I grew up a working class city kid. My mom who was no great shakes in the kitchen (never preheated an oven, 'cause...why?) had a regular rotation of meals that centered around making the money stretch to payday. As we got closer and closer, the entrees got weirder and weirder. Waffles made with beer or seven up instead of milk, the same tired piece of meat making an appearance in its' third outfit of the week, pasta, big bags of loose hot dogs, fish sticks on Friday, Rice and Beans, and of course 89 cent boxes of Kraft Mac and Cheese. To this day I cannot eat hot dogs, and it took me years to get around to pasta again. I still have a weakness for Mac and Cheese.
One vegetable that made regular appearances was The Pepper. The pepper could be chopped up and served with whatever meat was still hanging around, or it could be stuffed with rice and drenched in tomato sauce. When I got out on my own, I never wanted to see another pepper again, unless it was a poblano and served as chili relleno. Peppers reminded me of things being tight. After a dinner of peppers the next step was "Kathy, get the Iron Box".
The Iron Box meant that after dinner my parents would sit at the kitchen table and place small amounts of money in small white envelopes which had names on them like "doctor" "PG&E" "House". There was even an envelope for paying off my sister's birth who at that time was 3 years old. They would kid about owing money on us...and perhaps one of us would be repossessed. The first depiction of a family like mine on TV was Roseanne, and this scene in particular.
So, that's why I hated peppers.
26 years ago when I started cooking Indian food, I was a vegetarian and so was crazy about all sorts of vegetables...except peppers as an entree. The I discovered the many ways Indian cuisine used peppers, not just for spice and heat, but as the main feature of a dish. I tried cooking some Anaheim chilies and was hooked. The Iron Box was long gone, I was grown up and peppers were delicious when the budget wasn't holding a gun to ones' head.
When we bought our house in Sonoma, we xeriscaped for the drought, removed the lawn, built big wooden planter boxes on a drip irrigation system, and started growing vegetables. One of the first things I planted was Anaheim peppers. They can be prepared a variety of ways in Indian cuisine, and this recipe is simple, quick, and makes a great main dish served with spiced Basmati rice. Plus it's vegan, so there's that. Get your Anaheims ready and break out the coconut milk. Peppers are going Uptown!
Anaheim Peppers in Almond Cream Curry
Here's What You Need:
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 shallot finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh ginger
2 Tbs ground almonds
1 Tbs coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chili
1 lb Anaheim chilies
2 fresh tomatoes
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Here's What To Do:
Slit the Anaheim chilies down the middle and remove the seeds.
Rub them with a bit of oil and place them in a microwave-safe bowl.
Microwave them for about 3 minutes, you just want to soften them a bit. ( I do this sometimes with Anaheims and eggplant if I am in a hurry)
Take the softened Anaheims, remove the stems and cut them into slices.
Heat 2 Tbs of vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhai.
When the oil is hot, toss in the onion.
When the onion has started to brown a bit, add in the cinnamon stick, chopped shallot, chopped ginger, ground almonds.
Stir fry this over a medium high heat until the spices and ground almonds begin to darken. This happens pretty fast, about 3 minutes.
Add in the ground coriander, cumin, and Kashmiri chili.
Stir this around for about 15 seconds, then add in the coconut milk.
Bring this to a boil then turn the heat down to low, put a lid on the pan, and let it cook for about 10 minutes.
Check it every now and then to make sure nothing is sticking or burning.
When the mixture has reduced to a thick sauce, pour everything into a bowl and set it aside.
Meanwhile back at the pan.... add another Tbs of vegetable oil and when it's hot toss in the sliced Anaheim chilies.
Turn the heat down and bit and saute them for about 5 minutes.
Cut the tomatoes into 1 inch thick wedges.
When the peppers start to look glazed, toss in the tomatoes.
Turn the heat up and saute for another couple of minutes until the tomatoes soften.
Pour the sauce back into the pan.
Lower the heat and continue to cook for another few minutes....make sure nothing is burning.
If it starts to stick or burn you may add a bit of water to keep things moving.
When the peppers are soft but not too limp add in the cardamom and salt.
Once again, stir. Take the pan off the heat, add in another Tbs of coconut milk to smooth things out and serve over spiced Basmati rice.
Sprinkle a bit of cilantro on top of each plate. I happened to have some fresh, raw, shredded coconut so I scattered a bit of that on top also.
This dish was delicious. Not too hot, creamy without any cream and filling. Alan who has never been a vegetarian loved it. He was totally happy with his peppers and never missed any meat. Obviously this Hyderabad classic is going to be a keeper at our house, especially since we have a bumper crop of Anaheim chilies this year!
Coming up next more Indian treats from the garden follow along on Twitter @kathygori