Monday, June 27, 2005

Sufi-Midwestern Warm Potato Salad 

Adapted from a recipe found on-line which had itself evidently been taken from Kathleen Seidel's SERVING THE GUEST: A SUFI COOKBOOK (2000), though this version of the dish has been modified to reflect local ingredients (i.e., what I had in the spice cabinet, freezer, garden and fridge before we went to the party). Total time is approx. an hour, though total hands-on time is considerably less.

1/2 cup veggie oil
1 Tbs. cumin seed
pinch asafoetida
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cayenne (or more to taste)
2-inch piece of cinnamon bark (or a generous pinch of powdered cinnamon)
5 tsp. cumin-coriander powder (or 2 Tbs. coriander)
2 Tbs. chopped ginger (I used Laxmi brand ginger paste from a jar)
1 Tbs. salt
1/2 cup lemon juice (bottled was fine)
1 cup water
3 lbs. scrubbed red potatoes, cubed
1-1/2 cup (approx.) frozen corn
1 cup finely chopped cilantro (or less, to taste)

Heat the oil in a large, wide-bottomed pot with a lid. Over medium heat, fry the cumin seeds until they give off a nice aroma and before they crackle too much. Add a pinch of asafoetida and fry for 5-10 seconds, then sprinkle in the turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, coriander-cumin powder, and ginger. Stir until the spices and oil are blended. Add the salt, lemon juice and water, then the potatoes. Stir, lower the heat, cover the pot and cook until the potatoes are just barely done -- say 15-20 minutes. Add more water a quarter cup at a time if absolutely needed.

Add the corn and cilantro to the pot (reserve a little cilantro for garnish). If the corn is frozen, thaw it in warm water first. Stir well and let it cook for another ten to twenty minutes -- the original recipe suggests cooking it covered then removing the lid "to allow any excess liquid to evaporate," but I found it took at least 15-20 minutes to get the water down to the consistency of a slightly goopy syrup. All that excessive spicing should give the dish a nice grainy texture.

Serve warm or at room temperature, though slightly chilled isn't so bad either. Goes pretty well with beer, though that perhaps partakes more of the Midwestern aspect of the recipe than the Sufi. And most folks would posit that I am a screen with no wires when it comes to the assessment "goes pretty well with beer."


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