Sunday, June 20, 2010

Curried Peas

My sweet husband grilled steaks for dinner tonight. To truly appreciate this, you have to understand that this weekend, the Nashville area was approximately the temperature of the surface of the sun. Okay, perhaps that was a bit of an exaggeration, but it was absolutely too hot to be outside, much less standing over a fire! Like most men, though, he loves to make fire. He decided he wanted grill onion as well, so he even sliced the onions! Anyway, since he was handling the main course, I made the side dishes. Okay, so one side was a just a prepackaged shortcut...shells and cheddar. But the other side required a little more creativity, and it was a hit! I wanted to make sweet peas because my hubby (who was sweltering at the grill) likes them, but I didn't want to just open a can. I stared at my spices for a while, then a plan began to form.

I started by rinsing and draining the peas (to remove as much added salt and sugar as possible), then pouring a very small amount of water back in. I added some butter like my grandmother taught me, and tossed in some granulated garlic and ground celery seed. Then I thought about the sweet curry in the cabinet...and the cream in the refrigerator. The result was quite tasty! I love it when an easy dish has rich, complex flavors. It reminded me of more Indian-influenced curries, rather than the Thai curries I usually eat. We have been cutting down on our salt, so you might prefer to add a little salt (or use celery salt instead of ground celery seed).

I told my younger brother about this dish, and he reminded me of the time he met a couple from the island of Tobago. The wife began discussing some of her native dishes with him, and one sounded a little like what I made. She used pigeon peas (called toor dal in India) instead of sweet peas, and the process was different. She started by sweating some garlic in oil, then sprinkling some of her custom curry blend over this. Once the fragrance started blooming, she added lightly steamed peas and finished cooking them in this mixture. She said this step really got the flavors into the peas. At the end, she pulled it off the heat and added some cream to slow the cooking, then put it back on low heat to simmer just long enough to distribute the seasonings throughout the sauce.

I think I will probably adopt some of her methods next time. I think I prefer butter to oil with sweet peas, but I like the idea of blooming the garlic and curry. I might try some fresh sweet peas or zipper peas from my grandparents' garden, or perhaps see if the Nashville Farmers' Market has any pigeon peas. Starting from fresh or dried, I might saute the peas like this lady did, but I think canned sweet peas would not hold up well this way. Feel free to experiment with it—I certainly will!

Curried Peas

1 can sweet peas, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. butter
1/8 tsp. granulated garlic
1/4 tsp. Penzeys sweet curry powder*
1/4 tsp. Penzeys ground celery seed* or celery salt
1/4 cup cream

Pour peas into pan with a small amount of water, then add butter, garlic, curry powder, and ground celery seed. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then turn down to a simmer and add cream. Leave on heat long enough to allow seasonings to be distributed throughout the sauce.

* - I LOVE Penzeys! All of their products are fabulous. If you live near one of their stores, do yourself a favor and visit them. Just walk in the door. And inhale. Heavenly! I particularly love their California Seasoned Pepper, Sweet Curry Powder, Mural of Flavor, Ground Celery Seed, and Medium Chili Powder. Everything I have tried is extremely high quality, very fresh, and intensely flavored. Unless you count the coupons they send me on my catalogs, I have received no compensation for this endorsement.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

For the Record...

Okay, let's be frank.

That interesting thing that just happened didn't "peek" your interest. Nor did it "peak" your interest. It PIQUED your interest.

I sense that you are searching for the appropriate exclamation. No, it's not "wahlah" or "wa-la". And "viola" is either a stringed musical instrument a little larger than a violin, or it is Mama/Thelma Harper's spinster friend.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Pink Peep-toe Perfection

Really, no words are needed.


See? Perfection.

(Thanks to Pink Frenchie at Les Petits Plaisirs in her Summery Weekend Wish post.)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Family Cookouts

We actually had two cookouts with my family this weekend. The first was with a soccer team of four year olds celebrating the end of their season (Go Rainbow Fish!), and as you might imagine, was less about the actual food than the experience. You know, burgers, hot dogs, chips. And a playground. One of the four year olds was my nephew, and my brother, his dad, was the coach. My brother didn't know anything about soccer before becoming the coach of this "pre-instructional" team. He calls it "herdball." The team learned to pass, to stay in their own field, and to use their feet instead of their hands. They also scored at least one goal apiece in their last game!

This is the cake my sister-in-law made for the occasion. Very tasty! Do you see the soccer players looking for dandelions on this cake? No? Well, it's there. I have been assured. If you live in the Knoxville area and need a special occasion cake, cupcakes, cookies, pie, tiramisu, etc., she can help you! Contact me for more information.

My sweet hubby ran one of the grills for this cookout, and he ran the grill for the family on Memorial Day as well. I don't have pics of what we grilled Monday, but here he is grilling burgers on Saturday. Isn't he cute? (He can cook on a stove, too. Jealous?)

We were trying to cook low sodium, so I experimented a bit on the marinade for the chicken. We had frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts, which are too easy to dry out on the grill. My mother selected the pieces that were the most even thickness to help them cook evenly. I put them in a ziptop bag and filled it with the marinade. We let it sit out Sunday evening to start to thaw, then put it in the refrigerator overnight to finish the marinating and thawing. I didn't measure anything, and I just worked with what we had on hand.

Here are the rough proportions I used for about 10-12 chicken breasts: 4-6 cups of dairy, around half a cup of something acidic, and 2-4 teaspoons of dried herbs (optional). The dairy helps to keep the chicken stay moist without using salt, or so I've been told. Ideally, the dairy would include Greek yogurt or sour cream plus milk, half and half (regular or fat-free), or cream to thin it. I mixed it together before pouring it over the chicken, but you could coat the chicken with the yogurt or sour cream first. Then put the chicken in the ziptop bag and pour the other ingredients over it. I used lime juice and cilantro for the acidic element and herb combination, but you could use red wine vinegar and fresh basil chiffonade (you could also add some mozzarella for a Caprese-style dish), grapefruit juice and rosemary, or whatever combination you would like. And the expert on the grill timed them perfectly! The cilantro and lime combination was very subtle, but this was the most tender, moist chicken. This is definitely a process we will try again. And I'll get pics then!

Memorial Day

My sweet hubby and I spent Memorial Day weekend with my family this year. We had lots of fun (and lots of good food), but first...

I just want to say thank you to my uncle, who served in the US Navy during Viet Nam. Most of what he has shared with the cousins has been vague. (I feel certain he shared more with my mom, my uncles, and my grandfather, but he probably glossed over details with my grandmother as well. Just a guess, knowing how kind and protective he is.) I am certain, however, that the things he saw changed him forever. Words are not enough, but thank you. Thank you for your service, your sacrifice.

"Non sibi sed patriae"--not self but country.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Making the Cut

I decided (very sensibly, I thought) to weed out the blogs to which I subscribe. I had unintentionally taken a year off from blogging, after all, and I had not looked at my subscribed blogs much in that time. As with cookbooks, I tend to collect FAR more than I could actually use! Surely there were quite a few that I no longer needed.

So, I took some time to peruse several of them, checking out who was posting things that actually interested me. And over the weekend, I think I have added about 20 more. (
Does it help or hurt that some were about organizing and simplifying your life?)

But I think I did manage to cut one.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

So Have You Heard the One About...

So have you heard the one about the blogger who slows down her blogging, then posts an apology blog explaining she is moving, but she promises she'll blog more often? You know the one—then after all that apologizing, she doesn't blog for a year?

Oh, wait that's me!

So what has happened over the last year? Let me 'splain. No, there is too much—let me sum up. We moved outside of Nashville into a lovely little home. My sweet almost-seventeen-year-old kitty loves his sunporch on the back of the house... spite of the fact that he now shares it with a new "free" kitten that was anything but free. (After being fixed, she had a reaction to the sutures, so we got antibiotics. Later, the sutures started dissolving and the incision opened up, at midnight, of course. A midnight trip to an emergency vet, a followup surgery at our regular vet, some good drugs for the kitty, and all is good now.) If you have seen "How to Train Your Dragon," then you know her personality—she's Toothless, but with teeth. And she can almost fly.

We actually have room now to host family, and we have enjoyed this. I have also returned to work full-time, about the time we started moving. Thankfully, the time change means that we now get home before it's completely dark...most days. Our little town has a springtime festival and a drive-in theater, and we are determined to enjoy it more this summer.

We've survived more snow than the state has seen in years, we've done some landscaping at the house (thanks for the help, Mom & sweet niece!), and we've survived what meteorologists are calling a "Five Hundred Year Flood Event." Thankfully, we had no damage, but our office was closed for a week. The area is truly pulling together as neighbors and helping one another. If you are interested in helping, the best thing you can do for Nashville is to visit! Do the tourist thing. The Opry Mills Hotel and the OM Mall are closed due to renovation, and they hope to re-open in time for holiday shopping. The Schermerhorn (home of the symphony) is also closed for renovations, but most of the other tourist attractions are open. The Country Music Hall of Fame, Music Row, the Parthenon, the Ryman Auditorium, countless cool boutiques, hidden gem restaurants and cafes, and more are open.

Apparently I am boring the kitten, so I will stop for now. (But I will post again soon—I promise!)