On my very first spice rack, in my very first apartment, the most exotic tin, rectangular and red and gold all over, held Madras curry powder.
You know exactly what I'm talking about.
You probably have a tin just like it on your spice rack.
Though I'm 25 or 30 tins down the road from my first spice rack, the tin in my pantry today is exactly the same as the first one: Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder, imprinted with seals of approval so tiny you can't possibly read them, from organizations (or expositions, or governments) you need a microscope to identify. A silver medal from St. Louis 1904 must be from the World's Fair, but whoever bestowed a gold medal from London 1905, the most recent prize listed on the tin, remains a mystery.
However, what's not a mystery is why this particular spice blend is sold in supermarkets everywhere.
Curry powder is the ultimate convenience food.
In every pantry in every Indian kitchen, a masala dabba -- a round container with an airtight lid and small bowls inside -- holds the component spices to make the family's favorite dishes. Hot or mild, more smoky or more salty, whatever your preference, you can make it from your masala dabba.
If you're not well versed in Indian cookery (and I'm not), curry powder is a great place to start. Sun Brand's Madras curry powder contains coriander seeds, turmeric, chile peppers, salt, cumin seed, fennel seed, black pepper, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cinnamon, cloves, anise and mustard. The bright yellow color comes from the turmeric, not from any additives.
The flavor of this particular curry powder, available in the spice aisle of every supermarket, is medium hot, but my spice rack also holds sweet and super-hot curry powders from Penzeys, which sells a wonderful eight-jar gift box of Indian curry powders from tandoori to vindaloo to rogan josh.
Use the curry powder of your choice to make cauliflower puree, curried chicken salad, chicken burgers, deviled eggs, roasted chickpeas, satay, curried carrot soup, and pumpkin seeds. It will keep in your pantry for up to one year.
Curried green tomatoes
Try this with some brown rice, and throw in some leftover cooked chicken, salmon, or tofu to make a main course dish. Or make it vegan, without the additional protein. I had some cooked salmon in the fridge, and Ben thought it would work well with the tomatoes. He was right! Serves 2.
2 Tbsp olive oil or butter
2 Tbsp minced onion
1 tsp sweet or hot curry powder
2 cups green tomatoes, diced (3-4 large tomatoes)
Salt and pepper to taste
Leftover cooked salmon, chicken or tofu, chopped or shredded (optional)
Heat the oil (or melt butter) in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion, and sauté 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, and cook slowly until well heated, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the curry powder; if the mixture seems dry, add a few tablespoons of water. (After 5 minutes, add cooked chicken or other leftover meat, if desired.) Season with salt and pepper, and serve with steamed rice.
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