Friday, April 01, 2005

Adventures with Black Cardamom

My friend Jack will never live down the time I asked him to dinner and he said "What are you cooking? More stewed vegetable matter?" I was pretty mad. I mean, I invite him to dinner and he insults my cooking? I had to remember that Jack really, really loves a nice slab of flesh food and didn't have the same fine appreciation for veggies that I have developed.

Tonight I made stewed vegetable matter for dinner, and if I must say so myself, it turned out pretty good.

I was determined to use some black cardamom pods I had gotten during my Penzey's adventure, and they said it figured in African curries.

Deciding to fly by the seat of my pants without a recipe, I made yam curry with tofu and almond butter. There is an African dish called "Groundnut Stew" that uses ground peanuts or peanut butter, depending on whose version you make, and this was my take on that.

One of the great annoyances of getting older is that you sometimes develop intolerances to certain foods. As of about 2 years ago, peanuts began to disagree with me. Not one of those life-threatening allergy things, just a certain queasiness...So I made this with almond butter, which added a nice smooth nutty richness.

Yam Curry with Tofu and Almond Butter
1 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
2 tsp black mustard seeds
3 Tbsp vegetable oil

In a heavy pot over medium high heat, heat oil, put in seeds and leave until the mustard seeds begin popping.

1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
4 black cardamom pods, lightly crushed and contained in a tea ball
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp cumin
Add spices to pot and stir for a few minutes until they release fragrance and separate back from the oil.

2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
Add to pot and saute a few minutes

1 cake firm tofu, pressed with a weight on top for about half an hour to remove excess water and diced.
Add to pot and saute a few minutes

1/2 sweet red bell pepper, diced
about 3 cups yams cut in 1/2 inch dice
Add to pot and continue sauteing for another 5 minutes or so

1 15-oz can peeled and diced tomatoes
3 Tbsp almond butter
Add to pot, cook until yams are soft or until you feel like eating.

I served this with fresh corn cut off the cob and packaged frozen parathas (cooked, of course). The black cardamom adds just a hint of mysterious smoky camphor flavor. You might not notice it unless you were looking for it.

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