In the process of collecting and recording stories for In the Company of Women, I was so lucky to meet so many incredible people making meaningful and impactful changes within their communities. One of those people I consistently look up to and admire for their work in the world of food and social justice is chef Preeti Mistry.
Preeti is the chef at Juhu Beach Club and Navi Kitchen in Oakland, CA, both of which she co-owns with her wife, Ann Nadeau. Her first cookbook (along with co-writer Sarah Henry), The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook, is an ode to the people and food behind her beloved Oakland restaurant. Preeti explains,
When we started this little restaurant we had no idea how it would evolve. It’s more than the sum of its parts. To me it is a unique story that needs telling because our stories are not told enough. The cookbook world could use more diverse voices, and I am always down for speaking up.
I could not be happier about this book and the delicious food inside. From chutney masala and chai-spiced bacon to warming curries, the recipes inside aren’t just inviting, they’re also paired with meaningful personal stories. As an out queer woman, I’m so thankful for (and it means so much to) see Preeti’s personal stories and recipe headnotes about her talented co-owner and wife, Ann. It’s not often that we see stories of LGBTQ families and relationships in the food world, so this book means so much to me for so many reasons. Today we’re thrilled to share Preeti’s Coconut Tamarind Curry, which is the perfect food for a cold winter weekend like the one ahead of us. I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe, and The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook, as much as we do. –Grace
Photography by Alanna Hale
- 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon green cardamom pods
- 1/2 cup neutral oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, julienned
- 6 fresh curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1/2 tablespoon ginger, minced
- 1/2 tablespoon serrano chiles, minced
- 3 tablespoons Tamarind Paste (recipe follows)
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 can coconut milk (we use Chaokoh brand)
- 2 cups butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- 1 bunch rainbow chard, julienned
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine the coriander, cumin, and mustard seeds and cardamom pods on a sheet pan. Toast them for 5 to 7 minutes until the spices begin to smoke a bit and turn a little brown. Remove the spices from the oven and set them aside to cool. When they are fully cooled, grind them in a spice grinder in batches, until all the spices are fully ground.
Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a medium saucepan on medium high. Add the onions, curry leaves, and fenugreek seeds and stir. Season with salt. The curry leaves will crackle. When the onions begin to turn translucent—about 3 minutes—add the garlic, ginger, and chiles. In a measuring cup combine the tamarind paste with 3 tablespoons of warm water, and mix to soften and dissolve the paste. Continue stirring the saucepan for about 2 minutes, and then add the ground spice blend and turmeric. Stir the spices into the saucepan and let it all cook for about 2 minutes—the spices will begin to stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the tamarind and coconut milk and scrape the bottom of the pan to release any sticking spices. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
Place the squash in a small saucepan with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for about 7 to 10 minutes. Drain the squash when it is cooked. Heat a large saucepan on medium with the remaining oil. Add the mushrooms, and stir to let the mushrooms brown, for about 3 minutes. Add the chard and squash and stir to lightly wilt the greens. After the greens begin to wilt, add the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with turmeric lemon rice.
Tamarind Paste: Many stores sell puréed tamarind paste. I recommend making it: the flavor is so much better, it is way cheaper, and it keeps in the fridge for one week or in the freezer for up to three months. As a child I remember being confused by ice trays full of brown ice cubes. My mother stored her tamarind that way so she could just pop out one or two cubes at a time, as needed. I follow that practice now, too. This is a good recipe to use a food mill, if you happen to have one.
Makes 1 quart
-2 tamarind blocks
Place the tamarind blocks in a medium saucepan with 4 cups of water. Make sure the water covers the blocks fully. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes on low heat, until the tamarind blocks begin to break down and soften; use a spoon to aid this process. Strain the mixture into a sieve and press with a spoon to extract the pulp, leaving the seeds behind. Alternatively, place the mixture in a food mill and hand crank to create the paste. Store the tamarind paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week; for longer storage, transfer to the freezer for up to 3 months.