Thursday, June 14, 2012

(Cheater's) Coconut Curry

With weekdays filled with classes and homework, dinner is really an afterthought for me. I come home starving at 4, though, so I need a solid, healthy meal to get me (and my over-working brain) through the night. Because waking up at 2 a.m. for reasons that are only unbeknownst to me until 7am the next day when I take a bite of my toast and realize I'm beyond famished is really not cool.

So, I've taken to cooking up a storm on weekends. And with a jar of green curry paste and a gorgeous hunk of grass-fed meat from a local farm, one thing was on my mind: coconut curry. And I'm not even supposed to EAT coconut. This was worth it.

Being short on time (and not being in a kitchen of my own), I took short cuts and used that store-bought paste as it's senseless to invest in spices right now (they'd go bad before I finished them). But I don't think I sacrificed any taste... just be sure to use quality ingredients - good meat, fresh herbs, tasty, tender vegetables, and it's sure to be a success.

(Dreaming of a dish like this after a day like this, above....)

As I was roasting broccoli for the week and caramelizing onions, those two veggies were the first in the pot. I used up the last of my carrots and threw them in, too. And with a bounty of fresh basil, for a garnish at the end, my dish would be complete. I served this with the nutty quinoa I made, but it would be best over short-grain brown rice or black rice (my favorite). Then again, I kind of like it on its own (as I enjoyed last night).

Cheater's Green Coconut Curry

2 tablespoons coconut oil (skimmed of my coconut milk)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 head of broccoli (including stems), chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 jar green curry paste (if you're sensitive to heat, start with less. I like mine with a smidge of a kick; this barely gave that kick to me)
1 lb meat (I used grass-fed chuck roast from a local farmer; chicken works, too, as would tofu if you wish), cut into bite-sized chunks
1 can coconut milk (I used the real thing, not lite)
1-2 cups water
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt, to taste
Fresh basil, for garnish

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until half translucent. Add the carrots and the rest of the vegetables and continue to cook. Once tender, add the curry paste and cook 1 minute. Then add the meat and cook until most pieces are seared. Add the coconut milk and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil (add more water if you like your curry more soupy). Reduce to a simmer and let cook 15 minutes. Add the brown sugar and soy sauce, and taste for flavor. Season to taste, then keep warm until serving.

To serve, scoop the curry (with PLENTY of sauce) over a heaping mound of rice and top with a handful of fresh basil. Then grab a cocktail and enjoy...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Simple Summer Salads

Hi, remember me?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. It's been a while since I've written. Life has kind of "gotten in the way." Not in a bad way, per se. I've been taking a couple of classes, most recently (for the past three weeks) in Vermont, where they've really consumed me fully. Aside from having time for my brain to relax (and grow), I really have no other obligations or responsibilities at the moment, which is utterly amazing at times.

Anyways, spring/early summer in the great green state of Vermont is blissful. Some days it's 40 and I just want to curl up with a cup of rich hot chocolate, or a glass of my new favorite zinfandel, Seven Deadly Zins and a hearty steak dinner

Other days, like today, it's gorgeous, sunny, and a perfect 80 degrees - and I crave a herb-filled salad straight from the greenmarket topped with a hearty quinoa salad like this one, below, filled with toasty almonds, sweet golden raisins and apricots (I recently discovered Cheese Traders and I'm in nut/dried fruit heaven), refreshing lemon zest, and the perfect amount of parsley to bind it all together.

Since weekdays leave me no time for cooking (or really anything else other than class and homework and sleep), my strategy has been to cook up a meat main dish, a hearty grain-based side dish, and have a bunch of vegetables (raw, like greens or zucchini, and cooked, like roasted broccoli or beets) to use when quickly assembling dinner during the week. Last weekend, I went for a simple half roast chicken (using the best birds from a favorite from my college days, Misty Knoll Farm) and spring pea risotto using my go-to base recipe. So good. And this weekend? A delicious green curry made with fresh basil and grass-fed beef from a farm in Shelburne (check back later this week for the recipe, or try this one) and this incredible quinoa salad.

I used to not be a big fan of quinoa, as it somehow never sat right with me. Little did I know that you're supposed to rinse quinoa well before cooking, as there are some saponins on the grains that, to me, taste a little off. So I've gotten into the habit of soaking my quinoa in hot water for not even 5 minutes before draining and combining with a smudge of olive oil and water and cooking. It makes all the difference! The best part of this salad? It's not just for dinner (or served warm). It's the perfect packable lunch, or I may even devour this at breakfast with some more nuts on top (or a poached egg). 

What do you like to put in quinoa salads?

Summer Quinoa Salad

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed well
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups water
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
Cumin and paprika, to taste

In a medium pot, combine quinoa, oil, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for about 15-20 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Add the dried fruit, remove from the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the almonds, juice, zest, and herbs in a bowl. Once the quinoa is ready, season to taste with cumin and paprika. Toss the quinoa with the lemon juice, adding a bit more oil if desired, and season well to taste. Serve immediately.