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Tuesday, June 03, 2008


New Cookbook

I try not to buy cookbooks any more - how many recipes does one food fanatic need? Especially as she slides toward veganism while still being basically set in her favorite types of foods? Well, I apparently needed at least one more. I was at my favorite book shop, Green Apple (, and found an inexpensive copy of Jackum Brown's Vegetarian Thai. And so I'm engaging in some experiments.

Thai food is readily available in San Francisco, and much of it is quite well prepared. So, it's not like there is any amazing urgency in getting this cookbook - the best Thai meals I've had were generally here in San Francisco, rather than during my short stay in Bangkok. But I do want to better understand how my favorite Thai dishes are made, and improve the Thai dishes I make at home with purchased curry pastes. Those curry pastes in particular often have a dozen or more ingredients, and so while they make preparing Thai curries very simple (heat coconut milk, add paste, stir well, add veggies, serve), I haven't been very effective at adjusting them to make them more like the dishes I eat at restaurants. Every restaurant seems to have a slightly different recipe for these dishes, and I would like to know how they do it. The only adjustment I usually make to the purchased pastes is to add fresh lemongrass while the curry simmers, but that isn't the level of control I would like to achieve.

So far, I have only tried out the recipe for green Thai curry paste: a chunky blend of lemon grass, garlic, green chilies, cilantro (tons!), shallots, ginger, coriander seed, pepper, lime, salt, and oil. This mixture has a fabulously green, fresh taste, and it makes the kitchen smell wonderful whenever I use it. I need to change the proportions to see if I can make it more like the green curry I have in restaurants (more lime, less cilantro, more ginger?). I need to learn to use a lot more of the fresh paste for the volume of veggies I like: it takes several ounces to flavor one can of coconut milk in the powerful way I want, and I am repeatedly too shy in using the right amount. I'm sure I'll improve in the near future.

I'll report back when I have something specific that you MUST try to share, which may be a recipe I can recommend from the book, or may be a recipe I've developed using the book as a point of departure.

Hey! I've got fresh galangal in my kitchen! How cool is that?


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:48 PM

Sunday, December 23, 2007

  Unreported food research. I have been too tired from work and from the respiratory infection I've been battling all month (!) to create any novel food inventions.

I made a pumpkin sambar, using the ordinary sambar recipe from Dakshin (, but it was just okay. The pumpkin isn't very interesting all alone, and the tamarind (which I add as a liquid from a gel concentrate) overwhelmed the pumpkin's subtle flavor. I'll go easier on the tamarind from now on for any and all sambars. Dosa's sambar is so much better than mine, and I'm not sure if they're using a different type of toor dal, or if they are using a different sambar spice mixture... But I would love to make a sambar as good as theirs.

I tried out a Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood to review, but it wasn't good, so I'd prefer not to tire you with a list of its inadequacies. There are at least six Chinese restaurants on Ocean Avenue near my home, and I have not completely enjoyed a meal at any of them: the best tasting one made both me and Steven ill within hours of our first visit, so we're not going to give them another chance. The others serve food that is bland and oily. I'm partial to the spicy side of Chinese food, the regional dishes of Sechuan and Hunan, but my neighborhood has only Cantonese-style food, and it is not as good as the Cantonese food I've had in Chinatown.

I miss the Ethiopian restaurant that was in our neighborhood when we moved here, just six blocks from my house. It was wonderful! I miss many restaurants that have closed, actually. Should this be a separate post? Let's make it a separate post.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:55 AM

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

  Still ill. I'm blaming all of the typos on the cold medicine. Whether or not I was taking any at the time.

I am working up a new recipe to post, but it isn't quite complete yet. I have been serving whole grain pastas for several months, which can handle more assertive sauces than more processed ("white") pasta can, since the grain flavor of whole wheat, or spelt, or brown rice, comes through. I made a variation of spaghetti con olio earlier this week, but instead of just olive oil and parsley, I made it with minced garlic, sun-dried tomato puree (with a touch of oregano), and diced artichoke hearts. It's not quite 'there' - it was good, but it could use a fresh green edge to balance out all of the sweetness. Steven, in a rare specific suggestion, proposes more (fresh) oregano. Which is a great idea (I grow it). I'm considering either chili flakes or black olives. Perhaps also parsley. Or all of the above. I'll post it when I've got a combination I really love.


posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

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