Phew, I was not going to go on like this! There are no more words, she says, and then she rambles on and on! I was going to talk about tomatoes. Tomatoes – they have such a lovely life cycle, where we live. They grow all summer, the little sweet ones ripening early, a delightful promise of more to come. The weighty, ripe, beautiful late summer tomatoes come all at once, so warm and sweet and juicy, and they continue on into autumn, as their leaves wither around them, and the fruit glows like bright stained glass. I went picking last week, and I got a lot of green tomatoes, because I find them an inspiring challenge. As I was picking I got very excited with the idea of making these fried green tomato pakoras. Hooboy they were good! The batter perfectly crisp and tasty, the tomatoes inside soft and just the right amount sweet. The sauce was good too – cilantro and jalapenos from the farm, brightened by tamarind and tempered by almonds.
Here’s Talib Kweli’s The Proud, which is one of the most honest and intelligent songs about 9/11 and how complicated it was (and it samples Nina Simone!)
THE PAKORA BATTER
1 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup regular flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 t cumin
1 t coriander
1/2 t tumeric
1/4 t fenugreek
warm water to mix (about 1 1/4 cups)
Combine the flours, spices, salt and baking soda in a medium-sized bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups warm water and whisk everything together. It should be the consistency of lightly whipped heavy cream. Leave to sit for about half an hour.
I used about 4 medium-sized green tomatoes, but I had batter for more. Slice them evenly crosswise into 1/3 inch pieces.
Heat olive oil in a wok or saucepan at a depth of about 1/2 an inch. I started at medium-high heat, and turned it to medium once everything got sizzling. You don’t want it too hot, because you want the tomatoes to cook and soften a little bit before the batter burns.
When the batter is hot enough to fry a tiny drop of batter in about a minute, you’re ready to go. Drop the tomato slices, a few at a time, into the batter. Fish them out with your fingers or two forks or a slotted spoon, letting the excess batter run off. Drop them, a few at a time into the hot oil. Fry on both sides till golden. If all of the better slides off the tomato, which it did for quite a few of them, drop the slice of tomato, just as it is – sizzling hot and half coated with batter – right back into the batter. The second coating will stick nicely, and it will be extra crispy.
When the pakoras are golden on each side, remove from the oil and let drain on a rack over a plate or paper towels. Keep in a warm oven until they’re all done. Serve with cilantro tamarind sauce, below.
1 cup cilantro, cleaned, stems removed
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1 t tamarind concentrate
1/2 cup water
3 T olive oil
2 T brown sugar
1 t balsamic
1 t cumin
1 t ginger
1/2 t coriander powder
Combine everything but the olive oil, vinegar and water in a food processor or blender. Blend until everything is chopped up, but it’s still chunky. Add the water and vinegar and process till quite smooth. While the machine is running, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Process till smooth and thick. If it’s too thick, add more water. If it’s too thin, fear not, it will thicken a bit as it sits. (Or you could add more cilantro)