There may be hope for me yet. I thought, perhaps, I would have to enter a 12-step program. But now that I see my addiction laid out before me, all the jars, bottles, vials, packets and envelopes, at least I know I am not in denial: I own too many spices and herbs. Granted, I am probably not unlike many other well-seasoned cooks, with a larder of flavors at the ready and a savage culinary curiosity. But I am too fond of my stockpile; as Gollum might put it, they are all “my precious.”
And how, exactly, do I know this? Well, there are some containers holding barely a heel of powder or crumb of dried leaf, yet I cannot part with them. There are also the duplicates and triplicates, purchased when I could not find a particular ingredient somewhere in the abyss of my cabinets. This is a confession that leaves me as red as a chile pepper (cayenne, if you must know), and more than a little troubled by the chaotic greed of it all. I have been collecting nonstop for the last two years, and doubt that this would ever have given me pause except that a food blogging event is snooping around, wanting to have a look. I have to clean for company now, put the racks, carousels, baskets and canisters into a semblance of organization that will not deepen my shame. I purchased a beautifully beaten-up apothecary piece, just for the occasion.
It is not a task for the timid. There are literally dozens and dozens of denizens, the aromatics and hush-hued flakes like rosemary and chervil; the ground powders of sage and clove; the delirious floral elixirs; and the war-headed peppers. There are representatives from India, Australia, Thailand and Morocco; Mexico, Spain, Italy and Jamaica. It is a roller coaster, a shrieking mess that begs some calm and order.
There is calm and order…for a time. I am happy with my accomplishment. It is practical, it is neat, and it was very hard won. But I am feeling a little angst, too. There may be no hope for me, after all. Now that the photos have been taken, I notice there is actually some empty space left in a cubby hole or two. Nature abhors a vacuum. Something must be done. Perhaps I’ll fill in with some grains of paradise. I’ve never had them before. Precious.
Green Mango and Tomato Curry - Adapted from the Vij's recipe/Vij's Indian Cuisine Cookbook, brought to my attention by Suganya
1 green, unripe mango, peeled and cubed (or a ripe fruit if you prefer a sweeter flavor rather than sour)
2 large tomatoes, cored, then blanched to remove the skins before chopping
20 curry leaves
3 tablespoons ghee or other clarified butter
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup chopped green onion
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon salt
In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, liquify the ghee then add the mustard seeds and asafoetida. Continue to heat until you hear the seeds popping. (Avert your face to prevent being spattered with projectile seeds.) Quickly add the curry leaves, stirring briefly until wilted. Add the tomatoes, cumin, cayenne and turmeric. Stir, then cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir in mango, cover skillet, and cook for another 10 minutes. Add salt and green onion, cooking uncovered for about 3 minutes. Serves 2. --
This post is being submitted to Gabi of The Feast Within, hosting Show Us Your Spice Collection, the latest volume in the Show Us Your...events, created by Ilva of Lucullian Delights.
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