kheema

kheema

This is a favorite meal of ours for those nights when we don’t have a lot of time, we hardly have any fresh vegetables in the house, and we want something with a lot of flavor and a definite comfort factor. Kheema is like the Indian equivalent of chile con carne, or sloppy Joe mix, or spaghetti sauce. There are many different versions – probably as many as there are cooks who make it – and it can be tweaked to accommodate whatever you have in your pantry, as long as you have 1. ground meat 2. chile peppers (fresh or dried) 3. canned tomato and 4. spices. Onions and garlic are helpful, but not absolutely required.

My favorite kheema recipe for when we have no fresh chiles in the house is from Madhur Jaffrey’s first book, An Invitation to Indian Cooking. It’s warm with onion and whole sweet spices as well as dried red chiles, and tastes wonderful. But our current favorite kheema is from the Parsi cookbook My Bombay Kitchen. It uses whole slit green chiles as well as cayenne pepper, so it has a complex spiciness, and it can be made as thick or soupy as you like, depending on how you’re serving it. We usually ladle it over white rice, but the last time we made it I griddled some fresh chapati and we spooned the kheema into the breads with yogurt and chutney. It could also be eaten straight out of a bowl, maybe with tortilla chips. Why not? Not to mention the possibilities of using it for stuffing samosas, or topping pizza.

breakfast

And for breakfast, I can recommend making a sort of huevos rancheros with leftover kheema and runny fried eggs over sourdough toast or chapati or tortillas. Oh, yeah.

A note about the recipe: there are a few odd ingredients here, but please don’t be scared off by them. We keep curry leaves in our freezer, but the kheema will be perfectly fine without them. And don’t worry about the dhana jiru or the sambar masala – we happen to have both of those, because Jon loves to make spice blends at home, but you can either leave them out, or do what I do, which is to look up the blend, see what the major flavors are, and just add a few of the more important-sounding ones. I’ve indicated a few possible options in the recipe.

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cheesy kale noodle

cheesy kale pasta

This was, in fact, an incredibly simple dinner based on an inexplicable, but very precise, craving I had for whole wheat noodles with cheese and greens. It ended up consisting of an entire head of curly kale, a quantity of ricotta cheese, and a package of loose hot Italian sausage.

I cooked the sausage and the kale together until the greens were very soft, then added the cheese, mooshed it all up together with some pasta cooking water and tossed it with Barilla whole grain rotini. It was quite excellent, very earthy and comforting. Also very filling.

cheesy kale pasta

I would definitely make this again, but I’d also like to try it more like my original idea, which was going to have bits of stinky cheese instead of the ricotta, no meat, and possibly a sprinkle of pine nuts.

What would you add to whole wheat pasta with greens?

election nerves…

We did our thing and voted, now all we can do is watch the news and quiver…

Comfort food is called for tonight. Molly at Orangette recommends brownies and beer, which sounds strangely appealing, but we’re thinking a pot of lentil sausage soup, a bottle of good wine and, perhaps, a small apple pie, all to be consumed on the couch by the fireplace with the TV on.

What’s your election night comfort food?

election nerves…

We did our thing and voted, now all we can do is watch the news and quiver…

Comfort food is called for tonight. Molly at Orangette recommends brownies and beer, which sounds strangely appealing, but we’re thinking a pot of lentil sausage soup, a bottle of good wine and, perhaps, a small apple pie, all to be consumed on the couch by the fireplace with the TV on.

What’s your election night comfort food?

making it up as I go along

pasta gratin

This was an impromptu sort of dinner. I had gotten a couple things out of the freezer the day before – a smoked andouille sausage (left over from the cassoulet) and a container of pesto from a long-gone summer. There was a bunch of (very non-local) asparagus in the fridge that I had bought on spec and done nothing with, and half a box of macaroni sitting in the cupboard.

So, making it up as I went along, I put on pasta water to boil and put together a small pan of bechamel sauce. Once the sauce was thickened I stirred a heaping spoonful of pesto into it. I warmed up the andouille and sliced it thinly, and chopped the asparagus into inch-long pieces. When the macaroni was almost cooked, I dropped the asparagus into the water with the pasta to blanch it, then drained it all at once. I mixed the macaroni and asparagus with the pesto bechamel and the sliced sausage in a gratin pan, then grated fresh parmesan over it all and sprinkled breadcrumbs on top. I let it sit in a 450° oven for ten minutes or so until we got hungry and ate it.

Not the sort of dinner I make very often, but strangely comforting. And easy, too.

Chicken pot pie

chicken pot pie

Last week we suddenly had a hankering for pot pie. Once something like that gets in your head, you just have to go with it, so I made one for Sunday night dinner. We used to eat this embarrassingly often, and I am likewise embarrassed to admit that I always used to make it with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. I have since decided that I don’t need to put that much salt and MSG into my system, so I did this one from scratch. It could have used a touch more salt, but I think it was the best pot pie I’ve ever produced. Comfort food extraordinaire!

I like my pot pie topped with drop biscuits, and my favorite biscuit recipe of the moment is the Buttermilk Biscuits from Kitchen Sense by Mitchell Davis. As long as I had the book out I ended up loosely following his recipe for pot pie, as well. I ignored some of his seasoning suggestions and did not put in any sherry. Here’s the version I made, more or less: Continue reading