Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How many times can I use the word "fragrant" in one post? - Jamie-inspired Fragrant Green Curry

Jamie Oliver includes a wonderful "Fragrant Green Curry Chicken" recipe in The Naked Chef. It's more Thai than Indian, v. fresh and unequivocally fragrant, has a bit of a kick, and tastes like pure summer. I made it a long time ago, loved it, and never made it again.

Here's why: the recipe calls for a substantially long list of ingredients, some of which are kind of obscure in these here Midwestern parts (albeit super fragrant!), most notably lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves. These (fragrant!) items are hard to find in Minneapolis and I recall them being quite costly once I did get my hands on them (unlike the obscure dried ingredients I've hunted recently, which have been alarmingly cheap). Admittedly, the curry was so delicious, it was totally worth it. But maybe just the one time. Jamie's fragrant green curry, as amazingly fragrant and green as it was, not to mention refreshingly easy to prepare, just couldn't be an everyday meal in our home.

Then it was July 2011. Yesterday in fact. And I had a nice filet of cod thawing in the refrigerator. And I had oodles of patio-grown cilantro and spearmint and basil begging to be rescued from the crazy heat wave we're barely surviving and thrown together into something tasty and summery and ... fragrant. I thought about Jamie's green curry wistfully. And then I thought: these are some good herbs; I bet these herbs - along with some funky freestyling and practical substitutions - could yield a comparably decent, threateningly fragrant curry. With cod! And snow peas from my CSA. And some beautiful yellow summer squash from my grandmother-in-law.

And I was totally right.

it's true i'm fragrant

This curry is absolutely divine.

green curry collage 1green curry collage 2bowl-o-curry

Jamie-inspired Fragrant Green Curry (with Cod and CSA Vegetables)
Inspired by none other than The Naked Chef
Yield: 4 servings

For curry paste:
1-3 medium-spicy green chillies, seeded (I used one jalapeƱo and my toddler could handle it, so use more if you want some noticeable heat)
2 cloves garlic, or 3-4 garlic scapes
3 large handfuls of cilantro
2 large handfuls basil
1-2 large handfuls of spearmint
[Optional: another handful or two of other fresh herbs you might have, e.g. chives, oregano, lemon balm, stevia, peppermint, citrus leaves, parsley]
About 1/2 cup chopped onion (I used a couple scallions + half a small yellow onion)
Heaping tablespoon of fresh(ish, i.e. jarred) ginger
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
Zest of 3 limes + juice of 2 limes*
Zest and juice of 1 small orange*
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

For curry:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow squash or zucchini, chopped into 1" chunks
1 pound green snow peas, trimmed
1 pound cod, boned and skinned, cut into 4 pieces
1 14-oz can full-fat coconut milk
Handful of unsweetened flaked coconut for garnish (optional)

*You don't want more than about 1/2 cup juice - it will end up too soupy.

Put all the green curry paste ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop, then whizz until you get a relatively smooth green paste. Using about half a tablespoon of curry paste per piece of cod, coat the cod in the paste and allow to marinate at room temp for about 30 minutes.

In a large wok or cast-iron skillet or whatever you have, heat the tablespoon of olive oil over high heat and add the vegetables. Saute, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Put cooked vegetables into a bowl and cook your fish now - about 2 minutes per side over high heat. Add the remaining green curry paste to the pan (stand back, it will sizzle and spit), and then stir in the coconut milk. Return the vegetables to the pan. Bring everything to a boil and simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Season with some more salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice or noodles or some mashed sweet potatoes, garnish with some fresh cilantro and the flaked coconut. Have a cold beer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Easier Than You'd Think: Focaccia, Baby, Yeah! (And a bit of an overshare...)

[The content of this post has been approved by my husband. Because he is, ultimately, quite lovely and generous.]

I've mentioned before that my husband is the official bread-baker in our house. His baking exploits have sort of taken the backseat lately, however, because we've been busy and because, in his own words, I "yelled" at him. Now, let's clarify this for you readers: I'm not a yeller. And, honestly, I would never have expressed myself in a manner that could have even been construed by any stretch of the imagination (or wounded pride or bruised ego) as "yelling" had I known it would mean that I would be deprived of the fresh artisan bread to which I've become accustomed over the last year and a half.


We have two children under the age of two. I stay home with them - both a blessing and a curse, the latter of which I am not allowed to complain about often because, at the end of the day, it's my choice to spend this chunk of my life with them every second of every minute of every hour of every day, and I've made my bed, et cetera.


In the evenings, and on weekends, when there are two adults around to run our household and care for our littles... I find myself frustrated when my husband and I have conflicting priorities in terms of where our time and energy should be spent. More plainly: I should be in charge and he should do whatever I say and if I don't say anything he should read my mind.


So sometimes when our house is a mess and laundry isn't done and our daughter hasn't been outside to run around in several days and our son hasn't been bathed all week and I haven't had a moment alone since I can remember, for instance, when my husband opts to devote several hours of the weekend to bread-making rather than, say, cleaning, folding laundry, taking the girl to the park, giving the boy a bath, or just chilling with the kids in the family room while I go run an errand or work out or shave my legs... I might get a little ornery. I might express my dismay. I might speak in a curt tone. I might communicate in a distant-cousin-of-the-yell-type-manner.


There has been no whole wheat sandwich bread in weeks. No pugliese. No ciabatta. No pizza. No brioche. No focaccia. I think he misses baking but is holding out just to prove a point.


I can prove a point too. I can rear the children, get all the housework done, AND bake bread.*


I just can't bring home the bacon.

[humble silence]

sliced focaccia

Well, that was fun! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. So cathartic!

Now a bit about this focaccia: It's just lovely. More simple and rustic than the amazing focaccia that my husband makes (per the tutelage of Peter Reinhart), but there are trade-offs in baking and what this lacks in terms of depth and richness and volume is made up for a thousand times by being super easy and relatively quick to make. Which is good for me because one of the reasons I am not the bread-baker in the household is that I am not especially patient in the kitchen. (I am reluctant to let time do the work because I don't trust time. I'm a bit of a control freak, you see. (See above.)) It's also just-plain-and-simple tasty. I mean, it's homemade bread. Yum.

As far as toppings go, the possibilities are endless. I made a grape focaccia, with halved black grapes, a dried bouquet garni spice blend, and a heavy dose of flaky salt, inspired by this one. It was everything I'd hoped for and more, but I can't wait to make it again and try more traditional toppings or maybe even go the thick-crust pizza route.

Grape focaccia collageplated focaccia close-up

Please go do the same. You'll impress yourself and your friends.

Easy-Peasy Whole Grain Focaccia
Adapted from Good to the Grain
Yield: Three 9"-flatbreads; about 12 "side" servings or 4-6 pizza servings total

About 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided, to oil bowl and pans
1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast [or 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast]
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 cups kamut, spelt, or whole wheat bread flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons table salt (or 1 tablespoon kosher salt)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

Lightly coat a large mixing bowl with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil and set it aside.

[If you are using active dry yeast, mix it with the warm water and honey in a small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside, allowing yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes, until it bubbles. This is not necessary with instant yeast. Whisk flours and salt together in mixing bowl and then add the yeast-water-honey mixture before using electric mixer; then proceed with recipe as written below.]

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, instant yeast, and salt. Add the warm water, honey, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Using your electric mixer, beat on low-medium speed until everything is combined. Swap in your kneading attachment and knead on medium speed for about 3-5 minutes, until a supple and elastic ball of dough forms. (Alternatively, knead by hand on a floured surface for about ten minutes.) You might need to add more flour to make it less tacky, one tablespoon at a time. I did not need to.

For the first rise, put the dough into the oiled bowl, turning it so that the dough is coated with oil. Cover with a towel and leave for about two hours, until doubled in bulk.

After initial rise, generously oil three 9-inch round pans with olive oil. (About one teaspoon per pan will do.) Cut the ball of dough into three equal pieces and gently, slowly stretch each piece with your hands to fill the baking pans. (You could just make one portion at this point and cover the remaining dough tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for a few days. Pull it out of the fridge about two hours before you want to eat it, allow it to come to room temp, stretch it into oiled pans, let it rise a second time, and then bake it. I did this and it tasted just as good three days later.) Cover the pans with a towel and leave to rise for an hour. About 20-30 minutes into the second rise, remove towel and gently dimple the focaccia with your fingers. (Or find someone with v. short fingernails to do this for you!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Once the dough has completed its second rise and is adorably puffy, drizzle each focaccia with about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle each with salt, herbs, spices, tomato sauce, cheese, and/or whatever toppings you choose.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating pan 180 degrees after 10 minutes. It will be golden brown when done and the circumference will be just barely crisped. Allow the focaccia to cool slightly before removing from the pan, slicing and serving. These were best right out of the oven but not bad the next day, microwaved for about 20 seconds.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strawberry-Wild Rice Waffles

I'm so excited to share this recipe with you! For several reasons, most of which are fairly personal and nostalgic, likely reasons you won't really care about that much. The reasons you should care about, however, are these:


damn good waffle

(2) The combination of crunchy wild rice, sweet little jam-like pockets of ooey-gooey strawberry deliciousness, and an all-around lovely, subtly-spiced waffle recipe is just perfect for summer. They'd be best eaten outside, ideally on an enormous deck, surrounded by a forest, sun shining amply through the trees, the fog having rolled away before sunrise. And you are in Aptos, of course.

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(3) The recipe makes a bunch, could easily be doubled to make an even bigger bunch, and they freeze and reheat in the toaster perfectly. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they taste even BETTER toasted because the wild rice crisps up a second time, giving the waffles what I can only describe as a wonderfully nutty quality. (Or as what I imagine "nutty" to be, at any rate, as the last time I had a nut I ended up spending my evening in an ambulance and then at HCMC with an IV of Benadryl++ in my arm. So I didn't exactly have a chance to savor the nuttiness that time.)

But you didn't really think I was going to leave you with only the relevant-to-everyone reasons, did you? Oh please. Blogs are for irrelevant ramblings, right?

Which brings me to...

(4) As a child, I was a preposterously picky eater. This is now amusing, since I eat almost anything*, and cook almost anything, and in fact love cooking, and eating, and devote a good deal of my time to documenting such cooking and eating. (Thanks for playing!) At any rate, one of the handful of foods I consistently ate as a child was Eggo waffles. I LOVED Eggos. Especially the blueberry or strawberry ones. With a sick (but delicious) amount of butter and Aunt Jemima syrup on top. And probably a banana. I used to buy various organic versions of frozen waffles trying to fill the void that the absence of Eggos from my life created, but they just aren't the same. In fact, I think they're kind of gross and they never crisp up well. So anyway, at the risk of totally putting you off ever making these, I have to share with an embarrassing amount of glee that these have a flavor profile that is uncannily reminiscent of strawberry Eggos. YES. SHUT. UP. HOMEMADE EGGOS.

(5) Finally, when my husband and I were first deciding that we were in love and whatever, we took a mini-break up to the north shore. While we did not stay at the Blue Fin Bay Inn, we did have breakfast there one morning. I got a cinnamon-wild rice waffle and it was like the best waffle I'd ever had - even better than the Eggos of my youth. I was relatively new to Minnesota at the time and thought I'd run into wild rice waffles and pancakes everywhere after that little trip. Alas, they're not everywhere, and I go out to breakfast a lot, so I would know. So after seven years of fruitless searching, I took matters into my own hands and, with the help of the google machine, made a variation that I think is even more awesome.

Waffle collageplated <span class=

You should give them a go. They will make you think of all kinds of good things, like childhood breakfasts and falling in love as you humbly gaze at Lake Superior. (Ah, shucks...)

Strawberry-Wild Rice Waffles
Yield: 8 waffles (or two 2X2 waffles on my waffle iron anyway); about 4 servings

1/2 cup all-purpose
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 3/4 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup fresh strawberries, halved and sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, mix all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, wild rice, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until combined. Gently stir in strawberries.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, eggs and melted butter. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and stir until combined. (This batter can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated. If it thickens up too much, just add milk or water, one tablespoon at a time, until you get yourself a manageable consistency.)

Ladle batter onto preheated greased waffle iron. Cook waffles until browned and slightly crisp. Ready waffles may be kept in 200-degree oven while the rest are cooked. Serve hot with maple syrup and more butter.

These can be frozen like so: Allow to cool fully on rack. Wrap individual waffles in parchment paper or aluminum foil, place in freezer bag. Reheat in toaster as you would an Eggo.

* I still don't like horseradish, mustard, wasabi, goat cheese, lamb, Italian (a/k/a flat-leaf) parsley, turnips, pepperoncinis, or, quite generally, condiments. And what's the deal with buffalo wings? Or anything buffalo'd, for that matter. Ugh.