October 1, 2009 § Leave a comment
Indian food (more specifically Punjabi, I suppose, since that is what is usually served in restaurants around here) is one of my absolute favorite styles of cuisine. The complex flavors and creamy sauces always seem festive and special to me. I actually remember the first time I came to the realization that, for many years there have been people in India who eat this food every day, not just as a special treat! That definitely took some time for me to wrap my brain around. (I suppose they, in turn, may be amazed to learn that some people grow up eating fish and potatoes and meat and gravy every day)
Now, I think cooking Indian food well may require having at least some genetic ties to South Asia. Even if you follow a recipe to the letter, the curries and tikka masalas and kormas just never seem to come out the way they do in a good Indian restaurant. I think I’ve only ever made two curries that turned out to my liking (on the other hand, I perennially add a tsp. of curry powder to the mayonnaise that I put in tuna or chicken salad, and that turns out well every time! Though, it turns out curry powder isn’t even really technically Indian.)
Probably the secrets of true Indian cooking have to be learned in person from your grandmother, or determined through lots of trial and error – which, if nothing else, is usually/hopefully pretty tasty error. However, whether or not I ever master the art of Indian cooking, I have found some of the techniques and spicing extremely useful in everyday cooking. For example, Indian dishes frequently call for you to add the spices to the pan early with the onions and garlic, to toast them and release extra depth of flavor before you add any other ingredients. This technique can work wonders with all the typically South Asian, and Middle Eastern, spices. The “c” spices: cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne (ground red pepper), curry powder; and also turmeric, mustard seeds, and Indian spice blends like garam masala. Which brings me to another quick and simple method of cooking random greens. My friend Erik told me recently that this is the way he almost always prepares his leafies; it sounds like he and his fiancée Hillary have been making their way through bushels of kale this summer and have yet to get sick of it. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 18, 2009 § 8 Comments
I think it’s a fairly safe thing to say that virtually all of us know we’re supposed to be eating more vegetables. It’s become a cultural mantra: “eat your veggies.” And, at the very top of the list, the most hallowed of vegetable choices, are the leafy greens…you know, the very ones most people push to the side of the plate with a skeptical look as they turn to food choices that are, well, less green.
The reputation of leafy greens as a super food is actually pretty well deserved. They’re a good source of about 90% of the various vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and such and so, that help the body function. Need vitamin A? Leafy greens! Need iron? Leafy greens! Need potassium? Leafy greens! Need xeaxanthin? Leafy greens! (I know we all spend a lot of time musing about how to get more xeaxanthin in our diets…In case you’re wondering, it helps prevent eye damage as you age.) More important than the nutrients, in my opinion, is that overall diet patterns that include lots of leafy green veggies tend to be associated with better health. Plus, they’ve got lots of fiber to keep everything in your system, ahem, moving.
In general we’re failing miserably to include enough greenery in our diets. We are trying though. Broccoli, is by far and away the most frequently chosen green. I recently saw some analysis of national sales data, showing that broccoli consumption is something like 13 times higher now than in 1960. But there’s so much more to the leafy green category than broccoli – or spinach for that matter, in spite of the persistent message of Popeye – however it seems that most of the greens out there are intimidating to people. I have friends who are good cooks, have even studied nutrition, yet they cower when they are faced with kale or collards. « Read the rest of this entry »