Remember when I said I was eating out too much? Yeah, just when I think I’m ready to give it up I have two back-to-back meals that rank high up in that realm of “best ever.” It’s been awhile since I’ve been that excited.
Kachka – it was a ‘not-a-date’ night with my friend Jenny. Our catch-up nights always involve dinner somewhere and we end up parking ourselves at a table for a good three hours. I don’t think we’ve ever been disappointed, and Kachka was no different. It’s getting a lot of good press in the food world [Bon Appétit and NY Times, for example], but we managed to get a table without a reservation or a wait. I was really surprised. My knowledge of Russian food is limited, but as usual, I don’t really care about authenticity [although, I hear they hit the mark]. Does it taste good? I’m sold. We opted for their Ruskie Zakuski Experience, which is a sampling of nearly all of their cold small plates, and an order of the cabbage rolls. The food is very smoked fish heavy, and it was so, so, so, so good. Highlights = Baltic Sprat Buterbrodi [tiny smoked fish, parsley mayo, pumpernickel toast], beet cured king salmon, and Herring ‘Under a Fur Coat’ [7-layer salad of herring, potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, mayo, eggs]. My mouth watering just thinking about it. We finished dinner with Russian style ice cream sandwiches made with wafers, black currant tea milk caramel, and hazelnuts. We were talking so much that the ice cream started to melt, but it reminded me so much of an airy, less sweet, cold marshmallow fluff. Everything is better with black currant tea milk caramel.
Kukai Ramen & Izakaya – best. ramen. ever. Not that I’ve had that many bowls of ramen, but I like to think I just save my experiences for the good stuff. Their locations are in the NW, Taiwan, and Japan. Sounds legit enough for me. The garlic tonkatsu shoyu ramen has a thick, rich, garlicky broth. The noodles don’t clump together and have a great texture. Those seasoned half-boiled eggs are the things dreams are made of. I could eat just a bowl of those. Seriously good stuff. I see now, though, why they offer a low sodium version of the broth. It didn’t taste extraordinarily salty, but my god could I feel it later. Sausage fingers. Worth it.
The curry in this recipe is much more Indian than Thai. Garam masala will do that. This is a ridiculously simple curry to throw together. I’m always intrigued when a curry doesn’t have coconut milk. It’s a nice change to get the full on flavor of the spices. It has a whole mess of spinach in it, too, which I will never be bummed about. I could eat spinach all the time. The meatballs come together easily without a binder of some kind, but don’t suffer from texture issues. The key is to brown them, and I mean really brown them, before rotating them in your hot skillet. I’ve learned to resist the urge to move them even though I want to. If I think they’re ready, I know I need to wait a little longer. This ensures extra flavor while keeping the meatballs together.
The meatballs don’t stew in the curry sauce for that long. It’s a quick and easy meal in that respect. If you want to infuse more flavor, and you have more time on your hands, feel free. It ends up smelling really good, though, so it’s hard to justify waiting.
Inspiration: Fuss Free Cooking
- 1lb ground beef
- 2 tablespoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 small white or yellow onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 10oz frozen spinach
- 1 cup of water
- salt, pepper
- diced chilies, cilantro, rice for serving
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of water with 1 tablespoon of garam masala and the teaspoon of turmeric. Mix until smooth. Set aside.
In another bowl, add the ground beef, the other tablespoon of garam masala, and a heavy pinch of salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until combined. Using an ice cream or cookie scoop [or, you know, your hands], roll out little meatballs of a uniform size — approximately a tablespoon. Heat a pan on medium high heat. Space the meatballs out in an even layer. Do this in batches if your pan is too small. Allow the meatballs to brown fully before moving. Set the meatballs aside.
In the meatball pan, add the the onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Turn the heat down to low and add the grated ginger and garlic. Stir quickly and often so it doesn’t burn. Add the turmeric/garam masala mixture to the pan. Sauté for about two minutes.
Add the tomato paste and sauté for another couple of minutes. It should darken in color. Add the chopped spinach and water. Bring the water to a boil before turning the heat back down to a simmer. Cover the pan with a lid. Allow the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to break up the frozen spinach if it’s been clumped together. If the curry starts to get dry, add more water. After 10 of the 30 minutes have elapsed, add the meatballs. Try to submerge them as much as possible. Cover and simmer for the remaining 20 minutes.
Now is a great time to make rice if you haven’t.
After 30 minutes, check the curry. Taste for chile flakes or salt. Serve the curry and meatballs with rice. Top with any of your garnishes.