We spent last weekend at a rental house in the Catskill mountains with some friends from college and a few of their close friends. Ten adults. Eight little boys ages 6 month to 6 years. An endless supply of good food. Late nights and early mornings. Amazing fun.
The weather was cold and rainy, but the house was well equipped to keep everyone occupied. We played air hockey and foosball and pool and Settlers of Catan. The kids got lessons in backgammon, dominoes, and the card game, war. On the warmest day, we played bubbles and hopscotch. The kids enjoyed the large outdoor play set and playing T-ball in the yard, which was much more a practice in turn-taking than anything else. There were nature walks, a close call with a tick, and a perfectly freaky encounter with a snake. The jacuzzi went largely unused and the karaoke machine went completely neglected.
Each of the five families prepared a meal during our weekend stay. We ate tender slow-cooked BBQ pork with grilled sweet corn, homemade waffles with ripe strawberries and fresh whipped cream (the sweet result of a multi-person hand-whipping effort), an assortment of four types of bacon, cinnamon roll french toast bake, cheddar garlic biscuits, scrambled eggs with applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, and Gruyère, and a taco spread that would make any mouth water. (The lime marinated skirt steak won my heart.)
And though the food was amazing, the home more than comfortable, and the entertainment plentiful, the best part of the weekend, by far, was the people. Over the course of three days, 18 of us lived together, laughing and connecting, enjoying old friendships and beginning new ones.
Likewise, it was the people who made our recent "Temple Run" birthday party such a grand success – the friends and family who traveled from out of town to celebrate with us, the ones who came early to help set up, my brother who chased 20 or so small children through the "Temple Run" obstacle course in a hot gorilla suit, the guests who repeatedly helped me to repair the course with packaging tape every time one of our small runners plowed through the perimeter, and our fun and social guests. The food and the decorations and the theme all set the stage, but the people made the party.
Thankfully, I had help from a friend when it came to our Indian-themed menu. I’m no stranger to Googling recipes when I’m looking to cook something new, (like a full buffet of Indian food) but this time I also had the benefit of an old teaching buddy of mine, who kindly shared the recipe for one of her mom’s signature dishes with me – a dish she fondly recalls from her childhood, as being served with pooris on special occasions and when entertaining visiting family from India.
Like many familiar family recipes, which are passed on through generations, this recipe is often cooked more by taste than by exact measure. And since I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting the original recipe, I had to use a bit of guesswork and personal guidance from my own taste buds when determining the measurements for most of the spices in this dish. My version of this tasty recipe may not be exactly like my friend’s familiar family favorite, but these savory chickpeas certainly made a delicious addition to our party menu!
Adapted from a recipe by Rekha Antani
3 cans chickpeas
1 medium onion, coarse chopped
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, coarse chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1/2-inch segment of ginger, peeled
3/4 teaspoon mustard Seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of cloves
3 whole cardamoms
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon coriander powder
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons powdered cashews (optional)*
1. Drain chick peas, reserving the liquid for later.
2. Process the onion, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic in a blender or food processor, until smooth. Combine the mustard seeds, turmeric, chili powder, and cardamoms in a saucepan over medium heat. Immediately add the onion and tomato mixture to the pan. Add the cinnamon, cloves, sugar, and cumin/coriander powder. Stir well and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the chickpeas to the mixture, stirring from the bottom. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer. Continue simmering, partially covered, for 25-30 minutes, adding some of the reserved liquid, a little at a time, as the liquid reduces. Once it appears that the chickpeas have changed color by absorbing the spices, lower the heat.
4. Take about 1/4 cup of the hot liquid in the pan and mix it with the sour cream. Then, add the sour cream mixture to the pan. Simmer for 3-4 minutes more at a medium/low heat, until it begins to bubble and thicken. Add the powdered cashews, if desired. Garnish with fresh chopped coriander.
*I omitted the powdered cashews in my preparation due to children with nut allergies at our party.
**The original recipe also calls for an unspecified quantity of a spice called hing or asafoetida, which was not available in my well-stocked grocery store. It would likely be available in an Indian grocery store.
Mango lassi (mango and yogurt smoothie)
2 cups mango nectar
2 cups mango chunks, frozen
3 cups plain yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Honey (optional, to taste)
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.
2. Adjust sweetness with additional honey, to taste. Sprinkle with a dash of cardamom powder or garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, if desired.