Turnip Tikka Masala

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Last week at the farmers’ market, I bought a vegetable with which I have never cooked: turnips.

I’ve only even eaten turnip once before; my mom’s not fond of it, so it doesn’t normally enter the house. However, they looked absolutely beautiful– creamy purple-and-white– so I couldn’t help myself. They sat in the refrigerator for a few days, because cooking with something totally new is rather intimidating. Whatever I made with them had to have a strong flavor, to cover the bitterness that many people dislike about turnips. I didn’t have any idea what that should be, so I waited.

Finally, this morning, I had a bit of inspiration. While I was browsing Pinterest for curry recipes,  I came across a fantastic-looking recipe for chicken Tikka Masala. I thought that it would be interesting to make a vegan version of that dish, and since it has such a strong flavor, it seemed like the perfect thing to use my turnips in.

I browsed several recipes to get a feel for the basic ingredients, since I have little experience with this dish. It’s spicier than what I normally make, which makes for a really nice change. It’s probably far from authentic, but that’s okay– it still tastes great.

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Turnip Tikka Masala

Serves 5-6

Ingredients:

  • olive oil
  • 5 turnips, peeled & chopped
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t coriander
  • 1/2 t cayenne
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1″ fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 C tomato purée
  • 2 T garam masala
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 1/2 t cayenne
  • 1/2 C coconut milk
  • juice of 1/2 lime (or lemon)

Directions:

  1. Toss turnips with the first cumin, coriander, and cayenne on the list. Cook in a pan with a bit of olive oil until tender. Move to a bowl.
  2. In the same pan, heat more olive oil. Add onion and sauté until fragrant, 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger; cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 more minutes. Add the tomato purée, garam masala, turmeric, and cayenne. Mix, then bring to a boil. Put the turnips back into the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 more minutes.
  3. Add the coconut milk and lime juice, and salt to taste. Serve with brown rice.

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Sunday Morning French Toast

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One of the things that I love about the place that I live is the variety of produce available at the farmers’ market, year-round. I don’t know how it is in other places, but here, winters are filled with luscious oranges, cauliflower in vibrant hues, radishes with the distinctive bite that I’ve grown to love– really, anything that you can think of.

Yesterday, when I walked to the farmers’ market, I had an incredibly difficult task in deciding which of any number of items to choose for this week. I’m not sure why, but it always surprises me how many different vegetables and fruits there are.

After I had made my selections, I was on my way out when I passed by a stand piled high with oranges. I intended to walk past, but my eye caught on a sampling bin filled with slices of the most beautiful, bright pink-fleshed oranges I’d ever seen. Of course, I had to try one– then proceeded to buy five more. They were even more delicious than they looked.

I wanted to make something for breakfast today, and as I thought about it, those five oranges called to me. It needed to be something easy, but I also wanted it to be special. The obvious answer, then, was French toast. My grandmother used to make it for us when we spent the night at her house, so I no longer need a recipe; it’s second nature. I added an orange’s juice and zest to the egg mixture and made an orange-honey syrup for the top, and it was the perfect way to use them.

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Orange French Toast

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 C milk
  • zest of 1 orange
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • cardamom
  • cinnamon
  • 12 slices of bread

Syrup:

  • 1/2 C honey
  • zest & juice of 1 orange
  • 1 t vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Beat the eggs. Mix with milk and orange juice and zest. Pour the mixture onto a plate, and sprinkle with cardamom and cinnamon. Dip both sides of a slice of bread in it, then cook over medium heat until brown. Repeat for the rest of the bread, sprinkling with the spices every slice or two.
  2. Meanwhile, make the syrup: whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan. Cook for about ten minutes over medium heat, stirring regularly. Cool slightly and serve on the French toast.

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Swamp Sludge Soup

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I’ve been thinking of re-naming this blog– probably something clever, a pun maybe, related to soup. Why? Well, of my last four recipes, three have been soup. Should I apologize for that? Maybe. But, after all, soup is a wonderful thing, especially in the winter.

That is, if you can consider the absurd seventy-degree weather that we’ve been having “winter.” I sit on a sun-facing bench every morning with my friends, and while they bask in the warmth, I cower in the shade, praying for rain. If I could control the weather, it would rain– or at least be cloudy– every day for the rest of my life. Everybody says that I’ll miss the sun when I head East for college, but I seriously doubt that I will.

Ask me in a year if that’s still true.

Anyway, about the soup. As you can see above, I’ve called it “swamp sludge,” because that’s precisely what it looks like: a bowl of green algae that somebody ladled out of a swamp. I had to find a way to use up massive bunches of collard and mustard greens, and because the Internet was of little help (too much frying and bacon fat for my tastes), this is how it ended up.

Don’t be put off by appearances, though; it actually tastes great. I was surprised that it turned out well, because collard greens seem to have a sort of musty smell and mustard greens– well, let’s just say that I’ve found the first vegetable that I truly, deeply loathe. Somehow, though, pairing them with so many other vegetables and spices saved this recipe. It’s really, really good, especially topped with lemon and chickpeas. Try it! You’ll like it, I promise.
DSC_0066Swamp Sludge Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 C collard greens, de-stemmed, chopped and packed
  • 3 C mustard greens, de-stemmed, chopped, and packed
  • 1 C kale, de-stemmed, chopped, and packed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 2 sweet potatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1 t coriander
  • 1 t cardamom
  • 6 C vegetable broth
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat; sauté onion and garlic until fragrant. Add sweet potatoes, collards, mustard greens, kale, and spices. Cook for a few minutes, or until wilted. Add vegetable broth, and cook until sweet potatoes are tender.
  2. Blend until smooth; adjust spices and serve topped with chickpeas and lemon juice.

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Pumpkin Pie Pseudo-Chili

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I’ve never understood the autumnal obsession with “pumpkin spice”-flavored foods. Practically any processed snack or beverage can be found, once August ends, in this now-universal variety. But until recently, I had never caved. It’s too popular. I’m above it. Why do they call it “pumpkin spice,” anyway? The spices have nothing to do with pumpkin, except that they’re used in pumpkin pie. No. No. Not a chance.

Then, Trader Joe’s introduced a pumpkin pie-spiced herbal tea– and that was that. I’ll admit it: cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves pair perfectly with pumpkin. Things become popular for a reason, apparently.

I’ve been interested by the fact that, with all of the obsession surrounding these spices, nobody (from what I’ve seen) has used them in a savory dish. That’s what I set out to do with this soup.

I’m not sure what to call it, exactly. It was intended to be a chili, but when I decided against using chili powder, it couldn’t qualify any longer. It’s thicker, I think, than a soup– so let’s just call it “chili.” In quotes.

Whatever it’s called, it’s fantastic.

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Pumpkin Pie “Chili”

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:

  • 1 sugar pie pumpkin
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 handful of small, mildly spicy peppers (mine were pepperoncini)
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 C vegetable broth
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 C frozen corn
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ginger
  • 1/2 t cloves
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/2 t cardamom
  • 2 t balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • cilantro

Directions:

  1. Peel, seed, and/or chop pumpkin, sweet potatoes, peppers, and onion as needed.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and salt; cook until translucent.
  3. Add spices and peppers; stir, and let cook until fragrant. Add balsamic vinegar, diced tomatoes, broth, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and beans. Simmer until tender.
  4. Add corn, then simmer for 5-10 more minutes. Serve with lime juice and cilantro.

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Notes:

  • This soup makes a lot, because I wanted to use up the whole pumpkin at once. It could easily be frozen, or just eaten every day for every meal until it’s gone; that’s what I did, and I never tired of it.
  • After quite a bit of trial and error, I’ve finally found the most efficient way to peel a pumpkin. The butternut squash method doesn’t work well because of the shape, but a potato peeler is perfect. Were I to do this again, I would peel the whole pumpkin, then cut it into slices and just cut out the seeds and “guts.” I don’t know if this is normal, but in my pumpkin, they would not come out with a spoon.

Beet & Fennel Spread

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It has been far too long since I’ve posted. Sorry about that; I had a cold for most of December, so I didn’t do much cooking. I’ve spent the last two weeks catching up, testing recipes and taking pictures. Everything has settled down a bit lately, so I’m back now.

A few weeks ago, there was in the refrigerator a bag of assorted leafy green vegetables– all mixed together, mostly unidentified. Disorder of this sort is something that I truly dislike, so one afternoon, I picked the leaves apart and sorted them. Once they were in piles, I could tell what most were: bitter kale, delicate mustard greens, unfamiliar collards, and Swiss chard of beautifully varied shades and textures– but there was one vegetable that I could not name.

It was a vibrant shade of green, small, feathery, and with a rather foreign aroma. My friend thought it might be dill, but the “leaves” were of a different shape. While browsing the Internet, I came across a picture of a fennel plant and realized that the green heap on the counter was its fronds. But– what to do with them? Nobody cooks with fronds. Every recipe I found on the Internet used the bulb, and nothing else. I decided to take a chance; here are the results.

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Beet & Fennel Spread

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 C fennel fronds, packed
  • 8 small beets, peeled and quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2″ leek, chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 t olive oil
  • 1 T olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • Hummus, spinach, brown rice, Feta cheese, and toasted almonds, to serve.

Directions:

  1. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and leeks; sauté until fragrant. Add beets; cook for a few minutes. The beets shouldn’t be soft, just warm.
  2. Place fennel, beets, garlic, leek, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper in a food processor. Blend until uniformly mixed and finely chopped, but not completely smooth.
  3. Spread on a tortilla with hummus, spinach, brown rice, Feta, and almonds.

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Also, here is my sister’s idea of a “humorous interruption.” Isn’t her sock lovely? She never matches them, so the other was orange.

Moroccan-Spiced Carrot & Beet Soup

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It has been autumn for more than a month now, but it’s only just begun to feel like it. It’s crisp and cold outside, leaves have begun to turn colors, and the weather forecast predicts rain for the next week.

When the seasons finally change in my little corner of the world, I, like most people, long for certain foods. Winter squash, carrots, soup, and warm spices sing “there’s a chill in the air,” and this place finally feels right to me.

I’ve always been a cold-weather person. I would much rather be cold than hot; I love sweaters and scarves and fingerless mittens. I’m knitting a pair right now, in fact, and that’s something else that I love about fall: I can knit without feeling uncomfortably warm. This winter, if I can find the time, I’m going to knit two sweaters and two pairs of the same mittens, one for my sister and one for myself.

A few days ago, I decided that the time has finally come to bring those autumn-y foods back to my table. Carrots and beets were in the refrigerator, waiting to be made into a delightfully warm and autumn-y soup– and here it is.

DSC_0039 Moroccan-Spiced Carrot & Beet Soup

Serves 5

Ingredients:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 carrots, chopped
  • 4 beets, grated
  • 1/4 t cayenne
  • 1/4 t ground ginger
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • 1/4 t cumin
  • 1/4 t cardamom
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 4 C water
  • 1 C red lentils
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and spices. Saute until fragrant.
  2. Add beets and carrots. Cook for a minute or two, then add lentils, water, salt, and pepper.
  3. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, until vegetables and lentils are soft. Put the soup in a blender and puree until smooth. Serve with parsley, red pepper flakes, and a spoonful of tahini.

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Quinoa-Filled Acorn Squash

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It’s the twelfth day of November, and Thanksgiving is just two weeks away.

As a vegetarian, holidays are always interesting, because no matter where we go for dinner, my sister and I end up eating just two foods: mashed potatoes and pie.

Now, don’t misunderstand: I love mashed potatoes. They’re one of my favorite foods, especially my grandma’s garlic-and-basil version, or the kind made with red-skinned potatoes that haven’t been peeled. However, it would be nice once in a while to eat dinner with other people and not just be relegated to side dishes, dessert, and salad if I’m lucky. So, I decided to find a vegetarian dish that is both delicious and sufficiently festive for a special occasion.

It seems like, every time fall comes, the Internet is flooded with recipes for roasted vegetables filled with some combination of grains, meats, and vegetables. In my search for a festive food, I felt drawn to such recipes. After all, what’s more festive than winter squash? They’re lovely– acorn squash in particular. I’ve never used them before, but I bought two at the farmer’s market last week, and I’ve found that they’re quite user-friendly.

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Quinoa-Filled Acorn Squash

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squash, halved
  • 2 t olive oil
  • 2 t maple syrup, plus a bit extra set aside
  • 3/4 C quinoa
  • lime juice
  • ginger
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • salt
  • kale, cut into strips
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 C almonds, coarsely chopped and toasted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix olive oil, 2 t maple syrup, ginger, nutmeg, and salt (to taste) in a small bowl. Brush the inside of each acorn squash half with this mixture. Bake, face-down on a baking tray, for 30 minutes or until fork-tender.
  2. Meanwhile, mix quinoa with just under 1 1/2 C water, a little maple syrup, a splash of lime juice, and lots of ginger and cinnamon. Bring this to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
  3. Mix quinoa, kale, apple, goat cheese, and almonds. Scoop into the acorn squash cavities and serve.

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Peanut Butter & Honey with a Twist

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Apples are, in my opinion, the most beautiful (and versatile) of fruits. Really, though– they go with everything. I eat them most often in the form of applesauce overloaded with cinnamon, but they’re also incredible dipped in peanut butter or topped with cheddar cheese. I love how crisp they are when you bite into them and that they’re splendidly juicy but not so juicy that it drips down your arm. Apples are, quite simply, a superior fruit.

The point of all of this rambling is this: the other day, I felt totally uninspired when I went to make breakfast. My sister and I have to take our breakfast to school with us, and it’s really difficult to find a something portable that will still taste okay after two hours in a backpack. As I searched in the refrigerator for ideas, I found some apples and a block of white cheddar cheese and thought: apples go well with cheese; why don’t I try making them into a sandwich?

However, there was a problem: mustard doesn’t go well with apples, at least as far as I know; neither does avocado. Garlic-and-chive hummus definitely doesn’t– but what could I put on the bread? I didn’t want it to be dry, so, in desperation, I spread peanut butter on one slice of bread and honey on the other. Once I’d made the sandwiches, I told my sister what I’d done; she thought I was insane, but she said that she would try it.

We’ve had it every day since.

It’s really good.

And no, we’re not just both crazy; our friend walks by every day during our break, and she agrees: these sandwiches are good.

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Peanut Butter, Apple, & White Cheddar Sandwiches

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of bread
  • 1 apple
  • white cheddar cheese
  • peanut butter
  • honey

Directions:

  1. Spread peanut butter on two slices of bread; drizzle the other two (lightly) with honey.
  2. Thinly slice the apple and arrange on the peanut-buttered bread. Add the cheese, top with the honey-ed bread, and serve.

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Squash & Lentils

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I’m sorry, everyone– it’s been awhile. Just after school started, we moved; unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to cook as much as I’d like since then. Because I haven’t been able to do much experimentation recently, I thought I’d share my version of a recipe that my friend sent me several years ago.

Before I met Melanie, I’d never tried butternut squash. The first time I ate squash and lentils is one of my more memorable days, because– it was life-changing. Butternut squash is such a marvelous vegetable, and it positively screams “autumn.” It’s especially good when paired with curry powder and ginger-y lentils, as it is in this dish. There’s really not much more that I can say to describe it; it’s beyond description. You’ll just need to try it to understand the delight I find in it.

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Squash & Lentils

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3 t curry powder
  • 1/2 C chopped pecans
  • 1 C brown rice
  • 3/4 C green lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ground ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut into eighths
  • 1 C vegetable broth
  • juice of 1 lime
  • chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Put brown rice in a pot with 1 cup of vegetable broth and 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer with the lid on for 40-50 minutes. When the rice is cooked, turn off the stove and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss butternut squash with onion, olive oil, salt, and curry powder. Roast for 20 minutes; stir, then sprinkle with chopped pecans. Roast for 10-15 more minutes or until the pecans are toasted and the squash is soft.
  3. Meanwhile, combine lentils with the 2 cups of water and the bay leaf, garlic, and a generous sprinkle of ground ginger. Bring it to a rapid simmer, then reduce the heat to low and let it cook for 20 minutes (with the lid off).
  4. Drain lentils; mix lentils and rice with the squash mixture. Top with cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

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Sopa Paraguaya

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Back in July, I spent two marvelous weeks in Paraguay. Along with a group of people whom I consider friends, I dug a pit, practiced Spanish, played with kids, and absorbed the sights, sounds, and culture of a new country (my first new country, in fact). Paraguay is incredible. I’ve never met such kind, welcoming, and giving people.

I’m really terrible at starting conversations; the other members of my group knew this all too well. But there was one person in particular, a Paraguayan girl named Yamila, who simply refused to give up. We became good friends during those weeks, and even better friends in the months since.

I miss Paraguay. I miss my friends. I felt at home there. I feel like I’ve left a part of my heart there. A few days ago, when the longing was particularly acute, Yamila sent me two of her favorite recipes: Mandi’o Chyryry and Sopa Paraguaya. I can’t recall eating Mandi’o Chyryry while I was there, but I do remember Sopa, and it was excellent. Then, yesterday, I tried making Sopa myself, and it was like I was back in Paraguay for a minute.

This is Yamila’s mother’s recipe, almost exactly as she sent it to me (though a few ingredients are different due to availability– or lack thereof– where I live). I might play with it a bit in the future, but it’s great as it is.

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Sopa Paraguaya

Ingredients:

  • 500g corn flour
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 t salt
  • 250g shredded cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 500mL milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix the oil, onion, salt, and a bit of water. Fry until onion is soft. Mix with the corn flour, eggs, cheese, and milk. It should be a semi-liquid.
  3. Pour into a glass baking dish (mine was 9×9). Cook in the oven for 1 hour, until the top is brown around the edges.

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