Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fish Curry, Cucumber Salad, and Bok Choy

Well, I left my thai cooking for a couple of days, but I'm back to it again. Thai and Mediterranean have to be my two favorite styles of cooking. I love the fresh cilantro, lime, and chiles flavors from Thai, and as for Mediterranean, toss in some black olives, tomatoes, basil, feta, and mozerella and I am in heaven.

Tonights dinner was my go-to fish curry recipe. It is rich with just the right amount of heat. It comes from the Perfect Thai cookbook, which I wrote about here.

What I really want you to focus on are the cucumbers. These were from my CSA. I don't know what kind they are, but they are the best cucumbers I have ever eaten! They were about the same size as regular cucumbers but they were thin. You can see that they were greenish all the way through, with small seeds. I use cucumbers a lot as a side dish when ever I make thai dishes. They are so refreshing and easy.

Asian Cucumber Salad

4 cups thinly sliced or diced cucumbers (depending on what look you want)
1 cup sliced or diced red onions
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic (depending on how hot you like it)
Toss all those ingredients together, cover, and chill. This gets better and better the longer it sits.

The bok choy was just sort of ho-hum, so we are not going to mention it. Just pretend it's not there.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Chicken Vesuvio and the not-so-very-good day

Does that look good? Some foods are hard to photograph, especially comfort foods. Comfort foods (or at least my comfort foods), by their very nature, are not all that exciting. They aren't filled with bright colors and pretty contrasts. Most of mine are browns and tans. So while, this doesn't look all that exciting, it was good. But I didn't enjoy it that much. First of all it, again, came from Giada's Family Dinners cookbook, and you can find the recipe here. But it's not Giada's fault, some things outside of Giada's control made this not really work for me.

To begin with, this is a fall/winter dish. It is one of my go-to fall and winter dishes. I don't know why I felt like making it now. The dish begins on the stove and then finishes up in a hot, 450 degree oven, which heated up my kitchen. It's not filled with bright summer flavors. It calls for dried thyme and oregano, which without even thinking, that is what I used. Even though my garden is awash in fresh thyme and oregano. Well, it's awash in oregano, apparently thyme has issues with my clay soil, but still manages to give me a sprig every now and then. And again, I have no problems with the recipe, it was just not the right time for me.

The other problem was that I cleaned my stove just 2 days ago. I have strong feelings for my stove. If there was a fire in my house, I would try to carry out my stove. My stove feels like my fourth child, only it never misses curfew or dates boys who think it is okay to just pull in the driveway and honk for my daughter. My stove does everything I ask of it, it tries very hard to please me. It's not in the best shape, all three of my daughters learned to cook on it. And the idea that a spill needed to be wiped up immediately before it became cooked and baked on, just never really sunk in with them. But I do try to keep it clean and shiny.

So, anyway, 2 days ago, I cleaned it, I mean really cleaned it. You know, where you take off the knobs and soak them, and bring out the heavy duty stovetop cleaner. It was beautiful. And then, tonight's recipe called for browning chicken thighs on the stove. Chicken thighs with fatty skin. Do I need to say more? Do I need to describe the droplets of grease everywhere? The burn splatters on my arms and face? I got so mad, halfway through it, that I began trying to take off the skin. I finally got the skin off. But, by removing the skin, I removed the attractive browned part of the chicken, but by then I was hot and sweaty, burnt, and totally over the thighs. I was supposed to brown the potatoes, but I just tossed them in the fat in the pan, added the thighs back in, and popped it in the oven. It was good, but it could have definitely been better. Don't you hate when you have a bad cooking experience? Cooking, normally, simultaneously relaxes and refreshes me, but not tonight.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Grilled Chicken with Gremolata

Oh my gosh, don't you love when you have one of those dinners where everything goes together perfectly? Where it is the perfect balance of flavors and everything is so good you can't believe you made it? Last night's dinner was it for me. It was so good and so simple! That last word is what makes it so special, it was so ridiculously simple and it tasted so fresh. And look how pretty it looked on my new square dinnerplates!!

Tonight belonged to Giada. With a boatload of squash from a friend, I opened up Giada's Family Dinners and searched for squash. I found:

Marinated Zucchini and Summer Squash
(adapted from Giada's Family Dinners)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I used the juice from one lemon)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (I used rice wine vinegard)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (I used lemon thyme)
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 pound zucchini, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
1 pound yellow crookneck squash, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
In a large bowl, whish the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and thyme to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil. Season the marinade to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the marinade. Add the zucchini and squash to the marinade, cover and marinate at room temperature for at least 3 hours or refrigerate for up to a day.
Grill over a medium-high heat for about 8 minutes. Serve with the reserved marinade, either hot or at room temperature.

This was so good, and I am not even a big squash fan. I'm not even a little squash fan, I'm not really a fan of squash at all, but I do not refuse free food when it is offered to me by my gardening friends. The lemon flavor was subtle, just right.

To go with this, I chose another Giada recipe from the same book:

Grilled Chicken with Gremolata
(from Giada's Family Dinners)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest (if you make this with the above recipe, zest the lemon before juicing, I, of course didn't and it would have made things much easier!)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 boneless chicken breasts halves (she says with skin, mine didn't have the skin)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, combine the parsley, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon zest, oregano, and garlic. This is the gremolata, set it aside.
Rub olive oil over both sides of the chicken, season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high grill for about 5 minutes per side. (My grill started acting up, so I ended up just sauteing the chicken). Serve with the gremolata over the top.

Again, this was so simple and so good. The flavors tasted of summer. This was my first time making a gremolata, I had no idea how easy and delicious it was. Those of you with more experience than me (um, that would be the majority of you), probably can make gremolatas in your sleep, but this was so exciting for me. How many other wonderfully simple sauces are there out there, that transform a simple piece of meat, chicken or fish into a symphony of flavor????

And, I have decided that this will be my first entry into weekend herb blogging! Afterall, I used parsley, thyme, and oregano. It is being hosted this week at Anna's Cool Finds.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

French Toast For One

The other evening, I found myself in an unusual position, no one home for dinner...but me. I love to cook, but cooking for one is just not appealing to me. When all 3 of my daughters were home, I had to stretch recipes that made 4 servings to serve 5. I became used to cooking lots of food. Then as each daughter moved off, it has been my husband and my youngest daughter and I for the last 2 years. Cooking for 3 is really easy, most recipes serve 4 and there was usually enough left over for our lunches. Now, she will be going away to college in a few weeks..gulp! And I will be cooking for just 2. Since I take a lunch to school everyday, I'll probably just continue to make 4 servings and have some for lunch, but still cooking for 2 is not as much fun as cooking for 3. But cooking for 1, it hardly seems the bother to dirty a pot and the stove.

So, anyway there I was, trying to decide what to eat for dinner. I had been craving french toast ever since I saw the wonderful looking french toast on Peter's site Kalofagas in Pursuit of Delicious Foods. I had a loaf of french bread that I had made a few days ago, so it was nice and firm. I have to agree with him, french toast must be made with baguettes. If you haven't had it made with baguettes, I urge you to try it. It makes all the difference in the world, the uneven holes absorb the egg and somehow make it heavy and fluffy at the same time. Now, my french toast doesn't look as good as his, I didn't sprinkle it with powdered sugar, and I didn't have any lovely berries to make it look even more enticing, but I did have real maple syrup. A great dinner for one (though next time I might bake some bacon), ready in about 10 minutes!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pizza and Books

Is there anything a book lover loves more than a trip to the used bookstore? There are so many books and it takes great effort and thought to choose the ones that will come home with you. I am roughly working from 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, because I have to have some sort of map for my reading. Otherwise, I stand there adrift before the millions of books. I came home with an eclectic bunch, that I am itching to start reading. Why is it that the new pile of books that you bring home looks so much more enticing than those poor books that have been sitting on your tbr pile for weeks, months, even years?

Of course, all this book hunting made me hungry. I've been grabbing lunch out a lot lately, but I was determined to make something from whatever was around. I didn't get home till after 12:00, which is very late for me! I begin to get hungry for lunch around 10:00 and usually try to hold off till around 11:00, so I needed something quick and easy.

I checked my fridge and found a stale pita bread, some almost expired smoked mozarella, and leftover grilled sausage from last night. I combined those ingredients with some fresh basil and cherry tomatoes from the garden and it was a wonderful, quick and easy pizza.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Beetroot and Mint Salad

I think there are 2 kinds of cooks in the world (well, there's more than that, but for my discussion today, let's just talk about 2). One kind, makes pretty much the same thing over and over again. They take a recipe and tweak it, maybe try a little lemon, or use chicken instead of fish, whatever. They take recipes, learn the ins and outs, and all of the ramifications. Then there are the other kind, the group I fall into. I rarely make anything more than once. Oh, there is a tiny handful of recipes that I make again and again, for example, whenever I find mahi mahi on sale, it's always going to become Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi from Alton Brown. But I kind of look at recipes the way I look at fabric, I can't have just one good shirt fabric in my stash, I must have every possible good shirt fabric that there is. I can't have just one good fish recipe, I have to have tried every possible fish recipe that interests me. I spend my evenings searching for the perfect recipe, that combination of flavors that I haven't tried yet. If I just kept cooking what I've cooked before, I could miss it. I could miss that one fantastic recipe. So, I buy cookbooks. I buy cookbooks a lot. And I look at cooking magazines, and I read food blogs, and I search the internet, and I watch food network.

But my searching for beet recipes can stop. I have found my beet recipe. It is from Donna Hay Flavors.

Beetroot and Mint Salad
(adapted from Donna Hay Flavors)

6 beetroots (beets), peeled
1/4 cup (2 fl oz) balsamic vinegar
cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

mint salad
1 cup shredded mint
5 oz salad leaves
6 1/2 oz fetta marinated in oil, crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil

Place the beetroots in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 25-35 miutes or until soft. Drain and cut into wedges. Toss with the balsamic vinegar, pepper and mustard. Set aside to cool. (I roasted the beets, instead, in a foil packet, drizzled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper at 350 for about 50 minutes).

To make the mint salad, place the mint, salad leaves, fetta and oil in a bowl and toss to combine. To serve place the mint salad on plates and top with the beetroot. Serve with grilled bread slices. Serves 4. (I didn't use the mint, just salad leaves).

This was so good. The balsamic vinegar and the stoneground mustard were perfect. My beets were yellow (or golden) beets, which is why they don't have that pretty purple color. Also, the only feta I could find at my grocery store was fat free! It was horrible, it looked like egg whites, sort of translucent. I don't mind lowfat, but I try to avoid totally fat free. If this tasted good with the fat free cheese, I can just imagine how good this will taste with full flavored feta.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Smoke & Spice and Everything Nice

Okay, before you read any further, I must admit something. These ribs were made with an electric smoker...yes...I plug my smoker in. I do not work and fumble and get my charcoal just right, I just plug it in. So, if you are offended by that, if you think that I have committed barbecue blasphemy, then maybe you should stop reading now. But for the rest of you, read on, because these babies were so good!

The recipe from these ribs comes from my favorite smoking book, Smoke & Spice: Cooking with Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. What I love about this book is that it includes instructions for people who use an electric water smoker, most books only give instructions for those using charcoal. My smoker is a Brinkman and even though it was relatively inexpensive (under $100), it has lasted, and continues to make fabulous food.

Thai-phoon Baby Backs
(from Smoke & Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison)

1 1/2 cups curshed pineapple form a 20-ounce can
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce, preferably, or soy sauce
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 garlic cloves
1 1/2 stalks lemongrass, chopped

2 slabs baby back ribs, preferable 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each

Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 stalk lemongrass, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
remaining canned crushed pineapple
3/4 cup white or cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red chile flakes
1 to 2 tablespoons minced cilantro (optional)

At least 2 hours before or preferably overnight, puree the marinade ingredients in a food processor. Marinate the ribs.

At this point, how you proceed depends on your kind of smoker and the book goes into very nice details on this. I took the ribs out about 30 minutes before I was ready to smoke, to bring them to room temperature. While, they came to room temperature, I prepared my smoker. They smoke for 3 hours, and with an electric water smoker, I don't mop or baste them. When they're finished, let them rest for 5 - 10 minutes and then eat!!!

This was the first time I had made the dipping sauce, and it was wonderful! The meat was so tender, it was easy to pull it off and dip it in the sauce. The dipping sauce could be used with all kinds of other grilled or roasted meats. As I was eating it, I was thinking that it would be a great sauce to serve along side a roasted pork tenderloin, which I think is pretty bland without a nice sauce. As a matter of fact, this whole recipe would probably be good with a pork tenderloin.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Beets Me!

Beets, do you love them or hate them? It seems that people have very strong feelings about beets, you either like them or you don't. There are not many wishy-washy people when it comes to beets.

Growing up, I loved beets. Or, I should say I loved the beets that my mother and grandmother used to make...pickled beets. I'll have to check with my mother, but I'm sure the beets were from a can, tossed with some red onions and a vinaigrette. I loved them, I even sort of liked the onions because they were turned almost beetlike, with a pretty pale pink color. I probably wouldn't have even known what a fresh beet looked like.

I've wanted to try fresh beets for quite awhile, but I've been scared. First of all I like canned beets, canned beets are fine with me. And really, how often is it that something taste better canned than fresh...um...never. Case in point..asparagus. So, I was afraid the reverse would be true, if I like canned beets, then I probably won't like fresh. Don't question it, it makes sense to me.

But when my CSA shipment arrived, it contained 2 very small fresh beets, I guess their baby beets? I don't know, I'm not up on my beet lingo. This was my chance, I had to use them because I try very hard not to waste food that I've paid a lot of money for, and believe me, with our meager CSA shipment, these were expensive beets.

I decided simple would be the best. I roasted them with a little olive oil and served them sliced over their greens, which I sauteed in olive oil, with a little salt and pepper and finished with a splash of balsamic vinegar. They were good, they weren't great, but they looked pretty on the plate. I'll have to do some searching and come up some other more exciting ideas to try.

With the beets, I served, Cooking Light's Chicken Tetrazzini. This was one of those recipes that makes 2 big 13x9 inch pans. I made 2 of them back in April, gave one to my daughter and put one in my freezer. It was nice to pull out an easy all ready made dinner, though I don't go into that whole freezer dinner thing. It was good, but after all the light thai cooking that I've been doing lately, it seemed really rich and heavy. I probably should have waited till fall, when it would felt comforting.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hip to be Square...New Dinnerware

I have decided that I need new dinnerware. The white Pfaltzgraff dishes that we use now are at least 12 years old. And while, they are still perfectly usable, I am in the mood for something more stylish.

I like the above dishes, CB2 dishes. The only problem with these are that they would have to be shipped. I am leary of shipping dishes, what if they get here and half of them are broken? Also, they will weigh a ton, so shipping will be an added cost.

These dishes are available from Linens and Things. I don't think they have the style of the above dishes, but I do like the oval shaped bowl. Plus, they are in town, so no shipping costs.

Target also has a set of square white dishes, but everytime I try our store, they are sold out. I am not sure if they sell the dishes individually and I don't need a set that includes mugs, because we definitely do not need anymore mugs.

On a cooking note, I made a vegetable stirfry from some produce from my CSA.
There was no real recipe, I used the whole head of bokchoy and the one yellow squash. I added some onions and I wish that I had some mushrooms because it needed something "meaty". I garnished it with toasted cashews and made a simple sauce with soy sauce, brown sugar and a little chicken stock. It was good, but I would not make a good vegetarian.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

We Interrupt This Cooking Blog...

for a little gardening. Last night was take-out, I don't cook on Wednesday nights, so instead of showing you our Vinny and Joe's very yummy pizza, I decided instead to show you one of my flower beds. After having neglected my flower beds for about 3 years, I tried to bring them back to life this year. Of course, with the previously mentioned late freeze followed by a drought, it was not a good year to start gardening again.

I like the cottage style of garden, with lots of lots of flowers. Hoping that lots and lots of flowers means little or no room for weeds. In this bed, I was trying for predominately purples and yellows, with some pinks thrown in. The pale lavender flowers at the top is russian sage, the deeper pinkish purple spires in front of it are purple liatris, in the foreground are pink coneflower and pink wedding phlox.

The yellow flower, I believe is a type of rudbeckia. I just planted it this year and it is wonderful, all through the drought, it just kept on blooming. And right in front is walker's low, a type of catmint. It is low growing, spreads wonderfully and has soft lavender blooms. I love it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Red Snapper in Red Sauce

I made a bold move last night and switched from the cookbook that I've been cooking from all week, to Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World.

Red Snapper or Other Fillets in Red Sauce
(adapted from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World)

4 small red chiles, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped (I only used 3)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 shallots, roughly chopped
one 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 1/2 to 2 pound fillets of red snapper, sea bass, grouper, or halibut, skinned and cut into 2- inch chunks (I used red snapper and forgot to cut it into chunks!)
2 tablespoons corn, grapesee, or other neutral oil
2 tablespoons Tamarind Paste (he lists a recipe the making of Tamarind Paste)
1 teaspoon nam pla, plus more to taste
2 scallions, trimmed and chopped for garnish

Place the chiles, garlic, shallots, ginger and tumeric in a food processor and process until pasty (I used my immersion blender and it worked pretty good). Spread this on the fish (you can cover and refrigerate for a few hours - I did).

Heat the oil (preferably nonstick skillet) over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the fish fillets and cook until the fish is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Combine the tamarind paste with 1 cup water and add to the pan; bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, stirring gently once or twice, until the fish is cooked through (about 5 to 10 minutes). Season to taste with the nam pla, garnish with scallions and serve.

What you might be noticing is that my fish sauce does not look very red. I didn't follow his instructions exactly on making the tamarind paste, since I didn't need such a large amount. I think that I ended up making it way too weak. But even with the weak tamarind sauce, this was excellent. The paste on the fish gave it just enough heat. I served it over jasmine rice with a little cilantro stirred in. I will definitely make this again. It's a nice change from the fish curries that I usually make.

With this, I served Cooking Light's Asian Cucumber Salad. I left out the red onions because, one they were in the basement, and I was too lazy to walk down the stairs, and two, I am not that crazy about raw onions.

It's still good without the onions. Besides in my house, you pretty much eat what I like. That means you will not be served lentils, lima beans, summer squash, or raw onions very often. And you will never, ever be served liver. Does anyone still eat liver anymore, anyway?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Good and the Not-So-Good

Pork with Mixed Green Beans. Another winner from Pefect Thai. This dish came out really good, though I made some changes to the recipe because of lack of ingredients. Chattanooga is not the mecca for grocery shopping, and I have a really hard time finding anything even remotely unique. Notice the recipe is titled "Mixed Green Beans", notice that my green beans look suspiciosly unmixed. The recipe called for Fine Green Beans, this was a new one for me. I searched online and can't figure out what a fine green bean is. If anyone knows, please comment. It also called for frozen fava beans. My grocery store has frozen black-eyed peas and frozen green peas, that is the extent of their frozen beans. And lastly, it called for string beans...ah something Bi-Lo and I had both heard of. So, what you are looking at is Pork with String Beans. Even with the missing assortment of beans, it was good.

The sauce is a simple one made from chicken stock, chili sauce, and peanut butter. It didn't specify hot chili sauce or sweet, so I used a combination of the two. It was very flavorable for being so simple. It was also served over crispy noodles. We watched a video from Thai Cooking Tonight to make sure we knew how to do it.

The next recipe that we tried, Pork with Vegetables, was not as successful. The sauce was basically a jar of black bean sauce. While, it was not bad, it didn't have the fresh flavors that I have come to associate with Thai cooking. It just really tasted of black bean sauce, and if you are not crazy about black bean sauce, you will not be crazy about this.

It doesn't look too bad, does it? But it was just a little too much black bean sauce for me.

On another note, we got our first CSA pick-up today. The was the farm's first attempt at running a CSA, and they picked a horrrible year to begin. First we had freakishly warm weather all winter, everything startd blooming and growing. Then we had 4 days of freezing temperatures in April, which killed alot of vegetation. Then finally once everything started growing again, we have a 5 week drought! So, needless to say, the pickins were slim. We got 2 beets, a handful of arugula, a handful of mustard greens, 1 turnip, 1 tomato, 1 yellow squash, 1 small bok choy, a head of garlic, and 2 daikon radish roots. I feel like one of the chefs on Top Chef and I have to do a quickfire challenge with these few, unrelated ingredients. Any ideas, anyone?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Party's Over

Last night we were invited to a winetasting party at our friend's house, Brian and Madeline (herafter referred to as B&M). I dutifully took my camera to record the event glass-by-glass. But I completely forgot until the party was over! We were the last to leave, and I was able to snap a few photos (most of them are blurry). It seems that everytime we go to B&M's we are the last to leave. I wonder why that is. We are certainly not the life of the party. Maybe we get out so little, we want to get our money's worth. Maybe we just don't know how to take a hint.

The food was good, everyone brought an appetizer. And in the tradition of good appetizers, they all went together well.

The little cucumber sandwiches were wonderful. If you notice the white bowl still practically full. That was what I brought, my bean dip, well not my bean dip, Giada's Bean Dip. It was a tough crowd for the bean dip. Last time I brought bean dip to one of B&M's parties, it was scarfed down completely. This time, it was barely touched. I'm not sure what happened, Madeline is so sweet, maybe last time, she carefully bit-by-bit scooped it into the trash, so I would think people were eating it. Maybe this time, like me forgetting to take photos, she forgot to dump my bean dip. Last time when I made it, I used 2 cloves of garlic, and my husband felt that the garlic was too pronounced. This time, I only used one. I never listen to my husband, especially when it comes to food, I don't know why I started now.

The wine tasting was offered from Riverside Wine and Spirits. It was very well done. We tasted 10 wines, 2 of each in the categories of sparkling wines, sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot noir, and syrah. We were blind tasting and instructed to mark which we thought was the most expensive in each category. I just marked the one that I liked the best and hoped that I was wrong, because that meant it was the cheapest. My favorites:

  • Sparkling - Domaine Carneros, California 2002
  • Sauvignon Blanc - Craggy Range, New Zealand 2005
  • Riesling - Wente, California 2006
  • Pinot Noir - Le Grand, France 2005
  • Syrah - Belle Crozes-Hermitage, France 2000

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Still More Thai!

I am continuing with my quest for mastering thai cooking. I realize that having the fork and the chopsticks in the picture is a little overkill, but I was getting ready to snap the photo, when my daughter said "wait" and she ran and got the chopsticks. It looked great, but I forgot to take the fork away! Oh well. Actually after seeing how pretty it looked, we decided to eat with the chopsticks. It was nice, it kind of slowed the meal down and gave it a more authentic feel. Though towards the end, we were sort of shoving it in our mouths, and trying to hold onto the slippery mangoes took some practice.

Anyway this meal was a huge hit! Again, it came from the Perfect Thai cookbook, which I was finally able to locate a picture of.

The recipe is simply called Fish Curry.
juice of 1 Lime
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp. Thai soy sauce
1 fresh red chili, seeded and chopped
12oz angler fish fillet, cut into cubes (I used cod)
12 oz salmon fillets, skinned and cut into cubes (I used tilapia)
14 fl oz coconut milk
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp. Thai red curry paste
1 lemongrass stalk (white part only), chopped finely
8 oz cooked jasmine rice
4 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Combine the lime juice, half the fish sauce, and the soy sauce. Add the chili and the fish, stir to coat, cover and chill for 1-2 hours or overnight. (We did just an hour, because I think fish becomes too mushy if marinated for too long).

Bring the coconut milk to boil in a pan and add the lime leaves, curry paste, the rest of the fist sauce, and the lemongrass. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.

Add the fish and the marinade and let simmer for 4-5 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Serve hot with the cooked rice with chopped cilantro stirred through it.

We served it with Mangoes in Lime Syrup also from the cookbook. It was so good. I am in the process of cleaning out my freezer, so I used whatever fish I had in there. But angler fish certainly does sound good!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Thai One On

I love thai food. I love the flavors it and it's inherent simplicity. If you have fish sauce, limes, chiles, and cilantro, you can make a lot of thai dishes. I am cooking practically nothing but thai all this week. I would like to get good at it, so that I can whip up a thai dish, without even thinking about it. I am very much like Other People's Food, in that, I pretty much need a recipe to follow. I cook step-by-step. I'm never afraid of a recipe, but I don't like cooking without a guide. It's not that I don't think that I can cook without a recipe, but why do it, when someone else has all ready taken all of the guesswork out of it.

Anyway, tonight's dinner was Curried Noodle with Shrimp & Straw Mushrooms. It is from the cookbook "Perfect Thai", which I would post a link to Amazon, but I can't find it there. I got it from Home Goods, one of my favorite places to look of for discount priced cookbooks. It has 100 thai recipes and it was $4.99!!!

This dish is really simple, you begin by sauteing shallots and a red chili pepper.

You add curry paste and lemongrass

Then you add shrimp, mushrooms, fish sauce, and soy sauce. I'm sorry, but my picture of that came out way too yellow. At the end you serve it over noodles.

It was supposed to be garnished with fresh cilantro, which I think would have added a nice fresh flavor, but unfortunately I was out! It was very good. It was almost a little too hot for me. It was right at the top of my heat threshold, even though it was only one red chili and one tablespoon of red curry paste. I think it was because I didn't seed the chili pepper. It was my first one harvested from my teeny tiny garden, and it was pretty tiny. If you look in the first picture, you can see it sitting on the page of the cookbook. It was so tiny, I figured it couldn't be that hot, but when I started sauteing it, it took my breathe away.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Lists, Lists, and More Lists

I am a list person, I love lists. I love to make lists, I love to scratch out or check off items on my lists. Everyday, I open my daily calendar and make a list for that day. Some of the items are repeats from my cleaning folder, which has cleaning lists of things to do each day. The more places that I have the same item listed the better, that's just more places where I can check it off. For example, today, I have laundry on my personal daily calendar, and I have it on my monthly cleaning chores chart. So, today after doing laundry, I was able to check it off in both places. Checking it off twice makes me feel even more accomplished.

I use this blog to keep a list of the books that I've read so far this year. I also have that list beside my bed in a reading journal. Writing it down, making a note, it's all so reinforcing to me. And with this blog, I've discovered another reinforcement, the changing of the "what I'm reading now" link, and the adding of the completed book on my book list. Think about all the things I do now when I finish a book: write it down in my journal, delete the link to Amazon from my blog, add it to the completed books list on my blog, and then create a new link for whatever book I've decided to start next.

What about you? Do you need lists, little procedures that you do to show you've completed a task?

Monday, July 2, 2007

What Happens to Mushroom Compost When it Rains?

The answer to the question in the title of this post, is, you get mushrooms...lots and lots of mushrooms. In an effort to be more environmentally friendly, I am trying organic gardening on my flower beds. Instead of feeding with chemical fertilizer, I am using compost, mushroom compost to be exact. My plants seem healthy, just maybe not quite as tall as in the past. Of course, since we have been in a drought, this is not a good year to really tell out well the compost is doing. It all changed in the last few days, we have gotten rain, lots of rain, probably at least an inch every day for the last three days. I went out this morning to check on my plants and see how they survived the rain and the wind, and I found...mushrooms. The are sprouting up all over, it's like a have a little garden of mushrooms.

See, lots and lots of mushrooms. I know what your thinking, your thinking, "Pam, where are the fowers, I only see mushrooms?" This is a new bed that we just started this year. So we have some plants scattered in clumps throughout it, but for the most part we are building it slowly and letting our clay soil get nice and enriched.

Also, this morning, I was admiring my cleomes. If you don't have any of these wonderful flowers in your garden, I suggest that you get some. They are annuals, but they reseed freely, too freely, I find myself pulling lots of them up, but they are so worth it. They have unusual flowers, that remind me of fireworks.

I will leave you all with a parting shot of one of my daylillies. I just added daylillies to my gardent this year, actually last week! My husband found a lovely couple who raise (grow?) daylillies, I believe that they even breed (whatever it's called for plants!) them and create their own hybrids. This one opened up this morning, looking absolutely stunning!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

I Bake Bread...But I Cheat

I love to bake bread. I love watching raw ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast, transform into dough, and then with the addition of heat, turn into something so wonderful. I don't really like kneading dough though, it bothers my neck and shoulders, so I use a bread machine. I usually don't bake bread in the machine, I just use the machine to knead the dough and get it's first rise. So, I know that's kind of cheating, and I know people talk about the "zen" of kneading the dough, but I'm happy with my machine. I knead it a little at the end and get to shape it, and that's zen enough for me. Since I'm off of school for the summer (well, not really for the summer, since we go back to work August 2nd!), I have been reworking my way through on of my favorite bread cookbooks:

Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine

I used the recipe for Pain de Champagne, which begins with the making of a poolish. First the flour, water, and yeast go in the pan.

You run that through the dough cycle and you get a wet, yeasty smelling dough, which sits in the bread machine pan overnight.

The next day you add the rest the ingredients, and process on the dough setting.

Then comes my favorite part. You take the dough out of the machine, shape it, and let it rise. After it's risen for about 30 minutes, you slash it and pop it in the oven.

No, wait, did I say shaping it was my favorite part! No, it's taking it out of the oven and looking at this.