Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Menu: Indian for the Family

My dad and stepmother came to visit us for pre-Christmas. In the past few years, they've come the same weekend as our big Holiday Party, bring tamales from Texas for the event. There was a conflict this year so they came up the week before. Which was great, because usually a LOT of visiting time is lost to party preparations. And recovery. The less said about that, the better.
In making arrangements for this trip, I realized that, despite all of my talk about cooking over the years, I haven't actually cooked a meal for them since 1988. Seriously.

And boy, that was a disaster (though everyone was very nice about it).

So, with the new kitchen and all of my skills, I figured it was way past time. Also, Karin is quite an excellent cook herself, so I thought it was a good opportunity to try out the collaborative cooking thing.

She's on a restricted diet these days and though she can always find something good on a menu and insisted that we not factor that in to planning, I did anyway. Because I think that boundaries force you to be more creative and, also, might as well improve the chances of success. The two good fits, cuisine-wise, were Italian and Indian. We wanted to show off Anteprima, so Italian was covered that weekend. Also, for all their trips here, they'd never been up to Devon Avenue. So, when getting the few ingredients I don't have on hand (fresh fenugreek or curry leaves, for example), I have to chance to show off a new part of the city.

Turns out it was a win for me, too. I usually go to Patel Brothers (2542 W Devon Ave), as they're the biggest and seem to have everything (except a meat counter). Because of parking (always a challenge up there), I ended a little further west on Devon than usual and in front of the North Water Market (2626 W Devon Ave - between Rockwell St & Talman Ave). Oh my. This place is amazing. The produce section is literally four times the size of Patel Brothers and the layout is much easier to navigate. I ended up getting all of our produce there, the fenugreek, the breads (frozen) and some basmati rice to replace the bag I'd been having problems with recently. I think they really enjoyed the experience, with all the people, the variety of foods and the Bollywood music over the PA.

I'm not sure if their spice and sauce collections are as extensive or cheap, but overall, I think that North Water has become my new favorite. On reflection, I think that maybe I went to Patel Brothers more because they were further east on Devon (I drive east to west on that stretch) and more brightly lit outside. We also picked up some pakora and samosas at Kamdar Plaza (2646 W. Devon Ave - a basic Indian grocery with a great sweet shop as well) as I didn't want to be frying at home that night.

For dinner, the menu was:
Pakora and Samosas
Naan and Paratha (purchased frozen)
Sweet Tamarind Chutney
Spiced Rice
Aloo Ghobi
Bengali Red Lentil Dahl
Murgh Saag (Chicken with Spinach)

Here is the problem with coming back to these posts after a long time. While I generally have an excellent memory, I can't remember if we had anything for desert. I can't imagine that we didn't, but it sure as heck wouldn't have been rice pudding because of the no dairy requirement. Anyway. I eliminated the currants and cashews from the rice because dried fruits and nuts are also restricted. No worries. Also, to avoid butter, I used grape seed oil, which worked just fine. The Murgh Saag was the new thing for me; a recipe I'd looked at for a long time in Razzaq's Indian Lowfat Cooking, but had never made. That will get its own post.

Overall, this worked out really well. The prep and cooking to for. ev. er, though. I think because there was a lot of chatting and less "focus." We started cooking at 7:00/7:30 and didn't serve until 9:30. There's just no way. This should have taken half that time. But everyone had a great time and I managed to deliver without embarrassing myself. I'd give it a B+.

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