Why Is Indian Food So Good?
Many, many years ago I moved to New York City, right out of college. I loved everything about living in New York, especially being exposed to the world of different cultures and foods. I had an artichoke for the first time in my life my first week there. How I got to the age of 21 without ever eating an artichoke is a mystery to me now. I also had Indian food for the first time and became obsessed. There was an entire row of Indian restaurants in the East Village, I think 6th Street, that were exotic in every way. They were often subterranean, in the basement of walkups. They were dark and colorful and lit with colored Christmas lights and mirrors. But the food...I had really just never had anything like it. So automatic and flavorful, spicy and warming, the flavors just exploded in my mouth. I fell in love with Indian food and have been on a hunt for good Indian food ever since leaving New York.
After a few years back in California I received a cookbook from a dear friend of mine from college. It was a cookbook from Mahdur Jaffrey called Indian Cooking, first published in 1982. Madhur Jaffrey is thought to have introduced Indian cooking to the Western Hemisphere with her cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking (1973), which was inducted into the James Beard Foundations' Cookbook Hall of Fame in 2006.
Indian Cooking is the kind of cookbook you read. Jaffrey goes to great lengths to explain how to prep and chop your aromatics, how to sort, rinse and soak your rice (there are 16 pages about rice and rice recipes!) There is page after page about spices. Spices are the root of Indian cooking and the variety of techniques used in Indian cooking is what makes those dishes smell and taste so fresh and satisfying. Sometimes you toast the spices in a dry pan, then grind them. Sometimes you throw the spices in hot oil and fry them. Other times you mix them into a blend and make a spice paste, or a masala. Each technique results in a different flavor profile from each spice. It really is a lot of work to cook Indian food. You have to chop the onions and garlic into fine dice, prep all your spices before getting started, soak your rice...you get the idea.
That is why I was so excited to discover the Indian Butter Chicken Simmer Sauce from Sutter Buttes Olive Oil. To find a sauce in a bottle that doesn’t have artifical ingredients and tastes as good as this one is not easy. Sutter Buttes Olive Oil was started 10 years ago by husband and wife team Alka Kumar and Arek Kazmierczak in their kitchen. They actually started off as olive growers and producers of olive oil. But soon, Alka and Arek’s experiences with traveling the world and their love of food led Alka to begin to develop recipes using olive oil. She soon branched out to jams and dipping oils, and now 10 years down the road they make over 165 items, everything from infused olive oils, flavored balsamic vinegars, jams, spreads, even brownie kits. All the recipes are trial and error and made and tested in-house. According to Alka they are also all made with love.
Alka is half Indian and grew up eating authentic food and understands the flavors on a personal level. She really nailed it with this sauce! The Butter Sauce is fresh tasting and makes getting dinner on the table a snap. You can brown some chicken and simmer in the sauce until done, or add tofu or your favorite vegetables. We like it with tofu and cauliflower. Use this recipe if you want to spice it up a bit. But you can also get creative and try this recipe from Sutter Butte’s website, Butter Chicken Pinwheels. I am definitely bookmarking this for myself since pinwheels are my go to holiday item to bring to any party. They are easy to make and delicious. (Tip - always keep frozen puff pastry and pie dough on hand.)
This Butter Chicken Simmer Sauce is brand new from Sutter Buttes and has already won a prestigious food award, a 2020 sofi Award (Specialty Food Association) Best New Product in the Sauces category. We are really thrilled to be able to feature this product in our September Farm to Fork in a Box and hope that you will enjoy it if you are already a fan of Indian food, and especially if you are new to Indian food. But be warned, this jar of sauce could be a gateway to a new obsession.