Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I have reached a new pinnacle of food geekdom.

I had some broccoli that I needed to use, and not much else on hand. What to do? Cook it with brown rice. How to cook it? Hmmmm . . .

How about . . . absorption rice! I remembered a method similar to absorption pasta that I used to use for making Skillet Pork Chops and Spanish Rice--something I haven't made in far too long. You brown the pork chops, remove them from the pan, brown some onions, garlic, and brown rice and then pour the juice from a can of stewed tomatoes (with enough water to bring it up to 2 cups) into the mix, add the pork chops back in and the stewed tomatoes, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes. It was much tastier than the dried shoe leather flaps my mother used to overcook in the oven when she made her version.

So with all this absorption pasta I've been making, the idea was simmering in the back of my mind to try it with rice. So that's what I decided to make, but what flavors should I use? Being in an Indian frame of mind lately, curried rice with broccoli sounded pretty good. So I blanched the broccoli and assembled the rest of my ingredients.

I pulled the sweet curry powder out of the cupboard, and then rummaged through to the back of the shelf for the garam masala that came with one of those how-to-cook-Indian kits I had gotten years ago. I had used it for the red kidney bean curry, but it hadn't seemed particularly pungent and I had meant to replace it. I smelled it again just to be sure, and it had definitely lost its punch. What could I do?

And here's where my geekdom comes in:

Because of all the Indian-style cooking I've been doing lately, I just happened to have most of the individual spices on hand that go into garam masala. So I measured them out, roasted them, ground them, and there I had it--my first ever home made spice mix. It smells heavenly, pungent, and...well...warm (that's what garam masala means, by the way--warm spice mix).

It tasted really good. Unfortunately, I added the broccoli way too soon when I was cooking the rice and it overcooked to that point where you can't really taste it. But the rice was sensational!
Garam Masala (Warm Spice Mix)

You can vary this recipe a bit--experiment with various spices until you find the combination that works for you.

8 cloves
4 tsp cumin seeds
3 green cardamom pods (whole)
2 black cardamom pods (whole)
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)

Heat a small skillet on medium. Add all the spices except the nutmeg and dry roast the spices, stirring constantly. After about 5 minutes, the spices will darken and begin to release a unique aroma.

Remove the skillet from the heat, then add the nutmeg. Transfer the spice mix to a bowl and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Using a spice grinder, grind the spices to a fine poweder. Store in an airtight jar. The spice mixture will keep for upto 3 months.

Yield: 2 tablespoons

from The Everything Indian Cookbook, by Monica Bhide (Adams, 2004)

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