Saturday, March 13, 2010
Confession: I've always disliked cauliflower. It reeks in the refrigerator crisper and reeks again when you cook it. And it doesn't taste like, well, anything, does it? Aside from my father, I don't know anyone who can honestly say that they like cauliflower.
Except for my husband. He likes cauliflower. Specifically, he likes his mother's cauliflower. I must say, I was pretty dubious. But my curiosity was piqued, and when I was visiting my in-laws once, I asked my mother-in-law to make it. My mother-in-law hails from Southern India, and she made cauliflower in the method she learned back home.
And guess what? It was delicious! Because cauliflower is such a blank canvas, it really sings when jazzed up with Indian spices. This wasn't any bland lump of white stuff--this was cauliflower with personality. A little aside: my MIL happens to be a veggie genius. Any vegetable she cooks, I like. Even the dreaded okra. I don't know how she does it, but she makes delicious vegetables every time. She's the Veggie Whisperer.
After that visit, I bought a few Indian cookbooks. I've learned a lot, and am still learning. This particular cauliflower curry isn't as simple as the one my mother-in-law made, but it's delicious. It's actually several recipes put together; I don't know how I came up with it, really. I think I was just fooling around one day and this was the result. We like it with basmati rice or warm naan* to soak up the luscious sauce.
My days of cauliflower boredom are over. If you like Indian food, I encourage you to give this a try!
Indian Spiced Vegetables
serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side
1 head cauliflower, cut into flowerets
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds (yellow or black)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (if you like it hotter, use 1/2 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 zucchini, sliced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Rice or naan, for serving
Heat oil and mustard seeds in a large skillet over medium heat until mustard seeds begin to sizzle and pop. Add onion, turmeric, cayenne, cumin and coriander and cook until onion begins to soften. Add salt, pepper and water and stir until combined. Add the cauliflower; toss until well coated with the spice mixture. Cover pan, reduce heat to low and steam 8 minutes, adding a little more water if mixture dries out. Add coconut milk and lemon juice; stir and re-cover. Cook 5 minutes more. Add bell pepper and zucchini; toss well and cook 4 minutes more. Top with cilantro and taste for seasonings.
*If you've never had naan, you need to. This Indian bread is Food of the Gods. And it ain't even fried. It's cooked in a screaming hot Tandoor oven and goodness, it's delicous. I think you could even wrap the M word in it and suddenly, it would taste good. It's impossible to make, but you can get it at Whole Foods or, oddly, I can get a bitchin' version of naan at my SuperTarget! No lie!