Potato and Shallot Soup (From Thai Vegetarian Cooking)
Steamed wontons with crunchy filling (ditto)
Rice noodles with vegetables and curry sauce (ditto)
(passed out in the bed with the baby before I could eat any dessert!)
Chickpea soup with garlic (based on a recipe from Claudia Roden)
Marinated roasted beets (based on a Mollie Katzen recipe from Still Life with Menu but without the cheese and mint)
(plus, our one guest brought spinach salad and marinated green beans!)
Paul Newman orange chocolate chip cookies
mango fruit leather
I decided that if I was going to break out of my rut, I had better consult a cookbook. I have a copy of Thai Vegetarian Cooking by Vatcharin Bhumichitr. It's out of print, but you can buy it online. There is a lot to like about this book. The food is really great--the author, a chef, explains that there is no vegetarian tradition in Thailand, but that Thai vegetarians just eat regular Thai food with the meat omitted, and a lot of dishes that just happen not to have any meat in them. The food is photographed beautifully in Thailand against backdrops that are somehow thematically related to the dishes. Since I have never been to Thailand, I love looking at the photos. You can't get all the ingredients for every dish but it's still worth reading for the ideas.
(I also have a copy of Real Vegetarian Thai, by Nancie McDermott. The author is not Thai and she doesn't run a restaurant, but she is more aware of which ingredients people in the US can obtain. She has a very nice authorial persona, very likeable, and she writes some lovely passages about being a Peace Corps volunteer in a small town in Thailand. Many of the dishes are good and pretty easy to make, but a lot of the main courses don't look pretty when you present them. I really like my Shabbat food to be beautiful to see as well as eat. I do use the book though. I made her very delicious roasted chili paste and almost burnt us out of the house with the fumes! My favorite dish from this book was probably the Pad Se Ew, stir-fried rice noodles with sweet soy sauce, fried eggs and broccoli, but it's more of a weeknight dish. Perhaps I will blog some about weeknight cooking.)
I made the wontons on Thursday morning in about 45 minutes with my toddler helping me. It was really easy, even though we had a small episode of rubbing onion juice in our eyes. (Oy!) I realize that next time I can just chop all the filling ingredients--onions, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots-- in the food processor. Like a lot of the recipes in this book, this one calls for coriander root, which you can't get very easily, so I use the stems, mashed with black peppercorns. The only thing that's challenging about steamed dumplings is figuring out how to steam them without having them stick to the steamer. I also made the soup on Thursday--it's a very good soup. It's kind of neat to come up with a new soup made of potatoes, onions and carrots!
The noodle dish was great for our family, because I served the curry sauce, vegetables and noodles separately. My son loves rice noodles, broccoli and green beans, so he was very happy. I also put out my home-grown bean sprouts and some store-bought potato chips. (It seems homemade potato chips are a part of native Thai cuisine!) I didn't really like the way my curry sauce came out, but I might try again and tinker with it.
The best thing I made was the Saturday soup. If I hadn't read the Claudia Roden book, I'm sure I would have added many more ingredients, but since I saw her recipe for Tunisian chickpea soup I stayed with just chickpeas, garlic, cumin and water. At the table I put in little croutons of whole wheat toast in the bottoms of the bowls and drizzled them with olive oil, and then put the soup in and gave everyone lemon wedges to squeeze on top. It was so good! I think one thing that made it work was remembering to pre-soak the chickpeas on Thursday night so that they were very soft before they even went into the pot. Our guest D. talked about how happy it made him to eat the simple soup. The beets were also really good, as always.
The only dish I actually invented on this list was the cauliflower, and I based it on a recipe from the Millenium cookbook. I broke up a head of cauliflower into large florettes and steamed it lightly for seven minutes. Then I filled one bowl with one cup of soy milk and two tablespoons of mustard, and another bowl with a combination of cornmeal and flour. To the flour I added some curry powder that my husband mixed awhile ago, the Hyderabad curry powder from Julie Sahni, and some other spices: cumin seeds, thyme, paprika, coriander. I dredged the cauliflower in the flour and spices, then dipped it in the milk/mustard zutz, then dredged again. I fried the coated cauliflower in hot fat until it was crispy. By the time we served it, it was all soft and not that great. We slathered it with mango chutney and that made it tastier.