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QUICK FIX

Instant India

April 29, 1998|DANAE CAMPBELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Indian food is one of my favorite things to cook. I love toasting and grinding the spices and spending all day making a feast of samosas, channa masala, chicken vindaloo, raita and naan. The process is relaxing yet invigorating. Unfortunately, it's also fairly time-consuming.

On the days that I have neither the strength nor the spirit to make the whole shebang, I rely on this quick curry. Served with fresh green beans and a cool and creamy cucumber raita and ending with store-bought rice pudding tricked up with Indian flavors, it makes a meal that only tastes as if it took all day.

MENU (30 MINUTES OR LIES; LOW-FAT COOKING; VEGETARIAN)

Potato and Cauliflower Curry

Mustard Green Beans

Cucumber Raita

Mango Rice Pudding

COUNTDOWN

30 minutes before: Slice onion, chop garlic and halve potatoes for curry. Begin sauteing onion and cumin seeds.

25 minutes before: Add curry powder and garlic to onion. Add potatoes, cauliflower, cayenne, jalapeno, ginger, tomatoes, water and salt and peppe to curry.

20 minutes before: Grate cucumber, mince garlic, mint and cilantro. Combine with yogurt for raita.

15 minutes before: Prepare dessert and chill until ready to serve.

10 minutes before: Saute green beans and mustard seeds.

7 minutes before: Add garlic, chile and water to green beans and continue cooking.

INGREDIENTS

STAPLES

Cardamom

Dried red chile

Cumin seeds

Curry powder

Garlic

Ginger root

Brown mustard seeds

Onion

Oil

Cayenne pepper

Pepper

Salt

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (16-ounce) carton plain yogurt

SHOPPING LIST

1 pound small red boiling potatoes

2 (12-ounce) packages cauliflower florets

1 jalapeno

1 bunch cilantro

1 pound green beans

1 cucumber

1 bunch mint

1 (26-ounce) jar sliced mangoes

1 pound container rice pudding

1/4 pound bag toasted pistachios

POTATO AND CAULIFLOWER CURRY

This dish is as easy to prepare as it is satisfying. It is great served with steamed basmati rice, its traditional accompaniment.

2 tablespoons oil

1 large onion, halved and each half thinly sliced

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons curry powder

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 pound small red boiling potatoes, halved

1 1/2 (12-ounce) packages cauliflower florets

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

1/2 to 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 teaspoon minced ginger root

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice

3/4 cup water

Salt, pepper

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until onion is slightly translucent and cumin seeds are fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add curry powder and garlic and cook 1 minute. Add potatoes, cauliflower, cayenne, jalapeno, ginger, tomatoes, water and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and serve with Cucumber Raita.

4 servings. Each serving without Cucumber Raita:

230 calories; 277 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 38 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 2.56 grams fiber.

MUSTARD GREEN BEANS

1 teaspoon oil

1/4 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

1 pound green beans, stem ends snipped

2 cloves garlic

1 small dried red chile

1/4 cup water

Salt, pepper

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add mustard seeds and green beans and saute 2 minutes. Slightly bruise garlic and add to pan with chile and water. Cover and cook until green beans are tender, about 8 minutes. Discard chile and garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4 servings. Each serving:

45 calories; 80 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1.17 grams fiber.

CUCUMBER RAITA

This cool raita is equally good served on the green beans as on the curry.

1 (16-ounce) carton plain yogurt

1/2 cup grated cucumber

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced mint

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

Salt, pepper

Combine yogurt, cucumber, garlic, mint, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.

About 2 1/2 cups. Each 1-tablespoon serving:

11 calories; 18 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.03 gram fiber.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Shortcuts

Store-bought rice pudding can go from ordinary to exotic with a few quick tricks. Spoon a 16-ounce carton of rice pudding into four individual serving bowls, arrange 4 slices of mango on top of each serving, then sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon of chopped, toasted pistachios and a pinch of cardamom. The result: Mango Rice Pudding.

*

Packages of fresh cauliflower florets, available in the produce section of most supermarkets, save you the time of cutting up a head of cauliflower and you buy only the part you'll actually use.

* Casafina plates from Three Sisters Sales at Greco's, San Pedro, and Twigs, Santa Monica. Tea towel and terra cotta bowl from Home Chef, Pasadena.

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