Guest Blog – From Curry to Curry: A Generational Curiosity

As I introduce our 3rd guest blogger, I can’t help thinking back to the recipe we blogged about in May of last year: Lamb Kheema in a Hurry Curry.  Admittedly, we were more interested then in the Golden State Warriors’ play-off hopes and Stephen Curry than we were in Indian Curry.   Now it’s playoff time again: Go Warriors!  Go, Curry!

I’m also intrigued with an article I read recently in The New Yorker in which the author Judith Thurman is quoted as saying, “Every tribe has an ancestral food that its exiles yearn for, and that its children can’t live without.”

That made me think about today’s guest blogger.

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Sara was impressed with The Raggedys even as a small child

Hi! I’m Sara. Daughter of Ann and Andy. Older, bossy sister to Travis. I’m 47 (shocking to me, more shocking to my parents) and work as the marketing and branding director for Tacolicious, the Cal-Mex restaurant group that I own with my husband Joe. I started my career as an editorial assistant working on Williams Sonoma’s CD-ROM cookbook collection. Yes, a CD-ROM—a technological relic that proves how long I’ve been in this. Since then I’ve written for magazines, been an editor at some other magazines and published a few cookbooks. I have two boys Silas (16) and Moss (13) and a 17-year-old stepdaughter Mia and we live in the Castro in San Francisco, which means now nothing shocks my children. Turns out I really like teenagers. I also love cooking, dancing and drinking red wine. Often all together.

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Moss at 13 and Sara at 47 – on their recent trip to Japan

From Curry to Curry: A Generational Curiosity

The other day, inspired by a story in The New Yorker,” Mom asked me to list the dishes from my 70’s and early 80’s childhood that today I can’t live without. Not the most sentimental person, I had to think on it.

For a while.

In fact, I almost replied, “Not much.” But that would have been cruel. And partly untrue.

I made the mistake of first racking my brain for beloved childhood dinners. There was Mom’s “Chop Soupy,” a pile of tough strips of beef, canned straw mushrooms, green bell peppers and crunchy La Choy chow mein noodles on top all served over Uncle Ben’s minute rice. And a watery Southwestern pinto bean stew that, as a food snob in the making, I insisted on not eating which means Mom insisted on making it. I have little recollection of salads unless you count one made of apples mixed with mayonnaise. And then there was the piece de resistance—a shrimp curry recipe, acquired from Paula Dillemuth of our Baton Rouge Unitarian Church, hailing from an unbeknownst part of the world and made with Campbell’s canned cream of mushroom soup, turned bright yellow with curry powder, and topped with bananas, canned pineapple, peanuts and the kind of shredded sweetened coconut you put on a cupcake. I will admit that I kind of loved that curry then. But I also loved Olivia Newton John.

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Olivia Newton John in Grease in 1978

However, as soon as I started reminiscing about the classics, I felt the sigh of familial comfort, the Pavlovian longing Mom was hoping for. Dad’s flaky and crisp biscuits (see an update on today’s Andy’s Corner), lacy Swedish pancakes with honey, and fluffy, cheesy omelets. Mom’s moist and just-sweet-enough oatmeal chocolate-chip cake and springy angel food with strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Perfect all-butter-crust apple pies.

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Grandmother and Great-Grandmother Annie’s Swedish Pancake

 

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Nana Ann’s Perfect All-butter Crust Apple Pie (recipe to come)

Looking back, the recipes that didn’t transcend time are the dishes mom and dad landed on by flipping through cookbooks, trying out something new. And while that curry might sound terrible in retrospect, it foreshadowed my parents’ propensity for cooking from a world pantry. Today, just peek into their cupboard, which overflows with everything from sumac to Sichuan peppercorns, to see it fully realized. Or get invited over for one of the delicious dinners of pozole or Vietnamese beef salad. Plus, the U.S. hadn’t really started to experience its true food revolution—the time when lemongrass would show up at Safeway, the cheese selection would go beyond orange Cheddar, and seasonality and regionality would get some of the respect they deserve. The food of the 70’s wasn’t their fault.

 

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Editor’s note: Surely Sara fondly remembers our wonderful fondue parties from the 70’s!

I inherited my parents’ openness to different foods. Flash forward to 1989. I moved to California to attend UC Santa Cruz where I got my first taste of sushi and on to San Francisco in 1993 where at 27, I wrote a cookbook on Asian vegetables. For that, Mom and Dad gamely tested recipes, gathering water spinach and galangal from their local Baton Rouge-based Vietnamese market. Long after they’d moved to Sonoma, I wrote the Tacolicious cookbook which gave them good reasons to pick up chilies and tortillas from the Mexican markets in Boyes Hot Springs. Sometimes, I feel like my parents and I came of culinary age together.

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Chapala in Sonoma: The Raggedys’ favorite Mexican market

Now it’s 2018 and Mom’s asking me what I fondly remember from my childhood dinner repertoire. Which, of course, makes me wonder what my kids in 30 years will answer if posed this question. Below, is a version of a recipe I make quite a bit. Coincidentally, it happens to be a curry, but this time I can tell you it’s of the Indian sort. And that I haven’t had a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup in my cupboard maybe ever.

Exed Campbells

Not to say my kids will be impressed with my regionality or feel any longing. They might take one look at it and shrug, “Meh,” the maddening three-letter word popular amongst the teens in this house. But my bigger hope is that by then they’ll have their own repertoire that reflects a culinary curiosity inherited from growing up in a house that serves up cold soba on one day and saltimbocca the next. And, like all guilt-inducing mothers, I’m going to want some damn credit for it!

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Moss and Silas got early encouragement with cooking and serving up and eating tasty food

In that spirit, I’d like to give a shout out to the people who made me curious about cooking and eating. Who made it the one thing that I love above all else. Who made me want to make a career out of it and write books about it and even enter the godforsaken restaurant industry for it. On the one-year anniversary of BigLittleMeals.com, I’d like to give big thanks to my Mom and Dad.

I’m sharing quick and simple recipes for chicken curry and roasted broccoli for today’s blog.

School Night Indian Chicken Curry with Chickpeas

School Night Indian Chicken Curry with Chickpeas

The more experienced of a cook I become, the lazier I get too. Or maybe I’ve just come to realize that short cuts don’t always make quality suffer. In the case of Indian food, one of my favorite cuisines and one which almost always starts with aromatics, I throw them all together in a food processor. It saves a lot of time and keeps me from crying onion-chopping tears. I prefer to use whole spices and grind them but if your spices are fresh, pre-ground is a fine alternative.

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chopped ginger
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon whole or ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole or ground coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional – depends upon your love of heat)
  • 1 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into large pieces
  • 1 16-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup whole milk plain yogurt
  • 1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Kosher salt to taste (Diamond brand, please)
  • Chopped cilantro

Place the garlic, ginger and onion into a food processor and give it a few pulses until everything is very finely chopped (but not a paste). Set aside. Add the cumin and coriander seeds to a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Or get your yaya’s out by pounding them with a mortar and pestle. Or just use pre-ground spices and call it a day.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and onion mix and cook until golden brown, adding water if it starts to burn. This takes like 5 to 10 minutes, so be patient. Add ground cumin and coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves and cayenne. Let cook another 15 seconds to bring out the flavor in the spices.

Add the chicken and saute for a couple minutes. Season with salt. Add the tomatoes, stir in the yogurt and add about 1 cup of water. Bring everything to a simmer, cover partially and allow to cook for about 45 minutes or until the chicken is fork-tender. Add the chickpeas, cook another five minutes. Season to taste with salt. Top with chopped cilantro. Serve with basmati rice. And maybe some Indian pickle.

Recipe brought to you by Sara in SanFrancisco and BigLittleMeals.com

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic, Chile, and Cumin

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic, Chile, and Cumin

I throw broccoli in the oven all the time. And this version makes a great side with the Indian curry. Roasting broccoli is a great way to intensify the flavor while adding a bit of char. Be sure to use the stems of the broccoli too. Just peel off the tough exterior and cut into thick matchsticks.

  • 3 heads of broccoli, cut into big florets, stems included
  • 2-3 tablespoons of canola or olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

On a sheet pan, arrange your broccoli in one layer. Toss well with oil, garlic, cumin seeds and pepper flakes. Stick in the oven and roast for about 15 minutes or until the broccoli is crunchy but tender enough to enjoy eating and it has a bit of char to it. Turn halfway through to get the char on all sides. Or don’t because you’re like me and prefer to be lazy.

Recipe brought to you by Sara in San Francisco and BigLittleMeals.com

 

 

9 Comments

  1. sandy says:

    Aside from being touched by Sara’s blog and cracked up by the cake photo, I really needed a recipe for mushroom soup (that I still have after cleaning out my mother’s pantry). But, I’ll try the curry!

    Like

  2. Bob Carleton says:

    Can still be happy with “dry red wine” but am enough of a Philistine to be quite happy with three-buck-chuck (it’s more expensive outside CA). And, I can make good use of canned cream of mushroom soup… yup. Both a Philistine and lazy!

    Like

    • Bob Carleton says:

      Having kvetched, I’ve gotta say that I still enjoy the blogs and reading about real cookin’! Even if I don’t always experiment with the actual production.

      Like

    • theRaggedys says:

      Andy here: I thought our censor software would have blocked any mention of “three-buck-chuck” on this blog. We will have to get our tech assistants to look into it. However, we did have an exception rule for “cream of mushroom soup” so it was ok to mention that. Thanks for the comments anyway.

      Like

  3. Helen Weaver says:

    Your recipes make me wish I was still cooking & wasn’t using my oven to hide junk food like Oreo cookies & Little Debbie cupcakes. Loved your blog Sara

    Like

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