- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Short daylight, long aroma. That’s my kitchen haiku for January. Actually, I think a true haiku needs to be a few syllables longer, so let me expand it into a diatribe, which I believe is a somewhat elongated haiku.

Regardless of our poetic souls and imaginations, we humans are basically just a verbal herd of mammals. We slow down during the winter months and tend to crave fuller, slightly richer foods with more calories, complexity and heft.

This is as much, if not more, physiological as it is psychological. Our instincts also lead us to highly aromatic foods, as if attraction to the evocative smells of the hearth were a survival mechanism rooted firmly in our hardwiring.

This is the time of year to create colorful, nutritionally dense vegetable melanges with flavorful sauces that can be ladled over rice and gussied up with crunchy or chewy garnishes. Such a dish, like the carrot-cashew curry that follows, can be served vegetarian or over chicken, fish or meat as a terrific chunky sauce.

If you serve carrot-cashew curry solo, you will still get a good dose of what I like to call “gatherer proteins.” (This is “hunter-gatherer” without the first part.) The gatherer proteins in nuts, grains, legumes, eggs and dairy products combine well to make a complete set of amino acids. This is important as we stoke the furnace of our bodies to keep us alert and warm during the cold months.

Serve carrot-cashew curry over brown basmati rice. If you put the rice up to cook before you begin the curry, both should be done at about the same time. Use 2 parts rice to 3 parts water, and put them together in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat to the slowest possible simmer, cover and cook uninterrupted for 40 minutes or until tender. Fluff with a fork to let steam escape, then salt lightly to taste.

To make a complete and festive meal, garnish with your favorite chutney and some simple raita, which is a lightly seasoned yogurt. My favorite simple raita involves the addition of some minced cilantro and lightly toasted cumin seeds to plain whole-milk yogurt, along with a light sprinkling of coarse salt and pepper.

Carrot-cashew curry

2 tablespoons canola oil or peanut oil

1 tablespoon grated ginger root

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon whole dill or fennel seeds

1 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 cups sliced red onion

4 large cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons salt

2 medium-sized potatoes, thinly sliced (peeling optional)

6 large carrots, thinly sliced

2 cups orange juice

Cayenne pepper

1 medium-sized red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup yogurt

Cooked brown rice

1 cups cashews, lightly toasted

Chutney and raita, optional

Heat a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven. Add the oil and wait about 30 seconds for it to warm up, then swirl to coat the pan. Add the ginger root, mustard seeds and dill or fennel seeds, and saute over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the seeds begin to pop. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, onion, garlic, salt, potatoes and carrots. Saute for another 5 minutes, then add the orange juice. Cover, turn heat to medium-low, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Add cayenne to taste and bell pepper. Cover and let it stew another few minutes, until the bell pepper is just barely cooked. (At this point it can be set aside until shortly before serving.) Heat the curry just before serving, stirring in the yogurt at the very last minute. Serve over rice topped with cashews and with chutney and raita, if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


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