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Spiced Cucumber Salad

There aren’t too many vegetables, in my opinion, that are more refreshing than a cucumber.  We eat cucumbers in some form with dinner at least twice a week, usually in a chopped salad…sometimes grated and mixed in yogurt for a nice raita.  Cucumbers pair nicely with the spicy cuisine of Pakistan that we eat so often in our little house.

I love leafing through Indian cook books looking for inspiration.  I took out the beautiful cookbook Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid  from the library because I had heard such great things about the book. It is loaded with fantastic photography and tempting recipes from the Indian sub-continent.  If you never heard of or seen this book and are at all into cooking or learning more about Indian food, then you should track down this book!

A recipe in the book for a spiced cucumber salad immediately jumped out at me as something I had to try.  It is a salad made of chopped cucumbers tossed in a spiced mustard oil and yogurt dressing.  I altered the recipe to work with the ingredients I had on hand instead of running out and buying some additional spices.  The end result is still very impressive.

Spiced Cucumber Salad

(adapted from Mangoes and Curry Leaves)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound English cucumbers
  • 2 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard oil
  • 1 green chili cut lengthwise
  • pinch of cayenne powder
  • pinch of tumeric
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons minced cilantro

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cut cucumbers into quarters lengthwise and then cut again into 1.5 inch long pieces.
  2. Put cucumbers in a strainer/colander in the sink (or over a bowl) and sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons of salt. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet, dry roast the sesame seeds until golden. 
  4. In a small bowl, mix sesame seeds, cumin, and yogurt to make paste. Set aside.
  5. Rinse cucumbers with cold water. Squeeze them gently to get out any excess water. Put cucumbers in a bowl.
  6. Add spice paste to cucumbers and rub all over to coat them. Set aside.
  7. Heat mustard oil in skillet over medium heat. Add the green chili and cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Add the cayenne and tumeric and stir.
  8. Pour the flavored oil over the cucumbers and toss gently.
  9. Add the lemon juice and toss.
  10. Set aside for 10-20 minutes to let the flavors blend.
  11. Just before serving add the cilantro leaves and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Toss gently to mix.

I don’t know about you, but I’m stuffed.

This year I hosted my first Thanksgiving.  My son is now 10 months old so I knew this would be a very special holiday season for me.   He is just starting to venture into the world of table food. He loves to feed himself and try new things.   I spent a lot of time reading cook books this past week planning the meal.    I love reading cookbooks and planning out menus. It combines some of my favorite hobbies: cooking/food, reading and making lists. The menu I came up with included Goat Cheese Rosemary Toasts, cranberry nut rolls, roasted root vegetables with parmesan gremolata, caramelized shallot mashed potatoes, roasted turkey (of course), wild rice with butternut squash, and Cranberry Almond bundt cake…. as I said, I. am. stuffed.

This weekend I am also reading Anthony Bourdain’s follow-up to Kitchen Confidential: Medium Raw.   I loved Kitchen Confidential when I read it years ago so just had to grab Medium Raw when I saw it on the NEW shelf at the library.  I am about half way through the book so far. In this collection of essays Bourdain rants about everything from The Food Network, the effect of the recent economy on restaurants, celebrity chefs and more.  Bourdain is his usual self, very raw (Medium Raw, you might say), honest, and entertaining.  I am getting some good chuckles from Medium Raw so far and am enjoying it.

I hope to read another chapter/essay or so while the baby takes his afternoon nap.

Once I finish Medium Raw, I plan to start on One Day by David Nicholls.

What have you been eating and reading this weekend?

Lemon & Thyme Couscous

I am not sure if there is anything that much easier to make than cous cous.  Basically it involves boiling water, stirring in some cous cous and removing from heat…waiting a few minutes and then fluffing the cous cous.  That being said, plain old cous cous can be kind of…well…plain.   But it is so simple to add some flavor to cous cous. One way, is to add some ingredients to the water you cook the cous cous in. For this recipe chicken broth, lemon zest and fresh thyme are added.   This cous cous makes a good accompaniment for a chicken stew.

Lemon & Thyme Couscous

(serves 6)

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 3/4 cups cous cous (about a 3/4 pound box)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  1. In a 2 to 2 1/2 quart heavy saucepan bring water, broth, thyme and zest to a boil.
  2. Stir in couscous.
  3. Cover pan and immediately remove from heat.
  4. Let couscous stand covered, 5 minutes.
  5. Fluff couscous with a fork and stir in oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Today is pretty close to the epitome of my perfect “lazy” autumn Sunday. You must understand me a little to know why I put the word lazy in quotes. I don’t quite know how to sit around and do absolutely nothing. It’s just not in me, sorry.  That is why I may never master the fine art of meditation.

Today we woke up bright and early in our typical fashion (just try to do anything else with a 10-month old in the house) and headed out to grab a quick breakfast and then hit Whole Foods to do our preliminary Thanksgiving dinner shopping…buying all the stuff that won’t go bad between now and then (cheese, rice, nuts, apples, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips) and staring longingly at the lovely produce that I hope will still be just as lovely in a couple of days when I return to pick it up (Brussel sprouts, haricot verts, carrots, wild mushrooms). 

Later, after MrMango went to work. The baby and I went to book club to discuss “Tinkers” by Paul Harding (review forthcoming) …while I sipped on a gingerbread latte and the baby drank milk and snacked on Cheerios…though he did keep trying to get ahold of my latte.

Now we are home where the baby has been napping for a couple of hours and I have been making rice pudding…stirring the warm milk occasionally…the smell of cardamom wafting through the house.   I have green lentils soaking in a bowl on the counter beside a stick of butter softening on a plate….just waiting for me to cook dinner and bake that cranberry bundt cake recipe I’ve had my eye on. 

Odd idea of a “lazy” day, hmmm?

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with RecipesLunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Whenever I go to the library, I browse the NEW shelf for any food-related books.  Whether they are works of fiction, memoirs, or  cookbooks, no food book is overlooked.  Some I flip through quickly and put right back since they just don’t appeal to me.  But many take a trip home with me…Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard is one of those that won such an all expenses paid trip.   At first, I was a bit turned off by the cover since it looked like a pure chick lit book…however the synopsis looked promising.  

The book turned out to be a cute memoir about an American who meets and falls in love with a man in Paris. She moves to Paris to live with him and eagerly dives into her new life.    

As I made my way down the street, a man shoved a strawberry in my path.  “Mademoiselle, goute, goute” (taste, taste), he said, trying to catch my eye.  This was not the French I learned in high school.   It was loud and fast and filled with the guttural click of Arabic. “Ca va, princesse?”  He handed me a slice of melon, broke open a pod of sweet peas.  I knew it was ridiculous, but after two years in England, it felt so good to hear this caressing tone of voice, to smile and lower my eyes, even if the guy was just trying to sell me a tomato.

Bard soon learns of the cultural differences of life in Paris vs. the United States.  She wonders why her husband and other Parisians don’t have a go-getter attitude and just settle for the status quo, but meanwhile she flounders while searching for the perfect job.

The book takes place over a time period of 8 years…from when Bard meets her future husband, Gwendal, up to a few years after they’re married.  Food is an integral part of the story.  Bard tells of the first meal that she shared with Gwendal.  Each chapter has 2-3 recipes at the end for dishes inspired by the events she has written about in that chapter.

Lunch in Paris was a quick & easy read.   It is a good escapist read for anyone who fantasizes about spending their days browsing in Parisian markets and cooking up dishes with their finds.      If you are looking for a hard-core foodie read, this may not be the best selection for you.  I wouldn’t say that I learned anything new about food from this book, but I did enjoy reading the recipes she included with each chapter.  I was tempted to cook a few but will be returning the book to the library tomorrow and haven’t had a chance to cook any of the recipes yet!  I just may have to take out the book from the library again to get a chance to try out some of the recipes.

 View all my reviews

Lunch @ Kristin’s

Kristin’s
349 Washington St.
Braintree, MA 02184
781-843-2022
website: http://kristinsbraintree.com/

Kristin’s in Braintree serves breakfast and lunch 7 days a week (Monday-Friday 6:30 AM – 2 PM; weekends 7 AM – 1:30 PM). Up until last month, I had only ever had breakfast at Kristin’s.  Their breakfast menu is a lot more extensive and interesting than their lunch menu. The breakfast menu contains a ton of creative pancake and french toast options listed on their board, homemade corn beef hash, assorted eggs Benedict selections…and so on…I’ve found that the most interesting choices are usually on the Daily Special Board.

 The lunch menu is mostly made up  of your standard salads and sandwiches: ham & cheese, club sandwiches, chicken salad, BLT etc. …so it never really jumped out at me as place I just had to try for lunch. I am someone who typically likes a little adventure in her menus. ;)

Well, we were in the neighborhood recently and decided to stop in for lunch. I ordered the Ultimate Turkey sandwich ($5.25).  The sandwich had a thick layer of roasted turkey (not cold cuts…the real stuff),  cranberry sauce,  stuffing and mayo. It comes with a pickle and chips which you can swap out for fries for $1. I opted for the fries.  The sandwich was very good and the perfect size for lunch at a price that is hard to beat. I love a good Thanksgiving-style turkey sandwich and this is one of the better ones that I’ve had in the area.

Kristin’s is relatively small so sometimes there is a bit of a wait on weekend mornings for breakfast.  They are family friendly and have several menu options geared specifically to kids (I’m looking at you, M&M pancakes) There is a small parking lot behind Kristin’s, but if it is full you have a fair chance of finding street parking on the side street.

Kristin Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Garlic-Jalapeno Shrimp

Anytime we go to a Spanish restaurant, we always order the garlic shrimp tapas.  These succulent little bites come in olive oil that has become infused with the flavor of the garlic and herbs the shrimp was sautéed in.

When I saw this recipe from Martha Stewart for garlic-jalapeno shrimp it seemed to be just our thing. While these shrimp aren’t Spanish cuisine, they are similar in many ways to the shrimp tapas we enjoy so much.

The garlic shrimp turned out to be an ideal weeknight dinner — quick & easy…allowing us to spend more of that precious limited evening time together as a family.  I served it with a simple, colorful salad and a crusty loaf of bread I had baked the day before. Perfection!  Okay, it would have been more perfect with a glass of wine, but unfortunately, our wine rack isn’t very well stocked these days.

These would also make a great appetizer course.

Garlic-Jalapeno Shrimp

(From Martha Stewart Living May 2010)

  • 20 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled and deveined
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno (stem, ribs, and seeds removed), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  1. Toss together shrimp, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Marinate in refrigerator for 45 minutes.
  2. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove shrimp from marinade, and add to skillet; cook through, about 2 minutes per side.
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