Desi and I hadn't caught a single yard sale this summer, so we were really excited when, driving to a store after voting early on Saturday, we came across signs for an estate sale in the Capitol View Park area. This historic neighborhood sits just outside the Washington, D.C. border, not far from where we live, and it was named thus because its strategic location atop a hill offers a view of the Capitol dome. When it came up, nearly 140 years ago, Capitol View Park was a green, serene escape for Hill staffers and other professionals from their hectic lives in D.C. Today, it's just another suburban neighborhood, albeit still a pretty one with an eclectic mix of people of all ages and from all walks of life. The historic old homes are still here, as are many of the trees and the B & O railroad that runs along one border.
The estate sale itself was engaging in more ways than the obvious ones. The house was beautiful: modern, with glass windows all around -- a rather ununsual look for this neighborhood with Victorians and cottages. It had belonged, we gleaned from looking into every room along with dozens of people traipsing through, to a former county council member and his wife who was a state delegate.
While it would be obnoxious to presume one can talk knowledgeably about someone simply from looking at their things, it was easy to see that this couple had lived a full life. There were framed certificates and newspaper clippings about the homeowners, books and vinyl records piled high on several walls, a poster announcing the homeowner's candidacy for the county executive job, and paintings on the wall, including some by the homeowner himself. One room was filled with bits and pieces of violin-making. A workshop was neatly lined wall to wall with tools. There were toys, perhaps for grandkids, and jewelry. And, the most popular destination for nearly everyone at the yard sale, a kitchen with all sorts of odds and ends, including some gadgets I simply couldn't figure out. This was clearly a family that loved to cook.
There were beautiful dining sets and silverware priced in the hundreds and therefore out of my budget, but I did manage to find some lovely things, like this enameled dutch oven with a $15 price tag (more than I'd usually spend on an item of cookware at a yard sale, but this one was special. I am guessing the lower price tag was due to some damage to the lid), and a couple of baking dishes and silverware.
I love the dutch oven. It is small but still a good size to cook in for my family of three, and it looks rather quaint, not like any dutch oven I have ever seen. The only branding on it is an "R" at the bottom with a tiara over it. I googled it up but couldn't locate the maker. I am sure the original owners loved it too, because it looks well used albeit still in great shape. Once I had it home, I couldn't wait to make something in it. Like this unusual Turmeric Root Curry.
When I buy fresh turmeric root at my local Whole Foods, I've often been asked by curious shoppers what I use it for. My answer usually is that Desi adds them to his smoothies. But fresh turmeric, with a grassy taste not unlike carrots, only more bitter, is often used in curries and side dishes in India. I'd been wanting to make this turmeric root curry, that owes its origins to Rajasthan in northwestern India, for the longest time, and the timing seemed just right. The nights are beginning to bite here in the D.C. area, and in our home, each one of us has been attacked by the sniffles over the last few days. Turmeric, as you know, is perfect to put the warmth back in your body and fight colds.
This recipe is slightly modified from the traditional which uses yogurt. I used coconut milk instead, because the sweetness of the coconut milk is perfect with the turmeric root. There are some spices commonly used in Rajasthani cuisine, like fennel seed, that make an appearance here.
This turmeric root curry is a one-pot recipe and easy enough, but make sure you saute the turmeric for a full 10 minutes because turmeric is quite bitter (which you already may have learned the hard way if you ever tried to add more than ½ tsp of turmeric powder to a curry recipe). The sauteing, in an adequate amount of oil, takes that bitterness away and makes the curry incredibly flavorful. Serve this with some rice and a vegetable side like this spicy cauliflower sabzi.
Turmeric Root Curry with Green Peas
- 6 2-inch pieces turmeric root (peeled and grated coarsely. Turmeric stains the skin temporarily, so use gloves while prepping if you want to avoid yellow hands and fingernails for a day or two)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 small moderately hot green chili pepper (optional)
- 1 tsp fennel seed powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves
- 1 large tomato (pureed, or use ½ cup canned tomato puree)
- 10 oz canned coconut milk
- Salt to taste
- Heat the oil in a saucepan or a dutch oven.
- Add the turmeric root and saute, over medium-low heat, for 10 minutes or until the turmeric starts to slightly brown.
- Add the grated ginger, chili pepper if using and coriander leaves and saute another minute.
- Add the green peas and saute for a couple of minutes.
- Add the powdered spices, including the fennel seed powder, the coriander powder, and the garam masala.
- Add the tomatoes and stir well to mix. Let the mixture cook about two to three minutes or until it boils.
- Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil.
- Add ½ to 1 cup water, according to how thick or thin you want your curry to be. I add less because I like the curry thick.
- Bring the curry to a boil, then cover with a tight lid and cook the curry for 15 minutes over medium-low heat.
- Turn the heat off and let it stand for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves before serving.