Remember how proud I was of my husband for working so hard on a major project that his company is implementing this year? Well, he, in turn, is just as proud of his supportive work team. I popped into what they call "The Big Room" at work and was so impressed with his group. They have really pulled together so many nationalities and cultural differences to form a cohesive team that has reached the fruition of a year long journey.
My husband asked if I would like to have some of his work mates over for a thank you celebration to show his appreciation. Knowing that his team is from all over the world, I thought that would make for an interesting and diverse evening of great shared conversations.
Of course, as all of you know how this "snippets" mind works, food flew straight to the top of my list of "to dos". We would have Europeans, South Americans and Indians attending our little soirée. I needed to prepare a list of dishes that could cater to a vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian crowd. I reveled in the laundry list of "what-ifs" I could cook up.
My daughter suggested samosas. Yes! Samosas are so delicious and I had just run across a recipe for vegetarian samosas filled with peas and chickpeas. That would be a great vegetarian option for our menu.
We began cooking several days in advance of the party. I think we made about 50 or so of these flavorful packets. Folding the triangles was awkward at first but before long we were clicking along and the scented samosas were piling up.
Madeleine and I imagined generations of Indian women deftly folding samosas up at an expert pace. We giggled at the image we must present trying to get the technique just right.
The filling for these chickpea samosas is so aromatic. Not long after all of the ingredients were being mixed on the stovetop did the kitchen fill with enticing smells. Spices are important in Indian food and it was so interesting to become familiar with cumin, mustard seed, ginger, and cilantro combined.
After brushing the filo dough triangles with butter, we slid tray after tray of them into the oven. Again the smell of these delectable bundles filled the entire kitchen.
The cold yogurt and cucumber dip, called Raita, that accompanied these samosas is a great accompaniment. As the layers of flavor from the samosas build, the cold and creamy yogurt adds a softening touch.
It was a wonderful evening getting to know these hard workers who hail from all over the globe. We stayed up into the evening listening to funny stories from Scotland, about cooking with cactus in South America, and the multitude of differences between cuisines from the diverse regions of Northern and Southern India. Wouldn't it be something to zip to each country and really see these wonderful stories played out in kitchens all over the world!
Spicy Chickpea Samosas with Raita:
(adapted from Cooking Light April 2011 issue)
(yields 12 servings)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen or fresh green peas
1 tablespoon water
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
24 (14x9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
3/4 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
To make samosas, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped carrot; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1/2 cup onions, ginger, and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly (Snippets notes: Wait until the pungent smell fills the room. It's wonderful!) Add green peas, 1 tablespoon water, and chickpeas; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup cilantro and 1 tablespoon juice. Cool (Snippets Notes: I made this filling ahead of time and kept it in the refrigerator)
Preheat oven to 400˚F
Place 1 phyllo sheet on a large work surface (Snippets Note: I used 2 sheets at a time because one was too difficult for me). Cover remaining dough to keep from drying. Coat with cooking spray. Fold layered sheets in half lengthwise. Spoon 2 tablespoons filling onto bottom end of rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold bottom corner over mixture, forming a triangle; keep folding back and forth into a triangle to end of phyllo strip. Tuck edges under; place, seam side down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush with melted butter. Repeat with remaining sheets of phyllo. Bake at 400˚F for 10 minutes or until crisp and golden.
To make raita, combine yogurt and remaining ingredients. Serve with samosas. (Snippets Notes: I made the yogurt mixture the day before the party. I kept the cucumbers out until right before serving so they wouldn't get soggy)