Isaac’s birthday! and Curried carrot, cauliflower and cashew bisque and seeded biscuits

It’s Isaac’s birthday! He was born seven years ago on a golden glowing fall day, just like this one. I felt such a surge of joy and love when he was born, and it hasn’t really abated in these last seven years. My sweet, small, jolly Isaac is getting tall and thin. It’s hard, with the second one, to notice all the changes – he’s always the little one. He’s so excited about his birthday. He was sad that halloween was cancelled, and needed assurance that nobody could cancel his birthday, not even the mayor. He was a robot for halloween, the cutest robot you’ve ever seen. I walked him to the consolation party at the school, and he looked out of his toilet-paper tube eye-holes at all his friends running around to the dance music. He sat on a metal folding chair against the wall, because it’s actually hard to do the robot, when you are a robot. He sat and waited for the faux trick-or-treeting. I wonder what goes on in his busy mind, at times like this. I want to tell him to run around with his friends, because I worry about him feeling lonely, but I’m glad that he doesn’t need to. He’s always been very self-sufficient and content with his own company. He’ll sit for long periods of time drawing and singing. Inventing worlds and creatures to live in them. He’s compelled to draw, and he’s almost always happy with the results. He sings constantly, about everything going on in his life. He sings his life, with sweet, pretty songs that get stuck in your head. He talks a lot, too. He’s always had a lot to say, and a smart, clear, peculiar way of saying it. He talks faster and louder and in a higher pitch when he’s nervous or angry, until only dogs can hear him. He likes to talk to everybody he meets, telling them things I sometimes wish he wouldn’t. (“Mom, isn’t that the boss you don’t like?” Heh heh, noooo, that’s some other boss…) You can’t really look at Isaac without wanting to snuggle him, and he’s a natural cuddler, he’ll cuddle you right out of bed. He’s a man who has invented an entire vocabulary around cuddling. There’s the circle cuddle, the tent cuddle, the birthday cuddle, the super-fast, intense, concentrated cuddle (actually I invented that one.) He’ll tell you that he loves you and you’re fun to be with, just because he feels it. (For now!) He’s frustratingly vague and flighty. He doesn’t understand the concept of walking in a straight line. He floats and spins and stops and goes. He won’t tell you he wants something till after it’s gone. He’ll walk right by a brand new bike on his birthday, back and forth many times, and you’ll have to tell him that it’s there. (Whereas Malcolm could sense a brand new bike in the house, if it was hidden behind closed doors several floors away.) He’s got pale golden hair, and pale soft skin, and he glows with all of the radiance of his bright cheerful sweetness.

I’m going to tell you something shocking. Isaac doesn’t generally like my cooking. It’s true! Hard to believe, I know. It’s tempting to say that Isaac only likes pale foods with butter, but the truth is he loves sharp, spicy strong-flavored food. He loves olives, and capers. And his favorite food is Indian food. Which is why he liked this soup. He refused to taste it, at first, but I gave him a small bite with basmati rice, and he went on to eat a whole bowl. He really liked it!! I was so proud. Everybody liked it, actually. It’s simple and flavorful, and smooth, and nice with the biscuits, which have a bit of texture from the seeds. I used nigella seeds, black sesame seeds and mustard seeds, but use what you have!

Here’s Memphis Minnie with I’m Gonna Bake My Biscuits. I’ll let Isaac choose the song when I tell you about his birthday cake!

Continue reading

About these ads

Roasted veg with pesto and fried bread

Roasted veg & pesto

I was so pleased with this meal! It seemed so summery. It felt as if all the vegetables were getting along, like a good family should. The cauliflower and potatoes were roasted, because that suited them best. The zucchini was sautéed till it was lightly browned, and then it played nicely with some fresh spinach and a tidbit of canned tomatoes. The mozzarella and pesto were wonderfully yielding to the warmth of the cooked vegetables. And the cubes of bread, lightly fried in olive oil, added just enough crunch to turn the whole thing into a party.

Something about the combination of bread, potatoes and vegetables evokes a peasant-ish meal. But a meal idealized peasants might have. I see peasants in the French or Italian countryside, and it’s constantly sunset or sunrise. They’ve got the wholesome goodness. I see a beautiful, spoiled American woman from LA, or NYC. She’s lost her way, she has no sense of purpose. All it takes is one bite of roasted vegetables with pesto and fried bread to make her realize how shallow her life is. She falls in love with a mysterious, swarthy fellow, who is secretly a count and a millionaire. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry!! You’ll buy the book and all the merchandise to go with it!

I don’t have time to pick a more appropriate song, so here’s a beauty…Fred Williams and the Jewels band with Tell Her.
Continue reading

homemade paneer; green dal; tomato cashew curry

three curries

“This is my first sous chef job!” Said Isaac, brightly, as he stood on a chair before the stove, watching a pot of milk. It turns out watched pots do boil! What else have they lied to us about?

Isaac and I were making paneer. Here’s how it all went down…I felt a little bad that I hadn’t spent much time cooking with Isaac. It’s nice to have something special with Malcolm, but I was worried that Isaac might feel a bit left out. So I’ve been trying to think of something fun to make that Isaac likes. I noticed that whenever we get Indian food, Isaac goes crazy for paneer, the soft, white cheese. He’ll even eat spinach, if it has paneer in it. Paneer also happens to be quite fun and easy to make. So that’s how Isaac got his first job as sous chef. He made the sauce to cook the paneer in, as well. He chose all the spices, and the main ingredients, and described the taste and texture that it should have.

On the way home from school, Isaac said he couldn’t wait to get home and be sous chef. Malcolm said Isaac was the sous sous chef. Isaac said, “Mommy is the over chef.” Malcolm said, “She’s the ogre chef!” I can live with that title!

Homemade paneer

As you will no doubt remember, we just went to Patel’s Cash and Carry on our Super Bodega Traveling adventure, and I had some ingredients I wanted to try out! So we made a meal with lots of little dishes. Isaac’s sauce had peas and tomatoes and cashews. It was a warm, earthy sweet dish. To go with that, I made a light saucy dish with punjabi tinda (baby Indian pumpkin) and cauliflower; and a very green dal, with whole moong dal, bay leaves, curry leaves, jalapeno, cilantro, lime, and ginger. I added a little black salt to this one as well – it’s a volcanic, sulfur-y salt, that adds a very distinctive flavor! Everything went very nicely together. I tried to make dosa, too, with my new urad flour. Complete and utter failure. Curses and frustration! I’ll try again, sometime, once I’ve recovered.

My friend Chris is playing DJ for this post, and he suggested the perfect song (and video). As he said, it’s a saucy little number! It’s Asha Bhonsle singing a song from Jewel Thief, Baithe Hain Kya Uske Paas.
Continue reading

Guacamole soup

guacamole soup

Coriander is an interesting herb, isn’t it? It shows up in so many different cuisines throughout the world. You can use every part of the plant, and the leaves and fruits taste quite different from each other. I’ve never encountered the root, but I’ll keep an eye out for it, because it sounds intriguing. Apparently, coriander was cultivated by ancient Egyptians and Greeks. They’ve found traces it at various archeological sites. It’s hard to get my mind around that, in so many ways! Coriander is also fascinating, I think, because the leaves taste so different to different people. To some they have a lovely herby, slightly citrus-y flavor. To others they taste like soap or stink bugs. (I love stink bugs, I really do, I think they’re adorable, but I wouldn’t want to eat them. I’m a vegetarian for heaven’s sake!) It’s such distinct proof that humans experience the world differently.

This soup came about because I bought a job lot (as Thompson and Thomson would say) of avocados. Avocadoes? Avocadi? They were at that moment of perfect ripeness. The first night we had one on a salad, but I continue to be bitterly disappointed by lettuce and tomatoes this time of year. So the next day, whilst whiling away the hours at work, I had the idea to use them in a soup (the avocados, not the whiled-away hours. I wonder how whiled-away-hour soup would taste?). When I considered the various flavor combinations I could use, I kept returning to the seasonings I use for quacamole (I make a mean guacamole). Viz: Cilantro, cumin, chile, lime and honey. So that’s how we did it. I added cauliflower, because I seem to be incapable of making soup without cauliflower lately, and because I thought the puréed cauliflower would save the soup from a certain slimy texture that puréed avocados sometimes attain. (I’m sorry, avocado, but it’s true) Well, the soup came out very nice. A little of the warmth of summery flavors combined with the warmth of a wintery soup.

Here’s MF DOOM’s Coriander.
Continue reading

Chili with cauliflower & 2 beans

Chili!!

I realized that I’ve been saying some mean things about winter lately. And we’ve had such a pleasant winter, so far! The truth is, I kinda like winter (in the way that a person who was probably a hibernating animal in another life likes winter!) I’d like to stay home all day, cuddled up, reading books, the boys in their pjs, me making complicated baked goods and slow-cooked I-don’t-know-whats! But I work on the weekends, so we never have a day of everyone in their pjs. Here’s something you can make that’s warm and rich and has complex flavors, so it feels like that kind of day, but in a fraction of the time. Oh, yes, and I almost forgot! We ate it with home-made tortilla chips and some grated cheese. Nice.

Here’s Bryon Lee and the Dragonaire’s with Hot Hot Hot.
Continue reading

Coconut-lime-vegetable soup

cocnut lime soup

The elegance of this light, bright soup belies its humble origins. In point of fact, this soup is the result of a very nearly empty vegetable drawer and a half-used can of coconut milk! I tend to save the white, hearty, wintery vegetables till the end of the week, and use the more brightly-colored, more easily-spoiled veg earlier. But I had carrots and peas, man! I could have added those! I made a choice to use only white vegetables! A conscious choice! I think they look nice with the silky tart-sweet coconut lime broth. As it happens, you could really use any vegetables you like in this soup – it’s eminently adaptable. Carrots and peas would have been pretty, actually. So would broccoli, or spinach, or sweet potatoes… You could also add basmati rice, if you wanted a heartier dish, or you could serve it over long, thin pasta, or you could add nuts – cashews or pistachios would be good, here. Or you could add red lentils. Or lots of cilantro. Go crazy, baby! I liked it in this simple manifestation, though – just what I was in the mood for. Sometimes vegetables and broth are all that are needed.

Here’s Louis Armstrong singing about being stranded on a Coconut Island. Now doesn’t that sound nice?
Continue reading

Patatas bravas and cauliflower soup

You know that Spanish tapas dish, patatas bravas? The one with potatoes in a spicy, smokey tomato sauce? This is my soup version of that. Plus cauliflower, for texture, flavor, and because potatoes and cauliflower are such good friends. It’s an easy soup to make, and the broth – warm, rich and spicy, is perfect for the freezingly dreary weather we’ve been experiencing here lately. I wanted it to be very brothy, but if you wanted a thicker soup, I think it would be nice to add a picada at the end…a mixture of toasted almonds, bread fried in olive oil, and garlic, all roughly ground together. I might try that some time! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Here’s Mississippi John Hurt’s beautiful Spanish Fandango, and Elizabeth Cotten’s equally heartbreakingly beautiful Spanish Flang Dang.
Continue reading

Malcolm’s supreme spicy croquettes

My Malcolm is a temperamental boy, and I’m not always the most patient mother. When we try to work together on a school project, it doesn’t always end well. But when we cook together, we make quite a team. Over the summer, Malcolm invented a sauce with roasted red peppers, roasted beets and roasted tomatoes. He smelled every spice in the cabinet, choosing the perfect mix for his sauce. It turned out delicious! Smoky, spicy, slightly sweet. He named it “Malcolm’s supreme spicy sauce.” This weekend, he had the idea of turning the sauce into cookies. I suggested we make croquettes, using his signature spice mix, and we added some pureed moong dal. The result was something between a croquette and a cookie, like nothing I’ve ever tasted. But it was a wonderfully tasty dinner! We dipped it in a tart-sweet tamarind sauce, and ate it alongside cauliflower puree and spinach sauteed with garlic and mixed with goat cheese, tomatoes and pesto. And a salad of course! Malcolm ate 4 croquettes, and Isaac tried it, and ran crying from the table, saying, “I tried it and I liked it, but I want something I knew I liked, like pasta or rice!” Ah, yoots.

Spinach, pesto, & goat cheese

Here’s one of Malcolm’s favorite songs, K’naan’s Bang Bang, which gets extra points for using the phrase

Hotter than a pepper-crusted Samosa.

I want a pepper-crusted samosa!!

Recipe coming up…
Continue reading