When I got married, a group of my friends gave me a collection of handwritten recipes, pasted into a little black book with photographs and stories. I had been living for the past several years in a cooperative house with a bunch of people, and the center of our lives in that house was the decrepit, poorly painted (my fault) kitchen we shared and cooked in together. The sweet little recipes-and-pictures book went with me when I moved to India with Ankur, and I cooked the nutty noodles and baked tofu and tahari and garlic green beans enough times that I don’t need the written recipes anymore.
(Which is good, because sadly — due to a turn of events too complicated to go into during today’s post — that recipe book was lost a few years later. I’m a little angry/choked/remorseful just thinking about it. . . . but that story will have to wait for another day.)
My friend Zehra gave me a recipe for aloo methi (potatoes with fenugreek leaves) that I cooked all the time when I was first married and living in India, for the a number of reasons: Ankur and I both love aloo methi; methi was easy to get at any market, and it would be fresh. Most of all, I had all kinds of time on my hands. I could walk to the market to get methi at 2 in the afternoon, come home at 3, then spend an hour picky those pesky little leaves off the pesky little stem. I had nowhere else to be, and it was kind of fun to spend an afternoon preparing dinner. Check out this methi picture at ecurry.com to get a sense of how pesky (yet pretty) methi can be.
And of course, after Pista and Kishmish were born everyone was bringing me methi in every form possible, since it’s supposed to be good for lactating moms. I had methi laddus, sprouted methi seeds, methi tea. And aloo methi any time I wanted, thanks to the ladies we hired to help out after the twins were born. I didn’t have time to pluck methi leaves any more. . . . but that’s why you hire help after having a baby or two!
After moving back here, all the good times stopped. You don’t really get fresh fenugreek leaves in New York unless you go to an Indian market, and we were not doing that much in the beginning. In an effort to find a substitute, I started using arugula. I figured it’s bitter leafiness would stand in well for methi. Since the leaves are larger, it’s also much easier to clean. It happens to cook quickly, too.
After not cooking this recipe for a long time, I picked up some arugula from Monkshood Farm at the Greenmarket this weekend.
Along with tomatoes and potatoes from the market, it made a perfect aloo arugula dish.
Aloo Arugula (Spicy Potatoes with Arugula)
- about 1 cup white potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 roma tomato, diced
- 2 cups arugula, washed well and chopped (I used less than 0.25 pounds of arugula)
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed or thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste (I forgot to add this, but it’s good.)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
Heat the oil in a wok or kadhai. Add the cumin seeds and let them splutter and brown for about a minute, on medium heat.
Add the potatoes, garlic, salt, and ginger paste (if you don’t forget it). Cook over a medium flame, stirring from time to time, until the potatoes get slightly brown on the edges.
Add the diced tomatoes, turmeric, and coriander powder. Push down on the tomatoes to soften them and to cook the spices.
Add the chopped arugula. The idea is to cook the potatoes the rest of the way without adding extra water. The water that comes from the arugula as it cooks should suffice. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and let the vegetable cook. You may need to lift the cover and stir every few minutes, and if things look dicey, you can drizzle in a little bit of water. But this should be a dry-ish sabji at the end, not a runny mess, so don’t add lots of water.
I love to eat this with parathas/rotis and tangy yogurt. Pista and Kishmish like to eat it with….ketchup. *sniff*