There are a lot of things in this world that are downright sad: the death of a pet, what’s happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bach’s ‘Air on the G String,’ and so on. My super-reductive definition of sad is the feeling you get when you encounter something that steps on your heart and doesn’t let up until you search desperately on the internet for something that will make you feel better, like your dad’s Facebook status update. Depressing is different, though. Things that are depressing serve to confirm that no matter how hard you try, everything is still screwed up and unfair and stupid. The recent Republican debates come to mind. So does the job application process, and the continued success of restaurants like the Outback Steakhouse. I could go on.
The worst part about encountering something depressing is that love doesn’t really dispel the feelings it inspires — and neither does work, though you will probably spend a few laborious days figuring that one out. If it’s really got you, you will probably find yourself on the couch cuddling with the dog and watching episode after episode of ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,’ which is in itself a rather depressing show. (As an aside, I have a theory that the ‘Law and Order’ franchise has forged a loop in the space-time continuum, meaning that there have actually been more hours of that show recorded than there have been, cumulatively, in the entire history of television.)
Fortunately, there is a cure for the mild depression brought on by encounters with unpleasant things you can’t do anything about. You just need to make something, preferably something weird and wonderful and new. In other words, you need a completely manageable brush with potential failure that has low enough stakes to keep you in the room (and off the couch), but is scary enough to make you pay attention and try to succeed. Cooking is a really, really good option, because no one needs to taste it but you (and your future husband), and no one needs to like it but you (and your future husband, who likes everything you cook).
We’ve been experimenting with pseudo-Indian cuisine at chez secret menu for the past week or so, since we recently discovered an Indian grocery store about ten minutes away. Score! I have never eaten so much paneer in my life. I have also never really attempted homemade curries before, but it’s been a lot of fun. I’m really digging the ones that have a bit of sweetness to them, like the ones with clove (featured below). And I like mixing my own spices into a mess, because it’s hard to mess up. Your spice cabinet wants to help you. The internet really wants to help you. Jamie Oliver even wants to help you. So how bad could it really turn out?
When I was in 29 Palms with my mom last year, we ate at an Indian restaurant that also made curry-based pizzas. Brilliant. I always wanted to try it myself at home, but didn’t really have solid access to the right ingredients until now. Paneer is crucial. Also, you can make this pizza with a regular store-bought pizza dough (or something awesome like naan), but I’ve been on a health kick lately and thought I’d try a cauliflower crust. It’s got a lot of cheese in it, but if you’re doing a low-sugar diet it won’t hurt you. That, in fact, is the best thing about a low-sugar diet: So. Much. Cheese.
Curry Pizza with Cauliflower Crust
Ingredients for the crust:
-1/2 head cauliflower (yields 2 cups shredded cauliflower)
- 1 egg
- 1 cup shredded paneer cheese
-1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
-1/2 teaspoon salt
Ingredients for the topping:
-2 tbs butter
-1/2 tsp clove powder
-1/2 tsp turmeric
-1 tsp salt
-1 clove garlic, crushed
-1 tsp garam masala
-1 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp ginger powder (or 1 tsp fresh ground ginger)
-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
-3-4 large tomatoes, blanched and diced (or 1 can of crushed tomatoes)
-1 onion, diced 2 cups spinach, wilted
-1/2 cup shredded paneer cheese
Shred the cauliflower with a grater or food processor (on the latter front, be careful — you don’t want soup), and then dry-saute it in a large pan for about five minutes until it softens a bit. Stir often so it doesn’t brown. Put it aside in a bowl and let it cool a bit.
Preheat the oven to 450, and mix together the spices (clove, turmeric, salt, garlic, garam masala, cumin, ginger, and cayenne) in a small bowl. Now melt your butter in a large pan over medium heat, and when it’s bubbling throw in the onions. Saute them until they’re soft. Add the tomatoes and the spice mix, stirring it all together well. Put the heat to low, and cover. Stir from time to time to make sure nothing burns.
Returning our attention to the crust: oil or spread some butter on a cookie sheet or pizza pan. Mix the cauliflower, 1 cup of shredded paneer, the egg, the crushed garlic, and the salt together in a mixing bowl. Now grab the “dough” and put it in the center of the cookie sheet, pressing it into a 9 to 12-inch round. Put it in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until slightly browned.
Take the crust out of the oven and then set it to broil. Your curry sauce should be nice and soft (taste it to make sure that all the crunch has gone out of the onions, and it’s just a squishy mass of yum). Spread it over the top of the crust. Then add your wilted spinach. Top with the rest of the shredded paneer.
Broil the pizza until the paneer melts a bit, about 5-7 minutes. Serve immediately, before someone else steals your slice. Or just don’t invite more than one other person to dinner, ensuring that you will get at least 2 slices to yourself.