Friday, November 9, 2007

Willing to bargain curry for stain remover

Another week is over. Let's all breathe a sigh of relief, reward ourselves with a sliver of Lindt goodness, turn Feist on softly, and curl up on top of our duvet for a lazy nap.

This was the vision playing through my head a little bit ago, but as I headed for that rumpled, cozy duvet I stopped short and had to laugh/groan. A relatively big spot shone back at me in a hue suspiciously identical to my highlighter pen. The humor was found in envisioning, from a third-person perspective, the early hours of this morning, in which I dragged myself out of bed at 6:22 (after hitting snooze four times) to study for a quiz. My desk chair looked especially uncomfortable at that hour, so I splashed water on my face and propped my pillows up in bed with my book...and highlighter.

I recall being quite alert for a good half hour; then my eyelids started to shut. After fighting half-dreams and random thoughts like I wonder what time it is in New Zealand? I reset my alarm for eight o'clock.

It took until three in the afternoon for me to realized I had left the cap off my highlighter during my morning nap!

Oh dear. The repercussions of college life.

I love the whole college life thing, but I hate it. I hate the exhaustion, but I love the learning. I never want to stop learning. I know that's not a legitimate fear in the broader concept of "learning," but it's wonderful to have hundreds of classes at my fingertips. I don't want to be a full-time student for too much longer, but I want to be able to take French, Islamic history, poetry, gender studies, current issues of Timbuktu, and all subjects in between whenever I can.

I also want to continue living in community. Not in a bleak hall, dependent upon a cafeteria for "nourishment," as a freshman again, but with at least one housemate, a kitchen to share, and enough togetherness that the faulty smoke alarm and homely coffee table don't matter so much.

Currently our apartment possesses one such temperamental smoke alarm that insists upon chirping every five minutes (only new visitors notice it now), but that noise never stops May, June, and me from enjoying a good meal together. And last night it was a sweet, spicy, creamy coconut milk curry (those are six of my favorite words!).

Have I crooned about India yet on this blog? Well, if you know me, there's no need to say more, but if you are not familiar with my sentiments for this exotic, crowded, colorful, poor, joyful, caste-burdened country then you're in for a little explanation...

The funny thing is there is not really an explanation. Sure, my aunt and uncle have lived in Chennai for as long as I can remember. Sure, my mom has brought food into our home from all over the world, including India. But I've never been there. I've received sterling silver jewelry from Chennai since I was little. My brothers and dad traveled to India when I was in high school and brought back stories and pictures. But I've never been there. Visits from my aunt's family meant pirated Bollywood movies and authentic feasts with chapatis for silverware. (And that should turn an American off to Indian food right there! But it didn't.) And I still haven't actually been there.

Oh, do I ever want to go!

I thumb through every Indian cookbook I come across and have begun my own Bollywood collection and try very hard not to stereotype or put a glossy cover on all things Indian as I await my flight across the Pacific.

Last night I pulled out a new cookbook in honor of India and was so excited to try it. I didn't even realize how simple the recipe I had chosen was until I was through with the last step and asking myself, "That's it?"

Yes, that is it. Simple goodness. Don't question, just get a spoon, blow away the steam, and slurp.

Butternut Squash and Green Beans in a Coconut-Milk Curry
Adapted from 5 spices, 50 recipes, by Ruta Kahate

8 oz. butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1/2 c. water
8 oz. green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 c. canned coconut milk
2 T. canola oil
1/4 t. mustard seeds (preferably black or brown variety)
2 medium green serrano chiles, minced
3 tablespoons coarsly chopped cashews (I had almonds on hand and they worked wonderfully)

1. Cook the butternut squash in a saucepan with the 1/2 cup of water and pinch of salt. Once done, remove with a slotted spoon and place green beans in, adding water as necessary.

2. Return squash to the pan with beans and pour in coconut milk, adding more salt if desired. Allow curry to come to a boil and then immediately reduce to low. It will thicken slightly over the next 8-10 minutes.
*Ruta advises not to stir the pot during this time since squash may crumble, but you may shake the pan if you can't resist the urge or need to mix the ingredients.

3. Transfer curry to serving bowl(s) and make tadka: heat oil in a skillet on high until it just begins to smoke and then toss in mustard seeds and quickly place lid on top to avoid flying seeds and hot oil. (Confession: I burned my first batch because I let the oil get too hot.) Once the mustard seeds stop sputtering, add chiles and nuts and shake pan over medium heat until nuts are toasted and golden brown.

Pour tadka over curry and serve.

Makes 4 (modest) servings.


Rachael said...

I can't wait to share an Indian meal or two with you over your Christmas break! And there will be time for a Mexican, Italian, Thai,...meals,too.
Oh yes, our Norwegian Christmas breakfast.
But better than food, I can't wait to see your beautiful face every morning for nearly a month!

Lael said...

agreed. faces are better than food any day, though your face and food are one darn good combo!