by Stacey on March 13th, 2013
My first experience with Indian food was my senior year of college. Having grown up in a household that focused on traditionally European flavors, it was quite the shock at the time–and entirely too spicy for my “delicate” palate. It was January and a period of the school year known as Interim. As it was my senior year and as I had traveled both my sophomore and junior Interim periods, I stayed on campus and took a literature course entitled Food for Thought. During the month, the class read three different books from different cultures and finished each experience with a trip to an ethnic restaurant. The entire course wrapped with a Southern cooking lesson at the local culinary school.
The second book we read during the course was Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes by Shoba Narayan. I loved the way the author married the stories of her childhood with the foods of her native Southern India. The narrative drew me in and held me captive with stories of an exotic (to me) culture. Then came the actual food. The entire class visited Taj India, perhaps the best Indian restaurant in our city. The decor was fascinating, the descriptions interesting, and the food…different. Needless to say, while I enjoyed the experience, the food was another matter.
It was not until three years later, on my then-fiancé’s birthday that I returned to Taj India and Indian food in general. Turns out he and his family LOVE Indian food. I, understandably, was quite nervous. However, they walked me through it, coached me in ordering, and introduced me to approachable foods. I. Fell. In. Love. I really did. I love Indian food. I crave it. As we do not have a decent restaurant where we live, we almost always go to Taj when we visit The Boy’s parents.
Over the past year I’ve begun experimenting with Indian food in my own kitchen. It has been an experience–with more trial and error than success. I found that the quality of my spices made a huge difference and once I learned that lesson, dishes began to turn out better for me. This meal was a winner in our book. The Boy and I both loved the flavors and textures. While not too spicy, it still nailed some of the traditional Indian flavors. If you enjoy Indian food, I highly recommend this meal. We served the chicken on top of the stew, with Naan (Indian bread) for dipping. A Mango Lassi would have perfected the meal.
Adapted from Savoring India by Julie Sahni
Serving Size: 4
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice or malt vinegar
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon peeled and grated or crushed ginger root
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Vegetable oil cooking spray
Fresh cilantro sprigs for garnish
Prick the flesh of the chicken all over with a fork. Then, using a sharp knife, cut slashes in the flesh to allow the marinade to penetrate. Place the chicken in a large plastic Zip Loc bag.
In a nonreactive bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper, cardamom, cloves, black pepper and salt. Stir until well-mixed, then pour the mixture over the chicken, seal the bag, and rub it into the flesh. Refrigerate chicken for at least 8 hours or overnight, squishing the bag every so often to redistribute marinade. (Do not marinate for longer than 2 days.) Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.
To roast chicken, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil and place 1-2 wire racks on top; spray racks with oil. Remove thighs from the marinade, pressing to extract any excess. Place on wire racks (ensuring there is space between each thigh. Spray lightly with cooking spray, flip, and spray again. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until temperature registers 165 degrees. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
If grilling, preheat the grill to medium heat. Remove thighs from the marinade, pressing to extract any excess. Spray lightly with cooking spray, flip, and spray again. Place on well-oiled grates and grill until the thighs reach 165 degrees, turning several times (time will vary based on the intensity of the heat). Charring is good. Allow to rest for several minutes before serving.
Serve with sprigs of cilantro.
Nutritional Information Per Serving: 303 calories, 33 percent calories from fat, 45 grams protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, .54 gram total fiber, 11 grams total fat, 124 milligrams cholesterol, 707 milligrams sodium.
Slow Cooker South Indian Lentil Stew
Adapted from Weight Watchers
Serving Size: 6 (1 cup per serving)
2 cup(s) dry red lentils
15 ounces canned diced tomatoes
10 ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 cup(s) canned chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1 medium uncooked, onion(s), minced
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger root, fresh, minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup(s) cilantro, fresh, minced
Rinse and pick through lentils. Spray slow cooker with cooking spray and combine all ingredients, except lemon juice and cilantro, in a slow cooker. Cook until thick and creamy and lentil are soft, about 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired; stir in lemon juice and cilantro.
Nutrition Information Per Serving: 6 Points Plus