One of my favorite games is the ‘what’s in your refrigerator?’ game. What I like to do (in fact, I get so enthusiastic in this game that I end up tripping all over myself in my eagerness to play) is get on the phone with a friend or two, find out what they’ve got in their kitchen, talk about what they feel like eating, and then construct a menu out of those elements.
It’s especially fun, I have to admit, when the person whose kitchen is at issue insists there is NOTHING in that kitchen with which to make a meal. I once came up with six different possibilities for dinner in such a kitchen, but of course, Jennifer and Jeff, the couple who owned the kitchen, had totally forgotten all that late autumn chard they still had in their garden, and the bowl of purple potatoes on the sideboard. Not to mention the eggs.
Recently, I played this with my friends Margaret Hultz and Marie Davis, who, I must admit, are no slouches in the kitchen stocking/cooking department. I mean, when they told me what they had in their refrigerator, and the cupboards surrounding that refrigerator, I was overwhelmed by an embarrassment of riches, as it were. And they knew it, too. In fact, I realized that they were just being kind, letting me play with their kitchen like that. They had contributed to EAP’s Indiegogo campaign (as if their writing wasn’t enough!) and asked for that phone call game as their perk. I think they were just being friendly. They didn’t need me at all. Still it was fun to play.
And their kitchen, in the South, was filled with typically American 21st Century ingredients, as well as all the bounty one expects from a southern household that keeps a garden. So, I mean, this was such a no-brainer, I had to make it more difficult for myself. I cudgeled my brain as to how to do this as Margaret chanted, “And then there are the vegetables we froze from the garden, there’s green beans, and okra, oh, and tomatoes, I almost forgot that, and…”
“Wait, wait, wait!” I wailed. “Isn’t there something you have in there that you don’t know what to do with? Something I can really (figuratively) sink my teeth into?”
There was a moment’s silence.
“Well,” Marie said finally. “There’s that coconut milk.”
“I don’t know what she was thinking, buying that coconut milk,” said Margaret.
“It is just sitting there,” Marie admitted.
“Hah!” I said. “HAH! Eureka!” Then I said cautiously, “Wait a minute, in all that list you gave me, you never mentioned garlic or onions.”
“Oh,” Margaret scoffed, “Of course we have THOSE.”
“We ALWAYS have those,” Marie said.
True cooks. That is their mark. So for two true cooks, who let me play with their kitchen that day, I made the recipe below, from ingredients they found in their refrigerator:
Kentucky Curry (atop Tabouli Salad)
For two you need:
A chopped or sliced onion
A bit of minced fresh chile pepper or a pod of dried
Frozen vegetables from the garden: green beans, okra, tomatoes
Whole peeled garlic cloves
A bit of olive oil
A bit of minced fresh ginger
Chopped fresh mint from the Southern winter garden
In a big skillet, fry the chopped onion till soft. Add a bit of minced fresh chile pepper or a crushed dried chile pod. Add the minced ginger and about a teaspoon of curry powder. Salt. Taste to see if you want more curry powder, and if you do, then add a little more. Fry till it all smells heavenly of curry and ginger. Then add as many frozen green beans and okra as you think both of you can eat, with a few over for lunch leftovers the next day. Coat well in the curry oil, then add the whole garlic cloves and one or two or three frozen tomatoes, chopped. Cook it all till the veggies are defrosted and the tomato has started to disintegrate. Then add enough coconut milk to make a nice sauce, as much as you like. Cook till the whole begins to amalgamate in a deliriously delicious smelling way.
In the meantime, prepare the tabouli. Mix with as much chopped kale/parsley/romaine salad as you like. Squirt it with lemon juice to taste.
To serve: Spoon the Kentucky Curry atop the tabouli, sprinkle with chopped fresh mint from the garden.
I suspect even more that Margaret and Marie were humoring me with this, in fact, I know it, because I found out later what they had for dinner later that night was reheated pot roast with corn bread and salad and a nice Beaujolais. But I still maintain Kentucky Curry is a cheerful dish to cook in the depths of any winter, and I know for sure that the recipe has already given me a lot of satisfaction: as so often happens in cookery, much of the pleasure in any dish comes from the plotting of it and the thought of it and the enjoyment of the discussion together.
Thanks for that, Margaret and Marie!