Posts Tagged ‘spicy’


For the many. (GREEN CURRY PASTE)

September 14, 2012

World Map: Ink on Paper, 2007

Curry means different things to different people and cultures and that’s cool except when you only think of one and leave out all the others. When I was a kid it was a noxious yellow powder that my mom put in some sort of vegetable casserole, turning everything in the pan a florescent color. Bad news. By now I have long since (almost) buried that memory under many happy moments eating curries from the Caribbean, India and Nepal, China, Japan and different parts of Southeast Asia.

A common bond that links this ambiguously named dish across the universe is that a blend of spices and aromatics usually comes together to create the base flavor. The curry could be saucy or dry, include any number of veg, protein and/or starches. It can be tart, sweet, spicy, ridiculously spicy, etc. The layout will be different in each region or in each town or even in each household. It’s a personal thing.

I have been experimenting with curry pastes reminiscent of Southeast Asia. Recently I made a green curry that is loosely Thai-inspired but really just a warm, rich and satisfying blend of herbs, spices and alliums. To activate the ingredients in the paste it is best to gently saute it for a moment in the pot and then stir in whatever liquid mixture (water, stock, coconut milk, beer, etc) you like. Simmer until the flavors fuse. A little bit of tweaking with salt, sugar lime juice, vinegar and a delicious ‘curry’ is born.

When I served this at a luncheon, I put an array of garnishes next to a pot of coconut milk-based green goodness so each person partaking in the meal could make their own perfect bowl using the curry broth as either a soup or a sauce, or not at all! With things like soba noodles, dry sauted tofu, chilies, marinated seaweed, mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, tiny tomatoes and fresh herbs everyone decorated their bowl. It was an interesting exercise in creating a balanced meal and everyone made a unique curry all their own.


(makes about 1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

15 black peppercorns

6 dried chilies, soaked in water and de-stemmed or three fresh chilies, chopped*

1/3 cup shallot, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves and stems

7 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 tablespoon ginger, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoons lemongrass, chopped fine (reserve stalks)

1 lime, zested

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon vegetable or flavorless oil

  • Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet until frgarant, about 5 minutes. Grind to a powder with the peppercorns in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. 
  • Add the rest of the ingredients to the mortar and pestle (or a food processor) and grind to a fine-textured paste.
  • Store in a lidded container in the fridge for one month or freeze for up to 3 months.

* more chilies = more heat… go for it!

(I’m not pretending to be primitive or anything. I throw that stuff in the processor.)


You know you love it. (SRIRACHA)

July 10, 2012

Aren’t you glad to know.



March 31, 2012

As the weather warms it is natural to lighten up one’s cooking style. Cravings change and colors make a comeback as the Earth wakes from her dark slumber. One of the things that helps me bang out dinners that are quick (and acceptable for pre-bikini season eating) is having a few jars of salad dressing type things waiting for me in the fridge.

A good dressing is easy to whip up and can make proud almost any flavor profile. Perfect when tossed with leafy lettuces, these concoctions get even more use in my kitchen over grains, noodles, beans, grilled meats/veg and steamed tofu. From a spicy smooth peanut sauce to a chunky sundried tomato and fresh herb dressing, they are an indispensable part of the hustling spring/summer repertoire.

Pictured above is a throw-together dinner that was good! Glass noodles were tossed with fresh herbs and sliced jalapeños and topped with some leftover roasted fish and carrot-daikon pickles made using the basic brine in the last post. A drizzle of this powerfully savory Soy Garlic dressing ties all the stuff together. The recipe which is listed below is versatile, it works as a dressing, dipping sauce or marinade. It would also be super-duper for seasoning the broth of a gingered chicken soup or a kale soup or something similar which would be delicious right now as, even though spring keeps trying to rise, lady Earth just kinda wants to sleep in like a hungover teenager.


(makes about 1 cup)

2 tablespoons sugar

1-2 small red chiles, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons lime juice

6 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup oil

drizzle of sesame oil (optional)

black pepper

• Place all ingredients a lidded jar or container, stir to dissolve the sugar.

• Replace lid and shake vigorously to combine.

• Check for seasoning. Adjust.

Here is the world’s quickest peanut sauce since I mentioned it… Good for everything.


(makes about 2 cups)

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

2 limes, juiced or more to taste

1 clove garlic, grated

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 drizzle toasted sesame oil

cayenne pepper and/or hot sauce to taste, don’t be shy

  • Measure all ingredients into a mixing bowl. 
  • Whisk until thoroughly combined and season to taste. 
  • Thin with water if needed.     
I love it when a meal comes together.


January 13, 2012

I talk about Bloody Marys plenty. I love to drink them, I love to make them. Seems to be the drink that has a preparation most like cooking (and drinking it is alot like eating). And though I am loyal to a sturdy classic drink, I love the bells and whistles that people come up with to adorn a Bloody Mary making it achieve even more than its perfect basic self. Seven kinds of seafood on a stick, gold dusted rim or 30 year old scotch are not necessary to the success of a Bloody Mary, but I wouldn’t turn them down either. The beauty is in the flexibility. It is a kind of very sophisticated open relationship.

It’s not about one particular recipe so much as striking a balance which can be achieved in many ways, adventurous and non. Go ahead! Use fish sauce and hot pepper purees, roasted tomatoes and wine. It just needs to consists of that savory drinkability, slight thickness, peppery bits and stand up to a decent spill of vodka (or whatever spirit one chooses to use). My ideal also provides a slow heat and a briny under-layer. To get it right I usually taste, adjust, taste, adjust, etc. just like cooking. Some batches are better than others and some kill it! Sometimes all the favorite ingredients are on hand and often there is creative substitution. And then there’s mixing drinks with that person who insists on their own carte blanche move (i.e. my friend who always uses dijon mustard). It’s cool, it all works and I’ll drink it to hell. But I’ll always have my own crazy concoction to go home to.


(makes about 10 drinks)

6 cups tomato juice

1/4 cup horseradish

1/4 cup pickled jalapeño juice (or dill pickle juice)

2 tablespoons Pick-a-Peppa sauce

4-5 shakes Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

juice of one lime

1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon celery salt or regular salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
dash cayenne
a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce until desired spicy-ness is reached. (I like Texas Pete)
  • Stir all ingredients together in a pitcher.
  • Fill a short glass with ice.
  • Pour 2 ounces of your favorite vodka (I like Tito’s) and approximately 6-8 ounces of Mix over the ice and stir. Garnish with Spanish olives, pickles* of any sort and/or celery.

* Lately I’ve been making these easy quick pickles as a garnish. They perfect for stirring up a drink but they are also great on sandwiches, in salads, as a side dish, a snack. This is not limited to carrots, celery and string beans. Try with cabbage, radish, cauliflower, peppers, onions or beets, etc.


2 cups of vegetables (approximately)

1/3 cup vinegar (white, cider, rice or white wine)

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • Peel, slice and prep your vegetables accordingly and place them in a bowl. 
  • Put vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  • Pour vinegar mixture over the vegetables and wait 10 minutes. Veg should be submerged in liquid. 
  • Let stand in the brine for at least 2 hours or up to 24. When cooled place in the fridge.
  • Drain and enjoy within a few days.

Recipes are guidelines not rules!


Useful as hell. (VEGETABLE GRILL PAN)

July 8, 2011

Grilling is the carnivore’s dream. Firing up the backyard bbq is a perfectly acceptable reason to cook up two, three, even four animals at a time. And I am totally down with that. But this post is to champion the underdog: vegetables. In support of vegetables everywhere, it could not be easier to add them to your grilling repertoire than with a good old vegetable grilling pan. Just prep your veggie (or fruit!) selection, drop it into the pan and place over the flame. You can shake it around, you can keep it still, but don’t take it off until charred to your preferred shade of black. I am not one for extraneous gadgets and all-around extra ‘stuff’ but the vegetable grill pan is a real summertime pal.

Zucchini, pineapple, jalapeno and shallots. Just chop into bite sized pieces and toss into the grill pan. When done add basil and lime, s + p.

Blackened Brussels with orange zest vinaigrette.

Experimenting es bueno.