Saturday, May 20, 2006

Cumin Get It

After months of not having time to get together and cook, the lovely Phoenix and I went all out today, making a delectable Indian feast for ourselves (and, of course, the ever-popular Mr. Nice Guy).

Phoenix found several "lessons" in each dish that we made, starting with lavash. Now, admittedly, lavash is not an Indian dish, nor is the hummus we made for an appetizer, despite being laced with cumin, coriander, cayenne, and cilantro. But the two worked well together, and since we had no naan, who could complain?

Phoenix has made the lavash before, only baked them longer to make them crispy. She found that the underbaked softer version, while not as soft as naan or pita, was entirely acceptable for dipping into the tomato-speckled hummus. (And she also found that frying the onions and garlic with the spices before adding the chickpeas and tomatoes to the hummus made it far more flavorful than the hummus she has made before!)

Next, we started on the main course, beginning with a turmeric-laced brown basmati rice (easy enough to cook) to accompany two nicely contrasting entrees.

In a deep skillet, we sauteed and simmered a mixture of peas, carrots, and potatoes (all local!) livened up by two dried chile peppers, a handful of tomatoes and cilantro, and the usual mix of spices (yes, more cumin and coriander! and garam masala to boot).

In an old saucepan, we made palak paneer, with a rich creamy sauce of pureed organic spinach blended with garlic, ginger, spices, tomatoes, and yogurt. (To be fair, it was really palak tofu as we used pressed tofu instead of the paneer cheese. Still good!)

Taken all together, what a colorful, flavorful, nutritious meal we made!

We managed not to fill up on the entrees, saving room for dessert. (Did you think Phoenix and I wouldn't make dessert? You don't know us very well!) I had found a recipe for a Persian pistachio cake in Silk Road Cooking a couple of years ago, and since some of the flavors (pistachios, rose water, yogurt) are the same as in Indian sweets, I thought this would be the perfect time to try the recipe.

The recipe, simple enough, turns out an impressive 2 1/2" high cake with just the right moistness and sweetness and flavor. The rose water, often a tricky ingredient for our American palates, was balanced by fresh orange peel and rich vanilla extract, making it a subtle floral note in an exquisitely flavored cake. How can you resist?

All in all, we enjoyed a marvelous feast... along with the usual excellent company. And I was more than happy to share leftovers with Phoenix and Mr. Nice Guy (though I confess a weakness for the palak paneer and kept all of the leftovers of that dish), especially since they graciously washed the dishes for me. What teamwork!

It's such a delight to cook with a friend and to share the work in the kitchen, even more than sharing the joy of the meal itself.

And I hope Phoenix and I will be able to seize more chances to cook together yet this summer!


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