Thursday, October 4, 2012

DinnerLove: Kitchen Sink Curry

I ate my first curry before I was 10 years old, at Virginia Plainfield's Restaurant in Portland, Oregon. The table was loaded with condiment tins and plates of Naan. Naan is just one example of the wide variety of flatbreads that are present in the Indian Culinary culture.

Along with flatbreads, many examples of curry are found throughout Southeastern Asian. The people of this region have been adding curry spices to their food for centuries. British colonization and industry in India is credited with spreading this wonderful culinary tradition to the west, including the Caribbean in conjunction with the sugar trade. Even today, the British love their "take-away Curry"!

Americans are familiar with the somewhat ho-hum "curry powder" widely available on most grocery store shelves. American recipes for Curried Chicken, Curried Pork, Vegetable Curry, etc., usually call for a distressingly small amount of this blend of eastern spices. A teaspoon or two is a common recipe amount. In my opinion, you may as well just leave it out if you're going to drop a teaspoon of curry powder into a dish with a yield of 4'll never taste it! Convert any recipe with this meager amount of curry from teaspoon to tablespoon!!
Most common yellow curries contain varying mixtures of ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, red pepper and mustard. This is a great start, but in order to dial up the flavor of your curry, think about adding fresh ginger, fresh garlic, fresh chopped cilantro, citrus zest- specifically lime and lemon- and coconut milk. You can even add a tablespoon or two of garden-variety peanut butter or chopped peanuts to achieve a more Thai-style flavor. The possibilities are just endless; the key is to add layer after layer of flavor until you get the result you're looking for. Curries are multi-dimensional and although hundreds of recipes are available, you should take what you like, along with what you may have on hand, and tinker with it until you're satisfied.
I tend to make what I call "Kitchen Sink Curry". In other words, I take anything I have in the fridge or pantry, chop it, add it to the pot and serve the result over rice. Here is today's curry:

1/2 bag frozen cauliflower
1/2 head of left-over cabbage, sliced
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 russet potato, cubed
1 c. frozen peas
1 box frozen spinach, liquid squeezed out
3 large cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/4 c. bottled lime juice
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 TBSP red pepper flakes
1 TBSP lemon pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Water to cover

Steamed rice
Squeeze the liquid out of the spinach with a clean towel

Caramelize the cauliflower and cabbage,  add the onion and continue to saute. Add the potato, spices, juice and water. Cover and allow to cook on low for about 30 minutes. Add the spinach, peas, garlic and salt and pepper. Cook on low uncovered for 30-60 minutes. Serve over rice.

You may have noticed that most of my ingredients were frozen, powdered or bottled. That's not how I like to cook normally, but that's what I had on hand, so that's what I used. Fresh ingredients are always best, but that's the beauty of curries- they can make any bog standard food shine! Look in your pantry, see what jumps out at you, and make your own Kitchen Sink Curry! Have fun!

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