Book club (Indian Food!)

My wife is part of a book club where they all ready the same book and the get together to talk about it. Each time they meet at one of the members houses and that person is supposed to provide something to eat. Ideally, the food is somehow related to the book that they will be discussing.

This month, the meeting was at our house and the book was Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. It is a set of short stories about the Indian American experience. So, I was tasked to make Indian food.

I love cooking unusual (for me) foods, and this was a great challenge. Fortunately, I had the perfect cookbook for the task: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi. My version was published in 1987, but the recipes are still fresh. This evening, my menu included:

Simple Yellow Rice (pg 11)
Chickpea and Ginger root salad (pg 363)
Crispy-fried Eggplant slices (pg 461)
Garden Tomato Soup (pg 241)
Spiced Creamed Spinach (pg 259)

Everything was very tasty. The book club loved the food and left over just a bit of rice and a single bowl of soup. In the interest of sharing, here is my version of Spiced Creamed Spinach and Garden Tomato Soup.

Spiced Creamed Spinach
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (cusbara)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons butter
2 pounds (1 kg) fresh spinach
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Mix the spices and the water, removing any lumps. Melt the butter in a large pot with a cover and pour in the spice mixture. Cook for 2-4 minutes. Pack the spinach into the pot, add the salt and cover with the heat turned down for 5-10 minutes. Open the top, stir and recover until the spinach is uniformly cooked. Remove the pot from the heat, add the yogurt and stir to incorporate. Do not simmer the yogurt. Serve warm.

Garden Tomato Soup
4 tablespoons butter
8 large tomatoes, cored and diced
1 bay leaf
5 peppercorns
1/2 piece of ginger, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
8 cups of water
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup heavy cream
2-4 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the tomatoes, ginger, bay leaf, peppercorns and cumin along with 1/2 cup of water. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until the tomatoes are soft. Mash the tomatoes in the liquid with a fork or spatula. Add the water and parsley and bring back to a boil. Add the heavy cream and the basil and bring back to a simmer. Taste and serve.

What fun to cook this food. I usually have most of these spices in my pantry anyway, but I don't usually put them together in this way. Have fun.



Talia said…
Thanks for the great food, Elliot!
One correction:
Coriander seeds are Cusbara, Cardamon is Hel


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