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Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Your hosts at this fine establishment decided to cook up a storm over the past weekend, an endeavour that required 4.5 hours on the feet (meaning, of course, on the newly repaired knee), and we would like to take this opportunity to tell you — don't. OK? Just don't do anything like that until at least three months or more after your surgery. Because it is teh hurtingk.

On the plus side, we're not starving to death at La Casa de Los Gatos this week, at any rate. Here's what we made, with recipes.

Brown rice vegetable pulao
Roast pork loin in orange/ginger sauce with caramelized vegetables
Sauteed broccoli with pine nuts
Sauteed cabbage with aniseed
Stir-fried bok choy
Grilled chicken with Turkish spices
Ground beef Minestrone

Brown Rice Vegetable Pulao


2" stick cinnamon
2 cardamoms
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chilli powder, or to taste
2 Tablespoons cumin seeds
2 cups Basmati brown rice
1 lb fresh English peas or 1 cup frozen
2 ears corn or 1 cup frozen
3-6 Yellow Finn or Yukon Gold waxy potatoes (approximately 1/2 lb)
3 stalks celery
3 carrots (approximately 1/2 lb)
1 yellow onion (approximately 1 lb)
3 Tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter) or butter
2 Tablespoons Canola or other vegetable oil
Cilantro or flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Cook's notes: Ghee is preferable to butter because it has a higher smoking point and will not burn. You can buy it at any Indian store or online. Some people don't care for the flavour. I find it incomparably delicious.

If you prefer white rice, use Basmati or any other fragrant Indian rice. Don't substitute Thai Jasmine rice, it does not go well with these particular spices. White rice takes only 10 minutes to cook.

Add red and yellow bell peppers for colour, if you want. Add them with the carrots and celery.

Approximate weights are just that: approximate. For example, if you find a fine yellow onion that weighs a little over a pound, you can use that. However, if you have two onions that weigh about 3/4 pound, feel free to use those.

Wash rice well until water runs clear and drain thoroughly. Spread over clean tea-towels and let dry thoroughly.

Dice onion, peeled carrots, celery, and potatoes (unpeeled) approximately 1/4" per side (slightly larger than the peas, for example). The potatoes can be a little larger, about 1/2" per side.

Wash the potatoes to remove excess starch. Drain thoroughly, add about 1 teaspoon of salt and let stand for about half an hour. This will cause the potatoes to shed excess liquid. Drain again, so that potatoes are relatively dry. Toss with turmeric and red chilli powder until all the potatoes are well coated.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil until nearly smoking. Add the potatoes in batches, if necessary, and saute till golden brown, turning occasionally. Drain and spread on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil. Discard oil or reserve for another use.

In a clean skillet, melt the ghee at medium heat. Add cumin seeds and stir till the seeds brown (you might want to put a lid on the skillet, as the seeds can explode!). Add cinnamon, cardamom, and bay leaves, stir gently, add onions and reduce heat to medium low, stirring occasionally, till the onions are golden brown. Add rice and stir to coat with spices and ghee. Add carrots and celery, stir to coat. When the rice is golden, add 3 cups of water, stir, cover with a lid and let cook for approximately 20 minutes (cooking time will vary depending on your cookware, and the eccentricities of your stove). Lift lid, stir rice gently, and check carrots and rice for doneness. If the rice is almost done and the carrots are soft, stir in the peas and corn. Pat the potatoes with a clean paper towel to remove any excess oil and stir them in also. Cover with a lid and set a five-minute timer. When the timer goes off, stir the rice gently again, check that it is fluffy and cooked, re-cover and turn off the heat.

Serve sprinkled with cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, finely minced.

Roast Pork Loin in Orange-Ginger Sauce

2 pork tenderloins (1.5 lbs total weight)
3-4 oranges
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch, arrowroot starch, or tapioca starch
3-4 carrots
3-4 stalks celery
3 shallots
3 bay leaves
2 Tablespoons Canola or vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons ginger
3-4 allspice berries
1 Tablespoon ground black peppercorns
salt to taste

Cook's notes: You can zest oranges with a vegetable peeler, but be careful not to include the bitter white portion of the skin.

Peel or scrape every bit of the bitter brown skin off the ginger.

Juice and zest the oranges. Peel the ginger and mince fine. Chop two of the shallots roughly and mince the third fine. Dice the carrots and celery small.

In a dry skillet, toast the allspice berries and grind them together with two bayleaves. Place in a processor with the chopped shallot, two-thirds of the ginger, pepper, and salt, and process to a paste. Rub this paste all over the tenderloins and set them aside for about 20 minutes.

In a saucepan, mix the orange juice, sugar, minced shallot, the remaining one-third of the ginger, a bay leaf, and heat gently, stirring, till the sugar dissolves. When the contents become syrupy, remove from heat. Mix the cornstarch with a small amount of cold water and set aside. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a large flat skillet, heat the oil. Scrape the rub off the tenderloins and brown them in the hot oil for about 5 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside. Add the rub to the hot oil and let brown till fragrant, then remove from heat. Oil a baking dish and scatter the chopped vegetables in it with a little salt and pepper, and place in the oven, stirring occasionally till the vegetables begin to caramelize. Add the pork loins, cook for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 250F and cook about 20 minutes more or until a thermometer shows the thickest part to have reached 150F. Remove from the stove and set aside, covered with foil, for about ten minutes.

Scrape the contents of the skillet into the saucepan, then deglaze the pan with the orange sauce. Heat the sauce, stirring, and when it is close to boiling, add the cornstarch, mix well, and let thicken. Remove from heat. Strain, discard solids.

Slice the meat, pour sauce over, and serve, sprinkled with parsley and the caramelized vegetables.

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