Mirage or Mini Mini Mini Mart?

Google is keeping a big secret from me. Or maybe “Paneer College Station” didn’t work because it’s actually “Paneer Bryan” (the neighboring city).

In a mini building on a mini corner exists the elusive Mini Mini Mini Mart (and yes, that’s its actual name)… an oasis of Indian/Pakistani groceries.

Mini Mini Mini MartMy friend Megan and I discovered it last weekend. Previously, another friend of mine mentioned the Mini Mini Mini Mart, and I didn’t believe him. “There’s a convenience store in town with a back room of Indian groceries,” he told me. Turmeric and twinkies under one roof.

It was pretty much one of the best days of my life… aside from the fact that four hours earlier I discovered that TP had inadvertently deleted all the contacts from phone. A separate story for a separate day, perhaps.

Megan and I went in only to discover a display of Bollywood movies and a back room that boasted 20lb bags of basmati rice, various types of pulses, and boxes of spices.
Blogwell Bed of Rice
And the delight of all delights: a cooler of curry leaves, chili peppers and – be still my beating heart – paneer.

Blogwell at Mini Mini Mini Mart

As a result of my shopping spree, TP and I made an Indian feast. We rarely cook together, so it was nice to share the kitchen. Paneer tikka masala, vegetable korma, red lentil cauliflower curry and rice — enough food to last several days.Indian Feast

Paneer Tikka Masala

Ingredients

For Paneer “Marinade”
½ cake of paneer (about 7 to 8 ounces)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon minced ginger
½ teaspoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
1 tablespoon oil for frying

For Sauce
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 serrano chili pepper (omit if you want a milder sauce)
1 tablespoons oil
1/2  teaspoon cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½  teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch (stir it into about a quarter cup of water to resemble a paste)
¼ teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro for garnish

For the paneer: Cut the paneer into one-inch cubes. Mix the ginger, salt, chili powder, coriander, and yogurt in a bowl and gently fold in the paneer. Let the mixture sit for about an hour in the refrigerator.

After an hour, heat the tablespoon of canola oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok. Add the marinated paneer to the heated oil and gently flip the pieces until they become lightly browned on each side. The frying process takes 5 to 10 minutes. Once fried, transfer the paneer to a separate dish.

For the sauce: Blend the tomatoes and the chili pepper in a blender or food processor. You want everything to be a smooth consistency. Don’t worry if it looks a little frothy or liquidy. The consistency will change later.

Heat the tablespoon of oil in the same frying pan you used for the paneer. Test the oil heat by adding a single cumin seed to the pan. If the seed cracks, the oil is hot enough. Add the cumin seeds and bay leaves to the oil and stir for a few seconds.

Then add the tomato puree, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, garam masala and sugar. Cook for 7 or so minutes on medium heat. Remove the bay leaves. Transfer the mixture back to the blender in batches and puree again – BE CAREFUL as the mixture is very hot. You can also use an immersion blender for this step. Add the mixture back to the skillet. Stir in the corn starch “paste” to thicken up the sauce. After about four minutes, the sauce should be thicker.

Add the paneer to the sauce and cook a few minutes longer until the paneer is warmed through and the flavors have mingled.

Serve over rice or with naan. Garnish with cilantro.

Vegetable Korma

Ingredients
1 tablespoon canola oil or coconut oil (coconut oil is preferred if you have it)
1 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 potato, peeled and cubed
3 carrots, peeled and cubed
1 jalapeno or serrano chili, sliced
3 tablespoons ground unsalted cashews (I pulsed mine in a food processor)
1 4-ounce can tomato sauce and 1 can of water
2 teaspoons salt
1-2 teaspoons curry powder (modify based on desired spiciness)
1 cup frozen green peas
½ cup frozen green beans
½ green bell pepper, diced
½ red bell pepper, diced
¾ cup milk (you can use heavy cream for richer dish – or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try some coconut milk)
2 tablespoons cilantro for garnish

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook until tender. Mix in the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the potatoes, carrots and tomato sauce. Fill the can with water and add that water to the dish at this stage. Add the curry powder and salt.

After 10 minutes or so, add the remaining veggies. You want the potatoes and carrots to be nearly cooked before adding the bell peppers and softer vegetables, which will cook more quickly. When the vegetables are cooked, stir in the milk and the cashews. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes or so.

Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.

Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry (Courtesy of Veganomicon)

An aside: this dish would make a wonderful dal (an Indian lentil soup). If you add more water and cut the cauliflower in smaller pieces, you can serve it as a soup.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 serrano or jalapeno chili pepper, minced
2 large shallots
1 (1/2 inch) piece fresh ginger peeled and minced
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 ½ cups red lentils, sorted and rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth or water
1 ½-2 pounds cauliflower (about one medium-size head), trimmed and sliced into small florets
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 ½ teasoons salt

Have all ingredients chopped and ready to go. In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and shallots until tender and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the grated ginger and chili, and saute for 1 minute. Add the spices and briskly stir-friy for 30 seconds, then add the parsnip and stir-fry for another minute.

Slowly pour in the vegetable broth or water, the stir in the lentils. Cover the pot, raise the heat to high, boil for 1 minute. Give the mixture a stir, then cover the pot and lower the heat to medium-low. Allow the lentil to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. They should turn light yellow and look mushy. Monitor them to make sure they don’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pot.

Add the cauliflower florets, stirring to oat with the lentils. Partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender but not completely falling apart. Remove from the hea and stir in the chopped cilantro, lime juice, and salt.

Allow the curry to sit, covered, for about 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld and the mixture to cool slightly.

Hello again, old friend

This post feels like I’m calling an ex long after the breakup to say “I’m sorry… I screwed up… I won’t make excuses, but I wanted to tell you I miss you.”

That means you, reader, get to play the part of an ex. And I get to play the role of the groveling, sniveling mess. (I’m not really sniveling, though. A sniveler I am not.)

So can we just pretend my absence never happened? Can we start back up again like not a moment was lost? After all, that’s what old friends do. Time and distance may separate them, but they somehow always can pick up right where they left off.

Here’s what I would have blogged about if I had posted the last two months.

My cats…Duh. Simba is kind of fat right now, but it’s adorable. Since it’s cooled off a bit outside, both Fish Taco and Simba sleep with me at night. Simba on one side. Fish Taco on the other. I call it a cat sandwich (only not in a creepy I-eat-cats sort of way). Sometimes it gets really toasty in between those two lovebugs, but I don’t mind a bit.

My wedding plans (or lack thereof)… I hired a planner. I can’t do this all myself. It takes me ten minutes of deliberation to select a can of soup at the grocery store. Don’t get me started on selecting a wedding dress, flowers, or a color palatte. We do sort of know that we want Indian food at the reception, but I’m worried that could be disastrous. Not everyone enjoys Indian food as much as TP and me. Either way, we were thinking of testing out a few Indian recipes tomorrow to send to a potential caterer, and I googled “paneer College Station.” Making cheese is so time consuming, so I was hoping I could find a place to buy it locally. The first hit was Blogwell. It was a touching moment, and also a little disheartening. (Dear aspiring business owners, PLEASE open an Indian grocery store in this town!)

Food… I have been cooking occasionally, but not as much as usual. Around Thanksgving, I made a few Ina Garten recipes that were delicious. And filled with butter. As every delicious thing should be. I’ll make a point to post a recipe soon.

How TP spent an entire Saturday making his Halloween costume in October. He went as Beeker and it was pretty much the best costume ever. He bought five different types of fabric at Joann Fabrics. During the costume construction process, it looked like a muppet exploded in our living room. I won’t let him throw the Beeker head away. There’s a part of me that wants to put it on to answer the door the next time someone randomly comes a-knockin’ to sell me something on a Saturday. Meep meep, solicitors.

My wishlist for things to learn continues to get longer (despite a decrease in the time I have to learn new things). I have decided to register for a sewing machine (if I ever set up a gift registry) so I can make curtains and pillowcases and jerseys for the cats. I also have asked Santa for a portrait lens for my camera for Christmas, so I will have an impetus to post more frequent pictures as I (hopefully) improve my photography skills. And I’m considering learning how to skateboard so I can get from my car to my office more quickly (it’s a long-ish hike). But we all know how that would turn out.

Anyway, that’s pretty much the latest with me.

So…I’ll try to do better this time around. Take me back?