Monday, July 30, 2007

0 Spice Is Life

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To quote Dune, "Spice Is Life." (Yes, I'm a closet sci-fi geek.) And my family's probably encountered more spice this week through the dinners I've cooked for them than in an entire year of any previous cooking sessions in the Irwin home.

Needless to say, Pan-Asian home cooking is rather new ground to my immediate family. I've been breaking them in slowly but surely. Although they are accustomed to eating at Indian and Thai restaurants, they don't really have experience making these types of cuisines at home. That's where I come in. ;-)

My family's feedback regarding the last two night's dinners have been generally positive. (The masala salmon, corn curry, & marinated fennel & tomato dish got particularly rave reviews.) They've enjoyed the meals I've made, although my mother & sister have commented that they aren't quite used to eating all of the different spices yet (they're stomachs are still adjusting!). Of course, my fiancé Erik is quite used to my rather "adventurous" gourmet cooking by now, and enjoys trying new dishes he's never encountered before.

Since my family's not used to this particular style of cooking, I've made an express point of toning down the level of spice in the past few dinners I've cooked for them as sort of a gentle intro to this type of cuisine. This is why Erik was surprised that my family still thought the dishes were spicy; he thought the meals I made for my family were actually rather mild! ;-)

By cooking out-of-the ordinary dishes for dinner, I'm definitely changing up my family's usual regimen, and am expanding their culinary horizons. It's been fun going grocery shopping for fresh ingredients, and making meals from scratch.

I cooked another gourmet meal for my family tonight. On the menu was fennel & bean soup and spicy plantains with coconut chutney (minus a few serrano peppers to tone down the heat!).

My parents' local grocery store didn't carry unsweetened shredded coconut, only the sweetened kind, so the only option was to purchase a whole coconut & process it myself. It was hard work, but I really enjoyed cracking open, shelling, & shredding the coconut by hand. That was certainly a fun challenge. There's nothing like having the perfect excuse to unabashedly hammer the living daylights tut of large sturdy objects -- Picture that scene from the movie "Office Space," but instead of a fax machine, substitute a large hairy coconut. ;-) )

I'll post the fennel & bean soup recipe on this blog at some point. The other recipes came from cookbooks.

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