The Impatient Chef

Software developer by day. Impatient chef by night.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What comes of a seed

A long time ago when Texas was part of the American frontier, some of the early settlers took to planting pecan trees. Other people mocked those that planted the pecans, reasoning that the people planting the trees wouldn't be around to see the trees in full maturity. But because of the efforts of those early frontier settlers, now the streets of central Texas are lined with pecan trees with canopy shade spread wide and towering up to 100 feet high. Between October and December they drop literally tons of those savory nuts to the ground.

You may sometimes wonder what effect your efforts will have, there may be naysayers who make you doubt, but know that the good acts that you do and the efforts to make a positive difference in other people's lives will have far reaching results far beyond what you will be able to witness in this life.

I ride a bike home from my job. Part of the route takes me on a bridge over a creek that is lined with pecan trees and walnut trees. I've been watching as the fruits mature, and I'm excited to anticipate taking my family for a walk along the creek to collect the nuts.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mexi Fried Rice (also Arroz con Pollo)

A while ago I spent some time in a funny little town called Del Rio, Texas. While I was there I met a friend named José who taught me how to make Mexican style rice. I've made it from memory so many times that I'm not sure if I still make it like he taught me, but here's the recipe to the best of my recollection.

  • 1 1/2 cups white rice (I think short grain works best)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or water + bouillon)
  • 1 8-oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1-2 diced tomatoes
  • 1 diced medium onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • Salt, Pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander (optional)
  • diced hot peppers (optional)
  • bell pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1 pound cooked chicken, diced (optional)
Heat the oil in a 2-quart sauce pan, or a large skillet on medium heat. When oil is hot, add rice and stir for a few minutes. The rice should change color to a more opaque off-white, slightly golden color. Add water and tomato sauce immediately (have them ready and don't wait too long, the rice will burn! I did that the first time). Add all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, simmer for 25 minutes. The lid will be screaming "lift me! lift me!" IGNORE IT, or you will have to add more liquid and the rice will take forever to soften up. It will be done in 25 minutes, and on low it won't burn, trust me. This recipe will make about 4 cups of rice, which always stretches waaaay farther than I expect it to, even after making it for 10 years.

The optional ingredients really just depend on what you have on hand, and what your preferences are.

To make Arroz con Pollo, just add about a pound of cooked chicken, diced. I like to make my broth by boiling the chicken before making the rice, but you can also just use canned chicken.

Serve with just about anything Mexican - enchiladas, fajitas, tacos, flautas, etc. Goes really well as something to add to a bowl of tortilla soup.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gosht Curry and Cranberry Chutney

(09:35:11 AM) Rahul: i have another recipe from you
(09:35:13 AM) Rahul: for you
(09:35:19 AM) Mike: shoot
(09:35:21 AM) Rahul: you want a classic meat curry
(09:35:26 AM) Rahul: gosht curry
(09:35:30 AM) Mike: hmm
(09:35:39 AM) Rahul: you can do it with lamb or beef
(09:35:40 AM) Mike: I think that's new to me
(09:36:17 AM) Mike: heh... and all this time I was wondering if you were some kind of vegetarian... talking about palak and bhaji
(09:36:25 AM) Mike: I love lamb
(09:36:35 AM) Mike: I once had a lamb saag that was excellent
(09:36:41 AM) Rahul: wonderful check this one out
(09:36:52 AM) Rahul: 8 tablespoons light vegetable oil
3 pounds lean boneless beef, preferably beef round, or lean boneless lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes
3-4 meaty beef bones (if using beef) or lamb bones (if using lamb) (optional)
4 cups finely chopped onions
4 cups boiling water
4 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
3/4 teaspoon red pepper, or to taste
2 cups finely chopped or pureed fresh ripe tomatoes, or 1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes, chopped or pureed (if you use salted canned tomatoes, reduce overall salt and add final salt slowly to taste)
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
4 medium-sized potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and quartered
3-4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over high heat in a large heavy bottomed pan. Pat the meat pieces dry of all juices on the surface using paper towels. It is important not to crowd the meat in the pan and if using the full recipe, you will need to brown the meat in at least two batches or two pans. Drying and not overcrowding will ensure that the meat will sear properly by preventing cooling of the pan from overcrowding and steaming the meat from excess moisture. When the oil is very hot and shimmering, add the meat pieces (and bones, if using), and brown them, but do not cook through. As each batch is browned, transfer it with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil to the pan , along with the onions. Reduce heat to medium-high, and fry the onions until they turn dark brown (about 20 minutes, and yes, it does take this long and it is worth it!), stirring constantly (I gave them a stir about once a minute till the last few minutes when I stirred constantly) so that they do not burn.

Add garlic and ginger, and fry for an additional minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red pepper, and continue frying until the spices become fragrant (10-15 seconds). Return the browned meat (and bones) to the pan, along with the tomatoes, salt, and four cups of boiling water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered for 1 1/2 hours. Add potatoes, and continue simmering, covered, until the potatoes are tender and the meat is cooked through (about 30 minutes). Turn off heat, and let the meat rest for at least 1/2 hour, preferable 2 hours. When ready to serve, remove bones and discard, check for salt, and simmer again until heated through. Fold in the chopped coriander leaves (cilantro). Serve with basmati rice, plain yogurt and your favorite Indian bread and side dishes.

(09:37:53 AM) Rahul: you like chutney?
(09:38:14 AM) Mike: Sure...
(09:38:38 AM) Rahul: its cranberry chutney
(09:38:42 AM) Mike: I used to go to this south indian vegan restaurant in Virginia, they served curry soup, dosas, and chutney
(09:38:45 AM) Rahul: good with turkey sandwiches
(09:38:49 AM) Mike: nice!
(09:39:00 AM) Rahul: if you come visit here, i'll take you to a really good south indian joint
(09:39:08 AM) Rahul: 1 12-ounce package cranberries
1 orange cut supreme (skin and membrane removed), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon mustard seeds, lightly crushed
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1/2 cup finely chopped dried figs (or raisins)
In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, combine fruit, juice, shallots, spices, and sugar. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring often, until sugar has dissolved and cranberries begin to pop. Remove from heat and let cool. Fold in pistachios and figs.

(09:40:09 AM) Mike: Thanks!
(09:40:26 AM) Rahul: no worries, if you like spice
(09:40:29 AM) Mike: Do you think I could substitute chives for the shallots? I have chives growing like mad in my garden
(09:40:36 AM) Rahul: yeah why not
(09:40:41 AM) Rahul: its all about being creative

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fun with Aperture Size

I've been learning how to use a Nikon camera that we bought last year. I recently learned how to adjust the aperture size to narrow the focus of the picture. Today, my wife's sister had her wedding reception, I used the new skills to take some fun shots.

(Yes, I got some other pictures with people in focus)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Electronic Entertainment

I recently had the startling realization that the way I manage finances is highly influenced by the countless hours I spent in my younger years playing SimCity2000 and Rollercoaster Tycoon. Those two games taught me to balance the management of immediate cashflow and making investments that will pay off in the distant future, long before I would ever consider using the terms "cashflow" and "investment" in my normal vocabulary.

On the other hand, I do regret the thousands of hours I spent being entertained in front of a 15" CRT, when I could have been spending my time developing healthy face-to-face relationships with other people, learning all sorts of fascinating things about the real world, using imagination, and generally being more beneficial to society.

I think that there's a balance to be struck here; I would argue that the right video games in moderation aren't a complete waste of time, and can actually teach more than watching the latest primetime television series. I think mainly you have to be very careful about how much time is spent doing so.

As an aside, I also have the opinion that entertainment that tries too overtly hard to be "educational", generally ISN'T. (See "Baby Einsteins: Not So Smart After All" for an excruciating example). I'm inclined to think that the above-mentioned games were in fact WAY more educational than reading and math games.

I'll conclude by saying that I've been thinking a lot about how to help foster my children's enthusiasm for learning. I think mostly the key is to just spend time doing things with them. My wife and I have discovered that our children seem to come with a great curiosity about the world around them, and we have the opinion that the key to feeding and developing that curiosity is to spend time with them doing a variety of activities, including reading, cooking, gardening, singing, hiking, camping, and yes, also playing computer games. I think it's all about spending time together, teaching that there are so many fascinating things to explore in this world, and finding a balance.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Saag Paneer in action

This weekend I tried the recipe from my previous post. I don't know where to buy paneer, so my daughter and I made it, following this recipe:

Cooking Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer served with Chicken Tikka Masala and Basmati Rice. Follow that link for the other recipe, but beware that it calls for WAY too much salt, reduce it to about half.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Saag Paneer

I was recently talking to a co-worker about cooking Indian food. His parents are both first-generation immigrants from India. He was impressed that I've tried cooking a couple of dishes, but enlightened me that it doesn't have to take two hours. I asked him about a particular dish that I found on; he said "too many ingredients..." He indicated that most Indian dishes that he cooks only take about 20 minutes. He gave me this recipe for saag paneer:

(11:08:50 AM) Rahul: step by step
(11:08:56 AM) Rahul: 2 lbs of spinach
(11:09:08 AM) Rahul: wilt the spinach in a pan and pour in blender
(11:09:10 AM) Rahul: including the water
(11:09:19 AM) Rahul: heat oil, 2-3 tbl
(11:09:27 AM) Rahul: heat up 2 cups of onions
(11:09:29 AM) Rahul: and brow
(11:09:30 AM) Rahul: n
(11:09:34 AM) Rahul: brown the onions
(11:09:38 AM) Michael: diced onions? or rings?
(11:09:42 AM) Rahul: diced
(11:09:46 AM) Rahul: smaller the better
(11:09:48 AM) Michael: roger
(11:09:52 AM) Michael: minced even\
(11:09:53 AM) Rahul: 4 cerrano pepers
(11:10:05 AM) Rahul: if you would like, i dice them....since im lazy :)
(11:10:12 AM) Rahul: 4 peppers diced
(11:10:19 AM) Rahul: add to onions after browned
(11:10:27 AM) Rahul: add ginger around 1 tbl spoon
(11:10:34 AM) Rahul: 2 tsp of garam masala
(11:10:38 AM) Rahul: 1/2 tsp tumeric
(11:10:45 AM) Rahul: then 1 tomato diced
(11:10:46 AM) Michael: fresh ginger? or will powder work?
(11:10:54 AM) Rahul: fresh is nicer :)
(11:10:59 AM) Michael: agreed :)
(11:11:11 AM) Rahul: so cook this for about 1-2 minutes and mix
(11:11:13 AM) Rahul: in pot
(11:11:24 AM) Rahul: then pour in the spinach puree
(11:12:17 AM) Rahul: cook for 2 -3 minutes
(11:12:29 AM) Rahul: then you add paneer cubes
(11:12:33 AM) Rahul: and 1tsp of salt
(11:13:04 AM) Rahul: really low heat and cover for however long you want at least 10 minutes so the paneer can soak up the flavor
(11:13:08 AM) Rahul: and thats it you are done
(11:13:17 AM) Rahul: if its too bitter, add some squeezed lemon
(11:13:25 AM) Rahul: it should take about 20 minutes from start to finish
(11:13:31 AM) Rahul: and will feed quite a few people
(11:13:57 AM) Michael: hmmm
(11:14:01 AM) Michael: I like the lemon trick
(11:14:24 AM) Rahul: thats the key to all indian food if its too bitter