Thai Green Curry

December 13, 2012 § 2 Comments

J: This is one of our staples that we just never got around to posting before now.  Curries are great because they are typically one-pot meals (two, if you make rice), and you can make a huge amount of food very easily, especially if you’re cooking for one person.  We tend to tweak this a little every time we make it — sometimes we use storebought curry paste, sometimes homemade; sometimes we use fish sauce, sometimes (…almost always) we don’t; sometimes we make it vegetarian, sometimes we use chicken; and depending on our mood we make it a red curry or a green curry.  Regardless of the choices we make, it is always delicious.

kinda mushy but awesome

This version of it will be green, and vegetarian, and using homemade curry paste, and also including fish sauce for I think the first time ever.  If you are making a red curry, just replace everything that says “green” with “red”!

Thai Green Curry
(tweaked from original recipe found here)

1 tbsp canola, peanut or sesame oil
2 tbsp green curry paste
1 tsp cumin
1-2 tbsp fish sauce (optional – leave out if you want this to be vegan)
1 large onion, diced
2-3 large potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks (you can peel them or not, whatever your preference is)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-oz can of coconut milk
1 green bell pepper, cut into large chunks
1/4 tsp ground ginger or 1-2 tsp finely diced fresh ginger
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup sliced scallions
Salt and pepper to taste

If you are interested in making homemade curry paste, you can use the recipe from this post, or you can use our modifications to make it simpler: basically replace the seeds and fresh herbs like lemongrass with ground or dried spices and herbs, and adjust the amounts somewhat to take that into account.  You can pretty much wing it in terms of amounts of most of this stuff, and it will probably turn out fine.

curry paste!

So, start off by adding some oil to a large pot.  Heat that up a bit and then add the curry paste, cumin, and fish sauce if you’re using it.  Cook for a couple minutes.

curry paste + oil

Add the potatoes, onion, and garlic, and stir around so the spices coat the vegetables pretty well.

already smelling great

Sauté this for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot too badly.  Then add the coconut milk, and cook for another 5 minutes or so.

pretty similar to the last picture really

Add the pepper and ginger, and bring the pot to a simmer.  Cover and let it cook for about 40 minutes (you’ll need longer if you’re doing this with meat), stirring occasionally and checking the potatoes for doneness.  If you want to serve this with rice, now might be a good time to get that going, depending on how much rice you are planning to make.

nearly there

When the potatoes seem like they are almost ready (about 5 minutes away, if we want to be precise), stir in the cilantro and scallions.  Let it finish cooking, and serve over your rice, if you went that route.

finished curry!

Fennel Soup

December 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

J: This soup was entirely Erik’s idea.  In fact, when he suggested we make it, I was honestly pretty skeptical — I’d heard fennel tastes kind of like licorice, which I never liked as a child and haven’t really had the opportunity or desire to try since.  So, I wasn’t too thrilled about fennel soup, but Erik usually has good food judgment (except with spicy things, in which case don’t trust the man unless you want your tastebuds seared off), so I went with it and didn’t mention my reservations.

Best.  Decision.  Ever.  This soup was amazing.  Erik made it while I was at yoga one night, and I came home to the apartment smelling divine.  It is a really easy soup to make, and pretty cost-effective, and even if you have never touched fennel in your life you should go buy some right now and see what you have been missing.  I don’t know if the soup tasted like licorice, but if it did, then I am annoyed at my child-self for disliking it and causing me to pass up years of deliciousness.

garnished with fennel pesto!

Fennel Soup
(slightly modified from original recipe here)

1 large yellow onion, chopped roughly
4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
2 large (or 3 medium) fennel bulbs, trimmed (fronds reserved)
4-6 c vegetable stock
1/4 c rice
Salt and pepper to taste

You will want to start by cleaning the fennel.  This can be a somewhat obnoxious process, only because the fronds are kind of huge.  If you like, you can cut off the fronds and wash them separately — that may help everything fit in your sink.  Anyway, once everything is washed, set the fronds aside; you can use them to make fennel pesto while the soup is cooking.  We’ll get to that in a bit.

kind of like weird, six-fingered hands?

Chop up onion and garlic, and then deal with the fennel in pretty much whatever way seems to make most sense to you.  This is a blended soup, so everything is going to get puréed regardless and it doesn’t really matter how pretty your chopping is here.

In a large pot, heat up some olive oil and add the onion, garlic, and fennel.  Sweat these ingredients over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes (you can add a pinch of salt here to help the process along if you want).  You want to try and make sure that nothing starts browning or caramelizing in this time, so keep an eye on the ingredients, especially the onions.  If they caramelize they will develop a slightly different flavor profile that will affect the overall flavor of the soup, and may overpower the fennel a bit.

key ingredients in the pot

Season with salt and pepper, and add enough vegetable stock to just about cover the contents of the pot.  Add the rice here as well — according to the original post, it acts as a thickening agent in the soup.  Interesting!

Incidentally, you will notice that our soup is something of a reddish color.  That is because of the stock we use — it’s much redder than most stocks, so if you use a different stock your soup will probably be much paler, sort of white/yellow/greenish.  Don’t let the color difference throw you!

starting to look soupy

Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce it to a simmer.  Taste the broth and see how you’re doing on seasoning — adjust salt and pepper to taste if necessary.  Let the soup cook for about 20 minutes, checking and stirring intermittently.

When the soup is done simmering, it’s time to blend.  If you have an immersion blender, that’s the way to go here.  Transfer the pot to the sink if you want to be safe and have relatively easy cleanup, and blend until smooth.  Otherwise, transfer the soup in batches to a stand blender or food processer and again blend until smooth.

Now, I said earlier that you should reserve the fronds for fennel pesto.  If you’re so inclined, it’s a good idea to make this pesto while the soup is still simmering!  It’s very easy, I promise, and it adds another layer of flavor to the soup.

Fennel Pesto
1 c (ish) fennel fronds, chopped roughly
2 tsp (ish) basil (we used dried, you can use dried or fresh, but adjust amounts accordingly), chopped or torn roughly
1/4 c (ish) parsley (we used fresh — again, you can use dried or fresh, but you’ll need to adjust amounts. Also, you should probably use at least one of these herbs fresh, otherwise your pesto might be a little on the strong side), chopped or torn roughly
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 c pine nuts
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Basically… toss everything except the olive oil, salt, and pepper into a food processor.  Start blending, and add some olive oil a little bit at a time, blending in between (or during, if your food pro can handle that without splashing pesto everywhere) until you get to the desired consistency.  You’ll want it to be smooth, but you can decide how watery or paste-y you want it to be beyond that.  Taste and add salt and pepper as you desire.

Garnish the soup with a bit of the pesto, and grate some cheese on top if you like.  Obviously, this soup can very easily be vegan if you omit the cheese and pesto (or make cheese-less pesto? never tried, but I imagine it’s doable!).  Enjoy!

cheese-less but pesto-ed

 

Wasteful Cooking

November 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

J: We are presently entering what is, at least in the United States, the most food-heavy time of the year.  Because of this, I think it is appropriate to get on my soapbox a little bit and try to make everyone more conscious of certain inclinations we have as shoppers.  Specifically, I’m referring to wasteful cooking and wasteful food purchasing.  Don’t go navigating away yet, thinking that you are not wasteful and not to blame — it is a bigger problem than you might realize.

I have long been aware of a tendency in American consumers (and probably some other cultures, though I’ve had most occasion to observe Americans) to be extremely picky about the food we buy and use.  I myself am guilty of this, and I often spend a few minutes pawing through the produce bins looking for the prettiest and least-bruised pepper, tomato, etc.  However, I recently stumbled on a show called “The Big Waste” on the Food Network, and it astonished me how many tons of food are wasted every year in this country.  Bakeries, restaurants, butchers, farms, and supermarkets literally just throw away foods that they know they will not be able to sell: bruised tomatoes, corn from stalks that have been broken, chickens with bones that were broken in processing, flour that can only be used in certain pastries… the list goes on.  This food is not diseased, expired, or otherwise inedible; in many cases, it is simply not aesthetically pleasing.  The trend here is stunning.

This show mentioned a group of people called “freegans,” whom I hadn’t heard of before.  They essentially go dumpster-diving for food, and while that may sound disgusting to many people, it is nigh unbelievable how much perfectly edible and tasty food they can find.  Although I am not quite willing to do that for my food, I propose a more minor lifestyle change.  Next time you are at a grocery store, consciously choose some produce that is not perfect — maybe a slightly bruised apple, or snow peas with some discoloration.  Recognize that if you go to a good-quality grocery store, they probably err on the side of extreme safety, and will throw out food that is even remotely unsafe.  Those marks are not going to hurt you, and once your produce is cut up and cooked, you will not even be able to taste a difference.  And if you are really uncomfortable with cooking produce with blemishes, you can use a small paring knife or vegetable peeler to do some localized surgery and remove the blemishes yourself — most of them are only skin deep.  This wastes so much less food than discarding an entire item because of a few marks.

It will probably not make a difference in the long run, but even if it only results in less food being thrown out from your particular supermarket at the end of the day, that’s something, and we could all use a little less wastefulness, especially at this time of year.

Pumpkin Pancakes

November 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

J: I haven’t had much time recently for baking or trying new fun breakfast or dessert foods.  However, every fall I go a little bit pumpkin crazy.  It’s just been delayed a bit this year because this semester has been more stressful than usual (quals, anyone?).  So, while I have a little bit of “downtime,” as much as anyone gets downtime in grad school, I jumped on it as an excuse to finally, finally, try a new pumpkin recipe.

a little more orangey than normal pancakes

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Sandy Island Chicken + Spicy Mango and Avocado Salad (Antigua & Barbuda)

November 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

J: Admittedly, the title of this post is rather cumbersome.  But I think this was one of our favorite countries so far!  I was expecting some tropical flavors coming from this tiny Caribbean twin-island nation, and that is indeed what we got — but there was also quite a kick in one of these recipes (spoiler: it’s not the one you think).  We intentionally chose recipes that would allow us to play with mangoes, because there are never enough excuses to use mangoes in cooking, and avocado — well.  Y’all know my feelings on avocado.

Overall, these were pretty simple to put together, and thoroughly delicious.  You could also definitely make either of these alone, as side dishes – and as an added bonus, the mango/avocado salad is vegan!

colorful and tropical

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Muamba de Galinha + Funge (Angola)

October 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

J: Yay, more countries!  So, the title of this post translates to “Chicken Muamba” — don’t ask me what muamba means, but it’s probably the only truthful part of that name, because we once again decided that we would go for an approximation of authenticity instead of the real thing.  Our substitution this time?  Potatoes for the chicken, which is a fairly classic vegetarian work-around when you are not interested in consuming meat.  It was pretty effective in this dish, which is a staple in Angola (or so Wikipedia tells me).  Overall, I don’t think this will go into our regular rotation the way some of these other United Noshes dishes will, but it definitely had a pleasant, warming, stick-to-your-ribs-ness that was quite enjoyable!

dramatic lighting!

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Spinach + Raisins + Pine Nuts; Rice + Mushrooms (Andorra)

September 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

J: Okay guys so the title of this post is pretty much the main ingredients for the two dishes we made for Andorra, because the dishes are literally called “Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts” and “Rice with Mushrooms.”  Apparently Andorra is not creative with their side dish titles, and I am feeling uncreative in terms of trying to come up with new titles for them, so we’re going with it.

We chose to do these dishes instead of a “main dish” for Andorra because their entrées seemed to primarily involve things like boar, kid (as in the baby goat), pig spine, hambone, lamb, veal, and black pudding (not a dessert. look it up.).  Sometimes all at once.  It was a little bit terrifying and we are kind of poor and also not into consuming eighteen different kinds of meat at the same time, so we decided that we would do something a little unconventional and make two vegetarian side dishes instead.  Turns out this was a pretty great idea!

not our most interesting-looking, but tasty!

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