When I was in junior high, in some sort of strange effort to engage in what I had convinced myself was some sort of rite of passage, I enrolled in Home Economics.
You’ll be happy to note that I aced the babysitting module and, inexplicably, ironing. This prevented me from outright failing the course because when it came to cooking and sewing, I quickly found I did not give two shits about either. I overcame my aversion to sewing when I found work in a pants-manufacturer after dropping out of college, but my cooking experience was pretty much limited to boiling water, nuking frozen food, and the three times I engaged in the preparation of vegetable soup from scratch between the years 1996 and 2000.
Over the past year, in conjunction with treatment for depression/anxiety, I have been slowly overcoming my fear of cooking. I’m not an over-enthusiastic cook, nor do I prepare anything very complicated. But I am quite proud of my newfound ability to prepare a complete dinner without a recipe, and yesterday I was bitten by the same bug that used to compel the veggie soup.
I have been meaning to make a garam masala for over a year and I’ll never know why I finally decided that yesterday was the day but I came home from dropping Lucy off at school, washed out my mortar and pestle, and got to work.
Jen’s Garam Masala
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp black peppercorn
- 2 T coriander seed
- 1/2 T cumin seed
- 1/2 tsp whole cloves
- 1 T ground cardamom
- 2 T turmeric
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 chile de arbol, de-seeded
roasted on low (minus turmeric, chili, cardamom), stirring constantly. Let cool slightly, then mixed in turmeric and cardamom. Lots and lots of mortar-and-pestling before I realized that I couldn’t hand grind the cinnamon. Quick trip through the coffee grinder, and then into airtight plastic container. I didn’t think of the chile until later so it was torn up rather than ground. I think next time I will do half the cinnamon and two chiles. And definitely will get cardamom pods instead of using ground cardamom.
I actually made the garam masala without having a clear idea what I would do with it but since we had tomatoes and lentils, a dhal made the most sense. I spent about an hour looking at recipes online before deciding to use this one as a basis. Obviously I used my garam masala instead of her spices, and I didn’t have all of her ingredients so this is what I used:
- 1 cup yellow lentils
- 1 small white onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- Jen’s garam masala (about 1/3 of what I made above)
- 4 cups water
- 1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
- 4 chopped tomatoes
- 6 baby carrots, grated
I covered the lentils with 2 inches of water and cooked them for not long enough–probably 20 minutes (next time I will give them the full 45). While those were cooking I sauteed the onions for 5 minutes in olive oil then threw in the garlic and masala for another 5. I added the 4 cups of water and stirred, then the drained lentils and tomato paste, simmering for 20 minutes. While it was simmering, I grated in the baby carrots which thickened it. After simmering for 20, I added the tomatoes and cooked until the lentils were tender.
Then, because I am a freak and cannot stand the texture of tomatoes, I poured the whole mix into the foley food mill and pureed it. I served it over Jasmine rice and if I had thought ahead I would have garnished with some cilantro for the husband and parsley for me (I hate cilantro.) Next time I will also add more garlic, probably 6 cloves instead of 3, because the spice needed rounding out.
I have been really bad about making meatless meals–as a novice cook it is much easier to do a one-pot meal with meat than without. I’m hoping to do more experimenting with beans now that I have successfully done one dish. Tonight I’m back to stir-fry though 🙂