Saturday, July 23, 2011

Journey to India

We have been around the world and back! This past March we left behind our Brooklyn home (including our garden!) and jetted off to South India to explore the beaches, wildlife and cuisine of this glorious land. We recently returned renewed and inspired to our native California to start a new life.

We are currently working as apprentices on a farm in Sonoma County, so our lives have never been so centered around gardens. We have been having a blast getting things cooking in our new home, inspired by the amazing bounty of beautiful, fresh seasonal produce that we are harvesting daily.

Here, a night of feasting was inspired by the rich aromas, textures and flavors of our journey to India as well as the fresh California ingredients we are now seeing on a daily basis, including fresh California bay leaves and tender immature onions. As they say in India,

Basmati Rice with Bay Leaves
The flavors of this basic rice depend on the earthy, invigorating aroma of fresh bay leaves.
Serves 2-3

1 cup white basmati rice
2 tbs. coconut oil
6 fresh bay leaves, bruised in mortar
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 stick cinnamon
1 3/4 cups water

Rinse rice well in hot water, then drain. Heat coconut oil over medium heat, then add cinnamon stick and cumin seeds. Toast about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add rice and bay leaves, stir to coat with oil. Stirring occasionally, toast rice for a few minutes until a few grains are gently browned. Add water, turn up heat to high until boiling, then cover and reduce heat as low as it goes. Cook about 20 minutes, then turn off heat. Do not remove lid, and allow the rice to finish cooking in its own steam, about 10-15 minutes.

Masala-Crusted Roasted Vegetables
The warming, spicy flavors of the masala can compliment any fresh vegetables of your choice.
Serves 2-3

1 tbs. coriander seeds
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 dry bay leaf
1 small cinnamon stick
1 tsp. allspice berries
1-2 dry red chiles
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 sweet potatoes, diced
1 small head cauliflower,separated into medium-sized florets
1 small head broccoli, separated into medium-sized florets
3 tbs. coconut oil, melted
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. smoked sea salt (or plain salt)
2-3 tbs. water

Preheat oven to 375
First, coarsely grind all whole spices with mortar and pestle. (Any combination of your favorite spices can be ground: total volume should be about 3 tbs.) Combine vegetables with hand-ground spices and powdered garam masala and turmeric. Add coconut oil, lime juice, salt and stir to combine. Add enough water to coat the vegetables in a thick paste of spices. Lightly grease a baking sheet with coconut oil, then spread vegetables in a single layer. Roast for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are fully cooked and browned.

Pattypan Squash in Tomato-Ginger Gravy
This sweet and bright curry is a perfect vehicle for the fresh produce of summer.
Serves 2-3

2 tbs. coconut oil
1 tbs. cumin seeds
1 tbs. black mustard seeds
1 tbs. ground coriander
1 tsp. fennel seeds (coarsely ground)
1/2 large onion, pureed with 3 tbs. water
5-6 tomatoes
2 inches fresh ginger root
1-2 tbs crushed jaggery (raw sugar) or to taste
6-8 pattypan squash, sliced into bite-sized pieces
salt, to taste

Heat oven to 375. Lightly grease a baking sheet with coconut oil, then spread pattypan in a single layer, sprinkled with salt. Roast about 20 minutes, until cooked and lightly browned. Meanwhile, start the gravy. Heat coconut oil over medium heat, then add spices. Stir to toast, and when fragrant, add onion paste and a pinch of salt. Stir to cook until onion begins to separate from oil. Make puree of tomatoes and ginger. Stir into onion-spice mixture. Reduce heat and allow to simmer until thickened. Add jaggery and salt to taste. Stir in cooked pattypan about 5 minutes before serving and stir into heated gravy, simmering for a few minutes to combine flavors. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Spring Onion Chutney
This cooling chutney has the mild sweetness of roasted young onions.

about 30 small spring onions or scallions
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red chile powder
1 tsp. garam masala
3 tbs. coconut cream

Preheat oven to 375. Wash and trim spring onions, then sprinkle with salt, chile powder and garam masala. Roast about 20 minutes, until all onions are soft and a few have become crispy. Allow to cool, then puree with coconut oil. Texture should be very smooth. Chill, then serve as condiment with any Indian dish.