Darlings, those inaugural festivities yesterday sure did look tiring! (and damn cold!) Ten balls?! Our new President should be called Gobama! Of course, we have to remember our new First Lady Michelle did it all in heels, naturally. The shoes were Jimmy Choo and I thought she looked FABULOUS!!!
So today we continue our celebratory feast for the President's inauguration and now we are onto the second dish of the meal. But first, darlings, I must tell you about the research I did. Once I broke away from the television for a mo', I trotted up to the Whole Foods Market as La Diva remembered seeing quite a few of the more obscure spices there not found in the usual grocery store. Indeed there was! Amongst some of the spices needed to prepare Indian dishes that I found were: turmeric, ground cardamom, cardamom pods, ground coriander and garam masala. No BLACK mustard seed but I did find the usual yellow (brown) mustard seed. The black mustard seed is apparently spicier and a bit harder to find, though I'm sure I can get it at the Asian grocery up north. I have the brown mustard seeds, so I'm going to give them a shot and see how it tastes.
Also found was a varied selection of Indian accompaniments and curry pastes, chutneys and pickles including mango chutney, lime pickle and eggplant (brinjal) pickle.
Over in the bakery, I found a few brands of pre-made roti and naan bread, including whole wheat and garlic flavors. La Diva is starting to think that you can get all of the ingredients necessary to make your Indian feast WITHOUT going to the Asian grocery! For those without the good fortune to have a local Asian purveyor, this is good news.
(click on ALL photos to enlarge, darling, they are beautiful!)
Again, this recipe is from the talented Southeast Asian cook, Charmaine Solomon's cookbook: The Complete Asian Cookbook.
Result: La Diva thought the saag recipe turned out well, considering I used brown mustard instead of the black seeds. Here's a hint Charmaine doesn't tell you in the recipe: put a lid on the pan when frying the mustard seeds as they pop like popcorn and you won't have any left for the dish if you don't cover them! Additionally, La Diva would like to point out that in Indian cooking you usually start out with "frying" the spices to release their flavors. Take care not to burn or you'll have to start again.
Even though La Diva enjoyed this recipe, alas, DJ Nevah L8 complained that it reminded him of baby food and was too mushy. But, that is his personal taste and as I've had saag many times (made with spinach, not the braising greens I used) it is consistent with the way the dish is supposed to be made and presented. As La Diva is a "texture" person herself, I tend to serve this dish with naan bread for scooping up. Which brings me to this interesting point: What's with all the carbs on the Indian plate? Besides Mexican, I can think of no other cuisine that utilizes so many starches on one plate: rice, naan bread, potatoes! Is this an American thang? In India do they serve one or the other? In any case, La Diva is a CARB QUEEN and is certainly not complaining!
Onto the recipe! I'd like to note that you can also make garam masala AND the panch phora yourself. However, that would DEFINITELY take a trip to the Asian grocery! I've included the recipe from Charmaine after the saag if you are game to try!
Saag (Puree of leafy greens)
1 lb. of spinach or other greens (La Diva used the pei tsai and other greens in her farm share)
2 medium turnip or 1 giant white radish
1 T ghee or oil
1/2 t black mustard sees or panch phora (I used the brown mustard instead)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 t finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t ground turmeric
1 1/2 t salt or to taste
1/2 t garam masala
Wash the greens, removing any tough stalks. Break the leaves into small pieces and put into a large pan with a sprinkling of water. Peel and dice the turnips or radish and add to the pan. Cover and cook over low heat until the vegetables are soft. Drain away any liquid and chop or mash the vegetables. Heat the ghee or oil and fry the mustard seeds or panch phora (don't forget to cover the pan!) for a minute, then add onion and ginger and fry on medium heat until the onion is soft and golden. Add chili, turmeric, salt and mashed vegetables. Stir and cook for five minutes, then sprinkle with garam masala, cover and leave on low heat for a few minutes longer until liquid evaporates. Taste and add salt or lemon juice if desired. Serve as an accompaniment to chapatis (Indian flatbread) or rice and curries.
(Go on darling, click on photo to see ALL the glorious spices!)
4 T coriander seeds
2 T cumin seeds
1 T whole black peppercorns
2 t cardamom seeds (measure after removing the pods)
4 cinnamon sticks (3 inch sticks)
1 t whole cloves
1 whole nutmeg
In a small pan roast separately the coriander, cumin, peppercorns, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. As each one starts to smell fragrant turn on plate to cool. After roasting, peel the cardamoms, discard the pods and use only the seeds. Put all into a food processor and blend into a fine powder. Finely grate nutmeg and mix in. Store in a glass jar with an airtight lid. Or just buy the damn stuff.
"Panch" means "five" in Hindi and panch phora is a combination of five different aromatic seeds. These are used whole and when added to the cooking oil, impart the flavor typical of certain Indian dishes.
Combine 2 T each of black mustard seed, cumin seed and black cumin seed, 1 T each of fenugreek seed and fennel seed. Put into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake before use to ensure even distribution. No substitute.
Darlings, didn't you find dish two of our feast easy? The third dish tomorrow will prove just as simple and completes the meal. Check back tomorrow for the final recipe! Namaste!
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