Our neighborhood inValhalla,NY is a quite place. Activities that are highlights of this little hamlet are the annual Christmas tree sale, the mother’s day plant sale both organized by small volunteer fire department. Spring and summer cluster around little league games, almost half the parents including myself are active and enjoy the PTA.
It is however not the place where one would expect to find inspiration for innovative cooking, certainly not the kind featuring staples of my Indian kitchen and yet, my 30 minute Indian chicken recipe is born right here, in association with a neighbor.
Over the past five years, there has been a lot more movement into the neighborhood, even the property next to us has been sub-divided we have two new neighbors both with little children even younger than Deepta and Aadi. Like most of our other neighbors these are people we say hello to when we see them, chat with them when we are in the garden, I even included Juliana across us in my annual cookie and card list this year, but we do not actively socialize with them.
This is also true for the several regulars that I encounter, when I take my evening walk. I know Dobby the dog and his owner, who combines dog walking with his evening smoking and I also know Ms. Wong, who tends carefully every evening to her well manicured flower garden. I do not see her in winter, since like our backyard there is not much action from her garden. I usually walk later in the evening, after the kids have eaten. It is a time that is my own, outside the kitchen, away from work and outside the home. A time to think, refresh and reenergize my body mind and soul. I do not carry an anything, except on occasion my camera.
About a month ago, I met Mark, who also decided to make the7 pmhis walking time. It turns out, that he had heard about my cooking classes and general interest in food. I was rather intrigued, since I would not have pegged him to be the culinary sort. We met and chatted a couple of consecutive days and he asked me if I minded him occasionally tagging along with me, mostly because he wanted to talk to me about his food related questions. I warned him about my slow pace of walking, (but was otherwise game). Mark, unlike my immediate neighbours is no stranger to this hamlet. He has lived here for over 30 years and raised his children through the village schools, even volunteered as a baseball coach in his day.
I gradually learned that Mark’s wife Mary used to do all the cooking in the house and in particular, made a big effort on Sundays when the family (including their two children, who lived away from them) joined them with their spouses. Her Sunday suppers were elaborate and eclectic, when she often tried food from different parts of the world. She had died a year back.
Mark did his own cooking now, but also kept the Sunday ritual alive. It was important to him and to his children to have this sense of continuity. He also felt that it was his way of showing regard for something that was so important to his wife. In fact, his daughter had volunteered to take on this chore and continue the dinners at her house, but Mark still felt that he would like them to continue doing them in his house. It was important to continue this long standing tradition of connecting and reuniting the family in his home.
He found some of the exotic spices especially some of the Thai and Indian spices that his wife used confusing. He jokingly mentioned that he should join one of my classes. I felt that it might be more spontaneous and useful for him to spend time just watch me cook. My everyday cooking is relatively simple but still offers someone an insight to using and working with spices.
Last evening, he joined us for dinner and he was pleasantly surprised by this simple recipe. He had asked me for the recipe, it was a spur of the moment creation but his request came me the incentive to write it down. This is a nice medley of greens, grape tomatoes and chicken with black pepper and ginger as seasoning. It makes a balanced one dish item, complete with protein and vegetables. Fenugreek, is a winter green that can be obtained in a ethnic grocery store this time or the year, it has a light maple flavor and mildly bitter taste. I also use arugula in this recipe, since that is easier to procure. It tastes great with toasted bread or a serving of rice.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
4 tablespoons oil
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon coarsely crushed cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 and a ½ pounds of boneless, skinless chicken cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 and ½ cups of chopped fenugreek or arugula
1 cup grape tomatoes halved
Method of Preparation
1. Heat the oil on medium heat for about 1 minute.
3. Add in the red onion and cook till the onion is soft and begins to turn translucent, this takes about 3 minutes.
2. Add in the ginger paste and the chicken and cook on medium heat for about 4 minutes to allow the chicken to sear and turn pale brown.
3. Add in the salt, turmeric, black pepper and the fresh lemon juice and cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
4. Add in the chopped fenugreek or the arugula and cook for 3 to 5 minutes
5. Stir in the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes soften very slightly.