Batting .500: Stir-Fried Mushrooms with Tomatoes and Onions

*Or, “a live commentary on how I got taken down by a very simple Indian recipe”

I am a huge fan of Indian food. The flavors are intense but nuanced, no one spice stands out…when made by someone who knows what they are doing. If you happen to have, oh I don’t know, me doing the cooking, the results are more mixed. I’ve had some luck in the past though, and I found this recipe in one of my Trusty Roommate Chad’s Indian cookbooks.

So with this recipe, we’re looking to use the mushrooms and the fresh tomato from The Box of Wonders.

We’ll also be using:

A red onion

Dried red peppers

A jalapeno

Cumin seeds, cayenne pepper, and a bunch-A BUNCH-of ground coriander

Ginger (shredded)

Garlic (minced)

“Tomato Sauce” (more on that later)

I’ve been doing some reading. When preparing Indian food, you generally start off by frying spices. “Classic Indian Cooking” by Julie Sahni (Which could easily be titled, “The Joy of (Indian) Cooking”. It is accessible yet encyclopedic. Fantastic.) points out that you do this both to change the flavor of the spices as they brown, and to add their flavors to the oil.  So we’ll do things in the order the recipe I found (in another cookbook) says to.

My sous chef for the evening

My sous chef for the evening

And, we’re off. Cumin seeds and red chiles first. Ginger next, and jalapeno. Red onion, and salt after that. After letting the onion cook, I will add the garlic, coriander, cayenne, and a little more salt.

The ingredients are pretty at least...

The ingredients are pretty at least…

But hang on, what’s going on with the cumin seeds? Why are they seeking out and forming alliances with the shredded ginger?  They are actually coalescing into little patties now. The recipe is pretty explicit, and it says nothing about “fry the spice wafers to a golden brown”. Okay, don’t panic. Break them up with the spatula…nope, that just makes them bigger. Maybe if I take them out and cut them up…now it’s all just stuck to the knife. Okay, maybe it will all break up later.

I’m going to put this down as a temporary setback. Things are actually going pretty well. I even overcame the fact that the page kept turning when I walked away, resulting in me nearly making half of the mushroom recipe, and half of a “smoked spiced eggplant” recipe. This calls to mind the ”Friends” episode when Rachel makes half an English trifle and half a shepherd’s pie, adding a layer of ground beef and peas between the whipped cream and ladyfingers. So yeah: better cook than Rachel on “Friends”. So far.

It should be noted that the canine sous chef has fled the kitchen at this point.

Right about now, you may be saying, “Hey Jackie, why don’t you throw in a big handful of cilantro to give it a nice fresh ‘pop’?” Funny you should ask. The recipe actually calls for it. So yes, I could add some, if I didn’t hate cilantro.

Lovely scents are positively blooming out of the pan at this point, so I’m shutting the bedroom doors. Really fragrant dishes smell great, right up until you try to go to sleep in a room that smells like cumin, for instance. Speaking of cumin, there is quite a bit of it in this dish. It is easy, in my illustrious opinion, to overdo the cumin, but I’m sticking with the recipe. Between that and the ground coriander I’m a little worried about overdoing the earthy, herby spices, but we also have the garlic/ginger/tomato to maybe balance things out. We’ll see.

Okay. Recipe calls for 8 oz of “plain tomato sauce”. I have a 29 oz can of “tomato puree”. Well, I’ll put in 1/3 of the can, and if it’s the wrong tomato product, at least I’ll have approximately the correct amount of the wrong tomato product. Dumping it in and…oh dear. We’ve gone from smelling like an Indian restaurant (not a bad thing) to smelling like a V-8 canning facility (I hate V-8. I hate raw tomato juice. Thank heavens I shut the bedroom doors. Really not looking for a mushroom/V-8 stew here). Where did all that cumin I was so concerned about get off to? No doubt overwhelmed by a tidal wave of tomato juice. Let’s not panic yet, we’re going to cook it all for awhile, maybe the tastes are going to mingle and mature or some such. So, I’m letting it cook.  In the meantime, I’m making some cheesy polenta to go with it. This I can do: 5 minutes of stirring cornmeal in boiling water. Once it’s at the desired consistency, add some cream and beat in freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Done. Perfect. Now to check on the mushroom stir fry, hoping for mingling and maturation.


Mingling, maturing…

Nope. Still tastes like mushrooms in V-8. With cumin. What became of the cumin-ginger wafers, you ask? Mostly intact. So, score is currently: Jackie:1; Box of Wonders: 1

Silver lining: I have a nice recipe for cumin-ginger wafers if you want it, and I did in fact produce some damn good polenta!


Note, it does at least look pretty. A little like a mushroom ragout, but pretty nonetheless.


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