I simply can't wait for Spring to come and brighten up everything around here! It feels like it's been snowing forever now. I guess it takes a depressing winter to appreciate the sun peeping out of the white clouds and a perfectly blue sky. The snow does make the whole city look beautiful in pristine white, but its what it does to the roads that I hate. I am still just as terrified of driving in snow as I was two seasons ago. How do you get used to it? I really wish I knew. For now, I take the easy way out but staying in :D Brilliant idea ? Definitely not!
One of the things I cut in my travel list over the last few months was the trip to the Indian grocery store that is 30miles North of where I live. Its a nightmare to drive up there since its in the snow belt and it gets really bad when it snows. The local stores have had a good selection of winter veggies during these months, and since its a warm hearty soup that I crave most often, it has worked out, it had to ;) Early this month I visited my brother (or was it the Sun :P) in Houston, and sneaked in a little grocery shopping, yes a pack of urad dal and cumin seeds came all the way from Houston :))
Last weekend was a little better here and I spent nearly an hour at the Indian store going through all the aisles and looking for new products on the shelves. I bought some fresh vegetables like bottle gourd, bitter gourd and dondakaya/tindora. I also spotted a 5 lb bag of Sona masoori and just had to pick it up. Most of last year the stores here did not stock sona masoori, they only had basmati, which I prefer only for biryani's or pulaos and not for everyday cooking. I bought the US grown white/brown rice from the organic store here instead. So this weekend I decided on having a comforting meal to invite the dear grain back into the kitchen...I love its flavor and could actually eat it on its own :D
I am feeling hungry just looking at the plate again! I had the curry for lunch and dinner over the weekend and was going for seconds each time, it was a very satisfying meal. I usually use the sorakaya in a sambar or kootu or steamed, but this time I did not want the dal to take over. I still needed the protein part though, and so increased the qty of channa dal in the tadka and let it soften along with the bottle gourd. The curry has a really nice tangy edge to it from the tomatoes. If the tomatoes you have aren't doing their job, add a little tamarind extract to help them along. The powdered peanuts and sesame and a subtle nutty flavor and texture to the curry, and also thicken it up a bit. On the whole it was delicious and I'm surely going to use this recipe again.Bottle gourd & tomato curryIngredients:
- 11/2 cup - Bottle gourd/sorakaya/dudhi, peeled, de-seeded and cubed
- 1 cup - Ripe tomatoes, dicedOptional: 1/2 tsp - tamarind extract if tomatoes aren't tangy enough
- 1/2 cup - Onions, diced
- 11/2 Tbsp - Channa dal
- 2-3 nos - Green chillies, slit lengthwise
- 6-7 nos - Curry leaves, roughly chopped/torn
- 1/2 tsp - Mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp - Cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp - Turmeric powder
- 3/4 Tbsp - Oil
- Salt to taste
- 2 tsp - Sesame seeds/til/nuvvulu, toasted (I microwaved them for 11/2 mins in 30sec intervals)
- 1 Tbsp - Peanuts, dry roasted
- couple of sprigs of Cilantro
- Heat a saucepan with oil, splutter the mustard and cumin seeds. Add the channa dal next, as it starts changing color add the green chillies, curry leaves and turmeric. Saute for 30sec until the chillies soften and the dal has a deep orange hue.
- Add the onions and saute until they turn translucent. The tomatoes go in next along with some salt, cook for 5-7mins until they soften and turn to a mush.
- Add the cubed bottle gourd to this along with a cup of water, cover and cook on medium heat until they soften and yield to a gentle press ~ 10-12mins. You could also microwave them separately for a few minutes before adding them to the onion-tomato mix.
- Finally, coarsely powder the toasted sesame seeds and peanuts in a mortar and pestle and add it to the curry. Cook for 5-6 mins, allowing the flavors to blend and thicken the curry a little. Taste for seasonings & add more salt if needed.
- Garnish with cilantro/coriander leaves and serve along with hot rice/chapathis and the quintessential Andhra avakaya and crispies on the side :)