The Flavor Of Yellow

14 Mar

Why are kids and dogs fascinated with holes? Why do we lose our fascination with digging as we age?

I love beaches, always have.

Coney Island in Winter

My favorite thing to do on a beach is beachcomb. I have a rather nice collection of shells and rocks that I’ve managed to collect since The Boy and I have been dating. I bring something home from every trip we take.

Coney Island in Winter

I can beachcomb for hours now, but could not when I was a kid, I would get bored then and begin digging holes. Like most kids I wondered what would happen if I finally managed to get down to the magma in the middle of the earth, and like most kids, I never made it that far. But now I know. If I dug a hole right out in front of my apartment here in Brooklyn I’d end up in the middle of the Indian Sea, somewhere off of Australia.

I was kind of hoping I’d actually end up on the subcontinent of India. Why? Because something, aside from Gogol, should explain my recent obsession with Indian (and Middle Eastern) food. But alas. I learned from starting a hole where my friend Ruth lives in Bombay that I’d have to live somewhere in the South Pacific, off the coast of Peru, to have this excuse hold water.

Coney Island in Winter

So let’s move on to possible explanation number two. Might it be Meat-Free March? Possibly. And what is Meat-Free March? I’m not sure to tell you the whole truth, but it’s some attempt to control the chaos eddying around me I guess. Perhaps it’s the redheaded cousin of TV-Free February, which was scotched this year by the move.

Coney Island in Winter

Either way, after being a vegetarian for 13 years, one month is a breeze. Unfortunately I’ve also remembered why I was the only fat vegetarian I knew, it’s so easy to slip into a diet that consists mainly of cheese (glorious cheese!). We had an everyone-eats-cheese-dinner over the weekend (that was gloriously aided and abetted by Patrick from Stinky Brooklyn, thank you!) and so had to do some culinary atonement wherein I discovered the flavor of yellow.

And what is the flavor of yellow?

Grated Curried Cauliflower

Curried cauliflower.

Gobbi Matar ki Sabzi to be exact.

On one of my recent book buying rampages I picked up Smita Chandra’s Cuisines Of India. This is a big, workmanlike book in which she covers both traditional and contemporary fusion recipes. In the section on ancient India, this cauliflower recipe jumped out at me immediately due to this phrase, “Grating the cauliflower not only reduces cooking time but also helps brown it thoroughly during sautéeing, enhancing the flavor of the dish.”

It sounded like a quick, 20 minute way to simulate roasted cauliflower, but with delicious spices taken along for the ride. I had to try it.

I’m glad we did. It was so delicious. I don’t keep garam masala lying around, so I had to improvise that, which I think worked out just fine.

Grated Curried Cauliflower & Gingered Lentils

I’m amazed at how much depth of flavor came out of such a quick dish. There was heat and intense, punchy spikes, but also mellow, blissed out layers of delicacy. This is a keeper.

The recipe said to serve with spinach and dal, which sounded like too much fuss, so I simply boiled some lentils with mustard seeds and ginger. These are actually better as leftovers. The flavors have had time to meld to great effect, and they’re luscious mixed into leftover basmati and warmed up. Good stuff for an after work dinner.

And so, I present to you the flavor of yellow. I’m very glad I don’t know what the flavor of blue is.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Grated Cauliflower Curry & Gingered Lentils.

Grated Cauliflower Curry (Gobbi Matar ki Sabzi)

prep time: 15 minutes ~ cooking time: 30 minutes

  • 1 head Cauliflower, washed and grated (I used a Microplane box grater on the largest holes, but I think a normal old boring non-razor sharp grater would give you the best results)
  • 1 cup frozen Peas or Green Garbanzo beans
  • 1 large Onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp ground Coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp (or more) Cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 2 Bay Leaves broken into large pieces
  • 1/2 tsp Fennel Seeds
  • 1 hot dried Chile Pepper
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice

Place a glug of olive oil into a very large sautée pan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and let heat through about one minute. Add the onions and garlic. Fry quickly until just becoming golden. Add the spices and cook a few minutes until highly fragrant.

Add the cauliflower and the peas or beans. Stir to coat with the onions and spices. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover with a lid. Allow to cook, stirring a few times, 20 minutes. Remove the lid and boil off any remaining liquid. This is a dry curry. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice.

Serve with basmati rice cooked with cardamom and gingered lentils.

Adapted from Smita Chandra’s Cuisines Of India published in 2001 by The Ecco Press.

Gingered Lentils

prep time: 10 minutes + 2 hours soaking time ~ cooking time: 20-30 minutes

  • 1 1/2 c. yellow & orange lentils, picked over, washed and soaked for 2 hours
  • 2 tsps Yellow Mustard Seeds
  • 1 large Sweet Onion, sliced thin
  • 1 knob Ginger, skin removed with a spoon and grated
  • 1 tsp Black Mustard Seeds
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Cayenne Pepper

Add a glug of olive oil to a pan over medium heat. Add the yellow mustard seeds to the oil and cook until they begin to pop. Add the onions. Cook until becoming translucent. Add the ginger. Continue to cook until the onions are becoming golden. Add the lentils and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the lentils are tender and the water has been absorbed. Add the black mustard seeds and season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

These are better the next day, so have a little when fresh then stow the rest in the fridge to be reheated with leftover basmati for a quick, delicious after-work supper.


10 Responses to “The Flavor Of Yellow”

  1. Toni March 14, 2007 at 6:15 pm #

    Anything that calls for sauteed cauliflower is good in my book. Even though I’m not a vegetarian, I will cook vegetarian meals – mainly to reduce my animal protein intake. But also I just adore vegetables – all of them! This looks gorgeous – thanks!

  2. Lydia March 14, 2007 at 6:26 pm #

    Those gingered lentils look amazing. I’m not a cauliflower person, though I’m trying to learn to love it, but I am definitely a lentil person!

  3. deb March 16, 2007 at 9:08 am #

    This looks so delicious, we need to have a pot-luck party. I have a red bean/tomato Indian chili that would go perfectly on that plate, oh and palak paneer too! I just finished the Namesake last weekend and cannot wait to see the flick.

  4. Lisa (Homesick Texan) March 16, 2007 at 10:15 am #

    Love turmeric, especially since I read somewhere of its healing properties. But, yes, even more than its healthful benefits, I love how it turns white food into such a brilliant, rich shade of yellow.

  5. sher March 16, 2007 at 10:56 am #

    I love Indian food! And that plate of food is magnificent. Like you, I find it hard to give up cheese–and seafood! I keep thinking about going vegetarian, but the seafood……..

    Say hi to Fred!!!!!

  6. Terry B March 16, 2007 at 4:31 pm #

    Sounds very tasty. I do in fact keep garam masala around–usually a couple of kinds. A great way to add a little twist to everyday dishes. It’s not that I do a lot of Indian cooking, but it can add a little interesting mystery to sauces when you’re braising a roast or chicken or something. I’ve even got an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe that calls for it. The cookies don’t scream Indian or even exotic–they just have a nice complexity and depth to them.

  7. ann March 17, 2007 at 3:37 pm #

    Toni — Vegetables are so wonderful!

    Lydia — As I was thinking about this dish I did a little research and apparently there’s an enzyme in ginger that helps the lentils to cook more quickly, softening them and such. Don’t you just love science?

    Deb — A potluck party… Hmmm…. Hmmm… I suppose it should be here… Hmmm… Happen to know anyplace where we can get some cheap dining room chairs? We’ve only got two at the moment!

    Lisa(HT) — I read that too! I think over on spicelines. I now keep a thing of French’s in the fridge for the times when I inevetiablly burn myself doing something stupid. Amazing stuff!!

    Sher — I think one of the main reasons I’m eating meat-free this month is to force myself to eat more seafood. Aside from bivalves and mackeral and sardines and oil-packed tuna, I really don’t like the stuff too much.
    oh, and Fred says MIIIIIAOW! to you, Upsie and The Kid!

    Terry B — whoa. oatmeal cookies with CURRY?!? WOW! this I MUST taste!

  8. Terry B March 20, 2007 at 11:25 am #

    Ann—Inspired by your post here [and your lack of garam masala], I’m actually posting the Garam Masala Oatmeal Raisin Cookies tomorrow. See what you think.

  9. renata March 25, 2007 at 4:19 pm #

    To me, parsley is the flavor of blue. This only works because my first conscious taste of a substantial amount of fresh cilantro made me think simply, “green.” So by default, parsley = blue.

    I guess it’s sort of like saying cilantro tastes like soap and parsley tastes like bleach.


  1. Garam Masala Oatmeal Raisin Cookies - March 20, 2007

    […] her recent post The Flavor Of Yellow over at A Chicken In Every Granny Cart, Ann made a lovely golden Grated Cauliflower Curry. She said […]

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