Punjabi Garam Masala provides the "two" of the one-two punch that makes the food from this region of India so special. The "one" is the tempering of onions, garlic and ginger in ghee or oil called tardka. The second provides the aroma and flavor of a blend of "warm" spices-- black and green cardamom, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon, black peppercorns, cloves and bay or cassia leaf all of which have known health benefits which will be discussed at the launch of my book at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan on 9/9/09. You may buy the spices commercially, ready ground. But all of these whole spices benefit from a brief toasting in a dry pan to bring out their fragrance. This recipe yields half a cup, so the amounts my be reduced, in proportion, if you do not plan to use much.

1/4 cup black cardamom pods (budda elaichi)
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
4 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds*
2 1/2 teaspoons green cardamom seeds **, removed from pod
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
1/8 of a whole nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick, broken up
2 bay or cassia leaves

It is optional to separate the seeds of the black cardamoms from the pods: fold the pods into a clean towel and smash them with a rolling pin. Open the pods, one at a time, over a small bowl. Save only the black seeds and discard any that are gray along with the pods. You should have about 1 1/2 tablespoons of seeds.**  Heat all the ingredients in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until fragrant and lightly toasted. Keep tossing/stirring them so they do not burn! Cool and then grind together. Store in a tightly covered jar away from heat and light.

* Use black cumin called shah zeera if you have it, but ordinary white will do. If using black, toast it separately, it is much more delicate and more likely to burn than the other ingredients.

**Green cardamom seeds can be found in the Indian market without the husks, but not the black.