It’s easy to capture authentic ethnic flavors if you have the right spices and seasonings on hand. A few years ago, I came across a recipe for Moroccan tagine, a well-seasoned casserole of chicken, olives and some dried fruit. Reading through the list of ingredients made me realize that I had to do a little shopping if I wanted to make it at home. So I set out to round up the spices – including turmeric, ground cumin and coriander – then headed home to cook up dinner.
A few hours later, I pulled the steaming chicken from the oven and felt like a culinary superstar. I was able to capture the exact same flavors I remembered experiencing during a trip to Morocco several years prior by combining a blend of just the right spices.
I’ve not been to India, but I’ve recently taken a shine to Indian cooking. And I enjoy prowling around the Indian stores in Paris, looking at the dark, sticky sugars, oversized burlap bags of rice and unusual vegetables piled high.
But what I love most about Indian cooking is how fruits get used to tame the spices in many dishes, including chutneys. The good news is that Indian flavors are easy to accomplish at home, even if you live in a small apartment. I use a grill pan, which gives food a nice sear, and found lively Spice Islands garam masala, a traditional spice blend that combines many of the great flavors of Indian food in one convenient mixture, makes things easier. It’s already a little hot, but I can’t resist adding a little more cayenne pepper to spice things up.
Indian-Spiced Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers
These skewers could either be an appetizer or a main course, served atop rice with some chutney. Wedges of lime alongside help tame any heat, or add a spoonful of a favorite Indian-style yogurt sauce, like raita.
16 medium-sized raw shrimp, peeled
16 one-inch chunks of pineapple, fresh or canned (unsweetened)
1 1/2 tablespoons unflavored vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons Spice Islands garam masala
1 scant teaspoon dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon Spice Islands cayenne pepper
Toasted coconut, for garnish, if desired
1. Using eight 6-inch skewers, put a chunk of pineapple on each one. Then add a piece of shrimp to each.
2. Continue, adding another chunk of pineapple, then one more piece of shrimp.
3. In a shallow baking dish, mix the oil, garam masala, brown sugar and cayenne pepper. Then toss the skewered shrimp in the marinade and refrigerate for at least one hour.
(Shrimp can be marinated up to 8 hours in advance.)
4. Cook the skewers on a hot grill, or oiled grill pan, until shrimp and pineapple are seared on the outside and cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Any marinating juices can be brushed on the skewered shrimp while grilling.
Dust with toasted coconut and serve warm.