[…]In seeking to expand my Shabbat repertoire, I have been surprised to find particular inspiration in Indian cooking. Three of India’s major religions — Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism — advocate the principle of ahimsa, non-violence towards all creatures. That tradition makes Indian cooking particularly welcoming for vegetarians like us. In experimenting with Indian flavors, David has tended to be the bolder adventurer, while I have stuck more closely to cookbooks. But a few months ago, I was inspired to come up with this recipe, a curry of black eyed peas and butternut squash, after tasting a similar combination at the Eastern Mediterranean restaurant Oleana in Cambridge. The cumin and sautéed onion bring out the sweetness in the butternut squash, and the black eyed peas are a cool relief from the cayenne. It pairs well with rice, or with a spinach salad.
If you’ve never cooked with Indian spices, it’s best to buy them at an Indian market or in the bulk aisle of an organic grocery store — you’ll pay much more for small bottles. But don’t worry if you’re missing one spice, or want to experiment by adding another. You can play with the balance of spices to suit the tastes of your friends and family, too — it’s less about strict rules or exact amounts than the combination of flavors and aromas. Indian food, I’m learning, both encourages and forgives creativity: from home to home, no dish is prepared in precisely the same way, a curiosity considering how classic many dishes have become. It too has come to remind me of what Shabbat can be.[…]