Emotionally, too, I've been blown by gusty winds this week: full of grievances and questioning the motives of everyone. Food, as always, is my touchstone. This week in recipes:
- Spicy Grilled Chicken, served with Saffron Rice and salad. As always, I am having trouble finding links to Baljekar's dishes online. "Spicy Grilled Chicken" is a terribly generic name and there are a million kinds of saffron rice and Baljekar seems to have published several different versions of all her dishes in various cookbooks which all bear similar names. The one I own (Best-Ever Curry Cookbook) seems to be one of the less common ones. So, I shall describe these dishes to you. The Spicy Grilled Chicken consisted of chicken thighs marinated in lemon, ginger, garlic, chilis, sugar and honey, treated with cilantro and more chilis, and then broiled, or in my case baked at a high temperature, because my broiler is unusable. It was perfectly fine-- flavorful enough chicken pieces, without sauce, but that was OK because a) the chicken was thighs and wouldn't dry out, and b) the saffron rice had its own flavor. The saffron rice, which was simple basmati rice cooked with cardamom, cloves, and saffron, and a little milk, was also fine. I felt that it had more saffron than it needed (1/2 tsp.), and would have been fine with less, which is an important point given that saffron is sometimes said to be more expensive than gold (my research suggests that this is not currently true. But still). I am a much bigger fan of Baljekar's cookbook now than I was a month ago, but-- while both of these dishes were solid enough-- neither one was anything special.
- Peas with Ginger and Sesame Oil, served with bulgogi-and-sweet-potato omelets and toast. Because it is October, and because it is difficult to find shelled fresh peas in any season, I used frozen peas for this recipe and the next. These peas were extremely simple: basically stir-fried with ginger, sugar, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds. I felt that the result, given recipe instructions, was too heavy: too much salt, too much ginger, too much sesame. You don't normally hear me complain about "too much ginger." An easy but not particularly well-balanced recipe.
- The Green Peas with Coconut and Cilantro were better. I used fresh basil leaves instead of curry leaves, as suggested, and-- not as suggested-- substituted coconut butter for the grated fresh coconut, because the fresh coconut I'd bought turned out to be rotten inside. Which I discovered when taking a drink of the coconut water I drained into a glass before breaking the coconut open. Anyway, while the coconut butter made these peas very rich, they tasted delicious. Mustard seeds, cumin, chilis, turmeric, and dried coriander augmented the fresh cilantro and basil and the strong coconut flavor. We served this dish with grilled cheese sandwiches and some roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, and turnips.
- Hot Sausage and Crispy Chard Pizza, served alone on a plate with a side dish of heavy skepticism. WTF, Bon Appetit. So, sausage-and-chard-pizza sounds really good, right? And this recipe from Bon Appetit simply directs you in topping a lump of pizza dough that you have purchased from the refrigerator case in the supermarket. Easy-peasy. Okay, now you go home and try to fit all this on a single pizza: 3/4 lb. sausage, an entire bunch of barely-braised Swiss Chard, 1/3 c. parmesan, 1 c. Fontina, 1 c. ricotta. It may not sound like a big deal-- it didn't to me, either, before I actually started pre-cooking the sausage and chard. But it is actually ridiculous. Before cooking, the pizza-with-toppings was probably about 3-4 inches high, almost all sausage, chard and ricotta. After cooking-- when the chard had settled down-- it was more like 2-3 inches. It was a big pile of food loosely arranged on a crust. Fortunately, it was not actually inedible; it was just not pizza. And the weight of toppings was so great that the crust really didn't rise at all. My revised recipe: try 1/4 c. sausage instead of 3/4 c., use a smaller "bunch" of chard (or a partial bunch) and cook it down significantly (and squeeze out liquid) before putting it on the pizza, and use way less ricotta. I spent a lot of time laughing at this pizza. I wanted to see what others thought about it on the Bon Appetit website, but their comment section seems to be missing.
- Frozen Coconut Limeade, from Smitten Kitchen, consumed after dinner while watching the latest episode of this terrible season of Survivor. Normally I love almost everything Deb Perelman does (and normally I love Survivor), but this beverage was about as lackluster as the show we were watching. It was like we were just pretending to be festive on both fronts. I added extra lime and sugar to my drink, but it still seemed to me bland and excessively icy. To be fair, husband and kid said it was good, but maybe that's because I don't normally fix them tropical iced beverages to drink while they watch TV.