Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Guest Post: Kelsy's Romantic Dinner

Dear Readers, I'd like to introduce you to one of my best friends...
Kelsy and I have known each other since high school when we thought that Taco John's was the pinnacle of good food. My how things have changed. She's living in France now where food is serious business. She's working on a plan to bring the popularity of the food truck trend to France. You can read more about her cooking adventures on her blog. She wrote me an e-mail describing her romantic Valentine's dinner making the Bombay Sloppy Joes recipe I've posted here on Kitchen Table Friends a few times. So I asked her to share her take on turning a messy, unromantic dish into a nice evening for two. Take it away Kelsy!!

 This is my first time guest-posting on Kitchen Table Friends! Thank you to Allison and Cara for having me. My goal in the kitchen is to constantly reinvent, from modernizing classics like roasted turkey, grilled cheese, meatloaf (coming soon!), etc. to completely new flavors, winging it. I love the idea of passing recipes along to one another, and seeing how they evolve. So glad to be a part of it!


I'm not a romantic. I'm not the girl that tells her partner she loves him everyday, or every time we're on the phone together. I think that romance, and love, should mean something, and that hearing those words over and over again makes them less special. I certainly don't expect my boyfriend to get me flowers on Valentine's Day. Why this day? Why not on March 21st, just because? Romance, for me, takes form in the simple and mundane everyday gestures that we accomplish day in and day out. It's knowing that I'm with someone that cares about me more than anything, and loves me unconditionally. I don't need roses or chocolates or *shudder* cutesy stuffed animals to prove that to me. Jérôme knows me pretty well. Aside from our first year together, we haven't ever celebrated Valentine's Day together, unless you count the time a couple of years ago that we both went in on a Nintendo Wii, calling it our V-Day gift. Plus, who wants to waste time and money going out to a crowded and sub-par restaurant on this occasion, when you could be cozied up at home, drinking cocktails made with the magic of recently imported Guadeloupean rum and home-made ginger ale? Or nestled on the couch between your loved one and your adorable cat, dreaming about your next vacation? Or in the kitchen, working together to prepare a fun and delicious meal that has nothing to do with hearts and pink roses and candy but just, us? All I really wanted for Valentine's Day was good food and good company, and that's exactly what I got. Knowing that Jérôme doesn't care about Valentine's Day either but wanting to cater to his tastes (in honor of the day, why not?), I concocted a simple man friendly, America meets India meets Italy, home cooked meal that I knew would please both of us.

Gingery cocktails (an aphrodisiac is always a hit with the guys!). Fresh, crisp coleslaw. Sloppy joes with a twist. Garlicky baked baguette. Hand-cut french fries. These, my friends, were the keys to his heart.

fresh, crisp coleslaw (recipe found here)

The idea came to me around 4:00 p.m. yesterday while I was at work. After a few text messages back and forth, Jérôme popped the question: "What's for dinner tonight?" I sheepishly responded that we had the choice of leftover curry potage, leftover crustless quiche with salmon, or leftover chicken with tomatoes and ginger. As usual, he didn't really seem to mind, but something about the day made me think that it couldn't be leftovers.

My brain did a quick scan of what we had in the fridge: ground beef. I'd already made meatloaf the week before... And then it hit me. I knew exactly how I would win him over: with something he had no preconceived notion about, and would likely find odd (he is French, afterall), but that would blow his mind. It didn't hurt that I, being full of preconceived notions, was also dying to put my own spin on this "classic." I immediately knew what would go with these sloppy joes: coleslaw (because I love it on a sandwich) and hand-cut french fries. Not to mention that the sloppy joes were to be served on garlic bread. Made from fresh baguette.

It was the perfect romantic evening: as I began browning the vegetables for my sauce, Jérôme seductively helped me tie my apron on. As he was cutting the french fries, I snuck up behind him and kissed his neck. As the ingredients were slowly simmering together, we enjoyed a very ginger-and-alcohol-packed fizzy drink and laughed until our sides hurt. We stared at each other from across the table as we attempted to eat our sloppy joes in some sort of civilized manner, and laughed even harder when we were both covered in spicy red sauce. The rest is history.


Spicy sloppy joes Inspired by Bombay sloppy joes from the Food Network (and recommended by Allison!) and Bolognese sauce from Smitten Kitchen The recipes for the coleslaw, frites and ginger ale cocktail will be coming soon on alamericaine!  

Ingredients: 1 kg ground beef (for leftovers!)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 T olive oil
1 roasted bell pepper, seeds and skin removed, diced
3 cloves of roast garlic, roughly chopped
3 cloves of fresh garlic, finely chopped
4-5 T smoked paprika
3 T ground ginger
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
2 T ground cumin
1 T piment d'espelette or other mildish chili flakes
1 T crushed, dried chiles
1 T sea salt 3/4 T pepper
3 T tomato paste
3 C red wine
1 T ketchup
2 T honey
2 T brown sugar
4 roma tomatoes, blanched and skin removed, roughly chopped

If you can, you should try to take your time with this dish. My sloppy joes were finished in about 2 hours total. Start by heating your olive oil over high heat in a very large skillet or dutch oven. Add your onions, carrots, gingers and garlics, and cook about 15 minutes, stirring often (if not constantly) and browning the vegetables. Add the bell pepper, spices, salt and pepper. Cook another five minutes or so, before adding the ground beef. You want to really brown it, without burning of course. Lower the heat slightly and keep an eye on it; you can probably safely start preparation of your side dish while waiting for the meat to cook through (it should burn less easily than the vegetables). Once the meat is thoroughly browned, turn the heat down to medium-low and add the tomato paste. Don't hesitate to taste the mixture and adjust the spice levels now. Add in the chile powder and flakes, along with the brown sugar, honey and ketchup. Let this mixture thicken slightly, cooking for about five to ten minutes more. Now it's time to add the blanched tomatoes. Give it another few minutes before adding the finishing touch (other than minor spice adjustments), the red wine, starting with two cups. This will give the dish that extra something, and brings a lot of body and flavor to it. That's it! I turned the heat down to low and let this just barely simmer for about another hour after the last step. You can add extra red wine depending on how much sauce you want in your sloppy joes, just remember to let it cook another 15-20 after the last addition. Bon appétit!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Notes on a recipe

Here's what I did differently:

Added potatoes.  I love potatoes and they are nearly a requirement for any soup I make that doesn't have beans.   One small potato added a nice texture. Plus, potatoes and leeks seem to be best buddies (in soup, frittatas, on pizza, etc.).

Experimented with spices.  I added 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin seeds and mustard seeds to the oil while it was heating in the pan.  And I added 1 teaspoon cumin. Added a few dried red chiles to turn up the heat a little. 

Used less of some ingredients. Cream (3/4 Cup).  Curry powder (1 teaspoon).

Just a few changes while keeping the main idea of the soup intact.  The results were so delicious!!  So much so that it made it back to the menu this week. I'm glad I took notes.  It's important to take notes while you're experimenting with a recipe, or while you are still eating it.  That way you can be sure your memory is fresh!    I like to use adorable kitchen sticky notes like these....

I use the little page flags for flagging recipes in my food magazines!  With an extra piece of clear tape or two, these make great little labels for my glass containers in the pantry too. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weekly Menu February 26-March 3

Here is what's on the list this week.  Check back for some fun posts from Kitchen Table Friends this week!

Ryan's Turkey Chilli

Pasta with broccoli and fake sausage  from Everyday Food March 2012-- The recipe isn't online yet, but this one is pretty close...

Salmon patties with beans

Spaghetti with brussel sprouts and bacon

Inger-Anne's Indian corn soup with chicken.
      I added some things to this recipe and it was so good I'm already going to make it again.  Look for a post about this tomorrow.  

Have a great week everyone....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Weekly Menu Feb. 20-26

Hello Kitchen Table Friends!

Another busy week here in Des Moines.  I have blogging plans up my sleeve, including a post by a special guest, but I have a research paper/presentation that takes priority.  Things may be a little quiet at the kitchen table this week.  But I didn't want to leave you hanging...  here's the weekly menu.  Full of old favorites.  I like how the blog has become a way for me to catalog my favorite recipes.  While you do see many repeats in my weekly menu, this is really what I eat week after week.  I know what works and what I like! 

Frittata with roasted vegetables such as carrots, sweet potato, leeks and and goat cheese.

Cara's sweet potato and black bean burrito.  I'm still in love with it!

Inger-Anne's Indian Corn Soup with Chicken

Yogurt marinated chicken with spiced, roasted potatoes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Indian Breakfast!

Allison, your sweet quinoa breakfast snack inspired me to post about Indian breakfast here in Mysore.

Standard breakfast at a "stand-up" cafe is fluffy white pancakes called Dosas. These are made of fermented beans and rice, and served with a spicy coconut chutney and some veg. Idley is also common. I believe it is made of a similar fermented batter, then set in a mold and steamed in a pressure cooker. The result is a hot, cake-like texture, served with the spicy coconut chutney, and a tomato based sambar. These are served savoury and spicy! Eat with your hands, scooping the side dishes as you go. Don't forget the chai tea!

I don't eat this everyday, its a bit too spicy for me to have regularly. I do like to stop in for some pancakes with dates and honey or muesli with curd from one of the more western cafes near the yoga school. But once in awhile, I go all out with an Indian breakfast!

Set Dosa, with coconut chutney and cooked veg (cabbage, perhaps?)

Idley, on a banana leaf. With sambar and coconut chutney.
Chai tea in a little glass. Tea, Milk, spices if you like, and sweetened with Jaggery.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Sweet Quinoa Snack

As I wrote yesterday, most of what I blog about is dinner.  However, I make lots of other fun stuff too, it's just not as strategic as my weekly dinner preparations.  So here's something different.

I decided to make this quinoa recipe that several of my friends pinned on their Pinterest pages (which I don't use that much for food because I have the blog!).  It looked sooo delicious.  In my kitchen, quinoa is usually cooked in vegetable broth and eaten with savory things like cheese and vegetables.  Making a sweet more breakfasty, or after school snack in my case, version was very intriguing.   I didn't have any of the ingredients the recipe used (she even used a different kind of quinoa), so I made my own version which is basically the same method, just different flavors.

1/3 C quinoa (yellow/white)
1 C vanilla almond milk
half a bananna, sliced
a handfull of walnuts, crumbled
a generous drizzle of honey
several sprinkles of cinnamon to taste

rinse quinoa.
bring almond milk to a low boil (careful not to let it boil over, keep the flame medium and watch it) when milk starts to bubble at the sides, add the quinoa.
add cinnamon.
return to low boil and turn the heat to medium.
cook for about 10 minutes or until quinoa is done and desired amount of liquid remains.
add to boil and sprinkle with toppings and honey!

I like mine a little soupy.

It tasted like breakfast (and this is very similar to the hot cereal that I eat most mornings for breakfast). Which is ok with me because I like breakfast and don't mind eating breakfast foods as snacks one bit!

Enjoy on a cold winter afternoon. I did....
It was delicious.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Weekly Menu February 13-18

It's Winter.  I'm taking 12 credits this semester. And, I work. It's a busier than usual week at my house. So, let's use the crock pot!  This week's menu includes two soups to warm us up... and should be relatively easy to prepare with limited time.  In planning the menu this week I browsed food gawker and came up with recipes from some other food blogs out there.  I also "phoned a friend",  actually we Skyped, for a recipe.  I love hearing about others' go-to recipes..

salmon Patties and steamed broccoli (one of my go-to meals)
Jordan's go-to baked fish with veggies.
Goes well with white fish such as sole, tilapia, etc.  Cut up a few medium sized tomatoes, one good sized zuchinni, chopped onion.  throw in about half a can of chickpeas and throw it all in a baking dish, drizzle all over with olive oil, cumin (go heavy on the cumin!), paprika (also consider using turmeric, coriander, garlic, and/or fennel) and a little bit of cayenne pepper, cover and throw in the oven, 450° for about 35 min. 

I mostly blog about dinner here, but thought I'd include a breakfast or snack recipe for a sweet, cinnamon quinoa.  I'll probably try it sometime this week.  

Have a great week everyone.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thanks Cara and Anu!

Hello! Inspired by Cara's post about her cooking class, I couldn't wait to make Anu's lentil recipe.  It went perfectly with the yogurt marinated chicken I had planned.  On a cold night, it was prefect to crank up the oven to 500 to roast the chicken and make something a little spicy.

 I had all of the ingredients on hand!  Even curry leaves (they can be found at Namaste Indian grocery here in Des Moines.)! They were required for a round of Indian cooking Ryan and I did a few months ago, and upon reading that this recipe called for them, I remembered we stored the extra in the freezer.   I used split red lentils and a 16 oz can of tomato sauce instead of fresh tomatoes. I can't wait to try this when we have some fresh garden tomatoes!

The yogurt marinade on this chicken makes it super tender and juicy.  I usually half the recipe, but use the full amount of yogurt and double the amount of spice (1 tsp. each coriander and cumin).  

Friday, February 10, 2012

Anu's Delicious South Indian Daal

Good afternoon from India! I've been here just over a week, and I have already had so many wonderful food adventures! There are several Indian ladies around town who have yoga students over for lunch. Just call ahead, tell her how many are coming, and at 1 pm a delicious home cooked meal is served at their table!

We are in Mysore, so this is all south indian, vegetarian cooking. Some local favorite cooking ladies are Shaila, Nagarathna, Anu, and Sandhya (Sandhya even has a cookbook published. If you want to cook South Indian food I assure you she is the real deal! I ate at her house yesterday).

Curry leaves and chilli peppers, very important ingredients!

Curious to learn some authentic Indian cooking skills, I signed up for a cooking class with Anu. There were 8 or so of us, and she first showed us the spices she keeps in her round Masala tiffin (turmeric, mustard seed, coriander, cumin, black peppercorns, fenugreek, and fennel seed.) Next she had little bowls of each of the different grains and legumes she keeps in her kitchen. Very helpful! The shelves of the grocery stores here are filled with these, but I only recognize a few).

Masala tiffin to keep all spices handy (round, on the left) and different lentils, beans and rice.
Anu describes her well-stocked Indian pantry.
Chai tea break!
Anu in her kitchen.
 After a break for some delicious chai tea, we joined her in her kitchen to make the day's menu: Daal, Sweet Pumpkin Delight, and Chapatis.

 I've included Anu's Daal recipe below. It was truly delicious. It seems the secret is in the sauce. Follow her instructions for cooking the spices in the oil, and you'll have a great base for many Indian dishes.

Kitchens here are equipped with two, perhaps 4 propane fueled burners, and that's it! Pressure cookers are very popular for fast cooking hard lentils and beans.

You can find more recipes on her adorable blog:

Serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 cups Moong, masoor, and cowpeas, or other legumes, in any combination
5 cups Water or as required
2 tbsp Oil (Anu used rice bran oil)
½ tsp mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 tsp Cumin seeds
4 Green chillies, slit 1
one-inch piece ginger, freshly grated
4 cloves Garlic, finely chopped OR a pinch of asafetida
1 cup onion finely chopped
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 cups Tomatoes finely chopped or puréed
Salt to taste
3 tbsp Coriander leaves finely chopped
1 tbsp Ghee

Adding the spices.
Boil the lentils until soft, or pressure cook them to two whistles.  You may use either one of the listed lentils or a combination of all three in equal proportions. In a heated pot, add the oil.  Add the mustard seeds and heat until they pop or sputter.  Add the cumin seeds, curry leaves, and chillies and fry for 30 seconds; then add the garlic, ginger, and onions and fry on a medium flame until the onions are opaque.  Add the turmeric powder and fry for 15 seconds on a low flame.  Add the tomatoes and mix well.  Add ½ cup water and cook on a medium to low flame until the tomatoes are soft.  Add the cooked legumes and salt.  Water may be added to obtain right consistency.  Bring to a boil and turn off the flame.  Garnish with ghee and coriander leaves.  Serve hot with rotis or rice and green salad with onions.  Squeeze lime juice over the lentils in your plate, and add a few raw onion slices just before eating to create a divine taste.

The full meal included many dishes, including beets, a cucumber salad, and a delicious sweet/desserty dish known as kesari bath. Enjoy the photos, the recipe, and if you do make it you should let Anu know, she would be so happy!

Your friend,


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cooking the Cover

The cover of the January issue of bon Appetit has been beckoning me for over a month.  When I turned to the recipe and saw that it required pastry I got scared.  Then there was something about the inclusion of eggs that didn't challenge me enough though... I already make frittatas on a regular basis so why try this?  I just decided I didn't want to make it.  But I kept looking at it and I finally sat down and read the damn recipe.  There were a ton of roasted vegetables (hooray!) and I was really craving that, so I just realized that no matter that I was scared of the pastry really did want to make it... and finally, this week, I did!  By the way, since I have a food processor, making pasty isn't that difficult, I just need to build my confidence. 

I didn't use eggplant but used zucchini instead.  I used half and half instead of heavy cream.  It took about two hours to make it.  IT WAS GOOD!

There are two lesons here friends:  1.  Don't be afraid of the recipe just because it calls for a technique that you aren't quite comfortable with.  Use is as an opportunity to practice!
2.  When you don't like an ingredient in a recipe... substitute!

It looks pretty good, huh?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Weekly Menu

Last week's Indian food was great, and we had plenty of leftovers so we just got to those fish tacos last night.  Let me tell you... they are tasty! What makes it for me, is the sauce!! This is a recipe we go to time and time again.  Try it.

This week's menu includes a lot of veggies. I haven't done a lot of veggie roasting lately and that really sounded good to me as I made the menu.  Perhaps because it finally feels like winter now that we got a decent snowfall this weekend.

Homemade Pizza!! I have seen a lot of people posting about homemade pizza lately on facebook. This makes me happy! I love homemade pizza. It makes so much more sense than delivery or frozen pizza... you can choose your toppings, it's less greasy and it costs far less.

Pasta with Roasted Vegetables inspired by Rosemary Pappardelle with Roasted Winter Vegetable and Red wine Ragout from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison 
I plan to use whole wheat linguini, roast some vegetables and go from there...

Tandoori Style Chicken from Martha Stewart with quinoa and chickpeas.  This marinade leaves the chicken very juicy and tangy. I try to get it done so it can marinate overnight and all day while I'm at work.

Roasted Vegetable Tart from the cover of the January 2012 Bon Appetit.  Again, this will be "inspired" by this recipe, as I did'nt want to get all the ingredients here (I don't like eggplant) but really like the premise of the dish.  This will, however be my first time cooking with fennel!

Thanks to all the readers out there for your feedback and comments.  I love writing this blog and sharing it with all of you... it's great to know that people find it useful. 
What are you making this week?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Staying Organized.

It snowed all day Saturday so I took some time to reorganize the spice cabinet.


It's not easy to keep things organized in this cabinet because I use them all the time. I have three shelves and two spinners.  I try to keep the spinners alphabetized.  The first shelf is the most often used spices... salt, pepper, bay leaves, cumin, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, chili powder, etc.
The second shelf is less often used spices... cloves, fennel seeds, ground mustard, etc.
The top shelf is a mix of jars for items that came in bags or other odd containers and other less often used spices such as coriander seeds, star anise, a big refill size box of kosher salt, and black peppercorns. 

I  have so many spices, and like to be able to see everything, so I use the spinners, but they do take up a lot of space.  Someday Ryan may build some organizing gadget for me to keep the spices in... but for now this will have to do.  I just have to keep on top of the organization, which can be tough when things get crazy in the kitchen, or I have new spices to work into the mix.