Cooler weather… and a great Indian recipe


The cooler air from Canada finally arrived! After dropping the kids off, I hit Town Lake, and the cool wind rippling the surface of the water, brushing the sycamore leaves together and ruffling the poison ivy (lots of it; pretty in the fall, but treacherous) was wonderful… I ran the whole four miles, instead of stopping to gasp for breath and limp a quarter mile halfway through. Of course, I’ll probably wolf down a few chocolate bars this afternoon and cancel the effects of the exercise, but for now, I feel virtuous.

I always like to cook when the weather cools down; maybe that’s why I made a great Indian dish last night (in anticipation of the cold front)… I was so proud of myself for having everything together: the dal, the chicken dish… and then fifteen minutes before the chicken was done, I realized I hadn’t put on rice. So we had Indian food with an African flair (couscous). Anyway, here’s what I made (adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s fabulous Indian Cooking cookbook)…

Chicken with Tomatoes and Garam Masala

3-5 T veg. oil
3/4 t cumin seeds
1-in. cinnamon stikc
6 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
1/4 t peppercorns
2/3 large onion, peeled and finely chopped (well, coarsely chopped, in my case)
6-7 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1-in. cube fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 lb. fresh tomatoes, chopped (you can use canned, apparently, but I didn’t)
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 t salt
1/8-1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t garam masala

Put the oil in a large, wide pan and set over med-hi heat. When hot, put in cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves and peppercorns. Stir once and then put in onions, garlic, and ginger. Stir until onions pick up brown specks. Now put in tomatoes, chicken, salt, and cayenne. Stir to mix and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, turn heat to low, and simmer for 20-25 minutes until chicken is done. (Stir a few times while cooking.) Remove cover and turn heat up to medium; stir in garam masala and cook, stirring gently from time to time, for about 5 minutes to reduce liquid a little.

I served it with dal and couscous; had I thought ahead of time, I would have made brown basmati rice. This would also be great with a salad on the side, or, if you’re feeling adventurous (I was once, eight years ago, and haven’t done it since), fresh naan.

Another excuse not to write…

…or clean the house, or pay attention to my children, or chisel the gum (I think it’s gum) off of the floor next to my daughter’s booster seat…

Just what I needed: another distraction! Other than reading or organizing the linen closet (a hopeless ambition). I tried knitting, too, but it just gave me eye strain and carpal tunnel syndrome. My first project was a baby blanket. I just went to the baby’s first birthday party on Sunday, and I’m still only 2/3 done with the stupid blanket.

The writing is going much better than the knitting, fortunately… Murder on the Rocks, the first book in the Gray Whale Inn series, comes out in May (I just saw the cover art, and I love it)… I’m also waiting to hear back from two proposals my agent sent out, and plugging away at the second GWI mystery, Dead and Berried. Fortunately, the book is set in fall in Maine, so as long as I sit in an air conditioned room and don’t look outside, I can pretend it’s lovely weather for an hour or two each day while I write.

The reality is that it’s 107 degrees at the end of September. SEPTEMBER. Fall started SIX DAYS AGO! (Are you listening up there?) I am very fond of Austin, but months like this tend to strain my affection. I become addicted to “Places Rated Almanac” (I get it out from the library every August), and my husband starts getting nervous, reminding me that all of our family is here, and our kids like school, etc. And on the plus side, they don’t have to wear winter coats over their Halloween costumes like I did as a kid in upstate New York. Instead, I ask the neighbors to hose them down from time to time to prevent heat stroke.

Although the weather doesn’t seem to be aware that it’s fall, the plants are changing, and that gives me hope… the Turk’s Cap’s red flowers have given way to red berries, and the frostweed is blooming (I’m looking for monarch butterflies now; hopefully they’ll be down on the first cold front, if one ever comes).

Well, duty (and dinner) calls…

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