Monday, April 16, 2012

Pineapple Curry

This is not a traditional curry, so food purists, be warned. Lately I have been kind of addicted to curries, from the scrumptious tomato based Veggie Masala from the new North Indian restaurant in town ( ) to the wonderfully fragrant and spicy Panang Curry that I can't help but order again and again when I go out for Thai. Then when I read about an Indonesian Pineapple Curry on I couldn't stop thinking about how much I wanted to try it. As a result, my curry saturated mind has combined all three to created a curry-fusion to satisfy my indecisive taste buds.
What you will need:

1 package Firm Tofu
2 Carrots
1 cup Green Beans
1 Red Bell Pepper
1 ½ cups Pineapple
1 Shallot
2 Tbs Fresh Garlic
2 Tbs Fresh Ginger
1 can Coconut Milk
2 Tbs Tomato Paste
2 Tbs Smooth Peanut Butter
2 tsp Garam Masala
Brown Sugar
Rice Vinegar
Soy Sauce
Fresh Basil
Oil and Water as needed

Lets get started with the tofu (although I am using tofu in this recipe it would be simple to substitute in any type of meat). Start by draining the tofu. When using the fresh tofu that is packaged in water, it is important to press the tofu to remove the excess water. This allows the tofu to absorb all of the flavor you cook it with. Slice the tofu into even strips. Line a cutting board or cookie sheet with a few paper towels and spread out the tofu. Layer with more paper towels and place another cutting board or cookie sheet on top. Then you want to put something heaving on top to add weight such as plates, coffeemaker or books. Let the tofu sit like this for a half hour or so.

Now for the prep work; the cooking process is a lot easier if everything is ready to go. Rinse the carrots, green beans and bell pepper. Cut green beans into bite sized pieces, peel and slice the carrots into rounds, and set the green beans and carrots aside. Chop the bell pepper into bite sized pieces. Peel and core the pineapple and cut into one inch pieces. The bell pepper and pineapple will cook together so place them in a bowl together. Mince the shallot and the garlic. Peel the ginger and mince. Open the can of Coconut Milk and the Tomato Paste. Have the remaining ingredients at hand to add as you go.
Now it is time to start cooking! Get out your favorite large skillet, frying pan or wok. For this recipe I used the fat of the coconut milk to cook with instead of oil. When you open the coconut milk you will notice that it appears to be solid. Only the top half of its contents should be solid and the bottom half should be the coconut water. You can use the two haves individually to maximize it's cooking potential. Scoop about half of the solid coconut milk into the pan and turn to medium high heat. The coconut milk should liquify and start to form large bubbles. At this point add the shallot, garlic and ginger to the pan. After a few minutes it should be nice and fragrant. Add the half of the liquid part of the coconut milk, the Tomato Paste, Peanut Butter, Garam Masala, Sriracha to your comfortable level of heat, and a dash of the Cumin, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Allspice. Stir until combined and then mix in the green beans and carrots. Turn to a simmer and let the green beans and carrots cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. If at any point the curry seems too thick you can add more of the coconut milk liquid or a splash of water.
While this is cooking you can finish up the tofu by cutting it into bite sized pieces. Once the green beans and carrots are tender but still firm, scoop all of the curry into a large bowl and set aside. Return the pan to the heat and add another scoop of the solid coconut milk. Once it is bubbling add the tofu to the pan. Scoop a little bit of the curry sauce from the bowl and add it to the tofu to infuse some of the flavor. I also added some extra large pieces of ginger just to add flavor, but they aren't really needed. Allow the tofu to cook a few minutes on each side. If you prefer your tofu crispy you will need to add some oil. Once the tofu is cooked to your liking, scoop the tofu into the bowl with the green beans and carrots and gentle toss so the tofu is coated in the curry sauce. Return the pan to the heat.

Again add a little scoop of the coconut milk solid to the pan and bring to a bubble. Now add the pineapple and bell pepper and cook over medium heat. Add a sprinkle of salt to help release the juices. Once the pineapple and bell pepper are soft, drain the juices into the bowl of curry and return the pineapple and bell pepper to the heat. Create a hole in the center of the pan and add a small splash of oil. Toss the pineapple and bell pepper with the oil and add a sprinkle of brown sugar. Turn to high heat and stir every few minutes so the pineapple and bell pepper get a nice brown sear. Add to the bowl of curry.

Now for the finishing touches. Pour all of the contents of your curry into a large pot and bring back up to heat. Squeeze the juice of one Lime into the curry and stir occasionally. Add a splash of Rice Vinegar and Soy Sauce to taste and get fancy by cutting a chiffonade of Basil to top it all off!

Best enjoyed over rice or with a side of your favorite naan.

Good luck stopping after just one helping!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Eggplant Pasta with Black Trumpet Mushrooms and a Simple Kale Salad

This is a delicious hearty dish full of earthy flavors with a little element of surprise. What? No pasta in the pasta? That's right, the eggplant actually is the pasta! Surprise! That means this dish is gluten free yet even more filling that a normal plate of pasta.
The Black Trumpet Mushrooms for this dish were handpicked from this hillsides of beautiful Humboldt on a New Year's Day hike with a group of amazing friends that seem to have a sixth sense for finding wild mushrooms.We found pounds and pounds of Chanterelles, Hedgehogs, Black Trumpets, Candy Caps, and a few enormous Boletes that were past their prime. Although we gorged ourselves on fresh mushrooms while we were there, I took a handful of Black Trumpets home to dry and save for later when I was starting to have withdrawals.

I started by soaking the Black Trumpets in red wine. I used Rabbit Ridge Barrel Curvee Zinfandel because it has rich flavors of blackberry and spice that I thought would work well with the earthy mushrooms.
I started some diced yellow onion caramelizing with a little bit of olive oil in a large frying pan. While this was going I sliced the eggplant into thin ribbons about the size of fettuccine. Next I chopped up some sundried tomatoes and some garlic. Once the onions were starting to brown I added the eggplant noodles, sundried tomatoes, garlic, and Black Trumpets along with the wine they were soaking in. Add another touch of olive oil and toss together over medium heat. Cover the pan for a few minutes to help the eggplant soften up. Stir frequently. When the wine is absorbed and the eggplant is tender, mix in a scoop of soft goat cheese and a dash of salt and pepper. Once the goat cheese is melted in and is coating the pasta you are ready to eat!

Kale salad is a refreshing winter salad I've recently been turned on to. They are often called "Massaged Kale Salads" because the kale will soften if you massage the lemon juice and olive oil into the leaves with your fingers. I stated with a bunch of curly kale, although red curly kale, dinosaur kale, or a mixture of all three is also great. Rip the kale into small bit size pieces. Then drizzle olive oil, lemon juice, and in this case champagne vinegar over the kale and then roll up your sleeves and massage it all together. Once all the leaves are fully coated set it aside. Chop up some red onion and add it to the kale. Toss in some sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. If you are wanting to get a little fancier with this kale salad you can also do chopped leeks, grated carrot, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, diced tangerine, and grated firm goat cheese such as Cypress Grove's Midnight Moon.