Miss Otis Regrets

Recipe for curried green beans. Review of a cook book.

It is regrettable that I have had to take such a long break from such an infantile blog. But there is no other way… I was living my own life, dealing with a personal tragedy. And now I am back. That’s all there is to say about that.

I have not yet had the opportunity to get out to the grocery store since I have returned to town, so I am off the usual and am scouring the pantry for impromptu dinner ideas. Plus, always after travel, I want something healthy and cleansing. The complete opposite of fast food and poorly catered meals, please.  My loosely worn snobbery led me to pull out one of my favorite cookbooks for the vegetarian section (since I have very little meat in the freezer) and something starring rice or beans or lentils. I have come up with a three-part plan. Tonight is soup with rice. Tomorrow is beans with rice. The day after is lentils with rice. Aaaaah. (That’s relieved, not scared.)

It probably goes without saying that I have quite a cookbook collection. I lurve them. But, as in many things, I can be a little picky. I don’t want to drop my hard-earned cash on just any old cook book. The result is a two-part system. First, I decide what kind of cookbook my collection is still lacking (or which kind I most urgently want), and then I go to Amazon to search and read reviews and reviews and reviews. Second, I traipse on up to the library and fill my arms with whatever cookbooks happen to jump off the ample shelves at me. I scour each one, mark them for recipes-I-most-want-to-try, and then cook away. If I love it (or need it), I buy it… eventually. Between these two steps, I have ended up with a smallish collection of favorites and tomes, and have about 20 already waiting in the wings. The goal is to have the most exhaustive and wonderful book in each and every category that I am interested in, like Italian food, breads, desserts, sugar-free cooking, raw foods, tacos, etc. etc. etc. And just so you know; I don’t care that much about the pictures or a pretty coffee table thing. I want plenty of recipes, well-edited and perfect to implement.

For our first of many cookbook reviews, I will just go ahead and tell you about the book I am using for tonight’s dinner.

Indian Fish ‘n’ Chips (‘n’ Onions)–Kev’s Fave

Classic Indian Cooking, by Julie Sahni. Currently it is about $18 and at 4 1/2 stars on Amazon. Sahni has two other books which rate equally as well, Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking, and Indian Regional Classics. In hindsight, it looks like Regional Classics might have the added benefit of quicker and easier recipes, which is something I aim for in my cookbooks. But if you want a helpful overview of Indian cuisine, a fair amount of recipes, and perfect instruction, look no farther than Sahni.

One of my favorite features of this book is that it includes Indian food from different ares of India and from different types of Indian diet. Other books that are highly rated tend to be more specific to regions or to type (vegetarian and South are very popular). I have ignored Madhur Jaffrey, not only because she is vegetarian, but because if you own World Vegetarian (and chances are you do), then you already have a veggie book bursting with hundreds of Indian recipes. Also, From Mom With Love (Bhargava) looks truly awesome, but my local library does not have a copy. So, maybe another time.

Overall, I am not sold out to this book, but have enjoyed some truly wonderful meals that taste like they are from another world (they are), but that I managed with limited knowledge and resources. It’s not everyday that you are going to tackle homemade naan and a four-course Indian dinner, but there are moments for a truly special and luxurious dinner. One of our absolute favorite birthday dinners is one we call “Indian Fish and Chips,” but that Sahni titles “Chickpea Batter Fish with Tamatar Chutney.” Other favorites have included Hyderabad Lime Soup (like Leek and Potato soup with a slight Eastern bent) and Buttered Black Beans (lip-smacking). I have no qualms with using only one exquisitely-executed dish to create a whole meal for us.

After I returned from Ooty, India last year, I was able to approximate the spirit of a typical meal I enjoyed there with Potatoes in Fragrant Gravy, Mung Bean and Cauliflower Stew, and a simple buttered Basmati rice. I also really look forward to such classics as Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken, and Matar Paneer (I adore paneer). We’re not talking exhaustive, however, and I will have to look elsewhere for a Potato Masala Dosa (mmmmm). When I want to know something about Indian food or I need to make something Indian and perfect, I (usually) look no further than Sahni.

MY OWN MAKESHIFT RECIPE FOR CURRIED GREEN BEANS

(This makes a great side dish for any Indian meal, but you could also make a light supper of it with just some buttered basmati rice and some optional dal or grilled chicken.)

  1. Thinly slice enough green beans for 4 people to eat heartily.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a saute pan. Add beans and cook until tender. Set aside in a bowl with minced green chili (jalapeno will do), 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, and 1 pinch cumin seed.
  3. In same pan, heat 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil and 1 teaspoon mustard seeds until they begin to “splutter.” Add 2 minced red chilies and a few curry leaves and stir.
  4. Re-add the beans into the pan but don’t stir, cover, and allow to heat through.
  5. Salt to taste, stir, and serve.
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