Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tamarind Rice and Okra Masala

Well, the holidays are here once again, which means that opportunities to overeat abound.  Since I just bought a pair of skinny jeans the other day (my first-ever time shopping at Old Navy), I'm going to do my best to restrict any holiday excesses in my kitchen to the big day (T minus 11 and counting) and to making stuff for the various parties we've been invited to.  Thankfully, my pantry is always well-stocked for making Indian food that's tasty, filling AND won't stop me from wearing the new jeans when we go out for New Year's.

Lately I've also been loading up on pantry items because I needed a break from all the cooking and juicing I'd been doing in order to keep the veggies in the fridge from spoiling.  With the exception of a bag of celery that Steve bought on sale last week, I soon found myself with an overabundance of dry goods that needed to be addressed.  One of my go-to recipes in this situation is the tamarind rice recipe from Healthy South Indian Cooking (p. 138).  Since I had a bag of cut okra in the freezer, I decided to make the okra masala from the same cookbook (p. 253) as a side dish and substitute a couple of celery stalks for the diced onion since it was the only fresh veggie in the fridge yesterday.  I made a few more tweaks with both recipes, but they're still pretty close to the originals.

Word to the wise: not for the first time with the tamarind rice, I followed the directions about soaking the split peas and then adding them to the hot pan uncooked, and (like before) I wished I hadn't.  Have you ever made six-bean soup from dried beans and some of the thicker beans didn't cook all the way through?  The result I get with the split peas is a little like that.  Not so undercooked as to render you flatulent for the rest of the day, but just a little too chewy.  I have to make a note about that in the book and just use some chopped nuts instead the next time.

As always with Indian recipes, any ingredients you've never heard of can be found at your neighborhood Indian grocery store.  Some ingredients you have heard of can also be bought there for less, like big bags of turmeric for two bucks.  If you haven't already been, check 'em out!

Tamarind Rice:
1 cup brown rice
1/3 cup yellow split peas
1 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
8-10 curry leaves
3 dried red chili peppers
1/2 tsp asofoetida powder
1-2 tsp black mustard seeds
1-2 tsp urad dal
3/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chutney powder

Cook one cup brown rice in two cups of salted water, covered with a tight-fitting lid, until all liquid has been absorbed, about 30-40 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool at least 15 minutes.  (If using white rice, use 1.5 cups of water per cup of rice.  It's also better to make it several hours or one day ahead so it can dry out and not get mushy during the cooking process described below.)

Soak yellow split peas in 1 cup of water for one hour.

Blend tamarind paste, salt and 1/4 cup of warm water in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan or wok, heat oil over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the curry leaves, red chilies, asofoetida, mustard seeds and urad dal.  Cover and cook until mustard seeds pop and urad dal is golden brown.  (If the pan is hot enough when adding these ingredients, these items will cook fast.  Watch the urad dal and dried chilies in particular to make sure they don't burn.)

Drain the water from the split peas and stir them into the saucepan, stir-fry for one minute, then add the tamarind mixture and stir well.

Add the turmeric and chutney powder and stir for one minute.  Add the rice and stir until all ingredients are combined.

Okra Masala:
2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 tsp asofoetida powder
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp urad dal
1/2 cup chopped onion (this is where I substituted celery)
2 cups frozen (or fresh, if you have it ) cut okra
1/2 tsp cayenne or to taste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tsp salt or to taste

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add asoefoetida, mustard seeds and urad dal.  When the mustard seeds pop and urad dal is golden brown, add the celery and stir-fry for 3 minutes.

Add the okra and spices and stir-fry for another 5 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and salt (if needed; some tomato sauces are saltier than others), reduce heat, cover and simmer until okra and celery are tender, another 5-7 minutes.

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