No. 32 Red Curry with Tofu

I’ve been trying to perfect a veggie curry recipe for a while without success. But I think I finally got it right. Mine is kind of a combination of Heidi Swanson’s weeknight curry recipe and the red curry from the Thai place down the street from our house, which I love and order often.

The Thai restaurant always deep fries their tofu, so it has a texture that stands up to being soaked in sauce. And I like that they add bamboo shoots. Theirs are more like thin sticks, so I took the canned bamboo shoots and cut them in half lengthwise.

The other thing I figured out is that it’s better to use coconut cream instead of coconut milk because the extra water from the veggies and tofu tends to thin out the sauce.

No. 32 Red Curry with Tofu

1 10-ounce package firm tofu, pressed and thinly sliced
Olive oil – enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet
1 red or orange bell pepper, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
2 cups fresh green beans, ends cut off and snapped in half
1 onion, sliced
1 can coconut cream
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, sliced in half lengthwise
brown rice for serving

Start by frying the tofu slices. You want to heat enough olive oil in a large skillet to just cover the thin slices, somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch.

Fry the slices until golden on one side, then flip them over to cook the other side. When they’re done, drain them on a paper towel. You can use the remaining oil to cook your veggies.

Saute the veggies until they soften and the onions are translucent.

Next mix the curry paste with a couple tablespoons of coconut cream in a bowl.

Add this mixture to your veggies and stir until they’re all coated. Add the tofu and bamboo shoots to the pan and then stir in the rest of the coconut cream.

Let the curry simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Make sure you taste the curry before you serve it. You may want to add a little salt or more curry paste. I usually end up adding some of both. The curry paste adds more heat, too.

When it’s ready, serve the curry over brown rice. Or, if you’re like us, leftover takeout rice. 🙂

Chicken with peanut sauce

This was another successful recipe I thought I should mention. The chicken cooks quickly and the peanut sauce would be great for a lot of applications — a dipping sauce for kabobs this summer, perhaps?

I had to make some adaptations for the ingredients I had on hand and because I didn’t need quite so much chicken for two people. Here’s what it ended up looking like:

Chicken with peanut sauce
adapted from Nectar

chicken:
1.5 pounds chicken tenderloins, or boneless chicken breasts cut into tenderloin-sized pieces

marinade:
2 tablespoons grapeseed or safflower oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari
1/4 cup brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon coriander

sauce:
3/4 cup peanut butter (I used smooth, crunchy works too)
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 cup coconut water
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sliced scallions would make a great garnish!

rice (or just plain rice works too):
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup jasmine rice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced

At least 2 hours ahead:
Prepare the marinade by whisking all the ingredients together until the sugar dissolves. Coat all the chicken pieces in the marinade and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook.

You can also make the sauce anytime. The recipe says to mix it up in a food processor, but I think I just did it in a bowl with a spoon. Whatever floats your boat.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, start boiling the water for your rice. Add all of the ingredients and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. While that’s cooking you can grill or saute your chicken. I used my favorite nonstick pan and cooked the chicken with the marinade on the stovetop.

Put everything together and you’re done!

Two easy recipes you should try

It’s been so nice to have a little more time to cook lately. Harper likes to watch me cook, but she only stays entertained so long. So I’m trying to stick to recipes that can come together in about a half hour. Last week I tried some new ones, and I wanted to share them because they turned out great.

First up: tomato, mozzarella, and basil orzo, found on Sweet Paul.

It might be a little early for such a summer-y dish, but oh well. Basically, you saute up some red onions, then add in the orzo to toast for a minute.

Then you ladle in homemade stock and let it cook down, just like you would if you were making risotto.

Finally you add in chunks of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

The mozzarella gets all melty and yummy.

We used some of the leftover cheese to make salads.

Orzo doesn’t take as long to cook as risotto (maybe 20 minutes), so this dish came together really quickly. I will definitely make it again.

The second dish was Pioneer Woman’s spicy shrimp. It might be one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made.

Basically you just put some shrimp in a pan and add a little of this and a little of that (including as much hot sauce as you like),

then cover it with pats of butter and cook it under the broiler.

I did have to scale down the recipe (3 pounds of shrimp was a bit much for two people), but the full recipe would be great to serve to a group.


This time it was just me and my lovely assistants.

The shrimp comes out with a tasty sauce that you can sop up with toasted bread slices.

We added salad, too.

The only downside is that as fast as this recipe is to cook, it takes a really long time to peel all those shells and eat it. With a baby, eating time is definitely a factor. So maybe in the future I could make it with already-shelled shrimp.

A couple days later I discovered that leftover orzo was really good combined with leftover shrimp. So maybe these two would be good together one night!

Fettucine with chicken and leeks

I just wanted to share this great recipe I tried the other day that is so perfect for someone who doesn’t have much time to cook anymore. It calls for rotisserie chicken, so one night we roasted a chicken and then used the leftovers to make this another night. A grocery store chicken would work just as well.

The next day I used the bones to make stock.

I don’t cook a lot with leeks, but they are such a spring-ish ingredient I thought they sounded good this week. I loved them in this recipe. The full recipe is on Real Simple. The only thing I changed was to use lemon juice instead of zest. Next time I think I might add a second leek.

Basically you just boil some fettucine and while that’s cooking make a cream sauce with sauteed leeks. It could not be easier.

Mix in the noodles and voila, dinner.

Waffles!

I never used to be a huge waffle fan, but since I’ve been pregnant they sound good all the time. So I was pretty excited when we got a griddler and waffle plates for Christmas. Now we can have them whenever we want!

The first waffle recipe I tried was for bacon black pepper waffles from Joy’s cookbook (which you need). They were really good, but after that I wanted to try a sweet version. So the other day I made them without the pepper and bacon and added cinnamon and nutmeg. I’d go easier on the nutmeg next time, but otherwise I really like this recipe.

I also halved the recipe since it was just the two of us and it came out like this:

Waffles
adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook
makes approximately 8 waffle squares

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
Lots of nonstick cooking spray for waffle iron

Heat your waffle iron/griddle to 375 degrees. Whisk together dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another. Fold wet mixture into dry until just combined (it will be a little lumpy). Spray plenty of nonstick cooking spray on the waffle iron and then pour in 1/4 cup batter for each waffle square. You may have to adjust this for your particular waffle iron. Cook for 5 minutes, or until waffles are golden brown.


Don’t be like me and keep opening the griddle before they’re done. 

Serve with maple syrup and blueberries.

Next time I might make a full batch and freeze the extras. We’re getting to the point when the freezer needs to be fully stocked.

Yummy Thai noodles

I just finished reading “Garlic and Sapphires,” Ruth Reichl’s book about being the restaurant critic for the New York Times. It’s a great read, but the book is made even better by the fact that it also contains recipes. And one of them is her take on Thai noodles.

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to make Pad Thai before, so I was excited to give it a go.

Here is the complete recipe, which I followed pretty closely.

You start by chopping up your scallions, garlic and peanuts and squeezing some fresh lime juice.

Then you heat some water until it’s just about boiling and then turn off the heat. Your rice noodles soften up in here for about 20 minutes.

I couldn’t find ground pork at the store, and I was too lazy to pull out the mixer and grinder attachment to grind my own So I ended up cutting a pound of boneless pork chops into strips. I also skipped the shrimp. But if I made this again, I might go with the original pork/shrimp combo. Or tofu strips would be a yummy vegetarian substitute.

So the meat goes in to saute with some scallions and garlic. Then you add in the noodles and a fish sauce mixture. After the liquid has cooked down, you scramble in some eggs and add the rest of the ingredients.

I had half a package of Trader Joe’s potstickers in the freezer, so I cooked those to go with our dinner.

Serve your noodles with an extra squeeze of lime and a few drops of Sriracha.

Honestly, by appearance alone I was not sure the noodles would turn out great. But they are really tasty. Probably just as good as what I’ve had in restaurants. Thanks, Ruth!

Ham and cheese puff pastry

One of our favorite things to do on the weekends is pick up breakfast pastries at La Farine. It’s this lovely French bakery that has all kinds of beautiful baked goods like chocolate croissants and morning buns. But our absolute favorite treat to get is the ham and cheese pastry. We take them home and warm them up in the oven. They’re made with puff pastry so they’re flaky and buttery, and then in addition to the salty ham and cheese there is also a creamy bechamel sauce inside.


La Farine goodies. 

So when I saw a recipe for a very similar ham and cheese pastry on Joy’s blog, I had to try it. I ended up changing the recipe a little to incorporate the bechamel sauce, which seemed essential. And although my tart was quite a bit uglier than Joy’s, I liked how it turned out. It’s also really easy to make, and goes well with the salad I have been obsessed with lately (spinach and bibb lettuce with tomatoes and hard boiled egg).

Ham and cheese puff pastry
adapted from Joy the Baker

1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted but still cold
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons AP flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup brown or whole grain mustard
1/2 pound thinly sliced Black Forest Ham
1/4 pound Gruyere cheese, sliced into strips (plus a few shavings for the sauce)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you make the bechamel sauce. In a medium-sized skillet or saucepan, heat the butter over medium. When it melts, whisk in the flour. Then whisk in the milk and continue to cook until the sauce becomes thick and bubbly (5 minutes or so). Season with salt. Mix in a few shavings of cheese just to boost the flavor.

Now you can roll out the bottom sheet of puff pastry on a lined cookie sheet. You just want it large enough that you’ll be able to roll up the edges. Brush the bottom of the pastry with the mustard. I was going for a circular tart, but it ended up more squarish — go for whatever shape you like.

Pour the sauce on top of the mustard and spread it evenly. Then layer on the ham and the cheese slices.

Place the second layer of pastry on top, then crimp the edges of the bottom piece over the top, using a fork to press them together. You may need to remove the corners of dough if you’re going for a round pastry. Then brush the top with the beaten egg and cut three slices in the dough for venting.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. When my pastry first came out of the oven it had puffed up huge, but it eventually sank down.

Cut your pastry into slices, just like a pizza and enjoy!

Feta couscous salad & more goodies

This week has been one of those weeks when a bunch of stupid stuff happens that just stresses me out. Thank goodness for the election and newborn babies. Otherwise I think I might have gone nuts.

I have had some luck with recipes, though, and I wanted to share some of them with you. The first is a super easy side dish that goes great with boxed falafel mix, if you need a quick dinner.

Feta couscous salad
adapted from Cooking Light

1 cup water
2/3 cup dry couscous
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (or you could use pine nuts)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light balsamic dressing (I like Newman’s Own)
1 cup baby spinach leaves, cut into ribbons

Bring the water to boil in a small saucepan. Then add the couscous, cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Move the couscous to a big bowl and let it cool for a few minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients and toss to combine.
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I also really enjoyed these salmon tacos I saw on a Cup of Jo. I got some colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes, which made a gorgeous salsa.

I followed the recipe exactly. The only thing I had to change was cooking the salmon an extra 10 minutes because I had thick fillets. I will definitely be making this again.

But the best recipe of all was this chicken pot pie with cream cheese and chive biscuits from Joy the Baker. Wow, was it good. This picture does not do it justice.

The biscuits alone are fantastic. Using cream cheese in place of some of the butter is genius, and really does add another element of flavor to them. They were also super easy to roll out. I still like Heidi Swanson’s yogurt biscuits, but they take a little more time.

For the filling I used 2% milk instead of whole and got a soupier consistency than I would have liked. But it was still great. Maybe it’s not a true pot pie if it has biscuits rather than a baked-on top, but I have to say I like this recipe even better than Ina’s veggie pot pie, which is damn good.

Mom’s pumpkin bread

This is one of those recipes that takes me straight back to childhood. I remember my mom making this pumpkin bread seasonally, and we would often eat it cold for breakfast with a smear of butter. It’s crunchy from the pecans, and sweet, but not too sweet.

Making it now I realize that the recipe is actually really easy, and, bonus!, it makes two loaves. (Though you could always halve the recipe if you wanted.)

Mom’s pumpkin bread

3 1/2 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
1 cup chopped pecans
1 15-ounce can pumpkin (or 2 cups homemade)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl. Then combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Then divide into two greased loaf pans and bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness. Mine needed another 10 minutes or so.

After the loaves have cooled a bit, turn them over and gently shake them out of the pans. If you want, wrap one and freeze it for later. Or not.

*You could also make these into mini loaves. Just cut back on the baking time a little.