i often think of recipes as bases for creativity. it makes my life easier if i don't try to extend my minuscule pantry beyond its capabilities on any given day. i have a pretty extensive one considering, mainly because it's important to me to be as well stocked as possible so i never have to leave in the middle of a recipe to go get, oh, i don't know, cumin or saffron or cardamom pods (all of which i have). and, anyway, i read through my recipes before i go whole hog with anything so i can be sure i've got the goods to make something work.
that was before i began this journey through my cookbooks that has made it not always easy to be totally prepared. i already have a TON going on in my life to which i have added this and countless other journeys into the unknown, just so i always know i'm alive on the planet. don't get me wrong. i'm enjoying this. i love this walk through my cookbooks and actually using them. they are my friends and wonderful teachers. but because of the schedules of my sons, their sports and my own schedule, when we're not on the weekend -- and i'm often not savvy enough to have the foresight to prepare the night before which, to be quite frank, would kind of take the fun out of the spontaneity of it all, so i tend not to -- i look for recipes in the books that will let me get in, out and on the table unscathed and in little time.
tonight was no exception and this is why i revere many of my cookbooks. inside all of them are happy, peppy, quick fix meals even if it's one of my serious classics. always. or at least a side dish i can whip together for a really yum roast chicken -- i did think of that for tomorrow night, just so's ya know, cuz me and my bambinos have NO RESPONSIBILITIES TOMORROW NIGHT so i've got time to make fabulous side somethings if i want... and maybe a cake... hmm... -- and to say i was jazzed when i saw this dish would be an understatement.
it was this really great set of ingredients to which i could add, subtract and/or manipulate to be exactly what we needed based upon what we had on hand. i grabbed my A TASTE OF TURKISH CUISINE cookbook written by Nur Ilkin and Sheilah Kaufman, a cookbook i've grown to love and cherish in the short time i've had it. just for the record, all of the cookbooks i have in my repertoire are ones i have chosen after a great deal of thought and consideration. well, except for the dated ones. you know the ones i mean. the "so obvious this is from the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties" ones i have mentioned before. those are ones my mother sloughed off on me, because she discovered, after my brother, sister and i moved out of the house, she hated cooking. deeply. and with a passion. but every cookbook, even the ones i have gotten as gifts, have been kept and held onto with a great deal of loving thought. if i didn't think i'd ever use it or gain any insight from it, i sold it. honest. and since i have over 220 of these suckers, you must realize that i never think i'll know enough about cooking to ever truly be considered accomplished. kinda cool, in a way. because there's something about this art that is ever changing, like all arts, that makes my inability to become an expert pretty terrific and a continuous journey.
but, forgive me, i have digressed once more and i shall get back to the point. tonight's dinner was SHEPHERD'S SAUTE or Coban Kafurmasi. it is quick, it is easy, it is... you'll see.
3 tbs butter
3 tbs veggie oil
1 pound lamb (leg), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 onion, cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, cut in half
3 long green hot chili peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pcs
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tsp fresh thyme
what to do:
1. heat 1 tbs of butter with all of the oil over high heat in a large skillet. add the meat and cook, shaking the pan instead of stirring, until the color of the meat changes. add the onion and garlic and continue cooking and shaking the pan for another 2 minutes. add salt to taste.
2. add the remaining 2 tbs of butter. let it melt, add the green peppers and continue cooking by shaking the pan. cook for 1 minute and add the tomatoes and thyme. coontinue cooking and shaking the pan for another minute. remove from heat and serve with a warm country bread.
here's what we did:
we did not have chili peppers, tomatoes or fresh thyme -- although i have dried thyme, FRESHLY BOUGHT dried thyme (remember, no more than six months, folks). HOWEVER, i did have a lovely roasted red pepper -- home roasted -- fresh tomato sauce, chunky, and red pepper flakes. i did all that it asked and added this -- red pepper, tomato sauce, one russet potato, washed, and skin on and cut into 1/2 inch chunks, a half of a zucchini, washed and cut into 1/2 inch chunks, dried thyme and red pepper flakes. the shaking caused everything to brown rather than the juices to STEAM everything. a nice caramelization of the onion and crispiness of the potato took place in the lamb juices, which were abundant. in this short period of time, the potatoes were done, the lamb, the zucchini, all of it was tender, cooked through and filled with flavor.
our report card is EXCELLENT. this was NUMMER! oh, man. so simple yet full of flavor like you can not believe. brandon was, once again, my victim for the night, because nicholas had football practice (last night, he was out with his big bro, adam) and brandon's basketball didn't start until 8:00. i put this together and spooned some on a plate for brandon to which he added, for my enjoyment, the spicy relish he had created back when and which enhanced the dish tremendously -- this kid has got the gene for passionate cooking DOWN. both my sons do. nicholas has a more methodical flare to him, but he also takes chances in foods his brother never would, like vegetables and pairings that seem not to make sense until he does them and you try them. nicholas is monet, consumed with the lovely lilies, delicately creating an ambience befitting his masterpiece as well as the masterpiece itself. brandon is picasso, emoting the paint onto the canvas, roaring his gifts to the world and secure in the fact that he is right and his passion is exactly what the world needs. this is how they cook and live, both of them. extraordinary.
and so it went. we went kind of far afield tonight, or at least added a flair that turned this into a bit of a different dish. so i wonder if we can consider we have actually cooked out of here? hmm...
well, recipes are created to be played with, right? and, if not, then i think we can survive another night of turkish cooking.