Cooking for 1 for the week

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26 January 2014 by

I got a taste for lamb korma a year or so ago, after boyfriend and I visited a warm little Indian restaurant near Boston. I can't get good lamb korma in Tuscaloosa, so when I got back, I looked up recipes that might be simple enough to make as a first-time curry.

This recipe over on Serious Eats, adapted from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, is almost as simple as it can get.

However, I made a few tweaks to streamline the cooking. I can throw this together in an hour and a half or so on a Sunday evening, like tonight, including clean-up, and have a warm dinner... and lunches for the entire week. It's also nice that a lb of lamb shoulder is only $5, at least down here in Ttown.

Changes: I love almonds, but raw cashews are softer to begin with, and so I can soak the cashews for only a few minutes -- as opposed to Jaffrey's a few hours. I also can't afford saffron, so I use a dash of turmeric for color (if I feel like color is important). I use cardamom seeds instead of pods because the pods have a chaff. I usually keep a ginger/garlic puree in my fridge in a little jar, to make things even faster. I swapped the cream for canned coconut milk, and increased the sauce ingredients so it'll cover veggies as well as meat.

1 to 1/2 cups whole raw cashews
1-2 tbs ginger-garlic puree (or 2 inches of peeled fresh ginger and 4 largeish garlic cloves)
2 tbs olive oil
2 2-3 inch cinnamon sticks
2 tsps of cardamom seeds
8 whole cloves (when I remember them)
3-4 bay leaves
1 lb lamb shoulder, cut from the bone into approx 1-inch chunks
1-2 cups fresh vegetables, cut into 1-inch lengths/chunks (eggplant, carrots, green beans are great)
1 1/4 tsp salt (I rarely use salt, I'm weird)
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 to 1 cup coconut cream (off the top of a can of coconut milk)

*use the watery rest of the coconut milk to make your rice

1. Put the cashews in a heat-happy bowl. Boil a cup or two of water and pour it over the cashews to cover them. Let sit while you prepare the meat and veggies.

2. After you've prepped the meat/veggies, puree the ginger and garlic in a medium-large food processor (or just dump in your premade puree). Dump in the soaked cashews and their water, and process cashews, ginger, garlic until you get a nice mushy paste (or chunky paste, to taste).

3. Set a large pan to medium heat. Pour in oil, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, and stir-fry for 5-10 seconds.

4. Put about half the lamb chunks in the pan and brown on two sides (only a few seconds per side), remove from pan, and repeat with the other half. Toss the veggies into the pan and brown them a bit, 1-2 minutes. Return meat to pan to join veggies.

5. Dump your cashew/ginger/garlic paste into the pan with meat and veggies. This is where you'd add the saffron/turmeric (and salt and/or cayenne to taste if you like those things) -- or even powdered cumin, cinnamon, etc. Stir and bring to a simmer.

6. Cover and simmer on low for 45-75 minutes. Seriously, it doesn't take a whole hour to cook, it'll just taste better if you let it.

7. Make your rice while you wait! Use the watery half of that can of coconut milk instead of water.

8. Add the coconut milk cream to the pan of korma and stir and cook on medium-high heat until it's all warmed up, mixed in, and delicious.

9. EAT. See? It didn't even take 9 steps.





3 Newsy Newsbites

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17 January 2014 by

To kick off the new year, dancing girl press just published Imago, a chapbook by my good friend and fellow poet Lindsay Lusby. I just ordered it, and I can't wait to hold it.  Go buy it too! Especially if you like eggplants, I'm just saying.

In other newsbites, two of my poems from a manuscript I'm calling Binding the Body are in the latest and Lisa Frank-est issue of Caketrain yet: Issue 11. Please go buy Caketrain and support a really phenomenal press as well as um, you know, my work. Say what you will about print vs. online, but oooh baby is Caketrain sexy.

In other other newsbites, I found out this week that I'm one of eight finalists for the Fall 2013 Black River Chapbook Competition over at Black Lawrence Press. I'm crossing my fingers super tightly for more good news from them shortly. It looks like the competition is quite stiff. Woosh!

And for good luck, I'll leave you with a photo of my case bindings from last spring that my friend Kate Barber helped me take recently to beef up my portfolio's professionality:



Mutscheltag!

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09 January 2014 by

Today is Mutscheltag, or Mutschel Day!

This is a traditional day in Ruitlingen, Germany, the hometown of my friends Uhle and Henry. Today they invited me and some other friends to celebrate with them by playing a dice game and eating a gorgeous Mutschel loaf that Uhle made specially for the occasion. The bread looked about two feet in diameter!


Ok, maybe a foot and a half? It looks smaller in the picture than it did in real life! 

The Mutschel bread has an iconography: it's shaped like the mountain near the town of Ruitlingen, and the knot at the top is the castle at the top of the mountain. The knots around the outside each have symbols on them which indicate the town's traditional trades.

There's also an accompanying dice game -- we played a version that Wikipedia calls "seven eat like animals" -- No one got to eat while each person rolled two dice, and whoever rolled 7 first got to eat first, tearing a chunk of the bread off with their hands and taunting the others who can't eat yet. Then each time someone else rolled a 7, they too could eat, until finally everyone was chowing down. 

Henry modified the game so that we could eat the salads (pictured) while we were playing the dice game, very kind of him to keep us from starving. However, the salads were even better with the bread.

After dinner, we had tea and played another dice game, Mia, to see who would take home the leftovers. There were again two dice, but this time we had to take turns rolling and calling out the number we rolled -- either the truth, or a lie, and each time the number had to be higher than the last. The next person had to guess if we were telling the truth or not. If she was right, the bluffer got a point; if she was wrong, she got a point. 

We were supposed to play to 6 points. Apparently the German way to keep tallies (at least, for this game) is by drawing a little stick figure like you would for hangman. Uhle added little open coffins below our stick figures... which meant we each got to play longer before losing, but it also meant that when we lost, it was quite morbid... I love it.

I won the first game, and got to eat like an animal before anyone else, but I lost the second game, largely thanks to Henry's ridiculous bluffs and ridiculous truths. I still got to take home some of the Mutschel! I'm planning on eating it with chocolate (which is what I did when they brought chocolate out for dessert.... mmmm).

Uhle and Henry are so kind and generous and open. I'm really glad they're sharing some of their traditions with me!


Happy New Year

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02 January 2014 by

I was super excited to receive my contributor's copies of Hayden's Ferry Review the other day. I read in their awesome online reading, which the fantabulous Sam Martone organized, and back then it appeared everyone else had received copies -- aaand mine was back in Tuscaloosa while I was visiting Boston. Whoops.

Also exciting was the arrival of Parcel, right before my winter vacation. (I'd have a picture of Hayden's Ferry Review but a cat is sleeping on my arm and purring really loudly and so I am even typing this one-handed. Later.) Both journals have poems from my thesis... and from the chapbook that is coming out with dancing girl press much later this year.


I'm not a big fan of resolutions. I'm afraid of commitment... or perhaps I'd like to think my efforts to improve myself are more adaptable and more frequently established. But there's something to be said for this weird space at the start of the year, where class and work haven't quite started back up yet... and something to be said for this blog space.

1. I find myself nearly thirty (only a couple more years left to chase the Ruth Lilly fellowships) and ridiculously out of shape, so in 2014 I'll continue to attempt to establish an exercise routine that works for me (eating cookies does not burn enough calories to be helpful, apparently). Good thing I attend a university that has a good gym.

2. I have to finish my creative writing thesis by April 4th of this year, so that might as well be a resolution.Woo.

3. I'll figure out how to afford my final year of gradual school (for book arts), by applying to assistantships, fellowships, and jobs and waiting impatiently for the results. 2013 was the year of establishing in-state residency for tuition purposes, and I succeeded. Woot.

4. Everything else I can think of, I'm already doing, albeit slowly and inconsistently in some cases. I've got an erratic but viable writing schedule which I supplement by using any downtime to send work out to journals. I'm busy but as focused as I realistically can be. I'm taking the time for side projects in both book arts and poetry. I will never achieve the right balance between me time, family time, friend time, and cats time. Let's face it: cat time and me time are the same thing. I'm going to AWP (it'd be nice to read for someone), and I'm going to Bermuda, and I'm going to Ox Bow Michigan. I want to make paper again this year. I will make paper again this year. Am I doing this right?



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