We have a lot of vegetables from our CSA, so it's easy to just make some sort of stir-fry, and that's what we were going to do last night. Tofu, napa cabbage, sweet soy sauce and tamari and toasted sesame oil.
Except, as m_shell
is cutting cabbage, I turn to her and say, "Hey, we keep not making curry, and you've been wanting curry. We have coconut milk." So she pauses, because cabbage would go into a curry last, and says, "Yes, I want curry, but I don't want to wait for brown rice." So I try to think of things that are faster than brown rice, and I say, "We have couscous, I think. How about that?"
Poking through the cabinet of dry goods results in a consensus on whole grain bulgur wheat. (Partly because I can't find the couscous.) So I start bringing the bulgur to a boil while m_shell
puts the cabbage to the side and starts chopping onions.
Current state of dinner: yellow coconut milk curry on unflavored bulgur.
I'm sauteing the onions and telling m_shell
about a particular essay on lotus-eaters that made me want to write speculative fiction, create dust-swept stone cities on alien planets, all because the descriptions of Djerba and of food in said essay were so lush. In fact, I say, even the included recipe for masfouf
(sweet date and nut couscous) was richly written. So I fetch the book out of my bag and, still stirring, read the recipe aloud: essence of orange blossom; pillows of couscous strained through the hand until soft and billowing; almonds heated gently, until they are warm and fragrant; faint dustings of cinnamon. And m_shell
says: you're right, that's an incredibly sensual recipe. And then: Why don't we put some cinnamon in the bulgur?
So I put cinnamon in the bulgur.
And I'm sauteing onions and potatoes (we have a lot of potatoes, and anyway I like potatoes in curry, even with rice) and pondering other vegetables. "Do you want to put anything else in?" I ask. "What else would we add?" m_shell
asks. "Well, let's see... we have beets, and carrots, and eggplant, and ..." I don't finish the list, because m_shell
says, "Beets? Beets in curry?" And I say, "I was just listing off vegetables from the CSA. I don't know. Maybe?" And when I turn around m_shell
is washing beets.
Current state of dinner: cinnamon bulgur and a curry that is now more peach than yellow; it's picking up pink from the beets and beet greens.
Of course, after you've added beets to your yellow curry, there's nothing stopping you from further flights of fancy, so we throw in several tablespoons of cinnamon when we add the coconut milk and tofu. But the flavor still needs more depth, so we add some powdered cumin, to bring out the sweetness. And of course, at this point, it needs extra tamari sauce. And we have to remember to put the cabbage in at the end; after all, it's already chopped. And then, because we're still thinking of the masfouf recipe, m_shell
says, "What about raisins?" (We don't have dates.) And she pulls out the almonds without asking.
We assemble the curry, if it's still a curry, in bowls: a layer of heavily cinnamoned bulgur and a ladleful of pink-peach curry, topped with a handful of raisins and chopped almonds. The potatoes have soaked up so much color that they look like yams, but the color from the turmeric penetrates further, so when I cut a steaming chunk of potato in half with my fork, it is a deep pink-orange on the outside, lined with a thin edge of bright turmeric yellow and finally the pale yellow of the potato itself.
Result: a sweet and spicy curry. Spicy-bitter cabbage, sweet raisins, richy, crunchy almonds, tofu, and potatoes. And beets, it turns out, meld with curry quite well.
As we're eating dinner, I turn to m_shell
and say, "You know what would make this better? Next time? Dried apricots in the bulgur."