Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Fall Pantry: Roasting, toasting and pasting

Indian food. By far my favorite. Raghavan Iyer, my Indian cooking mentor. I meet Raghavan a few years ago when I took my first Indian cooking class. I was so undone I asked him to host my 50th birthday party, a cooking class for 10 in my own kitchen. We were spellbound as Raghavan moved through the kitchen showing us how to make a few classic Indian dishes and then spun tales from India and read from his book The Turmeric Trail, a poignant story of his grandmother's awakening. His cookbooks are pieces of art and literature as far as I am concerned. Perhaps my favorite part of each book is the chapter dedicated to the tutorial of spices and endless recipes for rubs, pastes and spice blends. I have learned so much about spices from Raghavan. Always purchase spices in small amounts, get them in their whole form when ever possible, store them in air tight containers away from light and heat. I have learned that each spice renders a plethora of flavor depending on what you do with it. You get a completely different flavor from grinding, roasting, toasting and using it whole. I love spending a day mixing small batches of Ragavan's blends together to have on hand for impromptu Indian cooking. Madras Curry Masala Punjabi Garam Masala, Sambhar Masala, Panch Phoron, Tangy Sambhar Masala, Toasted Ground Cumin Blend, the list is endless. Perhaps my favorite however are the pastes I can throw together and freeze in ice cube trays to have on hand, Garlic, Ginger, Fried onion Paste and Red Chili Vinegar Paste. When I need fresh grated ginger I always seem to get way too much. Making a paste out of what I don't use is a great way to use the left over ginger before it goes bad.

Ragavan's Ginger Paste

8 ounces coarsely chopped fresh ginger (Raghavan says you don't need to peel it but I do)
Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup water into a blender jar, add the ginger. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed until it forms a smooth, light brown paste. Store in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for one week. I like to put 1 tablespoon portions in ice cube trays and freeze. Once they are frozen pop them out and transfer to a freezer bag.

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