Monday, January 29, 2007

Cooking Together

You learn a lot about someone when you cook with her. You learn how adventurous she is. You learn how well she can construct a timeline. You learn how she reacts under pressure when things don't go exactly right.

I am always looking for someone who is game to make Indian food because it is a lot of work. Those of us who love those flavors are occasionally up for the large demands of shopping and chopping that are necessary.

I had come to realize that the petite Chinese woman who lives in my friend Deborah's house was a dynamite cook. On many occasions when I was over to play music with Deborah, there were wonderful aromas coming out of the kitchen.

So I invited Jen to come over and cook Indian food with me. She is an expert at Asian food, but had never tried Indian. I loaned her my wonderful book and asked her to plan a menu and make a grocery list.

I bought all the ordinary things at Whole Foods, but invited Jen and her friend Paul to come with me to the Indian grocery story. The one I've always gone to is "Indian Spice and Appliance", now located in Falls Church. This store sells Indian videos, every imaginable Indian food, and yes – appliances. What a place! But a true necessity before cooking.

The first thing we did was to make our own garam masala, using the following recipe:

1 tablespoon whole cardamom
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 bay leaves

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Grind all the ingredients together in a spice mill, blender, or coffee grinder. (I have dedicated an old coffee grinder to this purpose.)
3. Place in an ovenproof skillet and roast for 10 minutes.

This is just the beginning of wonderful smells that come from Indian cooking.

The menu included mulligatawny soup, chicken curry, eggplant stuffed with ground lamb and vegetables, and saffron rice.

We chopped and cooked for about 2 hours and miraculously at 6:00 PM, everything was ready. There were no real mishaps. Jen politely reminded me that the chicken that was supposed to be boneless was not, so I quickly removed the bones. She declined to cut up the jalapenos because she was worried about the intensity of the peppers. We did make an "executive" decision to drop the lentil dish that was originally on the menu when we realized we had plenty of food and not enough time to make it. Otherwise we all managed to stay busy and not run into each other while preparing these wonderful dishes.

The best part was the fact that the other guests were so impressed with the meal that they did all the cleaning up.

I loved my afternoon of cooking with Jen and Paul. I loved eating the resulting meal. And I particularly love the fact that I get to eat leftover mulligatawny soup for lunch today.


Blogger Kristin said...

Mmmm... you're making me hungry. I love mulligatawny soup. I tend to buy garam masala rather than make my own. Have you noticed a huge difference?

12:49 PM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

I love cooking with corriander. You must have a wonderful kitchen.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

She does have a wonderful kitchen, OL. And it can support a chef, sous chef, and sous sous chef (is there such a thing? :)

I can smell the wonderful aromas just reading this description and I think to prepare such a meal, one would need several "chefs" on hand.


6:30 PM  
Anonymous David said...

great description of a aromatic cooking extravaganza. oh, and the paragraphs were just the right size :-)

10:14 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

You guys spend a lot of time making delicious food! I don't really cook fancy stuff ...just making turkey soup from the leftovers today! Basic fare!

8:35 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Indian and Thai are my two favourite ethnic cuisines.

6:48 PM  
Blogger (I Love Indian Food) Prabhudesai said...

wow, I am impressed that you actually went through so many efforts to cook indian food!!! I am an Indian, so I dont think twice before deciding to cook something but I can now understand the difficulties others face when trying to experiment.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Prabhudesai -- The good thing about Indian food is you can vary the ingredients and still get a great taste. I adore the Indian spices.

9:32 PM  

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