I have regarded the majority of my family as a lost cause when it comes to Indian food for some time now. Sushi and Thai my sister and I eventually got them eating, but something about Indian food was a problem. Recently however my mom had been making comments about dishes on my blog like “Gee if Alex could eat that [in terms of spiciness] than I would like to try it.” So I started thinking about the best way to introduce my mom to Indian food.
My family has always eaten a cross between a traditional Midwestern diet and traditional Italian American food. Just like my Polish grandma learned to cook Italian food for my Italian grandpa, so too did my mom learn to cook it for my half-Italian dad. The protein is almost always meat (or chicken or fish, but not vegetarian is my point) and they are not big fans of rice. So I regarded those 2 issues as my biggest challenges. I was considering some vegetables roasted with Indian spices, having been inspired by those wonderful potatoes, when it occurred to me to look in one of the first cookbooks I ever received, Chilis To Chutney: American Home Cooking with the Flavors of India by Neelam Batra. (Asa matter of fact, I received it so long ago from my sister that it is actually inscribed, whereas now we give each other so many cookbooks we rarely bother inscribing them.)
I was looking at the grill section when I realized that Batra had a recipe for a tandoori yogurt marinade for steak. Now if there was ever a dish that would get my mom to appreciate Indian spices, it would be something done with steak. So I hauled out 2 sirloins for my family from the quarter cow I recently purchased–I had them cut extra thick so 2 sirloins actually served us for 2 nights–and started the marinade.
This entire meal was absolutely inspired. My mom loved it and so did the rest of my family. I used amchur powder in place of the fennel on the same roasted whole baby potatoes, and I roasted broccoflower with sliced onions the first night; the second night I roasted asparagus with sliced lemon. In all 3 cases, I used Indian spices to roast the veggies and in all 3 cases the result was perfect. Exotic without being alien, the perfect gateway food.
3/4 cup nonfat yogurt, whisked smooth (I used Greek yogurt because that is what I had, if you want marinade to totally shake off before cooking do not use Greek)
1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
2 T minced garlic
2 T minced ginger
1 T dried mint (or 1/4 cup fresh)
1 T dried oregano
1 T garam masala
salt to taste
1 T vegetable oil
2 t paprika (use some cayenne for more heat)
32-48 oz total of sirloin steaks
Whisk together the first 8 ingredients (up through salt). In a small sauce pan, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the paprika/cayenne and immediately stir it into the marinade (watch that it does not burn–I let my oil get too hot the first time and had to start over). Set aside about 1/4 cup of this mixture and store in the refrigerator for basting onto grilling steaks. Place the steaks in a flat tupperware container or baking dish and cover them with the rest of the marinade. Cover and let marinade for 12-48 hours (I did about 18).
Heat a grill before serving–I grilled indoors but outdoors is obviously fine too. Place the steaks on the grill and cook to desired doneness, turning occasionally and basting with the reserved marinade. Let sit for 10 minutes off the grill before serving.