Sunday, April 17, 2011

Every now and then

For a while I used to think that I was the only one who did this: buy instant ramen and then add an egg and veggies for an almost instant meal. I kept this meal a secret because as someone who believes in a) the beauty of real cooking, b) fresh, healthy ingredients void of corn syrup and things I could not pronounce, and c) never eating a meal that comes out of a box/packaging (unless you're an astronaut), here I was buying ramen that is 3 for a dollar (!!!) and actually eating that for a meal. There was always a lot of guilt and secrecy when I snuck into the neighborhood Foodtown and picked up the ramen.

However, I think one night I tipsily let it slip to my friends that this is what I was eating during a week or two dry spell of cooking. To my amazement, I was NOT the only one who was and has done this. Apparently everybody knew about "fancy ramen" and my shame began to dissipiate. However, I did recognize that the 3 for a dollar ramens you buy in the grocery store are packed with MSG and lots of other unknowns so I decided to head to the HMart in Ktown and look for a ramen that was perhaps slightly more authentic and a little bit more made for the Asian palette.

I have yet to find an instant ramen that lacks MSG but I did discover Shirakiki Japanese Style Noodle which has less MSG than others and all the ingredients I can pronounce and know what they are. And to top that, it tastes awesome and in the directions encourages that you add vegetables and other things to amplify the taste of the noodles! Packaging that alleviates guilt! Amazing.

So here it is, a confession: I eat meals out of packages. Sometimes I'm just too tired, too hungry, too lazy, or too annoyed to actually get out the cutting board, knives, pans, and ingredients to make myself a meal. And now that I've worn my stomach on my sleeve about it, I discover that thousands of others are doing the same too! So right now I'm enjoying a big bowl of this instant ramen that I made when I got back from my run. I had come home and was shaking out of hunger and had begun to start the task of making a meal and then decided, what the hell, every now and then it's okay to eat this junk and it's not even entirely junk when you add an egg, two handfuls of spinach, and top it with some kimchi.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Color me curry

Weekends of sun and nothing to do but lounge around and eat are my favorites. Last Saturday, as if to taunt us later during this miserable gray and cold week, was frigid but blasted with sunshines. Andrew and I lazed around the house until we started hankering for some food. I was hit by the desire for waffles, so of course I jumped onto Yelp and found a diner just a few blocks north with rave reviews for their waffles and prices. I scarcely travel north of my apartment even though I know Washington Heights is full of good food and every time I do wander north, I'm reminded by just how much I need to take the time out to explore my hood and its surrounding area!

We ambled over to Coral Diner where I was delighted with the quiet upstairs space and dreamed of days I could spend reading and studying there with an endless cup of coffee and the option to satisfy whatever study-worthy craving I was hit with (when I work, I incessantly snack). I had a delightful waffle -- fluffy on the inside with the right amount if crisp on the outside drowned with a little too much syrup (that warranted a raised eyebrow and comment from my ever loving fiance). Andrew had a burger which he said was good but I didn't try it -- although I did eat all his fries when he went to the bathroom. I can't even really remember what we talked about but it was just a perfect happy diner moment with a kid peeking at us from the booth behind us.

There we decided to invite Andrew's friend Ryan over to the apartment for dinner (yes, we're the kind of people who plan our next meal while we're eating our current meal -- I get it from my grandmother, that's for sure). Ryan grew up with Andrew but I had never met him. Regardless, he's been helping us out with our wedding website (along with two other friends) and has done such a great job for us. I decided on something hearty and something I hadn't done in a while -- curry.

I don't really know where I got my curry recipe from but I think I'm just combining all of my favorite elements of different curries I've had to come up with some mutt curry that really satisfies my palette. We walked off our heavy brunch to my neighborhood C-Town, a grocery store that I've always seen but never been into. It wasn't too bad and we made some friends (aka a mustachioed lady who butted into our conversations and made Andrew reach for things for her) and I was pleased with their bunches of fresh basil with the roots still on them.

Ryan came over when I was on my 3rd glass of Chardonnay and the curry was simmering on the stovetop. It was so nice to finally meet him and for some reason, I like seeing Andrew in his element with his friends -- reconnecting, planning a camping trip, talking about things that don't necessarily involve me. The curry was served over brown "Texmati" rice (Texas-grown brown basmati?) and I don't even know if the guys liked it but I was happy, although I could have probably done with more coconut milk.

After dinner I felt like we were lacking a dessert, especially because Ryan had brought a wonderful sparkling wine to celebrate (belatedly) our engagement. So I dashed outside, grabbed a brownie mix, whipped that up, burned myself on the oven, and voila -- dessert for everybody. Sometimes you got to just go with the flow and make something out of a box.

And that, my friends, is a good day. Sleep, eat, cook, drink, eat. Happy happy, color me curry!

- Chicken breast, cubed
- Golden potatoes, cubed
- Carrots, peeled, cubed
- Red pepper, seeded and diced
- Spanish onion, sliced thinly
- Frozen peas
- Garlic, minced
- Coconut milk (2-3 cans)
- Curry powder
- Chili powder
- Black pepper, fresh ground
- Salt
- Fresh basil
- White cooking wine
- Olive oil

1) Marinate chicken breast in white wine.
2) Heat oil in a large pot that will accomodate the curry. Add garlic.
3) Add onions, cook for 3-5 minutes.
4) In a separate pan, heat olive oil and add cubed chicken. Cook through. Add to pot.
5) Add potatoes and red pepper.
6) Add coconut milk.
7) Add spices to taste (I'm pretty heavy with them b/c the potatoes will soak up a lot of the flavors).
8) Simmer on low heat until potatoes nearly cooked through.
9) Add carrots, frozen peas, and basil.
10) Simmer until ready to serve.
11) Simmer over white or brown rice (brown is better!). Serve with Sriracha!

It is really simple and straightforward and therefore, can very easily become bland. It is important to balance the tastes and flavors -- this is definitely something that you have to keep on taste testing and tweaking.