Saturday, March 19, 2016

Cauliflower with Amchur

This week cauliflower prices have plummeted!!! So we shall be cooking a whole lot of white. Today's cauliflower special is a quick saute, an Indian subji. I divide the florets into long thin spears. An Indian sautéed vegetable almost always starts with a tarka. Tarka is heated oil or ghee, to which you add a range of whole spices like cumin, cinnamon, cloves, red chiles, curry leaves...the list is longer than my arm! The tarka is step one. Then you layer up. Once the whole spices have browned, other items are added. Each tarka beginning is unique to the recipe. Vegetables beg for different spices. Today's cauliflower has a short list of them.

Long cauliflower spears allow for more browning surface. Along with them I cut thin ribbons of ginger. Ginger browns along with cumin, red chiles and fennel seeds. As they fry my kitchen smells like my mum's. That's always a good thing. Cauliflower is sautéed along with turmeric, chile powder and amchur. Amchur, made from dried mango, has a distinctive taste. It imparts a tart lemony flavor. A large pinch of garam masala finishes the spice palate. Covered and cooked on a slow flame, cauliflower caramelizes as it cooks in its own steam bath. Not adding water to the pan lets the vegetables take on an appealing bronzed look. Unless you burn them. So keep that flame low to medium and check vegetables often!

Serves 4

1 medium sized Cauliflower 
3 tablespoons Canola Oil 
1 inch piece of Ginger
1-2 dried Red Chiles 
1/2 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/4 teaspoon Garam Masala 
1 teaspoon Amchur powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
Fresh Cilantro Sprigs

Cut cauliflower into big florets. Slice florets in half. Lay the halves on their cut side and cut them into thin longish spears. If this is too complicated, by all means cut the vegetable into small florets. The more flat surface area the cauliflower has, the more the caramelization as its cooks. But that's my preference. 

Peel ginger and cut into thin matchsticks. You should have a heaping tablespoon.

Heat oil in a nonstick saucepan. Make sure the pan has a corresponding tight fitting lid.

Add ginger, cumin, fennel and red chile. Saute till ginger browns.

Drop florets into oil. 

Sprinkle turmeric, chile, garam masala and amchur powders over cauliflower. Stir till mixed well.

Add kosher salt and mix.

Lower flame between low and medium. Cover saucepan with a tight fitting lid and let cauliflower pan roast for 15 minutes. Stir the florets every now and then so they don't stick to the pan. Or just shake the pan vigorously from time to time. 

Uncover, top with fresh cilantro and eat with chappatti or rice.

Undoubtedly cauliflower is the family favorite. The subji disappears as dinner progresses. The challenge persists...what else will I make with this versatile vegetable?