2 Tablespoons ghee, butter, or olive oil 2 leeks, sliced (moons or half moons) 4 cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped 1 Tablespoon ginger, grated 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (4 or 5 thighs) 1 pound eggplant (1 medium) 2 cups of canned San Marzano tomatoes, with juice 2 Tablespoons of Fish sauce (purchased in Asian section of grocery store) 2 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice 2 Tablespoons basil leaves, sliced thinly Basil leaves and lime wedges for serving
Peel, slice, and salt the eggplant (kosher salt) for a half hour (to remove bitterness). Rinse and dry, or wipe, to remove salt, and cube or chop.
Melt the ghee in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add spices for Tadka and saute until toasted and fragrant. Watch that the spices don’t burn.
Add sliced leeks and saute until soft.
Add garlic and ginger, and more ghee if needed.
Add chicken thigh slices and cook until lightly browned all over, stirring often.
Add tomato sauce, and stir. Make sure the Tadka is incorporated, stirring it up from the bottom of the pan if necessary.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until eggplant is softened and sauce has thickened, about 40 minutes. Stir occasionally. Let stand for 10 minutes or so.
Add the Fish Sauce, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and basil leaves. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve as is or over rice (or cauliflower rice), garnish with a few basil leaves, and serve with lime wedges.
April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. (T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland)
Now is the moment between memory and desire…
I have an excellent memory of what life was like before the pandemic, and the lockdown, and the daily statistics of illness and death. I have no doubt that what I desire is a long way off: hugs, travel, singing with friends. So what I have is now–the time in between past and future.
Now is a time that is empty: I miss family and friends, going out to listen to live music, casual interactions and spontaneous adventures…and I really want to get out of town!
Now is a time that is full: we are suddenly reinventing how we do everything, learning new technology and trying new things. And those of us who are fortunate enough to have a home, a kitchen, and the needed food supplies, are cooking like crazy.
I, too, have been baking bread–Syrian Bread. Click the link to meet three of my favorite people, and learn how to make something delicious! I was lucky to find yeast and mahleb. Easy peasy! I put half of the loaves in a heavy plastic bag, which I popped into the freezer until needed. I’ve been cooking through my tried and true recipes on this blog, and I’m starting to think of dishes I’ve always wanted to make.
After listening to the interview of Maricel Presilla on The Splended Table (APR), I decided to try an adobo (marinade) she casually mentioned as her “go-to” for a piece of steak (or fish:
MP: When I get home from the market with a piece of steak – or maybe fish – my instinctive reaction is to grab the mortar and pestle, and crush garlic to a paste together with black peppercorns, salt, and allspice. I’m from Eastern Cuba where there is a tradition of using allspice. Then I add cumin, a bit of oregano, and Seville orange juice. When I don’t have Seville orange juice, I go for beautiful orange juice with a bit of lime; sometimes I add the zest of a grapefruit just to approximate the flavor of Seville orange. With that, I marinate everything. This technique basically comes from the Spanish Middle Ages. We hear the word adobo in medieval Spanish text, and if there’s something they did not use, maybe it was the citrus juice; in some cases, they used vinegar. And they didn’t use allspice because allspice is from the New World. But they did use black peppercorns.
I bought a sole filet (half a pound), and guessed at the proportions for the adobo. (I think a white fish is best for this dish). Serves 2:
Mash 3 (small) cloves of garlic in a mortar
Add 1 teaspoon of Oregano, 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds, 1 teaspoon Black Peppercorns, 1 teaspoon whole Allspice. Crush with the Garlic. (I omitted the salt because I looked at other recipes and decided to add it later). Add to this mix:
Juice of 1/2 tangerine (Caribbean oranges are very sweet, so this seemed worth a try)
Juice of 1/2 lime
Zest of 1/2 grapefruit
Spread a large spoonful of the adobo into a ceramic or glass container, place fish on top and cover with the remaining adobo. Rub it in, flipping the the filet once or twice to distribute the flavoring. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate for 24 hours.
To cook, cut the fish into two portions and sprinkle with sea salt. Heat a large saute pan on medium/high heat and add a couple of tablespoons of Ghee (clarified butter with a very high smoke point) (you could substitute avocado oil or peanut oil for the ghee). Carefully slide the fish into the pan (watch for splatter!) and cook a couple of minutes on each side (or more if you are using a thicker fish, like halibut).
This tasted delicious with a very simple preparation. The cumin gave a distinct but layered curry flavor–and next time I would serve it with a wedge of lime. But what would make it just like the unforgettable curried fish dish I had for lunch at Good Hope in Jamaica years ago, is the addition of a creamy curry sauce.
Curry Sauce (serves 4):
2 tablespoons ghee, avocado, or peanut oil 1 large onions, peeled and chopped 1 inch knob of ginger, grated or 1 teaspoon dried ground ginger 2 teaspoons curry powder or turmeric 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (1 1/2 to 2 cups) Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Zest of one lime Thai Red Curry paste to taste (optional, 1 teaspoon) Thai fish sauce (optional, 1-2 Tablespoons) Chopped basil or mint or cilantro for garnish (optional)
Saute the onions until soft and golden (10 min), and add the rest of the ingredients (except the garnish). Simmer on low for 10 minutes until thickened. Serve over the fish (with rice if you wish).
My favorite cookbooks are like conversations between cooks. Now that the internet has introduced Pinterest and Youtube to the equation, the conversation has gotten livelier. This recipe is a conversation between a heavy metal musician and an Episcopal priest–should be interesting.
This recipe is adapted from a cookbook I am enjoying: The Chef and the Slow Cooker, by Hugh Acheson. To adapt it to a keto friendly dish (10 carbs per serving of two thighs and one fourth of the stew by my math), I ditched the farro, and reduced the broth accordingly. As it is winter, I used some San Marzano tomatoes I canned in the summer instead of the heirloom tomatoes the chef specifies, but certainly commercial canned San Marzanos would be perfect. Acheson’s recipe includes rosemary, feta and kalamata olives, so I doubled down on the Greek flavors with a spice blend called Greek Freak, which is sold as a rub, but works for general use. It includes garlic, onion, orange peel, chili pepper, and parsley, from a company based in Spokane, WA.
Gretl had a restaurant on a ski mountain in Colorado.
It probably reminded her of Austria, her country of origin. Every day she went up the mountain with the ski patrol, and cooked just the kind of food you want in winter weather. She made an amazing apple strudel, and this creamy soup.
The day my friend Karen recommended that I try an Alsatian fish dish with cream sauce, and sauerkraut on the side–well, let’s just say I had a strong reaction of certainty I wouldn’t like it. If anyone else had suggested it I wouldn’t have even considered making it–but Karen and I like lots of the same foods. We were college roommates, and then shared an apartment later. And we both have family roots in Central Europe so maybe some of our tastebuds are genetically programmed.
One early adventure: when we were broke college students, after the rain she showed up with a paper bag stuffed with mushrooms she had picked! and informed me we were having Czech cream of mushroom soup for dinner. I thought I was going to die. Or, that maybe I was going to die, or at least get excruciating stomach pains and wish I was going to die. But Karen is wicked smart, exhaustively thorough, and she was absolutely certain she knew this mushroom from lifelong mycological field identification with her father. We didn’t die, and it was delicious.
This Christmas season I brought a new/old tradition to Salem–Smoking Bishop, a Victorian Wassail which is something like a hot Sangria punch.
At St. John’s in Hingham, we enjoyed it after our service of Lessons and Carols, but this year I served it at an open house with a bit of a literary bent. Smoking Bishop is mentioned in the last page of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol— Continue reading →
Do I need to say who Jacques Pepin is? The real French chef who brought sparkle to Julia Child’s later cooking shows, who became a PBS star in his own right? Probably not. But I will share a lovely photo of them together just so you are sure who I mean.
It was his recipe for quick roasted chicken that broke my habit of buying grocery rotisserie chicken (disappointing as they often were). Mostly what you need is a cast-iron skillet, a chicken, and some basics you are likely to have around the kitchen to make a great roast chicken. Oh, and some heavy duty kitchen shears.
What the Food & Wine recipe linked above doesn’t mention is that the name for the splitting and roasting technique is “Spatchcock” (apparently you can do this with a turkey. Maybe I’ll try that). Splitting the chicken by clipping out the backbone makes for quicker cooking, and at the high heat it is brown and juicy. Clipping the joints makes for easier carving and faster cooking of the legs. After some stovetop prep, all it takes is 30 minutes in the oven. Continue reading →