Monday, August 30, 2010
A little while ago, I was reminiscing about our time in the Netherlands with our Dutch friends, Gaby and Ron. We'd met them while staying at their flat in Amsterdam, and they took it upon themselves to gift us with a drive through Northern Holland one fine afternoon. We spent the day picnicking by tulip fields, having poffertjes (mini Dutch pancakes) and looking for hidden treasures of vintage furniture in 'Rommel Paradises', which is basically the name for overpriced antique shops in the countryside (I still keep calling it 'Rommel's Paradise' by mistake, which makes Husband snicker at the idea of the Nazi officer taking in the country air while antiquing.)
Somewhere in this 3 day span of knowing Gaby and Ron, I'd gotten it into my head that we were dear friends. I'd conveniently forgotten that much of our time spent together was in silence, given the language barrier, the age gap and the general differences in lifestyle. It's safe to say that crickets were heard chirping in both Dutch and English during those long silences. Anyways, I'd sent them updates about our wedding, thinking they cared, and had imagined apartment shares where they'd come stay with us and we'd go stay with them and when our babies were born, we'd send them pictures and a lifelong friendship had been built. So I'd mentioned them fondly again a few weeks ago when Husband broke my illusion by saying "I didn't think they actually liked us that much. I think they thought we were boring."
I was crushed. Boring? Us? Our identity as a couple was thrown into immediate crisis. How could we be boring? We love doing stuff! Husband is hilarious! And I'm delightful...? But all this came into rather serious doubt. Maybe being boring is like being crazy; everyone but you knows it.
I started to think about us as a couple. We do like sitting out on our back deck having beers and talking, or eating at home, preferably in front of a movie or TV on DVD. But we don't like going out to bars, cafes, house parties, concerts, theatre productions, art shows, street fairs or anywhere with crowds or a disproportionate number of hipsters and ironically fashion clad youth. We do like hanging out with other couples or friends one-on-one, but we also start to get tired, fussy and ready for bed at about 10pm. On our honeymoon, we'd spent lots of time mooning over each other, yes, but we'd also spent a considerable amount of time trying to complete jigsaw puzzles and listening to old time radio like 'Fibber McGee and Molly' on the computer.
So it's official then. We're either exceptionally boring, old-before-their-time thirtysomethings, or we're exceptionally youthful, attractive and fun octogenarians.
But it's okay. You know, once you fully embrace the facts, once the light of truth has shone in your eyes, a certain level of acceptance overtakes you. Like, so what if we're boring to other people? We have so much fun together! Like when Husband bought us Yahtzee yesterday;
And I, suffering from a very bad cold, got that very bad cold very drunk on wine and we listened to Bobby Bland and Sam Cooke and played a high-stakes, competitive round. Yahtzee, it seems, brings out my reckless streak, and I threw down boldly, brashly with the devil in the dice. We played until dinnertime, both of us excited for dessert because we'd bought two NEW flavours of ice cream to try. I mean, I ask you. Would a boring couple do all this?
For my dinner, I'd decided to make pasta with a zesty tomato sauce based loosely on a puttanesca. I excitingly chopped up some tomatoes:
I'd daringly cut up a red chili and some green onion and added them all in a bowl:
Thrillingly, I'd cut up some green and black olives and some white onion and softened them in some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, though next time, I'd use red wine instead:
Then, with a spectacular vigor, I combined the tomato-chili-onion mixture to the olives:
And once it cooked down to the consistency I wanted, I made some pasta and poured lavish amounts of sauce on the noodles and crumbled some salty feta on top. Oh, it was so divinely good, I had to soak up all the remainders of sauce with the fresh Portuguese bread we'd bought. We watched some Friday Night Lights as we ate and I really, truly didn't care whether we were boring or predictable or a few steps away from taking up shuffleboard.
Because there's something to be said for knowing that you are going through life with someone whose company never fails to delight, challenge or comfort you. There's something grand about being able to talk to your partner about digestive issues and heartaches with equal candor and lack of embarrassment. And there's a great freedom in not caring about being 'cool' anymore, and finding pure joy in just sitting together.
Even if only to watch the grass grow.
Simple, Zesty Tomato Sauce:
6 large tomatoes, chopped
1 red chili, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 small white onion, finely chopped
a handful of green and black olives each, chopped, (about 3/4 cup total)
juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes, depending on your taste
a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Combine the chopped tomatoes, green onions and red chili in a large bowl and set aside.
2. Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil and a hearty splash of either red wine or balsamic vinegar over medium heat in a large stock pot or skillet. Add the chopped white onion and the juice of the lemon and cook till softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the mixed olives and cook for about 5 more minutes.
3. Add the tomato mixture to the olives and stir till well combined. Add the red pepper flakes, some salt and fresh ground pepper and cook down till a sauce-like consistency, about 20-30 minutes, over medium-low heat. Once cooked, remove from heat and add the lemon zest and chopped basil. Pour over prepared pasta and sprinkle with the crumbled feta.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Do you see this? Do you see what lengths I will go to in order to bring you some good food? This is a picture of a really great dinner I made the other night. Only I was so desperate to photograph this meal without flash, my kitchen being filled with the overcast grey light of the rainstorm occurring outside, that I decided to photograph my dinner outside, in a rainstorm. That is rain in the background, mere inches away from my plate.
Sometimes the stars just won't align. The pictures of food ingredients don't really inspire ooh's and aah's, the natural light is uncooperative, or non-existent. A charming story to attach to the recipe fails to present itself. And the blogger is impatiently hungry but refuses to settle for a sandwich or a bowl of cereal instead of making a three-step meal. So I pour myself a beer, put 'Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme' on the kitchen stereo and struggle to grasp why Garfunkle is dressed so contemporary when Simon, in his ridiculous man-blouse, looks like he's about to hold court with Louis XIV.
I cut up some extra-firm tofu, having rediscovered my love for its pale, blank adaptability, and toss it in a mixture of flour, cayenne pepper and ginger.
I quickly pan-fry it in some veg oil, sesame oil, a hearty pinch of red pepper flakes and a dash of soy sauce, till it turns out like this:
Then some carrots are shredded, a tin of peas opened and a tomato gutted and robbed of almost all likeness to a tomato. It is the only way I can contemplate eating tomatoes.
These ingredients are then pan-fried in some oil and soy sauce till softened, and taken outside into the rainstorm to be photographed. The old man sitting under his grapevine structure next door must think I'm bonkers. But really, he's the one who randomly blows a whistle hanging around his neck and then falls asleep, face first, on the picnic table in the middle of the day, so I figure the Pot really shouldn't be calling the Kettle anything.
I make some rice. A delicious sauce from a pictureless cookbook called 'Quick-fix vegetarian' that I'd bought several years ago is whizzed up in the food processor; a coconut-peanut sauce that is sweet and salty and spicy and highly addictive.
A big plate is dished up and I settle into Husband's tatty, cat-scratched armchair, where I embark on a Coronation Street marathon via CBC online. The food tastes amazing. I can hear the rain pounding on the rooftops outside; the dog and cat have hunkered down to keep me company in Husband's absence. And as I fret over why I am feeling sorry for evil murderer Tony Gordon and continue to intensely dislike Molly Dobbs, I realize I am so, so cozy and warmed from within. I'm exactly where I want to be.
Tofu And Veg With Coconut-Peanut Sauce, adapted from 'Quick-Fix Vegetarian' by Robin Robertson:
1 package of extra firm tofu, pressed of any extra liquid and cut into 1" cubes
2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp neutral flavoured oil (veg, canola)
a few drops of sesame oil
a few dashes of soy sauce
a pinch of red pepper flakes
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup of peas, fresh, canned or frozen
1 tomato, chopped
A large handful of fresh cilantro leaves, rinsed and torn
1. Put on the rice according to package instructions. Toss cubed tofu in large bowl with the flour, cayenne and ground ginger till well coated. Heat the oils, soy sauce and pepper flakes in a pan over medium heat, then shake the excess flour mix from tofu cubes and toss into the pan. Stir often and cook the cubes till browned. Set aside in large serving bowl.
2. In same pan, heat up some oil and a dash of soy sauce and quickly pan fry the carrots, peas and tomato till softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add to the tofu cubes in serving bowl. Rice now ready, put some on a plate, top with the tofu and veggies, and pour a generous serving of the Coconut Peanut sauce (recipe below) on top. Garnish with the cilantro and salt and pepper if you like. Eat immediately!
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
3 scallions, chopped (I used 2; 3 seemed excessive)
2 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
3/4 cup light unsweetened coconut milk
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1. In food processor, combine all ingredients and process till smooth, adjusting ingredients to your taste.
Friday, August 20, 2010
This is the current state of my kitchen. Maybe yours is worse and you're thinking: Lady, get a grip, it's not that bad! But this is bad for me. Because once I reach a certain level of plate piles, empty beer cans, used coffee filters and crumbs, something odd happens to me. I start accepting the mess. And once I've accepted it, I lose that sense of urgency that says I need to deal with it. Suddenly, I'm washing single items for use instead of just washing the whole lot. Next thing I know, I'm eating off of napkins and cutting boards to stave off the need for clean plates. Then, a bit later, if I'm feeling industrious, I may attempt to design new piles out of the old piles to make them look smaller and less demanding of my immediate attention. The piles will consume me, yes, but at this stage, nothing will compel me to actually get rid of them.
It's a popular idea that the state of your living space can be related to the state of your mind. My need for simplicity and fresh ideas and positivity has been buried under the hundreds of haphazardly built piles of worry; is my Dad okay? am I driving Husband crazy? is this skin irritation on my lips a flesh-eating virus? will I find a job ever/soon? And then of course there are the piles devoted to fretting over the external world woes, like the floods in Pakistan, the BP oil spill, the alarming amount of attention being spent on the 'cougar' phenomenon...
And when you've come home from your first-ever funeral, where you are but a breath away from real grief, the kind where you can practically taste the salt of all the tears shed, hear the rapid beating of saddened hearts and feel that peculiar fullness of emptiness, dishes mean even less to you.
But sometimes, even underneath the mental clutter, I'm still able to find a golden idea or two. Like this:
This is a pocket full of wonder. This is one of the simplest meals I've come up with in a long time, adding to the already abundant amount of deep fondness I feel for ready-made puff pastry sheets. This is the meal you make when there's virtually no free counter space in your kitchen and you are one straw away from the last straw. You simply clear a corner for yourself, step around the maze of cat and dog and the three pairs of shoes that have mysteriously migrated and settled under the kitchen table. Then you throw some things in a mini-chopper;
...give it a blast and end up with pesto! Then you chop up the last of the heirloom tomatoes with some green onion and let them drain a bit in a colander;
Next comes unfolding the puff pastry and cutting into 4 sections, so you can spoon some of the pesto and tomato mixture onto it;
Fold them quick, if you can, because once the pastry comes to room temperature, it's a nightmare of stickiness to get the filled triangles off the cutting board and onto the baking sheet. In fact, don't do this at all; unroll the pastry sheet on some parchment paper and save yourself a lot of bother! Once you manage this simple task, you are 15 baking minutes away from the kind of delicious meal that makes you forget your multitude of worries.
And the entirely new pile of dishes you've just made making dinner.
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed (keep refrigerated till you need it)
a handful of mixed heirloom tomatoes, or about 2 regular sized tomatoes, cut into smallish cubes
1 green onion, finely chopped
Pesto (either store-bought, or homemade; see recipe below)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Once pesto is made, and veggies are prepped, do what I didn't and unroll the puff pastry sheet on some parchment paper and cut into four pieces. Place a dollop of the pesto in the bottom half, topped with a spoonful of tomatoes on top (as in picture) Fold the top right corner over to the bottom left corner to form a pastry triangle. Do this for all four.
2. Place the triangles on a baking sheet (if you've used parchment paper, this is easy) and bake for 15 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately.
A Different Sort Of Pesto Recipe:
1/8 cup pine nuts
1/4-1/3 cup of basil leaves
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
Juice of whole lemon
1 green onion, chopped
1/4-1/3 cup feta cheese
salt, pepper to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a mini-chopper or food processor, or I suppose you could mortar and pestle it too. Pulse till well combined and on the thick side, not as runny as a traditional pesto. Adjust ingredients to your taste.
Monday, August 16, 2010
As I was going through the mental list of all the careers I've tried on for size, all the dreams, both youthful and current, ridiculous and plausible, I came across a dusty old memory, filed under the category "Warning: Blush-Inducing." So of course, I had to open it up.
It was a ritual of ours, my sister, mother and I, that every winter Olympics, we'd sit down and watch the ice dancing together after dinner. Watching with my mother was always a tense affair; she would get so entirely invested in the competitors' successes and failures, you could feel her holding her breath as they leaped backwards into their spins. Those few seconds before knowing whether they'd land those jumps or not were excruciating for her. And when they fell?
"Ohmygod! Ohmygod!" She'd verbally and physically clench. We would tease her for getting so vexed about the jumps. But she still did it, every single time.
Despite the mental toll my mother's exuberant dismay took on us, we were still bewitched by the athletic excellence we'd just seen. My sister and I would go to our rooms after the program ended and shut the doors. Both of us (and I'm sorry sister, but I'm taking you down with me) would be harbouring dreams of being one of those ice dancers with tight, sequined costumes, extreme, mask-like makeup and the kind of crazy that makes you think it's normal to do gymnastics on ice wearing the equivalent of butter knives strapped to each foot. The music would be playing in our fanciful imaginations, we'd be blinded by (make-believe) flashbulbs and the energy of the (non-existent) crowds and, caught in the moment, an attempt at a triple sow cow would be made next to our beds.
Sometimes, we'd land those (half-single sow cow) jumps. And sometimes... "CLANG!" We'd hit a limb or some extremity on the low-hanging Ikea metal lamps we had in the center of our rooms and the scarlett tidal wave of embarrassment would rush in almost immediately. Because I knew what she was doing and she knew what I was doing. Our clumsiness (and lack of ice rink, ice dancing talent or skill) had betrayed the private lunacy occurring in our heads and rooms.
Years later, my floaty, intangible wants are a bit more attainable, and with less chance of injury to my person and dignity. Things that once seemed too hard, like starting a food blog and blundering around with HTML code, are now real. I can find recipes, like the Plum Skillet Cake Only With Apples Instead, from Martha Stewart Living, and make them taste good. Here, try some for yourself:
And when I dream up a recipe based on what I have in the fridge, most times, it turns out the way I'd hoped, sometimes even better, like this corn, pepper and sausage version of Sad Bowl.
Cutting fresh corn off cobs and chopping a small pile of red and green peppers? Easy!
Frying it all in some olive oil with green onions, preparing a couple of spicy Italian sausages and cooking some whole wheat couscous to make it more filling - nothing to it. And topping it off with a maple vinaigrette that is sweetly spicy is practically child's play. The result? A delicious, if rather less than stunning (I added the peppers on top to pretty up the weird porridgey colour) meal:
The wonderful thing about getting older is that wishes can either be realized for the delusions that they are, or brought down to earth and made real. Whether my hair will ever look like I've brushed it or whether I'll ever be a working writer; whether I'll ever launch into my jewellery design business or whether I'll ever be free from the self-critical monster inside my head has yet to be seen. But I do know that wishful thinking is a luxury item anyone can and should afford. Those cobwebbed memories of childhood embarrassments are entirely worth revisiting, if only to remind you of a time when everything felt limitless and possible.
And I feel fairly certain, nay, positive, that if there had been an Olympic category for 'Synchronized Fake Ice Dancing In A Confined Space While In Separate Rooms,' my sister and I would have brought home the gold. Or at least a bronze.
Plum Skillet Cake, From Martha Stewart Living, August 2010 Issue:
4 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon (if using apples)
1/4 tsp nutmeg (if using apples)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (my addition)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 medium ripe plums, or you can use apples, berries, peaches, just about any fruit you like.
1. Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees F. Butter an 8" skillet or square cake pan and dust with flour, tapping out the excess. Slice up your plums or apples and set aside.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices if using. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed til pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
3. Pour batter into prepared skillet or pan and smooth top with spatula. Fan the plum or apple slices on the top and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown and tester toothpick/knife comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Sad Bowl # 15:
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 a red and green pepper, finely diced
2 cobs of fresh corn, shaved naked of their kernels
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2-3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 spicy Italian sausages
1 ripe avocado, cut into smallish cubes
Maple Vinaigrette (see below)
1. In a medium sized skillet, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add the veggies, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt and a hearty shake of fresh ground pepper and saute, stirring often, so they don't burn. Soften them, about 10 minutes.
2. In a separate pan, fry up the two sausages till well cooked. Slice them into half-moons and set aside.
3. Make whole wheat couscous, using about 1/2 cup dry to 1 cup of boiling water. Fluff with a fork and let cool a bit.
4. Assemble everything in a bowl and once it's all cooled down a bit, add the dressing and avocado, stir till well combined and eat immediately.
Maple Vinaigrette, inspired by Martha:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
a small pinch of cayenne, approx. 1/8 tsp
1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder
Directions: Assemble all ingredients in a small glass or jar and whisk till well combined. Taste and adjust ingredients to your taste.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Okay. Seriously. I have not gone off blogging, I swear. In fact, I really missed sharing food with you. This last absence from posting was totally not my fault. I'm not even sure who to blame. Our 1997 Jetta with 'Party Mix' patterned seats, or the shyster who sold Husband a faulty vehicle.
There we were, Husband and I, driving back to the city from our long weekend in Sauble Beach. Sauble Beach, with all its humble charms, is my version of heaven on earth. Yes, I know. There are hundreds of gorgeous European towns or tropical islands that could fight Sauble and easily win the title of "Paradise" in the hearts and minds of most folks. But Sauble Beach has always been that place that slows me way down and gets me quiet and still inside; that place where even the most everyday sort of experience gets honeyed. A box of fresh, hot fries from Dobson's, where Husband used to work as a surly, noodly pre-teen. The dense sound of crickets at night, as numerous as the stars visible in the night skies draped over all those pitch black country roads and majestic pines. The endless stretches of beach that almost entice a non-swimmer like me to play in the water like a kid. And the feel of sand under my feet.
Apparently though, the magic of the Beach has rather limited boundaries. Once outside the perimeters of Paradise, the simple traveller is entirely vulnerable to the cruel hands of Fate, who obviously drives a much higher status vehicle than our lowly VW Jetta. Because it was in Owen Sound that the transmission took its last stand against Husband's gentle and then not-so gentle cajoling and refused to switch gears as we tried to ascend a rather steep hill. The car rolled backwards. "EEEEeep!" I screeched, digging my nails into poor Husband's arm. He fought the stubborn transmission one more time, and again, we rolled backwards, down the hill. I nearly peed myself. Husband, much calmer than me, or in a weird state of calm rage, manoeuvred us into someone's driveway, where we sat, and let life's unfairness wash over us.
I am not as good as I thought in a crisis. In fact, I was embarrassingly helpless in this crisis. Thankfully, Husband's lovely family stepped in and rescued us with various acts of simple yet deeply felt acts of kindness. And I learned that, for one, don't underestimate the cliches of used car salesmen. I'm sure there are loads of really decent, honest ones out there, but for every one of them, there are, I fear, schools of corrupted dealers who couldn't care less about you once the cheque is written. I also learned not to underestimate the importance of family, because they are there when Luck and Good Fortune go out for a pack of smokes and take a long time coming home.
Barring car trouble, we did have a lovely stay in the country. We lazed on the beach. We read and played Yahtzee a lot. We took a few long walks with the dog. We did some shopping at local food stands, buying potatoes, green beans, eggs, green onions, peppers, vegetables with the soil and roots still attached. We ate and ate and then ate some more of these:
Husband's father had told us that the cookie-making factory, the one that makes the really good Speculaas cookies, had burned down. And there were no more being made until a new factory was built. So we stockpiled. And ate them accordingly, only to find out a few days later that the new factory had in fact already been built, and our gluttony was in vain. I think if I'm to have any fondness for Speculaas cookies ever again, I must take a break from their spicy, crumbly, crispy goodness.
We'd picked up some fresh sweet corn from a roadside stand, so I knew I wanted to do something with it. I had also been delighting in the photos of heirloom tomatoes in my Eating Well magazine, so when we finally got back to the city, I went out and bought some, and photographed their gorgeous little guts. I think I even had an American Beauty 'plastic bag' moment with these brightly coloured gems. They were so beautiful, I almost couldn't stand it.
When I was cutting the corn off the cobs to pan fry them with some green onion, I tried valiantly to pluck every last strand of corn silk off the kernels until I realized the ridiculousness of what I was doing. Is the editor of Bon Appetit coming over to sample my pie? Is anyone but me going to be picking corn silk out of their teeth?
So I stopped.
I whipped up the custard-like filling and after pre-baking the crust, layered the ingredients and poured the custard over top. It baked up perfectly, although it's still a slog trying to make a light, buttery pastry, so the crust was just the tiniest bit too crusty. But it tasted wonderful. The tomatoes were slightly tart, the corn just sweet enough and I was surprised at how little salt it needed! A chronic over-salter, I reigned myself in this time and it was just perfect.
With Husband's chemical accident, the car bellying up, and the various other little irritations and insanities I have no control over carving chips into my shoulders, it's so lovely and restorative to get back to my kitchen, where I am the reigning monarch. In my domain, wonderful food accidents and mistakes and triumphs mingle with solitude, thoughts, sunlight. Lemons, both real and metaphorical are turned into lemonade. And I imagine that somewhere out there, that corrupt used car salesman will sit next to Bad Luck and Misfortune, and get paid his dues.
Tomato-Corn Tart, inspired by/adapted from Eating Well Magazine, August 2010:
3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I only had regular whole wheat flour, so that's what I used)
3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
5 tbsp cold water
1. Combine flours, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, add the oil and water and gradually stir them together to form a soft dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for 15 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 350/400 degrees F, depending on your oven. Roll the dough into a 12 inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer (they make this sound easy) to a 9 inch pie pan, preferably deep-dish, and press into bottom and up sides. Line the dough with parchment paper large enough to lift out easily and fill evenly with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment paper and let cool for at least 15 minutes, or up to 1 hour.
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk (I had this on hand, but you can use regular milk)
1/3 cup goat cheese (the recipe calls for sharp cheddar, so whatever you prefer)
a hearty pinch of dried basil
a hearty pinch of dried oregano
1-2 cobs of corn, kernels shaved off
1 large green onion
2 medium tomatoes, or an assortment of heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
1. In a blender, combine the eggs, buttermilk and goat cheese, dried basil and oregano. Pulse till well combined and set aside.
2. Heat some olive oil in a skillet and saute the corn and green onion over medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. You just want to soften them a bit.
3. Pour the corn-onion mixture over the crust bottom. Pour in the custard filling and layer the tomatoes over top (there may be some extra liquid left over) Take a small pinch of coarse salt and sprinkle it over the unbaked pie; there's not much salt in this recipe, so you can indulge in a few lovely grains of it with each bite.
4. Bake the pie for about 40-50 minutes, or until the custard has set. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Recently, I came across the now-vintage Better Homes And Gardens cookbook that my mom used all the time when entertaining. It had this picture on the back, illustrating two different sorts of hostesses. My sister and I used to look at it and ponder which sort of hostess we would be, based on whose outfit and kitchen we liked better.
"An organized hostess who is prepared when guests arrive."
Look at her. She's a vision. Cocktails ready to go, salad being gently tossed for equal distribution of vegetables per serving, immaculate kitchen. How she can even stand upright with that tiny waist is a miracle. And that calm, almost smug smile on her face, because she knows her husband Paul has picked up the laundry and probably some fresh flowers for her, because he's that kind of guy, and her son has rehearsed 'Au Claire Du La Lune' on his recorder so she can delight her guests with the accomplished and musical child she's reared. She's not even bothered that Jennifer, whose husband is taking her on a deluxe fall cruise for their anniversary and won't let anyone forget it, is coming. Even though Paul hasn't taken her anywhere for the last 5 years except on a rather long car ride to Buffalo to visit his old college friend, Roger, where he got exceptionally drunk and confessed to having had an affair with her sister.
And then there's Exhibit B:
"An unorganized hostess who should have done some planning."
I want to reach into this picture and move that tendril out of her face because it's probably annoying her. Look at her. She has what appears to be empty toilet paper rolls in her hair and the cat is probably driving her mad because it wants to be fed or just took a big poop and won't leave her alone and she's one step away from hitting it with the saucepan but she's counting to ten. And she's wondering if she should bother finishing with that pie crust she's rolling out, or if she should just feign a migraine, cancel the dinner party and crack open the Merlot and call Paul, even though she knows damn well he's never going to leave her sister.
As someone who is often incapable of making a meal in under 30 minutes due to kitchen dawdling, and as a cat owner frequently counting to ten, I've always felt an affinity with the disorganized hostess.
I'm willing to bet she'd take an inordinate amount of time cutting up and arranging the tofu cubes in pleasing checkerboard patterns.
Or snapping herself rinsing canned peas, even though the recipe calls for fresh shelled...
And then there was the whole 'measuring cumin seeds' thing; she'd get sidetracked by that, for sure.
And as a side note, can I get a 'Hallelujah' for finally, after 4 grocery stores and 10 fruit and veg markets, on an all too blisteringly hot day to be biking down to Roncesvalles, finding these farking chilies?
Disorganized Hostess and I would put everything together and let it simmer in the pan. We'd start to notice the time elapsing and panic a bit...
And when our friend came over for dinner, we'd wash a ball of cilantro for the garnish and wipe the sweat from our brows...
And we'd marvel, her and I, at the miracle of getting a meal together before company arrived. And not because we'd mise en place-ed, but because knowing ourselves like we do, we'd started preparing this meal a good three hours before our friends' arrival.
An organized hostess would never try out a new recipe on a friend. But, with me not being an organized hostess, I did. And while this curry was tasty, I'm sure, I couldn't actually tell since my insides were burning because of that one searingly hot Serrano chili pepper, seeds and all, that had been simmering in the pan, dispersing its volcanically hot heat among the tomatoes and peas. Our eyes watered, our noses ran, and the dollops of cooling yogurt got bigger and heartier in our bowls.
An organized hostess might call the inflaming of internal organs due to an overly spicy curry an unmitigated disaster and go to bed with an intense personal shame. But I, being who I am, would prefer to take an antacid, wrap my hair in empty toilet paper rolls and dream about that deluxe fall cruise instead.
Paneer/Tofu Curry With Peas, from Bon Appetit magazine, April 2010 issue:
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 pound paneer or firm tofu, cut into 3/4 - 1 inch cubes
5 tbsp ghee (I used olive oil)
1 large onion, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp minced, peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp ground coriander
1 Serrano chili, minced with seeds (Seriously, either halve the chili amount or take out the seeds)
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes with added puree (I used about 1/3 cup tomato paste)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas or frozen
1 tsp garam masala
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Steamed basmati rice
1. Place flour in medium bowl. Add paneer or tofu and toss to lightly coat with flour. Heat 2 tbsp of the ghee or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, shake the excess flour from the paneer/tofu and cook till browning in spots, turning occasionally, about 4-8 minutes. Transfer to plate and set aside.
2. Place onion pieces in a food processor and pulse till finely chopped but not watery. Heat the remaining 3 tbsp ghee or oil in the same skillet as before, over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook for 1 minute, stirring often. Add the chopped onion and cook till it begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the minced ginger, garlic, ground coriander and minced Serrano chili with seeds (I warn you!) and stir for 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes with the puree, 1/2 cup water and turmeric; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally; about 15 minutes.
3. Add the peas and the cooked paneer/tofu; gently fold to incorporate and cook over medium-low heat, till peas are tender and the paneer/tofu is warmed through. Fold in the garam masala and the cilantro, season with salt and pepper and serve with the basmati rice.
Forgive me, readers, it's been almost a week since my last blog post.
Husband had a nasty work accident on Friday, whereby he got harsh chemicals splashed in his face, specifically his eye. (As someone who is extremely squeamish about eye-related things, I won't go into specifics, in case you are squeamish too.) Anyways, due to his injuries, we've been hanging out at home, reading, sitting on our deck till all hours with friends and burgers and beers, and I've totally fallen off the cooking wagon.
In this unplanned time off from the blog, I've thought long and hard about what direction I want to take it. And I've come to the conclusion that I'd like to incorporate a little more food and a little less 'me' in my posts. I'm fascinating and all, but it's occured to me that I'm awfully long-winded about things and maybe I should work on my brevity, my getting to the point quicker. I think this will help me post more frequently too.
So I've got some recipes bookmarked for this week, and now I'm off to have a beer and catch up on some Coronation street; a simple recipe for contentment.