The Secret Ingredient (Curry), Part II: Bombay Mussels with Peas and Naan

RECIPE: Bombay Mussels
Bombay Mussels

Bombay Mussels

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I love Indian food, and I think my love for it might stem from its mystery—at least, as far as I perceive it. It feels unattainable to me, like the bad boy in the leather jacket at the back of the cafeteria. My good friend the English food writer Pinky Lilani once invited me to her home for an Indian cooking lesson, and she whipped out a box of spices; to one who had cooked little Indian food before, it was like staring into an alchemist’s treasure trove. I had no idea how to use them.

Cooking with Indian spices is a bit like tight-rope walking for me—it’s really hard to balance. But curry is a blend, of many things, most often turmeric, coriander, red pepper, and cumin, which gives it that verdant, smoky, earthy, spicy scent. For this dish, all my components are already figured out for me. While a perfect Vindaloo, say, would take me considerably more time and study, all I have to do for these Bombay mussels is add curry powder, and attain something of that heady curry house flavor.

One of my favorite things to order at Indian restaurants is the seafood. I love the way the spices play with the sweet tenderness of prawns and scallops and sea bass. But this time, I decided to make mussels. I temper the curry and green onions with a dash of butter and cream, and stew up the mussels with springtime green peas, which add sweetness and color and that lovely fresh pop in your mouth. Instead of baguette, I warm up naan breads to soak up the juices. It’s so unusual and lovely and easy.

Bombay Mussels
serves 2 for dinner, 4 to start

Bombay MusselsINGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2/3 cup thawed frozen peas
  • 2 pounds mussels
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream

PROCEDURE

In a high-sided braising pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the scallions, and sauté until soft—2 minutes.  Add the curry powder, and sauté an additional 30 seconds.  Add the water, peas, and mussels to the pot, and season with salt and pepper.  Cover, and steam over medium heat until all mussels open—5 minutes.  Turn off the heat, stir in the cream, and serve with warm naan.

 

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

Spontaneous Sunday Bruschetta

RECIPE: Spontaneous Sunday Bruschetta
Spontaneous Sunday Bruschetta

Spontaneous Sunday Bruschetta

I love to cook.  You know that.  But there are so many things I have to cook, for columns, that I really relish opportunities like I had this morning.  It was early on a lazy Sunday, and I got to putter around the supermarket, and just see what looked good, what I felt like, what made me hungry.  As the sky was blue and the trees billowy and grassy and leafy; I wanted something light, fresh, crisp.  The cherry tomatoes were ruddy and blushing, like fat little children’s cheeks bursting with excitement.  I found a crusty loaf of peasant bread, some sweet basil and shallots, and just made a big pile of bruschetta.

I cut up the tomatoes and set them to marinate with coarse salt and cracked black pepper, scissored up basil and razor-thin rings of sweet-sharp shallots, glugs of olive oil and just a soupcon of balsamic vinegar.  It was fresh and savory and sweet piled on the thick slabs of crispy toasted bread, and all of the ingredients are just beginning to be delicious again.  There is nothing more humble or satisfying than good bread and vegetables (although, I know technically, tomatoes are a fruit).  But there’s also something tremendously satisfying about being selfish in the kitchen and feeding that thing inside of you that wants what it wants.  Luckily, everyone else loved it too.

Spontaneous Sunday Bruschetta
This recipe is very not about the measurements. Make as much as you need, using the following ingredients as you like them. Serves about 4.

Spontaneous Sunday BruschettaINGREDIENTS

  • 4 1-inch thick slices of crusty round country bread
  • 2 to 3 boxes cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 big handful fresh basil leaves, slivered
  • 1 shallot, very thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • A dash of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons good olive oil

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Place the bread on a baking sheet, and toast until golden brown on top.  Flip over, and toast on the other side.

In the meantime, toss the tomatoes with all the other ingredients in a large bowl.  I serve the toast warm from the oven, with the tomatoes in a big bowl to pile on top.  To gild the lily, serve some crumbled goat cheese alongside to sprinkle on top to add some creamy tang.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Breakfast & Brunch, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Sandwiches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

Duck Confit Sandwiches at Borough Market, London

Since arriving in London, I have dubbed myself the Girl of Sandwich.  Check out this incredible one I found and covered for Serious Eats‘s A Sandwich A Day (an idea I can really get behind, because I eat a sandwich a day).  Bon app!

Duck Confit Sandwich

Duck Confit Sandwich

Get the whole story on Serious Eats.

I was at Borough Market, walking around after I’d had my requisite chorizo sandwich at Brindisa, when I walked by a huge, steaming paella pot vat of shredded duck. When you see that much duck confit in one place, you’ve got to talk to someone about it, figure out what’s going on, and decide how you can eat it immediately. Fullness should not be prohibitive.

The duck confit sandwich from Le Marché du Quartier at Borough Market is a study in how to defy the French reputation for small, stuffy plates. It’s a big, somewhat soft roll, erupting with duck confit, and it’s quite the bargain at £5 (about $8.15). The French man behind the paella pot takes one of these pre-slathered soft long rolls scraped with a French mustard I believe was Savora, which has notes of sweet baking spices, topped with a handful of requisite arugula. And then on goes an extravagant amount of the hot shredded duck full of soft, fatty bits and those crispy edges that are the best part of confit. The sweeter notes in the mustard tango a bit with the gaminess of the duck. Magic. It’s the most haute hot, sloppy sandwich I’d ever tried. And I can’t wait to line up with the others this weekend, like ducks in a row, waiting to get another bite.

Le Marché du Quartier

Borough Market, 239 Borough High Street, Camberwell, London SE1 1, UK (map)
020 7403 6222; marketquarter.com

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Categories: Finds, London, Voyages
 

Best Ice Cream on a Stick: The Magnum Hits the US

Kerry Magnum

The Magnum Classic

I’m lucky to have been able to live abroad, but I can be pretty begrudging about it.  I only planned to stay abroad for a year, and then ol’ Mr. English came along, and here I am.  Amidst all my adventure, I spend about 90% of my day missing American food.  Onion rings.  Blue cheese dressing.  A New York slice.  Shack Shack burgers.  Crab, in drawn butter.  Guacamole.  Lobster rolls.  Even Costco hotdogs.  Oh my gosh, I have to stop.

But there are a few things in the UK to which I have become extremely attached.  For those of you out here, I’m talking about Ben’s Cookies, Fox’s Glacier Fruits, This Water, and the now-defunct McDonald’s Indian-inspired veggie burger.  And THE MAGNUM.  The greatest ice cream bar ever.  According to my friend Paul Sonne’s article on the subject in the Wall Street Journal, it is the “world’s top individual frozen snack.”  How could it not be, with a name like Magnum?  Last year, Unilever hired Eva Longoria as the face of the product in Europe, and now Rachel Bilson in the States.  I’m sure you’ve seen the ads.

After we finished our MBA, my friends and I rented this little house in Portugal for a week, and every single day, at the beach, we would sit around deconstructing and devouring Magnum bars.  They’re similar to our Haagen-Dazs bars–the classic is vanilla ice cream in a hard chocolate shell.  But the ice cream is creamier–almost like gelato.  And the shell doesn’t crack and fall all over the place.  It’s thick, and it hugs the sides of the ice cream.  It’s just perfect.  When I saw the add that the caramel (vanilla ice cream and two layers of chocolate sandwiching a layer of caramel) had FINALLY come to America, I yelped.  And apparently, all the usual flavors, like white, dark, almond, classic, and double chocolate are also arriving stateside.  Now, as soon as I am back, there will be one less thing to miss.  And I’m pretty sure I can handle giving up the rest, just for one bite of that crab…

Rachel Bilson for Magnum commercial courtesy of cathace 2000 via YouTube

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French in a Flash: Baked Endive Gratins with Ham and Cheese

RECIPE: Baked Endive Gratin
Endive Gratins

Endive Gratins

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I recently had to explain to a will-not-be-named member of my family that endives are contraband in the States.  Or, I should say, packing raw French endives in your suitcase to consume in the States would be…yeah, illegal.

That is how obsessed we are with endives.  Bitter, crunchy, great in salad.  Sure.  But where it’s really at is in the cooked endive, still crunchy, but slightly tender.  Each leaf still holding its own, but collapsing onto the one beneath it like exhausted babushka dolls.  Still bitter, but just ever-so-slightly more mellow.  It’s like you took the muscle man that is endive and gave him that spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.  Then, they become so delicious, and so unusual, and delicate, and different.  They are so special–worth smuggling, I think.

Endive gratin is a really traditional dish, and I like that you have the rich voluptuousness of a gratin, and the crisp, bitter verdure of the vegetable.  Endive halves are wrapped in ham, then smothered in a simple bechamel, and covered with Gruyere cheese.  Then, they’re baked until the endive is soft and mellow, and the cheese is bubbly and gooey.  A small green salad with a little lemon juice and fleur de sel and you’re in business.  Almost worth jail time.

Baked Endive Gratin
serves 2

Endive GratinsINGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 endives, halved
  • 4 thinly slices Black Forest ham
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyère

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a small saucepot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour, and cook for 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk, and cook 5 minutes over medium heat, whisking often.  Season with salt and pepper.

Wrap each endive in ham.  Pour half the béchamel sauce on the bottom of a baking dish.  Place the endives in the dish, and cover with the remaining sauce.  Top with the cheese, and cover the dish with foil.  Bake 25 minutes, remove the foil, and bake another 30 minutes.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Vegetables
 

Franglais: Blueberry Surprise Vanilla Cream Pots

RECIPE: Blueberry Surprise Vanilla Cream Pots

BlueberriesGet the whole story at The Huffington Post.

I don’t know if they’re still doing this, but I love any surprise that comes with food.  Short of an engagement ring, which I think is a stupid and dangerous thing to bury in anything you might chew.  Think of how many people spend their time making sure there are no rocks in your beans or lettuce, and then you give one to your fiancée so she can chip a tooth before the wedding?  Not the best laid of plans.  Or the best plan to get you…well, you get the picture.

But, those prizes in the Cracker Jack box?  They used to give out little tattoos in the cereal, and I collected all the toys from my Happy Meals.  Once BonBel cheese did a finger puppet promotion and I bought about five sacks so I could have one for each finger.  I love that idea that you’re doing the best thing you can do—eating—and you still get a prize on top of that.  What a wonderful world.

I love this little pot de crème because it’s just like that—a box of delicious Cracker Jacks with an even better surprise down at the bottom.  Starbursts of blueberries, slightly sweetened and cooked down like blueberry pie filling, hidden under a thick pot of vanilla cream.  I love that you stick your spoon unsuspectingly down into—what could be bad about this?—thick, sweet, speckled vanilla cream, and come up with gorgeous indigo bursting berries on the end of your spoon.  Just when you thought dessert couldn’t get any better, it does.

Blueberry Surprise Vanilla Cream Pots
makes 4

BlueberriesINGREDIENTS

  • 5 ounces blueberries
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar plus 3 tablespoons
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 vanilla bean

PROCEDURE

In a small saucepot, boil the blueberries and 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar on medium heat for 12 minutes, until slightly thickened. Spoon the mixture in the bottom of 4 ramekins. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Boil a kettle of water.

Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the bean itself to the cream in a medium saucepot. Heat the vanilla cream on medium-low until bubbles form around the edges of the pot. Meanwhile, in a large measuring cup, whisk the egg yolks with 3 tablespoon sugar until pale. Discard the vanilla pod, and whisk the warm cream quickly into the yolks. Pour over blueberries in the 4 ramekins.

Set the 4 ramekins in a square baking dish, and fill the baking dish halfway with boiled water. Bake at 300 degrees F for 40 minutes, until the center is slightly set. Cool on the counter until the cream pots come to room temperature. Then, cover each with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely set, preferably overnight. Eat!

 

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Categories: Uncategorized
 

Easy Recipe: What to Cook for Your Boyfriend’s Parents, Part II

RECIPE: Spaghetti Marinara with Arugula and Fresh Mozzarella
Spaghetti Marinara with Arugula and Fresh Mozzarella

Spaghetti Marinara with Arugula and Fresh Mozzarella

After a busy day, I was on for dinner theater again a couple of nights ago.  When I’m too tired to do dinner, and a lot of show, I always opt for pasta.  I love this recipe because it’s so easy, but there’s a little element of the different and gourmet, with the arugula and mozzarella.  The spaghetti sucks up all the marinara sauce, which has that sweet zing from the tomatoes, and then the arugula wilts in, and is slightly bitter and peppery, and the mozzarella just starts to melt and ooze everywhere, and is milky and mild.  So complex for so little work!  It was a hit, so I wanted to share it with you.  Always nice to trot out something that’s an easy A.

Spaghetti Marinara with Arugula and Fresh Mozzarella
serves 4

Spaghetti Marinara with Arugula and Fresh MozzarellaIngredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 24-ounce jar good marinara sauce (recommended: Mario Batali)
  • 1 small bag baby arugula, roughly chopped
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, drained and finely chopped
  • Black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

PROCEDURE

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Add the pasta and cook in your usual way until al dente.  Drain.

In the same pot, heat the marinara sauce over medium heat until it's just starting to bubble.  Add in the arugula, and the pasta.  Season with salt and pepper, and toss with tongs until well combined.  The arugula will wilt slightly.  Top with the mozzarella, toss again, and serve immediately, fresh freshly grated Parmesan on the side.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Vegetarian, Vegetarian