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Thai Pumpkin and Salmon Red Curry

18 Feb

thai pumpkin and salmon red curry

Pumpkin and salmon might seem like a strange combination, but all doubts will leave your mind once you taste this curry. I first had this curry at Thai X-ing, an amazing DC restaurant, where it was one of a variety of courses on their set menu. While everything there was delicious, this dish in particular stood out and still comes to mind (I spend a lot of time thinking about food). The tender and sweet pumpkin melts into the spicy, creamy, curry sauce, thickening it, and the salmon adds another dimension of richness. This version captured my memory of the dish well and was far easier than I thought it would be to throw together. The most time-consuming part was chopping up the pumpkin (I think what I got was actually a kabocha squash, and it had a particular thick, knobbly skin) and prepping the salmon (it seems to be the trend around here to leave the bones in the fish when selling it). I’ve been eating this curry for just about every meal since I made it, served over quinoa (though rice will be just as good and more authentic), and I’m already planning for when I can make it again.

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Nana’s Original (Manakeesh bil Zaatar)

20 Jan

nana's original

Despite being half-Lebanese, it wasn’t until the summer of 2009 that I was able to spend an extended period of time in Lebanon. I was studying at the American University of Beirut, taking two classes (one, a fascinating abnormal psychology course, and the other, “the art of honeymaking,” a class on beekeeping – I’ll share some great stories from this class another time, rest assured) and spending every other weekend visiting my grandparents (who I’d only met once before) in a small town in the north of Lebanon. Needless to say, it was a scary and amazing experience for me, not to mention a formative one.

It’s not just culture that’s tied up with food; I find that food is one of the best ways to stir up memories, good and bad. Every year, my dad visits his parents in Lebanon and brings back manakeesh bil zaatar, a Lebanese flatbread brushed with the fragrant spice mix, made by my grandmother. That summer, I was able to enjoy it fresh, while sitting besides my grandparents.

As soon as I spied the menu for a recently opened restaurant in Georgetown called Muncheez Mania, I knew they were serving up Lebanese street food (even if they don’t advertise it as such). And I was pleasantly surprised to find that their “Nana’s Original” wrap – essentially manakeesh bil zaatar with labne (a tangy spreadable cheese which I’ve included a bonus recipe for in this post), cucumber, tomato, mint, and olives – immediately brought back memories of my time in Lebanon (although, of course, it didn’t live up to what my grandmother makes). Here’s my personal rendition of the sandwich, also not as good as my grandmother’s, but it’ll have to do.

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Pig in the Garden Salad

23 Dec

pig in the garden salad

I recently visited Nashville and happened to stop in at a chain called Jim ‘n Nick’s BBQ. I had been told that their “Pig in the Garden” salad was outstanding, and although I usually like my pulled pork in sandwich form, I went with the recommendation. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the crisp lettuce and crunchy almonds were the perfect complement to the pulled pork, and the use of both salad dressing and barbecue sauce bordered on ingenious. Of course, it didn’t hurt that there was also bacon involved. Shortly after returning home, I set about attempting to recreate this salad, and I’m pleased to report that this homemade version is not only delicious but also simple to make. My rendition omits croutons (because I’m not really a fan) and grape tomatoes (because they’re not in season), but feel free to include these to be truer to the original.

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Palak Chaat

23 Sep

Palak Chaat

I recently had the pleasure of dining at Rasika, a very popular DC Indian restaurant, and trying their famous palak chaat. This dish is an amazing medley of textures and flavors, with crispy spinach playing off a sour-sweet chutney and sweetened yogurt, and I knew almost immediately that I had to try my best to recreate it. I’ve dedicated this week to a series of posts on recreating all the pieces of Rasika’s palak chaat. This post is the third in a series of three. See post 1: Chaat Masala and post 2: Date Tamarind Chutney.

Creating the perfect crispy spinach was the difficult piece of this recipe. Going off of all the information I could glean from my dining experience and some internet research, I first tried frying the spinach with a light coating of gram flour, baking soda, and salt. This was a disaster; the batter kept burning in the oil, and the spinach was either not crispy enough or crumbled apart unpleasantly when eaten. After some experimentation with oven temperature, I found that not only was it much easier to bake the spinach, but it yielded much better results.

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Date Tamarind Chutney

21 Sep

Date Tamarind Chutney

I recently had the pleasure of dining at Rasika, a very popular DC Indian restaurant, and trying their famous palak chaat. This dish is an amazing medley of textures and flavors, with crispy spinach playing off a sour-sweet chutney and sweetened yogurt, and I knew almost immediately that I had to try my best to recreate it. I’ve dedicated this week to a series of posts on recreating all the pieces of Rasika’s palak chaat. This post is the second in a series of three. See post 1: Chaat Masala and post 3: Palak Chaat.

This date tamarind chutney balances the sweetness of dates and jaggery sugar with the sourness of tamarind. The recipe is very simple, and you don’t even need to worry about using the exact ingredient amounts specified in the recipe; the sweetness of dates and sourness of tamarinds can vary greatly so don’t be afraid to adjust the flavors to your liking.

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Chaat Masala

19 Sep

Chaat Masala

I recently had the pleasure of dining at Rasika, a very popular DC Indian restaurant, and trying their famous palak chaat. This dish is an amazing medley of textures and flavors, with crispy spinach playing off a sour-sweet chutney and sweetened yogurt, and I knew almost immediately that I had to try my best to recreate it. I’ve dedicated this week to a series of posts on recreating all the pieces of Rasika’s palak chaat. This post is the first in a series of three. See post 2: Date Tamarind Chutney and post 3: Palak Chaat.

Chaat masala is a classic Indian spice mix with some unusual ingredients. Along with the more familiar coriander and cumin, black salt features prominently in the mix, adding an interesting mineral taste, while amchur, a powder made from dried unripe mangoes, imparts a tartness. The resulting mix is sour, spicy, and very flavorful. It is great on nuts or fried chickpeas, mixed into yogurt, on a salad, or over fresh fruit.

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