Posts tagged budget
Monday, December 6, 2010

chana masala

chana masala

As I write this, my heart is somewhere in Vermont, where Andrew and I spent Thanksgiving week with his family and friends in a cozy house replete with bananagrams, a thousand piece puzzle, naps, and snow. It was perfection and neither one of us wanted to return to New York where lately I’ve been feeling a beat or two behind. We ate, rested, laughed. We watched quite a bit of football. There was a mishap with a golf cart that got stuck on the field. And everything about our trip left us grateful for having amazing family and friends. We’d go back in a heartbeat.

This post took me a whole week to write. A whole week, people! A Sisyphean task! I’ve been writing distractedly lately, and it’s been really hard to get my mind focused and honed on this wee space here. There are changes in the air; changes I will write about more clearly soon, but they have been on my mind in a singular, all-consuming way.

Continue reading chana masala.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

eggs baked in cream

eggs baked in cream

Okay, my dears. Let’s put those take-out menus away for the night. You won’t need them this evening – I’ve got something better for you. In fact, I can offer you dinner in less than half an hour, and you can sip wine while you wait for it to cook. You like that? I thought so. Ready? Okay then.

Here’s what you do. Come home hungry and preferably a bit worn out by the day. Crave something comforting and warm. And be hell-bent on making your own dinner, but not breaking a sweat. The next part should be easy. I know you can do this and I know you’ll be stellar at it.

Find a few ingredients that you probably have lying around your kitchen anyway: eggs, onions (or leeks!), cream, some herbs. Really, any herbs will do, even the dry ones, but your fresh ones will be magical here; and make yourself a baked egg. It’s the perfect eat-alone food. Really.

dramatis personae

Last week, CBS’s The Early Show came to my apartment to find out what I eat alone, as they were doing a segment based on Deborah Madison’s new book. I showed them a plate of herring and potatoes, some pelmeni and this egg baked in cream. These were some of the easy go-to dishes I make for myself. The herring and pelmeni remind me of my childhood in Russia, and this egg is the perfect one-person meal: quick, easy, healthy and comforting. Best of all, no fancy ingredients are needed – this recipe requires things that are probably already pantry staples.

topped with harissa

The thing is, that it’s so easy for us, at least here in New York, to pick up the phone and order take out. We have our favorite restaurants on speed-dial and we even know what we want without having to glance at the menu. But here’s the thing, making these eggs for dinner, you’re really taking care to nourish yourself. You know exactly what goes into this meal. It is wholesome, nourishing, warm. And it cooks in minutes. In fact, it cooks faster than take-out arrives. I think there’s comfort in making something for yourself. It’s a little bit indulgent and even somewhat meditative. Layering your leeks, spreading harissa, gently sliding the egg on top, and pouring those few spoons of cream for softer, richer flavor. Simplicity can be luxurious too.

Of course, it was my most embarrassing, dark secret (not anymore!) admission – my love of bologna sandwiches – that made the cut on the television segment, and not this glorious egg. Of course, it serves me right, being so low-brow in my guilty indulgences. I should, in my defense, add however, that the bologna I had in mind, is what the Russians refer to as Doktoraskaya bologna – which I get in Russian delis. The Russian stuff is seriously good, and once you try it, you will never go back to your old bologna again. I promise you.

eggs baked in cream

And while this dish never got mention, I think it’s something you should try your hand at. Unless you have Russian bologna on hand. In which case, I say, make yourself a sandwich. And please – invite me over.

But wait! Can’t we watch this infamous clip of your bologna love?
Ah, yes, of course! Here is the clip of me embarrassing myself on national TV!

Continue reading eggs baked in cream.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

thai red curry with root vegetables

Thai Red Curry with Root Vegetables

Well hello there, lovelies! Are you sick of winter yet? If you’re reading this and you live someplace warm, like LA, where I am told today is supposed to be a balmy 79 degrees, we, the East Coasters, are very jealous and wish you all the best, but please don’t rub it in. We just might start crying. We’d kill for some sun dresses and flip flops right about now. Am I right? I’m ready to take my Uggs and my sweaters and my puffer jacket and pack them away for at least 10 months. I look like a black marshmallow making my way down the streets of New York. No matter how you slice it, winter wear is just not that flattering – it can be pretty frumpy. Also, I’d like to stop using cups of tea as ways of warming up my hands at the office. A girl can only take so much.

vegetables, awaiting their fate

But, though I’ve prepared quite a soliloquy about my winter discontent, I realize that what I’m about to tell you cannot possibly be appreciated unless you’re bundling up this month. Do you really want to eat Thai coconut curry in balmy weather? I didn’t think so. And even if you did, doesn’t it taste so much better when there’s snow falling outside your window and you’re enveloped in warmth and stillness of your home? Perhaps, these cold winter months are an opportunity for us to appreciate these comforting stews. There is some joy to hibernation, to puttering around your home, inviting a friend or two over and lazing around on the couch wrapped up in blankets.

onions, curry paste, cumin

Winter is also a time when few vegetables are in season – and mostly, these are root vegetables. Much like my winter get-up, they, too, are rather frumpy looking. Have you ever looked at a parsnip or a turnip and thought to yourself, “My, what a looker?” I didn’t think so. And frankly, neither have I. But, given a chance, these little guys can truly transform themselves. They clean up rather nicely. Typically, they are roasted with salt and pepper, and maybe a glaze of sorts, to bring out their sweetness. Sometimes, they’re added to soups. All these things are great and wonderful, but there’s an opportunity to let them shine in an unlikely place – a Thai-inspired red curry made with coconut milk!

red curry paste - gluten-free!lemongrass
turnipscoconut milk

This curry brings me such joy that I think, for all my complaining, I can tolerate winter a bit better, snow, sleet, wind and all. Armed with this dish, some sweaters and strong coffee – I can take winter with all its elements. The curry is so delicious, that I can’t get enough of it, and in fact, I’ll be making it for the book club ladies this Thursday; not to mention, this was a permanent weeknight dinner fixture throughout most of November. And so I must say this to you – drop whatever it is you’re doing, and make this without delay! Unless you have a really good excuse tonight, this should be on your dinner menu. Really, I insist. You’ll thank me later, I’m pretty sure. I’m so smitten with this curry, that each night you might delay making it – I’ll feel personally responsible.


This curry has everything going for it that you’d want in a weeknight winter meal: ease, taste, leftover potential, scalability, function. It’s as unfussy as they come and once all the ingredients are in the pot, you put the lid on top, reduce the heat to low and go about your business doing whatever it is you want to do at night – be it catching up on emails or tidying up your living room, or kicking back with a beer. Here’s the best part – this curry comes together in about the same time it’ll take you to dial and wait for take-out. Any leftovers you have will freeze beautifully, saving you time in the nights ahead. Winter’s bite might not even seem that bad. Who knows – your LA friends might even get insanely jealous of your cold-weather meals and wish for sweaters and mittens themselves. Probably unlikely, but please don’t burst my bubble.

Thai Red Curry with Root Vegetables

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

brown butter pound cake

brown butter pound cake

I have been ruined, my friends. Forever. By nothing more than a simple brown butter cake batter. And as I sit here and type this, I can only contemplate one thing – chemistry. What a boring name for what actually happens! It should be called magic, or sorcery, or things transformed. But not chemistry. That doesn’t sounds like something I want to eat.

While we’re talking chemistry here, let me just confess that I loathed chemistry in high school. In fact, I think I might have avoided pre-med specifically because of it. My mother still thinks I would have made a fantastic doctor (she thinks surgery’s my thing) and I don’t disagree with her – medicine has always fascinated me as I readily absorbed all the medical trivia. And they always say that you tend to remember that which interests you the most. Likes crus of butter, or benefits of raw milk, or say all the different kinds of apples you can find at farmers market this month. But what I am realizing now, after all these years, is that I should have loved chemistry most of all subjects; I should have been doing that homework first, and not last. After all, chemistry is all about change and transformation – which is really what cooking is all about.

yeah, this ain't no joke herefrothy
then bubblythen sorta sudsy and you gotta see those solids

Butter by itself is an exciting thing, at least to me. I could wax rhapsodic about how if you take cream and just shake it for some time, you get butter. You start with one thing. You finish with another. Magic, right? And when your end result happens to be butter – nothing short of enchanting or magical should be attributed to your result. But, if you continue on, and take this butter, this delicious, sinfully rich, tangy butter that you just made and you heat it to the point where its solids turn chocolatey-brown, you get this thing that I consider to be the sexiest two words in the English language – brown butter.

brown butter - swoon

I think it’s impossible to understand why people go mad for brown butter until you try it, or try something with it. I have yet to meet a soul who hasn’t been completely seduced by it. I say “seduced” and not “won over” because brown butter is exactly that: seductive, sensual, sexy. If butter is a negligee, then brown butter is the merry widow. Even as I write this, my heart sinks a little bit, the same way it sinks when someone you have a huge crush on leans in for that first kiss and the world suddenly goes into surreal slow motion.

brown butter pound cake

brown butter pound cake

For me, this pound cake is that ultimate crush. I can have it as dessert at the end of the meal topped with gorgeous berries (or wine-stewed prunes as in the picture at the bottom of the page) or it’s my perfect morning coffee companion. And while pound cake isn’t the kind of thing one normally gets giddy about, brown butter pound cake, certainly is, at least in my book. You should also know by now that I’m a girl who likes her bourbon and looks for opportunities sneak it in anywhere she can. At times, I wonder if the Sassy Radish logo should have a parenthetical “we like bourbon here” by-line. By now you probably guessed correctly that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to add a tiny bit here just to give the already earthy, nutty flavor a little hint of caramel and smoke.

brown butter pound cake

So, my goal here is to ruin all of you as well. Heck, if I’m going down, I’m taking you all with me. And while I might come across as all sweetness and innocence, I have devious plans. If you haven’t ever tried brown butter, then you’re in for quite a treat, and if you have – then I’m surprised you’re still sitting here and reading this post, instead of rushing to the kitchen to make this pound cake. Trust me – being ruined never felt so good.

brown butter pound cake

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

pomegranate molasses glazed eggplant

pomegranate molasses glazed eggplant

I got so excited cooking this, that I almost completely forgot to take the prep pictures. Which should tell you that you should, if you’re an eggplant fan, go ahead and make this right away. Consider it a direct missive. Waste no time – it is eggplant season and will be such through October.

This was borne out of, well, instinct, really. I was making dinner for a friend on Friday night and our initial plan was to make a stir-fry with vegetables and tofu and serve it over brown rice. But we got carried away – we made that along with leek confit, blackberry pie, and this pomegranate molasses glazed eggplant. What started out as a simple Friday night meal turned into a feast of sorts. And this was the surprise hit.

I wasn’t prepared to cook eggplant and when my friend picked it up, I automatically nodded, but did I have a plan? No.

In fact, I was all shades of disappointment with myself because I didn’t have pie crust waiting for me in the freezer, as I normally do, because I happen to get crazy last-minute urges to bake pies. Then again, it’s safe to say that I happen to have an abnormal love of pie. In fact, I have pies I’ve recently made lined up in the queue that I need to write about and I’m embarrassingly behind.

pomegranate molasses glazed eggplant

In any case, when I was amidst baking the pie (with pre-made crust, see I’m not above it!), prepping the stir-fry, and caramelizing leeks, I suddenly had an idea; I was going to bake the eggplant in an olive oil and pomegranate molasses glaze. I was going to add a spoonful of chopped ginger, a clove of garlic and a sprinkle of salt. And then, I was going to let it cook until the eggplant would get soft and impossibly buttery. That, was my plan and that’s what I stuck with.

I was a bit worried because, the whole dish was concocted in mere seconds. I had a flash of inspiration, but I had no idea what the results were going to be. But after my friend ate the near entirety of the dish, while I managed to only get a couple of forkfuls, I knew this improvisation was a hit. I loved my forkfuls and clearly, so did he.

The next day, I got to thinking about how sometimes when we improvise in the kitchen – we succeed. And other times – we fail. Both are good and necessary processes by which we learn, and yet somehow we get burned and scarred by our failures. My first-ever pie crust, an epic fail, caused me to avoid making my own crust for years. But once I got to do it again, I haven’t looked back since. Time and time again, I have to remind myself that should one of the dishes fail, all we have to do is move on, try it again and just realize that sometimes, our tempered eggs will cook, our soufflés might not rise, our cakes might sink.

The worst thing – is that we try it all over again. And if that gets us back into the kitchen, is that really quite so bad?

Continue reading pomegranate molasses glazed eggplant.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

vinegret – russian beet salad

venigret - russian beet salad

Okay, so clearly, I’ve a bit of a problem sticking with a writing schedule. I’ve been meaning to post this last week. But, you see, I’m becoming a regular at MGH, which isn’t particularly a good thing, and that place just takes the wind out of my sail. I’d like to think a hospital is not the kind of place you want to be recognized, unless you work there.

By now, you are all probably tired of hearing that I had yet another curve ball thrown my way, but that’s kind of what happened. And because I associate food with happiness and pleasant thoughts and joy, it’s difficult to write, never mind conceive of a way to connect this story to your senses, when you are thinking about things ending in “noma” and traipsing around various oncology wings in a hospital. When it rains, it pours. And let me hand it to you, dear 2009, you’re going down in my history as “la deluge”. In fact, I suggest we have an early break-up. You know, where I get to see other years? You haven’t been kind to me and I’m not the kind of woman who takes abuse sitting down.

carrots and potatoes

I won’t beat around the bush. Another family member of mine, this time my other grandmother, and my only remaining grandparent had to show up at the hospital to meet with her oncologist about a breast cancer diagnosis, so I went down to Boston to support her. The bad news is that this was another emotional hit for our family and we all took it pretty hard. But when the dust settled and once we met with the doctor, the good news came out. Short surgery. Self-dissolving stitches. Outpatient procedure. Allowed to shower the following day. In fact, the surgery should take about half an hour and then the extracted lump gets sent to a pathologist who’ll determine if radiation therapy is necessary. And, we were told, most likely, it will not be. So, bad diagnosis, but as good of an outcome as you can get given the circumstances.

Well, when life throws you lemons, you make lemonade, right? Right. In my case, I came into a nice little dowery of locally grown, beautiful beets. Beets. Beets? Really? No? No beets? No, really, come back, don’t go, you’ll like this, I promise you.

lots of picklesloads of beets

I feel like the poor beet is forever maligned in America. I remember mentioning once in middle school (I learned that lesson fast) about how much I loved beets and a boy sitting next to me smirked and said “Figures. All Russians smell like cabbage. Beets are gross.” While I have still no idea what cabbage had to do anything with beets, I’m guessing it was another vegetable he found disgusting. And I understand, beets aren’t easy vegetables to love. They’re oddly, deeply colored and they dye everything in sight a deep shade of magenta. They’ve got curious texture. They’re just not popular. They’re the unpopular kids of the vegetable garden. Like those kids in middle school who weren’t cool, but didn’t know it and ran for Student Council anyway. Beets try hard. They so badly want to be loved. And loved they are, at least in my kitchen anyway. By the way, I do not, nor have I ever (nor has any of my family immediate or extended) smelled like cabbage. Ever.

canned peas

Now, to the point. Vinegret is a Russian beet salad made with potatoes, onions, pickles, carrots and other things. It is hearty. It is filling. It’s got a bite. I was told, and I cannot recall by whom, that vinegret was invented during Soviet times. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it was a regular staple in our household and it tastes so Russian to me, that I wonder if there was ever a time Russians lived without it. We made it in the summer, when local beets were hitting the market, and we had it in the winter, when vegetable stores seemed to have little to offer by potatoes, carrots and beets. And then you wonder how those three came to be together. What would otherwise be a someone unexciting salad, it gets some edge from pickles and onions and an extra zing from a dash of dill. And while traditionally, you’d think of nothing else but sunflower oil to dress it with, all I had was extra virgin olive oil and it worked beautifully.

venigret - russian beet salad

I’m in such vinegret-loving stage right now that I’m thinking I’ll have to serve this around New Years, to greet 2010, bidding 2009 a farewell forever. And the leftovers (that is if you have any) are even better the next day. Now, that’s something I can look forward to.

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