WE'RE HAVING A HEAT WAVE, A TROPICAL HEAT WAVE
Heat washes over us as we step over the sill out onto the street, a strange, unfamiliar heat that bounces off the asphalt and stabs at our skin, a bright, glaring light that blinds. Heat heavy and stifling like a hand pressed over our mouths, our clothes push against our bodies slowing us down. A ramble along the river ignites rather than soothes as we search desperately for a hint of shade. We see the dogs splayed across the bows of the boats moored along the river’s edge, panting in the unforgiving heat, glaring jealously at each other. No gentle breeze rolls calmly off of the water, a lover’s stroll that is meant to be hand-in-hand only fuels grumblings and discontent. Too hot and sticky to touch, too oppressive to enjoy the time together.
“A real scorcher,” as the old men used to say, lined up in garden chairs down the sidewalk, pushing their hats further up on their heads and swiping at their foreheads with worn handkerchiefs. This is ice-cold lemonade weather, gulped down quickly before the ice cubes can melt and begin to warm. Ice cream drips down our arms spoiling any pleasure we may have had with that first cool, creamy lick. Lazy days spent sprawled in an armchair, fanning oneself, hoping, praying that it might rain.
There is nothing sultry about this heat, no drizzle of sweat suggestively trickling down a cleavage, torrid afternoons amid crumpled sheets, the slow whirring of the ceiling fan mesmerizing, a curl of hair flicking back and forth across her face. No movie-star he-men standing in dark, Old World bars in sun-baked, far-away places, sipping whiskeys and waiting for the mysterious woman, that glamorous femme fatale, to swish through the swinging doors, pausing as all eyes slide up and down her body. No smoldering looks as he leans over and lights her cigarette, she cool and collected, he tugging at his collar and loosening his tie. No casual remark about the heat, the storm brewing in the distance, no steamy innuendos, no whispers like electric currents passing back and forth, no sidelong glances beneath half-closed eyelids, the nervous clicking of coins against the zinc bar top.
No, summer hits us without the romance, its unrelenting, unforgiving heat closing in on all sides and draining every ounce of energy, sucking us dry. Our emotions simmer just below the surface until someone says the wrong thing and we explode, boiling point finally reached and we flare up. No matter how many sweltering Florida summers I have lived through, I will never be used to the heat. I cannot look smart and glamorous with perfect hair and make-up, I have no desire to dress in more than shorts and a tank, hair yanked unceremoniously back in a clip, bare feet sliding across the parquet floors.
Windows flung open, our apartment is fairly cool, no oppressive heat keeping us from the kitchen. Only laziness. Summer laissez faire, we barely have the energy to pull ourselves up and off the sofa and drag our bloated body to the fridge where we open the door and lean into the cool and wonder if we really have the desire to eat. Well, it may be hot enough outside to fry an egg on the sidewalk, but this girl always has the energy and the desire to eat! On the otherhand, going out to the market or the grocery store is another story all together. The only attraction is the possibility to stand in the chilled meat and cheese section, put our face into the ice cream case or lean against the chilled glass windows.
So what is the attraction to Indian food? I bought my first Indian cookbook, that fabulous Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey when living in hot, hot Milan, Italy and started learning the ins and outs. When we lived in Milan, there were almost no “ethnic” (read: other than Italian) restaurants in the city other than Chinese and one Indian restaurant run by an expat. So when we craved Moroccan or Cajun, French or Jewish, it had to be homemade. So while I was at it, I added what must be one of my favorite cuisines: Indian.
And it is a hot weather country, swelteringly hot, and we crave this often spicy, very flavorful cuisine mostly when it is hot. Hot inside cools the outside, I guess. Well, influenced by my wonderful fellow food bloggers and friends Deeba of Passionate about Baking and Meeta of What’s for Lunch Honey? and their amazing Indian cooking, I craved. And I recently saw this gorgeous Egg Curry on Meeta’s blog and just had to grab my Madhur Jaffrey cookbook off the shelf and let it all take over. I didn’t have all of the ingredients for any one dish, so I borrowed, tweaked and improvised and ended up with an extremely delicious dish that was both quick and simple. Everyone loved it: JP raved and Simon not only ate it but said that it was good!
EGGS IN AN INDIAN-STYLE CREAM SAUCE
Served over Rice Pilaf
For 4 people:
1 – 2 eggs per person
3 Tbs vegetable oil
3 – 4 Tbs finely chopped onion
½ tsp ground ginger (1-inch cube freshly grated if you have)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup (200 ml) light cream (a bit more if you like it creamier)
1 Tbs lime or lemon juice (I used lime)
2/3 cup (160 ml) chicken stock
2 tsps tomato paste (a bit more to taste if you like)
Finely chopped coriander
Hard boil the eggs for no more than 12 minutes then immediately run under cold water to cool them down and stop the cooking. Peel and set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring, until they are browned around the edges, about 2 or 3 minutes.
Add the spices and the chickpeas and stir, continuing to cook for another minute.
Stir the tomato paste into the chicken stock until smooth. Add this to the pan along with the cream and the lime or lemon juice. Stir until everything is well blended and smooth and bring up to a simmer.
Slice the hardboiled eggs in half lengthwise and gently lay on the cream sauce in the pan then carefully push them down into the sauce, spooning some of the sauce on the eggs to cover. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of the chopped fresh coriander (depending on how much you like coriander) and allow to very gently simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring gently and moistening the eggs with the sauce. The sauce should thicken a bit.
Serve with the Rice Pilaf and extra chopped fresh coriander sprinkled on top.
4 Tbs (60 g) unsalted butter
2 cups Basmati or other long-grained white rice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardomom
½ cup slivered or very coarsely chopped blanched almonds
4 cups (1 liter) water
1 ½ tsps salt
½ cup raisins
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottom skillet or pot. Add the rice and stir to coat all of the rice and cook for a minute or two until the rice starts to color.
Add the cinnamon and the cardamom and continue frying for 1 minute.
Add the almonds, salt and water, stir and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and allow to gently simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally.
The rice should be tender and moist, but not mushy.