Curry in a Hurry, Part One

Now that you can buy coconut milk for a third or half of retail cost, (please see previous post), you might consider keeping an extra supply in your pantry. A plentifully stocked larder encourages you to get in the kitchen and experiment a little. So, what can you do with all that coconut milk?

Whip up a curry using The Plenty Method! While recipes are useful for ideas and inspiration, their requirements for exact measurements and ingredients can often be quite restrictive and time consuming. The “Y” in Plenty means “Yum: the un-recipe recipe.” Break loose of cooking rules, formulas, shoulds and musts and experience new freedom in the kitchen!

So here is how to make a simple curry sauce using an “un-recipe recipe”. You can mix this sauce with lentils, roasted or sautéed vegetables, pineapple, noodles, rice, tofu, tempeh, beans, shrimp. Or, cooked chicken, beef, pork or lamb (which I purchase from a local farmer). The combinations are endless. And it is surprisingly easy to make this sauce.

To start, find a large skillet, sauce pan or Dutch oven. Dice an onion and sauté it in butter, vegetable, or coconut oil that has started to bubble. Sauté the onion for a few minutes until it’s translucent. Then add about a tablespoon of curry powder or paste and some seasoning salt (my favorite are those made by Maggi). To that, add a can of undiluted, unsweetened coconut milk and stir until it bubbles.

If you have some tamarind paste or concentrate, add slightly less than a tablespoon. In The Plenty Method, tamarind is what we call a “flavor burst”. It’s a concentrated flavoring that kicks the flavor up a notch and makes humble ingredients more interesting. If you don’t happen to have any tamarind on hand, don’t worry. But next time you are at an international food market or Asian grocery store, consider picking some up. It adds a lovely tart and tangy complexity to many dishes. Another flavor burst you might like to add is a splash of aged sherry vinegar. Just a touch adds yet another layer of lovely flavor. Add a touch of hot sauce if you like your food spicy (my go-to is Sriracha). Some people like the flavor of fish sauce. If you do, add that if you have some.

If the sauce seems too thick, add some water. If it’s too thin continue to cook it down or stir in some corn or tapioca starch diluted in a small amount of water. Then voila! There’s your curry sauce, ready to use as suggested above. Along the way, listen to your senses; they will tell you what to do. If it tastes a bit flat, add more curry powder, tamarind or salt. And if you are in a hurry, you can forgo the onion and start with the coconut milk. My favorite way to eat this sauce is over roasted cauliflower served on a bed of brown rice and topped with roasted cashews. Nourishing and delicious fast food!

One of my goals is to help people learn how to whip up something easy and delicious in the time it would take to get take-out or go to a drive through. Having a plentiful supply of food on hand and a few “un-recipe recipes” makes it much easier to cook on the fly. Try it, you’ll like it!

Tamarind makes an excellent flavor burst. I love Maggi seasoning salts.

PS If you’d like to learn a little more about how to use coconut milk, check out this post by Mark Bittman. Written in 1999, it’s still relevant . . . except for the price!

A Dream Come True

Late one evening a few weeks ago, I read the letter I had written to my dear friend Lolita a couple of years earlier when she was on her deathbed. Out of left field, I broke down and cried uncontrollably for several hours. It was the kind of crying that went straight to the jugular, the intensity so great there was no doubt I was fully alive. This wasn’t the painful, bleak, black, broken-hearted kind of crying, but rather the kind that felt like a thunderous, pounding rain.

Over the next few days, I reflected on this experience. Why had I grieved her death more than I had grieved any other person’s, even those whom I had known far longer and who were much closer to me? This didn’t make any sense.

But then it dawned on me. She made my lifelong dream come true. And she gave it to me in grand style, served up on a silver platter. What greater gift can a person give to others than to help them realize their deepest dreams? The tears were the thankful kind, The Joy of More Than Plentiful kind.

The tears were also an ode to that mysterious hand that had so serendipitously delivered the gift to me. Yes, the universe was listening to me – and my dream just got happened. What was my dream? To ride safely with freedom, ease and perfect balance through the countryside with a seat so secure it felt glued to the saddle. I wanted to feel as if my horse and I had dived deep into the beauty of a Monet painting.

And beautiful the countryside was – everywhere. I rode in one fabulous painting after another. Like the day we rode just after a freezing rain. The sun was out and thousands of icicles hanging everywhere reflected shimmering, prismatic light against a cloudless, bright blue sky. The clear, cold air blowing on my face and filling my lungs felt as pure as pure could be.

Or the day when we stopped at sunset after an invigorating gallop around the “big daddy field” and witnessed the sun and the full moon exactly opposite each other, perched on the horizon. It seemed we were caught in the pull of a tender love song, whose title could have been “Come Closer, I’m Here for You.” Quincy, my paint quarter horse, was the drummer. He grew impatient and pawed his hoof in a rhythmic request to get moving.

Then there was the time when a murder of cawing, black crows swirled against a background of charcoal clouds while majestic Mt. Hood, freshly dusted in pristine white snow, held court in the distance. In the foreground, the Hood’s shoulder touched the holly tree’s bright red berries and shiny green leaves. The color palate was beyond exquisite. Monet would have loved it.

Even Quincy was part of the special beauty that surrounded me. He had the most beautiful patches I had ever seen, as if they were outlined with a paintbrush. He had one blue eye and one brown eye, and it seemed as if a highly skilled makeup artist had painted black eyeliner around his eyes. No matter how many times I brushed his face, I always laughed.

Isabel Montclaire

I’ve experienced my ultimate dream – so what do I dream of now? I dream that millions of people throughout the world will join together to repair our broken agricultural system through a face-to-face social network where people will actually talk to each other. I dream that we will join forces to create radiant health for people, pollinators and our planet through affordable organic food. I dream that this network will be created through a spontaneous and loving uprising. I’ve heard this kind of network called a “decentralized autonomous organization.”

I dream of food as life. I dream of better food for a better future. I dream that organic food is the norm, not the exception, and that it becomes our national medicine. I dream of no back-of-mind worries about all the pesticides I am eating or about what those pesticides are doing to the bees. And so on. You get the idea.

I’ve named this network “The Hive Food Network.” If you dream of eating a diet consisting solely of organic food, I’m here to help you because my dream now is to make your dream come true. Just like Lolita did for me.

Let’s dream together and enjoy the beautiful ride.

*Portrait by Eve Holloran

Profound Transformation

The city of Wilsonville appointed me to the planning commission because they knew that I was a horsewoman and that people who are involved with horses tend to have a deep respect for the land. I’ve always loved the country and anything related to growing food: farms, ranches, orchards, vineyards, corn mazes, hay rides, harvest festivals, farmer’s markets, and so on. My earliest memories are of eating dirt in my family’s greenhouse and my father pushing me around the garden in a wheelbarrow overflowing with leaves. I feel a deep connection to Earth, and I am in tune with the seasons and the lunar rhythms.

I started riding when I was nine but when I was a young woman, I could not afford to keep a horse. However, I discovered I could get paid to exercise thoroughbred racehorses, so I did that throughout my 20s. After that, I rehabilitated horses that were injured on the racetracks and then found them homes.

My all-time favorite mount was Pete the Greek, a sleek black thoroughbred who raced at the Santa Anita track in Los Angeles. He was a celebrity there and drew a big crowd. Pete broke his leg and had surgery that at the time was state-of-the-art. Sadly, he was making too much money to take off enough time to fully heal, and the leg ended up breaking again in the same place. After another surgery, he mysteriously came to me (it was one of those hard-to-explain, love-at-first-sight things). He was permanently cranky, but it never bothered me because I knew he didn’t really mean to be that way.

I exercised him methodically and with great care, and he healed to the point at which he could take me for quite a gallop. Pete was a true professional, and he seemed to take pride in his ability to carry me with such precise balance, as if I were a fine china teacup perched up there on his back. His speed was both exhilarating and scary. Once in a while, he’d kick in his jet engines and I’d feel as if I were flying. I could feel his joy at being able to run so fast again. Sadly, the time came when I had to put him down. Sometimes I dream I am flying with Pegasus, and I wonder if that might be Pete coming for a visit.

Isabel Montclaire

Throughout my life, I’ve tried to figure out how to get good value for my money, to buy the best there is without paying a fortune for it. I bought Pete for one dollar, and it’s the best dollar I’ve ever spent. I learned how to do this with food, to get the highest-quality organic food possible for prices the average person can afford. That’s the essence of The Joy of Plenty, and I’m excited to begin sharing the particulars of this method with you.

*Portrait by the late Arne Westerman.