Saturday, January 31, 2009

Potato Chicken Curry

Oh, and crime.  That too.

I made this a couple of weeks ago, and the pictures have been languishing on my camera ever since.  Languish no more, little pixelated memories.  You are free!

Yes, well.  This recipe originally calls for onion, chicken and apple, but it is equally good with potatoes substituted for the apple and even leftover Thanksgiving turkey substituted for the chicken.  Just look around, see what you have, and decide it will taste good.  It usually will.

This time around, I used some of my Downing Hollow Farms red potatoes and chicken thighs from West Wind Farms.

Potato Chicken Curry

4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup minced yellow onion (I chopped mine, as I have no patience for mincing)
1 small potato, chopped
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp curry powder
1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3 cups cubed cooked chicken (or 4 chicken thighs)

Cut up your chicken, if using raw, and set aside.

Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and potato and cook for 10 minutes, until the onion just starts to go soft and translucent.

A great place to get bulk spices in Memphis is Maggie's Pharm, in Overton Square.  That one ounce of cayenne will last me forever, and it was only 65 cents!

So when your onion starts to look like this, throw in your raw chicken and let it all cook.  If you're using already-cooked chicken, wait until you add the spices to add it.

Blend in the flour, add the chicken broth and half-and-half, and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened.  That should take about 5 minutes.  Then stir in the salt, the curry powder, the cayenne and the ginger and cook, covered, over low heat for 10 minutes.

Make some rice, grab a glass of milk (if you have a temperamental mouth when it comes to curry, as I do), and cozy up to some criminal activity.  Or, you know, whatever's on TV.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How I Actually Eat: Winter Comfort Style

So if you woke up and your back yard looked like this:

Wouldn't you say to yourself, Self, this is a GREAT a day to skip Civil Procedure, stay in, have another cup of coffee, and leisurely peruse  'Cause I sure did.  Sue me (hah!  I'm a lawyer-to-be; saying that is completely legit), I'm from Florida, and How to Drive In This Stuff was never on our driving test.

Anyway, I wanted something winterey and comforting when I got home this afternoon, so I made my go-to lentil salad recipe and roasted some potatoes I've had stashed away (red from Downing Hollow Farms and sweet from Windermere Farms and Apiaries) to satisfy my craving for something rich (but cheap).  That was filling enough for me, but you could, of course, add some greens or soup to round it out if you wanted.

Also, there aren't many pictures because I was SWC: Skyping While Cooking.  It felt like a cooking show in here, ya'll!

Lentil Salad
adapted from The Art of Simple Food (which I love love love) by Alice Waters*

1 cup brown lentils
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Freshly-ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons diced shallot
3 tablespoons chopped parsley (I used dried and just threw in a bit at a time and tasted it til it tasted right)
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese (I used feta from Bonnie Blue Farms)

Sort and rinse the lentils (there might be little rocks in them).  Cover with water by 3 inches and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.  Drain.  Toss the lentils with the red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Let sit for five minutes.  Taste and add more salt and vinegar if needed.  Add the olive oil, shallot, parsley, stir to combine.  Garnish with the feta cheese. 

While the lentils are simmering away, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Wash, peel and cut up your potatoes and sweet potatoes (I used a 1:2 ratio).  Cutting them into similar sizes helps them cook more evenly (the little matchsticks ones burned!).  Toss them with some olive oil, enough to coat them evenly (as you can see from the picture, I probably used a little too much), and sprinkle some salt on them.  Spread them evenly on a cookie sheet and roast them in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until you can stick a fork in 'em easily.

When they come out, sprinkle some red wine vinegar on them, and then toss them with lots of dried basil.  Sweet potatoes and dried basil love each other.  They should probably go on a date or something.

And voila, you have an easy, filling and tasty lunch.  Red wine vinegar+olive oil=winning combination.  The tartness of one plays off the richness of the other.  Perfect for a snow day.

*who has, apparently, been having some pretty public altercations lately, for which she is getting spanked by the blogosphere...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How I Want to Eat + Pumpkin Soup Redux

Yep, that's mizuna and arugula taking the place of honor at the head of the post, 'cause, really, they rocked tonight's dinner (hee!  rocked... rocket... arugula?  No?  Anyone?  Bueller?)

It all started on Thursday, when I got an email from Van Cheeseman, from Flora at Bluebird Farms, down in Holly Springs, Mississippi.  He wanted to let his mailing list know that he'd be at the Brooks Museum this afternoon with assorted winter greens.  Now, I have heard that growing under something called a "cold frame" extends the growing season significantly, but I had no idea what such a thing looked like.  Edible Memphis Magazine to the rescue!  If you pick up the Winter 09 edition (should be free at various locations around town, or you can subscribe at, you can see for yourself what it looks like (kind of a greenhouse, but with plastic sheeting), and read a very nice interview with Van.  He is one of my favorite vendors at the MFM, and is always friendly and willing either to tell you how to roast the heirloom garlic you just (gleefully) bought from him or to enable your Green Zebra tomato habit.

His arugula is absolutely wonderful, no bitterness at all, and toned down on the peppery front, which is what usually turns me off to arugula (despite once claiming to roll myself in it, but that's a story only Zac, Eden and Maggie know).  Mizuna is a green often used in Asian cooking, and Van's has just the slightest mustardy taste.  I made a simple vinaigrette (olive oil+red wine vinegar+salt and pepper+chopped shallot) and dove in.  The salad was that good.

Oh, but I also needed to eat something more substantial, so  I heated up yesterday's pumpkin soup and pan-fried some pork chops from Barnes Farms in Medina, TN (juicy, and so full of flavor!).  Yep.  This is how I want to eat all of the time. 

I was also lucky enough to score some local eggs recently and I can't wait to use them.  French toast is in my future...

And finally, I leave you with the remnants of last fall's squash-a-palooza (Turk's Turban, spaghetti squash in foreground, some kind of large white pattypan in the back, acorn, and the now-soupified pumpkin).  Don't they look content?  Little do they know they're on death row.

Curry Pumpkin Soup

The first of a two-parter today!  This soup features a pumpkin I bought from the farmer's market in what was, admittedly, a rash end-of-the-season squash binge.  Seriously, y'all.  Most of my budget for the week went to... cucurbits.  They sat around the house throughout the holidays, masquerading as festive decorations.  Little did people know:  I planned on eating every one.  

Anyway, this soup, starting with the pumpkin was kind of an all-day project.  Meet the new queen bee of my kitchen:

Ahh, the classic Rival Crock-Pot.  The solution to "I have class and work all day but I don't want to eat Goldfish when I get home!"  Mine was a Christmas gift from my grandmother, and it is already the new favorite child around here.  The wok glowers with jealousy.  

Cooking winter squash can be tricky.  First of all, you've got to get through the hard shell, and then much roasting ensues (at least, for my purposes, roasting would have ensued).  And you kind of just can't leave the house with the oven on.  But, pop it in the Crock-Pot with a couple of tablespoons of water, set it on LOW for about 8 hours, and when you get home, it will be so easy to slice.  And, your house will smell good when you walk in! 

Save the seeds for roasting!

Now, the recipe actually calls for canned pumpkin.  It would be a lot easier to use that, true.  But it is also nice to remind yourself that we can do a lot more with our fall squashes than just carve them up and let them rot:  we can make delicious, endlessly varying dishes!

Curry Pumpkin Soup
Better Homes and Gardens

2 Tbsp butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 15-oz cans pumpkin OR one small-to-medium pumpkin, roasted
2 14-oz cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup water
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven melt butter over medium heat.  Throw in your onions, carrot, and celery.  Cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  It will smell very good.  Don't eat it yet.  Add the curry powder and pumpkin pie spice, and cook and stir about 1 minute more.  Add pumpkin, broth, and water.  Increase heat to medium-high; bring to boiling.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer, covered, 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

In a food processor or blender, puree the mixture, about 1/3 at a time.  Return to your pan, stir in half-and-half, salt and pepper.  And that's it!  Let it cool a bit before eating.  Oh, and as with most soups, it tastes even better after it has sat a bit and the flavors have gotten all friendly with one another.  Also, it is not very curry-ey, so if you like your curry flavor front and center, add maybe a teaspoon more.

Next up:  surprise midwinter greens!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eating Local(ly) in Memphis

What's important:  I'm in law school.  I've got a budget that wants following and a body that doesn't want failing.  Aside from popping my daily multivitamins, I've taken to cooking for myself, after years of cattle-like frequenting of my undergrad's dining hall, with firm resolve.  

I am also a Young Urban Liberal; as such, I have read the likes of Michael Pollan.  But what really gets me going about local food is not so much the trendiness as the taste, the creativity, the earnestness, and the sensuousness.  My decision to eat mostly local food is based mostly on the joy it brings---and if you've ever been to a farmer's market, I think you'll agree that it's a much more pleasurable experience than your local fluorescent-lit supermarket.  Eating with the seasons makes each food item the best it could possibly be, and makes your body and taste buds appreciate what they have when they have them! 

So, there's my abbreviated paean to the local Memphis/Tennessee/Arkansas food scene.  It's a wonderful place to be.  It seems odd to start this blog in the dead of winter, when I'm living off storage potatoes, tomato sauce I made and froze last summer, and equally-squirreled-away grass-fed meat.  But I want to see what I can do with what I have.  My intention here is not proselytizing or purism, but, rather, just to highlight the delicious foods that can come out of our own backyards, and ways to cook them so that their flavor captivates and convinces.  And besides, I love to make meals, and how else could I possibly remember them all without writing them down?  So, with optimism, here we go!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lucky Lentils for a Good Year

I found this recipe kind of randomly on NPR's home page.  The selling point was the fact that people "the world over" eat lentils for prosperity in the new year.  Now, I have the first semester of law school under the ol' proverbial belt, but not the whole first year.  I'll take prosperity where I can get it.

Also, I didn't make the orange topping, so I can't vouch for it, but it does look good!

Brown Lentils with Chorizo and Orange Salsa

Cooking spray
3 oz Spanish chorizo, diced
1 medium red onion, chopped (I used a sweet onion, yum)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes, or to taste
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 1/4 cup brown lentils
1 dried bay leaf
12 oz chopped kale
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 orange, sectioned and chopped
1/4 cup green olives, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs, such as parsley, mint, chives, or cilantro
sour cream for serving (optional)
sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar for serving

Heat a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat and coat with cooking spray.  Add chorizo and cook until fat is rendered and chorizo begins to brown, about 2 minutes.  Use a slotted spatula to transfer the chorizo to a paper towel.  Discard all but one tablespoon of fat from the pan.  If you're me, wish you had cooked the kiel whole first and THEN cut up, so as to avoid weird casing shrinkage.

Add the onion, thyme and chili flakes to the pan and cook until the onion is lightly browned, about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.  Add the broth, water, lentils and bay leaf, and bring to a simmer.

Greens and meat wait patiently for their turn...

Add the kale and chorizo, cover and cook until lentils are tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper.

Optional fancy-pants part:
Toast the almonds in a dry skillet over low heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes, tossing often.  In a small bowl, combine the almonds, orange, olives and herbs.  Season with black pepper.

Ladle lentils into bowls, top with orange mixture and sour cream, if using.  Sprinkle a few drops of vinegar over each bowl.

This was really filling and satisfying on a cold day.  But, if you use mustard and turnip greens like I did, be prepared for their assertive flavor--it will be the first thing that comes through!