The gobi dish pictured in this recipe is another culinary pentimento (see my 7/23/12 post on food remembrances). Let me explain: Gobi is the Hindi word for cauliflower. I learned that from my friend
Rajive Aurora, who was originally from New Delhi. Our families used to share in pot luck buffet tables for various and sundry occasions when our respective kids were growing up–he was the soccer coach, and he sometimes brought his Indian-style sauteed cauliflower. The notion of sauteing cauliflower was foreign to me at the time. I had always just blanched then dressed the florets in a more European style, and I fell in love with the way sauteing brings out cauliflower’s earthy flavor. At first I thought gobi meant the dish, including the potatoes, as Rajive made it, but he informed me the word designates just cauliflower, and there are many Indian cauliflower dishes without any potato at all.
The spicing is somewhat open-ended. Ginger, mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric, and coriander seeds are common choices. Beyond those, there might be fresh or dried curry (kari) leaves and/or fresh or dried coconut or coconut milk, as in the Tamilan and Keralan cooking of southern India; or black mustard seeds, asafetida, and/or fresh or dried chilies, as in the Mogul cooking of northern India.
Back to the pentimento theme: in this dish chick peas overlay potatoes, the spices are familiar enough to be in house, and it’s cauliflower season!
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 small yellow or white onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 or 2 small dried red chilies, or 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes, or a small pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium-size cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2- to 1-inch wide florets (5 cups)
1 cup or so cooked chick peas
1/4 cup water
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook, without stirring, until the seeds begin to pop, 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Add the onion, chili, and ginger, stir to mix, and cook until the onion begins to soften, 2 minutes. Add the turmeric, cumin, and butter and stir to mix and melt the butter. Add the cauliflower and salt, stir to mix, cover, and cook on medium heat until the cauliflower is pierceable but still al dente, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the chick peas and water, stir to mix, and continue cooking uncovered until the cauliflower is soft, about 5 minutes more. Serve warm.