When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I remember eating spicy saag paneer in my best friend Elena's basement.
When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I remember my dad teaching me the rules of football using the items on the table at an Indian food place in a food court near Ohio Stadium.
When I was in college, there was an Indian food restaurant around the corner from my apartment, and a couple of my friends and I would go there almost weekly for buffet. It was a tiny place, with maybe 8 tables and a little room where they'd set out the buffet. It was *so* good. The owner, Kumar, got to know us so well that once when I ordered carry-out on a busy night, he just told me I could pay the next time I came in. When my friends moved away, he would ask after them whenever I ate at the restaurant.
For my birthday, MG and I tried out Indique, a nice Indian place in Cleveland Park. We enjoyed it so much that we went back 11 days later, for MG's birthday.
The summery veg.
Learning to cook Indian food has been one of the great joys of my culinary journeys, because A) Indian food isn't cheap at most restaurants and B) it makes my whole apartment smell awesome. Seriously, garam masala and ginger scented candles would be a pretty great invention. (P.S. if you know of a place where I can get garam masala scented candles, email me immediately).
So far, the best source I've found for accessible Indian recipes is Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. I've made several of her vegetarian Indian recipes, and they've all turned out fantastic! If you are interested in starting to cook Indian food, I recommend starting there. Some of the ingredients and techniques involved in Indian cooking can be a little daunting, but she does a great job of making them very easy to make at home. And don't be afraid of the initial upfront cost of the spices - if you enjoy cooking Indian, you'll get a lot of use out of them, and the other ingredients are so inexpensive that it's still a very affordable cuisine to make at home.
I've been eyeing a recipe for bhindi masala (okra curry) that was posted on The Kitchn a few weeks ago. It was on my list of top 5 things to make before the summer runs out (okra being one of my favorite summer veggies), so I decided it would be an excellent candidate for Meatless Monday. I pretty much followed the recipe as-is, although I omitted the curry leaves and the cilantro (per MG's request).
Bhindi masala is a wonderful melding of spices and heat and vegetables, but since the only veggies are in there are okra, tomato, green pepper and onion, it doesn't have much protein. So, I decided to pair it with the yellow dal from Smitten Kitchen, which I've made before and love. Each recipe made 6 servings and with basmati rice we were both quite full and happy at the end of our meal. And looking forward to leftovers tomorrow! Another Meatless Monday in the books. :)
Delicious, nutritious and colorful!