I have a new friend, though we’ve never met in person. Her name is Monica Bhide, and she’s a food writer, the kind of food writer I’d like very much to be. Her work is informed by her life (she’s Indian, but grew up in the Middle East) and her upbringing, her ethnicity and her explorations.
Monica and I met on a journalism message board. We became friendly on Twitter, then even more friendly on Facebook. As we’ve exchanged tips and techniques, I’ve come to appreciate her warmth, her generosity, her inspiring way with words. I feel like I know her, though like I said we’ve never met. Monica’s new book, Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen, has become my bathroom reading. Now don’t laugh; this is in fact a very high honor. Since I’m a work-at-home mom, the bathroom is the only place I get to read for pleasure these days. I make my selections carefully. Modern Spice was so good, with so many recipes I was itching to try, that I moved it to my kitchen before I’d even leafed all the way through.
Yesterday I made the simplest, most miraculous marinade, one that fits perfectly into my Parents Need to Eat, Too cooking. It came together in under five minutes—the only step that took any time at all was grating the ginger (I made a double batch, which meant two full tablespoons; I used my Microplane grater). Sweet, spicy, piquant, and absolutely irresistible, I could see using this on any number of things. As I type this, I’m dreaming about dunking just-fried chicken into a big ol’ batch of this delicious goo, to make an Indianesque version of the Barbecued Fried Chicken Stephen and I devoured on a road trip through North Carolina and never forgot. Yesterday I kept it simple, though, with broiled chicken cutlets. The cutlets went into a Ziploc with about 2/3 of the marinade, and then into the fridge for about 45 minutes. A quick run under the broiler—but be sure not to put the rack too close to the flame, since the honey will b-u-r-n—and you’re done. I served it with brown rice and roasted broccoli, and drizzled the extra marinade over the whole thing.
Heaven, I tellya.
If you’re looking for a cookbook to take you to new places but still keep you close enough to your comfort zone that you don’t feel lost, pick up a copy of Modern Spice. You won’t be sorry.
Ginger and Honey Marinade
Adapted from Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen
Makes enough for 6 chicken cutlets plus vegs
2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 cup warm honey [:15 in microwave oughta do it]
1-2 teaspoon red pepper flakes [I used 1 and it was plenty]
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon grated lime or lemon zest [I used lemon; it’s what I had]
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir thoroughly to combine. Transfer to a covered, nonreactive container and refrigerate until needed.
NOTE: Pomegranate molasses is readily available at Middle Eastern stores, Indian stores, and online. If you can’t find it, make your own by reducing pomegranate juice mixed with equal amounts of sugar and lemon juice. Simmer until the mixture has a syrupy consistency. If you can’t find it and don’t make your own, leave it out and add two tablespoons of lemon juice instead.