Category Archives: main

Curried raw kale, roasted red pepper, and spelt salad

It’s spring here, so I’ve been enjoying my life here in Sydney by refinishing furniture (as pictured here),

replanting seeds, and getting up to my usual shenanigans in the kitchen. This curried salad is from one of my CSA box experiments, and uses up some of the first signs of summer’s impending heat in the form of a roasted red pepper and some beautiful curly kale. I can’t wait until I have enough of my own produce to try a version of this from our balcony garden.

Curried raw kale, roasted red pepper, and spelt salad

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Filed under almonds, experiments, local, main, quick meals, raisins, salad, seasonal, side, spelt, vegan, vegetarian

Carrot and arugula risotto with roasted walnuts

Forgive the picture, but when I cook at night, the photos just don’t turn out as well as I’d like. If we were going to be here for more than a year, I’d build myself a light box or something. But for now? I’ll just tell you that this dish is worth trying, and prettier than you might think.

It’s a springtime risotto, and a weeknight take on a dish we had in NYC during restaurant week at the DB Bistro.  That version was also a risotto, and also used a sort of arugula pesto (as far as I could tell) to make the dish a vibrant green color.  Its sweetness was from butternut squash, which was appropriate for January but not quite right somehow for the start of spring.  So I improvised: I sweetened some chicken broth with a bunch of carrots and used that as the base for the dish.

This isn’t a recipe so much as a formula. I find risotto pretty easy for a weeknight meal, especially when we’re short on ingredients.  Yes, there is stirring involved, but not as much as you think … Just don’t turn up the heat too much.

** I’m on vacation at the moment, and wrote this post before I left.  Be back at the end of May with more about my trip! **

Recipe after the jump.

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Filed under carrots, main, rice, vegetarian-friendly

Adventures in curry leaves

I don’t care what anyone says about tofu’s versatility. It has nothing on the lowly potato.  Fry them, roast them, coat them in a slick of olive oil with salt and pepper, and you have dinner. Ok, maybe not the most balanced dinner, but let a girl dream once in a while. If you want something green, broccoli, potato, and sharp cheddar cheese is even tasty if you do get lazy and make everything in a microwave. Not that we own a microwave.*

If you haven’t gathered this already, I will never tire of potatoes.

But I thought I had tried pretty much every variation I could think of, until I came across this recipe from 50 great curries of India, by Camellia Panjabi.  These potatoes are boiled, and then tossed in hot oil with some turmeric, mustard seeds, lentils, chile powder, and curry leaves.  The curry leaves are reminiscent of garam masala, but more vibrant somehow, and they transfer their frangrance to the potatoes far more thoroughly than I would have expected from a quick toss in a pot.

The end result? The most addicting, exotic homefries you will ever taste.  Hot or cold, this dish is both simple and impressive, and goes quite well with any sort of curry.  Or you could just eat them for dinner as is.

The only catch, really, is finding a source of fresh curry leaves.  Around here, the only place I’ve ever seen them is the Asian market in M&M farms, which seems to get boxes of them in sporadically.  Luckily, they freeze well, so stock up.

*For the record, we killed ours. It is resting peacefully in the basement, along with all our other broken stuff that I loathe to get rid of when we finally get out of this city for good.

Recipe after the jump.

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Filed under main, potatoes, side, vegan, vegetarian

Spicy red lentil soup

Today, I took a little holiday. I read a book — like I used to do when I was a kid, back when the best thing about our house was the bookshelves brimming with all sorts of wonderful new worlds, ideas, escapes. The book was fantastic; I highly recommend it.  Greg Mortenson’s work made me realize that the one thing I can do with all this education is figure out how to pass it on to those who might not have the opportunities I have had.  How exactly I’m going to do this, I’m not quite sure — I suppose it’s something to think about over the next year, as I finish up my work here.

Dinner was simple and easy — fitting for the laziness of the day. I just threw a couple of chopped and well-rinsed leeks into a pot with a tablespoon or so of oil, sauteed until soft, and then added in 3/4 c. or so of red lentils, a tablespoon or so of berbere (I like it spicy), and sauteed for a bit.  A cup of chicken stock (vegetable stock or water would work, too), a cup of water, a 14 oz. can of spicy cherry tomatoes (regular tomatoes would be fine), a spoonful of labneh (a Turkish yogurt cheese — use greek yogurt as a substitute, or nothing at all; the soup will still be good), a quick stir, and a low simmer for 10 minutes or so was all this soup required.  I didn’t bother garnishing mine, but you can throw a teaspoon of yogurt and some scallions or a bit of chopped parsley on top for a pretty effect.

Now, I’m off to fill detectors. Even on lazy days, work is never complete…

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Filed under Ethiopian, leeks, lentils, main, stories, tomatoes, vegetarian-friendly

Fish stew with garlic aioli

I’m a little late with a post tonight. We spent today spring cleaning, even if our last snow storm was only last week.  It was warm, finally, and oh, how I have missed fresh air and a little bit of sun!  Now that things are starting to get a bit more orderly around here, maybe we’ll get around to throwing a little party — a soup party, to be exact.

James and I have been obsessed with bouillabaisse ever since we had our first taste, courtesy of a friend of my dad’s.  But it took us about a year and a half to get around to making our first pot.  And no wonder — it seems like liquid gold to poor grad students, as bouillabaisse is better with a variety of white-fleshed fish and shell fish.  But even if you only have a few different kinds of fish, it’s still worth the effort.  And it’s a good way to make a scant portion of fish seem extravagant.

This version is adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 2. It’s a bourride, which is a garlicy fish stew, quite like bouillabaisse, but with a pungent aioli to finish things off.  Like my dad’s friend, I add habañeros so everyone can adjust the spiciness of their soup to taste.

Recipe after the jump.

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Filed under eggs, fish, garlic, main, shrimp, soup, Uncategorized, wine

I’m FINISHED!

With the thesis, anyway. And I am totally celebrating with chocolate chip cookies and a bottle of Malbec.  Its a welcome change from Milky Ways and coffee, which I really don’t recommend for a balanced diet.  But I do have something that might just save dinner on those nights when you really don’t want to cook.  It involves *packages* (shudder). Three of them.  And you know what? I’m not ashamed. This is one mighty fine boxed meal.

All you need is a box of Trader Joe’s white cheddar mac and cheese (or any mac and cheese, as long as it is not orange.  I have nothing against Kraft; If you subsist off dollar stores or live in the dorm, it has its place.  But in this dish? It’s just not right somehow — you’ll see why in a second).  Next, you need some frozen spinach — maybe a cup or two, depending on your veggie craving.  And finally? Smoked trout in a tin.  Or smoked fish of any sort, as long as it’s cheap and not super salty. Actually, even tuna will work, but it won’t taste quite as upscale.  (But will certainly not mesh with the orange.  See what I mean?)  If you have a bit of gruyere or cheddar, you can grate that and mix it in, but this is totally optional.

Cook the mac and cheese according to the packet directions, mix in spinach and fish, heat, and serve.  That’s dinner in less time than it takes to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru, and it is TASTY. Seriously.  And at $3 a (huge) portion, I really can’t do much better.

Anyway, I’ll be back to normal soon, and so will this site. I’m kind of in a bread baking mood, as a matter of fact …

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Filed under main, quick meals

A first attempt at Ethiopian food

As much as I dread winter, I tend to do my best cooking then, when the warmth of the oven is welcoming, and work keeps my fingers warm and occupied in the long months before spring arrives and frees me from the cold.  When a snowstorm hits, and all the town is back from scavenging like madmen for food to sustain them through the long hours before the streets are cleared, I tend to choose something warm and spicy and new to spend an afternoon making.  On such days, I don’t mind grinding a thousand spices by hand, or trying out something that just might work, if only I give it a try.

These afternoons are more fun when I don’t have everything I think I need.  When I’m missing a few ingredients, I’m forced to improvise, to think about what each ingredient does to the dish, and to figure out how to achieve the same effect with what I have at hand.  I get to have taste tests, and run around the kitchen, searching for some forgotten spice or obscure ingredient that all of a sudden seems essential to the finished dish.  These eureka moments are quick and satisfying, unlike science, and that, perhaps, is why such experiments are so frequent in our household.  James and I both come home after a long struggle with some obscure problem or another, and create new ones: ones we can discard or change as we see fit, with only the judgement of our tastebuds to concern ourselves with.

This meal is the outcome of one such experiment, and was my first attempt at cooking Ethiopian food at home.  An impending snowstorm cut my shopping trip short, so I made do with the ingredients I had at hand, and was mostly happy with the results.  My mock injera was a semi-disaster (though edible enough), so I won’t share the recipe here, but the chicken stew (doro wett) was spicy and complex, without being overwhelming, and the cabbage dish was sweet and subtle.  The pair complemented each other surprisingly well, balancing sweet and spicy, rich and wholesome.  Both are worth trying out, especially if you’re craving hearty winter fare like I am.  And yes, you can skip the berbere. It won’t be quite the same, but I think the stew and cabbage will be satisfying nonetheless.

Recipes after the jump.

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Filed under cabbage, chicken, chili, comfort, Ethiopian, lentils, main, onions, soup, squash, stew, Uncategorized