Two things I’ve grown to love about that evening hour, in between the work day and the night, are walks with Minjay and making dinner. There’s that relaxing moment, right after you’ve chopped up some vegetables–which can be a very meditative act–and you’re watching them sizzling the the skillet: nothing is quite like it.
As I watched my mushrooms, onions and red peppers cook cheerfully last Tuesday night, I was immediately calmed. And grateful, to have found this way to unwind. Add to that the knowledge that you’re using your time for yourself and are making the effort to feed yourself well, and it’s a recipe for joy. (Plus the recipe I was making for the first time turned out to be delicious and so satisfying: Chicken Cacciatore of The Whole30 Cookbook).
The relaxation that comes with cooking is heightened for me as a writer and editor, with the contrast of the physical chopping, measuring, stirring to spending the day writing, thinking, sitting, staring at a computer screen. Essayist Rebecca Solnit wrote about this in her book The Faraway Nearby:
Cooking is likewise a mode of transformation and a pleasure to which I often repair, and it sometimes seems so pleasurable because it is the opposite of writing; it engages all the senses; it’s immediate and unreproducable and then it’s complete and eaten and over. The tasks are simple, messy, fragrant, and brief, and success and failure are easy to determine. Perhaps it’s that cooking operates in the realm of biology, of things arising and falling away, sustaining bodies, while writing tries to shore up something against time and in the course of doing so appears only slowly and takes you away from the here and now. (p.82)
And to my delight, Harry Potter creator J.K.Rowling feels the same way. She tweeted this a few months ago in January:
It was the same feeling, again, last Thursday evening, after getting some red onions and Brussels sprouts ready for a balsamic-glazed side dish (which turned out excellent! I highly recommend it: p.262 of The Whole30 Cookbook. We had it with the chicken meatballs, p.226. Yes I’m going my way through this book, and I am loving it. Each recipe takes around 30 minutes or less of active cooking time, the meals have all been great and it never feels like wasted effort. And I know that the food I’m making is so good for me. Even N agrees, and he can be a picky eater! Dinners have been transformed at home.)
On Monday, we made a curry dish that was the first recipe I tried in the Spring from It Starts With Food, the “prequel,” if you will, to The Whole30 Book. It became an instant favorite. I modified their basic curry formula a bit, because we like extra coconut milk and our own set of veggies. So I thought I’d share it here. Total time for this meal to be made from scratch is less than 30 minutes, if you have 2 big skillets–and one should be a few inches deep. It feeds 2 people really nice big bowls for dinner, or can be easily doubled to feed 4–or in our case have loads of leftovers so we could both take lunch to work the next day.
- 1 pound of beef (preferably grass-fed, hormone-free if you can)
- 1 box of white mushrooms, sliced in half
- 1 microwavable bag of cauliflower florets (I get mine from Trader Joe’s.)
- 1 can of coconut milk–emphasis on can! Get it from the international section of the supermarket, not the boxed kind you find in the regular aisles. Tastes way better.
- 2 tbsps of Green Curry Paste. Tip: This took me a while to find at grocery stores actually! I ended up finding a little jar at Whole Foods in the Asian cooking section, brand was Green Curry Paste Thai.
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil. First-timers: you can find the jar in the cooking oil aisle of any supermarket.
In a large, regular skillet, melt 1 tbsp coconut oil. Break up the ground beef with your hands into the skillet, or use a spoon to break it up once you put in the skillet if you are squeamish. (more on this later!). Cook until well-browned, stirring as needed, around 8 minutes. Remove from heat and drain excess fat if there’s too much of it (optional).
Wash and cut the mushrooms in half. In the second skillet that’s a few inches deep, boil half a cup of water. Add the mushrooms, cover and simmer for 4 minutes. This method is called “wet sauté” in the Whole30 Cookbook, and is genius! It has made cooking vegetables so much easier and quicker. While the mushrooms are cooking, put the cauliflower bag in the microwave (remember to cut a corner off to let some steam out) for 4 minutes too.
Once everything is cooked separately, remove the mushrooms from the deep skillet. I put them over the beef to avoid having to wash any extra dishes.
In the deep skillet, pour the whole can of coconut milk and the 2 tbsp of curry paste. Mix well and let simmer about 5 minutes. (You can wash the second skillet and clean up during this time.) Add the beef, mushrooms and cauliflower, drizzle with salt. Mix well and simmer for another 5 minutes.
And it’s that easy! Yum.