Red Lentil Coconut Basil Curry

A few weeks ago our dishwasher stopped working.  This was not a big surprise; the appliances in our kitchen are all from the late 1970s, early 1980s if you’re feeling generous.  The joys of renting an apartment is that you can know nothing about dishwashers, and yet, they still somehow magically get fixed.

Except in this case, we now have a new fridge and a new stove, but our dishwasher is still sad and broken.  On the bright side, when we cleaned out the fridge, we also tackled the cabinets.  I found a bag of red lentils my mom bought when the baby was first born.  I also found a green curry paste that went bad in May 2013.  Do lentils + curry = dinner?  Though the can of paste went in the garbage, we dined on this delicious concoction last night.

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Red Lentil Coconut Basil Curry

  • coconut oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • about 1 teaspoon grated ginger (I keep mine in the freezer for just this occasion)
  • big handful curry powder
  • about a teaspoon cumin
  • about half a teaspoon cinnamon
  • about a teaspoon salt
  • just a sprinkle of red crushed peppers
  • half a teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • about 4-5 leaves basil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • a big handful baby spinach
  • juice from half a lime
    • to serve: naan or rice, Greek yogurt, green onions
  1. In a large  skillet, heat the coconut oil over a medium heat and add onions. Saute about 4-5 minutes, and add garlic and ginger.  Cook until everything is nice and soft.
  2. Add all of the spices (curry powder, cinnamon, salt, turmeric, cumin, crushed red peppers) and the jalapeno and give everything a good toss through. (Don’t be afraid to add a little more coconut oil to keep the spices from sticking to the pan.)
  3. Add the lentils, coconut milk, stock and basil.  Turn the heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the spinach and fold in gently, letting it wilt.  Add lime juice and adjust seasoning to taste.
  5. Serve with rice or naan, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.  Top with a bit of green onion for a nice finish.

The Verdict:

The answer to the question above is a resounding yes.  This is so, so good.  Even better, it’s healthy (I think).  Best of all, this cooks itself in about 25 minutes, total.  That includes the time to cut your veggies and mince your garlic.  Yes.

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Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

We had company over for the first time post-baby two weeks ago.  Prior to baby, I thought spending time at home with one small, portable child who naps on and off all day would mean I’d have lots of time to menu plan and cook and get real fancy.  I had big plans for this blog, for instance.

I know.

Clearly, I didn’t spend any time with any children before abruptly shifting into 24/7, all baby, all the time, mode.  So what made it to the table for company was a reliable friend: chicken and this simple, deceptively good salad.

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Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

  • 2 cups fresh peas
  • 1 bunch mint, torn
  • good handful of parmesan
  • arugula
  • dressing:
    • juice from one lemon
    • a bit of lemon zest
    • olive oil
    • salt, pepper
  1. If using fresh peas (which are awesome), bring a pot of water to boil and very quickly pass the peas through – about 1 minute.  You can also use canned or thawed frozen peas.
  2. Whisk dressing together.
  3. Combine all ingredients together and toss with dressing; top with parmesan.

The Verdict:

This is an old reliable for good reason. Simple, easy, and super delicious.  Definitely enough to impress post-baby company.

Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella

Every so often, you need to get fancy.  As in: fancy = your highest heels + your reddest lipstick + the expensive bottle of wine you’ve been saving.

Or, when you’re gestating a human, and you want to put on your best lined slippers and your size-up yoga pants…the good news is you can still cook with really fancy ingredients, to make up for the wine you’re missing.  I’m talking those things you bought when you went to the specialty kitchen store or spice bazaar and your husband was like, seriously? Do we even have room in the cabinets?  When are we going to use these things?  And you give him a look that says: this is already done.  You know what I’m talking about.

Saffron, fennel seeds, calasparra rice, all in one dish.  You can even wear red lipstick.

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Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella

  • olive oil
  • two white or yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (I used an orange and a green)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • small handful fennel seeds
  • small handful saffron threads
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 and 1/4 cup calasparra rice (super hard to find – you can substitute another short grain rice like bomba or calrose)
  • 1 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • bunch parsley, washed and roughly chopped
  • small handful smoked paprika
  • 1 jar or can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • other vegetables as you please: grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach, etc.
  • 1 lemon
  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add a bit of olive oil and then onions + peppers and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.  While these cook, pour the veggie stock into a bowl with the saffron and allow that tasty goodness to infuse the broth.
  2. Add garlic and fennel seeds to the pan, saute for another few minutes, or until onions begin to brown.  Turn the heat up and then add a bit more olive oil, add the rice and cook for a few minutes.  Pour in the sherry or wine and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates.
  3. Add salt, pepper, parsley, and smoked paprika – stir and cook for a minute or two.  Pour in the stock, turn down the heat to medium again and leave your paella alone.  No really.  No stirring.  Let the rice cook in that beautiful stock until there is just a tiny bit of liquid bubbling on top – about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add the artichokes and/or other vegetables into the top of the rice and push them down (again, taking care not to stir the rice).  Cook another 5-10 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the whole thing, in order to let all the liquid absorb.
  5. Just before serving, squeeze the juice from the lemon all over the paella and scatter with parsley.

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 The Verdict:

This paella gets even better on days 2 + 3 (which is a good news because this is a LOT for two people, even one person who counts as 1.5).  Depending on your level of love for artichokes (mine is quite high) I might even suggest doubling up on those.  Get really fancy.

Mixed Mushroom & Barley Soup

Two things happened last week that could have put a real cramp in our babymoon-style.  (Yes, turns out I will do anything to take a vacation, including calling it a babymoon.)  In early December, I bought us tickets to St. Lucia.  I don’t know what it is about that island, but I have always wanted to go.  Maybe because my parents went when I was a kid, and I’ve always thought: man, when I grow up, I’m going to St. Lucia.

Then:

  1. Zika virus.  If you haven’t heard of this yet, count yourself lucky, because it means you haven’t been on the phone with cheapcaribbean.com fighting to get a refund.  Turns out Zika is a mosquito-borne virus – ripping through the Caribbean right now – that only infects pregnant women.  And then causes massive birth defects in babies.  Remember: St. Lucia.  Babymoon.
  2. Winter Storm Jonas.  If you’re not familiar with DC – the whole city shuts down when we get something vaguely resembling snow.  My hometown mayor, Marty Walsh, actually just said “I feel bad,” and then offered to lend my adopted town some snow plows.  Seriously.

So, instead, we pulled a last minute audible and spent the last few glorious days basking in the Southern California sunshine, hiking in the desert.  (Take that, mosquitoes.)  Turns out, Joshua Tree National Park really is all it’s cracked up to be.

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Then, we came home.  One look at the snow piles in the street & we knew, Marty’s help or not, we won’t be seeing our car until spring.  Only Ina could fix this mess.

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Mixed Mushroom & Barley Soup (adapted from Ina Garten)

  • 1 bag dried mushrooms (I had porcini)
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup pearled barley
  • 2 containers mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini and white button)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 6 cups broth (veggie, beef, chicken, whatever you have)
  • 10 stalks thyme, tied together if you can
  • large handful parsley
  • salt, pepper & crushed reds
  • 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
  1. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour about 2 cups or so boiled water over them,  to reconstitute them.  Set aside while you prep the veggies and get the rest of the soup prepared.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add onions, carrots, and celery, as well as salt, pepper, and crushed reds, and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and barley and cook, stirring for about two minutes.  Add the mixed mushrooms (not the reconstituted dried ones just yet) and the red wine, cook for about five minutes.
  3. If the dried mushrooms aren’t sliced nicely yet, now’s a good time to strain them (reserving the mushroom water!) and chop them.  Otherwise, dump the whole thing (mushrooms + water) into the soup pot.   Add the broth, thyme, parsley and and a little more salt and pepper.
  4. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes or until the barley is tender.
  5. At the very end, it’s a little decadent to add a dollop of butter – not necessary, obviously.  Discard the thyme, adjust seasoning, and serve with a bit of parsley on top.

The Verdict:

Not going to lie, after a few days of In & Out burgers and shakes, my body was grateful for this type of sustenance.  Not only good, but good for you.  Of course, now that we’ve been home a few days…I could use another babymoon.

 

 

Back. (& a Kale and Sesame “Sushi” Bowl)

It’s been almost exactly two months since I last posted.  I’ve read lots of blogs where people talk about taking a break or needing some fresh ideas, or going on some crazy, awesome trip, but the truth is, I just ran out of time.  And if I want to be even more honest, I ran out of energy.

The last two months have been among the two craziest & change-filled months of my life.  There have been some incredible highs – my best friend getting married, for one – and some low lows.  Suffice to say, you want to put your best foot out on the interwebs, and I’ve been missing my fancy footwear.

And clearly, a LOT has happened.  The weather has changed, for one, and I’m back to taking pictures of food in the dark.  A favorite blogger is now vegetarian.  Eater published the best-ever interview of Ina Garten and it made me love her even more, if that’s possible.  Tom Brady (continued to) earn my eternal love and respect through sheer domination on my fantasy squad, and then left me hopelessly baffled and saddened through his “non-endorsement” endorsement of Donald Trump.  No words.

AND – it’s been over a year since I started this blog.  Going forward, I’m hoping to start posting regularly again, if not a little less frequently, due to a job change and less time to experiment in the kitchen.

So now, in honor of my vegetarian friend who sent me nice little notes during my period of absentia (thank you!!), I bring you the following, from A Modern Way to Eat.

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Kale & Sesame “Sushi” Bowl

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • salt
  • 1-2 cups frozen endamame (sans pods)
  • 1 pomegranate (you’re really just after the seeds, so feel free to buy pre-seeded)
  • dash sesame oil
  • 2 big handfuls shredded kale or other crunchy, leafy green, stalks removed
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • cilantro
  • avocado
  • optional: 1 egg (poached)
  • for the dressing:
    • zest and juice from 1 lemon
    • tablespoon honey
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • dash rice vinegar
    • salt, pepper
  1. Cook your rice according to package directions (ain’t no shame in the minute style).
  2. Heat the endamame through, either in the microwave or by putting them in a bowl and covering with boiling water.
  3. De-seed your pomegranate, as needed – instructions here.
  4. Heat a saute pan over medium heat, add a splash of sesame oil and saute the greens until a bit wilted, above 3-4 minutes.  Keep warm.
  5. Make your dressing by whisking all ingredients together.  Add a bit of the pomegranate juice, if you have any from the de-seeding process.
  6. Pour the dressing over the warm rice, add the sesame seeds and give the mixture a toss.  Add the rest of your salad ingredients and top with avocado and cilantro…and if you’re feeling good about it, a poached egg.  Add dressing as needed.

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The Verdict:

Not really a recipe?  I understand your point.  Still, it feels good to be back, and it feels good to eat this.  So that’s a win, in my book.