Sweet Potato & Chickpea Curry

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My best friend makes this for Thanksgiving every year, but this year she was deep in roasting lamb, making brioche, and baking pies and brought the ingredients over with her recipe and said, “Here.” Well, not quite so peremptorily, but you get the idea. Knowing that her lamb is the most delicious dish that has ever existed on the planet, I was happy to help. Besides, my contribution was two pickled salads that I had made the day before so the brine could work its magic. This is a recipe that originates with Nigella Lawson and was printed in The New York Times years ago. It has been a tradition ever since.

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  • 2 med red onions, peeled
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 serrano pepper – don’t remove the seeds, you want the heat.
  • 2-3 inches of ginger, peeled
  • 3 TBSP canola oil

Chop onions, garlic, serrano pepper, and ginger. Sauté in canola oil over medium low heat for about 5 minutes until softened.

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  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 2/3 tsp turmeric
  • 3 cardamon pods, crushed
  • salt to taste

Add spices, stir and mix. Let bloom by heating so the aroma fills the room. This releases the aromatic oils so they infuse more flavor.

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  • 3 med sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 1 3/4 cup coconut milk (light) (1 can)

Add sweet potatoes and stir until covered by spices. Add coconut milk. Raise heat to medium and simmer.

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  • 1 TBSP tamarind paste
  • 2 1/4 cup vegetable broth (can use water if you don’t have broth)

Heat broth and stir tamarind paste in hot liquid until dissolved (You can use a microwave). Tamarin paste is super sticky, so you want to be sure it is completely dissoved in the hot liquid before you add it to you pan of simmering sweet potatoes. Keep simmering, partially covered for about 25 minutes. You want the sweet potatoes to be tender, but not soft.

  • 4 to 5 cups cooked chickpeas

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Add the chickpeas, stirring them into the sweet potatoes and making sure they heat through. Then remove.

  • 2 TBSP chopped cilantro

Top with cilantro when serving.

This is a warm, slightly spicy dish rich in the hearty, warm flavors of fall with the beautiful browns and oranges of fall as well. It is delicious, hearty, and a great substitute for the traditional mashed potatoes and gravy.  It is a huge meal, serving 12, or great for leftovers. It just tastes even richer the next day.

 

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Pickled Brussels Sprouts, Carrots & Radishes with Anise Seed

Pickled vegetable salad is found in cuisines around the globe. I made the giardiniera from The Grand Central Market Cookbook the other day so it had a few days to marinate in brine for Thanksgiving. I decided to make a second salad to evangelize my love of anise with vegetables.  Believe me, anise seed does not make your food taste like licorice.

  • 2 tsp anise seed
  • 2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP sugar

To make this, I made the brine first because it must be cooled down before you add it to the veggies. I heated a saucepan over medium heat. I added anise seed and let it bloom a bit, heating it in the dry pan until the aroma scented the room. Then I added apple cider vinegar, a whole serrano chile with the stem removed, salt, and sugar. Heat this until the sugar dissolves, Remove from the heat and cool.

  • 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
  • 4 cups of brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 cups of carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 2 cups of radish, trimmed and sliced.
  • Serrano chile, (removed from brine and chopped)

Chop the vegetables, add the brine. Let marinate for at least 12 hours. This is a crispy, crunchy salad with a bright flavor. This is my second pickled salad for Thanksgiving dinner and serves 8.

 

 

Brussels Sprouts, Black Beans, and Carrots

This was a quick and easy supper.

  • ½ tsp anise seed
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into coins
  • 8 oz. Brussels sprouts, cut off the end and then halve or quarter depending on the size so they are all the same size.
  • 1 can black beans, thoroughly rinsed with water
  • juice of ½ fresh lemon
  • salt and pepper

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add anise seed until the aroma fills the room. Add carrots and salt and pepper. Sauté for about two minutes. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until warmed through. Be sure you don’t overcook to the point they are softened. Add black beans, rinse thoroughly so the juice from the can does not color the veggies. Add salt and pepper. When they are warmed through, squeeze fresh lemong juice and cover for 1 minute.

I love the flavor of anise and vegetables. It really does not taste like licorice. It marries vegetables perfectly. The black beans adds a bit of protein to balance the dish and give it the carbs that really make it satisfying.

Brussels Sprouts & Radish Salad with Candied Almonds

Yesterday volunteers spent a couple hours in the rain to distribute fresh produce to local residents. A project of the Oregon Food Bank, Harvest Share is open to everyone in the area. All they ask is your zip code and how many are in your household and if you have been there before. Food banks are dominated by nonperishable foods, lots of carbs, canned food, and frozen food. There’s very little fresh produce, so Harvest Share which is all about fresh produce is a wonderful option.

However, Harvest Share gives a lot of a few items, like about ten pounds of radishes and 6 pounds of Brussels Sprouts. Hmmm, time to think outside the box. I found a recipe by Jeremy Fox featured by Martha Stewart who has never released a bad recipe, but I didn’t have celery hearts, almond oil, or even an assortment of different radishes. It did sound like a good place to start, though. I like nutmeg with Brussels sprouts and I thought it would work with this recipe with a few alterations. Of course, I cut it in half as well to make it a single salad entree.

Make the garnish first because it must be cooled down first.

Garnish:

  • 2 TBSP sliced almonds
  • 1 TBSP sugar

Toss these in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook, shaking the pan so the sugar gets over all sides of the almond slices and cook until the sugar caramelizes. Removed quickly so it does not burn and let cool on some parchment paper. Break it up on the salad when it is cooled.

Salad:

In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, heat some freshly grated nutmeg until you smell its aroma. Add the butter and let it melt before adding the garlic. Cook about two minutes, softening the garlic.

The Brussels sprouts need to be broken down for salad. Cut off the ends and then cut away quarters from the center, discarding the core. Break it up with your fingers into leaves. Add to the garlic and butter and cook, stirring so all the Brussels sprouts are coated and let cook until warm, but not limp. Squeeze the fresh lemon juice and stir it in and transfer to your salad bowl.

Put the sliced radishes on top and then add the candied almonds.

  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 oz. Brussels sprouts, broken down into leaves.
  • 4 radishes, cleaned and sliced thin
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, squeezed

The salad is delicious. There is something luscious about mixing savory and sweet, the garlic, the lemon, the candied almonds. It also has a lovely mix of textures, the tender leaves, the crunchy radish, and the crispy almonds. You could use a nut oil or olive oil instead of butter for a vegan option, but it would lose the richness of butter and garlic and lemon coming together in mouth-watering dressing.

Yum!

Ginger Chicken with Turnips and Pears

Ginger Chicken with Turnips & Pears

This is so delicious that I am going to make it again and again, though it would be nice to add some fresh parsley just to get a bit of green. We humans like a bit more color variety in our food, but the flavor is intensely varied. I was at Harvest Share and a woman from Somali who was in line ahead of me asked what she might make with turnips. I mentioned how much I like them in a salad with pineapple and onions, but we also were given a big bag of pears and I said the pears and turnips would go together in a soup or puree. When I got home, I was inspired by our conversation to come up with something tasty with turnips and pears.

I had a chicken breast thawed out for supper, so I decided to try something with chicken. I thought the piquant flavor of the turnip would go well with ginger, so I decided to focus on ginger and garlic for flavor. Wow, it worked out so well.

I heated a cast iron skillet to medium heat with about 1 TBSP of olive oil. I chopped up ¼ yellow onion, 2 garlic cloves, and about ½ inch of ginger root chopped fine and added to the skillet with some salt and pepper. As soon as the onions softened, I added the chicken breast. I might have cooked a whole breast, but I bought this bargain bag of chicken breast pieces, so I cut it up into bite-size pieces.

While the chicken browned, I peeled a turnip and cut into ½ inch size pieces. It was more than I wanted, so reserved half for something tomorrow and added half the turnip pieces to the skillet. I stirred things around and put the cover on for about 8 minutes, to the point where the turnip was close to tender.

Meanwhile, I peeled a mid-size pear and chopped into ½ size pieces. When the turnip was close to done, I added the pears and stirred, sauteeing for about 2 minutes since the pears just need to be warmed. I removed the food to a plate and added about 1 TBSP of water to deglaze the skillet. Stirring the juices in, I added a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and added the food back, stirring it into the sauce, making sure it is well-coated. I served it on a plate and sprinkled some sliced almonds on top.

This is so delicious, there is this wonderful umami from the chicken and onions, this fresh tartness from the ginger and turnips, and a delicate sweetness from the pears. It comes together in this rich flavor explosion.

I think I might toast the almonds next time. It might be interesting to try with pistachios, too. A sprinkling of fresh parsley would add some color.

 

Chicken Peanut Sauce Burrito

Chicken Peanute Sauce Burrito

I got some peanut butter from Harvest Share last month and discovered that it actually is pretty good on celery. When the jar was close to empty, I thought it might be interesting to toss some rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, lime juice, and dried red pepper flakes, shake it up so the peanut butter sticking to the sides of the jar did not go to waste. I tried it on some lettuce and it was delicious. So this is the peanut dressing I made.

  • 2 TBSP peanut butter
  • 2 TSBP seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lg. clove of garlic, crushed and macerated with salt
  • Juice from 1 lime, squeezed.

I thought it might be good with some chicken. So I sauteed a chicken breast with just some salt and pepper in olive oil. While it was cooking, I chopped 2 TBSP of yellow onion,   thawed out 2 TBSP of frozen peas by running them in cold water, toasted 6 pecans in a dry pan and chopped them up.

I removed the chicken breast and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Then I heated up my burner and with the air vent on high, charred two flour tortillas against the coils of the stove. If I had a gas stove, I would grill, but this is my “electric grilling.” Just lay them on the medium-high coil with half hanging off the edge so you can grab them.  Flip with your fingers as soon as it begins to char, I generally “grill” on each side a few times to grill the whole tortilla. You cannot be doing anything else when you do this because you don’t want to start the tortillas on fire.  It adds a really great flavor and makes delicious tortillas.

Chicken Peanute Sauce Burrito

I compiled my dish with a small handful of lettuce, the sliced chicken breast, onions, pecans and thawed peas. I then added the peanut dressing and rolled them up.

This is delicious. Chicken is such a mild ingredient that it embraces nearly anything you do. I liked the peas (And yes, fresh would be better, but needs must,) They added a bit of texture and freshness. It all went together so well. It’s zingy and spicy from the lime and red peppers and then the peanut adds this kind of hearty sweetness.

 

Southwest Cole Slaw

Salad

  • 1 small head of green cabbage, chopped fine, salted
  • 1 small head of red cabbage, chopped fine, salted
  • 10 carrots, in ¼ in strips
  • 8 tomatillos, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced fine and chopped

Dressing: Drop everything in a blender or magic bullet and blend

  • 6 limes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1½ cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce

The cabbage should be chopped first and left in a colander, salted to bring out the liquid so the slaw does not turn watery. Wring the cabbage out after it has sat for 30-45 minutes. Then add the carrots, onions, and tomatillos. Mix. Add dressing and shake to distribute dressing over the entire slaw. Do not serve for at least 30 minutes so the flavors begin to marry.

This is a very light, fresh cole slaw. Despite the Sriracha and the ginger, it is not that hot. It just has a bit of zing. The tomatillos add a tartness that is fabulous and there is the layer of lime that is right there, adding that citrusy note but it not bitter. I chopped everything very small to make it work well on sandwiches or even dropped into a bowl of chili or soup. There is just enough dressing to coat the veggies and soak in a bit, but not enough to leave a layer of liquid in the bottom of the bowl, so it does not saturate the bread and when you sauté it with some pasta or rice, it does not add a lot of oil.

This is a big batch. It made 4 quarts of cole slaw and I gave half to my best friend who went with me to Harvest Share. However, the thing with cole slaw that does not have a creamy dressing, that has no buttermilk, yogurt, mayo, or sour cream, is that it will last for several days…which means it is there for several meals and there is nothing more versatile.

 

Easy Baked Rice Casserole

This is inspired by a recipe I learned in college, though it’s run far afield since then. I was an international studies student then, was learning Arabic and Spanish, and had a lot of friends from around the world. Fairly often the International House, the center of international student and International Studies student social life, would have a potluck. They also had a big dinner fundraiser for which I helped make 1500 gyoza and 1200 krumkake in two of the most mind-numbing days of my life. But that’s another story for another day. One of the things at least or or two or three Arab students would bring was kabsa. And every kabsa was different. I learned how to make it and decided it was perhaps the easiest thing in the world to make. Now this is not going to be a traditional recipe because that’s the thing with kabsa, you make it what you want it to be.

The first thing is you heat your oven to 350° F. While it’s heating up, you put a baking dish on a medium high burner with a tbsp of olive oil. In the olive oil, you put about 1/4 tsp or so of an aromatic spice like nutmeg, cardamom, anise, allspice, cinnamon. The heat releases the oils and flavors the oil which is going to make everything wonderful. For today’s dish, I used 1/4 tsp of anise and a few shakes of red pepper flakes.

Then toss in a piece of meat – a chicken breast, 1/2 pound of ground beef, or some stew meat cut into good sized pieces, at least 1 inch square. I went far astray and used carnitas–which means I can’t really call this kabsa, because no Muslim would be using pork. You want to brown the meat.

While the meat is browning, cut up some vegetables into big chunks. No need to be dainty. For this one, I cut an onion into 8 wedges, crushed a couple cloves of garlic, cut some asparagus stalks into thirds, and chopped up two inch long pieces of red chard stalks and fennel stalks.

After the meat was browned, I tossed in all the veggies. I tossed salad tomatoes in whole and cut a lemon into quarters. The lemon is not required, but it sure makes it delightful. I just dump everything in, then I made a dip in the center, put one cup of rice there, added two cups of water. Now, if I were using chicken, I might add some turmeric here, but not for pork.

The raw rice, veggies, meat, and lemon – ready to get baked.

Okay, so to recap, aromatic spiece, browned bits of meat, big chunks of veggies, 1 cup rice, two cups water. That’s all you need, takes less than 10 minutes. Now you stick in the 350° and come back in 30 minutes and it’s done. No stirring, no messing with it, all in one pot. What could be easier?

The rice will be perfectly cooked. The large cuts of veggies keeps them from overcooking. Brownign the meat keeps the meat juicy and tender. It will taste not tasted boiled! The aromatic spice adds depth and the lemon wedges infuse the entire dish with a subtle, light lemony flavor. This makes four servings, that get better with every meal.

Sausage & Lima Bean Stuffed Portabello Mushroom

Portobello mushrooms were just 1.99 per pound at the grocery store last week, so I picked up a couple, knowing how much I love them stuffed. Then I went and used the spinach I planned to stuff them with for something else and had this crazy idea I would try lima beans. I have some frozen lima beans from Harvest Share and thought why not? After all, lima beans are not super moist, so they might be great stuffing.

I preheated the oven to 350° F while I mixed the following in a bowl.

  • 1 cup of lima beans (thawed in microwave for 1 minute)
  • 4 links of half-cooked breakfast sausage, peeled and cut (I heated in microwave for 1 minute and drained off the fat, peeled off the skin and cut into small pieces.)
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • stems from 2 large portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg

Mix all this together and stuff into the cleaned caps of two large portobello mushrooms. I had some left over, I will use it with scrambled eggs.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

You can shred some parmesan cheese on top if you like, but it’s not needed. Lima beans are a great choice for stuffing as they don’t lose their shape or substance when cooked, so the stuffing does not become overly mushy. All the ingredients in the stuffing were chosen to remain their constituent selves while holding together. They worked. The stuffing was completely cooked, but not the least bit soggy or mushy…thanks to draining off the sausage grease and using ingredients with low water content. Paprika seems to be made for mushrooms and works well, too with lima beans and sausage. This is a very satisfying meal that takes care of all your umami longings while remaining relatively light and fresh. This makes two stuffed mushrooms which would serve two if accompanied by salad or soup, or one meal on their own.

Roasted Carrot and Black Bean Soup

Carrot and Black Bean Soup

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Wash and peel 1 pound of fresh, raw carrots. Cut into approximately 2 inch long pieces. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and some kosher salt. Roast about 30 minutes, turning once so they brown a bit on both sides.

About 15 minutes before the carrots are done, heat 1 TBSP of olive oil in the bottom of a soup kettle. Add 1 cup of chopped yellow onions, 2 bay leaves, salt and pepper and sauté until transparent, about five minutes.

Crush two garlic cloves and toss in to the onions and sauté for a few more minutes.

Add one can of diced tomatoes with green chiles and  4 cups of vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.

Remove the carrots from the oven and add to the soup. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Cool and puree in a blender, Magic Bullet, or with an immersion blender until smooth.

Drain 2 cans of cooked black beans. Strain and rinse the beans with water. Add to the soup and stir in gently. Cook on low heat about five minutes, until beans are done.

Serve. You could top with parsley, if you have it. Cilantro or pumpkin seeds would be delicious, too. Some red pepper flakes would heat it up if you dare. You could also add a dollop of sour cream, but then it would not be vegan. Makes 10 cups of soup.

This is a delicious blend of heat from the tomatoes and chiles and the rich, deep sweetness of the carrots with a bit of smokiness from the roasting. It’s delicious.