29 February 2008

Muttar paneer is good too, you guys.

Usually if we're going to have paneer, we have palak paneer. It's one of the two dishes that get ordered every time we go to an Indian restaurant. (The other one is baigan bhartha.) I am perfectly willing to wash, destem, dry, chop, and squeeze an entire bunch of spinach in order to make it. Sometimes we even make naan to go with it.

This time we had paneer, but no spinach. We did have tomatoes and peas. I went and looked in Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking to see what I should do with them. With slight variation, I should do this:

Muttar paneer

batch of paneer
defrosted frozen peas
crushed/pureed/chopped tomatoes
olive oil
an onion
an inch knob of ginger
a hot red pepper
turmeric, coriander, salt, pepper
water or whey
rice or naan

First, peel the ginger. Use the spoon trick: take a spoon and scrape the ginger with it. The skin will all come off, and you won't lose too much of your precious precious ginger. Chop it up. Peel and chop a yellow onion as well. Destem and chop a small hot pepper.

Now throw it all in the blender. Add a half cup or so of water. Hit blend. Ha ha! Onion shake!

If you don't have a blender, it will clearly be fine to just chop everything pretty finely. Leave it all on the side for a few minutes.

Warm a big nonstick frying pan, chop paneer into small cubes, and fry in a tiny bit of olive oil. Make sure the bits of paneer are all in one layer, and move them around a lot. You want to make sure none of them get stuck together; since you are frying cheese, this is pretty likely. Get them a good golden brown on all sides, then take them out of the pan and put them aside.

Pour the onion business into the pan and start cooking. If you didn't blend, you can add some water along with your onion mix. Cook, stirring, until the business starts to goldenize. Then add some coriander, a little turmeric, and maybe a cup or a cup and a half of crushed tomato. I used half a big can, since it's winter; in summer you should clearly use real skinned diced tomatoes.

Stir it all together and cook for maybe five more minutes, until the tomatoes and onion etc have had a chance to blend a little. Then add maybe a cup of water (or paneer whey, if you made the paneer yourself and have whey lying around), some salt, and a little pepper, and bring the business to a boil.

Simmer for ten minutes, then add paneer and peas. You want a roughly equal proportion of peas to paneer in a thick tomato sauce to coat. Simmer again until everything is done and tasty.

Eat with rice and naan and nice big cups of tea.

27 February 2008

Quest successful.

A few days ago I started having gigantic cravings for refried beans. We make refried black beans pretty often. This time, though, I wanted some serious restaurant blitz, and that meant pinto beans.

I was expecting to have to find some trick to making actual restauranty refried beans. My black beans are always super rough, hard to mash, and filled with chunks of onion and hot pepper and corn besides. I was all ready to experiment for a week to find out how to make this totally different style of beans.

Then I soaked some beans, boiled them, and mashed them in a pan with butter. They suddenly became refried beans. That was it.

All right then!

Real refried beans

pinto beans

Soak the beans in twice their depth of water overnight. I generally use about a cup and a half of dry beans.

The next day, dump your beans and water into a big pot with a lid. You can add a bay leaf here if you want. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and simmer for at least an hour. Longer is good. Get your beans falling-down soft.

When the beans are done, drain them. Heat a big frying pan, melt some butter or oil into it, and add your beans. Start mashing them right away with the back of your spoon or a potato masher. If your beans are soft enough, they'll just melt into a big messy puree.

Add a cup or so of water (or spare broth), stir to blend, and cook on medium high, stirring up bits from the bottom of the pan every few minutes. Keep cooking until the beans are a good texture for you. Mix in a couple pinches of salt. Taste. Are they good? Then you are done.

Things to do with pinto beans:

- make tacos with whatever cheese/salsa/vegetables you want
- use as plain chip dip for instant dinner
- make them a layer in a serious advanced seven-layer dip
- eat with rice and salsa in a big bowl
- put in enchiladas

We were STARVING at about ten at night when the beans were ready, but we decided to take the time to make enchiladas anyway. It was a really, really good idea.

We also cooked the enchiladas and the sauce separately, but it clearly would have been awesome to cook everything all together. If you want to cook things separately, start with enchiladas and make sauce while they're in the oven. If you want to bake the enchiladas in sauce, do it the other way around. Bake the enchiladas in sauce.

Enchiladas with mole

refried beans
flour tortillas
cheese if you want

mole sauce:
chili powder
sesame seeds

For sauce: Get out a frying pan, heat it up, and start adding spices. We added a couple good shakes of chili powder, cinnamon, and marjoram, plus a bit less cayenne. John says we didn't add any cumin, but we think that would be good. Add a handful of sesame seeds and start warming everything over medium-low heat.

While spices are toasting, break off a couple squares of good dark chocolate from one of your semisweet baking bars. Chop them into little bits with a big knife. When the spices are nice and fragrant, add the chocolate and maybe half a cup of water. Stir it all together to melt the chocolate and start infusing it with all the spice. Cook slowly for maybe ten minutes, stirring often and adding water if necessary.

For bare-bones enchiladas: Fill tortillas with big spoonfuls of beans. Roll them up and put them in a casserole dish. If you want cheese, put shreds of cheese on top. We had mozzarella, which is not the optimal choice but tasted fine. If you want to cook the enchiladas in sauce, cover them with sauce and handfuls of extra sesame seeds, then bake at around 325 or 350F; otherwise just bake, then top with sauce and seeds afterward. They are done when everything is hot through and smells so good you can't stand to leave it in the oven for one more minute.

Eat voraciously.

25 February 2008

Oh hey, we have an ice cream maker.

This weekend our friend Chrissy came up to hang out. Usually in this situation we go out to Cafe Yulong and eat delicious hand-pulled spinach noodles, ma po tofu, many potstickers, and copious tea. During or around dinner we get an idea for the best dessert ever. Then, on the way home, we go to the store to acquire dessert ingredients and wine. In this case, the dessert of choice was grapefruit sorbet.

Fruit sorbets are so easy it's unbelievable: they're essentially made from sweetened juice. You don't even necessarily need an ice cream machine, as long as you're ok with a slightly different texture in the finished product. That was good, since our machine bowl turned out not to have been in the freezer long enough to work. So instead we finished freezing the sorbet business in a plain container, then used a fork to tear it into a pile of snow-coney crumbles. We used grapefruit, but you could clearly do this with practically any fruit for which you have a reasonable fresh or juice supply. Just adjust any necessary acid content with some lemon or lime, and you're set.

You really want this stuff in August, but February in California is close enough.

Grapefruit sorbet

good grapefruit juice
a good grapefruit (or several)

First, make a simple syrup. Put maybe half a cup of water in a pot, set it over high heat, and bring it to a simmer. Then start throwing in spoonfuls of sugar, stirring well to dissolve. You can make the syrup as saturated as you want; we used around 1/3 to 1/2 cup of brown sugar, which produced a dark brown highly fragrant syrup. It worked well to sweeten the sorbet, but didn't add any undue molasses flavor. I would probably use a honey-based syrup for grapefruit in the future.

When the sugar is all dissolved, the syrup is done; set it aside to cool.

Cut and juice as many grapefruits as you want, straining out the seeds and any unwanted pulp. We used one. I had originally thought to get all the juice from fruit, which would probably have required at least six or so grapefruit. Using good straight uncut juice works just fine. I would still add juice from at least one fresh grapefruit (or another citrus, if you want to add other flavors) to get the sorbet as intense as possible.

Mix your squeezed juice and pulp with standard juice to make about six cups of liquid. Then add simple syrup to sweeten as much as you like. We didn't measure at all; just taste the mix to see if it's good to your palate.

Cool the liquid completely.

Now you have a choice. You can put the business in an ice cream machine and process it until done, or you can pour it into containers and freeze it as-is, occasionally stirring the freezing contents with a fork. The machine will clearly produce a more standard smooth sorbet, while the container method will make an icier end product. Both will taste great. Actually, I seem to remember a third freezer method that John Thorne wrote about: you can freeze it in a ziplock bag, then take the bag out the the freezer and mush it about every once in a while.

When it's frozen, eat it for dessert. Maybe throw some crushed and minced mint leaves over it, or half a cup of dry white wine. Or drizzle some melted chocolate over it and eat it like that. Or have it as a palate cleanser between course seven and eight of your grand ridiculous 12-course dinner party.

We ended up leaving our business in the freezer overnight and eating it for brunch dessert the next morning. It's pretty much frozen juice anyway. A good brunch requires citrus.

22 February 2008

Things I am willing to show you during bad food week

- Black bean and millet burgers with homemade barbecue sauce baked into them; half a head of butter lettuce.

- Artichoke hearts sautéed in olive oil with garlic, to be mixed with vermicelli and zucchini and eaten two days straight with asiago cheese.

- Oatmeal made with oats, salt, and water; chopped apples; the spider plant I potted that morning.

20 February 2008

Nothing, nothing

OK, one thing: apparently "spring" also means "some form of edible tomato is available". Bizarre! But when I went over to the Milk Pail the other day, there was a huge vat of historically good grape tomatoes. I took them home, where they proved actually good and I had a hard time not just standing there stuffing my face until the bag was empty.

We also needed dinner, though, so I controlled myself. I made cheater pizza, aka "the pita trick", this one made even more cheater by the lack of sauce.

Cheater pizza

pita bread
olive oil
decent tomatoes
various vegetables
cheese if you want it

Arrange your crustal devices. If you want thin crust, gently separate the two halves of each pita. If you want medium crust, do nothing. Spread your pita bits out on appropriate baking sheets and brush with some olive oil. Thinly slice some garlic cloves and distribute them around each pita. Then thinly slice your tomatoes. Mine turned into tiny wedgy bits. Arrange them as well.

Everything else on the pita is totally up to you. I made a couple different kinds: one layered with all the mushrooms in the refrigerator, one entirely covered with wide rings of red pepper, and one with a lot of very thin slices of jalapeño. Then I added torn parsley and some crumbly slices of asiago cheese. You can put on anything you like.

Stick everything in a 375 or 400F oven for ten or fifteen minutes. Check occasionally against burning or other issues; rotate the pan if you need to.

When everything is crisp and crunchy, and the cheese (if any) is golden brown, you are done. Take them out and eat them. Be happy you had the energy to make any dinner at all, even sad snacky dinner. Then spend the rest of the night reading books and being cozy.

18 February 2008

Snacky edamame

We've kind of been subsisting on snacks more than usual around here; have you noticed? It's been a really bad, exhausting last month or so. I can't wait for all the stress to be over so I can just hang out in the kitchen making whatever I want. Right now I have no energy left over. So: snacks.

It's not so terrible. We're not eating bags of chips for dinner; how gross would that be? It takes some willpower, though, even to make something this simple.

Snacky edamame

shelled edamame
olive oil
sesame oil
sesame seeds
black pepper

Peel and chop the shallot; soften it slowly in a mix of olive and sesame oils.

While that's cooking, do any prep you might need for the vegetables. We had frozen shelled edamame and frozen corn, as opposed to fresh podded edamame and corn on the cob just picked out of the back garden, so all we had to do was defrost a couple big handfuls of each under hot tap water. I always do this by covering my frozen bits in hot water, letting them sit, and pouring the water off, then repeating the whole process a couple times. You could also just add them to the pan frozen, but that way will take longer to cook. If it happens to be summer at your house, feel free to pod all the fresh juicy edamame by hand and use a knife to cut long sticky slabs of fresh corn off the cob. Fresh corn. Oh man. I've been reading some raw sites, and fresh raw corn? Maybe mixed with sliced summer tomatoes? That would be fine!

Ok ok.

When shallot is softened, add corn and edamame. Mix it all up, turn the heat up a little, and cook the vegetables through. After about five minutes, add a handful of sesame seeds. You can toast these first in their own pan over medium heat, or you can just dump them in. Toasted is certainly more complex, but raw works too.

Stir everything up. Season with black pepper, and maybe some red pepper as well. Taste and see if you want anything else. I could see adding some soy sauce, or some hot chili sauce. What do you feel like? Cook a minute or two longer, to let the spices blend.

Serve into little drinky handheld bowls. Eat hot.

Have some chamomile tea and go to bed.

15 February 2008

Can we just have brunch every day and not dinner?

Ah, springtime in California, when a person's mind turns lightly to thoughts of copious, staggering brunch.

How can you tell if it's springtime in California, you ask?
1. It's February.
2. The jasmine is out.
3. The blinding, soul-killing sun is also out.

Cheerful things! Jasmine and lemons! Homefries!


purple potatoes/regular boilers
hot pepper
butter/olive oil
salt, pepper, paprika, mustard powder


Chop potatoes into little cubes, dump into a pot of boiling water, and boil. You want these cooked through before you attempt any sort of frying. I think I used four potatoes for this batch.

While potatoes are boiling, chop up maybe half an onion. Soften it slowly in a sauté pan with butter or olive oil or a mix. The mix is actually pretty good because the oil will keep the butter from burning, but you still get the conditioned morning breakfast butter taste in the end product.

Finely mince a hot pepper and add it to the onion. I had a green jalapeño instead of a red one for once. Those red ones aren't even really jalapeños. I have no idea what they're called, though. So. You can also do this with nearly any other pepper, including bell pepper, or no pepper at all.

You can also add minced garlic to the onion if you feel like it.

When the potatoes have been boiling for maybe fifteen minutes, drain them and add them to the softened onion business. Season with salt, pepper, paprika or cayenne, and a little mustard powder. Mix everything together, maybe slide a little more butter under everything, and turn up the heat.

Good homefries should have a crust. This is easiest to do in a nonstick or seasoned cast iron pan (not that I have one of those). This time I was a big genius and used a regular stainless steel pan, resulting in a lot of tasty crust stuck to the pan as opposed to my potatoes. They were still pretty good, but would have been much better with crust.

Anyway. Assuming you have a good pan, you can attain crust. Turn the heat up to medium-high. After a minute, you should hear the potatoes and onions sizzling happily. Give them maybe three or four minutes, then lift up a section with a spatula and check to see is the underside is browned. If it looks good to you, start flipping over spatulasful. Brown similarly on the other side, or on all sides of each tiny cube if you want to be that assiduous about perfect browning. I think it's perfectly fine if these turn into large cakey masses as opposed to individual cubes, but whatever.

While the last bits are browning, make toast. Cut up an avocado if you have/want one.

Now plate it all. You are ready.

Eating homefries: clearly a fork and a bunch of ketchup can be acceptable, but this time I wanted something different, especially since we weren't having any eggs on the side. So I spread a bunch of potatoes on a piece of toast and added avocado slices.

This was an excellent plan. I recommend it highly.

There, isn't everything better?

13 February 2008

Over and over and over

Three days' worth of barley salad:

red onion
olive oil
green beans
marjoram, sage, thyme, salt, pepper
dry vermouth for deglaze

Cook a cup or so of barley in a rice cooker or on the stovetop. Cook it exactly like rice. In fact, you could instead use rice, millet, quinoa, wheat berries, couscous, or bulgur wheat. Or I guess orzo. Barley is good, though.

While your grain cooks, make everything else. A hot grain salad of this type can take practically anything you throw at it, as long as those things go together. It can even take them if they don't quite go together, as in this case. I knew I wanted lots of chickpeas for protein, eggplant and mushroom for nice chewy business, and onion for onionitude. Then I needed to add something green. Normally I would want zucchini in something like this. Of course, we had no zucchini. We had the two pounds of frozen peas and a little bag of green beans. I dithered for a bit, then chose the green beans.

So. Warm olive oil in a sauté pan while you dice half a red onion. Throw the onion into the pan and let cook while you find the chickpeas in the refrigerator and chop up the eggplant and mushrooms. You can use as much of each of these as you prefer: add them to the pan, herbalize with some sage, marjoram, and thyme, and let cook on medium for about ten minutes, or until the eggplant and mushroom are both clearly becoming good and cooked.

While you're waiting, decide what green is most appropriate for your vegetables. Since I chose green beans, I cut them into tiny quarter-inch bits, then threw them into the pan for the last five minutes of cooking. Clearly something different would be required for, say, spinach (washing, destemming, chopping into bits small enough to melt appropriately), and you're certainly not going to chop up frozen peas. Do what makes sense.

When everything is about done, salt and pepper your vegetables. Pour a glug of vermouth into the pan and stir to deglaze any stuck bits. Then open the pan of grain, fluff it with a fork, and dump the whole thing into your pan of vegetables. Stir.

You have a delicious and happy salad. You can eat it right now.

You can also decide you don't want plain salad, but salad stuffed inside a pepper, or maybe a summer squash of some type, or a decent tomato if it happens to be summer. OK!

Salad stuffed in a pepper

red pepper or other stuffing vegetable
cheese if you want it
the salad

Cut a pepper in half, cut the seeds out of the middle, and fill with salad. If you want cheese, you can either mix it into the salad or layer it inside the pepper. I used mozzarella, which necessitated cubing; other cheeses may want to be shredded or crumbled. Make sure to get some cheese on top for ultimate crispy brownness. If you don't want cheese, some bread crumbs or chopped nuts on top will get similarly crispy.

Put the peppers in a 375F oven and bake for maybe 15 minutes, or until the pepper is cooked through and the cheese has melted and browned appropriately. You may have to do some broiling to achieve this last bit, but I didn't, and everything worked out fine.

Put your leftover salad in the refrigerator and wait for tomorrow.

Tomorrow maybe you don't want salad at all. Maybe you want soup. Do you have some frozen broth, or can you make a quick vegetable stock? Ok then.

Salad turned into soup

more of the salad
maybe some more pepper

I used a big chunk of frozen chicken broth. Chuck your broth in a pan, melt if necessary, and bring up to a good boil. Add as much salad as you want. I would make sure there is a substantial broth to salad proportion going on, since barley likes to suck up as much liquid as possible. Cover the pan, turn down the heat, and simmer for maybe five minutes, or until all the salady bits are good and hot. In the meantime, make toast.

Now put soup in a bowl, dip bits of toast into it, and eat it all.

If you have any salad left over after this, I can't help you.

11 February 2008

Muscular pasta of ultimate musculosity

I'm not at all surprised that after the week of bleh bleh bleh I was STARVING, STARVING, I TELL YOU. So one night I was cooking halfheartedly after having ransacked all the cabinets looking for something more substantial to eat. I was just going to make pasta with garlic and eggplant and maybe a poached egg, since on top of everything we had no tomatoes of any type. This would have been fine, but not significant enough to make a dent in my stomach. Then John came downstairs and started fixing himself some toaster oven chik patties. That was an idea. Were there any more chik patties left? No, but there were fake sausage patties.

My brain immediately went to a happy place in which it got to eat a gigantic plate of penne with thick sauce and chunks of sausage. We still had no tomato sauce, so the sauce bit was out, but otherwise: DING DING DING.

Also we had no penne. I will say, however, that today on the way home from work I got a two pound bag of vermicelli and another of frozen baby peas, and everything will be therefore fine and well-stocked forever.

Right. So I used big fabulous corkscrew pasta instead of penne. Then I chopped up a chunk of butter lettuce, hardboiled the egg in the pasta water, and made those into a salad with nice vinegary vinaigrette. Then I served out my huge plate of pasta burl and ate the living hell out of it.


Pasta of ultimate vegetarian muscleosity

nice chunky pasta shapes
lots of garlic
olive oil
half a big eggplant, or a whole little one (or two)
a couple fake sausage patties
a hot pepper of some stripe
dry vermouth
salt, pepper, paprika or cayenne, oregano, basil
other additions: zucchini, maybe artichoke heart, maybe olives
definitely some thick tomato sauce or puree if you have it, which I didn't

This (as I made it, with no tomato) is a basic takeoff on aglio e olio. It will be delicious.

Warm some olive oil in a big sauté pan. Get out a head of garlic, break off half the cloves, smash them with the flat of your knife, and pick off the peels. Chop roughly and deposit in olive oil. Let the garlic cook slowly while you cube your eggplant, mince your hot pepper, and add them as well. Spice with basil, oregano, and paprika.

If your fake sausage is at all like mine, it will come out of the freezer. It will clearly be pretty hard to chop and add in that condition, so put it in the oven or toaster oven and cook on low, maybe 300F, until clearly defrosted and sizzling. You can now pull it out of the oven, cube it up, and add it to your eggplant and garlic. Cook everything together until it becomes a delicious olive oily pungent mass. If you want this to turn into big tomato burl, you should add tomato sauce as well. Salt and pepper and correct any other spices you find necessary.

Also, somewhere around this point you should be putting on your pasta. You can cook an egg with it if you want, too: just look at the clock as you slip the egg into the water, and remember to take it out after nine to ten minutes. Then you can saladize it to your heart's delight.

When pasta is done, drain it. Deglaze the sauté pan with a glug of dry vermouth. Then add the pasta and mix everything together.

You now have pasta burl. If you did the egg and lettuce as well, you have salad burl on the side.

Expect to go to bed nearly immediately afterward.

08 February 2008

little variations

It's been a bad week for food.

Things I have eaten this week include:
- delivery pizza/calzone
- then the leftover calzone for both breakfast and lunch
- taqueria burritos
- chips and cheeze
- frozen pizza
- frozen french onion soup (which we made previously, but still)
- bad thai seafood noodles for lunch
- several bagels for other lunches

The actual cooked food has not been bad so much as only slightly existent. Also repetitive.

I made another batch of the broccoli business, with a key variation to make it actual filling dinner: chickpeas. Also I softened some red onion with it. This time I made sure I had enough broccoli for total overwhelming broccoli goodness. It worked pretty well. Then I ate it over pasta with lots of crumbled mild feta. John had his with no feta. Tasty! Potentially vegan!

I also had some of the swampy lentil soup left over. This turned out to be an excellent ingredient by means of which to make the fastest pasta fagioli in the west. All I did was cook a bunch of tiny tubetti, warm the soup up, and mix it together. Then I shaved parmesan over it and ground all the pepper in the world on top. Then I ate two full bowls. It was an excellent plan.

Now I am going to have a weekend. We will cook something on the weekend. Yes.

06 February 2008

Two quesadillas

1. Breakfast

If I happen to actually be functional and awake early enough to eat before work, I tend to make something like this: flour tortilla, probably mozzarella cheese, a little cumin, and half an avocado, sliced and added after cooking. Then I eat the other half of the avocado with pepper and a spoon. FAT FAT MORE FAT.

2. Dinner

We had a block of cotswold cheese and a pack of tortillas in the fridge, so we tried making quesadillas with that. They were good. They were really good. A serious sharp cheese works really well for good quesadillas. The next day, while wanting a more vegetable version, I noticed that we also had radishes in the refrigerator. You might not think such a thing would work, but it did: flour tortillas again, cotswold, green onion, cumin and paprika, and thinly sliced radish. The radish barely softened in the heat: a nice texture for nice biting. The cooking also leached a little spice out of the radishes, but not much: just enough that the radish had no overwhelming aftertaste. It was a great idea.

04 February 2008

Vegetable vegetable bo begetable

I can't help it. All I want to eat is a vast bowl of green goo.

This time we have split pea.

Generally the issue with split pea is how to keep it deep and smoky while not dropping a ham bone into the pot. This is not so hard; there are lots of spice mixtures and mesquite rubs for smoky flavor. This time we used liquid smoke: water infused with smoked hickory. I have no idea how they accomplish the combination of fire and water here. Maybe there's some kind of distillation process. It doesn't much matter, though, because it works.

It's also so concentrated it's hard to sniff the open bottle. Don't spill any.

Split pea we like it soup

dried split peas
an onion
a couple cloves of garlic
olive oil
a jalapeño/other pepper of choice
water or veg broth
bay leaf
lots of pepper
liquid smoke or other smoky spice business

This is really easy, but can take a while simmering. That's ok. You can whet your hunger on the side of the table for a while.

Get out a big soup pan and warm some olive oil. Peel and chop an onion; peel and mince garlic; don't peel but mince jalapeño. Add them to the pan, stir to distribute oil, and cook slowly. You could also do some celery and carrot for a more traditional mirepoix base, but you don't have to. I didn't.

I wanted to reduce the total cooking time, so instead of waiting for onion stuff to be done, then adding things to boil with it, I started boiling my split peas in a different pot. Dump in a cup or so of peas; dump in twice their depth in water. Add a bay leaf, bring to a boil, and simmer covered while the onion and etc is cooking down. When the onion mix is soft and delicious enough for you, add maybe a half teaspoon of liquid smoke and stir it all together. Then pour in the entire pan of peas and water.

Now all you have to do is simmer until the peas are done. If the soup is too liquid for you, do this with the pan lid off or cracked. If it's just right, simmer closed.

When it's done, pepper it voraciously. Now you can eat it as is or take an immersion blender to it. I don't think you really need to blend it, since split peas fall apart, but you may just want to since you have a fairly new immersion blender hanging around being shiny at you. Yes.

While you are waiting impatiently for the soup to be done boiling, make something else. I made silly cabbage salad.

Silly cabbage salad

chunk of red cabbage
a tart apple
green onion

Chop a chunk of cabbage as finely as you possibly can with a very sharp knife. Stick it in a big bowl, sprinkle some salt on it, and mix it around aggressively with your hands. Then slice some radishes up really finely. Core an apple and slice it up really finely. Chop a green onion or two really finely. Mix it all together and let it wait while your soup finishes. The salt will draw out some moisture from the cabbage and make it juicy. Then it will be delicious.

Eat it all! This way you get serious soft squishy smoky comforting vegetables plus sharp spicy sweet salty raw vegetables all at the same time. It is an excellent decision.

01 February 2008

I win peanut eggplant goodness

I'm making an effort to make my pictures more appetizing. Look, shiny vegetables!

So after the previous eggplant peanut business, I was left a little unsatisfied. I wanted a more stewy, curry-oriented eggplant. Ok, we can do that.

I am not really intuitive at non-Indian curries, so I didn't want to completely make things up. So after failing to find any sort of tasty peanutty coconut milky curry in my of my cookbooks, I went and looked on The Internet. I decided to base my curry on this satay sauce: clearly easy yet delicious, and easily modifiable to get rid of things like vegetable oil. Then I could just steam the eggplant and zucchini, and mix it all together to whack over a grain of some type.

Eggplant and zucchini with satay sauce and soba

a couple little eggplants, or one big one
a couple or three zucchini
other vegetables that sound delicious, like red pepper
peanut butter
olive oil
coconut milk
a lime
red curry paste
a hot pepper, serrano this time
soba noodles

First make sauce. Peel and mince a couple cloves of garlic and a hot pepper; cook them slowly in some olive oil. When they are nice and soft, add several big spoonfuls of peanut butter, a can of coconut milk, some water, the juice of a lime, a little red curry paste, a big pinch of salt, and half a spoonful of molasses. Turn up the heat and stir to melt the peanut butter. This whole business will be pretty light-colored at first; it will darken as it simmers down.

So. Bring the pot to a boil, lower to simmer, and let cook. Keep an eye on it and stir it fairly often. It will bubble ferociously, then eventually reduce into a thick peanut sauce.

While the sauce is becoming delicious, prep the eggplant and zucchini. I actually peeled them, if you can believe it. You don't have to, but you can. It won't make much of a difference to the zucchini, but will make the eggplant a little more tender and melty. Chop eggplant and zucchini into big half-moon chunks. At this point you have a choice of how to cook them. I steamed them by just sticking a steamer basket over the sauce: I cooked the eggplant for five minutes, added the zucchini, and cooked another five. You could also cook them by simmering in the sauce itself if you wanted to. You could also roast them in the oven or on the barbecue if you wanted the sauce to be more of an actual sauce and less of a stewy curry.

Also, cook some soba or other delicious noodle. Rice noodles would be pretty good here too. You could also clearly use practically any grain that likes saucy curry, or just cook and add enough vegetables not to need anything else.

When everything is done, toss the cooked vegetables into the sauce. Stir it all up to coat well and rewarm if necessary. Serve over soba.


The food has been really good this week. Maybe it's been such a bad week that the food is the only good thing in it. Well. That is ok. It is the weekend.