If it not entirely obvious by now, I tend to go on extended cooking benders that involve certain types of foods. Sometimes the focus of my cooking will be a particular item, while other times I’ll becomes enamored with cooking food from a particular country or region. Last week, perhaps inspired by the arrival of unseasonably hot weather, I could not stop making Indian food.
The best, and yet simultaneously worst, thing about making Indian food is the rather insistent habit I have of never, ever just making one Indian dish at a time. If there is a main dish, there will be a side dish, and when there is a side dish, there will be an added starch, and when there is an added starch, there will be spicy pickles and cooling raitas and on and on and on. On more than one occasion, I have taken to inviting people over at the last minute to help us devour the feast of food I just spent an afternoon preparing, because when I took a step back and really looked at the Thanksgiving-like spread of food I had just laid out, I actually got a little embarrassed. When it comes to Indian food, I do not mess around.
So, though it might be a bit late to declare this week to be Indian Food Week on Savory Salty Sweet, I have a stockpile of lovely Indian recipes to share, and I will likely be spending the next few posts talking about just that. I’ll start with this great staple of any Indian meal I make: gingery, garlicky potatoes topped off with a fresh, cooling raita. If you’re looking for a simple place to start your journey into cooking Indian food, you can’t find anything easier than this. This dry sauté of wonderfully seasoned potatoes comes together in a flash, and you can throw the raita together in the time it takes the potatoes to finish. It’s the perfect gateway into Indian cooking, which is good if you are looking for a simple place to start, but perhaps not so good if you one day find yourself so smitten with cooking Indian food, you’re forced to throw an impromptu dinner party every time you break out a jar of cumin seeds. You’ve been warned.
Last Year: Blueberry Biscuits
Spicy Ginger Garlic Potatoes and My Favorite Raita Recipe
Spicy Ginger Garlic Potatoes
1 pound small or medium potatoes, whole and unpeeled
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons finely grated or minced-and-smashed garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
salt to taste
In a small pan, cover the whole potatoes with water and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water begins to boil, lower the heat and simmer the potatoes until they are tender enough to be easily pierced with a fork (this should take about 10 to 15 minutes). Drain the potatoes and allow to cool enough to be handled.
When the potatoes have cooled enough to touch, peel the skins form the potatoes and then dice the potatoes into 1-inch chunks.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over low heat. When the butter has melted and is just stating to foam a bit, add the cumin seeds. Stir the cumin seeds, allowing them to sizzle and pop for about 20 seconds. Add the grated ginger and garlic, and stir over low heat for 1 minute, until the ginger and garlic are very aromatic, but not browned. If you see your ginger and garlic beginning to brown, remove the pan from the heat and keep stirring the ginger and garlic until their sizzling subsides a bit and the browning has stopped.
Turn the heat under the pan to high. Add the diced potatoes to the pan, and stir to coat with the ginger and garlic mixture. Allow the potatoes to develop a nice brown crust on one side, then stir, turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and leave to cook for another 3 minutes or so.
Slice the jalapeno pepper into thin strips, discarding the seeds and white ribs. Add the jalapeno strips to the potatoes, stir to combine, then remove from heat. The jalepenos should still retain some crispness (you don’t want them to turn totally limp). Add salt to taste.
Cucumber Mint Raita
1 cup peeled, seeded, shredded cucumber (about 1 large cucumber)
1/3 cup finely minced fresh mint leaves
1 cup plain yogurt
pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
Using your hands, squeeze the shredded cucumber until you have removed as much moisture as possible. Place squeezed cucumber in a medium bowl. Add minced mint, yogurt, and salt. Stir to combine. Sprinkle a pinch of cayenne pepper over the top of the raita.