As cold as it is in Chicago in winter, there are some advantages to living in a place colder than a meat locker. One of my favorite sights is a winter sunrise on a shatteringly cold, clear morning. Sunday was just such a morning, and I raced out of bed and into my coat just in time to catch the last of the perfect golden sunrise. The sun shimmering on the wall of ice in front of our building was just stunning.
I think that our cold, gray winters are a gift to introverts like me. I don’t mind winter all that much, even on the extremely cold days – I know how to stay warm (thanks to LL Bean), and there’s a beauty to the snowy winter landscape – especially living on the Lake. The many moods of the Lake are beautiful to watch, and none more beautiful to me than when the ice rolls in from far out in the lake, and the water comes crashing up against the ice berm that forms on the beach. As the waves slap the ice, the water sprays high into the air and the sound of the crashing ice against waves is the best bedtime lullabye.
Without good weather and sunshine every day, I don’t feel guilty for wanting to curl up with a good book and cup of tea to spend an afternoon on the couch. The social calendar slows down as the weather grows cold and allows me to recharge my social batteries…and sometimes that means spending a quiet morning making the perfect lamb curry.
This curry requires quite a few steps, but the final product is so worth it – this curry has the depth of flavor I’ve only tasted in Indian Restaurants. I learned from Sabera
that the secret to a truly authentic curry is to make your own curry paste…and she’s right. The time it takes to stir the spices, onions and tomatoes to develop the curry paste is what makes a flavorful gravy for the final dish. I tried to keep the calorie count under control by minimizing the amount of oil used, and eliminating the dairy in the recipe – it doesn’t need it anyway. Give this curry a try next time you want to spend a morning meditating at the stove.
Lamb Curry with Potatoes
2 1/2 cups yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1″ pieces
1 lb lamb stew, trimmed of most fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 onions – one grated (or blitzed in the food processor), one sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 T fresh grated ginger
2.5 T safflower oil, divided
1 14oz can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
2 T tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
4 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 jalepeno, seeded and sliced
kosher salt to taste
cilantro for garnish
serve over brown rice
- In a mortar and pestle, combine the mustard seeds, cardamom and cumin. Bash the spices around a bit to create a coarse grind. Pick out the husks of the cardamom pods and set the spice mixture aside.
- Preheat the broiler and set a sheet pan in the oven while it preheats. Peel and cube the potatoes into bite sized pieces. Place the potatoes in a small mixing bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon of safflower oil and a sprinkle of salt. When the broiler is preheated, remove the sheet pan from the oven and spray lightly with oil. Spread the potatoes onto the pan in one layer and broil for 6-7 minutes to par-cook the potatoes – they should not be cooked all the way through, just get a head start on cooking, and the quick roast will help them keep their shape instead of getting water-logged. After 6-7 minutes under the broiler, remove the potatoes and set aside. While the potatoes cook, sear the meat.
- Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. While it’s heating, sprinkle the cubed lamb with a bit of salt. Add 1 T of the safflower oil to the pot, and when it’s shimmering, add about half of the meat to the pot in one layer – don’t crowd the meat. Sear for 2 minutes without stirring, then turn the meat pieces and sear for 1 more minute on the other side. Remove the lamb from the pot and set aside in a bowl. Add the last half of the meat and sear on both sides, then set the meat aside.
- Keep the pot on medium heat, and remaining tablespoon of oil and grated onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, and allowing the onions to turn golden and begin to caramelize. Next, add the tomato paste, jalepenos, garam masala, mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, black pepper and garlic. Stir for a minute until fragrant. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and stir. Allow the mixture to cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally – the mixture will cook down into a thick, flavorful paste.
- After cooking the curry paste, add the chicken stock, sliced onion, lamb and potatoes. Stir to combine. Cover the pot and simmer on low for 30-45 minutes, until lamb and potatoes are tender. Season with salt as needed. Serve over brown rice and garnish with cilantro.
383 cal per 1 1/4 cup, 130 cal from fat, 14.8g fat, 90mg cholesterol, 400mg sodium, 780mg potassium, 31g carb, 3g fiber, 8g sugars, 31.3g protein
This dish literally took my entire family to create. When we were in Michigan, my mom gifted me with some pork from my cousin’s pig. Heather and Rick raise a few pigs every year at their home. Come fall, the pigs are butchered and my cousins share some of the meat with our family. I’d heard that their pork was pretty amazing – their pigs are fed day-old produce from the farmers near where they live, so they eat everything from sweet corn to peaches. Not a bad diet for pigs or people!
I unwrapped the bacon my mom gave me, and knew that we would be rationing the precious slabs to get as many meals out of it as possible. The smell of smoke wafted from the chilled bacon – it’s very lean, almost ham-like. For our first bacon experience, I decided to make an old family favorite – Pasta Milanese, with the fresh bacon as the star ingredient.
Pasta Milanese is a great cook-from-the-pantry dish that comes together quickly – you can have this on the table in under a half hour. Milanese was a favorite dish in our family and always disappeared from the table when mom made it (though she would make this with prosciutto or sliced pepperoni instead of bacon). I’ve changed my mom’s recipe a little bit – minimizing the amount of oil I used, and heating the dish up with lots of red pepper flakes and black pepper. This was a fantastic lunch from the pantry, and the fresh basil made me long for summer on this subzero winter day.
6oz brown rice penne pasta (dried)
2 thick slices of bacon, chopped
1/2 cup sliced onion
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan, grated with microplane
1/4 cup sliced oven roasted tomatoes (substitute sun-dried tomatoes)
2 T fresh basil, sliced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- Bring 3qts of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the rice pasta to the boiling water and stir to make sure the noodles don’t stick to each other. Cook according to the package directions.
- While the pasta cooks, make the “sauce”. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon to the hot pan and cook for a minute or two, then add the onion to the pan, and saute until the bacon begins to crisp and the onions caramelize – about 5 minutes.
- Turn the sauce burner down to low. Add the red pepper flakes, garlic and pepper to the pan along with the olive oil, if needed – if there’s some bacon fat in the pan coating the onion, you may not need the additional oil.
- When the pasta is done, drain it in a colander, then toss the pasta into the pan with the bacon and onion mixture. Quickly toss the pasta with the ingredients, then add in the basil, oven-roasted tomatoes and parmesan cheese and toss the pasta gently before serving.
537 cal/serving, 160cal from fat, 19.1g fat, 30mg cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 190mg potassium, 70g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g sugars
It’s been a busy week for me, between a crazy week at work and having friends over for dinner a couple times this week, so I haven’t really produced much for the blog. Today, I awoke early to can 30lbs of tomatoes into stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce. I’m always amazed at how a HUGE box of tomatoes cooks down to a much smaller volume of tomato products.
Home canning isn’t really an economical enterprise in the city, given the produce prices and time invested, but I did my first canning projects last year, and using my own stewed tomatoes in soups cannot be beat! Homeade stewed tomatoes have SO much more flavor than what you’d buy in a can. I got 8 quarts of stewed tomatoes and 5 pints of tomato sauce out of the 30lbs of tomatoes. Now, I’m just sitting around waiting to hear the magical popping sound of the cans as they seal – it’s the most nerve-wracking part of the process!
Thursday evening, I was supposed to go out to a movie with friends, but given that my workday started at 6am with the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Kickoff Breakfast, and I didn’t sleep well the night before, I decided that I wasn’t up to movie-going, and needed a night to chill at home. So, I looked around the kitchen to see what I could whip up quickly, and came up with this simple, smoky pasta….it was just the comfort food I needed after a long day. The smoky bacon and cheese played off the acidic tomatoes perfectly. A bowl of pasta and a glass of wine enjoyed on the balcony were just the antidote I needed to unwind after a long day.
Smoky Tomato Pasta
600 calories per serving, 23g fat, 74g carbs
2 slices bacon, chopped, cooked and 1tsp fat reserved
3 oz Tinkyada brown rice pasta shells
1/2 cup sliced white onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 oz grated, Goat Smoked Cheddar Cheese
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
salt & pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the rice pasta according to the directions – Tinkyada can take 12-14 minutes to cook through. While the pasta cooks, assemble the sauce.
- Chop the bacon and saute in a small pan until mostly crisp. Scoop out the bacon and drain on a piece of paper towel an set aside. Pour off most of the fat, but leave 1tsp in the pan.
- Add the onions to the bacon fat and saute for 2-3 minutes until they begin to soften. When the pasta is about 3 minutes from being done, add the garlic to the onions and saute for 1 more minute. Add the thyme and sliced tomatoes, and saute for 1 more minute, until the tomatoes begin to wilt a bit.
- Drain the pasta and fold it into the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with the grated goat cheddar and toss to combine, adjusting seasoning if needed.