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img_1581Brian loves Indian food (let’s be honest, so do I) so when I opened up my new copy of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman (thanks Brian!) and came across this recipe, I had to try it. Because I’ve been stocking up on spices lately, I even had all the necessary spices on hand. I decided to make it with a simple rice pilaf (white basmati rice cooked with butter, onions and chicken stock). Note to self: don’t ever use store bought chicken stock again. It gave my pilaf a strange, floral flavor, and I noticed it because recently I have been in the habit of making my own chicken stock and freezing it, but I had run out. It is so easy to save chicken bones and leftover bits, boil them with an onion, garlic, carrot and celery, throw in salt and a bay leaf and any other herbs you have, and create delicious stock for soups, sauces, etc.  No excuse for laziness!

However, watch me giveth as I taketh away: laziness is encouraged when it comes to naan bread. Trader Joe’s frozen garlic naan bread is an amazing product. Two minutes in the oven, a little butter, and it is the perfect accompaniment to any Indian-inspired dish. Some day I will try to make the naan myself, but for now, Trader Joe’s is good enough for me.

I halved the dish because it called for a whole chicken cut into 8 pieces, and I am a little weird about leftover chicken. I think it gets this funky gamey flavor and I have a hard time choking it down, even considering my hatred of waste. As it was, we only ate the breast (it was huge) between the two of us.

I did experience one considerable problem with the recipe, which is that the yogurt curdles. Mark says in the recipe not to worry if it curdles “a bit” – but curdling is curdling, and it does not look so appetizing. The texture is also not the silky yogurty goodness I was expecting. I wonder if there is a way to add the yogurt at the very last moment and just heat it through to avoid the dreaded curdle. I will have to try it that way next time. Recipe, unaltered, from How to Cook Everything, after the jump.

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red-wine1

While it may not seem obvious based on the amount of butter I use when I cook (this propensity for butter has probably not shown itself on this blog so far, but believe me – I do not believe in skimping on the good stuff), I have been on a health kick of sorts lately. Not so much the kind where you eat spelt bread and wilted spinach all day long, but more along the lines of cutting out processed foods + copious amounts of exercise. I figure it’ll all come out in the wash after that. I don’t have the patience for calorie counting, serious deprivation, or, God forbid, carb-free pasta.

What I have been unable, nay, unwilling to address is my glass-of-wine-or-two-with-dinner habit. Ever since living in Italy for 4 months and being able to buy a huge bottle of table wine for a few Euros, I have realized that I like wine with dinner. A lot. I got a great bottle of dry Lambrusco to go with my Valentine’s Day dinner, and boy, was it perfect. Stress happens and I like to relax by cooking with a glass of wine within arm’s reach (easy to do when your kitchen is so small). It’s not like my friends and family are about to turn me in to be on an episode of “Intervention”, but you know, I have this problem with guilt.

I looked up how many calories are in a glass of wine, just because I like torturing myself like that. If you count a glass as 6 oz (about 1/4 of a 750 ml bottle of wine) then it’s 120 – 130 calories. My wine glasses are regular-sized, not those mammoth round ones, so it’s not so catastrophic. I’m going to call the calories collateral damage, and the wine stores in Brooklyn Heights will thank me for it. Just doing my part to save the economy, when you think about it.

img_1579I’ll confess straight away. I forgot to use the chickpeas. So I’m going to have to re-name the salad. Asian Bulgur Salad. Sounds about right.

I have a problem with bulgur. I can never get it to be dry and fluffy. I don’t know what my problem is, but next time I’m trying Alice Waters’ technique, which is just to cover the bulgur with 1 inch of cold water and let it soak for 20 minutes then drain. I want fluffy, dammit! Despite the somewhat gluey texture of my bulgur, the flavors in this salad were perfect. I decided to roast the carrots but next time I’ll leave them raw – the salad needed a bit more crunch. But anyway, here’s the recipe. This is obviously based on the ingredients I had in my fridge. If you have more veggies on hand, or especially any cilantro, throw ’em (it) in. You know what to do.

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I’ve got a bunch of random ingredients in my fridge right now, left over from various meals in the last week or two. I absolutely hate it when things go to waste, but sometimes it’s just too hard to figure out what to do with the random assortment of ingredients on hand (especially copious amounts of herbs). I took a glance at my fridge this morning to decide whether I had to grocery shop and I decided to make something with all those ingredients. Luckily they all seem compatible with each other.

I’m going to call it: Bulgur Chickpea Frankenstein Salad

Here’s what I’ve got on hand that I plan on using:
Canned chickpeas
Bulgur, cooked in leftover chicken stock
Lots of scallions
Carrots
1/2 of a red onion
1/4 of a red bell pepper
a couple nubs of ginger
a lime (I think?) plus a couple of lemons
Parsley

I think I could make a pretty good warm salad with this stuff. I’ll probably make some kind of citrus-ginger dressing for it, roast the carrots and maybe the scallions too….and leave the pepper and onion raw. I’ll update with a recipe and pictures later…

OK. I do not know why all my posts prior to today’s have bold type. They don’t when I try to edit or preview so they’ll just have to look annoying until I figure out what’s going on. At least they’re not Kanye style ALL IN CAPS!!!1!

There’s this silly guy I live with and cook for all the time, and he thought he didn’t like tofu. I think tofu gets a bad rap because it’s been the poster child for hippy-dippy “health food” and it has kind of an unusual texture. The thing is, tofu is just a vehicle for whatever you put with and on it (sort of like grits). It’s pretty neutral flavor-wise – and it’s a great way to get some tasty protein in your diet without meat. So I devised this rice / bean / tofu salad and it was a success! Tofu is now on the menu.

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Chili-Lime Tofu with Black Bean & Rice Salad

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My kitchen right now is freaking tiny. Really, really tiny. Like, when you open the oven door, it almost touches the far wall. (I use the word “far” loosely). I have been slowly accumulating kitchen gadgets in the past few months, like a mortar & pestle, reamer (love that word), and a 9″ tart pan, among other things. What I don’t have are the true, hard core kitchen materials. I covet Kitchenaid mixers. I need some Silpats. Not want, NEED. I drool when I walk by the kitchen supply store in our neighborhood. Dutch oven by Le Creuset? Sign me up. New knives? Way, way overdue.

In college my friends were in a short play called “Stuff” (I think?) about friends who wanted to get married just for the stuff. ME TOO. But then, where to put it all? Where’s the dutch oven gonna go when as it is, every time I open my cabinet my springform pan falls out and my box grater wobbles precariously on top of a stack of pans?

One of my most shameful traits is my constant desire for more stuff. It used to just be clothes. Now it’s kitchen gadgets too. But I’m going to try to be more minimalist about it – I mean, people made bread before they had stand mixers, right? Pesto before food processors?

But, just in case you’re feeling generous, BUY ME THIS:

kitchenaid-mixer-artisan

(with all the attachments and accessories, of course!)

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Valentine’s Day is an idiotic holiday. That being said, it’s a great excuse to cook a fancy meal, which I am always up for. This year my menu was:

Spinach Salad with Candied Walnuts and Blood Oranges

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Slow Braised Pork with Black Grapes and Balsamic

Ricotta Tart with Dried-Fruit Compote

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GranolaIt had never even crossed my mind to try to make my own granola until I saw a recipe for it and realized how simple it is. It helps that I am lucky enough to live a few blocks away from the famous Sahadi’s in Brooklyn – where you can procure any manner of dried fruits and nuts at bulk prices that are amazingly cheap. If you can stand the tiny, crowded space, and have the patience to take a number and wait your turn, the rewards are rich. I had dried cherries and apricots on hand because of a dried fruit compote that I was making, so I decided to use them in my latest granola iteration.

One thing I still haven’t figured out is how to get the granola to properly clump. I don’t mind it unclumped so much, but if I discover the secret I’ll update. I have read other recipes that claim it’s the addition of fat, but I’ve made it with and without oil with the same result. Alas. This is a recipe where you can sub in pretty much any nuts or seeds or dried fruit you like, and you could also spice it to fit your mood. Maybe next time I’ll throw in some cardamom! Recipe after the jump.

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curryI’ve always been somewhat intimidated by curries – mostly because they require all sorts of ingredients I’ve never just “had on hand” – lemongrass, fish sauce (eek!), curry leaves…you name it. But in the interest of exploring regional cuisines, I decided to try this recipe for Vietnamese style curry with sweet potatoes. I picked the recipe, not kidding, because I had some sweet potatoes at home. I guess I was just tired of roasting them!

Epicurious came through for me here, and after picking up some of the dreaded fish sauce, lemongrass, and chicken thighs, I was ready to go. I did attempt an Indian curry recently with mixed results. My first try resulted in heating small dried hot chilis, mustard seeds, and garlic at far too high of a heat – which filled my tiny apartment with a choking, spicy smoke. If you’ve never experienced the awesome instant lung burning and eyes watering worse than any onion encounter, consider yourself lucky. It’s horrible. This recipe scared me for a similar reason. The first step involves 10 seconds of heating shallots, garlic, curry powder, and red chili flakes (or chili paste) before adding anything else. This time I was more careful, although the chili steam coming off of the pot still made me choke up a little. I recommend opening a window if you can. Read the rest of this entry »

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