A Corny Bean Mash

20120423-203856.jpgSometimes I just don’t want to cook. Except I also don’t want to eat outside, nor do I crave take-out or prepackaged stuff. Yes I’m spoiled, I like homemade food. It’s just unfortunate that it’s my home and the husband, while an amazing cook and spice master extraordinaire, hasn’t really made the kitchen his full-time home. More like a timeshare.

In instances like this, simple mash ups are my best friend. Like tonight: I had a nice fajita style medley of peppers sauteed the night before, along with some other goodies, but I needed something with oomph to knock it out of the park and really fill us up. So you play with what’s on hand: corn and beans. Continue reading

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2 Sides Make a Night (Tomato Couscous with Black Beans)

The saying goes, there are two sides to every story. I warrant that’s not always true, as I have seen some very octagonal tales in my day, but that is neither here nor there (the dork in me begs to ask, Where, then? but I shall refrain). Nevertheless, one recent evening I channeled that phrase into my taste-searching fingers, and approached my cupboards with dual palettes in mind. A few weeks ago, the husband and I took an excursion to North Wildwood, New Jersey (Cape May vicinity, for those familiar) and one afternoon our health-starved mouths craved for something that wasn’t nitrate ridden (like hot dogs) or fried (everything else!) so we hit up the local grocery store and bought some tomato salad couscous. Oh the praises my little taste buds bestowed upon me for that tasty treat! And the husband discovered he had a strong liking for the rice-disguised pasta. Most likely because it looks like a rice grain. So easy to please, he is.

Since then, he spoke often about us creating our own dish inspired by that; so often that mere week or so later, I decided to make it with him during this recent battle with the CH beast. But obviously it needed a companion—this stalwart dish could not trudge into the dark recesses of our bellies without a legion to conquer that grumbling realm. Furthermore, to me it just felt like a side, a lovely accompaniment to something greater, the Sancho Panza to some elusive Don Quixote of foodstuff. But… I didn’t really have the time nor the groceries for something greater, but I did have a hearty supply of black beans at my disposal. And so the great Two-Sided Tale of our dinner was born.

Our story is headed by the great desire of the husband, a spicy, tangy and cool couscous laden with ethereal flavors. But it is closely tailed by bright, raucous beans that nearly pop with mariachi tunes and zip through your senses like Speedy Gonzalez. Combined, one reaches a sublime medium. *insert sigh of pleasure here* Continue reading

The easiest chicken kabob EVER

Since I have started working, it would behoove me to concoct or search for recipes that are not as labor-inducing. Granted, if I have the inspiration and the inclination I will do whatever I want, though I have relegated myself to the truth that such magnificent enterprises will most likely take a hit and come around on the occasional weekend. But it’s okay. Now G has begun to cook more (he made the most delicious Pepper Chettinad Chicken the other day, and I can only hope he will write about it, because you all deserve to know what he has been up to) and I am learning to share my marked domain with him with more ease.

Because as much as I like to bother him that I do most of the cooking and he should take a bigger part in it, especially for someone who has such a flair for it, the truth is that cooking is not just a means of feeding our grumbly tummies for me. And recent discoveries have revealed that many of the authors I admire to the furthest reaches of my literary toes have also found peace, solace, inspiration, and fluidity of mind through cooking. Should I be worried that quite a few of these women also committed suicide? Well… perhaps I should be glad I’m not a genius published author like Virginia Woolf then.

Anyhoo, the kitchen has been my inner sanctum of control, but opening up more with my husband has blossomed into some really sensational new opportunities. For example, the first sampling of G’s Magical Masala Blends! He personally created his own spice blend, roasting cumin and coriander and some other stuff, in very specific quantities, to create this spice mixture that would knock Muhammad Ali out. It smells like a desert rose saturating the sunset air of a remote oasis. Tantalizing.

So I used it in these super quick kabobs. And we regaled in the glory of the perfect mini patty. Continue reading

Aloo Palak

Writing has become a little difficult as of late because of a raging battle inside my head.  Not a mental struggle, or an emotional tug, or an intellectual challenge, although those run their course all the time as well.  No, I literally have been plagued with headache after headache after headache for a week or more now.  The consistency reached full momentum a few days ago, but it had been building up—and thus simple things like typing have become quite cumbersome and mind-numbing at its worst.  Nevertheless I sit here now to share a few thoughts and exploits, in a brave attempt to conquer the pain and oust it from its reign.

And with that battle momentarily won, I move on to another battle I fought full-fledged, and also emerged the victor.  My opponent: spinach.   I admit I haven’t had the most loving relationship with the leafy green; for some reason I am very particular about overpowering or rather completely evaporating the raw spinach flavor, but I always end up unsuccessful for some ridiculous reason or another.  But not this time!  Yes, I regale in even the smallest of victories, and minutest of accomplishments.  For most people, spinach, or Palak, is a straightforward dish–to those people, I stick out my tongue.  My relationship with palak just needed some extra attention and effort, that’s all. Continue reading

Oh My Sweet (chick)Pea! What a Masala!

Home Sweet Home! The past week I spent in California with the folks, frolicking in warm weather. In fact, I actually extended my trip by two days in order to bypass the awful possibility of taking up residence in an airport due to winter storms and the like.  It worked out quite well, as G would truly have been unable to retrieve my beleaguered self from the airport had I been able to fly in Tuesday.  That said, a few more days with the family were nice and well spent (mainly in eating exorbitant loads of cookies, watching movies, and playing games) but I was extremely happy to be back.  And quite surprisingly (or not), I missed my kitchen (though not nearly as much as the husband, I swear!).  I realized I felt a little out of sorts in my mom’s domain—my creativity was slightly stilted and I simply just didn’t move around with as much ease as I do in my tiny box over here.  Nevertheless, I did whip up some honey-wheat pancakes—with bananas and blueberries—and fajita-style chicken and peppers, but I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t at my A game.

And thus, the return home marked a revival of spirits: utter contentment on my part to be with G again, my husband’s own spirit bouncing off the walls as well, and my desire to be spontaneous! Be free! Be wild and crazy in the kitchen!!

Continue reading

Loki or Pakistani Zucchini

The master and student sat in meditation beneath an aged oak tree hidden miles deep within an open field of waving grass. The young student marveled at the great length of sky, seeing it for the first time from edge to further edge, and turned to his teacher.

“We are so far from home.  It took weeks to come here, and will take days just to reach the nearest village…”

“Is that a question?” the master calmly spoke, as if remarking about the number of leaves on the closest branch.

“…I was only wondering, sir, do you not miss home? The comforts of your own bed, your family, looking forward to a warm meal? I’m afraid to admit I long for it so much.”  The student nearly dropped his eyes at this last, and the master took notice.  He sighed.

“Continue your meditations, so you may learn to let go of what was and what could be.”  The student nodded in compliance and shifted his back against the tree, the tiniest of grimaces not escaping the master, who lay a hand on the wrinkled bark.  “Does this ancient skin repulse you?  Don’t be fooled to look only for comforts in the obvious.  Consider how the shade protects you from the sun.  Consider how the branches nest homes for the birds, and nurture our fires in the night.  Focus on the comforts of what is now, and you will learn that home is as migrant as ourselves.” He let his words sink into the accepting pools gazing his way.  “Now build a fire, as the sun has begun to set.”

The student did as he was told, pondering over his master’s words, not noticing the small parcel the elder had begun to warm in the flames.  He broke from his reverie only when the waft of warm olive bread tickled his nose, much like it did at home the mornings his mother would bake.  The master handed him a slice and said with a smile, “There is no harm in carrying home with you sometimes as well.  Or recreating it when needed.”

~~~~~

I endeavored to cook Loki (zucchini) a few days ago because it is one of my ultimate favorite dishes that my mom makes.  Continue reading