Monday, February 12, 2024

Pumpkin Thai Curry with Shrimp

Recently, I borrowed a copy of the Beat Bobby Flay cookbook from my local library. Sorry, Bobby, but why buy the cow when I can get the milk for free? The book has some good recipes, and I was particularly attracted to the pumpkin red curry with seafood--but not as written. It seemed like it would be better as a soup, so I made the appropriate adjustments. Cuz that's what I tend to do.

I wondered what the warm spices (cinnamon, etc.) brought to the table and found that they transformed a Thai red curry to something more like a Massaman curry. I adore red curry, Massaman not so much, so if I make this again, I will leave out the cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, perhaps replacing them with lemongrass and makrut lime. Bobby used eggplant and sweet potato in his version, but I swapped in regular potato for both. 

Supermarket red curry paste, like Thai Kitchen brand, is pretty mild, heat-wise. I had just received a shaker of McCormick's roasted garlic/cayenne/onion/pink salt blend and thought that would be a good way to boost the heat while also seasoning the soup. You all know how much I like chili crisp, and this stuff gives some good chili crisp vibes, only without the oil. I used a teaspoon in the soup, but added some at the table as well, which gave the dish just enough of a kick. I quite like this seasoning, and will be using it a lot. It comes in a ginormous container, too, which is useful.

Thanks for the recipe, Bobby. I won't be buying the book though.

Pumpkin Thai Curry Soup with Shrimp
I knew this would make far more soup than two people could eat in one meal. I didn't want to deal with rubbery shrimp in reheated leftovers, so I only added as many as I thought Mr Minx and I could eat at one time. The leftovers equaled approximately 5 cups, which I tucked in the freezer for future use, perhaps with chicken or another different protein. 

1 cup coarsely chopped onion
Pinch of kosher salt
2 t extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t ground allspice
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
2 T Thai red curry paste (if you're using a supermarket brand, like Thai Kitchen, use 3 T)
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
1 13.5-oz can light coconut milk
2 shrimp, chicken, or vegetable bouillon cubes; if using Knorr XL (double) cubes, just use one
2 medium new potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon McCormick Roasted Garlic and Cayenne Pepper with Onion and Himalayan Pink Salt, plus more for the table
1 t smoked Spanish paprika
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted
3 T pomegranate seeds
1 scallion, white and light green part sliced into thin rings
Plain yogurt, sour cream, or creme fraiche

Make soup: Saute onion and a pinch of salt in olive oil over medium heat until translucent, stirring regularly. Add the dry spices and the curry paste and stir to combine. Cook a couple minutes, stirring constantly, to toast the spices, then add the pumpkin puree and coconut milk. Add 3 pumpkin cans of water to the pot (about 6 cups) with the bouillon. Bring to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes, to allow the flavors to meld and develop. Add the potatoes; cook 15 minutes and test the potatoes for doneness. Once they are tender (might take a few minutes more), add the McCormick seasoning and smoked paprika. 

Add the shrimp and cook until they are pink and firm, 3-4 minutes.

Make garnish: In a bowl, combine coconut, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, and scallion. 

To serve: Ladle soup into bowls. Dollop with yogurt and sprinkle on some garnish. Season with additional McCormick seasoning, if needed.

Makes about 2 1/2 quarts.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Tuesday, February 06, 2024

Restaurant Review - Villagio Cafe

We have visited Villagio Cafe--a cute little Persian restaurant on York Road just a few blocks over the County Line--many times, so I was surprised to realize that I hadn't yet written about it. Several posts on NextDoor recommended the restaurant, and while that forum is generally a site that causes one to lose all faith in humanity, this was the rare piece of good advice. 

Villagio Cafe has a lot going for it: the food is excellent, the service is very good, and the prices are shockingly inexpensive. Plus, it's within walking distance from our house. 

chicken and beef koobideh kebabs with shirazi salad (front) lamb koobideh with rice (back)
There are plenty of kebabs on the menu: chicken, beef, and lamb shish kebabs which include peppers and onions; chicken and beef kebabs without the veg; and koobideh kebabs which are made with ground chicken, lamb, or beef mixed with onions and seasonings (similar to kofta, lule, and seekh kebabs). I can't stop eating the juicy and flavorful koobideh, so it's rare that I stray to the other types. Though I will say, there is so much onion in the koobideh, if I get carryout or bring home leftovers, I have to be prepared for not only my refrigerator to reek, but also the whole house when I warm them up. (Worth it. That's what scented candles are for.) The kebabs all come with insanely buttery basmati rice, lovely warm pita, and grilled tomato. Sometimes, however, I don't want the rice and exchange it for a side of shirazi salad, a simple combination of diced cucumber, tomato, onion, and parsley, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Villagio Cafe has six other rice dishes on their menu which can be substituted for the plain basmati for an upcharge; all are uniformly delicious.

tah dig topped with chicken fesenjan
As much as I enjoy the koobideh, I most often order their tah dig, or crispy rice, topped with a stew of chicken with walnuts and pomegranate known as fesenjan. (There is a possibly inauthentic but still tasty fesenjan recipe here on the blog.) It's not the most beautiful thing in the place, but I can't get enough of the buttery, salty, crispy goodness of the rice and the tangy richness of the stew. 

lamb shank with baghala polo
I also recommend their lamb shanks, which are stewed to extreme tenderness and accompanied by baghala polo, or rice with dill and fava beans. Honestly, there's nothing I've tried that I wouldn't order again, though I think that serving dolmas piping hot are a little weird. 

And now I have a craving for lamb koobideh, so if you'll excuse me....

Villagio Cafe
6805 York Rd, 
Baltimore, MD 21212

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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