Moroccan Style Sweet Potato Stew

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I came up with this recipe about 20+ years ago when my son went through a period of not eating any meat. I was looking for something that screamed “autumn” to me so I could serve it for the holiday of Sukkot, which we recently celebrated. If you do a lot of North African/Mediterranean and Indian cooking, as I do, then you will always have these seasonings on hand. The main ingredients can be varied to taste, substituting cauliflower for the eggplant for example. Just keep in mind textures, colors and cooking times for the different vegetables that you may use. And, of course, this can be doubled or tripled if desired. Left-overs are delicious but keep in mind that after a time some of the vegetables will get mushy with aggressive reheating. I usually serve this over cooked millet, couscous or rice but you can use any grain or bread that you prefer. My husband is not a big fan of very hot/spicy foods and neither was my son when he was little; however, if you do wish to add some heat to this otherwise well-seasoned dish, you have a few options. You can serve harissa on the side for diners to add their own level of heat individually or if you know that your crowd likes it hot, you can add some hot peppers along with the sweet bell pepper and/or add some cayenne pepper to the spice mix. There are no strict rules here.

Lisa’s Moroccan Style Sweet Potato Stew

Yield: 4-6 servings     IMG_3683

Ingredients

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 Tablespoons EVOO or Canola oil

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into large dice

1 large red bell pepper, cut into large dice

1 long Japanese eggplant, cut into large dice

15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained (save the liquid for aquafaba!)

1 large Granny Smith or other tart apple, cut into large dice (no need to peel it)

14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with liquid

1/2 cup of raisins

15 ounce can of pumpkin puree

About 1.25 cups of vegetable broth

About 3 Tablespoons apple juice or cider

1 teaspoon each of turmeric and cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon each of curry powder, ground cumin, salt and either freshly cracked black pepper or Aleppo pepper (my preference)

1/4 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg and ground sumac

2 teaspoons of tamarind paste

Optional Garnishes

Chopped cilantro

Lightly toasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, pine nuts or almonds

Greek Yogurt

Harissa (red or green)

Directions

  1. In a 4 quart heavy saucepan or Dutch Oven, heat the oil and saute the onion and garlic until softened. Stir in the spices and add enough of the apple juice to keep the spices from sticking and burning. Stir for about 3 minutes or until the spices become fragrant.
  2. Add all of the vegetables except for the eggplant. Add the tomatoes, tamarind paste, apple, pumpkin puree, broth and raisins and stir through. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes, add the eggplant, re-cover the pan and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender and cooked through. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over a cooked grain of your choice and with one or more of the optional garnishes.

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Creole Black Bean Soup

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Autumn is truly a transitional season in Chicago. One day it is summer temperatures and humid and the next may be crisp and bright or chilly and damp. I enjoy soup at any time of the year, but this season requires a little more thought when deciding just what soup to make. I clearly don’t want a cold soup if the next time I go to serve left-overs it is now in the 50’s and raining and I don’t want a super hearty soup if the temperatures are climbing into the upper 70’s. This black bean soup seems the perfect compromise. It is rich and satisfying yet not overly heavy. I found the recipe in an older cookbook of mine and with a few adjustments, it was a delicious make-ahead Sunday meal accompanied by a salad and crisp bread. After a long walk along our beautiful lakefront, it was good to come home to this simple and homey meal.

Creole Black Bean Soup from The Peasant Kitchen by Perla Meyers

Yield: 6-8 servings  Creole Black Bean2

Ingredients

1 pound of dried black beans (2 cups)

1 pound of thick-cut or slab bacon (you can use any kind – turkey, duck, lamb, beef or pork; it is the smoked flavor that you want) cut into 2-inch pieces

About 1 pound of smoked meat (I like smoked turkey legs but ham hocks or any other good smoked meat will work)

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2 large onions, peeled and chopped in small dice

5 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

2 large leeks, well-washed, trimmed and thinly sliced (include some of the lighter green)

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 cup dark rum OR 1 cup of Madeira (I used the rum) (This is NOT optional!)

2-3 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions

  1. Soak the beans overnight. Drain them the next day.
  2. In a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven large enough to hold everything, add your bacon and brown the pieces until almost crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked bacon to a strainer or plate lined with paper towels.
  3. Wipe out the pot leaving just a shimmer of fat. Add the EVOO and heat on medium high heat. Add the onion, leeks and garlic and cook the mixture until it has softened and just begun to brown. Add the herbs, beans and smoked meats. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil, skimming any of the scum that may rise to the top. Once you have removed most of the scum (a little bit left won’t matter), reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot tightly. Simmer at a very low heat for 4 hours.
  4. At the end of the four hours and after the soup has cooled enough to easily handle it, remove the turkey leg or other smoked meat and pick out the meat, discarding the skin, bones and any other detritus. Using an immersion blender, coarsely blend the soup in the pot. You don’t want a perfectly smooth end product; you just want to puree some of the soup, leaving chunky bits of bacon, vegetables and beans. Add the meat back to the mixture and taste. Add your salt, pepper, rum and lemon juice.
  5. To serve, gently reheat the soup. DO NOT allow it to come to a full boil! It can be served with cooked rice, but I preferred a fresh, warm country-style bread with a good crust.  IMG_3667

 

Thai Style Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato

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I saw this recipe in the weekend Wall Street Journal and immediately decided I had to make it. It either can be made with shredded chicken or cubed tofu for a vegan version. This time I went for the chicken, but I’m sure that I will also make the vegan version in future. The spices are what make this dish, so while I freely admit that I am not always such a purist and will use bought spice mixes and pre-ground spices, there are times when I will go all out and grind my own and this is one of those times. Relatively recently I have been seeing fresh turmeric in my grocery store, but had never bought it until now. Since I do both Mediterranean and Indian cooking, I knew that the turmeric would not be wasted and decided to give it a try. I understand that it also can be used as an herbal infusion, which is supposed to have many health benefits as an anti-inflammatory.

Obviously this dish is not something you are going to make after you arrive home late from work, but it is fun to try for a lazy Sunday. I did cheat by using a store-made roasted organic chicken since I am all for short-cuts when they don’t compromise the end product. I followed the recipe pretty strictly (unusual for me) except I did not bother to strain the curry or put it into a new clean pot before adding the chicken and final ingredients. That just seemed like needless extra work to me and I can live happily with a bit of texture in my final dish.

Thai Style Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato by Mary-Frances Heck from her new cookbook Sweet Potatoes: Roasted, Loaded, Fried, and Made into Pie’ (Clarkson Potter)

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

15-ounce can coconut milk (full-fat, please)

For curry paste

1 Tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon  cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

3 dried small, hot chilies such as Arbol

3/4 cup chopped shallots

1/4 cup garlic cloves, peeled

Chopped stems from one bunch of cilantro

1 3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

1 1-inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled and thinly sliced (or 1 Tablespoon ground turmeric, if you must)

For curry

1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

3 cups water

About 12 ounces shredded cooked chicken or firm tofu, cut into cubes (I ended up using an entire small rotisserie chicken)

1 Tablespoon fish sauce

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 pound Chinese-style egg noodle (See Note at the bottom.)

Garnish

Thinly sliced shallots

Cilantro leaves

Lime juice

Chile oil

Directions

  1. Place the unopened can of coconut milk in the freezer for 15 minutes to solidify the layer of cream at the top.
  2. In a dry skillet set over medium heat, toast the seeds, shaking the pan frequently until fragrant and a few of the mustard sees pop, about 1 minute.
  3. Pour the seeds into a dish to cool. Place the hot chilies into the dry pan and toast, turning them as they puff and turn bright red, about 30 seconds. Allow the chilies to cool.
  4. Once the spices have cooled, place them between waxed or parchment paper and using a heavy pan, crack the spices.
  5. Add the cracked spices, shallots, garlic, cilantro stems, turmeric and ginger to the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse to form a paste.
  6. Open the can of coconut milk and spoon the solid cream into a heavy medium pot. Set over medium heat and melt the coconut cream. Add the curry paste and stir through, frying the paste for about 1 minute or until smooth and everything is combined. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking uncovered, stirring frequently until the paste darkens a shade and orange oil begins to seep from the paste – about 8 minutes.
  7. Stir in the remaining coconut milk, the cubed sweet potato and 3 cups of water. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a simmer, uncovered. Cook, stirring often until the sweet potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
  8. Using a standing blender, puree the mixture in batches until smooth. Please be sure that the liquid has cooled first and do in batches. Otherwise, you will be cleaning up a mess! I tried using an immersion blender but I just couldn’t get the mixture smooth enough. (The directions then say to strain the curry through a fine-mesh sieve, but after trying to do this, I thought it was a total waste of time, although it will make for a thinner curry. If like me you are okay with a slightly thicker end product then simply puree it well in the blender and skip the sieve. It also said to transfer to a clean pot. REALLY?! No way.)
  9. Stir in the shredded chicken or cubed tofu, the fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and salt. Adjust the seasoning to taste by adding more fish sauce or brown sugar. Warm through. The curry is only moderately spicy. I found the flavors delicious and very subtle – rounded out by the sweet potato and coconut milk. If you are looking for something with more heat, you will need to use a hotter chili pepper or simply add more hot chili oil.
  10. Cook the noodles according to the package and drain well. Divide the noodles into 4 bowls and ladle the hot curry over the top. Garnish.

NOTE: While the recipe called for noodles, I would use rice the next time I make this. The dish is quite rich tasting and I think the rice provides a better foil.

 

 

Sheet Pan Honey(Agave)-Sesame Tofu and Green Beans

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We returned this week from a fabulous two weeks of hiking in the Wasatch and High Uintas. Being 11,000 feet up really gives you perspective. And it was great to be together with Frances and Matthew and I’m proud that all of my training over the past six months paid off and I almost held my own with those two “mountain goats.” We hiked all day and then I indulged my love of burgers, fries and beers at night. Since I lost three pounds, I can absolutely recommend this diet! However, after more burgers than I normally eat in a year (and yes, we did eat other things too since Park City, Utah now has some wonderful restaurants) I am ready for some good vegan food. And since the High Holidays begin at sundown on the 20th and I am hosting family dinner, I also want to keep things simple. I came across this recipe on the kitchn a few months back and have made it successfully several times. While I take issue with the suggested “4” servings, it otherwise is a very satisfying and easy weeknight meal. Even my husband has made this and normally he sticks to making the occasional pancake. If you add rice, you will definitely have a more substantial meal that may eke out the suggested 4 servings. And if you substitute agave or date syrup for the honey, the dish will be vegan.

Sheet Pan Honey (Agave)-Sesame Tofu and Green Beans by Hali Bey Ramdene on the kitchn

Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients

Oil or cooking spray
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon honey or agave
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger (I use the one that is prepared in a jar)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil plus more for drizzling
1 pound green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4-6 scallions, white and light green part only, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds (I used toasted black sesame seeds because I couldn’t locate my regular sesame seeds in my pantry.)

Directions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with nonstick spray. (Line the pan with foil first for easy clean-up.)
  2. Meanwhile, line a large plate with paper towels, and place the tofu on top. Cover with more paper towels and place a heavy item on top, pressing down on the tofu. Let rest for at least 10 to 30 minutes.
  3. Whisk the soy sauce, garlic, honey, ginger, and sesame oil together in a large bowl; set aside.
  4. Cut the tofu into triangles and place in a single layer on one side of the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with soy sauce mixture. Bake until golden-brown on the bottom, 12 to 13 minutes.
  5. Flip the tofu. Add the green beans onto the opposite side of the baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper.
  6. Return to the oven and bake until the tofu is golden-brown on the second side, 10 to 12 minutes more. Sprinkle with the scallions and sesame seeds, drizzle with a little toasted sesame oil and serve immediately. IMG_3603

Bismati Pullao

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This Bismati pilaf would be a delicious accompaniment to many Indian meals or a side for grilled meat or fish. I used it to accompany Kashmiri Spiced Lamb (See previous recipe).

Bismati Pullao from Ismail Merchant’s Indian Cuisine

Yield: 4-6 servings (Can be doubled)

Ingredients

1.5 cups Basmati rice

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2-inch piece of cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

1 bay leaf, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads

1/2 cup raw cashews (or pistachios)

1/2 cup seedless golden raisins

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Soak the rice in cold water to cover for about 30 minutes. Then drain well through a sieve.
  2. Heat the oil or ghee in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the onions and saute until the onion becomes translucent and softens. Add the well-drained rice, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, saffron, cashews and raisins and stir for 2 minutes, coating everything with the onions and oil or ghee.  IMG_3567
  3. Add 3 cups of cold water to the pot along with the salt. Bring to a boil, cover tightly and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the rice is tender and fluffy and all of the water is absorbed. (The cooking time will depend on the brand of rice and how long it soaked prior to cooking.) Stir through with a fork and serve.

 

 

Spiced Kashmiri Lamb (Kashmiri Gosht) and Bismati Pullao (Pilaf)

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Over the past year I have become a HUGE Bollywood fan – and Netflix made me do it! If you have never watched a Bollywood movie, it takes a bit of getting used to but I highly recommend it. Salman Khan, my heart be still! And the women. There is a joyousness in these films, that is sometimes hard-won, but the journey is worth going through 3 hours (or more at times) of all of the ups and downs of the characters. While I began my Bollywood journey with older films, you might want to start with Bajrangi Bhaijaan, the story of a mute Pakistani child lost in India and the Indian man of pure heart who is determined to return her to her family despite the considerable dangers for him involved in crossing the border illegally. My husband cried for at least half of the movie. And for those who might want a bit more of an action film, try Kick. The music and dancing is contagious and while typically silly at times, there is enough action for two Mission Impossible movies as well as a deeper message. And for a smaller movie there is Queen about a young bride-to-be rejected at the alter who goes on a journey of self-discovery and finds her inner strength and independence. Or you could choose a retelling of King Lear in Baghban. I found it refreshing that so many of the films carried a deeper message that promoted family, women’s empowerment, inequality in healthcare and education for poor and orphaned children and the need to tolerate religious divisions in society.

So what does this have to do with food? Well as followers of this blog know, I have always loved Indian food. But now I am even more excited about making it at home. So I have been going through my cookbooks and online to search out the best Indian meals to make at home. (And I have been buying up Indian jewelry on eBay and watching online videos to watch how Kareena Kapoor applies kohl to her eyes…) This meal comes partly from a cookbook by the film director Ismail Merchant, famous for movies like Remains of the Day, Howards End and my personal favorite, A Room With a View. Apparently he enjoyed cooking for cast members and friends and this cookbook was a by-product. Since I generally search out several versions of a recipe before attempting it for the first time, I ended up going with a different version for the lamb that I found online. However, at Merchant’s suggestion, I served it with a Bismati  Pullao (Pilaf) (See recipe which follows.)

Spiced Kashmiri Lamb (Kashmiri Gosht) from Mallika Basu and Bismati Pullao from Ismail Merchant’s Indian Cuisine

Yield: 4-8 servings, depending on how many sides or other dishes you are serving

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil

2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cubed

2 large onions

8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed through a garlic press or minced

2 bay leaves

3 black cardamom pods (I only had green pods so used those)

2-inch cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon ground coriander

1-inch ginger, peeled and crushed or grated or 1 Tablespoon fresh, ground ginger that you buy in a jar

2 large tomatoes

1 teaspoon ground fenugreek

1 teaspoon paprika or Kashmiri chili powder

1 teaspoon hot chili powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

Salt to taste

Handful fresh coriander (cilantro)

Directions

  1. Peel and slice the onions finely.
  2. Next, bring the oil to medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. When it is hot, toss in the whole spices, and as they sizzle up, add the sliced onions with a pinch of salt and sauté for about 15 minutes until golden. If the onions start getting stuck to the bottom of the pan, add a little hot water and scrape off. IMG_3569
  3. Then, mix in the ginger and garlic and cook for another minute. Roughly chop the tomatoes and toss them in. Cook this masala paste for about five minutes, stirring regularly. When the tomatoes start to disintegrate, mix in the coriander, fenugreek, paprika (or Kashmiri chili) and chili powder. Add half a cup of hot water and keep stirring. As the water cooks off, lower the heat to a simmer, add another cup of hot water and cook for another five minutes.
  4. At this point you will see oil oozing out of little pores in the paste. Bring the heat to medium high again, and stir in your lamb chunks. Mix the paste into the meat well, browning it for a good five minutes until it’s well coated. Then add enough hot water to cover the lamb pieces, cover and cook for half an hour then take the lid off and cook for another half an hour uncovered.
  5. Stir in salt and garam masala to finish, simmering for the last 10 minutes until you have a rich, dark, moist lamb curry.  Garnish your Kashmiri Gosht with chopped fresh coriander if using and serve hot, with Basmati rice and a thick dal of your favorite lentil. IMG_3583

 

 

Stuffed Veal Rolls (Braciolette Ripieni)

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The French and Italians became adept at making elegant and delicious meals using cheaper cuts of meat as well as using smaller amounts of meat than we tend to do in the United States. One way to achieve this is by pounding meat or poultry very thin and stuffing and rolling it with all kinds of wonderful fillings that add flavor as well as satisfying heft to the dish. They have the added benefit of also making beautiful pinwheels of color, texture and taste when sliced that would make you proud to serve to any guest. The following recipe comes from a book called Italian Cooking by Mary Reynolds that I have used for over 30 years. Follow the directions exactly and you will have a wonderful result, but also feel free to use it as a jumping off point and source of inspiration, varying the fillings to suit your tastes. Just try to keep in mind flavor balance, textures and the property of the ingredients when they are cooked. So, if for instance, you want to add chopped spinach, you should blanch it first and squeeze out all of the liquid. And remember that a little goes a long way if you start out with flavorful ingredients.

When I was in my teens I read about the way calves were treated in order to produce tender veal. While it didn’t make me into a vegetarian, I swore off veal for over 25 years. With the rise of organic farming also came awareness about the more humane treatment of animals. I still rarely eat veal but when I do, it is sourced from veal calves in non-tethered, humane environments, where the calves are ethically raised on family farms. If you still won’t eat veal – either because of the cost or for ethical reasons – I have successfully made this dish using pounded chicken breasts. Make it for your family and turn any night into a special night. They don’t have to know how easy it was. You can accompany this with polenta or rice or make it even quicker and use a good commercial pasta. I used a butternut squash ravioli and roasted asparagus. With a small salad, my husband and I ate like royalty and I only used less than 4 ounces of veal/person.

Stuffed Veal Rolls (Braciolette Ripieni)

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Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

8 scallops of veal, each weighing about 2 ounces

8 thin slices of prosciutto or jamon

2 slices of bread with crusts removed (I used a multi-grain bread because that was what I had on hand. Almost any bread would do; however, I wouldn’t use sour dough or corn bread here.)

3 Tablespoons seedless raisins (preferably Sultana or “white” raisins)

1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered blanched almonds

1/4 grated Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano cheese

2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

2 Tablespoons EVOO

2/3 cup of dry(ish) white wine (Use what you plan on drinking)

Directions

  1. Lay the scallops of veal (or chicken breasts) between 2 pieces of parchment paper and beat until thin but unbroken. If you don’t own a flat meat tenderizer (DO NOT use the kind with spikes!) you can use a small but heavy frying pan. Remove the paper and lay a piece of prosciutto or jamon over each flattened scallop.
  2. Soak the bread in tap water for about a minute. Then drain and squeeze it to remove all excess moisture. Mix the wet, softened bread with the raisins, cheese, nuts, parsley, slat and pepper. Divide the stuffing among the veal scallops.
  3. Roll up each scallop from the shorter end and secure your packages with two toothpicks/roll. Don’t worry if you lose a little filling. I just throw it into the sauce so nothing is wasted here.
  4. Heat the EVOO in a pan with a tight-fitting lid that is large enough to hold the rolls in a single layer. Brown the rolls fairly quickly on medium high heat, turning as necessary. Tongs make this very easy.
  5. Pour the wine over the rolls and cover tightly. Simmer the rolls on a low heat, turning once, for about 20 minutes. This can also be done in a 350 degree F oven but why heat up your whole kitchen if you don’t have to?
  6. Transfer the rolls to a serving dish and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Boil the pan juices until reduced by about half. Remove the toothpicks and cut each roll in half on the diagonal, with the cut side facing up. Pour the pan juices over the top and serve.  IMG_3531