Blue & Gold

17 Sep

Do you feel that?

Brooklyn Heights Mint Warehouse

It’s perfection. It’s September in New York.

Days are sparkling blue, shimmering gold, fluffy white clouds, incandescent air. Nights are snappy, chilly, perfect for curling up on the couch in my favorite fuzzy pants and sinking into the glory that is end of season baseball.

The games finally mean something. Each at bat counts. Fans (and the squirrel) stay until the final pitch. And if I’m a very lucky girl, by the end, I’ll be happy enough to sing along with Frank. God, I love September!

Urban Sailing

But, no matter how sustaining baseball may be, you can’t eat it. Which brings us to the other very best thing about September in New York. It’s finally cool enough to add a little heat to all the glorious produce still bursting forth from the Upstate farms. It’s a best of all worlds scenario. The summer produce is at it’s peak, but “putting up” vegetables are beginning to appear and can actually be a welcome change from all the tomatoes and squashes of the last few months.

Brooklyn Bridge

Last week the Boy went to the greenmarket over by the UN. It’s a good excuse for him to take a walk and get in on the produce procuring fun. He brought home some wonderful lettuces and two slightly mangy looking, but tiny, cute orange cauliflower. The greens went fast, but the chou were sent to malinger in the damp, disgusting pits that masquerade as our refrigerator’s produce bins.

Manhattan Bridge

Sunday, we settled on taking a long walk (I know, you’re all shocked) and using the cauliflower in a curry. We took the subway to downtown Brooklyn, wandered over to the Heights, had brunch at Jack The Horse Tavern (highly recommended), saw someone famous (I really wish I’d had this book in my pocket) and then headed to the Brooklyn Book Festival.

Manhattan

The festival was a total wash. It was full of cranky jostling people and I was really hoping someone from St. Martin’s Press would be there so I could excoriate them for publishing an absolutely awful piece of fiction. Alas, they were not. Seriously though. If you ever see this book in a store, walk away. Do not be seduced by the cover, or the nice blurbs on the back. Don’t listen to them when they tell you it’s the heir to The Alienist‘s throne. Just put the book down, even if it’s only $1, and walk away. There’s a reason it’s so cheap. The reason? It’s unreadable. The writing is awful, but the editing (or lack thereof) is even worse. It’s embarrassing. There, I feel better now.

Manhattan Bridge

We then carried on with an amble through Dumbo, a jaunt over the Manhattan Bridge, and a dash for the Lower East Side and nirvana, the annual Pickle Festival. But alas, as the Boy put it, “You sure know how to find the crowds today don’t you?” I could smell the brine, I could see the cornucopia of pickled delights, but no, it was not to be. Not one pickle passed my lips. And so we wandered up to d.b.a. so I could drown my sorrows in a pint of cask-conditioned ale.

Mmm... Beer

And then it was home to make this very complicated but oh-so-worth-it curry while listening to the Yankees play the Red Sox on the radio (the only way baseball should be enjoyed, honestly).

Chinatown

There’s quite a few steps to this meal, but if you’ve got some homemade yogurt sitting in you fridge begging for a noble end, this is it. The depth of flavor and aroma are spectacular. The recipe is supposed to be made with potatoes, but I’m here to say it works perfectly with cauliflower. It’s one of those, “I can’t believe I made this!” meals that would seem more at home at Tabla than in a humble kitchen in Bay Ridge.

Slow-Cooked Cauliflower Curry

I feel really bad that I let the Boy’s cauliflowers get moldy. I had to toss them and send him out for a new, non-greenmarket, flown-in-from-California version, but I think between the excellent feast and Jeter’s heroic efforts in beating Boston, all is forgotten and forgiven. God I love September!

Head below the jump for the recipes for Slow-Cooked Cauliflower Curry and Perfect Masoor Dal.

Slow-Cooked Cauliflower Curry

prep time: 1 hour ~ cooking time: 1 hour

  • 1 large head of Cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
  • 10 blanched Almonds
  • 2 tbsps White Poppy Seeds
  • 2 large Black Cardamom pods
  • 2 tsps Ground Coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsps whole Cumin
  • 1 small head Garlic, cloves peeled
  • a largeish knob of Ginger, peeled
  • 1 medium Onion, diced
  • 5 Green Cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 hot, dried Chiles
  • 1 cup Plain Yogurt
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • Oil
  • Salt
  • Water

Combine the almonds, poppy seeds, black cardamom, ground coriander and 1 tsp of the cumin seeds in a bowl. Place a small skillet over a medium flame and toast until fragrant or until the almonds begin to take on color. Pour the spices into a coffee grinder and and grind as finely as possible. (I used my mini food processor for this and the paste was kind of gritty so if you have a dedicated spice grinder use this). Remove the spices to a bowl and set aside.

Place the garlic, ginger and 1/3 cup of water into the bottom of a food processor and process until a smooth paste is formed. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Add a hefty glug of olive or vegetable oil to a heavy bottomed dutch oven over high heat. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring often, until it begins to take on color. Remove the cauliflower to a bowl and set aside. Add the remaining 1/2 tsp cumin seeds to the hot oil and stir once. Add the onion and cook until just beginning to brown. Add the green cardamom, the turmeric, cayenne and chile peppers. Allow to cook for a few seconds and then add the garlic/ginger paste, the dry spice mixture and season with a little salt.

Allow to cook until just becoming dry, then add one tbsp of the yogurt. Allow this to cook at the same high heat. The yogurt should fry a little before you add another tbsp of yogurt. Continue on in this way until all the yogurt is used up and then add the cauliflower back in. Turn to coat in the mixture. Cover the pot with a layer of tin foil, crimp tightly, and then cover with the lid. Allow to cook for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, but being careful to seal the pot up completely each time.

While the curry is cooking, why not make some rice? Just follow this recipe minus the onions, garlic, noodles and beans, well, unless you want them in there!

To serve: Turn the heat off and spoon over rice with Masoor Dal. A raita or chutney would be nice. Enjoy!

Masoor Dal

prep time: 5 minutes ~ cooking time: 1-1 1/2 hours

  • 1 cup Masoor Dal (aka orange lentils)
  • a small knob of peeled Ginger
  • 3/4 tsp Turmeric
  • Salt
  • Oil
  • 1 tsp Kalonji
  • 2 tsps Black Mustard Seeds
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 hot dried Chiles

Wash and pick over the dal. Add them to a small pot and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and skim any scum that rises to the top. Add the ginger and turmeric, turn the heat down to low and cook the lentils, partially covered for an hour to an hour and a half. They’re done when the lentils sink to the bottom of the pot and there’s a clearish water on top. Stir the lentils to re-incorporate them a few times and then season with a pinch of salt. Turn off the heat and cover.

Warm a small glug of olive or vegetable oil (or butter or ghee) in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the spices and cook a few second until fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the oil and spiced immediately to the dal and stir to incorporate. Serve immediately over rice or alongside Slow Cooked Cauliflower Curry. Enjoy!

Both recipes adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Of The East Vegetarian Cooking.

17 Responses to “Blue & Gold”

  1. Lydia September 17, 2007 at 8:12 am #

    What a great celebration (in words and pictures) of what is great about New York in September! Terrific post, and terrific recipe (though I would make it with anything other than cauliflower, as I’m still working through my aversion).

  2. Homesick Texan September 17, 2007 at 8:30 am #

    The Boy went to my greenmarket! Shopping there is my favorite way to spend Wednesday lunchtime. I saw those mangy but cute orange cauliflowers, but gave them a pass. Now I wish I’d bought some–perhaps they’ll return this week.

  3. Jennifer Hess September 17, 2007 at 9:59 am #

    My husband and I were just talking last night about what a glorious time of year this is, weather-wise and food-wise! Your photos are gorgeous, and that curry is making my tummy rumble.

  4. Terry B September 17, 2007 at 12:01 pm #

    Ann—Between the overall theme of the post and your mention of Frank, I now have the song Autumn in New York stuck in my head. Thank you!

  5. Julie September 17, 2007 at 12:04 pm #

    September does have some perfect weather in the mid-Atlantic — sort of the best of summer without the humidity. It’s also the month at our house where we finally begin using the oven again on a regular basis.

    I love that first picture of the Peaks Mason Mints Building and that blue, blue sky which is such a September sky color. And I’m not always so much with the cooked cauliflower, but I just might make an exception for this. Sounds very good.

  6. Maryann September 17, 2007 at 7:04 pm #

    October’s not bad either :)

  7. ann September 17, 2007 at 7:42 pm #

    Lydia — What a nice diplomatic response from an (if I’m not wrong) Red Sox fan! If you’d like the original recipe with the taters, I’d be happy to send it to you.

    Lisa(HT) — I dunno, they were pretty crudy. I’d wait for the bigger, nicer ones!

    Jen — Thanks. It’s magical isn’t it? I love it. I hope your tummy’s stopped rumbling by now!

    TerryB — Always happy to supply ohrwurms. I hate having them myself, but I’m always happy to infect others ;-)

    Julie — I love that picture too! It’s so striking, and I totally took it on a whim… Whims are good. I’ll send you the original recipe with the spuds too if you want.

  8. Brooklynguy September 17, 2007 at 8:20 pm #

    Baseball via the radio – true, it is the real way to enjoy summer, and the game. Couldn’t agree more.

  9. Christina September 17, 2007 at 11:40 pm #

    Masoor dal is a comfort food for me. I love the tactile nature of cooking it: the mustard seeds mini-explosions, the smell of the spices in the oil, and then its mushy warm goodness. Cauliflower is a vegetable I usually pass up (one of the two–only two!), but here it is prepared so beautifully that I may have to give it a try once again.

    Lovely pictures of New York. It makes me happy to hear a person love their home so much. Enjoy the September glory.

  10. Andrea September 18, 2007 at 6:29 am #

    Ah.. I love fall. The only problem remains that I hate winter and fall inevitably leads to winter.. I love cauliflower but I always have that “but what do I do with it?” dilemna when thinking of buying it. Can’t wait to curry it.

  11. izzy's mama September 18, 2007 at 8:34 am #

    I so wanted to get over to the Pickle Festival but we had something else we needed to do. Was it really that crowded you couldn’t even approach a pickle or were you just tuckered out? Tell me it was true mayhem and an awful mob scene so that I can feel better about having missed it.

  12. mary September 18, 2007 at 1:23 pm #

    This post was one of the best ever. Sorry you didn’t get to have any pickles.

  13. ann September 18, 2007 at 6:59 pm #

    Brooklynguy — I knew you would approve!

    Christina — This was my first time ever actually enjoying masoor dal. The boy has always loved it, but I’ve always found it watery, thin and insipid when served to me in restaurants. But this experience? It’s changed my mind completely. I now love it.

    Andrea — Curry it away! Even just with some curry powder, onions and a little water, curried cauliflower is awesome. And yes, the fall/winter conundrum… I hate it to, and I bet for you being a Southerner it’s even more profound. At least I grew up with this crap ;-)

    Izzy’s Mama — I’m not even pretending to lie to you when I say it was pure mayhem. The lines were ridiculously long, and the crowds were really rude. I would have been very paranoid to be there with a child!

    Mary — Wow, that’s a huge compliment! Thanks!

  14. Tea September 19, 2007 at 1:11 am #

    What a lovely, lovely post! Makes me want to spend September in NY–especially now that I hear you have a pickle festival! Why has no one let me in on that little piece of delightful trivia. I would have booked my ticket long ago:-)

  15. vanessa September 21, 2007 at 1:23 pm #

    The weather has been just about… perfect.

  16. radish September 24, 2007 at 10:55 am #

    Oooh, both of these dishes are making me swoon. I’m in my Indian phase – which goes for weeks on end. I think I’ll have to make this and very very soon. I can almost smell the food from the screen. Either that, or I am famished. :)

  17. ann September 25, 2007 at 6:40 am #

    Tea — Plan for it next year! Then again, I should too. I’ve never once made it to the stupid festival :-)

    Vanessa — Indeed!

    Radish — Indian phases are awesome. I love having them. If you want to extend it, get a book called “Mistress of Spices” and read it during your commutes. Guaranteed to give you another month or so ;-)

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