Saturday, January 30, 2010

Curry in a Hurry

Actually, it is probably slower to cook this in the microwave than on the stove, but I like the Seussian rhyme scheme of 'curry' and 'hurry'.

Lots of things made this meal come together. I didn't have a real appreciation of southeast asian food until recently. I knew about pho, and pretty much that was it. There was a chi-chi little thai place I got lunch at a couple times in NYC, which sort of started me in the right direction, but until I moved here, thai food was kinda intimidating, and I didn't want to try making any myself.

Anyway, last year, I got some curry off a hotcart on 10th and it had squash in it. I thought it was a novel idea, but it wasn't until I made that squash and mushroom pie a while back and had half a squash leftover that it occurred to me that my tofu quickie dish was not the only thing that could be made in the microwave. Then I had dinner at Jade Teahouse in Sellwood, and was pretty well impressed by their green papaya salad. It had the best shrimp on it that I've eaten in a long while. So after that I had to make some thai-style curry.

Squash and Veggies in Red Curry, with Jicama Slaw & Sticky Rice

3/4 lb butternut squash
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
2 green onions, sliced, both green and white parts
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 cup coconut milk
1 to 4 T red curry paste (I used Maesri brand) depending on desired hotness level.
a splash of fish sauce
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/3 red bell pepper, sliced thin

1/2 lb jicama, peeled and julienned.
1/2 large lime
some cilantro to taste
1/2 tsp honey, optional
pinch of salt

Sushi rice or thai jasmine rice
more coconut milk

I used sushi rice. I think next time I will rinse the rice a bit first, it turned out almost too gooey. If you are using a less gelatinous type of rice, maybe you will want to skip the rinsing. Otherwise, just prepare the rice as usual, but substitute coconut milk for about 1/2 the water.

Scrape the zest off the lime into the jicama, and then squeeze the lime juice over it. Mince the cilantro and add that, and a tiny pinch of salt. If the jicama is not as sweet as it sometimes is, add a tiny dab of honey.

Cut the squash into slices no more than 1/3" thick, and about 1-2 inches across. Put them with a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup water in a 6 cup microwavable container with a lid and cook on high for about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms & onions, repeat. Add spinach, coconut milk and curry paste, stir, repeat. The squash is the determining factor here. When it's tender enough, add the peppers and ginger, taste to see if it needs salt and add fish sauce if it does. If you like it only mildly spiced, you will definitely need the fish sauce, or it will be very bland. Microwave for 1 or 2 minutes longer, and serve over the rice.

I strongly encourage you not to use light coconut milk. There is no protein or fat in this dish otherwise, you need something to make it satisfying. The lime juice on the jicama will cut the richness of the rice and curry in a very refreshing way.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Avocado Tomato Scramble with Pepper Jack

People come in 2 sorts. Not male and female, not type a and type b, not even smart people and stupid people. Not Replublicrats and Demoplicans. All of these things diminish next to the true, essential divide.

There are Breakfast People and there is everybody else.

I don't mean people who do eat breakfast and people who do not- there are individuals who, in their heart of hearts, are indeed breakfast people but through misfortune or personal disorganization do not get to enjoy it very often. And then there are those strange beings who are aware of the need for fueling their bodies before the rigors of the day, and thus virtuously but indifferently consume food first thing in the morning.

True Breakfast People know that breakfast is the essential meal. We allow extra time in the mornings, not to shower or do our hair and makeup, but to have breakfast. Indeed, grooming habits will be discarded long before breakfast will be skipped. Breakfast is an end unto itself, a thing that nourishes the body and enlightens the soul, it is not merely a tool in the quest to prevent the spiritual and corporeal selves from parting company.

Breakfast people understand the fundamental connection between good meals and personal wellbeing. The substance of each breakfast is highly variable, but the purpose is unchanging: Breakfast is the first hopeful act of the day. Getting out of bed is frequently thankless enough, and getting dressed, especially for those of us who must wear an imbecillic corporate logo emblazoned on our person, is a trial to the spirit. How anyone can then face a commute to work in adverse weather without a short period of self-determination and composed enjoyment surpasses my understanding.

Beyond simple, gustatory pleasure, (which should never be discounted) food is many things. It is social glue, it is love, and commerce, it is personal liberty and creative expression. But beyond all those high minded niceties, we Breakfast People eat in the morning simply because a proper breakfast changes our state of being. In its most basic application, breakfast transforms me from a nihilistic grump into a more rational, serene, version of myself. More complex breakfast experiences will cause me to regain my enthusiasm and curiosity about the world in general, and this can only be a good thing. I'm sure the functional eaters out there would pooh-pooh and say "it's just yer glucose level shooting up, ya big sap!" and I'm sure they're right. But if a difference in my blood glucose level can so alter my sense of self and my ability to interact with my species, then I say that the meal that facilitates that change is worthy of the highest respect.

I have no recipe to share today, the picture and the title are it. And thank you very much to the nice man at the Kettleman Bagels downtown for the sack of free day-old bagels. You have saved me the trouble of making bread for a whole week.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happy National Pie Day!

In honor of the occasion, I made mine like this:

1 recipe of pastry for a double crust pie. Mine is usually

2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cups butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold water, more or less

But, I ran out of a.p. and had to sub in 1/3 cup whole wheat flour. Otherwise, made as I usually do.

Fill with

Most of a butternut squash, sliced 1/4" thick

a small thing of button mushrooms, sliced
the whites and a good bit of the green parts of some scallions, cut fine

some fresh rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, olive oil
about 3 oz. gouda
a big handful of fresh baby spinach

Heat the oven to 425

Toss the squash in a sprinkle of salt & pepper and a generous slosh of oil. Get a heavy bottomed skillet medium hot, put in the squash and a little water and cover for about  5 minutes. They'll cook surprisingly fast. Uncover and add the onions and herbs and a bit more oil if they're sticking a lot. You want to stir enough to get them cooked evenly but not so much that the squash mushes up or fails to brown a bit. When the squash is tender, put it in a bowl, scrape out the pan and add a little more oil and the sliced mushrooms. Let them brown, stir to turn them over, then add them to the bowl with the squash. Roll out your pastry and heap about 1/2 the filling in the middle. Put a generous handful of spinach on top and press it down gently, then slice or grate on a layer of cheese. Repeat, with a somewhat less generous heap of spinach and cheese, then loosely fold up the sides of the pastry. An egg wash is optional, but nice. Bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven and desired level of brownness. My oven is a bit cool, I think, so it takes around 40 min, especially if I keep popping the door open to fiddle with things.

2 things to keep in mind- go easy on the sage, it can be overpoweringly bitter, and remmember that spinach will loose about 85% of its volume once cooked. I think that a little sauteed mustard or chard would have a better texture.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chicken Soup with other stuff

As usual, I was mooching off my brother, and there is a resulting recipe. This is a third-hand recipe that originated in a cookbook with a depressing title, "heart healthy recipes" or suchlike. But don't be put off, it is very tasty.

4 chicken tenders, mine were frozen
1 qt water
1 T broth concentrate
the white parts of 4 green onions, chopped pretty small
1 bay leaf
1/2 of a tiny can of roasted green chilis

1 can white beans
1 cup corn nibs, I used frozen
1+ T cornmeal

I discovered to my dismay that I do not have any chili seasoning; here's what went in it instead:

1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4+ tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp ground cumin
scant 1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp ground coriander, although I do start with whole seeds and crush them up. Better that way.
1/4 tsp paprika

Put the chicken, water, and stock concentrate in a 3 or 4 qt pot and bring to a boil.  No need to thaw the chicken if you use frozen, it just adds fussing. When the chicken has thawed and cooked mostly through, use a fork and a spatula or something like that to tear the meat up into little chunks. Put the onions, chilis and the other seasonings in and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the flavors blend and the chicken is quite tender. Then drain and rinse the beans, add them and the corn nibs to the soup and bring back to a boil. Sprinkle on the cornmeal and simmer until the soup has thickened slightly.

You can add a dash of cayenne for more heat (highly recommended) and because it is very boring to look at, do garnish it with some cilantro, or parsley if you don't like cilantro. It's more fun to eat that way. I put a dab of hot sauce on it for the picture. And Greek yogurt.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Should have taken a picture

I was faced with a need to make something tasty, quick, and acceptable for last minute company. I had not been to the grocery store, at least, not to do more than pick up a couple eggs.

Chicken and noodles in a Florentine-esque sauce

Somewhere, I read that when something is labled "florentine" it is supposed to indicate that it contains spinach. Florence being known for its spinach, I guess. Likewise, in things named "vichysoisse" you ought to expect to find peas, which are supposedly abundant and/or especially special in the neighborhood of Vichy. Which makes me think that it is rather typically american that the one thing best known (to me at any rate) as Vichysoisse is a potato soup, with nary a pea in sight. But that is neither here nor there.

Again- chicken and noodles, etc.

4 frozen chicken tenders
salt, pepper, dash of olive oil

Set a large pot of salted water on to boil the noodles.

Heat a deep skillet with the oil and a sprinkle of salt in it to about medium. Put the frozen tenders in and sprinkle over a generous dash of pepper and a touch more salt. Cover. Meanwhile, assemble:

half a large onion, diced small
2 T tomato paste
1 and a half cups frozen chopped spinach
1 garlic clove
a bag of trader joe's plain papardelle

Flip the chicken tenders over after they brown a bit, and re-cover. When the other side has browned, they will probably be slightly raw inside. That's fine, just put them in a bowl and ignore them for a while. Put a little more oil and a sprinkle of salt in the pan, and throw in the onions. Stir them around, and if they don't sweat enough on their own to take up the chicken residue, add a half cup of water and then crush in the garlic. Stir every few minutes until the onions are caramelized, then add 2 cups of water and the tomato paste and spinach. Cook until the spinach is done, check to make sure it has enough salt, then slice up the chicken bits and return them to the pan to finish cooking. It'll probably only take a couple seconds. Remember to put any juices that may have drained out back into the sauce. Somewhere in there, the water will have come to a boil and you can drop in the noodles, but remember that it only takes about 4 minutes for those things to reach al dente.

Serve with grated cheese, and optional chopped olives.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cat Bars

They contain no cats. Nor are they for consumption by cats; neither are they cat-shaped. Merely, this recipe was posted to me by Cat. Thanks Cat. They are scrumptious.

1 cup quick oats
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 T flour

To cook filling: bring the first 3 filling ingredients to a boil, then simmer for about 5 minutes. You will need to add a little more water from time to time, the fruit soaks it up a lot. Mix the flour & sugar together, dump them in the fruit and simmer until the filling is thickened and you can no longer taste the raw flour.

Get out your trusty pastry cutter and bash all the crust ingredients together rather coarsely. Press half into a 9x9 baking pan, spread filling over it, top with remaining crust, bake at 350 for about 30-40 minutes. Cool before cutting, they are crumbly. Of course, if you was to use a spoon and eat them out of the pan, I wouldn't rat on you.

I did make a couple changes to Cats recipe, now I think onit. I added a dash of lemon to the filling for more tartness, and a pinch of salt and a pinch of punkin pie spice to the crust, and because I can't possibly leave well enough alone, I chopped about a quarter of the filling in my mini-prep after it was cooked to change the texture. And I think my brown sugar was too dry. I should have added a couple drops of water to the crust to compensate.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Yes, it is mashed potatoes. Awesome mashed potatoes. You know why? Because the people who invented potatoes make 'em like this, that's why. I've had the causa at Andina twice now, and it was one of those dishes that the first bite made me feel giddy with excitement. I may even have bounced in my chair a little bit. I'm not saying my recipe is that fantabulous. They make a fancy crab salad and top it with ahi tuna ceviche. And a crunchy fried shrimp. Mine ain't so costive, but it does cure the jones.

about a pound of yellow potatoes
1/2 cup small cooked shrimp
a generous tablespoon of finely diced celery
the same amount of diced bell pepper, I had yellow, but red would look better
1 teaspoon minced cilantro
1 teaspoon finely minced onion
juice of 1/2 a lime
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of turmeric for color
1 tablespoon mayo
olive oil- use the good stuff, something you could just eat with bread
dash of cayenne pepper
some olives
avocadoes for serving

Boil the potatoes in salted water until they're tender, then drain them and slip off the skins while they're still warm. Mash them slightly, then mix in the juice of 1/4 of a lime, about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the turmeric and a pinch of salt. They should come out to a creamy texture a little softer than play-doh. Cover and refrigerate while you make up the rest of the stuff.

You could just leave the shrimp whole, but I sliced mine up a bit. Mix all the remaining ingredients except avocadoes and olives to make the shrimp salad. Put the shrimp mix in the bottom of a small (about 2 cup) dish, arrange some olives over it, and layer on the potato mix. Press down firmly, refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Try not to mangle it if you want to unmold it and serve it all fancy-lookin. The avocadoes are traditional, aparently. Most of the recipes I looked up called for them either in or with the causa. Also, I think the potatoes themselves are supposed to be a little spicy. Next time.

I used to work with a guy from Peru. It seems I should have asked him about peruvian food when I had a chance.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

J'aime Ma Petit Chou

I succumbed to impulse and bought a bag of frozen brussels sprouts at Fred Meyer. Then I read a description in the paper of brussels sprouts in anchovy dressing. Here's what happened:

1 cup brussels sprouts
1/4 tsp fresh garlic, minced
2 T fresh lemon juice
about 2 anchovy fillets, minced
salt & pepper
about a tablespoon olive oil

Microwave the sprouts until they're about 3/4 done, add all the other ingredients, stir well, finish cooking. Dash on just a little bit more fresh lemon juice and a shake of parmesan before serving.

Here's what I think:

Use fresh sprouts. They're just better. There's nothing wrong with these, but this dish calls for ingredients that are as fresh as possible. The frozen sprouts will be fine in a slow-cooked thing, but they lack the nutty-tender quality fresh ones have. Likewise, real parmesan, grated off a block of cheese, rather than "green can" could only improve the dish. Worth trying again. It did occur to me that this is pretty much just brussels sprouts in warm caesar dressing, minus the egg yolk.

The little things on the back of the plate are some cheesy corn cakes that I'll post a recipe for if I ever get them worked out right.

Now, what do I do with the rest of the anchovies?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fish-sauce Tofu

Okey-Dokey. I've had enough holiday eating. I love some holiday eating, but now I want something less fancy. This is quick, light, and is primarily flavored with fermented ingredients. It's a little stinky; don't try it unless you like thai fish sauce. A lot. This takes about 10 or 15 minutes and makes exactly one serving.

1/3 block firm tofu
1/2 cup water
1 T fish sauce, more or less. It's very salty!
1 tsp minced onion
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger. Powdered will not do. 
dash of light soy sauce
rice seasoning for garnish, bell peppers too, if you like.

Put the water, fish sauce, onion and tofu in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Braise the tofu, turning every once in a while, until the liquid is about half gone. Then put in the ginger and soy sauce, continue to cook until the liquid is reduced to a tablespoon or two. Serve over rice, decorate with such things as suit your fancy. I like peppers, I would have put on a little cilantro or green onions if I'd had any.