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DINING IN

Food critic Tonya Kuxhausen writes reviews of meals she prepares for herself at home. Food is at the center of each article but the whole dining experience is considered and commented on. To paraphrase Socrates, an unexamined meal is not worth eating.

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key
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five
hearts
excellent!

four
hearts
very good

three
hearts
good

two
hearts
not good

one
heart
yuck!

broken
heart
ouch

3 hearts

Speed Cooking Made Easy


My roommate and I had gone out for dinner. We tried the new restaurant in the neighborhood, Pop!, on the corner of 29th and Johnson in NE. It's cute inside but it is very meaty (of course, it's Northeast!). The wine menu is good though - I had a cab/shiraz blend and my roommate had the Raymond (?). I got one of the vegetarian options and she had the other. We came home full and I started to cook. I knew it was a do-or-die situation: the eggplant had been sitting on the counter for days, turning brown and soft in places. I'd cook it up and bring it to work for lunch.

I had chosen a new recipe from Vegetarian Meals in Minutes, a cookbook I seldom use. My roommate quipped, How many minutes? Is it like 75 minutes or 10 minutes? That was a good point so I decided to time it. The eggplant curry took a total of 15 minutes, not including the rice. I think I rushed through it as usual, and I didn't savor the experience because cooking while full is really unappetizing. I just wanted to get it over with and move on.


The Menu (11-4-03)

eggplant curry with rice
(for lunch at work the next day)


Basically, I didn't follow the recipe too closely either. My eggplant, zucchini, and red bell peppers were too small so I tried to compensate with less spice, completely disregarding proportions and the subtleties of good flavor. I had no idea what I'd end up with. The strange part about this recipe was that it called for half a jar of chutney. Don't you usually make chutney? I guess this step skipped another 45 minutes. Anyway, I used some chutney I bought at the Holy Land deli, which is just down the street from us and my new favorite grocery store. The chutney was in a pretty green jar with Arabic writing on it. As far as I could tell, it was vegetarian mango chutney.

Instead of a complex medley of spices, the recipe just said "curry powder" and "cumin." Again, a time-saving measure I assume. As the food simmered in the pan, I stirred it up and added butter. It smelled pretty good but I was too full to even taste it. Meanwhile, my roommate assembled her office chair and struggled to move the compost bin from our living room to the back yard while carrying armloads of recycling to the garage. I was so involved in the stirring and butter that I didn't even turn around to see what all the noise was. Later I felt bad that I didn't help with the compost bin and recycling chores. I packed a lunch for her, too.

At work today I thought it was OK, not great. I was impressed that the flavor turned out as well as it did, given that I didn't measure anything. The chutney was a little sweet, and I thought overall the flavor needed some darkness. On the other hand, the vegetables were cooked pretty well, and even the eggplant wasn't too mushy. If I were to make this again, I would measure things and approach it patiently. I would add less chutney and maybe more cumin. Cashews or almond garnishes would have helped the dish too, maybe even chick peas or some other bean of substance. Still, I enjoy bringing food from home for lunch. I like a small container with rice.