Tag Archives: Ginger

Red Lentil & Sweet Potato Soup with Cilantro

I’m ready to eat. Ready for turkey. Ready to cook two kinds of bread for homemade stuffing from scratch on Thursday.  (What was I thinking with the homemade stuffing???)  One thing I’m not really ready for is all the other dinners this week. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed.

Enter red lentil soup.  This recipe is healthy, tasty, and it only takes about 10 minutes of hands-on work to prepare.  It’s also inexpensive and easily adaptable to whatever fall produce you have on hand: sweet potatoes, leeks, onions, winter squash, whatever.  Best part is, while it’s bubbling away on the stove, there’s plenty of time to whip up some stuffing.

Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup with Cilantro (serves 4)
adapted from “Vegan Red Lentil Soup” published on Allrecipes.com

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 cup peeled, chopped sweet potato, pumpkin, or butternut squash
1 cup dry red lentils
2 cups water
1/2, 15 oz. can light coconut milk
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, divided
1 lime, cut into wedges

Chop onion and garlic.  Saute them in oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Meanwhile, peel and chop sweet potato or squash. Once onion is translucent, add all remaining ingredients except for half the cilantro and all the lime wedges.  Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for half an hour, until potatoes/squash and lentils are tender. Taste soup and season with salt and pepper.  Garnish each bowl of finished soup with fresh cilantro and a lime wedge.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

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Spicy Green Beans with Beef

When I was a kid my mom would make a healthy, simple meal with ground beef, green beans, and soy sauce at least once a month.  This dish was one of my favorites from childhood, and I started craving it soon after green beans came into season in Central Texas.

I found four versions of green beans and beef in my kitchen’s recipe box.  Gel’s Green Beans and Beef published by “Angelica” on Allrecipes.com most closely resembles my mom’s version.  It’s very mild and a great fit for kids’ tender palates.  I adapted that recipe to incorporate some spicier flavors, like fresh ginger and red pepper flakes, and a full pound of the wonderful bitter greens that are so readily available in Austin this time of year.  Although I had mizuna in the crisper, almost any combination of dark greens would work well here; the flavor is mellowed by the spicy sauce and beef.

A note about presentation: I enjoy eating this meal with brown rice or soba noodles. However, as you can see from my pictures, the result is overwhelmingly brown.  White rice or raw bean sprouts would make for a prettier presentation if you’re looking to impress.

Spicy Green Beans with Beef (serves 4; 6 if served over rice or noodles)
1 pound ground beef or venison
2-4 cloves garlic, about 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons water
heaping 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound fresh green beans
1 pound mizuna, spinach, or other greens

Snap ends off green beans. Cut off the tough stalks from greens and slice remaining leaves into 1/2 inch ribbons. (The smaller you chop them, the less present they will be in the final dish.) In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the meat.  Peel and chop garlic and grate ginger, adding those to the pan as you go.  Break up meat with a wooden spoon as it cooks; once meat is browned add soy sauce, honey, water, and red pepper flakes. Bring liquid to a boil and add green beans. Cook for about two minutes, until beans are bright green and starting to become tender.  Add greens to the skillet and stir to combine.  Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until greens have cooked down and are very tender.  Serve alone or over soba noodles, raw bean sprouts, ramen, or rice.

Spicy Green Beans with Beef

Apple Persimmon Compote

Persimmons and apples are a natural duet;  the spicy sweetness of the persimmon is complemented by the apple’s tart flavor, and the flesh of both fruits are similar enough that they cook at the same speed.  I originally conceptualized this apple-persimmon pairing as a filling for mini pies, but it has lots of other delicious uses.

Image by Nathan Russell

Traditionally, compotes are served as a dessert, either chilled or warmed and garnished with whipped cream.  However, you’re selling the dish short if you limit it to just desserts!  Here’s are some ideas for how to use this recipe in your meal plans:

  • Breakfast: as a topping for oatmeal or other hot cereal
  • Breakfast: in a parfait with yogurt and granola
  • Breakfast: with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
  • Breakfast: over pancakes or waffles or in crepes
  • Snack: instead of applesauce
  • Snack: as a dip for cinnamon sugar pita chips
  • Lunch: with cream cheese in a sandwich
  • Lunch: with roast turkey and Dijon mustard in a sandwich
  • Lunch: with goat cheese in a quesadilla or Panini
  • Dinner: as an appetizer, baked in Phylo dough with a round of brie
  • Dinner: heated over top of baked pork chops, chicken, or turkey
  • Dinner: over top of a baked sweet potato
  • Dessert: over ice cream or whipped cream
  • Dessert: in mini pies (the flavor is too strong for big pies)
  • Dessert: as filling in a pastry braid or sweet rolls
  • Dessert: as a filling for a spice cake with cream cheese icing

Preparing this compote is quick and easy.  The most difficult part of the process is identifying which kind of persimmon you’re working with, and then peeling and coring fruit.  There are two kinds of persimmons: Fuyu and Hachiya.  Hachiya persimmons are heart-shaped, with pointy bottoms.  Fuyus have flatter bottoms and look more like tomatoes.  This recipe calls for the firm-fleshed Fuyus.  However, you could substitute the pulp of very ripe Hachiyas if that’s what you have on hand.  Here are detailed instructions for ripening and cooking with Hachiya persimmons.  Below are instructions for coring and peeling apples and Fuyu persimmons.

Here’s the full recipe.  It doubles or triples well if you’re looking to feed a crowd, and the finished compote will last about a week in a tupperware in the fridge.

Apple Persimmon Compote (yields 2 cups)

4 Fuyu persimmons
3 apples
1/4 c. butter or vegan margarine
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger (about a 1 inch section)
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice, apple juice, or rum

Peel, core, and dice persimmons and apples.  Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet and saute fruit for about 5 minutes, until it starts to soften and give off a little liquid.  Meanwhile, grate ginger and measure out cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, ground pepper, brown sugar, and rum.  Add all ingredients to the skillet, cover and continue to cook over medium heat for about half an hour, until the fruit reaches desired tenderness.  Stir occasionally and add a little water if necessary to keep compote from drying out. (Shouldn’t be a problem if your skillet’s covered, but burned brown sugar and fruit is no fun to clean up later!) Serve creatively and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and also appears on their blog, “Eating Out of the Local Box.”

the flesh of both fruits is similar enough that they are easy to cook together, and

Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Pie

Making a Thanksgiving with all local produce is a noble goal, but I was pretty bummed when I discovered there are no organic pumpkin growers in Central Texas. Yes, there are occasional rumbo squash and ornamental pumpkins at the farmer’s market, but those are pretty pricy and there’s no guarantee to get one for the big turkey day.  Luckily, sweet potatoes are readily available from lots of local growers this time of year, and they make an excellent substitute for pumpkin in many recipes.

Sweet potato pie is a popular Southern dessert in its own right, and it has been a popular dish in America since colonial times. According to Lynne Olver’s fantastic Food Timeline, recipes for sweet potato pie have been published in American cookbooks since the 18th century! Interesting tidbit: pumpkin pie recipes appear in America about 50 years earlier than sweet potato dishes, since sweet potatoes as we know them likely came to the southern colonies on slave and other trade ships from West Africa.

Besides being an interesting conversation piece, this sweet potato pie is an easy and inexpensive addition to my Thanksgiving potluck menu.  It sets up a little firmer than pumpkin pie, so it travels well and retains its lovely, creamy texture at room temperature. This recipe also uses regular skim milk (or whatever kind your family likes), so there’s no need purchase special processed canned milk. Another plus, since sweet potatoes keep well (store in a cool, dark pantry), you can stockpile them from regular CSA deliveries in advance of the big day, cutting down a bit on special Thanksgiving food purchases. To save a little work on Thanksgiving day, I’m making the pie crust ahead of time and storing it in plastic wrap in the freezer.  Before making the pie, I’ll let the crust thaw in the fridge for a day or two and proceed as usual.*

Sweet Potato Pie
Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup very cold shortening or butter
3 tablespoons ice water
Filling:
1 large sweet potato (about 2 cups, mashed)
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
juice of half a lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Prepare pie crust: mix flour and salt in a small bowl.  Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry blender, two butter knives or your fingers, until mixture is crumbly and blended. (The largest pieces of butter should be about the size of green peas, completely coated in flour. In my crust, below, the butter pieces were too big and it was a little tricky to work with.)  Add ice water one tablespoon at a time, continuing to blend dough with a fork, until dough consistency is even. It’s okay if it’s a little crumbly at this point. Form dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour. The dough keeps will keep in the fridge up to 48 hours, and in the freezer for about a month.

After dough is chilled, roll it out on a floured surface until it is large enough to cover your pie plate.  Transfer the rolled dough to the plate by rolling it up on the rolling pin and unrolling it over the plate.  Use your fingers to smooth the dough into the plate, the trim away excess dough with scissors or a sharp knife.  Press the tines of a fork along the edge of the crust to make a pretty pattern in the dough and secure the edge of the crust to the pan.

Prepare filling: Wash sweet potato and pull out any strings from the peel. Poke holes in sweet potato with a fork. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, until potato is tender.  Wait for potato to cool. (I popped the whole cooked potato in the fridge overnight before making the pie the next day. It turned out fine.) Set butter out in a mixing bowl to come to room temperature. Use your fingers to peel skin from cooled potato, and add peeled potato to the mixing bowl.  Use an electric mixer to cream the potato and butter. (My mixer is a little weeny, so I had to use a fork at first to get the potato mushed enough for the mixer to handle.) Add one at a time: white sugar, brown sugar, milk, eggs, lemon juice, vanilla and spices, making sure to mix the pie filling well between each addition.  Once the filling is smooth, pour it into the prepared crust. Set the pie plate on a cookie sheet, and bake in preheated oven for 55 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  The pie filling will puff up like a souffle while the pie is cooking, but don’t worry– it comes down and firms up just fine! Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold, preferably with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

* A note about my pie crust.  You can see in the pictures above that when I made this pie crust, the dough was hideous. There were some large, uneven chunks of butter and a few patchy bits of flour.  I was convinced I’d ruined the whole thing. Well. I decided to use it anyway and the crust turned out fine. Flaky and delicious and better than those perfect-looking store bought crusts. If, like me, you are a little scared to tackle a homemade pie crust: Have faith! You can do it! Don’t give up! And when in doubt, go ahead and use that ugly homemade crust. There will be sweet potato filling to cover it up, anyways.