Archive for the ‘Entrees’ Category

Fish Tacos, Southern Style

November 12, 2018

It’s dark and rainy and there are new episodes of the Great British Baking Show waiting for me.  That translates to about 15 minutes of interest in making dinner.  Fortunately these fish tacos only take about 15 minutes to make!

Fish tacos usually have halibut or cod – maybe fried, maybe grilled.  They’re often topped with shredded cabbage, queso fresco, lime juice and salsa.  And I love them that way.  But in this house they come with catfish and the cabbage comes in slaw form, as all good cabbages do.  Not much else to them.  Some Tony Chachere’s on the fish and some hot sauce on the top.  Corn tortillas.

Catfish is cheap.  And you don’t need big gorgeous filets.  You’re going to chop them into pieces anyway so if you can get catfish nuggets for half price, get those.  It takes about 1 filet for two tacos.  Once it’s cut up, put it in a bag with the seasoning.   I use Tony Chachere’s.  Shake.  You’re ready to go.

Cabbage is cheap too.  Even if you buy it shredded in a bag.  Not a kit, just the cabbage.  In my world, passed down from my MeMa to my mom to me, slaw has 4 ingredients:  cabbage, Duke’s mayonnaise, salt, and pepper.  Make the slaw ahead of time if you can.  If not, it takes less than 10 minutes.

Heat a little canola oil in a cast iron skillet.  When it starts to smoke add some of the catfish pieces.  Don’t crowd the pan.  You want them to cook quickly.  Turn them in 1-2 minutes, depending on how thick they are.  Cook them another minute. Remove from the pan and finish the rest of fish.

While the fish is cooking, heat the tortillas in the oven.

Pile some fish, slaw and hot sauce in a tortilla!  I had some cilantro and green onions left from the other night so I threw that in too.  SO GOOD!

I could eat these many more days than not.  The house does smell slightly of fish for the evening, but there’s minimal cleanup.  I’ve been known to eat these sans plate just standing over the sink. The lunch leftovers, if you have any leftovers, are pretty darn good too.

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Busy Week Breakfast Quiche

November 11, 2018

One more week before some much needed vacation!  And as all weeks before vacation are, this one is really busy.  So, I’m trying to set myself up for success by taking care of breakfast (and maybe a lunch or two) ahead of time.  I also had a little spinach, 2/3 box of sliced mushrooms, and some green onions to use up.  Quiches are perfect for using up the vegetable drawer leftovers.

I’ve made many quiches in the past.  They’re great to make ahead if you have guests coming in.  They freeze well.  They travel well.  They make very good gifts for hostesses, neighbors, and friends.  This is the first quiche I’ve made where you pre-bake the crust.  So, consider that optional I think.  I’m sure Paul Hollywood would disagree.  Maybe this blind bake will keep the crust crispy.

In any case, the base quiche recipe is something to keep in your back pocket, and know you can add pretty much anything to it.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 deep dish pie crust
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 C heavy cream

Beyond that I added about 6 ounces of grated extra sharp white cheddar, some sauteed sliced mushrooms, sliced green onions, chopped fresh spinach.

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
  • Prick pie crust with a fork
  • Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden
  • Set aside
  • Reduce heat to 350 degrees
  • In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and cream

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  • Mix in cheese and vegetables

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  • Place pie crust on a baking sheet with sides
  • Pour filling into crust

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  • Bake 40-50 minutes until the center is set

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With the holidays coming up, knowing you have a few things done ahead of time is a nice feeling!

Half Marathon Weekend: Half Recipe of Coconut Beef

November 11, 2018

Yesterday, Saturday, I completed a half marathon.  Long runs make me crave two things:  iron and protein.  This usually finds me chowing down on a double cheese burger somewhere.  Yesterday, sadly, I missed lunch so I didn’t have it in me to plan dinner.  Many thanks to The Mill and their rib eye special!  Blowing off lunch means I’m still kind of catching up today.  And still craving beef.

The day after a Half usually also means a lot of rest.  That doesn’t really happen when you have a puppy.  So, I was up at the crack of dawn, walked my dogs and headed to the SPCA to get some shelter dogs out.  Not a lot of energy left for dinner.  God Bless the Crock-Pot!  Over the years I’ve found a lot of good recipes in Stephanie O’Dea’s Make It Fast, Cook It Slow.  This is another one!  I did my chopping, little as it was, this afternoon and threw everything in the Crock-Pot. When I got back from puppy class I put the insert in the cooker and set it to High.  Do other stuff for four hours and voila!

Here’s the rest of the good news.  I had 1/2 a can of coconut milk and 1/2 an onion left from a few days ago.  All of the spices I already had in the house so all I had to buy was one pound of stew meat!

Here’s what you need: (for half a recipe)

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  • 1 lb stew beef, cubed
  • 1/2 can (1 C) coconut milk
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 t brown sugar
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • 1/2 t curry powder
  • 1 T chopped cilantro stems
  • 1-2 t Thai chile sauce
  • salt

The original recipe calls for 1/2 t of ground coriander.  I didn’t have any, but I do have cilantro.  Cilantro stems are very flavorful and tender enough to use so I substituted those.

Here’s what you do:

  • dump everything in a small Crock-Pot
  • Cook on high 4 hours
  • Serve over rice

 

Adjust the amount of chile sauce to adjust the heat.  I thought this was just perfect, and I like hot, but not too hot.  You might also cut the beef in smaller cubes. It cooked just fine, but they were right on the edge of needing to be cut.  It makes sense to cut them small enough to be small bite-sized.

Easy, good and probably 2 meals of leftovers.  Perfect!

Election Night Sheet Pan Dinner

November 6, 2018

It’s election night in America.  Which means a potentially crazy evening for a lot of people.  Kids are out of school since their schools are polling places, which either means they’re home and bored or you have to go somewhere to pick them up.  Maybe you have to vote on the way home.  Maybe that’s your only chance to hit the gym. The polls close at 7pm so returns, predictions, etc start at 7:01.  It gets dark at 5pm so it feels like all this happens at midnight anyway.  Whew.  Oh, and dinner?  Have you had 2 minutes to think about dinner?

Take out?  Entirely respectable.  Or you could throw your entire dinner on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for half an hour while you change clothes and have a glass of wine.  I opted for choice B tonight.  I did my chopping early in the day.  That helps things move along in the evening. (I work from home so this is a luxury I have).  Treat yourself to pre-cut fresh vegetables if that’s better for you. Or, if they’re old enough, assign this task to your kids.  They were home all day. =)

What do we love about sheet pan dinners?  Everything.  There are endless combinations of protein and vegetables.  Endless options for sauces.  And only one pan to clean up.  What do we not love about sheet pan dinners?  There are endless combinations of protein and vegetables.  Endless options for sauces.  The hardest part is figuring out what you’re making.  If you have odds and ends of vegetables, this is a great way to use them up.  I had one sweet potato, half an onion, and half a bag of Brussels sprouts. I had one chicken breast left from a pack I bought for the pups (don’t ask).  Sauce?  I considered balsamic vinegar.  I considered garlic and herb.  I landed on honey mustard because, I have a ton of honey in the cabinet and who doesn’t love honey mustard!

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One tip about these.  If you’re positive that all the vegetables will be done at the same time, go ahead and mix them up.  I usually find that the potatoes take longer than I think.  If you have the vegetables separated by type, it’s easy to remove some while leaving others on the pan to finish cooking.

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We’re halfway through the cooking and already I can tell that the sauce is too soupy.  I kind of wanted a glaze.  I could dump it in a pot and reduce it, but that defeats the purpose of the sheet pan dinner where everything happens on one pan.

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Ok, this didn’t go exactly as planned.  I should have put the potatoes in first.  I’ve now taken out the Brussels sprouts and the smaller piece of chicken and the sweet potatoes aren’t nearly done.  So that’s a bummer, especially since it’s after 7pm and I’m hungry.  Solution?  Eat in courses.  Protein and green vegetable course, followed by the potato course.  Sigh.

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On the plus side the chicken is wonderfully tender.  And with a little kosher salt sprinkled on top, this is a nice sauce with the sprouts.

So, this sheet pan dinner is a solid C, but the concept is still an A!  The next one will be better!  If anyone has a sheet pan dinner they really like, leave the info in the comments!

Thai-ing to Beat a Cold: Coconut Rice Noodles with Ginger and Eggplant

November 5, 2018

I’ve got a few things working against me this week – end of daylight savings (I hate the time change); cold and damp to warm and rainy weather; and some nasty sinus stuff.  Add to that a pretty busy schedule over the last few days and I’m feeling a little run down.  Gotta get myself together before my half marathon on Saturday.  Time for some soup!

I’ve had eggplant on the brain for a week or so, but I’ve never made a soup with eggplant in it.  Melissa Clark’s Dinner: Changing the Game to the rescue again.  I found this recipe for a Thai soup with rice noodles.  It’s a little bit strange in that it’s designed around summer vegetables.  I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around a Thai coconut curry with corn and tomatoes so I made some omissions and substitutions.  No corn or tomatoes.  Added mushrooms and green onions.  I stuck with the spinach because I had some left from last week.  I used chicken stock because I had that leftover too, but vegetable stock would have been my preference.

I only made a half a recipe, two servings, which I think I might be sorry about!

Here’s what you need: 2 entree servings

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  • 2-3 oz rice noodles, prepared according to the package
  • 1 hot chile, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 t curry powder
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C cilantro leaves
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2-3 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 C stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 C coconut milk (lite is fine)
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 handful fresh spinach
  • 1 large green onion, chopped
  • 1 T fresh basil, chopped

I know.  It’s a long list.  The good news is that you don’t have to mince the garlic, ginger, chile, and cilantro because you’re going to stick them in a food processor or blender and make a paste.  That will save some time.  Buy the mushrooms pre-sliced. And you don’t have to chop the spinach at all.  So, it’s not as bad as you think.

If you have a wide, deep pan, that will work well.  You want to have a big enough surface to brown the eggplant and other vegetables in a single layer, but you need it to be deep enough for the soupy part.

Here’s what you do:

  • In a blender or small food processor combine garlic, ginger, chile, curry powder and 1 T oil.  Pulse until it’s well blended.  Add the cilantro leaves and lime zest.  Pulse until it becomes a paste.  Set aside.

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  • Heat 2 T oil in a large pan.  Add eggplant and saute until browned. 6-8 minutes.  Remove the eggplant from the pan.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  Saute until they soften.  5-6 minutes.  Stir in the spice paste and cook 1 minute.
  • Add the stock and coconut milk.  Bring to a simmer.
  • Add the eggplant back to the pan along with the fish sauce.  Saute 5 minutes, until eggplant is soft.
  • Stir in spinach.  Cook 1 minute.  Add lime juice and basil.

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  • Divide cooked rice noodles among the bowls and top with the soup.
  • Garnish with green onions and cilantro leaves

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A few tips.  When you’re making the spice paste, go ahead and include the cilantro stems.  They’re tender and they have a lot of flavor. No need to waste them since you’re making a paste.  Also, measure the fish sauce.  The best way to describe the flavor of fish sauce is funky.  It’s a great addition, but too much is really too much.  Make sure you get a good sear on the eggplant.  That will help it keep its shape in the broth.  Finally, if you have leftovers, store the noodles and soup separately or your noodles will be mushy when you reheat it.  You can heat up the noodles by dunking them briefly in hot water.  That will also separate them.

Here’s how it turned out:

So good.  Really, so, so good.  When I make it next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll use more chile.  The thai chiles didn’t look good at the store so I bought jalapenos. (I’m making Mexican later in the week).  Jalapenos are much milder than thai chiles so I should have used more of them.  Better to have too little heat than too much, but more heat would really add something to this dish.  Still, there’s something truly wonderful about the mixture of coconut milk, lime juice and fish sauce.  The eggplant is soft but not slimy and not bitter at all.  The spinach is optional, but add it if you have it.  It looks pretty, doesn’t have a strong flavor, and adds an extra vegetable.

This was perfect for an evening that’s cold and damp and that got dark at 5pm!

Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese

November 2, 2018

If you’re interested in authentic Italian cooking in an American kitchen look no further than Marcella Hazan.  I got the recipe from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking cookbook, which I highly recommend.  The New York Times has kindly reprinted it here as it was the favorite Hazan recipe as named by NYT readers.

The first time I made this I didn’t exactly know what a proper bolognese was.  When you order a bolognese in a lot of US Italian restaurants, all they mean is a regular red sauce that has meat in it.  So, I was surprised when this came out much drier and not especially red.  But boy is it good.  And it should be.  It takes 4 hours to get this done, nose to tail.  It’s pretty active for the first hour and slightly less so for the next 3.  Definitely not a ‘set it and forget it’ kind of sauce.

If you’ve read this blog much, you’ve definitely heard me say that if the recipe is simple, the ingredients have to be the best you can find and afford.  That’s definitely true here.  I’m using Greenway Beef,  (see here to find out how I feel about that) and Homestead Creamery milk, and home canned Dodd’s Acres Farm tomatoes.

Let me pause here to note that of the three local farm providers listed above, two of them don’t exist anymore.  Farming is a hard life, especially in a country that chooses convenience over community.  If you’re lucky enough to have farms of one kind or another near you, and most of us are, please support them, directly and via farmers’ markets and via grocery stores that are smart enough to carry local items.  Mostly they treat their animals with respect and their workers and customers with kindness.  That’s something worth supporting.

Of course you should use a wine you’re delighted to drink.  You only need a cup for the recipe and you’ve got 3 hours before dinner, so enjoy!

The great thing about this recipe is that it really is easy.  If you can chop an onion, carrot and celery stalk and use a measuring cup, you’re pretty much there.  Just remember to pay attention to it.  If you don’t, all the liquid will simmer out and the rest will burn.  Set a timer if you’re planning to play piano or cycle laundry or throw the ball for the dog while you’re waiting for this to simmer. In the last 3 hours I stir about every 15 minutes.  If your stove doesn’t simmer quite as low as the recipe recommends, definitely check it more frequently.

Here’s what it looks like after the first hour of low simmering.  You can see that I’m going to have to add some water over the next two hours to keep it from turning to charcoal.  That’s as it should be.  Add 1/2 C at a time just to keep it from burning.  Just remember that all of the water has to cook out at the end.

TIP:  When I add water I turn the heat up and bring the sauce back to a simmer quickly and then turn it back to low.

Here’s what you need: see, not a lot

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  • tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  •  cup chopped celery
  •  cup chopped carrot
  • ¾ pound ground beef chuck (or you can use 1 part pork to 2 parts beef)
  •  Salt
  •  Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
  • 1 cup whole milk
  •  Whole nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

Here’s what you do: it’s easy, it just takes a long time

  • Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring vegetables to coat them well.
  • Add ground beef, a large pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.
  • Add milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating — about 1/8 teaspoon — of nutmeg, and stir.
  • Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface.
  • Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, add 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

At one hour: (assume this carries on for 2 more hours – add a little water, cook down, add a little water, cook down)

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It fascinates me that the carrots get super soft, but the hold their shape.  They add a beautiful sweetness to the sauce and no texture problem whatsoever.

This is what you’re looking for.  The liquid is gone and the fat is separating from the rest of the sauce.  Then you mix it all in and you end with this beautiful sauce.

You can make this ahead of time.  It keeps great in the fridge and it freezes well.  But, after you’ve spent half a day making it, you’re going to want to eat it right away.  Just so you know, the recipe recommends that you cook a pound of pasta to al dente and toss it with a tablespoon of butter before you mix in the bolognese.  And I did just that, only not a pound of pasta, just a few servings.  I’ll keep the rest for some day when I need something truly wonderful and don’t have the time or energy to create it.  Heaven in a bowl

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Tomato Braised White Beans OR White Beans in Dirt

November 1, 2018

I’ve been looking forward to this dish all week.  It just sounded like half comfort food and half elegant dinner.  That said, it’s a slightly strange combination of things and I couldn’t quite figure out the flavor profile.  I’m still not sure I know.  I’ll say it’s 1/4 the recipe and 3/4 the cook.  Let me explain.

I did all my chopping ahead of time.  Worked out the math.  Figured out my substitutions.  Ready to roll.  I’m pretty good about that with recipes I’m unfamiliar with.  Cook the sliced chorizo, got it.  Easy.  Remove the chorizo to a paper towel.  Yep.  Add tomato paste, cumin and paprika to the pot.  Cook “until the mixture is caramelized and dark gold.”  Wait, what?  How does a mixture that starts out red and brown turn into dark gold?  It definitely didn’t.

Instantly black as tar.  This is the point at which I should have started over.  I’m guessing the oil was too hot when I added the tomato paste, but I’ve never seen tomato paste do this.  I didn’t start over.  I soldiered on.

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I added the vegetables. Then stirred in the beans, tomatoes, water and herbs.  I tasted the broth at this point.  Tasted like dirt.  Not a good sign.  From here you boil, add the chorizo, and then simmer 20 minutes.  That means this is going to reduce and the flavors will concentrate.  Concentrated dirt?  Not promising.  Still, I pressed on.

I added the spinach.  Here’s my second mistake.  The recipe calls for sherry vinegar.  I added sherry, which in this pot of very strong flavors, did nothing.  Hello Google.  Yep, sherry and sherry vinegar are not the same.  I could have added 1 part sherry to 3 parts red vinegar except I didn’t have any.  I used balsamic vinegar instead and it made a big difference!  A drizzle of olive oil was also a welcome balance for the dark, dirt flavor of the tomato broth.

In the end this was edible.  I wasn’t even really tempted to pull pizza out of the freezer.  I was suspicious of the spinach, but that added a really nice light greenness.  The balsamic vinegar added a perfect sharpness and the olive oil a beautiful smoothness.  That said, I’m not convinced I’ll eat the leftovers.  All of those lovely flavors really just helped to cover up the fact that I burned the tomato paste in step 2.  But you can’t ever really cover that up completely.

Just a couple of notes for alternatives.  With a little extra smoked paprika I think you could leave out the chorizo and make this a vegan dish.  Or, I think you could also use pepperoni or turkey pepperoni just as well as an easy substitute for the chorizo.

If you decide to make this, I’m going to recommend that you consult this recipe. One, this is a slow cooker version, which is always nice, and two, it’s the right color!

Halloumi and Brussels Sprouts – yes, really!

October 30, 2018

It’s Tired Tuesday, y’all.  I managed to do a little meal planning and grocery shopping, but then I was almost too tired to do anything with it.  This is definitely a dish for one of those nights!  Very few ingredients.  Half of them roast in the oven while you deal with the other half.  Good stuff.  A big shout out to my Dinner: Changing the Game cookbook for introducing me to this combination.

Probably this is meant to be a side dish, and it could be.  Clearly I wasn’t going to manage anything else tonight and it did just fine as a main (read only) dish.  I only made one substitution, which is saying something.  My local Kroger didn’t have any Aleppo or Turkish red pepper.  A quick Google told me this is fairly mild red pepper so I didn’t want to use cayenne instead.  Hot Hungarian Paprika seemed like a good choice.

A couple of notes. If you’ve toasted spices, seeds or nuts before you know how quickly they go from toasted to burned.  Stay close to the stove when you’re toasting the cumin seeds.  They’re what make this dish really special.  If they get too dark, they’ll be bitter instead of nutty and fragrant.  If you burn them, toss them and start again.  Trust me on that.  No reason to ruin the whole dish because you don’t want to lose a teaspoon of cumin seeds.

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Also, I patted my halloumi dry before I put it in the oil, but there’s still a lot of water in it.  What does that mean?  It means the oil will sputter and pop so be careful putting the cheese in the pan.  Load the pan from the back and work your way forward to avoid getting burned.  You can also use tongs to put the cheese in, but I never do that.  It’s just faster to put the pieces in by hand.  Do use tongs to turn the cubes.  It doesn’t take long to get a nice brown sear on the halloumi.

Finally, you can go a little easy on the salt on the sprouts.  The halloumi is super salty.  You’re going to want that green flavor from the sprouts to balance it out.

Here’s what you need: (see not much!)

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  • 4 T olive oil, divided
  • 3/4-1 lb brussels sprouts trimmed and halved
  • 6 oz halloumi, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 t cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 t hot paprika
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • salt and black pepper

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 450 (high heat is important to get that lovely color on the sprouts)
  • Toss the sprouts with 2 T olive oil, salt and black pepper
  • Roast the sprouts in the oven 15-20 minutes, until they’re golden brown
  • When the sprouts have about 5 minutes to go, heat the other 2T of oil in a heavy pan
  • When the oil begins to shimmer, fry the halloumi on two or more sides

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  • Add the cheese cubes to a large bowl with the cumin seeds
  • Add the roasted brussels sprouts to the bowl and toss
  • Stir in the paprika
  • Squeeze the lemon juice over the top and toss

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When I combined all my ingredients and tossed them I found that the cumin seeds mostly stuck to the side of the bowl.   Be sure you use a spoon to serve this so you can scrape the cumin along with the rest.  The toasted cumin seeds add a really wonderful earthy element to this dish.  Honestly I think it’s the cumin seeds that make this special.  Without them it would lack depth.

To be completely honest, I only made about half as much as the original recipe calls for.  I wasn’t convinced going in that I was going to love this and I didn’t want to throw out a lot of food.  Well, I do love it!  However, I’m still not convinced that this will reheat well so it might be good that I only have 1 full meal left.  It would be best to reheat this in the oven and not the microwave.  We’ll see how inspired I feel about that tomorrow.  The amounts above make probably 4 portions as a side dish and 2 as an only dish.

This is a lovely Fall dish.  If you’re looking for a new side for your Thanksgiving table, I definitely recommend this one!

Vegetable Drawer Survivors: Vegan Curry

October 29, 2018

I’ve been traveling for work, as I often do.  I came home to a house with soup and pizza in the freezer and not much else in the way of foodstuffs, as I often do.  I left two items in the vegetable drawer, partly to see how hardy they are:  a head of orange cauliflower and a small bunch of collard greens.  Both survived in pretty fine form.  Both appear in tonight’s dinner.

I’ve taken a liking to chickpeas with cauliflower.  Neither tastes like all that much on its own.  Both take on flavor really nicely.  One crunchy and one creamy, the perfect pair.  It doesn’t hurt that I always have canned chickpeas in the house.  So, that’s how I landed on cauliflower and chickpea curry for dinner.

This is a tomato curry.  Lucky for me, I have a basement full of home canned tomatoes.  They have a brighter flavor than the canned ones you get from the store.  And since you home can in jars, they never have the slightly tinny taste that you sometimes get from an off can of store bought tomatoes. So, the advice is the same as always.  When you have only a few ingredients, use the best ones you can reasonably find and afford.  This curry has strong enough spices that you can get away with slightly more mediocre tomatoes if that’s what you have in the house.

Now comes confession time.  I didn’t have any fresh ginger in the house. I did have the end of a bottle of “squeeze ginger.”  You cannot make this up.  So, I cheated.  I used that instead of fresh.  Here’s the thing.  It’s not really a one for one substitute.  Fresh ginger is only that, ginger.  Squeeze ginger has a little sugar and a little vinegar in it.  Here’s my logic in using it anyway.  A little sugar never hurts against a heavy spice.  The tomatoes have a little acid added to them so they’ll keep in the jars, so a touch more acid from the vinegar would probably be ok.  Sound logic?  Probably not, but it worked for me.

This is super easy to put together.  Took me about 35 minutes including chopping and cooking.  With rice and/or naan alongside, this probably feeds 5-6.  As stew, more like 4.  But I have a major portion control problem when it comes to foods I like, so use your own judgment.

Here’s what you need:

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The very astute among you will notice that there’s a jar of yellow curry paste in this photo.  That’s a HUGE mistake.  I need curry powder for this.  Generally speaking, curry powder is for Indian dishes and curry paste is for Thai dishes.  Curry paste has a bunch of other stuff in it, usually including lime and coconut.  Not a terrific match for Indian curries.  Fortunately I caught my mistake before I started cooking.

This is supposed to be yellow curry powder, but I only had Madras so that’s what I used.

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I’ve never seen collard greens in a recipe for curry, but I had some and an extra leafy green never hurt anyone so in they went!  They add a little bitterness.  Just be sure to cut them in thin ribbons so they’ll cook through.  Remove the stems from the leaves and stack the leaves on top of each other.  Roll them into a cigar shape and then cut the rolls into ribbons.  Here’s what everything looks like chopped.

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Here’s what you really need:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into pieces
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 5-6 small collard leaves, stemmed and cut into ribbons
  • 1 T oil – olive or canola or vegetable
  • 2 t curry powder (Madras or yellow)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or 1 T squeeze ginger)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 14-15 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 C water or vegetable stock
  • salt to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil until it shimmers and add the curry powder
  • Stir the curry powder until fragrant (1-2 minutes)
  • Add the onions, saute 6-7 minutes, until the onions are soft
  • Add the ginger, garbanzo beans, cauliflower, tomatoes, collards, bay leaf and water
  • Mix gently and bring to a simmer
  • Cover and cook 15-20 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked through, but not mushy – Stir a couple of times as it cooks
  • Remove the bay leaf
  • Serve as stew or over rice

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How’d it turn out?

I made the curry early.  One of my pups has a pack walk tonight.  No time to eat before and no interest in starting to cook after.  So, I cook before and eat after.  Extra time stewing in its own juices never hurt a stew or a curry.

Let’s start with the pluses.  The flavors are fantastic!  It tastes like sunshine.  It’s warm and delightful!  I’m imagining that it will help me get over a cold that’s trying to settle in.  It’ll be even better tomorrow I’m sure.  And it’s beautiful.  The colors are vibrant and warm.

What would I do differently?  First, I would chop the collards instead of slicing them in ribbons.  It was weird to have stringy collards in there.  And maybe next time I’d use chard if I wanted to add a green.  Second, I would serve it over rice, or even grits or polenta.  The broth is really flavorful, but it’s really thin.  It seems too thin for the chunky cauliflower and chickpeas.  And too thin for a curry.  Maybe you could blend some chickpeas with some broth and add it back to the pot, though that doesn’t seem right either.  Maybe some tomato paste cooked in.  I’ll have to try it again to see.

Here’s a link to the recipe that served as tonight’s inspiration.

And if you love cauliflower and chickpeas together as much as I do, here’s a Thai style curry I hope you’ll like too!

Giggling Squid Thai

October 22, 2018

I have a tradition of eating Thai food at Thai Square on the Monday nights I arrive in London.  I arrived at Heathrow this morning, but instead of proceeding into Central London as usual, I took a cab to Henley-on-Thames. I have meetings here for the next few days.  It’s a really pretty little town and I know nothing about it except how to find the Cafe Nero and the Starbucks.

After a little napping, a few conference calls and some work, I turned to Yelp for dinner recommendations.  I’ve been here once before and planned to head to the nearest Indian restaurant.  Eating Indian food while I’m here is another of my traditions.  Then I found 2 Thai restaurants just a few steps further.  The Thai Orchid had better reviews so I planned to go there.  On the way I walked past the other Thai place, Giggling Squid.  There were 2 couples and a family looking group there.  It looked fun and nice.  I went on to Thai Orchid.  No one in there.  In fairness it was only 7:00, but still.  Not like it was 6:00!  And it looked a little stuffy.  So, I went back to Giggling Squid.  The sign didn’t come out, but this is what it looks like from the outside.

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I’m a big fan of squid, crispy or grilled or stuffed or sauteed.  The salt and pepper squid here was nothing like the fried calamari you get in bars and restaurants at home.  Nothing.  First, it was full tubes instead of rings.  More a tempura batter than anything, but not huge.  The most tender squid I’ve ever eaten.  Served with a sweet chili sauce.  Sooooo good.

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I followed that with Chicken Pad Kingh.  This is a dish that lets the fresh ginger sticks smack you in the face.  With earthy mushrooms and sweet carrots as the perfect foil.  The sauce and mushrooms and bell peppers were amazing.   Honestly the chicken was just filler.   It reminded me of a ginger chicken dish I used to get at a Vietnamese restaurant in Tysons Corner, VA.  Oh how I’d missed that dish until today.  Add some rice and a glass of rose from Provence and you’re in for a better Monday night than most!

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It’s not like I’m going to make the trek out to Henley on Mondays from now on, but wow am I glad I had this opportunity.  If you have a chance to go to a Giggling Squid restaurant, don’t pass it up!  And get the squid.  It definitely made me giggle!