Category: Main Course

What Grows Together Goes Together

May 16, 2013

What grows together goes together.  Are you familiar with this saying?  It is a terrific mantra when you find yourself at a farmers’ market.  Now you Northern climate people, before you close your eyes and mutter, “Enough with the bragging about California farmers’ markets”, remember that I was one of you.  I was the person who counted down the weeks until my neighborhood market started in May, and then counted down the weeks until real actual produce, not just kale and parsnips, arrived.  I was the one finally (finally!) buying English peas, snap peas, fava beans, and other green spring things in late June which is not (not!) spring.  I have been there.  And now I am here in California and I am going to talk about my glorious California farmers’ markets.  So there.

I used to hit the markets with a list.  I would plan my menu for the week and I would try to buy as much as I could at the market.  Whatever I couldn’t find there I would buy at the grocery store.  This approach led to a lot of frustration.  Walking in to a farmers’ market with a set idea of what to buy just might leave you agitated because there is not guarantee that what you want will be there.  Even if it is in season.  It is better, I have found, to just go and buy what looks good to you.  Buy what you like.  Ideas will pop into your head and since you are shopping seasonally and locally, all the things you buy will go together in some way or another.  What grows together goes together.  And if you are really a list person, bring a blank list to the market.  Once you have you have been inspired by the produce there and bought what you like, you can make a list of the things you need to fill out the dinners you have planned.

Last week, I bought a truly shocking amount of produce.  How could I not?  Everything looked so amazing.  I realized, soon after putting everything away, that Randy was going to be out of town the first part of the week and that I had better get some friends to come eat with me.  I made pizzas and a huge salad which we devoured.  I told Randy about my creations and he was crestfallen that I had made pizza, on the grill no less, without him.  So I made the same dinner, just for us, on Mother’s Day.  Yes, I cooked on Mother’s Day.  In fact, I made breakfast and dinner.  No sad trombone or tiny violins here.  I had two friends come down from Seattle last weekend and we spent all Saturday out and about in Oakland and then San Francisco, topped off with a dinner at AQ.  It was such a gift to be able to just hang with my friends and not have to worry about the boys, I wanted to thank him for giving me that time.  I also wanted to just be home with my family and enjoy pizza and wine on our deck, rather than at a busy restaurant.

I could just have easily titled this post Put It On a Pizza.  When I end up with a surplus of fresh seasonal produce, I often end up making pizza and combining things I have on hand for a topping.  I also do this with pasta or risotto but pizza is my favorite.  Especially when I make it on the grill.  With my crazy produce haul, I had the most beautiful bunch of garlic scapes (see photo above) which I made into a pesto.  That got brushed on one pizza and was topped with grilled zucchini and grilled corn (corn in May!) and some shaved Manchego cheese.  A few cilantro leaves on top too.  I love broccoli rabe on pizza so for the other one, I blanched a bunch of that, chopped it up, and paired it with sweet spring onion rounds on a marinara slathered crust, topped with mozzarella.  When I made dinner for my family on Sunday, I repeated everything but also made a third pizza of just cheese and sauce for the boys.

I almost always use Mark Bittman’s pizza dough recipe.  It is easy and has a short rising time.  I keep promising myself that I will try others, notably the ones that have a longer rise, but the truth is that I am not always forward thinking when I make pizza.  If I realize that at 5:30 I still haven’t made the dough, we can still be eating by 7.  If you have small people who would be terrified to even contemplate anything other than a cheese pizza, divide the dough into three pieces and make one of them more plain.  I’m going to give directions for cooking pizza on the grill, since we are coming upon grilling season, but these can of course be made in a very hot oven.

One Year Ago:  Pepper Glazed Goat Cheese Gratin (I’ve made this countless times – so amazing and easy!)
Two Years Ago:  White Bark Balls
Three Years Ago: Chickpeas with Lemon and Pecorino Romano (so good!), Potato Salad with Snap Peas
Four Years Ago:  Quinoa with Grilled Zucchini and Chickpeas, Peanut Butter Cup Brownies, Raspberry Almond Bars

Pizza with Garlic Scape Pesto, Grilled Zucchini and Corn
Dana Treat Original (mostly)
Serves 4 along with another pizza (or double this recipe and make two)

You might not use all the zucchini or corn, but just throw them in a salad another night.  The pesto makes quite a bit.  It is terrific with pasta, rice, and eggs, or as a sandwich spread.  You can always take half of it, put it in a container, and freeze it for another time when garlic scapes are a distant memory.  Finally, this pizza has a LOT of flavor, so I didn’t think it needed much cheese.  But add as much as you like.  You can, of course, substitute another cheese for the Manchego.

½ ball pizza dough (recipe follows)
Garlic scape pesto (recipe follows)
2 small zucchini or other summer squash, sliced on the diagonal, about ¼-inch thick
2 ears of corn, shucked
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
½ cup (or more) Manchego cheese, shaved
Few cilantro leaves

Heat a grill to high.  Place the zucchini slices on one side of a rimmed baking sheet and the corn on the other.  Drizzle it all with a little olive oil and then add a healthy pinch of salt to both vegetables.  Using your hands, toss well (keep the vegetables separate).  Grill the zucchini and corn.  You will want nice grill marks on the zucchini and the corn should brown in places.  Remove back to the baking sheet.  Leave the grill on.  When the corn is cool enough to handle, slice the kernels off the cob.

Scatter a bit of cornmeal on a pizza peel (or the bottom of a baking sheet can work too).  Stretch the dough out to a nice thin circle, then place it on the peel.  Slide the dough onto the grill, close the lid, and let cook for4 minutes, or until the bottom is nice and golden brown with some grill marks.  Carefully coax it back onto the peel (tongs can be useful for this step).  If you are using an oven instead of a grill, just top the raw dough with the toppings – you won’t need to flip.

Turn the dough over and smear the top with some of the pesto going almost to the edges of the circle.  It is quite strong so you don’t need a lot.  Add the zucchini slices and the corn.  Top with the shaved Manchego.  Slide the pizza back on the grill, cover and cook for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the visible dough is golden brown.  Slide back on the peel and scatter cilantro leaves over the top.  Let sit for a minute, then slice and serve.

Pizza Dough
Courtesy of Mark Bittman
Makes: Enough for 1 large or 2 or more small pies

To make pizza dough by hand or with a standing mixer, follow the directions, but use a bowl and a heavy wooden spoon or the mixer’s bowl and the paddle attachment instead of the food processor. When the dough becomes too heavy to stir, use your hands or exchange the mixer’s paddle for the dough hook and proceed with the recipe.

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the oil through the feed tube.

Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is still dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time.)

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. (You can cut this rising time short if you’re in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.) Proceed to Step 4 or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap or a zipper bag and freeze for up to a month. (Defrost in the bag or a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature; bring to room temperature before shaping.)

When the dough is ready, form it into a ball and divide it into 2 or more pieces if you like; roll each piece into a round ball. Put each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rest until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.

Garlic Scape Pesto
Courtesy of Epicurious
Makes about 1½ cups

I only had salted pistachios on hand so I only added a pinch of salt to the pesto.

10 large garlic scapes
1/3 cup unsalted pistachios
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Puree the garlic scapes, pistachios, Parmesan, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a food processor until very finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour the oil through the opening. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste. (The pesto keeps in the fridge, covered, for 1 week or frozen for a month.)

 

 



I Do Not Love Kale

May 9, 2013

I’m thinking of starting a support group for People Who Do Not Love Kale. Would you join me? Are you, like me, sick of hearing/reading about kale?  I’d actually like someone to explain the kale phenomenon to me.  Why is it that this vegetable specifically has been singled out as the second coming? Why the special treatment? And really – kale? It’s not the sexiest of vegetables. Someone I know said they would like to hire the PR firm that is responsible for the kale explosion.

Not only do I not get the hype, I have to say I don’t really get kale.  I use it. I like it better than some of its other dark leafy siblings (although I love this chard dish and chard is also lovely in this tart, and collard greens are terrific in this curry). I have made kale chips and my kids spit them out and honestly, so did I.  Often I have a choking sensation when I eat kale. Does anyone else have this reaction? I’ve learned to chop it in small bite size pieces no matter what dish I am throwing it into. I don’t have to do this with broccoli. Broccoli never makes me choke. (I love you broccoli!)

I keep trying to love it. I keep trying to get excited about it. I keep buying it at the farmers’ market because it is always there and I must need some of that, right? I put it in soups and stews and sometimes I just let it languish in my crisper drawer.   Which is saying something because kale keeps well.  Then I feel guilty and so I sauté it in olive oil with minced garlic and red pepper flakes, let it cool, and then keep it in the refrigerator to eat with quinoa, avocado, and poached eggs. (My new husband-is-out-of-town dinner.)

Just as there is a lot of hype about kale, there is a lot of hype about Deborah Madison these days. (Nice segue, don’t you think?) The difference is, in my opinion, Deborah Madison deserves every bit of it and then some. Her new book Vegetable Literacy is a beautiful and well-researched tome that every vegetable lover should own. Especially if you garden (which I don’t). The thing I find so incredibly inspiring about Ms. Madison is that after all these years and all these books, she still has the passion for food that she has always had, and the curiosity to do investigative journalism about produce. The book, as you have no doubt heard, is arranged by vegetable “families” and I had plenty of surprises seeing which vegetables and herbs are related.

The recipes are true Deborah Madison. If you own a few of her books (or six like I do), you might see some familiar things. Sometimes things are a little more complicated than they need to be, sometimes they are shockingly simple. In just a quick casual glance through the book, I saw no fewer than 15 things I wanted to try right away. I’ve already made one thing twice (a simple dip of all things), and I know that her recipes are tested to perfection and fairly portioned. You never have to wonder as you attempt one of her recipes whether it will turn out. And if it doesn’t, it is most certainly your fault, not hers.

This dish spoke to me at a time when I was not eating many things. For three weeks, I ate fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and lots of eggs. I was trying to see if my acid reflux had to do with a food intolerance.  You can used to a diet like that but it isn’t much fun. I decided that if I used 100% buckwheat soba noodles (which are gluten free) then this dish fit into my elimination diet. It is a testament to how tasty it is (even with the kale) that I would make it again, even now that I am eating normally again.


Buckwheat Noodles with Kale and Sesame Salad
Adapted from Vegetable Literacy
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a first course

While I will say that you should never rinse traditional Italian-style noodles, you should definitely rinse soba noodles.  They are very starchy and will clump together in one big lump if you don’t.  This recipe calls for both toasted and light sesame oils.  Toasted sesame oil is a tremendous flavor booster but you have to be careful with it as the flavor is very strong.  If you don’t have light sesame oil (I don’t), you can use peanut oil or even canola oil for that part of the recipe.

6 ounces soba noodles (make sure they are 100% buckwheat if you want gluten free)
Toasted sesame oil
1 bunch Tuscan kale (also called lacinato or dinosaur kale)
5 tsp. light sesame oil (not toasted)
Sea salt
4 brussels sprouts
1 plump garlic clove
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted in a dry skillet until golden
2 pinches red pepper flakes
Slivered chives or green onions to finish

Cook the soba noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water.  Check the package for how they need to cook and taste a noodle to make sure they are not overdone.  Drain and immediately rinse with cold water, running your hands through the noodles to make sure they are cool.  Give them a good shake and then drizzle them with a bit of toasted sesame oil, mixing them with your hands.

Slice the kale leaves off their ropy stems and discard the stems.  Working in batches, stack the leaves, roll them up tightly lengthwise, and then thinly slice them crosswise into narrow ribbons.  Put the ribbons in a salad bowl with 1 teaspoon of the light sesame oil and a pinch of salt.  Squeeze the leaves repeatedly with your hands until they glisten.

Discard any funky outer leaves from the brussels sprouts.  Slice them paper thin on a mandoline (or with a very sharp knife), then toss them with the kale.

Pound the garlic with another small pinch of salt in a small mortar until smooth.  Stir in the vinegar then whisk in the remaining oil and the soy sauce.  Pour the dressing over the greens and toss well.  (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can also chop it roughly on a cutting board, sprinkle the garlic with the salt, and then use the flat side of your knife to smoosh the salt into the garlic.  You are looking for a rough paste consistency.  Then just transfer the garlic to a bowl and continue.)

Just before serving, toss the greens with the soba noodles, the sesame seeds, pepper flakes, and the chives.



Indian Food Pep Talk

May 6, 2013

Let’s talk about Indian food.  Do you love it?  Are you making it at home?  If the answer to the first question is yes and the second is no, why not?  Why are you not making Indian food at home?  I’m guessing it is one of these reasons:

1) The recipes are too long.
2) The recipes have unfamiliar ingredients.
3) It’s too spicy!
4) Who has all those spices?

You might notice that reasons 1-4 actually have to do with spices.  #1 Sometimes Indian food recipes have long lists of ingredients but if you look carefully, many of those ingredients are actually spices.  Sometimes up to half of the list really just needs to be measured out of a jar.  #2 Once in a while, I will find a recipe that calls for bitter gourd or drumstick (not the kind that is on a chicken) but usually the unfamiliar ingredients are actually spices.  #3 “Spicy” and “spiced” are really too different things.  Yes, there are a lot of spices in Indian cooking and that is why it is so intoxicating.  Most of the spices are there to give the food flavor and color, not necessarily heat.  When you are cooking it yourself, you control the level of heat so what are you afraid of?  #4 needs a new paragraph.

If you cook regularly, you probably have jars of cumin, coriander, and cayenne at home, these are spices commonly used in Indian food but also in Thai, Mexican, and Middle Eastern food, among others.  Perhaps you even have turmeric and mustard seeds.  Maybe you don’t.  Maybe you want to make a recipe that calls for fenugreek and garam masala and when you see that you think to yourself, “Now this is why I don’t make Indian food.”  I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to go buy whole jars of things that you are not going to use on a daily basis.  Most grocery stores these days have a bulk spice section where you can buy a couple of teaspoons for less than a dollar.  An added bonus is that the bulk spices tend to be much fresher than those you get in a  jar because there is a lot of turnover.  Take a tip from me and clearly write on the bag which spice it is and then store all your little bits of spices in one Ziploc bag.  That way, you can pull out that one bag when you want to make Indian food.  If you are looking for online resources for spices, I can highly recommend World Spice Merchant and Penzey’s.  World Spice Merchant has a storefront in Seattle and Penzey’s has locations all over the U. S.

Now that we are not afraid anymore, can we continue?  I make Indian food often in my kitchen.  I was never a fan of the Indian restaurants in Seattle so when I craved it, I made it myself.  I turn to several trusted cookbooks over and over and although I am a person always wanting to try new recipes, I gravitate toward the same dishes.  They are that good.

This Cauliflower and Potato Curry is a great place to start if you are apprehensive about cooking Indian food.  The recipe is easy, the ingredient list relatively short, ingredients are familiar, and it is not spicy (as in hot).  I have probably made this recipe 30 times and I change up little things each time.  Sometimes I use big tomatoes that I seed, sometimes I use cherry tomatoes, sometimes I use canned tomatoes.  I have made it with more cauliflower and fewer potatoes, and also with more potatoes and less cauliflower.  I’ve added frozen peas on more than one occasion.  I’ve used all coconut milk and also half coconut milk and half water.  I have made it soupier and drier.  My point is this is a very adaptable recipe.  How you see it below is how I like it best.

One Year Ago:  Flan, Layered Pasilla Tortilla Casserole
Two Years Ago:  Cheddar Crackers (I’ve made these about 1,000 times), Kaye Korma Curry
Three Years Ago:  Gianduja Gelato, Orange Grand Marnier Cake, Spaghetti with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Tarragon
Four Years Ago:  Mexican Brownies, Noodles in Thai Curry Sauce with Tofu,

Cauliflower and Potato Curry
Adapted from The New Tastes of India
Serves 4

Coconut oil (or canola or peanut oil)
1 ½ tsp. fennel seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. chile powder
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 ¼ pound new potatoes (assorted colors are nice), cut into large chunks
1 small cauliflower, about 1 ¼ pounds, broken into florets
4 plum tomatoes, quartered and seeded
4 ounces coconut milk
4 ounces water
Kosher or sea salt
Handful of chopped cilantro

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle in the fennel seeds and allow them to cook, stirring often, until they are toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add the onion and cook until the onion is turning brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the turmeric and chile powder and stir for 2 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste.

Add the potato, cauliflower, tomatoes, coconut milk, and another healthy pinch of salt.  Next stir in the water.  Bring the mixture up to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.  Allow to cook at a brisk simmer until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender, about 20 minutes.  Be sure to check with a fork or a paring knife.  If the mixture needs more liquid in your opinion, add more water or coconut milk.  Just before serving, taste for salt, and stir in the cilantro.



My Old Job

April 25, 2013

My first job working with food kind of fell in my lap.  I had a good friend who had recently hired a personal chef.  While she liked the convenience, she found the food heavy and not all that inspired.  Without thinking too carefully I said, “I’ll cook for you.”  Without thinking too carefully she said, “OK.”  And suddenly, poof!, I was a personal chef.  The arrangement worked out for both of us and my friend recommended me to another family.  Up until I had Spencer, I cooked for those two families three nights a week.

When all was said and done, I did that job for three years.  I had my two regular families for all that time and a few others who stopped and started.  Graham, who is now eight, was 17 months old when I started cooking for money and I did it through my pregnancy with Spencer and, after a short maternity leave, when he was an infant.  I was lucky to have had very flexible clients who were great eaters and were just happy to eat whatever I brought them.  I was able to be creative and make a serious dent in my “want to make” recipe file.

I kept notebooks with every menu I ever made.  It is amazing to look back and see the food I was able to produce in my kitchen with very small children and not a lot of time.  In all three years, I almost never repeated dishes and when I did, it was because someone had made a request.  I’ve been thinking about those days recently because I’ve been thinking about whether or not I’d like to start personal cheffing again.  I loved doing it and the only reason I stopped is because I found the work too solitary.  Teaching cooking classes allowed me to have prep time alone but then to share time and food with others.

Whenever I think about starting up again, I think of this dinner.  It was the first thing I made for my first client and I agonized over the choice.  I felt so much pressure (from myself) for the meal to be a hit.  I wanted so badly to succeed.  Because of that, I went to a no-fail cookbook, Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen, and made a favorite dish.

Over the years since I hung up the personal chef hat, I have made this dish many times.  I’ve made others like it too – I just really like my red lentils.  They are quick cooking and healthy and in about the time it takes for the rice to cook, you have a tasty and nutritious meal.  Recently I saw tables full of broccoli romanesco at the farmers’ market and whenever I see that beautiful vegetable, I always think of this dish.  After several years of making other versions of red lentil dhal, it was nice to come back to an old favorite.  There are a lot of steps to her recipe, and a little underseasoning, so I tweaked it to my current tastes.  Still, a classic is a classic.

One Year Ago:  Ginger Fried Rice with Roasted Tempeh, Maple Blueberry Tea Cake
Two Years Ago:  Butterscotch Pudding Tarts, Greek Salad
Three Years Ago:  Leek Frittata, Strawberry Ricotta Tartlets
Four Years Ago:  Ricotta Calzones with Broccoli Rabe, Miso Soup
[/donotprint]
Fragrant Red Lentils  with Broccoli Romanesco
Adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
Serves 4

The final swirl of spices in oil might sound like an annoying extra step but it is really what makes this dish special.  I like to use coconut oil in this type of cooking but feel free to use butter, ghee, or another type of oil.

3 tbsp. coconut oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large jalapeño chile, seeded and diced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1½ tsp. ground turmeric
¼ tsp. cayenne
2 cups red lentils
1 bay leaf
Kosher or sea salt
1 can coconut milk
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
1 head broccoli romanesco or cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
Cooked basmati rice for serving

Place a large saucepan over medium heat.  Spoon in about 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil, then add the onion and a large pinch of salt.  When the onion is translucent and starting to brown, about 5 minutes, add the ginger, garlic and chile.  Sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne.  Stir for one minute, then add the lentils.  Stir to coat the lentils with the spices, then pour in 3 cups of water.  Turn up the heat so the mixture boils, then add the bay leaf, and turn the heat down so the mixture simmers.  Partially cover the pot and cook until the lentils are soft and most of the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and simmer for another few minutes until the lentils are very soft and falling apart.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro.  Cover and keep warm.

Steam the broccoli romanesco or cauliflower until tender.

To finish, heat another tablespoon of coconut oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cook until they become very fragrant and the mustard seeds start to pop.  Immediately add to the red lentils and stir to combine.

To serve, pack the hot rice into ramekins and turn them upside down, one each, in a shallow pasta bowl.  Spoon a cup or more of the lentils around them, then lift off the ramekin, leaving the rice intact.  Top with the broccoli romanesco and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

 



Where I Have Been

April 5, 2013

Hello Friends.

The first quarter of 2013 is over and I have not a lot of food posts to show for it.  There are several reasons for the quiet on this site.  One is still adjusting to a new life and new rhythm in a new city.  I was far busier in Seattle and yet posted much more frequently.  More proof that the busier I am, the more productive I am.  Another reason is some technical problems with my web host and just general internet yuck.

But the main reason is that I just haven’t been feeling all that good.  I’ve never mentioned this here, but I suffer from acid reflux.  I had it bad with both of my pregnancies and after I had Spencer, it never went away.  I’ve had tests done over the years and have been able to control it very well with a mild medication.  Until recently.  For some reason that is not easily explained, my reflux got completely out of control about two months ago.  I went from falling asleep easily every night, to being up for hours trying to get the stomach pain and constant buzzing in the back of my throat (from stomach acid) to go away enough for me to doze off.  The discomfort is with me during the day too, just not as much in the front of my mind in the daylight.  I don’t feel bad all the time but much of the time.  Being in a new city, I was a little lost and finding the right person to go see was much more difficult than in my home town.

I’ve done more tests and switched medications and the bottom line is that I’ve been feeling  pretty terrible much of the time.  I am on something new that apparently takes a while to start working so I am holding on hoping that that is true.  (UPDATE: For the past couple of days, I have been feeling better.  I guess the new medicine is working after all.  Phew!) As you do in these situations, I went to Facebook and asked for advice from friends.  What are you taking?  What has worked for you?  A number of people said they had seen naturopaths and found out they had food intolerances and their reflux cleared up after they eliminated those foods.  Not really knowing what else to do, I decided to put myself on an elimination diet.  I cut out everything I thought might be giving me trouble.  Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, soy, wheat, grains, beans, dairy.  Because I don’t eat meat, that meant I was eating eggs, fruits and vegetables, quinoa, and nuts and seeds.  I did this for four weeks and I did not feel one bit better.  No change in my stomach issues, no sudden glow to my skin, no bounce in my step.  So, obviously, I have gone back to eating my regular (mostly) healthy diet.

So essentially, I have not been writing glowing posts about delicious things I have been making because my stomach has been hurting and because I have been cooking in an extremely limited fashion.  But here is the thing.  I made some tasty things, even with the restrictions I put on myself.  That polenta was a super satisfying dinner.  And I made several different kinds of Thai curry, all of them with my new favorite Kabocha squash which goes so well in curry, all of them with homemade curry paste, all of them satisfying.  I am glad that I can eat out again without worrying about what I will order and glad to have all my choices available again.  I am interested to note that I am not rushing back to certain things – sugar for one.

I used one of my favorite cookbooks, Real Vegetarian Thai, for my curry paste recipes and I have found that the red curry is much spicier than the green.  This green paste is mild but with so much flavor that I really encourage you to make your own.  It doesn’t take long at all and it will keep for up to a month in your refrigerator.  I find that, because the green is so mild, I use about half of a batch for one pot of curry, but you may use less.  If you don’t want to make your own paste but still want to make the curry, Thai Kitchen makes a decent curry paste that is vegetarian.  It is pretty spicy though so be careful adding it to the stew.  Kabocha squash is kind of round-ish and the skin can be either green or orange.  I have found that the orange ones have a better texture.  Either way, the skin is edible.  Just be really careful cutting into them!

One Year Ago:  Holly B’s Savory Brioches
Two Years Ago:  Eggplant and Mushroom Pasticcio, Lemon Cream Tart (the best lemon tart!)
Three Years Ago:  Holly B’s Cinnamon Rolls, Baked Rice with Chiles and Pinto Beans
Four Years Ago:  Spicy Sweet Potatoes with Lime, Marinated Chickpea Salad with Radishes and Cucumber

Thai Green Curry with Kabocha Squash and Shiitake Mushrooms
Dana Treat Original (curry paste from Real Vegetarian Thai)
Serves 3-4

I made this twice in two weeks.  The first time I did not use tofu because I was not eating soy.  I used a drained can of bamboo shoots to bulk it up.  I think it is better with a bit of tofu, but it is up to you.  This makes a nice thick curry.  If you want more liquid, you can add more coconut milk or even a bit of vegetable broth or water.  Finally, I used to always use low fat coconut milk in my curries but I am SO over that.  The real stuff tastes about 1000% better.

For the curry paste:
4 fresh green jalapeño chiles
1 tbsp. whole coriander seed
1 tsp. whole cumin seed
5 while or black peppercorns
3 stalks lemongrass
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. roughly chopped ginger or galangal
Zest of 1 lime
1 tsp. salt

For the stew:
Coconut, peanut, or canola oil
3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced
1 14-ounce can full fat coconut milk
1 small kabocha squash, seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch pieces
Handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
Kosher or sea salt

Make the curry paste:
Stem the chiles, chop them coarsely, and set aside.  In a small skillet over medium heat, dry-fry the coriander seeds until they darken a shade or two, shaking the pan or stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes.  Tip out onto a saucer.  Toast the cumin seeds in the same way, until they darken and release their rich aroma, 1 to 2 minutes.  Grind the two spices along with the pepper in a coffee or spice grinder, or in a mortar and pestle.

To prepare the lemongrass, trim away and discard any root section below the bulb base, and cut away the top portion, leaving a stalk about 6 inches long including the base.  Remove any dried, wilted, and yellowed leaves.  Finely chop the stalk.

Combine the lemongrass, the chopped chiles, and the ground toasted spices with the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and grind them to a fairly smooth paste, stopping often to scrape down the sides and adding a few tablespoons of water as needed to move the blades.

Make the stew:
Place a wide pot over medium heat.  Add just enough oil of your choice to coat the bottom, then add the shallots and a large pinch of salt.  Allow the shallots to cook, stirring often, until they are soft and starting to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.  Next add the red pepper and the shiitake mushrooms.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms and peppers are starting to soften and brown in spots, about 10 minutes.

Move the vegetables over to one side of the pot.  Pour in about ¼ of the coconut milk and then spoon in a couple of tablespoons of the curry paste.  Mash the paste into the coconut milk to combine, then stir the mixture together with the vegetables.  Pour in the rest of the coconut milk and turn up the heat.  Taste the liquid to see if you need more curry paste and add as needed.  When it comes to a boil, add the squash and the tofu.  Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover, and cook until the squash is fork tender, about 20 minutes.  Just before serving, taste for salt and shower with the chopped cilantro.  Serve with jasmine or basmati rice.



« Older Posts Newer Posts »