Razor Clams, Shrimp, and Cod with Curry and Lemongrass

Clam Shrimp and Fish CurryWith clam season upon us here in the Pacific Northwest, there is more than a little pressure to get rid of the clams that I hoarded through the summer.  When frozen properly in water, these suckers can take up a considerable amount of room in the freezer.  As summer wears on and freezer space becomes more of a commodity, there comes a dawning realization that you really need to start cooking some clam-involved dishes.  Clam chowder is the standby, but one can not live on clams chowder alone…and if you did, you would either be the size of a walrus or simply dead.  It isn’t exactly low calorie or low fat.  When preparing such dishes, I have hear whispers in the dark recesses of my brain reminding that heart disease is still the number one killer the United States.

This seafood curry is my attempt to incorporate clams into a tasty, yet reasonably heart-healthy main dish.  Heck, there isn’t even any coconut milk in it.  The formulation is somewhat Thai is style but probably pulls in more variety in fish than would be considered common.  The yellow curry is slightly more mild and a bit sweeter than its green or red cousins and lines up well with the clams, which are also quite sweet.  Fragrant notes are provided by the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves.  Turmeric and a bit of garlic provide some additional depth…. 

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Sweetened Lentils with Cumin and Tomato Served with Cracker Bread

Sweet Lentils with Cumin and TomatoLentils are really great when you need to cook something tasty in a relatively short time frame.  Although the folks that cook lentils a lot seem to draw relatively fine distinctions between different varieties, availability usually dictates which variety I use.  In this dish, standard brown lentils are flavored using a spice blend that includes cumin, mustard, cayenne, turmeric, and asafetida.  Brown sugar is added to lend just a bit of sweetness and tomatoes provide acidity to keep the dish from being cloying.   Green chili and cilantro add some finishing notes to the flavor profile.  Asafetida is a ground resin from a fennel-like plant native to the middle and far east.  It can be obtained at some middle-eastern groceries or from the folks at World Spice.

My brother in law seemed to appreciate this quite a bit.  As luck would have it, Brinn had prepared some really wonderful cracker bread the previous day.  As you can probably see in the photo, the cracker is topped with a broad variety of spices and seeds laid out in strips across the width of the bread; pretty fun way to add some interest to this basic bread…. 

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Lentils with Chilies and Black Pepper

Lentils with Chilis and Black PepperSo, Sunday dinner was coming up and I had a problem on my hands.  We we going to serve a new variety of smoked chicken (Americana), an eggplant salad (Mediterranean), smoked corn on the cob (also Americana), and……something.  So what should that something be?  The amount of food was not an issue.  The eggplant salad seems to cover both the vegetable and side dish categories.  But something else was needed.  Should it be a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern style pilaf or should there be some type of bread represented at the table?  The cruel reality that confronted me was this; if we were going to have bread, I needed something for that bread to do.  In my opinion, bread without purpose is wasted  bread.  Since there was nothing for the bread to do while at the table (and, frankly I was a little tired of rice), I reached for the ever popular paste-of-legume strategy.

It is generally a good idea to have some form of carbohydrate represented at the table.  This can be a potato, a squash, or a yam, but more commonly you see one of the three workhorses at our table; pasta, bread, rice.  They are the purest representatives of family Carb, and are that family’s ambassadors.  But none of these ambassadors can stand alone; they need staff.  … 

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Chickpeas Fried with Harissa and Spinach – A Quick Psuedo-Curry

Chickpeas Fried with Harissa and SpinachI made this as part of my lunch today…in less than 5 minutes!  Granted, I had cooked chickpeas on hand and I had a jar of harissa in the refrigerator.  But that does not change the fact that in a very short amount of time, I had a lovely side dish and was eating it.  Think to your own situation.  Is it possible to keep a can of cooked chickpeas on hand, or better yet, get a pressure cooker and keep some handy?  Do you have room in your refrigerator to store a pint jar full of harissa, which will keep well for months.  Would this inconvenience you in any way?  To me, any inconvenience that could come out of these things seems easily offset by having the ability to quickly produce such a tasty thing to eat…. 

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Coconut-Smothered Black-Eyed Peas

DSC_0096Love these things.  Around the house they are known as “Muppet Peas” due to the black, inanimate eyes of the peas that stare blankly at the diner.  I think the name became popular after a wine-soaked evening spent reviewing odd translations of names for Chinese dishes.  Anyway… out of all of the extremely tasty dishes that Raghavan Iyer chronicles in his book 660 Curries, this is one of my favorites.  This curry is very creamy in texture and has a slight sweetness from the coconut.  Add some heat from the Serrano chilis and muskiness from the mustard seed and curry leaf and you have a winner.

There is some debate regarding when a recipe becomes “original”.  When you consider that most cooks naturally try to express themselves through their cooking and instinctively make changes, the debate seems a little silly.  I like to err on the side of respect and simply cite the source of inspiration, assuming that it hasn’t been lost to the fog of history.  I think the true boundary is when you, as a cook, know that the creator of the recipe would view your creation as an abomination.  This version of the recipe has slight changes from the original that punch up the heat, add a bit of intensity to the spice profile, and also deal with the fact that fresh curry leaves are hard to come by in our area.  Hopefully, you will find that it stops short of abomination…. 

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