Archive for December, 2011

December 11, 2011

Massman Curry (of a sort)

Our version of Massaman Curry, served over rice in a blue handmade bowl.

 
Having once eaten mediocre vegetarian massaman curry in a college dining hall, I (librarian) recently felt inspired to concoct my own version of this dish.  After scouring our rural town’s minimal grocery stores for months, the recommended massaman curry paste finally appeared on the shelf of the natural food store a few weeks ago.  So I looked around the root cellar and the fridge for what vegetables we had to work with.  December isn’t the most inspiring time for vegetable eating, but I came up with sweet potatoes, Asian greens, onions, and garlic.  I swapped the usual tofu  for a can of chickpeas.  I also made the rice with my favorite new method:  crock-pot-as-rice-cooker.  Without further ado, here’s my version of vegetarian soy-free seasonal vegetable massaman curry.

 
4-6 servings (over rice) – Takes about 1hr20 for me to prepare, so you’ll probably be faster.

 
Ingredients

1 large sweet potato or 2 medium-sized ones
1 large onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
1/4 lb of Asian greens (Spinach or any other kind of cooking green will do – but Bok Choi, Mizuna, and the like are particularly great in this recipe; the amount of greens is completely flexible)
1 cup white rice (optional)

 
1 can of chickpeas
1 can of coconut milk (full fat, especially for this recipe)
1/2 can of massaman curry paste (about 2 oz. – see link above for what I used)
1 tablespoon of peanut butter (I like low-fi PB like Teddie but any kind will do)
1 teaspoon of brown sugar (omit if you’re using sweetened PB like Skippy or Jiff)
1/2 teaspoon of dried ground ginger, or chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
Generous handful of roasted peanuts (some for cooking, some for topping)
A bit of olive oil (for the pan)
A bit of butter or olive oil (for the crockpot rice-making)

 
Array of sauces and seasonings for the curry

 
Directions

1. Grease the bottom and (lower) sides of your crockpot with some butter or oil.  Put in 1 cup of uncooked white rice, a pinch of salt, and 2 cups of water.  Set your crockpot to high, cover it, and get to work on the rest of the curry.  I found that this dinner was timed nearly perfectly with the rice being done.

 
Rice cooking in crock-pot.

2. Peel and cube the sweet potatoe(s).  Set it/them up to boil for about 15-20 minutes in a saucepan.

 
Sweet potatoes in boiling water

3. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, wash and chop the greens.  Dry them and set aside.

4. While the sweet potatoes are still cooking, chop the garlic and onion.

5. Once the sweet potato cubes are cooked (easily pierced with a fork, but still holding their shape), drain them and put them into a large bowl.

6. In the saucepan you just emptied, put the following:

 

  • The creamy part of the coconut milk (at the top of the can; just scoop it out with a spoon)
  • 1/2 can of massaman curry paste  (put the rest of the can into a freezer bag and pop in the freezer to store)
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • Chopped onions
  • Chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar (if you’re using unsweetened/natural PB)
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • A handful roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

7. Stir it all around and cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes.

 
8. Once the sauce is combined, add in the rest of the coconut milk.  Cook for about 5-10 minutes until the sauce is heated through.  Be careful not to let it burn – you may have to turn the heat down and stir quite frequently.

9.  Add back the sweet potato chunks and stir until covered in sauce.  Now is a great time to test the seasoning – I added a bit more soy sauce and sesame oil.  You might want to add a bit more curry paste if you like a spicier curry.

10. Add the chickpeas.  Once those are warmed and covered in sauce, check the status of your rice.  If it’s not nearly done, I’d recommend shutting off the heat to the curry.  Leave it covered while you wait for the rice to be done.

11. Check on the rice after about 1hr – 1hr15.  You might want to fluff it up a bit just before it’s finished.

12. When the rice is done, turn the crockpot to warm.  Stir the greens into the curry and cook over low heat until the greens are wilted and incorporated with the curry.

13. Serve your delicious curry over rice!

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December 4, 2011

Third Floor Root Cellar

As we move into the long, dark, cold, small-farmers’-market part of the year, we decided it would be worthwhile to again investigate ways to store our veggies and have them keep well.

Since our beloved closet dweller moved out in August, this left us with a large and remarkably cold closet.  After marveling that she slept in there for over nine months, we put the cold, cold, room to work for us:

 

An inexpensive second-hand bookcase holds our canned tomatoes to keep them cool.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 
This awesome old basket, lined with brown paper, holds our squash, onions, shallots, and potatoes.

 

 


 

 
And these beautiful garlic braids, a gift from friends, hang from convenient nails on the walls.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 
Altogether, it is both nice and dark and cold, and also pretty cute looking.  Those leaf shadows are from the cool branches we lodged up there.  There are lovely little silk leaves we made from some of my fabric scraps and strung onto thread.

 

 

 


 
The only downside of our root cellar is that we no longer have a guest room, or rather our guestroom and spare blankets, mattress, and pillows, are all beginning to smell heavily of garlic.

December 4, 2011

Pie: and why I feel like the coolest person ever.

So, we made that pumpkin and black bean soup a few weeks ago.  And, since we used real pumpkin, this left us with half a roasted pumpkin, nicely pureed and ready to use. Now, I’ve never made a pie before.  Sure I’ve helped pour filling into crusts my mother or father have made.  And I’ve laid little pie-crust leaves on top of pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving.  But I’d never actually made a pie myself.  But the idea really stuck with me.

Pumpkin to roast

 

So, my first ever pie: pumpkin maple with a crust so delicious I couldn’t believe it.  This was seriously one of the best pie crusts I’ve ever had.

Crust, from Smitten Kitchen:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces, 16 tablespoons or 1 cup) unsalted butter, very cold

Fill one cup with extremely cold water (Smitten Kitchen recommended putting some ice cubes in there, but since we didn’t have any ice, I just put the whole measuring cup in the freezer for a few minutes).

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, and salt.  Cut two sticks of very cold butter and put them in with the flour.  Since I don’t have a pastry blender I used our whisk to mix them all together.  I did this pretty quickly, to keep the butter from getting soft.  when the butter was in pieces which Smitten Kitchen calls the size of small peas.

Slowly pour 1/2 a cup of the cold water over the mixture and use a spoon to mix it all together.  Add more water one tablespoon at a time until it’s mostly sticking together well.  Lump the dough together with your hands, kneading a little and gently so that the dough makes a cohesive ball.

Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When you’re ready to make the crust: get your dough (divided in half since this recipe makes two crusts).  Using a ton of flour roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick. Lift the crust into your pie pan and press into shape.  Use a sharp knife to cut off the excess.  Shape the edges in a pretty way and then weight the bottom with parchment paper and dry beans.  Pre-cook for 10 minutes at 350 then remove from the oven and remove the dry beans.  Use the extra crust to cut out cool shapes.  Pre-cook these for 8-10 minutes on a sheet.

 

 

Next, make the filling.  Make any kind of filling you like. I’ll say that the filling I used was okay, but not phenomenal. It went like this:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the dry ingredients.  Then, separately, combine the other ones.  Mix them all together, pour into your amazing pie crust, and pop in the oven, again, at 350.  Bake about 25 minutes, then put your fun shapes back on top and bake another 10-15 minutes.

It’s a Martha Stewart recipe my mother recommended, but again, it wasn’t amazing filling.  Good, but not as good as the crust.

And here is your pie!

 

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