Recipes - 3 of my favorites for a crummy day

Before we start: Take your time with each step. You know how it is with life – sometimes we can’t rush ahead. And you should know that I myself am a “feeling” rather than a “measuring” cook, so please feel free to adjust sizes to your atmosphere.



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Chai (“Chini Cha” sweet tea)
Spiced warmth. The perfect start to your day, or the perfect afternoon rest.


Ingredients:
Milk, black tea (6 tea bags are fine, but ½ - ¾ cup of “Red Label” tea from an ethnic grocery is better), 12-15 cardamom (slightly break open the green “husk” so that the inner seed has more strength), 10-15 cloves, 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or several pieces of cinnamon bark), 2-3 pieces fresh ginger sliced approx 2/3 inch square, sugar to taste (1/4 – ½ cup).

Using an approx 2 quart pot, fill it 2/3 with water. Add the spices. Let sit on a medium-low stove until the water decreases and the spices color the water – approx 10-15 minutes. Add 6 tea bags or ½ - ¾ cup of the Red Label tea. Cover. Let sit at the same temperature until the Red Label tea settles (until it “stops rolling”) – approx 15 minutes. Water should reduce to 1/3 of the pot. Add milk to 4/5 of the pot. Add sugar. Let sit – ideally, stirring constantly – until the mixture heats completely, almost to a low boil. Strain spices and tea and serve.

Makes a full pot. Enough for a week or for a group of friends.

For a spicier tea with a little kick, try: fresh ginger, black pepper and red chili (just a pinch) instead of the other spices. I love it this way, but my husband thinks I'm crazy when I make it.


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Chicken curry
Of course there are a billion-plus ways to make any sort of curry. Here’s a relatively simple, way-tasty recipe.


Ingredients:
4-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 ½ inch pieces, cooking oil, fresh ginger approx 2/3 inch square and 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoon mustard seeds, 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, 1 – 1 ½ chopped onions (red is best, yellow or white is fine, not sweet), 2 tablespoons cumin, 1 tablespoon coriander, ¾ tablespoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon salt

Ideally, use a low, wide cast iron pan – something that has some weight and will carry the heat.

Warm oil in a medium-low pan. When oil feels hot to your hand held above it, drop mustard and cumin seeds. (Ideally, you’ll hear the immediate sizzle.) Stir periodically. Let the mustard and cumin darken. Add chopped onions (again, sizzle). Stir. As the onions shed some of their water, add fresh minced garlic and ginger. Keep stirring until the mixture cooks down nicely and is dry.

Add cumin, coriander and turmeric. Stir. These spices need unadulterated dry heat to release their flavor in this dish. The turmeric will be distinct – notice for its smell to change.

Add the chicken. Stir and brown. Add salt. Quickly cover – you don’t want the chicken to dry out, so just a quick stir and brown and cover. Wait until the chicken is soft – approx 15-20 minutes. We like ours with a fair amount of curry gravy, but you can cook it down more for a drier dish.

Lift cover. Stir and taste. Best served with rice.

Makes 4-6 servings.

For spicier curry, add chili. For dried red chilis, heat to a darkening along with the mustard and cumin seeds. For chili powder, add with cumin, coriander and turmeric.


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Bitter gourd or bitter melon – my favorite!!
Warning: it’s called “bitter” for a reason. That said, this is my favorite dish of all! And I’m told that bitter gourd is great for your health. There are two rough varieties of bitter gourd: the South Asian is quite bitter and is darker green with very pointy bumps; whereas the East Asian is milder, lighter green with mellow bumps. I love the South Asian variety, but if this is your first time, you’ll probably want to try the East Asian.


Ingredients:
2-3 bitter gourd sliced into ½ by 1 ½ inch pieces (removing the seeds), ½ - ¾ tablespoon turmeric, ½ tablespoon salt, 2-3 roma tomatoes cut into 6 pieces each, ½ chopped onion (red is best, yellow or white is fine, not sweet), 2 cloves fresh garlic

Similar to the chicken curry, it’s best to use a low, wide cast iron pan – something that has some weight and will carry the heat.

Warm oil in a medium-low pan. When oil feels hot to your hand held above it, drop onions. (Ideally, you’ll hear the immediate sizzle.) Stir. As the onions shed some of their water, add fresh minced garlic. Keep stirring until the mixture cooks down nicely and is dry.

Add turmeric. Stir. Turmeric absolutely needs unadulterated dry heat to release its flavor in this dish. The turmeric will be distinct – notice for its smell to change. If you add the turmeric to wet onions, the final dish will stink a bit and the turmeric will be separate. We want the sense of a long-lived marriage.

Add the bitter gourd and salt. Stir. Cover. Wait until the bitter gourd is soft (but not mushy) – approx 10-15 minutes. The bitterness will lessen with longer cooking. Lift cover. Stir and taste. Best served with rice.

Makes 4-6 small side servings.

Hoping each of these brings you a sense of warmth and a feeling of ease. Not listed in the ingredients is "love," but you knew to include this, didn't you?

Comments

  1. These sound lovely! I've never had a good recipe for bitter melon before, so I look forward to this. The pics of your spices look so tempting - well done!

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  2. OMG, this was my favorite "sabzi" in India. I even requested it for my last dinner in the country. There, they called it kerala (I'm not sure if my spelling is right tho).
    Cheers,
    Chris G.

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