North Indian Style Spinach Chicken

I love Indian food, but sometimes those curries can be heavy. This dish, on the other hand, is more brothy than saucy, and still has that flavor I love. It has tomatoes, spinach and chicken breast, but it would be good with garbanzo beans instead, if you wanted to make it vegetarian.

I saw this in Sunset Magazine, which has been full of good recipes lately (See: Ginger Pear Crisp). My mom and I loved how light it felt while still filling us up.

Of course we changed it up a bit. Instead of serving with plain yogurt on top and cucumber salad on the side, I combined the two in a raita. I liked the cool crunch of cucumbers mixed in with the cooked vegetables. It’s all about layering flavors, textures and temperatures.

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Indian-Style Scrambled Eggs

indian-scrambled-eggsWhen someone asks me what my favorite type of food is, it's hard to narrow it down. I love so many kinds of cuisine, and I don't know enough about them all to make a definitive declaration.

Indian food is always on the list, but it just might be the top. The more I learn about it, the more I taste it, the surer I feel. Ginger, garlic, chilies and cilantro…what a combination, those ingredients should be in everything.

And in much of Indian food they are. Even scrambled eggs!

I read about this dish in Mangoes and Curry Leaves. The authors said it was something they had in a small tea shop in a rural area of India. I made it for lunch yesterday and loved it.

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Sweet Cardamom Yogurt with Pistachios and Pomegranate Seeds

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Saffron, cardamom, honey, pistachios and pomegranate seeds mixed with yogurt? Yoplait is a long way from ever putting out this flavor. As I ate this for breakfast, I thought of how rarely I, and other Americans, eat sweets so…floral.

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In the Middle East and South Asia, saffron and rosewater are common in desserts. Orange blossom and lavender are also less familiar here as they are in other countries. These ingredients, along with spices like cardamom, are so much more aromatic than anything popular in the U.S. (Mashti Malone's Iranian ice cream shop in Los Angeles, aside.)

But if you'd like to taste something deliciously different, try this yogurt. It's an example of harmony in flavors you might not find often.

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Chapati — Indian Flatbread

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I admit I call many things 'my favorite' or 'the best thing ever,' but without any facetiousness or exaggeration, I can say that warm dough is my favorite and the best thing ever.

Baguettes, bagels, pizza dough, naan, rolls, loaves, English muffins, challah, sourdough, pita, pretzels, funnel cake, foccacia, ciabatta, empanadas, flour tortillas, arepas or good ol' sandwich bread (Oroweat's whole grain and oat is my sliced bread of choice)… I'm a glutton for gluten.

I have, on multiple occasions, organized my entire day around proofing and baking dough. Making bread from scratch is certainly rewarding, but it requires more time and planning than is often practical. Luckily, there are ways for more instant satisfaction. Pilsbury is a modern marvel — and delicious — but ancient cultures had quick ways to make bread, too.

All it takes is water and flour, people. A little fat and salt, a hot surface…we've got ourselves warm carbs from scratch in 15 minutes.

While I waited for my Goan-style roast chicken to cook last week, I watched the Mumbai episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations (the Rajasthan episode was better). Just before the show ended and the poultry reached an internal temperature of 165, I decided I needed some Indian flatbread, or chapati. Since it's an unlevened bread, and I'm all about skipping steps, I had hot bread by the time the bird was done resting. I even made fresh batch for my leftover chicken the next afternoon.

And guess what? It was the best thing ever.

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Goan-Style Roast Chicken and Gingered Split Peas

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Cilantro, lime, garlic, ginger, jalapenos, cinnamon and cloves…

If that ingredient list doesn't get you excited, then I don't know what you're doing here. Now, imagine all those cooking together on a chicken. Smelling that in the oven for an hour and 20 minutes was the best and worst thing ever — tortuously incredible. It was worth the wait though. This Goan-style chicken came from a recipe from chef Floyd Cardoz of Tabla in New York. I had to make it when I read that ingredient list.

Normally I would resent spending $1.50 on 40 grams of cilantro, but a 5-pound chicken only cost US$3, so I can't possibly complain. I recently calculated that I have spent $200 on two months' worth of groceries in Buenos Aires. That includes several items that will last me the rest of my time here. When I don't cook at home, I mostly get street food, which will fill me up for $3 or $4. I love it here.

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But back to the chicken, it was incredibly tasty. I ate it with gingered split peas and chapati, an Indian flatbread. A very satisfying dinner with plenty of leftovers.

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Tamarind Cole Slaw

As part of my continued “culinary homeschooling,” as I like to think of it, I have been trying to understand how acids work in cooking. I wrote a bit about citrus, vinegar and wine before, but since then I have learned a lot and begun experimenting much more.

Part of that included learning more about tamarind, the sour fruit often used in Indian cooking. Michael and I used it in a coconut shrimp curry we cooked for the University Iron Chef competition. Tamarind is very sour, and when combined with the right amount of sugar and savory ingredients, offers such a unique acidity to dishes.

One night I tried using it in lieu of vinegar or citrus to make a dressing for cole slaw. We were having an Indian-inspired meal, so I combined it with cumin and cilantro, which I knew were used in many other Indian dishes. The last few times I’ve made the dressing, I’ve added lime or white wine vinegar as well, but I think the first time was all tamarind pulp. For whatever reason, there were also sesame seeds in the cole slaw the first time I made it (as you might notice in the first picture.) Now I just leave the cumin seeds whole for texture and flavor.

I make variations of slaw a lot more often than I make leafy salads these days. Cabbage is so much cheaper and lasts a lot longer than lettuce, so for a recent college grad without a car to get to the store often, cole slaw is often my side dish of choice. When I can’t be bothered doing anything else, I toss shredded cabbage with bottled poppy seed dressing. It has just the right amount of sweetness and I prefer it to mayonnaise.

If you have a few minutes more, try the tamarind vinaigrette. It’s nice on other things too. I’ve put a similar vinaigrette on thinly sliced jicama after seeing it here.

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