First, Saute Some Onions and Garlic

February 2, 2009

mosaic717728

1. scallion trolls 2. golden onion 3. glass onion 4. red onion

From there, you can make just about anything: curried chickpeas, lentil soup, vegetable stock, red beans and rice, pasta primavera.

Here’s a basic template for starting with onions and ending with deliciousness.

1. Peel and chop the onions and garlic.

2. Heat a bit of olive oil in a pan, then add the onions. Let the onions cook until they get soft, stirring occasionally. Add a little more oil if the onions are starting to burn or stick to the pan. Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes, until the onions are starting to turn golden-brown and everything smells delicious.

3. Add some spices. If you’re making Indian food, throw in some curry, turmeric, cumin, and coriander. If you’re making Italian food, throw in some rosemary and oregano. If you’re making Mexican food, throw in some cumin, coriander, and a bit of cayenne or chili pepper.

4. Add some chopped vegetables. Cauliflower or parsnips or sweet potatoes or greens might be nice with Indian spices. Eggplant, bell peppers, mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes are lovely with Italian spices. Bell peppers would be utterly delightful with Mexican food.

5. Add some beans or lentils. Chickpeas or leftover lentils would be good with Indian food, chickpeas with Italian food, and black or pinto beans with Mexican.

6. Serve with rice, pasta, tortillas, cornbread, focaccia, or something equally delightful. I think the a whole-wheat version of the focaccia with a bit of cumin on top would be really good with both the Italian and Indian versions of this meal.

7. If you’re feeling fancy, squeeze a bit of lime or lemon on top of everything. The Vitamin C will help you absorb all the iron from the beans and greens.

Note on timing: I find that things go best if I do them in the following order: 1)start the starch – mix the bread and put it in the oven, put the rice on to cook, start a pot of boiling water for pasta, etc. 2)chop all the veggies you’re going to use 3)saute some onions and garlic 4)add spices 5)add veggies 6)add beans 7)dish it up.

Note on vegetables: Add the thicker, tougher vegetables first, and the delicate, thinner vegetables 2-3 minutes later. In the Italian dish, for example, I would put the eggplant in first, the mushrooms in second, and the green peppers and tomatoes in last. Spinach cooks almost instantaneously, so always put that in last. If you’re cooking something really hard (potatoes, parsnips, winter squash, etc.), you might want to plunge it into boiling water for a few minutes beforehand so that it gets a head start.


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.