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Author: Heather

a city girl from the South, counselor of genetics, wife, feline mom, hiker, biker, “foodie”, writer, traveler, and very occasional blogger.

Great Balls of Fire

Great Balls of Fire

I am on a huge Indian kick lately. You wouldn’t know it from what you’ve seen posted around these parts lately, but I’m dead serious. Those of you living in the Bay Area already know this – there are a plethora of Indian eateries around these parts. Because of that, I’ve decided that Indian food is my new favorite take-out staple.

Sorry, Thai food, but I’m giving you the boot for a while. Maybe forever. It’s just that no one seems to make my yum woonsen salad like Thai Lagoon did, and it didn’t hurt that they were exactly 6 doors away from our house.

Great Balls of Fire

We ordered take-out from the neighborhood Indian joint the first weekend we lived here, and I was immediately sold. I ordered a HUGE “combo meal” the weekend Chris was in Singapore, and while sopping up my chana masala with garlic naan, I happily watched Something Borrowed (laugh it up) and almost drank an entire bottle of New Zealand Pinot by my lonesome. It was amazing (the food and the wine, that is. the movie served its purpose, which meant I was able to choose the movie for a change, because no one was home!!).

I’m sure we’ve had takeout from the same spot at least a handful of other times too. Despite their unwelcoming demeanor when I walk in to pick up my order, I always graciously take my food, somehow deciding that they’re allowed to have shoddy service so long as my food rocks, because in the end, we all win.

Great Balls of Fire

I decided I must learn to make chana masala, the tomato-y chickpea dish that I get almost every time I get Indian food, and as a result I surfed the Internets to figure out where I might find such a recipe, and for that matter, a good Indian cookbook. After Googling and Amazon-ing for a while, I finally decided on Madhur Jaffrey’s “An Invitation to Indian Cooking“, and although I’ve yet to cook from it, I am slowly perusing through it, waiting for the right moment to finally give that chana masala a try, and the other recipes I’ve bookmarked so far.

Today though, I’m sharing a recipe from another Indian chef I admittedly adore watching, Aarti Sequiera on the Food Network. She won “The Next Food Network Star” a while back (actually, the last season we watched it), and I was rooting for her all the way. Sure, part of it was because she wrote a food blog (and ironically just posted a recipe for chana masala), but the other part was because I really wanted an Indian cooking show to watch. Plus, I can only take so much of Giada’s boobs (or her large head, for that matter), and the other shows on that channel (other than Iron Chef, duh) are pretty lame. But! I did just learn that Michael Chiarello (of Napa’s Bottega) is going to be on The Next Iron Chef, and you best believe that will be DVR’d with a quickness.

Great Balls of Fire

So yeah, on to sharing. We had some friends in town this past weekend, and since they were coming in right around suppertime on Thursday night I’d volunteered to make dinner. My requirements were that the dish had to be straightforward, void of constant tending-to, manageable on a weeknight (night before prep a plus), and easy enough to make for 5 people without dirtying up every dish in the house. A homemade curry was a no brainer, and I remembered a recipe Aarti made the other day where she added an Italian twist (meatballs) to a curry dish – perfect!

The meatballs were easy peasy to throw together, and they probably benefit from being refrigerated overnight anyway, so that they can adhere together a little better. Plus, it saved me some time the night I made it since step 1 was already complete. The Serrano chiles were super spicy and perfect with the creamy coconut curry. The recipe below is essentially a doubled version of hers, which is meant to serve 8, but either our guests were starving or it was that damn good, because there was 1 serving left by the time it was all said and done.

The added bonus? You’ll probably have some leftover sauce when all the meatballs have been eaten, and I just know it’ll go with just about anything you toss into it. Better yet, a spoon would probably work just fine.

Great Balls of Fire

Meatball Curry

Adapted from Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira; serves 6-8

time commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes

 

printable version

ingredients

meatballs
2 lbs ground beef
2 serrano chiles, minced (I seeded one of them)
4 t fresh ginger, minced
4 T fresh cilantro, minced
Kosher salt

curry
5 T coconut oil or canola oil
1 t brown mustard seeds
8 small shallots, thinly sliced
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2-inch piece) ginger, peeled and minced
4 t g coriander
2 t g cumin
1 t cayenne pepper
4 medium tomatoes, medium dice
2 cans light coconut milk
Kosher salt
3 T fresh cilantro, minced
juice of 1 lime

1 1/2 c uncooked jasmine or basmati rice

 

instructions
for the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, chile, ginger, cilantro and 2 teaspoons of salt together using your hands until just combined. (Don’t mix any more than this or you’ll end up with tough meatballs!) Roll the meatballs into 32 similarly-shaped balls, placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the fridge when they’re all rolled until ready for use.

for the curry: In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the coconut oil until nearly smoking. Add the mustard seeds, covering the pan with a lid so you don’t get popping seeds all over you. When the spluttering subsides, add the shallots, garlic and ginger and cook until golden brown. Then add the ground coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper. Stir, and cook 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook until they soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the meatballs. Simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Right after you add the meatballs, start the rice. Add rice and 3 c water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes, until rice is cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.

To finish the curry, add the cilantro and lime juice. Shake the pan gently to mix them in, and then taste for seasoning. Serve over rice.

Spring. Pasta.

I know. I know! FOOD! How freaking crazy is that? On a FOOD blog?

Alright. I’ll stop being dramatic. I just realized that, if I didn’t post something soon, May would go by with not one single post. And I know that, even though it’s only May 15th, because we’re about to get up out of this country for nearly 2 weeks, and I definitely won’t be posting then (since, you know, I barely post now..).

Spring. Pasta.

Also, Spring won’t be around forever, will it? Although I hear it still feels like Winter in the Midwest, it does actually feel very springlike here in San Francisco, and even down in Palo Alto where I work it isn’t blistering hot yet. That said, I figure I should share this spring-like recipe while I still can, because it’s definitely something you should consider making.

I made this pasta recipe a month or so ago, and it is chock-full of spring veggies – broccoli, asparagus, even little cherry tomatoes. You could practically toss in whatever you like – possibly green beans, some roughly chopped kale or chard, whatever. The sauce that results from the pasta liquid, tomato juice, and melted cheese is really light, so light that you have to take care not to make any more pasta than the recipe dictates, or else it will be really dry. If you want a richer pasta, you could probably add a little white wine, or a tablespoon of butter to the pot at the same time you add the pasta water. For me though, I wanted to really focus on the veggies, and that’s the intention here: simplicity, good produce at its Springtime best.

I hope everyone has/has had a lovely Spring. I also hope you’ve enjoyed the rando pics I’ve posted. It’s my little way of barely hanging on to this blog and not totally saying goodbye. It’s nice to still have things to share, and despite having limited time, the picture-sharing is a great way to keep up. Hopefully, more recipes will come, but we’ll see how things go. I can’t remember the last time I took a photo while cooking – probably this one!

So, until next time, stay warm/cool/whatever 😉 .

Spring. Pasta.

Spring Pasta with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from Food&Wine, April 2013; serves 6

time commitment: ~1 hour

printable version

ingredients

2 bunches of broccolini or broccoli (about 1 1/4 pounds), thick stems halved lengthwise

1 garlic clove, sliced

5 T evoo, divided

Flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds red cherry tomatoes

6 scallions, white and tender green parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths

1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

1 pound tagliatelle

2 T unsalted butter

Large pinch of crushed red pepper

1/4 c chopped flat leaf parsley

About 1/2 c shaved ricotta salata cheese, for garnish

instructions

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a bowl, toss the broccolini and garlic with 3 T of the olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper; spread on a rimmed baking sheet. In another bowl, toss the tomatoes with the remaining 2 T of olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the vegetables for about 25 minutes, until the broccolini is tender and charred in spots and the tomatoes are very juicy but not broken down.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the scallions until just softened, 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the scallions to a bowl. Add the asparagus to the pot and cook until just crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to the bowl.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Return the pasta to the pot. Add the roasted broccolini, scallions, asparagus, butter, crushed red pepper and half of the parsley. Add the reserved pasta water and cook until the pasta is al dente. Gently fold in the roasted tomatoes and any juices and season with sea salt and pepper. Garnish with the shaved cheese and the remaining parsley and serve right away.

I Must Be Nuts

You may know this already, if you know me personally or if you’ve been reading along for oh I don’t know, a week – but I can be a bit nutty sometimes. One time, I booked the wrong flight from NC to IL and got to the airport only to find that my flight left me the day before! My mom was selfishly ecstatic; meanwhile, Hubs was bitterly picking a Benjamin from our money tree. I forgot to include a dryer sheet the other day and I had static cling all morning until I was rescued by the static cling fairy one of the admins in my department. Static cling just isn’t pretty. I’ve missed my train stop a couple of times in the past month or two because, as opposed to most other people who miss their stops because they are sleeping, I’m just daydreaming. And just now, I received an email from someone searching for me because i forgot to include contact information on a hotel booking form. Thank goodness for google searches, eh?

I even went to culinary school once. Isn’t that just batty? I was in class three nights a week learning how to use aspic and how to make puff pastry from scratch, among other things. And as silly and nutty as that may have been, I loved every second of it. I miss it, in a way. And since finishing that last class and getting my official ‘culinary certificate’ in the mail, I’ve wondered where my place is in that world. I’ve wondered how to comfortably nestle my career as a genetic counselor into the arms of something I find even more rewarding, invigorating, and downright satisfying on so many levels – food. Not just eating food, but the entire process of it and the happiness that comes when you cook for others. Nourishing them, expanding limits of what they will eat, expanding limits of what I will eat – ultimately, that is what makes me smile, and that’s what this is all about.

Which brings me to ‘step 1′ and item #3 on my New Years Resolution list. I am officially for hire! Is that crazy, or what? So go on and read here for the details, and then spread the word! And if you’re up for being my sous chef one day, just holler 🙂 .

I Must Be Nuts

To really seal the deal on all this talk about nuttiness, I find it nothing short of mandatory to discuss homemade granola bars. Seriously, you really shouldn’t buy them at the store as they are loaded with all sorts of icky things. Plus, they are so freakin’ easy to make it’s not even funny. There are oodles of recipes online, so I’m not suggesting that you have to make these, but I’m biased and I can vouch for them – they will knock your socks off, even if you’re wearing two to three pairs these days.

I Must Be Nuts

I’m not sure what it is that makes these so awesome, but usually anything containing molasses is enough to make me drool like a St Bernard. Most recipes I saw used honey, but I had plenty of other sweeteners I wanted to try and I do love me some Grandma’s Molasses and have very fond memories of pouring it onto Aunt Faye’s buttermilk biscuits as a child. I think the agave nectar refines the taste a bit so that the bars aren’t overloaded with molasses, and you could surely use honey if you prefer, or even maple syrup. Either way, they truly are morsels of utter tastiness – sweet enough, chewy enough, and loaded nuts which add just the right amount of texture.

I Must Be Nuts

To boot, they are healthy and chock-full of all those good-for-you things that you want to consume first thing in the morning. Or afternoon. Or as a late night snack. No matter when, it’s a kind of nutty thing you just have to do, and you’ll never go back to those quaker granola bars again – unless you’re even nuttier than I think you are 🙂 .

Easy Granola Bars

makes 12 individual bars

yes, the version below is overflowing with ingredients. the thing about granola bars is you can totally make them your own by adding whatever suits ya. i’ll put an abbreviated recipe below so you can see how creative you can be. because i’m all about making your life easy – especially making granola bars easy. because they are…

printable recipe

ingredients
2 c oats
3/4 c pumpkin seeds (or other seed combo)
3/4 c ground flax seeds
1/4 c macadamia nuts, finely chopped
1/4 c pecans, finely chopped
1/2 c walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 c almonds, finely chopped
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/4 c agave nectar
1/4 c molasses
3 T unsalted butter, optional
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
1/4 c unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 c dried apricots, finely chopped
1/4 c dried figs, finely chopped
1/4 c golden raisins, finely chopped

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F. mix oats, seeds, and nuts into 9×13″ baking dish. toast nuts for ~20 minutes. dump in large mixing bowl when toasted and wipe down baking dish. toss in coconut and dried fruits and mix well.

while toasting oat/seed/nut mixture, heat sugar, agave nectar, molasses, butter, and vanilla in a medium saucepan until butter melts and mixture comes to simmer. pour hot mixture into the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.

line baking dish with parchment paper and pour sticky mixture into dish. spread evenly. use another sheet of parchment paper to press down on mixture with your hands to ensure the mixture is evenly distributed, but also to ensure there are no bubbles and that the mixture is packed densely.

remove from dish by grabbing parchment paper and lifting up. turn out onto cutting board and cut into whatever size you want (i cut into 12 rectangular shapes). they can be stored at room temp for a couple of weeks or stored for even longer in the freezer.

 

Easier Granola Bars

makes 12 individual bars

as promised, here’s the short and sweet version

printable recipe

ingredients
2 c oats**
1 1/2 c seeds*
1 1/2 c finely chopped nuts
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/2 c liquid sweetener
3 T unsalted butter, optional
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
1/4 c unsweetened coconut flakes, optional
3/4 c dried fruit, chocolate chips, or both

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F. mix oats, seeds, and nuts into 9×13″ baking dish. toast nuts for ~20 minutes. dump in large mixing bowl when toasted and wipe down baking dish. toss in coconut and dried fruits and mix well.

while toasting oat/seed/nut mixture, heat sugar, liquid sugars, butter, and vanilla in a medium saucepan until butter melts and mixture comes to simmer. pour hot mixture into the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.

line baking dish with parchment paper and pour sticky mixture into dish. spread evenly. use another sheet of parchment paper to press down on mixture with your hands to ensure the mixture is evenly distributed, but also to ensure there are no bubbles and that the mixture is packed densely.

remove from dish by grabbing parchment paper and lifting up. turn out onto cutting board and cut into whatever size you want (i cut into 12 rectangular shapes). they can be stored at room temp for a couple of weeks or stored for even longer in the freezer.

*any seed combo. or wheat germ. if using flax, grind them first!
** gluten-free oats available at Whole Foods

Stewy Indian Giver

I’m sorry. I couldn’t do it. I might be what some would call an “Indian giver” (Simps – don’t tell Jon I’m talking about his people). I know, amidst my excitement about the oozing with tastiness triple ginger cookies, that I offered to give you guys control of the next post. As things go, that would have ‘technically’ been this post. You all aren’t all that nitpicky though, are you? Will you forgive me? Forego the little details, pretty please?

pork spice mix

You see, I wholeheartedly intended to write 4 straight posts about all those cookies I made. I really did. But two things happened that caused me to veer a wee bit off track.

  1. I worried that maybe I was just a tad too excited about those cookies, and maybe you are not as excited? I was sorta hoping for a close voting battle, a little competition, for the next cookie post. I mean, I did give you a choice, right – the chance to pick the next cookie? I thought that was cool. I thought ya’ll liked cookies as much as me. But I think I must have been delusional as the voting wasn’t quite the fierceness I was anticipating.
  2. Probably more importantly, I worried about ya’ll being all chilly, teeth chattering in your abodes as you nibbled on little morsels of ginger and sugar cookies and chocolate bark. Morsels that surely fill the cookie tins for the work crowd or your home-snacking desires but definitely do not satisfy the soul. Morsels that don’t stop the shivering and nullify the goosebumps caused by (in these parts, at least) the single digit windchills.

jalapeno corn muffins

You know what will take your temp up a notch or two? Stew – it warms the heart and makes that weather seem like a non-issue. Stew makes you want to wrap your sweatered arms around someone you love and stay indoors all weekend without a care in the world.

Specifically pork stew infused with ancho chile powder – the smells emanating from the kitchen, wafting into all nooks and crannies are enough to make you forget about all those sweet treats and instead focus on those Mexican spices, peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, and hominy – if only for a little while. (And I do mean a little while – this is a straight-up under 1 hour recipe from start to finish. Cook it on Monday – I dare you).

stew and muffin

Not to mention a little palm-sized nugget of corn meal, cheddar cheese, and jalapeno. I love cookies, but I can’t (or shouldn’t, rather) dunk cookies into a glowing bowl of ancho-spiced broth and come out with anything close to what happens when you douse these babies with soup broth. I mean, you can eat them without the stew juices, no doubt, but in some households it’s better to sop up juice with muffins rather than lick the bowl clean with your tongue. Just sayin’. Although, you could do both…

stew and muffin

So yeah, I reneged on the cookie offer. But only temporarily – I promise. I hope you forgive me 🙂 . In the meantime, whip yourself up some of this yummy stew and some sauce-soppin’ muffins. I’ll be back next week to share another cookie recipe – and from the looks of the comments so far, I’m guessing it’s gonna be those cardamom-clementine sugar cookies. Ya might wanna bake those up for Santa!

Ancho Pork & Hominy Stew

Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2009; makes 6 servings
300 kcal, 2.1 g sat fat, 28.9 g protein, 6.1 g fiber

printable recipe

ingredients

2 T ancho chile powder
2 t dried oregano
1 1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t g cumin
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 lbs pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 T olive oil, divided
2 c chopped onion (1 lg yellow onion)
1 1/2 c chopped green bell pepper (1 lg pepper)
1 T minced garlic
1 28-oz can hominy, drained
2 1/2 c low sodium chicken broth
1 14.5-0z can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

instructions

combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl (set aside 1.5 t spice mixture) and add in pork, tossing well to coat.

heat 2 t oil in Dutch oven over med-hi heat. add pork and cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. remove pork and set aside. add remaining 1 t oil to pan and add onion, pepper, garlic. saute 5 minutes or until tender. return pork to pan. add spice mixture, broth, hominy, tomatoes; bring to a boil. partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes.

Cheddar-Jalapeno Corn Muffins*

Adapted from Gourmet, November 2009; makes 12 muffins

printable recipe

ingredients

5 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 c yellow cornmeal
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 c corn (fresh or thawed)
1 1/4 c buttermilk
1 egg
1 3/4 c grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and small-diced

instructions

spray or butter muffin pans and preheat oven to 425 F with rack in middle.

whisk together cornmeal, salt, baking powder and soda in large bowl.

whisk together corn, buttermilk, egg, melted butter in another bowl and then stir it into the flour mixture until just combined. stir in 1 1/2 c cheese and jalapeno.

divide among muffin tins and top muffins with remaining cheese. bake until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. cool on rack and serve warm or room temp.

If desired, muffins can be frozen individually on a sheet and put into ziploc freezer bag for individual use 🙂

*Muffins gluten-free, not dairy-free