Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Subcontinental Kale and Coconut

The spice combinations in Indian food are to die for and if you buy them already mixed, it couldn't be easier to make your own at home. This kale dish is inspired by a similar one I tasted at a Sri Lankan restaurant in Santa Cruz. It's simple and delicious. I made it with a rice pilaf, which I started first because it takes longer.

The ingredients for the pilaf: the little pile in front is whole cumin seeds

First rinse the basmati rice thoroughly, ideally until the water runs clear.

Then place in a saucepan with equal parts water. I used a cup and a half of each. Add about 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons butter, oil, or I used earth balance, and a teaspoon whole cumin.

Place on the stove uncovered on medium-high heat (that's about the highest my stove goes) until it bubbles around the edges. Then cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn the heat down to simmer.

Meanwhile, the ingredients for the kale: The white stuff is unsweetened dried shredded coconut. The spice mixture consists of cumin, mustard seeds, coriander, fennel, and fenugreek. Really, any indian spices will work. Cardamom is also pictured but i didn't use it. It's just mixed in with the coriander. Also optional red pepper flakes are not pictured.

start chopping an onion. I used what was left over from making tuna salad yesterday. If you're using a whole onion (which i encourage), start by cutting off the ends, then halve it lengthwise. Make slices about a centimeter apart from top to bottom, but don't cut all the way through. Then turn the onion 90 degrees and start chopping, all the way through this time.

Now heat a skillet and enough olive oil to coat the bottom to medium-high . Throw in a handful of the whole spices. Okay, if I had to measure, I'd say 1 tablespoon. But i don't measure and neither should you.

Once the seeds start sizzling and popping, add the onion, giving it a good stir. At this point, add a generous pinch of salt, some freshly ground pepper, as much or as little crushed red pepper as you'd like.

Let the onions soften. Meanwhile, turn your attention to the garlic. Crush it and remove the skins, then mince.

At this point, your rice should be almost done. Quickly reach in and grab a little with a fork (replace the lid as quickly as possible and don't stir!). If it's tender, turn off the heat, add a handful of frozen peas and replace the lid. Let it sit.

Now scrape all the onions into a little bed and place the garlic on top. The heat from the onions will begin to cook it but it won't get burned.

Now slice the kale into 1/2-inch slices.

Add the kale to the skillet and toss with tongs. Throw a big handful of the coconut on top and toss that in too.

Saute for a minute so, until the kale wilts slightly. Now turn off the heat and cover the skillet. The kale will steam itself a little more, but won't become soggy. You want it to retain a bite.

Now check the rice. The peas should be warm now. Fluff the rice with a fork and taste. You might need to add a touch more salt and another pat of earth balance makes it extra delicious. Check the seasonings of the kale too, then plate. Eat alone or as side dishes to a lentil curry (if you happen to have some lying around) or another protein.

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