Tag Archives: menu

Shrimp, Avocado and Mango

Sometimes, you have to go off road to get exactly what you want. It’s funny; when I got the idea that I wanted a shrimp and avocado and either grapefruit or mango salad for dinner, I thought there would be at least half a dozen recipes at my fingertips in my stacks of cookbooks. Nope. Not one.

I tried all the usual suspects: Weber’s Big Book of Grilling, Forever Summer (Nigella Lawson), various titles from the Barefoot Contessa (although I never, ever find anything I want to eat in her books – pretty pictures though). I even checked Shirley Corriher’s Cookwise – I always wish I could find something there because it’s so well researched, and invariably I have to look elsewhere.

Finally, in desperation, I checked Joy. Nothing. Not specifically anyway. I kept flipping through and finally found two recipes I could cobble together. What is it about Joy of Cooking? I wouldn’t be without it.  People denigrate it.  They complain that it has no pictures and that the recipes are written in a laborious way. I admit, it is an old fashioned kind of book. Other fancier cookbooks left me high and dry today though and Joy had all the pieces I needed to put dinner together. Look how it came out:

I was pretty happy. No. Better than that. Very happy. We all were. No complaints today. In retrospect, the only thing I might have added were either some toasted pine nuts or frizzled shallots.

So, cobbled together from the Joy of Cooking:

Cilantro Grilled Shrimp with Avocado and Mango Salad

Serves 4

For the shrimp:

  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp – medium or large (I buy them pre-peeled and deveined, sustainably farm raised – peeling and deveining is too time consuming)
  • 1/3 c lime juice – from 3-4 juicy limes
  • 3 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper

For the salad:

  • 2-3 lemons (for a total of 1/4 c + 2 tbsp juice and 1 lemon half to keep avocados from browning)
  • 1/4 c water
  • 2 ripe Hass avocados
  • 2 Ataulfo mangos (these are the golden variety, or one of the other greenish larger kind)
  • 1/2 a large red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 hearts of romaine, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
  1. Start the coals or heat up a gas grill.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the lime juice, cilantro, chili flakes, salt and pepper together. Add shrimp to bowl and toss. Set aside to marinate as you prepare the red onion, salad dressing and mango.
  3. Rinse the onion slices in several changes of water. In a small bowl, toss them with 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 c water and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. In small bowl, whisk 1/2 c olive oil, 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Set aside.
  5. Peel and cut mangos into 1/4″ slices.
  6. Thread the shrimp onto 6″ bamboo skewers. (I had 10 skewers with 4 shrimp on each)
  7. Peel and cut avocados into 1/4″ slices. Squeeze the 1/2 lemon over the slices to prevent browning.
  8. Grill the shrimp skewers over direct medium heat for 3 minutes per side.
  9. Toss the romaine with half the olive oil vinaigrette.
  10. Arrange the mangos and the avocados over the romaine. Drain the onion slices and strew over the salad. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over everything. Arrange the shrimp skewers on top.

*Since we have a possible shrimp allergy with one of the kids, I grilled a chicken breast with the shrimp.  The salad can be served with either chicken or fish or on its own.

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Halibut Season

I have been meaning to write up my old stand-bys, the ones my sister begged me to start blogging about right from the beginning. The store cupboard favorites; the fast, straightforward menus that everyone should have in their back pocket. I really meant to write about what my friend Candice refers to as Mexican Fiesta today. I really did. Mexican Fiesta is a wonderful concept. It’s easily scalable, accommodating 2-20 people with little fuss. It can be very simple or elaborate. Trader Joe’s can do a lot of the work or none.  I love Mexican Fiesta. In fact, we had the perfect mid-range Mexican Fiesta on Saturday, with pictures and everything, that I have been trying to find time to write up. But I got side-tracked…

That’s because halibut season began this week. My neighbor Susan reminded me about it yesterday.  What you need to look for is Pacific halibut and here is why: Pacific halibut is caught on long-lines which cause little to no environmental damage. These fish are not over-fished and are rated the best choice of all the flat fish by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood WATCH. I am so thankful that there are environmentally friendly halibut to eat because halibut is completely delicious. A firm yet tender fish, it is mild yet meaty. I love it.

Initially when I glanced at the recipe and saw three sections of preparation, I quailed. Wednesday is not the easiest day to try something new, let alone something that has three separate parts to produce. Then I started reading the recipe through. Clearly each part was very easy. The result was totally delicious and not at all boring old run-of-the-mill. The recipe explores the incredibly useful sear-roasting technique, allowing the cook to caramelize the exterior of the fish while protecting the moist interior. It’s a simple approach that we all should master.

Halibut Menu

Serves 4

  • Sear-Roasted Halibut with Horseradish Aïoli and Lemon Zest Breadcrumbs
  • Mashed Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Hot buttered peas

Game Plan

About 40 minutes prepwhen I write that I am assuming that all the ingredients have been assembled, i.e. the breadcrumbs are already made, the lemon zest has been grated  etc. – as stated in the recipe

  1. 40 minutes before you want to eat: peel 4 large yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2-3″ chunks and put them in a pot of water: cover by at least 1″.  Set to boil.
  2. Place peas and water in the steamer in a pot on the stove.
  3. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  4. Prepare Halibut recipe’s breadcrumbs and aïoli.
  5. Check potatoes. When nearly soft enough for mashing, begin searing the halibut.
  6. When the fish is in the oven, start steaming the peas. Then mash the potatoes with plenty of whole milk, butter, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dress parsley salad.

Sear-Roasted Halibut with Horseradish Aïoli and Lemon Zest Breadcrumbs

This recipe was originally printed in Fine Cooking and authored by Seattle chef Tom Douglas.

Lemon Zest Breadcrumbs

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs (from a rustic loaf)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Make the lemon zest bread crumbs:

  1. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat – the oil should shimmer.
  2. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until golden and crunchy – about 2 minutes
  3. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.
  4. Add the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Taste it! Make sure you’ve added enough salt and pepper. It should taste so you want to eat more of it.

Horseradish Aïoli

  • 5 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp bottled horseradish
  • 3/4 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp tomato paste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the aïoli:

In a small bowl stir together all the ingredients. Taste as you add the salt and pepper. This sauce was so delicious that my 3-year-old got a spoon and was eating it like pudding – albeit a mayonnaise-based, horseradish-flavored pudding!

Halibut

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 thick skinless halibut fillets – about 6oz each
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fresh flat leaf parsley, washed and dried
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Sear roast the fish:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy non-stick skillet over medium high heat  (I don’t have an oven safe non-stick skillet – at least the handle doesn’t look like it should go in the oven – so I wrap the handle with a couple of layers of aluminum foil)
  3. Pat the fish dry and season with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
  4. When the oil is shimmering, place the fillets in the pan, skinned side up. Sear for 2 minutes. Don’t keep checking or moving the fish around. If you fuss with it you’ll ruin the sear.
  5. After 2 minutes lift up a corner to see that the fillets are nicely browned. Flip them and remove pan from the heat.
  6. Spread the aïoli over each fillet and then layer with bread crumbs. Put the pan in the preheated oven for 5 or 6 minutes.
  7. While the fish is roasting, toss the parsley with the juice of half the lemon and 1 tsp of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Taste it. Does it need more salt and pepper? Cut the remaining lemon-half into wedges and use them to garnish each plate.
  8. Remove the fish from the oven and plate with parsley salad tossed artfully over the top (I didn’t quite manage the artful part – good luck with that), mashed potatoes and buttered peas.

In anticipation of this menu, my 7-year-old became very dramatic: sighing, rolling his eyes and shaking his head. He even asked if he would be able to eat “something different”. And yet he ate every last scrap. We all did.

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Kashmiri koftas

If you were going to parse the series of menus in my blog, I really have to wonder what you would think as you were reading – something like: there’s this lady who has a blog and all she does is write about Indian food and sausages – weird!  All I can say in my defense is that my mom is English and the English have a thing about curries and bangers, although not usually on the same menu.

Kashmiri koftas are kind of like a curried banger – or at least a curried sausage and that is what I made for dinner tonight. Lamb, ginger and other Indian spices are browned then braised with yogurt, cardamom, cinnamon and bay. As I was cooking, I lifted the lid over the simmering pan and just closed my eyes and inhaled. The word that came to mind was “heady”. Heady with subcontinental spices. I was transported. And after a week of school auctions, procurements, meetings and the like (I won’t bore you with the details), that is just what I needed – to be somewhere else. Preferably somewhere sub-tropically hot, where the food is really, really good.  Cooking another culture is my escape – a cheap trip out of here.

Most of today’s menu came from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery and if you don’t have this book already, I have to recommend you run out and get yourself the updated version, Indian Cooking, and cook your way through. One year I gave Indian Cookery to every member of my family (I guess I can be a bit of a zealot). I think my brother Jonny uses it occasionally. But it pays to be fearless if you have to cook all the time.

You see, when I make dinner from Indian Cookery, I am never bored. I never feel as if I am stuck in a terrible complacent rut where the kids dictate our every bite. So many parents cower before their children, who act like little dictators, falling apart if the food isn’t blandly familiar. I would be really sad not to eat with my kids, exposing them to all the things I love (there are so many things!), teaching them the pleasures of tasting and eating together. The kids gobbled dinner tonight – they were really talking to me and to each other about what made it taste so good. I bet we’ll arm wrestle for the leftovers tomorrow.

Yet Another Indian Menu

  • Kashmiri Kofta – Lamb Meatballs
  • Aloo Gobi – Spicy Cauliflower and Potatoes
  • Raita – Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
  • Greens with Major Grey’s Dressing

Tips

  • Please, don’t be put off by all the spices. Go to the bulk section of a reputable grocer and buy 3 tbsp of each one – labeling them carefully. (if you forgot to do that – it would be so terrible and confusing!) Even though the list of spices is long, all it takes is a little measuring. Don’t buy the glass jars – you’ll spend an arm and a leg.
  • Read over all four recipes first, then measure out the spices for all the recipes at once.  I have a bunch of odd little bowls for this purpose. Combine the measured spices, as the recipe states, into the bowls so you can add them in groups as required. The rest is incredibly easy.
  • There are ground roasted cumin seeds in both the aloo gobi and the raita – roast all the cumin seeds at the same time.  Take the seeds and put them in a heavy bottomed small pan over medium heat. Push around with a wooden spoon until fragrant. Don’t ignore them, they’ll burn in a matter of seconds.  The whole toasting process should take about 2 minutes. Grinding in a mortar and pestle – about 15 seconds. Build the roasting and grinding into the measuring process, before you start the actual recipes. Roasted cumin seeds are very easy to grind with a mortar and pestle. My nine year old did it for me. I also have a coffee grinder reserved for grinding spices.
  • Use a Microplane grater to grate the ginger.
  • Cut up the cauliflower and start it soaking before you start.
  • Steam the potatoes while the Koftas are simmering.

Kashmiri Koftas

(serves 6)

The Koftas

  • 2 lbs ground lamb
  • a piece of ginger, 1 1/2″ x 1″ – more or less – grated
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp yogurt

The Braising Liquid

  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 7-8 tbsp vegetable oil
  • a 2″ stick of cinnamon
  • 5-6 whole cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 8 oz warm water
  1. Combine all the ingredients for the koftas in a medium sized bowl, and mix well using your hands.
  2. Wet your hands with water and form 24 koftas, in sausage shapes,about 2 1/2-3″ long and 1″ thick.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat.  When hot, put in the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, bay leaves and whole cloves. Stir to coat with oil.
  4. Add all the koftas in a single layer to the pan and fry until they are lightly browned on all sides – about 2 minutes a side.
  5. While they are browning, stir the yogurt into the warm water. Pour over the koftas and bring to a simmer. The liquid will look very watery – that is intentional.
  6. Simmer for 1/2 an hour, turning the koftas every 10 minutes. At the end of 1/2 an hour, the liquid should have boiled away, leaving only the vegetable oil. If you need to, turn up the heat to reduce the liquid.
  7. With a slotted spoon, lift the koftas out of the pan to a platter or plates.  Leave behind any leftover liquid and spices.

Aloo Gobi – Cauliflower and Potatoes

(serves 4-6)

Aloo gobi is one of my all time favorite foods and so I have to put it in my blog. I can’t apologize for all the ways that cumin appears: whole, ground and roasted and ground. I know it seems like a lot of work especially if you’ve never roasted and ground spices before. Just try it. Trust me.  Do once or twice and you’ll see how easy it is.

  • 1/2 lb small potatoes – like fingerlings or use leftover cooked and peeled russet potatoes
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, broken into 1″ – 1 1/2″ florets
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds

Combine in a small bowl:

  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 -1 fresh jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. Steam the potatoes if you have fingerlings. Cut small potatoes in half or cube leftover potatoes into 3/4″ cubes. You needn’t peel fingerlings – their skins are so thin.
  2. Soak cauliflower in a bowl of cold water for 1/2 an hour. Drain.
  3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot, add the whole cumin seeds and let sizzle for a few seconds.
  4. Add the cauliflower and stir for 2 minutes.  Let the cauliflower get little brown caramelized spots on it.
  5. Cover and simmer for 4-6 minutes or until the cauliflower is almost done – with the merest crispness left in it.
  6. Add all the ingredients in the bowl and the potatoes to the skillet and stir gently and thoroughly for 3 or 4 minutes until potatoes are warmed through.

Raita – Cucumber and Yogurt Salad

  • 2 1/2 cups of  full fat yogurt
  • 1/2 an English cucumber, peeled and then grated on the large holes of a box grater, any juices discarded
  • 1/2 tsp ground, roasted cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate covered, until ready to eat.

Major Grey’s Dressing

This is so NOT an authentic recipe.  I found it in the back of Gourmet in 1994. Perhaps you will find it too sweet.  I love it on butter lettuce with cucumbers and avocados.

  • 1/4 cup Major Grey’s chutney
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

In a blender mix the first 5 ingredients.  Slowly, in a thin steady stream, add the vegetable oil.


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A “perfect” dinner…

There’s this lady food writer who kind of bugs me.  She’s very lovely (a former Wilhelmina model), she writes about healthy food alternatives (admirable), and she tries to keep things simple for busy families (good idea!). So I feel like kind of a worm for not liking her.

Maybe it’s the photos – she always stares calmly, smilingly at the camera, posed artlessly in front of a roaring fire, apple (healthy!) in hand.  She’s coiffed, but not excessively. She is slim but not scary-slim. Her menus are so virtuously planned – whole grains, leafy greens, colorful vegetables and a modicum of healthy fats in the form of olive oil, almonds or walnuts.  Why do I always roll my eyes?! Probably because in my kitchen, there is always an undercurrent of turmoil, I am always at least slightly disheveled and I have such an affinity for butter.

Anyway, given my feelings about this person, I’m not sure how I ended up trying this menu she authored – but I did.  The thing is, it was great. Sigh…Coriander roast pork tenderloin, spicy roast vegetables and brown rice with walnuts and golden raisins. Really easy and really great.  Now I really feel like a worm.  (Will I now actually try the Healthy Blueberry Muffins?! Where will this lead?)

I did make a couple of changes to the recipes though, to streamline them and also to accommodate the ingredients I had in my house. In my version there is no crushing of seeds and no seasoning of oils. It doesn’t add enough in terms of flavor and all that crushing and infusing makes for too much clean-up. I tossed the spices directly into the food. In addition, I will write it all up here in a game plan to accommodate your busy household.

Coriander Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Roast Vegetables and Brown Rice Pilaf

Game Plan:

15 minutes prep, 35 minutes cooking time

  1. Set the oven to 450 F and place a large rimmed sheet pan in the upper middle rung of the oven.  Set the other rack to the lower middle rung of the oven.
  2. Chop all the vegetables including  the onion and parsley for the pilaf.  This should take about 10 minutes.
  3. Start the rice, cooking the onion, adding rice and water and setting the heat to low.
  4. Mix up all the spices for the vegetables in a small bowl.
  5. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and the spices and put on the sheet pan in the oven.
  6. Rub the pork with the mustard and spices ; brown in saute pan and put in the oven.  This should take 10 minutes.
  7. Toast the walnuts.

Spicy Roasted Vegetables

  • 3-4 large carrots, quartered and cut into 1″ pieces, on diagonal
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 8 or more wedges, leaving root end intact to hold the layer together
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 large head fennel, but into 8-10 wedges, root end intact to hold layers together
  • 1/2 a small butternut squash, cut into 1″ chunks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Place vegetables in large mixing bowl and toss with olive oil.
  2. Mix spices with 1 tsp salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Sprinkle over vegetables.
  3. Place vegetables on hot sheet pan in the oven for 35 minutes.
  4. Toss with more kosher salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

Brown Rice with Walnuts and Golden Raisins

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 small onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 c. brown basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts – toast in a heavy skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.  They’ll smell fragrant when they’re done.  Pay close attention while toasting so they don’t burn.
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan with a lid over medium high heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the rice, stirring to coat with the oil.
  4. Add 1 1/4 c water and 1/2 tsp salt.  Bring to boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, maintaining a low simmer.  You want to be careful.  The water should simmer; too much and you will have dried-out hard grains of rice, too little and you’ll get a soggy mess.
  5. Cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 35 minutes.
  6. Let sit for 5 minutes off the heat and then remove lid and fluff with a fork.
  7. Stir in walnuts, raisins and parsley.

Coriander-Cumin Crusted Pork Tenderloin

  • 1 lb- 1 1/4 lb pork tenderloin
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. Spread the mustard over the pork tenderloin.
  2. Mix the cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and rub onto the mustard coated pork.
  3. Heat the oil in a 12 inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Brown the pork, turning it with tongs, until nicely browned – about 3 minutes per side.
  4. Put the sauté pan with the pork in the oven and roast until an instant read thermometer registers 155 F – 18-20 minutes.  Rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

I am happy to say that we all liked this dinner very much – really!  If you have family members who are sensitive to spicy foods you may want to reduce the cayenne – but honestly, it is just pleasantly warm – not searingly hot – my 2 year old loved the roasted fennel particularly.  The edges of the vegetables will be caramelized.  The raisins and walnuts add sweetness and richness to the rice.  This is fine mid-week fare on a not-crazy afternoon.  It’s actually very good – although I hate to admit it.

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Martin in Dublin – ugh

Martin is in Dublin for work. I am here in Seattle, as always.  On my own with 3 kids, a puppy, a cat, those volunteer commitments, carpools, lunchboxes to pack, laundry and yes, dinner. Even though I love to cook dinner, I think it’s dinner – during a week when I’m on my own – that puts me over the edge.

I hate the way it goes:  home from school, snack, homework, breaking up squabbles, nagging about homework, prepping for dinner, breaking up squabbles, cooking dinner, nagging about homework, serving dinner, sending them up to put their pajamas on, cleaning up dinner, brushing teeth, reading stories, snuggling, bed. And that was skipping a bunch of nagging and breaking up more squabbles. One night at that intensity and I am wiped out.  A week of it and it takes a month to recover. The cleaning up after dinner on top of everything else seems like an insult and I just want to cry or go to the movies (by myself of course) and (of course) I can’t.  So I have to make a plan.

This week I am taking a page out of my friend Sarah’s book and I am going to feed my kids dinner right after school. I am going to call it tea, in the English sense, not just tea and cookies but tea and some real food.  Here are my requirements of this week’s menus:

  1. I don’t want to have to clean up much – just rinse the plates and put them in the dishwasher.  No pots.  No caramelized gunge on a roasting pan.
  2. I want it to feel fun – not the everyday, run-of-the-mill dinner.
  3. The food should not be challenging
  4. I want everyone to go to bed feeling nourished and loved and calm
  5. I only want to eat take-out pizza once, and since I did that last night (on the first night he was gone)- it’s no longer an option

Really I want this every night – who wouldn’t?  Sanity with kids is a lot easier to achieve when there is another person around. This week we will have easy food, calming food, some might call it nursery food.  We will have things like Welsh rarebit one night, small tea sandwiches (which I can make early in the day) with some kind of sturdy apple or carrot cake (I might actually buy this at a bakery – even though I LOVE to bake a sturdy cake with dried apples or dates or something), maybe cauliflower cheese. We will have a snack at bedtime, (wouldn’t it be terrible to have someone crying about being hungry at bedtime this week? ) so maybe a small bagel and cream cheese or some yogurt. I think this is what children in British novels in the 1920’s and 30’s would have after school. Tea meant dinner.  And really, for kids under the age of 10, maybe this is the way to go.  Life for children is challenging. We expect them to do all this homework and swim and be little gymnasts, and paint and socialize nicely. Maybe dinner shouldn’t challenge them again at the end of the day. Maybe I’m onto to something here, or at least my friend Sarah is. She seems to know everything.

So, after looking at the schedule – really only Tuesday is going to work exactly the way I want it to.  That’s the day we’re all home by 4:30.  But that’s ok.  What we’ll have is a proper high tea. People in the states often confuse this with something really fancy, which it is not.  High tea is a working man’s dinner, with tea.  Here’s the definition from Wikipedia:

High Tea (also known as meat tea) is an early evening meal, typically eaten between 5pm and 6pm. It would substitute for both afternoon tea and the evening meal.

High Tea would usually consist of cold meats, eggs or fish, cakes and sandwiches. In a family, it tends to be less formal and is an informal snack (featuring sandwiches, biscuits, pastry, fruit and the like) or else it is the main evening meal.

Here are some of this things I am thinking about for the week. We all like tea so there will be rooibos with everything, not real black tea.  The last thing I need is three kids amped up on caffeine. Also, I am going to start the sales and marketing tonight. I have to get the kids invested and excited about “all tea – every night ” this week. I’m hoping they will be kind of intrigued because we don’t ever have high tea for dinner. Also I get to skip tonight, Sunday, because we are going out for Chinese with my dad. Thank goodness for Chinese food and also that my kids like it.

Monday Menu

(Ok.  So this isn’t that different from any other dinner but we were supposed to eat these sausages tonight)

  • Oven Grilled Sausages (roasting pan lined with foil to minimize caramelized gunge)
  • Hot Buttered Toast
  • Crudité and Yogurt Dip
  • Fresh Pineapple – my dad brought me one, randomly

Tuesday Menu

  • Chicken, white cheddar and chutney sandwiches on whole grain bread
  • Cucumber and creamy garlic goat cheese sandwiches also on whole grain
  • Pear walnut cake – from the bakery on 15th and Republican
  • Apples and celery with peanut butter

Wednesday Menu

  • Welsh Rarebit with Toast Fingers
  • Cucumber, edamame, celery salad

Thursday Menu

  • French Toast with Berry Compote
  • Bacon

Grocery List

I am planning to do all the shopping on Tuesday.  I have everything I need for Monday already.

  • Excellent Sharp cheddar for rarebit
  • Cucumber
  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Edamame
  • Cake
  • Colombia Bread
  • Challah or Brioche Loaf
  • Bacon

Looking it all over – these menus look eminently doable.  The most complicated night is Tuesday, with all those little sandwiches. The little guy goes to preschool that day so I can prep the garlic goat cheese in about 5 minutes, after I drop him off in the morning.  The sandwiches are made easily in the afternoon just before we eat – I will make 3 of each kind to share.  I’m going to cut them into small triangles – just like at a real tea. Maybe I’ll even serve them on that 3 tier caddy that’s collecting dust in the cupboard. I have never made Welsh rarebit before but it looks very approachable. It is an English person’s fast weeknight meal – it’s hardly going to be complicated. Just a slow melting of the cheese so it doesn’t seize up. I can do that. French toast: I can make it in my sleep!  Right now french toast sounds a little too sweet so maybe I’ll have to adjust the menu later in the week. Not to worry. I can forget about dinner for now. It’s all planned out.


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Serendipity: Potatoes with Many Seeds

On Sunday I was going to try this Roast Boneless Pork Loin recipe from Fine Cooking that has you roast pork for Sunday. Then, you eat Chinese Pork and Mushroom Wraps on Monday and New Mexican Pork and Green Chile Stew on Tuesday. On Wednesday, if there was any left, I could make Cubanos – a sandwich with sliced roast pork, ham, swiss, pickles and mustard.  I put mine in the sandwich press.  All of those porky things sound very good on their own but then I thought about eating pork for 4 nights straight and all of a sudden it didn’t sound so good anymore. So I kept flipping through Fine Cooking and there in the “Dinner with Friends” section I found an Indian Spiced Chicken recipe with cilantro and limes.  The menu was designed with Friday night in mind, an afterwork affair – very straightforward and easy. I thought if I made enough chicken, I could slice the leftovers and use them in an ersatz kind of Cubano – with chicken replacing the ham. In the menu in Fine Cooking, they served the chicken with basmati rice pilaf and a spinach and yogurt saag. I had a bag of fingerlings though, that had been meant to go with the pork and another of haricot vert. The haricot vert could become Gujerati Style Green Beans from Madhur Jaffrey and the potatoes, well, I thought those might get roasted with the chicken with a bunch of Indian spices and garlic. I figured I would be able to wing it but I steamed the potatoes, just in case, so they would be ready for anything.

Menu

  • Indian Spiced Chicken with Lime and Cilantro, Fine Cooking
  • Gujerati-Style Green Beans, see Capitol Hill Indian Food post for recipe
  • Potatoes with Many Seeds – Madhur Jaffrey

Game Plan

  • 45 minutes before you want to eat: Assemble all spices.  Measure out the spices and seeds separately that you will need for the chicken, beans and potatoes.
  • Make chicken marinade.
  • 35 minutes before you want to eat: Steam potatoes and green beans.  If your pot is big enough, you might be able to fit both into one pot, separated on either side of the steamer basket, bearing in mind that the beans will come out after 5-7 minutes and the potatoes after 15-20, depending on how big they are.
  • 30 minutes before you want to eat: Start broiler
  • 25 minutes before you want to eat: Put the chicken in the oven
  • 15 minutes before you want to eat: Start potato recipe and bean recipe. Slice potatoes lengthwise. Ideally you will have 2 large non-stick skillets to cook the beans and potatoes in simultaneously.  It’s a little bit of a duelling skillets moment.  Read the recipes over carefully though; it’s very easy to do them at the same time if you are aware in advance of what you need to accomplish.

Indian spiced chicken with lime and cilantro

for 4 (with leftovers for the next days Cubanos)

Marinade:

  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin seed
  • 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • the juice from a medium lime
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt – plus more to taste
  • 6 small chicken breast, skin-on, bone-in, trimmed of excess fat and skin.
  • lime wedges
  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Combine first 10 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth.
  3. Put the puree and the chicken into a large bowl and toss to coat all sides.  Set aside while broiler is heating or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  4. Position oven rack 8 inches from broiler and heat broiler on high. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange chicken, skin side up on top. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt.
  5. Broil until chicken is brown with singed bits at the edges, about 20 minutes. If the chicken seems to be getting too dark, turn off the broiler and set the oven to 450F. Test with instant read thermometer or by cutting into chicken after 20 minutes. The chicken should be 165F when it is done; the juices clear. You may need 5-15 minutes more, depending on the size of the breasts. If it is done before or after the potatoes or the beans, no harm done. Any of these recipes could be served less than piping hot.
  6. Arrange chicken on plates or platter, garnish with cilantro. Serve with a squirt of lime juice.

Potatoes with Many Seeds

If you like making Indian food, it will be worth your while to keep black mustard seeds and cumin seeds in the house. There will be endless uses for them. I came to this recipe at the last minute last night, because I realized I wouldn’t be able to do both the potatoes and the chicken at the same time. I know it’s weird, but I was glad my oven was small and that I only have one. (I dream of having double wall ovens) But if I’d had two ovens, I would never have discovered this amazing recipe! There I was, about to toss the potatoes in the oven and I thought about it; it would never do. The rimmed sheet pan with the chicken was too large. The potatoes wouldn’t brown properly. The timing on the chicken could be compromised! Quickly I flipped through Madhur Jaffrey and came upon a recipe she calls Potatoes with Sesame Seeds. If I hadn’t been desperate – I never would have looked twice at that recipe. It sounds too boring. But I had steamed potatoes already and I knew I had sesame seeds. Again, lucky me. I also had the cumin and black mustard seeds. I am so happy I tried this recipe! These potatoes are encrusted with crunchy, salty, seeds, their warm, toasted scent permeating the whole house.  They’re beautiful, very more-ish and so unusual.  The sesame seeds are the least of their charms. We couldn’t stop eating them.  In fact, I was just now eating them cold, straight from the fridge – and I am a person who almost never eats leftovers (I know that’s weird for a cook). I highly recommend eating them this way. They were almost as satisfying right out of the refrigerator as they were hot.  I had to change the name. Potatoes with Many Seeds – not very inspired perhaps, but hopefully somewhat intriguing.

  • 2 lbs fingerling potatoes, steamed and sliced lengthwise
  • 4 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/8-1/2 tsp chile flakes
  • 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.
  2. Put the potatoes and the seeds right next to the pan, ready to go.
  3. Add the oil and when it is very hot, add the seeds. They will pop almost immediately and start to jump right out of the pan like crazy. Rather messy but so worth it.
  4. Quickly add the potatoes and fry for 5 minutes – they will start to become golden and crisp.
  5. Add the red pepper flakes and salt and fry for another 5 minutes until browned on the outside.
  6. Sprinkle with lemon or lime juice and serve.

We liked this menu so much. The chicken was crisp, the spices warmly fragrant and the final squirt of lime juice, piquant. Then the potatoes…the potatoes…the potatoes. Delicious.  I would serve them on a platter as an hors d’oeuvre with a champagne cocktail; although that might be kind of odd – it would certainly be satisfying.  I got the same desire for them as I get for potato chips or caramelized onions. The saltiness, the nuttiness of the seeds, the crisp crunchiness.  The green beans as always, were a hit. This menu might be a little salty if you are a person who is sensitive to salt.  But we loved it.  This one is a winner at my house.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when the leftover chicken will reappear in Cubanos with mojo…you may want to soak a pound of dried black beans in preparation.

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Bangers and mash

I actually wasn’t even going to write about what we are having for dinner today because it’s so run-of-the-mill. I hardly think anyone will care to read about it. After running over the menu this morning though, I changed my mind. I’m not a trained chef, I’m not a restaurateur, I’m not a socialite with a cook. I’m a mom with 3 kids and a dog and a cat, a whole lot of carpools and a not entirely adequate kitchen. Sometimes we eat boring food here, and if I pretend I never do that, what kind of a blog is this? A guilt inducing Martha Stewart blog? I hope not. I ‘m just trying to keep it real.

Unless you’re a Brit, or a descendant of a Brit or an Anglophile, you might not know what bangers and mash means. It’s British for sausages and mashed potatoes. Bangers aren’t just any old sausage though. They’re pork with bread crumbs and very mild spices – if they are spiced at all. I am sure you must be thinking: why would anyone want to eat those, they sound so bland and stodgy?! I tell you, if you haven’t been served bangers and mash by your Norwegian-British grandmother (who did a very nice job with it) it might be hard to understand why this is just right on certain evenings. Bangers should be mild and moist, almost creamy, on the inside, in a crisp and caramelized casing.  The mash should be rich and not too wet or soft, with a melted puddle of butter on top. A little salt and a gentle burn of pepper.  With bangers and mash, there is very little planning or shopping or even cooking involved. Kids and grown-ups will like this – unless they’re just being difficult. Sausages and mash go well with beer or a glass of young red wine. I like mine with a strong and slightly sweet mustard that comes from Sweden (which sounds so impressively cultural until I add that we actually buy it at IKEA – I told you this would be run-of-the-mill)

One little problem: bangers are hard to get. The Whole Foods near my house sells, very occasionally, something they like to call bangers. Ha! Sometimes I buy them but they are not bangers.  Sometimes they’re quite spicy which is to say they have a whisper of red chile in them. Even the merest breath of heat strikes the wrong note in a banger. Whole Foods* didn’t even have mild Italian pork sausages today – so tonight we are having – sigh – not bangers, but lamb and feta sausages. With mash. And steamed broccoli. (My granny would have served cauliflower cheese and steamed carrots and peas, but it’s crazy Thursday and I say to hell with it)

Menu: So…I guess what we are having is sausages and mashed potatoes and broccoli. There’s no dressing that up.

The game plan and the recipes are the same because there are no recipes here. Isn’t that kind of a relief? You buy the number of sausages to match the number of people you are serving, the same for the russet potatoes, and a large bunch of broccoli to steam.

The butcher would tell you to cook the sausages on medium heat on the stove in a skillet. I say that is just one more thing to pay attention to. Here’s what I would do:

  • Preheat the oven to 400F – 2 hours before you want to eat.
  • Scrub the potatoes and pierce them in several places with a fork. Brush or spray with olive oil if you like to eat the skins. Set the potatoes right on the oven rack.
  • 40 minutes before you want to eat, put a splash of vegetable oil in a roasting pan and add the sausages. Pop them in the oven next to the potatoes.
  • Rinse and trim the broccoli and put it in a steamer with water in it, on the stove.
  • No less than an hour and a half after you put them in the oven, remove the potatoes. Split them open and carefully (so as not to burn your fingers) scrape the flesh into a bowl. In the microwave heat up milk and butter until the butter is mostly melted – I would say 1/2-3/4 cup milk to 4 large russets and 3-4 walnut sized pieces of butter – but I like my mashed potatoes richly mashed.  Mash them up with a potato masher.  If you like to eat the skins now that they are nicely crisp, sprinkle them with sea salt and eat them up.
  • 10 minutes before you want to eat, start the heat under the broccoli.  Check on it after 7 minutes.  Personally, I would serve the broccoli with mayonnaise to which I have added lemon juice and one small grated clove of garlic, but I come from a mayonnaise eating family.

To make this menu even more ridiculously easy, just serve baked potatoes and steamed peas.  Of course you didn’t hear that from me.  Which is not to say I would never make that – of course I would.   I just wouldn’t write about it!

*Just a word about sausages and Whole Foods:  This may not be true at all Whole Foods in all cities, but here in Seattle they make organic house made sausages. I have to say that they are the worst  house made sausages I have ever had: bangers, Italian, chicken, Thai – you name it – all bad. They are unsubtly spiced; they are too dry; they are too weird. If you can go anywhere else to buy a house made sausage, I would, even if it is just to try their product and see what it is like. I like A&J Meats on Queen Anne. Sadly the Metropolitan Market up there is over-priced and understocked, so I rarely do all my shopping on the top of Queen Anne.  Next time I am at A&J though, I am going to beg them to make a batch of real English style bangers and to please call me when they are done. I would gladly drive all the way across town for some decent bangers – even if it does mess up the whole idea of an easy dinner on a busy day.

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A big hit: Mushy Peas

Has this ever happened to you?  We went to dinner last night at the home of some people we hardly know and  I made a huge pig of myself.  They are the nicest family, inviting ALL of us five to their house for dinner. They made homemade pizza!  With unfiltered olive oil that their sister-in-law’s family presses from olives from their own groves outside of Naples! It had all the qualities I love in olive oil – green and spicy with a peppery finish.  And that’s not all.  There were caramelized onions.  I don’t know what it is about caramelized onions. Every single time I get near them it’s as if they are the last ones on earth and if I don’t eat enough, that’s it – I’ll never have them again.  Fortunately caramelized onions take 45 minutes to prepare properly so it will be awhile before I have any more.  When I make some, I’ll let you know.

So, today, having eaten 8 slices of pizza (that might be a conservative estimate) with fresh mozzarella and caramelized onions, 3 enormous helpings of salad, lemon berry cake and and espresso last night, I am going to eat with some restraint today. It might be dull; there will be no caramelized onions, that’s for sure. We will have cod cooked in some any-old way, we will have roasted cauliflower and sweet potatoes and I am hoping I can come up with some sort of salad.  The kids will probably hate it and may not eat anything.  But some days are just like that.  There you have it.  I am going to figure out what to do with the cod now.

I know what I’m going to do…

Tuesday Night Cod and Peas

  • Roast Cod
  • Mushy Peas
  • Roast Cauliflower, Sweet Potatoes and Red Onions

I forgot about this menu!  It’s from Nigella Lawson before she went over the top.  I loved her book How to Eat, even with all the made-up adverbs which, in subsequent books, quickly spun out of control into some kind of crazed Nigella-ese. I haven’t made cod this way in several years.  Don’t be put off by Mushy Peas. They’re bright green, suave and garlic-y. We might have been living in San Francisco the last time I made Mushy Peas.  The kids hated them.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens today.

Game Plan

  • preheat oven to 450 F
  • start pot of water to boil, add garlic cloves
  • prepare vegetables for roasting
  • remove garlic cloves, add salt
  • make peas
  • turn vegetables in oven
  • make cod

Roast Vegetables

  • 2 small red onions
  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. In preheated oven, place rack in center position.  Put a large rimmed baking sheet on the rack to heat up while you cut vegetables.
  2. Trim root end of onions but leave intact to hold layers together.  Cut each onion into 8 wedges.
  3. Cut sweet potato into 1″ chunks.  Cut cauliflower into 1″-1 1/2″ florets.
  4. Toss all with 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Place on hot baking sheet in a single layer (don’t make the mistake of crowding – they’ll just go soft and get no caramelization) and roast 30-35 minutes, turning vegetables once half way through the baking time.

Mushy Peas

  • 1  head of garlic
  • 1  lb bag of frozen Peas
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp crème fraîche (you can substitute whipping cream or sour cream)
  1. Put a saucepan of water on the stove, add the garlic and start the heat.
  2. When the water reaches a boil, cook garlic for 10 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add peas.  When water boils again, cook for 5 more minutes.  Drain.
  4. Put peas, butter and crème fraîche into food processor and puree.

Roast Cod

  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil (no need for artisanal, peppery stuff here)
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 lbs true cod filets, cut from the thicker end of the fish
  • Salt and pepper
  • lemon wedges for serving
  1. Put a heavy duty sauté pan on medium high heat.  While you wait for it to heat up, put flour in a wide dish and add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Dredge filets in flour, shaking off excess.
  3. Add olive oil to sauté pan and sear filets on each side.
  4. Transfer pan to already heated oven for 5-7 minutes to finish.

So, there was a small flaw in my plan…I found only one sweet potato and about a quarter of a cauliflower, a half of a red onion plus another quarter of one. Whoops!  But I was resourceful and lucky – because in the vegetable drawer, I rescued a beautiful head of fennel and 5 nice carrots!  I just cut them up and added them to the mix.  A big hit!

And the mushy peas were very popular with 2 of the three kids.  The little guy ate three huge portions.  And the oldest cheerfully ate hers.  Most grown-ups will love these mushy peas.

The cod, I have to say, was as any-old way as I thought it might be.  Maybe I should have dried it off before dredging, perhaps the heat was a little low on the stove. A squirt of lemon was a big help. Also, I didn’t specify to the fish guy that I wanted the thicker ends of the filet.  Next time I might try rice flour or panko for dredging instead.  The cod really wanted to be firm, golden and moist and what it was, was bland and wet.

One way to simplify this menu would be to roast or steam some fingerling potatoes instead of all those roast vegetables.  If you were to steam the potatoes, toss them with butter at the end and salt and pepper.  That actually would be the perfect thing here, perhaps better than the roasted vegetables.  Which is not to say that they weren’t completely delicious. They were. There is nothing like the smell of roasting onions and fennel to make a house smell good. If you try nothing else, give the mushy peas a chance.  The color is intense and delightful, the garlic mellow: prepare to be surprised.

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Truly quick, truly homemade: Lentil Soup

I am so excited. I have a new cookbook. The River Cottage Family Cookbook
and from looking at the photographs, I can revel in the fact that there is someone out there who is as messy in the kitchen as I am.

Although none of the recipes are new to me, the format and the message are so appealing.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (sounds SO British!) and Fizz Carr are all about eating local and organic whenever possible and not shying away from the realities of food i.e.: beef actually comes from steer, sausage might be pork which is a pig.  We try to eat healthily and responsibly at our house and this book will be very inspiring.

The fun part was, the recipe that caught my eye called for things I already had in the pantry and the fridge.  So last night we had Lentil and Bacon Soup for Lots of People, only I halved the recipe because it was only the five of us, and since it was crazy Thursday, one of us was actually at music practice.  This is a fantastic soup recipe – incredibly quick and the perfect rainy evening meal. I ate three big bowls. On the side we had this goat cheese mash that I am always making with whatever the season suggests.  It’s very good.

A Fast Menu

Lentil and Bacon Soup

Goat Cheese, Garlic and Olive Oil Mash with Italian Crackers

I have no game plan for this because it’s so straight forward and fast that you really don’t need one!

Lentil and Bacon Soup – serves 4-6

(ok, ok – it looks like brown stodge but lentils aren’t loved for their beauty. Trust me – this soup has got your back)

  • 1 large onion (I used a red one)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled
  • 2-3 celery stalks
  • 5 bacon slices
  • Olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups lentils, half red, half brown or green
  • 1 1/2 quarts of stock (or water with 2-3 good bouillon cubes or boxed stock – I happened to have homemade beef broth in the freezer from Christmas ) – heated in a pot on the stove
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme – or a handful of fresh sprigs
  • 1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
  • Worcestershire Sauce – a couple of shakes
  • Shredded cheddar or parmesan
  1. Peel the onions and carrots. Wash and trim the celery.  Cut into 1″ chunks and pulse in the food processor until finely chopped – don’t go too far and make a soft, wet, mess.
  2. Slice the bacon into thin little shreds.
  3. Film the bottom of the pan with olive oil and turn the heat on low.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and bacon and stir.  Put the lid on the pan and let cook gently for 15 minutes.  The vegetables and bacon should soften and not brown much, shrinking down in the pan. Stir 2 or three times, every 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the lentils and stir.  Clear a little spot in the middle of the pan and add the tomato paste.  Allow to cook for a minute, stirring.
  5. Add the stock and stir gently and turn the heat to medium.
  6. Grind into the pot a lot of black pepper and salt to taste – go carefully; with bacon and  Worcestershire sauce this could get overly salty easily.  Add the thyme and Worcestershire.
  7. Raise the heat and bring to a boil with the lid slightly askew. Simmer for half and hour; then taste to see if the brown or green lentils are quite done.  When the red lentils are soft and the green have a little firmness left, the soup is ready.  Taste for salt and serve with grated cheese at the table.

*a wiser person than I am – ok it was Nigella Lawson – wrote that she keeps bacon in the freezer in 5 slice packages – that would have been a good thing to have for this soup

Goat Cheese, Garlic and Olive Oil Mash

I love this stuff.  You can change what you add for flavor depending on the season. In the summer I use tender herbs like chives, basil, parsley, or cilantro.  A splash of cream.  Another of fruity green olive oil.  This variation is for winter.

  • 1 small log of soft mild goat cheese, 4-6 oz
  • a splash of fruity, peppery, green olive oil
  • a splash of cream
  • 2 small cloves of garlic
  • freshly ground black pepper

Mash the goat cheese with enough olive oil and cream to make it easy to spread and no longer at all crumbly.  Grate or crush the garlic using a microplane grater or a garlic press, and stir into the goat cheese. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.  Swirl artfully into a pretty bowl and drizzle more green olive oil on top, if you are feeling fancy.  Although if Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall saw you do that he might raise an eyebrow.  He doesn’t seem to go for frills or serving dishes.

The crackers I like are those ones referred to as crostini and are made of nothing more than flour and olive oil.  Sometimes they are seasoned with sea salt or rosemary.

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Why is there no Indian food delivery on Capitol Hill?

I hate to start a conversation like this:  Why is there no good Indian food delivery in Capitol Hill? And I hate it even more when a conversation takes this turn because it sounds so whiny: When I lived in San Francisco there was…Indian food. Just 1 phone call plus 10 minutes away! I can’t help but long for San Francisco though, when I think of times I was deliriously tired with a 2 year old and a new born and wasn’t up to hauling out my mortar and pestle and standing in the kitchen cooking for hours. Star India was there.  Ten minutes after I called  I would have 3 or 4 paper bags with pakoras and samosas, raita, naan, chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, aloo gobi and these wickedly spicy chickpeas with ginger that my newborn (who is now 7) probably still hasn’t totally forgiven me for eating.

Fortunately, I love making Indian food myself – when I’m not wiped out from parenting.  I have this pal in San Francisco, and we used to get together and make our own garam masala and all kinds of other things that would have  friends who are actually Indian in stitches and wonder.  Why would you make that yourself?!  Well…it’s really really fun.

I have even less time now, three kids, a wiggly puppy, a mountain of  laundry, all those other meals I’m in charge of, there isn’t time to make elaborate Indian meals on a whim. And, there isn’t any delivery. Not in my neighborhood anyway. Sometimes I need an Indian food fix mid-week. Now, I’ve found a recipe which may not be authentic, but is very satisfying. What it lacks in nuance, it more than makes up for with how easy it is to throw together. Combined with a few sides that are quick (one is from my old Madhur Jaffrey book, Indian Cooking), I can have a great Indian meal on the table in 45 minutes.  It’s practically crazy Thursday worthy.

Mid-Week Indian Menu in 45 Minutes

Chicken Curry

Gujerati Style Green Beans with Black Mustard Seeds Or Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin and Coriander

Basmati Rice

Work Plan: Cauliflower Variation

The plan may seem complicated at first.  Don’t give up on this menu!  The second time around it will be a LOT easier.

  • clean and cut up cauliflower, toss with olive oil and spices
  • make the curry spice paste, slice the onion and begin to cook
  • Start the rice
  • Pop cauliflower in the oven
  • Add the yogurt to the curry and continue simmering
  • Remove foil from cauliflower
  • Add chicken to curry
  • Flip cauliflower

Chicken Curry – 20 minutes prep.  25 minutes on the stove

The recipe comes from The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. Ms Kasper uses chicken thigh in her recipe and I have tried it.  Too greasy and gamey for me, and I like chicken thighs. Breast worked better; it tasted fresher. Ms. Kasper also uses a spice blend with coriander, cumin and pepper. I tried it and it was fine but I found it easier and closer to what I was looking for when I used Murchi Curry Powder from the Whole Foods line of spices. The turmeric adds the right warm notes and color.

Curry Paste

  • 1 large onion cut in half
  • 6 fat garlic cloves
  • 3″ fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 tbsp excellent yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1-2 jalapenos, stemmed and seeds removed if you like it less hot
  • 1/2 cup water

Chicken

  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 cups whole milk yogurt
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, in 1″ pieces
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp minced cilantro leaves
  1. In the food processor, puree one of the onion halves, garlic, ginger, curry powder, salt, cinnamon, tomatoes, jalapeno, and the 1/2 cup of water.
  2. Slice the remaining half onion thinly.  Film the bottom of a 12″ heavy bottomed sauté pan with vegetable oil  and heat it over medium high heat until it shimmers.  Add onion and sauté until lightly colored.  Add the purée and reduce the heat to medium.  Sauté for 10 minutes.  Don’t skimp.
  3. Blend 2/3 cup yogurt into the sauce and simmer again, scraping the bottom of the pan until thick – 8-10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the chicken, adding remaining yogurt and 1/3 cup water. Slowly simmer, uncovered for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Because you are using breast meat there is less margin for overcooking.  Do check carefully to see it is done and then remove to a serving bowl.
  5. Raise the heat on the sauce and boil it down until quite thick.  Pour the sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle with cilantro.  (I had time in the morning to make this and none at night.  When the chicken was done, I cooled it as the sauce reduced.  I reheated the sauce at dinnertime adding the chicken for 3 minutes just before serving. The time in the fridge allowed the flavors to blossom.)

Roast Cauliflower

  • a two pound head of cauliflower
  • 3 tbsp mild olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp powdered dry coriander
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 475 F
  2. Trim off leaves of cauliflower. Cut  head into 1″ – 1 1/2″ florets.
  3. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and pour olive oil onto sheet.  Toss florets with oil directly on sheet.  sprinkle with spices and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cover cauliflower with another sheet of foil and place in oven on rack set in lowest position
  5. Cook 10 minutes and remove foil.
  6. Cook a further 8-10 minutes and then, using tongs, flip over each floret.
  7. Cook another 8-10 minutes.

Basmati Rice

This is hardly a recipe, just a method for those pressed for time. In her book Classic Indian Cooking, Julie Sahni says you have to rinse the basmati until the water is clear and then soak for 1/2 an hour before draining very carefully because the grains are so delicate from soaking. Well, I have done that and it is lovely; but honestly, who has the time on a week night?  When I am set on getting dinner on the table AND having Indian food in a short period of time, this is what I do:  I take 2 cups of water and set it on the stove on high, with a big pinch of kosher salt added when it boils. While the water is heating up, I put a cup of basmati rice in a sieve ( I have a little one) and I rinse it for a couple of minutes under running water. When the water boils, I dump the rice into the pot and stir. Then I wait until the water reaches the boil again. Quickly, I clamp the lid onto the pot and turn the heat down low. I set the timer for 18 minutes. Then I turn off the heat. I NEVER PEEK. The rice can sit like this for 20-30 minutes. It’s usually quite good this way.

Gujerati Style Green Beans

I have served these beans with so many  meals.  They’re great with grilled chicken, tandoori chicken, steak and potatoes. I have also substituted broccoli (ok – maybe that was not so great).

  • 1 lb. frozen haricot vert, defrosted under hot running water and dried
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat.  When shimmering, put in the mustard seeds.
  2. As soon as the seeds begin to pop (you’ll hear it!) put in the garlic.  Stir the garlic until it just begins to brown.
  3. Add the chile flakes – stir a few seconds.
  4. Add the beans , salt and sugar.  Stir and turn down the heat.  Cook for 3 – 5 more minutes.
  5. Add black pepper and serve.
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