19 August 2011

Indian Stir-Fry

Today Julia and I suddenly decided to make stir-fry from scratch. We had never made one together before, and this dish twisted and turned in unexpected directions. First we turned on the rice cooker to perfectly cook Japanese white rice. Because the cooker was set to "Regular," we had only another 40 minutes to finish the stir-fry.

We quickly took stock of Julia's pantry and fridge. Julia likes cooking authentic Indian food, and she keeps a lot of Indian-type spices on hand. But stir-fries lean Chinese, at least in the U.S. Luckily the two cuisines overlap somewhat. After choosing peanut oil for the frying part, we hazily recreated the spice blend from a red lentil soup George likes: tamarind paste, peeled and chopped tomatoes, fresh ginger, cumin, coriander, and salt.

The last trick was to cook each vegetable the exact right length of time so that the flavors remained fresh and the texture not mushy. Julia had a goodly stock of broccoli, mushrooms, onions, and snap peas. Onions need the longest to cook to a gentle, mellow flavor. When they begin to brown, it's time to add fresh ginger, garlic and dry spices. These flavors sauté into the onions for one minute and then you add the next vegetable: broccoli. Well-chopped broccoli takes about eight minutes to cook uncovered. Three minutes after the broccoli, I add the sliced mushrooms. When ours had reduced to a savory juiciness, Julia added a mixture of tamarind paste and chopped tomatoes. At this point we adjusted the salt. Finally, we added the sliced peas for that essential crunch one minute before removing the frypan from heat.

Julia served the stir-fry over rice with a poached egg on top. Besides enjoying the complimentary mix of colors, flavors, and textures, we felt smug about eating something healthy. Doug, puffed with pride after having made his first gazpacho, complained that there was no garlic in the stir-fry. This was true. Then he complained that there were no onions. In fact we had added more than 1 large onion. So after that we ignored his opinion. After he gets over the cold I cruelly conferred upon him, I bet he will be able to taste things again.

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