Tag Archives: Olive oil

Poetic Potato and Chickpea Curry

I spent most of my work day today thinking about musical form and rhythm, and researching poetic forms. So when I got home and started writing about this curry recipe, a limerick happened!

There once was a mild chickpea curry.
That I liked to make in a hurry.
With potatoes and rice,
Tomatoes and spice,
It’s so easy there’s nary a worry.

Then, a haiku:

Potato curry,
Yellow and satisfying,
Tastes good over rice.

Now I can’t write about this dish– or much else– without it turning into a poem, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. I hope that you enjoy this super-easy, mild curry!

Potato Chickpea Curry (serves 4)
3 yukon potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (one can, drained)
1/2 cup skim milk or rice milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
cilantro to garnish
4 cups cooked basmati rice*

Put chopped potatoes in a large pot with a lid and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil into the pot and saute the garlic and yellow onion over medium heat until they are very soft. Add the cooked potatoes and remaining ingredients and stir. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn the heat down to low, and allow the curry to simmer for 15 minutes before serving over rice. Garnish with cilantro.

*I’m terrible at cooking rice, so I always ask my husband Rami to do it. He found this great instructional video “Perfect Basmati Rice” over at Show Me the Curry, and it’s his new favorite method.

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

Spicy Arugula Spread

This is a recipe that almost wasn’t.  It came about last Sunday night while I was preparing beer bread and chai truffles for a food swap the next day.  I was really nervous about going to the swap, in part because I wasn’t sure whether my dishes would be fancy enough for all the foodies in attendance. This is a common fear for me. I call it Potluck Anxiety, and it tends to sneak up any time I take a large batch of treats to a social gathering. Potluck Anxiety is usually really annoying but in this instance I’m glad I had it, because otherwise I might have never made this spicy arugula spread.

Thanks to Potluck Anxiety, I was doubtful that my beer bread would be okay as a standalone dish at the swap. I thought, why not make an herb butter to gussy it up? I wasn’t working from a recipe, just from the vague idea that pesto and butter together would make a good herb butter.  So off I went. For the pesto, I improvised using whatever I could find in the fridge: some arugula, green onions, pecans, garlic, salt, and olive oil.

When I tasted the pesto I enjoyed it so much that I almost kept the whole batch for myself.  Luckily, Potluck Anxiety told me that bread alone wouldn’t cut it, and I pushed forward in the quest for herb butter. To my cup of arugula pesto, I added 4 tablespoons of salted butter.

No bueno. The butter did nothing but turn the pesto into an oily mess! I could have resolved this by adding more butter, but I had used the last of it for the beer bread. What to do?

As a measure of desperation, I threw some cream cheese into the processor with the buttered pesto. The flavor of the spread was definitely improved by the cream cheese, but I thought it was still too strong to pair with my mellow beer bread.  Not wanting to be wasteful, I put the finished cream cheese-butter-pesto mixture into a crock in the fridge and forgot about it.

The night of the swap, I was a mess. I had loaded my car and pulled out of the driveway by the time I remembered the arugula spread in the fridge. In the throes of Potluck Anxiety, I turned around to get it mostly because the little orange crock was so cute.  Boy, am I glad that I did!  While the spread was sitting in the fridge overnight it mellowed into a lovely, spreadable, spicy dip. Perfect for pairing with crackers or whole wheat beer bread.  By experimenting with the leftovers, my husband Rami discovered that this spread makes a great pasta sauce if you warm it up in the microwave.

This story has two happy endings. First, I ended up with a new potluck recipe that is easy to put together and a real crowd pleaser. Second, I met a wonderful group of friends at the food swap. There were all sorts of cooks at the party: some were fancy, some were not so fancy, and of them all were kind and accepting. I suspect I will probably have another case of Potluck Anxiety before the next time I see them; my fingers are crossed that I’ll get another winning recipe out of the deal!

Spicy Arugula Spread (makes about 1.5 cups)
4 cups arugula
4 peeled garlic cloves
1 bunch green onions, root tips and limp green tips removed
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons salted butter
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Place arugula, garlic and green onions in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade.  Pulse until veggies have broken down into very small pieces.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until completely combined. Mixture will be very soft from the heat of the food processor; store in an airtight container overnight to firm up the spread and allow the flavors to mellow. Enjoy in place of butter on breads, as a dip for crackers, or warm with pasta.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

Mustard Green and Lentil Sprout Curry

I consider this dish a personal victory over two of my produce nemeses: mustard greens and lentil sprouts. I know that both of these vegetables are perfectly lovely and nutritious, but they gave me fits before I finally tamed them in this dish. Mustard greens and lentil sprouts are not inherently tricky to cook, I just didn’t grow up eating them and I didn’t have a clue about what do with them when I first got them in the Local Box.

However, the nutritional promise of these two ingredients has kept me trying to include them in our diet. Mustard greens have anti-inflammatory properties and tons of B vitamins– great for dealing with stress– and lentil sprouts have plenty of fiber. Over the past year of trial and error I’ve learned a few tricks for cooking these ingredients, and with tonight’s curry success, I feel confident sharing them. For mustard greens:

  • Wash mustard greens really well before and after chopping to get rid of any grit. We use a salad spinner.
  • Use recipes with bold flavors, like curries, to complement the strong flavor of the mustard greens.
  • Chop the leaves in fine pieces before cooking them.
  • Plan to cook mustard greens about twice as long as you would a milder winter green like spinach. This knocks out any toughness, even in the stems, and improves the final texture of the greens.

For lentil sprouts, I don’t have any preparation tips since most recipes call for the whole lentils in salad. Just wash ’em and go! I like sprout salads okay but my favorite way to eat lentil sprouts is to sneak them into spicy stews like this curry. They become very tender as they cook and fade into the background texture of the dish.

This particular curry came about after I experimented with several different recipes from around the internet: Jugalbandi’s Sprout Curry, Allrecipes’ Curried Mustard Greens, and Matthew Card’s Chickpea Dal.  The final dish is a hybrid of all these, and it comes together in just about half an hour in the kitchen. I originally planned to add a full can of chickpeas to this recipe and decided against it when I ran out of room in my pot.  However, they would have been a welcome addition (along with some extra liquid) if I had needed to stretch the recipe for  an unexpected dinner guest.

Mustard Green & Lentil Sprout Curry (serves 4)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 bunch mustard green leaves, stems removed, chopped fine
1.5 cups lentil sprouts
15 oz. can stewed tomatoes
6 oz. can tomato paste
6 oz. water
3 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 cup light coconut milk
Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

In a large, lidded skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add chopped onions, minced garlic and diced jalapeno and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients to the pot, except coconut milk and garnishes.  Stirring constantly, cook until liquid comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  At the end of cooking, stir in coconut milk.  Garnish curry with fresh cilantro or parsley and serve with rice, naan, or pita.

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

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

Cheddar Kale Muffins

image courtesy Howard Walfish

These savory muffins call for a whole head of kale, plus protein-rich cheddar cheese, making them a healthy and filling option for breakfast on the go.  You’re going to have to take my word for it that these muffins look good. I made a batch of them for us to take on vacation to San Diego, and I was in such a hurry to pack them up that I forgot to take a picture!  They were great travel food; not too smelly on the plane, and a big step up from any of the airport snacks.

Cheddar Kale Muffins (yields 12 regular-sized muffins)
1 head kale, washed and dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cup milk
5 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 12-muffin pan with paper liners. Chop thick stalks off of kale and slice remaining leaves very finely. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, saute chopped kale in olive oil for about seven minutes, stirring occasionally, until kale is very tender and starts to look a little dry.  Set cooked kale on paper towels to drain and melt the butter in the skillet.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together milk, melted butter, egg, minced garlic, and cooked kale until the egg is completely beaten. Add flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and cheese.  Stir until just combined; do not over mix.

Fill twelve prepared muffin cups with batter– about 1/4 cup per muffin– and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. The finished muffins will be slightly browned and a toothpick inserted into a muffin should come out clean. Remove the pan from oven and allow muffins to cool completely before eating. The kale flavor in the muffins is very strong while the muffins are hot; it mellows as they cool, resulting in a great breakfast treat.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

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

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Yesterday I picked all the meat off our leftover Thanksgiving turkey and boiled the bones to make turkey stock.  I felt a little like Ma Ingalls making my own broth, but the whole process was just too easy for me to forgo. I followed Kalyn Denny’s instructions for making broth with turkey bones and it turned out great.  In the end, I netted 12 free cups of turkey stock for my troubles!  That much low-sodium, organic broth would cost at least $10 at the grocery store.

Besides saving money, it felt really good not to waste any parts of our Thanksgiving turkey. I had previously portioned out the leftover meat and froze it for use it for dinners in the next few weeks.  Of course, the bones went into the soup pot.  And the skin, tendons, and other leftover boiled meat bits?  I whizzed those in the food processor along with a few tablespoons of wheat flour and made 3 cups of meat Kong filling for Barclay. (We’re trying to help him gain some weight and free treats make this much easier!) The only downside to all this thrify fun is that I have 12 cups of turkey stock sitting in my refrigerator, needing my attention!

This butternut squash soup recipe is adapted from a vegan version published on Allrecipes.com, and it is one of Rami’s and my favorite winter comfort foods.  Its spicy-sweet flavors are very forgiving, and I’ve made it with mashed  sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin, and roasted butternut squash, depending on what’s handy.  To save time, I always roast the squash or potatoes ahead of time and add them to the broth cooked and mashed.  However, another option would be to peel and chop raw squash or potatoes and cook them in the boiling broth until tender. Since the soup goes through the blender at the end, either way would work just fine.

Finally, a note about the light coconut milk in this recipe: it’s a must-include.  In a pinch, you could substitute heavy cream, but the coconut milk’s sweetness enhances the buttery squash and spicy red pepper flakes.  I used half a can of coconut milk in a red lentil sweet potato soup recipe I made last week. I froze the leftover coconut milk right in the can and it kept just fine until I needed the remainder for today’s recipe.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup (serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry
2 cups mashed roasted butternut squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato
3 cups turkey stock (recipe is vegan if you use veggie stock)
1 cup light coconut milk (1/2 of a 14 oz. can)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped cilantro for garnish

Saute onions and garlic in oil in a heavy bottomed soup pan over medium high heat.  Once onions are soft, add pepper flakes, turmeric, curry, squash, and stock.  Stir to combine.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer soup, covered, for half an hour.  Add coconut milk in the last five minutes of cooking.  Blend the soup in the pot with an immersion blender, or allow it to cool some and blend carefully in small batches in a conventional blender.  Season finished soup with salt and pepper to taste, garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.  This soup doubles easily and freezes exceptionally well.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

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.

Thanksgiving: How to puree butternut squash

Butternut squash can be an intimidating vegetable to cook with because of its ungainly shape and thick skin.  However, this classic harvest gourd is a must-have for many Thanksgiving recipes, like my macaroni and cheese or squash pudding. These step-by-step instructions with pictures should help demystify the delicious butternut and make pureeing the vegetable a breeze.

The only must-have for working with butternut squash is a large, sharp knife.  If you don’t have a good cleaver or butcher knife, a clean hand saw from the tool box works nicely for cutting hard squash and is much safer than trying to go at it with a too-small kitchen knife.  And at about $5, a small hand saw is a cheap way to go if you don’t cook often enough to drop $$ on a good kitchen knife.  A food processor is optional for this recipe; a potato masher is also an effective, albeit time consuming, way to puree the roasted squash. Finally, I like to process butternut squash in advance of using the puree in a recipe, mostly since this process can be time consuming if you’re in a rush to get dinner on the table.  The whole cut-roast-puree process takes about 90 minutes; only 15 of those minutes are hands-on. Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon!

Here’s how to do it: first, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cover a cookie sheet with foil and set aside.  Place the squash on a cutting board and using the largest, sharpest knife you have, cut off the stem end of the squash and the cut the squash in half lengthwise. If your squash is large, the lengthwise cut will probably take two knife strokes: one lengthwise through the butt of the squash, and another cut down through the neck.  Whatever you do, keep your hands and fingers above the blade of the knife and cut with steady, controlled motions. Also rest assured that this, and all squash purees, will turn out A-OK if the squash isn’t cut perfectly.

Once the squash is cut in half (whew!) scoop out the seeds with a spoon and rub a little olive oil on the orange flesh.  Place squash flesh-side down on the prepared cookie sheet and cook for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until the skin is bubbly and brown, and the squash can be pierced easily with a fork. Take the squash out of the oven and carefully wrap the aluminum foil into a packet around the cooling squash; this will help make the skin very tender and easy to peel off once the squash cools.  Wait until the squash is lukewarm to the touch, then unwrap the foil and peel away the squash skin with your fingers.  The squash will probably break into pieces as your work with it; that’s good.  Put the peeled squash into the food processor and whiz away until it has the consistency of baby food.  Store the squash in an airtight container for up to a week in the fridge, or about a month in the freezer.