Friday, April 30, 2010

Semi-homemade restaurant-quality Thai curry

I loooooooooove Thai food. If I could eat it every day, I would. While I've yet to meet a Thai dish I don't like, I am partial to curries, especially the green and yellow curries. They are the ultimate comfort food - warm, spicy and soupy, yet fresh-tasting.

I was always scared off from cooking Thai curries myself because of the quantity and rarity of ingredients involved (how many grocery stores stock galangal?). I've tried a few different store bought sauces, but none of them could compare to the restaurant sauces in terms of spice level and overall flavor.

Then I discovered Thai Kitchen's curry pastes - these cute little 4-inch jars that contain all of those unusual, but amazing Thai chiles and herbs that make curries taste delicious, smashed into a flavorful paste. They come in green and red (sadly there's no yellow), and both are delicious. Each one comes with a recipe on the jar, which just involves mixing the paste with a few ingredients which are readily available in the Asian food section of any major grocery store: fish sauce, coconut milk, canned bamboo shoots, and brown sugar.

Add some cooked chicken or shrimp, some veggies if you like, and steamed rice and you've got an amazing meal. The veggies that pair best with the curries are sliced red or green peppers, cooked onions, peas, and zucchini.

The nice part about making curry this way is that it's simple, but you can adjust the spice/sweet/salt level yourself to make it taste perfect. If it's too salty/spicy, add a little more brown sugar or coconut milk. If it needs more salt/tang, add some more fish sauce. If it needs more heat, add more of the curry paste.

To add extra flavor or flair, I also recommend adding some chopped cilantro at the end, or some Thai basil (which I love, but have a really hard time finding). I also think it's worth the extra step to serve it with Jasmine rice versus plain old Uncle Ben's. So yummy!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fancy French scallop dish that's really, really easy

Any dish that requires me to speak in a foreign accent scares me. So when Ina Garten (ie: The Barefoot Contessa) said she was going to be making scallops provencal on her Food Network show, I almost changed the channel. But that would have required me to remove my butt from the couch and fetch the remote during my vegetation period (ie: the 30-45 minutes when the girls are both napping at the same time); thus I decided to just lie still and watch it. And I'm so glad I did.

After watching her make this elegant scallop dish in a matter of minutes, without any complicated techniques or ingredients, I thought "Heck, I could do that!" And that I fact, it was so easy & good, I made it twice in two weeks.

The thing that appealed to me about this recipe was that it uses really simple ingredients, most of which I already had on hand: scallops, butter, white wine, shallots, garlic, flour, a lemon, and some fresh parsley.

And the only kitchen gadgets required were a pan and some tongs. See - I told you it was easy! You can find the recipe by clicking here.

The more I learn about cooking, the more I discover that truly good food can be really, really simple. I've also learned that you can never go wrong mixing butter, white wine, garlic and many great seafood dishes start with these basic ingredients!

P.S. For a side dish I made parmesan smashed potatoes, which are also extremely easy. You boil some red-skinned potatoes until they're soft. Then smash them with a fork (keep the skins on) and add some extra-virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, and salt. Just keep smashing and tasting until it seems right.

It would also taste amazing over pasta!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The perfect piece of toast

Most of the time, I end up cringing when I read the list of ingredients in prepared and/or processed foods - sometimes even the "healthy" and organic ones. But as much as I love to cook, it's just not feasible for me to make everything from scratch all the time. Plus, I still haven't developed a taste for all of the foods I *should* be eating (white rice is still a staple in my life).

So when I do come across a food that's super-convenient, healthy, all-natural, and (most importantly) tasty, I do a little happy dance. My most recent discovery was Food for Life's Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin bread, which is made from 100% sprouted whole grains. Here's what's in it:

Organic sprouted wheat
Filtered water
Organic raisins
Organic sprouted barley
Organic sprouted millet
Organic malted barley
Organic sprouted lentils
Organic sprouted soybeans
Organic sprouted spelt
Fresh yeast
Organic wheat gluten
Sea salt
Organic cinnamon

That's it!

I've shied away from using totally 100% whole grain breads for sandwiches because I find them a little too dry and dense. But for some toast to go with a little butter and my a.m. coffee, this bread is perfect. If you're looking for a little extra protein, you could spread it with peanut butter or cream cheese. I also think it would taste delicious made into french toast.

Since this bread isn't filled with preservatives like normal breads, I keep it in the freezer and just pull off a slice and pop it in the toaster without even thawing it out works great!

I know that Ezekiel breads might not be available everywhere, but probably just about any grocery store will have a form of 100% whole grain cinnamon raisin bread. Mainstream stores usually have a "natural foods" section that carries different breads than you'd find in the typical bread aisle. This bread is also often sold frozen since it doesn't have the shelf-life of other breads. The Food for Life website has a "where to buy" feature where you can type in a zip code and find any local retailers near you. You can access their website by clicking here.