Monday, October 24, 2011

Panang Cucumber Curry

This has been such a hard two weeks.  Two weeks ago my cat Crookers had to be put to sleep.  Then last Sunday my youngest cat, Little Kitty started getting sick.  It began with her throwing up and I took her into the animal hospital because it wouldn't stop.  Then she got a very bad respiratory infection last Wed and stopped eating and drinking.  Thursday I went to 5 different stores buying things to try to get her to eat and drink.  I turned the bathroom into a sauna a few times a day to make her feel better.  It has been nuts.  I guess that this is what it is like to have a sick child, I am just looking forward to getting her back to normal.  She is starting to eat and drink again, luckily, and hopefully the infection will go away in a day or two.  

One of my favorite recipes is my stir-fried cucumbers and I wanted to try to make another cucumber recipe where the cucumbers were cooked because I have a hard time digesting raw cucumbers.  This recipe looked interesting but a bit scary-- curry and cucumbers?  However, the two unlikely ingredients work together well and it definitely makes a meal that you haven't had before!

Panang Cucumber Curry
Adapted from Vegetarian Times

I Tbs of olive oil
1 4 oz can panang curry paste (I couldn't find any, so I used red curry paste instead)
1 13 oz can of light coconut milk 
1 1/2 tsp grated lime zest
2 tsp soy sauce
1 large english cucumber, seeded, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 small onion
1/3 cup of thai basil leaves
1 container of tofu
2 tsp lime juice

Wrap the tofu in a few paper towels.  Put on a plate and put a plate on top of it to press.  Wait 30 minutes then pat dry.  Cut into cubes.

Put oil in pan and heat on medium-low.  Add curry paste and cook for 4 minutes, stirring often, until it gets fragrant.  Add coconut milk, lime zest, and soy sauce.  Simmer for 5 minutes until it begins to thicken.  

Add cucumber, pepper and onion.  Cook 10 - 12 minutes until cucumbers are crisp tender.  Add in basil and tofu and then cook for around 4 more minutes.  Add lime juice and serve.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thai Basil Eggplant with Tofu

Since I have been home from my vacation in New Orleans, I have been craving vegetables.  However, since I am still having a hard time coping with the death of Crookers, I am just not up to cooking.   Therefore my lunches consist of black bean veggie burgers (soo good for being pre-made) and eggs and rice for dinner.  Sad, but thats all I can manage right now.  I know he was just a pet, but his death left a hole in our home.   There is no one walking around meowing, sleeping next to me when my husband works late at work, or trying to steal the turkey out of my husband's sandwich while he is eating it.  My other cat, Little Kitty, has been sick too.  Last night when I opened up a can of food, she took a sniff and then walked into the other room and threw up.  Since it was the same exact thing that Crookers did the day he died and she had never done it before, I became convinced that she was going to die too.  Totally irrational, especially since it was 11pm and I had to be up at 6am, but I really lost it.  This morning I woke up at 4 am and she wouldn't eat.  6 am and she finished off a handful of treats.  Thank goodness.  I think the next few weeks are going to be touchy but hopefully I can move past this.

This recipe idea came from one of my favorite take out foods.  Whenever I go to my mom's house she orders tofu and eggplant for me.  I went through different recipes and this is the closest I could find to the takeout dish.  Well, if I can't cook right now, at least I can look at good meals!

Thai Basil Eggplant with Tofu
Adapted from Epicurious

4 asian eggplants or 2 Italian eggplants
3 Tbs oyster sauce
3 tsp sugar
3 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs olive oil
1 container with tofu
2 tsp garlic minced
1 red bell pepper
1/4 cup green onions chopped
Handful of thai basil

Set the oven for 400 degrees.  Press the tofu by wrapping it in a few paper towels, putting on a plate, and putting another plate on the top.  Let it sit for 30 min.  Then blot off moisture with another paper towel and cut into 1 inch cubes or strips.  Toss with 1 Tbs olive oil and put in oven.   Cook for 30 minutes until browning, flipping halfway through.

In a bowl, mix oyster sauce, sugar, and sesame oil and put to the side.  Put the olive oil in a large pan and heat over medium-high heat.   Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add bell pepper and eggplant and stir fry for 10 - 15 minutes until soft.  Add oyster sauce and stir.  Then add tofu and green onions.  Take off heat, add thai basil, and serve.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Toasted Quinoa with Spinach, Blistered Tomatoes, and Walnuts

One of my new favorite things to do to remember vacations, other than take pictures and video, is buying cookbooks.  I try to find older cookbooks written by locals that may have more authentic recipes.  In New Orleans I was on the lookout but most of the cookbooks were from current chefs (yes, we went to Emeril's restaurant NOLA) or were written for tourists.  We were walking in New Orleans when we came upon a sign for a National Park.  I've been to many National Parks but all of them have been in wide open spaces, not in the middle of the city.  We went into the Jean Laffite National Historical Park, which was a small  courtyard and museum.  In the museum I found Talk About Good a cookbook from 1967 written by the Junior League of Lafayette Louisiana.  It is real cajun cooking from the 60s.  I don't know if I will make any of the savory recipes.  I am not a fan of cream, a lot of oil, grease or butter, or cheese and most of the recipes have these.  However, I think I could try to convert the sweet recipes to gluten free so I could use it.  Reading it is just as much fun as cooking for it, so it was a good buy!

One grain that the book definitely does not have in it is quinoa.  In my home, I use wild rice and/or quinoa as much as my go to basmati, jasmine, or long grain rice.   However, I have never toasted it before.  It adds an additional flavor profile.  Yes, this dish also includes blistered tomatoes.  It may seem like blistered tomato overload, but I made this dish around a month ago and it was the inspiration for my previous dish.

Toasted Quinoa with Spinach, Blistered Tomatoes, and Walnuts

1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 Cups of vegetable broth
2 Tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 bag of baby spinach
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup torn basil leaves

Rinse quinoa for 1 minutes in a fine mesh strainer and shake, removing as much water as possible.  Put 1 Tbs of oil into large skillet.  Add the quinoa and stir over medium heat until light brown.  This takes around 10 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Then add 3 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Cook, covered, over medium low heat until the water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked, approximately 20 min.  

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in small skillet over medium high heat.  Add whole tomatoes and agitate them by shaking skillet back and forth for around 5 minutes.  You will se the tomatoes begin to blister and pick up some color.  Put to the side

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lay walnut pieces on baking sheet and roast for 5 - 10 minutes until they start to brown.  Put to the side.  

Put spinach in the quinoa and cook over medium heat until wilted, around 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, walnuts, cheese, basil and fluff to combine.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blistered Tomatoes with Creamy Polenta

I am reeling from the death of one of my cats.  He got sick over the weekend while I was in New Orleans.   My brother in law took him to the animal hospital, who said it was just his hyperthyroidism, and gave him two shots.  He seemed just fine when we got back home.  He gave us two happy days and then Wed was in so much pain that we had to put him down.  Crookers was a extremely smart cat and was like a puppy in a cat's body.  He was an alley cat when we had gotten him and was called Crookie (or Crookers) because he had a crooked neck from a previous incident.  They estimated that he was 3 years old when we got him but with the symptoms that he had 7 years later we think that he was older when we got him.  I had gone through putting a cat down before, 2 years ago, but this one was very sudden and unexpected.  I miss him a lot and the house is so quiet now.   Little kitty has spent the last two days sleeping all day in my bed and Epona keeps looking for him and hiding under the table.
Crookers the night before he passed.  

I will write more about my New Orleans Trip some other time, but I am glad to be back home where I can be a gluten free vegetarian.  Both seemed almost impossible (vegetarian more than GF) in New Orleans.  My first meal home, especially dealing with the death of Crookers, was easy and comforting.

Blistered Tomatoes with Creamy Polenta

2 cups of cherry tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic minced
5 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup fine ground cornmeal
2 Tbs olive oil
Handful of torn Italian basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the vegetable broth in a pot.  Sprinkle in the cornmeal, whisk constantly.  Lower heat to medium and continue to stir every few minutes until thickened.  This can take 20 - 40 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

While polenta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large pan on high.  Add garlic and stir for 30 minutes.  Add whole tomatoes and agitate them by shaking skillet back an forth for around 5 minutes.  You will see the tomatoes begin to blister and pick up some color.  Turn off heat, mix in torn basil and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve on top of polenta and add parmesan cheese.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

GF Pasta Puttanesca

It has been a long week since I have been super sick. It started off as a head cold, which I got after taking my cat to the vet.  I knew something was off with my cat Crookers but it turns out that he has some weird eye condition that the vet has no clue about and hyperthyroidism.  It was such a stressful experience that my sinuses filled up right when we went out the door.  Then I worked all week and the cold went to my chest.   Luckily I got antibiotics on Friday, so I should be healthy soon.  Hopefully, because we will be going to New Orleans!

One of my favorite summer dishes, which can be made any time with canned goods, is Pasta Puttanesca.  I have fond memories of being a child and having my dad serve this dish out of a big bowl that looks like a watermelon in the summer.  I picked out all of the olives (and still pick out some every now and then) but always loved it warm or cold.  Back then the noodles were not GF but using GF noodles still works out well in this dish.  

Pasta Puttanesca

1 lb of pasta (can be GF)
3 Tbs of olive oil
6 cloves of garlic chopped
28 oz can of whole plum tomatoes chopped (or you can buy them chopped ahead of time)
1 cup of pitted chopped black olives
8 Tbs of capers
Chopped parsley to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to directions.  Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium.  Add garlic and cook gently until they are almost melted.  Stir in tomatoes with juice, olives and capers.  Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes and season with salt and pepper.  Then mix sauce, pasta, and parsley and serve.