Tag Archives: side dish

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!

Jean Talon Market feast

Mmm... farmers' markets...

Mmm… farmers’ markets…

The spoils of a successful trip to the Jean Talon Market. Supper tonight will be beer-battered cod with a side of spinach pasta in a butter-tomato-bell pepper sauce. Appetizer of baguette and awesome boar-grape pâté. Throughout: nibbling on the most delicious maple pecans I’ve ever tasted. Yup… we done good.

Roast vegetables and tomato sauce

As I mentioned last time, all the knife practice exercises I’ve been doing this week have left me with quite a lot of vegetables leftovers. Today my boss decided that it’s slow enough in the office that we were entitled to a one-day spring break, so I decided to put some of my newfound cooking skills to use.

Just over two hours in the kitchen resulted in the following:
– one and a half trays of roasted carrots (most of a 2-lb bag)
– half a tray of roasted zucchini (one zucchini’s worth)
– two trays of kale chips (half a bunch of kale, roasted)
– a small pot of tomato sauce (about a 15-oz can’s worth)

Now, this might seem like a lot, and indeed it looked like a lot before I went through the roasting / sauce making process, but by the end, it looked like a whole lot less. The roasted carrots were so good that I kept munching them. A lot. The entire bag of carrots, raw, make me think, “Oh, dear God, who could possibly eat so many carrots?” After roasting, it was more like, “Yeah, I could totally eat all of these right now.” Ditto for the kale chips.

So in the end, I’ve got about two cups of roasted carrots, a tiny amount of roasted zucchini (not as good as the carrots: still very mushy — I’ll have to find a better way of cooking them), and a soup-bowl of kale chips.

The tomato sauce did not turn out as good as the roast vegetables. It’s… okay. But it’s got that very acidic, “Whoa, I’m a TOMATO!” feel to it. I added some sugar, which cut the edge a bit, but not as much as I’d like. It might be because I added an entire can of tomato paste. See, I didn’t want more leftovers, and there was a whole lotta juice that needed to get thickened up, and… Yeah. I may have overdone it. Just a bit. *looks down shamefully*

In any event, I find it okay. Marc doesn’t really like it. I’ll probably spoon some over the pan-fried chicken that I’m making tonight as my next Rouxbe lesson, and then have the rest with some pasta or something.

I’m still amazed at what looked like so much raw vegetables turned into so little cooked vegetables. It’s barely enough for a couple of servings. I can’t imagine how many vegetables I’d need to buy if I wanted to have enough for a whole week! Am I the only one who feels this way?

Tasty knife practice (and a bonus!)

As many of you know, I’ve subscribed to a lifetime membership at Rouxbe, and right now I’m going through their Cook’s Roadmap: Level 1 course. For a while, I’d stalled out, because I couldn’t really do any of the practical tasks while my kitchen was being renovated. But by yesterday we finally had things under control enough that I could start cooking again, and that, my friends, is what I did.

The Cook’s Roadmap starts really simple: with how to handle a chef’s knife. As some of you might recall, I’d managed to acquire a chef’s knife from a friend of mine and even practice with it a little before the renovations started. I skipped out on Rouxbe’s task to cut a whole lotta celery, both because I’d already done it before as part of another course and because I figured I’d get plenty of cutting practice with the next two tasks:

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Gnocchi

So, here’s the thing. We had a lovely Christmas dinner with a good friend’s family and brought home quite a lot of leftovers: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. Most of it got eaten in fairly short order, as tasty the second time round as the first. But the mashed potatoes… they didn’t reheat very well. And we had a fairly large container of them. I didn’t want to waste them, but I didn’t really want to eat them, either. What to do, what to do…

I did as I always did in this circumstances, I asked The Google. And The Google told me a whole bunch of things I could do with leftover mashed potatoes, but the one that really piqued my interest was gnocchi. See, gnocchi are my favorite pasta, bar none, and if I could do this properly, life would be sweet indeed. (Sweet and savory. Because gnocchi are best with butter and sage.)

A tour of quite a number of cooking sites revealed that this was going to be more “test and see how it turns out” than I’m used to. I prefer to use precise recipes, and this one… well, this was gonna be anything but.

In any event, I took the 2-ish cups of (cold) mashed potatoes, cracked in an egg, and stirred that around for a while. Then I added a cup of flour, mixed it some more, figured it wasn’t quite enough, and added a little more. Dumped the whole thing out and kneaded it for a while until it became (as the recipes instructed) a sticky dough. I had no idea whether it was too sticky, too smooth, or whatever, but I figured if I could roll it out into strips, it was good enough.

And roll I did! Into about 8 “snakes,” which I then cut up into little “pillows,” that seemed to be pretty delicate. Didn’t bother running them over a gnocchi board (because I don’t own one) or the tines of a fork (because they seemed too delicate), so I just left them as-is. Popped them into boiling water in three batches, and boiled until they rose to the top and then another 2-3 minutes past that, about 5 minutes overall. Drained for a while on paper towels, then served with butter and sage.

They were pretty soft (though they’re firming up as they cool down) and very filling, as gnocchi tend to be. I have no idea why they were so soft: too much or too little flour, too long or too short a cooking time, too much handling… no clue. But it worked out.

In the end, this isn’t the sort of recipe I’d make every day — because I have no interest in boiling up potatoes solely to use as gnocchi when store-bought gnocchi is both more convenient and better quality — but if I ever find myself with some extra mashed potatoes lying around, it’s certainly the sort of thing I can see myself making again. Success!

Improvised beef stew and roasted potatoes

For the past two weeks, and continuing for the next month and a half or so, my weekly D&D group has been meeting at my house. Last week, I was inspired to cook up a batch of chili and cornbread for the game. This week, I wanted to do pot roast in the slow cooker.

Enter problem #1: I couldn’t find any affordable pot roast. In fact, I really couldn’t find much of anything at the first grocery store I went to, and was forced to brave the -30 C wind chills yesterday morning to go to my local store and pick up five pounds of stewing beef. (Yes, five pounds. This is what happens when you’re serving ten people.)

Problem #2: I overestimated the size of my crock pot. My initial plan was to have the stew contain onions, baby carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes along with the beef. Instead, I had just enough place for the beef, a couple of onions and 3/4 of the baby carrots I picked up. Absolutely no room for potatoes! So I decided to leave them out and do a side of roasted potatoes instead.

Problem #3: I overestimated the size of my baking sheet. So I only got to roast two of the three sweet potatoes and about 3/4 of the regular potatoes. Thankfully, it was enough that everyone got a serving.

In the end, both the stew and the potatoes were extremely tasty. The sweet potatoes browned much faster than the regular potatoes, but I caught them before too many were burnt. And roasted potatoes in the stew worked out wonderfully. Given that I wound up serving seven people instead of the expected ten, I’ve got a few leftovers for today, which makes me happy.

Anyway, no recipe this time because it was mostly improvised. (Though loosely based on this pot roast recipe. Very loosely.) Now I have to figure out what I want to cook for next week!