June 27, 2012

Other People's Recipes: West African Peanut Soup

    I thought it was going to be a long time before something replaced the roasted tomato soup I've been making as my soup obsession. I was wrong. But I can't claim the credit for my new fixation.
     We're cookbook readers in my house. Myself most of all, but Wife will pour through different tomes of recipes over breakfast, and the kids like to go through and imagine what it will be like when they are old enough to make molten chocolate cakes and bacon wrapped meats without anyone hovering over them providing moderation. My favorite is "The Joy of Cooking." It's dependable, instructive, and thorough. Though (at least according to the Meryl Streep film "Julie and Julia,") the recipes in the original "Joy" were hardly tested compared to the cookbooks of real chefs, I have found it invaluable as a starting point for nearly everything, and as somebody who really likes tinkering with the recipes I make, a starting point is all I need. Boy and Girl are both drawn to the holiday cookbook Mother-in-Law got us for Christmas, with vibrant pictures that really sell the food. But it is Wife who started the latest obsession--Cooking Light. She bought one of their magazines simply because we were trying to eat healthier, but I have come to appreciate the publication on its own merits. So many "healthy" recipes cut out any sense of flavor, but Cooking Light recipes have never disappointed me. I enjoy their recipes enough that when I saw a giant anthology collection at the public library, I knew I had to check it out.

June 13, 2012

Tilapia Pouches with Squash and Tomato

I'm pretty terrible at cooking fish.  Every time I cook it on the stove, it breaks apart.  Things are doubly bad on the grill.  It's a delicate meat, and I am not a delicate cook.  For a long time, my solution to this problem was the easiest one;  I didn't cook fish.  Of course, I could have just banged away at it, and I'm sure I would have gotten a handle on it soon enough, but while Wife is tolerant of the average screw-up in the kitchen, she isn't enough of a fish fan to try faulty flounder.  Not wanting to ruin everyone's dinner, I stayed away from fish each time I went to the store, at least since my attempt at crispy battered cod the summer before last turned into a paste that smelled like cat's breath.  I like a good piece of fish, but not enough to face down a horde of angry diners when I'm not on point. 

At least not until I heard about pouch cooking.  I was familiar with it from camping, of course, but somehow I'd never made the logical leap to the oven.

If you're not aware, you can cook any number of meats and/or vegetables together in sealed foil pouches; providing you've found the right balance of ingredients, they will come out of the oven as little bundles of perfectly cooked individual dinner portions, steamy and aromatic.

June 7, 2012

Chicken Curry

As I've reiterated over the last three or four posts, I don't mind eating vegetarian.  Wife, although not the biggest fan of vegetables in the past, has been so dedicated to getting into shape that meatless meals were easy to commit to.  In the end, it was the children who were the most resistant to eating dinner without meat, so when Lotus and her son left our house the last week of May, I wasn't surprised when Boy requested meat be on the menu.  However, I was surprised when he asked for curry.

Curry was a staple of our menus when Lotus was living with us; we made it two to three times a month, and there were always leftovers.  But Boy had fallen in love with the dish, and he wanted to see how it would taste without the presence of his dreaded nemesis, tofu.  More specifically, he wanted to try it with chicken, a request I was more than happy to oblige.