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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Indian-spiced cauliflower with potatoes and peas


Last summer I spent a lot of time putting up food for the winter, and I even made a couple of how-to videos for our South Anchorage Farmers’ Market customers. You can see the broccoli one, below, if you want! Through August and September, I filled my freezer with broccoli, peas, collards, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and even some sauerkraut.

You might wonder where I put all these Ziploc bags of vegetables. Like most Alaskans, I own a large chest freezer. There’s plenty of room in it for frozen vegetables and berries, as well as containers of beans, soups, stews, bean dips, and pesto. It lives in my basement, and it’s how I feed my family healthy vegetable and bean dishes! I cook large batches and freeze the extras for eating later in carefully-labeled containers. Talk about fast food! But I should digress and reveal my two rules for freezing things:

1) Never freeze something you didn’t really like in the first place. You won’t want to eat it later, and it’ll just take up space in your freezer until 2015 when you finally toss it.
2) Always, always label things. The last thing you need is to accidentally thaw out a bucket of enchilada sauce when you were hoping for a nice soothing pot of tomato soup.

So that’s all great—a freezer full-o-food is fantastic. But I realized a few weeks ago that there was a little problem with my system. Arthur and I started our Glacier Valley CSA program in September, and since then, I’ve been taking home a box or two of vegetables every week. Usually two boxes. Which we can definitely work through, the three of us…  especially if we have dinner guests. But it’s not like we’re running out of the box veggies and having to dig into the freezer very often! I had the sinking feeling that my freezer was actually getting FULLER, not emptier, this winter. Sometimes I have so many vegetables in my boxes that when I cook them up I have to freeze the extras. Do you get that panicky feeling when you accidentally buy too much at the farmers’ market? Well, that was my state of mind.

So luckily last week was our week off from the CSA. (We take the first week of each month off, for people to catch up on their veggies and to give ourselves a break.) I vowed not to buy anything else from the grocery store (other than necessary condiments like jalapeno chiles, ginger root, parsley, cilantro, etc.) until further notice. No more random purchases of mushrooms, salad greens, or red peppers at Costco just because they look yummy. And unless it comes in the vegetable box, there will be no menu planning with vegetables outside my freezer!

I’m relieved to report that we’ve been cranking through the freezer food in the last couple of weeks, and I’m starting to see real progress. Last night we thawed out the warm lentil & carrot salad (recipe in the post below) to eat with this yummy dish that included cauliflower and peas from the freezer, and potatoes from the garage! My goal is to empty the freezer completely before the end of the winter!

Here’s the broccoli video! You can process cauliflower the same way—but you don’t have to cook the stems separately.

Indian-spiced cauliflower with potatoes and peas

Make sure to do your mise en place for this recipe—get your little spice mix and your ginger and chiles all ready before you get started frying things up, otherwise things are likely to burn while you’re measuring the spices. This recipe is very loosely based on one in Neelam Batra’s amazing compendium: 1,000 Indian Recipes. I recommend serving it with the mildly spiced lentil salad with carrots, recipe in post below. You can serve basmati rice, as well, if you like (recipe below).

1 head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 1-inch florets
3 medium potatoes, cut into ¾-inch dice
1 cup shelled fresh or frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 fresh green jalapeno chiles, halved, seeded with a spoon, and minced coarsely (use fewer chiles if you don’t like spicy things)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons peeled minced ginger
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ cup water
½ teaspoon garam masala

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the cauliflower. Boil until just tender, 4 minutes or longer. Scoop the cauliflower out of the water with a slotted spoon or strainer and set aside.
2. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until just tender, 15 minutes or so. Scoop the potatoes out and, if the peas are still frozen, dunk them into the hot water for just a few seconds, until they are thawed. Drain the water off.
3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat and cook the green chiles, stirring, about 30 seconds. Add the cumin and ginger. Quickly add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, and salt, then mix in the potatoes and cauliflower, and add about ¼ cup of water. Cover the pan, bring to a simmer, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if necessary to keep things from sticking. When the potatoes are completely soft and tender, add the peas and heat through. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle the garam masala on top, and serve.

brown basmati rice

I learned this technique from Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven, a great cookbook with lots of healthy, simple vegetable recipes. The rice is cooked using lots of water, which I find works perfectly for brown basmati—it’s never gummy or undercooked this way.

1 1/2 cups uncooked brown basmati rice
2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt

1. Fill a medium-sized pot with 10 cups or so of water (it doesn’t need to be exact) and bring to a rolling boil. Add the rice to the water, turn down the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the rice is just tender.
2. Drain the rice in a strainer over the sink, and immediately dump rice back into the hot pot. Cover tightly with the lid and let steam OFF THE HEAT for 20 minutes. Fluff the rice.

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