Late night confectionery experiments. I wanted to try honey in my mulled apple cider marshmallows. Good! I think I’m going to make one more batch in the next few days, trying jaggery instead of white sugar. More complex flavor = good. I’m also wondering if I can use apple cider instead of water in the syrup-making stage — is that going to cause any difficulties, do you think? If I can amp up the apple, that would be great…
A little chaotic today, trying to prep for the TV show tomorrow (I’ll be on live TV, WGN’s Sunday Brunch segment, around 7:35 or so, teaching how to make kale sambol), while also attending ReconveneSFF convention (on a Wild Cards panel in a few hours), and also get the new 100 days challenge kicked off on my fitness group AND start a new writing accountability group, with a 100 days challenge too. It’ll all be fine, but it feels like a LOT of moving parts.
Morning cooking was carrot and green bean curry, which I’m planning to have out on the counter tomorrow, as something you might include in a Sri Lankan meal, along with kale sambol.
Carrot curry was a staple of my early cooking and got me through a lot of grad school, sometimes alternated with green bean curry — at some point, I decided to try putting them together, since the cooking method is almost identical, and yup, I like it.
Just cook the carrots for a while first, so they’re almost cooked through, then add the green beans and cook for a few minutes more. Yumyum.
Okay, going to go color my hair now, and then I need to prep the beef smoore, and test-run the actual video, and and and….well, we’ll see. One step at a time. Calm, Mary Anne. Calm.
This week’s cooking video — coconut sambol, which is just a great accompaniment. Sharp and tangy and spicy, yum. I think I’m going to have some on a grilled chicken sandwich later today.
I forgot to mention in the video, it freezes well too, so if you make more than you’ll eat in a week, I’d freeze half. That’s what I did! Then it’s easy to pull out when you’re in the cooking doldrums, to add some zest to your meals.
I must note that I feel personally betrayed by this gravy boat. I just bought it, and I think it’s SO lovely, but it doesn’t work for gravy. The spout is narrow enough that the gravy doesn’t pour out fast enough, and so it spills out over the neck instead, leading to many jokes about the bird that’s just had its throat slit — I think it was Kevin who suggested using it for red sauce instead, to intensify the effect, and Anand thought that was hilarious. Hmph.
Part of me wants to return it to Anthropologie with indignant complaints, but I *think* it will actually work just fine for something more liquid, like an au jus, so I’m going to test that, and if so, we’ll keep it. Because it’s so, so pretty. I have a real weakness for animal-themed dinnerware. But if you had seen just how dismayed I was yesterday, as I tried over and over to pour it without gravy gushing down its neck, you would have laughed.
One consequence of writing a cookbook is that now when I eat out, I find myself taking mental notes and/or critiquing the food. These are two dishes from the Marriott I was staying at in Walnut Creek. The clam chowder was delicious, but the best part was how they served it in a little individual bread bowl, that they had buttered and crisped up before filling it with soup. Great contrasts of crispy bread exterior with soft, soup-soaked interior. Would make a fabulous autumn / winter appetizer or light meal.
I also liked this watermelon salad appetizer — so pretty! But the raspberry dressing was too sweet; it needed to be more citrus, to contrast with the candied nuts. And while the long cucumber slices are pretty, they required pulling out a knife, which none of the rest of the salad did, which was sort of annoying. I’d do it on a bed of round cucumber slices instead.
(50 minutes, serves 8)
This accompaniment offers a little extra heat and onion-y zing to a plate of rice and curry.
4 medium leeks
1/4 cup oil
1/2 rounded tsp turmeric
1 1/2 rounded tsp chili powder
1 rounded tsp salt
1. Rinse dirt off outside of leeks. Discard any tough or withered leaves, but do use the green portions as well as the white.
2. With a sharp knife, slice the leeks thinly across the stalk, making thin rings / chiffonade; when you’re slicing the green leaves, make a tight bundle in your hands for easier slicing.
3. Wash the sliced leeks very thoroughly. The soil trapped between the leaves won’t actually taste particularly bad, but the grittiness is unpleasant. I recommend not simply running the sliced leeks under a colander—rather, put them in a large bowl of water and wash them vigorously, changing the water at least three times. This is labor-intensive, but well worth it.
4/ Heat oil in a large saucepan and add the leeks. Sauté, stirring for 5 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients and stir until well blended.
5. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The leeks will reduce in volume. Uncover and cook, stirring, until liquid evaporates and leeks appear slightly oily. Serve hot.
(10 minutes, serves 8)
This is meant to be an accompaniment—make a batch (it keeps for weeks in the fridge) and then put a teaspoon or two on your plate with your rice/bread and curries. In Sri Lanka, they would just use straight up chili powder, instead of a mix of chili powder and paprika, which would make it fiercely spicy. If I were only going to make one accompaniment for the rest of my life, pol sambol would be my choice, although seeni sambol would be a very close second.
1 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut
3 TBL hot milk (I heat mine in the microwave)
1 rounded tsp salt
1 rounded tsp chili powder
2 rounded tsp paprika
2-3 TBL lime juice, to taste
1 medium onion, minced fine
1. Reconstitute coconut in a large bowl with the hot milk. I recommend using your fingers to squeeze the milk through the coconut. (If you can get fresh or frozen grated coconut, that is, of course, even better, and you can skip this step.)
2. Add salt, chili powder, paprika, lime juice, and onion. Mix thoroughly with your hand, rubbing ingredients together until well blended.
Note: If you don’t feel that your onion is minced sufficiently fine (ideally, to match the texture of the coconut), you can use a food processor to chop it more finely, or grind it with a mortar and pestle. You can grind just the onions, or the whole mixture.
(1 hour, serves 8)
The Sri Lankan version of caramelized onions is sweet, spicy, and tangy. It’s important to cook the onions slowly—all the liquid in the onion must evaporate if you want the sambol to keep well. Made properly, this dish can keep for several weeks in the fridge, so you can enjoy a little with each curry meal for quite a long time. An essential accompaniment for hoppers, and delicious with many other meals.
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 TBL Maldive fish, powdered (optional)
4 medium onions, finely sliced
2 rounded tsp chili powder
1 inch cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods
1 stalk curry leaves
1 tsp salt, or to taste
2 TBL tamarind pulp
2 TBL sugar
1. Heat oil in a large frying pan and start sautéing onions on medium-low (with Maldive fish, if using). Add cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, curry leaves, and chill powder; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until soft and transparent, about 30 minutes.
2. After about 30 minutes, cover pan, and simmer 10 minutes.
3. Uncover pan and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and oil starts to separate from other ingredients. Season to taste with salt.
4. Remove from heat, stir in sugar and tamarind pulp and allow to cool before putting in a clean dry jar. Use in small quantities.