Saturday, January 22, 2011

Recipe: African Groundnut Stew (vegan)

This is my go-to comfort food dish.  It's really very EASY, forgiving, and you can substitute just about anything in this recipe with just about anything else.  Below is a vegan version, but I'll add a few suggestions at the end if you'd like to add meat.

This stew is a great way to test how certain dishes can have ingredients where you taste each distinctive one.  It also doubles really well, which means that you can double every ingredient if you're making more (that's not always possible with every dish).
Pantry goods used - some peanut butter, the last of the brown rice (yayyy).

INGREDIENTS (in order that you need them):
1 TBSP oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped (eliminate if you don't like garlic)
1 cup chopped veggies of any variety (I used frozen veggies that I roasted in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, but you can leave out the roasting part)
1/2 TSP curry powder/garam masala (if you leave this step out, let me know how it turns out!)
1/4-1/2 TSP chili powder/cayenne pepper (to your taste)
1 TSP salt (or as much or as little as you'd like)
2-3 coarsely chopped tomatoes
3/4 cup brown rice (if you're using white rice, your simmering time will be shorter by about 10 minutes)
4 cups water
1/2 cup peanut butter (you can use any kind of nut butter)
2 TBSP sugar (eliminate this if your peanut butter already contains sugar)
1-2 TBSP lemon juice (or about 1 lime/lemon)
green chili's (optional)
crushed nuts (unless you use the 'chunky' peanut butter)

So I'm sure you could just put all that stuff in one pot at one go and it'll taste fine.  But don't.  You want to try to emphasise each ingredient.

1) on MEDIUM heat - add the chopped onions and garlic.  Stir occasionally until you see the onions begin to brown.
2) add curry powder, salt, chili powder and chopped veggies.  Stir occasionally for about 2 minutes.
3) add the tomatoes, rice and 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, cover almost completely, then lower the heat to SIMMER for about 25-35 minutes.  Check the rice at 25 minutes to see when it becomes soft.
4) add the peanut butter and sugar (optional), the final 1 cup of water. Stir well for about 1-2 minutes.
5) add the lemon juice and garnishes (these are vital to the dish).  YOU'RE DONE.

MEAT OPTION - just include the meat after Step 2 above, braise it with the spices (about 5 minutes for white meats) but keep in mind that you'll be simmering it with the rice, etc for about 30 minutes.

NOTE about the veggies - Using firm vegetables like corn, bell peppers, carrots, etc will give you a different texture than more pulpy veggies (eggplant or zucchini), so water your stew accordingly.

Smash kitchen phobia's or feeling intimidated and give this delicious comfort-food a go!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Pit of Despair

Here's the ridiculousness that the hording has become.  Mind you, I live ALONE and eat dinner out about 3 times a week.

Overview of the pantry...
- here you can see 3 shelves clearly, and a bit of the 4th:

 an extra cart:

If you think that doesn't look all that bad, let's break it down further:

1) The Peanut Butter.  I bought these at one of those warehouse stores, about 3-4 years ago.  All three jars have been opened.  The large jars are creamy-style, the smaller is chunky-style.  Coz, you know, you need to be prepared.

2) The pasta (this does not include basmati rice, brown rice, couscous or other miscellaneous rice of any kind).  Absent also are the jars of lentils-  masoor, toor, kali daal, chana daal, etc, and a big-bucket-o-unknown lentils (as seen on the extra cart above).  Just the pasta (which I RARELY cook as I mostly cook Indian food.  Let's repeat that:  I mostly cook Indian food.  So pasta's, peanut butters, generic steamed veggies - not so much.  But I have them, just in case):

Also, here's more from my basement storage.  A jar of peanut butter (yes) and a mammoth bag of splenda (why? "for baking").  Sigh.  Also probably bought like 3 years ago:

I haven't even included the spice area OR the fridge, as I've exhausted myself now. Keep in mind, all this is AFTER I've begun to implement my new year's resolution.  So there's been a bit of a dent in the Pit.  For example, two full pasta boxes are gone. Yup.....

Don't get me wrong, I've been cooking a LOT, but it's been fresh ingredients and less from the pantry.  So for the next week, full frontal assault on the pantry.

Wish me luck!  I effing need it.

Socialist Worker: The Revolt of the Hungry

The revolt of the hungry

Capitalism's warped priorities produce artificial shortages of the basic necessities.
Tunisians march in Tunis for bread and an end to the reign of a dictator (Nasser Nouri)Tunisians march in Tunis for bread and an end to the reign of a dictator (Nasser Nouri)
"WE WANT bread and water and no Ben Ali," read protesters' handwritten signs as they took to the streets in cities and towns across Tunisia. Some waved loaves of bread, symbols of the hunger that drew people into a struggle that ultimately toppled the corrupt 23-year reign of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
Tunisia isn't alone in suffering the effects of a new global food crisis that has pushed up prices for staples by one-third in the past six months, according to the United Nations. It isn't alone in witnessing furious protests over the failure of the system to provide for people's most basic needs. And it may not be alone for long in seeing hated rulers overthrown.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The New Year's Resolution

I'm obsessed with food.  More precisely, I am obsessed with the cooking of it.  Not that I don't enjoy the hell out of eating.  I really, really, do.  But filling body and soul through the blending of spices and flavors are part of what my fantasy worlds are made of.

I come from a family of stellar cooks.  As a classic under-achiever - a saboteur of achievement, if you will - I had been envious from afar of cooking talents that I neither thought I possessed, nor cultivated.  Early mistakes were catastrophic and so frustrating that I was resigned to adequately familiarizing myself with a few signature dishes and either waiting for my mother's heavenly cooking or heading out to restaurants to pamper my palate.  

But nothing tasted like home.  As a child of parents from the South and North of India, I suppose I had well-rounded tastes but barely any know-how.  So I'd watch cooking shows, search terms like "Indian food" on the internet, grocery shop while hungry and come home with fresh meats and veggies that I had either no idea what to do with, or no time to create the spectacular multi-course meals floating about in my head (I mentioned the saboteur bit, right?).

Not only did I barely do any cooking, but I threw away pounds of food that had rotted while I settled for beef Udon noodles from the corner restaurant.  I was wasting so much money and really had a pathetically limited diet.  Burgers when I went out, Chinese/Japanese food when I stayed in, with some occassional home-cooked meals that I expected to be perfect at the get-go.  Meanwhile, my pantry was overstuffed with various non-perishable foods that I horded for that famine that was around the corner.

All that has now gotten old.  I've gone with a new year's resolution that I think is manageable:

1) I'm going to use up all the goods in my pantry before I buy anything else.  No more non-perishables until what I've horded is gone.  I think this will help me to try cooking a variety of foods as I can't replace stuffs I use more regularly than others.
2) As for the perishables, of course, I'll be buying basic necessities regularly (milk, cereal, eggs), but I'll only buy what I'm planning on cooking within the next day or so.

I'm a month in and so far I'm on track.  So.....why the blog?

Well, everyone's doing it!  But seriously, hopefully this will keep me on my toes when it comes to the resolution.  Posting the progress (or lack thereof) will perhaps make sure it's success more realistic.

I'm sure I'll be including my other loves - left-wing politics and TV/movies/the arts, but there's going to be a lot of food stuffs.