Conquering Fears

Ever since I was in high school, I've had a fear of Indian food. I wish I could say it was inexplicable, but that's not the case at all. My reasoning is quite shameful, actually, and I hesitated sharing it with you all on my blog... but heck, I shared my weight stats with you, so why not a shameful thing from my past?

See, where I went to high school (Niles North, GO VIKINGS!) was an extremely diverse place. When I say extremely, I mean EXTREMELY. There were over 45 languages spoken, and opening the pages of our yearbook was like looking at the United Nations. I didn't realize how lucky I was to have this diversity in my life until I went to college in a very white-bread town.

Anyway, back to why Indian food scared me. There were these groups of Indian boys at my high school... not the put-together, fairly Americanized Indian boys, but recently emigrated and fairly socially awkward Indian boys. These boys, no matter what year they were in school, walked in straight lines across the hallway and frequently reeked of day-old Indian food and lack of deodorant. (I told you this was shameful). I was terrified that if I ate Indian food, I would also smell of this B.O. and old curry... I know, it's terrible and closed-minded of me, and once I met Adam, he convinced me to "just try it." Try it I did, and I now LOVE the stuff! I can't believe I lived my life without chicken tikka, naan, roti, dal... sigh...

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More recently, thanks to the lovely Gina and Rose, I've been encouraged to try more adventurous dishes like Channa Masala and Baigan Bharta. I've recently fallen in love with Gina's favorite, baigan bharta, and my habit has been getting expensive. I scoured the internet for the most authentic recipe I could find, and found one that fit the bill...and then, in typical Mara form, I mucked with it. What I got was a deliciously spicy, amazingly delicious, decadently creamy dish that will certainly help me save with my eating out bills!

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Baigan Bharta from a former Indian Food-o-phobe
(Inspired by this recipe from AllRecipes.com)
Ingredients
1 large eggplant
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 c. peas
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
2 tsp. garlic paste
2 tsp. ginger paste
1 jalapeño pepper, diced (de-ribbed and de-seeded if you want less spice)
2 Tbsp. oil (I used olive)
4 oz. plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. garam masala
juice of half a lemon
salt to taste
1/4 c. cilantro, finely chopped

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Place your eggplant on a cookie sheet, poke with a fork for ventilation, and roast until skin is dark and eggplant is tender, about 40 minutes. Allow to cool until handleable. Meanwhile, heat a small saucepan (I used a 2.5 qt) with the oil. Add the cumin seeds and onion, and cook until onions are translucent. Then, add the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, jalapeño, curry, garam masala, and stir well, allowing to cook a few minutes. Then, halve the eggplant and scrape the flesh into the pot, breaking it up with your stirring spoon. Add the peas and yogurt, cover and cook on HIGH HEAT for about 10 minutes. Stir well, then cook covered another 10 minutes. This allows the veggies to caramelize a bit. Uncover and simmer on LOW heat for 5 minutes, then add the lemon juice. Stir well, and serve, topping with the cilantro.

Please enjoy some obsessive photos I took of this dish:

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Enough of that... I just love my camera and new editing software so much! There were 9 other photos I chose not to share.

A few things to note: The yogurt is completely and totally optional. I added it because it was my first time making this dish, but next time, I may halve the amount, or omit it altogether. Also, my curry powder was a bit "off". I think the main reasons are that a) it's a bit old and b) it's from Target. I need a more authentic and less sweet-tasting curry powder for the next time I make this. The whole cumin seeds were found in the Mexican spice section for a whopping $0.99 for a fairly large bag. And, most importantly, I don't stink!

Luckily, by graduation, those Indian boys had discovered deodorant and cologne, and no longer graced my nostrils with the smell of something I hoped I'd never smell like... and now, years later, I can appreciate the labor of love that went into the food that caused that smell, and I feel terribly guilty for ever thinking the way I did!

I'll share the chili recipe I promised tomorrow... I just had to share this with you tonight! There's fun OpenSky stuff too! Get excited!

Last but not least, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIZZ!!!!!!




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29 Responses to Conquering Fears

  1. Rose says:

    Oooooh!! That looks SO good, Mara!
    .-= Rose´s last blog ..Accidental Happiness =-.

  2. You are so cute!! Thanks for sharing your story! I LOVE Indian food and I can’t wait to try your recipe! I have a recipe for Indian Butter Chicken on my blog (just do a search) that I love soooo much!

  3. I have always been a little afraid of Indian food, too, and I have still never tried it! Your’s looks great and I need to bite the bullet!

  4. Tracey says:

    Your photos look fantastic!

    I used to be afraid of Indian food but have grown to love it so much! The spices used in the food are A-mazing!

  5. That looks absolutely divine!! I’ve only had prepackaged TJs Indian food so this looks much better (and easy)! I went to a non-diverse school in a non-diverse community so I love exploring other cultures now. It’s a big world!
    .-= K from ksgoodeats´s last blog ..Solo =-.

  6. Lauren says:

    I love that you made Indian! This would scare me. Much like making my own Thai food scares me. Not because I don’t think I can do it, just because I don’t think I want to even try to recreate a masterpiece. But your dish is something I would dive right into! 😉
    .-= Lauren´s last blog .."In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." ~Albert Einstein =-.

  7. Christina says:

    I don’t think I’ve had any real Indian food either, maybe a few Americanized dishes out. hehe Love your comment that it’s b/c your spice is from Target. That made me giggle!
    .-= Christina´s last blog ..Mexican Egg Burrito =-.

  8. AMAZING!
    thank you for the shout out, friend <3
    i can't wait to make it!
    xoxo

  9. Ella Dick says:

    ha! what a small world. i went to niles west….

  10. YAY for your new editing software & camera!!! The photos look absolutely fab.

    And how funny/ironic that you’re posting this when I’m watching Slumdog Millionaire for the first time and having the MADDEST craving for some aloo gobi with a hefty side of roti!!! I was lucky that I grew up with both Indian and Thai best friends, so these foods don’t scare me at all! Actually, they do, a little, but only in terms of making them. I’m just not confident enough in my Indian or Thai cookin’ skillz to venture far from the couple of recipes I know how to make well. But EATING these incredible foods… THAT I can do! 😀

  11. I grew up in a household where nearly everything was Italian food, American or Chinese takeout for diversity LOL. I never had Indian food until an Amy’s frozen dinner, which I LOVED! My family isn’t open to new flavors 🙁 But my grandma is obsessed with everything Indian, she watches some channel on TV 24/7 with their music and dancing lol.

    That dish looks awesome. I’d eat it with pita (or naan hehe), not sure about curry though, I haven’t had much of it. It smells a little weird to me. Tickles my sense in a weird way!

    Jenn
    .-= Jenn (www.j3nn.net)´s last blog ..Marshmallows Descended From The Heavens =-.

  12. suezee says:

    Mara, Indian food is currently my fave, and I have even attempted to cook a few things Indian. Love your blog, and your camera looks awesome too.
    Sue

  13. Yum!I actually just had Indian food for the first time about a month ago and LOVED it!!!

  14. Mara this looks insanely delicious! I too have a fear on Indian Food, but you may have swayed me to give it a shot! Your photos are making my mouth water!
    .-= Andrea @ CanYouStayForDinner.com´s last blog ..Buffalo Chicken English Muffin Pizza =-.

  15. YUM – this looks delicious! I always tell people who say they don’t like Indian food that they just haven’t tried the “right” Indian food yet. I love the name of your blog btw.

    ps – I have that same bamboo cutting board (joyce chen?) It rocks.
    .-= LC @ Let Them Eat Lentils´s last blog ..Tiger Bok Choy =-.

  16. una profesora de espanol who cooks homemade indian? you are a girl after my own corazon…

  17. Eileen says:

    I can relate to your fear of making Indian food! I recently made Balti Beef (maybe not Indian- but of the same genre) and it was pretty easy and really tasty!

    Your photos look great too- what software do you use?

  18. Elina says:

    Your pictures look amazing! I love Indian food but have never heard of this dish. I’ll look out for it next time we go out and then will probably try to recreate it like you did 🙂

  19. amanda says:

    I have had indian food one time and was very disappointed. A few friends told me to try it again at a different place. They all think I would love Indian food since I love spice!

  20. Amazing recipe, Maya!
    Loved your story about your impressions on India food, hahaha.
    Have a great week!
    Brazilian XOXO´s,
    Gabriela
    .-= Gabriela (froyolover)´s last blog ..This Is It =-.

  21. Jackie says:

    Hey Mara-

    Yea for NN!! 🙂 This dish looks delicious. Definitely have to try it.

    Also- there’s a site that I haven’t really made anything from but seems ridiculously authentic and delicious. http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/ Figured I’d share it and see if you find anything interesting on it. Her post about caramelizing onions for indian cooking is rocking (http://www.tigersandstrawberries.com/2008/03/24/cutting-and-browning-onions-for-proper-flavor-in-indian-food/). (Looks like she just recently decided to stop posting, but she’ll still keep the site up).

    p.s. sorry to have missed your cute food saturday entry. last week was insane and i wasn’t even home from Thursday to Sunday. next time 🙂
    .-= Jackie´s last blog ..Jerk pasta =-.

  22. Brittany says:

    I love Indian food so much and Baigan Bharta has become one of my favorites as well. I just saved this recipe!! 🙂

    Hope you are having a great week Mara.

  23. Allison says:

    Kudos for trying Indian for the first time. A few tips:

    1. To get the authentic, homemade, smoky flavor of this dish, roast the eggplant on a flame. You can do this by putting it in the middle of the flame on a gas burner (balanced on the metal trivet over the flame with the flame actually touching the eggplant KWIM?) or directly on coals on a grill. Do it until the skin is totally charred & flaking, turning occasionally to get all sides. This will kick the flavor waaay up.

    2. Use canola oil or another veg oil instead of olive, which is relatively strong-tasting and can affect the taste of Indian food.

    3. Definitely use fresh garlic and ginger.

    4. You may want to take out the yogurt and try a recipe without curry powder. Indians don’t generally use it and you don’t really need it in most recipes 🙂

    Good luck experimenting!

  24. Spiceaholic says:

    I’m glad you conquered your fear — now you know what you were missing out on all this time! Did you get my thank-you gift yet? It’ll definitely be helpful for exploring more Indian food.

    I do have to admit, I am South Asian myself and whenever I cook or eat at a restaurant, I’m forever wondering if I reek of spices. 😀
    .-= Spiceaholic´s last blog ..Hump-day hello! =-.

  25. Jill says:

    HA! This post cracked me up because 2 nights ago I went to work out in the gym thats in the complex I’m temporarily living at, and it was obvious that my neighbors had been in there very recently- the heat was left on, windows were closed and it smelled like a horribly strong combination of sweat and indian food! I had to skip my workout, it was so bad. That being said, my neighbors are totally cool people and I’ve worked out when they’ve been in the gym before (well,briefly) but DAMN when you eat a lot of curry, etc, it does just pour out of your pores 😉
    BTW, I’m a new reader!

  26. Marianne says:

    I feel like I haven’t been to your blog in ages! Holy gorgeous photos Batman. Everyone busting out their new DSLR’s makes me jealous. Yes, I’ve had a DSLR since 2006, and I love it, but I never use it for food photography anymore, and now I sort of want to again. It’s definitely not as awesome as all the new ones y’all are sporting.

    And good job on cooking up some Indian goodness. Looks delicious.
    .-= Marianne´s last blog ..My Olympics Part 9 – Heading North =-.

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