Monday, March 22, 2010

15. Cook an Indian meal





When I was a little kid I really loved McDonald's Fillet-o-Fish Sandwiches, Chef Boy Ardee Ravioli and Twinkies. As an adult I think they're all kind of gross. On the flip side, I could not tolerate any degree of spice in my food, but now have come to understand that Indian and Thai food are wonderful contributions to human existence. I guess that's the upside of being a grown-up which, together with being able to drink all the Diet Pepsi I want and go to bed whenever I feel like it, helps balance out stupid grown-up things like income taxes, dealing with lawyers and retirement accounts, and finding a plumber to replace the water heater. Now that I know that I love Indian food, my problem is that I don't know how to cook it. So, I decided it needed to go on the list, as something to learn this year. And during our spring break last week, my colleague and close friend Tara and her daughter Katya donated an afternoon to help me get started.


The key to cooking Indian food, I have discovered, is the spices. The first thing Tara did is get out a couple of tins containing littler tins with all kinds of fun spices. The one pictured above (one of several) contains tumeric, cumin seeds, black mustard, split white lentils (urad dahl), fennel seeds, fennugreek seeds and cayenne pepper. She also introduced me to curry leaves, straight off the potted tree in her living room, and to a smelly spice with the crazy name of aeosefetida, that packs such a punch that it is stored in a tin in its own sealed bag away from the others when not in use.

We cooked three dishes, a basic dahl (lentil stew), mor keerai (greens (spinach) cooked with coconut), and a cabbage kari (dry vegetable saute). The most fun part is that all three started with frying the spices, which in the case of the seeds, means cooking them in oil under a screen till they pop like tiny pop corns -- as Tara is showing me how to do in one of the photos. After the spices are fried and the kitchen starts to smell wonderful, you add the other ingredients and let things simmer. It's amazing how just a few ingredients can come together to make quite a complex flavor in the dish. As I said, I'm pretty sure it's all in the spices. Obviously, my one afternoon of learning only scratched the surface of what I still have to learn. But I went home with containers of three delicious southern Indian dishes, and promises of more lessons, on top of the offer from my student Claire to teach me what she's learned this year in her preparation for the school's service trip to Kolkata. Clearly, more cooking (and eating) will follow, so drop a line if you want to be part of a later round!

52 Ways to Say I Love You

...in Tamil. I didn't have the capacity to write it in the appropriate characters, so I asked Tara to transliterate into the English alphabet and here's what she came up with.

Hello Namaskaram

Good by Parkallam (literally, I will see you) or Poyvittu varen (I will go and come)

I love you. Naan unnai nesikkiran.

May I have two beers, please? Enakku rendu beer venum.

Coming Attractions

Try contra dancing. I've been saying I'd try this one since I started my list and this Friday, March 26 it's time to put my money where my mouth is. There's been a series of Contra dances at the Elly Long building on the North Campus at Saint Mike's all year, and this is the last one. I'm going to do it, and so are Crystal, Valerie, Anne-Marie, Karri (who actually knows how it's done), and possibly Kristin N. It's free and there's a dessert pot luck as well (I'm bringing molasses crinkles, of course), so obviously, EVERYONE needs to go. Anyone who wants to join us, drop a post or email, please.

Visit the Camp Johnson Veterans' Museum.Stole this one straight off my friend and colleague Kristin J's list. She's also got a list of 52, and though we have a fair amount of overlap, she's got a bunch of awesome things that never occurred to me. Like instead of kicking around dealing with lawyers and water heaters over her spring break, she went to Big Sur and communed with elephant seals and learned how to throw clay pots -- pretty cool if you ask me. She's the one that spotted the museum sitting tantalizingly close to our campus, and it's rather limited windows of opportunity for visiting (10-3 Tuesday through Thursday). So, Kristin and I are doing a field trip on Wednesday, March 31 at 2 pm.

Learn to jump and spin on ice skates. Although I'm very behind on this one, I've been going to town on it in the last week and a half. I am trying to skate at least two practice sessions, and have at least one lesson, per week to get back up to speed. Monday mornings (8:30 - 9:30)is the Leddy Park Rink and Wednesday (and hopefully most Friday) lunch hours are at the Cairns Arena. Who wants to join me on this one?

4 comments:

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  2. I can taste it now!
    Come visit the midwest and I will teach you a few of the Indian dishes (aloo gobi, saag paneer, etc.) that I have mastered over the years and if we have a chance, take you to Devon Avenue in Chicago so you can stock up on spices.
    As I always say after reading your blog TT, you ROCK!

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  3. Count me in the next round!
    I love the pictures my favorite people making delicisous food! Spices are key in making amazing food and in life in general!

    The camp Johnson Idea is really great, let me know who it goes...see you soon!

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  4. I think daffodils will be up by the end of April or first week of May. Maybe Jams will be here for it!

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