Pork and Peaches

Had some leftover plain roast pork shoulder, really happy with what I did with it in about 10 minutes:

– sliced pork, heated olive oil, added pork, salt, and fresh ground pepper
– sauteed for a few minutes on high, flipping pieces to brown
Рadded two sliced peaches, gently stirred in to season and saut̩ed with pork

– added a splash of Cointreau to bring it all together with a bit of tasty orange-peach sauce


Lunch in Paradise Park

Roshani took me out for birthday lunch yesterday; I had an errand in the city, so we combined that with lunch at Paradise Park, which happens to be in my old neighborhood of Wicker Park, where Kevin and I lived for a few years.

I was amused to drive by our old condo and glimpse what I think are the trellises I built on the roof deck still there. I hope the current owners enjoy gardening up there, and take advantage of the water we ran up to the roof. 🙂

Eggplant fries — recommended, really tasty, and I actually really liked the burrata too, which came with an interesting combo of balsamic drizzle, fig jam, and sun-dried tomato pesto — the tomato and fig worked really well together, salty tang playing against sweetness. Yumyum.

Mushroom and Onion and Swiss

That feeling when you’re having a staff meeting and one of your staff members talks about how much they love mushroom and onion and Swiss on a burger, and you get excited because you ALSO love mushroom and onion and Swiss on a burger…

…and then your other staff member says they’ve never tried that, and you get even more excited because you get to INTRODUCE them to this deliciousness…

…and conveniently, you’re having a party the next day where you were planning on grilling, and luckily, they’re free and can swing by the party, so later in the day you go to Costco to get party supplies…

…and there you realize Costco has some very fun chef’s sampler mushrooms (and you don’t know what they are, exactly, but they may include any of the following: golden chanterelles, morels, black trumpet, porcini, shiitake, oyster, lions mane, pioppini or hedgehog), so you definitely HAVE to try making grilled onions and mushrooms with those…

…so it’s possible that your staffer’s introduction to a burger with grilled onions, mushroom and Swiss might be just a little bit EXTRA…

…and can you tell it’s been WAY WAY TOO LONG since I got to entertain and feed people? Yes. Yes it has.

Sakkarai (Jaggery) Pongal

(30-40 minutes, serves 8-10)

For this one-pot celebration dish, rice is mixed with a little toasted mung bean and cooked down until very soft, close to custard texture. Sweeten the rice with jaggery and coconut milk, season with fried cashews, raisins, cardamom and saffron, and you have a dish fit for the gods — which was, in fact, what jaggery pongal was intended for. It was traditionally made to offer the gods as part of the harvest celebration of Pongal (typically around mid-January), and on other similarly celebratory occasions.

In modern times, many will use a pressure cooker or Instant Pot to bring the rice quickly to the right texture, but I go a bit more old school here, which requires stirring on the stovetop.

2 c. rice (white or red, your choice)
4 c. water
1 c. coconut milk
1/4 c. green grams / mung bean, toasted in a dry pan
1 c. jaggery
1 t. salt
2 T vegetable oil or vegan butter
1/4 c. cashew nuts, chopped
1/4 c. raisins
1/4 t. ground cardamom
pinch of saffron threads

optional garnish: whole cashew nuts and raisins fried in more vegetable oil or vegan butter

1. Soak the toasted green grams for 30 minutes, then add to a large saucepan, along with rice and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until rice is mostly cooked through.

2. Stir in jaggery and coconut milk, then cover and continue to cook, stirring periodically to keep from sticking. If you need to add more water, do so.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil or vegan butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add cashews and raisings and fry until cashews are golden brown. Stir them into the cooked rice mixture.

4. Add cardadmom and saffron and continue to cook, stirring periodically, until rice has broken down, and the entire dish has a somewhat creamy texture (similar in appearance to risotto).

5. Remove from heat and cool. You can simply spoon it in to bowls for serving, or for a fancier presentation, mold into portions by pressing into greased cups, then unmold and serve garnished with additional fried cashews and raisins. A little fried ripe plantain would also go nicely with this, or fresh ripe mango.

Thank you, hibiscus tree, for giving me a single flower just in time for this photograph. 🙂

Rosappu Pachadi / Rose (or Hibiscus) Salad

(15 minutes, serves 4)

This is an ancient recipe, based primarily on a recipe N. Maheswari Devi saved from 13th-14th c. manuscripts in the Jaffna Library. The library, which contained over 97,000 books and manuscripts and was one of the largest in Asia, was burned by an organized mob on June 1, 1981, during the Sri Lankan conflict, one of the great tragedies of that era. The burning was one of the most violent examples of ethnic biblioclasm of the 20th century.

Although the library has since been rebuilt, many irreplaceable manuscripts were lost to the world. I offer this recipe to you with gratitude to the author for her work researching and saving many such recipes, and recommend her book to you, Jaffna Heritage Cooking.

Roses bloom lushly in the hill country of Sri Lanka; if roses aren’t available, hibiscus (shoeflower) also works beautifully here, lending a little more tang. You can prepare this recipe either as a lightly-dressed salad, or as more of a yogurt-based raita, a cooling element with a spicy curry meal.

Petals are quite perishable, so this should be made and served fresh for a salad; a raita will keep for a few days in the fridge.

NOTE: It’s important to only eat flowers that haven’t been treated with pesticides or other poisons when cooking; if you’re not growing the flowers yourself, be sure to buy from reputable sources that certify they are food-grade quality.

about 40 rosebuds, or 20 roses
3-5 green chilies, minced
1/2 c. fresh grated coconut
1/2 c. red onion, minced
1/4 – 1 c. vegan yogurt (determine amount depending on whether you’re aiming for a dressed salad, as pictured, or something closer to a raita)
1 t. fresh mint, minced

1/2 t. salt

1. If using rosebuds, remove the petals from the base. If using fully-grown roses, tear or chop the petals small (otherwise, the large petals will have an unappetizing slick texture). Rinse and drain them well before continuing.

2. Combine petals with remaining ingredients, stirring to mix well. Serve cold.

Boom! Tell me that wouldn’t be the star of your brunch table. 🙂

Sitting in the Sunshine

Met Roshani for lunch yesterday, outdoors at Little Gem. They have perfect French onion soup, and we shared a split of prosecco. Yumyum. So nice to sit outside in the sunshine with a friend…

Travel Through Food

Lunch today — I’d ordered seafood paella from a local restaurant a few days ago, excited to try it. The last time I had paella was on the beach in Mexico, and it was so good, and I miss beaches. So travel through food, yes? One way of getting through sheltering in place.

Unfortunately, the paella was…not great. I mean, it was fine? But not DELICIOUS. And I wanted delicious. Also, it was mostly rice with a little seafood, and I’m not sure how traditional that is or isn’t, not being a paella expert, but I wanted mine to be more seafood with a little rice.

So I messed with it. I diced an onion and some bell pepper, sauteed those in a good amount of olive oil with salt and pepper and smoked paprika and garlic powder. Added in a little wine and some already cooked shrimp I had on hand. Stirred in the restaurant paella, and then a good amount of lemon juice. (I like tang). Tasted, wanted more spice, ground in a little more fresh black pepper.

Reader, it was delicious. Anand came over and tried some, and then served himself a huge helping, so that was an extra win — I wasn’t expecting him to go for paella, but he does like rice, so I should not have underestimated him, I guess. 🙂. It’s not the same as being able to go dive into the ocean beforehand and work up a big appetite, but for now, I’ll take it. Vacations will come again.

Twelve Years Old Again

Made beef-and-potato curry last week, which is the recipe I have made the most times in my life. 🙂 I’m still ridiculously content when I have it in the fridge, especially when it means I can make myself a lunchtime sandwich with white bread.

Makes me feel like I’m twelve years old again, when this was my favorite meal. Possibly still is my favorite meal. If I were on a desert island and could only have one meal, I think this would be it.

Recipe: https://serendibkitchen.com/…/sri-lankan-beef-and…/

Another Hello Fresh Thingie

This was another Hello Fresh thingie that I had for lunch — prosciutto and cheese sandwich on ciabatta with fig jam, arugula, and balsamic. It was pretty yummy, but the teeny tiny bottle of balsamic feels wasteful, and I do usually keep a jar of fig jam on hand. (Though we happen to be out right now, must buy more.) Still, a fancier sandwich that I would probably think to make on my own for lunch, so that was nice. And it reminded me to get more jam, and more prosciutto…

A GREAT Sandwich

This was a GREAT sandwich — if Roshani Anandappa and I ever open up that little Sri Lankan cafe, I’m going to argue for this being on the menu. Steak sandwich with brinjal moju (eggplant pickle). Yumyum. Maybe served with a little kale sambol on the side.

Hmm…maybe when we do the cookbook re-launch (planned for our book birthday month of March) and we can hopefully gather again, I can partner with Carnivore Oak Park to offer this as a special for a week.

And Amanda Daly, maybe we rent the Daly Bagel for a little pop-up event in the evening once spring rolls around…I had some brinjal moju yesterday on an everything bagel, and it was super-yum.