Simply put, Indian cuisine presents some of the most satisfying meatless dishes of any in the world, which is why in my relatively short time as a vegetarian I’ve become something of a regular at Rasika West End. But I want to be just as comfortable making Indian dishes at home as I am ordering them out, so I’ve been studying up. As intimidating as Indian cooking can seem, given its beautiful layering of spices and sometimes hard-to-find ingredients, diving in doesn’t need to be difficult.
I started the way I usually do, with a seasonal vegetable — in this case, spring peas — and the desire to do something different with them. One of my favorite Indian dishes is the classic matar paneer, made with that creamy-chewy cheese (paneer) and green peas (matar) plus a pungent sauce of tomatoes, ginger and a raft of spices. But I don’t want to suggest making your own paneer, even though it’s as easy as ricotta, because on a weeknight, who’s going to do that? For that matter, who has time to track down paneer? Thankfully, it’s much more available than it used to be, and my neighborhood Whole Foods Market stocks tidy little packages of it in the dairy section. (In a pinch — or for vegans — extra-firm tofu subs nicely.)