Accidental Food

So I was all set to post about my Thai food explorations, and give you all great Thai food dishes, one of which I’m pretty sure could be easily done with some sort of veggie crumble or something (though I’ll leave those explorations for those of you with more knowledge of such things), but last night’s dinner adventure has required me to rethink those plans.

The day started off innocently enough, we decide that my back is “good enough” to go pick strawberries, and set off, picking an obscene amount of strawberries,

Mmmmm, strawberries. This should last me and Xander a week, maybe.

eating an even more obscene amount of strawberries (note: apparently to Xander, “Go help Daddy/Mommy pick strawberries”, means, go over to said parent with your empty box, and remove strawberries from their box, put them in yours, and then eat them)

Mommy picks, Xander eats. It's a good system.

and then there were tractors

Vroom Vroom!

and strawberry donuts (tasty but less awesome than they sound).  And even though it was a little past 1pm by the time all this fun was done, we decided we needed to put actual food in the little man before sending him off to nap land, and wandered off to get some BBQ at the place near AJ’s work (at which point Xander decided that he now likes brisket more than pulled pork).

Now all this lead up is to explain that it was late when we got lunch, we had eaten quite a lot of food along the way (but not an alot of food), and had very low motivation for dinner.  So AJ looks at me and says, “Well, do we have any of that fish?”, and I say, “Yeah, a whole bag of it.”, and he says, “Well, we can have that.”, and I say, “But how do you want to cook it?”, and he says, “I don’t know, we have… lemon juice?  Maybe throw it in a foil packet with the lemon juice and some herbs or something? Then throw it on the grill?”  And while this is a perfectly good suggesting, something about fish and foil packets irks me, and I make him get me the New Best Recipe book, and then think about it again and realize I have a gigantic Indian cookbook I haven’t explored much and that there are fish recipes in there too, and I make him fetch that one too.  Now at this point, Xander wakes up from his nap, and AJ wanders off to deal with the little man, which was probably where most of this went “wrong”.  He left me alone with cookbooks and ideas.

Now, this doesn’t normally cause too many problems, I occasionally do like Courtney and combine some recipes, but usually if I don’t have the ingredients, I either don’t make it, or I go to the store.  But that requires my brain to be working and notice than I don’t have the ingredients.  However, my brain was on vacation, apparently.  So I find this Indian Blackened/Grilled fish dish and I think I have all the ingredients, so I start making it.

It wants me to make garlic paste, I decide I’m too lazy to get the blender out and just try and smoosh some minced garlic with a little bit of water.  It doesn’t work very well, I give up and declare it doesn’t need to be paste, not really.  Next ingredient, tamarind paste, I flip to the recipe for that, and don’t have anything it needs (which is tamarind and water), but skimming the intro it says that sometimes the author just uses tamarind powder.  Great!  I go and grab my turmeric powder and throw that in.

And then it dawns on me, turmeric isn’t tamarind.  Tamarind is very different and something I really don’t have in the house.  I mull this over, but I’ve already chopped garlic and thrown turmeric on it, so I decide I’m committed now (did I mention how tired I was?) and go to the internet to look for substitutes for tamarind paste.  And there are some (you can google this yourself if you want), and they seem to be of the dried fruit and sugar bits, with the description that tamarind is sweet and sour at the same time.  But the only dried fruit I have is craisins, which is pretty much nothing like the dates and plums requested by the substitute recipes.  I almost give up here, but then my brain decides it has an idea.  I have something that’s tart, and sweet, and sour… Key Lime Jelly!  Yes, my brain honestly thinks this is a good idea at the time, so I throw some of that in and add the paprika, and the garam masala, and … then I realize that I don’t have ajwain seeds, but this I know there is a substitute for, back to the internet I go, and I find it, oregano!  That I actually have, I throw some of that in with some salt and pepper and then the next ingredient is mustard oil or peanut oil.  Now another recipe I was looking at added a grainy mustard, and so I think, maybe I’ll add some of that stone ground mustard I have and some oil, that’s like the same right? (I did mention my brain being on vacation, right?) and I throw that in, and turn to actually read the recipe and find out that I wasn’t supposed to put the oil in with the rest of the ingredients, that was for cooking, or something.  Undeterred, I just stir it together and taste it.

It’s either horrible, or ok.  I decide to add some ground cardamom (why not at this point) and some more garam masala.  At this point I make AJ taste it (he finally wandered back in).  He decrees that it is, “Intense, but probably ok on the fish as a marinade”.  So I throw it and the fish in a bag and marinate away.  Fast forward a little over an hour, after an uneventful walk/bike ride with the munchkin, and I decide to make indian grilled tomatoes as well (I actually have all the ingredients for this one) and some basmati rice with mustard seeds and a cardamom pod (why not?  sounded like fun), start the rice, and go throw the fish and the tomatoes on the grill.

Now, I think I might have missed another step here because my fish didn’t blacken… At all.  But it cooked, and we went inside, and I put the food in front of AJ and Xander and wait to see what happens.  See, they didn’t know there was key lime jelly in there, so they were less scared of it.  AJ is suspicious at this point, but he takes a bite…. And decrees it good, possibly needs a bit of tweaking, but good.  Xander is already chowing down while grousing about having the tomatoes on his plate (he has a love hate relationship with tomatoes, some days he eats a whole one by himself and wants more, other days, he is mad at them, I think he might have just OD-ed on “red things” for the day).  So I take a bite, and it wasn’t bad.  Now the recipe had said you might want to add some lemon juice after cooking, so I tried that, because, well, lemon juice makes most things better, and it changed from ok, to actually very tasty!  And the tomatoes were fantastic (AJ didn’t like them, but he has bizarre tomato hatred), and together it was all great!  And I was so proud of myself for my creation, but I refused to tell AJ what was in it until he had eaten all of it, lest he determine he didn’t like it with more knowledge.

So all in all, a tasty meal.  Below is my approximation of what I did, but honestly it was a bit vague, and if you wish to be brave enough to try this, you will have to experiment a bit yourself.  Good luck!

Supposed Blackened Garam Masala Fish (a la Kt)

theoretically from 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra, but wildly adapated

1 large clove garlic minced

splash of water

1/8 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tbsp key lime jelly (found in the British section of our grocery store)

3 tilapia fillets

1/2 tbsp paprika

1/4 tsp oregano

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp salt

1/2-1 tbsp grainy mustard

1/2 tbsp veg oil

Lemon juice

Mix everything but the lemon juice together, slightly mash at the garlic.  Put in a plastic bag with the fish.  Marinate in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.  Grill.  Sprinkle lemon juice on top and eat.

Simply Grilled Tomatoes

from Quick & Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey’s (where my favorite Indian recipes are from)

2  large tomatoes

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp cumin

Black pepper

Generous pinch of cayenne pepper

2 tsp lemon juice

Heat grill.  Cut the tomatoes in half.  Sprinkle all the dry ingredients on the tomatoes and rub it in.  Sprinkle the lemon juice on the tomatoes and rub that in.  Place on grill (I did it cut side down, but I don’t know if that was right per say) until tomatoes are slightly limp.

2 responses to “Accidental Food

  1. See, that is my kind of cooking experience! Key lime jelly is not a bad tamarind replacement at all. Certainly within the same spectrum of flavors. I have that same problem whenever I break out my Indian cookbooks. I never have all the ingredients, but I’m usually cowed by my inexperience in that cuisine and just give up. Go you for pressing on!

  2. Heh, I usually give up as well, but I honestly thought I had the ingredients when I started this and then I got past the point of no return (or so I had deemed that night) and so I just went for it. I think I’ve been looking for something to make with key lime jelly, but I haven’t quite found it yet, so I was just enthused that I had used it in something.

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