Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cashew Rice, Perfect Partner For A Vegetable Stew.

 
    When I set out to serve up a South Indian vegetable stew or Aviyal, for the #Indianfoodpalooza cook-along party that I'm hosting along with Creative Culinary and Indian Simmer this month, I searched for the perfect easy accompaniment. I wanted something that would compliment the variety of vegetables in the stew and yet be interesting and protein-rich enough that our guests wouldn't notice they weren't getting any meat. I'd thought of serving a dal dish, but since the vegetable stew is what is referred to as a "wet" dish in the Indian Kitchen, I needed something to offer contrast, something "dry," with crunch. I was definitely going to be serving rice, no question about it. But which rice? There are endless varieties of rice dishes in Indian cuisine. From the Northern pilaf dishes, rich with saffron and raisins, to the pongals of the South studded with cashews and coconut. No matter what's cooking, as the Apple guys always say..."there's a rice for that!"
   
   When I cook an Indian meal, I usually like to keep it regional. If the entree I'm making is from the South, I like to serve accompanying dishes that are also from the same area. Since the cuisines of India are as varied as the cuisines of Europe, serving a South Indian Aviyal with a Kashmiri Pilaf would be like serving Pasta A'matriciana with a schnitzel chaser. The Rice I decided to serve with my Kerala Aviyal was Black Gram Dal Rice, or more simply, a Cashew Rice.
  
   For some reason, rice seems to make people nervous. Maybe because it's always been the Mysterious Black Box of food. After all, you put it into a pot of boiling water, slap a lid on it, turn the heat down and twiddle your thumbs for 20 minutes praying that it'll turn out. Some of my Indian cookbooks actually don't even give directions for making rice. An elaborate rice dish might start with the words..."make rice." Yes, and then???? Rice can seem daunting if one's only cooked stuff out of a box, or boiled it in a pouch, and don't even get me started on the San Francisco Treat.  Actually rice is pretty easy. A few simple steps and anyone can make great rice.
   

Cashew Rice



Here's What You Need:
  
1/2 cup of halved cashews
2 seeded finely chopped serrano chilies.
2 Tbs urad dal
1 and 1/2 tsp of black peppercorns
2 Tbs of grated unsweetened dried coconut
3 Tbs of unsalted butter
1 tsp of brown mustard seeds
1 tsp of urad dal
1 tsp of chana dal (yellow split peas)
1 dried red chili broken in half
5 or 6 curry leaves
2 Cups of Basmati rice
1 and 1/4 tsp of salt
2 and 1/4 cup of water

  
Here's What To Do:
 
Make rice.. (just kidding.)
Rinse the 2 cups of Basmati rice in cold water, then put in into a bowl with 5 cups of water to soak for about 30 minutes.
While the rice is soaking, in a skillet, heat 1 Tbs of butter.
When the butter is hot, toss in the halved cashews and stir them around, toasting them until they darken.


Lift them out of the butter and set them on a paper towel to drain. Set them aside for later use.

The Dry Masala:

In a heavy skillet dry roast :
  2 Tbs of urad dal
  1 and 1/2 tsp of peppercorns
  2 Tbs of dried unsweetened coconut

When it all starts to get toasty, put everything in a blender, spice grinder or food processor, and grind it all down to a fine powder. Set it aside.

The Rice:

Drain the rice. Set it aside
In a large pot, melt 1 Tbs of unsalted butter.
When the butter is hot, toss in the drained rice.


Stir the drained rice around in the melted butter.
Add in 2 and 1/4 cup of water and 3/4 tsp of salt
When the water comes to a boil, slap a lid on the pot, turn the heat waaaay down and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
While the rice cooks, prepare...

The Chaunk (final seasoning) or as I like to say "Release the Kraken!"

Heat 2 Tbs of unsalted butter.
When the butter is hot, add in
  1 tsp of brown mustard seeds
  1 tsp of urad dal
  1 tsp of chana dal, (aka yellow split peas)
  1 dried red chili broken in half
  and the curry leaves.


 When the mustard seeds start to pop, add in the finely chopped green chilies.


Stir everything around and cook it for 2 or 3 minutes.
When the rice is cooked, fluff it up with a fork and add in The Chaunk.
Mix it up well and then add in the ground Dry Masala,
Add salt to taste.
Finally, stir in the cashew.


Mix everything up, and you're done.
Serve it up!


   This is a spicy delicious rice. If you can't get your hands on urad dal, don't worry, it will be fine without it. This recipe serves 6 and it was all gone at the end of the evening! Try it, you won't be sorry! Another great thing about this dish, you can make this rice about 1 hour ahead of time. Just keep it tightly covered in a 200 degree oven so it stays warm but does not dry out.

   Now what's all this about #Indianfoodpalooza? Well, it's our effort to get everyone experimenting with Indian cooking during the month of March. Learn the pleasures of the Indian table. Take the plunge!  Whether you've always cooked Indian food or don't know a dosa from a donut, everybody's welcome. The idea is to have some fun and learn a few new dishes.

To participate and be eligible to win, all one has to do is this: 

  Post an Indian dish on your blog between March 5, 2012 and April 5, 2012.
   Link your dish up using the linking tool at the bottom of the post; only one entry per person
please. Entering your dish on any of our sites will have it display on all three
   Put a link in your post to this post so that your readers can join us too!

The hashtag for the event: #IndianFoodPalooza

 
We  also decided to offer prizes, since that always makes things more interesting. Prizes to be awarded include:

  Dried Coconut  (which I use nearly everyday) from Tropical Traditions for one of our readers that link up a recipe (We have three separate prizes from this company; each of us will be posting
something unique.)

 A set of Indian Spices (http://www.myspicesage.com/indian-spices-set-p-436.html?cPath=9_329) from
My Spice Sage. Ten (4 oz) resealable bags. See website for full product information.
  J.K. Adams artisan maple cutting board from my Creative Culinary's Vino Luci (www.vinoluci.com) store; a wine accessory and gift store.

   Prize winners will be chosen and winners notified April 5, 2012 using the email included on the link created. Winners will have until April 10, 2012 to respond with shipping information or another winner will be chosen.
   

Please note:  We want to encourage everyone to join us and share their experience but our
sponsors are shipping prizes directly and have requested that we limit the shipping area to the Continental USA.


Inspired? Ready to give this a whirl? The check these out:

Barbara at Creative Culinary is offering a Mumbai Sandwich
Prerna at Indiansimmer is featuring Jalebi

Here are more ideas for great Indian recipes:

  1. KO Rasoi by Sanjana
  2. Chef In You
  3. eCurry by Soma Rathore
  4. Journey Kitchen by Kulsum
  5. Cook In a Curry by Maunika Gowardhan
  6. Tongue Ticklers by Harini Prakash
  7. Lite Bite by Sanjeeta
  8. Veggie Belly by Sala Kanan
  9. Kothiyavunu which is a great source for Kerala recipes
  10. Sandhyas Kitchen
  11. Cookbooks by Suvir Saran and Madhur Jaffrey  
   Coming up next, a cooling, smooth chutney that works  just as well with grilled fish or chicken as it does with a South Indian vegetarian meals. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori

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