Dipali's Dinners

Posted: August 9, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: cheap, delish, Johanna, quick, vegetarian | Tags: | 10 Comments »

Hello friends! Yesterday, something strange happened. Other people cooked……for ME!!! It’s a rarity, and I enjoyed it immensely. :)   To make sure that she get her due credit, last night for dinner I hung out with my fantastic friend Marla, who is a fashion student and an all-around hell of a gal. She made me spaghetti with sauce that I swear had…. magic in it. Maybe it was the parmesan. Maybe it was the tomatoes. I’ll never know, until I go home and hang out with her mother and stalk her spaghetti-sauce making. But mmmm. And the brownies!! Marla made brownies that had cherries, and walnuts in them. I’ll let that sink in.

Cherries (freshones, real ones) and walnuts.
They may have looked a little fugly, fallen apart a little, but believe me, I am not one to turn down chocolate, and who ever said brownies needed to LOOK nice??? These were delicious. Delish!!!

Dipali's DinnersYesterday afternoon, my friend from work, Dipali, came over to do the first of a series of guest-cooking posts, called Dipali’s Dinners. Dipali is Indian, and since I alerted her to the site, she has graciously offered to come over and teach me authentic Indian dishes, from her mom’s recipes. I was really excited about this, because any curries that I’d made from scratch had always taken lots of steps, and lots of pots and pans, and I couldn’t find a respectable curry paste in my grocery store, and I was reduced to Thai Yellow Curry Paste which is HOT and not as delicious as what I’m looking for, and finally, I was fed up.

Dipali promised there wasn’t that much to worry about. I trust her. She’s sweet and pretty. Always trust the sweet and pretty. They will not steer you wrong.
So yesterday, Dipali came over, armed with her lovely, fragrant little spice tin, and taught me how to prepare two different vegetable dishes from her repetoire: Channa Masala Shaak, and Eggplant & Spinach Shaak.

I was immediately heartened, because Dipali said that a lot of Indian cooking uses those three words I love so much, “Season to Taste” — there isn’t really measurements, it’s about the flavor you’re looking for. She also laid out the basic theory or principle behind the cooking: Get the oil really hot, add your aromatics (usually onion and/or garlic), add the spices, and get the spices really hot so that they infuse the oil with their flavor. This, I can do.

EggplantWe started with the eggplant-spinach Shaak.
1 medium eggplant, cut into small cubes or chunks.
4 cloves of garlic, chopped.
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole corriander seeds.
1 teaspoon each: Tumeric, Ground Cumin, Cayenne powder, Salt
1 package frozen spinach (defrosted)
4 tbs. oil, 1 c. Water.

Heat 4 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large skillet with high sides. Add the garlic and the cumin and corriander seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the eggplant, tumeric, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and water. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Let it all simmer for about 10 minutes, until the eggplant has softened.  You can cover it if you want, to make sure that the flavors have nowhere to go but into the eggplant. After about 10 minutes, add the spinach, stir well, and cover again. Let everything get friendly on low heat for as long as you need to. This food will not rush you. It will not make demands on your time. In fact, it’s happy whenever you’re happy.
After simmeringAdjust To Taste
Look at all that yum. Dipali decided after the simmering (left) that it needed some more tumeric (right). Like I said, since she’s sweet and pretty I trust her. Plus, I can definitely get behind any cuisine that says “Stick your finger in the pot, lick the finger, and decide what else to pour in”. That is my kind of cuisine.

Channa Masala, everyoneWe accompanied our eggplant and spinach with some channa masala.
1/2 Red Onion diced
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 teaspoon Corriander seeds
1 teaspoon each: Cumin, Cayenne pepper, Tumeric
3 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups (1 can) chickpeas. (If you’re using a can, drain and rinse them)
1/2 teaspoon each salt and garam masala (spice blend, you can buy it at Whole Foods)
Once again, heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pot. Add onion, garlic, and all the spices (except the 1/2 teaspoon garam masala) and cook until they start smelling delicious and amazing. Then, add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the tomatoes break down into a lovely sludgy tomato-sauce esque consistency. Add the chickpeas, and up to half a cup of water. You may only need 1/4 cup, depending on your tomatoes. If you add too much, you can always boil it off until the liquid reduces. No worries here. Bring the channa masala to a simmer, add in the garam masala and salt, and simmer for 10 minutes or until your willpower gives out. Try for at least 10 minutes. Taste this too at the end, and adjust the seasonings to what you’d like. You’ll probably end up adding more of at least one of the spices, since this is a very malleable dish.

The spreadOur lovely lunch spread, which fed 3 people and gave leftovers. I love indian cooking!!! I also love it because it’s yummy and warm and lovely and …. sigh.

Try these. And we’ll be back soon with a second installment of Dipali’s Dinners. :) YAY!!!



Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.