Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Phool's Gold

Cauliflower (phool gobi) is one of maybe three things in season right now. This is hyperbole for sure. But I know I'm not the only one who can't make it through an entire season of root vegetables without several bouts of foot-stamping frustration at the state of our farmers' markets. When I visited my local this past Saturday, the produce guys hadn't even bothered to turn up. A few apples and a quart of delicious cider made their way into my bag, and nothing else. Though we've had brief flirtations with warmer weather--it got up to 68 degrees on a recent Friday--the temperature stays firmly in the lower third of the thermometer. My remedy for this is hot food made extra spicy. Knowing very little about Indian food--aside from knowing that I enjoy a lot of it--I cannot confirm the authenticity of this dish. All I know is its festive colors (very poorly captured by my camera) and lip-smacking flavors distract me from the whipping winds outside. Find this recipe for taka tin (stir fry) in the NY Times Diner's Journal. You'll note it is vegan: no ghee here. You'll need:
  • 1 large whole cauliflower, cut into 2-inch florets
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 to 2 fresh Thai bird chilies, seeded and finely minced (I used dried chilies but you can employ whatever you have on hand that is spiciest)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Small pinch chili powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt
  • Half a small orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
  • Half a small red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 3 large plum tomatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • lemon wedges

As Mathur says, the tomatoes give the dish tang. To really drive the idea home I finish with a good squeeze of lemon. If you dislike sour food, skip it. I find the method described to be fairly flawless apart from adding the cumin seeds to a pan over high heat. You will want to do this somewhat carefully since small seeds in hot oil have a tendency to POP up at your face. I add the whole bell peppers diced, and to be honest I once made this with only half a head of cauliflower. It was no less delicious. Feeds four, and is great served over a bed of fluffy rice.

Feeling exotic? Listen to the song of last summer, "Surprise Hotel" by Fool's Gold: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Es-SyYrpg2c

I feel warmer already watching that video.

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