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Spice Is Nice


Ruta (exuding confidence and ease)                   Me (looking stressed but having fun)
                                 
I make a mean bowl of cereal, but I’m not known for much else these days, so I relished the opportunity to attend an Indian cooking class with Ruta Kahate, Indian Cooking School teacher and author of 5 Spices, 50 Dishes (Chronicle Books).

Coriander seeds, cumin, mustard seeds, ground cayenne and turmeric are the five spices that star in various combinations of the book’s 50-some recipes. While I wanted to make the simple crunchy cucumber salad with crushed peanuts or the basic marathi yellow fried rice, my culinary-school-graduate-and-former-cook friend insisted we make something that involved more than one or two steps. Since these recipes are super straightforward, even the eggplant stuffed with a sesame-peanut masala turned out to be easy—and that says a lot coming from a kitchen-novice like myself.


Baby eggplant ready for stuffing                             Stuffed and ready for the stove

Our group cooked seven recipes that night, and when I tasted the Goan shrimp curry with eggplant, I was convinced that it was the best dish on the table until I tried the chicken in cashew nut sauce. That held the blue ribbon until I ate the chickpea curry with fresh dill leaves. And on and on—needless to say it was a delicious meal.

The class became the inspiration and confidence-boost I needed to plan a dinner party of my own—one that doesn’t involve pre-made rotisserie chicken or boxes of cereal and jugs of milk. The next obstacle: finding enough seats in my apartment to host a “grown-up” dinner party.