goan-style shrimp curry heaven…

I made some organic brown basmati rice, which I always have in my cupboard and totally love.  This is rice you could easily eat totally plain and be happy. I was then a little distraught over my lack of curry leaves… btw, I don’t live that far from Devon, an Indian neighborhood here in Chicago where I’m sure I could buy some curry leaves….next time.

Now, Mr. Suvir Saran and I have had our disagreements; about how many different spices or chiles to put in something or how long to cook it, definitely how long to cook it.  So I am usually not very optimistic.  I have only made 10 of the recipes from his American Masala cookbook. I have only liked 2 of those 10: grilled vegetable salad and spiced pear chutney …but this, this is one of those where you keep thinking… I must stop eating. I have to stop! But you can’t. It is coconut-milk-curry-heaven, with shrimp….good thing I ran out of rice.

North African food and xmas presents in action – parts 2 & 3

Part 2 – So this was the first recipe made from a cookbook I got for xmas, Moroccan Merguez Ragout with Poached Eggs. The book is called the The Food52 Cookbook with recipes that came from the web site food52.com. It sounds silly I suppose but I like my real paper cookbooks that I can hold on to and write in and drip grease and chili paste on.

Anyway, for this recipe there are 12 ingredients. 7 of them you will always find in my kitchen, 2 I might have or I may have to pick up, but the last 3: merguez sausage, ras el hanout and harissa, those cannot be found in the city of Chicago. Okay. They probably can but not in the 3 or 4 places that I looked and so I was forced to make them….okay not really ‘forced’, more like ‘happy to’.

  1. Ras El Hanout – Supposedly translates to “top of the shop.” Spice vendors would all make their own super secret blends. I got a very simplified recipe from the North Africa section of my Essential Mediterranean cookbook. I picked it because I basically had all the ingredients and because I like to use my scale to measure things.

    7 g tumeric
    15 g allspice berries ground allspice
    30 g black peppercorns
    1.5 2 smallish whole nutmegs
    1 whole clove
    10 cardamom pods
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
    3 rosebuds 2ish teaspoons of lavender flowers

    So I used what I had:  ground allspice, and although I looked for some edible rosebuds I did not find them so I substituted in a couple of teaspoons of lavender flowers. All went into my spice grinder. I was a little worried about the two nutmegs but I picked small ones and ground in short bursts to take layers off slowly. It is possible the blade on my spice grinder (old coffee grinder, that I believe was a hand-me-down from a college roommate) is ruined. I haven’t really tried to use it since then though.

  2. garlic paprika based spice mix in morter and pestleMerguez Sausage – The web site and cookbook offered possible substitutions and a suggestion for turning some ground lamb into this sausage. I then found this recipe online and I liked it because it uses sumac and I have some sumac. I just used ground lamb. I figured I would be perfectly happy without adding fat, buying a meat grinder or putting it in casing and then taking it back out again. The recipe also called for…
  3. Harissa –  A hot chili paste/sauce which I could not find. I used the recipe from my Suvir Saran cookbook that I have been wanting to try for awhile now. Traditionally it is made with dried piri piri peppers which I did not have. I had guajillos and pasillas. I rejected the pasillas and then went and got another a small bag of guajillos and also used some generically labeled ‘red peppers’ the kind you get in bottle in the spice aisle at the grocery store but don’t really know what type of pepper they are. I stemmed and seeded all the guajillos before weighing and soaking them, the little generic red ones I left all the stems and seeds. This is partially because I like hot but not ‘really hot’ in my food, also partially because I did not strain the chilies.  I can’t seem to find the right kind of strainer for this type of job. I would greatly appreciate suggestions.

This leads to xmas presents in action part 3 (see photo above); One of my new mortar and pestles smashing up the harissa, spices, and seeds with the garlic for the sausage.

Lamb sausage ragout with poached eggFinal product: It was a lot more meaty then the picture in the cookbook which may be that there is less grease because of the leaner meat… I guess. I also I struggled with poaching of the egg, most of the yolk was cooked. It was quite spicy and delicious and I now have extra merguez sausage in my freezer, a couple small jars of harissa in my fridge (I put some in John Ash’s Grandmother’s Bean Soup leftovers the other day… brilliant!) and a jar of ras el hanout in my spice cabinet. It is going to be an everything-North-African-flavored winter!

indian rice

indian rice & yogurtOvercooked and over-flavored okay so that is kind of the definition of Indian food but I keep biting into cardamom pods (not pleasant) and I can’t find the cauliflower anymore, it totally disintegrated;  also the frozen peas did not need to cook as long as the rice! What I’m wondering is why did I follow all the directions? Mr Saran and I have a rather contentious relationship, which would be better if I followed my instincts instead of his directions sometimes.

The spices are delicious and they made my apartment smell fabulous. I did use brown basmati rice which meant I had to cook it a little longer which was probably part of the problem. It still tasted good with a big glob of greek yogurt and it is vegetarian; vegan even without the yogurt…but it kind of needs the yogurt.

I may be too excited about my new grill.

vegetables on the grillI still like everything about it, my new WeberQ with ceramic grates and two burners.  I love the heat, the smell of the caramelizing vegetables, being outside. I’m sure that just like all other loves at some point these will be just the things that will annoy me. For now I will ride the wave of new love and spend so much time with it that I’ll end up sick of looking at it.

I have been dreaming of a grill all my own and now here I am giddily taking pictures of it to post on facebook like people do with their pets. “Isn’t it cute full of vegetables?”

My only real substitution for this salad was eggplant (not pictured) instead of zucchini which was pretty sad looking at the store. (Disclaimer:  This meal was not organic. I bought all my groceries at Jewel for the first time in months.) The dressing was olive oil and balsamic with kind of standard Indian spices: garam masala, cayenne, coriander, cumin, ginger, garlic, fresh cilantro and mint. I have had some some difficulty with Mr. Saran’s recipes in the past. Most have so many flavors that they feel muddled and all the flavors are lost but this one is working for me.

It was all so beautiful and I had every intention of posting a picture of the salad put together on my plate but I started eating it and then it was gone.

too busy/distracted to cook and seafood guilt

tomato goat cheese salad and tuna au poivreSo I realize that I’m single, childless and live in a very small apartment. I should have many hours to spend cooking very small batches of food and blogging about it. Apparently I am mistaken. Between packing and planning to move in a couple weeks and trying to complete a work project by next Friday,  I have been working stupid hours, eating take out and other crap, skipping my yoga class and generally stressing. So of course I’m sick now. Therefore today I will stop, not look at my work, sip herbal tea and blog amongst piles of half-packed boxes and wads of tissues. (yuck!)  Unfortunately because I haven’t been cooking so there isn’t much to blog about.

When I do cook I’ve been going for easy meals like the one on the left Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese (French Women Don’t get Fat) and Tuna Steak au Poivre. (30-Minute Meals 2).

I love tuna steaks but as with many types of seafood they seem to come with a side of guilt for me… I really can’ t be sure it is from a sustainable fishery, as I’m not that knowledgeable, and of course I live in Chicago so I’m not exactly eating local.

To make up for it I have been living by eating out and on grubhub.com delivery. The food may not be local or healthy but I am supporting small businesses in my ‘hood, right? :)

I did make some Cardamom-roasted Cauliflower (American Masala) and cooked up some tuscan kale with bacon this week as takeout is always a little short on the veggies; at least any that still resemble the vegetables they once where.

cheesy spinach goo..

cheesey spinach dipYes,  I said  I would break my own rules and I have (see “about”). I made Three-Cheese Spinach Dip  for little bro’s UFC themed birthday party over the weekend. I should have taken a pic when it just came out of the oven with all the melty cheese but I forgot. I guess this way you can tell that it was eatable.   My only adjustment to the recipe was that it called for 1/2 parm and 1/2 aged gouda which seemed a bit much to me so I went with more new gouda and less parm. It was good, not my favorite, but it is very rich and cheesy so if that is your thing you would love it.