Little Bits of Cooking

Little bits of cooking from the last few weeks. Seasoned onions, breakfast of mackerel & egg curry on toast, salad with apricots and blue cheese, breakfast of scrambled eggs, naan, and seeni sambol, Vietnamese-style spicy-sweet shrimp on rice.

Summer means I have more time to actually cook. It’s nice.

Another Box of Books

It’s always satisfying when I have to order another box of books because I’ve sold out. 🙂 The paperbacks are smaller than the hardcover, because we left the photos out to help keep the price down — $30, instead of $40 (currently on sale for $25). I include a card linking to an online archive of all the photos; I don’t know if anyone actually uses that, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

We do these print-on-demand, and we really weren’t sure how interested people would be, but despite the pandemic crashing straight into our March 2020 launch, we did have a burst of initial interest in the paperbacks, and had to re-order a few times early on:

September 2019: 50 copies
October 2019: 125 copies
December 2019: 112 copies

Now’s the first time I’ve had to order since then, though — we’ve sold through what, 287 copies so far? Make that 275, since there were some freebies that went to staff and reviewers. We are not setting the world on fire with this cookbook, but I’m still happy that people are buying it.

We got two boxes, another 56 books, in this order. Maybe we’ll break 300 before the end of the summer…

Two of the orders I’m shipping out today are birthday presents, which is particularly nice; there’s something very pleasing about my book being given as a birthday present. I hope it brings the recipient a lot of happy cooking moments…

(Also shipping out some of my homemade curry powder. I just roasted a new batch; my kitchen smells amazing.)

Ver Close to Done With Vegan Serendib

I’ve finished going through the photos on Vegan Serendib, and I’m actually fine with most of them — I’m going to re-make hoppers this morning and try to get a better photo, and I’m hoping Stephanie Bailey can find a better photo of rich cake in my files, because I don’t particularly want to make rich cake again right now (totally the wrong time of year, feels weird!), but we’re really very very close to done.

It’s looking so pretty. I love paging through. 🙂 I hope this makes lots of vegans very happy.

A Cunning Plan Set in Motion

So here’s my plan to convince Kavi to start making me salads — first I will start making fabulous salads, and then she’ll decide to make them, and I will lounge on the couch.

Tonight’s salad from the cookbook Mixt: grilled chicken and asparagus, roasted fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, shaved Parmesan, champagne-shallot-Dijon vinaigrette, local lettuce.

Kavi: Usually I eat the worst thing on the plate first, but I couldn’t pick anything, because it was all delicious!

My cunning plan is well set in motion!

We Really Really Like Shortbread

Kavi (age 15, on summer vacation) has realized that she can cook anytime she feels like it. Which is great, except that mostly she wants to bake cookies. Which is also great — her first batch of shortbread was perfect — but as you can see from the fact that this many cookies had disappeared within the first hour of her baking them, we may be in some trouble here. We all really really like shortbread.

Oh well. It’s not the worst way to go… and hey, the first strawberries from the garden are ripe enough to harvest. Isn’t that lovely?

I wonder if I can convince Kavi that she really wants to learn how to make fabulous salads…

Spice Blending With Mary Anne

You can’t read this article unless you’re a Tribune subscriber, but among other things, it’s telling you that I’m teaching a spice-mixing class next week for the Naperville public library.

(If there are any librarians reading this, please consider me for your programming needs. 🙂 I love doing both in-person and Zoom events, and am delighted to have you archive Zoom events on your site. I will happily work with your budget. Book me for events here: https://maryannemohanraj.com/book-mary-anne/)

The Naperville library site is not behind a paywall:

“Learn how to roast, grind, and mix your own spice blends! Mary Anne Mohanraj, author of the Sri Lankan cookbook, “A Feast of Serendib,” will walk you through the process of creating a dark-roasted Sri Lankan spice blend, using your stovetop, a pan, and a dedicated spice (or coffee) grinder. (You can also use a mortar & pestle, but it’ll be a lot of work!) She’ll talk about the cultural history of Sri Lankan cuisine, what kinds of dishes you’d typically use such a spice mix for (both vegetarian and non-veg. options), and how you can adapt this process to your own tastes (altering the heat level, for example, or skipping a spice you don’t like). By the end, you’ll be able to create your own South Asian spice blends! *Registration required.”

Register here: https://napervillepl.librarycalendar.com/…/south-asian…

Tribune article: https://www.chicagotribune.com/…/ct-nvs-one-for-the…

Time for Optional Cooking

You can tell I’m not as frantic as I was, because I have time to do optional cooking again. There were a few months there when I was working harder and longer than I ever have in my life, and eating became very functional — too many frozen meals, packet ramen, whatever was easy and fast. I was relatively careful about nutrition, so it worked okay as body fuel, but it wasn’t food that made me happy.

There are certain condiments that I’d always like to have in my fridge. Fresh tomatillo sauce; Kevin makes a great one. Pol (coconut) sambol. MD green chili sauce. But if I had to pick just one condiment, it’d be seeni sambol — sweet and spicy and salty, all balanced for a hit of amazing flavor.

Last week, I finally took the time to replenish my supply of seeni sambol, which is a long, slow process, caramelizing the onions. I can’t do it when I’m running frantic. I generally make the vegan version, so Kevin can eat it too, because he doesn’t like fish. It’s better with the little punch of Maldive fish, but it’s still really, really good without. If I want a teatime snack, a slice of toasted bread with butter and seeni sambol is perfect with a cup of hot, sweet, milky tea.

For breakfast today, I took a little naan and some leftover grilled steak from last night’s dinner, and topped that with seeni sambol. A few minutes in the toaster oven, and I had a delicious breakfast. A lot healthier than reheating a frozen meal too!

It’s so nice, to be able to take proper care of myself again. Having a fresh jar of seeni sambol in the fridge is just comforting. I’m going to try not to let that run out again — it’s like the canary in the coal mine. When I’m out of seeni sambol, it’s a sign that I’m working too hard, and it’s time to try to slow down.

Do you have a must-have condiment that makes everything in your life better? Or is that just me? 🙂

Recipe here: https://serendibkitchen.com/…/sweet-onion-sambol-seeni…/

Rose Cardamom Meringue Kisses

I made these to serve triple duty — I wanted to put some out at yesterday’s event, I’ll include them in the next batch of Patreon boxes, and I also just like have meringue kisses around for nibbling on — they’re perfect when you want a tiny hit of delicate sweetness.

So I made a triple batch, which took two rounds in the mixer and the oven, but I figured most people would go for a more modest single batch, so that’s the recipe I’ve written up here. Remember to save those extra egg yolks to make some curd — passionfruit curd is very hard to beat.

If I were making these for folks from South Asia or the Middle East, I’d go heavier on the rose, but for Americans, light rose generally goes over better. It takes a little getting used to, though interestingly, before vanilla became easily accessible here, rose was a dominant flavoring in early America!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you attempt to make meringues on high humidity days, they may deflate significantly. (They’ll still be tasty, though, just a little more dense & chewy.) Proceed at your own risk.

Ingredients:

2 egg whites
3/4 t. cream of tartar
2 c. white sugar
2/3 c. water
1-2 T rosewater
1/4 t. ground cardamom
1/4 t. salt
red or pink food coloring (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 250 F; line baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Using an electric mixer and a large bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar on high speed, until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Set aside.

3. Make rose-cardamom syrup: in a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, rose extract, cardamom, salt, and food coloring (if using). Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for another minute or two, stirring constantly, and then remove from stove.

4. Turn mixer with beaten egg whites on high, and slowly pour the syrup in a thin stream into the whites. Beat until syrup is incorporated and the meringue is stiff and shiny.

5. If you’re feeling fancy, transfer meringue into a plastic bag or pastry bag, using a star tip to make meringues. But I always just drop by spoonfuls (it helps to use the back of a second spoon to slide the meringue off the first spoon) onto the prepared baking sheet. They look charmingly rustic that way.

6. Bake until the meringues are firm to the touch, 60-90 minutes. Don’t remove them, or the insides will be chewy. Just turn off the oven and allow them to cool as the oven cools, to finish baking the interiors. You can leave them overnight if you like; they’ll be just fine.