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Spring Cooking

May 15, 2014

Eight days. It’s not quite so desperate that I’m counting the hours. But in eight days I’ll finally have air conditioning.

This wasn’t a part of apartment living I had expected, although it makes sense. The IAS member housing all runs off a central heating and cooling system. Apparently, there are still people out there who find the chilly nights more uncomfortable than the warmer days. My hunch is that these folks have no interest in tackling extended cooking projects.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I prefer the cold to the heat. One of my favorite things is to be in the kitchen attending to some slow cooked dish, and filling the house with the warmth and aroma of good food.

The transition from winter into spring is always a tricky one for me. It’s hard to get out of the habit of spending hours by the stove. I do not do well in the heat. And if you think I’m grumpy now, you should see me when I start to sweat. It’s not pretty.

Lately, I’ve been in a real fix.

Here’s the problem. I have a lot of time intensive cooking projects on deck, and no air conditioning to combat the warmer weather.

Luckily, last night there was a break in the heat. So after dinner, I went on a little bit of a cooking frenzy. The first step was to open all the windows and let some of the cool air into the apartment. Even though the sun had set, I’d be getting the place warm again in no time flat.

Then I cooked two pounds of dried chickpeas into one of my massive batches of chana masala. Each one is enough to feed my family of four three times. If those meals include other dishes, then the number of servings goes up dramatically. This was my fifth and final batch of the stuff on this sabbatical. In my first trip to a local Indian market, I found a massive 500g box of the masala, and have been working through it ever since. That does mean however, that during our stay in Princeton, we went through ten pounds of dried chickpeas on chana masala alone. That’s a lot of garbanzos.

To accompany the chana, I also made a red lentil dal. This was a much smaller quantity, as I only used a pound of those vibrant little pulses. Still, it was a simmering pot of liquid that was on the stove for well over an hour. It would have killed me to attempt this earlier in the day before the temperature took a dive.

Both the chana and the dal call for some whole canned tomatoes. You may recall how I don’t like wasting food. So, whenever possible, I strain out the tomato juice in which the tomatoes are packed, and simmer it slowly on a low flame. I’ve found that Young Master Fussy loves the resulting sweet tomato concentrate tossed with some short pasta. It’s the closest thing he gets to SpaghettiOs. Have I mentioned lately how much I deprive the children?

And hey, as long as I was at it, I might as well hard boil some eggs. After all, they only take ten minutes to cook once the water is boiling.

Regrettably, there were two other cooking projects I wanted to undertake last night, but I completely ran out of room in the refrigerator.

One was the lamb and yogurt curry. I just defrosted the lamb, but it will hold in the refrigerator for a bit, and now maybe I’ll take the time to marinate it and build in yet another layer of flavor. Maybe not getting to do this was really a blessing in disguise.

The other was my first home cheesemaking project ever. I’ve got everything on hand to make whole milk ricotta. Except, of course, the room in the fridge to let it drain. However, once I portion out all the vats of cooling Indian food–and get some of it in the freezer–there should be plenty of room.

Thanks to the recent warm weather (and no air conditioning) my fridge happens to be full of cold beverages. I have one jar of cold brewed iced coffee and another of cold brewed iced tea. Mrs. Fussy has her own iced coffee (which I won’t touch). As it just so happens, this was my first batch of cold brewed iced coffee of the year. Man, that stuff is so good. And thanks to the ricotta project, I now have some extra rich whole milk from Halo Farm to stir into my wakey wakey juice.

Hopefully the local farmers markets will soon come back to life and I can find some inspiration for more seasonal cooking that gets away from my old standbys of winter. However, once the air conditioning does get turned on, I suppose I can cook with reckless abandon. Well, except for the fact that we’ve got fewer than seven weeks left in Jersey. Egads!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2014 1:44 pm

    If you are this heavy into lentils and such you need to get a pressure cooker. The ease with which you can produce perfect dals and the like is a revelation. My uncle got me one for Xmas and I kind of don’t know how I lived without the thing for so long.

  2. Bob W. permalink
    May 15, 2014 4:23 pm

    I have been mulling over a pressure cooker purchase for just this reason. What brand do you have, Sir Dave, and would you recommend it?

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