Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cheap Eats

Damnit, I hardly cooked a thing this weekend. But man, did I do a lot of eating, some of which included some real bargains.

First, it was vietnamese sandwiches for lunch at Banh Mi Ba Le Vietnamese Sandwich Deli. You cannot beat the price, and the food was darn good. They don't have a web site that I know of, but next time you find yourself hungry and wandering the streets of El Cerrito, head on over to 10174 San Pablo Avenue, and bring your cash because that's the only kind of payment they accept. Sandwiches are like $2.50 each - can't be beat! I do believe that meat eaters could do quite well here, but we didn't do so bad either. I got the veggie/tofu sandwich, and my honey got the sardines. Both were packed full of pickled veggies and peppers, and we bought some of their house made kim chee and added it to our sandwiches - blasphemous, perhaps, but it was good! We also got an order of 3 shrimp rolls at $1 each, and although they weren't the best ever, they weren't bad for a buck.

Then for dinner, I finally, finally got to experience Shalimar, in all its Tenderloin glory. Where have I been, and how could I not have known about this place all these years? It's the real deal - authentic Indian and Pakistani food. We feasted to our hearts' content for a total of $17.00. True, the neighborhood is a little rough. And the restaurant itself, it's not much to look at. In fact, getting your food to take out might be a better option. But it's all about the food. Completely authentic, spicy, made from scratch, and just perfect. Plenty of great vegetarian options here, among them, the most excellent Palak Paneer, and the dreamy Bengen Bhujia (eggplant, roasted and stewed with "exotic" spices).

I've been trying to save my money cause I've got some serious eating to do when I go to Phoenix later this week. Hello, Bianco's Pizza! Finally going to get to eat there!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Homemade Barbeque Sauce

Yeah, I know. It kind of looks like a bowl of ketchup. But trust me, it's good! And you can make it too!

We've had some crazy perfect weather around here the last few days, and it's giving me the barbeque itch. And today, it occurred to me that I've always wanted to make my own barbeque sauce, and that perhaps today should be that day. And so it is.

Truth be told, there won't be any charcoal grilling going on here tonight. I have to inhale my food and dash off to a rehearsal, so I'm just gonna pull a couple of homemade white bean & quinoa burgers out of the freezer, fry 'em up in the pan and slather them with this sauce.

I think there's room for you to improvise here & there w/ this recipe - for instance, if you don't have liquid smoke, you could leave it out. And if you don't have molasses, you could substitute brown sugar. If you don't like it spicy, you could leave the chipotle sauce out. But one of the things I happen to like about this recipe is that it's both smokey and spicy. It's your barbeque though, so sauce it up any way you like! I think next time I'm going to experiment with throwing some beer into the mix.

Here's how you do it.
(printable recipe)

Combine all these things in a bowl and stir it up well:

1 cup ketchup
2 T. red wine vinegar
2 T. worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. liquid smoke
1 t. dijon mustard
1 t. chipotle sauce (that is, the sauce of canned chipotles in adobos sauce)
2 t. molasses
light sprinkling of garlic powder

Now heat it up on the stove and cook over low heat for about ten minutes or so, slather onto the food of your choice, and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Curry Paste, How Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways...

So I finally got to dig into my new cookbook, Buddha's Table - and just two recipes into it, I think I'm in love.

This is what my kitchen island looked like on Sunday after I got back from shopping.

Between the advent of Daylight Savings time and a short detour for drinks overlooking the Oakland Estuary at Quinn's Lighthouse (thanks, Suki!), we didn't get around to eating dinner until like 10 pm, but boy, was it worth the wait. Homemade red curry paste! I made some, and so can you! It blows away anything you could buy in the supermarket. It features the tantalizing and complex combination of cumin, coriander, shallot, lime zest, garlic, red chiles and galangal, among other things. We blended it into a luxurious stew with kabocha squash, japanese eggplant and coconut milk, and trust me, this picture doesn't do it justice. It was a reason for living, I tell you.

We also made - from scratch! - a totally authentic green papaya salad, and I dare say it was as good as anything you could get in a restaurant. And I was glad we had leftovers because it tasted even better the next day.

The green papaya salad didn't use curry paste as an ingredient, but we did have some left over. So tonight, I smeared some of it onto asparagus that I roasted in a skillet along with some sliced shitake mushrooms, minced garlic and a handful of diced fermented black beans.

This might be one of my favorite dishes yet, and I'm going to post a more detailed recipe at some future point, but for now, the point is, homemade curry paste is my new favorite food! I am nothing if not obsessive, after all.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


... I haven't been all that creative in the kitchen or at the keyboard recently, but I've been doing some good reading. Somehow I stumbled across a great blog called The Ethicurean. It's a great source for info. about sustainable eating, packed with lots of interesting and informative articles. Check it out.

And in order to keep feeding my cookbook addiction, I recently purchased two new cookbooks. I am especially excited about the book Buddha's Kitchen by Chat Mingkwan. I feel a Thai feast coming on!

Another cookbook that I'm looking forward to trying is Peter Berley's The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. My cookbook cabinet is almost out of space. I should probably consider purchasing less cookbooks and doing more cooking...what a concept, eh?