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Eggplant Curry

Last Saturday was not a Hemingway in Paris type of Fall day. It was cool and sunny, and I rode my bike along the Hudson river without sentiment (although there was plenty of red sediment in the river itself from flooding upstate). I wore a sweater and a scarf and fingerless gloves which came off (the gloves, not the sweater, or the scarf for that matter) soon after we reached the market at Union Square.

There is a lady at the market who sells Mexican food from a small wire shopping cart–the kind you see old ladies pulling into Fairway, the kind with plastic wheels that fall off if you don’t know the exact angle at which to push around a corner. She always has a circle of people around her, peering over her shoulder into red coolers full of sauces and fillings. This week we tried gorditas. They were spicy. Good and spicy. My tongue tickled from the burn, but I couldn’t stop. And then I wanted another one.

The market wasn’t crowded this week, so we were done our shopping and back on our bikes by 9am. We would have been home napping by 9:45 if it weren’t for the motorcycles. My front tire had just touched the Henry Hudson when a police officer in an SUV blocking the crosswalk waved me back. Behind him, a parade of motorcycles came rumbling up the highway. A long parade.

People began to crowd at the crosswalk. I wanted to join the two kids shielding their ears from biker thunder. I exchanged a smile of commiseration with a woman in a gray suit. We waited and waited, and the bikers kept coming and coming. Cars waiting to turn on the highway honked with nowhere to go, adding to the cacophony. A runner stopped next to me, yelled “fuck!”, and decided to cross anyway, weaving through the motorcycles as if she were on the streets of Hanoi.

We were delayed again by the wind. Riding north on the river path, the wind was in my face. Each curve in the path brought another gust, and the entire way home felt like an uphill struggle. The wind is my enemy. I even started swearing at it. I was swearing at the wind.


All of this brings me to eggplant curry. When we got home, we were cold and tired. Curry fixes both of those things. Plus, eggplants are related to tobacco. 20lbs of eggplant = the same amount of nicotine as 1 cigarette.

Eggplant Curry

1. Cube 1 lb eggplant and put in a bowl. Sprinkle eggplant cubes with some ground turmeric and salt. Set aside.

2. Cut 2 small onions in half (the long way) and slice lengthwise (not across).

3. Slice 4 chilies lengthwise.

4. Heat oil in a large pan. I used a cast iron pan, but a wok would work as well. Add the eggplant and fry until soft and light brown. Eggplant soaks up a lot of oil and takes a while to cook, so add more oil if necessary. It will take about 5-10 minutes, but eventually the eggplant will begin to release some of the oil. When the eggplant is done, remove from pan and set aside.

5. Add more oil to pan if necessary and fry the onion until soft. Mix in 1 tbs curry powder and the green chilies. Add 1 cup coconut milk and salt to taste. Boil until coconut milk begins to thicken. Stir in eggplant and cook until sauce becomes the consistency of gravy.

6. In a small pan heat a very small amount of oil and add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, 4 dried curry leaves. Cook until fragrant and the seeds begin to pop. This is the tempering oil. Remove the curry leaves and pour over the eggplant mixture.

7. Squeeze at least 2 tsp of lime juice into curry, but add more if the dish needs more acid.

8. Serve over brown rice.

Chocolate Blueberry Muffins with White Chocolate Chips

White chocolate is not really chocolate. It is cocoa butter and milk and a lot of sugar. Sometimes they skip the cocoa butter. In favor of what? More sugar?

These aren’t really muffins. They are muffin shaped brownies. Soft like a cake, they fall apart soon after reaching your mouth.

Blueberries are not… well, I can’t think of a way in which blueberries are deceptive. Except that they should be paired with chocolate more often.

Chocolate Blueberry Muffins with White Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease your muffin pans before you get started.

Mix 1 and 3/4 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp. baking soda, 2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt.

In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients: 2 large eggs, 1 cup milk, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup melted butter.

Fold wet ingredients into dry, but don’t over blend. Add 1/2 cup white chocolate chips and 1/2 cup (or more) blueberries.

Fill muffin pans and cook for 18 – 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out just clean. The muffins should still be soft.

Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then remove. Eat right away if you do not mind hot blueberries burning your tongue.

cause i had some time to kill.

I spent 9 hours in the kitchen today. Thought I’d share the results.


pickled celery

coleslaw

matcha muffins

red bean jam

whole wheat sandwich bread

asado de bodas (pork in red chili sauce)

a full meal with beer and homemade flour tortillas




Socialist Exercise

Morning routines: Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi.

Winter Produce

Eating mostly organic, local, and seasonal food during the winter automatically diminishes produce variety.  Hearty root vegetables, tough greens, and bulbous squashes are not in short supply.  As much as I love all of these vegetables, cooking new and creative meals is proving difficult.  What will happen when (if) it really gets cold?

I have been having amazingly good luck with recipes from the New York Times lately.  Many vegetarian options using seasonal produce.  This week–Pasta with kale pesto and roasted butternut squash.  Perfect!

No kale left in the fridge, so I used chard instead.

It may sound and look weird, but this is definitely one of the best non special occasion meals that I have ever made.

***

Just in case you have been wondering… Yes, I am going to post about Mexico.  In great detail, hence the delay.

***

We did partner handstands in yoga on Wednesday.  Along with another girl, I was lucky enough (sarcasm) to be chosen to demonstrate the pose (which was completely new to me).  So of course, while the instructor took us through how to get into the pose, how to hold the pose, trouble shooting, what not to do, what to do, and basically each instruction step-by-step, I had to hold the pose.

Upside down, feet propped on my partner’s back while she held downward dog, my entire body began to shake.  The instructor continued on.  Sweat began to drip from my forehead.  The instructor continued on.  My face reddened, my jaw clenched.  The instructor continued on.  One second more and I would have collapsed onto my equally suffering partner, traumatizing both of us.  The instructor finished just before I lost control of my arms, and helped me down.

And that is how I discovered back muscles that I never knew I had.  Good morning soreness.

Gourmet Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Wet, tired, and irritated, shoulders hunched under the weight of sagging re-usable bags, we wove in and out of Thanksgiving eve crowds.  Soggy shopping list in hand, we carefully crossed off each attained item–pounds of brussel sprouts, a bag of whole cranberries, apples, carrots, parsnips, fresh rosemary.  Thoughts of New York City do not create visions of farm fresh produce in the minds of my family.  Perhaps the experience of Union Square greenmarket has changed that.  While not impressed by the crowds and fast passed environment, nor by the fact that I made them take the subway, I think that my family was at least slightly intrigued by the variety of fresh in-season produce.

This Thanksgiving was void of turkey or turkey-like imitations.  Yes, it has been years since I have eaten turkey, but that has not stopped my mom from spending hours basting.  It has not stopped my dad from expertly carving.  And it never stops my sister from claiming the meaty drumstick.  This year was an exception.

The vegetarian host cooked a vegetarian meal consisting entirely of… vegetables (well, some fruit of course).  All local and organic produce fresh from the market.

Jellied Cranberry Sauce with Fuji Apple (from Food & Wine)

Cranberries before cooking

Apples waiting to be chopped up.

The finished result.

Rosemary Potato Focaccia Rolls (Food & Wine)

Roasted potatoes cooked in olive oil, salt, and rosemary. Some of these slices did not make it on to the rolls.

The rolls.

Braised Kale with Onions, Kalamata Olives, and Lemon (Food & Wine)

Blurry, but you get the idea.

Maple-Ginger Roasted Vegetables (Food & Wine)

Brussel sprouts.

The veggies may look a little charred, but I assure you, they were just slightly crispy on the outside and soft in the middle–Sweet, savory, and juicy.  The browning is mostly from the sugar in the maple syrup.

Five Spice Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Walnut Toffee (Food & Wine)

Best sweet potatoes of my life.  No marshmallows here.

Squash filled with Lemon Barley Stuffing with Shiitakes (actually Portabellas… there were no shiitakes at the market), Hazelnuts, and Chive Butter (Food & Wine)

The main dish

A little bit of everything

Did I prepare anything ahead of time?  Of course not, that’s just not my style.  With WNYC on in the background and family to help out and keep me company, I cooked all day.  Of course we took a few breaks for this–

A Thanksgiving gift from my Auntie

Sauvignon Blanc was the perfect wine for cooking breaks.  Dry, refreshing, and crisp it reduced some of the heat I was feeling from the constantly working oven and burners.

I tried the Porcupine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon with my dinner.  I liked this wine, but I don’t think that I paired it well with my dinner choices, and true to its name, it ended up tasting a bit prickly.  Of course, we did not get through six bottles of wine in one night, so James and I have some tasting to do!

For dessert we had key lime pie, chocolate coffee cake, and a scoop of pumpkin chip ice cream.  A gourmet vegetarian meal not once wondering, “where’s the meat?”.

 

Menu

Hola!

An intense month of work, traveling, and visitors.  James and I just got back from Mexico City on Sunday night, and I owe you a super post.  Don’t worry, it is in the works.

My parents and sister are joining us for Thanksgiving in NYC apartment.  No dinner table, not a whole lot of space, no turkey… at least the kitchen is larger than your average NYC kitchen.

Most of my menu is centered around what I will be able to pick up at the greenmarket this afternoon.  Here’s the tentative menu:

  • Rosemary-Potato Focaccia Rolls
  • Jellied Cranberry Sauce with Apple
  • Braised Greens (kale)
  • Maple-Ginger Roasted Vegetables
  • Five-Spice Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Walnut Toffee
  • Lemon Barley Stuffing With Shiitakes, Hazelnuts and Chive Butter that will make the perfect filling for stuffed squash
  • Key Lime Pie (made by mom) for dessert
  • A selection of wines from my auntie

What is on your Thanksgiving menu?