24: Mom’s Guju Chili — The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook
Ebb and flow. Death and rebirth. Expand and contract.
Eat a bunch of cake and start craving healthy food again. It’s the circle of life, baby.
After gorging myself for the last few weeks on butter and sugar, I was scouring my books for something that might help me feel a bit less like my blood was turning to icing. And lordy, am I glad I grabbed this one.
The Assignment: Mom’s Guju Chili from The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook: Indian Spice, Oakland Soul by Preeti Mistry with Sarah Henry
LOOK AT THIS BOOK. Don’t you want it right now? The bright colors, the vibrant food, the grabby tagline, the pull-quote from Anthony Bourdain. This is high-level Dana bait right here.
Preeti Mistry is a chef and entrepreneur (who also did a stint in season 6 of Top Chef). This book is named after one of her former restaurants up in the Bay area, and might be the single most visually stimulating book I’ve ever seen. I want to LIVE in the aesthetic of this book. Also, all the food looks bomb, and Mistry has a really great haircut. (BRINGING YOU THE HARD FACTS, PEOPLE.)
Let’s be real: This book is a tad intimidating, both in its beauty and in its spice blends. There’s a whole section of different masala spices. It’s a level up, and you gotta be ready for it before you take the plunge on this book. Is this for novice cooks? Nopity fuck no it’s not. There are some fairly simple recipes for sure, but most of this book is gonna set off a skittish cook’s “I’m Out of My League” alarm. It set off mine, mostly because of the number of Inception recipes… you know, you’re looking at the ingredient list, and you find 3 more recipes in there that you need to flip over to, from chutneys to marinades to raitas… It feels like a lot. These are the reasons I hadn’t cooked from it yet.
HOT TIP: If flipping around between sevreal recipes in your book feels daunting, snap them on your phone. Swiping between pics can feel a bit more manageable.
One damn recipe at a time, DeRuyck.
I went with this take on a moong dal because Mistry says she probably eats it for lunch a few times a week, and that’s the kind of thing I’m interested in: what serious food heads eat as their go-to life sustenance. I also chose it because it’s light, pretty simple, needs a non-intimidating spice blend, and I’m trying to eat more beans.
Things to Note About the Recipe:
- YOU HAVE TO SOAK THE BEANS. Ahem. Hello. Give yourself a day of lead time, because you need to soak those dry beans. I was going to make this recipe yesterday, but because of A) not reading ahead and B) expert levels of procrastination, I am making it now, at the last minute. Just plan ahead. Get the beans ahead of time. Fucking go buy some dry mung beans now, whatever. Just don’t be like me.
- The Dhanna Jeeru Masala. Super easy. Excellent novice masala. It’s just 3/4 cup coriander seeds + 1/4 cup cumin seeds, as per the book. OR if you’re like “I do not need an entire cup of this spice blend hanging around when I only need a tablespoon for this recipe,” halve it like I did (6 tbsp. coriander seeds + 2 tbsp. cumin seeds). Or even quarter it, but then you’re getting into some obnoxious measurements. Bonus: No toasting required. Just grind ’em up in a spice grinder. DONE.
- Are you a hard core spice head with a grinder dedicated to spices? No? Neither am I, but I’m a different kind of hard core, so I have a mortar and pestle. Do I recommend it here? Not really, but it got the job done and I felt like a BAMF sitting on my floor, grinding spices while I listened to podcasts. I’m definitely going to get myself a cheap coffee grinder and designate it as for-spices-only.
- I didn’t puree it completely smooth at the end because I wanted to leave a little texture, and I stand by this decision. I just kind of pulsed ‘n moved the immersion blender until I got the texture I wanted. (Another benefit of the immersion blender vs. a regular blender: CONTROL.)
- The rest of it’s totally easy. A little light chopping, some simmering, and ya done.
How did it taste?
It’s really good, y’all. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m in dire need of food that’s wasn’t cooked with several sticks of butter, but I love it. It’s light, but also nourishing. I could have eaten a lot more, but I also didn’t feel like I needed to. I considered adding a dollop of yogurt (because I fucking love yogurt), but after I tasted it, I didn’t want to change anything about it. It’s simple, clean tasting, flavorful, has just enough heat, and the squeeze of lemon added at the end is SO CLUTCH. I’m so glad I get to eat this for the next few days. (Note from the next morning: The flavor mellows a lot overnight, but I still like it. You might want to add a fresh hit of salt, heat, and/or lemon juice before eating, though.) (Second note from the next evening: The flavor is fine — it’s just a lot more muted when it’s cold, which is how I tasted it this morning. It’s just a lot better warm.)
Would I make this again?
I would and I will, especially since I have a bunch of the spice blend ready to go now and some dry mung beans on hand. This is a really nice staple dish and I’m INTO IT.
Do I recommend this book?
I don’t know, who am I talking to? Are you an adventurous cook who loves playful stylings and bold flavors? Hell yes. Are you trying to find your footing in cooking still? Maybe hold off.
What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?
I wanna make ’em alllllll. I’d probably hit the JBC Classic Chicken Curry next, since that was what I was planning to make before the butter coursing through my veins changed my plans. I’m also dying to make the Fruit Chaat, like, a million times all summer long. Once it’s hot out, I’m not gonna want anything else.
In an attempt to curb my procrastinatory ways, I’m picking next week’s recipe now, and cooking over the weekend. (Will the habit stick? Not a chance. Will I probably still end up writing my blog next Tuesday night anyway? Yeah.)
Don’t come at me for leftovers — I’m not sharing.
(OK fine, maybe a bit.)