I don’t know much about Indian food other than that I like to eat it; I’ve had a couple of Indian cookbooks for a while, but only this year began really trying to cook from them. Saturday night, I made Kashmiri style lamb kabobs in curry, potato raita (which I had never heard of until I found it in the back of the cookbook), snap peas cooked in a little ghee with sesame seeds, & chapati. Served with a little salad of cucumbers and coriander. This was the first whole Indian meal I’ve made — previously, I had just made individual dishes, usually a curry. Came out very nicely. Amy contributed a cherry pie for desert: not Indian, but excellent — the sweetness after the mild heat of the curry was lovely. We drank a couple of bottle of Riesling with the meal. All the recipes came from Camellia Panjabi’s Great Curries of India, a beautifully produced & well-written book with a lot of color photos & very good background information on the food & ingredients.
My pal Amy found this book on a remainder table at Borders & bought me a copy. The Complete Vietnamese Cookbook appears to be out of print, but I’d recommend it. Even though my tastes run to northern cuisine & this cookbook focuses on the south, I’ve already found its extensive & well-illustrated discussion of basic ingredients useful. I also like that it includes several Cambodian recipes — in the countryside of the Mekong Delta the culture of Vietnam blends into that of Cambodia as you go east & this cookbook recognizes that. In fact, I tried a Cambodian dish last night. Amy came over with her friend & colleague Peter, a sculptor like Amy, & I made a Vietnamese diner: 1) Summer rolls (somehow seemed appropriate in the middle of January) with carrot, shallot, basil, coriander, & lettuce wrapped in an uncooked wrapper; 2) Fried Cambodian sweet potato balls rolled in sesame seeds; & 3) My old standby Thit ga koh gung, chicken with ginger. I also put a couple of dipping sauces on the table — nuoc cham, the standard lime & fish sauce concoction, & a spicy peanut sauce I hadn’t made before. When Amy came in she saw the cookbook on the table, open to the sweet potato balls, and said, “I’m glad you like the book! — did you see these sweet potato balls?” And I was able to answer, “Yeah, I’m making them right now.” First we ate the summer rolls, which were great in both sauces, then the sweet potato balls, which loved the hot peanut sauce & have an almost custard-like texture, then my Saigon chicken with some rice to which we added the peanut sauce & some squirts of Sriracha. We had Amy’s cherry pie for desert! Peter brought his dog Jackson & Amy brought her dog Penny so we had six dogs in the house for the evening. Everyone was quite well-behaved. Even the humans. It’s wonderful to have a good kitchen after all these years — it was the last thing we remodeled in this our house — because I can cook for friends. And what wonderful friends.
I had some leftover spaghetti sauce & some left over turkey sausage, so I made meatball sandwiches last night. For the meatballs, take about a cup of mild sausage, mix in three cloves of finely minced garlic, salt & pepper, some oregano, roughly 1/2 to 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, & one egg yolk. Mix with your hand, then roll in more breadcrumbs & fry until golden brown. Hollow out the halves of some crunchy bread (I had some asiago cheese bread I’d made earlier), rub the outside with butter, place the halves for each sandwich on foil, slather the bread with lots of spaghetti sauce, cram in meatballs, grate cheese over meatballs, put the halves of bread together & roll them up tightly in the foil. Bake in a preheated 300° (F) oven for 30 minutes. To serve, let cool slightly, unroll from foil, serve with a salad.
Note: I had erroneously been thinking of this sandwich as a Stromboli, which is clearly related, but not the same thing at all. I love it that the Stromboli originated, not on the island of the same name off the coast of Sicily, but in Pennsylvania & was named for an Ingrid Bergman movie! Now I can’t wait to make one. Italian, Mexican, & Asian street food is among the best arguments in favor of open immigration policies I can think of. I mean that seriously.
I’ve been meaning to post a picture of the pasta extravaganza from a couple of weeks ago. Amy came over & we started from scratch, making the dough, three fillings, and two sauces. I’ll need to practice more rolling out the dough & handling it, especially making ravioli. Surprisingly, very few of the little pasta packages burst when we were cooking them and, anyway, it was one of the best meals I’ve contributed to in a long time. And one of the happiest. Playing in the kitchen — especially with a friend — is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Note: This is my first attempt to use Flickr to post directly to the blog. The link above goes to my Flickr page. Seems to work pretty well, though I wish it wouldn’t automatically add a line with “originally uploaded by . . .”
Carole & I usually go to Ottawa to one of our favorite restaurants on Thanksgiving. Yes, there is a bit of irony, which we cultivate, surrounding leaving the US to celebrate a US holiday. I have no family I’d much want to associate with in any case & Carole’s family members live on the West coast, a long trip for an extended weekend. Most of our academic pals go hang out with their families, so we have made a virtue of our disconnectedness by having a nice meal out. The sweet potato frites at the Black Dog Cafe are out of this world — & sweet potatoes are traditional on the day! But this year Carole’s colleague Melissa invited us & a couple of other rootless souls over to her house for a traditional Thanksgiving feast. It worked out nicely since we had freezing rain, then snow overnight, which would have made a trip to Ottawa difficult if not impossible. Well, traditional except for the vegetarian spring rolls I made as an appetizer. Carole made a co-appetizer of smoked trout sour cream dip with crackers. Mark brought the wine, Dorothy brought a chocolate mouse & a cranberry-orange sauce for the Turkey, which was perfectly cooked by Melissa, who also baked limpa bread. Alexa made mashed sweet potatoes & little cheesecakes for a second desert. Perfect meal, lovely. After dinner we played cards — a game I was unfamiliar with, but which Melissa, daughter of an Anglican priest, grew up playing. When she was little, she said, they had to call it Oh, Heck! even though everyone knew its real name was Oh, Hell! or Shit-on-Your-Neighbor. (We played a two-deck version, otherwise the same as the game described in the link.) I didn’t play very well, so in revenge I’ll have to have Melissa over to play Hearts. I’m not actually a great Hearts player, but at least I know the strategies. For a bunch of loose ends, we made a fine meal & had a good time.
Last night our friend Amy came over & we made Indian food, but last week I cooked Vietnamese: Spring rolls and a crab & noodle salad. Here is picture of my plate of the Vietnamese food. (I think we got some of the Indian dishes we had last night & I’ll post those later.)
I’ve been learning to make Vietnamese food for the better part of a decade — since I came home from my first trip to Vietnam. I’m known among my friends for my spring rolls, of which I can make half a dozen kinds, but I’ve been trying to broaden my range, thus the salad. My most reliable VN dish, which I haven’t made in a while, is thit ga kho gung — chicken with ginger — a dish that uses a good deal of nuoc mam — fish sauce — which is an acquired taste for some people but which I took to right away. Hope I get to go back this summer.