Monday, December 3, 2007

back to my first culinary love

The long holiday weekend gave me a chance to catch up on some recreational cooking. Since I work anywhere from 8 to 11 hours a day with a nice, healthy commute, I haven't really had opportunity to whip up anything that really spoke to my spirit in a good long time.

What really inspired me was a cookbook I picked up at Borders on the day before Thanksgiving: "1,000 Indian Recipes" by Neelam Batra. Just glancing through the book made me see that here were a vast number of recipes just waiting to be made. I couldn't put it down at the bookstore, and kept leafing through it when I got it home. I simply had to try it out!

My kitchen is full of Indian spices, since I used to cook almost exclusively Indian, so I didn't have to invest a lot in preparing to return to my first culinary love. Some of the ingredients were new to me, such as boondi (tiny drops of besan, or chickpea flour, that is lightly fried and sold commercially) and ajwain. But I live in a metropolitan area that can support multiple Asian grocery stores within a mile or so of each other, so I was lucky enough to simply drive down the boulevard and stop at a couple of shops along the way.

Within an hour, my kitchen began to once again take on familiar aromas. South Indian chicken, with its use of unsweetened shredded coconut as well as coconut milk, took on a lovely fragrance with the use of shredded curry leaves. Fresh curry leaves, I found out, have an odor that's somewhat off-putting at first ... but when simmered in a curry base they come into their own and transform the dish into something delightful.

This weekend I plan to have more Indian-inspired fun, making chapatis and naan to go with my curries ... maybe picking up some more papadums ... and making some paneer - possibly paneer pakora or saag paneer - for the coming week. Yum!

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