Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Curry du jour - a recipe from a lazy cook
I used to love to cook. When I was a freelance artist, I was very disciplined. I worked at home, but I kept to a schedule and didn't break it unless there was an emergency. I worked from 9am to noon, took an hour break, and worked until 5pm. If there's wasn't an art director screaming for an inhumane deadline, I'd stop dead, no matter where I was in the day's work.
Cooking has something to do with this, I promise.
At noon, I would have a quick bite to eat. Then, I'd do whatever preparations were in order for dinner. Back then, this could mean anything from making pasta from scratch to deboning a whole cornish game hen, stuffing it, and sewing it back together (a very impressive feat, believe me). Vegetables were chopped, vinaigrettes were left to develop their flavors, and little bowls of ingrediants were filled if I was going to cook Chinese food. I was quite orderly, and I knew that by the time dinner rolled around, I'd never have the energy for any of this.
This cooking mania was prompted by a show on PBS about the "Great Chefs of New Orleans." I bought the accompanying book and both volumes of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."
One memorable meal was that crazy deboned game hen, with a tri-color vegetable pate starter, and petit peas wrapped in steamed lettuce leaves. Another one was a white bean pate with whole vegetables. It looked beautiful. Each slice had circles of orange carrots, purple beets, green peas and red peppers. It tasted like school paste and was dumped in the garbage. We had a pizza that night.
For years now, I haven't enjoyed cooking all that much. I'm certainly not the uber-disciplined person I used to be. I tend to cook the same things over and over again. It's usually tofu and broccoli or string beans in black bean sauce, pasta with chicken or turkey sausage in marinara sauce, white pizza with red peppers and mushrooms, or a spinach and cheese omelette. I eat lots of Boca Burgers and ramen.
I was planning on making a curry last night but was feeling lazy (and had yet another night of ramen, tofu and egg). Dick couldn't find a can of tomatoes at the store, so he bought a pound of tomatoes, and knowing I would have to cook something from scratch was too much to deal with. Seriously, this is how I've come to think of cooking - too much to deal with. If I lived in a city, I'd be looking at takeaway menus every night, but where I live there's only one choice in that arena - a pretty lousy pizza from the General Store.
So, today was curry day. It was now or never, for we had a big leftover leg of lamb and I didn't want it to go to waste (sorry to all you vegetarians for subjecting you to images of deboned capons and legs of lamb).
I wound up making a mean curry. It's simmering now. Here's the recipe:
1 lb of tomatoes, de-seeded
2 tablespoons of good curry powder
3-5 cloves of garlic, your choice
1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth or bouillion
Chickpeas would probably be good in this, but I don't have any
Put the tomatoes, curry powder, garlic and liquid into a blender and blend until almost totally liquid. This stuff tastes great cold, like gazpacho, but spicier.
Cook the onions lightly in olive or canola oil. Then pour the curry liquid in the pan.
If you're using meat, throw it in about 1 to 1 1/2 hours before you want to eat. Cook the cauliflower for about a half an hour. Throw the peas in for five minutes at the end.
Serve with basmati rice. If you've got some Indian bread, great. This is really tasty, so having something to sop it up with is good.
Not a big deal of a recipe, but it's easy. I didn't bother to tell you how to cut up the cauliflower or how much to put in. That kind of detail is just silly. Cut it up however you want. You want lots of peas? Throw 'em in.
Tip for de-seeding tomatoes: Just cup them in half and scoop the seeds out with your thumbs. De-seeding always sounds like it's going to be a chore, but it isn't.
I'm annoyed because I'm out of basmati rice. I wonder what my Japanese brown rice is going to taste like with butter in it. Sticky and buttery, I'd guess.
Now it's time for me to cook the cauliflower. See ya. Don't expect another recipe too soon.
Photo note: Looking at this makes me think it's summer.
Addendum: I put too much lamb in it. Would you read a cookbook like this? Actually, I think it's not a bad idea. If recipes were less rigid, people would be creative. And, I'd like to see some famous chef write "I put too much lamb in it" instead of telling me that I need to put 1/8th of a teaspoon of cumin in something. Cooking is not that exacting! And failures are inevitable.
Also, Japanese brown rice cooked with butter is quite delicious. It wound up being my favorite part of the meal.