Saturday, January 05, 2008

Microwave Cauliflower Vindaloo

I'm trying to keep that New Year's resolution I made earlier this week by cooking something from as many of my cookbooks as possible. I started with a cauliflower left in the fridge from Christmas dinner - a raw cauliflower that never got used, because we didn't actually have a Christmas dinner this year. It was just begging to be used, and I didn't want it to go to waste.

This cauliflower became the inspiration for my first attempt a resolution-keeping. The recipe? Gobhi Vindaloo. There are probably a hundred different recipes for this, but I used one from one of my favorite cookbooks, Moghul Microwave: Cooking Indian Food the Modern Way by Julie Sahni. Owner of the Julie Sahni Indian Cooking School in Brooklyn, NY, Sahni has authored many thick cookbooks on Indian cuisine. I've checked a few out of the library, but her microwave cookbook just seemed too interesting and different not to get. As she states in her cookbook, she sees the microwave as just another cooking tool, and if used properly it can really do wonders with food. Tandoori chicken doesn't exactly work, but many other dishes do.

I had to make two things for this recipe: the actual vindaloo sauce, and then the cauliflower that I would pour it on top of. I had most of the ingredients for the vindaloo, including some whole spices that I needed to grind. I went to the Catonsville Sudhiva Bazaar (near the Sam's Bagels) and bought some whole coriander and tamarind paste, plus some garam masala and cardamom seeds (shelled from the pods, but not ground - I have never seen that) for other recipes, for about $11. Considering the amount, it was a good enough bargain. After a trip to H-Mart for tomato puree, cilantro and ginger (which is either thawing or rotting, and sort of gross), I had what I needed. I got ready to put my new low-end coffee grinder to work with those spices (I don't really like coffee -to me it is just a spice grinder) and set to cookin'.

The ingredients for Sahni's Microwave Vindaloo Sauce

Again, I cannot reprint the recipe, unfortunately, but look for it on p. 470 of the cookbook. I will say that it's a simple though tedious process to make your own vindaloo sauce. But it is worth it. And it's vegetarian, too. This was never high on my own list of priorities, but some of you might like that.

I didn't follow the directions exactly, because I had one or two thing in powder form that the recipe calls for whole, and viceversa. But I stayed close to it - about 90%. No big thing. It was easiest for me to just throw all the spices into the grinder: mustard, cloves, coriander (seeds not leaves), cumin, turmeric, cinnamon and cayenne, then ground it all to a powder and set aside. Then I needed to microwave some onion, garlic and ginger in olive oil about 5 minutes (covered) until soft. Next, I added the spices to the mixture and nuked it for about 10 minutes more (uncovered). After next adding water, tamarind paste, sugar substitute, tomato paste, kosher salt and paprika, and nuking again for two minutes, it was done, ready to use or freeze (Sahni says it will keep in the fridge for about 5 days, or in the freezer for 365 days - oops, 366, this is a leap year after all.

The vindaloo before water, tamarind, tomato et al...

...and after. Mmmm.

This vindaloo does have a kick. But I admit: I am used to it being hotter than this. But the lower level of heat (2 tablespoons cayenne for 2 1/2 cups of vindaloo) does help to keep your mind on all the flavors, not just the heat.

Next came the cauliflower (p. 174), and this was absurdly simple. Just trim the stem and as much of the leaves off a head of cauliflower as possible (about 1 1/2 pounds; mine was roughly half that size), then rub the bumpy part with lemon juice (I forgot my lemon; fortunately I had a lime in the fridge that I could use). Put it bumpy-side up in a microwave-safe dish for about 12 minutes. It will steam itself.

Cauliflower, ready for steamin'

After that, heat up the vindaloo sauce - I could skip that step because it was already hot - and it's ready to serve. Just garnish with small chilis and cilantro (leaves not seeds). I had lots of cilantro, but only big-ass jalapeños. So a simple cilantro garnish works for me. For the record, 1 1/2 pounds of cauliflower uses one entire recipe of Sahni's vindaloo sauce. Since mine was half that size, I still have half a recipe of the stuff to freeze. Just an aside: the stuff tastes great on hot dogs, too.

It was pretty good, and I think this is the best Sahni's vindaloo sauce has ever turned out for me. I'm glad I rediscovered this recipe, and this cookbook, and I'll be putting it to good use again soon.

The finished product, about 1/2 of a serving (the original recipe serves 6 to 8). It was much more tomato-y than it was spicy, though the spiciness doesn't hit you until later, and then lingers for a while. Sahni also uses this sauce elsewhere in her book, with duck, kofta kabob and potato-pea dishes.


Sahni, Julie. Moghul Microwave: Cooking Indian Food the Modern Way (1990: Morrow, New York, NY)

UPDATE - I also bought some of those Korean crispy puffy cakes at H-Mart - the ones that are crunchy like pork rinds but are made of wheat and sugar. They go very well with the vindaloo sauce, too. I'm using it like a dipping sauce.


Broadsheet said...

I love Julie Sahni's Books! There is a great Punjab grocery on Broadway, about two blocks north of Broadway Market which has terrific spices. I even got some black cardamom (spiced), which has a wonderful, dark, smoky flavor. They have homemade chappas and papadums too. Papadums work great in the microwave. Just brush them with oil an nuke them for 30 seconds or so till they puff up.

Whole Foods carries a line of Indian vegetable seasonings in little packets that will knock your socks off and are REALLY easy to make. They are with the ethnic products in the Indian section.