A Sarcastic Appetite


Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup
December 12, 2010, 9:58 pm
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I haven’t written much about the Ninja here beyond his occasional dinner requests or snarky comments, and I’m not sure why – maybe out of some perverse desire to respect his privacy?

Well, that’s all over. From here on out, I’ll be sharing some of his other predilections, which lately have been downright bizarre.

For example, the other night I came home to find the apartment smelling like a pothead’s dirty laundry. Horrified, I threw open the windows and lit every scented candle I own. It only barely masked the smell….of sage leaves, which the Ninja had apparently been burning in an effort to “ward off bad spirits.” This is, of course, in addition to his weekly crude oil scalp treatments, which make the apartment smell like a gas station and are supposed to ward off baldness. In six months. Possibly.

Am I an unknowing extra in a dodgy remake of The Craft? Or is the Ninja merely acting out the prequel to that one Seinfeld episode when George gets a toupee? Maybe it’s some cruel combination of the two: a terrifying possibility.

He claims he’s just healthier than I am. I claim he’s just nuts. Either way, the battle lines have been drawn. He burns the sage leaves early enough in the day and I pretend not to notice when I get home, and I vacate the apartment on Tuesday nights to avoid any scent of Eau de Fuselage. I also throw away things he would otherwise recycle and buy non-organic food just often enough to annoy him. It’s an arrangement that I think really works, until I get thrown a curve ball: Crude Oil night has suddenly, inexplicably, unfairly, rudely been moved to Sunday nights. Now what?

I figured I had only one option: to cook a bunch of fragrant, aromatic stuff and hope for the best. This chicken and coconut soup fits the bill, and it’s very easy to put together. I probably should have let it simmer all evening to provide a coconut-y buffer to what’s about to happen around here – but then again, we’ve got to eat. This time next week, maybe I’ll make a ragù…or better yet, some kind of delicious bean soup. (The Ninja hates beans.) It’ll be perfect!

Thai Chicken & Coconut Soup

Adapted from Joy of Cooking. Serves 4.

3 c. chicken stock

2 2/3 c. coconut milk (about 1 1/2 14 oz. cans)

3 Jalapeño peppers or 2 Thai peppers, mostly seeded and sliced thinly (or completely seeded if you don’t want it spicy)

3 tbsp. fish sauce

3 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. minced ginger

1 tbsp. minced lemongrass

2 tsp. curry powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced

juice of 1/2 a lime

chopped cilantro for garnish

rice

Bring the chicken stock and coconut milk to a boil in a big pot. Reduce the heat; add the Jalapeños, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, curry powder, lemongrass, and salt. Simmer for about 10 minutes; taste and correct seasoning as needed. Add the sliced chicken and the lime juice and simmer for an additional 5 or so minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice and throw some chopped cilantro on there….or not, if you’re like I am and forgot about it. Again.



Butternut Squash Soup
November 21, 2010, 10:20 pm
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As usual, I’m late to the party. November’s almost out the door and I only just managed to purchase my first butternut squash of the season today. It was lying forlornly among the acorn squash, a rather pitiful specimen that will nevertheless be put to a delicious end: soup.

This delicate soup comes courtesy of Michael Psilakis, he of various Greek restaurants in New York and now Miami, from How to Roast a Lamb. The recipe is classic and simple: the aforementioned squash, an onion, some thyme, heavy cream, and a bit of white wine come together in what Psilakis describes as a “juicy” soup. He’s right. While it won’t steal the show – I think the John Dory and Crab-Yogurt-Orzo salad it’s paired with would take care of that – it is a light and lovely soup.

The reason I love this particular recipe? It doesn’t require peeling the squash (annoying) or cubing it (tedious). Roast the halved squash with some thyme and then scoop the flesh out and let it do its thing in the soup pot. Use this as your blank slate and add headier spices and flavors if you want. (I just added more nutmeg and some ginger.) Or leave it be, and just top with some chopped chives and a hefty dollop of crème fraiche, which will add a nice creaminess. Then again, what isn’t improved by crème fraiche?

Butternut Squash Soup

Adapted from How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis. Serves 4.

1 small butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded, but unpeeled

about 3 tbsp. nice olive oil

8 sprigs thyme

lots of salt and pepper

1/2 an onion, chopped

1 c. dry white wine

2 1/2 c. chicken stock

1 c. heavy cream

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

a pinch of ground cloves

1 tbsp. honey

crème fraiche and chives, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 375º. Brush olive oil onto the cut sides of the squash. Season with lots of salt and pepper, then stuff the cavities with the thyme. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast for about an hour, until very tender. Discard the thyme, then scoop the flesh out and set aside.

In a stockpot, heat the remaining olive oil. Add the onion and saute until tender and wilted, about ten minutes. Deglaze with the wine and allow it to evaporate completely – about 15-20 minutes or so. Stir in the pulp, the chicken stock, cream, spices, and honey. Bring it to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, then use an immersion blender to purée until smooth. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and chopped chives.