Dainty’s Concocted Curry
April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
Several weeks ago I attempted my first-ever Indian-spiced meal. Cauliflower masala. Turned out pretty well—read about it HERE. That was then followed by a chana bateta from the Brooklyn Eats blogger, not blogged about here but really tasty. That one includes potatoes in a homemade tomato-based curry. From those two recipes I figured if you have some mustard seeds, cumin, coriander and a touch of heat—and a whole bunch of other stuff—you can whip up a curry.
Last night’s meal is what I’m calling Dainty’s Concocted Curry. I had 2/3 cup of coconut milk I needed to finish off, and I didn’t have all the ingredients for either of the above recipes, so I kinda/sorta combined the two. Believe me, it can be tweaked here and there, especially in the heat department. But I’m pretty proud that I even attempted getting jiggy with these East Asian flavors.
Dainty’s Concocted Curry
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3-ish garlic cloves, minced
0.5-1.0 TBS grated ginger
1-2 TBS oil (I always use olive but you can use canola)
1 tsp mustard seed
1.5-2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
0.5-0.75 tsp cayenne (Would have added a touch more if we had it.)
1 tsp tumeric
couple pinches fenugreek
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
2 big dollops of tomato paste
2/3 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper
-Heat oil in a fairly deep fry pan, medium heat. Add shallots and garlic. Move ’em about in the pan now and then and you’re looking for them to be a bit translucent or, better yet, wilted. At this point I just grate the ginger right on top of that, guesstimating a tablespoon’s worth.
-While this is happening, put the mustard seeds in a small skillet with a slight amount of oil and heat on med-high. Cover! These seeds will start popping when they are ready – not long, about 3 minutes.
-When shallots/onions/ginger are done, add mustard seeds and all the spices to the mix. Stir about – it’ll be kinda pasty. You just want to get some heat on them to begin releasing their aromas. Doesn’t take long – a minute or two.
-Now, this can of whole tomatoes—one recipe called for one diced tomato, the other for a 14 oz can diced tomatoes. Other than a handful of cherry tomatoes, all I had was this 28 oz can of whole tomatoes. Open the can, reach on in there and grab one or two tomatoes, hold it over the pan and squeeze—carefully, otherwise it’ll squish tomato juice all over you. Do this for the entire can, then add the juice. And also add the tomato paste‚—that’ll help thicken it. Add coconut milk and stir. Give it a taste and see if you need to add salt or anything extra. Since I added way more tomatoes than I needed, I gave the mix a few extra shakes of all the spices except the cayenne (no more left) and the mustard seeds. Bring to just about boiling, then turn down to simmer and thicken. We had this on low while our brown rice was cooking for 45 minutes. Stir now and then and check up on it.
We’re pretty much done at this point. We did a take-out sorta thing with this when it came to assembling the meal. I roasted some broccoli and also baked some marinated sliced tofu. We put a big spoonful of brown rice in a salad-sized bowl, added some of the broccoli and a few tofu slabs, and then spooned the curry on top. Not too bad, I have to say.
You? You can add some cubed potatoes (as in one of the original recipes) and let those cook away while the curry is simmering. Or, maybe add some mushrooms. Maybe some stir-fried chicken. Steamed veggies. It’s a curry, and you can use it to add a little East Asian flair to your Wednesday evenings without leaving the house.
Double Mushroom Barley Soup
April 26, 2011 § 3 Comments
Will spring ever get here? Until it does, one of the ways to deal with cold and damp weather is with hot soup. Hot, hearty soup. This is one of our favorites in the hot and hearty category. It’s “double” mushroom because it uses both fresh and dried mushrooms. Adding the dried gives the soup its earthy heartiness.
This is another recipe Jennifer acquired from a soup class several years ago. Note on the bottom says it’s from the Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure book. Ah, yes, “under pressure.” This is made in a pressure cooker! Have no fear, people—pressure cookers won’t explode on your stove top. And if you don’t have a pressure cooker, just cover and simmer for … well, I’m not sure. Just keep checking to see if the barley is toothy.
As before, the recipe below is with our adjustments
Double Mushroom Barley Soup
- 2-3 tsp olive oil
- 2-3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 cups chopped onions or 2 thinly sliced leeks (I use onions here)
- 6 cups boiling stock (see note in recipe)
- 1/2 cup pearl barley
- 1/2 lb sliced fresh mushrooms, white buttons are fine
- 1/2 oz. sliced dried mushrooms
- 2 large carrots, sliced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 2 large bay leaves
- 1.5 tbs dill weed
- salt and pepper to taste
-Put dried mushrooms in a medium bowl. Add about 2 cups boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep for 15 minutes.
-Now, for the “6 cups boiling stock” – set a pot of about 4 cups stock (veggie is good, chicken is okay if you don’t have veggie) to boil. You’re going to add the mushroom liquid to it when those are done steeping.
-While the mushrooms are steeping is a good time chop your veg.
-When mushrooms have steeped, drain the liquid into a measuring cup. You should have a bit less than 2 cups. Just add water to fill up to 2 cups. Add to the pot of stock. Reserve mushrooms.
-Heat oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker (or soup pot if not using a pressure cooker) to medium-high. Add garlic and onions. Cook for 1 minute, stirring so they don’t stick. Add the stock and then invite everyone else into the pool!
-Lock the top onto the pressure cooker. Bring it up to high pressure, then lower heat to maintain that pressure. Let it cook away for 18 minutes. Then, remove pressure cooker from the heat and place it under cool running water to bring the pressure down quickly. Remove the lid, being sure to face it away from you. You don’t wanna get hit with a cloud of steam!
-IF you’re not using a pressure cooker, bring the soup to boil, cover the pot but leave a little crack, and then turn it down a bit to simmer. Let it bubble along for … let’s say 35 minutes and then check every 5 minutes or so until you feel the barley is cooked.
-Discard the bay leaves. Add a bit more salt and pepper. In my opinion it needs more salt than you’d think.
-With barley in there, it’s going to thicken up, especially after being in the fridge for a day or two. Just be aware. If you want, add some stock or water to thin it out a bit. I kinda like the soups that turn into stews the next days.
It’s one of those soups that is dinner-worthy if you pair it with a salad or suitable for lunch with some toast. In fact, it’ll be my vegan lunch in about 3 hours.
Seriously Good Protein Bars—Homemade!
April 23, 2011 § 1 Comment
I was making my Half-Whole Wheat Bread this morning, and since I had the Kitchen-Aid mixer out I thought, why not make some protein bars? We’re exercising a bit more and have cut down on our meat eating, so it’s a good idea to have additional sources of protein for those oh-my-god-I-wanna-eat-a-horse moments.
Yeah, I like those packaged protein bars – especially those Odwalla bars (mmmm….LOVE the carrot cake ones!). But a) they get kinda expensive and b) they aren’t as healthy as you think. full of sugar and all that.
So, when I saw Alton Brown make protein bars on Good Eats, I was all over it. Here’s the recipe with my minor alterations:
4 oz soy protein powder – about a cup
2.25 oz oat bran – about 1/2 cup
2.75 oz whole wheat flour – about 1/2 cup
0.75 oz wheat germ – about 1/4 cup
1/2 tsp kosher salt
dried fruit – his recipe calls for 1/2 cup each of raisins, cherries, blueberries, apricots. I just use 2 cups of any dried fruit.
1 package silken tofu
1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice (do your best to find something along these lines)
4 oz brown sugar, about 1/2 cup packed
2 large whole eggs
2/3 cup natural peanut butter
-Line bottom of 13 b 9 inch glass baking dish with parchment paper. Or, just spray with Pam-like substance.
-Heat to 350F. I turn mine up to 375F.
-In large mixing bowl, combine protein powder, oat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ and salt. Set aside.
-In the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid mixer, whisk the tofu with the whisk attachment. Add apple juice, brown sugar, eggs and peanut butter, each one separately. Make sure everything’s incorporated. Change to the paddle attachment and add in the flour.
-Take bowl off mixer. Add dried fruit and mix in with a wooden spoon. Pour into glass dish. Spread around evenly.
-Bake about 35 minutes, until internal temp is 205F. Remove and let cool. Cut into squares. Store in airtight container. Best to keep in fridge because these can get a bit moldy otherwise.
-Chop up your dried fruit so it’s all about the size of raisins. Set aside.
Eggplant Asparagus Napoleons
April 21, 2011 § 4 Comments
Why these are called Napoleons, I’m not sure. Maybe because they are short squat layered stacks. I’m almost positive it wasn’t because the guy had a tasty complexity of flavors. In my book, these take the victory.
Here’s the idea: Layers of eggplant, ricotta and asparagus. Simple. Delightful. And they do have a mysteriously complex flavor, thanks to grilling.
Giada DeLaurentis, aka food porn queen, made these in a recent show. The recipe is easy enough to recreate. Just a warning, these require some grilling. We have one of those indoor grills that you plug in AND a 16-in. All-Clad grill pan. We used both at the same time for these.
Eggplant Asparagus Napoleons
(gives you 4 short stacks)
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-in. slices, at least 12
- asparagus – about 12 stalks
- 3-4 tbs freshly chopped thyme
- salt/pepper to taste
- ricotta cheese, about 2 cups
- 1/2 lemon
-Set oven to 200F-250F
-Put about two cups of ricotta in a medium bowl. Add about half of the chopped thyme and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Stir to incorporate. Set aside.
-Put eggplant slices in a big bowl. Dowse with olive oil, sprinkle with two big pinches of kosher salt, a couple of twists of pepper, and the remaining chopped thyme. Get your hands in there (or use tongs) and make sure it is all evenly coated. The eggplant will suck up the oil – that’s okay, don’t overdo it.
-Set indoor grill or grill pan or maybe even your outdoor grill to medium and let it heat up. Place 12 eggplant slices on the grill – reserve the bowl they were in. If it looks like some of the slices missed a bit of oil, take some olive oil and a brush and brush them up a bit. Let them grill up on that side for a few minutes.
-Meanwhile, chop the woody parts off your asparagus. Place in that bowl, add a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. You can grill these up in a separately as I did, or you can wait until your eggplant is done.
-Speaking of eggplant, check to see how the undersides are coming along. When they get golden grill marks on the bottom, flip ’em over. Maybe some of the ones you just turned over need another wash of oil. Your decision. Give them another couple of minutes to grill up – just take them off before they get limp and burned.
-Grill up the asparagus on medium. It won’t take as long as the eggplant. Move them to get all sides as best you can. 4-5 minutes max. You don’t want them wimpy; pick one up and hold it sideways – it shouldn’t sag. Place them on cutting board when done and chop them in half.
-Here’s the assembly part: On a baking sheet place four slices of eggplant. Spoon on a dollop of the ricotta – not too much, just enough to cover the slice but don’t spread it thinly either like butter on toast. Now add three asparagus sections on top of the ricotta. Add another layer of eggplant. More ricotta. Another three sections of asparagus. Now top it off with eggplant. You should have yourself a nice short stack.
-Pop the baking sheet in the warm oven for about 10 minutes or so – enough time to bring everything up to temperature.
Use one napoleon as a side dish or use two as a meal and serve with some sort of protein. I made a side of quinoa with roasted cherry tomatoes and shallots.
Start Seeds This Weekend
April 15, 2011 § 1 Comment
What kind of crafty, homey, cooking, gardening type of person do I think I am if I can’t find somewhere in our condo to grow some seeds??
Yes, we live in the “garden level” unit (think Laverne and Shirley). Yes, we have zero natural light. Yes, we have your average city person’s complaint of lack of space. BUT! What Dainty has is a will to get things done and a complete hatred of whining that I can’t do something.
So, instead of letting another spring pass by during which I complain about not being able to start my own veggie seeds, I decided to create space somewhere, anywhere.
While we have your typical South End rowhouse-type one-floor apartment that has VERY little storage, we do have a 3-ft. wide by 18-ft long storage closet that is a GEM. It’s unbelievable. Storage like this is unheard of here. And, it’s one of the reasons we bought the place. It’s stuffed to the gills with pantry items, jackets, sporty-spice stuff, a small freezer, bins of guest sheets towels, and even our wine. There had to be some extra space in this room to start a bunch of veggie seeds. And I found it.
This is a small space about 18 inches wide and tall and about 2 ft deep. I had a bunch of duffel bags sitting on top of some towel-containing storage bins, in a Metro Shelving-type coat rack kinda space. Just to the right of the bins are hanging a bunch of jackets. If I remove the duffel I get a nice flat surface.
Next I bought an 18-in. long fluorescent light, some chain and some S-hooks. I hung the light from the top rack using the S-hooks. It’s important to have the lamp hanging like this so when the plants grow taller, you can move the light up. Having the light at the very top to start with will make the little seedlings “leggy”, that is, they’ll get thin and stretchy. Not good. You want the light close to the seeds when the germinate.
Okay, next I planted some seeds in some pots. Got an old plastic yogurt container? Old milk container? Old pots? You can use anything that can contain soil, so use it. I happen to have a bunch of Cow Pots—yes, they are made out of cow poo but they don’t smell, check out their web page—so I used those. Oh, and they are plantable, too. The seeds will germinate in them and when the plants are big enough you can plant the entire thing into the ground or into a patio container. Pretty cool.
I filled the Cow Pots—which are 6 connected little pots better known as “packs”—with a special soil for starting seeds. I happened to pick up something from MiracleGro. Any good quality potting mix should do the trick. Then I put the filled 6-packs onto an old baking tray and then filled the tray to the rim with water. The pot and soil sucks up the water. Capillary action, remember that from school? Anyway, give them about 30 minutes to absorb the water in the tray.
During that time, plant your seeds! All I do is make a little divet in the soil with my pinky. The larger the seed, the larger the divet. These little pots are about 3 inches square. I made three divets in each cell. And I put two seeds in each divet. Am I even spelling divet correctly? Hmmm … Be sure to label what’s in which cell. If you’re mind is going like mine is, you’ll forget what you did within the hour, so make a record of it.
Once the water was all absorbed, it was safe to move the trays and pots to their new home. Voila! A seed starting area set up and going in nowhere and in no time at all. Now, all I have to do is wait.
What Did I Plant?
It’s still cold outside folks. Nights still get chilly here, and only some plants can take it. Chard, spinach, beets, carrots, lettuce, cabbage and such can be planted outside now. Seeds can be sown directly into the soil, too.
But, the big bonanza plants just can’t survive quite yet. Those would be veggies like tomatoes, squash, peppers, melons, zucchini, beans, pumpkins, corn. You can sow their seeds, but the chill isn’t going to do them any good. Better to start them inside now – or even a couple of weeks ago – so they’ll be a good size to plant out in the garden at the end of May. That’s right, I said end of May for most everyone here in the Northeast. It’s not that they’ll die at even the slightest chill. They just really really prefer to grow with some heat. Wouldn’t you? Anyway, the weekend before or during Memorial Day is a good time to plant these outside. You could and can do it a bit earlier, but I prefer to give them optimal growing conditions. May’s it for me.
I’ll post updates of my little babies as soon as they hatch!
The Fenway Martini
April 13, 2011 § 4 Comments
I thought that perhaps Jennifer and I being at last night’s Red Sox game might have turned the team’s luck around. Apparently not.
Regardless of win or loss, we still had a good time. We go to maybe six to eight games a year—next one this Saturday, actually. And every time we go we do two things: We grab a blueberry beer at Boston Beer Works before the game—LOVE that beer, by the way—and we have a Fenway Martini in our seats.
Wait, what? Martini? They haven’t started serving hard alcohol at Fenway yet. Not out in the park at least. They’ll start serving cocktails soon now that the city has approved the measure. But, still … what’s this about enjoy martinis at Fenway?
Oh, my friends, my friends … I’m sharing with you something that only a handful of people know about. And, I promise you, it’ll change your life the next time your at the park. Shhh … here’s what I’m talking about.
The Fenway Martini
- Take one crappy-tasting, overpriced beer. Bud or Bud Light will do.
- Yell to the peanut guy who’s 20 rows down, “Yo!” Hold up your hand, and catch his center field-worthy throw. Pass your money down the row.
- Open said bag of peanuts. Eat a handful. Good, uh?
- Take three peanuts (five if it’s a light beer)—the whole shell and all—and put them in the beer. Let ’em sit there a few minutes.
- Now, take a sip. Mmmmm, good, right? It’s the salt that perks up the otherwise inferior taste. You’ve heard of people add a bit of salt to beer—it’s the same thing delivered in peanut form. Good to the very last drop.
Oh no no no, my friend! You’re not done yet! You still have perfectly good peanuts at the bottom of your plastic cup. Tip that cup and let one roll into your mouth. Shell and all. Go ahead and chew. That’s right, the whole thing. Don’t worry, the beer has softened up the shell a bit, and the peanut is still good and crunchy. You needed a little fiber in your diet anyway, after eating that sausage.
Now, I can take no credit whatsoever for the creation of the Fenway Martini. It’s Jennifer’s concoction—born out of the need to drink barely palatable beer at the game. It’s genius.
Vodka and olives while sitting in the stands? No, thank you. Beer and peanuts is the only drink worthy of Red Sox Nation.
Potato Kale Soup
April 11, 2011 § 3 Comments
Dainty’s been back from California a week, but still hasn’t gotten in the groove. Catching up on work, volunteer meetings, dinners out, etc, have given me zero fodder for posting. And you’d think with a weekend just behind me, I’d have plenty to write about. I think maybe I made a batch of steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast—that’s about it. And a loaf of bread, but it was a workhorse kinda loaf—nothing spectacular.
I spent the weekend working on a homey project—painting the window well in the bedroom. Sure, I saved several hundreds of dollars doing it myself, but I sacrificed several million brain cells in the process (just say no to paint fumes). It’s a project that’s been on my list for about a year and I’m glad I got it done. And while I was scraping and painting, Jennifer was making a big batch of vegan soup to weekday lunches. And this is a good one.
Potato Kale Soup
- 1 tbs evoo
- 2 cups onions, chopped
- 2 leeks, washed and sliced thinly (chuck the dark green parts)
- 6 cups water
- 4 medium potatoes, cubed
- 2 tbs parsley, minced
- 3 carrots – whole
- 3 ribs celery – whole
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 lb. kale, washed, torn and ribs removed
-Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onions and leeks until soft—abou 10-15 minutes.
-Add potatoes, parsley, whole carrots and leeks, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Boil, cover and simmer over medium low for 45 minutes.
-While that is simmering, cook kale in 2 cups boiling water in a skillet. Cover tightly and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
-After 45 minutes, remove carrot, celery and bay leaves from soup. Reserve the celery and carrots but chuck the bay leaves. Puree half the soup in a blender. OR, an immersion blender is awesome for this—just whirr up (who says that? Jamie Oliver?) half of it right in the pot. Stir in cooked kale. Chop up the carrots and celery and return to the pot. Heat the soup through again. Salt and pepper it if you need to.
Tada! A vegan alternative for lunch. Sounds like this could use some bread. I think I’ll do that right now.
Spring Blooms in California
April 5, 2011 § 6 Comments
(Psst: At the end, there’s a contest opportunity!)
It’s cold and drizzly here in Boston, but it’s definitely spring in California. That was my conclusion after my recent 10-day business trip out there. Okay, eight days of business, two days of relaxing. But, still, the weather out there was decidedly un-New Englandish.
One of the … I’m loath to call it a perk or benefit … hmmm, okay, let’s instead say this: One of my day-job responsibilities is to travel to California each spring and drive from San Diego to San Jose (or vice versa), visiting plant breeding companies along the way. This designated week is the flower equivalent to the Detroit Auto Show, and each company displays their latest and greatest ornamental plant varieties. It’s me, my boss and colleague, and about a thousand other folks looking at flowers. Seriously, it’s actually a tough job. You have no idea.
Now, I’m not sure if I’d be revealing any industry secrets if I tell you, for a lot of these new plant varieties, it’s not that the plant is a new color or can do some sort of trick. Oftentimes it’s “more compact and uniform with better branching.” Man, if I hear that phrase one more time … It means this crop can be grown as “bench run,” or the commercial grower can grow whole benches of this stuff and ship it out all at once, and they can ship it safely (because it’s compact and well branched) without damage during transport. I.e., they’re increasing their margins. And when you sell your flowers to a big box stores, you need all the margin you can get. Think about that the next time you buy your 99-cent geraniums at Big Orange.
The real point with this post is that I did see some some unique flowers and ornamental plants that deserve a mention—even some new patio-sized veggies. Many of them won’t be available until spring of 2012, but I thought I’d share.
Now, about that contest: I have about three packets of cherry tomato seeds to give away. Feel like trying your hand at sowing and growing them? The 5th person to comment gets them!