Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Everyday Indian Cauliflower and Carrots

The time I spend cooking can vary hugely. There are ornate dinners with multiple courses and fiddly elements, and then there are salads and stir-fries that take barely any time at all. It generally depends upon my culinary inspiration, work schedule, and level of interest/fatigue. But there is one exception: Indian food. Every time I cook Indian, it's never a quick meal. It's a production. I haul out half the spices in my cabinet, measure out carefully-diced vegetables or spice combinations into multiple little prep dishes, and create a table-groaning feast. I don't seem to know any other way. It's a delicious undertaking, to be sure (and one that creates a lot of leftovers), but it ain't quick.

But through the genius that is cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey, I've discovered another way. Jaffrey is an amazing Indian cook, and a few years back came out with a book detailing spot-on dishes that don't require a multi-hour commitment. And earlier today, as I was trying to think of a quick, easy, veg-heavy dish to bring to a friend, I leafed through her memoir and found the inspiration for this dish.

This recipe, more of a stir-fry than a simmered-forever dish, is quick, delicious, and makes a great complement to heavier, saucier dishes (if you, like me, decide to negate its time-saving value by making it part of a larger spread). The original dish called just for cauliflower, but I couldn't resist throwing some nice fat carrots in as well. The vegetables are caramelized in a hot pan to give a bit of sweet depth, then tossed with a dusting of spices to create a savory-tangy, light-yet-warm dish. I served it up with some tomato biryani and dal, but you can just as easily enjoy it on its own, with just a bit of rice or flatbread (and the mango pickle that's my current obsession). It's healthy, authentic, and doesn't take much more time than throwing together a salad.

Everyday Indian Cauliflower and Carrots

adapted, a bit heavily, from Madhur Jaffrey's Climbing the Mango Trees
yields 5-6 servings, especially as part of a spread of other dishes

1/4 cup oil (Jaffrey recommends peanut or olive, but I went with the much-more-delicious coconut)
4-6 carrots, peeled and cut into thick disks
1 small cauliflower, broken into small florets
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon amchur powder (dried green mango), or 2 tablespoons lemon juice
generous pinch asafoetida
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and julienned
1 handful coarsely chopped cilantro
1 small fresh green or red chili, minced (optional)

Pour the oil into a large frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized on the outside and cooked-yet-crisp on the inside, ~7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and then cook the cauliflower until the same, ~5 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, mix together the salt, turmeric, cayenne, coriander, and amchur (if using) in a small bowl. When the vegetable are cooked, sprinkle with the herbs (and lemon juice, if using instead of amchur), and toss to combine.

In the same pan in which you cooked the vegetables, add the pinch of asafoetida (if there's a lot of oil left, you can drain some, but I found that the cauliflower sopped up most of it). Let sizzle for a few seconds, then add the cumin seeds and stir until sizzling. Add the ginger, and stir for under a minute. Add the cauliflower and carrot, mix gently, then add a splash of water, lower the heat, and cover. Cook for a minute or two, until the vegetables have softened and the flavors have blended. Sprinkle with the cilantro and chili, and serve.

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