Indian-ish feast

A good day's work in the kitchen!

A good day’s work in the kitchen!

It all started when Marc left town for two weeks. There I was on a Sunday night, opening and closing the fridge, asking myself, “What do I want to make?” and coming up with the inevitable answer, “Nothing.” Eventually I took myself out to dinner to a Vietnamese place around the corner and vowed that I wouldn’t let it happen again.

Monday I woke up with a plan. I had to go groceries anyway, and I’d just seen a lovely crock-pot recipe for lamb korma. I found some chicken thighs I decided to use instead of the lamb, but it seemed like the recipe would work regardless. From there, I found myself in a spiral of, “Well, if I’m doing it anyway…”

See, the chicken korma uses half a can of coconut milk. So what to do with the other half? There’s a recipe in The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss that I’ve been meaning to try for a while: coconut cauliflower curry mash. It’s sort of like the cauliflower version of mashed potatoes. It uses half a can of coconut milk. So I picked up a (rather overpriced) cauliflower at the grocery store too.

Of course, the recipe only used about half the cauliflower. So what to do with the other half? Roasting is always a safe bet, so I did that, along with a little garam masala, because I figured I had a theme going.

I also had a bunch of leftover root vegetables from a pot roast stew I made last week, and I figured I really should use them up before they started going bad on me. So I roasted up about two pounds of carrots, also with garam masala, and about a pound and a half of baby white-fleshed potatoes. (This time with thyme, because I like to be contrarian.)

I had about three cups of cut-up butternut squash that I had to use also, and I’d found a nifty recipe for that too. (Hence why I had the thyme on hand for the potatoes.) It wasn’t quite Indian, but what the heck, I felt like trying out the recipe and nothing as obvious as a themed dinner was gonna stop me.

Since I was doing all this work in the kitchen, I figured I might as well fry up the 3/4 of a package of bacon I had lying around, so I cut it into lardons and spent some time pushing it around the pan and draining it when there was too much grease at the bottom. (Probably about four times — there was a lot of grease!)

And, finally, some rice. I had one last tupperware of home made vegetable stock that I used instead of water, and I figured that since I was on an Indian kick anyway, I’d try to add some Indian spices and see how it went. Into the pot went a cinnamon stick, some ground cardamom, a few cloves, and about a half-tablespoon of cumin seeds.

The crock pot chicken korma happened on Monday night and got packaged up around midnight, and all the rest I did over about three hours on Tuesday. (Not counting the 45 minutes of making up my chart of what spices needed to go with which dish, what appliances needed to be in action at what time, and so forth. I may be a geek.) I’d also bought a pumpkin pie at my grocery store on Monday, because I’d never had pumpkin pie before and couldn’t find anywhere to buy just a single slice. So I had about 3/4 of that left.

Suffice it to say, there was a lot of food.

Tuesday morning, I put out the call to my friends, begging them to come over and eat dinner with me. I got four RSVPs, and one of them even brought wine, so we had an absolutely lovely time. The chicken korma was a big hit, and most of the vegetables were gone as well. (Mmm… roast vegetables.) The cauliflower mash was surprisingly tasty, definitely something I’d make again. My only sadness about the veggies is that the potatoes were nice and crispy out of the oven, but had gotten soggy by the time we ate them. So sad…

In any case, a good time was had by all, and I’ve got enough korma and rice leftovers to last me the rest of the week, I think. So… yay! Not sure if I’ll do a big cooking job again before Marc gets home, but you never know.

Steamed potatoes and kale (but not bok choy)

Ploughman's lunch, with a cameo by Marc's elbow

Ploughman’s lunch, with a cameo by Marc’s elbow

In the continuing saga of my Rouxbe adventures, it’s time for more steaming practice! Today’s lesson was supposed to be steamed potatoes, steamed kale, and steamed bok choy. Alas, my fridge runs extremely cold and the bok choy froze, making it inedible for cooking. (Or at least, I think so. Does anyone know if leafy green vegetables are okay to use after they’ve frozen? It looked pretty yucky to me, anyway.)

The steamed potatoes were finished with some bacon lardons (that’s “chunks” for the unenlightened — yay fancy cooking terms!), dried Egyptian thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper. The kale was more simple, with just butter, salt, and pepper. Oh, and I put some lemon slices on the bottom of the steamer because I had them lying around and it seemed like the sort of thing that might go nicely. In retrospect, while the kale was still tasty, this was a mistake. I forgot rule #1 of cooking green vegetables: no acid! That might explain a few of the brown bits on the kale when I took them out of the steamer. Oh, well. Live and learn. They were still tasty.

Potatoes took about 19 minutes in boiling-water steam, the kale was about 4 minutes in simmering-water steam.

Because this didn’t seem like enough food to make a meal on its own, I also added some homemade anadama bread and cheddar cheese, and Marc and I had a very tasty ploughman’s lunch. Even the kale, which I’m not generally fond of, was very tasty. All told, not bad for a half-hour in the kitchen!

Let there be steam! (Steamed chicken and broccoli)

Steamed chicken and broccoli

Steamed chicken and broccoli

The latest in my Rouxbe lessons involved steaming. Today in particular was steamed lemon-garlic chicken with thyme and steamed broccoli with soy and sesame oil.

Since the steamer basket I have is actually kind of dangerous to use — it’s the kind that opens up like a flower, but there’s no easy way of removing it from the steaming pot without risk of burn — I decided to buy myself a present of a new steamer insert for my pots. This involved a bit of running around and a mishap at the store where they’d set aside the wrong thing for me (steamer basket =/= double boiler), but it all worked out in the end. Conveniently, the “universal” steamer basket from Lagostina actually fits two of my pots. This means that I could, say, make rice in my big saucepan and steam the meal in a smaller saucepan. Except that I need the same lid for both jobs. So… pasta it is! Pasta doesn’t need a lid! Yay!

Surprisingly, this was a remarkably simple meal. Prep everything in the steamer basket, put over the water, cover, wait for a while, eat. I put the chicken breasts on top of sliced pieces of lemon (a trick I learned from the Rouxbe lesson on steaming) and then did the shorter broccoli after the chicken was done. I lost quite a bit of steam as it was going, but the steamer basket sits very high above the water, so I could put a lot in and not worry about it all boiling off.

I was worried about the timing for this, but in the end it all worked out. I turned on the burner for the pasta water the same time the chicken started steaming. It boiled around the time the chicken was done (remember how I needed the lid for the steamer?) and the pasta was done right around the same time as the broccoli. I was able to do the broccoli prep while the chicken was steaming and the plating while the broccoli was steaming. Yay for timing!

In this end this was a very tasty meal. Marc and I both enjoyed it very much. Definitely a keeper.

Avocado snack and boiling vegetables practice

I’ve been following along with my Rouxbe course pretty solidly for a few weeks now, and most of the exercises I’ve come to recently have been dealing with vegetables and specifically with boiling vegetables. (The next lesson will be steaming, but for now we’re at boiling and simmering.) I’ve learned a few very useful things. Did you know that vegetables are generally broken up into three categories? They are! Green vegetables, white and red vegetables, and orange and yellow vegetables. Boiled green vegetables should be cooked uncovered without an acid; white and red should be covered and have an acid added halfway through; and orange and yellow vegetables can go either way. (They’re the bisexuals of the vegetable world. Racy!)

In any case, I haven’t made a “real” recipe for this adventures in cooking lesson, even though I bought the ingredients for one. My house is full of leftovers and it just doesn’t seem like the time. So instead I present to you one snack and three exercises. Onwards!

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Red lentil coconut soup (plus a bonus feature!)

Now that I’m getting back into my Rouxbe cooking lessons, it was time for some more tasty practice. Today’s lesson: submersion cooking techniques (poaching, simmering, and boiling), as demonstrated by making a soup. There were a number of soups to choose from, but I settled on the red lentil coconut soup. (For those not on Rouxbe, you can see the slightly-modified recipe here.)

(Much more detail on my experience behind the cut… plus a bonus feature!)

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Sweet Indian lassi

Sweet Indian lassi

Sweet Indian lassi

For a few days, I’ve been craving mango lassi, but haven’t been able to get anywhere that sells it. So I decided to make it myself. Problem #1: I didn’t have any mangos at home, and all the stores were closed. However, I’ve seen recipes for “sweet lassi” that don’t actually contain any fruit, so I decided to base myself on those.

Into the container for my hand blender went about 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (the 3.25% fat kind), 1/2 cup cold water, 3 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon (it should have been cardamom, but I don’t have any cardamom in the house), a splash of vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Blend the whole thing up until it’s smooth, serve over lots of ice cubes.

In the end, the texture was just about right (maybe just slightly too thin). The taste, though… Weirdly, it tasted like apple pie with ice cream. Must be the mixture of cinnamon and vanilla, because there weren’t any apples in there. Very tasty, but just… unexpected. Marc and I both enjoyed it, and I’d probably make it again. It’s very easy, very fast, and uses stuff I’ve got on hand. (Though I’d love to get some cardamom to try it “for real.”)

Meal planning

My very first meal plan

My very first meal plan

Perhaps it was a stupid decision to make my first meal plan the same week I had an intermittent high fever for the first four days. But I was feeling okay when I made it (for certain definitions of “okay”), and I’d been tired of getting to 6 pm, looking around my kitchen, and saying, “There’s nothing here to eat,” so I figured it was the time.

To the right is a picture of my very first meal plan ever. I had plans, people. Big plans. That were mostly completely FUBARed after about Wednesday.

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