May 15th, 2012
I’m reaching my hand out to you. Did you grab it?
Let’s hold hands and tread lightly together into the scary world of tofu.
I know some of you might be thinking….tofu, yuck.
And I get it. I was there. But, it would be a shame if the tofu in this dish scared you off, because it’s really really delicious.
What is tofu exactly? Here is what I found out about this tasty little treat;
Tofu is a food made by coagulating soymilk and then pressing the curds into soft white blocks. (OK, stick with me…..deep breath). It is a component in many East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines. Tofu has a subtle flavor and can be used in savory and sweet dishes. It is often seasoned or marinated to suit the dish. Tofu originated in ancient China and was introduced to Korea and then to Japan and also spread into other parts of East Asia as well. It is an important source of protein in the vegetarian diet of East Asian Buddhism. Tofu has a low calorie count, high in protein, and little fat.
Well, thumbs up to that!
My good friend Casandra was the one who first introduced me to tofu a few years ago. We were ordering Thai food for lunch one day and I probably ordered my usual Thai basil chicken and she ordered spicy fried tofu.
I was thinking to myself…ew….tofu, really? You have so many yummy meat choices and you want to eat a meat substitute? Not me.
I can eat a bag of edamame myself in about 5 minutes (when it’s sufficiently salted) because I love it, so I don’t know why I was so hesitant about tofu.
I think I was judging it because I was thinking it was merely a meat substitute, and not even considering that it may actually taste good. Casandra asked me to “just try it” so I did, reluctantly.
The first bite was…….well, weird, texture-wise. That was only because I had never had it before…but then, WOW! It was good! So flavorful. This particular tofu (like the tofu in this dish) was cut into squares. It was fried crispy on the outside and it was soft in the middle. It was fresh and had sort of an earthy-beany flavor…and I liked it! Especially in the spicy sauce it was cooked in.
I was very surprised. In an instant, my whole attitude about tofu changed. Maybe people eat this stuff because they actually like it.
Did I just hear a collective “Duh” from those of you who do eat it? I think I did. Why was I judging this poor healthy, good-for-me tofu when I had never even tried it? Maybe it was the funny name.
Speaking of its name, just in case you’re interested, the English word “tofu” comes from the Japanese tofu, which itself derives from the Chinese dòufu or bean + curdled. The American-English term “bean curd(s)” for tofu has been used since at least 1840. This does not apply to the United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand; only the United States.
Anyway, I think mostly it was because I had it in my head that it was a meat “substitute” and I didn’t like that idea for some reason. I don’t eat much meat on a daily basis, but I’m not a vegetarian. So me making tofu really is about taste and choosing a healthy option. I also love it because it’s filling (like meat would be if it were in this dish), but it’s also light and fluffy and goes so well with the rice.
Oh my God, the rice!
I got so wrapped up in pushing the tofu on you that I almost forgot all about the rice. This rice is out of this world good. I mean seriously, it’s crazy good. If I didn’t win you over with the tofu, at least please try this rice. Go ahead and make it with your chicken-of-the-week, if you must. I won’t judge.
The rice is cooked in coconut milk (WOW!) and then you add the toasty spices and fresh lime zest. I added lots more lime zest to my bowl because I just love that zing it gives it.
And I went all out and used regular coconut milk, not the light version. I have to go all out the first time I try new things, then maybe cut back on the fat. But this was so good, I don’t think I’ll be cutting back next time either.
The combination of the spicy tofu, crispy and light, with the coconut lime-y rice is killer. My friend Megan at work told me how good this is so I had to try it. Thanks, Megan!
I really love this dish and I know you will too if you’d just give it half a chance. Thank you, and I’m done being pushy…….for now.
SPICY STIR-FRIED TOFU with COCONUT RICE
Inspired by Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone via Megan Vendehey
For the Rice
Makes about 4 cups cooked rice
1 3/4 cups basmati rice
4 teaspoon peanut oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste
1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk
½ teaspoon lime zest
For the Tofu
1 package extra firm tofu
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (more if you want it on the hot side)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 scallions, including half of the greens, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Gently wash the rice in a bowl, soak for 30 minutes, then drain. Warm the oil in a 3-quart saucepan with the onion, ginger, garlic, and turmeric. Cook over medium-low heat for 8 minutes, then add the rice and 1.5 tsp. salt. Stir to coat the grains, then add the coconut milk, 2 cups water, and the lime zest.
Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover and cook until the rice is done (about 15 minutes), stirring twice during cooking. Turn off the heat and set it aside while you prepare the tofu. It will look a little wet at first, but the liquid will be absorbed by the time you’re ready.
Drain the tofu, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Combine the spices, salt, and the sugar in a bowl, add the tofu, and toss gently with a rubber spatula. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet, add the tofu, and stir-fry until crispy and golden, about 5-7 minutes.
*Make sure you let them crisp up on one side before tossing them over*
Add the scallions and cook just until they’re wilted, then add the lime juice. Serve the tofu on the rice, garnish with the cilantro.
I added a bunch more lime zest to mine because it was SO GOOD with the coconut.
Also, this doesn’t come out very spicy (hot-spicy) so if you’re into that sort of thing like I am, I would add some more cayenne. I did.
February 23rd, 2012
I had you at bacon.
So, what’s up with calling them deviled?
If we’re going to bring the devil into this, shouldn’t they be called the devil’s eggs? As in sinfully delicious?
Or maybe devil is a verb in this case. Did I somehow devil them, making them deviled?
Can I devil anything?
If so, I can think of a few things that I’d like to devil. Such as my yippy yappy Maltese pup who barks all day long at the same squirrels running around the backyard, driving me nuts. Yes, he could use some deviling.
I’d also like to devil the person who cuts into the express lane in front of me at the last minute after the rest of us have been waiting our turn for over an hour. Oh, do I want to devil him.
And in a heartbeat I’d devil the person who decided that instead of a real person answering my call, a computer will pick up whenever I call AT&T (insert any company) and make me go through an entire menu of number punching while foolishly answering questions aloud when all I want to do is speak to a REAL PERSON! Yes, that one should be deviled immediately.
But I did a little investigating and apparently the word deviled does not refer to anything violent (dang it).
It refers to spiciness.
OK, I get it. Like Shrimp Diablo (diablo meaning devil in Spanish), which is a spicy dish.
So devil = spicy.
Is that because he lives in a hot place? The deviled eggs I grew up eating at parties and picnics were never spicy. Unless we’re talking about that light dusting of paprika on top. If that is the heat of the devil himself then he’s pretty lame. Not exactly the fire and brimstone I was imagining.
I guess I should not be calling these eggs deviled because they are not the least bit spicy. Actually, next time I think I might add a little bit of the devil to them because he seems to always be good for me, in a spicy sort of way.
So I saw these eggs in a recent issue of Bon Appétit and they looked so good that I had to make them.
When was the last time you had a deviled egg?
I never think to make them because in my brain they are a 70’s appetizer, right along with pigs-in-a-blanket, rumaki and French onion dip with Lay’s potato chips. And I don’t mean this as a negative thing. They’re all equally delicious. I mean, c’mon. If I put a bowl of French onion dip (with real sour cream) and a big bag of Lay’s potato chips in front of you, would you be able to stop? I wouldn’t. And that’s why I don’t come anywhere near that stuff.
God do I miss not having a care in the world while downing 72,000 calories of chips and dip while watching Blue Lagoon when I was 11. Sigh.
But appetizers have come a long way in the last 30+ years and there are so many recipes that I want to try, that I never think to go back to the past for some plain old deviled eggs. Until now. And that’s really unfortunate because they are really really good.
What I love about deviled eggs is that they are so simple to make, they look pretty and they really are delicious!
We put the yolk mix into a freezer bag, cut off one corner of it and made some fancy designs by squeezing it into the cute little white cups. Hadley loved this part and wanted to fill them all herself. I love when helping in the kitchen doubles as art.
If you want to actually add some devil to these (I will next time) I’d add a few shakes of cayenne pepper to the yolks when you whip them up.
Hadley and I made them a few weeks ago for a dinner party we were having. Our good friend Casandra and her baby Boopsy (that’s what we call her) came over and we made this for dinner. Casandra brought over her pasta guitar (so cool!) and we made homemade pasta! Boopsey rolled the dough! Isn’t she gorgeous?
But, we forgot all about an appetizer. I always have bacon and eggs in the house, so we whipped them up in about a 1/2 hour. We could hardly wait to devour them. The creaminess of the yolks mixed with the smoky bacon and a bite of scallion…mmmmm…..every bite was devilishly delicoius.
And here is the secret to these eggs being so good; you whip some bacon fat right into the yolks. WOW! Sneaky, right? This gives every bite that smoky bacon flavor. I love the combination of bacon and eggs.
Just wanted to put a little bit of the devil back on your radar.
Bacon Devlied Eggs
Inspired by Bon Appétit, February 2012
12 large eggs
3 slices of bacon
2 tbsp melted butter
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 heaping tbsp chopped scallions + garnish
Freshly ground pepper
Place eggs in a large saucepan; add water to cover by 1”. Bring to a boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes. Drain. Transfer eggs to bowl of ice water and let cool completely, about 10 minutes. Peel. Halve lengthwise and remove yolks. Coarsely chop bacon and cook in a medium skillet over medium heat until browned and crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels. Strain drippings and reserve. Add melted butter if needed to measure 2 tbsp. Finely mash reserved yolks, bacon fat, mayonnaise, mustard and scallions in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large resealable freezer bag, then cut ½” off 1 corner. Pipe into whites; garnish with thinly sliced scallions and reserved bacon. Take a big bite!
January 17th, 2012
Happy 2nd birthday littleclove!
It’s been two years this month since my very first post on littleclove and that means it’s time to celebrate!
No I didn’t have a glass of fancy liqueur to celebrate with (I thought about it, though). I bought it to add to the butter cream frosting of this very special cake that I made. My friend told me that I was crazy for buying it just for butter cream frosting because this stuff isn’t cheap. But, if I’m going to commit to doing something, I’m going to do it the right way. And maybe that is a little bit crazy considering I only used a tablespooon of it and I probably won’t be drinking it otherwise.
But the way I see it, someone may stop by wanting a Cointreau on the rocks, you never know.
Anyway, I was trying to think of something extra special to make in honor of our 2 years together, and I thought…….cake!
Yes I did make this cake myself! I can’t believe it either.
I’m not a big dessert fan (you’ve probably figured that out from the lack of noticeable sweets around here), I’m more of a salt-lover. Give me buttered popcorn over a cupcake any day. But cake is celebratory, and I guess I had a craving.
And cake usually isn’t my first choice when it comes to desserts either, but I do like it on special occasions….like weddings. Why does wedding cake always taste so good?
I usually turn to candy for my sugar fix and I blame that on my dad.
Frank was the one with the sweet tooth in our family, and his first love was candy. He always had a stash of candy next to “his spot” on the couch, where he would stay up late every night watching the movie of the week.
I just realized that the last sentence does not make sense. I’ll explain. He would tape the movie of the week every Sunday on his VCR and have a bunch recorded. He was very organized, and would write in black Sharpie on the long white strip on the side of the cassette, “Stepford Wives”, “A Woman Scorned” & “Skull Island”. They were always high-drama, prime candy-eating movies. He always had a new movie ready to watch.
Every night he would say goodnight to us, take a shower, get in his brown monogrammed bathrobe, sit in his spot on the couch, grab his candy stash and roll tape (literally).
He’d dive into his stash of spearmint leaves, spicy gumdrops, circus peanuts, mary janes, bulls-eyes, orange gumdrop slices and snaps. He usually had most of these on hand at all times.
God, I love bulls-eyes, don’t you? Close your eyes right now and imagine that chewy sweet caramel with the sweet vanilla center melting away on your tongue. I think I’m going to have to buy some.
I remember back in the early 80’s when my mom bought my Dad his very first VCR for Christmas. When he opened that box, he was so excited. We couldn’t believe we could actually watch our favorite shows and movies anytime we wanted to. WOW!
My dad let me stay up late the first night he taped his very first movie to watch it with him. I’ll never forget that because it was so exciting. The movie was called, “The Demon Seed” and it was about an evil little girl who terrorized her little sister and she was just evil evil evil.
There I sat in my pj’s, right next to Frank (who smelled Irish Spring-fresh, right out of the shower), eating gumdrop after gumdrop and loving every minute of it.
This is definitely where my love of candy began. But, I digress. We’re taking about cake.
Anyway, as I was trying to come up with something special to make, I decided to dig out my recipe book for some inspiration. Who am I kidding, it isn’t really a book. I could never be that organized. I have about 1000 recipes that I have ripped out of magazines, newspapers, William Sonoma catalogues, printed from food blogs, scribbled down on napkins, & stickie notes. They are all stuffed into an old photo book binder, loose. Most of them I have never made, but I can’t part with them because, you know….someday I will make all of them.
The amount of joyful hope I carry around with me continues to amaze me.
I was talking about looking for a good cake recipe at work the other day and my producer friend Brian told me about this fabulous orange sponge cake he makes. It’s a Julia Child recipe and he said it was the best cake he has ever made. Wow, I found my cake. I had to make it! I asked him to email me the recipe.
Of course it was all fresh ingredients; oranges, flour, sugar and eggs. C’mon. It’s Julia.
I noticed that for some reason his recipe didn’t include the filling and the icing. Brian said it was in “his book” and he’d bring it in for me. Well, I wanted to make this cake on Saturday, and wouldn’t be seeing him until Tuesday (tomorrow). I was thinking about what he said and wondered if the recipe would be in one my favorite Julia cookbooks.
It was! Right there on page 671. Gâteau À L’Orange (ga-toe ah lor-ahnge) is what Julia calls this cake, and I will too because everything sounds better in French.
There was Brian’s recipe, a recipe for orange butter cream filling and orange butter cream icing.
Wow, I was actually going to make butter cream filling and icing from scratch. This was all new to me and exciting. I really love a challenge.
The cake part was simple. There is this fun step of separating the egg yolks from the whites and beating each separately. The recipe also called for cake flour. I found it at Dominick’s but had no clue what it was, compared to the all-purpose flour that I have. I’ve since learned that it’s low protein, very fine and should always be sifted.
So I picked up one of these…
…because I’ve never had a need for one before and realized I’ve never owned a sifter.
The yolks and flour get creamy, the whites and sugar get fluffy. You gently fold the whites into the yolk batter and I’m guessing this is where the light-ness or spongy-ness comes from.
Doesn’t that look perfect?!
Look what happened after cooling for 5 minutes:
This cake just pulled away from the sides and popped right out when I turned it over.
Next I made the filling. You throw butter, sugar, orange liqueur and grated orange rind, into a sauce pan and whisk. Julia says you heat it until it’s like honey and it’s too hot to touch. You want it hot enough to thicken, but not too hot or the eggs will scramble.
OK, this filling business was a bit more challenging than that easy-peasy cake.
After about 10 minutes of whisking and it doing nothing, I wondered if my flame was too low. I turned it up a bit and whisked even faster. Still, nothing. I knew it was just not hot enough, but I was really afraid the eggs were going to scramble.
More whisking…(definitely a bicep workout) and then finally it began to thicken. It took about 20-30 minutes until finally it looked sort of like honey, but not quite. I didn’t want to take the risk of the eggs scrambling, so I touched it and OUCH! Julia was right. Too hot to touch now. Does telling us that it’s done when it’s too hot to touch imply we all have to get burned? God, I love her.
I quickly took it off the flame and put the sauce pan immediately into cold water (as instructed) and kept whisking. (I filled my kitchen sink with ice water).
Almost immediately, once the pan was in the cold water, it thickened.
And it looked exactly like the filling in wedding cakes! I tasted it and it was delicious. It had that almost milky smell, it was sweet and buttery and creamy. Wow, I knew this was going to be good.
The cake was cool at this point, so I cut it in ½ and spread the filling on.
Next was the icing. You reserve some of the filling for the icing and beat in a stick of butter. I never actually realized how much butter is in butter cream frosting. Lots, no wonder I love it.
My little one wanted to frost (“the fun part”, she says).
She really frosts with confidence!
Well Brian, if you’re reading, I’m stealing your line because this cake was the best cake I’ve ever made!
Granted, I don’t bake much but it was AMAZING. It was incredibly fresh, the way a homemade cake should be.
I added grated orange rind which gives it a zingy freshness.
Now I know that orange sponge cake sounds anything but fancy, but don’t let the name fool you. Remember, we made a Gateau a L’Orange and there is nothing ordinary about it. There are layers and depth. There is sweetness and tang. There is love and lightness and spongy-ness!
Our orange sponge cake was birthday special.
Gateau a L’Orange
Inspired by Julia Child, via Brian Piotrowicz
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
Grated rind of 1 orange
1/3 cup strained orange juice
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup cake flour (scooped and leveled, turned into a sifter)
4 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9″ round cake pan and measure out all ingredients.
Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating until the mixture thickens to form a ribbon when the beaters are lifted. Add the grated orange peel, orange juice and salt. Beat for a minute or two until the mixture is light and foamy. Then beat in the flour.
Beat the egg whites and salt together in a separate bowl until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter; delicately fold in the rest. Immediately turn into prepared cake pan and run the batter up to the rim all around. Bake in middle position of preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed and browned, and shows a faint line of shrinkage from the edge of the pan. Let cool for 6-8 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and reverse cake on a rack. If not to be iced, immediately reverse again, puffed side up. Allow to cool for an hour or two.
Serves 8 people.
If you’re filling the cake, Slice the cake in half horizontally.
Crème d’ Orange (Orange Butter Cream Filling)
6 tbsp unsalter butter
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
The grated rind of (1) orange
1/4 cup strained orange juice (fresh squeezed)
1 tbsp orange liqueur
Fill up your sink or a large pan with ice water.
Place all ingredients in a saucepan on low heat and beat with a whisk until mixture thickens like honey. When it is cooking properly, the bubbles that first appeared on its surface as it is heated will begin to subside, and if you look closely you will see a little whiff of steam rise; it will be too hot for your finger. you must heat it enough to thicken, but overheating will (of course) scramble the egg yolks.
When thick like honey, set saucepan in cold water (I used the sink) and keep beating for 3 to 4 minutes. Filling should thicken up like custard.
Creme au Beurre à l’Orange (Orange Butter-Cream Icing)
Use 1 cup of the above orange butter cream filling to fill the cake. Use the remaining 2 cups of filling for the icing.
2 cups orange-butter filling (the preceding recipe)
1 stick of softened unsalted butter
Use 1 cup of the filling to spread inside your cake as described in the preceding recipe. Re-form the split cake. Place the rest of the filling in a mixing bowl and gradually beat in the softened butter. The mixture should thicken into a smooth cream. Cooll until firm but still of spreading consistancy.
Note: Be sure cake is thoroughly cold before you begin.
Icing the cake: brush crumbs off the cake. Hold the cake in the palm of your hand, or place on a serving platter. Spread on the icing with a spatula or butter knife, starting at the top of the cake, and finishing with the sides. Garnich with pieces of shaved orange peel.
Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.
December 3rd, 2011
I know what you’re thinking. Who wants to talk about stuffing after Thanksgiving?
I’m over a week late, but I guess after almost 2 years, I’m still trying to get the hang of this.
Thanksgiving 2011 has passed and you’ve probably had your fill of stuffing. I know I have. We’ve eaten it every day for the last week, but I have to say that we’ve been pretty creative with the leftovers. Turkey and stuffing for dinner, turkey and stuffing sandwiches for lunch, stuffing and egg omelettes for breakfast (who knew that would be so good!) micro-waved stuffing in a coffee cup as a midnight snack, frozen stuffing on a stick (not really).
Anyway, I’m stuffed with stuffing.
But, this recipe is special to me because my mom has made it exactly the same way since the day I was born and I couldn’t write about it (and take photos) until after the fact.
So hopefully you’ll try it for your next turkey-making holiday.
I’ve recently learned that it’s only called “stuffing” if you actually stuff the bird with it. If you don’t, you should refer to it as dressing. OK, then stuffing it is.
Actually, I was going to make dressing this year. I had been reading up on all things Thanksgiving, since I was hosting and came across more than one article on how stuffing the bird can possibly make you sick if not done properly.
Apparently it has something to do with the inside of the bird being undercooked when the rest of it reaches done time, thus contaminating the stuffing.
My gut told me to go ahead and stuff the turkey like my mom has always done. Another part of me told me that I don’t have much experience with turkey-stuffing and I wanted no part in making my friends and family sick. I decided to play it safe and stuff a casserole dish instead.
Well, upon hearing my plan a few days prior, my friend Casandra (who was spending Thanksgiving with us) asked; “You’re seriously not stuffing the turkey?!” And then, “That’s what Thanksgiving is all about!” She added, “My parents have stuffed turkeys for 40 years and I’ve never gotten sick once!” And a defeated, “It tastes so much better that way”.
The girl wanted that turkey stuffed. “OK, I’ll do it”, I said. “Eat at your own risk”.
She was right. To me, Thanksgiving is mostly about being thankful for what we have, but it’s also about tradition. My mom always stuffed the turkey with this special stuffing every year and I would wait for it all year long.
It’s made with pork sausage (that’s why the leftovers are so versatile!), and lots of sage and butter. I would help her make the stuffing the night before and then in the morning I would watch as she stuffed the turkey, tie its legs up and cover it with butter. It’s a tradition that I wanted to share with my daughter, now that she’s 11 and cooks with me when I can talk her into it.
First I should tell you that I have this way of sort of looking at life with rose-colored glasses on. The way I imagine things happening in my head is never quite the way they actually turn out. My friend Holly makes fun of me to this day because when we were young I always talked about us getting these great jobs, having an amazing apartment in the city, and throwing fabulous dinner parties for all of our really cool friends.
See what I mean? Kinda happened, not exactly. I guess I’m an optimist or maybe just plain old hopeful. Not sure, but I’ve always been this way and it’s probably not such a bad thing.
So, on Thanksgiving morning, I put on my rose-colored glasses and imagined my daughter and I in the kitchen cooking a traditional feast. We’d be laughing and maybe singing a little bit…I’d tell her stories and teach her things and pass on traditions that my mom passed on to me. She would be right there with me every step of the way, having fun and soaking it all in.
And actually, it was going great at first. We talked and laughed and she helped out in a very big way without getting bored! She zested and juiced 8 tangerines and made the cranberry sauce, peeled and chopped up a bunch of potatoes, washed the grapes and chopped up fresh herbs.
And then it was time to make the stuffing.
My mom always took the giblets out of the turkey, ground them up and added them to the sausage for the stuffing.
Well, Hadley has a bit of a problem with meat. She can’t eat anything off the bone because she has a hard time with anything looking like it came from an animal. Wings, bones or skin, she can’t even look at. She likes things cooked in a patty and placed on a bun, disguised in a meat sauce or shaped into a hot dog.
I don’t force her. If she can’t do it, that’s fine with me. I’ll feed her meat-in-disguise all year long.
I knew that she would never touch the stuffing if I added the giblets, so I had removed them the night before when I washed the turkey.
She happily chopped the celery and onions and was actually pretty fine with the raw pork sausage, since it came out of a plastic wrapper and went right into a sauté pan and browned. We mixed in the bread cubes, added the sage and it smelled delicious.
It was time to stuff the turkey. I took the 20 lb. bird out of the fridge and plopped it on a cutting board.
“Is that blood?!?!?!?!?”, she asked horrified.
“Yep”, I said calmly and started to stuff the turkey.
“Is he laying on his back?!??!”, again horrified.
I nodded and kept stuffing.
“Oh my God Mom, are you actually putting your hand up his butt?!?! Ewwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!”
And then she ran out of the kitchen yelling, “I am SO NOT EATING TURKEY ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!”
I sat there elbow-deep inside the turkey and wondered why is it that I never thought about these things while watching my mom do this.
Not exactly the way I envisioned the day going, but I took a deep breath and thought about what I was reminded of this week; To be thankful for the miracle of my child. I will get to that in a minute. I yelled to her that we had plenty of stuffing, and I would make a pan of it just for her that wouldn’t come anywhere near the turkey’s butt.
She yelled back that she wasn’t coming anywhere near the kitchen again because she couldn’t look at the poor little stuffed turkey! But she did say she would try eating it once it was on her plate with gravy and mashed potatoes.
Thank you, God.
Speaking of God, something interesting happened to me at work last week. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m an editor and I’m lucky enough to spend my days watching and learning about all parts of life. Last week my assistant and I spent many hours with a televangelist from Texas.
He’s popular, handsome and charismatic, as you would imagine. He has a massive church with millions of viewers around the world and a beautiful wife who praises the Lord right along with him. They live in a huge, beautiful house and sign autographs after every service.
I judged him from the minute I saw him. I really hate to admit that, but it’s true. Isn’t it really about the money? What are the skeletons in his closet?
I watched him smile and shake hands with his patrons. He smiled some more on stage and sang with the choir. He closed his eyes and lifted up his hands to the Lord in praise and really looked like he was feeling the moment.
I still had my doubts and rolled my eyes at him.
And then I was asked to watch his entire half hour sermon to get to know who he was and find some good moments to add to the piece I was cutting. So there I sat, watching him preach, alone in the darkness of my edit suite.
“Have you lost your passion for life?“ He asked me, from his sports-arena-come-house-of-the-Lord stage.
Have I? I asked myself.
“Do you live with passion, or do you just exist?”
Hmmm. I don’t know. Do I?
“Are you thankful for all of the miracles around you? Maybe it’s your child, your loving spouse, your job, your house? Did you perhaps forget that those were all miracles that were given to you?”
Yes of course I’m thankful, but thanks for reminding me that I feel that way, pastor.
“Are you thankful that you woke up today, that you get to see the sun shine, that you can breathe in your beautiful child, eat a meal with the family you love, sing and laugh and live? Can you imagine if this was all taken away from you and then somehow given back? How would you now feel about what you have?”
And then, “You yourself are a miracle. Don’t just exist, live! Be passionate about life. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk sit down. If you can’t sit down, lay down. If you can’t move your legs, swing your arms, move your fingers, bat your eyes. Live!”
Now I’m choked up.
“If you can take your next breath, every one of us, even if you are 90 years old, we are meant to do something with our lives. If you can take your next breath, you are still meant to do something with this gift of life!”
I was right there with the 16,000 others in his church with him. A lot of really great things have happened in my life, none one of which I could have ever planned. Some things were given to me before I even had a chance to put my rose-colored glasses on, and that is pretty crazy considering I have them on most of the time.
I’m sorry I judged you, pastor. I’m pretty sure I know now why you do this every day.
I am thankful for my child who won’t eat meat. I am thankful for my family and friends, my health, my job, my great neighbors and my house with creaky floors and a leaky basement. I am thankful that I have traditions and stories that I want to pass on to my child. And I’m really thankful for that half hour I spent with the pastor in my edit suite. What he said really sunk in. I’ve been given the miracle of being alive. It’s a gift that I’m able to experience all of these wonderful things.
I want to live with passion and soak in every moment. And as long as I can take another breath, I’m going use it.
I hope you will, too.
Mom’s Thanksgiving Stuffing
Makes enough for 8 as a side dish, with leftovers.
(2) bags onion and sage stuffing (bread cubes) they usually come one standard size
(2) pork sausage rolls, thawed if frozen (2 lbs. total)
(5) stalks of celery, cut up in chunks
(3) medium onions, cut up in chunks
(1) stick of unsalted butter, cut up in chunks
(3) 14 ounce cans of chicken broth
dried sage, lots
salt and pepper
Put celery and onions in a Cuisinart or blender to mince. Add this to the sausage in a large bowl and mix. Put mixture in a frying pan and cook over medium heat.
Add salt and pepper and cover top of mixture with a layer of dried sage.
Add butter to meat while cooking.
When meat is just cooked through, taste and add more sage if needed. (I added another layer). Add this to bread cubes in large bowl.
Heat up chicken broth. Add to stuffing to moisten as needed (bread cubes should soften). You can stuff the turkey immediately, or you can put the stuffing in the fridge overnight.
**DO NOT STUFF THE TURKEY AND PUT IT IN THE FRIDGE OVERNIGHT**
Stuff the turkey right before putting it in the oven, but not in front of your kids.
October 16th, 2011
What is curry exactly?
I’ve had curry powder in my spice drawer for years (not the same bottle, just to be clear). I think I’ve always assumed that curry was its own spice. Possibly a curry pod or a curry seed growing somewhere out there on a curry tree in Curryville.
I’m really not afraid to show my ignorance around here, am I?
Here is what I’ve since learned from our good friends at Wikipedia: Curry powder, and the English use of the word curry are Western inventions and do not reflect any specific Indian food.
And: Curry is a generic description to describe a variety of dishes from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Thai or other Southeast Asian cuisines. The chief spices found in most South Asian curry powders are turmeric, coriander, and cumin.
I’m sure somewhere in the back of my brain I knew that curry was a spice combo. But turmeric, coriander and cumin? That, I did not know. I always have these spices in my posession, and never knew I was capable of making a curry something-or-other, like these which I make fairly often, if I happened to run out of curry powder.
I have this great Indian cookbook that was published in the late 70′s that I picked up at a garage sale for 60 cents last summer. I checked to see if they had anything to say about curry and oh yes they did. Apparantly, curry powder is virtually unknown in India but it can be used as a “short cut” to cooking Indian dishes.
A short-cut that we created to make things easier on ourselves? I’m good with that.
My experience with curry is somewhat limited. When I think of curry, I first think of one of my very favorite Thai dishes which is Green Curry Chicken. It is absolutely delicious in all of its coconut milk-y goodness. And then there is my other favorite, Jamaican Curried Goat, which I was introduced to by my friends Casandra and Ian. We pick it up every so often from this great little Jamaican place in my neighborhood, along with jerk chicken, peas and rice, meat pies and ginger beer. The curried goat is by far my favorite. Those meaty goat bones are slow-cooked in a delicious spicy curry sauce that oddly enough is exactly the same color as my yellow highlighter at work.
According to Ian, who is Jamaican, it’s appropriate to pick the bones up with your fingers to slurp the meat and sauce off of them, so of course I get right in there and slurp away and then wind up with glow-in-the-dark fingers for the rest of the night.
So worth it!
It took a true Jamaican to convince me to try goat, and THANK YOU IAN! I’m so glad you did.
Last week at work, my friend Megan told me about this great vegetable curry that she makes. It’s a Cook’s Illustrated recipe and she said that when she first tried it, she couldn’t believe how good it came out. I’ve said this before, but Cook’s Illustrated always delivers. It’s a test kitchen, so they figure it out and get it right. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time, money or energy to experiment with things over and over until I get it just right. They do.
So even though fall is here and I was already craving something warm and comforting, I think what really intrigued me about this curry dish was when Megan mentioned that cauliflower was a main ingredient.
Cauliflower stumps me.
I never know what to do with this stuff. Let’s see, there are 2 things I can think to do with it. The first one is the way my mom makes it which is to dunk it into an egg and Romano cheese batter, and then fry it in olive oil. This is delicious and as I type this I’m really craving it! I’ll make it someday soon and tell you more about it.
The second way, almost equally as yummy, is to cut it up and sauté it with lots of garlic, olive oil and Romano cheese. What can I say, that’s how we cook in our family; garlic, olive oil and cheese.
Anyway, I was excited about something new to do with cauliflower. This is also made with red potatoes and a serrano pepper for some heat, which was the perfect amount. Just enough to notice it, and not too much.
It also has chick peas, green peas and coconut milk in it, so you can imagine how good it is! Megan gave me the Cook’s recipe and I made it last Saturday night for Hadley, Katherine and myself. I improvised a bit, as usual because I like to taste as I go.
We had been at a soccer tournament all day and we were pretty tired when we got home (up at 5am to drive out to the land of cornfields and cows) and all I wanted to do was stay in and cook that night.
So while the girls were outside in the yard (one doing gymnastics, the other doing soccer ball tricks) I turned on my music, poured myself a glass of wine and started cooking. Ah….this really is one of my very favorite things to do in life.
I have to say, though, making this that night was a risky move. Considering it was Saturday night and I was dining with two almost 11-year olds, they are expecting pizza or pasta, not vegetable curry. I was too tired to care, so I just went with it.
I decided to get all the vegetables and spices ready first, so I washed, chopped, grated, grinded, minced, diced and sliced. Once I did this, the rest was a breeze.
First you sauté the minced onions and potatoes for a bit, then add the spices and tomato paste, and then throw in the cauliflower.
The two main spices are curry powder (well now we know that means 3 spices right there) and garam masala which sounds exotic, but can be found in the spice aisle of any supermarket. Garam masala is another one of those spice combos that is actually a mixture of black pepper, cinnamon, coriander and cardamom (news to me!). I’ve had some in my spice drawer for a while and never used it, so this was exciting.
Do you toast your spices before using them? I don’t, but I’ve learned that it really brings out the flavor so I will try to remember that. You throw the curry and garam masala in a dry sauté pan and heat them up until they are fragrant. This also makes your whole house smell like fall!
The rest is easy. You add the other ingredients and simmer away until everything is tender and delicious.
We spooned it over rice and then added some plain Greek yogurt on top which made it creamy and delicious! I threw some fresh mint on top of mine and it was perfect with the spices and the yogurt.
The curry was full of flavor from the coconut milk, the toasted spices and the green chili. And with cauliflower, potatoes and peas, who needs meat? It was hard for me to stop eating! You know when you spoon some more onto your plate…then a little more…then just a 1/2 a scoop more. Yeah, that was me.
And what do you know, Hadley and Katherine really liked it too. They didn’t complain when they sat down to dinner and they ate it right up. I think they liked the whole yogurt-thing on top, which was fun and yummy. They both had seconds and that is always a good sign so hey, I was happy. :-)
I have one more thing to say to my brother who adamantly told me last night that he “doesn’t like curry”, and I could absolutely not convince him to give it another chance:
Try this! Trust me! You will love it!
Yes I am having the last word on this, which is almost as satisfying as the vegetable curry.
Vegetable Curry with Cauliflower, Potatoes and Peas
Inspired by Cook’s Illustrated
2 tbsp curry powder
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 onions, minced (about 2 cups)
12 oz. red potatoes (about 2 medium), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 serrano chile, ribs, seeds, and flesh minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 medium head cauliflower, trimmed, cored, and cut into 1-inch florets (about 4 cups)
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, pulsed in a food processor until nearly smooth with 1/4-inch pieces visible
1 1/4 cups water
1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen peas (8 oz.)
1/4 cup coconut milk
Condiments: Plain whole-milk yogurt, chopped fresh mint if you like it.
Toast the curry powder and garam masala in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the spices darken slightly and become fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove the spices from the heat and set aside.
Heat 3 Tbsp. of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized and the potatoes are golden brown on the edges, about 10 minutes. (Reduce the heat to medium if the onions darken too quickly.)
Reduce the heat to medium. Clear the center of the pan and add the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and the garlic, ginger, chile and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the toasted spices and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute longer. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring constantly, until the spices coat the florets, about 2 minutes longer.
Add the tomatoes, water, chickpeas, and 1 tsp. salt; increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with a spatula or wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits. Cover and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the peas and the cocunut milk; continue to cook until heated through, about 2 minutes longer. Adjust the seasoning with salt and serve immediately. Pass the yogurt and fresh mint.
I threw a bit more curry powder in mine, just a few shakes.