A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cook-Along with Me: Pasta w/radishes and their greens — and FENNEL!

Here's how I recently made a tasty vegetarian supper, a little out-of-the-ordinary on account of the cooking of a veggie normally served raw and the unexpected fusion of Eastern and Western flavors.

Well, perhaps my fusion project did not turn out THAT out-of-the-ordinary in comparison to Boy George.  I miss his gentle kookiness and his appealing fusion of genders and musical styles.  Back in the 80s, when I was still confused about my sexuality, Boy George opened my mind to a whole new way of presenting oneself unapologetically.  Even though by his standards, my own self-presentation was on the tame side, I took from him a valuable lesson about not having to mold myself into what was expected of me by others.

This freedom, before I learned to wield it gracefully, got me into some trouble in less forgiving venues, like the military.  For example, I was the only ROTC cadet, at Princeton at least, who traversed the college campus wearing earcuffs (remember those?) and eye shadow.  This habit earned me public derision — I'll go as far as to call it humiliation — from my commanding officers — as well as a stronger sense of self which has served me to this day.  I look back on the teenage me with amusement and not a little awe.  I must have had to muster a lot of courage (and a dash of foolishness or at least foolhardiness) to openly portray my gay and, at that stage, somewhat effeminate self within the context of an organization which, to my horror and disgust, used photographs of my role model Boy George as targets on the grenade range during basic training.  We were supposed to feel a great satisfaction in lobbing explosives at the queer.  I feel tears of rage and fear welling up even now as I type these words a quarter of a century later.

Well, then!  Does anyone want to cook radishes?  Let's get started....

As is usual for me, my inspiration began last week by examining the ingredients I had on hand.  I found in the fridge these beautiful bunches of radishes and spinach:

As I contemplated these veggies, I developed the hankering after fennel (mentioned in yesterday's post) to spice up the radishes, but not PURE fennel, for the reasons I already mentioned yesterday, so I decided that I would be using panchphoran at some point in the process.  (If this paragraph has left you feeling completely in the dark, you might want to review yesterday's post.)

These are some other ingredients I wanted to incorporate into my dish:

Clockwise from top left: panchphoran, onion, coriander leaves, cheese.  I forget the exact name of this cheese, but it was a little like gruyère in taste and texture.
I chopped about half of the large-ish onion and the coriander and then cut the cheese into small dice.  (Stop sniggering — you're allowed to say "cut the cheese" on a food blog.)

Ingredients ready to be added.  I used kitchen shears to chop the coriander right in the little bowl pictured.
I cleaned the very gritty radishes, radish greens, and spinach, then cut off the tips of the radishes and the spinach stems to save for my next stock.  Then I chopped all the greens, sliced the radishes, and put it all into a large pan with a little water still clinging to it.

I wanted to capture the glory of these red & white radishes displayed against their foliage, before the cooking process muted the colors.  This picture makes my mouth water! 
I turned on the burner and let the veggies steam, covered, until they cooked through.  I honestly don't remember how long this took, but it almost doesn't matter, since these foods are edible and delicious at any level of doneness.  In any case, mine looked like this when I decided they'd cooked enough:

No matter how many times I cook spinach, it never fails to surprise me to note how far it cooks down.  In this case, a former potful of greens barely coats the bottom of the vessel after steaming.  I removed the lid — obviously, in order to take the picture — but also to turn up the heat and cook off most of the remaining liquid.

For the next step, I heated a generous amount of olive oil — this would be the only "sauce" that would dress the pasta, after all — in a small frying pan.  Then I added a teaspoon or two of panchphoran — probably closer to two, as I love my seeds! — and let them pop for a few seconds in the hot oil before tossing in the chopped onion:

I stirred and cooked the onion and spices for 5 min or so until the onion was soft and beginning to brown around the edges.  Then I dumped the contents of the frying pan, oil and all, into the big pot with the veggies and sprinkled in a little salt and pepper.

I stirred this mixture thoroughly and cooked it over lowish heat for a few minutes to heat it through and to allow the flavors to combine.  In the meantime, I set a pot of pasta to boil in salty water, in this case a box of grandiosely named noodle tubes that amounted to little more than penne:

Studies show that shoppers will pay an average of 32.8% more for penne when it is labelled as "sedanini rigate."
When the pasta had cooked, I drained it and put a serving in each dish, topping it with some cheese dice, which began to melt with the heat — yum!

Finally, I spooned over some of the cooked veggies with enough oil to coat the pasta, then garnished the top with the chopped coriander leaves.  Exquisite!  This is perhaps the first meeting of Bengalis and Italians in the same bowl. . .and they got along beautifully.  I definitely encourage you to experiment with combining panchphoran and cheese.

In closing, I'd like to share with you a bit of canine-equine fashion fusion: Freddy & Willy in their new horse-blanket coats.  Not only are the coats stunningly handsome, but they fit perfectly and are warm and element-proof and — most importantly — easy to put on and remove.  Even Freddy-the-Grouch does not seem to mind the donning process or having the new coat on.  Both dogs strut with their tails high while wearing them around the streets of Chelsea:

Canine-Equine Fashion-Fusion


  1. Michael, I think there's an opportunity for you to do a hat-trick. I mean, so many of your non-cooking stories are as compelling and hilarious as all get out. What if you had a THIRD blog, just for musings?!?! I guess I'm just hankering for some more Hanko.

    I think our Boy looks a bit like Demi there, don't you? Gorgeous. I came across a great remix of Somebody to Love Me a few months ago and still can't get over how great it is. Check it out: http://drewtedlock.tumblr.com/post/1582329703/conniekao-somebody-to-love-me-featuring-boy

    And, since I'm already off-topic, I wanted to say you looked just radishing in that yellow shirt with a new hairdo!

  2. Mr. Tedlock — you are on top of your game today, with all the wordplay and head-expanding flattery to boot. Didn't know you tumbled; enjoyed my introductory browse just now. Those pan bottom photos would look good on my blog too.

    I am glad to know you enjoy my musings. I've been holding back a bit (and a bit LESS, recently) out of respect for those who come for the food writing. I wonder how much of this my readers would find tolerable....

    So, readers, would you mind hearing about Michael as well as about my kale? Shall I write about me as well as about mee krob? May I divulge to you the contents of my self as well as those of my shelf?

    "Radishing." [tee hee] I'm still chuckling over that!

  3. I don't mind hearing your stories, Michael! Feel free to mix it up with the food stuff. I'm just sad that you had to go through all that crap. I went to high school with folks that would have yelled "hell yeah!" while lobbing things. Disgusting and totally intolerant.

    That penne dish looks delish, tho! I just might have to try it! I hadn't considered combining cheese with panchphoron, but I'm willing to try it!

  4. Your musings are definitely entertaining Michael, keep 'em coming.

  5. "I wonder how much of this my readers would find tolerable...."

    All of it.

  6. Aw, thanks everybody, for your support. I will keep writing from my heart, about food and whatever else comes into my brain.

  7. Keep writing about life Michael, food is apart of it, but not all of it. Your wit is amazing. Your food is also, but I've never heard of some of the things you cook. It makes me want to travel and expand my horizons.

    I used to love Boy George, but hadn't heard any of his music in years- so sad. His music always made me smile.

  8. I'd love to hear more about you and your life!
    And just wanted to send a hug for that poor teenaged you. I was going to be all smug about the fact that the Canadian Forces allow openly LGBT people to serve - but it's only been since 1992.

    On a vaguely related note - I had a earcuff that looked like a little silver snake. I loved that thing! (and I never did get my ears pierced).

  9. Keep the musings coming! A large part of the charm of both PMP and MPB is that of the blog hosts themselves. :-) I also look at the teenaged you with awe and admiration. People need to be taken out of their comfort zones and have their minds opened up, so good for you for being yourself even in the face of that opposition!