East-West Flavor Fusion


It's Tomato Season!! Let's make sauce, chutney, salsa and anything else you can think of: tomato water!!

Chutneys originated in India, where a mind-boggling array of piquant relishes, hot, sour and sweet, are made fresh to be eaten in small quantities with all kinds of main courses.

In India, fresh fruits, freshly ground spices and home-grown herbs can be combined in as many ways as there are home gardens and kitchens to create various flavors of “chatni”.

Chatni denotes a fresh, uncooked paste of herbs, coconut and spices, ground fine and often mixed with sour fruit or mangoes, which should be refrigerated and used within a day or two, served as an accompaniment to rice and curries.

Western forms of chutney are generally cooked, combining sugar and vinegar with spices and fruit. The advantage of the Western method is that the chutney can be stored for longer periods before eating.

Here is one of my favorite chutneys, which combines hot, spicy, fruity and sour for a truly East-West flavor fusion. Delicious with brown rice or any kind of rice, potato or vegetable dish, especially beans such as garbanzo beans. You can use this as an accompaniment to fish, shellfish, chicken or pork if you eat those meats. Try it plain on a cracker for a snack! It's a favorite in our house.

1 hot red pepper (or add cayenne after cooking to taste)

1 large cinnamon stick

2 teaspoons roasted ground fennel seed

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

4 small skinned Roma tomatoes seeded and chopped*

1 ½ cups dried raisins

Put the raisins in a pan in enough water to amply cover the fruit, add all the other ingredients, and bring to a boil. Turn down the mixture and simmer while covered until all the raisins are thoroughly plumped out. Add more water if necessary. Taste the juice that’s left and adjust the spice mixture – adding additional fennel, cinnamon and ginger as needed. Uncover the pot at this point and cook until the mixture is moist -- but never watery. Then add cayenne to taste.

*Note: you can always substitute canned tomatoes, tomato paste, or any variety of fresh tomato you'd like. The more watery the tomato, the more you need to watch the liquid content of the chutney. As it cooks, you may want to remove the cover and let the steam out to remove some of the liquid after the raisins have plumped up.

Enjoy in good health!