An Attempt at Lotus Root Curry…

June 18th, 2008

My boyfriend, J, and I are major dorks. Yes, I admitted it! When he suggested the idea of reading a book together this summer…I was quite excited! When was the last time you read a book and discussed it with someone? After much deliberation, we finally decided upon Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie.

Yesterday, J emailed me this passage….

“his wife grew lotus-roots and other curious vegetables on one of the
many ‘floating gardens’ lilting on the surface of the spring and summer
water” (9)

followed by a few links to recipes…

As a cook, you can imagine my reaction…yep, he’s a keeper…so we decided upon a lotus root curry…

The recipe we used was from Chachi’s Kitchen for Coconutty Lotus Root Curry. Unfortunately, the store was out of lotus root so we had to resort to frozen lotus root. There were also no kaffir lime leaves or Thai basil. We added some fresh basil that we had in the fridge. I know it really doesn’t work but we were trying.

For our first attempt at curry, it wasn’t exactly a disaster. J dubbed it “Ginny’s Neon Beige Curry” because it glowed hot while still being bland. I would love to have some advice on how to best make curry because I am very interested in learning to cook out of my comfort zone.

Coconutty Lotus Root Curry
(original recipe from Chachi’s Kitchen)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion; sliced into rings
2 tbsp green curry paste (according to taste; available in Asian stores)
400ml/14fl oz can coconut milk
400gm lotus root, frozen
3 potatoes; washed and sliced into ½ inch rounds
½ cup basil leaves chopped
1 teaspoon of coriander, ground
1 lime; juiced

1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Fry the onions until golden brown, add the green curry paste over a fairly high heat for about a minute,
Reduce the heat slightly and add the thick part of the coconut milk from the tin, stir for a few minutes, add the rest of the coconut milk.

2. Add the lotus root and the coconut milk, bring to a simmer, cook for 15 minutes, add the potatoes, cook a further 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and the sauce is thickened. Stir in the basil, coriander and lime juice.

Let it stand for 15 minutes, serve with rice.

P.S. Thank you MK for the beautiful platter! I love it!

Buona Festa di San Giuseppe e Buona Pasqua!

March 22nd, 2008

St. Joseph’s Day or La Festa di San Giuseppe is an important day to my family. We come from a small town near Messina in Sicily. I love this day because it is one of the strongest traditions we have in my family. Susan from Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso both had beautiful posts recently about their family traditions and the treat Zeppole. I wanted to share my family’s tradition. We make Giusppetti, which are fried pieces of dough, stuffed with raisins and rolled in sugar.

Growing up in NC, away from our family, we continued the tradition. St. Joseph’s Day turned into a huge party, where friends and neighbors would join us in eating Giusppetti and welcoming Spring. My mother would man the deep fryer, often frying up five batches of dough. It was my job to roll them in sugar and then put them in baskets for my brother and sister to pass out among our guests. We always had a large spread of fruit, cheeses and meats. I loved these days and maybe it is where I first began to cultivate my love of feeding all my friends.

This weekend, my family and I made Giusppetti together on the back porch. Our recipe is something my mother adapted because the original recipe has disappeared or possibly never existed. Many poorer Italians would use leftover scraps of dough when making these, so the exact dough recipe is unknown. Regardless, we try to maintain the intent of the tradition, turning it into a day of celebrating and friendship. This may have been the hardest photo shoot as my family members are not as polite as my roommates and just ate my models. I was trying to pile them on a plate to look nice but everyone kept grabbing them and eating them. They were also quite opinionated about how we should be photographing the few left. Check out my sister’s flickr account to see the full series of pictures and our “artist” stylings. Also, my brother decided to eat them over my head so I ended up covered in sugar. It was fun! They are very delicious!

St. Joseph’s Day Giuspetti
(adapted by my mother from the Fleishman’s yeast book)

3-3 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package yeast
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons margarine
2 eggs at room temperature
1 cup raisins
1 cup sugar (for rolling)

1. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix 1 1/2 cup flour, sugar, salt and undissolved yeast.
2. Combine milk, 1/4 cup water and margarine in a saucepan.
3. Heat over low heat until liquids are very warm (120-130 degrees F). Margarine does not have to melt.
4. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally.
5. Add egg and 1/2 cup flour.
6. Beat at high speed, 2 minutes, scraping bowl.
7. Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff batter and stir the raisins about 1 cup or to taste.
8. Cover bowl and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about hour.

9. Stir batter down.
10. Drop by rounded soup spoon into hot oil (I use Canola oil and solid Crico in the fryer about half and half).

11. Drain on paper towels.

12. Roll in sugar.

P.S. Happy Easter!!!!

Sunlight, Sunday Morning, Scones

February 24th, 2008

Sunshine peeking through the blinds woke me up this morning. Well, to be honest, the text from my roommate did but…sunlight woke me up the second time. Something about it made me crave my family’s big weekend brunches. My mother will make scones, coffee cake, Züpfe (a Swiss braided bread similar to Challah), or some other sort of breakfast bread. We will get out a variety of different cheeses and fruit. Then, the whole family sits down to a leisurely breakfast. If it is warm, which in North Carolina is almost year round, we will move everything onto the back porch, basking in the sunshine and enjoying the fresh air. I love these brunches. It is always nice to be with my family and it brings back wonderful memories of our years spent in Switzerland.

This morning, I decided that I could at least replicate the food of these brunches. I made some Scones, got out the Brie, brewed some strong coffee and climbed onto the couch to watch TV with my roommates. So, not exactly the same as breakfast at my parent’s house but…at least I had scones! The scones were good but like all things never as good as my mother’s. I adapted the original recipe from The Best of Priscilla’s English Tea Room. This tea room was in Hillsborough, North Carolina but, unfortunately, closed and I can find no reference online. I have adapted it for only two to three people. I sometimes add cinnamon to add some extra flavor.

The English Scone
(adapted from The Best of Priscilla’s English Tea Room)

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup currants
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Mix dry ingredients together.
3. Blend dry ingredients with butter using a pastry cutter until the butter is in very small pieces and fully incorporated.
4. Make a well in the middle and pour in the milk. Mix until just incorporated. Dough will be sticky and moist.
5. Place on a floured surface and pat into a rectangle. Mine ended up being about 8″ x 4″ x 1/2″. Cut down the middle and cut each half into triangles (about 8 per side).
6. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until browned.
7. Serve with honey, jam, butter, lemon curd… I prefer honey!

P.S. Do you not have a pastry cutter? My sister gave me one for Christmas this past year. I always ask for new kitchen gadgets for presents. Before this wonderful tool entered my life, I would use two kitchen knifes to cut the butter when making scones, biscuits and other such bake goods. In order to do this, hold a knife in each hand with the blades pointed down and out. Cross the blades over the butter and then pull out cutting the butter. Continue this crossing method, mixing the butter with the flour mixture until the butter is in small enough pieces and throughly mixed in with the flour.