Friday, September 17, 2010

Food for thought?

Everyone has that "one thing" that they do to de-stress, center themselves, or clear their head, right?  Well, you guessed it- mine's cooking.  Yesterday, it was just what the doctor ordered!  I needed to do a little thinking, so I woke up early and sure enough, made a huge batch of Spicy Green Bean Curry at 7am.  Perhaps you need to do a little thinking as well? Here's the recipe- it is something I came up with while making staff meal at work a few months back. Needless to say, it was a hit, and I make it at home from time to time. It makes a pretty good-sized batch, so have some hungry people around!  It's a bit more involved than the prior post, but trust me, it's nothing too fancy, and you can totally do it.  I know.  You'll actually learn a few things about Mise En Place, indian food and blanching today as well!  Here goes:

Spicy Green Bean Curry

1/4 c Canola Oil (or veg. oil, whatever is fine)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 pice of fresh ginger- roughly 1.5-2" long, by 1", minced
1# carrots, bias cut (see below)
1 head cauliflower
3 Thai Chilies, finely minced (I didn't have these on hand, is ok to omit, but you'll need to up the spice by adding more sriracha)
1 tsp Sriracha (use 2+ if you don't have the Thai Chilies)
3 cans of coconut milk (shake them VERY well before opening)
2 TB yellow mustard seed
1 tsp tumeric
2 tsp curry powder (I use 1 tsp Sweet Curry powder and 1 tsp Maharajah Curry powder both from Penzey's Spices)
2 tsp Tiparos Fish Sauce (it's the best brand)
1 can of Hearts of Palm -cut into 1/4" rings (I didn't have these on hand, can be omitted)
1# (16 oz) green beans (you can use fresh and blanch them, or thaw from frozen) cut into 1" pieces
Zest and Juice from 1/2 lime
scant 1/4 cup Red Curry Paste (I always use Mae Ploy- its good)
1 bunch of scalions, bias cut
a handful of cilantro- chopped
1 yellow onion, large dice
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2" strips and halved
2 cans of whole potatoes, cut into 1/2" slices

Mise En Place!  (This is french for "everything in its place")
It is ESSENTIAL to get ALL of your ingredients measured and prepped in front of you so that you're not half-way through the recipe and you suddenly realize you need a pound of peeled, diced carrots, like NOW, before your sauce comes to a boil, and you haven't started! That's a recipe for disaster!  Once you start cooking, you can't stop! So if you don't already do this every time you cook- you're going to start now! Food Fairy says so! 

Once you have all of your ingredients pulled out of the fridge/pantry- weigh/measure everything so it is ready to go. Next start prepping the rest of the ingredientso you are 100% set before you even turn the stove on. You'll have to think through your veggies- the veggies that are fresh (except for zucchini) probably need to be blanched prior to using so they will turn out soft enough.  Canned or frozen veggies already have a softened texture so when you add them, they just need to be heated up, not cooked. You want all of your veg to finish at the same time, so order them in a way that makes sense to add them based on how long each needs to cook.  I blanched the carrots and cauliflower, and that's it.  Zucchini cooks up quickly so you won't need to blanch it.  Fresh is always better than frozen or canned, but sometimes it's just easier to use frozen or canned, depending on how much time you have, and what veggies are in season.

  1. Start a good sized pot of water boiling. Peel your carrots, cut at a bias (see photo). Wash and cut up 1 head of cauliflower into bite-size or slightly larger pieces.  When your water is boiling, add a palmful of salt. (I only ever use Diamond brand Kosher Salt).  Taste your water. It should taste like the ocean.
  2. Blanching:   you will need an ice bath ready before you start blanching. Blanching means that you drop your vegetable in water (it must be a rolling boil) to cook it to near-doneness, then immediately take it out and put it in ice water, to slow down and stop the cooking process. The faster you can do this, the brighter, tastier and more vibrant the veggies will be.  The only way to know when they are ready to come out of the water is to taste it.  It WILL continue to cook, so take it out before it is completely done. Also- you will still be heating the veggies back up, so leave them just a hair under-done, after cooling. We will blanch the cauliflower first, because the carrots will turn the water orange.  For your ice bath, just use a big bowl, fill it with some ice and water, and if you have it, set a strainer in the bowl, that way you can toss the veg into the strainer, it gets cooled down, and you can easily take all the veg back out of the bath to use it again for the next one.  Do this for all the veggies you are going to blanch, then put them aside, dump your water, and grab your pot to cook the curry.
  3. Dice your onion, chop your parsley, quarter your zucchini lengthwise, then cut into 1/2" chunks.  Cut your bell pepper into strips, then halve them so they are not as long.  Bias cut your scalions, mince your garlic and your ginger.  Thaw your green beans, open any canned items you are using, slice the potatoes.  Measure out spices, etc.  You should no be set to go!
  4. It's business time! Heat your large pot over medium to medium high heat.  Once the pan is warm, add your canola oil.  Roughly 1/4 cup, but enough to cover the bottom of the pan, and to coat the stuff you are sauteeing.  You can add more oil if it seems too dry as you sautee.  Add your 2TB yellow mustard seeds, sautee for a minute or so, add your garlic, let it cook just a bit, then your curry paste. Curry paste is basically a mash of very fragrant ingredients. You will sautee all this good stuff all together for another 2 minutes or so- until the curry paste becomes very fragrant.  Then add your ginger, sautee for another minute, add your onion and cook this until it begins to soften.   Then add your raw bell pepper and zucchini. These will need a little bit of time to soften.  By adding all of these ingredients individually and in the order they need to finish, it will mean everything will be perfect by the end. 
  5. When everything is softened, add your 2 cans of coconut milk and bring to a boil.  When you add the coconut milk, you stop the sauteeing process because the coconut milk is cold, and it drops the temp in the pan.  Crank the heat up and bring it to a boil, stirring well so nothing sticks to the pan.  You want to reduce the coconut milk down to a nice, milkshake-like texture.  It will seem like there is way too much liquid in the pan, but remember you are still adding a lot of bulky vegetables, and you need it to coat everything.  
  6. When your coconut milk has reduced enough, drop the heat back to medium and add the lime zest and juice, add the fish sauce, spices, sriracha and finally the potatoes, green beans, carrots and cauliflower.  Stir frequently to coat everything and let all of the veggies you just added heat up.  After 5-10 min, depending on how hot your stove is, you should be done!  TASTE it!  You probably need to add salt and pepper.   I added about a tsp of salt and a few good pinches of fresh ground black pepper.  Season it to taste.  If you are unsure how to season and don't want to oversalt your whole dish, just spoon some out into a bowl, season the bowl, and test just how salty you like it, then emulate that in the pan. You can adjust your heat as well by adding more Sriracha.   You're all done!   
  7. Serve your curry in a bowl and top with some chopped cilantro and fresh scalions. YUM!!!!!

I hope you all enjoy the heck out of this recipe, and after you've made it my way, make it YOURS!   See, you CAN cook!!!!

Next post-   an EASY 3 course dinner for your next date night!!!!!!   

Enjoy everybody!

Until next time....
Erin   "The Food Fairy"

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