Our first week we’re experiencing foods from India! I said I wanted to escape my comfort zone, and I’m diving right in with these dishes. I’ve never eaten much Indian food because I let my pickiness and fear of unknown and exotic food keep me away. I am also very sensitive to spicy foods. My whole life I have avoided spices like the plague, even a splash of black pepper would prove to be numbingly painful for me. But recently I have begun adding a little Sriracha here and a bite of a pepper there to try and raise my spice threshold. This meal was a great help in getting used to more spice!
We were very zealous this week, and made enough food to feed a large family of boys… for two nights. We prepared five dishes for the two of us: Indian Saffron Rice, Cucumber Raita, Green Apple and Coconut Chutney with homemade chips, Chicken Tandoori and Kulfi for dessert.
I prepared the Cucumber Raita the day beforehand. I got the recipe from allrecipes.com. I followed their recipe almost exactly with only the addition of ½ teaspoon of cumin at the advice of a reviewer.
I did a little bit of Googling to learn more about this side dish. First of all, I had to learn how to pronounce it! For those of you who, like myself, are also etymologically challenged here’s a great Youtube video on the pronunciation of Raita. I also uncovered that Raita is known for being paired with classically spicy Indian cuisines. The Chicken Tandoori was intensely spicy so the Raita offered a much needed cool down. I would take a bite of the Tandoori and would almost instantly have to eat some Raita.
I love cucumbers and the mint paired with cilantro were a great balance mixed with the yogurt. Neither Dan nor I had ever had cucumbers that were sliced using a peeler before, and that created a unique and compelling texture. Definitely a great summer dish!
Indian Saffron Rice
I have to be honest; I’ve never been a big fan of rice. I never saw the appeal, and it always tasted kind of plain and bored me. But this rice was delicious! It must have been the saffron. My experience with saffron is that it is a magical spice (and magically expensive) that even a pinch adds wondrous layers of flavors to any dish. Dan prepared the saffron following the recipe we found on allrecipes.com.
We plated the chicken on top of the rice. My favorite was mixing the marinade on the chicken with a mouthful of rice. This is a big step for me. I’m going to reveal something that will make you rightfully judge me. I’m one of those freaks who don’t like to have my foods touching each other. I told you, I’m going way out of my comfort zone, and it feels and tastes great! Look mom, I’m growing.
Green Apple and Coconut Chutney
This is a classic example of a dish that in the past I would have refused to try because it looked “gross.” All of the ingredients mashed up in the blender, stripped of their natural beauty and transformed into a mushy puddle fit for a baby. But in fact, I loved it. I made this dish by following the recipe from (again) allrecipes.com. I particularly enjoyed heating up the popping mustard seeds on the stove and the way my fingers smelled like ginger for the rest of the night.
Dan baked chips using cut up Habernaro Lime Flour Tortillas from Trader Joe’s. My only complaint was that Dan used the habernaro tortillas. My mouth was already on fire from the onslaught of spices, and I couldn’t even find relief from the chips!
The main course and the star of the meal was the tasty and healthy Tandoori Chicken. We showed our amateur status on this one when on the night of our dinner I received a text from Dan at 6:00 pm saying, “shit we were supposed to marinate the chicken overnight!” So, we rushed it. Dan threw together the marinade and we let it soak for only 2 hours. I had been fasting all day in preparation of our big meal and those were the hungriest 2 hours of my life. But well worth it!
Dan’s first reaction to the bite of the chicken was, “fuck that’s good!” (excuse his language). And I agree. Admittedly, the spice was a bit difficult for me to handle, but I managed. I had to swap out my water for milk mid way through the meal to try and combat the spice, and Dan stripped off his shirt since he was sweating so much (hubba hubba for me).
He got the recipe off of allrecipes.com and opted to bake it in the oven. He thought if we had grilled the chicken it would have been too sloppy and we would have lost a lot of the marinade. It was great.
Kulfi is an Indian ice cream. I have another confession to make: this was my first time using a blender. And here’s another shocker, the lid of the blender didn’t fly off and splatter food all over the kitchen ceiling (I think I’ve seen one too many children’s sitcoms in my lifetime).
Making the kulfi was one of the easiest dishes to make, but the one I was most impressed with. Seriously, I made ice cream! Let me repeat myself and be more clear, just by blending up a bunch of ingredients and throwing them in the freezer I created ice cream from scratch. I’m convinced this must be witchcraft.
I got the recipe from the extremely helpful allrecipes.com and added pistachios in the blender and chopped up pistachios on top. From what I can tell, it’s the cardamom spice that makes it uniquely Indian. I highly recommend making this at home. Like I said, it’s easy and also extremely delicious!
I know I said everything tasted amazing, and I truly believe it. But I am also coming to believe that things just taste better when you put your two hands together, do some chopping, blending and sweating to create something all on your own. There’s something immensely satisfying with beginning with a heap of seemingly unrelated ingredients, and turning out a complete meal. I am very proud of this first dish.