Saturday, August 29, 2015

Moroccan Fish Tagine

For the carb-lovers, this is awesome over rice or couscous. For the carb-avoiders, this is just fine without.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1-2 yellow onions, diced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced. (Or about a cup of the smaller colorful sweet peppers.)
1 teaspoon salt (omit if your broth is really salty)
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 can diced tomatoes (I prefer fire-roasted)
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon paprika (smoked paprika is awesome)
4-6 cups chicken broth (start with 4 cups. If you want it soupier, add more)
1-1/2 pounds cod fillets, cut into spoon-sized chunks
2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (one of the little supermarket boxes)
3 tablespoons tahini
1 lemon's worth of zest + juice
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, or 1 Tablespoon dried
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, or 1 teaspoon dried (optional)

Open the bag of fish, pour cold water in so the fillets start to thaw. Dice the onion & chop the pepper. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat, saute onion & pepper & salt until soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Start thinly slicing all the mushrooms, set aside. Add the garlic and can of tomatoes, cumin, paprika, and simmer for 1 minute.

Pour in stock (or mix in bullion and then add water). Turn heat to high, start stripping cod fillets out of their vacuum packaging. Cut into chunks. When mixture is boiling, add the mushrooms & fish. When tagine reboils, reduce heat to simmer. Cook until fish is opaque, which is about 5 minutes.

Get fresh cutting board & knife not contaminated by fish. Zest lemon, chop parsley & cilantro. Shake / stir tahini jar. If you don't have a zester, use a peeler and dice the lemon zest fine. When the fish is cooked through, stir in tahini, zest, lemon juice & cilantro. Ladle into bowls, serve immediately.

But remember to blow on it to cool it off before eating immediately...

(Serves at least 4, up to 6 if you added the second onion and had it with rice or couscous.)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Street Food and Scars

Sometimes it's the little things that shock me. I like street food, and since it's a commonality from Venezuela to Turkey, India to Germany, I didn't understand my husband's deep culture shock at the concept of coming out of a concert and buying loaded hot dogs from a cart on the corner.

I figured it must be related to his civil war, but put off asking until I served him fish tacos. It's rather time-consuming to make good fish tacos, because I have to dice and chop the everything. Cabbage, red onions, green onions, tomatoes, cilantro, slices of limes, chunks of avocado... and have to make the lime-juice-mayo before I start any of this, so it has time to meld.
He explained gently that there was one street food in the townships, a bowl of corn porridge and if you were very lucky, some meat. But never in any of the white areas. It wasn't the paranoia of civil war that denuded his earlier life of fried pastries, things on sticks, things wrapped in foil or in paper... it was apartheid. Because the sheer utter evil that strangled his country would have found it unthinkable to let food vendors of any other race into white-only areas.

The man eats all his food with a knife and fork not because Britishness, but because the scars of evil prevented him from ever learning the careful dance you do to avoid getting the grease on you while enjoying the night. There were no ice cream trucks in his youth, no fried chapatis stuffed with more spice than meat, no fish and chips at the wharf cooked fresh from the catch coming in, no tacos or burritos out of the food truck, no hot dogs loaded with sautéed onions and peppers, no polish sausages oozing sauerkraut juice and mustard out of the lining, no cornish pasties, no pirogies, no blini rolled up and dripping powdered sugar and lemon juice, no corner coffee stands with paninis, no tapas, no currywurst, no fritters or kebabs, falafel or rice balls, mochi, or steamed pork buns...

I understood apartheid resulted in the shootings, the disappearances, the training the police dogs to eat the faces off of victims, and all the horrors we associate with great evils.

But I still find it small and sad to watch a man eye a fish taco with trepidation, and take the first bite due to love and faith, because he's never known the wide an wonderful variety of the food world on the streets.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Morning Sights Around Here

My next door neighbor has some oregano that's so ignored it'd best be described as feral. She told me I was "welcome to take all you want, anytime."

Now and then, she sees me skulking past in the bright morning light, wearing an oversize t-shirt and boxers, barefoot and bedhead sticking about wildly, with scissors in one hand and a couple sprigs in the other. For some reason, she's usually laughing when I notice her...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Chicken and artichokes with kippered lemon sauce

Chicken and artichokes with kippered lemon sauce

1/3 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons butter
1 tin, drained, kippers in oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
zest & juice of 1 lemon
2 pounds chicken, diced
1 jar (33 ox) artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and quartered
1/2 teaspoon dill weed dried, or 1-1/2 tsp fresh
1/3 cup parsley & basil, rough-chopped
salt & pepper to taste

Combine chicken chunks and artichoke quarters on a rimmed baking pan, add some salt and pepper & dill weed. Add juice of the lemon you're zesting, set aside.

In skillet, combine butter & oil, heat. After butter melts, add the kippers, and mash with the back of wooden spoon until they're roughly paste-like. When the paste is bubbling rapidly, turn off heat and add lemon zest and garlic.

Turn the oven broiler on high.

Drizzle oil mixture over chicken & artichokes. Mix well to coat. Stick in oven, set timer to 15 minutes. At least every 5 minutes, stir well to take the lightly browned bits to the bottom, and the raw bits to the top. When it's all done (roughly 15 minutes), pull out, garnish with parsley & dill, stir, serve.

Goes well with a salad.

4 servings, roughly 68 grams of protein, 61 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbs. (Not counting salad)

...okay, fine, the original recipe called for anchovies. But I like kippers, I had kippers, and it tasted good. Any strong tasting fish, including sprats, ought to do just fine.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cashew With Coconut Chicken

That sounds so mild and innocuous, doesn't it? IT'S NOT.

This all started when I wanted to make a special meal or three for Calmer Half. He loves Indian food. A Lot. So I picked up a cookbook called Indian Home Cooking that promised to simplify the ten thousand ingredients and 15 hours per dish into something Americans could cook for their South African husbands. (Sourcing some ingredients is still a challenge. "12 fresh or 16 frozen curry leaves? Arrrgh. Thank goodness I live in a city that has a Patel Brothers Import Grocery near the zoo....")



The first dish was a korma, and it was a great success! Yay!

Then I tried Murgh Kaju, or Coconut Chicken with cashews. My husband was in heaven. My stomach, after about the 8th bite, was trying to bodyslam me against the gates of hell, screaming "Why did you do this to me? WHY?" So my husband happily ate his bowl, my bowl, and heroically refrained from thirds in the name of diet while I fled the field with tums, ginger ale, and eventually giving up low-carb to see if ice cream might help.

If you have a higher spice tolerance than me, and you have a food processor to make it, enjoy!

Murgh Kaju

1 cup roasted cashews for grinding into a powder
1/4 cup roasted cashews for garnish
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (Bob's red mill brand at Kroger's, down in the baking section by their rye flour and gluten-free mixes)
4 dried red chilis (I used 1/2 tablespoon of red pepper flakes, as I was sadly out of chilis for some strange reason, like NOT COOKING THINGS THIS SPICY)
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds (Which roll all over if you bump the spoon. Just saying.)
8 garlic cloves. (or 10. or 12, if they're small.)
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, diced

1/3 cup canola oil (or coconut; you're looking for a high smoke point)
1 teaspoon black pepper

2-1/2 pounds chicken breast or thighs, sliced crosswise into sections
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, "or to taste"


Grind 1 cup of cashews to powder in a food processor. Dump 3/4 of that cup and all the rest of the first chunk o' ingredients into a nice huge saucepan over low heat. (I used a smaller dish than I should have, forgetting this turns into a one-pot meal.)

Toast everything, stirring, until the cashews and coconut have turned light golden. (About 10 minutes on low.) Then, find a bowl big enough, dump everything in it, and grind it all to a paste in your food processor. Wipe out the pan if you didn't get all the bits out, and dump the paste back in with the oil and black pepper. (If your food processor is small, like mine, just keep the heat low while you're processing in batches and dumping it in.)

Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring frequently, until everything turns deep golden brown. If using a nonstick pan, life is good. If not, keep a cup of water by the stove to splash about a teaspoon at a time and deglaze (scape up the spices what stick.)

After it's all deep golden brown, add the remaining cashews and cook, stirring, 5 more minutes. Add the chicken, trying to nestle the slices down to the bottom of the pan with all this spice paste running around, and cook until the chicken is opaque (5 more minutes).

Add the water, salt, and bring it back to a boil. Then simmer 15-20 minutes until the chicken is tender. If you slices the chicken into medallion-sized slices, keep it to the 15-minute end of that. If you cut giganto Sam's Chicken Breasts of Doom into 3 pieces, maybe 25 minutes. A lid helps here, because it spatters!

Garnish with that last 1/4 cup of cashews, and serve. I suggest over rice with peas or spinach as a side, but that's because that's how my husband blissfully fixed it.

But beware, he described it as "A lovely curry! About medium, to my taste; it didn't have me perspiring buckets."

...Yeah, I'll just leave ALL the leftovers for him.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Day

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.


When I was very young, I learned to play the trumpet. One of the first songs I was set to, after learning scales, was Taps. It is all open C, all in the position of your jaw and lips, no valves pressed. This makes it very challenging for the beginning student, because you have to learn position, breath, and tone to play it. And I could never get it right, because I knew, deep in my heart, what it sounded like. It was right out of memory, one of the first sounds I can remember, and I was so close, but not there even when the teacher said I passed.

Dad would leave the house when I tried to play it. No matter if it was right before dinner; if I was going to practice trumpet, dad was suddenly... elsewhere. He also became a staunch supporter of me switching to piano lessons - possibly the only time in my life when I got frustrated and wanted to quit something, and he didn't even try to get me to tackle it harder instead.

Years later, I figured out that I never could get it right because I was trying to play the bugle with a trumpet, and waiting for the crack of firearms, the sound set to a splash of vivid green of grass and white of the folding chairs' seats right at my eye level as I toddled past white stones taller than me.

And I learned why dad left in a hurry. Oh, G-d, did I learn.

We will remember them.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Self-Employed

Day 1 of self-employment.

Tea.
Laundry.
Breakfast.
Laundry, laundry...
ok, time to think very hard about changing the cover on the newest book, in order to better match with the first Laredo book.
While folding clothes.

New art found; Peter's readers asked which they prefer
.

More Tea.
Laundry.
And now for something completely different: sorting mail!
Brain break: making a loaf of bread from scratch.

...the sudden blinding realization that I can have poppy seeds again, without worrying about random drug tests!

Followed by the call to ask if I can help medicate Gremlin, as he is putting up a very effective feline protest. "When you're off work." Ah, the temptation to say 'I'll never be off work again!'