Friday, April 23, 2010

If It's Saturday, There May Be Time to Putter in the Kitchen

Ya know, one might just think that I have nothing better to do with my time and my money than to eat out, to shop for groceries, and to cook/bake.  Well, admittedly that little entity known as "my job" does, occasionally, intrude upon these pasttimes ... good thing I consider my co-workers to be extended family then, so I'll keep showing up!  And money always helps if you want to keep eating.  So weekends should be a good time for puttering in the kitchen with all my free time -- ha! -- though it doesn't always happen.  This past week, though, was ideal.

I spent my entire Saturday (well, the entire weekend -- but Sunday's adventures will be another post) fixated upon food ... I'm sure you're shocked, just shocked!  Starting on Saturday morning as I caffeinated while Tom and Jeremy slept, I baked the first batch of brownies for Jeremy's graduation party.  Oh, haven't you heard???  Jeremy earned his G.E.D.!!!  We've already started celebrating, but officially there will be festivities in June, right around the time he gets to wear that cap 'n' gown I never -- and he never, either -- thought he'd get to wear.

Many of my invitees keep kosher, but will eat products that have come from my little treyf ([TRAYf] = non-kosher) kitchen if they're dairy or pareve ([PAHRv] = neither meat nor dairy).  And so, because I swear by Nigella Lawson's motto "Never knowingly undercatered," I have begun the baking/freezing to ensure having sufficient treats to induce diabetic comas in my guests and fellow celebrants.  The first contribution to my buffet was pareve brownies using Earth Balance butter substitute -- the only tolerable product I've found, both flavor- and consistency-wise.  I also used non-dairy chocolate chips ... who knew that the generic brand I can buy at Kroger, rather than something like Ghirardelli -- are pareve???  It actually says so on the package ... wow.  Otherwise, the recipe is a standard-issue brownie recipe which makes the house smell amazing and which produces moist cake-like brownies that are rich and delicious ... truly, I mean it!  If you didn't know they were pareve, you wouldn't know they were pareve.

Afterwards, Tom and Jeremy and I made a long-awaited -- ever since catching an enticing glimpse of a sign in the window that a new Indian market was coming -- trip down to the Om Market on Nixon Road, a new haven of temptation near my house which must have done some research to know that I need a source for goodies that is within walking distance rather than across town.  Owned by the Patel family that also owns The Wine Seller, they were still stocking shelves and organizing the store when I was there, during its first week open.

But what a selection of wonderful items!!!  Freezers with naan and parathi and samosas and other vegetarian treats that I could take to work for lunch (where meat is not permitted).  They even carry the Pillsbury breads which I find endlessly amusing -- the Doughboy on packages of roti!  I know it makes me seem like the proverbial Ugly American to buy them, but I still chuckle every time I see them ... and yes, I am well aware that I have a perverse sense of humor.

There were shelves -- long, long shelves -- of so many spices that even I, who have an entire freezer door-full of spices (and which Jeremy will readily confide are mostly Indian -- cumin, coriander, fenugreek, garam masala ...), didn't recognize all of them.  There were bags of savory snacks, chivra, loaded with lots of little crisp and crunchy goodies.  There were kits and jars of sauces for preparing foods if you're not much of a cook, and lots of ingredients for those of us who thrive upon cooking (especially Indian food, one of our particular favorites!).  And there's lots more space to fill, too, though I can't imagine what else the store could possibly stock ... maybe bindis, since I'm reduced to just the boring brown ones and could use an infusion of sparkle for my forehead ...?  Food-wise, there is abundance and variety.

But best of all, the Patel family -- Mom, Dad, and one of their sons -- simply couldn't have been more friendly and more welcoming, with radiant smiles and extraordinary generosity of spirit.  (Sad to say, when I've shopped at other Indian markets I've been essentially ignored and treated as a stranger who doesn't seem to belong ... and that's the most polite way I can phrase it publicly.)  They offered samples of jalebi -- a beautifully bright orange sweet that is a kinda/sorta syrup-coated funnel cake; I'd never seen it before, and they were happy to let all three of us enjoy a taste.  Mrs. Patel walked right up to Tom as he examined what appeared to be a bag of itty bitty popcorn, to explain that it was popped sorghum that was particularly good coated with butter and salt and eaten as a snack.  Although I like to think that I know a fair amount about Indian food and cooking, I am happy -- thrilled, giddy, ecstatic! -- to know that I can ask any question, seek out information, and be welcomed at the Om Market.  I will absolutely be a regular, and one of their best customers!

And so, what did I make with my purchases of red lentils and coconut milk???  Why, a fabulous lentil soup with spinach, of course!

Curried Lentil Soup

1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons hot curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon coriander
cayenne, to taste
pinch of saffron (buy cheap saffron at Middle Eastern markets -- $4-5 for less than a cup; it's machine-processed, but who cares???)
3 cups water
1 cup split red lentils
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
1 cup tightly packed baby spinach leaves

Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add half the onion and half the garlic, and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the rest of the onion and garlic, the salt, seasoned salt, curry, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne and saffron; cook for 1 minute, then slowly add the water and stir to combine everything well.  Add the lentils, bring to a boil, then cook on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the coconut milk and cook for another 15 minutes.  Add the spinach, and cook just until the leaves wilt.  Serve hot.

I served the soup with some paneer-filled parathi (freshly heated for just a few minutes on each side in a frying pan) and a fabulous snack mix that Jeremy had picked out for me, which I happily stirred into my soup but which Jeremy ignored and Tom ate sparingly as an acompaniment; it had lots of crispy nibbly things and some raisins and just a hint of spice ... sigh ... and perfectly complemented the soup.  I could eat entire bags of that stuff, and have even made my own; believe it or not, the numerous varieties of chivra are even better than Cheetos, one of my very favorite snacks despite their appalling lack of nutritional (or any other kind of) value.

So, I got to bake, I got to cook ... my house smelled fabulous, absolutely fabulous!!!  Sunday was another adventure, but in a commercial kitchen and with good ol' fashioned soul-satisfying Jewish food.  I'll leave you with that tantalizing tease, until next time ....

Note: This post was added to the Kahakai Kitchen "Souper Sundays" Round-Up ... what a great idea, encouraging me to make more than just chicken soup for ailing loved ones!!!


Abby said...

I made a lentil soup awhile back and it was SO good. I love that it's healthful, too!

Cheryl said...

Hi, I'm stopping by from The Lady Bloggers Tea Party. I can't believe that Pillsbury makes parathi! Your food pics are truly mouth watering. Teasing me with soul-satisfying Jewish food definitely makes me want to come back. :)

Debinhawaii said...

Your soup looks delicious--I love curries and lentils too. That parathi is really good--I buy it occasionally too.

Thanks for joining in Souper Sundays this week.



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