Kim Boyce's Olive Oil Cake
Nancy Gaifyllia's Paximathakia Portokaliou

Julie Sahni's Bihari Green Beans Masala


Things improbably gone missing in the move:

1. One tiny All-Clad skillet bought in a super-deal at Broadway Panhandler when it was still over in Soho and that was my trusty seed-toasting, meal-for-one-making, butter-melting companion for many years. This feels only barely replaceable. I'm pretty bereft. How on earth did my little soufflé dishes, my tea cups and espresso spoons, my ceramic trivets and my antique canisters all make it over, but this little darling didn't?

2. An entire set of ivory-handled flatware. Well, forks and knives. To be fair, not as essential as it sounds since I'd had the good fortune of being given my grandmother's silver a few years ago. But still, where could it be? An entire set? When I can't sleep at night, I think about it. Is it still in some old apartment that I didn't comb over obsessively enough? Is it in a shipping container on the high seas? Is it off living the life of Riley in grass skirts on a tropical island with an endless supply of fresh coconuts?

3. A jar of ground coriander. Huh? A half-roll of Saran-Wrap made it over (don't ask). A nearly empty jar of dried summer savory from Penzey's made it over, too. (Seriously, don't ask). But this, a brand-new jar, fragrant and much, much needed, didn't?

A skillet, flatware, ground coriander. Is this some kind of message from the other side? Am I supposed to be understanding something about what's gone missing? 

I know. That's a lot of questions for a Wednesday morning.


I discovered the loss of the ground coriander and the baby skillet in the midst of making dinner the other night, which, as you probably know, is not the best time to realize you don't have something that you were pretty darn sure you had. So sure you didn't even check. Still, Julie Sahni's recipe for green beans in a simply spiced coconut sauce had needled its way into my head and was sitting there, setting off fireworks, until I got to cooking and it didn't really matter, until dinner was done - whole coriander subbed in for ground, a little pot used for toasting almonds instead of my skillet - and gone.

Yes, done and gone. That's about how fast it was to both cook the meal and eat it. For those of you still afraid to cook Indian food because of the time you think it takes, and the complicated list of ingredients, I've found your recipe. This dish took less than 15 minutes to cook, and only a few minutes more to prep. And the ingredients are all easy to source, especially if you live in a country that sells more than just basil in the herb section of the grocery store (ahem, Germany).

We gobbled up the whole dish in an unseemly amount of time, white rice soaking up the delicious sauce. "Delicious!" was exclaimed. "So good!" was declared. Plates, dear readers, might even have been licked. The only Indian food I've had since coming to Berlin in December were takeout meals in London and New York, go figure. So I suppose eating politely and demurely was going to be off the table anyhow.

And even better than the speed and ease with which this was cooked, was the fact that the green beans can be replaced with cauliflower or eggplant, among other vegetables, and the idea of soft, yielding eggplant stewed away in this creamy, velvety sauce is enough to make me forget about any skillet, ground spice or flatware I ever possessed and dream only about the future.

Bihari Green Beans Masala
Serves 2 as a main course with rice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or light olive oil
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a 3-quart sauté pan over medium heat. Add almonds and cook, stirring, until light golden. Remove from heat and transfer almonds to a plate or bowl; set aside for garnish.

2. Add onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, chili pepper flakes and salt to the unwashed sauté pan, and return to medium heat. Sauté until the onion is tender and begins to fry, about 4 minutes.

3. Add coconut milk and green beans. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 6 minutes.

4. Sprinkle beans with lime juice, and toss lightly. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and garnish with almonds and cilantro. Serve with plain cooked rice or roti flatbread.