Sunday, March 3, 2013

Choo Chee Shrimp Curry

So, you know that part where I said I like to cook ethnic foods that aren't of my ethnicity?  Well here is exhibit A.  Since the first time I had red curry at a Thai restaurant, I've been absolutely smitten.  It's creamy, it's sweet, it's spicy, it goes well with rice, what's not to love?

I got this recipe originally from a former co-worker of mine who spent a few years in Thailand researching for her dissertation.  She brought some of this along to a potluck and promptly had to email everyone copies of the recipe.  I had put off trying to make it for 2 years because I thought it was exotic and difficult.  Turns out that's not the case at all.  Thank goodness.

Now, I'm lucky because the grocery store across the street from my apartment carries a pretty solid selection of ethnic foods, of all varieties.  So getting my hands on red curry paste, coconut milk, and kaffir lime leaves was pretty easy.  I would have to imagine that large enough grocery stores (or even Whole Foods), would carry a selection if you don't have an Asian market near you. Although, with online groceries now, it shouldn't be that difficult at all.  Even Amazon has a selection:  Coconut Milk, Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste, and Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves.  I'm still on the hunt for fresh lime leaves and basil, which I'm sure would only help, the dried varieties do just fine in a pinch.

One of the most beautiful parts of this recipe is that you can customize it just about any way you want.  Have chicken on hand instead of shrimp?  Not a problem!  Want to add some veggies for crunch?  Not a problem!  Don't like your curry too spicy?  Not a problem!  Actually, about the spiciness, some curry pastes are more potent than others.  I would recommend tasting your curry before you put in the shrimp to see how it is.  I added a fair amount of cayenne and red pepper to mine, because I like my curries to clear my sinuses.  And I didn't even get it that spicy.  I was also using Thai Kitchen brand red curry paste.  As long as you taste as you go, you will have a curry that will suit your own preferences.  Next time I make it, I will definitely kick up the heat a little more and probably throw in some garlic and peas as well.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Quinoa Kısır (tomato and cucumber grain salad)

Kısır is a traditional Turkish bulgur wheat salad that is served as a side dish to a larger meal or as part of a course of small dishes that are shared tapas (or meze if you're Turkish) style meal.  It also happens to be one of my favourite dishes.  It's great as a snack in the summer or, as I tend to eat it, just for lunch with a little bit of yogurt.  It's usually made with finely ground bulgur wheat, but I had a box of quinoa kicking around, and since I've become quite the fan of the so-called supergrain, I thought I'd do some experimenting.  I must say I thought it turned out quite well.

Grown-up Mac and Cheese

I think the best part of having an adult palette is finding new ways to enjoy childhood classics.  (Because who isn't a child at heart?)  This particular rendition of mac and cheese was inspired by a similar dish that I had at a "homestyle favorites" gourmet restaurant around my campus.  Unfortunately, it's a little too pricey for me to frequent (read: I've only been there once).  Their version was made with a gouda/gruyere cheese sauce, with ham, peas, and golden delicious apples.  Needless to say, it was delicious and I was determined to try it again at home (and naturally tailor it a little more to my tastes).