The prudent desi culinarian is constantly striving to re-create the classics, to take leaves out of different cuisines and infuse them with a burst of flavor. She sets her loving and intuitive gaze on a bunch of plump, ripe tomatoes lolling about in a basket, and summons to mind images of a hot and tangy sauce poured over rice and beans, the way the definitive Spanish arroz rosa is served, with frijoles. Hopelessly hankering after heat and spice, she throws in a handful of Indian spices to elevate the piquancy of the dish. She sees poesy in the rosy tomatoes as they amalgamate with the sweetness of garlic and onion; the zest of ginger; the bittersweet woodsiness of cumin, coriander, clove, cardamom, cinnamon; the robust flare of paprika; the self-effacing, moderate heat of poblano. The tomatoes cede wholeheartedly to the heat of the pan, virtually humming “heigh-ho,” as they bare and bind, the ripples she cuts through them coming clean, like songs of victory unto themselves. Surrounded by warmth and a mix of the most intoxicating aromas that cling to the walls of her bright little kitchen, she notices a lightness in her step as she turns around to fetch some boiled peanuts and pinto beans, finding ways to augment the poetic status of her dish. The beans add a refined edge to the dish, and boiling them even pleases the persnickety health food fanatic, who may not see the poesy she sees, but will be lured by the dramatic mien of her Rosy Tomato Rice.
Here’s what you need to do to follow in her footsteps:
3 medium sized tomatoes, minced.
1 yellow onion, sliced thin and long.
3-4 pods of garlic, finely chopped.
1 tablespoon of ginger, grated.
1 tablespoon of cumin.
Salt to taste.
1 tablespoon each of paprika and coriander powder.
1 teaspoon each of turmeric, garam masala powder, or whole spices according to preference (cardamom, cinnamon, clove).
1 poblano pepper, finely chopped.
1 cup of pinto beans and peanuts, boiled or steamed with a dash of salt.
3/4 cup of rice (Basmati, Jasmine or your favorite type), cooked to fluffy, pearly perfection.
5 tablespoons of light olive oil.
Warm the olive oil in a pan, throw in the cumin seeds and a dash of turmeric, add the ginger, garlic and onions and fry until brown. Add the poblano pepper, paprika, garam masala, fry for a minute and then toss the tomatoes in. Fry until it’s a rich, gloppy mass, coming off the sides of the pan without sticking. Add the boiled pinto beans and peanuts, and salt to taste. Mix well with the rice and for a Tadka ta-da finish, top with a dollop of butter and while it hisses its way gently into the layers of the dish, scatter some finely chopped cilantro. Toss your apron in the hamper while it’s still warm and stained with splotches of success, and enjoy some hearty, hot Rosy Tomato Rice.