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cold weather coping, with soup

January 8th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

We’re on the upswing of some pretty intensely cold weather. Thankfully it was brief, only a few days, but the deep freeze shut down the state in ways that I haven’t seen in almost 20 years.

I’m old enough to well recall the last two deep freeze spells that came through Minnesota; the last one, in 1996 caught me inside a superbly drafty, old house and my poor baby, barely even 2 years old, was wrapped up so tight in layers that he could barely toddle around. We spent a lot of time snuggled in blankets watching PBS and reading books.  And prior to that, in 1994, I was carrying him around on my insides, and so toasty warm with extra weight and hormones that I walked to the bus stop in -20 temperatures, with a cruel wind to boot, in an open winter coat that flapped in that vicious breeze. And I was still too warm. I didn’t get any frostbite, but I sure got some weird looks.

And here’s the thing; yes, by golly, it’s cold. But that just means more layers, more awareness when going out. I was outside on both of our recent cold days and although I could certainly vouch for the bone-chilling wind, I was dressed properly and felt just fine. Not fine enough for being out very long, taking a walk or getting out the nordic skis, but there was no fear in running errands and going about my business. Working in a grocery store led me to witness some pretty bizarre behaviors in people buying up supplies like an apocalypse was upon us, but quite frankly, I’m more fearful of being out in a blizzard than I am of dealing with a polar vortex. Cold is not so bad if you aren’t afraid of it.

We did have a big hiccup with Mike’s car, though, as he willingly allowed Griffin to park his car in our garage overnight so that when he had to leave for work at 4:30am, his car might start a bit easier. Which it did. But, as you can imagine, Mike’s car wouldn’t start after being out overnight in -50 wind chills. After multiple attempts to get the engine running, he disconnected the battery and brought it inside to warm up, keeping it connected to an electric charger. The next morning, the car roared to life as it should. Bottom line: if your car has to be outside, try taking the battery inside on those brutal nights. It’s a little extra work that might save you from a dead vehicle. And an electric charger should be in everyone’s arsenal.

Our fireplace got a lot of use over the past week, too. It’s gas, which isn’t our favorite, but you can’t beat it for ease and for incredible warmth. The fireplace has a blower that sends the warm, heated air out in to the room, and I curl up on the sofa in front of it, cats draped across my lap, my knitting in hand and a movie or TV show on Netflix and can pretty much forget that’s it’s not a fit night for anyone outside our windows.

At the top of every coping mechanism, however, is the food we love to consume when the weather bottoms out. You all know that I love soup, almost beyond words, and for one of our bitterly cold night, I made a simple pot of simmered beet greens, chickpeas and red-skinned potatoes from our Fall Storage CSA share. Simmered in turmeric-laced coconut milk, spiked with red curry paste, it was enough to cut through even the most bone-rattling cold, warming us right to our toes. Beet greens {and all hearty greens, like kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and chard) become silky smooth, nearly melting in your mouth when simmered slowly, and this method has made me a huge fan of just about any dark, leafy green, loaded with the iron our bodies need. This soup is pretty similar to my popular Braised Kale & Chickpeas recipe, with a few tweaks here and there. The addition of turmeric adds lovely color, and the wonderful anti-inflammatory properties that turmeric offers.

We’re expected to warm up in to the low 30′s by the weekend, and I can’t even imagine how delightful that’s going to feel after this last blast of arctic air, but, sadly, weather patterns hint at the brutal cold returning all too soon. There’s lots of Winter left. Plenty of soup to be made, I imagine.

Greens, Potatoes & Chickpeas in Coconut Milk

1 large bunch dark, leafy greens such as Beet, Collard, Chard or Kale, washed, de-stemmed & rough chopped
1/2# red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut to 1/2″ {leave the peels on}
2 c. cooked chickpeas {equal to 1 15-oz can, rinsed well}
1 15-oz can coconut milk {use full fat for best flavor}
1 c. water
2 T. ground turmeric
2 T. red curry paste {optional, but you’ll love how it warms you from the inside}
1 large shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced {use less, or more, to taste}

In a deep skillet, warm oil of choice and sauté the shallot and garlic with a big pinch of salt until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add in the greens by the handful, stirring to help them wilt slightly. When all the greens are added, pour in the coconut milk and water, and stir to combine. You won’t have a ton of broth, and you don’t need a lot. Add the curry paste and whisk to incorporate, then sprinkle the turmeric over everything and stir until combined. Bring to a simmer, add the potatoes and chickpeas, then cover and cook over low heat until the potatoes are just fork tender, stirring occasionally. Don’t cook them to the point of falling apart. The greens should be silky smooth.

Season to your taste with salt and pepper, then ladle in to bowls.

 

chickpea fries, and 7 years

June 24th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

It’s hard to keep writing a food blog for seven years, which is how long my little spot on the Internet has been around. Began in June of 2006, when food blogs raised an eyebrow of question rather than a simple nod of understanding, I never anticipated that this place would become the launching pad for so much enrichment in my life. Or so much frustration.

And with such an intense saturation of food blogs, with clamoring voices, ubiquitous styles, and everyone trying to find a way to stand out, my page just keeps plugging along in the only way I know how. It’s just me and my food.

Come in to my kitchen…

millet & chickpea salad

July 8th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

Summer kind of smacked us around this past week in Minnesota. We’re a state that lives for Summer, for beach time and hours spent outdoors engaging in just about any activity that means we escape our houses and enjoy the weather, but then there are those Summer days that are so hot, so thickly humid and uncomfortable that we have no choice but to stay home, avoid the triple digits outdoors and attempt to entertain ourselves while the sun tries to burn holes in our roof.

I’ve experienced some hot Summers in my lifetime; 1988 was a blistering hot Summer that saw temperature records fall by the score, knocking out ones that had stood the test of time since the 1930′s. I was living in a third floor walk-up apartment with no A/C and I’ve never been so miserable in my life. One evening in July, as I sat out on the stoop with other exhausted and over-heated residents of our building, the night air at 10:30 was still hovering around 105°. Trying to sleep was impossible. At 3:30 that morning, I finally gave up and turned on the radio, only to hear that the current temperature was 88°. During that particular Summer, we saw a stretch of weather where the temperature did not fall below 85° for more than a week. At that point in time, central air-conditioning was still a novelty.

I don’t recall much about what I ate during that sweltering Summer, and having this cool, crunchy and fresh salad around might have made those awful days a bit more tolerable, but at that point in my life, my culinary exploits were just about non-existent. Thankfully, for our current heat wave, and after a quick and sweaty trip through the Farmers Market, we were stocked to the hilt with fresh greens and lettuces and crisp vegetables, making this dish a mainstay of those sticky days blessedly spent inside our comfortable, fully air-conditioned house.

Not familiar with millet? Most of us in the USA see it only in birdseed, and that’s a sad fate for us humans, but terrific for the birds. Millet is widely cultivated  in the form of pearl millet in India and parts of Africa, and is popular there due to it’s high productivity and and short growing season. In the USA, the most widely cultivated form of millet is proso millet, grown and used as birdseed. Millet is an ancient grain, known for being the least allergenic and most digestible of the gluten-free ancient grains that are becoming more popular. Millet is high in fiber and all the B vitamins, iron, calcium and zinc. It cooks in less time than quinoa and has a pleasantly sweet and nutty flavor.

This salad, born of desperation and some choice nightmares over stressful memories of past sticky summers, made our stretch of housebound days feel a bit easier. Even in the cool comfort of home, with the heat and humidity kept at bay by closed shades, eating becomes almost an afterthought. There’s no comfort in foods that are heavy or rich; no desire for flame or heat, and when the mood strikes to eat something, it’s good to just reach in the refrigerator and pull out a bowl of summertime goodness. The crunch and snap of fresh vegetables, the headiness of herbs cut straight from the garden outside your door and a blind eye turned from the weather forecast was welcome relief as the calendar page turned to July.

This salad is endlessly versatile, and if Millet isn’t available, you can use just about any small grain you wish. With the wide variety of fresh vegetables in season, as well as delicious greens, putting your own personal thumbprint on this salad is a cinch. I loved the addition of the radish greens to the salad, offering their unique peppery bite, but if you use them, seek out organic radishes to insure that the greens aren’t laden with pesticide residue. And as always, with time in the refrigerator, this salad takes on a lot more flavor.

Now we’re all set for the next heat wave. Let’s just hope it’s not too soon.

Millet & Chickpea Salad

1/2 c. raw millet
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (remove the seeds if desired)
1 small bunch radishes and their greens, washed and sliced
1 c. fresh chopped herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme and parsley
1/4 c. good quality olive oil
2 T. white or red wine vinegar
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

In a small saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups of water to a boil. Rinse millet in a wire mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Add millet to boiling water with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Test the grains. They should still be firm, with a bit of softness, like rice. All the water might not be absorbed either. If tender, remove from heat and drain remaining water. Spread cooked millet on a parchment lined baking sheet to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the cooled millet, chickpeas, cucumber, and radish, greens included. Whisk the oil and vinegar together in a small measuring cup, season with salt and pepper. Pour over vegetables and toss to coat. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if you wish. Add half the herbs, toss together. Chill for about an hour. Taste before serving, adding more seasoning and herbs to boost flavor.

thanksgiving recovery

November 26th, 2011 | Comments Off

Thanksgiving is over, and with it goes the indulgent meals and heavy, rich food. I was exhausted by the time dinner was over on Thursday, and was asleep by 9pm or so. The following day, Mike and I took a nice hike through Otter Lake Regional Park, stretching our legs, pumping oxygen and working off the calories from the day before. It felt really good, but later in the afternoon, a mix of hunger and nausea took over my belly. I felt shaky and off, and I felt like my tummy desperately needed something other than rich carbs.

Thankfully there was a large bag of kale in the refrigerator, and some rutabagas that needed to be consumed. These rutabagas had begun to look a little unusual on the counter.

So I chopped them, seasoned them and placed them in a hot oven to roast. Then an entire pile of kale went in to a hot skillet to slowly braise.

I’ve really grown to enjoy kale this past year, and have found that when I let it cook slowly in a little liquid for about 20 minutes or so, it becomes silky and tender and incredibly flavorful. Recently I learned that coconut milk makes for a delicious addition on that kale, and last night, on a whim, I shook some curry powder in to the pan, as well as a can of chickpeas.

With a small pile of roasted rutabagas and a mound of this steaming kale, fragrant and lush, my belly began to forgive the indulgence of Thanksgiving and settle down to it’s more normal state. It was satisfying without being heavy or overwhelming to the body. And I felt stabilized, even-keeled. My hands stopped shaking and the nausea went away completely so that I was able to take a trip to the shopping mall with Griffin so he could buy a book he’s been wanting and spend a little bit of quality time with him.

The procedure for this method of cooking kale is quite simple. Heat a little oil in a large deep skillet and saute a few cloves of minced garlic for a minute or two. Add the kale in handfuls, stirring to sear; I used about a half pound of it and like any other dark leafy green, it will overwhelm the skillet at first, but cook down to a manageable amount in no time. Stir and cook the kale until it’s all turned a rich deep green, about 5 minutes. Add a half cup of water and cover the pan, allowing the kale to simmer on a low temp, and stirring the pot occasionally. You do this for about 20 minutes, adding more water if needed to keep the kale moist. Taste a few leaves to insure that it’s tender and not at all rough any longer. If you wish to use coconut milk instead of water, it adds a lot of terrific flavor. For this batch, I used about a half a can of it, plus a tablespoon or two of curry powder, and one can of drained and rinsed chickpeas. It was divine. To reduce the liquid, simply take off the cover and let it cook down a bit before you eat.

 

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DO OR EAT THE DAY AFTER A HOLIDAY TO RECOVER FROM OVERINDULGENCE???

 

What’s on YOUR plate this month??

eggplant & chickpea curry

October 1st, 2011 | 4 Comments »

Truth:

I could be accused of purchasing eggplant simply to make this dish. Not that this is a bad thing.

Truth:

I have a wooden spoon permanently stained from turmeric.

Truth:

I may have, just a wee bit, tried to hide the remains of this dish in the back of the fridge where my husband can’t find it.

Admission:

I love curry.

The first time I ever tried any kind of curry flavored dish was in college when a roommate and I shared an amazing meal at an Ethiopian restaurant. She warned me that I would sweat curry the next day and she wasn’t kidding; the warmth that exuded from my skin was unreal. It was heady, and deep with the memory of the fragrant meal we’d consumed the night before and I would lift my arm to my nose repeatedly over the course of my morning to remind myself of the flavors. It’s no surprise that any type of curry dish, whether red or green or yellow, is at the top of my list in terms of my favorite taste. With or without coconut milk, whether searing hot with a heat that makes my heart beat just a bit faster and sweat bead at my eyebrows, or a mild gentle tease that touches my tongue, curry flavored dishes are tops.

Eggplant. Chickpeas. Red onions. Fresh curry powder whisked with a splash of oil and just a bit of dark brown sugar to aid in caramelization. A hot oven. And 30 minutes. That’s it. From that point, all you need is a fork.

Your house will smell truly amazing, and I’m telling you, it will be darn right difficult to resist eating the roasted curried chickpeas right off the baking sheet when it’s all done. They become dense and crispy, especially if you take a few moments after you’ve drained them to spread them out and pat them dry with a paper towel, and I’m sure you’ve heard by now that roasted chickpeas make a perfectly addicting snack? I’ve experimented with them already, and have, more than once, gazed at the enormous #10 foodservice size cans of them in consideration of purchasing. Crazy? Maybe. But once you try this, you may understand why that’s not so dumb a thought.

But this dish? It’s a ‘Wow’ factor of 10. And an ‘Easy’ on the preparation scale. You’ll spend 10 minutes cutting and prepping, then you’ll pace for the 30 minutes it sits in your oven. Give the baking sheet a shake halfway through and that’s about it. The eggplant cooks to a creamy dream, onions settle in soft and caramelized and those chickpeas…… oh those chickpeas. Hold me back.

Good thing I’ve got that permanent turmeric-stained spoon. I’m going to need it.

 

Eggplant and Chickpea Curry

1 medium eggplant, diced
1 large red onion, chopped
1 medium red pepper, cored and seeded, chopped
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (spread them and pat dry for extra crispness)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 t. good quality curry powder
1 t. dark brown sugar (sub molasses, muscavado or honey too, can use light brown sugar as well)

Preheat your oven to 400°

Whisk together the curry powder, sugar and oil in a small bowl. Combine the eggplant, onion, pepper and chickpeas, then pour the curry oil over and carefully toss together to combine. The eggplant will soak up the oil but don’t add anymore. Eggplant is a sponge; too much oil and it will be too soggy.

Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice about halfway through, for 30 minutes. This dish can be consumed immediately, but takes on deeper flavor if allowed to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Serve with naan or pita bread, over brown rice or on crisply toasted baguette slices.

KATE’S NOTES: For additional amazing flavor, add two large tomatoes that have been roasted as well, but don’t place them with the eggplant. They take far less time. For a good method, check this recipe.

 

Original recipe from Food & Wine, here with modifications

 

 

undoing the paralysis

June 27th, 2011 | 6 Comments »

I stopped eating meat with every meal on May 2. And I love how I feel nowadays, but I didn’t expect that I’d enter in to a time of total culinary paralysis when faced with re-working a lifelong habit of making meat the center of my meals.

We haven’t wasted away, thank goodness, and we never will. We’ve made some delicious foods but I haven’t stretched myself a whole lot. I’m grilling a lot of veggies, sticking them on amazing breads or tying them up in delicious pilafs. I made this fragrant and savory Red Lentil Dhal that we’ve loved since the first time it crossed our stove and landed in our bowls. We’ve enjoyed plenty of legumes, super fresh salads topped with a wide array of ingredients and terrific grilled cheese sandwiches. But I’m not content to play it safe, to stick with what I know will be wonderful. I want to expand, to grow and to embrace fully this new method of eating and not just end up a Junk Food Vegetarian.

So I’m scouring the ‘net for inspiration, grabbing books with gusto from library shelves, from Half Price Books and from friends hands (not really, but I would if the opportunity came up) just to get my mind rolling into this new territory. And it is new territory. It’s a new and totally different way of life and even being as good a cook as I am, I’ve had moments of sheer panic in thinking ‘What the hell do I make now?’, hence the aforementioned grilled cheese.

The worst part was finding the time. I had to stop over-scheduling all my time away from work into activities that were taking me away from home, away from time to experiment and work up some of these new options. I think, subconsciously, I was avoiding it. No more. It’s time to start applying tabs to the cookbook pages, plot out a few weeks worth of meals and get back on track. The nicest part of being meat-free is how much it frees up in our budget. I knew we spent a lot on meat, but folks, it’s outrageous what we have to work with now that this aspect of our eating is gone.

So I started with chickpeas. But not just any chickpeas. This is a kick in the mouth, heady and WOW recipe that will just plain knock you on your tush.

And they look so innocent, don’t they?!

We do love our chickpeas around here, and Mike has taken to making some pretty tasty hummus for us to snack on. Then I discovered Roasted Chickpeas and my life suddenly seemed more complete. But really, that was just the tip of the iceberg because I found a recipe for this Indian Spiced Chickpea salad and now I’ve got something going with this handy and nutritious little legume. It’s called love. Luuuuurrrrrve, people. Straight up legume love.

With no cholesterol, no sodium, no saturated fat; an excellent source of protein and fiber, as well as minerals like folate, calcium, magnesium and potassium, it’s a super-duper powerhouse for the meatless maniac such as myself. And when paired with toasted mustard, fennel and cumin seeds with a nice shake of crushed red pepper, plus smooth creamy greek yogurt to soften the flavorful blow to your tongue, it a cool little force to be reckoned with. Like my resolve. This is just a few steps for me, this quick jaunt out of the starting gate. The gun has sounded. And there’s a lot of road to cover up ahead so hang on, all right? Here we go.

Note: This recipe is ridiculously simple to make, but the flavor improves over time as it sits. Make it up and allow an hour, or even more if you can, for sitting, stirring regularly. If you like less of a crunchy seed factor, grind the fennel and cumin seed before adding it to the oil. You’ll still get a load of flavor without the crunch. Don’t grind the mustard seeds. Those soften really well.

Indian Spiced Chickpeas

Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas—rinsed, drained and patted dry
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped mint
1 teaspoon kosher salt

 

Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl. In a small skillet, heat the peanut oil until shimmering. Add the mustard seeds, partially cover the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until the mustard seeds stop popping, about 1 minute. Add the cumin and fennel seeds and the crushed red pepper and cook until the mixture is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour the hot oil and spices over the chickpeas. Stir in the yogurt, lemon juice, sliced scallions, chopped cilantro and mint and salt. Serve the chickpea salad at room temperature.

Recipe Credit: Food and Wine magazine

 

impatience

May 25th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

No, not Impatiens, like the potted flower on everyone’s doorstep. This is true impatience, the feeling brought on by delayed spring time, blooms that just don’t occur, endless gray skies and parades of devastating storms and the fleeting thought that I can’t recall what my warm weather clothes are like anymore. It’s almost Memorial Day. We briefly met 70 degrees this Spring, only to quickly plunge back to the 60′s, the 50′s and a few shivering days where 40′s were all the atmosphere could muster. Who’s hogging all the 80-degree days? Minnesota needs you to share. Now.

Despite the cool weather, the lettuce and radish seeds I planted are flourishing and I’m dreaming of amazing salads. The annuals in the garden are coming along nicely, albeit several weeks behind schedule. And with the drenching rains and lack of sun, the emerald greens around us are amazing. Simply amazing. While Spring hasn’t exactly been the most glorious in terms of the temperatures and sunshine, it’s still showing me it’s fragrance and the visions that we wait all Winter to appreciate.

I missed the very brief window of opportunity to love up the crabapple tree in our front yard, as it hit full bloom on a Thursday, only to be wiped clean of it’s lush petals through a series of weekend storms that unleashed torrents of rain on us, and some terrifying sky.

And a subsequent walk through the neighborhood revealed glorious pink petal carpets from the stripped crabapple blooms.

In my garden, the Creeping Phlox filled out it’s little garden bed beautifully.

The Adjuga along the front garden path burst into a rich and full display, basking in a rare sunny day while hiding among the new Hosta blooms and the fallen pink petals.

Adjuga is a wonderful ground cover, and it grows on a flagstone path right along the front of our house. It’s mostly for shade, but can handle a little sun and it forms a nice thick carpet. In the Spring, it sends up flower stalks about 6 inches high that have these tiny little blue flowers on them. It’s one of the most favorite, carefree and reliable plants in my yard.

What else has May brought?

Oh yeah. An adorable cat of course, with nary a care in the world it seems.

A gorgeous new stove!!!

I’m still in awe over this acquisition. One of my food blogging cohorts is remodeling her kitchen and through a few Twitter exchanges, she offered to sell me her old stove for $100 and a case of beer for the guy who drove it from NE Minneapolis out to the far Northern suburbs for us. The door hinges were broken and it needed a power cleaning, but for $150 in parts and a bit of elbow grease, we landed a stove that retails for $2,200.00. I kid you not. It’s like going from driving a Yugo to being handed a Ferrari with a full tank of gas. We seriously lucked out and we’ve taken to calling it our ‘Grown Up’ stove, something a serious food lover should have in her kitchen.

There were a few lovely nights on beautiful restaurant patios with my beautiful laughing food-loving friends that only solidifies how much I am falling in love with them…..


This is #GirlsBigNight, hanging outside Cooper West End with (L–>R) Dania, (me) Jen and Virginia. Yes, we posed that way on purpose.

 


Enjoying the tree-shaded patio at Heidi’s 2.0 in Minneapolis with the #MNFoodBloggers, Shaina and I after a few amazing cocktails. Everyone really, was as happy as we look. It was just one of those all around perfect nights.

On a rare nice night following a hectic afternoon of rain and thunder, it’s nice to find the calm after the storm.

And then???

Roasted Chickpeas. Because this is a food blog, after all. For the most part anyway.

I’m super late to the whole ‘roast a can of chickpeas for the ultimate snack’ craze. Seriously late. And I’m ok with that. I don’t jump on too many bandwagons as I always seem to miss, fall flat on my face and then have to slink away in silence, tail between my legs. I like to watch these things go by, silently waiting to see if it endures, if it sticks around long enough to not be called a fad, a trend or the next big thing. These little golden nuggets of crunchy-ness are a perfect snack for the improved eating plan going on around here. I think I could even get my Teen to try a few handfuls. They’re like Corn Nuts, but less processed, less packaged without all the strange things. I feel that these will make a regular appearance in my kitchen for a long time to come.

 

Roasted Chickpeas

Preheat the oven to 400°. Drain two 15-oz cans of chickpeas and rinse well. Shake off excess water and pour chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with paper towel. Use another paper towel to blot chickpeas dry, then slip the off the bottom towel. You want them to be absolutely bone dry before roasting them. At this point, if the chickpea skins bug you in the same obsessive way they bug me, you can remove them. If not, then slip the pan in the oven and let roast for about 10 minutes. Shake the pan to loosen the chickpeas, then continue to bake, shaking the pan on occasion, until they are browned and crisp, with a rich nutty scent. Be careful not to allow them to burn. Depending on your oven, this should take 30-40 minutes. Watch them carefully.

Take them out of the oven and toss them with a little oil and any kind of seasoning you like. For this batch, I used a small amount of olive oil, the juice of half a lime and about 2-3 teaspoons each of chili powder and cumin, plus some sea salt. Toss to coat and serve warm or at room temperature.

For more flavoring options, see this post.

http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/tips-techniques/15-more-ways-to-flavor-roasted-chikpeas-106112

feet first into november….. and NaBloPoMo

November 3rd, 2010 | 2 Comments »

I probably should let you in a on some information, lest you wonder why I’ve suddenly gotten a tad more verbose these days; I’m participating in National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo. Every November, bloggers are challenged to post daily to their sites, and I last jumped into this fray in 2008. My NaBloPoMo then had a theme; daily food holidays. It was fun, challenging and a wonderful learning experience as I gained knowledge of new foods and kitchen experiences through that exercise.

This year, I don’t have a theme, but I do have a desire to not bore you to death and I hope I succeed. So there will be photos, some stories, likely a sharing of ideas and things that inspire me and probably recipes, of course. Some will be new and some likely will be resurrected from my Archives. I’ve been writing this blog for 4-1/2 years and my recipe index is pretty huge. There’s a lot of gems in there, including this one for Curried Chickpeas.

Interestingly enough, when I went searching for some inspiration to help me out today, I spotted this photo and then went scanning for the actual recipe on my blog, only to find that I posted it exactly a year ago. Weird. But in a good way. This recipe is super-fast, and incredibly flavorful, with warming spices for the chilly November days ahead.

Curried Chickpeas
From The Los Angeles Times, 10/21/09

1 medium onion, diced
1 t. turmeric
1 t. coriander seed
1 t. cumin seed
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 T. chopped cilantro (more to taste)
1 T. each fresh squeezed lemon juice and zest (lime would work fine, in fact I think it might be better)

With a mortar and pestle, or a spice grinder, crush the coriander and cumin seed into coarse powder.

In a saute pan, heat oil of choice and add onions over medium-high heat. Saute onion until deep golden brown and crispy, about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin and cayenne. Cook, stirring frequently until aromatic and toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas, cilantro and lemon juice. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Remove from heat and taste. Season with salt if desired. Allow to cool, transfer to a container and chill prior to serving. Adjust lemon juice and seasoning if you wish.

KATE’S NOTES:
I like the fresh flavors of using whole coriander and cumin seed in recipes. If you don’t keep a mortar and pestle, or spice grinder on hand, use pre-ground spices in the same quantity.

Curried Chickpeas for the impatient

November 2nd, 2009 | 6 Comments »

curried chickpeas6700

The flavors of a good curry will always be an experience that I seek fervently. I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that more complex flavors in my mouth are highly desirable, and even a basic curry recipe can be so loaded with ample taste that it’s like fireworks on the tongue. A really good curry, as I have gathered from reading through some of my Indian cookbooks, is a process; it takes time to develop and gets better as it sits. In fact, Julie Sahni’s ‘Classic Indian Cookbook’ is full of recipes that simmer and bubble slowly over hours, and then goes on to say something to the extent of “Cover your pot and allow to sit for two hours or more, preferably overnight to create a deeper flavor.”Whoa now.

My love for a good curry dish is too high, too frenetic and too enthusiastic to consider making something such as Julie’s amazing dishes, then forcing myself, with a household of warming spices permeating every surface, to put aside the final product and WAIT to eat it. I may have patience for many things in life, such as a good loaf of bread, Spring to follow Winter and the ending of a long and complicated novel, but curry indulgence is not something I can set in the fridge, ignore and go about my business. When that baby is done and ready, I want to dig in. I want to indulge, feel the play in my mouth and the warmth filling every corner of my stomach and soul. Maybe in another life I was born to a land of coriander and ginger, soothed with the brightness of turmeric and weaned on cumin. How else would I have such a cuisine so infused in my blood? I’m a white girl with blue eyes, but place the aromatic Indian spices in front of me and I turn golden like a cheetah, speeding to pounce in delight on my meal.

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A quick fix is always a good thing among the tried and true, slow creations hidden in the pages of any Indian cookbook. This recipe for highly pungent -and fast cooked- Curried Chickpeas has the warm spices of those stalwarts without the long waiting period. Now I could have used dried chickpeas for a slight flavor edge but in a pinch, for this eager mouth to devour, the canned are a perfect choice. It was barely 15 minutes from start to finish, and a steaming aromatic bowl of tiny, golden infused orbs sat on my counter. One bite and they ‘POW’d and ‘ZING’d their way to every one of my taste buds, delighting me and easing the need for some kind of spicy fury on my fork. Not overwhelming, and certainly not one to make my eyebrows sweat -a sure sign of potent heat- but again with the subtle means of infusing curry to the deepest layer of my skin. And fast. With a deep breath of relief, I was soothed once again.

Curried Chickpeas
From The Los Angeles Times, 10/21/09

1 medium onion, diced
1 t. turmeric
1 t. coriander seed
1 t. cumin seed
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 T. chopped cilantro (more to taste)
1 T. each fresh squeezed lemon juice and zest (lime would work fine, in fact I think it might be better)

With a mortar and pestle, or a spice grinder, crush the coriander and cumin seed into coarse powder.

In a saute pan, heat oil of choice and add onions over medium-high heat. Saute onion until deep golden brown and crispy, about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin and cayenne. Cook, stirring frequently until aromatic and toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas, cilantro and lemon juice. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Remove from heat and taste. Season with salt if desired. Allow to cool, transfer to a container and chill prior to serving. Adjust lemon juice and seasoning if you wish.

KATE’S NOTES:
I like the fresh flavors of using whole coriander and cumin seed in recipes. If you don’t keep a mortar and pestle, or spice grinder on hand, use pre-ground spices in the same quantity.

Dog days

August 14th, 2009 | 2 Comments »

August has descended to show us what it’s capable of setting out. I’ve missed the heat….. and I fully realize how strange that might sound, but here in Minnesota, this summer has been anything but hot. While there are some who may tend towards whining about weather, we often can feel cheated if a summer passes us by without whacking us a good one with it’s expected personality. July’s average temperature was 70° and that’s unheard of in this state. I wore a sweatshirt last month. And pants. Maple trees beginning to turn in July is no one’s idea of Summertime.

Did you know that the origin of the term ‘Dog Days of Summer’, those sultry and hottest days traditionally between early July and early September, were once considered an evil time when ‘the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and frenzies’ ?  Really….dramatic, huh? But I suppose in the days before air conditioning…..

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Last night there was a spectacular lightning show to our Southeast. The flashes leapt from cloud to cloud, jagged arcs across an edge of the sky that was otherwise clear and filled with stars. I watched from our second floor window to get the best look at the awesome display and on occasion, would turn my eyes away to look at the glittering points of light around me. I was amply rewarded, during this, the time of Perseid, to see one lone asteroid streaking across the sky as lightning continued to flash in the other direction. It was an incredible sight.

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I haven’t been blogging about much food, have I? My apologies. We’ve been eating, but it’s been simple fare, really the best kind. Isn’t it wonderful that often the best thing you can do to food is as little as possible? Farmers markets are stuffed to bursting with more fresh fare that imagineable; the deep purple eggplants, rich green peppers and in grand fashion, trucks that are overflowing with sweet corn.

sweetcorn

Like the sweet cherry season of early June where I am known to purchase a sack of ruby fruits several times a week, this time of year I will happily eat my weight in sweet corn. Or try to anyway. I’m not shy about indulging and enjoying it, my hopes pinned on being so absolutely tired of it that when it’s gone for the year I won’t miss it much. Until next summer, anyway. There such a joy to biting into that quintessential taste of summer, kernels so juicy that they spray an unsuspecting fellow diner, warm melty butter slicking my lips. I can find means to eat it every single day. Have you ever tried sweet corn, smoked salmon and goat cheese in an omelet?? I highly recommend it. With fresh basil, please.

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Our suppers have been simple these days as well, lunches light and refreshing. I’ve been a bit obsessed with these beans, loving the simplicity as well as the taste. I can make an entire meal out of a thickly sliced eggplant, brushed with oil and grilled to a nice char. We enjoyed a spicy, kicky meal of chili-garlic grilled shrimp, another round of Mike’s famous burritos. There was time at the lake, where a simple mix of grilled vegetables made for an amazing side dish. Local tomatoes are starting to arrive.  I haven’t felt like there’s been much to blog about because what’s going on in the kitchen here is what should be happening in your kitchen as well, and others too. Very little. Your meal shouldn’t be putting you out, or taxing your energy. There’s a summertime outside, quietly slipping away yet with enough remaining moments to grab in your hands, maybe with a picnic on the side.

How about a nice Tabbouleh style salad to pack up and take along?

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Chickpea Tabbouleh
By Kate (with some help from The Minimalist)

I 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2-3 c. cooked bulgur
1 c. fresh green beans, steamed with a bit of crunch and diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on a microplane (watch the fingertips!)
1/3 c. minced fresh parsley
1/3 c. minced fresh mint
Juice and zest of half a lemon (more if you desire)
3 T. good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place chickpeas in a medium bowl and gently mash with a fork or other implement to break down into small pieces. Add in remaining ingredients and drizzle lemon juice and oil over all. Toss to coat and combine. Season to taste and chill for several hours. Stir before serving and adjust seasoning if necessary. Change-up veggies as you please.

SOME TIPS:
Make it less, make it more; vary the bulgur to chickpea ratio according to what you desire for your salad. Add more chickpea, less grain, or reverse it. When making a salad like this, the idea of having uniformity is pleasing to the eye and makes it easier to consume, hence the microplane for grating the carrot and the step of breaking down the chickpeas. It isn’t necessary though. As per any recipe with fresh herbs, personal taste prevails. Add more if you like, or less.