(Recipes at end of post!)
In just five short days, I'll be sporting a mouth full of metal. Well, it'll be a combination of metal, rubber bands, porcelain, and probably a few other fun types of material that I don't even know about yet. I can't wait! (I honestly don't have to insert this 'sarcasm, people' parenthetical sidenote , do I?)
Yes, a lifetime of wishing for straighter teeth hasn't done much for me -- if only someone had told me The Secret sooner ;) ...so I decided to bite the proverbial bullet and shell out the dough and brave the humiliation to get my 26-year old teeth wrapped in stainless steel.
Speaking of biting, I had these lovely rubber band contraptions called separators (just a pic I found on the web, btw, those aren't my teeth!) placed between my back teeth a little over a week ago and I haven't been able to bite down on much of anything for the past 11 days (264 hours, but who's counting?). My teeth are so sore that eating hasn't been much fun lately. This is very discouraging, as you can imagine.
If you're reading this, you probably enjoy food nearly as much as I do, or else you know how I feel about food so you'll probably shed a tear or two the next time you dip that crunchy tortilla chip into some fresh pico de gallo...
Thankfully, I have good friends to help me through such a trying time – namely, Gil, who actually gasped when I told her I skipped dinner because I was sick to death of pasta and didn’t have anything else in my house soft enough to eat. She recognized that it was probably only the second time in my entire life that I’ve ever, ever skipped dinner. Now do you have an idea of what I’m going through? And my mouth isn’t even reflecting sunlight yet.
Gil suggested making dinner together and said she’d been creating a mental list of soft foods we could prepare. I am wholly devoted to crunchy, chewy, crispy, meaty, toothsome textures so a meal of mashed potatoes (as yummy as they are) and jello just wasn’t turning me on. Gil was set on making vegetable pakoras and I shot her idea down at first because, well, they’re crunchy and crispy and chewy and hearty, aren’t they? Also, I didn’t think it would be possible to find chickpea flour in our little Hoboken, literally a mile-square town.
However, my friend Gil persisted on the Indian food theme and even called our favorite local health food store to see if besan (aka chickpea flour, aka gram flour) was available (by now you must realize, it was). I remembered a yummy-sounding recipe for chickpea-spinach curry I’d discovered back in the winter months and dug it out of my archives.
Epicurious scores again! We adjusted the recipe to cook on the stovetop rather than a crockpot and I didn’t at all feel the heat that the title indicated, but overall, this dish is a winner. Easy breezy, packed with flavor, made with ingredients from your cupboard, and best of all, SOFT.
And the pakoras?
Yes, they were crispy and my teeth protested a bit, but they were just TOO GOOD to pass up. Gil found this recipe online and we tweaked it a bit to use up what I had on hand. Again, simple as could be, yet bursting with flavor. You’ll want to make these again and again. Miraculously, I had a jar of mango chutney in the fridge and this was the perfect complement to these salty, savory fritters.
Stay tuned for weekly Jac and Gil meal and recipe postings. Will they consist of only soft and semi-soft foods? Only time and my teeth know for now, but I promise there will be no mention of J-E-L-L-O.
Easy Chickpea and Spinach Curry
adapted from Epicurious
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I like Trader Joe's and Goya brands)
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry (We used a combo of fresh and frozen spinach only because it's what I had in my kitchen. You can use either/or.)
2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala (Seek this out this spice mix; it really makes the dish!)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
peas, for garnish
Just throw everything in a large pot, stir, and cook over medium heat anywhere from 15 min. (to heat everything through) to 40 min. (to let flavors meld more thoroughly). Stir occasionally. Enjoy over basmati rice.
Breezy Vegetable Pakoras
adapted from indiaforvistors.com
Makes 12-15 pakoras
1 cup chickpea flour
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 onion, diced (or whirred for 1 second in a food processor)*
1 10 oz. package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
3/4 cup canola oil**
Accompaniment: mango chutney (for spice, stir in crushed red pepper flakes!)
In a medium bowl, mix together the first 5 ingredients then beat in a blender or food processor 2 to 3 minutes to incorporate air. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes in a warm place. Add the vegetables and mix in evenly. In a large saute pan, heat the cup of canola oil until a drop of batter sizzles upon impact. With two spoons, form small, thin patty shapes with the very wet (aka gloppy) batter and gently drop into the oil. Be careful not to crowd the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towel. (Do not add more salt.)
*Gil and I are thinking we may prefer slices of onion in our next batch.
**This amount of oil was in between deep-frying and sauteeing. It's possible you can get away with less oil and try to saute these instead. Leave a comment and let me know how it goes!