Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gourmet Today: Zucchini Curry (p. 331)

Anyone who's ever had a backyard garden (or for that matter, even known anybody who's had a backyard garden) knows that zucchini is the most resilient and abundant of Summer's produce. Regardless of drought, disease or pests, there will always be tons of zucchini come July and August, and people will always be looking for creative uses for it. And with at least a couple of zucchinis in my CSA box each week, I was in need of some inspiration.

Now, I don't have many complaints about The Gourmet Cookbook, but one thing that I wish it had more of is zucchini recipes. There are just nine, and I've already made four of them. Gourmet Today, on the other hand, has twenty (!) different zucchini recipes. And for my first taste of the Vegetarian Main Courses chapter, I chose this recipe for Zucchini Curry.

The first thing I did was to toast some mustard seeds and cumin seeds in a small skillet. The recipe says to heat the seeds "until cumin seeds are fragrant and a shade darker and mustard seeds pop, about 2 minutes. Cool." Once I saw the mustard seeds popping, I thought that the recipe should have said "Cool!" instead. These things were popping all over the place like little exploding bbs.

Next, using my mortar and pestle, I pounded some garlic and a chopped serrano pepper into a paste with some grated fresh ginger and salt. The recipe calls for a jalepeno, but I had some serranos leftover from the CSA box, so that's what I used. Even with that substitution, I thought that the finished product could have been even hotter. I added some curry powder and the toasted cumin and mustard seeds to the paste and set it aside.

Then, I cooked some thinly sliced onions in oil until they were golden brown. I added the curry paste and cooked it for a few more minutes. In with the zucchini (cut into good-sized chunks), and cook for a few minutes "until it begins to look moist." Then I added a can of coconut milk and a bit of salt. After simmering for a little while, it was ready to eat, served over Basmati rice and sprinkled with some chopped cilantro and cashews.

This was a very good curry. Fragrant, flavorful and creamy. It was almost like an Indian risotto. It was quick and easy to make, another good weeknight meal. My semi-veg wife, however, had a complaint about this dish. A lot of "vegetarian" dishes are nothing more than "regular" dishes without the meat. This dish, she said, was basically a chicken curry without the chicken. She's a little bitter after one too many meals at banquet halls when, after flagging down a waiter to ask for the "vegetarian dinner" and waiting while everyone else eats their stuffed chicken breast or petite filet, only to be given a plate of plain cold steamed vegetables. A really good vegetarian meal isn't about what it doesn't have (i.e., meat), it's about what it does have ... substance, interest, flavor (and a little bit of protein wouldn't hurt, either). In this dish, even a can of chickpeas or a handful of lentils would have been an improvement in my wife's opinion. That said, this was a tasty dish, and we devoured it.

As I finish writing this post, I just noticed, that without even realizing it, the first three dishes I picked from Gourmet Today are all Indian-inspired dishes. A coincidence? Or am I maybe subconsciously taking advantage of the increased emphasis on ethnic recipes in Gourmet Today? Either way, it's good eats.

Date Cooked: September 7, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B+

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