Carrot Ginger Soup With Curry Spices

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Carrot Ginger Soup With Curry Spices

As reported, I have been experimenting with soups this winter…here on the East End of Long Island, we’ve been getting socked with snow (our back deck still looks like this), so nice steaming bowls of delicious soup are in order.

This soup — carrot ginger soup — isn’t normally thought of as being particularly Southeast Asian, but when you start adding coconut milk, plus coriander, cumin and curry, who’s to say it’s not? A bonus for vegan readers….it’s also non-dairy.

If you don’t have mustard seeds (common ingredient in many Indian curries) — it’s not a deal killer. Just skip that step. The other ingredients are easy to find. I generally always use coconut oil for Asian dishes, but any vegetable oil will do. Enjoy!

Carrot Ginger Soup With Curry Spices

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seed
1 small white onion, chopped
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder (I prefer a hot Madras)
4 cups chopped carrots
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup orange juice
4-inch piece finely grated fresh peeled ginger
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 can (14-oz) of coconut milk

Heat the coconut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds; when they pop, add onions and sauté until translucent. Mix in the coriander, cumin, curry powder and stir, making sure onions are coated. Add the carrots, then the vegetable broth, orange juice, ginger and lemon juice. Boil, then simmer until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes or so. Remove from heat. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot and pour in the coconut milk; heat and serve.

I like to save a drop or two of the coconut milk to dollop on top of the soup, as it looks nice when served….you can always garnish with thyme or parsley, too.

Delicious!

Experimenting With Thai Soups

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Here is the lovely Tom Yum Goong soup that I made the other night….it is a clear spicy soup made from a chile-tamarind paste, which gives it a delightful sour note. I am still perfecting the recipe, so can’t post the details yet.

Winter, by the way, is a great time to experiment with Thai soups — nothing like a bowl of steaming spiciness to combat the blizzard blues! (Side note: It’s always crazy to me that Thai food, in general, comes from such a blistering hot country…it’s really the perfect food to heat up a cold night, which you don’t get a lot of in, say, Bangkok).

Stay turned for my version of Tom Kha Gai, a Thai classic.

If I Were Ever to Turn CrackingCurry Into a Business….

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Cracking Curry

….this above photo is what I would sell. It is my Easy & Simple Curry Sauce, made from coconut oil, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, oyster sauce, palm sugar, sambal oelek and coconut milk. I experimented recently by making a batch, putting enough for one meal in this plastic container, and then freezing it. Would it hold up? If I made a meal with it a few weeks later, just plopping the frozen sauce into a wok, then adding protein and veggies, would it taste any good?

Turns out, yes. It froze beautifully, and it made for a VERY easy, simple and delicious meal, when I heated it up in the wok and added shrimp, bell pepper, squash and bok choy, then served over rice.

Will I turn CrackingCurry into a business? Probably not. I’m not convinced there’s a market, nor do I think there would be enough profits in a line of curry sauces to merit the capital investment. Plus, because I wouldn’t use preservatives, it would have to be sold in the refrigerated or frozen section — foods that can sit in a jar on a shelf, I’m sure, would do much better.

So for now, CrackingCurry stays a hobby. But here’s what the general public is missing out on! Behold the meal I made with my frozen Easy & Simple Curry sauce:

Simple and easy curry

A Boxing Day Curry — An Easy Shrimp Veggie Dish

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So I have no idea what you are traditionally supposed to eat (if anything) on Boxing Day, the British holiday. Until recently, I erroneously thought “boxing day” had something to do with box lunches. Apparently, it has more to do with servants, and giving them gifts in a box. (Who knew!) Not having servants, I thought it best to appropriate the holiday instead for eating a curry. After days of traditional American eats (ham, salads and christmas cookies), it was time for a hot and spicy Thai meal.

The recipe below serves 4 people (most of my recipes are for 2) — but we were dining with my in-laws, who love curry, so hence this is for four. You really can use any combination of veggies…I chose these for variety, and because they were easy to find. I prefer using frozen coconut milk, which doesn’t have preservatives, but canned coconut milk is fine. To note: This is a very streamlined recipe, not as complex or labor-intensive as a proper Thai curry.  If you happen to have kaffir lime leaves on hand, chiffonade and throw them in, too.

This recipe contains my Fab Four — fish sauce, oyster sauce, palm sugar and sambal oelek — which are a must if you are a lover of Asian cuisine.

A Boxing Day Curry — An Easy Shrimp Veggie Dish

3 tbsp coconut oil or any veggie oil

for paste:
8 cloves garlic
4 inches ginger
1 lemongrass, lower third of stalk, sliced diagonally
(Purée all that into paste)

2 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp chile paste (I prefer sambal oelek, a cousin of Sriracha)
1.5 tbsp palm sugar
1 can of coconut milk
2 birds eye chile, diced
1.5 lb shrimp
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 small zucchini, thin spears
1 small yellow squash, chopped
1 handful oyster mushroom, sliced
Handful green beans, chopped
3 baby bok choys, sliced
Thai basil (optional)
jasmine rice

To start, make a paste by pureeing garlic, ginger and lemongrass in a food processor. Heat oil in a wok (or large pan) and fry paste until fragrant, stirring constantly over medium high heat. Add fish sauce, oyster sauce, chile paste and palm sugar; mix until the palm sugar has melted and you’ve got a nice dark looking sauce. Pour in can of coconut milk. (Add a little water or white wine if you want it extra saucier.) Add chiles (optional) for more heat. When that boils, add shrimp….push shrimp down until covered with the sauce, and allow to cook for a minute or two. While the shrimp is still cooking, add most of the veggies (bell peppers, zucchini, squash, mushroom and beans) and stir so that everything is cooking. If you’ve got a lid, you can cover the pot a bit to help the process along. When all is nearly done, add the bok choy and thai basil (optional), and remove from heat. Serve over jasmine rice. Delicious!

A Squash Soup With Kale — And a Hint of Curry

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Squash soup

This was a recipe I made plenty this fall, usually with fresh vegetables from our local produce stand, Balsam Farms. I can’t take full credit for the dish, as I tweaked a version that I saw on the site She Knows. But this is my rendition, with a slight emphasis on more spices typically used in curries.

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cubed and peeled squash (such as butternut or pumpkin)
1/4 tsp mace or nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, more if you want it spicy
pinch salt
4 cups chicken broth
1 can (14-1/2 oz) diced tomatoes
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups coarsely chopped kale
1 can chickpeas

Begin by heating oil in large pot (like a LeCreuset) and adding onions and carrot, stirring until they soften. Add garlic and stir for minute more. Mix in squash, then add all the spices. Stir until the ingredients in the pot are coated. Pour in broth, tomatoes and fresh thyme. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Add kale and chickpeas, and cook for several more minutes. (At this point, I like to remove the thyme sprigs and puree a good bit of the soup in a food processor, as I like the soup to have a smooth texture. Don’t puree or just puree a bit if you like it chunkier.) Enjoy!

Here are the veggies I used, plus canned tomatoes….look how beautiful!

Squash soup

I’m fortunate to live near Balsam Farms, a produce stand in Amagansett, N.Y., that sells locally and organically grown produce, pictured below.

Balsam farms

A Night at Pure Thai

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Pure thai

We recently had a delicious dinner at Pure Thai Cookhouse, a restaurant in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood that — hallejuah! — has an ambiance to match its cuisine. (Unfortunately, many of the Thai joints on 9th Ave are lacking in the charm department.) We tried the Ratchaburi Crab and Pork Dry Noodles, pictured above, which was a big winner, and also the Wok Curry Paste with Pork (yum), which I had tried on a previous visit several years ago. It was a Saturday night, so we had to wait for a table for a bit — but the meal and the dining experience were well worth the wait. The restaurant is modeled after eateries in Thailand that sell homemade food to go (in fact, our noodles were homemade), and with its chalkboards, tin ceiling, wood paneling, little tables and painted stools, the whole place has an eclectic, home-y feel. — Pure Thai, 766 9th Ave. (between 51st and 52nd Sts.)

Learning to Be Content With the Memories

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carroll and cooper

Just a few weeks ago, my family gathered in Syracuse (my hometown) to raise money for breast cancer research. My oldest sister Carroll, pictured above, was diagnosed with the disease in August. Her three daughters, all grown girls, organized “Team Carroll” and collected pledges to run in the Carol M. Baldwin Run For Their Life race. If you weren’t running, you could cheer runners on as they navigated the course that crisscrossed Syracuse University’s campus. Everyone planned to gather after the race at my other sister Janine’s house. I volunteered to make curry to feed such a large group, a big vat of vegan curry and an equally big vat of Indian chicken curry.

We had hoped Carroll would be there, but as the race approached, she had a terrible reaction to the aggressive doses of chemo that (we hoped) were zapping the cancer. She was rushed to intensive care. On race day, the girls and several other family members braved the elements (no snow, but cold rain) to finish the course. Carroll stayed in the ICU. Everyone gathered post-race at Janine’s, where I like to think the curry was good comfort food.

“Comfort” is a nice thought when someone you love is sick. Since August, when the initial diagnosis was Stage 4 breast cancer that had already metastasized to the bones, lungs and liver, we had all been searching for it. It didn’t seem fair that Carroll, only 55, who lived an exceedingly content and quiet life, never straying far from where she grew up, would be stricken with such an aggressive, insidious disease. Despite the odds, we were optimistic. These days, one can manage cancer for a long time. New drugs and novel treatments are constantly being developed. As long as you keep spirits high, there was a fighting chance, we figured.

It was not to be. Two weeks after race day, Carroll slipped away quickly. It was true to her personality. At our family camp, where our huge boisterous group would gather every Fourth of July, Carroll would often disappear to her cabin while everyone else stayed up for hours around the campfire. She’d be inside, contentedly sipping amaretto and reading a book, while the group animatedly played 20 Questions and other games in the dark.

Grasping that you will never see someone again is not easy. I find myself waking with a jolt in the middle of the night, or during a nap, thinking: “My sister is dead.” And the memories that come back, oddly, are not recent ones, but ones from childhood. I remember the sister who would take me to play pinball at the arcade, whose favorite color was yellow, who had a rainbow comforter and feathered bangs. I remember the time she brought me Chicken McNuggets (my request) when I had the chicken pox. And I remember all the afternoons I’d walk to her house after school, circa 1983, when we’d listen to Genesis’ “That’s All” and eat Doritos.

A few days ago, after her wake and funeral, we gathered again at Janine’s. It felt like someone was missing, something we’ll have to get used to for a long time to come. “I keep thinking she is going to walk through the door,” my brother said.

Friends and relatives had dropped off big vats of comfort food — which in Syracuse, a town founded by Italians, tends to be baked ziti. There was baked ziti made with copious mozzarella (a very stringy affair). Another baked ziti featured, rather daringly, a handful of elbow macaroni. Still another baked ziti had ground beef. It made me smile when I saw that my niece’s friend had dropped off a curry vegetable soup. Comfort food, indeed.

It still doesn’t seem real. I don’t know when it will. I can see her blonde hair and blue-green eyes. I can hear her voice. Maybe that’s how it is. The physical presence is gone, but the memories live on. We’ll always want more. But we’ll need to be content with what we have. My sister knew a lot about being content — it’s quite possibly the one word that best describes her. Perhaps it’s not comfort that we seek, but contentment. I will try to follow her example.  ✤

Loyal Readers Write In!

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So every once and a while at CrackingCurry.com, we open the mailbag and share the copious letters, photos, rave reviews, etc that loyal followers (besides my mom) have sent in. OK, so I don’t get THAT many letters — but I am surprised how many people, much to my delight, send me photos of their meals or anything curry-related. Please keep that coming! You can find all my contact info here.

Recently I heard from three gourmands…the first, of course, being someone who is related to me (if nothing else, I can count on the occasional family member to read this blog). My niece Chelsea DeBaise, a journalist living in Chicago who cleverly captured the handle “cdebaise” on Instagram before I thought to do so, is quickly becoming one of the 12 types of millennials known as a “culinary explorer.” And her exploration has led her (and boyfriend Michael) to curries! I am thrilled to hear they work with both a wok and a crock-pot slow cooker. A few weeks ago she texted: “Wednesday is wok night so Michael and I are trying out some cracking curry tonight!” (Note the use of this blog’s name as a common noun…excellent branding, Chelsea!).

Chelsea attempted my “Simple and Easy Thai Curry” recipe, which is a personal favorite in this household. Here is the photo she Instagrammed:

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From Chelsea: “We substituted snow peas for bok choy, because, well, I had too much bok choy! We had a bok choy and Napa cabbage stir fry appetizer as well. Thanks Colleen, the curry was fantastic!” Well done, Chelsea (and Michael), well done!

RELATED: See how Ivan and Bella made this same recipe. And for more reader-made recipes by Roe, Igor and Christine, see here.

The next reader I was happy to hear from was Dinah Wisenberg Brin, a talented writer (and former co-worker) who lives in Philadelphia. Interestingly, Dinah appears to have run across a curry-related entree while….out to breakfast! Well, perhaps it was brunch:

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Dinah writes to me via Facebook: “Not usually one to post food pics but the curry omelet platter at Cups & Chairs Tea Café deserves a mention. Highly recommended.” So noted, Dinah, and next time I’m in Philly, would love to check it out!

And then most recently, I heard from a sneaker-clad reader named Rod Kurtz, who has walked this blog’s virtual red carpet many a time (see here and here and here), who sent this photo:

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Rod reports this is a new restaurant in the East Village, and may or may not be owned by the same folks who own the intriguingly named “Plump Dumpling.” Rod, who among many things is a small-business consultant, also offered a thought for an additional (sole?) revenue stream for Cracking Curry: Apparel! “Maybe CC should get into the t-shirt business!” he said. Hmm. Food for thought, as they say.

Thank you, Chelsea, Dinah and Rod, for the contributions! Will send you a t-shirt if I ever make them!

Holding Onto Summer….

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Camp curry

From this weekend’s trip to Fire Island National Seashore.

Curry (made in advance) is an excellent meal to bring while camping. I’ve discovered that it reheats well on a camp grill or stove. You can make your curry at home, pack it in a disposable tin and then set the tin on top of the fire. Boom! A hot fragrant meal that is the envy of other campers. Serve over rice, which you can also prepare in advance. (No need to reheat the rice, esp if your curry is bubbling hot from the camp stove, as this one was.)

The recipe I used was my own Easy Indian Curry.

Below, my pal Carolyn and her son enjoy a late October day at the beach. 

Fire island

Stocking Up for the Fall

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Stocked!

It’s harder to stock my cabinet now that I live in the Hamptons…but fortunately I am in the city often enough to swing by Kalustyan’s and Bangkok Center Grocery to pick up fixings. Just makes for more bags on the Jitney!