One particularly inspired Valentine's Day, I declared that we would forgo our usual routine of getting an avoid-the-crowds 5:30 p.m. dinner reservation and unspeakably gluttonous array of desserts in favor of staying in and trying to re-create some of our most memorable restaurant-meal moments from the previous year. I congratulated myself on such a cute and clever idea and went into the project guns blazing. That is, until I got to the menu-planning phase and realized how many of our favorite dishes had come from Indian restaurants. I knew a good overnight simmer would lead to a decent bolognese, and that as long as I got actual haricots verts and a quality piece of tuna the Asian-inspired Nicoise salad would be safe. Dessert would just have to include chocolate and one seemingly impressive decorating technique. But I was at a loss when it came to making the delicately fried, Indian-spiced cauliflower dish that had arrived at our table one night by glorious mistake. We'd annihilated it before even realizing we hadn't actually ordered it and have been reminiscing about it at least bimonthly ever since. That humble cauliflower was now, in a small way, a part of our history, a thread in our fabric. Moderate panic started to set in. Certainly it wouldn't cut it to throw some pre-mixed curry powder over beer-battered, deep-fried vegetables and hope for the best. No, I would have to read up, visit some stores, and most importantly, make space for a lot of new spices in my pantry. But even after scouring little Central Avenue grocery stores for fenugreek, green cardamom pods, and asafoetida (which, trust me, tastes a lot better than it smells) and experimenting with various frying techniques, I still could never match the perfect chewiness, complexity of flavor, and heady... More >>>