Thus started an amazing new discovery: these two dishes, and their star component: vadouvan. Vadouvan is a French-ified curry powder that comes pre-loaded with onion, garlic, shallots, and salt, along with spices like turmeric and mustard seeds. My friends Clare and Nako sent me some from the spice house in Evanston, IL, over a year ago, and while I'd sprinkled it into something, I'd never let it be the star ingredient before. Same goes for nigella seeds, which I also used here: usually they have to share a role with mustard seeds and/or cumin seeds, but here they held their own with their more subtle flavor.
Since these recipes are more like stir-fries, it would be pretty easy to change around the vegetables, add a chili at the beginning for more heat, etc. I really like the combo of vegetables in the first recipe, because the cauliflower stayed crisp while the mushrooms became lovely chewy bits, with the okra somewhere in between. When cooking with okra I think it helps to add something acidic, like tomatoes or amchoor powder, to minimize the slime factor.
After this first recipe is a second, similar, simpler one that I actually made earlier that same day, but ate all of it right out of the pan. That one is more of a side dish with crisp green beans.
Stir-Fried Mixed Veggies with Tomato and Vadouvan
2 TB canola oil
1 TB nigella seeds
6-8 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp vadouvan
1/2 tsp asafoetida (optional)
1 c cauliflower florets
1 c mushrooms, quartered
2 c okra in 1/2-in round slices
3/4 c diced tomatoes w/juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp amchoor powder (optional)
salt and cayenne to taste
1. In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat and add seeds. When seeds start to splutter, add garlic. Cook for a moment, then add vadouvan and asafoetida. Cook while stirring until everything is fragrant but not burning.
2. Add cauliflower and cook for a few minutes, then add mushrooms and cook a bit longer, all the while stirring to coat the vegetables in the oil and spices. When mushrooms start to soften, add okra and cook a bit longer--it's really nice to get a little bit of browning on the okra.
3. Add tomatoes, turmeric, and amchoor, and stir and cook a few more minutes. Add salt and cayenne to taste. Serves about 4.
Garlicky Green Beans with Vadouvan and Nigella Seeds
2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp nigella seeds
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp vadouvan
pinch asafetida (optional)
2-3 c green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-in pieces
smoked salt to taste
cayenne to taste
1. First, blanch the beans by placing them in a large pot or bowl and pouring boiling water on them, enough to cover them. Let sit for 10 minutes.
2. In a frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat and add seeds. When seeds start to splutter, add garlic. Cook for a moment, then add vadouvan and asafoetida. Cook while stirring until everything is fragrant but not burning.
3. Drain green beans well, then add them to the pan. Stir to coat with the oil and spices, and try to get a little bit of sizzle-browning on some of the beans, but don't overcook! The beans should still be crisp.
4. Turn off the heat and season with smoked salt and cayenne to taste. Good hot or cold. Serves 2-3.