Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cilantro strikes back; or, Don't fear the cumin.

As is well-known, owning a car often makes life, and in particular shopping, somewhat easier when living in the Southern United States. Regrettably, the Swedish mathematician of Polish descent who is the mastermind, or hack, behind this blog has not yet purchased an automobile. Why, you might ask. Maybe his love of walking everywhere is just too ingrained, maybe he has not had time between preparing his classes this fall, performing computations, and visiting the fair city of Austin in the neighboring Lone Star State. Perhaps he is not sure he really wants to own a motor vehicle on this, or indeed any, continent, perhaps he has just been lazy. Take your pick.

Luckily, our hero has been able to procure a $50 bicycle from a student who is about to graduate from Oklahoma State University and return to his home country. Using this bike, our aging mathematician has been able to extend his shopping trips to include the southern part of downtown, where new finds include: several used & rare book stores, Brown's Bottle Store (carrying a large selection of beers and ales), a musical instruments store, and Territory Western Apparel (for all your Stetson hat & Wrangler jeans needs).

One would not be too far off in guessing that the average patron of Territory Western Apparel would identify with the stereotype of the Oklahoma Cowboy or Cowgirl. Now, the sympathies of this temporary OK resident, when watching John Wayne movies, have always been aligned with Native Americans, or in less precise and appropriate language, Indians. While our hero knows very little about Native Americans preferred traditional meals, he is certainly a fan of Indian cuisine! He recently got treated to an Indian meal at his favorite Swedish/Indian couple's house in Austin, reminding him of the deliciousness of the cuisine, but  he lives in Stillwater, OK, where Indian food does not seem to be readily available in restaurants. The discovery of an anti-cilantro webpage provided additional inspiration to attempt a pale imitation of one of his favorite Indian dishes, Aloo Gobi. For some reason this recipe does not include the gobi (cauliflower)-but it does cilantro, this most noble of plants.

Ingredients:  9 small potatoes
                   1/2 onion (the enormous American variety)
                   2 ripe tomatoes
                   1 green chili fruit
                      large quantities of cilantro

                      salt & pepper
                      cumin (and plenty of it!)


Begin by cutting the potatoes into quarter pieces or halves, depending on how big the potato is. You want the potato pieces to be roughly the same size. Chop up the onion into pretty large pieces and slice the green chili. In a frying pan, fry the potato and the onion chunks in generous quantities of butter, salt and pepper, and more cumin then you've ever dared use before. Add more cumin. Keep stirring the pan until the onion is soft and the potato pieces are brown around the edges. Throw in the green chili slices. Add more cumin.

Turn down the heat a little bit and wait for a few minutes. In the meantime, chop up the tomatoes, without spilling any of the precious tomato juice. When the potatoes start getting a little softer, add the tomato chop. No passed tomatoes this time either-you might want to add a little water, depending on how juicy the tomatoes you use are. This is also where the cilantro enters. Wash it and just throw those little leaves in there!  I used about 1/3 of a standard bundle; you can't really go wrong if you use a little bit more-but make sure to save some for garnishing later. Add more cumin, and then let the sauce simmer.

In the meantime, boil the rice. Use your favorite method, or follow the instructions on the package. It is not difficult, but make sure you use regular white rice or possibly jasmine rice for this dish.

Periodically check the sauce, possibly adding more cumin. It should simmer, not cook, so turn the heat down if necessary. Be patient and wait until the tomato, onion, cilantro, and chili sauce is suitably "goopy", and the potatoes are soft. Add more cumin, maybe. Done! Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.

Serving suggestions: "The Suburbs" by the Arcade Fire on the side, with a bottle of Basement Batch Pale Ale-an excellent pale ale brewed in Krebs, OK.

PS. No, the green bell pepper did not make it this time. Add more cumin instead.

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