhaps?