Friday, April 25, 2008

Cauliflower Dum

Given that I am trying to eat less meat, Indian vegetarian cuisine seems to be a treasure trove of boldly flavored replacement meals. To those of you who eat lots of Indian buffet, this recipe will seem somewhat familiar. It's tomato-ey, a bit yellow from the turmeric, and onion-y with a nice amount of ginger and chili spice. All in all, a nice, EASY way to introduce yourself to Indian cooking. One piece of advice: If you don't like cauliflower, don't make this recipe.

I also committed the ultimate sin when it comes to cooking from a recipe: I did not carefully read the recipe before I started. Yes, it led to problems halfway through but, happily, I was able to salvage a tasty result.

Oh, and I love how the authors make a comparison between the cooking technique used in this dish and the "oop" style of cooking from the Mekong region of SE Asia. I mean, it made sense to me because in one of their other cookbooks, they talk about "oop" cooking so I was already familiar with it. However, for the newbie, I could see them just reading that and saying to themselves, "Ahh, yes. The "oop" technique. Of course."

Let us begin.Not shown: garam masala or oil.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the cauliflower, this is one medium size cauliflower. Peel off the green stuff around the bottom and trim off the tough stem.Cut it in half vertically and use your hands to break it up into golf ball sized mini-florets. Set aside.

1 teaspoon of minced garlic or garlic paste. 2 teaspoons of minced ginger or ginger paste:1 cup of grated onion:

1 tablespoon of freshly ground coriander seed:
1 cup of diced tomato. Recipe calls for diced but I only had access to whole, canned tomatoes so I just processed those until they were in the appropriate size/shape:
1 teaspoon of cumin, 2 bay leaves:
Not shown, 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon garam masala.
Green chiles, I used two jalapenos. Just cut off the stems and quarter them lengthwise.

Start by browning the cauliflower florets. Hot pan, oil, add cauliflower...turn to brown as much of the surface area as you can. It will probably sputter and spit oil at you so watch out. When the cauliflower is browned, set it aside:
To the hot pan, add the cumin and bay leaf. Cook until the cumin browns. If your pan was hot, like mine, this won't take long at all...maybe 15 seconds. Add the grated onion and cook until the onion is light brown.

Toss in the tomatoes, salt, ground coriander, garam masala, cayenne and turmeric. Stir and cook. The recipe says "until you see the oil rise." I never saw any oil so maybe I screwed up somewhere. Toss in the green chile and cook for a few minutes. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. It'll be sort of a thick, soupy stew. Season with salt. Toss in the browned cauliflower and stir well. Really slather the spice paste over cauliflower.

This dish is traditionally sealed with a strip of dough to lock in all the steam and help with the cooking. Creating a tight seal between lid and pot is the goal so just place a piece of tin foil over the pan and plop the lid on top. I do this alot whenever I'm braising something and want to limit the amount of evaporation. Pop it into the oven for 20 minutes or so. Garnish with cilantro. Or not, if that is your preference.

Time- 20 minutes of active time. If even that...really not much to do. Browning the cauliflower takes patience.

Cost-Pathetic. I mean, the cauliflower is the most expensive component and it cost $1.99. No more than $3.50 for this recipe and if it costs you more, you need to shop better.

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