Focus in on the delights of the kitchen and the table with ...
  • Couscous-Stuffed Mushrooms

    My dear friend and brilliant fellow-cookbook author Jill O'Connor dreamed up these deliciously simple party treats when I was writing "The Curry Book: Memorable Flavors" and "Irresistibly Simple Recipes from Around the World." You can mix up the couscous and spoon it into the mushroom caps early in the day, and then pop them onto trays and into a hot oven as your guests arrive.

    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/3 cup couscous
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 16 large button mushrooms
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    • 3 green onions
    • 1 tablespoon curry powder
    • 2 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper
    • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

    Heat the oven to 400 degrees and bring the water to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the couscous and salt, cover and set aside for 5 minutes.

    Meanwhile, wipe mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel. Trim and discard the ends, and then chop the stems well and set aside. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and place the mushroom caps in the pan with their top sides down, ready to be stuffed. Uncover the couscous, fluff it gently with a fork and set it aside.

    Finely chop the green onions, and heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Cook the chopped mushroom stems and green onions for 1 minute. Add curry powder and toss well. Cook 3 minutes more, stirring twice, until softened and fragrant. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the chopped red peppers, cheese, and couscous, and toss well. Carefully fill each mushroom cap with about 1 tablespoon of the filling. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and darkened. Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Makes 16 pieces.

  • Thai Iced Tea

    All you need for this treat is a big cellophane sack of Thai tea powder. Make it in a coffee maker or tea pot if you like, brewing it nice and strong.

    • 4 1/2 cups water
    • 3/4 cup Thai tea powder
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • Ice, crushed or cubes, to fill each tall glass
    • 1 to  1 1/2 cups evaporated milk, or half and half

    In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring water to a rolling boil, stir in Thai tea powder, and remove from heat.

    Add sugar and stir well. Let cool, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.

    When the tea has cooled to room temperature, strain it through a fine-mesh strainer, or a coffee filter, into a pitcher and chill until serving time.

    To serve, fill 4 to 6 tall glasses with ice, and then add about 3/4 cup Thai tea to each glass. Top off each glass with 3 to 4 tablespoons evaporated milk or half and half..

    Serve at once, as the milk cascades over the ice and swirls languidly into the tea…

    Serves 4 to 6

  • Thai Spinach with Black Pepper and Garlic

    This is my version of the classic Thai dish, pahk boong fai daeng, made with pahk boong, a leafy, hollow-stemmed Asian vegetable known as water spinach. In Thailand, pahk boong is fried over such a hot fire that flames leap out of the wok as the chef toss  the greens. My home version will give you most of the fantastic flavor without the unwieldy fire, using a sack of prepared spinach from your grocery store produce section. Forget how health-full spinach is for us – make this just because it tastes so good.

    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oiil
    • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
    • 8 to 10 cups loosely packed fresh spinach leaves (about 20 ounces)
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper or white pepper
    • 1/4 cup water

    Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or a wok over medium-high heat for about 1 minute, and then add the garlic. Toss well and add the spinach.

    Gently turn the pile of spinach to heat most of the leaves. (Add it in 2 or 3 batches if your pan won’t hold all the leaves at first).

    Add the fish sauce or salt,the sugar, pepper and water.

    Toss well, and then cook, turning often, until the spinach is barely wilted and tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

    Turn out onto a deep platter, sauce and all, and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

    Serves 4.

  • New Potato Salad with Curry and Peas

    I like to leave the potatoes unpeeled, but peel them if you prefer, first thing. Curry adds a little sizzle to this classic dish. Even if it is too cold to picnic just yet, a great potato salad is a promise of picnics to come.

    • 3 pounds new potatoes

    • 1 teaspoon salt

    • 1 box (10 ounce) tiny/petite frozen peas, thawed, about 1 1/2 cups)

    • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

    • 1/2 cup sour cream

    • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

    • 1 tablespoon curry powder

    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)

    • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

    • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

    • 3 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise.

    Cook potatoes in wildly boiling salted water, unpeeled, until tender, about 15 minutes.

    Drain and cool to room temperature.

    Chop into large bite-sized pieces, place in a large bowl, and add the peas.

    In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, curry powder, cumin if you are using it, salt and pepper.

    Stir together until smooth, and then pour over potatoes and peas.

    Add green onions, toss gently, and serve warm, cool, or cold.

    Serves 6

  • Beet Raita

    This beautiful accompaniment to rice and curry is perfect for early spring.

    Its gorgeous color may match the spring signs outside your window. Or if you haven't seen much evidence of spring, this will tide you over until everything blooms. Serve it with couscous or Indian-style flatbreads as well.

    • 3/4 cup plain yogurt

    • 1 teaspoon peeled, minced fresh ginger

    • 1 teaspoon sugar

    • 1/4 teaspoon salt

    • 1 can (15 ounce) sliced or shredded beets

    • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

    In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, ginger, sugar and salt and stir well.

    Drain the beets and add them to the bowl, along with the green onions. Toss gently to coat the beets with the yogurt mixture. Cover and chill. Serve cold or cool. The raita keeps in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

    Makes about 1 3/4 cups

  • Yellow Curry Chicken with Potatoes

    This sunny yellow curry practically cooks itself, and its pleasing flavor blossoms even more the day after it is made. It is terrific with shrimp as well as with chicken. Stir in the shrimp at the end when the potatoes are tender, and cook only until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Serve with a big bowl of rice, or couscous, or noodles, and slice up a cucumber or two for cool contrast as you savor your curry.

    • 2 3/4 cups unsweetened coconut milk

    • 3 tablespoons yellow curry paste, or three tablespoons curry powder, hot or mild

    • 6 boneless chicken thighs, or about 1 pound boneless chicken breast, cut in big, bite-sized chunks

    • 2 cups chicken broth or water

    • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into big, bite-sized chunks (about 1 1/2 cups)

    • 1 medium onion, cut lengthwise into thick wedges (about 1 cup)

    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or 1 teaspoon salt

    • 1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar

    In a medium saucepan or heavy skillet, bring 1 cup of the coconut milk to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until it begins to thicken and becomes fragrant.

    Add the curry paste or curry powder, and cook 2 to 3 minutes, pressing and stirring to dissolve it into the coconut milk. Add the chicken and cook another minute or two, tossing to coat it with the sauce.

    Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups coconut milk, the chicken broth, the potatoes, onion, fish sauce or salt, and palm sugar or brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer and cook, stirring now and then, until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are tender but still firm, 6 to 8 minutes.

    Remove from the heat and serve hot or warm.

    Serves 6 to 8

  • Meatballs in Panaeng Curry Sauce

    This is what I take along to potlucks, AKA cover-dish suppers here in North Carolina. If you slice up a loaf of French bread and set it out next to the meatballs, your friends will be able to savor every last drop of spicy and delicious sauce. Any curry paste will work fine in this recipe.

    • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
    • 1 pound ground beef
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 2 tablespoons panaeng curry paste or red curry paste
    • ½ cup water
    • 1 tablespoon fish sauce or ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar
    • A handful of fresh basil leaves or fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

    Heat the coconut milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally,until it thickens and becomes smooth and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

    Meanwhile, season the ground beef with the salt and shape it into meatballs. Use about 1 tablespoon for each one, and place them on a platter.

    Add the curry paste to the saucepan and cook about 3 minutes more, mashing and stirring to dissolve the paste into the coconut milk. Add the meatballs and cook, turning gently to coat,1 to 2 minutes.

    Increase the heat to medium high, bring to a gentle boil, and add the water, fish sauce, and palm sugar. Simmer, stirring gently now and then, until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce is smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a serving bowl and serve hot or warm.

    Makes 2 to 3 dozen meatballs

  • Thai Fried Rice with Pineapple and Shrimp.

    Gorgeous and delicious! Set out all your ingredients next to the stove when you are ready to cook, and you will fly through this recipe. Thai people love to squeeze fresh lime juice onto fried rice just before they eat it. Either way, it’s a wonderful dish.

    • 4 cups cooked rice (preferably leftover rice, chilled)
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
    • 1/2 cup chopped onion
    • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, undrained, or 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple, or pineapple chunks
    • 2 green onions, thinly sliced, or 1/2 cup frozen peas

    Prepare the rice by crumbling it with your fingers, breaking up the bigger clumps, and set aside in a bowl.

    Heat a wok or large, deep skillet over high heat. Add the oil, and then the garlic and onions and toss well until shiny and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the shrimp and cook tossing now and then until the onion begins to wilt and the shrimp are pink and cooked through,2 to 3 minutes.

    Add the rice, fish sauce or salt, and sugar, and toss well. Add the pineapple and green onions or peas and coo, tossing often, about 2 minutes longer, until rice is tender and heated through. Turn the rice out onto a platter and serve hot or warm.

    Serves 4.