Thursday, April 23, 2015

Help for the Busy Cook: Quick Panang Curry

My life is so full and blessed lately that I feel like bragging, but I will spare you all the details. I'll just say that renovations on the house are going well, I am surrounded by family and friends that I adore, and I have a job that I really love.

All these things keep me really busy all day, and at night I fall in bed with a smile on my face and sleep like a rock. The next morning I wake up eager to see what the new day has in store. I know that sounds a little "Pollyana", but life is good right now and I am loving every minute.

With everything that is going on my weeknight cooking has taken on a new twist. Where I once took great enjoyment in taking the slow route with my evening meals, time has forced me to accept a little help every now and then. I still haven't cracked open a box of Hamburger Helper, but I have found a shortcut to a delicious Thai dish that I'd like to share with you.

One of the things my family really likes is a great Thai curry. Fortunately, there are some very good curry pastes available that make a delicious exotic meal really easy to put on the table. If you prefer to make your own curry paste, I endorse this one from Epicurious, but if you are crunched for time, I really like one made by Mae Ploy. With this paste as a starter, just a few additional ingredients and a big bowl of rice, you have a great meal in no time at all.

Panang Curry

I like chicken or shrimp, but this recipe also makes a delicious vegetable curry. Just replace the protein with cooked potatoes (sweet, russet or a combination of both) and increase the peppers and onions, and you will have a curry that vegetarians, vegans and carnivores will all love.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound chicken (cut into 2" pieces) or shelled and deveined large shrimp
1/2 of a large sweet yellow onion, cut into strips from pole to pole
1/2 of a large red bell pepper, cut into strips from end to end
1 tablespoon panang curry paste (this will give you a slightly spicy flavor)
1 - 14 ounce can coconut milk
1- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons chopped peanuts
1 large bunch Thai basil
Cooked jasmine rice (about 1 cup per person)

Pour vegetable oil into a large frying pan set over medium high heat.  Once the oil is shiny and hot, add the chicken and saute until it is just cooked through. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate; set aside.

In the same hot pan, add the onion and bell pepper. Saute until they just start to soften. Add the chicken to the vegetables and stir. Add the curry paste and coconut milk. Stir with a wooden spoon until the curry paste starts to dissolve and the liquid starts to turn orange. Add sugar a little at a time tasting afer each addition until you are happy with the flavor. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes or until mixture is heated through.

Serve with rice, chopped peanuts and Thai basil.

Serves 4 normal people or 2 - 3 at my house.

*Like your curry a little creamier? Just add a splash of cream or milk and stir well.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An Evening At Settembre Cellars and a Little Roasted Tomato and Sweet Onion Spread

Sometimes I feel like I am the only person in the world that isn't a wine connoisseur . . . or acts like one. This was driven home to me a couple of days ago when I accompanied my friend Abbe of This Is How I Cook to a wine event in Boulder at Settembre Cellars. I don't know if Abbe is a wine expert, but she has several cases sitting around her house and she talks a pretty good game, so that's good enough for me.

I, on the other hand, like what I like. I think Cupcake makes a pretty good Savignon Blanc. I like a nice medium bodied and not too sweet (oh, look at me) Riesling from Pearmund Cellars in Virginia, and I'll drink anything that says Montrachet or Chateauneuf du Pape on the label if someone else is buying. You see, spending more than $10.00 on a bottle of anything really hits me where it hurts.

So, a trip to Settembre Cellars is just the kind of tutorial that this girl needed. On this evening, owners Tracy and Blake Eliasson hosted several of us in their wine making and tasting facility in Boulder to introduce us to their sublime handcrafted wines.

Since 2007, Blake and Tracy have been making their wines from 100% Colorado grown grapes. Influenced by winemakers in Italy and France, their bottle aged wines showcase the unique flavors of the grapes from this state's high altitude vineyards.

Although Blake and Tracy are both committed to the creation and success of their brand, Blake is the hands on winemaker in charge of every aspect of their wines. From procuring the grapes, to uncorking the bottles in their tasting room, Blake oversees each and every step. His dedication and passion for his craft can be tasted in every sip.

Blake explaining his wine making philosophy and process.

If you would like to discover Settembre Cellars wines for yourself, their winery and tasting room is a great place to start. They are located at 1501 Lee Hill Road in Boulder, Colorado. Their opening hours are Thursday to Sunday, 1- 6 pm. For more information about the winery and events, please click here. Perfect for a date night, or a get together with friends who enjoy great wine, you might want to put this on your radar for a fun and different destination this spring and summer.

So I'm still not a wine connoisseur, but with help from Tracy and Blake I did learn that I adore Settembre Cellars wines, but especially their Syrah and Chardonnay. Thanks to their partners on this evening, Savory Spice Shop and Cured, I also learned how different foods and spices can complement and enhance the flavors of wine . . . or vice versa.

During our tasting Tracy mentioned how much she and Blake enjoy it when their patrons bring an urban picnic to their place to enjoy with their wine since they do not sell food. When she mentioned this I knew I would have to share one of my favorite portable foods on this post. To me, nothing goes better with a glass of wine than something a little bit salty with maybe just a hint of sweet, so I figure an easy little Italian inspired tomato spread would go perfectly. My recipe for an oven roasted tomato and sweet onion spread is delicious with anything, but especially some crusty bread, a good friend or two and a great bottle of wine.

Roasted Tomato and Sweet Onion Spread

6 medium size Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/4" slices
A good drizzle (about 1 - 2 tablespoons) olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium size sweet yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay tomato slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet covered in parchment. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place tomatoes in the preheated oven and roast for 20 - 25 minutes or until they are shriveled and have a dried appearance. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Heat vegetable oil in a medium size frying pan that has been set over medium high heat. Once oil is hot, add the chopped onions and cook, stirring often until they are soft and caramelized at the edges. Add garlic and cook for one minute longer; remove from heat and cool.

Place tomatoes and onions in a food processor or blender and puree. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Yields approximately 1 cup

To serve:
1 baguette, sliced into 1/2" pieces, buttered and toasted
Assorted olives, cheeses and meats