Eggplant Curry

A couple weeks ago when Dayle reported having excess eggplant in her garden, she floated the idea of using it to make an eggplant curry. I didn’t have much to say about eggplant curry at the time, so she proceeded to use the eggplant for other things, but I never ignore an opportunity to explore new curry, and so I nosed around to find some recipes. I finally got a chance to try out the most intriguing one the other day.

SOUTH INDIAN STYLE EGGPLANT CURRY

1/2 cup dry coconut powder
3 tablespoons white poppy seeds
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
4 tablespoons besan, i.e. gram flour
1/2 cup nuts, e.g. peanuts, cashews, etc. (optional)
1/4 cup oil
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon red pepper or paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons garam masala
4 fresh medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes with chilis
1 can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 large eggplant, cut into large cubes
3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped

Toast the coconut, the seeds, the besan and nuts (if using) in a nonstick skillet over a low fire until lightly browned. In a different skillet, saute the onion, garlic, ginger and remaining spices in oil for about 10 minutes, adding a bit of water if they get dried out. Add tomatoes, coconut milk and water, as well as the dry toasted ingredients. Simmer on a medium low fire until the tomatoes are softened. Puree the mixture in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Heat through.

If desired, grill or broil the eggplant lightly before adding to the curry. Cook the eggplant in the curry sauce until soft but not falling apart. You want the eggplant to retain its shape, rather than dissolve into the curry sauce. Serve garnished with fresh coriander leaves or coriander chutney.

I made some big changes from the original recipe in order to streamline the process… and because I wanted to use coconut milk to make it creamy, not just the dried coconut for flavor. I was serving the coconut alongside a peanut curry, so I decided not to add the nuts (which is why I marked them optional) to avoid too much sameness in my meal, but if I made this recipe again, I would probably try adding them.

This curry was tasty and the eggplant turned out very well; I was worried it would easily get overdone. My only regret was that the seeds from the first phase of the recipe made it somewhat grainy, despite much attention from the immersion blender. In the future I think I would let them cook for longer before attempting to puree in the hopes they would soften up and blend more smoothly.
 

In for the kill

This week I was excited to go and see Dredd. As a teen Judge Dredd was one of my favorite comics. Sly Stallone made a sad attempt back in the 90’s to portray the cool, severe judge but failed miserably. I don’t recall Judge Dredd ever removing his helmet and allowing his face to be seen.

In this new rendition, which is NOT a remake or a sequel merely a British take on the comic, Karl Urban (LOTR and Chronicles of Riddick) dons the helmet. He carries it well with only the curl of a lip showing. What really helps him to pull off the role is his low, rough voice that betrays no emotion, even when doling out death sentences. Known throughout Megacity as the judge not to toy with, Dredd is assigned a fresh out of the academy rookie to assess in the field. Olivia Thirlby (Juno) turns up as rookie Anderson, a mutant with psychic abilities from the radiation that destroyed most of the world.

As they leave the Hall of Justice on assessment day Anderson chooses what would seem to be a simple triple homicide in Peach Trees, a 200 story slum block. While there they end up in a drug bust where they detain a high level supplier of the Ma-Ma gang. Headed up by Ma-Ma, an ex-hooker played by a too-soft Lena Headey, they are the single producer/supplier of an all new drug called Slo-Mo that is all the rage In Mega City 1. Upon learning of the capture of her Associate, Ma-Ma locks down the building and informs everyone inside that until the two judges are dead the building will remain under lock down.

What ensues is massive hour long shoot ’em up. Anderson uses her psychic ability, indicated by a goldish glow around her head, to learn and gather information that will help them in their pursuit of Ma-Ma who spends most of her time in her 200th story sanctum. At one point her computer guy is able to “trap” the judges so that she can kill them. However even the three gatling guns she uses to pulverize the entire floor and its inhabitants does not kill the judges. They proceed on their quest, guns blazing, until Anderson is taken captive. Dredd continues his pursuit and eventually catches up to Ma-ma on the 200th floor, where he is reunited with Anderson, who has been accidentally freed by a moron. After a final battle Dredd is able to overpower and outwit Ma-Ma, save the residents of Peach Trees and walk out ready to fight another day with Anderson by his side.

What I haven’t told you is that this movie is available in both digital and 3-d. Now, the digital version is a blast and will keep you on the edge of your seat. I did not see it in 3-d because I often become ill in 3-d movies. However, I think that other than a few elevator shafts I probably would have enjoyed the 3-d version. With all the gun fire the audience would have been “showered” in glass and debris as well as been engulfed by Anderson’s psychic aura and the exhaled Slo-mo from the criminals inhalers.

Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

It may seem strange, but recipes for pasta in pumpkin sauce pop up often when I’m searching for recipes online. It was always a concept that appealed to me. I like creamy sauces on my pasta, and I like recipes involving pureed vegetables, and sweet potato and pumpkin are certainly among my favorites.

But I’ve tried these recipes, and they always turn out disappointing. They always ended up so bland, that I gave up on the concept for awhile. I kept booking-marking interesting recipes with pumpkin, and pasta recipes inevitably cropped up. Among them, two recipes intrigued me with their additional ingredients. One added sun-dried tomatoes to the pumpkin sauce, another added gorgonzola cheese.

Wary to try another pumpkin pasta only to be disappointed, I put off examining these recipes more closely. But when I recently discovered a can of pumpkin from last Thanksgiving season in my cupboard, I got a zany idea. Why not combine these two recipes to make a pumpkin pasta with sun-dried tomatoes AND gorgonzola. That couldn’t possibly turn out bland, could it?

SARAH’S PUMPKIN PASTA WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO AND GORGONZOLA

2 slices of bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1-2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin (not pie filling, but plain pumpkin)
1-2 cups of chicken stock
1/4 to 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon of dried sage
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup half & half or sour cream
2-4 oz crumbled gorgonzola
pasta, prepared according to package directions

Fry the bacon in a medium large skillet until crisp. Next saute the onions and garlic in the bacon grease until softened. Add the pumpkin, the stock, tomatoes and spices. Simmer on low until heated through. Add the cream and half the gorgonzola and heat through. Serve over pasta. Sprinkle with remaining cheese crumbles.

I didn’t use exact proportions on this recipe, which is why I included ranges of ingredients in so many cases. The gorgonzola, especially, is an ingredient that should be added carefully, as it is a strong flavor. But luckily this combination of strong flavors finally made a pumpkin pasta tasty enough for me to enjoy and want to make again.
 

Ayib be Gomen, or Collard Greens with Cheese

As a great fan of creamed spinach in all forms, I was anxious to try making my own version of Ayib be Gomen, the collard greens dish I have enjoyed on a couple occasions at Abay. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of consistency among the recipes I consulted, and the spices included in these recipes seemed a bit too simplified for my liking. This was an issue that Sabrina has also reported when attempting Ethiopian dishes; many of the recipes she’s found for homestyle Ethiopian vegetable dishes are not at all spice-rich.

Since I recently put together a satisfactory berbere recipe, I decided to rely on that as the main spice. Before posting this recipe I tried at least three different permutations of this recipe, and I will offer my commentary on each below:

AYIB BE GOMEN

3 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1-2 tablespoons berbere
black pepper
1 lb fresh or frozen greens
salt and/or pepper
goat cheese, feta cheese or ricotta cheese
extra water

Saute the onion and garlic in the melted butter until onions are softened. Add the ginger and spices and a little extra water, when necessary. Fry the spices for about 10 minutes and then add the greens. Cook covered until greens are softened. Season with salt & pepper, to taste. Before serving, top with crumbled goat or feta cheese, or stir in some ricotta.

First I tried this recipe using spinach, ricotta and my simple berbere. I was a little disappointed, especially in the cheese. I had also wanted to try it with collard greens, which a lot of recipes I found called for, but didn’t have any on hand. Next up, I was determined to try it will real collards. I also recalled, on my last visit to Abay, that the waiter had likened their homemade cheese, used in this dish at the restaurant, to goat cheese, so I figured that some goat or feta would serve it better.

I found some frozen collards at the grocery store, but unfortunately, the goat cheese was way over-priced and so I got feta instead. The dish was okay, but I was still not pleased with it. I froze my leftovers, determined to try again with goat cheese. When I finally got my hands on some, I reheated my frozen leftovers, adding more berbere, and served it with my goat cheese.

The goat cheese was an improvement, but again, it did not rise much above “okay.” Ultimately, I think I just didn’t like the flavor of the collards (not sure what they do to them at Abay that I liked them so well there). If I try this recipe again, I will go back to spinach, and make sure to have goat cheese on hand.

Pasta with fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce and Goat Cheese

Sometimes wonderful recipes happen completely by accident. Last weekend I had the good fortune to come into a supply of gorgeous cherry tomatoes. One of my freelance computer clients had gotten a quantity of these tomatoes, too much for her to use, from a friend who grows them. She just happened to ask, really out of thin air, if I wanted any. Wanted any? Folks, I am too poor to buy fresh vegetables, yes, make me a repository for your garden surplus. Tomatoes are always good, but cherry tomatoes have got to be my very favorite of the tomato family. Tasty, pretty and easy to use (I usually only ever cut them in half), cherry tomatoes are always a boon to my kitchen.

I also happened to have a leftover supply of goat cheese from another recipe that I was anxious to find a use for. Perfect! I blogged recently about my roommate in Columbus who taught me how to cook great pasta dishes without following a recipe, and there was no doubt in my mind about taking the same approach here. With such a wonderfully fresh ingredient, simplicity would be key.

I started by sauteing some minced garlic, but I was distressed to recall that I’m out of onions. Diced white or yellow onions, that is. Luckily I had some green onions, so I chopped up the white parts (i.e. the most onion-y parts) and used those instead. Fair warning, this is a recipe without quantities… so one just has to eye-up what’s needed. I based my estimates on the amount of cherry tomatoes I had at hand.

PASTA WITH CHERRY TOMATO SAUCE & GOAT CHEESE

vegetable oil
minced garlic
onions, diced, or spring onions, chopped fine
cherry tomatoes
salt & pepper
paprika
pasta
goat cheese

Saute the garlic and onions in vegetable oil until softened in a medium-deep, non-stick skillet. Halve the cherry tomatoes and add to skillet. Season with salt, pepper and paprika (because everything is better with paprika). Cover and simmer on low. This will take some time. I like to cook my cherry tomatoes until they easily squish when pressed by my cooking spoon. They can be cooked longer to a saucier amalgam, if preferred.

When sauce is near ready, cook pasta according to package directions; al dente is preferred. Toss pasta with the cooked tomatoes, crumble goat cheese liberally on top. Serve and enjoy.

This dish really delighted me. Maybe I’ve been too heavily entrenched in spice-heavy curry cookery as of late, but this very straightforward mix of tomatoes and cheese hit me as unexpectedly delicious.
 

Prohibition, Tom Hardy, and Guy Pearce get down and dirty

For my first ever movie blog I offer up “Lawless”. Based on the book “The Wettest County in the World” by Matt Bondurant a grandson of one of the infamous Bondurant boys.

As our story opens up in rural Virginia we find the Bondurant boys, Shia Lebouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke , distributing mason jars full of their homemade moonshine amongst the county. Known to have the best whiskey around the boys are in high demand and raking in the profits.

Enter Guy Pearce as Special Agent Charlie Rakes. When first entering the county his attempt to blackmail the boys fails. This denial from the Forrest, the brother in charge, is just the catalyst needed for Mr. Pearce to turn on the creep button. I have rarely seen him in a movie where he wasn’t spot on. But in Lawless he is able to turn himself into what can only be described as an eyebrow-less, egomaniacal creep who comes off as hiding some type of perversion you would expect to find in the Silence of the Lambs. His portrayal of the special deputy gets you right on board and cheering on the boys and their bootlegging.

While Forrest runs the operation youngest brother Jake is aching to become part of the action and earn the snappy suit and pimped out ride the likes that mobster Gary Oldham drives. His chance arrives after Forrest and a new waitress at the family run gas stop and restaurant are attacked one night. Shia Lebouf took a lot of flack about his acting skills in this movie. I however found him to exactly what was needed to portray the whiney younger brother who constantly gets picked on despite his best intentions. ¬†As Jake grows the business and heads towards his dream of high fashion mobster a mis step with the local preacher’s daughter lands the boys in a sticky spot.

As the climax approaches we see the town coming together in a good versus evil stand-off leading to the much anticipated final interaction between the brothers and the deputy. Without giving away the ending I will stop here and encourage you to see for yourself how the Bondurant boys changed the face of bootleggers and how sometimes you just can’t help but root for the criminals.

http://lawless-film.com

Spicy African Chicken Curry, or Doro Wat

Now that I finally have a reliable berbere recipe, I can sink my teeth into some further Wat recipes. A Wat is essentially an Ethiopian stew or curry that centers around the berbere spice mix. The ingredients across Wat recipes seem to be pretty standard, though I was intrigued by the addition of lemon in this recipe, which I hadn’t seen in other wats. It should be noted that my berbere recipe is fairly mild; I like to be in control of the relative spice levels of any recipe I’m making, and depending on who I’m making it for, I don’t want the addition of more berbere necessarily to mean an increase in spice levels. For that reason I remind us cooks with the ingredient of “additional hot pepper” to add some to taste if your berbere isn’t fundamentally spicy. But if you’re using a berbere with a lot of hot pepper already in it, be careful! My 3 tablespoons may be too much depending on the spiciness of your mix.

SPICY AFRICAN CHICKEN CURRY

2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter or oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons berbere
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
3 oz (1/2 a 6oz can) of tomato paste
2 tablespoons cilantro chutney
salt and pepper
additional hot pepper, to taste
extra water

Marinate the chicken pieces in the lemon juice and salt. Meanwhile, saute the onions, garlic and ginger in the butter or oil until onions are softened. Add the berbere and a little extra water, as needed, and fry the spices for an additional 10 to 20 minutes. Add the red wine, broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, and the chicken pieces with lemon juice marinade included. Stew on low fire until chicken reaches desired doneness. When nearly ready to serve, add the cilantro chutney and season with additional salt and pepper. Serve with rice or flatbread.