I graduated from college with a degree in theatre. I got plenty of “What are you going to do with a degree in theatre?”, though thankfully, not from my parents who were supportive of a less conventional major. I attended a liberal arts college so there were plenty of English and Art History majors, but there were also lots of Economics and Government majors who all thought their degrees would be more “useful”. My college roommate’s father allowed her to major in theatre but only if she double majored in Economics. Not a lot of crossover in those two fields.
While I did not go on to become an actress, nor did I ever attempt to become an actress, I feel like my degree has been extremely useful in my life. At the most basic level, I learned a lot about theatre and plays and I had a chance to read some of our greatest examples of literature. Randy and I make it a priority to go the theatre and I am always amazed by how much knowledge I have retained. (I can’t say the same about my math class.) I got to experience putting on the makeup and costume of another person and becoming that person for a few hours every night. I learned the art of working ahead – getting school work done a week before it was actually due so that I would have production week free from those pressures. I also learned how to do work behind the scenes as a stage manager, makeup artist, costume assistant. I learned that, no matter how intense the butterflies in my stomach, I would never actually throw up, and how to channel that adrenaline into a better performance.
Beyond those four years of acting, directing, reading, I also learned how to speak clearly, make eye contact, appear calm even when I am not, and use my voice effectively. I’ve used those skills while performing in plays or singing in coffeehouses but also in every job interview I have sat through, every date I have been on, every presentation I have ever made, and every class I have ever taught. Like many of my classmates, I would never have imagined myself doing what I do now when I was throwing my cap up in the air in May of 1992. But I can’t believe how much I love it.
I know I mention my cooking classes here often but I don’t think I’ve mentioned how I feel about them. I love teaching. I really do. I taught yoga from 2001-2003 and I loved that as well. Sometimes a special thing happens between teacher and student, especially when the teacher is really passionate about what they teach, and I feel lucky to have experienced that feeling in two different spheres. I am in planning mode for my spring quarter of classes and am really excited about what the next few months will hold.
Alas, teaching means testing. And I don’t mean making my students take a test. I mean searching out recipes, or developing my own, and making sure, time and time again if necessary, that they work. I mean sometimes eating the same thing several nights in a row while trying to get it right. It’s all worth it of course. But sometimes, when I am gearing up for a busy couple of weeks, I miss just being able to, you know, make dinner.
I had a little window before my cooking life became not my own and I knew I had to take advantage of that freedom to just make something I wanted to eat. Not test. As is often the case, I got a little overwhelmed with choices. I have so much bounty in terms of recipes between books, magazines, blogs, restaurant experiences – how to choose what to make. Perhaps you are familiar with this feeling. As I started to get overwhelmed and ordering pizza started to seem like a good idea, I opted to just stick with a cookbook that is relatively new to me and exciting. It was the jumping off point for this salad and also has the least imaginative name ever. But boy, did we love this dish.
We don’t often eat eggs for dinner. You should know that as I’m typing that sentence, I am simultaneously promising myself that we will eat eggs more often for dinner. I love a good poached/fried/soft-boiled egg but none of those options sound good to me at breakfast time. It would make sense, seeing as I love them and that I am a vegetarian, that eggs would be a regular part of our dinner routine. I’ve just never made them a priority. But when I see a recipe like this one, really just an egg curry, and it speaks loudly to me, it is clear I need to rethink the egg and dinner relationship. As I was getting ready to serve this lovely, filling, and nutritious dish, I decided it seemed a little thin, so I added chickpeas. Not necessary, especially if you add more eggs, but I thought the combination was great.
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 shallots, 1 chopped for garnish, 3 thinly sliced
Kosher or sea salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece of ginger, finely minced or grated
1 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed
½ tsp. ground tumeric
1 tbsp. sambal oelek, or other chile sauce
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (can be “lite”)
1 tbsp. tamarind concentrate
1 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Place the eggs in a medium saucepan and fill to cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and set the timer for 6 minutes. Immediately scoop out the eggs and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside. (This amount of cooking time will give you an egg with a very soft yolk. Let them sit for another minute, 7 total, if you like your yolk a little firmer.)
Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the chopped shallots along with a healthy pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through and brown, about 5 minutes. Shallots burn very easily so keep a close eye on them. Scrape the shallots out onto a paper towel lined plate. Set aside for the garnish.
Return the pan to the heat. Pour in the other tablespoon of oil, then add the sliced shallots, garlic, and ginger, and cook for a minute. Add the coriander, cumin, tumeric, sambal oelek, the canned tomatoes, and the tomato paste. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Stir in the coconut milk, tamarind, and brown sugar along with a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Add the eggs and the chickpeas and simmer for a few minutes more to heat it all through. Serve over rice and garnish with the fried shallots.