Green Curry Noodles

I have lived in Chicago for seven years now. That is an insane number to me, but I guess the old adage is true – time flies when you’re having fun. Still, I can’t believe I have lived here that long and only within the last couple years have I discovered how easy it is to get to the Korean grocery store and find all kinds of pan-Asian goodies. It has almost become part of my weekly shopping ritual.

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That said, if the Korean or other Asian grocery store is not part of your weekly shopping ritual, you can still make this dish. Admittedly, though, it just won’t be as good. It just can’t be! But if you want to go the extra mile, you can order a lot of ingredients online, and trust me when I say it is worth it. I tried making a version of this that included only easily obtained ingredients, and it just wasn’t the same. Still good, but when tasted side-by-side with the more authentic version, I had to admit that one definitely had more flavor and depth than the other.

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This noodle dish runs somewhere between a soup and noodle-with-sauce thing. You’ll have a bit of coconut-y juice at the bottom of your bowl, but there really isn’t enough broth to fill your bowl to the brim. The vegetables here are all optional and you can sub in whatever you think would taste good. I had spring onions from the farmer’s market, so those definitely made it in. I cooked all the vegetables separately, which may seem time consuming, but I like doing it that way so the flavors don’t get muddled. The end result tastes very fresh and healthful.

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Green Curry Noodles

*The curry paste recipe here is just enough for this dish, but feel free to double or triple the recipe to have a supply of curry paste. It freezes well.

*I included my notes for substitutions in parentheses, but do try to find the real stuff.

2-inch piece of galangal (or 1-inch piece of ginger)
6-inch piece of lemongrass

2 cloves garlic
kaffir lime leaves (or zest of one lime)
2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp coconut oil

1 13.5-oz coconut milk (try to find one without any preservatives or additives)
13.5 oz water

6 oz somen noodles (soba would be great here as well) 
6 oz extra firm tofu, cut into thin strips
1 small sweet potato, cut into wedges or 1/2-inch strips
1 chinese eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch circles and halved
1 cup mushrooms of your choosing, sliced
3 stalks spring onions, halved
10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

cilantro, for garnish
fresh red chile slices, for garnish

To make the curry paste, chop each of the ingredients into small pieces. In a mortar and pestle, grind the ingredients together – start with one, then once it’s mashed nicely, add another, and so on. Add a bit of kosher or other flaky salt with each ingredient to help macerate each one. At the end, you should have a nice paste, but if you’re having a hard time getting it to that consistency in the m&p, you can use a blender or food processor.

In a large pot, scoop a big heaping tablespoon of the coconut cream that gathers on one end of the can into a pan. Stir it around and let it sizzle. Add the curry paste and let cook for a couple minutes. Add the rest of the coconut milk and cream and water. Also add the tofu. Turn heat to medium low and let it slowly warm.

Meanwhile, cook your veggies and noodles (according to package directions). Here’s how I did my veg, but feel free to use your favorite method:
Sweet potatoes: steamed
Eggplant: grilled (on a grill pan)
Mushrooms: pan-fried
Spring onions: grilled (on a grill pan)

When everything is ready to go, add it all to the pot with the coconut curry. Toss the tomatoes in at this point as well. Taste for seasoning (add salt if it tastes bland or just off). Garnish with cilantro and red chiles.

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Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

I must say, I really felt sad when the weather started feeling like fall and I realized that summer really was over. In the last couple weeks, though, I’ve embraced the cool air – I can wear that really cute jacket I bought at the end of spring earlier this year, running is perfect for a few weeks, and best of all, it is soup season.

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I would easily consider soup to be one of my all time favorite foods. Any soup, really. I love soaking it up with a really good piece of bread and even better, it pairs perfectly with my other favorite food – salad. So when I was at the market last weekend rubbing shoulders with Rick Bayless – yes, we live in the same neighborhood and yes, I had my first sighting of him at our local market (!!), I picked up the last load of summer tomatoes.

I saw this recipe for tomato soup earlier in the summer but wanted to wait until fall, when I can bear a warm soup and am okay with the idea of cooking the perfect-as-they-are heirlooms. I think this soup would also work well with good canned tomatoes – I will definitely be trying that throughout winter. I served this soup with some fantastic sourdough bread from La Boulangerie, a new bakery in Logan Square that bakes up fresh loaves three times daily – and they post the times they’re fresh baked, so you can scoop one up just as it comes out of the oven.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

adapted, quite a bit actually, from Serious Eats

3 pounds tomatoes, quartered
2-3 whole  carrots, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
15-20 garlic cloves (yes – a lot of garlic!)
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch chunks
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2-3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup greek yogurt
crumbles of blue cheese or feta

Combine the olive oil with tomatoes, carrots, garlic, salt and pepper, eggplant, and chickpeas. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for ~45 minutes at 425°F. To be careful, you could roast all these separately until each one is perfectly tender, but I’m a timesaver and roasted all together – it worked fine.

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Once roasted, put about half of the veggies in a blend and puree until smooth. The original recipe called for pureeing everything except the eggplant and chickpeas – you could do that as well. Just depends on what chunks you want in your soup, if any. Pour the pureed soup and extra veggies in a pot with the curry powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, and chicken stock – add more or less stock to get the desired consistency.

Bring to a boil then let simmer for 5-10 minutes. At the last minute, stir in the yogurt for a creamy finish. Garnish with cilantro, cheese, and if you’re feeling frisky, a drizzle of good olive oil.

Eggplant Caviar

Is it just me, or do certain recipes or ideas circle the blogosphere (NOT Blagosphere tehehe) every couple months? For a while it was kale chips, then I saw a billion recipes for eggs poached in tomato sauce (which I’m still trying to find the time to make), and lately, I’ve seen quite a few recipes for Eggplant Caviar.

Say what?

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Really, this is just a fancy name for an eggplant dip that is not baba ghanoush (though really, it’s not that much different). It’s great because roasting the eggplant over a flame imparts this real smoky flavor into the dish. I personally love eggplant, but I think this might be a good recipe for those of you who are skeptical about this giant purple vegetable. It works with any variety of eggplant, so scoop up whichever one looks the coolest at the market.

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Eggplant Caviar

3-4 medium size eggplants, any variety works
juice of one lemon
lemon zest from said lemon
handful of Italian parsley
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
handful of fresh tarragon leaves
salt and pepper

Cut the eggplant into manageable slices – about an inch thick. Over a grill or gas flame, char the eggplant slices until slightly blackened. (If you don’t have a grill or gas stovetop, just pop them in the oven.) Place the charred eggplant slices on an oiled baking sheet and bake at 425 for ~25 minutes or until very soft. Let cool, then remove the charred skins like you would on peppers or tomatoes. Place the soft innards in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients and pulse until you get a smooth consistency. If you want it to actually look like caviar, let the mixture remain a little chunky so that the seeds remain in tact. Serve with crusty bread and a nice soft goat cheese.