Late Night Bites: The Pleasure Bar

The Pleasure BarI’ve always done my best to avoid the nine-to-five, and after a brief stint as a legal secretary in 2003, I’ve been largely successful. For the most part, I enjoy doing things at off hours; being at work or asleep during both sessions of rush hour traffic has undeniable appeal; grocery shopping is a breeze at 11pm. However, the one persistent difficulty I’ve found since the advent of a 10pm quittin’ time is restaurant patronage.

Sure, most bars are open and welcoming when I get out of work, but even those with restaurants attached stop offering food past a certain time. Too often kitchens close at 10pm, sometimes at 11pm (which is doable but can be a tight squeeze), and more rarely at midnight or 1am. I understand that it ceases to be advantageous for most restaurants to offer food after popular dinner times, and that a small number of restaurants will cater to the late night crowd, but finding those restaurants has proven more difficult than I expected.

A couple weeks ago I went to the Pleasure Bar after work on a Friday night. The Pleasure Bar is a venerable Pittsburgh institution located in the heart of the Liberty Avenue business district in Bloomfield. I’ve often dined there and drank there in the past, and it’s one of the few places in the city where I’ll go for Italian food (most Italian restaurants violate my primary law of eating out: Don’t eat food at a restaurant if I can made it better, easier and/or cheaper at home). It had been a couple years, however, since I’d eaten at the Pleasure Bar, and I had never attempted to grab a late night bite there, so I did some research ahead of time.

Inside the Pleasure BarDespite being a venerable Pittsburgh institution in business for over three decades, the Pleasure Bar does not have a website, so I had to pester their hard-working staff with a call to ask how late the kitchen would be open. I was told “Probably until 11:00″… which might help explain the lack of website, probablys being difficult to express in print.

And so, I made a point to leave work at ten on the dot, and put the pedal a little closer to the metal than usual in effort to arrive in Bloomfield by 10:30. On street parking was a breeze, and I was sitting at the bar asking if the kitchen was still open by 10:31. I was told: “For about two minutes.” Luckily, I had found amidst my research earlier that day a menu of their pub food on and so I was able to squeak my order in under the wire.

While I did not receive my order in the aforetold two minutes, service was swift and I quickly found myself with two piping hot appetizer plates and a chilly beverage. First up was an order of fried provolone that exemplified everything a gal could ask for in a plate of fried cheese: crisp breading, gooey center, hearty marinara on the side, a dusting of parmesan. The provolone wedges more than met my criteria for restaurant food, as I would never attempt to make fried cheese at home when such an ideal specimen is readily available at the Pleasure Bar for under five bucks.

My second appetizer was tasty, but mildly disappointing. The crab stuffed mushrooms came full of promise; sizable mushroom caps filled with quality lump crabmeat, baked in alfredo sauce and bubbling with baked cheese. How can you go wrong, right? While I was duly impressed with the quality of the crabmeat, I found that it lacked any sort of zip. A squeeze of lemon, a whisper of garlic, a dash of spice would have gone a long way to making these stuffed mushrooms delectable, but as it was, I found the dish a bit lackluster. Would I be able to make it better myself at home? Maybe. But would I have been able to make it cheaper? Definitely not. At $7.50 for a dish teeming with sweet lump crabmeat, these mushrooms are a great deal.

In fact, the Pleasure Bar proved to be an excellent bargain. Two quality appetizers and a couple of well drinks came to a total of $18, showing the Pleasure Bar to be a great option for starving creative types like me to find after work refreshment. Now, if only I had a better idea of how long the kitchen would “probably” be open, I would name the Pleasure Bar a prime spot for late night eating. As it is, this restaurant is a great spot for inexpensive Italian food, provided that you don’t incur any speeding tickets on your way to place the last order of the night.

Pleasure Bar on Urbanspoon

“Mary Fucking Poppins.”

In contemplating my inaugural blog for this site, I found myself growing increasingly pensive. With what topic should I begin? What impression should I make? There’s much to talk about in the news, I’ve several social activism subjects close to my heart, I’ve even got a topic in law or two that I think might be of general interest. These kinds of topics all require research and drafting, though, and that seemed daunting – I’d already been procrastinating on a daunting professional project, and there I was, procrastinating on a personal project as well.

Before Sarah approached me about writing a Pittsburgh lady blog together, I’d been ruing the fact that I no longer blogged on my own. I had previously been a MySpace blogger (yes, 100 years ago), and then I had graduated to my own website (some blogs from which I plan to repost here, as I still think they are of their interest and enjoyable). An entire website had proven too time consuming, and I don’t know that it got much traffic anyway. My blogging lapsed. Blogging, of course, it must be said, is not a necessity – everyone enjoys a little narcissism, and are usually willing to indulge it in others, but it’s not as though there is an audience hungering for my thoughts on the tyranny of other people’s Facebook posts, the awful, interminable nature of basketball, or the former Pope’s beatification. Nevertheless, I am actually a trained writer (and a big Fuck You to the University of Michigan, but that’s a subject for another day), and I always have a vague sense that I should be writing, though it’s not really a pursuit of mine anymore, excepting academic work.

I had conceived a blog that I might begin myself. In my head, I had already titled it “The Duncan Street Palimpsest” and I planned to make it a repository of many projects and meanderings I wished to undertake. For instance, I am constantly saying that I will cook more, and so I thought I could do recipe blogs; I am constantly saying that I want to improve my knitting skills, and so I thought I could chronicle my crafting challenges; similarly, I am constantly asserting my desire to learn to sew, to garden, and to in general undertake the kind of betterment of self through skill acquirement that ambitious bloggers have been documenting for years now as they cook their way through massive tomes, recycle rubber bands into minidresses, and create communities for social justice activism and fatshion haute couture.

The problem, of course, is that I almost never undertake these projects. There are all sorts of explanations that a casual observer might surmise to be the cause of this inaction – laziness, fearfulness of failure, a variety of other unpleasant character traits.

As to fearing failure: meh. I’m pushing 30 and haven’t yet earned enough money, total, over my lifetime, to qualify for social security. I have two degrees I don’t use, I’m overdue on pretty much every bill, and none of this troubles me at all. I don’t pluck my eyebrows or shave my legs, and my dining room is filthy at the moment. I’ve got a different sense of the word failure than other people do, let’s say.

In my further defense, let me say that I am lazy, but not when I find the work to be important or enjoyable. I’m a good employee (I teach part-time), I’ve donated hundreds of hours of my time in the past to local political campaigns, I devote time to my own academic pursuits, and I read in my spare time with an eye towards what I hope is my intellectual improvement – nonfiction on various subjects, classics of literature, et cetera. But, true enough, I am sometimes lazy: if the task seems thankless or unimportant – say, that time I worked answering phones for a living – I do the bare minimum, if that. I don’t feel bad about this, either; my time and energy are finite and precious to me, and I see no reason to fritter them on anything other than what I personally wish. “Pride in a job well done,” without taking into account the nature of the job, is a capitalist lie inculcated in the working classes (blue- and gray-collar) to discourage them from refusing to work at degrading tasks for the enrichment of others, and I’ve no truck with that, thank you.

Still, learning to knit or sew, gardening, cooking, deploying my writing to the work of a worthwhile activist community, expressing myself through art or photography or music … these are not thankless or unimportant tasks. Many people undertake them with joy in their hearts and soon see gratifying results. And yet …

Well, a friend of mine put her finger on the problem quickly and succinctly: “You don’t want to do that shit. You just want to be the sort of person who does that shit. You want to be Mary Fucking Poppins.”

I think she’s right; I think, in the cases of many of my ambitions, I don’t actually want to do that shit – I just want to be the sort of person who does. Who doesn’t want to move through the world productively and creatively, mindful and ever-improving, delighting in the growth of skills and the expansion of interests, and receiving the just accolades of all who bear witness to their march of progress?

Except that shit’s hard. And there’s school, work, housekeeping (shudder), maintaining personal relationships, errands … and then I’m supposed to exercise, follow the news, do the basics that a human is supposed to do, I guess, and frankly, once all or at least a respectable amount of that is accomplished, I want to sit on my ass and read a book with a cat in my lap. Go to the bar. Go on a date. Take a fucking nap.

Still, I’m not a child, and I should make myself do some of the shit done by the people who are the sort of people who do that shit. I should write thoughtfully and undertake some of those projects; I should improve myself before I’m dead (though why I should do this, I can’t quite say).

Sarah says I’m completely thwarting the premise of this blog, which is meant to be the solution to both she and I feeling overwhelmed trying to take on bigger and more extensive blogging projects. Just write something. Toss something off. Whatever’s on my mind, it doesn’t have to be a project. That’s good advice. And you see, today, I’ve taken it – this blog required no research, no drafting, and no careful consideration whatsoever, nor did it require me to knit, sew, cook, read, watch, visit, learn, or work in general. High fives all around?

Still, in the future, I’d like to, y’know, maybe try to do some stuff. So if you see me blogging about falteringly attempting accomplishment, pat me on the back, internet-style. But if you also see me running on about where I just had dinner, y’know … don’t hold it against me. We can’t all be Mary Fucking Poppins.

Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

Book CoverI recently popped in the audiobook version of Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning. I have not read any of the earlier books in the series, and perhaps that is partially where I went wrong, but I frequently start with later books in this type of series (i.e. semi-episodic paranormal romance/thriller) without trouble.

After listening to the first two CD’s of this audiobook, I found I simply had no motivation to continue. The problem I had with this book, I have come to believe, is the writing style. Usually audiobooks make up for a lot of sins in terms of writing style because the actors can change intonation for emphasis and clarity. Occasionally an audiobook narrator can affect my feelings on a books, but no complaints about the audiobook actress on this one. This book had an essential disconnect with my reading affinities.

The first issue is the fact that it’s written in present tense narration. Now, present tense itself is not a fundamental deal-breaker. But the present tense gives story-telling a more fluid, immediate quality. It lends itself well to faster paced story-telling as it gives the reader a sense that the story is happening right now up to the minute. The downside is that present tense narration loses a sense of the concrete, a grounded feeling that past tense (the much more frequently used narration style in fiction) storytelling gives.

The second issue is that Moning’s narrative style hinges predominantly on internal monologue. There are bits of action and dialog sprinkled throughout the internal monologue, but these are few and far between and told in such an internal monologue style that it’s easy to get lost. Most of all, I feel these first few chapters I read lacked a concrete sense of scene. The quick return to internal monologue after any snatch of concrete scene development made this story hard to follow; this problem is exacerbated by the use of present tense narration. The lack of definitive scene creation and the more fluid sensation of the present tense narration made this story too ethereal for me. There was nothing to grab hold of in terms of scene or character interaction, and the story kept losing my attention until finally, I stopped reading.

Originally published on ARWZ: Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

Sex and the City 2, a film of dubious repute

Sex and the City 2Yes, I know, it is unabashedly girly of me to be a Sex in the City fan, but this show did not initially capture my interest simply by appealing a city gal’s cosmopolitan values of glamor and singledom… though it was undeniably part of the equation (I could have watched the Sopranos, instead); Sex and the City was my first foray into TV on DVD (some might argue that Xena: Warrior Princess deserves the honor, but I don’t count it, despite pre-ordering all six seasons, because I watched it originally during its first run).

That was an age (back in 2003), where the enjoyment of TV on DVD necessitated a trip down to the Ye Olde Iggle Video, where TV Shows were displayed on shelves, disc by disc, next to feature films, and after selection of an empty box, were paid for at a cash register and delivered over a counter. The delight of watching episodes of a semi-tawdry cable TV show one after the other, without commercials of any sort, in the comfort of a non-cable subscribing home was still shiny and new. It was a special treat, a cause for celebration, and so a ritual developed, whereby I would pick up a bottle of champagne to enjoy with tasty snacks and chocolates at a particularly momentous event (say, the last disc in a season, or perhaps a splurge on more than one disc at a time).

And so, when the Sex in the City 2 movie showed up among my library holds last week, coinciding with a wealth of leftover NYE champagne in my fridge, I decided to reprise my old ritual. With a bottle of Barefoot Bubbly Sparkling Pinot Grigio (a little boring on its own, better with a twist of citrus fruit) on ice and a Lenox Tuscany Champagne flute in hand, I popped in the DVD last Friday night after work.

It was not without fore-warning, however, that I sat down to watch. Just about everyone I’d heard talk about this movie had panned it. Of course, it had been same story with the first movie. Everybody loves to trash a movie, especially when there is any measure of anticipation built up before its release… such as the hype generated by six TV seasons worth of fan base. It is a phenomenon I have observed that film-goers seem to hold movies to a higher standard than they do TV shows, to the point where they will hold a movie, such as Sex and the City, to a higher standard than they would any episode of the TV show. I saw it happen the same way with Firefly and Serenity. Somehow, because it’s a movie, it must be better, grander, more compelling, better written, better acted, etc., etc.

Being one of the few people who think the scripted television series is a higher art form than the movie, I do not have these overblown expectations. As far as I’m concerned, movies are bigger budgets for less work (or, perhaps, for belaboring the same work as, say, two episodes). I don’t understand why people love movies so much. It’s a short story! People outside of university English departments hate short stories! And yet, the movie persists in its prestige and devotees.

Sex and the City 2

We could have done without Sex and Abu Dhabi

But enough about my disdain for movies… When I sit down to watch a movie like Sex and the City 2, I have no expectations higher than I would for any other episode of the series. The producers of this latest film, however, must have bought into “movies must be spectacular!” press, because they clearly spent a fortune on the Broadway Musical of a wedding scene that opens the film, and the girls’ trip to Abu Dhabi that occupies much of the rest of the film. The fundamental story of this film could have easily been told without these over-the-top sequences.

That said, the basic structure of the story is sound; it is structured the same way as an average Sex and the City episode, with Carrie facing a relationship conundrum, and all of the gals experiencing dilemmas that echo her central crisis in some way. The interpersonal issues and conflicts that the movie addresses are current and relevant and should strike a cord with the same audience that enjoyed the show. The overblown milieu of their Abu Dhabi trip may provide eye candy, but it also takes up a lot of screen time and adds a dose of unreality to the plights of these women, where the show would have dealt with the same themes in a funny and unapologetic way.

Ultimately, I found this movie to be entertaining and about as good as the average Sex and the City episode, all things told. It’s definitely worth watching if you are a Sex and the City fan; if you don’t know the show, you’d probably be better off watching it first, if you find the premise of Sex and the City at all intriguing. I may, however, be alone in my assessment. Lo and behold, when returning the disc yesterday, my friendly Sharpsburg librarian solicited my review and disagreed—she grimaced in distaste and cited Samantha’s storyline as a particular low-point. Take my review with a grain of salt, if you will, or perhaps my positive feelings were unduly influenced by the bottle of champagne.

Burn Notice, Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD

Season 1

As everyone knows, I’m something of a contradiction in terms—a huge fan of TV who doesn’t have cable and never turns on her television. Thanks to the Carnegie Library, I always have a stack of TV show seasons on DVD waiting to pop into my laptop and enjoy.

Recently, I finished watching Season 2 of Burn Notice, which has quickly become one of my favorite programs. This is a rare show that is intelligently written, well-acted, action-packed and character-centered.

Main character Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) was a US government spy… until he got fired. The titular “burn notice” is the spy’s equivalent of a pink slip. Fired spies can hardly troll Craigslist for new jobs, and so Weston finds himself dumped into his home city of Miami under the watchful eye of the Feds, forbidden to leave the city, accounts frozen, identity wiped. And so, Michael teams up with an old friend, retired Navy SEAL, Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell, who I enjoyed in his Xena days) and an ex-girlfriend/former IRA operative, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), to run freelance operations for fast cash, acting as a souped up hybrid of a private investigator and vigilante.

The show is largely centered on the plight of Weston’s client week to week, and much of the character’s motivations are based on a golden-hearted drive to help the “little guy.” Much of the appeal of these stories lies in the clever and conniving spy tricks Weston uses the solve the cases, with a good dose of glamorous Miami nightlife and fast-paced action sequences. All the of the plots are smartly done, but what raises this show above the “job of the week” storytelling is the specific attention paid each episode to Weston’s ongoing quest to find out who issued his burn notice and to get his job back.

Season 2

Season 2 finds this story developing with quite a bit of intrigue and several guest stars from the annuals of SF television. Michael finds himself unwillingly contracted to the employ of a rogue black ops group headed by mysterious managers. Weston’s new handler, Carla, played by Tricia Helfer (best known as the notorious Caprica Six), strings him along, playing him against her foes, keeping him always on the periphery of her latest operation; he finds a worthy foil in Victor (played by Michael Shanks, a favorite of mine from his days as Daniel Jackson on Stargate SG-1), a fellow operative within Carla’s organization who shows dubious allegiances.

The show strikes a perfect balance between the stories of the weekly clients and Weston’s overarching plots, including not only his drive to fight the burn notice, but also his on-again-off-again relationship with Fiona and family drama with his brother and mother (Sharon Gless, who shows a much harder edge than her previous motherly role of Debbie Novotny, but we knew she had it in her after her turn as a psychopath on Nip/Tuck).

This show is a crowd pleaser that manages to be action-packed, smart and sexy in one go. No wonder there are so many holds for it at the library…

The Great India Buffet Tour: Taste, Tamarind & Taj

There is just something about an Indian restaurant buffet that I find hard to beat. Being mildly obsessed with Indian cuisine, my drive to frequent Indian restaurants is far from surprising, but my particular affinity for the buffet bears special explanation as it is the seed of Sabrina’s and my idea for a progressive tour.

The buffet, of whatever ethnicity of food, is a controversial institution. Health nuts hate them, red-blooded American appetites love them… Perhaps the most compelling cuisine-conscious argument against the restaurant buffet is that the quality of food over the buffet represents a noticeable downgrade in quality from off-menu items.

Be that as it may, from my perspective, a cost-benefit assessment of the India Buffet makes it the most alluring choice for South Asian dining. My own growing skills in curry cookery will satisfy my cravings on the average day and make off-menu dining at your average Indian restaurant a questionable upgrade. Do most Indian restaurants cook with superior skill and authenticity to me? Probably. But will ordering two curries and a basket of naan make me happier than cooking two curries and warming up some store-bought naan? Probably not.

The beauty inherent in the India Buffet is that I cannot attempt to recreate it at home (without ludicrous and laborious effort), and I cannot order the full splendor of an Indian meal off the menu without spending a fortune for more food than I could eat in two weeks. The essential appeal of the India Buffet is bountiful variety. Not only do you get a choice of a few (or more) curries, but you get the condiments, the chutneys, the raitas, the breads, the dry vegetables, the desserts, the unexpected delights…

And so, when I told Sabrina two months ago that I had a craving for India Buffet, and we found ourselves stymied by the choices of restaurant, the idea for our India Buffet Tour was born. We have already made three stops on our tour of Indian restaurant buffets in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Let me catch you up on the results so far.

Taste of India, Bloomfield, 4320 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Sabrina, being a Lawrenceville dweller and Indian food aficionado, is such a fixture at Taste of India in Bloomfield that she is, more often than not, the reigning mayor on foursquare, but I had only ever tried food from the CMU cafeteria installation. Still, it was close to both of us, it had a buffet, and so it won out as our first stop on the tour.

The restaurant itself was rather empty with only two other tables occupied when we arrived. The buffet itself was much as expected with all the trimmings, the standard chutneys, rice, naan, kheer, a variety of curries, dry vegetable, green salad and tandoori chicken (the last two of which I always skip over). I was disappointed that day in the lack of color among the curries, specifically the lack of a spinach curry. I expect and enjoy having a variety of color in curries. Some red (makhani, tikka masala, madras, etc), some yellow, white or orange (kormas, dals, chana masala, etc), some green (saag/palak). I understand that buffet offerings change, but that day they were all basically red curries. There was a chicken tikka masala, a basic chicken curry, and a malai kofta. As it turned out the malai kofta was quite good, and something I would not have ventured to try off menu, but I was disappointed in the lack of color variety and specifically in the lack of spinach dishes.

On the upside, there was an unexpected delight in the form of lentil balls. Neither Sabrina nor I had tried this dish before and we were both pleasantly surprised. As it turns out, this is a chilled dish made from white lentils served in a yogurt sauce with garnishes of cilantro and tamarind. They were especially tasty and became an instant favorite.

All in all, the Taste of India offered good quality food and a good variety.

Tamarind, Flavor of India, Oakland, 257 N. Craig Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

The buffet at Tamarind came highly recommended by Sabrina, and so for our second stop about a month later I was eager to try out her recommendation. That recommendation came with a warning, however, that the buffet would be smaller. Indeed it was smaller than the Taste of India buffet, but not by as much as I had imagined when she first described it.

Smaller, perhaps, but I knew on first glance that the dishes were certainly more unique. Their coconut chutney was a first for me and a welcome change from the usual coriander, tamarind and random pickle. There was naan, of course, but also a savory pastry that resembled small donuts. The curry selection was much more up to my colorful expectations, and I was especially impressed by the presence of a lamb saag. Since I am generally unenthusiastic about chicken, a lamb dish on a buffet was quite exciting… and spinach, nonetheless!

The difference in quality was apparent from the first bite. Whether it was the spice blends or the freshness of the ingredients, I could not say for certain, but the food at the Tamarind lunch buffet was definitely a cut above. The flavors were more intriguing and complex than at Taste. The lamb saag was particularly good, as was an eggplant and cauliflower dish (Sabrina was less impressed than I was with the latter), but nothing on this buffet was a disappointment.

Tamarind took a clear and early lead.

Taj Mahal, Ross Township, 7795 McKnight Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15237

Having a little more time to spare over the holidays, we decided to make our more-or-less monthly buffet trip a bit early. After crunching schedules and evaluating our remaining options, we decided on the Taj Mahal restaurant on McKnight Road, which has a lunch buffet and a dinner buffet, such that it seems whenever they are open there is undoubtedly a buffet.

We attended the dinner buffet on a weekday evening. The building is tarp-draped and under renovation, and no wonder, because even though the seating was only about half capacity, it still felt cramped inside.

Perhaps it was the ambiance, but perhaps it was the enormity of the buffet. The advantage of the Taj Mahal buffet was undeniable even on first sight. It was at least twice as large as the Taste of India buffet with offerings I had not seen anywhere else. There were all the requisite vegetable curries, chana masala, vegetable korma, as well as a few chicken curries and even a goat curry. More impressive there was an entire vegetarian wing with paneer tikka masala and vegetable biryani, along with a peculiar Chinese-style tofu dish. Chutneys were numerous, as were appetizers including fritters and papaddams, the peppery crackers served as a standard warm-up at many sit-down, off-menu restaurants. The dessert selection was also large, with a mango mousse, kheer, a peculiar puffy pancake and a too-sweet blood-orange candy.

The bounty of the Taj buffet was exciting, though ultimately the quality was standard. All the curries were enjoyable, but the quality was not up to par with Tamarind. The highlights for me were the paneer tikka masala, the piquant sauce of the goat curry (still undecided about the goat meat itself), and the papaddams which made a surprisingly tasty, spicy and not-too-filling starchy complement to use in alternation with the naan. Lentil balls were a welcome chance to revisit the flavors we had come to enjoy at Taste of India, but weren’t quite as good as those at Taste, lacking some of the extra fresh flavor of the garnishes we had enjoyed the first time.

In the end, we decided that Tamarind still won out on the basis of far superior taste quality to our other buffet stops, but Taj Mahal gets definite points for the vast and various offerings of its dinner buffet.

Cashew Cauliflower Makhani (or Butter Chicken with Cashews)

I made one of my favorite new curry recipes last night. It’s based on a simple recipe for butter chicken, but since I’m generally unimpressed with chicken (I like to call it non-vegetarian tofu in a derisive tone), I make it with cashews and cauliflower instead. It can, of course, be made with chicken, as well. After a couple of tweaks to the original recipe, I’ve finally got it where I want it. Enjoy!


1/3 cup unsalted cashews
1 oz butter
1 lb. of chicken, cubed, or 1 lb. of cauliflower florets
1 bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground hot red pepper or paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
extra water, as needed

Melt butter over medium-low heat. Add cashews and roast slowly until golden; lower heat if necessary to keep from burning. Add cauliflower, onion, garlic and peppers and sauté in the cashew butter mixture a few minutes. Add ginger, spices, tomato paste and tomato sauce to the pan, along with some water.

Simmer covered until chicken or cauliflower reaches desired doneness. If sauce gets too thick, add more water. Add the cream and heat through. Serve over rice or with bread.