Curried Sweet Potato-Ginger Lentil Soup

January 19, 2009

This is quite possibly the best soup I have ever made.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Vegetables: 2 onions, 1 chunk of ginger, 4 celery stalks, 1 carrot, 1 parsnip, 2 small sweet potatoes (or one very large sweet potato), 1 bunch of spinach

Spices: Curry, turmeric, coriander, cumin, salt

Fats: Olive oil and butter (you can skip the butter if you like)

Lentils: Red (they look orange)

First, prep all the vegetables. Peel and chop the onions. Peel the ginger and cut part of it into thin slices (you want to end up with about 1/4 cup sliced ginger) and mince about 2 tablespoons worth of ginger. Peel and chop the carrots. Peel and dice the sweet potatoes. Wash the celery, chop off and discard the ends, and chop. Wash the spinach, chop off the stems, and chop up the spinach.

Second, make the stock. Saute half the chopped onion in olive oil. When the onion starts getting soft add the spices. I didn’t measure when I made this, but I would estimate that I used between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon each of the curry, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. Basically, you want to give each spice a vigorous shake or two over the onions and you want all the onions to turn a nice golden color once you stir it all in. Now add the sliced ginger, carrot, celery, parsnip, and 8-9 cups of water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it all simmer for half an hour. Put a colander in another big pot, then pour the stock into it. The colander catches all the boiled veggie bits and the pot catches the stock.

Third, rinse out the original stock pot and saute some onions in it. You can use olive oil, butter, or a combination. When the onions start getting soft, add the minced ginger and a generous shake of curry, cumin, turmeric, and coriander. Once the onions are very soft, add the sweet potatoes, 1 cup of red lentils, and the stock. Bring the soup to a boil, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat and let it simmer until the lentils fall apart and the sweet potatoes are very soft. Add the spinach and stir. Be sure to add water as the soup boils down – I think I ended up adding 3-4 cups by the time I was through.

Once the spinach is cooked, taste the soup to see if it needs more salt or more water. If you think you’ve added too much water, just keep cooking for a few more minutes, until the broth is nice and strong.


This is Divine

January 15, 2009

Couscous with apricots, almonds, and blue cheese.

To make the couscous, put equal parts couscous and boiling water in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave it to steam cook itself for five minutes.

Cut a bunch of dried apricots into quarters and crumble up a bit of blue cheese.

When the couscous has absorbed all the water, fluff it with a fork and stir in the apricots, blue cheese, and a bunch of almonds.

I like sliced or slivered almonds with this dish, but you could definitely use whole almonds instead, or a different kind of nut. (Or leave out the nuts altogether if you’re allergic to them.)


Laying in Stores for the Winter

January 13, 2009

There’s an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History where you can see everything that happens underground: moles tunneling up to eat tulip bulbs, earthworms slithering through the soil, tree roots  sending spiky little root-hairs out for water.

My favorite part of the exhibit is the chipmunk’s nest, which is filled with layers of leaves and acorns. The chipmunk sleeps on top of all her acorns, and when she wakes up after a long winter’s hibernation, her emergency food stash is right there waiting for her.

I’ve been feeling like the chipmunk ever since getting back to New York. I’ve laid in my stores for the winter – flour, grits, quinoa, oats, butter, oil, sugar, honey, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, apricots, prunes, pecans, walnuts, cashews, almonds, peanut butter, milk, eggs, and cheddar cheese – and I feel as secure as the chipmunk asleep on her acorns.

Last week, I made oatmeal bread, lentil soup, and brownies, cooked dinner with a friend, met a friend for a home-made lunch at her office, and felt smug every time I walked past a bakery with my empty wallet. It’s the dead of winter and the beginning of a recession, but I have my emergency stash right here.

Recipes after the jump

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Pesto

November 21, 2008

3 cups fresh basil leaves

3/4 cup fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup walnuts

3/4 cup parmesan

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup melted butter

Put everything in a blender or a food processor and blend until smooth.

I like to make a few batches in the summer, when I can get fresh, locally grown basil and parsley from the farmers market. I freeze most of it for the winter – scoop it into a muffin tin, stick the tin in the freezer, then put all the little lumps of pesto into a ziplock bag once they’re frozen.

Recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook.


Flatbread & Pizza Dough

November 17, 2008

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 1/2 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in water, stir in sugar and salt, add oil. Stir in flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding flour whenever the dough gets too sticky, for ten minutes. Flatten the dough onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Brush olive oil and rosemary over the top. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges.

Variations:

Pizza: substitute tomato sauce, veggies and mozzarella for the olive oil and rosemary. Increase cooking time to about 25 minutes.

Calzones: divide the dough into 5-6 pieces, flatten them into disks, and spoon a mixture of veggies and cheese onto half of each disk, fold the other half of the disk over, and pinch the edges shut. Cook for 25-30 minutes.

Breakfast pizza: spread with butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Or, spread with butter and jam.

Wholewheat/spelt: Make the dough with whole wheat spelt flour, or with half whole wheat and half white flour.


First, Get Out the Cutting Board

November 11, 2008

Once the cutting board is out, you’ll chop up a carrot. And maybe a green pepper. And you may as well demolish that celery now that the cutting board’s already out. And, as long as you’re cutting, you might as well have some apple slices in that salad. Getting out the cutting board is the first step to eating well.

Once I got over the psychological hump of washing a cutting board and a knife, my diet really improved. I eat a gigantic apple every morning.* And, once I have the cutting board out, I might as well chop vegetables for lunch.

* I like to eat oatmeal – made with milk and topped with apples and walnuts – on weekday mornings. I don’t consider an apple, even a gigantic apple, enough food for breakfast.