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Recipe: Black-Eyed Pea Curry

29 Oct

Part of the Indian meal I prepared recently for friends with divergent dietary preferences included this Black-Eyed Pea Curry. It answered a number of needs: it is vegetarian (vegan, actually) and is an excellent source of protein. And it goes nicely with drier, less saucy dishes such as the Spicy Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes. Not that dry dishes can’t be saucy in their own ways–that eggplant was quite a palate teaser. This dish, with mellow coconut milk, is a nice counterpoint.

Black-Eyed Pea Curry
Serves 4-6

2 (15-oz.) cans black-eyed peas, drained
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tsp. ground cumin
1.5 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. cayenne or sprinkle of chili flakes
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
1 c. hot water
1/2 tsp. salt, or one small vegetable bouillon cube
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 c. canned coconut milk
1 tbsp. lemon juice (or to taste)
2 tbsp. minced cilantro leaves

Preparation
1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and sauté the onion until it starts turning golden brown at the edges. Add the next 6 ingredients (through the cayenne/chili flakes) and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for a couple more minutes, mashing the tomatoes with the back of a slotted spoon until they disintegrate.
2. Add the black-eyed peas, the water, the salt/bouillon cube, and the sugar. Turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes, or until liquid has reduced slightly.
3. Add the lemon juice, cook for one more minute, then sprinkle with the cilantro just before serving.

Recipe is adapted from 5 spices, 50 dishes by Ruta Kahate.

Recipe: Spicy Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes

27 Oct

I have always loved logic problems. You know–the kind where a man in a blue coat on a bus is sitting two seats away from a woman with red hair who is diagonally across from another woman using an iPhone and one seat away from a man with a green scarf reading the paper.  Eventually, given more clues, you’d have to say where everyone was sitting, what color hair they had, what they were wearing, and what they were doing.

Perhaps that is why I also greatly enjoy certain culinary challenges. For example, tonight we had friends over for dinner and had a lovely time with them. But having lived in Berkeley, we learned early on to ask if our guests had any dietary preferences or restrictions. This time around, several of our guests could not eat dairy, gluten, or meat (two friends are each avoiding one of those items, the other cannot have two of them–but no one friend is avoiding all three). Five people at the table tonight ate anything and everything. No one was vegan.

So, what to serve? In cases such as this, I find that Indian food is perfect. There are myriad vegetarian and non-dairy options, and rice does not contain gluten. So I decided to use this opportunity to experiment by making several dishes I haven’t tried before. This eggplant dish is one of them, and one of the reasons I chose it is that it can be served at room temperature. Anything that can be made ahead of time, I like. This recipe, which family members deemed a keeper, is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.

Spicy Indian Eggplant with Tomatoes
Serves 6

1 tsp. ground ginger
6 large cloves garlic, minced
1/8 c. water
1 3/4 lb. baby eggplant
about 1.5 c. canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp. whole fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 (15-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or chili flakes)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Preparation

1. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into halves, then cut each half lengthwise into four strips; cut the strips in half crosswise.
2. Heat 1/2 c. of the oil in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat; when hot, add one layer of eggplant and cook until the eggplant is golden-brown, turning pieces over as they cook.
3. Remove eggplant and drain on a layer of paper towels.
4. Repeat until all eggplant slices have been cooked, adding additional oil to the pan each time as needed.
5. Once all the eggplant has been cooked, keep about 3 tbsp. of the oil in the pan, and discard the rest.
6. Add the fennel and cumin seeds to the hot oil in the pan. Stir for a few seconds, then add the tomato, ginger-garlic mixture, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, salt, and sugar
7. Stir and cook for 5-6 minutes, breaking up the tomato pieces with the back of a slotted spoon. Continue to cook until the mixture gets thick and paste-like.
8. Return the eggplant to the pan and gently mix in; add the lemon juice. Cook on medium-low for about 10 minutes, adding some of the reserved tomato liquid if the eggplant looks too dry.
9. Check the seasonings and adjust as needed (you may like to add more salt, or a pinch more sugar, or a bit more lemon juice).
10. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe: Wheat Berry Casserole with Italian Sausage, Spinach, and Mozzarella

22 Aug

It was a busy Saturday recently, filled with lots of garden work (me), garage reorganizing (my husband), and room cleaning/packing (youngest son, prior to departing for college). Dinner time rolled around and so did the realization that there wasn’t much food in the house. I had planned to cook that evening, except that I didn’t actually plan anything (a not uncommon occurrence). And seeing as I was still in my gardening outfit (ie, my old painting pants and shirt–the very ones my husband keeps threatening to burn), with streaks of dirt across my forehead, my enthusiasm for a quick trip to the grocery store was nonexistent.

Surely there was something in the cupboards/refrigerator/freezer/garden that could be pulled together for dinner. The freezer yielded some Italian turkey sausages. The refrigerator revealed lots of baby spinach that needed to be used immediately, mozzarella from a recent pizza night, and the Pecorino Romano cheese that always occupies a special spot. The cupboards contained onions, olive oil, and pasta, and the trusty garlic bowl on the counter was full. And there were (and still are) more tomatoes than I know what to do with in the garden.

I immediately envisioned a zesty penne-sausage dish–only to remember we had had pasta the night before. Shucks. I was willing to forget this fact, but the Greek chorus in our house probably would not. And then I saw the wheat berries I had recently bought, and an idea formed…. [Note: this can easily be made vegetarian by eliminating the turkey sausage and adding more veggies.]

Wheat Berry Casserole with Italian Sausage, Spinach, and Mozzarella

1 lb. fresh baby spinach (about 12 c.)
1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1.25 lb. Italian turkey sausages, removed from their casings
3 c. cooked wheat berries (see Note below)
3/4 c. seeded and diced tomato (about 5-6 small Roma tomatoes)
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 c. grated mozzarella
1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Preparation

1. Cook wheat berries as indicated in the Note below; set aside.
2. Heat a skillet over high heat and add the spinach; cook until it has reduced in size and has released most of its liquid; remove from the skillet and drain, pressing as much liquid out as possible. Set aside.
3. In the same skillet, also over high heat, add the olive oil, then the onions. Cook until the onions have softened and are turning golden at the edges. Add the garlic and cook a few more minutes.
4. Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink, breaking up clumps with a spatula. Turn off the heat. Add the reserved spinach and the wheat berries, and mix in well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
6. Layer half the wheat berry/sausage mixture into a 9 x 13 baking pan. Sprinkle with half the mozzarella. Repeat, and sprinkle the Pecorino Romano over the top of the casserole. (See photo below, taken halfway through doing the top layer.)

7. Bake casserole for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly golden.

NOTE: Cooking Wheat Berries
Wheat berries triple in volume when cooked. For this recipe, you will need 1 c. uncooked wheat berries. (I double that amount and save the rest of the cooked wheat berries for salads or other recipes later in the week.)


1 c. wheat berries
3 c. water, plus more as needed
1 vegetable or chicken bouillon cube (ideally, without MSG)

Preparation

1. For best flavor, toast the wheat berries over high heat in a dry skillet (no oil), stirring constantly, until some of the berries are beginning to turn golden brown and the berries emit a nice, nutty aroma.

2. While the berries are toasting, bring the 3c. water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Add the bouillon cube.
3. When the wheat berries are toasted, pour them into the boiling water and cook over high heat for about 50-60 minutes, adding more water as needed (no need to cover the pot, but keep an eye on it). When done, the berries will be al dente.
4. Drain the berries; there should be about 3 c. cooked berries.

Recipe: Chickpea Curry (Indian Sour Chickpeas)

30 May

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are the basis for many delicious things, from hummus to brownie bites — all made much more easily (and quickly) by using canned chickpeas. This recipe, adapted from Madhur’s Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking, is one of our favorites–a light curry sprinkled with onions marinated in lemon juice and ginger (hence the lovely “sour” element).

Serve with rice and other curries for a crowd, or with a simple raita (made with yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, and a pinch of mint) for a one-dish meal.

Indian Sour Chickpeas
Serves 6

2 (15-oz.) cans chickpeas, undrained
3 medium onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp. finely grated peeled fresh ginger (or 1 tsp. ground)
4 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3-4 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tbsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground turmeric
2 tsp. garam masala
cayenne pepper (if desired)

Preparation

1. Put 3 tbsp. of the chopped onion and the ginger and lemon juice into a small cup. Mix well and set aside.
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat and add remaining onions. Fry until slightly brown at the edges, then add the tomatoes. Cook another 5-6 minutes, mashing the tomatoes with the back of slotted spoon.
3. Add the coriander, cumin, and turmeric. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas and their liquid, the garam masala, and the cayenne (if desired). Stir to mix and bring to a simmer. Cook gently, covered, for about 20 minutes. Before serving, add onion/ginger/lemon mixture. Stir to combine.

Recipe: Turkish Feta Dip with Paprika

27 Apr

Fantastic on its own, this dip is even better as the basis for many delectable creations, from mini appetizer stacks to a range of sandwiches (try it on some crusty bread or a cracker, topped with Eggplant with Garlic Vinaigrette and some Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers). The cheese, yogurt, and walnuts provide a protein boost, but that’s not why you’ll want to eat this. You’ll want it for the nice tang and the endless possibilities. You can adapt it any way you like: more or less garlic or chili flakes, mint instead of parsley, walnuts or no walnuts, etc. Now that I think of it, this dip would probably be nice with some chopped Kalamata olives mixed in, too.

Turkish Feta Dip with Paprika

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
sprinkle red chilli flakes (crushed red pepper)
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp. dried mint)

Preparation

1. Place the feta in a medium bowl and mask with a fork. Sprinkle with paprika and mix in garlic.
2. Toast the walnuts in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes. Remove and crush finely with a mortar and pestle (or in a bag using a rolling pin), then add to feta mixture in bowl.
3. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to combine. If dip appears too thick, add a bit more yogurt.
4. Optional: drizzle with olive oil before serving.
5. Serve with crusty bread, pita bread, pita chips, toasted pita with zaatar, or any other cracker.

Recipe: Eggplant with Garlic Vinaigrette

23 Apr

I love eggplant–any which way, shape, or form–and this recipe is one of my favorite ways of making it. Caveat: in addition to liking eggplant, you must really like garlic, too, and you must eat this with other garlic lovers, because this is not a subtle dish–it is very ‘aromatic.’  Nonetheless, it is a beloved dish at our house–my daughter ate almost half of this platter of eggplant by herself!

I have always pan-fried it, pouring liberal amounts of olive oil into the pan as needed–but you could also try grilling whole eggplant slices then drizzling with the vinaigrette. The eggplant is great on its own, but is lovely when combined with other things. For our Mediterranean antipasti/tapas/mezze meal this past weekend, we created mini open-faced sandwiches by slathering pieces of crusty baguette with Turkish Feta Dip with Paprika, then topping with the eggplant and some Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers. The eggplant is great with pita and hummus, too.

Eggplant with Garlic Vinaigrette

2 eggplants
salt and pepper
olive oil

Vinaigrette:
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
sprinkle chili flakes/crushed red pepper

Preparation

1. Slice eggplant into 1/4-inch slices, sprinkle with salt, and set in colander in sink to drain for about 30 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, combine the vinaigrette ingredients.
3. Rinse eggplant with cold water and pat dry between two dish towels, then cut the slices into quarters. Sprinkle with pepper.
4. Heat a cast-iron frying pan on medium-to-high heat, add a liberal amount of olive oil, then add eggplant quarters in batches (a single layer at a time). Cook until eggplant is dark golden brown on all sides, turning eggplant over with tongs to ensure even cooking, and adding more olive oil as necessary.
5. When each batch is done, arrange on serving plate and use a small spoon to drizzle a tiny bit of the vinaigrette onto each piece of eggplant while the eggplant is still hot (try to get a bit of garlic on each piece). Continue cooking all eggplant in batches, drizzling each batch with the garlic vinaigrette. The eggplant will soak up the vinaigrette.
6. Serve at room temperature.

Adapted from Joanne Weir’s From Tapas to Meze.

Recipe: Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers

21 Apr

Fresh from my trip to Italy and with lots to do to get ready for the work week, I decided to prepare a Mediterranean antipasti-tapas-mezze meal made up of little dishes, simple ingredients, and nice bread. These Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers are part of that meal, and they can be made ahead — they get better the longer they marinate. You can use all red peppers, or any combination of red, yellow, or orange that suits your fancy. In this case, I used one of each color.  I forgot the parsley before taking the photo, but will try to remember to sprinkle some on top before serving! With or without parsley, this is a nice addition to any Mediterranean multi-dish meal.

Roasted and Marinated Bell Peppers

3 large red, yellow, or orange (or combination) bell peppers
1/4 c. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. paprika
1 spring onion, sliced
5-6 leaves fresh basil
2 tsp. coarsely chopped parsley

Preparation

1. Turn on broiler.
2. Cut peppers into quarters; remove all seeds and membrane. Place peppers on baking sheet, skin-side up.

2. Broil until skin blackens, then put peppers into container with lid, cover tightly, and let cool.

3. When cool, carefully peel the skin off the peppers, and cut peppers diagonally into thin slices.

4. Add the remaining ingredients to the peppers, stir to combine, and marinate for at least 3 hours (or overnight) before serving.

Adapted from the Australian Family Circle Tapas booklet.

Recipe: Baked Sweet Potato Fries

13 Mar

In the United States, grocery stores offer both sweet potatoes and yams, which are not botanically related. Except that here, they are one and the same.  The “yams” sold in the United States are orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Real yams are starchy and drier than sweet potatoes and have a rough and shaggy exterior. The problem is that white-fleshed sweet potatoes arrived on American shores first, so when the orange-fleshed versions put in an appearance, they were labeled as “yams” to avoid confusion. In the end, Americans have become more confused than ever.

On the plus side, the orange-fleshed sweet potato (AKA “yam” in the United States) is an excellent source of beta-carotene, which is responsible for the orange color. Beta carotene protects cells from pesky free radicals and is also converted into Vitamin A.

But all that aside, sweet potatoes are delicious — especially in the form of sweet potato fries, which make a regular appearance (and disappearance) at our house. These fries are crispy on the outside and soft, sweet, and rich on the inside. And since the olive oil they are tossed in enhances the absorption of the beta carotene, eating these super fries is a win-win situation all around.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 4-6

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin strips
6 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. cornstarch/arrowroot powder/wheat flour/rice flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried oregano

Preparation

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Spray two large baking sheets with cooking spray.
2. Place sweet potato strips in large bowl; toss with olive oil.
3. Add remaining ingredients; toss well to combine.
4. Place the sweet potato strips on the baking sheets, in one layer.
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden.
6. Enjoy!

Recipe: Tortilla Soup

5 Feb

Twenty-four years ago today, my husband and I had our first date at an El Torito Mexican restaurant in Georgetown, Washington DC, whereupon I not only polished off a full platter of food, but found extra room for dessert, too. Ah, the joys of youth (and first dates). My future husband was amazed, but that was because he did not yet appreciate the magnitude of my sweet tooth — in my view, there’s always room for at least a little dessert.

The restaurant is now gone and my ability to eat that much dinner has gone with it. So on the anniversary of that first date, I present a light meal that was an El Torito favorite: Tortilla Soup. If you have this for dinner, you will certainly have room to satisfy any sweet cravings afterward.

This recipe calls for chicken, but a vegetarian version could easily be made without the chicken and using vegetable broth/bouillon instead of chicken broth/bouillon. A vegan version would also omit the cheese.

Tortilla Soup

[Updated instructions 2/7/2015]

3 chicken breast halves (about 1.5 lb.)
7 c. chicken broth
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 potato, diced
1/4 c. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 zucchini, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
chicken (or vegetable) bouillon powder or cubes to taste
juice of 1/2 lime

Accompaniments:
corn tortilla strips (see cooking instructions below; will need 5 corn tortillas and canola oil)
1 1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 avocados, sliced
3/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation

1. Heat the broth in a large pot over medium heat. Add chicken breasts, reduce heat, and gently poach the chicken. [Note: Whenever possible, I like to poach the chicken ahead of time and let it cool in the broth: bring the chicken and broth to a simmer, turn down the heat so that the liquid ripples but doesn’t actually boil, cover the pot, poach the chicken for about 15 minutes–skimming the broth as needed–then turn off the heat and let the chicken breasts cool in the broth for about half an hour. If time is short, poach the chicken for 20-25 minutes, skimming as needed, remove from the pot, and transfer to a plate to cool.]
2. Add onion, carrots, celery, bell pepper, potato, tomato paste, bay leaf, garlic, oregano, cumin, and a dash of salt and pepper to the broth in the soup pot. Bring to a boil,  reduce heat and simmer, covered, 25 minutes.
3. While soup is simmering, cut the 5 corn tortillas into quarters and then cut each quarter into thin strips; leave the strips on the cutting board until ready to cook. Shred the cool chicken with a fork or clean fingers, and set aside.
4. Heat canola oil over high heat in heavy skillet (should be at least 1- to 1.5-inch depth of oil). When oil is very hot, add a layer of corn tortilla strips. Fry until golden, flipping as needed to ensure even coloring. Drain tortilla strips on a layer of paper towels. Repeat until all strips have been cooked; reserve.
5. Add zucchini, tomatoes, jalapeno, and shredded chicken to the soup pot, then simmer 10 more minutes. Check seasonings; if broth needs a bit more flavor, add chicken (or vegetable) bouillon powder or cubes and more pepper as needed. Add lime juice just before serving.
6. Serve soup in individual bowls, with avocado slices, jalapenos, tortilla strips, cheese, and cilantro as accompaniments.

Recipe: Mulligatawny Soup (Curried Rice Soup)

11 Dec

What do you do when 1) you have omnivores and vegans coming to dinner, and 2) it’s cold outside and you want something warm and filling that everyone will enjoy? Well, you could offer your guests a deconstructed curried rice soup to suit every palate (and dietary preference). Mulligatawny–with or without chicken–is another example of cross-cultural fusion: an Anglo-Indian soup with a name that means “pepper water.”  And like many other hybrids, there are infinite variations on the theme; this is just one version that can be served two ways.

When I am making this for the family, I prepare it with chicken broth and chicken as in the photo below. But it is just as good (and more versatile) made with vegetable broth and served with a variety of accompaniments on the side, so guests can add the ingredients they prefer.

Note: The instructions below are for making the soup to suit both omnivorous and vegan guests. If not meant to be vegan, the soup can be made with chicken broth and chicken; cook the chicken in the pot before you cook the onions, celery, and carrots. Remove the chicken from the pot when it is no longer pink, add the onions, celery, and carrots to the pot and proceed with the recipe as indicated below; return chicken to soup along with the apple and rice.

Mulligatawny Soup (Curried Rice Soup–with or without Chicken)

Soup Base

3 tbsp. canola oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely diced
2 carrots, grated
3 tbsp. flour
1.5 tbsp. curry powder
10-12  c.  vegetable broth (or water and equivalent bouillon cubes)
1 green apple, peeled, cored, and grated
1 c. rice (I usually use white jasmine rice, but have also made this with brown basmati)
salt and lots of freshly ground pepper to taste
1 (13.5-oz.) can lite coconut milk

Accompaniments
[Choose as many as desired and serve each separately alongside the soup]

2-3 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and cubed
1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas/garbanzos, simmered in their liquid until warm, then drained
8 0z. mushrooms, sliced and cut in half, sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 zucchinis, sliced and cut into quarters, prepared same as mushrooms
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets and steamed
handful baby spinach, raw

Preparation

1. Saute onion, celery, and carrots in oil in large soup pot until soft and golden. Add flour and curry powder, and cook 5 minutes. Add broth (start with 10 c.), mix well, and bring to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes.
2. Add apple, rice, salt, and pepper, and simmer 15-20 minutes more, or until rice is done. Add more broth as needed to maintain a fairly soupy consistency.
3. Just before serving, add coconut milk and adjust seasonings to taste.
4. Serve soup in bowls and allow your guests to add any of the accompaniments they desire.