I’ve been craving Indian food again. Usually those cravings begin at 12:01 a.m. on Monday mornings and end around midnight the following Sunday night.
When we traveled in India, I joyously discovered a new world of cooking. Who knew that you could enjoy light and fluffy steamed rice cakes called idlis served with spicy lentil sambar and coconut chutney for breakfast? There were the long and leisurely lunches of dals and naans and pickles followed by elegant dinners of curries and biryanis. And then there was the carrot halwa and the kesar pista ice cream. And…
One of my fondest memories of India and food was the day we were “stuck” in Cochin in a seemingly-never-ending monsoon downpour. Nothing to do but read Dominique La Pierre books about India, eat trays of sweets and drink absolutely extraordinary pots of spicy masala tea.
Exposure to the glories of Indian food and cooking changed my cooking forever.
Now, I’m lucky to live forty-five minutes away from a vibrant Indian community on Pioneer Boulevard in Artesia. Little India, as that community is commonly called, is packed full of adventure–Indian markets brimming with Indian spices and more dals than you would ever think existed, shops filled with brilliantly-colored saris, over-the-top jewelery shops and sweet shops . And the the restaurants! My favorites are Rajdhani and Udipi Palace, both on Pioneer Boulevard. Rajdhani serves a never-ending prix-fixe meal of Gujarati foods where servers hover and refill your plate until you beg for mercy. There is even a button on the table that lets you summon more food. (No kidding.) Udipi Palace is a paradise of South Indian delicacies–idlis, dosas, uttapam and on and on. If you are in the mood for a food adventure, Artesia’s Little India will exceed your expectations.
Here is the Indian dish I decided upon for today. It first appeared on my Facebook screen via David Lebovitz’s amazing food blog from Paris. Lebovitz reprinted the recipe from a very interesting new cookbook titled Far and Near by Heidi Swanson. I just added her book to my collection. Don’t let the recipe’s exotic name scare you off. This is an easy dish to prepare and one that is easy to adjust for your spice tolerance.
Recipe: Vaghareil Makai (Spiced Indian Corn)
2 small red chiles (stemmed and seeded), I used a large seeded Jalapeno.
2 medium garlic cloves (peeled and sliced)
One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger (peeled and sliced)
1/4 t. ground turmeric
3/4 t. sea or kosher salt
2 T. clarified butter (I used a Trader Joe’s brand)
1 1/2 t. yellow, black or brown mustard seeds
3 C. fresh corn kernels
1/2 C. roasted peanuts
1 C. chopped cilantro
Lemon juice to taste
2 T. toasted sesame seeds
Chopped cherry tomatoes
In a small food processor or with a mortar and pestle, grind the chiles, garlic, ginger, turmeric and salt until you have a paste. Set aside.
Melt clarified butter in a large skillet. Add in mustard seeds and cook for a minute or so until seeds begin to pop. (Be careful, if you get the oil too hot the seeds can leave nasty little burns as they pop out of the pan.Use a pan lid as a shield the first time you work with bursting mustard seeds.)
Add in the fresh corn kernels to the pan with the mustard seeds and stir and cook for a few minutes until corn kernels begin to soften.
Add the roasted peanuts, half the chopped cilantro and as much of the chile paste as you want. The original recipe called for adding half the paste but, my chili meter is set on high and I added it all. Cook for a couple more minutes and taste. You can add more paste and salt at this point if you want. I found no need to add extra salt, but I did add about 1/3 t. of cayenne pepper here.
Give the dish a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice and garnish with toasted sesame seeds, a dollop of tangy yogurt, chopped fresh cilantro and colorful chopped cherry tomatoes.
Serve and enjoy. This dish pairs well with fluffy basmati rice and can, of course, be served with a multi-dish Indian meal.
Here is the link to Liebovitz’ post about this dish: