I am by no means an aficionado of Indian cooking, although I have had some valuable lessons from Preetha, Priyambada and some of my other Indian students. I teach them business, and they teach me Indian food — not a bad trade.
Nonetheless, I do venture forth into this world when ingredients inspire me, and tonight was one of those occasions. We had one eggplant, some uncooked cauliflower, a portion of a package of mushrooms on hand, and I obtained some beets and their greens at the market today. I had already searched the internet yesterday and found three recipes with some of those ingredients — plus red lentils, which I was anxious to include — so here is my meal.
- saute a chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil in a large sauteuse
- add salt, 2 tsp. Garam Masala (from World Spice) and 1 tsp. ground Turmeric
- cook onions and garlic until lightly browned
In the meantime I had preheated the oven to 400° F. and roasted eggplant pieces (cut into 1″ dice and tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper) on a roasting tray until moderately browned. In separate roasting dishes I cooked the cauliflower (broken into small florets) and some cremini mushrooms (cut into 6 wedges each), also tossed with olive oil and salt. When each of these were cooked, I removed them from the roasting pan and placed in a stainless bowl.
In a separate pot, I boiled the beet greens with a bit of salt, and removed them to a plate when tender. I’m not sure why, but I had a hankering for red lentils, which I somehow associate with cauliflower and tomatoes, so I cooked those in boiling water at a simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. At the same time (trying to use as many pots as possible — one of my trademarks) I started 2 cups of water to a boil, then added a cup of a sprouted rice blend from Whole Foods — red and brown rice plus wild rice. I cooked this slowly for 25 minutes (covered), then turned off the heat when the water was absorbed for another 15 minutes so it would steam until soft.
Now it was time for the final assembly. The flavors of all the vegetables need about 10-15 minutes to merge together in the stew. The onions and garlic were browned. I added the reserved eggplant, cauliflower and mushroom pieces, stirring them together. Next came the lentils with their broth, a can of Italian tomatoes which I chopped coarsely, and the chopped beet greens. Another cup of liquid from the reserved tomato juice gave me a lovely broth, and I simmered it all together (covered) for 10 minutes.
Adjusted salt and pepper, chopped up some fresh cilantro, then placed the stew in a pasta bowl atop the rice, added the cilantro and a few squeezes of a fresh lime, and served it with a Sicilian red wine — a 2008 Bonavita Faro, another of Jan D’Amore’s modest treasures. Don’t you always choose Nerello Mascalese with Indian stews that contain tomatoes and lentils? Very nice, also molto salubrious.