Keema beef curry

January 10, 2012 § 26 Comments

I am always on the lookout for things to do with ground beef.  I’ve expounded before on how much we love our meat farm share, how cool farmer Kim is, how wonderful it is to know where your meat comes from.  Because, seriously, it really is.  And overall, I don’t mind not being able to choose specific cuts of meat, for we generally receive a remarkable variety.  We do wind up with a lot of ground beef, though.  Not as much as my parents, who buy a substantial portion of a cow every year, but a lot nonetheless.

So, we have a regular rotation of spaghetti bolognese, chili, beef tacos, and back to spaghetti, like a song on repeat.  At least it’s a pretty good song (I used to dread spaghetti when I was little because I felt like we had it so often. Now I understand why, and I welcome it almost weekly as a satisfying respite from thinking about the age old question of what’s for dinner).

Then there’s the occasional meatball or hamburger thrown in, depending on the season.  Meatloaf has shown up a couple of times too.  I welcome it in and try to give it something like a homemade apple barbecue sauce to make it feel at home.  It makes awfully good leftover sandwiches, however awkward I feel about meat in a loaf form.

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Parsnip and leek soup

January 2, 2012 § 20 Comments

What would you do if you weren’t afraid of failing?

It’s not an original question, I’ll admit.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  It’s pretty painfully cheesy, like those horrible motivational posters we used to have in our gym locker rooms for high school sports, or the quotes I carefully wrote into my journals, in metallic pens and with cutesy cut-outs as decorations.

Yet, it was the question I found myself asking in my mind last night as I got ready for bed and contemplated the journey back to Boston and working/studying/data analysis/teaching/writing/whatever-it-is-I-actually-do after a swift and very full holiday vacation.  I have a tentative nature when it comes to work and school, and I put a lot of effort, particularly mental effort, into trying to make sure I do everything right and just as others want.  The idea of failing is so scary I almost never allow myself to fully contemplate it.

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Garam masala roasted cauliflower

December 9, 2011 § 19 Comments

It’s the quality of the light at this time of year, more than just the quantity.  There’s something about it.  Do you know what I mean?  It seeps into my pores, follows me around, tints my day in a very particular way that I can’t quite describe.

When there’s snow on the ground the sun is so amplified during its brief daily visit that you don’t necessarily notice.  But, when the ground is brown, littered with twigs and oak leaves, you can feel that the light is almost timid.  It sneaks up above the horizon, peaking about with a muted – sometimes pallid – glow.  You can tell as soon as it comes up that it’s already contemplating its journey back down, leaving us in darkness again.

I feel as though I barely get my day going and then I’m looking up and it is rapidly becoming dark outside.  And, try as I might, even though it may only be 3:30 or 4:00, I can’t really concentrate on getting any more work done.

If I’m working from home, when it gets dark it means it is immediately time to initiate that day’s Cozy Winter Evening, something I feel is essential if one wishes to keep from being overcome by dreariness.  For me this involves turning on a couple of our lights that cast a very warm yellow glow, lighting candles is good too, turning on some cheesy music (this is key), and taking a moment to briefly contemplate the tiny Christmas tree that we decorated and now have perched on the dining room table. « Read the rest of this entry »

Apple cider and curry glazed beets

December 3, 2011 § 7 Comments

Everything I’ve been cooking lately seems to be orange.  Have you noticed?  If you haven’t noticed, forget that I said anything at all.  Orange food?  What?  I cook the rainbow!

If you have noticed, know that I thought I was going to be breaking out when I dreamed up this beet recipe.  I envisioned deep claret purple.  But then I rooted in my vegetable crisper drawer and was reminded that I had selected golden (read: orange) beets.  Hmph.  Well, we’re getting our vitamin A in these parts.

Whatever the color, these beet nubbins turned out to be a spectacular treat.  Like candy.

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Vindaloo curry with parsnips and halibut

November 21, 2011 § 5 Comments

Yes, vindaloo with parsnips and halibut sounds, well, weird, for lack of a more graceful word.  But it tastes really quite amazing.  So, you should give it a chance.

It’s alternate name is fish-nip-aloo, which, of course, really makes it sound awesome.

Actually, I rather like the name fishnipaloo for the dish.  It’s quirky.  It sounds a bit like the name of a Bollywood dance, and that fits this particular curry incredibly well.

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Baked sweet potato with lime butter

November 13, 2011 § 18 Comments

It’s been a thoroughly draining week, intellectually.  Emotionally too, actually.  And, the idea of trying to say something remotely intelligible or amusing seems more than a little out of my league, at present.

On the way to trying to become a doctor of philosophy, there are many hurdles you have to clear and people you have to convince.  (Including yourself.  There’s a lot of convincing of yourself that you can, in fact, do this, in spite of the daunting monolithic-ness of the task at any given moment.) Last week I had another one to fling myself over in defending my dissertation proposal.

I did it.  Hurrah!  Which puts me, finally, in that category, which I’ve always been somewhat confused by, known as ABD.  All but dissertation.  I always used to hear that and think, what?  All but dissertation?  But, isn’t the dissertation kind of the whole thing?  Answer, no.  Not even remotely.

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Really Crazy Good Brussels Sprouts

November 8, 2011 § 41 Comments

I hyperbolize now and then.   I just get kind of excited about things, you know.  And this results in my mind sorting through its shelves of adjectives and quickly reaching for the binder labeled, ‘superlative’ and then spilling the contents everywhere.

“Amazing!” “Perfect!”  “Even more perfect!” “Absurdly and/or uncontrollably great/fabulous/wondrous/awesome/stupendous” “The most mind-boggling, off the hook, and all together unbelievable paragon of X ever to have graced the face of the Earth…”  That kind of thing.

So I was thinking of trying to use understatement for effect, for a change.  Go all Garrison Keillor and say, “oh ya, these were pretty good Brussels sprouts.”  But, I couldn’t.  Because they weren’t.

They were really crazy good Brussels sprouts.  So I’m going to go ahead and call them that. « Read the rest of this entry »

Twice baked butternut squash

October 31, 2011 § 30 Comments

There’s a crack that opens up in the earth today, letting all manner of little demons and naughty spirits out to roam the earth for the night and make mayhem.  I just thought I’d let you know that, in case you hadn’t heard already.

It’s the original reason behind dressing up on All Hallows Eve (Halloween), actually.  If you were disguised as a witch or demon, then it was highly unlikely that the real demons wandering about would notice you and cause you trouble.  They would think you were one of them and leave you alone.  Which, on the whole, makes sense, don’t you agree?

A similar thing happens on the solstices, and at periods of your life when you’re in transition.  Those pesky demons come out and can make a muck of any number of little things, or even make you sick.  Nowadays we blame things like stress, which often increases in times of transition.  But, those of us who are in the know – and now you’re in the know! – know that it’s actually demons.

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Roasted apples with ginger mousse and cinnamon breadcrumbs

October 27, 2011 § 13 Comments

It seems to me that we have a failure of imagination when it comes to oven temperatures and apples.  We always bake them.  It’s like our temperature dial is locked between 350-375F.  What’s up with that?

I know what’s up with that.  It’s mostly dough or crumble topping.  We put our apples in pies, and crisps, and dumplings, and strudels, and turnovers, and unless we want black and incinerated edges, we had best bow to the characteristics of dough and stick with those mildly hot baking temperatures.

Now, I like dough as much as the next person (maybe more than the next person), but today I’m going to say, “break out!  Take your apples out of their floury, buttery, oaty sheaths!”  Because if you do, then you can roast them!  Crank up the knob on the oven and lash that fruit with intense heat.

You’ll find that this fast (faster, at any rate) and furious, let ‘er rip, method of cooking still gives you apples that have the sweet, tender innards of baked apples.  But the outside, well the outside is where the magic happens.  They become mahogany, all glistening and browned with a pleasant hint of burnt caramel to edge the rich sweetness with a thin rim of sophistication. « Read the rest of this entry »

Warm fall slaw, with goat cheese

October 24, 2011 § 16 Comments

What is it with this time of year anyways?  It’s so, I don’t know, distinctive, I guess.  Not that other times of the year aren’t, but fall feels more ephemeral and therefore somehow stands out from the hot days of mid-summer, the frigid days of mid-winter, or the muddy days of spring.  All of which last long enough to wear you out, at least slightly.

Fall manages never to outstay its welcome.  It’s like a favorite uncle, or other cooky relative, who blows in and out, full of color and liveliness, and who never sticks around long enough to grate on you.  But, perhaps you never really get to know them either.

Fall tends to be a bit of a yearning season for me.  A busy, yet philosophical season.  And beyond a doubt, the most nostalgic season (which is saying something since I am, as a general rule, nostalgic!).  I think of the line in that goofy movie “You’ve Got Mail” when Meg Ryan’s character says that fall makes her want to buy a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.

Except, for me, when the weather becomes as bracing and clear as it was this morning, I find what I want to do is go door to door and sell folios full of static cling window decorations shaped like skeletons and bats and pumpkins and turkeys.

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