Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving: The Inedible

The very first thing that I set out to make on Wednesday morning actually went wrong. It was my mum's cranberry-orange relish which - let's face it - is just cranberries and oranges and doesn't even involve any cooking. So this did seem like a Portent of Doom. It just came out too orangey - inedibly orangey.

Then there was this...

Yes, my gravy was inedible too. Thought I was being so clever doing Mark Bittman's Make-Ahead Gravy the day before. But something went astray with my roux - even though I cooked it for about 15 mins, the gravy still tasted floury. What did I do wrong?

So at the last minute I pulled out my backup can, and went with that instead - though did add some of the very impressive pan juices that a less clueless and terrified person would have been able to use... :(

Last on the inedible list were the roast potatoes, which I cut up too far in advance and turned black while I wasn't looking. I hoped they'd still somehow go crispy and golden in the oven, but nope.

But still...

We give thanks for the fabulously fun company.

And I give thanks for Jack and his incredible patience.

And for leftovers!

Thanksgiving dinner - done!
All in all, it was a blast.

Thanksgiving: The Acceptable

Here it is - kinda, there were peas too (this is a shot of the leftovers). Doesn't look too bad, does it?

Actually forgot to mention that I made an apple galette too (again, no pictures), which came out fine and joined a delicious lemon pie and some rice krispie treats made by our guests, and a pumpkin pie from the old Italian bakery next door (pumpkin pie much too daunting to attempt).

But other things were a bit more, shall we say, challenging...

The main problem was - all together now - timing.

The turkey got off to a good start, but then I worried it would be ready before our guests arrived, so slowed it down by covering it with foil.

But then I put the stuffing and the veggies in the oven and everything seemed to grind to a halt. Nothing was cooking.

So I turned up the oven a bit. And then suddenly everything was done all at once. Which was a bit of a problem, as I still had to rest and carve the turkey, reheat the cabbage, cook the carrots and peas, fix the gravy, etc. Panic!!

The Recipe: Basic Roast TurkeyAdapted from various sources, including Mark Bittman and the NY Times, which was running a very helpful and funny Thanksgiving web hotline.

Our 10lb turkey (very scary and repulsive).

1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Prepare turkey: remove neck and giblets; rinse, pat dry; put onions and lemons into cavity (I used 1.5 onions, quartered, and a couple of lemons, halved), with some herb sprigs (I used thyme); rub outside with 3 tbspns melted butter, salt & pepper.
3. Put on rack in large roasting pan. Add 0.5 cup water to bottom of pan. Roast for 30 mins, then turn oven down to 325F.
4. Continue to roast, checking every 30 mins, basting if desired (people don't seem to think this is worth doing, I didn't bother). Cover top with foil if browning too much. Add 0.5 cup water to pan if it dries out.
5. Roast until done (temperature read in thickest part of thigh, not touching bone, is 165F). Allow approx 10-15 mins per pound.
6. Remove from oven, and allow to rest approx. 20 mins before carving.

Sounds so easy. Huh.

The Recipe: Roasted Vegetables
From my friend Kate.

I used half a butternut squash, 4 parsnips, 2 yams, 4 yukon gold potatoes, and had about twice as much as we needed (6 people).

1. Chop veggies into small-ish cubes (about 1.5 inches). Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper, and toss to cover.
2. Roast at 400F (yes, a problem right there) for approx 30-40 mins or until done, tossing occasionally to make sure they don't stick and are roasting evenly.

The Recipe: Macheesmo's Favorite Stuffing
From Macheesmo.

My sister recommended the one she uses every year - it's truly gorgeous, but rolling logs was well beyond my capabilities.

Before all the trouble started.

I left out the chestnuts (as he suggested). His only problem with the stuffing is its tendency to be too moist. This is not an issue if you burn it to a crisp.


Oh, where to start?

The problem began, I think, with me trying to slow down the turkey. Too late (i.e. the next day) I saw the entry on the NYTimes blog that said you shouldn't do that - the turkey will be fine sitting and waiting for everyone/everything else to catch up. Better to have lukewarm, moist turkey than hot, dry turkey.

I'd hoped to start the veggies and stuffing alongside the turkey, then crank up the oven after it came out to finish them off. But that all went wrong.

Then I forgot to switch off the oven after removing the turkey, so even though they were done (perhaps perfectly) at that point, the veggies and stuffing sat there, overcooking, for the next 20 mins.

The veggies survived, but the stuffing was a travesty of its no doubt delicious self.

But the end result was still edible (mostly, see above), no-one got food poisoning, and only one person apart from Jack saw me have a very tiny meltdown.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving: The Good

So, back when all this started, I made a rash vow to cook a proper Thanksgiving dinner for Jack, without opening a single packet, jar, or can. I also promised to have a dinner party, "for maybe six people, with multiple courses, and appropriate side-dishes, all made by me, and produced without any visible panic or weeping."

And it came to pass that these things combined - a miscellaneous bunch of Europeans and wayward Americans gathered in our apartment for Thanksgiving dinner, and made it out alive.

First I'll tell you about the things that went well...

We started out with a bruschetta/crostini-type setup - toasts and french bread with various toppings - the ones below, plus an olive-garlic tapenade that I bought. People really seemed to like them. (But don't have any pictures, sorry.)

The Recipe: Tomato Bruschetta/Crostini
Adapted from How to Cook Everything (10th Anniversary Edition) by Mark Bittman

To make real bruschetta you're supposed to brush the bits of bread with olive oil and grill or broil, then rub with garlic. I didn't do any of that - the oven was otherwise engaged, and I can't eat garlic.

I just mixed together the following:

  • Two large vine-ripened tomatoes, core and seeds removed, and chopped
  • About a quarter of a red onion, diced
  • Torn basil leaves, to taste (hmm, maybe about a quarter cup?)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
Serves 6 (as one of 3 toppings).
The Recipe: Pesto
Adapted from How to Cook Everything (10th Anniversary Edition) by Mark Bittman

  • 2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • Half a garlic clove, peeled, or more to taste (I leave this out)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (I use 3 to make up for the lack of garlic)
  • 0.5 cup freshly grated Parmesan, pecorino Romano, or other hard cheese
  • 0.5 cup olive oil (I use probably half this amount)
  • Salt, to taste
Makes about 1 cup (probably less without all the oil; anyway, it was plenty for 6 people, we had some left over which we can have with pasta when we're sick of turkey).
Combine ingredients in food processor or blender with about half the oil. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container as necessary, and adding remaining oil gradually. Add more if you prefer a thinner mixture.
The Recipe: Traditional Cranberry SauceFrom How to Cook Everything (10th Anniversary Edition) by Mark Bittman
This came out perfectly. What can I say? You might miss the way the canned stuff glops out of its tin, but you won't miss the tinny taste.
  • 4 cups (about 1 lb) fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed, or frozen cranberries
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
Makes about 1 quart.
1. Combine the cranberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries are broken, 10-15 mins.
2. Transfer to a bowl; cool, then chill until ready to serve. The sauce can be refrigerated, covered, for up to a week.

The Recipe: Red Cabbage
Adapted from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, 1949 edition (this is the one my mum has, I managed to find a copy on eBay)

My dad was the red cabbage maestro in our house. I left out a couple of things (apple, flour) that I'm pretty sure he didn't use. It tasted exactly like the stuff he used to make.

  • 1 2.5 lb head red cabbage
  • 0.75 cup water
  • 3 tbspn butter
  • 0.25 cup vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  • 0.25 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • Salt & pepper to taste (they say 2 tspn salt, but that might be a lot, can't remember exactly how much I used)
They says it serves 6, but that would be 6 people who only eat red cabbage for dinner.
1. Shred cabbage medium fine. Put in large pan; add water; cook, covered, 10 mins.
2. Add remaining ingredients; cook 10 mins, or until tender.

But what about the rest of the dinner? That will have to wait till tomorrow...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Tale of Two Soups: Curried Squash & Fiery Coconut Tofu

It was the best of soups... it was the worst of soups...

Yes, one soup was gorgeous, the other was the first truly inedible thing I've made this year.

Bad soup first.

The Recipe: Fiery Tofu & Coconut Curry Soup
From a copy of Cooking Light magazine that appeared in our mailbox.

One thing I've (re)learned through all this cooking is just how trusting aka gullible aka dimwitted I am. Oh, what a lot of curry paste that is, she says to herself as she obediently dumps it into the pot.

When, of course, what a sensible person would say is: A quarter-cup of curry paste?!! That can't be right! And would then cross-check in some other recipes and find that it is right only if you never want to feel your lips again.

The bizarre thing is that, if the comments are to be believed, people have fed this to their children!!

As for us, we picked out the tofu and vegetables, nibbled on them as best we could, and sadly threw the soup away.

I dunno - maybe our curry paste is just much stronger than the stuff they used... But the idea of the soup was nice, and maybe one day years from now when the memory of nuclear-holocaust-mouth has sufficiently faded (and Jack has forgotten what he delicately called his "ring of fire" the next day) I'll try it again with some crucial adjustments.

Now - the nice soup.

The Recipe: Curried Butternut Squash Soup
From Emily Weinstein on the NYTimes Bitten blog.

I actually first made this back in January, at the beginning of this whole enterprise, but didn't take any pictures. We were excited to have it again - it's really delicious, with just a light curried flavor :)

Made about 3/4 of the recipe, which is more than enough, and used some parsnips and sweet potato to supplement the half a butternut squash that we had - the parsnips especially turned out to be a nice addition.

It did come out a little thick, as Emily says, but we liked it that way, and you can always dilute it.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weird Brownies

OK, so part of the reason I've been a bit absent (diffusion/confusion aside) is that I've been on the opposite of a roll - rolling down the gutter, really - recipe-wise. Case in point:

There it sits, all innocent.

Brownies. Pretty straightforward, one might think. I had some lovely raspberries and had seen a recipe for raspberry brownies on a BBC website.

That, says my cousin Kathryn, was my first mistake. To me, the BBC is a pillar of wisdom. But, as she wisely pointed out, they are British, and the British know nothing about brownies. Clearly.

The Recipe: Raspberry Brownies
Strongly disrecommended, but here it is anyway.


My first misgivings came when the recipe said to put in 9 oz of butter - that's two and a bit sticks! And then you're also using chocolate, not cocoa powder, so there's all the fat in the chocolate too. But I'm obedient. And it looked OK - pretty, even:

It took a while to bake, and when it came out seemed... sweaty. Maybe it's the silicone, I thought. Lots of people don't like silicone. And the recipe did say that it'd be fragile and should be allowed to cool.

So we waited. Finally, the big moment. They were greasy to the point of slimyness. And the raspberries, which had seemed like such a wonderful idea, were actually a little distressing - they're hairy, of course, and encountering a hairy pink thing in the middle of your brownie, I dunno, maybe it's just me, but there was something a bit horrifying about that.

I had made weird brownies. More than that (it hurts to say it) I had made repulsive brownies. An achievement, I suppose, just not the kind you hope for.

But it's a testament to the awesome power of chocolate that we couldn't throw them away. They were incredibly rich and almost tasted good, in a "call the ambulance right now" fashion. They sit in the freezer, and occasionally when we're feeling incredibly sluttish we bring one out and eat it with reddi-whip.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Finally! Sorry about the long pause, I'm really truly back now.

First, some pix of those heirloom tomatoes we got (don't worry, we didn't throw them into the gazpacho):

Just look at the amazing stripes inside the yellow one:

And now for that gazpacho.

Surprisingly, couldn't find a recipe that had all the characteristics I remembered. Mark B. had bread, but minimal ingredients. Alton Brown had a lot of ingredients, but not bread. Ditto for Pioneer Woman, but she had the texture, smooth and chunky, that I was looking for.

Don't think you can really go wrong with gazpacho, but it came out great. We ate it with crusty bread, but you can get much crazier than that, depending on your mood (Pioneer Woman has shrimp, avocado, sour cream, etc.)

The Recipe: GazpachoAdapted from How to Cook Everything (10th Anniversary Edition) by Mark Bittman, and various other sources.
  • 2 lbs tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced [be careful to retain the juices]
  • 1 medium cucumber, seeded, and diced [you can peel it if you like]
  • Half a large red onion, diced [I soak it in cold water and drain, makes it easier to digest, apparently]
  • Half a yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2-3 slices of day-old bread, crusts removed, torn into pieces
  • 0.25 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced [I left this out, as can't eat it]
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tspns vinegar (sherry, red/white wine, or balsamic), or more to taste
  • 2 tspns Worcestershire sauce (optional, see Tips)
  • Tabasco to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Serves 4-6.

1. Put the bread, olive oil, garlic, and about two-thirds of each of the diced vegetables in a blender, and blend till smooth.

2. Pour into a large bowl and stir in almost all the remaining vegetables, reserving a little of each for garnish. Add the lime juice, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, a few dashes of tabasco, and salt and pepper. Mix well, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.

3. Refrigerate for about two hours, then serve garnished with remaining vegetables (which you'll also want to refrigerate, obviously), and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


Not sure that the Worcestershire sauce really added a lot to the flavor, and too much of it would turn your gazpacho into a gigantic Bloody Mary. It would probably be fine to leave it out.

Can't remember what type of vinegar I used - it was either red or white wine vinegar, but balsamic sounds interesting (that's from Alton Brown), will try it another time.

You can dilute with water if the soup is too thick.


Look behind the blender - what do you see?

Step 2 (failed to get a pic of the finished product):

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back, with a Focaccia Failure

This was Mark Bittman's recipe, which is based on his pizza dough, just slightly adjusted. So I should probably have realized what someone on Culinate pointed out - that it would turn out like glorified pizza crust. It didn't have any bready quality at all, plus I overcooked it a bit too.

But it was tasty at least, and we had it with just-made mozzarella from the Italian deli next door, and fresh basil and heirloom tomatoes from the farmer's market. Classy, huh? Said the person who didn't know an heirloom tomato from a hairy bottom two weeks ago!

Anyway, won't bother sharing this recipe - but stay tuned for the next attempt. Next up, gazpacho (not a failure at all)...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cook, Interrupted

Hey there. Many apologies for being a baaad blogger. Will be back at the end of August, can't wait.

Have a fantastic summer, and in the meantime, here are a few of the things I haven't had time to post.

Rustic Apple Tart
Recipe from foodisluv.

Beet Risotto
Recipe from spoonful of sugar.

Swedish Meatballs
Another great one from foodisluv.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Market Week Day 4: Berry Clafoutis

Had never heard of clafoutis until this week, when I stumbled across it while browsing Mr. B. for something to do with the raspberries/blueberries. Then looked on foodgawker and it seems like everyone is making them.

Found some great sites (e.g. Feasting on Art, Crabby Cook), but decided to go with Mr. B., as he's my god.

It was plate-lickingly delicious.

The Recipe: Fluffy Berry Clafoutis
Based on How to Cook Everything (10th Anniversary Edition) by Mark Bittman
  • Butter for the baking dish
  • 0.5 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tbspn for the baking dish
  • Approx. 2.5 cups berries (I had mostly blueberries, with a few raspberries thrown in)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 0.75 cup all-purpose flour
  • 0.75 cup cream
  • 0.75 cup milk
  • Pinch salt
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Serves 4-6.

1. Heat oven to 375F. Butter a gratin or baking dish that will hold the fruit in one layer (mine was a 2 quart baking dish, and worked perfectly). Sprinkle it with the tablespoon of sugar, then swirl the sugar around to coat inner surfaces. Lay the fruit in the dish.

2. Use a whisk to beat the eggs until foamy. Add remaining granulated sugar and beat with whisk or electric mixer until foamy and fairly thick.

3. Add the flour and continue to beat until thick and smooth. Add the milk, vanilla extract and salt.

4. Whip the cream to medium peaks and fold into batter.

5. Pour batter over fruit and bake for about 20 mins, or until the clafoutis is nicely browned on top, and a knife inserted into it comes out clean (ours actually took about 30 mins). Serve warm or at room temperature, with some confectioners' sugar sifted on top.


Was very happy I'd read a few recipes before trying this (e.g. sweet amandine's) because otherwise would have been a bit alarmed that it deflated when it came out of the oven, and is gooey inside.

Given that it deflates, not totally sure that it's worth whipping the cream to make it "fluffy." Mr. B. suggested this as a variation, and it sounded nice so I did it, but you can just add it along with the milk and I bet it would turn out pretty much the same.

Or you can use yoghurt instead of cream, in which case you could pretend it's healthy.

You can use any kind of fruit - a lot of people use cherries, he also recommends plums, apples, and apricots (his original recipe had 1lb pears, peeled, halved, and cored).

Farewell, Market Week...

We're away for the weekend, so this was our last recipe of Market Week. Used everything except for a couple of beets lurking in the fridge till we get back.

A big thank you to eatmakeread - it was a lot of fun!

Have a great weekend everyone!


Sorry no in-progress shots, it was dark and the cats were trying to get into everything. The first one is horribly gloomy, but just thought you might like to see what it looks like right out of the oven.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Market Week Day 3: Three-Bean Salad

What to do with all those beans? Aha - three-bean salad! I asked my mum for the recipe. Oh, she said, sounding a little surprised, you just cook the beans, and chop up some onion, and make a vinaigrette. My mum, after all these years, still can't comprehend the depths of my ignorance.

So I went looking online and discovered that no-one seems to agree on what goes into a three-bean salad. Even my beloved Mr. Bittman let me down: to him, a three-bean salad is made with three kinds of dried beans - nooooooo!! Even where there was agreement on the beans, there was none on the dressing. And I was in search of that specific taste - my mum's three-bean salad.

The Recipe: Three-Bean Salad

Here's what I used for the salad - perfect.

But I didn't think that my mum used red wine vinegar in her dressing, and sure enough when I tried a mini version of what is given here it didn't taste like hers at all.

So I did a bit more searching and came across an apple cider-based version. And even though my mum didn't use apple cider vinegar either, this tasted almost right. Though I cut the sugar in half and it was still a little sweet for me. And I should have doubled the recipe, we were a bit short on juice.


See above for the dressing issue. Any tips? Otherwise I'll have to bug my mother...

One other thing - something I saw recommended on chowhound a while ago - I soaked the onions. They really made me cry when chopping, so thought would try it. Did it make any difference? Who knows.

Also steamed the beans, rather than boiling. Again, don't know if that matters, it's just how I normally cook beans (they tasted great, really farm-fresh.)


Market Week Day 2: Pasta with Beets & Greens

Continuing with eatmakeread's Market Week...

First it was pasta with green beans. Now pasta with beet greens.

The Recipe: Beet & Greens Pasta
From Culinate.


Very easy, very tasty, dramatic on the plate, and fun. The writer says her daughter loves it, and I can imagine it would be good for (beet-loving) kids.

(I'm guessing kids might also be entertained by the way beets dye everything pink, if you know what I mean...not us, of course, we're way more sophisticated than that.)


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Eatmakeread's Market Week

I'm kinda doing eatmakeread's Market Week. "Kinda" because I had to start a bit early (Thurs), as that's when our market is, and also because it's more cooking and posting than my pea-brain can handle. The idea is that you do a big trip to the farmer's market on the weekend, then make your meals for the week from what you buy. But it seems that she's pretty relaxed about it - you can do as much or as little as you like.

Anyway, check it out - a fun and inspiring idea, and there's still plenty of time to join in. Plus she has a lovely site.

And here are our ingredients. The market's a bit miniature, so probably not too impressive, but pretty, right?

We couldn't decide between green and yellow beans, so got both, which is actually rather a lot of beans (you're looking at a mere sample). It'll be a beany few days.

In fact, I already made pasta with pesto, beans, and potatoes - have done it before (waybackwhen), but these pix are a bit better.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Belated Happy Independence Day: English Muffins

Independence Day is a bit of a joke in our house. I'm English and Jack is American, and there's some question here as to whether the Revolutionary War is really over - though it's now more focused on things like process/pr-oh-cess, sshedule/skedule, potayto/potahto, whose political/medical/school system is the stupidest, and who has the best TV programs.

But in general we tolerate, uh sorry, celebrate our differences, and something that perfectly represents this is the English muffin.

As some of you may know, the English muffin isn't at all English. The nearest thing we have in the UK (though maybe things have changed??) is the crumpet, and crumpets are weird. Instead of nooks and crannies they have craters, and a very firm, springy texture like foam rubber.

Anyway, English muffins are a staple of our diet, to a ridiculous degree. We eat them pretty much every day. Jack has his with peanut butter, like a normal American, and I have mine with cheese and pickle or butter and Marmite, like an alien.

It never occurred to me to try making them until this post on Macheesmo. They just didn't seem like something that could be made - they just come in a packet, right?

But Jack would never in a million years expect a homemade English muffin. So I did them as a surprise - which involved hiding the dough, banishing him from the kitchen, etc. The look on his face when he saw them: priceless.

The Recipe: English Muffins

From Macheesmo - great post, with step-by-step directions.


Actually, it wasn't incredibly hard, but I need more experience with yeasted things in general. Like the hot cross buns, they came out a little chewy. Not bad at all, just a little more of a workout for the jaw than necessary.

Any suggestions? Overkneading? Or was it that (like the hot cross buns) they seemed to rise a lot the first time round?

Also, I can't count. Divided the dough into 8, not 6 - doh! So they were a little runty (English mini-muffins?) especially compared with the store-bought version (penultimate pic).

But, as always, it was a lot of fun. So a big thank you to Macheesmo, and a belated Happy Independence Day to my American readers.



After first rise:


...into the wrong number of balls!

After second rise:

In pan:

Other side:


On the left, the store-bought version:

Fork split:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Middle-Eastern Feast (with cats)

OK, food in a moment - first I have to show you this:

And this:

She's sure it's all for her! Quite a look on her face when she was told to get down. Awww...

Back to the food. The inspiration for this came from Pinch My Salt: she did a hummus post last week, and I poked around on her site and found some great recipes for other things to go with it. Then Bob had a fancy middle-eastern spread for Father's Day, and that sealed the deal.

Originally was going to try making pita too, but oh well.

Herewith some fun facts from Wikipedia:
  • The largest recorded bowl of tabbouleh was made on June 9, 2006 in Ramallah in the West Bank. It weighed 3,348 lbs, and earned a Guinness World Record.
  • In the movie Bruno, Sacha Baron-Cohen (in character as Bruno) confuses Hummus and Hamas in an interview with Israeli and Palestinian scholars, creating much confusion.
  • Come to think of it, did you see You Don't Mess with the Zohan? (A work of genius.) Hummus features there too...
  • Nothing funny about tzatziki, apparently.
The Recipes

All from Pinch My Salt:


Everything was very easy, so nothing went wrong! It was all delicious. The sweetness of the tabbouleh made a great contrast with the sharpness of the tzatziki.


  • Would certainly have been easier with a food processor - my mini-prep is very mini, so had to blend everything in little batches. Forgot to put the oil on the top, oops.
  • Had to leave out the garlic, of course :( But it was still great.


  • Didn't use persimmons - just some apricots and a nectarine that we had already, and they worked perfectly.
  • Used about half the amount of herbs, just because we didn't have enough, and it was fine (though I know it's supposed to be very herby).


  • Bumped up the mint a bit - Mark Bittman had half a cup, and Pinch My Salt had a tablespoon, so I split the difference and used a quarter cup, which seemed to work.
  • Drained the cucumbers but didn't strain the yoghurt, and it was still good (even the next day).





On the table, Jack throwing a pita:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Shrimp with Noodles & Peanut Sauce

Another rainy day, another raid of the cupboard. Poking around... hmmm... noodles. Um, what else? Aha, frozen shrimp! And there's some (rather sad-looking) cilantro in the fridge. I know, let's ask Mr. B...

The Recipe: Peanut Sauce
From How to Cook Everything (10th Anniversary Edition) by Mark Bittman

He has a few different variations. Here are two - I went with the simple one, as we didn't have too many of the other ingredients in the house. But thought you might like to see the fancier one anyway, as it looks more zingy.

For the simple version:
  • 3 small dried red chiles (like Thai or piquin), seeded, or cayenne, or hot red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 tbspn brown sugar
  • 2 tbspns soy sauce, or more to taste
  • 0.5 cup chopped roasted peanuts or crunchy peanut butter [ours was smooth, oh well]
  • 0.25 cup sliced scallion [we didn't have any - the cupboard was pretty bare]
  • 0.25 cup minced fresh cilantro

For the fancier one - as above, minus the scallion or cilantro, and plus:

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 shallots, peeled
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, peeled, trimmed, and thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 tspns ground turmeric
  • 1 tbspn peanut oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tbspns freshly squeezed lime juice
  • salt
Makes approx. 2 cups (less for the simple version).

Instructions - Simple:

1) Put the chiles, sugar, soy sauce, and peanut into the food processor to blend, adding a little water or more soy sauce to get the consistency you like. [I skipped this step, and just mixed them in the saucepan.]

2) Then gently heat the sauce in a small saucepan over a low heat, or in the microwave. Finish with a quarter cup each of sliced scallion and minced fresh cilantro.

Instructions - Fancy:

1) Combine the chiles, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, and turmeric in a food processor and grind until fairly smooth; scrape down sides of machine as necessary.

2) Put the oil in a medium saucepan or skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the chile-garlic mixture and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 15 mins.

3) Taste, and add a sprinkle of salt or a little soy sauce if necessary. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a week (warm gently over a very low heat or in microwave before using).


Forgot to add the cilantro to the sauce, after all that. And we didn't have scallion. So threw in some lime juice, but it was still missing a little something (the cilantro and scallion, probably!)

Will try the fancy version another time.

But it was fun to pull a very edible meal together from a random selection of ingredients.


Only one - the sun came out for a nanosecond just in time.