I was at the dying Border’s in downtown Silver Spring the other day, browsing through mostly-bare shelves of fiction, travel guides and cookbooks and trying to spot bargains along with just about everyone else in the world, or so it seemed.
For those of you who don’t know, Border’s is one of those mammoth bookstore chains here in the United States that has become a victim of e-progress, a turbulent economy, and, by some accounts, its own stupidity — or rather its inability to adapt to the e-reader revolution that lets people download books to nifty gadgets faster than they can say “instant gratification.”
Earlier this year Border’s filed for bankruptcy followed inevitably by the closing of several stores. As the outlets near where I work and near where I live have gone belly-up one after the other, each heaving out a giant gasp of a sale before dying, I’ve felt lucky, sad and old-fashioned by turns. I do read books online and on my smartphone, and I won’t deny the convenience. And I’m one of the most environmentally friendly people I know. But I also enjoy bookstores and browsing through them for hours. I love the heft and volume of a paper-and-ink hardcover in my hands. I love the promise in that new-book smell. And I love feeling the crisp, never-turned-before pages crackle under my fingers as I flip them to see if this one is worth reading, after all.
But as nostalgic as I feel about bookstores and books, a wicked part of me can’t help but see divine justice in the death of these big-box brick-and-mortar chains: after all, it wasn’t that long ago that they were pushing underground all those mom-and-pop bookstores-around-the-corner. Maybe what goes around does come around.
At that last grab-and-shop session at Borders, I bought a few cookbooks that I had been wanting to buy for some time now. Two of these I really love: Niloufer Ichaporia King’s My Bombay Kitchen, a compendium of recipes traditional to India’s culinarily gifted Parsi community; and Sanjeev Kapoor’s How to Cook Indian.
Neither of the books is entirely vegan or even vegetarian, but both have lots of vegan and vegetarian recipes and what’s not vegan can easily be veganized.
Today’s recipe for Sweet and Sour Potatoes, cooked in a Gujarati style, is adapted heavily from Sanjeev Kapoor’s book. I found a bag of these really cute, really tiny white potatoes while grocery-shopping this past weekend, and I’d been saving them for a really special recipe. This one looked perfect. The traditional recipe uses regular-sized potatoes and you can certainly substitute with any waxy white potato if you don’t have the baby ones.
I haven’t shared a spud recipe here on Holy Cow! for a while, but as many of you already know, I do not shy away from this mighty vegetable. Potatoes (when they are not deep-fried, smothered with sour cream, or mashed up with butter) are intrinsically healthy and loaded with nutrients. Don’t eat them every day if you’re watching the waistline because they are a starchy vegetable. But ever so often– especially when they are cooked healthfully– potatoes can be happy members of a well-balanced diet. Always try and leave their jackets on, because most of the nutrients in potatoes sit right under their skin. Besides, those skins are delicious, so why throw them away?
This recipe, which Kapoor describes as a quick-to-make favorite in Gujarati kitchens, is utterly simple, extremely healthy and almost fat-free. I cut down Kapoor’s suggestion for oil (5 tbsp!) to just a light spray to coat the bottom of my pan. The sauce, with tamarind, jaggery, and chili, delivers a wallop of sour, sweet, and spicy flavors that is sure to please just about anyone’s tastebuds. Who needs the oil?
Enjoy the recipe all, and the weekend ahead!
- 1 pound really tiny baby potatoes (these were about 1½ centimeters in diameter. Use diced yukon gold or other waxy white potatoes if you can't find these)
- 1-inch diameter ball of tamarind, soaked in 1 cup of water for about 15-30 minutes. Crush the tamarind pulp with your fingers before straining. Discard the solids and set the pulp aside.
- 1 tbsp jaggery, grated (unrefined Indian sugar. You can buy golden lumps of these at any Indian grocery store)
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 10 curry leaves (optional)
- A pinch of asafetida (hing)
- 2 dry red chillies
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp roasted cumin seeds
- ½ tsp turmeric
- Salt to taste
- Oil to spray the pan
- Powder the red chillies, coriander and cumin seeds and set aside.
- Spray oil in a pan and add the asafetida and the mustard seeds. When the seeds sputter, add the powdered spices and stir well, for about 30 seconds.
- Add the tamarind pulp, jaggery, and 2 cups of water.
- When the sauce comes to a boil, add the potatoes. Return the mixture to a boil, slap on a lid, and let the sauce simmer for another 10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.
- I like to take a potato masher and mash some of the potatoes at the end, leaving the rest whole. This gives the sauce some body.
- Garnish with fresh coriander leaves, if desired.
- Serve hot with rice and dal or some rotis.