Monday, July 29, 2013

Glover's Atoll Fish Curry

My favorite vacation destination is anywhere with palm trees and baby-blue water. So when we were planning our honeymoon, as soon as I saw pictures of Glover's Atoll in the guidebook, I knew we HAD to go. 
Our hut.
Glover's Atoll has everything I want in a summer getaway: clear Caribbean water, very few other people, hammocks. 
There is no electricity on the island, no running water. You have to bring all the food you want to eat while you're there, and can supplement it with all the coconuts you can crack and all the fish you can catch. Or, for the inept / inexperienced fisherman, you can buy fish from some of the workers on the island. That's what we did. 
I brought curry powder, lime juice, chili paste and soy sauce from the US, and one night cooked a big pot of fish curry with the freshest possible fish. The process had many steps. 
First, we bought a pound of fresh fish fillets. 
Barracuda and snapper.


 The island's workers would chop up and clean the fish on the docks every evening. They threw the unneeded guts, skin, tails, etc back into the ocean, and this created a FRENZY of sharks and stingrays beneath the dock. I called it the Shark Show. We drank sunset rum cocktails and looked down at the sharks (nurse, lemon, black-tip, and reef) churning up the water underneath the dock. 
Shark show!
So once we had the fish (placed into my bare hand), we needed coconut for the curry. This involved physical strength, so I let Adam do it. First, you had to find a coconut and husk out the nut with a pointy sticking-up crowbar.

Then, you crack the nut open and grind out the coconut meat, using a grinding thing.

So now, with both grated coconut and fish, I was ready to make some curry! 

Fish Curry Recipe 


1 lb fish fillet (ours was snapper) 
A small amount of cooking oil
2 onions, diced
2 tablespoons of curry powder
grated meat of 2 coconuts (to make at locations besides islands, use a can of coconut milk) 
2 tablespoons lime juice
dash salt or soy sauce 
1 tablespoon chili paste (or any spicy element: sriracha, cayenne, etc) 

What to do
Put the onion into a pan with the oil and heat it up. Saute the onion for five-ish minutes. Then, add the curry powder and cook a minute longer to fry the spices. 
Add the coconut gratings or milk and bring to a bubble. Allow to boil for 2-3 minutes. 
Add the fish and turn the heat down. Softly cook the fish in the liquid for about 6 minutes. Then, beak the fish into large chunks with a spoon. 
Add the lime juice, soy or salt, and chili paste. Taste and re-season as needed. 
Serve over rice. 
Finished curry. The coconut shavings made it a bit chunky.
This came out delicious. Plus, it took forever to make, so we were starving. 
We ate this curry sitting on the walkway of our hut in the dark. There were phosphorescent fish lighting up the water.

And to drink with it, we made coco-locos. You slice the top off a coconut, add rum to the water inside, and drink. 

This was a gorgeous, memorable night. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Chickpea and Lentil Salad with Coconut Curry Dressing

Fantastic news---I got married! The wedding was a blast, and the first event of the wedding weekend was a barbecue in our backyard that Thursday night. All our friends and relatives who were in town early came over and made merry. We brewed a keg of apricot blond, and I made a ton tried-and-true recipes which are always crowd favorites: smoked brisket, glazed pork shoulder, tomato salad, summer salad.
But: throughout my life, I've accidentally made friends with a number of vegans, vegetarians, people who only eat chicken and no other meat, people who observe Jewish food rules even though they only actually believe in karma, and people who are perpetually embracing whatever new fake-science fad diet is current. These individuals dazzled me with their personalities before I could reject them for their dietary lameness. So, what were they going to eat at the BBQ? I wanted to make something vegan that would be hearty and taste awesome.
So I settled on a curried chickpea salad. I started with one of Mark Bittman's recipes as a base, and improvised a few additions (more heat, more flavor elements, fresh herbs). I tend to love anything including coconut milk, but had never tried it in a salad dressing before.
It was a wild success! This salad came out absolutely delicious and was eaten nearly as fast as the glazed pork. I got more compliments on it than any other dish, and not just from the karma-vegans.
I will definitely be adding this to our regular rotation. It would make great, healthy lunches and is the perfect thing to keep a big batch of in the fridge for the work week.
This was amazing. 
(This is for a huge amount. Halve the recipe for a more normal amount. Or just eat it all week!)

6 cans of chickpeas
1 1/2 cups of dry lentils
4 shallots
1 can coconut milk (use full-fat, not the light kind)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
1.5 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
juice of 3 limes
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce (leave this out if you want the recipe actually vegan)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
dash soy sauce
dash sriracha (or any heat element)
3 jalapenos
1 bunch of cilantro

What to do
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place in a large bowl. Cook the lentils and add them to the bowl with the chickpeas.
Dice the shallots and jalapenos and add them to the bowl. If you like things spicy, leave the seeds in the jalapenos. If you want it mild, take the seeds out before dicing.
Pour the can of coconut milk into a container (I used an old jelly jar, but a smaller bowl is fine too).
Pour the olive oil into a small saucepan and heat until shimmering. Add the curry powder and cumin seeds and toast / fry in the oil until fragrant--about 2 minutes. Add the toasted spices to the container with the coconut milk. Add lime juice, dash soy sauce, dash sriracha, and the fish sauce (or not). Mix well (shaking works best).
Pour the coconut mixture over the chickpea mixture. Toss to mix. Place in the fridge for at least and hour--this allows the dressing to soak in.
Just before serving, chop the cilantro and mix it in. Add the pecans if you're using them, and mix those in too.
All done!

This was a really, really easy recipe, in addition to tasting fabulous. I can't recommend it enough.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Apricot-Filled Chardonnay Cupcakes With Strawberry Frosting

Cupcakes make you happy.
Apricot surprise!
My friend Anna is a cupcake genius. Cupcakes are her obsession and she's made a million amazing types. I hired her to make cupcakes for our pre-wedding BBQ based on a Moscow Mule--the drink Adam and I had on our second date, when I stole him a copper mug from Steuben's. Anna's the best baker I've ever met--and she had last Friday off, so she came over and we made these delicious, fruity cupcakes, drank boxed wine, and she regaled me with horror stories of her dating life. A great Friday afternoon.
World's foremost cupcake expert. 
I learned that cupcakes, like cobbler, is a formula rather than a specific recipe. You can improvise endlessly to create new flavors and themes.

Cupcake Batter:
 2 1/3 cups flour 
1 1/2 cups white sugar 
1 tablespoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk 
1 cup canola oil
2 eggs 
1 tablespoon vanilla 

What to do: Mix all the ingredients together! Now you have batter! Place cupcake papers into a muffin tin. Fill each one about halfway with batter. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. 
Cupcake batter
How to improvise: 
To make more healthy: Replace half of the canola oil with apple sauce. 
To make other flavors: Replace the milk with any other liquid. You can use fruit juice, booze--anything! 
For these particular cupcakes, we used boxed wine. Trashy and delicious. 

Then, to go on these chardonnay cupcakes, we made a Swiss Meringue butter cream frosting, with diced strawberries. This type of frosting starts with an egg white meringue, to which you whip in butter and flavorings. 

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

6 egg whites 
1 cup butter 
1 cup sugar 

What to do ( I copied these directions from Martha Stewart) 

Combine egg whites and  in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).
Anna beating egg whites and sugar. 
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.

With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. 

At this point, add your flavorings. For fruit frosting, add about a cup of finely diced fresh fruit. We used strawberries, but any fruit would work.

Or--add a TB of vanilla and drops of food coloring for classic party frosting. 

Put on cupcakes!

The final exciting part of these cupcakes was the apricot filling. I chopped up 2 cups of fresh apricots, sprinkled them with 2 TB of sugar and 1 TB of cornstarch, then cooked them in a saucepan until boiling, then mashed them with a potato masher. They became apricot jam. 

Apricot filling being cooked. 

Then, we poked holes in the cupcakes, filled them with apricot filling, then frosted them. 

Cupcakes with apricot filling. 

Being frosted. 

These were delicious, and now, thanks to Anna, I know how to make cupcakes! Maybe I like baking more than I think. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Rainbow Summer Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

The dressing looks a bit green because the cutting board still had parsley remnants.

Summer produce is so delicious and wonderful, you just want salad all the time. During the summer, I love to keep a big tupperware of a mixed, lettuce-free salad in the fridge to eat with everything. 
This salad contains some of my favorite summer things: sweet corn, peppers, tomatoes, herbs. Roasting the corn and red peppers gives extra sweet flavor. I also like to throw a few diced jalapenos in any salad for the occasional burn-bomb.
I don't think people really actually a recipe for salad, but here's what I put into this one: 

Rainbow salad

1 cucumber, chopped 
2 packages grape or cherry tomatoes, each tomato sliced in half
4 ears of corn on the cob, roasted, kernels sliced off
2 red peppers, roasted and chopped
2 yellow peppers, chopped
1 bunch spring onions, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 jalapenos, finely chopped (I left the seeds in))

What to do

Start by roasting your corn. Rub each ear with olive oil, place them on a cookie sheet, and place under the broiler. As the ears start to look roasty-brown, rotate them. When they're roasted on at least two sides, take them out. Wait for them to cook slightly, then slice the kernels off and put them in the salad bowl. 
Roast your peppers. I use the gas burners on my stove. Poke a hole in the peppers, then lean them up against the flame until their skin is blackened. Rotate to get all sides. Allow to cool, then chop and add to the salad bowl. 
Chop all the other veggies. Add to the bowl. Mix. Add dressing and eat!
I like to serve this over a bed of spinach leaves. 

Mustard Vinaigrette 


3/ 4 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
3 TB whole-grain mustard 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
juice of 1 lemon
2 TB brown sugar 
salt and pepper to taste 

What to do: 

Mix all the ingredients in a jar. Screw the lid on, then shake like crazy. Taste for salt and re-season as needed. Pour over salad.