Complex flavors

It’s been a couple years now since I resolved to start keeping some of my journal on-line as a blog, and I really haven’t done too well with that, but like cooking, gardening, and keeping house, writing has wormed its way back into my daily routines this summer as I have unwound a little bit.  One of the things I have started to notice as I unwind is a desire for more complex flavors in my food.  When I’m really on a roll during the school year, I (mostly) cheerfully consider a Clif bar or a Snickers and a diet Coke to be a meal.   Then in the summer I typically don’t much feel like heating up the kitchen up by really cooking.  Last night the hankering for complexity won out.

The result: a dahl with radish and a Bengali-inspired curry of eggplant and greens over short-grain brown rice followed by a modification of Cardinal Peaches.  It really hit the spot.  Easy and simple are good, but I was no longer in the mood for salads, grilled meat and vegetable, and other minimally-prepared stuff.  I was seeking food that takes more time, trouble, and ingredients.  Last night’s meal wasn’t a huge, trash-the-kitchen affair, but it took on-and-off effort much of the day, and was worth the effort.

The day before I had made custard the “look, Ma, no hands” way (without cornstarch) from my grandmother’s 1920 Fannie Farmer cookbook.  I had let it go just a couple of seconds too long so it was ever so slightly grainy and not quite firmly-enough set.  Nevertheless, I had persevered and made Peach Pudding with it, substituting almond macaroons for cake and using almond flavoring instead of vanilla.  For last night’s dessert, I made Cardinal Peaches just as Delia Smith says to, but then pureed a left-over serving of the peach pudding, complete with peaches, macaroons, and custard to use as pouring custard over the peaches.  That was really good.

Because I’m not allowed spicy foods at the moment, I had to tinker a bit with the Baigan Sak recipe.  In the end all I did to reduce the heat was to use orange bell pepper in place of the chile peppers.  Instead of a package of frozen spinach, I tossed in a big box of baby cooking greens, which gave the whole thing more variety.  It was attractive, and still complex and tasty.  Even with a reduced heat-quotient, the dahl was a excellent complement.

If only I could keep this momentum up during the school year…