Saturday, September 30, 2023

Potato, Cauliflower & Pea Curry (Aloo Gobi Matar) for Cook the Books August/September Pick: Love & Saffron

It's Cook the Books time again. (OK, it's a bit past but I'm hosting so...). As usual, work is keeping me massively busy and likely will for the next bit as I hit six months in my new company and new role. It's all good, just not much time and energy leftover, which is why I am happy I selected Love & Saffron: A Novel of Friendship, Food & Love by Kim Fay for our Cook the Books August/September pick. It's a quick and delightful read, full of delicious food and engaging characters. 

From the Publisher's blurb:

"Two strangers. One recipe. A friendship for the ages.

Creamy risotto alla Milanese. Mussels in a hot, buttery broth. Chicken spiced with cinnamon and cloves. Joan Bergstrom and Imogen Fortier understand the key to a savored life—delicious food. Young Joan is just discovering herself as a foodwriter in bustling Los Angeles, while experienced columnist Imogen is settled in her decades-long marriage on Camano Island outside Seattle. When Joan sends a fan letter to Imogen with an enclosed packet of saffron and a recipe, their journey of culinary exploration and soul-deep friendship begins. 

A long-lost flavor surfaces buried memories, and a quest to make carne asada opens the doors of a sheltered life. Into this beautiful, intimate world comes the ultimate test of their friendship, and of their belief that food and love can sustain us during our darkest hours."

I loved this book! The letters that chronicled the friendship between Joan and Imogen were wonderful. Set in the 1960s, when "snail mail" was the option for penpals, they moved from strangers to a solid friendship over the years. It made me both smile and brought me to tears as both women faced challenges in their lives and were there for each other during them. I loved that Immy lived in Seattle (my old stomping grounds) and the mentions of Frederick & Nelson department store and Frango Mints as I worked there in the late 80s and the mints are still an occasional treat from Macy's. The fact that an earlier Cook the Books pick, The Unprejudiced Palate was mentioned and its author Angelo Pellegrini was a secondary character was also fun. But mainly I loved watching a friendship forged in delicious food unfold. 

There was so much food packed in the pages from risotto to hamburgers and hot dogs, Hungarian chicken, homemade blackberry jam, omelettes with saffron and herbs de Provence, cottage cheese and salmon mold, tamales, grilled crab, chile rellenos, meatloaf, jerk chicken, pesto, teriyaki and tempura, ceviche, Aplets & Cotlets (another Pacific Northwest tradition), coq au vin, clam chowder, aebleskivers, homemade sausage in Milanese stew, heart of palm salad, muffins, and apple butter--just to name some of it. 

For my book inspired dish, I ended up going with curry. Joan wrote, "At Stanford I was drawn to students from India because they cooked up little pots of curry in their rooms." I too am drawn to the smells of a delicious curry and I love how easy it is to knock one together. I decided on an old favorite, Aloo Gobi Matar which is simple potatoes, cauliflower and peas in a dryish simple tomato curry, served with rice. 

Potato, Cauliflower & Pea Curry (Aloo Gobi Matar)
Slightly Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
(Makes 4-5 servings)

1/4 cup ghee or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp finely chopped ginger 
1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic 
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chile powder or to taste
1.5 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped/quartered depending on size
salt to taste
1 bag (12-oz) frozen cauliflower florets, thawed
1 (14-oz) can crushed tomatoes
3/4 cup coconut milk, water or broth
1 cup frozen green sweet peas, thawed
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil or ghee over medium heat in a large heavy-bottom pan. Add onion, ginger, garlic, and chile; cook, stirring often, until soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, and chile powder and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add cauliflower, potatoes, and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk or broth and peas and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer about 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender. Stir in cilantro and season to taste with more salt as needed. Serve with basmati rice. 

Notes/Results: Just a good simple curry--hearty and good. You can change around the spices, add more chile, or liquid if desired. This hit the spot as I was craving curry and I'd happily make it again. 

I'll be rounding up the dishes from this round of Cook the Books shortly on the site. If you missed this round and love food, books and foodie book, join us for our October/November round, hosted by Claudia of Honey From Rock. We'll be reading The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller