Cooking for 1 for the week

I got a taste for lamb korma a year or so ago, after boyfriend and I visited a warm little Indian restaurant near Boston. I can't get good lamb korma in Tuscaloosa, so when I got back, I looked up recipes that might be simple enough to make as a first-time curry.

This recipe over on Serious Eats, adapted from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, is almost as simple as it can get.

However, I made a few tweaks to streamline the cooking. I can throw this together in an hour and a half or so on a Sunday evening, like tonight, including clean-up, and have a warm dinner... and lunches for the entire week. It's also nice that a lb of lamb shoulder is only $5, at least down here in Ttown.

Changes: I love almonds, but raw cashews are softer to begin with, and so I can soak the cashews for only a few minutes -- as opposed to Jaffrey's a few hours. I also can't afford saffron, so I use a dash of turmeric for color (if I feel like color is important). I use cardamom seeds instead of pods because the pods have a chaff. I usually keep a ginger/garlic puree in my fridge in a little jar, to make things even faster. I swapped the cream for canned coconut milk, and increased the sauce ingredients so it'll cover veggies as well as meat.

1 to 1/2 cups whole raw cashews
1-2 tbs ginger-garlic puree (or 2 inches of peeled fresh ginger and 4 largeish garlic cloves)
2 tbs olive oil
2 2-3 inch cinnamon sticks
2 tsps of cardamom seeds
8 whole cloves (when I remember them)
3-4 bay leaves
1 lb lamb shoulder, cut from the bone into approx 1-inch chunks
1-2 cups fresh vegetables, cut into 1-inch lengths/chunks (eggplant, carrots, green beans are great)
1 1/4 tsp salt (I rarely use salt, I'm weird)
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 to 1 cup coconut cream (off the top of a can of coconut milk)

*use the watery rest of the coconut milk to make your rice

1. Put the cashews in a heat-happy bowl. Boil a cup or two of water and pour it over the cashews to cover them. Let sit while you prepare the meat and veggies.

2. After you've prepped the meat/veggies, puree the ginger and garlic in a medium-large food processor (or just dump in your premade puree). Dump in the soaked cashews and their water, and process cashews, ginger, garlic until you get a nice mushy paste (or chunky paste, to taste).

3. Set a large pan to medium heat. Pour in oil, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, and stir-fry for 5-10 seconds.

4. Put about half the lamb chunks in the pan and brown on two sides (only a few seconds per side), remove from pan, and repeat with the other half. Toss the veggies into the pan and brown them a bit, 1-2 minutes. Return meat to pan to join veggies.

5. Dump your cashew/ginger/garlic paste into the pan with meat and veggies. This is where you'd add the saffron/turmeric (and salt and/or cayenne to taste if you like those things) -- or even powdered cumin, cinnamon, etc. Stir and bring to a simmer.

6. Cover and simmer on low for 45-75 minutes. Seriously, it doesn't take a whole hour to cook, it'll just taste better if you let it.

7. Make your rice while you wait! Use the watery half of that can of coconut milk instead of water.

8. Add the coconut milk cream to the pan of korma and stir and cook on medium-high heat until it's all warmed up, mixed in, and delicious.

9. EAT. See? It didn't even take 9 steps.

The world is a better place for fresh basil pesto

Fresh basil from the farmer's market, because my basil seedlings are still babies...

plus gobs of delicious extra-virgin olive oil, grated parmesan, lemon, 2 cloves garlic, and no pine nuts because they're gross...  (Recipe here, although I eyeball everything these days.)  

equals basil pesto, which I tossed with basil pasta from Target's surprisingly wonderful Archer Farms label... (also wonderful are their orecchiette)

Did I mention it's been in the 70s all morning? 

The key to productivity is to trick yourself into it.

Or at least that's how it works for me. I visited the hardware store, cleaned the ceiling fans, sorted summer and winter clothes, and cleaned out my desk, all before 11:30 when I switched to baking and Buffy-watching.

Brandi came by today under the pretense of helping me bake pain au chocolat, although we all know she was only there to collect my cats for her nefarious cures.  We tackled a recipe I've used before from the Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker, who happens to have figured out the easiest pain au chocolat recipe short of cheating and using pastry dough.

Here they are in the oven, these chocolate croissants that are not actually crescent-shaped. But they are poofy and perfect, even though we cheated and halved the last two rising times.

For the pastry-making disinclined, croissants and anything like 'em involve a giant block of refrigerated butter and folding refrigerated dough around it, and then hours of rising in between four or so folding sessions. Some recipes even require overnight resting. This is supposed to slow the dough's rise, and somehow enhance the flavor. I don't doubt it, but when I can achieve these:

in 3-4 hours instead of eight+, well. Do let me know how your fancy shit turns out.

Dinner Tonight: Chocolate Peach Pasta

It's nearly June, and oddly enough this means that peach season has started.  (Tomatoes are right around the corner!)

At the the Homegrown Alabama farmer's market, I picked up a bunch of peaches for my favorite peach recipe, which involves chocolate–and isn't a dessert.

I found the recipe fairly haphazardly.  Occasionally I search Google for a handful of disparate ingredients in the pantry.  This has served me very, very well on most occasions.  And if you're squeamish about peach and chocolate with pasta, well, just look at the results:

I found a recipe by Sean Conway and Francis Segan over at Cultivating Life, where they explain that before Italians had tomatoes, they used fruits for their pasta sauces, and moreover, they used to use chocolate as a spice.  The chocolate peach pasta in the recipe (and video) below can be made with peaches or any other stone fruit.

I've tried it with nectarines, and I've even supplemented peaches with mango, to great effect.  What they don't tell you is that the sauce varies in fun, interesting ways depending on the peaches/fruit. The peaches I used this evening were ripe when I bought them, and so now were over-ripe.  This made for a much sweeter sauce than usual.  The peaches were fairly yellow, so the sauce after the chocolate was added turned out light brown.  In the past, I've used peaches with rich purply and red in them, which turns the sauce color vibrant pink before the chocolate, and much closer to standard tomato sauce after the chocolate.

Chocolate Peach Pasta Recipe (with my tweaks):

1/2 to 1 cups white wine
8 fresh peaches, chopped (or a bag of frozen chopped peaches, partially thawed)
1 to 2 oz chocolate as dark as you can get (65-100%)
fresh thyme to taste
2 to 4 tablespoons butter, chopped or chunked
3 shallots, minced (more if you love shallots)
1 lb radiatore or your favorite sauce-grabbing pasta shape
parmesan, freshly grated and/or shaved
cocoa nibs
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the pasta according to package directions -- start the water heating right before you start the sauce.

Cook the peaches and half the wine in a saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes, until the peaches break down.  This takes longer with firmer, less-ripe peaches (and sometimes with frozen).  Add the rest of the wine gradually, but use less if you prefer a thicker sauce.

At this point, if you like, mash the peaches gently with a potato masher to achieve a more uniform, but still fairly chunky sauce. (Use a stick blender or food processor if you like blasting the texture out of your sauces.)

Remove the sauce from heat and stir in the chocolate and thyme.

Drain the pasta, and place in a serving bowl.  Toss with butter and shallots until butter melts and coats the pasta evenly.

Don't toss the sauce with the pasta. Serve it over the top of each serving of pasta, and top each with parmesan and cocoa nibs (and salt and pepper) to taste.

Serves 4 normal people, 2 Emmas, or 6 if it's a side.

Some notes:

–I prefer this sauce with radiatore, or any pasta with texture and folds, but the folks in the video recommend penne.
–I know nothing about white wines (or any wines, really), but I usually grab something mid-range and self-described as fruity.
–The amount of wine always varies for me, but I never need as much as the original recipe calls for.
–Cocoa nibs are bitter and add a good deal of depth to the meal, but the recipe certainly doesn't need them.
–The thyme is great, but if you are out of thyme, try oregano.
–If, like me, you cringe at the thought of raw shallots, try sauteing them briefly in the butter before tossing with the pasta.

Original recipe at Cultivating Life.