Saturday, July 26, 2008

From 5 Ingredients to 5 Spices

Well, y'all got a short break with my last post, but I'm back to cooking with 5 Spices. Actually (sadly) I'm pretty much not cooking: my schedule sucks, and I'm usually too tired to drive to the grocery store after work. And I was going to cook last night, but my parents surprised me with a visit and we went out to dinner :)

I made the "Creamed Farmer Greens" (p. 35) and the "Corn with Mustard Seeds" (p.32-33), and served them with basmati rice and yogurt sprinkled with cilantro.

The first several times that I looked at the greens recipe, I wasn't impressed. To me, pureed greens mixed with heavy cream sounded a lot like baby food from the 1950s -- yuk. But then I realized that the recipe was basically palak paneer, minus the paneer and with kale instead of spinach. (And I loooove palak paneer.) I used a 24-oz bag of precut kale instead of the greens called for, and added a few cloves of garlic along with the onion and ginger. I increased the amount of water added to the puree to 1.5 cups, and used the kale cooking water rather than the plain water called for. I added cubed paneer during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Oh, and I left out the heavy cream :)

I followed the corn recipe pretty closely -- I used frozen corn kernels, added a bunch of chopped green onions (white part only, the green part had dried out from sitting in the fridge) and kept everything else the same. I used 2 Thai chiles and it was spicy, so watch out if you're cooking for people with sensitive palates!

This made a lot of food so I'll have leftovers for a few days. Yay!

Monday, July 21, 2008

MBP: Pasta with Chickpeas and Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

1 box whole wheat pasta
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
10-12 cloves garlic, unpeeled
pinch sugar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Bring a pot of water to a boil; add pasta and cook according to package directions. If necessary, use pasta water to rehydrate tomatoes -- the brand that I used was very soft right out of the package. Drain canned tomatoes and put into a food processor with rehydrated dried tomatoes, then blend to a smooth paste. Place garlic cloves (unpeeled) into a dry skillet (do not add oil) and heat over medium heat. Cover and cook for approximately 5 minutes, shaking pan occasionally, until garlic cloves are soft. (Thanks to Lisa for this post on pan-roasting garlic!) Once cloves are cool enough to handle, peel and add to food processor. Blend until smooth. Add salt, pepper, and optional sugar to taste: I find that a little sugar counteracts the slightly bitter/sour flavor that canned tomatoes have. Toss sauce with chickpeas and pasta and serve hot.
The sauce would also be good layered with pureed white beans as a dip. (Maybe add a thin layer of basil pesto as well...mmm...)
I'm a little embarrassed that this recipe doesn't contain any fresh ingredients, but happy that I can make good food out of my pantry! I had just cleaned out my fridge and thrown out a bunch of veggies that I'd bought and hadn't had time to cook, and when I went to the grocery store I figured I wouldn't make the same mistake twice. So -- go figure -- we got out of work early today. Not that I'm complaining :)
Thanks to Nupur and Coffee for hosting, and to Sheela for the original recipe!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Happy Saturday!

Well, if Kabs is having a Summer of Socks, I am having a Summer of Spices. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, another recipe from 5 Spices. While I'll probably not make every recipe in the book (not least because several recipes feature the Dreaded Eggplant), at least a third of them are in my cooking queue :)

Tonight's dish was the Simple Cabbage Stir-fry. I pretty much made it as written; I added a bunch of chopped green onions, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, a can of chickpeas, and a little bit of water so that things wouldn't burn. (The frying pan that I used was way too small so I couldn't stir everything properly at first, but it cooked down in about 30 seconds.)

Oh, and I subbed in this really cool arrowhead cabbage that I bought at the Clintonville Farmers' Market. (It totally made me miss Soulard, sigh.)

And in other news, things are way better at work. I realized that I had to change the way that I was handling the situation, and I did. I'm still pretty sure that I don't have an inner surgeon trying to get out, but I can -- and will -- be able to learn a lot and be a useful part of the team regardless. Here's to attitude adjustments! (And happy Saturdays!)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

So Far...

...Not Good. I was really looking forward to taking care of people, but no. All that I've done -- for twelve-plus hours a day -- is watch other people take care of people. It'll change soon (I hope) but it's been frustrating, and the sleep deprivation isn't helping. I lost my temper today (not at a patient, TG, but at a member of my care team) and I feel awful. Tomorrow will be a fresh start -- I just have to remember to listen to the necklace :)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Spicy Tofu and Pasta

I tend to stick to vegetarian cookbooks -- there's no fun in hauling a heavy book home, and then realizing that you can only eat a few of the recipes in it. (Well, OK, technically no one can eat a recipe -- but you know what I mean.) I was a little disappointed to find out that 5 Spices wasn't vegetarian, but since there are so few recipes (and so many beautiful pictures) I read through the meat, poultry, and seafood sections anyways. I kept coming back to "Baked Fish in a Spice Broth" -- I (think that I) kept the basic essence of things, but I changed a lot of the ingredients. This could be an everyday meal for me -- I did all my prepping and chopping as the pasta water boiled and so this took about half an hour from start to finish. Here's my version:

8 oz chunky dry pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
2 T canola oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 bunch green onions, whites and greens chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I used 1/2 tsp and it was pretty spicy; I think I'll use a little less next time)
3 drops ginger extract (or 1/4 to 1/2 inch fresh ginger, grated or juiced)
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 block water-packed extra-firm tofu (or 1 block firm tofu, pressed), cut into 1/2" thick slices
1/2 tomato, seeded and minced
2 T minced fresh cilantro

Begin heating water for pasta (cook the pasta according to the directions on the package). In a large frying pan with a lid, heat the oil, then add the mustard seeds and green onion. Cook 5 minutes or until onions are soft. Add garlic, cayenne, and fresh ginger if using, and cook an additional 30-60 seconds. Take 1 cup of water from pasta pot, and add to the frying pan with the ginger extract, coriander powder, and salt. Bring to a boil and add the tofu slices. Reduce heat to simmer and cover the pan. Cook for 5-8 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated and the tofu is hot -- flip the tofu slices halfway through and adjust the heat if necessary. Sprinkle with tomato and coriander and serve over hot pasta.

Drinking My Words

Those who know me personally know that I drink my coffee black -- "fluffy coffee" has no place in my life. But I may have just blended cold coffee with ice, and decided that it needed a little bit of almond milk and sugar. And then I may have decided that it was damn tasty. Fluffy coffee drinkers of the world, I owe you an apology.