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Saturday, January 24, 2009

red lentil dal


teaching myself to cook Indian food

Every week I write four or five recipes for my Glacier Grist newsletter that goes in our CSA produce boxes. Sometimes I include Indian recipes, or recipes inspired by Indian flavors. I hope that our customers aren’t put off by unusual recipes, the spices they might have to buy specially, or by the interesting combinations of spices they would normally put in sweet baked goods (cinnamon and cardamom, for example). Are they trying the recipes?

I love to cook vegetables with Indian flavors—no matter what vegetables I’ve got hanging around, I’m bound to find something interesting and relatively simple in one of my Indian cookbooks. I think because there is such a tradition of vegetarian cooking in India, and so many vegetables thrive in that climate, Indians have developed a huge variety of traditional vegetable foods that taste fun and exciting, and as a bonus, are really healthy!

But I wasn’t always so comfortable cooking Indian food. I remember several years ago, when I had collected a few books with Indian recipes in them, I had found some recipes that I put in fairly steady rotation. Beyond those few recipes, though, I didn’t branch out much. Mainly because every once in an while I would get the urge to make a big Indian feast, and it would take me all day just to figure out what dishes I would make. Which dishes would taste good, and which would complement each other? And would those recipes work with anything I already had in my refrigerator or garden? Unlike recipes from cuisines closer to home, I had NO idea what these dishes would taste like. They all seemed to have the same spices: ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin…  would they all taste the same? And would it be soupy or dry? Some of my cookbooks had all kinds of instructions on how to plan an Indian meal. A dry dish, a wet stew, a dal (pulse dish), rice and/or flatbread, yogurt raita, and a chutney or two. It was all so complicated and involved.

But several years ago I had a fantastic vegetable meal in an Indian restaurant in Denver. After that, I was determined to get over my insecurities. My method: I cooked Indian dishes determined only by the color of the vegetable ingredients. With Indian food, you’re never QUITE sure of the final color; those salmon-colored red lentils turn yellow, and the turmeric in a lot of dishes turns things yellow, too—but if you start with a good variety of color in the raw ingredients, you can’t go wrong. For a feast, I would cook a couple of vegetable dishes with contrasting colors, a lentil of some kind, and a rice or flatbread. For example, I would make a beet & mushroom dish with a greens & potato dish. Or I’d make cabbage with lentils to go with a cauliflower & red pepper dish.

This turned out to be very liberating, and a great way to explore a lot of different recipes! The point is that I had no idea what they would taste like—on their own or together—but it turned out not to matter! Maybe these dishes wouldn’t be eaten together by any self-respecting Indian cook, but who cares? It all tastes good to me! After I make a dish, I scribble notes in the cookbook about how I altered it, how it tastes, what it looks like, and what would be good to serve with it.

Nowadays I love to make a big batch of two dishes (a vegetable and a dal, for example) and eat them for dinner, maybe with rice if the vegetable dish doesn’t contain potatoes. The next day, we eat leftovers, and make another Indian vegetable dish to add to the mix. You can go for days like this if you’re like me and love leftovers…  just add a new dish every couple of days and you can have a continual variety of Indian food for a week!

The dal recipe below is very simple, and can be varied in all kinds of different ways. Please don’t be intimidated by the spices or the unusual flavors…  I think you’ll really love it! If you’re up for trying a second dish, try the cabbage & potato dish from the previous post!

red lentil dal

This is a really fun, really yummy dish with fantastic Indian flavors, and it’s quite simple. This recipe is inspired by Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, except I’ve added a lot less oil. She puts loads of zucchini in hers, and while I love that version (a similar one is in my Farmers’ Market cookbook) I’ve found that you can make this soup without the zucchini, and then add any random cooked vegetable to a bowl of this soup afterwards. In the winter, I love to thaw out bags of last summer’s frozen cauliflower or broccoli. You can use any kind of vegetable you like; just pre-cook it (steam, blanch, roast… however you feel like cooking your veggie, or whatever you happen to have leftover),and add it at the last minute before serving, in the middle of a lake of lentils in a bowl. Or you can just use the dal plain, as a side dish to another vegetable dish! This recipe is perfect with the spicy Indian cabbage & potatoes. If you add a vegetable to the soup, you can serve it for a fancy dinner with the carrot & mint salad with currants and some brown basmati rice

I always make a double batch and freeze the extra for later. It’s great the first day, but even better the second!

2 cups red lentils, washed and drained
½ teaspoon turmeric
sea salt or kosher salt
1-2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
a pinch of cardamom seeds, pounded just to break them up a bit (or use ground cardamom, but don’t add it until you add the onion to the skillet)
1 (3”) cinnamon stick
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 teaspoons peeled fresh ginger root, minced finely or grated to a pulp
6 garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or more, if you like things spicy)

1. Put the lentils and 5 cups of water in a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil. When it boils, remove the foam that rises to the top. Add the turmeric and stir it in. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and cook very gently for 30 to 50 minutes until the lentils are tender. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and stir to combine.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium high heat in a nonstick frying pan. When very hot, add the cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, and whole cumin seeds. Stir for a few seconds until the cumin is fragrant and then add the onion and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir and fry until the onions are golden brown.
3. Add the ginger and garlic, black pepper to taste, and cayenne, and stir and fry for another minute. Stir in a ¼ cup of water or so to deglaze the pan, and then add the contents of the frying pan to the lentils. Stir gently to combine and cook on low heat for a minute or two until the flavors are combined.
4. Season with salt to taste. Serve as a side dish in a small bowl, or put some in the bottom of a large bowl and pile a bunch of cooked vegetables in the middle.


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Thursday, January 15, 2009

navy bean, pea, and leek soup with sauerkraut


from one extreme to the other

I’ve been writing about the extraordinarily cold weather a lot lately. Yes, we were breaking records here in Alaska with our three-week cold snap. But now, we can only wish for those -15 degree temperatures… Yesterday and today we’re having 45 degree weather (a change of 60 degrees in just a couple of days!) and winds that are gusting higher than 110 mph. The roads were so perilously icy yesterday that all the schools were closed (they are still closed today), as well as the university, the air force base, and several major thoroughfares.

Unfortunately, I had to venture out early to sell my bread downtown. I didn’t mind if my customers couldn’t make it to pick up their bread, but if they DID go to pick up their bread and I wasn’t there? That would be bad. So, I left really early, and narrowly escaped four separate wrecks by creeping the 15 miles downtown at about 25 miles an hour. It was terrifying.

Meanwhile, my intrepid friend Ken was delivering all the vegetable CSA boxes yesterday morning, through the insanity that was the 50 mile drive from Palmer! Arthur is in Hawaii, that lucky fellow, so Ken has taken over the deliveries in the meantime. What a great time to be on vacation! Ken and I were both wishing we were there instead. Anyway, Ken somehow managed it, and he deserves a medal. Or at the very least, several pineapples from Hawaii when Arthur returns.

To acknowledge this incredibly lousy and much-too-warm weather, here’s a wintertime soup that will make you think of spring, with its leeks and green peas! It’s SO easy, and really delicious and unusual, too. I rummaged around in my freezer to find the sauerkraut I made last fall when the cabbage was at its peak, and the Alaskan peas I blanched and froze.

Here’s our video for how to make sauerkraut!

navy bean, pea, and leek soup with sauerkraut

I can hear you asking me, “Sauerkraut soup??” You don’t have to add the sauerkraut—the soup is good with or without it. But if you like the tang of fresh sauerkraut, I really think you’ll love this recipe. Don’t be tempted to use the shelf-stable sauerkraut in the store—use the refrigerated kind (Bubbies, for example, or Claussen). This is a very simple recipe, as long as you have vegetable stock on hand. If you don’t, it’s easy enough to whip up some basic vegetable stock . It is an adaptation of a recipe in Peter Berley’s wonderful book The Flexitarian Table. It’s a warming winter soup that, because of the leeks and peas, anticipates spring!

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, about two cups, cleaned and thinly sliced, or minced onions to make up some or all of the leeks
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1-2 cups cooked navy beans (or other white beans) with their liquid, if home-cooked. Make sure the beans are nice and tender.
4 cups or more basic vegetable stock
1 pound green peas, fresh or frozen
½ to 1 cup fresh (refrigerated) sauerkraut, or thawed from frozen

1. Add the oil to a large saucepan and heat it over medium heat. Add the leeks and/or onions, mint and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook the leeks and onions until tender, 5 minutes or so.
2. Add the beans and four cups of bean cooking liquid and/or vegetables stock. Simmer for a few minutes to combine the flavors.
3. Add the peas and cook until the peas are tender—just a couple of minutes.
4. Add the sauerkraut at the last minute, as a garnish on top of each bowl of soup. Serve the soup with a drizzle of olive oil if you like, and pass more sauerkraut at the table.


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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

black-eyed pea hummus


dispatch from the frozen north

I made black-eyed pea hummus in honor of New Year’s Day, since eating black-eyed peas is supposed to ensure good fortune in the coming year. (The other thing you’re supposed to eat is collard greens—but you don’t have to eat them in the same meal! Check out my non-traditional Indian collard green recipe if you want.)

Just look at the sunshine beaming onto this plate! For a mid-winter day in Anchorage, these bright beams could portend good things to come in the new year… But it’s a bit of a mixed blessing, because when it’s clear, it’s usually cold.  It’s been 15 degrees below zero for the past two weeks here near the coast, but in the interior, it’s been much colder. Just 45 miles north, in Palmer, it’s been 30 degrees below zero, and when Arthur delivers our CSA vegetable boxes, he has to stack them on the passenger seats to the ceiling of his big Suburban, since the back of his box truck is too cold!

It’s hard to dress warmly enough to cross-country ski or run, but I’ve been dressing in three or four very thick layers to get out there. If it wasn’t so beautiful, with tiers of spruce boughs laden with thick frostings of fluffy snow, the sun reflecting off the sparkles in the air, I wouldn’t mind running inside on a treadmill. As it is, it’s too pretty to miss! That is, when I can see it! After half an hour or so, my eyelashes build up enough ice to stick together when I blink…  or they freeze to my icicle of a neck muff, hoisted up just under my eyes (I guess I should call it a face muff). **ouch!**

I pretend that the rays of sun hitting my one square inch of exposed flesh are providing me with adequate Vitamin D. But whether it hits my skin or not, there’s a psychological benefit of taking the sun. It definitely perks me up, and I feel triumphant afterwards: I’ve managed to overcome the elements! Then, of course, I hop immediately into a hot shower. So much for my tough pioneering spirit.

Anyway, Happy New Year, and stay warm out there!

black-eyed pea hummus

This is a fun recipe based on one in Crescent Dragonwagon’s Passionate Vegetarian. She lives in the South, and calls her spread “Hillbilly Hummus,” since it contains black-eyed peas and peanut butter. I just love the combination of the slightly sweet black-eyes with the peanut butter. (Isn’t that clever—using peanut butter instead of tahini?) It’s quicker than regular hummus, because the black-eyes only take 30 or 40 minutes to cook. I make a really big batch when I do this, because it freezes so well. Just pack the hummus in small containers, label them and pull them out whenever you need a quick appetizer or snack. If you’re making this in mid-winter in Alaska, you can just put them out on your back deck to freeze. Who needs a chest freezer, anyway?

2 cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
2 bay leaves
8 cloves garlic (4 for cooking the beans, 4 for the hummus)
¼ cup natural peanut butter, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh thyme)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon of cayenne, or to taste
2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt, plus more to taste

1. Drain and rinse the soaked peas. Cover the black-eyed peas with 2 inches of water in a large pot. Mince or press 4 of the whole garlic cloves and add them and the bay leaves to the pot, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer until the beans are completely tender (you can squish them between your tongue and roof of your mouth). This will probably take about 30 or 40 minutes, but keep testing. Let them cool a bit in their liquid. Don’t drain the beans yet—you’ll need some of the liquid to make the hummus.
2. This is probably the most important step of the whole recipe:  REMOVE THE BAY LEAVES from the peas. (It’s very important to find the bay leaves and get rid of them at this stage. Bay leaves do not puree well—they just turn into hundreds of tiny sharp shards.)
3. In a food processor, mince the remaining 4 cloves of garlic. Add the peanut butter, thyme, vinegar, cayenne and salt, and puree it until well-mixed. If your lemon juice or vinegar is cold, it’ll congeal the peanut butter into little curds—that’s totally fine. Scooping the peas out of the pot with a strainer or slotted spoon, add some of the beans to the food processor. (You might have to do this in batches, depending on the size if your food processor.) If you need to add bean-cooking liquid to make a smooth puree, do so.
4. Taste the puree and add more salt, more peanut butter, more cayenne, vinegar or lemon juice… whatever you think best! Scoop it up with celery sticks, carrots, or spread on crackers or toast! It tastes even better the next day.


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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

spicy lentils with roasted squash and greens


If I post a healthy and delicious recipe that I did, in fact eat this week (several times, actually—it was a big batch), will that earn a few credits to counter the demerits I’ve collected eating all manner of holiday-themed treats (read: chocolate) and incredibly rich food (dang, I just can NOT resist that egg nog) these last few weeks? As my friend Meggan mused in her blog about a package of bacon, sometimes you just need to finish off those pesky ingredients. Then they won’t tempt you further.

Which maybe works in a normal month? I mean, depending on how many cartons of ice cream or tins of home-made cookies or half-eaten boxes of chocolate truffles you usually have hanging around the house. I know myself better than to stock my cabinets with those items on a regular basis. Anyway. Does the following summary look familiar to anyone?

Dec 20:  I love egg nog. Especially with fresh-ground nutmeg sprinkled on. Especially after already eating tea and gingerbread men for dessert. Because, you know, it’s just a beverage. And anyway, no point in leaving just this little bit of egg nog in the carton. Might as well just finish it off. Whoops! Sorry, Dan…  did you want some of that?

Dec 21: [To self with best of intentions.] “Oh good, eating this second bowl of vanilla ice cream will finish off that pesky carton and then it won’t be tempting me any more!” [Sprinkles ice cream with fresh-ground nutmeg to see if it will therefore taste more like egg nog. It does, kind of. Because what is egg nog other than not-yet-frozen ice cream, anyway? Helpful tip: one time we put a half-gallon of egg nog in an ice cream maker and guess what? It turned into ice cream!]

Dec 22: [Receives a package of delicious homemade nut candy from Margo, a beautiful Harry & David basket-o-goodies from Uncle Al, and there is still part of a loaf of cranberry bread in the drawer from Alice yesterday. Not to mention the box of Frangos from Rosemary and Allan, yum, mint chocolately chocolate.] “What to finish off NEXT?”

Dec 23: Just baked how many hundreds of dark chocolate and cherry bread for bakery customers? And the fruited almond, too…  [must… not… eat… entire… loaf…]

Looking ahead:
Dec 24…  This is NOT the day to adopt a new slimming regimen. I’ll try not to make myself sick eating too many helpings of Martha’s fantastic desserts. That’s about the best I can hope for.

Dec 25…  This day is especially wonderful…  I’m likely to get some of Claire’s spectacular homemade egg nog!

Dec 26: Time enough to turn over a new leaf. Or, just get back to the old, non-holiday leaf. Just as soon as I finish off all these leftover goodies!! 

So anyway, back to the lentil recipe. You’re going to love it. Eat it, love the flavor, and feel extra-virtuous for being so healthy. Then you can eat a big ol’ dessert of holiday treats afterwards. 

spicy lentils with roasted squash and greens

This recipe is based on one in Peter Berley’s book, The Flexitarian Table. But instead of cooking the squash or pumpkin in the lentils for the last 20 minutes, as he does, I like to use leftover roasted winter squash cubes. You can do it either way, but the roasted squash is yummier—and it looks pretty as a garnish, instead of being cooked in the soup. (Not that I’m all about pretty food, but I’m trying to convince you to do the roasted squash cubes recipe. You’ll never go back.) You can get the smoked paprika (and other spices) from Summit Spice & Tea Co., at 1120 E. Huffman Road. Of course I like to make a double batch, and then I freeze half before adding the kale and squash. This is a complete meal on its own.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 tablespoons hot or sweet Spanish smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted in a skillet and freshly ground
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted in a skillet and freshly ground
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup French green lentils, soaked for 2 to 24 hours
28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juice
1-2 pounds of leftover roasted winter squash cubes, or raw squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound lacinato or regular curly green kale, tough stems discarded

1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and cook the onions until starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the spices and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Drain the lentils and add them to the onions, along with the tomatoes and their juice. Add enough cold water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. If you’re starting with raw squash, add the squash cubes after the lentils have cooked for 25 minutes, and cook them with the lentils for the last 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the kale and boil for 3-6 minutes, until tender (keep testing!). Drain and chop coarsely.
3. When the lentils are quite tender, add the kale to the lentils and season with salt and pepper. If the soup seems a little bitter, add a drizzle of honey to take the edge off. Just add a little at a time, though! Sometimes the collards and the smoky paprika can be a bit much, and the honey really mellows things nicely. Also, don’t be afraid to season nicely with salt.Simmer for another 3 minutes while you heat the leftover roasted squash (I use the microwave). If you’re using the leftover roasted squash, serve the lentils with a dollop of roasted squash in the center of each bowl.

roasted winter squash cubes

Smooth-skinned squashes (like butternut and banana squash) are easiest for this recipe, because it’s very easy to peel them before they are cooked. When I make this recipe, I usually roast two pounds of squash because the cubes make such great leftovers.

1 pound piece of banana squash, or 1 large butternut squash (at least a pound)
½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Peel and seed your squash and dice it into ½” pieces (the pieces don’t have to be square).
3. Coat a large baking sheet with non-stick spray or oil. (This makes clean-up a lot easier.)
4. Toss the squash cubes with the olive oil and salt. Spread them out in a single layer on the baking sheet.
5. Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until starting to get brown and slightly shriveled. Remove the squash from the oven, keeping the oven on, and drizzle a little honey over the squash. Toss the cubes with the honey and return to the oven. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, until the squash is browned.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

wine-braised lentils with parsley root & potato puree


eating local for Thanksgiving

Sometimes I write stories about cooking and eating local food that also get posted on the Green Fork Blog, which is an arm of the Eat Well Guide. The Eat Well Guide is a spiffy website that helps you find wholesome, fresh, sustainable food wherever you are in the U.S. or Canada! Anyway, my friend Leslie, at the Eat Well Guide, emailed me to let me know that they are presenting a Thanksgiving Local and Organic Food Challenge.  They want everyone to visit the Eat Well Guide, find a local farm or market, and serve up at least one dish with local ingredients for their Thanksgiving feast. Then, we’re invited to post our recipes and experiences.

I wrote back to Leslie, “Right! I guess lots of farmers’ markets farther south will still be open!” Here in Alaska, it’s easy to forget that not everyone’s farm fields are covered in a nice thick blanket of snow, hibernating until spring in sub-freezing temperatures. The last couple of markets at our South Anchorage Farmers’ Market in October are punishing enough—there’s no way the produce or the farmers would last in an outdoor market in late November!

And likewise, Leslie had forgotten that our Alaskan markets are closed already! She wrote back, “To be honest, it slipped my mind how difficult this challenge would be in Alaska.  Or is it even possible?”

Well, that definitely sounds like a challenge to Alaskans, doesn’t it? What Leslie might not know is how many nourishing and savory staples we can store all winter long! Potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, red and green cabbages, onions, turnips, and parsley root, to name some! If we’d had a warmer summer, we’d even have hard winter squash!

But Leslie is right. Since the farmers’ markets are closed now, it’s not as easy to find local food. But there are still ways to get Alaskan vegetables! You can find Alaskan carrots and potatoes at our local grocery stores if you look carefully. You can order produce boxes from the new Glacier Valley Farm CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture). And if you want to go to the farm yourself, many farmers in the Valley have produce like cabbages, parsnips, beets, carrots and potatoes in cold storage, just waiting for you! Contact Mark Rempel (745-5554, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) or Alex Davis (746-0338, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) to arrange pickup of their veggies.  And if you’re looking for a local turkey, you can call Triple-D Farm at 376-3338 to order one!

Come on, Alaskans—let’s show our stuff! Whether you log in and share your experiences with the rest of the web-world, or just share your stories with your friends and family over your holiday meal, let’s take the challenge, and be conscious of the local food we can procure, cook, and enjoy together.

These wine-braised lentils would be a fantastic vegetarian option for Thanksgiving, especially accompanied by the mashed potatoes and parsley root!

parsley root & potato puree (or, for the less adventuresome, call it mashed potatoes with parsley root)

I had never tried parsley root until last fall at the farmers’ market, when I bought some from Rempel Family Farms. Mashing the parsley root with russet potatoes made the richest, most delectable and delicious mashed potatoes I’ve EVER eaten—and all that without a smidgen of butter, milk, or cream! Just using the stock from cooking the vegetables works really well instead of milk or cream, because it’s so flavorful from the parsley root!  Just season to taste with salt and pepper—the vegetables have lots of flavor all on their own. But of course, you can gild the lily if you like, and add butter, milk, or cream. As you wish!  This recipe is based on one in Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors.

½ pound or so Alaskan parsley root (or substitute celery root or turnips)
1-2 pounds Alaskan russet potatoes (you can use Yukon Golds if you like, though)
sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
butter, milk, half-and-half, or cream (optional)

1. Peel the parsley roots. Scrub the potatoes, and decide whether you want skins in your mash or not. I like to leave the potato skins on, but if you want a perfectly smooth puree, definitely peel them first. Coarsely chop the vegetables and put them in a saucepan, cover with water, and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the vegetables are tender (15 to 20 minutes). Scoop the potatoes and parsley roots out (or strain them in a colander), but MAKE SURE TO RESERVE THE COOKING LIQUID!
2. Return the vegetables to the pan and mash them, using the reserved cooking liquid to thin and loosen the mixture as needed. When smooth, add salt and pepper to taste. 
3. Serve right away with your favorite stew or gravy…  I’d suggest the wine-braised lentils!

wine-braised lentils

This recipe is one of my favorites… I love it over toast with sautéed spinach, but best of all is alongside a puree of parsley root and potatoes. These lentils are rich, flavorful, and wonderful, and they are beautiful, too, with the carrots and celery. They’ll taste even better the next day, and you can freeze them for later if you like. This recipe is based on one in Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen

1 ½ cup French green lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups diced Alaskan onions
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced Alaskan carrots
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups dry red wine
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
sea salt or kosher salt
freshly-ground pepper
for garnish: chopped Italian parley

1. Parboil the lentils for 5 minutes in abundant water, then drain.
2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot. Add the diced vegetables and cook over medium-high heat for several minutes, browning them a bit. Add the garlic, mash the tomato paste into the vegetables, then pour in the wine and stir in the mustard. Add 3 cups water, the drained lentils, and 2 teaspoons salt. Simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.  Add more water, to your taste, depending on how soupy you’d like them to be.
3. Serve with mashed potatoes (or mashed potatoes with parsley root), and sprinkle the parsley over all.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

kale (or collards) and cabbage with white beans on garlic toast


feeding my farmers

Yesterday afternoon, after we finished selling our whole grain sourdough bread at the Saturday South Anchorage Farmers’ Market, we brought my friend (and farmer, and market manager) Arthur home with us. Farms where he lives in Palmer (53 miles north of Anchorage) have experienced their first frosts, and the snow is creeping farther down the mountains every time it rains here in town. Our market was shrouded in a bone-chilling blanket of fog all morning before the sun burned it off and turned it into a beautiful, crisp clear day. I love the golden leaves against that brilliant blue backdrop!

Beautiful it may be, but still, we get cold standing out in it all day! It sure was nice to get home. After a warm bowl of soup and hot showers, we thawed out and felt tired but happy. Welcome to



Then Arthur’s wife, Michelle (also a farmer), and their three sweet kids arrived from Palmer to join us for the afternoon and dinner. Meredith, our only child, was delighted—it’s not often she gets to have three kids over to play! And I was almost as excited as Meredith, because while the kids played with Meredith’s blocks and trains and beads, I got to do something special: cook for my two favorite farmers, who grow so much of the wonderful, fresh produce that nourishes us all year!

It feels so good to give something back for all the wonderful, fresh meals I’ve made with their beautiful broccoli, lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, potatoes, onions, carrots and more… I chose this meal, because it feels somehow like alchemy: combining these very basic ingredients creates a meal that is truly extraordinary: warming, savory, and nourishing. It was the perfect dinner for tired and hungry bodies at the end of the week.


kale (or collards) and cabbage with white beans on garlic toast

This is one of my favorite recipes, believe it or not. The ingredients are so unassuming and humble, but when you cook them all together, they become wonderfully good. The onions are sweet, the garlic and greens are savory, the parsley is fresh and vibrant, and the cabbage is tender. You don’t have to put this on toast, but I love it that way. If you add lots more bean broth, this is a good soup, as well. It’s a meal on its own.

It makes a big batch, but I’m betting you won’t have any trouble finishing it off as leftovers. It tastes even better the second day, after the flavors have had time to meld. This recipe is a variation of one in Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets.


2 cups white beans, soaked for 4 hours or overnight
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
2 bay leaves
sea salt or kosher salt


2 large onions, finely diced
2 bunches dino or Tuscan kale or collard greens, leaves stripped from the stems and sliced into ½” slices
1 small cabbage, either Savoy or green cabbage, quartered, cored, and sliced thinly
4 plump garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of chopped parsley
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper


thick slices of hearty whole-wheat bread (1 or 2 per person)
extra-virgin olive oil

1. Drain the soaked beans, then put them in a pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add the quartered onion, garlic, and bay leaves and make sure the water covers the onions. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender. This could take 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours, depending on the size of the beans and how old they are. When the beans are tender enough to easily squish between your tongue and the roof of your mouth, turn the heat off. If you have time, let the beans sit in their liquid with the aromatics until cool. Remove the quartered onions and whole garlic and discard. Add salt to the beans to taste.
2. While the beans are cooking, chop all the vegetables and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the kale or collards and boil them until tender. The boiling time could be as short as 3 minutes in the summer, or as long as 10 or 12 minutes in the fall, depending on how big and old the greens are—just keep tasting them. Drain the greens.
3. Warm the olive oil in a heavy, wide skillet or pot (non-stick works especially well). Add the onion and cook over medium heat with 1 teaspoon salt until the onion is soft and golden brown, about 12 minutes. Add the kale or collards, cabbage, garlic, parsley, and 2 more teaspoons salt. Cook over low heat with the pan covered until the vegetables are soft and the volume greatly reduced, about 15-20 minutes.
4. When the beans are done, add them, along with a cup or two or their cooking liquid, to the pot. Simmer until the greens are completely tender. Taste for salt and season with pepper. (You may have to add quite a bit of salt—kale and collards need a lot of salt, as do beans.) Save the rest of the bean broth for vegetable stock in soups and stews—just freeze it until you need it.
5. Toast the bread slices. Rub the toasts with a peeled clove of garlic and sprinkle with a little salt. Spoon the beans and greens over the toast and serve, drizzled with a little olive oil, if desired.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

red lentil & cauliflower curry with golden raisins


one herbivore’s teeth

Last week I went to the dentist for a crown prep. For those of you whose dental health exceeds my own, I’ll explain what that means. Yes, yes, go ahead, gloat a little—your dental advantage does entitle you to a certain moral superiority. Anyway, a crown prep is where they drill out a deteriorating filling and make way for putting a cap on the tooth. Unfortunately, that’s par for the course for this nighttime tooth-grinder. I’m on crown number three—the last of my fillings.

After the crown prep, I went home, but after the anesthetic wore off, the root was angry. The hastily-prescribed antibiotics didn’t help, and I endured four days of more or less agonizing toothache, ameliorated by frequent and massive doses of Advil. At that point, my dentist kindly squeezed me in for an emergency appointment—giving up his lunch so that I would be able to eat mine! Some people dread dental work—for myself, I was thrilled with the anticipation of that lunchtime root canal. What blessed relief!

Nothing like having a hot tooth for a week to really make you appreciate—I mean really consider carefully—the role of your teeth. Especially those massive molars that do the main masticating. I love vegetables—love them cooked, raw, roasted, and steamed; sauteed, grilled, braised, and broiled. Love to cook them, love to eat them. And they do take a lot of chewing. Now, a week after the root canal, I have a whole new sense of gratitude for my chompers. When in tip-top condition, they enable me to eat all those wonderful plants—complete with all their multifarious fibers, seeds, stems and skins—not just their tender leaves, fruits, roots and shoots. Thanks, teeth! (Will I think twice before skipping that evening flossing?)

So—in honor of my teeth, I’m posting the recipe that I made for dinner after my root canal. I needed something soothing, soft and easy to eat, but also really delicious, to perk me up! Plus I had a HUGE (six-pound) cauliflower in the ‘fridge that I couldn’t resist at the farmers’ market the other day.


red lentil & cauliflower curry with golden raisins

It’s a beautiful yellow dish, inspired quite loosely by a recipe out of Veganomicon. I used golden raisins to continue the golden color theme, but you could use regular raisins to make a speckledy contrast, if you’d rather! Also, just because I traded some light yellow carrots for some chocolate-cherry bread the other Saturday at the farmers’ market, I used them them instead of regular orange ones.

The combination of the golden raisins and lime juice is what really sparkles this dish up—I thought of it because the stew was a bit bland at first, and needed perking up (like I did), and I thought a splash of chutney would do the trick. But since I had made a small bathtub-full of the soup (remember the six-pound cauliflower?), I didn’t want to use actual chutney. So I just added the flavors of a chutney to the stew! Those sweet and tart flavors are really delicious with the nutty cauliflower.

You can serve it with rice, if you want (try the brown basmati recipe) or just slurp it straight, in giant bowls-full, like I did. This is one of those mild-mannered cauliflower dishes that sneaks up on you—the first bite is good, but after a few more bites, you realize it’s just getting yummier and more addictive with every spoonful!

If you have a big pot, make a double batch of this—as with all bean/lentil soups, it’s great the next day for leftovers! You’ll probably have to add a bit more lime, though, to spark it up again, the next day—I did.

And about the other ingredients: I love to get whole spices and grind them myself in a coffee grinder (different from the one my husband uses to grind his coffee beans). I buy my spices, usually whole, at Summit Spice & Tea here in Anchorage. I usually have fresh ginger hanging around, but can’t always count on having a fresh jalepeno pepper. So those canned green chiles from the Mexican section of the grocery store work great in a pinch!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, chopped
sea salt or kosher salt
3 large carrots, peeled if the skins are tough, and sliced thinly
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large jalepeno pepper, halved, seeded with a spoon, and diced, OR 1 small can diced green chiles
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds, toasted until fragrant in a skillet
1 ½ cups red lentils
4-6 cups water
1 ½ to 2 pounds cauliflower (a medium-sized head), trimmed and cut into small florets
½ cup golden raisins
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1. Chop and measure out all the ingredients. (In other words, do your mise en place.)
2. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Sauté the onions with ½ teaspoon salt until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes, and then add the carrots. Sauté for another 4 or 5 minutes until the onion is getting golden-brown.
3. Add the ginger and garlic and green chile, and sauté for a minute or so. Add the spices and stir-fry for 30 seconds or a minute, and before things start to burn, add 4 cups of water and the lentils.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil, give it a stir, and cover the pot and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the lentils blow up. They will probably take up most of the water. Add more water at this point to your taste. I like it soupy, so I would add 2 more cups, but perhaps you’d prefer a thicker dish and wouldn’t add so much.
5. Add the cauliflower florets and the golden raisins, stirring to coat with the lentils. Cover and simmer until the cauliflower is tender. The soupier you’ve made the lentils, the quicker this will be. It will probably take from 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Remove the dish from the heat and stir in lime juice and plenty of salt to taste. Add the lime juice carefully—you don’t want to make the soup sour, but you want it to sparkle!



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