Thursday, February 27, 2014

Many Paths to Curry

Cold and dreary, February weary
Every day needs a zest in its own way.
Saint Patrick's Day in March, Mardi Gras a week away
Spicy food, save my day

I don't usually enjoy curry, Thai or Indian. Coconut milk I seldom befriend.
My stomach and Ghee don't agree and as a rule Indian is heavy.
The British, they do curry! The Irish do too!
A Curry of Chicken and Lentils, Veggies and possibilities.

Tailor each walk to your own taste, I say.

This Chicken Curry is not at all necessarily meat-containing. The Lentils can be boosted, supplemented, or omitted. Add Beef, Tofu, Chick Peas, or nothing! More veggies? If you can find a way; Roots for peppers, rite away! The beauty of a spicy one-pot dish is its flexibility, important when hiking the path from Southern Asia to Ireland, in time for a green holiday, and on to small-town-large-university America. For a student strapped for time, Studying, sleeping some, working, and walking - always - Hearty meals are a chance to escape.

Homemade yogurt, snack to stew...
Irish-ish Stewed Chicken Curry

  • 1 pound Chicken Thighs, trimmed and rough-cut
  • 1/2 cup lentils, cooked al dente
  • 1 large carrot, quartered and sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, quartered and sliced
  • 3 celery stalks sliced or the greens and tops of 1 celery bunch, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered and sliced in large pieces
  • 1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp fresh or jarred garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Stock (or in the spirit, Guinness!)
  • 1/2 can minced tomatoes
  • 1 small fresh tomato, diced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt (maybe homemade?)
  • 1 tbsp Garam masala
  • 1 tbsp your favorite Curry powder
    • I would prefer to use whole toasted seeds and spices, but alas I find myself overwhelmed with curry powders.
  • salt and fresh pepper, to taste
Begin by heating oil, garlic, pepper, salt, and a dash of curry in a stock pot or Dutch Oven until hot. quickly sear the chicken on both sides (or the many sides of many small pieces) to brown. Deglaze with stock (or other liquid) and reduce heat to medium. Add Tomatoes and vegetables, mix and let simmer for a moment. 
In the meantime... get those lentils boiling (perhaps chickpeas drained and washed if you prefer?) and boil until firm but done. When cooked to satisfaction, drain and quickly rinse in cold water to remove any starch and halt cooking.
Add the yogurt to the vegetables and chicken, stirring to combine until a somewhat thicker consistency is visible. This is not the thickest of classic curries, so don't fret if it appears somewhat sub-Thai in consistency. Add Lentils and Spices to this completed mixture and combine. You may add more Curry if necessary - spice is nice, nice like this curry on rice?
Combining all ingredients now, simmer over low heat covered for five minutes, heating the oven to 350F. Remove the pot to the oven to bake for 30 minutes covered and an additional 30-40 uncovered.
Served atop steamed greens, Udon, Rice, Naan - the discoveries of your journeys. I happened across a recipe to bake my rice!
I might try a thicker curry, add a dash of Coconut milk. Next up: Thai curry perhaps? But not before March 17th I dare say.

Lesson learned? A pot of curry can be remade to many-a-meal. Spice is nice on a cup of rice, with an egg, in a pasty? Fresh, leftover, with tired legs, on my feet and remade more tasty.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Like Walking Over Hot Coals

Cold and dreary, this February
The exotic the lab is not
A Vacation of senses is not unlike one taken in steps
Except that the sensation comes from within.

Spicy, sour, sweet and more spice
Korean came to mind and I added rice.
Thanks to Not-Eating-Out, specifically in New York,
A varied and vegetable-heavy refrigerator and stress to quell
Kimchi and Chicken, a need for food in one pot
Meandering, not hurried.

The joys of solitary the sojurn:
Life at one's only pace.

One-Pot for one: Kimchi-Chicken

  • 1 Breast or boneless thigh chicken, trimmed
  • 1 cup sliced Turnip, 1/2" cubes
    • I used Harukei, any variety will be fine
  • 1/2 large carrot in quartered slices
  • 1 medium beet, cubed into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/4 yellow Onion, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable broth or some such liquid
  • 1/2-1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp Kimchi
  • 2 tsp minced garlic (1 clove)
  • 1 tsp minced gresh ginger
  • 1-2 tsp Gochujang
    • A red chili paste to your liking? Think Sriracha but with less salt and more texture.
  • 1/4 tsp Cumin
  • Black pepper and plenty of it
  • Salt to taste
  • Brown, White, Red, Black - however you like-it-rice.
    • 1/4 cup per serving
First heat the garlic and oil with Cracked pepper and salt in the bottom of a pan or, my favorite, the cooking vessel you will soon bake. By the way, preheat to 350 F if you like. Heat oil and garlic until aromatic on high heat, a moment or two, before adding chicken to quickly brown each side; reduce heat and add stock (beer, the inspiration I followed suggested rice wine but I have none - Sake maybe?)
Add all cut vegetables and cover with water and any more stock. Add spices, chili paste, and increase heat until the pot boils. Add Rice - I used 1/8 cup short-grain white and 1/8 cup Brown to get the texture, starch of the short grain, and nutrition of the brown, all together. Stir to combine and cover. Bake this stew for about 30 minutes, reduce heat to 250 and finish baking uncovered for an additional 15.

Serve over raw greens if you choose - I'm a stickler for green foods, perhaps you are too.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Walk Towards Spring?

Summer, so far, spring so near; glimpses galore, like this and many more
But next week is winter
and last week drifted snow.
I needed some summer
With cooking, it might show.

A Take on a recipe for Curry-spiced Chicken and Quinoa tossed with Arugula. Instead of Quinoa I included Brown Rice and to mix up the usual Chicken and Rice, this recipe incorporated all of the vegetables in the refrigerator. Roasted Beets and Squash offer sweetness, sliced Mushrooms for Umami, carmelized Onions - because there are never enough - and sage sausage slices for that extra smoky punch. Tossed with arugula just prior to serving, topped with braised chicken thighs and you have a healthy, hearty winter dish. A good beer braise helps maintain chicken moistness and plenty of curry spices set off flavors galore! I mention this all because I took inspiration from NPR's Kitchen Window, a favorite of mine.

Without Further adieu, you, like I, have walked long enough to satisfy the hungry summer-tooth.

An Early Curry Chicken-Rice Salad

  • 1 Boneless Chicken thigh, trimmed (~1/2-3/4 lb)
  • 1 Sausage of choice
    • I certainly get a good many miles from my Field Roast
  • 1/2 cup Brown rice dry
    • cooked per direction
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • A handful of  hardy braising greens or celery tops
    • I find that Celery leaves and tops, trimmed, are a good flavorful, crunchy addition to braises especially. They're full of nutrients.
  • 1/2 small red or yellow onion, minced
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • A dash of salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp minced rosemary
  • 1 tsp crushed thyme
  • Pepper to taste
  • A few ounces of wheat beer or vegetable stock

And for the Chicken...
  • 1 tsp Curry+1/2 tsp Paprika + Cumin, salt, whatever you like
Toss with
  • 2 cups Arugula
  • As much (or little, but more is better when roasted) Roasted Squash and Beets as you like!
  • 1 tbsp Curry powder, as spicy as you like
Preheat your oven to 325 and nestle the Chicken thigh with Sausage slices (about 10), dredged on both sides in the spice mixture, in a shallow pan or dish. Bake with liquid braise for about 30 minutes until done, but liquid remains. Set aside chicken and sausage and let them rest before slicing. Next, saute the garlic, onions, mushrooms, and greens with olive oil until aromatic, on low heat about 5 minutes. 
Add spices and continue to saute, add a splash of your chosen liquid and let simmer very briefly while adding the cooked rice. increase heat and stir to mix well. Reduce heat while slicing chicken into bite-sized pieces and adding these with sausage slices to rice, mix, and reduce to lowest heat.
Add Arugula and other vegetables, toss together with Curry.
Serve with a dash of curry to garnish and perhaps a dollop of good, soft, sweet chevre or cows-milk cheese.
Next time, less rice, more arugula. A nice few grapes atop pulls sweet, salty, spicy, umami into one.

So, what is the lesson for today? Rain and sleet, cold and snow: they come and go. This too shall pass, whatever this is. Just remember that when things are good as a full plate is quickly cleaned.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Step On the Parisian Sojurn

French food is food indeed: Quality basics cooked so well, something hidden just seems free!
Free like the wandering, wistful thoughts of dreary February
Of a day when the oven roasting isn't the room-warming nicety from today.

French food can be fatty, cheese-heavy, Egg exploring, and wine-steeped.
Good qualities? I'll let you be the judge.
Thankfully it was in the Art of French Cooking's daughter and children thereafter that it's true wealth has come out: the masterful preparation.

Now, anyone who would say I take the path less traveled:
Path of least resistance:
I ask, what is it of which you speak.

I found myself with copious cups of Lentils, links of sadly neglected Field Roast Sausages, and a desire to prove French cooking's simplicity - a sentiment I knew but one few do.
Mostly I needed a comforting meal, with a long weekend filled with homework
nestled between bitter cold and snow
A weekend, unfortunately so.

A classic French preparation, this is not
A balanced and filling vegetarian take on one?
Well, that's what you might have thought.

My Way to French Cassoulet

  • 2 Field Roast Sausage, Apple-Sage perhaps? Sliced into a dozen or so pieces.
  • 2/3 cups French Lentils, cooked al dente per directions
    • I boiled the poor life out of mine...
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion, Chopped Small
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic (1-2 Cloves)
  • 1 tsb Olive Oil
  • 1 Can low-sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped (1/2" cubes) root vegetable
    • Rutabaga, Turnip, Parsnip, a melange perhaps...
  • 1 tsp Thyme, Fresh if possible
  • 2 tsp rosemary, minced, and fresh if possible.
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • a pinch of curry
  • A splash red wine
    • Perhaps a splash of white, dry but sweet may do
I would use Beans next time or significantly undercook my lentils to ensure better texture and structure. Moreover, you will need to balance the salt levels based on taste, so some vegetable stock, salt-added tomatoes, and salt itself may be needed.I used Rutabaga and very much enjoyed the subtle sweetness and texture it gave when cooked slowly but I'm open to new tastes.

Begin the lentils boiling, drain and rinse them in cold water when done to stop the cooking and remove excess starch; set aside. Saute the onions, garlic, and olive oil until aromatic, adding in the herbs and increasing heat after several minutes. Soon after, add tomatoes and Roots, covering for about five minutes to allow the vegetables to soften together. Add curry, pepper, additional salt, and reduce heat. Add the sausage, stir, and cover for several minutes more. Add Lentils, mixing to combine, and add wine, if you so choose. Cover and let cook on low heat for a few moments before removing to a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes.

Serve with simple greens, a few roasted vegetables, a fine slice of Sourdough, and good music. An accordion perhaps? I prefer good Jazz myself - maybe creole, bluesy, and loud like the crunch of my boots through the snow
Maybe some juicy NPR.

Lesson learned: less is more, and some days spent working are best ended with a meal, wafting smell, quiet music, and a moment's relaxation; facts I easily forget.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Simple Shoes

I got some new shoes, to leave a fresh mark, to walk past the slip ups
and barrel through the drifting white.
I really did get new shoes, and they may not be simple ones but I suspect they will all the same
get the job done.

Some nights a simple meal isn't so much in the ingredients list - lengthy they may be
Some nights it's the time to sit an think, as it stews away and you can be left to stay
with your thoughts, hobbies, and papers to work.

Tonight was one such night - a pantry-cleaning, rib-sticking, Italian-leaning kind of night
Even though the snowy days past gave way to light
This February cold has made necessary food to fight the long winter night.

Without further adieu, my gift to you
A simple Tuna Pasta Puttanesca

  • 1 serving Pasta - Spinach Fettuccine perhaps?
  • 1/2 can sliced Artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 tsp Capers
  • 1 tsp Chopped garlic - a fresh minced clove, if possible!
  • 1/2 can low sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I enjoyed my Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes in this dish)
  • 1 Handful shopped Chard, Kale, or Spinach
  • 1 Can Albacore Tuna (or a better quality chunky tuna - something in glass, most likely)
  • several olives or to taste
  • 1 tsp Pepper flakes (or more, always more)
  • 1/4 cup red wine (and some for the sauce too)
  • Pepper and salt to taste
  • Basil, Oregano, Thyme - in the pantry-clearing spirit, whatever you have
  • Optionally, fresh herbs would be spectacular
  • a dash of Grated Parmesan or Romano (even shaker cheese in a pinch)
  • a dash of lemon juice
  • 1/2 chopped small onion
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
Some Arugula to dress the plate, mixed in tasted good

First saute the Onion and garlic in the olive oil to caramelize and release those ever-necessary sugars.
In a saucepan combine Diced tomatoes, sauce, spices, red wine, and vegetables. Simmer until bubbling over medium heat, reduce heat and step aside. Stir in Tuna as you boil water for the pasta to come. Cook pasta until quite al dente and set aside, reserving 1/4 cup starchy water for the sauce. Add additional herbs, pepper, olives, capers -good briny flavors to balance the acidity and fish of the sauce. Add Pasta and water to sauce, stir well and simmer for ~15 minutes or until the pasta has become slightly more tender and importantly, sauce is no longer watery.
Serve and enjoy.
Note: I did toss in a few Chickpeas, how they amaze me...
The addition of fresh ingredients is a must if done again, all in all A wonderful sauce of complete nutrients and all around comfort. Good on bread? You tell me.
I can only assume so.

Learned, Learned, Learned?
Note to self: Pasta is a true comfort in moments of need.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Like climbing a hill and finding the view magnificent; maybe less than spectacular.
Luckily this round of my journey to bread perfected provided the former.
I've been on this road before: the road to leavened heaven. Poor rhyme - I realize, forgive me.
Experimenting with rustic baking sans yeast had yielded good results but none so far as true to my goal of recreating a San Francisco style sourdough as this.
Using a Rye starter grown from a Rye Mother I've been keeping for some weeks, Bread Flour and a touch of Wheat bran I've found success. This latest loaf, which when I finally bake a truly measure recipe, I will share the details of, is my favorite yet.
The secret seems to be in an overnight slow rise at cool temperatures: A "Retard" as it were. Forming my sour from a bit of Mother culture and Bread flour, Retarding the loaf which is further mixed with Bread Flour and salt, then left to rise overnight; again after formed into loaves or here, a loaf and a boule. Into this batch too went 3 Tbsp melted butter and a bit of yogurt - a failed commercial yeast mixture had no effect so next time, I'll toss some activated Yeast in too!
Between the retard which heightens and smooths the sour flavor, the butter and yogurt which add richness, and an adequately long baking time - about 45 minutes - this is the closest I've strode to Sourdough gold.
I'm still getting there but in the case of bread baking, a bicycle is more my speed. Well, not for the bread itself, for that I prefer to take my time.
Smell the sour, as it were.

So bake, its a good way to see the scenery on your path.

Lesson Learned? Try, try again.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Step 3: Slowly Goes It

Stewing, Chilis, Soups, and Roast: Good things taken slow.
Some walks beg brevity, like these long cold mornings commuting to and fro.
Others, a strolling pace through the summer sun, autumn leaves, and not-soon-enough puddling spring.
On this cold weekend, wedged nicely between a snowy week and an uncertain storm to come, Chili reaching south to the flavors of warmer places is a thing cooked slow and low.

Drawing from a recipe I saw in Vegetarian Living for South American Spicy Chocolate Chili with Banana, I made my own rendition.
A Dollop of Sweet Goats Cheese, a bed of Kale and Brown Rice. A warm and hearty dish on a cold winter night and appropriate on a week meant for love and chocolatey things. I added more vegetables and a touch of meaty seitan to more suit my tastes, that and forwent the beans in light of a Lentil bounty!
Next time though, I really would have preferred good iconic Kidney Beans...

An Inspired Chocolate Lentil Chili

  • 1 Cup Lentils, Cooked
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 medium Onion, half sliced, half diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large carrot, halved and slivered
  • 1 stalk Celery, sliced in 1/4" pieces
  • 1 tsp gresh Ginger, minced or grated
  • 2-3 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Stock
  • Seitan: I used a 1/2" slice of Field Roast Celebration Loaf diced into small cubes, but any meaty seitan will work cut-up small.
  • 1/2 or whole Chopped Bell Pepper
  • 1/2 banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup good strong ale
    • drink some, not a bad one.
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp Cumin
  • 3 tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Begin by boiling those lentils according to the directions, reserving a bit of liquid to add to the chili; if you used an equivalent amount of beans, drain, rinse, and set aside. Sweat out the Onions, Garlic, and Olive Oil for ~5 minutes on medium-low heat. Add in the Carrots, celery, and pepper and let it brown together, stirring occasionally and add Seitan and paste after a few minutes; allow to brown on slightly higher heat. Let this simmeh' and adding stock and beer reserved from drinking a bit after allowing the tomato paste to seep in for a few minutes first. 

Add spices, ginger, and seitan, stirring but allowing the ingredients to bubble together. Increase heat again and add lentils, more stock + lentil water saved if necessary. Now, add that delicious Chocolate powder and stir well - it doesn't like to homogenize. Add Banana after 10 or so minutes on medium heat, stirring in. Let simmer at medium-lo heat for ~15 minutes, stir, and reduce heat. Cover and simmer, checking consistency to assure it doesn't burn or non chili-like.

I Would like to change my Chili to actually be a chili - not a lentil stew as it so stands. That said, it accompanies a good cup of brown rice very well!

Lesson learned: Cooking for one doesn't mean you cant have your Valentine's Chocolate too.
Be Present and food is a gift enough?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Step: Two

Wait Begets Want
A Seat soothing the need.
Ah, NPR my trusted friend. You have been - will always be - the teacher to my tracks.
Well sometimes all I need is the strength to continue and snow New England only reminds me so.
Fourteen inches and more to come? Say it ain't so!
Well, now I know -remember really - there is more to winter than white and spring's wait. There are sleds again, and toboggans. It's been too long mold friends.
A second step to finding the real me might be some sledding with friends beside me.

But on the next day, he rests. Pasta, old friend, yield some strength to move on.

Next stop: Little Italy
An Interpreted Snow Bird Cacciatore

  • Your favorite lengthy pasta, perhaps Spinach Fettuccine?
  • 1 Cup Roasted vegetables like Rutabega, Beets, Squash, or Kohlrabi
  • 1 breast of Chicken, dredged in Salt, Pepper, Garlic, and spice. Everything nice.
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable stock (or chicken)
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 Cup Kale, chopped
  • 1/4 small onion
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Garlic!
begin by preparing the onion and garlic, sauteed with  olive oil until the onion sweats and garlic is fragrant. In the meantime, dice roasted vegetables into 1/2" cubes and 

                                                                                                                                                                Yes, changes to be made. A dash of Parmesan, a touch more salt. Canned tomatoes: petite diced? Filling and fresh, satisfying on a day in need of some direction.

Just right, still, for a hurried winter night.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hard Decisions

Like who to love
What is right
Which bubble to fill
Restraint to "Like"

Two things should come easily:
Not which path to choose but when to take it

And what tastes good.

A Blog of where cooking leads me
and how I got there. 

First Stop: Coque Au Vin
An Interpretation

  • 3 Breasts of Chicken, punctured to let permeate
  • 1 medium Onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Large Carrot, Halved and slivered
  • 1 tbsp diced garlic
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup water or Vegetable Stock (salt to bolster water, if such is the case)
  • 1 tsp Thyme
  • 1 tsp Rosemary
  • Cracked Black Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 Cup sliced Mushrooms of your choosing
  • 1 Cup inexpensive Red Wine
  • Mixed Greens or my favorite, steamed Kale, alongside good crusty bread to serve.

Sautee Onions, Garlic, Olive Oil, Tomato paste, and Herbs together over medium-low heat until onions begin to turn translucent. Add Chicken breast, moving sauteed vegetable atop them. Add water (stock), salt, carrots, pepper, and Mushrooms and let simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes or so. Add Wine and Bake in oven (right, put it all in a casserole or my preference: cast Iron) for 1 hour or so at 350.
Serve with that good bread, those simple greens, and perhaps a dollop of Chevre? Peut-Etre?

Discovery? Food cooks slowly like decisions to begin anew, to take paths left, I thought, behind me.