The dog days of summer are here in Wisconsin, which means we get the summer equivalent of what we get with a bone chilling winter – hot weather with high humidity. The last thing many of us feel like doing on summer days like this is cooking or heating up the house with the oven. My partner and I, on the other hand, decide to have a big backyard get-together on July 5th in celebration of Independence Day, or as I like to call it “Indiapendence.” Lisa of course preferred the term Bollywood BBQ, so that is what went out on the invitations.
Some of my friends know that one of the convenience foods I relied upon quite often before I started this food journey was Indian food. From the Jyoti line of canned dal and beans, frozen treats such as Mysore Masala Dosa (crepes made from rice and urad dal, stuffed with spicy mysore masala), or one of my favorite snack foods Green Vatana (crunchy peppered green peas which by the way got the knick name “stinky peas” in our house– which was more about my breath after eating them than any odor from the food). Our house was never without the convenience of Indian cuisine. And while I know Indian food from scratch always tastes better than canned or frozen, it does take some time and planning.
Cooking an entire Indian meal from scratch for twelve people took the better part of two days shopping and prepping things ahead of time. We still had some lamb in the freezer (purchased a local lamb last fall from a small Wisconsin farm) so I wanted to use the larger pieces of shoulder and leg. I cut up the shoulder to make a curry and decided to marinate the leg with my own combination of spices so it could be grilled. The rest of the menu was designed around those main proteins, as well as what we could find at the farmer’s market that Saturday. The farmer’s market produced some beautiful green beans, about the size of haricot verts rather than the thicker string variety. Not too much else that day at the market, so we rounded off our shopping trip at Outpost and the Indian Grocery store in town for some of the more unique spices.
To me, Indian food is such a celebration of flavors I guess that’s why I love it so. Several of our guests had never had Indian cuisine before (amazing, I know!) so we wanted to make sure and knock their socks off with the right combination of spicy, savory, sweet, complicated and exotic. We knocked more than the socks off one friend when she ate one of the hot red peppers that was meant only as a spice for the zucchini. Maybe that’s where this expression came from? I didn’t check under the table to see if any socks were left behind, and I was quite surprised the pepper wasn’t spit across the table – which is what I would have done if it happened to me.
If you click on the image you can see a larger version.
We also had a fully decorated garage where we held the dinner (it was threatening rain all day) complete with sari cloth, incense, candles, music, and enough flies to really make it all authentic! By the end of the evening our garage was a “restaurant” and our restaurant had a name – Garage 54 – named partly from the street where we live.
Overall the meal was pretty fabulous. I don’t know if I’ll make the zucchini again – it really didn’t hold in the flavors of the spices very well. All in all it was a great treat for us to treat our friends to this dinner, and for me to have Indian cuisine once again.