Peanut Butter Stew

One some cold winter night in Portland, ME, a dear friend gathered a half-dozen or so people in her apartment to talk and drink wine and eat a fabulous concoction of rice, winter vegetables, swiss chard, peanut sauce and pineapple. An unusual combination, perhaps, but so delicious.

I didn’t have quite the same ingredients on hand, but managed a similar concoction for my main meal this week. I love the warmth of the red pepper in the peanut sauce and the root vegetables combined with the protein of the grain and nuts make this a wonderfully filling dish. Or I might just like it because it’s a slightly classier way to consume large amounts of peanut butter – as opposed to eating it out of the jar with a spoon…

The Recipe: Peanut Butter Stew

Ingredients: 
A fair amount of sweet onion, diced small
1 large clove garlic
2-4 tbsp olive oil
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 medium-sized carrots, cut in rounds or diced
1 head of kale, washed, stemmed, and torn into edible chunks (You could also use swiss chard or spinach, depending on the season)
1.5 cups cooked quinoa (brown rice works as a substitute too)

2 cups peanut butter
1-2 cups hot water
Tamari/soy sauce to taste
Crushed red pepper to taste (or sriracha or cayenne or fresh hot peppers; anything to give it a sort of warm, slow heat)

Directions:
1.) Heat oil in a soup pot and sautee onions and garlic until softened.
2.) Add potatoes and carrots. Continue to stir-fry until soft or add some water to the pot and cover. Allow to steam until softened and water has boiled away. (You may need to add a bit more oil at this step.)
3.) While the vegetables cook, combine peanut butter, hot water, tamari, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. You’ll want to add the hot water a cup at a time in order to have more control over the consistency. I made mine about the consistency of warm honey, but you could make it more like ranch dressing if you like a thinner sauce.
4.) Add kale to the mix. You can allow it to wilt as much as you like. I prefer more crunch for this green, so I just tossed it in for a couple minutes before…
5.) Add the peanut sauce and quinoa to the pot. Mix until everything is covered in the peanut sauce.

Serve hot and enjoy!

Singapore. Satay.

I’ve never been quite so happy to be back to eating meat as I was last Friday when M.L.’s order from a hawker at Bukit Timah Market arrived at our table in the corner carrying this:

Pork, mutton, and chicken satay from Bukit Timah Market.

The meat is sweet and savory at the same time and the peanut sauce that traditionally accompanies the dish adds a pleasantly surprising spice to the mix.

If there weren’t so many other delicious meal options on this island nation, I’d be tempted to eat it everyday. But since there are other food excursions to be had (tonight’s dim sum at Yum Cha in Chinatown deserves a post of its own), I’m going to just savor the memory of the satay and attempt my own version of it when I return to the States. There’s a good Malaysian recipe (here) that looks fairly similar to what we had as well as a slightly simpler Thai recipe that could also be delicious (here).

If someone else will volunteer to bring the potato salad and beer, this could be one heck of a summer barbeque…

Ice Cream Birthday Cake!

I made this ice cream cake for my friend’s birthday party last week and was pleased as punch with how it turned out.

I actually followed a recipe for this one (I’m not usually great at that…), which made the process relatively easy. See the full post (and one very lovely cake) on Julie’s Sweet Shack for recipe and instructions.

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Two layers of yellow cake, black raspberry ice cream filling, and vanilla ice cream frosting. Brilliant.

Roasted Vegetable and Chicken Soup

Eating seasonal can be a drag in the winter. Much as I love the roots, potatoes and carrots (with the occasional golden beets or frozen zucchini) can get a bit hum-drum. Thank goodness for chicken soup though. There are so many ways to change it up and it’s a fantastic mid-week meal after a hearty roasted chicken Sunday dinner. So here’s my latest winter creation and recipe:

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Not much to look at, but oh so tasty.

Roasted Vegetable and Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

Chicken carcass or leftover cooked, bone-in pieces
Drippings from Sunday dinner (These can be skimmed off the top later if you prefer a less oil soup, but provide a great base for the broth.)
Black Pepper, Salt, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Basil (to taste)
2 tbsp. Soy sauce
3 Medium Red Potatoes
6-8 Carrots
2 Medium Yellow Onions

Process:

1.) Fill soup pot with water and pop in the carcass. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for two or three hours. (Or longer if you like. No harm in it.)

2.) Preheat oven to 425. Remove carcass from pot and allow to cool while you chop potatoes and carrots into chunky cubes and slices. Slice onions into thin rounds. Toss all vegetables in a large baking pan with olive oil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally for more even browning.

3.) While vegetables bake, pull off any chicken that has not fallen from the bones and return meat to soup.

4.) When vegetables finish, add to the pot and serve.

For some variation, top with parmesan or asiago cheese. The soup could also take another starch, like Great Northern Beans or barley or some egg noodles. I may also try adding just a little bit of a kick next time with some red pepper.

Enjoy!

I Cook Better Than I Sew.

Because cooking encourages, forgives, even rewards improvisation.

No white sugar for the cookies? No problem. Throw in some honey or brown sugar or agave nectar. No fresh serrano pepper?  Okay. Toss in a bit of crushed red pepper and chili powder for that slow and spicy heat. Short on small egg noodles for the cabbage dish? No worries. You can cut up some of the big ones or use chopped spaghetti instead.

No recipe at all?

Step 1. Throw all your vegetables in a pot with some oil, onion, and garlic. Step 2. Heat and serve. Utterly simple.

Sewing is another matter all together. It mandates careful preparation, specific materials, and absolute precision. Which is a problem when all you have is a skirt that you’d like to be a dress, only half a good idea, and the wrong color thread. Then the process goes something like this:

1. Take body measurements. With a piece of ribbon because you discover that your tape measure has gone missing. Then estimate based on the only ruler you have: the MacBook that you know is only 13 inches long.

2. Use said ribbon to measure out fabric for top half of dress. Measure twice in fact. Cut once.

2. Test to make sure upper half will in fact fit around your upper half. Discover that you’ve either miraculously gained an extra six inches in circumference in the last ten minutes or your measurements were all wrong. Sigh with relief that it’s probably only the latter. Figure out how to patch on an extra six inches of fabric.

3. Measure body for bottom half, again with the handy ribbon. Try praying this time that your measurements are correct before you cut.

4. Check that this piece does fit around the waist (it does). Sew to upper half.

5. Remove the seam just sewn because you attached the upper half of the dress in such a way that the patched together portion (with white thread. on a purple dress) is facing outward.

6. Sew the blasted seam again.

7. Attempt to sew a single seam along the open side of the dress. Notice that this comes out in a nice zig-zag effect because you were over ambitious about the speed at which you should send the fabric through the needle.

8. Contemplate redoing the seam.

9. Decide that no one will see it on the inside. Good enough.

10. Attempt to sew two very small rectangles of fabric into straps for the dress.

11. After you’ve sewn the rectangles shut so they can’t be turned inside out like you’d hoped, give up and use some left over ribbon or the drawstring from the skirt.

12. Survey your work. Realize that you could have created exactly what you did in two steps instead of twelve had you just given up at the beginning and simply sew straps onto the skirt.

13. Go bake something. You’ll feel better about life.

Note: Pictures to follow of said dress. It isn’t a complete disaster and it’s worth showing off a little. Just experiencing some difficulties with the camera…

For the Love of Beets

I don’t actually love eating beets. They taste pungent, earthy, and sticky-sweet to me. But they’re beautiful. It’s hard to resist their deep purple hue, their pinkish stems, or the summer-green of their leaves. So when four hearty beets turned up in my CSA share from Alstede Farms this week, I had to give them another shot.

Roasting the beets with asparagus, another co-op treat, and a leftover winter onion mellowed the flavor and allowed me to take advantage of Alstede’s oregano and thyme as well as some dried rosemary I’ve been itching to use. I also sautéed scallions, spinach, and arugula (would you believe all of that was in my little half-share?) just before pulling my veggies out of the oven. I layered the greens, asparagus, onions, and beets over brown rice and served it up with a simple salad, which allowed me to finish off last week’s lettuce and radishes, as well as the carrot my roommate bequeathed to me last month.

Well, hello summer vegetables.

Summer harvest...

Arugula, spinach, and scallions. In hindsight, I might have added in the beet greens as well.

The eating of the greens.

Some resilient rhododendron blooms, care of one Gloversville green thumb.

Ode to a Blackened Pot

No, not quite how I feel in the kitchen most days. But I had a moment...

A few days ago, I scoured a blackened pot and felt rather accomplished about it.  Nevermind that I’m the one who blackened the pot in the first place.  Nevermind that I’m the one who forgot about the chickpeas boiling on the stove.  Nevermind that I just so happened to be reading The Art of Memory by Frances A. Yates when this memory lapse occurred.  The point is that I employed my most cunning kitchen skills to accomplish a tricky, backbreaking, dirty job.

The best part about persevering through this arduous task is not that I can brag about my amazing scrubbing skills.  No, the best part is that now I can pass along a wide variety of methods for scouring, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation on a Thursday morning.

The first step is always the same: Bless your roommate for noting that your beans are burning, curse your memory for being so poor, and reluctantly dump your poor chickpeas in the trash.  Charcoal-flecked hummus wasn’t what you had in mind anyhow.  That being done you have a few choices.  Pick any or all and add some vigorous elbow grease.

Method 1: Good old soap and hot water, combined with one of those nifty little nylon scrapers (I believe mine is from Pampered Chef).  Should take off that first layer of black and leave you with lovely gray water, a rewarding tribute to your progress.

Method 2: Baking soda and vinegar.  These seemingly mundane products aren’t just great in the chemistry classroom.  They’re pretty handy in the kitchen too.  My thanks to whoever discovered the chemical reaction between these ingredients in the first place.  You could also add some coffee grounds, so long as the blackened pan isn’t Teflon, and then use a scrubbing pad.  I’m pretty sure you could remove just about any amount of gunk from any surface with this semi-magical concoction.  In my case, it took all but the most stubborn bits off of the bottom of the pan.

Method 3: Boiling vinegar and salt in said pan.  I think I should, in fairness, attribute this one to my dear old mum; some memory buried at the back of the file cabinet tells me she mentioned it first.   I’m not entirely certain whether it’s the salt or the vinegar or just the higher temperature that worked off the last of the spots, but this did it.  I boiled the mixture for about five minutes, added a bit of cold water to the pan so I could stick my hand into it (a blistered hand would, of course, have been the perfect finish to this escapade), and finished off the grime with a scrubbing pad.

How’s that for persistence?