Posts tagged simple
Monday, December 6, 2010

chana masala

chana masala

As I write this, my heart is somewhere in Vermont, where Andrew and I spent Thanksgiving week with his family and friends in a cozy house replete with bananagrams, a thousand piece puzzle, naps, and snow. It was perfection and neither one of us wanted to return to New York where lately I’ve been feeling a beat or two behind. We ate, rested, laughed. We watched quite a bit of football. There was a mishap with a golf cart that got stuck on the field. And everything about our trip left us grateful for having amazing family and friends. We’d go back in a heartbeat.

This post took me a whole week to write. A whole week, people! A Sisyphean task! I’ve been writing distractedly lately, and it’s been really hard to get my mind focused and honed on this wee space here. There are changes in the air; changes I will write about more clearly soon, but they have been on my mind in a singular, all-consuming way.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

maple frozen yogurt

maple frozen yogurt

I can’t quite focus, my mind is all scattered and fragmented. A nasty voicemail left at work this morning threw me off, and I am feeling a bit of out of sorts. Like the music is playing but I can’t quite keep the beat. You know that feeling? I’d like for it to stop. And this is why I need to get the message across right away. That spoon above is full of something delicious – maple frozen yogurt. And you must make it soon. Maybe to sit on top of these. Because they go excellently together. I know this because that’s how we had ours.

maple frozen yogurt

Look, I know that it’s mid-November and that you might have retired your ice cream machine for the season, and I know what you’re thinking about homemade ice cream: all that waiting and planning ahead is just a bit too much around this harried time of year. I’ll be honest: this ice cream takes time. There are egg yolks to temper and a custard to chill. But this maple frozen yogurt – nothing to it!

First of all, this isn’t quite ice cream, nor is it quite frozen yogurt. It’s a bit of both, straddling both names and ideas. Secondly, it takes mere minutes to prepare, an hour to chill, and then the whole mess goes into the ice cream machine to emerge half an hour later as a glorious frozen maple ice cream. Or frozen yogurt. Whatever you want to call it. This is so easy and requires such minimal hands-on time, you could do the whole endeavor on a busy weeknight after getting home from work.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

chicken braised in milk

you'd never think this is good, oh but it is

I swear I didn’t plan this on purpose, but it’s fitting that today’s post is about chicken braised in milk – a recipe from Jamie Oliver. I made this dish awhile back in the spring, right about when temperature turned from crisp and cool to hot and sticky. We woke up one morning – and it was sweltering outside. There was no ramping up – overnight, summer arrived and it seemed ill-timed to serenade anything braised for at least a few months. I put the recipe aside, but vowed to tell you about it first chance I got. Print this recipe and tuck it away somewhere where you can easily find it. It’s going to be a staple for you this winter. I promise you.

The irony of the timing of this post isn’t lost on me either. Less than a day before we depart for vacation in England (a few days of London followed by a couple of days in the countryside), I give you a recipe by one of the country’s most celebrated chefs. I didn’t plan on posting this particular recipe right before our UK sojourn – it just soft of happened. I’ve never properly been to London, outside of business trips and whatnot, so the only way I’ve experienced London before was through the windows of a taxi – not particularly thrilling, to be honest. But this time, it’s all about seeing friends, eating amazing English food, stopping by a pub in the afternoon for a pint or two. We can’t wait. We’re very much overdue for a vacation.

the aromatics

And a word about English food. Somehow, the stereotype that English food is terrible still persists, and it makes me so mad because it’s simply not true. English food is simple, comforting and elegant – without pretense or hyperbole. It’s the kind of food you want to eat right about this time of year. It’s unfussy and welcoming. It doesn’t belabor the point. Maybe years ago, British food was terrible, in the same way American food was terrible. But that’s no longer the case, American food has had a remarkable Renaissance, thanks to chefs like Alice Waters, Dan Barber, and lots of others. Same goes for British food. To be fair, there’s lots of terrible food around us everywhere. Bad food isn’t hard to locate. You can have a terrible meal in France (it’s easier than you think!), Italy, or Spain. You can have terrible food in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and other gastronomic centers of the country. And we all know that a lot of Europeans still think of American food as a hybrid of prepackaged foods, pizza, and McDonalds. Anyone who’s ever been to Times Square in New York knows that terrible food is all around us. Finding good food, food made carefully, lovingly, thoughtfully, with respect for the ingredients – takes some work. But it’s work that can be handsomely rewarded. Which is why after doing much research and asking some lovely folks about their recommendations, I’ve made a few reservations and I can’t wait to try them. I’ll have a full report when I’m back.

browned and ready for the braise

But more on this chicken. This recipe is sort of the recipe blogged round the world. If you’re unfamiliar with Jamie Oliver you should take the time and get to know him. You might have seen his show – Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution where he tried to get West Virginia school children to eat whole foods: including fruits and vegetables. Jamie is on a mission to get us all to eat real food. Whole ingredients. One recipe at a time. You can’t really argue with his motivation – it’s all wonderful stuff. I could go on and on about his projects, but really, you should just go and buy a book of his. Any book. You won’t be steered in the wrong direction, and my guess is you’ll return to buy a few more of his books. Jamie gives you tools to make serious food, minus the preciousness of it all. It’s food you want to take a bite out of: like this one.

braised and ready

One of Jamie’s postulates is that anyone can cook good food. Anyone. Just get a few quality ingredients, and let them stand on their own. And he does it here with this braised chicken. Simply put, you throw a few ingredients in the heavy bottomed pot, add the chicken, and let the whole thing just sort of do its thing. What I love is that left to its own devices, the chicken and the milk along with a few aromatics, fuse together to form something that while looks pretty pedestrian and earthly, yields you something elevated and ethereal. It’s a little bit of a rabbit in a hat trick, except there is no gimmick. The result of a few quality ingredients, left alone on low heat to ponder their fate, produces stunning, show-stopping results. After the first bite, I had to put my fork down and exhale – it was that kind of delicious. And I expect us to eat this well all throughout our trip – the English food I know has always been one of my favorite cuisines. We are coming hungry – London and Kent, you best be ready for us.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

beef randang – malaysian beef curry

beef randang

Today in New York is a rainy, sleepy day. The kind of day that makes me want to take a long walk in the park, wrapped in a sweater, with a scarf draped around my neck. It’s the kind of day that makes me realize that there is no place like New York, no city that actually makes the rain so welcome. Paris is lovely in the rain, but Paris is lovely in any weather. In London rain is pretty much expected and has a long tenure. But to me New York is loveliest when the skies are grey, the rain is falling, and there are puddles on the ground. The grey and rainy New York is lovelier than the sunny New York, at least to me.

beef randang beef randang

I took a walk through Central Park today en route to work, making my journey slightly longer, but much more pleasant. I looked at the runners wishing I could join them – I love to run in the drain, and while I know that sounds counter-intuitive, trust me – once you do it, you’ll be hooked for life. It’s my favorite running weather. Now, I’m not talking a deluge here – just rain and slightly cooler temperatures. It makes for a refreshing, invigorating run. I smiled at all the dogs jumping from grass to pavement and back again, sniffing roots of trees, grasses, wet leaves, greeting one another, their wet tails wagging in excitement. The mothers were pushing their babies in strollers – some were running, some were walking briskly; all had an air of contentment about them. It was the perfect fall walk.

star anise, cardamom, cinnamon

I love days like this. I love weekends like this even more. When you’re “forced” to hang out in your apartment, putting around the kitchen, wearing sweaters and leggings, drinking endless cups of tea with Ma Rainey playing in your living room. Even better if you have a record player, and can hear the scratches in Ma Rainey’s voice. Give me more of such weekends, autumn, and I will make more beef randang in your honor. Who doesn’t love a hearty, soupy, spicy curry, spooned over rice and served in a deep bowl?

beef randang

I’ve been thinking about beef randang, ever since the lovely Colleen and I went out to Laut near Union Square. I haven’t had Malaysian food in I can’t tell you how long, but I realized after our dinner, just how much I had missed it. Malaysian food is made for days like this when you want something cozy and warm, and salads just won’t do, and soup seems to be not filling enough. It’s the equivalent of a wearing a blanket, minus the actually literally wearing one. But should ever decide that blanket-wearing is a must for dinner, you are now equipped with the perfect recipe for such an occasion, where sit at your table and eat it wearing whatever you like: a blanket, flannel pajamas, fleece pants and a hoodie, or yoga pants and a sweater. Sometimes, it’s just best to stay in and dress down, don’t you agree?

beef randang

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

chicken provençal

provencal chicken

Dinner for one is a thing entirely different than dinner for two. In the last two years, I’ve cooked a lot of dinners-for-one. I’ve become a pro at a legitimate meal, made quickly, efficiently, economically, with little or no waste. But for the last several months, I’ve been making a lot of dinners-for-two, and I must say, I quite like the change. It’s much more satisfying to make dinner you share with someone on a regular basis than sitting at the table alone with your dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I think that meals eaten alone are precious and to be treasured. But there’s something to be said for a quiet, simple weeknight meal you cook for just the two of you. I am liking this change.

provencal chicken

But dinners for two are also quiet different than dinners for a crowd. Your average dinner party is not the quiet, intimate dinner full of quiet, languid moments. Dinner parties tend to be a bit more lively – with boisterous conversation, multiple bottles of wine, the host (or hostess) scurrying about to make sure all guests are tended to. It’s a job you either love or hate. I happen to revel in it, but I’m a strange creature that way.

provencal chicken

What I’ve discovered, at least for myself, that while I love putting dinner parties together, I prefer to have not more than one complicated recipe. If I’m going to labor over something for a long period of time, something tricky and time-consuming, I like to select other dishes to be relatively stress-free. A simple summer soup that needs no cooking time; a vegetable side that’s festive, yet unfussy.

cooked

And, I think, chicken, particularly the dark meat, is especially forgiving in the low-maintenance department. Especially this chicken here. After washing and drying the drumsticks (I only had access to drumsticks after my local butcher got raided by a family throwing some kind of a crazy block party, taking nearly everything, the nerve!), you throw about some tomatoes, sliced onion, garlic cloves, and herbs into the roasting pan and then arrange the chicken in between the supporting cast. You then cook this whole mess, barely checking-in with the chicken (it can fend for itself, not to worry). This kind of chicken independence, if you will, leaves you with time to tend to some other things for dinner. It also allows you to claim some rewards – after all that slaving in the kitchen (wink, wink!). Perhaps you’ve earned yourself another piece of cake, or an extra scoop of sorbet. Even though, this is the kind of thing you live for – cooking for a crowd – it’s also about the little indulgences you allow yourself for embarking on such a journey. After all, the crazy amount of pleasure you get from cooking for dinner parties might raise eye brows with some folks – it might just sound crazy, so just keep it to yourself, ‘k?

the aftermath

So just sigh, pretend like you slaved over dinner, wipe your brow, and pour yourself that glass of wine, as if to lessen the burden a bit, even if it was a ridiculously fun adventure for you. “Reward” yourself for you “pains”.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

corn with feta, cilantro, and lime

corn with feta, cilantro, and lime

Quick, quick, make haste! Rush to the market this weekend and grab some corn – there’s still some left! We’ve a few precious summer weekends left and then, it’s autumn. Sundresses will be replaced by sweaters; sandals – by boots. I’ve been eying some corduroy pants and scarves. I’m going to learn how to wear scarves in that carefree, insouciant manner that suggests that I have style. My iced tea will yield to hot cider and piping hot coffee. There will be lots of soup coming out of the Sassy Radish kitchen, so get ready. I’ve got plans, people, and I mean to see them through.

At the market, things will change as well. Berries will make way for apples, pumpkin and squash. There will be some late harvest tomatoes and, eventually, root vegetables. And I’m excited for it all, but I know, for a fact, that there are a few summer dishes I am going to miss. But this corn – this corn I could eat every day.

husking

The best thing about eating around the seasons is that you learn how to properly miss a specific food. You savor it better, celebrate each time you spy it at the farmer’s market, run back home with your loot and lay it out on your kitchen counter. I make an exception for tomatoes. If they were in season year round, I would be in heaven. Part of the reason you don’t see many tomato recipes around here, is because they almost never make it into a cooked dish. I devour them whole, sprinkled with a little bit of salt, eaten with a rustic piece of bread.

But today is not about tomatoes – it’s about corn. Sweet, warm corn sauteed in a bit of cream, and tossed with some feta, cilantro, and mint, and then brightened with lime juice. It’s really, unbelievably good, and is delightfully unfussy. Which is sort of the best thing about produce at the peak of season. You need to do so little to make it shine.

12 ears of corn

When I served this at one of the suppers on Sunday, we had a few visitors over: Andrew’s younger brother and friend from Chicago. Andrew’s friend, after chewing a few forkfuls, proudly declared that this was the best corn he ever had, and then reached for a second helping! And he’s from the midwest – where people know their corn. Frankly, I also thought it was pretty good. So good in fact, that it might be my favorite summer way to eat corn, outside the traditional on-the-cob method.

feta, cilantro

I’m hoping to make it again this weekend as a sort of a last hurrah to summer and to corn. Were I not completely and hopelessly in love with fall and its bounty, I would be sad, but I am excited in anticipation of what the next season will bring. I’ve made a list of things I want to make – a list that far exceeds the number of days in the season itself, but that’s a rather high quality problem to have. I’ve a few more summer meals coming my way, and I will savor each and every bite.

sauteeing the corn

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