WND – In which it all went kind of wrong, but was still tasty

November 24, 2010

I feel that the time has come for my annual Grinch-like declaration that it’s not frelling Christmas yet so could we stop with the performances of the Hallelujah chorus, the displays of Christmas candy, the lighting of Christmas trees, and the inflation of communist snowmen.

I know for a fact that it’s not time for Christmas related shenanigans yet, because I haven’t even had time to cook my Thanksgiving turkey.  We’re 12 days from leaving a shoe out for Sinterklaas, more than a fortnight from anyone setting wreaths of lighted candles on their head in honor of St. Lucia*, and nobody’s lighting the first candle for Hanukah early.  Also, not to put too fine a point on it, it’s still November and it won’t be December until the middle of next week.

So, I applaud any foundation that gives grants for Random Acts of Culture, and I think that opera corps that enact flash mobs at malls to sing the Hallelujah Chorus are beyond awesome.  I, nonetheless, also think that the Opera Company of Philadelphia could probably have found some other well known piece of classical music to perform at the Macys in downtown Philly on Halloween.  Although, if you haven’t come across it yet on the interwebs, check it out – Random Act of Culture.

Equally, while I find inflatable yard ornaments tacky almost by definition, I felt like knocking on the door of the house I drove past on Saturday that had a giant inflatable turkey in their front yard to congratulate them on their seasonal appropriateness.  There are at least two houses that I walk past on my way home that have had Christmas decorations up for several weeks now – and not in a ‘oh we just haven’t taken this down from last year’ kind of way.

I refuse to believe that CVS can’t find tacky Thanksgiving candy to fill their shelves, or that city workers are so pressed for time that they couldn’t wait another week to put up the Christmas fairy lights.  In conclusion, this public service announcement that it’s not fracking Christmas yet has been brought to you by the Grinch, the letters S and C and the number 7.

* Apparently in Sweden in around 1000 AD King Canute decreed that this was the official start of the Christmas season which then lasts until January 13th, which, incidentally (and probably not coincidentally) is the feast of St. Canute.  I wonder if this means that they get a reprieve on Christmas carols and twinkly lights until mid-December, or whether rampant commercialism has overwritten King Canute’s decree.

Bombay Sloppy Joes
Massaged Kale Salad
Apple & Celery Salad
Oven Fried Sweet Potatoes

Bombay Sloppy Joes
(serves 4)

This did not work out quite as anticipated.  It was still tasty, just more soup/chili-like than something you could pile on bread and eat.  I think the problem was just sheer volume.  When you make a normal quantity of the recipe (or half the recipe which is what I usually do for the two of us) it reduces appropriately in the time allotted by the recipe.  However, when you make 2.5x the recipe you need to more than double the time to reduce both the tomato sauce, and to thicken the sloppy joe mixture.  As a practical point, on a week night this probably means you need to make it the night before and reheat (don’t thicken it quite as much as it needs and then allow it to reduce more as it reheats).

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ serrano chile, seeded and finely minced (save the other half for the turkey)
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp paprika
1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup water

Warm the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, until it shimmers. Add the ginger, garlic and serrano pepper. Sauté until the ginger and garlic brown a little. Add the garam masala and paprika and sauté for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 15 minutes.

1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup shelled pistachios (unsalted if you can find them)
¼ cup raisins
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ large white onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, finely diced
½ serrano chile, seeds intact (don’t chop it up unless you like things spicy!)
1 lb ground turkey
½ teaspoon honey
¼ cup half-and-half

Small handful of chopped scallions for garnish (or you can use cilantro or mint or parsley or nothing)

While the sauce is simmering warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. When shimmering, add the pistachios and raisins. Cook until the raisins swell up and the pistachios toast slightly. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Return the pan to medium heat, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of oil, and warm until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 10 seconds, or until some of the sizzling subsides. Stir in the onions and bell pepper; sauté until softened and starting to brown. Add the serrano pepper. Sauté for another couple of minutes, seasoning with a little salt. Stir in the turkey, breaking up the big lumps. Cook until opaque, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, your sauce should be ready. Pour the sauce into the skillet with the turkey. Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Once the turkey is cooked and the sauce has thickened a little, remove the serrano pepper. Add the honey, half-and-half, pistachios and raisins. Stir through and taste for seasoning. Before serving, garnish with scallions/cilantro.

Serve with toasted hamburger buns.

Massaged Kale Salad
Appropos of, well of the last time I served this salad, we’ve decided that our new surprised interjection into conversation needs to be, “Sweet fancy molasses!”

Recipe previously given:  Introducing Fancy Molasses (and her cousin Black Strap)

Apple & Celery Salad
I spent a lot of time last week on a quest for something that was bright and fresh to put on the plate to balance out the starch of the sweet potatoes and the meaty-tomatoeyness of the sloppy joes.  I went through a lot of options – crunchy peanut slaw, roasted fruit, pile of mandarin oranges, nothing at all – before I settled on apple & celery salad.

2 Tbsp lemon juice (or lime)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
6 Tbsp olive oil

Whisk together – this is more or less a classic vinaigrette.

5-6 stalks celery, with leaves (about 3 cups)
2-3 large crisp apples
½ cup walnuts, toasted (optional)
½ cup dried cranberries (optional)
2/3 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

Slice the celery on a diagonal into thin slices.

Cut apples into quarters and seed.  Cut each quarter in half crosswise and then slice into thin wedges.

Toss apples, celery and pomegranate seeds and/or dried cranberries/walnuts* with the dressing to coat (you may not need all of the dressing).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

* I’d suggest using either walnuts/dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds but not all three together.  I think you could also use fennel or jicama instead of some or all of the celery and this would be lovely.

Oven Fried Sweet Potatoes
I love sweet potatoes.  There’s pretty much nothing you can do to a sweet potato that I’m going to think is a bad thing.  That being said, sweet potato fries are frequently disappointing.  All too often they’re soggy and kind of limp, and nobody wants a limp fry.  Now granted, these sweet potato fries do not remotely approach the august heights of the sweet potato fries from the Boston Burger Company which come to the table hot, crisp and tossed with cinnamon and caramel sauce.  However, for something made at home that doesn’t involve deep frying or caramel sauce they’re pretty tasty.

2 large sweet potatoes, unpeeled
½ tsp pepper
1 Tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp kosher salt
1-2 Tbsp olive oil*

Slice the sweet potatoes into fry shape.  Soak in cold water for 20-30 minutes.  Dry thoroughly.  Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and brown sugar.  Roast at 450 for 25-35 minutes until cooked and crispy, tossing the fries halfway through to ensure even browning (although keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn).  Sprinkle with a little more salt before serving.

* Use slightly less than you think you might need.  Too much oil and the brown sugar will burn before the fries get crisp.



  1. I go the other way with sweet potato fries. I mix in a good shake of chili powder instead of the brown sugar and serve with Annie’s Cowgirl Ranch dressing.

    • I agree — I tend towards cinnamon and chili powder for my sweet potatoes… but then, my love for things spicy and tart is pretty well documented.

  2. […] Recipe previously given:  In which it all went kind of wrong, but was still tasty […]

  3. […] Recipe previously given: In which it all went kind of wrong, but was still tasty […]

  4. […] Recipe previously given:  In which it all went kind of wrong, but was still tasty  […]

  5. […] Recipe previously given: In which it all went kind of wrong, but was still tasty […]

  6. […] sloppy bombay joes, butter lettuce salad w/ apples/radishes/peas & carrot ginger dressing, cucumber salad with […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: