Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Though we usually prefer eating in, on occasion I do like going to restaurants which challenge me to be a better cook, which inspire me, and which awake my senses with interesting dishes. One of my favorite things to do whenever I eat food that someone else has prepared is to discern individual ingredients. Some ingredients immediately stand out because of their potency (such as garlic), some linger in the background, familiar yet elusive, like a face that you know you've seen before but you can't instantly recall where. For this task, I especially like Indian cooking, because of the way different spices and flavors blend together but at the same time are quite strong to stand out individually. One of my favorites is the green chutney, because of its strong cilantro base and gentle heat of the chilies, as well as the harmonious blend of the other ingredients: mint, onion, lime juice and (sometimes) yogurt.
When I first tried it at our old neighborhood Indian restaurant, I was overwhelmed by the fresh aroma of the cilantro and mint, and by the chutney's sweet tanginess, slightly grainy texture and vivid green color. It went so well together with warm naan. When the main dishes were brought out I was still too absorbed in it to pay any attention to the curries. And I knew I would not be satisfied until I made one of my own.
I have tried several different versions in my kitchen, and came up which best suited my palate and recreated that first taste.
Adapted from: Camellia Panjabi, 50 Great Curries of India
(Makes about 1/3 cup)
You will need:
2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro, big stems removed
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1 scallion, sliced
1 serrano pepper, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 tbsp)
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp ground ginger
Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and purée until smooth and well blended. Serve in a small bowl with naan or pita bread.