Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bhindi Masala w/ Chick Peas and Kidney Beans

Great, authentic Indian food is hard to come by. Horrible Indian food is everywhere from West Philly buffets to cans and pouches in the Co-Op or Trader Joe's. Happily, "pretty good" interpretations of Indian favorites are easy to make at home.

I made this vegan dish entirely with things from my pantry and freezer. It was light, tasty, healthful and frugal. Many recipes will explain that for truly authentic Indian cooking, you must collect a variety of fresh, exotic whole spices, grind them by hand and fry them up in a paste of ghee, a type of clarified butter.

Maybe that's true, but they sell a ground garam masala spice mix at the Indian grocer and I bought it. In fact, I bought it years ago. Any good chef would tell me to throw it out. But it was delicious. I did fry it into a paste, but I used corn oil.

Don't hold yourself back from cooking something just because you can't cook it like someone's grandmother. Authenticity is a wonderful thing, but cuisine also changes all the time. Cooks from Italy to India make authentic dishes with tomatoes and beans, neither of which were available until Columbus pillaged the Americas. To paraphrase Duke Ellington, if it tastes good, it is good.

Ingredients: 1 14oz can diced tomatoes, 1 16oz can kidney beans, 1 16oz can chick peas, 1 cup chopped okra (frozen is fine and more is fine too - okra, aka bhindi, is tasty in any language), 1 diced onion (I used a sweet vidalia), 3 cloves crushed garlic, 2 tbs corn oil, 1 tbs masala spice mix, 2 tbs Goya Recaito (optional), and fresh cilantro to finish (optional - I didn't have any).

  • Start cooking 1 1/2 cups of basmati rice to serve with the meal (don't you hate when they save that part for last?)
  • Heat oil in skillet, stir in masala and cook for 30 seconds on high
  • Add diced onion a stir in to combine with spice paste
  • Add garlic
  • Thoroughly drain diced tomatoes, reserving the juice
  • Add the tomatoes and okra to the pan. Stir and cook for a couple minutes - you want everythingcarmelize just a little
  • Add the reserved tomato juice and deglaze the pan
  • Drain the beans and add them too, along with the recaito if using
  • Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes
  • Serve over rice. If you have cilantro, chop some up and toss it on. If you have chutney, serve it on the side.
Serves 5 (why do all my recipes always serve 5?)

Frugal Factor: Hard to say. I actually used dried beans that I had cooked previously and okra I forgot to put in a stir fry a few months ago and threw in the deep freeze and ancient spices. But at today's Shoprite prices, here goes: All three cans, $1.50 (wait, is the can can sale still on?); 1/2 bag cut frozen okra @ $1.67/bag, $0.83; 1 oz recaito @ $2/12oz jar, $0.16; 1 1/2 cups basmati rice (12 oz) @$6/4lbs bag, $1.08. If a supermarket sells garam masala, it will be in a $5 jar that holds 1.25 oz but a spice store or Indian store will have it waaaay cheaper. Let's just say $1. That's $4.57 for 5 servings, or $0.92/serving.

1 comment:

Shoshanna Wiesner said...

Like the sage advise - maybe add a cooking inspiration quote of the day?

"Don't hold yourself back from cooking something just because you can't cook it like someone's grandmother."