"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Curried Squash and Utensils I Cannot Do Without


The curried squash recipe is a blend of a number of squash recipes; and my list of utensils is a How To guide for setting up a new kitchen.

Curried Zucchini

The curried squash recipe is like many of mine and most people, I suspect – it comes from previous recipes with a few new twists added.  In this case, given the wonderful abundance of various types of zucchini in the market these days, I had made some interesting dishes in the past week.  I made a squash and basil puree and I made sauteed zucchini and mushrooms.  For the puree I used yellow squash which is good, but without a lot of taste; and for the sauteed zucchini I used the very high-flavor Italian zucchini (you will recognize it by the high, raised ribs – very different from the smooth green zucchini common in most supermarkets).  I decided to add both recipes together, and make a curry.

* 3 Italian zucchini and 3 regular zucchini (all regular is fine, but the taste will not be as intense), cut into 2” round pieces

* 3 yellow squash, cut similarly

* 3 very large bunches fresh basil, stems removed, chopped coarsely

* 2 Tbsp. curry powder

* 2 lg. Tbsp. sweet mango chutney (from Asian store – most supermarket chutney is not very good)

* 1/2 cup raisins

* 1/2 cup dried coconut flakes

* 5 shakes hot red pepper flakes

* 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil

* 1 vegan bouillon cube

* 1/2 cup half-and-half

- Place the yellow squash and 1 bunch of chopped basil in about an inch of water with the bouillon cube and cook until the squash are tender, still firm, but not undercooked

- Put the squash, basil, cream, and about 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid in a blender and blend until pureed

- Place the cut green zucchini and the remaining basil in 1” of water

- Add the puree, raisins, chutney, curry powder, pepper flakes, coconut, and olive oil and cook until the zucchini are tender.  This should take about 20 minutes.  Stir frequently, and adjust for taste.  Curry powders are all different, so you will have to taste.  Same thing with the pepper flakes, chutney, etc.  The taste should be a rich, creamy curry taste, a little sweet, and a little hot, but with a definite zucchini taste.

- Serve

My Essential Cooking Utensils

I cook a lot, but my kitchen is very simple with relatively few cooking utensils and instruments.  If I had to set up my own apartment, it would not be hard to equip the kitchen.  Here are the tools that I use almost every day and cannot do without.  They are very few:

* Large iron skillet.  You can buy these pre-seasoned.  They are a bit expensive, but well worth it since you will be cooking on them for years.  I do everything with mine – I grill meats in them (you can get them almost red-hot and get an incredible sear on both sides of the meat); brown vegetables; make pancakes; you name it.  ABSOLUTELY number one on my list

* Large Copper-bottom Frying Pan. Use all the time for everything except the grilling, etc., above

* Sharp knives.  I use only three – 1) a Japanese all-purpose kitchen knife which I can sharpen, for it holds a razor edge.  I use this every day and for everything; 2) ordinary paring knife (I have bought mine – inexpensive aluminum – from the Mennonite store in East Tennessee – but you don’t have to go that far; 3) grapefruit knife.  While I rarely eat grapefruit, this knife, with its curved serrated edge is incredibly versatile.

* Slotted Spoon.  These spoons are large enough for scooping anything out of cooking pots and for draining liquid.  Indispensable.

* Wooden Spoon.  Perfect for cooking in any kind of pan.

* Extra Large Colander.  Like most of you, I cook a lot of pasta, and there is nothing like having a really big colander to shake the pasta in.  I can’t tell you how many times I have slopped spaghetti over the sides of these inefficient and poorly designed plastic things.

* Wire Whisk.  I use it all the time, especially for blending marinades (I marinate most of my grilled fish and chicken), scrambled eggs, etc.

* Extra Large Pot.  These large pots are essential for cooking pasta which needs lots of water (more water, less cooking time, no gummy pasta), cooking sauces, vegetables, everything

* Regular Pots.  A copper-bottom set (Tupperware, I think) of three

* Large Rubber Spatula.  Essential for getting the last bits out of pots and pans.  You won’t really need smaller ones.

* Large Metal Spatula.  This is obvious.  I use mine for everything, turning fried rice, eggs, you name it.

* Measuring Cups. 

* Chinese Strainer. These thick wire-and-wood handled instruments are perfect for picking up and draining veggies, other foods

* Regular Strainer.  Use it all the time.

* Cheese grater.

* Potato Masher. Not critical, but good to have on hand

* Spaghetti Tool.  I don’t know what they’re called, but used for stirring and then serving spaghetti.

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