Friday, 12 January 2018

The Curry-ous Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The rice wanted to join in, but couldn't curry favor...
The first time I ever had Thai food was in New York City when I was in college, but I don't remember much else about it other than some of the people I was with. Someone ordered for everyone, and we ate this magnificent Thai feast family-style. Not only was it a good meal, it was a good memory made with good friends.

Just as being with good friends can be heartwarming, so, too, is the wonder that is Thai curry. Here is my (perhaps completely inauthentic) take on a red curry. I make a batch and put the leftover in the fridge, lunch for at least four days if it's just me eating. And the rice keeps well, too.

Speaking of rice, you can use whatever rice you like. I tend to prefer long-grain brown rice: 1 c. of rice to 2 c. water, boil, then simmer for about 50 min. or until the water is just about gone. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for 10 min. before fluffing with a fork.

The vegetable mix is adaptable to what you have, but I'd definitely stick with the onion and peppers as a base.

Thai-style Vegetable Red Curry
Makes 4 servings; prep time 15 min.; cook time: 30 min.

Heat up 1 tbsp. coconut oil (or olive oil) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ½ a chopped red onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, for 2 min. Add 2-3 minced cloves of garlic. Stir for a minute. Add 1 chopped green bell pepper, 1 chopped red bell pepper, 2-3 chopped serrano peppers (for spiciness; leave it out if you're averse), and 1-2 sliced carrot(s). Cook, stirring, for 5 min. Add in ¼ tsp. ginger powder (if you use fresh ginger, mince 1 tbsp. and add with garlic) and 2 tbsp. Thai red curry paste. Stir for 2 min.

Okay. Now. Pour in a 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk, ½ c. water, 1 ½ tsp. raw sugar, and stir in 1 chopped head of broccoli (and a chiffonade of Thai basil, if you've got it—I put in a lot... maybe ¼ c. worth). Bring that just to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 10-15 min., or until the broccoli is just about cooked how you like it. Then add in (optional) 2 tbsp. of natural peanut butter (i.e., the only ingredient is peanuts) and stir until it's all blended together nicely. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tbsp. soy sauce and the juice of 1 lime.

Serve over rice and enjoy with a nice, tall Thai iced tea!


Title inspiration: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a play adapted by Simon Stephens from the novel of the same name by Mark Haddon. Premiered at the Royal National Theatre in London on 2 August 2012. First produced on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 2014, winning the Tony award for Best Play.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lentil

Soup, bread, aloe plant...
Been a minute since my last post, but I'm living in New York City now, where the mercury has been hanging real low. Feels like a good day for soup.

Beans aren't really my thing, but I had a really tasty lentil soup at a friend's house a few weeks ago, and I've been thinking I should give it a go myself. Rather than try to cobble a few recipes together or strike out on my own, I cracked open one of my trusty cookbooks and went for something I could easily whip together. (Luckily, I could buy the lentils from my local grocery store instead of picking them out of the fireplace!)

Alton Brown's Lentil Soup

As tomatoes are out of season (and I was feeling too lazy to peel and dice them anyway), I went for a canned variety instead, which you don't have to drain, but you can if you want. Grains of paradise is sort of like pepper, so don't feel like you have to use it, or sub in pepper instead (just put in the pepper at the end rather than with the other spices). This is a really quick soup, too, done in less than one hour, prep and all. As with all soup, freeze it in single serving portions for another day of lunch weeks or months in the future. And stay warm!


Title inspiration: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, a play by Terrence McNally. Premiered at Manhattan Theatre Club Stage II at City Center in New York City on 2 June 1987, starring Kathy Bates and F. Murray Abraham.

Monday, 22 May 2017

A Little Night Molasses

My anadama don't want none unless you've got butter, hon.
Seven years ago, I took a road trip. It was a sort of whirlwind affair in late August, just before I was meant to be rehearsing for the Long Island premiere of Dracula, the Musical. My then-girlfriend and I traipsed halfway across the country, going from New York through Pennsylvania; having an impromptu picnic of wine and cheese on the corner of someone's farm in western PA after we had to push my car out of a small ditch; stopping in Cleveland for a couple of days to visit the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame; making our way to almost-Detroit to visit Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum (inspired by Tally Hall); cutting across Michigan and through Indiana to reach our far goal of Chicago, where we spent a few action-filled days doing as much as possible; making an epic drive back east to Altoona, PA, in order to see Horseshoe Curve (I'm a slight train enthusiast); stopping in York, PA, to stay the night at my ex-girlfriend's place (we were all still good friends); and taking a day to visit Philadelphia before finally heading home.

We ate fantastically along the way, stopping in dives and fancy places all throughout. The pinnacle was a ten-course tasting menu at Moto (ground zero of molecular gastronomy) in Chicago's Meatpacking District. But a close second, I would say, was eating at the historic City Tavern in Philadelphia. It was there between the walls against which once echoed the voices of our Founding Fathers that I had, for the first time ever, a slice of anadama bread.

Anadama bread is made of cornmeal, molasses, and flour. There are unconfirmed stories about how the bread got it's name, many of which involve a man who says something along the lines of “Anna, damn her!” I have had a preponderance of cornmeal lately, due to a shipment I ordered after discovering that the supermarkets of Los Angeles were no longer stocking stone-ground stuff. A lot of cornmeal pancakes and johnnycakes have been made when I've been home over the past several weeks. Needing a change, I remembered my time at City Tavern and went looking for a suitable recipe for anadama bread.

Anadama Bread recipe from allrecipes.com

Yes, it's a yeast bread that needs an hour and forty minutes of rise time, but if you have the time, it's worth it. It's excellent served warm, toasted, with butter or jam. I'll be taking a few slices with me to rehearsals this week!

Title inspiration: A Little Night Music, a musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. Premiered at the Shubert Theatre in New York City on 25 February 1973, directed by Hal Prince. It won a Tony award for Best Musical.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Lend Me a Latke

The latke accompanies any holiday décor.
The holidays are here, and with the holidays comes holiday food! Growing up in New York, we were exposed to a whole slew of treats; my Hungarian great-grandmother, for example, passed down the tradition of making palachinkas and half-moon cookies. The family of my best friend growing up were a typical Judeo-Christian-agnostic mix who threw some of the best holiday parties I've been to. So it turns out that my favorite holiday food of all might well be the latke.

For the uninitiated, latkes are potato pancakes, essentially. This recipe is inspired by the latkes made by my best friend's mom (she liked to throw in carrots), and they're sure to be a delight no matter what holiday you choose (or don't choose) to celebrate.

Everything together. It's a metaphor.
Potato-Carrot Latkes
Makes 12-15.

Peel and wash 3 russet potatoes and 2 carrots and grate them using the largest holes. (Or, to save time and muscle, use a food processor!) Also grate 2 small onions (or one regular-sized onion). Put the potato-carrot-onion mix into a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Let that sit for a bit.

Put a pan over medium heat and drop in 2 tbsp. vegetable oil.

Pour out the orange liquid you drained. You should be left with a thin layer of potato starch! Mix the starch and the potato/carrot/onion together with ¼ c. flour, ½ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp. baking powder, and about 4 sprigs of parsley (finely chopped; about 2 tbsp. or so). Use a ¼ c. measuring cup and a fork to measure out each latke and place in the pan, pressing them down with the fork until it's even. A few minutes on each side, and presto! Let them drain a bit on a wire rack or paper towel before serving immediately with your choice of sour cream or applesauce. (There's a debate about which is better or more appropriate. Just eat what you feel is best.)

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Prosperous New Year, and here's to a little more Peace on Earth than we currently have.


Title inspiration: Lend Me a Tenor, a farce by Ken Ludwig. Premiered (with the title Opera Buffa) at the American Stage Festival in Milford, New Hampshire, on 1 August 1985. First presented with the current title at the Globe Theatre, London, on 6 March 1986, by Andrew Lloyd Webber, of all people. It won three Tony awards during its Broadway run in 1989.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Mother Cauliflower and Her Children

Chopped cauliflower.
It's gotten colder, and there's nothing to warm up a chilly day like a nice, hot cup of soup. I've made a lot of soups in my time, some of which I've posted here, so I wracked my brain (and my cookbooks) for something a little different to make. Thus, behold! The cauliflower.

Creamless (and yet, creamy) Cauliflower Soup
Makes 6-8 servings; prep time 15 min.; cook time 45 min.

Heat up 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in a coarsely chopped yellow onion and a minced rib of celery, cooking until the onion is a bit see-through. Add in 2 minced cloves of garlic. Stir for another 3 minutes or so.

Add in a coarsely chopped head of cauliflower and pour on 7 c. vegetable broth. Stir once, cover, and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down low and simmer for about 25 min. The cauliflower should be tender. Turn the heat off and stir in ¼ c. roasted cashews. Let sit for 10 min. before pureeing nice and smooth. (Don't skimp on the puree; getting bits of cashew in your soup, while interesting, is still a bit weird. I went for a second puree before I heated it up the next day from the fridge, and the smoothness and creaminess is unparalleled.) Season with ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg as well as salt and black pepper to taste.

Silky smooth soup!


Title inspiration: Mother Courage and Her Children (or Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder), an epic play by Bertolt Brecht. Premiered at Schauspielhaus Zürich, Switzerland, on 19 April 1941. Subsequent productions have featured a score by Paul Dessau. First produced on Broadway in 1963, directed by Jerome Robbins, starring Anne Bancroft.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

The Vegan Monologues

Mmm... burgers.
Some years ago, I wrote a bit about my second attempt at Alton Brown's four-list diet. Ultimately, it, like all diets, was difficult to stick to and it fell by the wayside. Time passed. I got separated then divorced, my career picked up, I started teaching more, and life just generally got in the way of intentional, “good” eating. I gained back some weight. Now, with my teaching schedule significantly reduced, and finding myself with more flexible time to prepare my own food, I felt it was time to give another type of diet a try.

Food writer Mark Bittman released his book VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health... For Good in 2013, and I picked it up almost immediately. I dabbled with its precepts at the time, but I adjusted his vegan requirement to be vegetarian, since I loved (and still love) milk too much to part with it for two thirds of the day. I was already eating a lot of vegetation regularly, being married to a pescatarian, and so, of course, I saw no noticeable difference in my health or weight.

Times, as I've mentioned, changed. I'd been eating a lot more meat, for one. So I'm thinking this time around I'll see some real differences. And, indeed, I have. I've had more consistent energy throughout the day, and, at last check, I've lost a few pounds.

There are still a few foods I'm not huge on, most notably beans. I'll eat them, but I don't ever seek them out. I wasn't raised on beans and rice (probably because I didn't like them even then) and I don't usually keep them around the kitchen as one of my staples. It was time to take another leap, last week with chickpeas and some delicious falafel, and now with some black bean burgers.

Mark Bittman's Simplest Bean Burgers (from his How to Cook Everything website; the vegan option is below the main recipe—the one in VB6 uses oats)

Ready for the chopper.
In VB6, Bittman leaves the options open for the type of bean and even the seasonings. I made a double order so I could reheat for time to come. I think I over-mixed the ingredients and the burgers came out a bit on the soft side. Also, I decided to use Penzeys Berbere seasoning, which was far more potent than expected, so be conservative with your own spicing. But, it ended up being quite delicious and satisfying—a good addition to my growing list of lunch options.


Title inspiration: The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. Premiered at the HERE Arts Center in New York City on 3 October 1996.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Falafel

A Middle Eastern delight!
Ah, falafel. I've been a fan of the falafel ever since Jason Reitman bought one for my then-girlfriend (now ex-wife) after a talk he gave at Wesleyan University. Sure, maybe I won't make films like Jason Reitman, but at least I can make a falafel.

It seems like there is one sort of "set" method of making falafel, so here it is in a healthier baked form, as inspired by Mark Bittman, Alton Brown, and the annals of culinary history.

Your Standard Falafel
Makes 8 servings. 12-24 hrs. prep time. 45 min. cook time.

A bowl of dried chickpeas.
Soak 1 lbs. chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in a bunch of water, at least two inches above, overnight, or for 12-24 hours. (Chickpeas will crumble under finger pressure when ready.)

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Drain the water and throw the chickpeas into a food processor with 1 onion (chopped a bit), 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp. ground cumin, 1 c. chopped parsley, a dash of cayenne powder, 1 ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. black pepper, 1 tbsp. baking powder, and the juice of 1 lemon. Pulse intermittently until the mixture is minced but not puréed.

Unsuspecting falafel in the oven.
Brush 2 tsbp. olive oil onto a sheet pan (or two, depending on how large your pans are). Roll mixture into balls about 1 ½ inches in diameter, smoosh slightly into a patty, and place on the pan. Brush the tops with another 2 tbsp. olive oil. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes per side. They will be golden brown and delicious before you know it. (Well, I guess you'll know it, if you've set a timer.) Store in your fridge wrapped in tin foil (for easy reheating in your toaster oven, perhaps) or in your freezer in air-tight plastic. Serve on some lettuce with some cucumber, tomato, and the like... oh, and pita! You must have pita. And tahini sauce, of course. Get some from Trader Joe's. You won't be sorry.


Title inspiration: I realized I'd already used the best option, Fefu and Her Friends, for something else, so today's second-best option is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a musical comedy written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Premiered at the Alvin Theatre in New York City on 8 May 1962, directed by Jack Cole, produced by Hal Prince, starring Zero Mostel, and featuring staging and choreography by Jerome Robbins, though he wasn't credited. It was Sondheim's first big hit as a composer and won the Tony award for Best Musical as well as four others.