Everybody has an event that they love to celebrate with family, friends and neighbors. It might be the World Cup, The Superbowl, College playoffs, Olympic Figure Skating Finals or the Stanley Cup. At our house it's The Oscars. We're writers, what else would it be?
Every year whether in LA or Sonoma, we've gathered friends around and partied down on the big day. Every year I've cooked, and usually the cooking involves Indian food. This year was no different.
Except for the tiaras. Yes, tiaras. My friend Terri (who also coincidentally won the Oscar ballot derby) suggested we wear tiaras to more fully get into the "Oscar Spirit". She happened to have a nifty tiara left over from her wedding veil that she was just raring to wear again. I however wore flowers in my hair at my wedding so I had to go buy a tiara from our local joke store the Laughing Queen..not exactly Tiffanys'. I suggested maybe we should wear gowns also, as I had a few event gowns stashed here in my Sonoma closet that I never get to wear anymore, but Terri thought sweatpants would be more appropriate. And comfortable. So there was the dress code, tiaras and in my case, yoga pants and a hoodie from Tar-jay. We were gonna be styling.
When I first got into cooking Indian food 20 years ago I was a vegetarian, and so for the first several years, all I cooked were vegetarian dishes. In the Indian kitchen that's not a difficult thing to do. One of the first cookbooks I ever had was Lord Krishnas' Cuisine by Yamuna Devi. It is a massive collection of recipes, many of which originated in the sacred temple kitchens of India. It had been awhile since I'd prepared a completely vegetarian meal for guests, and so I decided that the Oscars was a perfect opportunity to get back to my Indian cooking roots.
I also thought I'd try to cook as much of the meal as possible in clay pots. Doing so allowed me to start prep a day earlier, leaving me less to do on the actual Oscar day.
The menu consisted of a very simple moog dal with spices, rice with mustard seed, raita with the inevitable boondi, turnips with nigella and mustard seed, dhoklas with coconut and cilantro, Gujarati carrot salad, saag puree, a fresh pineapple chutney and finally, finally I got to try my hand with jackfruit!
I'd been waiting for an excuse to make jackfruit curry ever since I'd heard how good it could be and then finally laid hands on it at a small South Asian market I shop at over in Santa Rosa.
Jackfruit is also known as the meat vegetable because of it's dense, and meaty texture. It could easily pass for chicken. Now I know a lot of stuff squeaks by as "easily passing for chicken", everything from snake to that guy that's stranded in the snowbound cabin with you. But this stuff is the real deal.
I'd looked at a lot of jackfruit recipes gotten several from readers and friends, and settled on an Indian temple recipe, that seemed simple, easy and quick to cook.
The recipe I used also called for green jackfruit as opposed to ripe jackfruit . I used 2 cans of fresh green jackfruit and the recipe served 10 people on a vegetarian buffet.
Green Jackfruit Curry
1.) Take 2 cans of green jackfruit, drain it and cut it into bite size pieces. Set them aside.
2.) Peel and cut 2 potatoes into wedges and then 1 inch chunks.
3.) Heat 2Tbs of ghee or butter in a heavy pan or kadhai
4.) Fry the potatoes until they're a faint light brown color
5.) Take them out of the pan and set them aside.
6.) 2 tsp of ground coriander
7.) 1 tsp ground cumin
8.) 1 and 1/2 tsp of turmeric
9.) 1 tsp of kashmiri chili powder or 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper mixed with 1/2 tsp paprika
10.) salt and sugar to taste.
Fry the spices up, when they change color add:
11.) 1 cup of water
12.) The jackfruit pieces
13.) The potatoes
Simmer the mixture gently until the potatoes and the jackfruit are cooked through and the sauce has thickened in the bottom of the pan.
In a small cast iron skillet heat :
1.) 1 Tbs of ghee or butter.
When the butter is hot add in:
2.) 3 curry leaves
3.) 1/4 tsp of whole cumin seeds.
Fry them until the seeds start to sizzle and pour the entire sizzling mixture into the pan of jackfruit and potatoes.
I put my pineapple peeler from VacuVin to good use again. I can't seem to get enough of that thing. This time I cored the pineapple and when I had the rind poised over the garbage can I thought.. "I can do something with this! Can't I?"
Voila! A cored pineapple and a serving bowl all in one! At least I didn't pull it out of the garbage to use it...it's all about the quick thinking and the ingenuity.
Meanwhile the awards ran on, history was made...
The Dude finally got his Oscar....after the boys in the crime lab had been working on it in shifts for about 20 years. Far out!
Here I am in my tiara (and my stupid reading glasses which I forgot to take off for the picture) trying to wrest the tray away from Capitain Leighton.
Since I had decided to serve the meal on thalis, clean up was minimal (gotta love the stainless steel) and break-proof. I'll be posting the recipe and directions for making dhoklas in the next day or so. What's not to love about a bread that takes 15 minutes to bake?!
So now we have another whole year to go before the next Oscars, enough time to try out more jackfruit recipes and maybe try my hand at dosas!