Eat: These Three Ingredients Will Brighten Any Vegetable -

Eat: These Three Ingredients Will Brighten Any Vegetable

Credit: nytimes.com

  • Dec 07 2017 14:00About: 6 days ago
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My father got his first tattoo at 63. The number three, in black ink, on the palest part of his arm. “A three?” I asked him, as he rolled down his sleeve. “Why a three?” Because he was the youngest of three siblings, born on the third day of the month, and three had always been his favorite number, he told me. And because three was all-around lucky and mystical, charged full of power — the number of incarnations of the divine, of witches in “Macbeth,” of riddles for a hero to answer.

You can find any number, any number of times, when you’re looking for it. But it’s true that some things are perfect in a set of three, if not exactly harmonizing then crackling together with a kind of magic. My father taught me a few of these sets, at their most elementary, like crepe batter (flour, eggs, whole milk), which he whisked together every Saturday morning, after he took the dog for a walk, so I could have the thin pancakes rolled up with lemon juice and sugar. But the most compelling kitchen trio I know, the one I turn to most often, is an all-purpose blend of coconut, dried red chiles and garlic.

It’s what I put together to be practical and finish odds and ends of vegetables in the fridge, but also to embellish any exciting, single-subject haul from the farmers’ market. It’s what I make when no one is around and I’m eating a quick dinner alone, cross-legged on the floor, in front of my laptop. But also when friends are coming over for a weeknight dinner and I want to put something extra on the table with a pot of dal and rice. When my friend Khushbu asked me for the recipe about a month ago, I realized that although I made it constantly, I’d never once measured its parts or written it down. I didn’t even know its name.




The three key ingredients were always on hand, and I took them for granted. Coconut, bought shredded into tiny pieces, dehydrated and unsweetened. Red chiles, only slightly hot, which I softened in boiling water. And raw garlic, scant in proportion to everything else, but just as necessary. When I bashed the three together in the small stone mortar that lives on my countertop, the garlic got completely obliterated so that no big pieces were left floating around and the chiles broke down into confettilike bits. I usually sautéed the rough, crumbly paste in a hot pan, just long enough to take the edge off the garlic, then added in a cooked vegetable.


It almost didn’t matter which one. Everything the coconut mix touched became a more vivid, lavish version of itself, tingling with heat and sweetness. My family from southwestern India used it to season green beans, trimmed and cut into tiny, delicate pieces, finished with a squeeze of lemon juice. In the winter, I tossed it with rings of unpeeled delicata and butternut squash, roasted in the oven, or tiny florets of roasted cauliflower. I added it to a pan of shredded, stir-fried cabbages, and to thinly cut brussels sprouts and to beets. It was the best way I knew to use up dull, fading carrots (coarsely grated into a pan with shallots). It was delicious with fried eggs, and with tender, shredded, wilted kale, and fresh fava beans that had been blanched in salted water, and summer corn, shaved off the cob and sautéed with some coconut oil, and even with roasted okra. After sprouting an excessive amount of mung beans on the radiator, I realized it was an excellent way to season those too. Three ingredients with endless variations.













In a quick stir-fry I observed my aunt make with the mixture — using fresh coconut — there was also a sprig of fresh curry leaves and some mustard seeds. The leaves spat when they hit the pan, letting out a soft, almost eucalyptus-like bass note into the hot oil, and the mustard seeds fizzled and popped. You can do this, or not, but when the coconut mix infuses into the lightly seasoned oil, you get something fuller, and rounder, and more complex.

“We just call it massolu,” my father told me, when I complained about not having a word for this garlicky coconut mash I loved so much. And a coconut-based massolu could be prepared without garlic, or with tamarind pulp and coriander seeds, or with the addition of toasted dals and cumin. It could be composed of many ingredients and adjusted according to the dish, or it could be, like the one I repeated from my father’s side of the family, fixed and flawless with precisely three.

Recipe: Roasted Squash With Coconut, Chile and Garlic











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