Bitter melon curry

Thanks to Binna, and a forgotten bank card, I forewent the farmer’s market, and instead investigated H-Mart. For those who don’t know, H-Mart is a national chain of Korean grocery stores. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the wide breadth of nationalities who were competing with me for aisle space was amazing.

In addition to familiar foods (nori, kimchi, and the black rice that I tried at Binna’s), I was drawn to try the things that aren’t available through my normal channels. This led to last night’s experiment with bitter melon. Everyone seemed to be grabbing them. Everyone can’t be wrong.

The resulting curry (a Pakistani/Bangladeshi variation inspired by the wiki article on bitter melon) was something, alright. After salting and washing the melon, frying it up, adding a large quantity of onions and spices, the flavor had some pucker to add to the spice. Chris loved it. I think I still need to learn more about the preparation, and could use advice.

And there will be more experiments with the loot to follow.

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Let’s talk tomatoes

Recently I learned of the San Marzano allure. Supposedly, this is the only tomato to be sanctioned for Pizza Napoletana. I was tempted to make a big batch of the stuff, following Michael Symon’s recipe, based on his grandmother’s recipe. Unfortunately, I didn’t have beef bones or bay leaves, two key ingredients, so my sauce ended up a bit bland. It was, however, fun to make. It’s rather cathartic to squeeze those tomatoes, pulverizing them in your hands, as you create a bubbling mash. I probably could have been a witch in another lifetime.. bubble bubble. A long slow simmer, drawing in the entire house under its spell.

The tomato flavor itself was at once familiar. It’s a roma blend, a bit richer than the juicy ones I get at peak farmer’s market season, without completely forgoing sweetness. The tomato itself is now sanctioned as an heirloom variety, which is sort of applying current lingo to make traditional varieties sound catchier. It sort of made me question the whole “heirloom” and “traditional” classification, as I’m sure the plant has grown up and modified over time. Does this mean I could call the dandelions that grow in my backyard heirloom varieties?

It’s also interesting that this tomato represented a gift to the king of Naples from the king of Peru, and has come to represent Campania (which has, now that I think about it, many delicious totem flavors… I need to get back there).

What I like most about them is the sad fact that they’re canned. I can reach for them at any time of the year and know that I have access to a decent tomato. Considering that my tomato vines aren’t showing too much promise of actually producing tomatoes (though they are making lovely vines — I could bathe in the smell of the fresh vines), I’m happy to have some Italian heirlooms at my beck and call.

Now to explore making mozzarella .. and pizza dough.. and tearing apart my basil plant.

Sweet spot

So, we did end up having enough cookies to make the peanut butter banana cream pie, and pie was made during the delirium following the dinner party. To add to the pandemonium, I also modified David Lebovitz’s chocolate macaron recipe in order to use up the remaining egg whites. Instead of measuring, since my egg whites outnumbered his, I whipped them up in a fury and added some cocoa-ground almonds to the mix. I don’t really use my pastry bag (I’m not even sure if I have one), so they were free form. The french would surely scoff, but.. that leaves more of this sin for me.

I was tempted to use up some buttermilk and make some ice cream, but that would’ve yielded even more egg whites… even more dangerously delicious cookies. I’m considering making a buttermilk sherbet… Maybe I will if there are berries at tonight’s Good Life Thursday at the Bordy vineyards. [Note: it was a fun time, but not due to the market offerings, which were scarce].

I’ll have to ask Chris to weigh in on the pie, as I’ve been too sugared out from the cookies to try it.

Tachos

As Chris pointed out early last week, when you say you’re inviting people over for tacos, they think you’re being somewhat lazy. We kept our feet in pain all day long prepping for tacos and guests.

The menu had a lot of input from Seth. He should get consultant credit.

First, we drove out to Springfield Farms in the new car.  Chris got to swing around curves and shift on inclines in the new manual-transmission car (and he did so admirably!). The farm itself was hoppin’ with people and poultry, and we picked up some chicken, turkey chorizo and flank steak. The chicken breasts were obscenely big… but the farm should be all natural… Chris then got to test out the other end of the extreme, driving in the Wegmans lot.

Then the fun began. Hours of dicing and slicing. Ponzu-marinated flank steak (delicious!), chile verde with chicken in the slow cooker (later shredded), and chorizo cooked down with some onions.

To go with that, Chris made some lovely guacamole and fresh salsa, I threw together a corn salad and jicama and grapefruit salad. Doing so, from Seth’s loose recipe, I had a revelation. Recipes are crutches. Tasting regularly and modifying thusly really makes a better product. I know, I know; this should be obvious, but it only really sunk in yesterday. The corn salsa was delicious.

Then.. we got to discover where every single slight cut and scrape on our hands were from the chopping as we squeezed limes galore for margaritas. Also made the Lee Bros. homemade strawberry wine coolers. Also a hit. Very easy. Very recommended during strawberry season.

We served the tacos with shredded lettuce, corn and flour tortillas — yielding many happy guests.

Peanut butter cookies

After a long day at the car dealership, followed by a jumpy ride home, our dinner plans were thrown off.

Instead of real food, I decided to throw together some chocolate peanut-butter cookies, a la Cakespy. I goofed, but it turned out fine. Instead of using the 1/2 cup to measure, I used the 1/3 cup. And I threw in some cocoa to make my pb more chocolate-y. And I used the freezer to chill since I was impatient. But the recipe was great. Too bad I won’t have enough to make the banana cream pie, which was my actual goal. I don’t anticipate these lasting long enough.

In a pickle

Yes, every time someone pickles things and blogs about it, the post must be titled something about being in a pickle.

After pouring over the new cookbooks of last week, my mind was set on pickles. We had some green beans that we didn’t get around to from last week’s farmer’s market, and I picked up some lovely carrots at this week’s market, forgetting that we had a few bags of grocery-store carrots in the fridge. What to do with these lesser vegetables? Pickle away!

The bounty so far includes some curry-jalapeno picked carrots, pickled green beans and pickled russian purple radishes. I intend to try a ginger beet pickle tomorrow. I’m hoping to either use these as snacks or to top salad. Or fish.

Tonight’s dinner was a success, too. Picked up some green garlic at the market, not quite grasping that it’d be so different from the stuff we normally cook with. The texture is so bizarre when you’re chopping, but it’s really interesting and flavorful. We followed the linguine with green garlic clam sauce on this NY Times page. Served it with a mixed greens salad, with greens from Ray’s yard, and a curry vinaigrette. That vinaigrette does really interesting things. I’d love to mimic a chicken curry with grapes and almonds. Chris had a suggestion, too, but he’s talking to me right now and I can’t expend additional brainpower to access my memory.

So far, everything’s been worth repeating.

Oh, have some tomato sauce going on the back burner. Here’s hoping it meets to the successes of the rest of the day.

UPDATE: Nearly forgot.. sipping on my celery julep. Very refreshing, and makes you consider celery in ways that you hadn’t necessarily. Chris: “Peppery.” Me: “herbal.” It’s a very refreshing drink. I do declare.

Smooth sailing

So, I made the cranberry meyer lemon scones that I mentioned in a previous post, and they’ve been a nice semi-tart breakfast, but have been really digging on a smoothie accompaniment in the morning. We’ve been having fresh strawberries, a dollop of vanilla yogurt, powdered green tea, orange juice and bananas compounded and then blitzed with ice. It adds some pep in the morn!

I guess I’m craving more green, because I’ve also found those smoothies served with a green salad, or a Cobb salad variation, is incredibly satisfying. It’s not a homemade salad dressing, but Newman’s Own Lite Ginger Sesame dressing brings it together nicely.

Lastly, there’s no recipe, but last night I used this spice rub that came with the W&S dinner party package on some salmon (“grilled” using the prize pan) and served them with incredibly fresh peas. I was about to flash boil them, but I’m glad I tried them first. Pure candy, as they were raw! I read recently that there’s a recipe for fresh green pea ice cream, and… I admit it, I’m intrigued.  It’s by David Lebovitz, but in his ice cream cookbook, which, sadly, I do not own.

Now to put together a menu for the dinner party.. without going overboard. I need restraint, but I love the excuse to try something fun. I’m finding inspiration in some new cookbooks… Ad Hoc, Lee Bros. and Michael Symon’s books. Think I might be making the strawberry wine coolers from the Lee Bros. cookbook. Everything else is unsettled, though.

Slacking! — an update

Let’s see. . .

Seth made lamb burgers on the salt block, topped with watercress and red pepper.  His asparagus with meyer lemon, also cooked on the salt, was delectable! I made a rhubarb bread pudding, but I wasn’t too happy with it, so no sense sharing the recipe.

Finally settled on brunch — Smitten Kitchen’s boozy baked french toast (sans booze).

Chris made a yummy turkey chorizo sauce and pasta. Made for great leftovers, too. He was in a trance, so I can’t really report on what went in there.

Later that week, we made a shaved asparagus salad with avocado and lime. It was an interesting technique, and I’m not sure what I’d do to improve it, yet — but I would repeat the experiment.

Last night we made a margarita cod and red quinoa. Well, it was supposed to be agave and kiwi salsa cod, but I substituted lime for kiwi… so it became margarita cod. Turned into a great, balanced meal.

Tonight was another Chris classic — a stir fry of edamame and asparagus on brown rice. Again, balanced. It was nice to have healthy food again.

I’m away from the kitchen for the next few days, but I’m not giving up on this online recipe log!

Weekend Planning

I’m trying to plan what to make this weekend. The family is coming over on Saturday to cook on the salt block I got as a birthday present. The menu is really up to Seth, but I’ve been tempted by this recipe for Rhubarb Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce for dessert.

Brunch on Sunday is a little more difficult, and I’m torn between my various options. I love making brioche, so I’m thinking of baked brioche french toast (possibly a non-boozy version of this) with strawberries. I already have the blood orange juice and bacon. I should make some herbal iced tea or something non-caffeinated, but I’m not sure what that should be. I’d like to keep it light in order to balance the sinfulness of the french toast.

Then again, Frisee aux Lardons also sound good.

Or Meyer Lemon and Cranberry Scones.

Or Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms.

Or something with latkes.

Or.. I love it all.

Slightly drunk noodles

With a few variations, we made drunken noodles following the recipe on epicurious. At first it appeared that the copious amounts of chilis that went into it underwhelmed, but it produced a heat that sort of built. It didn’t quite recreate the Thai dish, but it was tasty.

If I make it again, I’d perhaps find a way to lower the salt that goes into this. The salt from the soy sauce was a bit overbearing.