Creme de la Creme

"What garlic is to food, insanity is to art." -- Anonymous

Mind Caviar, Vol. I Summer Issue, 2000

A Passage to India
by Violet Skye

       It was a beautiful and cool fall day in New York.  The trees had not yet started to change, but there was crispness in the air.  I had invited Mr. H. for dinner and I wanted to cook something simple yet full of exotic flavors to seduce and impress him with my culinary prowess.  Is the way to a man’s heart through his stomach?  I must say I wasn’t quite so ambitious, but I did want to seduce him. 

     “Do you like Indian food?” I asked him over the phone that morning.

     “I love it!” he responded enthusiastically.  And so my plan was set: I would make Keema Matar, a dish of ground meat in a decadently rich cashew butter sauce that is reminiscent of chili but far more aromatic and complex.  I would pair it off with a simple salad of baby greens and Dijon vinaigrette. He graciously agreed to bring dessert. 

     He arrived with a dozen red roses and a box of pastries tied with a red ribbon.  I greeted him with a Bombay Sapphire Martini.  We languidly sipped our drinks while dinner simmered, exchanging passionate kisses and intimate secrets while the heady aroma of exotic spices filled the kitchen.

Keema Matar (Ground Meat in Cashew Nut Sauce with Chick-peas)

      This dish makes enough for 8, but don’t worry, it is great leftover.  Do not be alarmed by all of the spices that are required, you will definitely want to make this again! 

4 Tablespoons light vegetable oil 
2 cups finely chopped onions 
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic 
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger root 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
2 teaspoons ground coriander 
1 teaspoon turmeric 
½ teaspoon red pepper or more, to taste 
2 bay leaves 
2 pounds lean ground beef or lamb 
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt 
2 ½ cups fresh or 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes 
3 tablespoons cashew nut butter or 4 tablespoons ground roasted cashew nuts 
1 20-ounce can of chick peas with liquid 
2 teaspoons garam masala* or ground roasted cumin seeds

*(you can order garam masala, a special Indian Spice blend from Penzeys)

For Garnish: 

1 medium sized onion, peeled and thinly sliced 
1 green chili, shredded 
1 medium sized tomato, cut into ½ inch wedges 

1. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions.  Over medium-high heat, cook onions until they turn caramel brown (about 25 minutes) stirring constantly so they do not burn.  (Yes, I know this is somewhat labor intensive, but it will be worth it.) 

2. Add the garlic and the ginger, and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  (At this point, your kitchen will start to smell so good you will forget about how long it took to cook the onions.) Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, red pepper and bay leaves.  Stir for a moment or two.  Add beef or lamb.  Cook the meat, breaking it up with a fork or a wooden spoon, until it loses its pink color.  Add the salt, chopped tomatoes, nut butter, and chick peas with their liquid.  Add ½ cup of hot water and bring the contents to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and the sauce thickened.  Check and stir often to keep the sauce from sticking and burning.  Turn off heat, and stir in the garam masala.  Check for salt, and serve in a heated serving bowl.  Garnish with onion and chili shreds and tomato wedges. 

     We had dinner by candlelight on the coffee table.  Sarah Vaughan provided the background music.  The candles flickered coyly and romance was in the air. 

     “This is delicious!” he exclaimed after one bite.  I smiled graciously, satisfied that I had pleased him and looking forward to how he would please me later…. 

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