I have planned menus throughout my recently concluded career as a campaign press person, but actual execution was pretty spotty. Sometimes I came home at 4:00, slept until 6:00 and had to order a pizza or make soup and grilled cheese because people were starving and couldn’t make it until I finished cooking the planned meal. Other nights my parents took pity on us and took us to dinner, or I discovered at 5:30 that some essential ingredient had been used up, never purchased or was otherwise unavailable. It would be an understatement to say that I had neither the interest in nor the capacity to whip up something creative using what actually was available. I was interested only in how quickly some Pad Thai, gyros or subs could be made to appear in my house.
This week, I am ready to cook again. Like George Bailey on the snow-covered bridge near the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I have seen what life is like without home cooking, and “I want to cook again!” I am not quite ready for adventures in the kitchen; I just want to make good things from scratch. Then I want to eat them. Here’s what we’re having on Forest Street this week:
Grilled Sausage, Macaroni and Cheese, Salad, Brownies & Ice Cream
A group of boys who lived up the street during their senior year in college are coming back to town for a football Saturday, and having dinner here between the game and their evening activities. (Which undoubtedly include lots of alcohol and probably things i don’t want to know about). I used to have the pleasure of feeding these gentlemen fairly often, and i know them to be big eaters with fairly straightforward taste. For the 6-8 of them and the 3 of us, we’ll grill a bunch of kielbasa, I’ll make two pans of macaroni and cheese and a big salad with some interesting additions (maybe some slivered Granny Smith and some pepitas) and we’ll finish with homemade brownies and ice cream.
Beef Curry, Basmati Rice, Fresh Pineapple
I have missed this curry so much that I could weep. I have posted the recipe previously, but I love it so much, and want so much for you to share my joy, that I am posting it again:
Annie’s Out-of-the-Box Beef Curry
- 1 1/2 pounds lean beef strips (can be from any cut of beef, but fatty and/or tough cuts will require an additional step)
- 8 tbsp Thai red curry paste
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 cans unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp Brown sugar
- 3-4 crushed garlic cloves
- 1 large or small onions halved and thinly sliced
- 3 carrots peeled and cut into rounds or 1 1/2 cups slaw or stir fry mix (not frozen)
- 4 tbsp chopped basil (optional)
1. If you are using tough or fatty meat (chuck, for example) cook with no oil over medium- high heat until all visible pink is gone, remove meat from pan with a slotted spoon, pour off fat, and return meat to pan. If you are using lean meat (almost no visible marbling) heat oil in pan over medium-high heat and cook until no visible pink remains.
2. Add onions and carrots or slaw mixture to meat and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat for about 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 more minute.
3. Add coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce and brown sugar; stir to combine. Reduce heat to “low” and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until meat can be cut with the side of a fork but is not mushy. (You are looking for a texture that is firm, but not so firm that you will essentially be serving beef chewing gum). Cooking time will vary depending on the type of meat used.
5. When meat has reached desired consistency check sauce for taste and add salt or pepper if needed.
6. Serve curry over steamed or boiled rice, and garnish with fresh basil if you like.
Chicken & Dumplings and Lima Beans
I am going to use this recipe, in my final salute to the crock pot that got me through so much of the past four months. I am making lima beans, which Mr. Annie hates, but which I worship and crave with unnatural fervor. He just won’t have any.
Potato Leek Soup and French Bread
C’est magnifique, this soup. It’s comforting, elegant and subtle. I might make a simple green salad, and I might not. I plan to commune with the spirit of Julia Child as I cook.
Another craving to satisfy.
Bucatini all’Amatriciana, Bread, Green Salad
Simple, authentic Italian pasta with many of life’s best things (including bacon, San Marzano tomatoes and Bucatini), a warm loaf of bread with good extra virgin olive oil, and some greens dressed with olive oil, sea salt and Balsamic vinegar.
Flash Chicken Saute with Cider and Almonds, Pilaf and Butternut Squash
I figure that by Friday I’ll be capable of trying something I haven’t made before. This recipe comes from Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s “Splendid Table,” and sounds autumnal and delicious.