The Phuket List

So, have you heard? I figure if I’ve heard, then the rest of the more civilized inhabitants of the earth most certainly have: Saturday is a big day for the planet.

Did you know that? Yes, Saturday marks three weeks of living in San Francisco, which is not-so-monumental-but-still-cool. But what I mean to point out is this: the world is coming to an end on Saturday. For realz. Or at least the beginning of the end will occur; whatever you call it.

I haven’t gotten too excited about it, but since I have this awesome drive to and from work everyday I’ve gotten back into my podcast listening, so now I’m more “in the know”, you know. It’s interesting to see how folks respond to these assertions, how some of us are totally nonchalant while others are totally hardcore. This morning I was listening to “Uhh yeah dude” (UYD), which I highly recommend, and rather than making a “bucket list”, they proposed something a little bit different in light of future events: a “fuck-it list”. Because if the world really is coming to an end soon, we may as well say screw it (or “phuket”, to be P.C.) and go balls to the wall.

Are you still with me?

If you are, I thought I’d share my Phuket List with you. It’s short, because I’ve got shit to do, you see.

  1. Survive a concert of “This Will Destroy You!!” at the Independent with Chris. Check. This is the first of a bazillion shows he’s going to drag me to since this venue is a block from home. Thankfully, I’ll like 90% of them; this fell into the other 10%, minus 3 songs.
  2. Eat chicken tartare at Ippuku in Berkeley. Check (see picture here!). Because if I’m not getting taken up into the sky on Saturday (let’s face it, my chances are slim to none) I may as well start eating all the stuff that could potentially kill me, right?! (also, it tasted awesome. not like salmonella at all. but if you don’t hear from me next week, send a search party for the Wetzels.)
  3. Find a way to get from work to home in 1 hour flat. My morning commute is 1 hour flat, but I can’t seem to get home in less than 1 hour and 10 minutes. I have another shortcut to try out, so this is a work in progress. Plus, it might not matter anyway, right?
  4. Bike through Golden Gate Park. Although, if a major earthquake is happening on Saturday, being on a bike probably isn’t the best idea I’ve come up with this week. Maybe I’ll wait until Sunday and see if I’m still around :).
  5. Make a killer ragù. This is on the list for Friday. I think I can get this squared away lickety split.
  6. Oh, and make something that tastes like real Indian food. Check. I could eat this tomato-based curry dish a thousand more times. Despite it being loaded with onions, which isn’t great for say, dates or being romantic, it’s a lovely weeknight dish.

I think that’s a decent amount of stuff, right? I mean, I could put skydiving or bungee jumping on my list, or going to Italy again, but I’m a little low on time here. I’ll have to remember that for next time one of these big predictions surfaces. If there is a next time, that is. We’ll see what happens, and if this is really the end of the world, as we know it. But right now, I feel fine.  

Dhaba Chicken Curry
adapted from Food & Wine, March 2011; serves 4

time commitment: 40 minutes, 25 of which is active

printable version

I don’t make a lot of Indian food at home, but this is one that will certainly get made again. It’s easy, it’s relatively quick, and it is so. damn. good. Make sure your spices are fresh for maximum flavor, and definitely use the cilantro garnish rather than the scallions you see pictured here. I didn’t have any cilantro and wanted to pretty it up, but the scallions were a bit much with all the other oniony goodness the dish had going on already.

ingredients
3 onions, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves
One 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 c canola oil
1 T ground coriander
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of ground cardamom
1/4 t turmeric
1 c tomato sauce
Four medium-sized boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and fresh-ground pepper
1 c water
2 T chopped cilantro
1 c uncooked basmati rice

instructions
In a food processor, chop the onions. Add the garlic and ginger and process until they are finely chopped (and almost watery).

In a medium, enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the canola oil. Add the coriander, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom and cook over low heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onion mixture and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the turmeric and tomato sauce and simmer over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook rice according to package instructions. Keep warm.

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and add them to the casserole. Coat the chicken with the sauce. Add the water, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, turning a few times, until the chicken is white throughout, about 10 minutes. Season the chicken curry with salt. Transfer the cooked rice, chicken and sauce to a serving bowl. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.

Don’t Eggspect Anything Fancy Here

egg

Ever have those days when, as much as you love cooking, [as evidenced by your uncanny desire to chop veggies, bake bread from scratch, and construct dishes with multiple components] you’d instead prefer to prepare something quick, simple, but utterly scrumptious all the same? I have those days too, although you might not believe me. I do. Promise. Particularly in the midst of finishing the 3rd quarter of culinary school, when I’ve just spent three consecutive nights cooking and baking my butt off (well, I wish – instead I seem to be baking more butt on than off…) in an industrial kitchen until 11 pm. Did I mention I work full time? Yeah, can you say t-i-r-e-d by the time Thursday rolls around? You bet.

croccatini



You see, all these fancy recipes you see in this blog, they’re generally made on the weekends. Now, I’ve definitely made things that I’d consider pretty quick and pain-free, but this one here is one where you’ll wonder if you could even call it cooking. Yup – it’s that easy. Other braggable characteristics? Well let’s see: it’s light but hearty, simple but packed with flavor, vegetarian but complete with protein, and great for dinner but also brunch.

tomato sauce



Did I mention tasty, quick, budget-friendly, and absent of chopping other than a few leaves of basil and grating of cheese? And really, for the reward of cheese, not to mention basil, I’d break out the grater and kitchen shears any day without complaining. Any. Day.

Wait, there’s more. This dish is a staple of Sardinian cuisine, which should already tell you its practically like eating a sliver of heaven. Other than Mussolini and linen man-capris, what else from Italy is questionable? Ex-actly. Apparently the Sardinians have many versions of this dish, but all include 4 major components: eggs, Sardinian music bread (pane carasau), tomatoes, and pecorino Sardo (a cheese made from Sheep’s milk). In Italian, it’s called “Ovos kin Tomate e Casu”. Well, since I neither live in Italy (yes, sad) nor have access to a personal supply of Italian imports (although with Amazon.com anything is possible), I was unable to find the special bread or the exact combination of both pecorino & Sardo, so I made my own variation and as a result, strayed slightly from the key ingredients.

Something tells me they’d still approve.

tomato-poached eggs with croccatini


Tomato-Poached Eggs w/ Croccatini
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, serves 4



As I mentioned, this is a fantastically easy dish that comes together pretty quickly. You can substitute any herbs, cheeses or breads for fun. I’m imagining eggs poached in a pre-made tomato, fennel, and Italian sausage sauce. Or even Mexican-style, with some poblano peppers, queso fresco, and tortilla chips. What about you? What variations can you come up with?

ingredients
2 T EVOO
1/3 c chopped green onion
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper
2 1/2 14.5oz cans of whole plum tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped*
4 eggs
4 wedges of croccatini crackers (La Panzanella brand – I used fennel flavored)
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino Rustico cheese
2 T chopped fresh basil

instructions

  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in salt and pepper (couple of pinches), and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Reduce heat to low. Working with one egg at a time, crack each over tomato mixture, about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with another pinch or so of salt and pepper. Cover and cook about 7 minutes (more if you want firm yolks – I like them sorta runny). Remove from heat.
  3. Arrange bread crisps on plate and spoon 1/4 of sauce atop. Top with 1 egg and ~2 T of cheese and 1/4 of the basil.


*I chop the tomatoes in the can with kitchen shears and chop any I missed once they get into the pan. I also chop the basil this way, so this dish is cutting-board-free 🙂