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: