Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tangy Indian Cauliflower with Braised Tomato

I don't know if it's a result of having moved around a lot, or having suffered through teensy apartment kitchens, but I have little patience for cooking utensils that have only one use. You could clutter your drawer and empty your wallet buying specialized slicers for mangos and avocados and pineapples. But I much prefer sticking with a single knife, thanks. Whenever I'm given such a single-use item, I quietly wait until I can run to the kitchen store and exchange it for something useful. Like cupcake liners. Or chocolate.

A few years back, my sister gave me a set of a half-dozen small pyrex prep bowls. They h
old just a few tablespoons each, and I was all set to exchange them for something that wasn't quite so dollhouse-sized. Except I never got around to it, and one day I ended up using them. And now, of course, I love them. Especially when I'm making Indian food.

The ingredient list for curries, like the one below, can seem a little daunting. And often the cooking happens quick, with ingredients dumped into a hot pan as soon as seeds start popping or vegetables start coloring. Of course, you can pre-measure your spices into standard-sized dishes or saucers if you don't have prep bowls. But I'm totally smitten with their tiny size, especially in our dishwasherless household. In the case of this cauliflower curry, you measure out some whole seasonings and aromatics to hit the hot pan in the beginning, and then some more to follow before you add the vegetables. The tomato (canned works just fine here) braises down to make a thick sauce for t
he cauliflower, coating it with tangy spices. It's simple, relatively quick, and totally delicious.

Tangy Indian Cauliflower with Braised Tomato

adapted from Spicy Cauliflower with Braised Tomato in Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking

serves 4-5, depending upon other dishes served

2-3 Tbsp ghee or oil (a high-heat oil like canola, peanut or coconut is good)
1" piece fresh ginger root, cut into thin julienne
1-2 fresh chiles, seeded and cut into thin slivers (or substitute a pinch or two of cayenne, added with the coriander)
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
1 large head cauliflower (about 3 lbs), trimmed, cored, and broken/cut into florets
1 lb tomatoes, fresh or canned, cut into eighths (if large) or quarters (if small/medium)
1 tsp garam masala
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp butter (optional)

Heat the oil or ghee in a large pan over a moderately high heat. While it's heating, prep and measure out your ginger, chiles (if using), and mustard and cumin seeds. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the pre-measured seasonings all at once. Cook until the cumin seeds darken and the mustard seeds pop (you might need to use a lid to keep them from popping all over your stove). This should take less than a minute, depending on the heat.

When the popping has subsided, add the coriander, turmeric and salt. Stir a moment to toast the spices and distribute them, then drop in the cauliflower florets, and stir-fry until they're lightly browned. Stir in the tomatoes. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is just tender.

When the cauliflower is almost done, uncover the pan and raise the heat back to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the remaining liquid is reduced to a thick glaze. Sprinkle with garam masala and cilantro, top with the butter (if desired), and add additional salt if needed. Serve with rice or naan.


  1. Ooh, i will have to try this. Sounds so good.

    I gradually learned to appreciate little prep bowls, too. And you can get 'em really cheap, too: we use plastic gelato cups!

  2. quick, easy and delicious