We went on a family field trip today to a vegan Indian cooking class hosted by the Vegetarians of Washington at the Upper Crust in Greenwood. It was taught by Sunita Shastri, who demonstrated Cucumber Coconut Salad and Lemon Rice from a southern Indian style, and the northern Indian specialty Chole, a spicy chickpea gravy curry. It was a successful experience. Not only was Lake an amazingly well behaved baby, eating and sleeping like a champion, but we each learned a few helpful things about cooking with Indian spices and we able to sample a few new dishes. For example, in Indian cooking the spices are nearly always sautéed into the oil base as a starting point to enhance their flavor and soften the texture of the seeds eg cumin and mustard. Furthermore Sunita follows the principle that vegetables will also be tastier and cook faster if also sautéed in oil. Not all spices, however, have the same temperature heartiness. Therefore, sauté the cumin and mustard seeds first, then add turmeric with the onion and garlic phase, and garam masala even later when adding the moist vegetables like tomato. Note the layering of spices in her recipe methods below.
We couldn’t help but also enjoy the unexpectedly rich comments of the other guests. We couldn’t stop chortling to ourselves, really! One woman had the audacity to ask Sunita what the secret is to not have your house smell like Indian cooking. She replied, “there is no secret.” The woman asked the question again. Sunita repeated herself. My husband retorted under his breath, “don’t cook Indian food!” Another, perhaps even the same woman, asked if she ever substitutes for ghee. This is directly after Sunita was explaining her background included starting a company to produce fresh locally made ghee after experiencing difficulties procuring good tasting fresh ghee here in the U.S. The guest continued on, that she often substituted truffle oil or cashew butter, or… She lost Sunita’s attention before she even finished her comment. Another participant asked if one could make gluten free naan, and Sunita laughted and said that then it wouldn’t be naan, it would be something else! Someone asked about the 3-4 cloves in the Chole: cloves of what, it didn’t say? After demonstrating the cucumber coconut salad preparation, a thin gentleman in the front row asked what the calorie and protein content of a serving of of the salad contained. Sunita gave him a blank look.
What a fun afternoon! Thank you for joining us on our Sunday outing. Let us know if you try any of the recipes!