Friday, October 25, 2013

Indian Curried Green Tomatoes Bhaaji

This is it. This is the one, the only, the whole and sole green tomato recipe you need. Throw away all those fried green tomato recipes. Only ever curry green tomatoes from now on!

KIDDING totally kidding - fried green tomatoes are amazing and if one has 2 green tomatoes one must always fry at least one of them. I'm just saying, curry the other, and you will make yourself doubly happy and you'll get flavors that you would never have thought of with regular ol' frying. In fact, I fried some up too, and I'm going to post that recipe next week!

But no, seriously, don't go frying up all your green tomatoes. If you're looking for a perfect sweet and tart and savory and succulent vegetarian dish, this, friends, is it.

We went apple picking last weekend as one must in the fall, and found, to our delight, that the orchards were attached to a little vegetable farm too (and they had a raspberry patch, but those didn't survive to make it to the kitchen)! When faced with plump juicy fresh vegetables popping out of the ground just winking at you and calling out at you, it is, of course, impossible to resist. And so, in addition to our 16 (SIXTEEN - what were we thinking) pounds of apples, we picked up a good bounty of fresh veggies too! 

That's sixteen pounds of apples...
And while we're still working our way through our apple bounty (watch out for a couple of apple posts next week), after spending a day munching on apples and baking them up, I really just wanted to focus on the delightful veggies.

And look at this! Green tomatoes! In the fall! That we picked ourselves! Excitement.

Of course I had to fry a few, but I knew there had to be a delicious Indian way to prepare these too. So I picked up my phone and speed-dialed an expert. I wonder if my mom ever gets thrown off by my random food related queries? I'm pretty sure she wasn't expecting me to throw a "teach me how to make green tomatoes Indian style" into an everyday conversation about the weather (so cold now - time for heating and boots). Anyway, she stepped up as always, and under her tutelage (and with a phone call to my grandma - yet another family expert), I ended up with a delicious dish that has me wanting to grow my own tomatoes - not because I want to use the ripe red ones for anything, but because I want green tomatoes at my beck and call!

These tomatoes are succulent and meaty, sweet and sour, spicy and fresh, and all around absolutely delicious. Where ripe red tomatoes are perfect for regular curries because they cook down into a yummy curry base along with onions, these green tomatoes are sturdy enough to stand up to cooking and get meltingly tender without falling apart into a pulpy mess, so they can be a stand-alone dish instead of merely playing a (very important, but still) background role in a regular curry. 

Just don't chop the tomatoes into tiny pieces - leave them in big enough bite sized chunks so that they hold up well to the heat.

The unripe tart flavor of the tomatoes pairs deliciously with the sweetness of the jaggery. You can pick up this unrefined sugar in your local Indian store (it comes as a brown loaf or block, and you'll need to chip off bits to use). But if you can't find any, you can also use brown sugar or brown sugar + molasses or some other unrefined sugar. It won't taste the same though, because jaggery has its own unique flavor. And it's healthier too because it is unrefined! To see some of my pictures of jaggery being made, read this.

Freshly roasted and ground spices are key - you won't get the same kick with pre-powdered spices, but I suppose regular ol' cumin-coriander powder will do quite alright. No. No it wouldn't. Just roast and grind the spices already. It takes 2 minutes, maybe 3. 

Sigh, I know, I know, who has time to roast and grind spices every time? I use the pre-ground stuff too, and although it is still delicious, you just can't replace that particular "phankar" or zing of just-ground-goodness. So if at all possible, do roast and grind these spices yourself just before using. Otherwise just use equivalent amounts of pre-ground spices. 

Roasted and ground peanuts add a satisfying crunch and texture to the dish. After you roast and grind your spices, set them aside, and do the same for the peanuts.

In a pan, heat some oil and temper asafoetida, mustard seeds, and whole cumin seeds. Add in the chopped onion and saute it up until translucent (you don't want to get the onion caramelized - it should still have a little bit of bite to it) and add in the turmeric and chili powder.

Add in the chopped green tomatoes, half of the freshly prepared cumin-coriander powder, and salt. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until just tender. 

When the tomatoes are just tender, add in the ground peanuts, jaggery, and the rest of the cumin-coriander powder. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes.

Serve with fresh hot chappatis as an entree or as a fun side by themselves.

Curried Green Tomatoes Bhaaji


1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/8 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
2 - 2 1/2 tbsp jaggery (or 2 tbsp brown sugar)
3 medium green tomatoes
1 medium white onion


Heat a skillet on high and add in the coriander and 1 tsp cumin seeds. Dry roast them for about two minutes and set aside to cool.

In a mortar and pestle, grind the coriander and cumin seeds.

In a mortar and pestle, grind the peanuts until you have small crunchy bites.

In a heavy bottomed skillet, heat 2 tbsp vegetable oil on high. When the oil is almost smoking, add in the mustard seeds, asafoetida, and 1 tsp cumin seeds to temper. After the spices splutter and become fragrant (30 seconds), add in the chopped onion and saute until translucent.

Add in the turmeric and chili powder, stir to coat the onions in the spices.

Add in the chopped green tomatoes and half of the cumin-coriander powder and stir. Salt generously, stir, cover, and cook on low heat until just tender (10-15 minutes).

Add in the ground peanuts, jaggery, and the rest of the cumin-coriander powder. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes, take off heat and serve warm.

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