Easy improvisational curry (vegan, vegetarian, and carnivore versions)

This recipe is like jazz: you can improvise based on what you have on hand and what your tastebuds desire. It’s a great way to eat lots of veggies because it’s so delicious. It’s easy because everything can be chopped roughly to bite-size, which adds to the charm; precision is not needed. It’s colorful, too!

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The Blind Cafe in Austin, Texas, 2013

I wish I could remember how and when I first learned about The Blind Cafe. Online somewhere, for sure, in the last year or two.

What I read about it sounded so amazing, I knew I’d love to experience it when and if it ever came to Austin, and I added myself to a mailing list for notifications.

And lo and behold, The Blind Cafe coming to Austin this Feb. 20 and 21! I’ve already bought my ticket.

The Blind Cafe websiteWhat made me want to do it is this:

  • It’s a vegetarian meal with as much of the food locally sourced as possible. Check.
  • Profits go back into the community. Check.
  • The meal is accompanied by original live music. Check.
  • The seating is family-style. Check.
  • The waitstaff is professional. Check.
  • And blind… Hmm.
  • There’s Q&A time with the waitstaff. Check.
  • The meal is served in pitch darkness. Wow.

People who’ve experienced The Blind Cafe talk about how eating food served in darkness enhances their sense of taste. (It’s finger food, not soup, from what I’ve read.)

They also talk about how sharing a meal in the darkness with people you don’t know creates intimacy and community.

If you’re interested, there’s a Facebook event called The Austin Blind Cafe where you can RSVP, and you can buy tickets here. If the dinners sell out, which tends to happen, there’s a wait list for the next time the event is held here. (It’s also held in Boulder, Denver, Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, and Burlington.)

Also, if the price is too steep, you can request a discounted ticket.

I like these people! I’ll post again afterwards to let you know how it went.

 

The easiest, tastiest summer salad imaginable: insalata caprese

Last Sunday, it was my turn to cook dinner for my friend. I wanted to serve food that was healthy, seasonal, and delicious, and I went to the farmer’s market on Saturday for inspiration.

Heirloom tomatoes are in season, and they are exceptionally delicious. However, they don’t keep for a long time like the modern tomatoes do. Eat ’em right up is what I say, and never let them see the inside of your refrigerator. Buy organic, please. Support your health and the growers. Or grown your own.

I have been known to get home with an heirloom tomato and eat it immediately, standing over the sink to catch the juice.

In hindsight, I could have invited my friend to do the same—that would have made the dinner memorable, and it would have been a fun surprise—but alas, that didn’t occur to me at the time.

Instead, I served insalata caprese, which Wikipedia tells me means “salad in the style of the island of Capri.” Capri is an island off the coast of southern Italy (the front of the “ankle” of Italy’s boot). That area, Campania (where Naples and Mount Vesuvius are also located), has a rich gastronomic history, being the birthplace of pizza and spaghetti, as well as being one of the first areas of Europe to fall in love with that New World wonder, the tomato.

Insalata caprese sounds fancy, particularly when you say it with an Italian accent (try it: een-suh-LAHH-tuh kuh-PRAY-say), but it is almost as simple as eating over the sink. Here are the ingredients to assemble:

  • one large, ripe Brandywine tomato without soft spots
  • eight or so large fresh basil leaves
  • mozzarella cheese (I used Whole Foods brand without rBGH)
  • organic extra-virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar (if you’re adventurous, try this version over the supermarket stuff—a little goes a very long way and although expensive, it’s not astronomical like some)
  • freshly ground salt (I love Himalayan pink salt)
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. With a serrated knife, slice the stem end off the tomato and cut the remainder into four thick slices. Put slices on plates (one or two per salad plate, or all four on a dinner plate for a full meal for one greedy tomato lover, ahem).
  2. Being careful not to crush them, slice the basil leaves crosswise and evenly distribute on top of the tomatoes.
  3. Slice the mozzarella and distribute evenly over tomatoes.
  4. Drizzle olive oil over each tomato slice.
  5. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over each slice.
  6. Season with freshly ground salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it. You will need a knife and fork. Now indulge in some summer bliss!

(You will want to drink the juices left on the plate and then lick the plate. I won’t tell.)