I don’t have a recipe for this yet — it’s a fusion dish I made up for the launch party I held at Alex and Christa‘s house last month, and I was doing feast cooking for a big crowd, so a little too frenetic to stop and write down measurements for recipes. But I wanted to post this, mostly to remind myself to make it again at some point and write it up, because it was VERY popular.
Essentially, it’s my lime-masala mushrooms (recipe in Feast), but with added cashews, and cooked down with heavy cream instead of coconut milk. If you’re looking for a decadent vegetarian dish that ALSO packs a decent amount of protein, here you go.
You could also do it with coconut milk, of course, and vegan butter, if you wanted to do a vegan version.
I’ve been thinking about the fact that I’m putting together this vegan cookbook, but I’m not actually vegan myself. Also about the fact that Anand is very tender-hearted and leans vegetarian, and I want to support him in that.
I know a lot of people do Meatless Mondays; I’m not sure I’m organized enough for that with our family’s meals. But I think we can probably do one vegan day / week as a family challenge.
Anyone interested in trying that with us for the next month or two? Would be easier with company. I’d try to post regularly what we’re eating on that day, and would love to get inspiration from what others eat.
When I was working on the keerai (spinach) pittu recipe last week, I needed a curry to go with it. Jed was still visiting then, so I went for something vegetarian — I was also trying to use up various tired veggies in the fridge. This is a really basic approach to a default Sri Lankan vegetable curry. (It’s usually referred to as a ‘white’ curry there, because it doesn’t contain red chili or turmeric, though it’s actually more of a light tan.)
Step 1 — Chop onions (always step 1 for curries). If you’re feeling energetic, add in some chopped ginger and garlic. Heat oil and sauté with mustard seed, cumin seed, and salt until onions are golden-translucent. Add pepper if you want; if you like fenugreek or fennel seed, feel free to stir some of those in too. (If you put in lots of fenugreek, which is a galactagogue, white curries are traditional preparations for nursing mothers.)
Step 2 — Sauté. Add in whatever veggies you like, based on cooking time — root vegetables cut small and added at least 10 minutes before softer veggies like bell peppers or eggplant. I had some green chilies, tired shredded carrots, chopped sugar snap pea pods, curry leaves, and I’m not sure what else got tossed in.
Step 3 — Add some water and simmer a bit ’til veggies are cooked through. Taste and see if you’d like a little lime juice for balance — I usually do. You could stop and eat it at this point.
Step 4 — If you’d like it a little more rich (recommended), add in a can of coconut milk (or cow / goat / etc. milk is fine too) and simmer, stirring, until well blended. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Step 4 — For added heft, boil some eggs, slice in half, and slip those in too. Yum.
I pulled some greens from the garden to show examples of what else you could sambol — curly kale, dinosaur kale, rainbow chard — and of course, I now have kale sambol coming out of my ears, having made multiple versions of it for this morning’s TV thingie, so I decided that for now, these leaves can be decorative instead.
Sunday brunch segment at WGN, our local station. Shout-out to Kavi who got up at 7 a.m. (very early for a teenager) to be my videographer, and who did TikTok dances behind the iPad to make me laugh and calm me down while I was waiting for them to start.
I am not sure I’ve ever been that nervous in my life — my hand was literally shaking when I started cutting the onion, and good thing I was prepping beforehand, so I could pause and steady myself. I’ve been on live TV a few times before — once for a town hall about sex and the internet, twenty+ years ago, and twice to talk about books on the summer reading segment on local TV.
So why so nervous this time? I think I’m not as confident about cooking as I am about books! I’m just a home cook, no culinary training, etc. But I think it basically went fine — I got in most of what I wanted to say, and I actually managed to cook a little too. But boy, 4 minutes goes REALLY fast.
Kavi’s even cleaning the kitchen for me now while I collapse on the couch. Best daughter.
(Addendum — I wore a kurta top I picked up at Selyn in Sri Lanka and my Sri Lankan 24K gold hoop earrings that my parents bought me when I was little, for good luck. Purple hair is Midnight Tanzanite by Splat! )
(And thanks to Pam Whitehead for building me a beautiful kitchen to cook in!)
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.
Young jackfruit has a texture similar to meat, though softer; it’s more delicate, as is the flavor. It’s easy to find online in cans, packed in brine; it’s also often available at grocery stores, especially ones that cater to vegetarians. This savory curry sauce is identical to what I’d use for beef, but gives a notably different (and delicious) result when cooked with jackfruit instead. I’d serve this with rice, a green vegetable, and chutneys, pickles, and/or sambols.
2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 TBL ginger, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, chopped fine
3 TBL vegetable oil
1/4 tsp black mustard seed
1/4 tsp cumin seed
1 TBL red chili powder
1 tsp Sri Lankan curry powder
1 lb young jackfruit, cut into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 tsp salt
2 TBL lime juice
1 cup coconut milk + 1 cup water
1. In a large pot, sauté onions, ginger, and garlic in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden/translucent (not brown), stirring as needed. Add chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring. Immediately stir in curry powder, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and lime juice.
2. Add jackfruit and stir on high for a few minutes. Add coconut milk and water, stirring gently to combine. Turn down to medium, and let cook 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally; add water if needed. Serve hot with rice or bread.
I had this sudden brainstorm that I wanted to make Kevin a spinach curry and lamb curry pizza for Valentine’s Day (see next post), and I really did want paneer on it, but I also didn’t have any paneer on hand — not fresh, not in the freezer. Very sad. On the other hand, I had a quart of whole milk, a lemon, cheesecloth, and 30 minutes to spare.
So before long — paneer! Way better than store-bought too, delicate and lovely, reminiscent of burrata in texture and flavor (not quite as rich, though, since there’s no cream), and so easy. I should make paneer more often.
Recipe courtesy The Kitchn: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-paneer-cheese-in-30-minutes-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-57008