I had a way-too-short vacation in California. One night I made dinner which is about as much a vacation as I really ever need. I mean, aside from the anxiety I normally have about everything. I made some sort of tikka masala-ish chicken which I roasted on an onion raft. I had Indian snacks, made curry-spiced and herbed rice, buttered naan, my world famous raita and some weird nut-butter green beans which I could have lived without. It was all good but the best part was the onions.
When I told the Royal Indian Mounted Police I was making Indian food he said Indian while making air quotes with his fingers. Wait’ll he tells me he’s making Italian food.
First of all it’s Instant Pot risotto. So, if you’re a snob like some people I could mention looking down his nose perched on the saddle on a horse, you may not want to try it. When I told him I’d made risotto and that I’d used an Instant Pot, he shrieked “THAT’S NOT RISOTTO!!!”
But if you have an Instant Pot and want some pretty damn good risotto-like dish this one is sure fire. And not only was it delicious it was amazingly fast and easy. Sauté your mushrooms and onions in the pot, add your stock and rice and pressure cook it for 6 minutes. Add the peas, butter and cheese. That’s it. It was awesome. Of course, I had this hideously expensive carnarolli rice that I’ve had for a decade and had never been opened (rice improves with age) and my stock was good enough to eat by itself. Those things do make a difference.
Of course if you had an envelope of turkey gravy you could probably use that. Just don’t tell certain royal mounted police, if you know what’s good for you.
It feels like I smuggled myself in. All the rigmarole, the calls, emails, printed out testaments to our relationship, twisting of fingers, sleepless nights, anxiety about every various thing that once could anxietize over, the pre-emptive COVID test, the clerk at Aer Lingus riffled through my stack of proof-of-relationship without looking at it and sent me on to the Aer Lingus lounge. It was mostly empty but there was this guy who managed to slam dunk 4 tumblers of scotch in 5 minutes. We landed in Dublin while it was still dark (and raining) I couldn’t see a bit of The Ol’ Sod and it didn’t feel in the least bit Irish, nothing was open at 4:30 in the morning.
And then it was off to Berlin. No customs since I’d been through customs in Ireland, and I was out the door. No COVID test, no dramatic presentation of proof-of-relationship, no explaining that yes, I know there is a 30+ difference in our relationship. Can you imagine that in the US?
And then there was the tearful reunion with the Royal Indian Mounted Police. It’s been eight months, 20 days and 7 hours.
They, the squirrels, seem to prefer the Indian tomatoes, the seeds for which the mother of the Royal Indian Mounted Police sent from India. I don’t exactly know why they prefer them and for what. They do not actually eat them. They pull them off and maybe take a bite and then discard them. Possibly they are playing a game with them.
I took out my raspberry bushes, too much work for so little benefit (not unlike many things in my garden but I’ll get too them sooner or later) and I put the canes around the base of the tomatoes like I did with the peach tree which, yes, did not stop them from eating every single one of the peaches but the squirrels could get to the peaches by many different means so I’m giving the raspberries another go. I’m hoping they’ll skip my yard because they’ll think uh oh, way too prickly. And there are the raspberry canes as well.
The Royal Indian Mounted Police may live on another continent but I am vigilant, constantly looking over my shoulder to see if I’m about to be swatted or reprimanded in some way for code violations. This was an exquisite Indianish dinner. Chicken thighs marinated in lime pickle (limes from my lime tree, pickle that I made myself) and pulihora, a rice dish made with chaunk, and some raita made with ho-made yogurt.
I think it was good. The table went silent when we started eating which is a good sign but I was nervous nonetheless. One never knows when the authorities will swoop in and kick up a ruckus.
Chinese steamed buns. These are insane! Oh, wait, it’s me that is. I was coerced by a certain horse riding food dictator to make these. Coerced may be an overstatement but you can see that he was observing the making of them from his perch on my counter shrieking directions at me the entire time.
These were char siu stuffed buns. I made the exquisite chinese bbq the night before and then the dough the next day. I freaking worked myself up into a freaking lather about it. As I am wont to do. This was simply Julia’s bread recipe filled with bbq and then steamed. They were so incredibly delicious. I cannot wait to make them again. As soon as I can work my way out of this straight jacket.
I can see a certain mounted officer of the law spitting his gin tonic across the room.
I’m not sure what possessed me, aside from the gnawing realization that I have to eat less meat, I decided to do a few days of being a vegetarian so I could, you know, up my ecological/green chart points. I’m going to need to do a hell of a lot more of this to get the origin point on the X-Y axes of my coordinate grid to align more closely with tree hugging, ecological saint I picture myself to be.
As I may have mentioned, I’d really like a guide or some informed idea of how much meat I can eat and still count myself among the Friends of the Earth, well, let’s say at least on a first name basis with the Earth if not exactly “friends.” I mean, I don’t want to use the PETA guide but also not the Dick Cheney guide either, somewhere in between.
I had 3 meatless days this week. (I neglected to get pix of the Tuesday tomato/mushroom pasta). Monday (left) was beans and rice and Wednesday, (right) beans and potatoes. All of these things were good but mostly strike me as side dishes to a meat main course. The rice and beans would have fit nicely on a plate with BBQ and the beans and potatoes would have been perfect with a pork roast. At least that’s how I see it. So now, three meatless days, does that entitle me to a hamburger? Where is the damn guide when you need it?
On the whole it’s easier to go without wine than meat I am sorry to admit. But I’m working on it.
I had some yogurt in my refrigerator because, why? I don’t remember but rather than let it go to waste I ate it for breakfast, plain full fat (like me) yogurt. And I liked it. So I started to get yogurt. It was also a great hunger quencher when you’re starving to death after work in the month of January because you’ve artificially created an overwhelming challenge for yourself that now, after nearly 40 years of doing it, you feel compelled to repeat year after year. This is another story though.
Of course when I went to the store to buy more yogurt I could not remember what kind I’d eaten so I just started buying random yogurt brands. There is an enormous difference in yogurt. Who knew? Fage being the best of them with Chobani coming in second. The rest were meh.
I, of course, decided to make my own. I mean, really? How hard can that be? You plop some yogurt in warm milk and wait. Yeah, no. What I got had more in common with soup than yogurt. I kept at it though. I let it work for 24 hours, added nonfat dry milk, used more yogurt. Nothing was really working. So I resorted to straining it through linen. This worked. It’s a little messy but it tastes better than Fage.
I’ve been advised by certain know-it-all guardians of food truth that using my Instant Pot will work better and be less bother so once I’ve eaten all the damn stuff I’ve made trying to achieve yogurtnicity, I’ll give that a try too. So much fuss and bother. I love it. And you will have to endure hearing about it.