crunchy curried chickpeas

My go to snack is usually tortilla chips and salsa or chocolate chips blended with a few raisins to make myself feel better about it, but I’m trying to clean up my act a little bit and try healthier snacks.  This recipe for crunchy curried chickpeas appealed to me since it involved ingredients I always have on hand and was very quick and easy to make.

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You start by rubbing the chickpeas (you can either use canned [make sure to rinse them first] or prepare your own from dried form) to get the skins off of them.  It doesn’t take very long to do and is almost therapeutic in its monotony.

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Then you blend the skinless, dried chickpeas with a little olive oil, curry powder, freshly grated ginger, and dried thyme.  Simple!  Then they get baked in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes until crunchy.

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Once they come out of the oven you sprinkle them with a little sea salt or garlic salt, your choice, and enjoy.  They are a little sweet from the curry powder, savory from the thyme, and of course a little salty.  Great snack, and without the guilt of my chocolate chip/raisin routine…

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Crunchy Curried Chickpeas (from “The Sprouted Kitchen: a Tastier Take on Whole Foods” by Sara Forte)

  • 3 1/4 cups of cooked chickpeas (about two 15-ounce cans)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sweet curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • sea salt or garlic salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Rinse the chickpeas and drain completely.  Lay them on a dish towel and gently rub them to remove any remaining skins, making sure that they are totally dry  In a large bowl, stir together the olive oil, curry powder, thyme, and ginger.  Add the chickpeas to the bowl and toss to coat.  Spread the chickpeas on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Bake the chickpeas, tossing them occasionally, until they are light brown and crisped, 40 to 45 minutes.  As soon as you remove them from the oven, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt.  Taste and add more salt if you like.  Let them cool completely (this will make them crunchier), then serve.  These are best eaten the day they are made.

butternut squash and chickpea stew

If you are entertaining guests this holiday season who have food allergies or other dietary restrictions this stew could be a great thing to whip up to accommodate them but is also good enough for all to enjoy.  There is no wheat, dairy, or meat which seem to be the main three things that people are allergic to or just avoid altogether.  (While I respect the vegetarian diet and often choose/prepare meatless options for myself I like bacon way too much to ever give up meat.  But I digress.)

This stew starts with toasting some fragrant spices on your stove.  After they are properly toasted you grind them up in a spice mill/coffee grinder or go old-school with a mortar and pestle and smoosh them to a fine pulp using a little elbow grease.  Then you mix those spices with a little olive oil, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and crushed garlic.  This is called Harissa and it will bring a whole lot of flavor to whatever you’ve got going on in your kitchen.

Butternut squash gets peeled and chopped into small pieces and roasted in the oven.  There are onions, more garlic, chickpeas, canned tomatoes, carrots and parsley.  They all combine together to make a great fall stew that is hearty and comforting and filling and a bit spicy.

This is total guilt-free food, as a friend of mine would say.  You can eat as much as you like and know that you are putting good stuff (mostly vegetables!) into your body.  And better yet, your gluten-free sister and your vegan cousin along your meat-loving uncle can all enjoy it.  Together.

Chickpea and Butternut Squash Stew (from www.marthastewart.com)

  • 1 medium butternut squash, cut into 1 ½-inch irregularly shaped pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 ½ cups)
  • 8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley stems
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into ¾-inch cubes or irregular shapes
  • 2 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (either from dry beans or from two 15-ounce cans)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • 4 teaspoons Harissa (see recipe below), or more to taste
  • ½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Drizzle with 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss well and roast until golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes.

In a large skillet or pot, warm remaining 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in parsley stems, cumin, and paprika, and cook for 1 minute. Add carrots and 1 cup chickpea cooking liquid (or water, if using canned chickpeas) to onion mixture. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until carrots are tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add tomatoes and chickpeas. Raise heat to medium-high and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in harissa paste, chopped parsley leaves, roasted squash, and remaining ½ cup chickpea cooking liquid (or water). Simmer, uncovered, until flavors meld, another 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Harissa (from www.marthastewart.com)

  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed in garlic press
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
  • Large pinch sea salt
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Warm a skillet over a medium flame. Add cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds. Toast, shaking pan, until seeds are fragrant, about 3 minutes. Grind in a spice grinder until fine.

Place ground spices in a bowl, and add cayenne, garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Stir in olive oil until smooth.

Cook’s Note: Harissa can be refrigerated in a sealed glass jar for 1 month.

penang vegetable curry

When I was new to Thai food I was a Pad Thai girl all the way.  Pad Thai seems to be the gateway food for many who are new to Thai cuisine, though I eventually did venture away from the noodle dish and experimented with Massaman curry and satay and various peanut-based curries.  Lately I’ve been really into Penang curry.

I’m not so well-versed in Thai food as to be able to tell you what makes Penang curry different from other curries, I just know that I like it and also that a local Asian grocer conveniently carries Penang curry paste.  Score.

I found a recipe for a simple vegetable curry to use as a guide and went from there.  The recipe called for sweet potatoes (love), cauliflower, and chickpeas (which I had cooked up myself from dried beans and stored in my freezer for later use a few months back).

I wanted to add a little more color to the curry so threw some frozen peas into the mix.

A little tip that I sort of feel like a genius for thinking up, though by no means do I think that I am the first one to have this thought: the recipe called for coconut milk and a cup of water so I emptied my can of coconut milk and then filled the can up with water and added that to the pot.  It made broth richer by getting a little more coconut milk in there and also cleaned out the can for recycling at the same time: two birds, one stone.  So simple, and yet I’d never thought to do this before.

The resulting curry tasted pretty much exactly like the Penang curry I often get at a local Thai restaurant so on nights I don’t feel like making the half hour drive for carry-out I can recreate it myself at home.  It would be especially excellent with a little Thai iced tea.

Penang Vegetable Curry (loosely adapted from “Simple Vegetable Curry” from Everyday Food magazine)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Penang curry paste
  • 13.5 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 sweet potato (about  3/4 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 bag of frozen peas

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 minutes. Add curry paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Add sweet potato and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir chickpeas into curry and increase heat to high. Simmer rapidly until liquid reduces slightly, 2 minutes. Serve curry over rice.

just beet it

I’m ashamed to say that I once shied away from beets.  Their strange texture, earthy smell, and vibrant color used to totally freak me out.  I’m very glad to say I got over that and realized how wonderful they are and now grate them raw into salads and juice them on a regular basis.  A coworker of mine makes the most excellent pickled beets that someday I plan to learn how to replicate.  But today we roast them.

A friend of mine teases me because I like everything roasted.  Almonds, flax seeds, sweet potatoes, garlic.  The list goes on.  So when I found a recipe for roasted beet and potato borscht I was totally intrigued.  Borscht is a beet-based soup and it has been something I have always been curious about but never wanted to try because I wasn’t sure I could eat a whole bowl of soup dedicated to the boldly-colored, earthy-smelling vegetable.  If the beet were first roasted, however, I think it could be a thing of beauty.

The recipe couldn’t be simpler: you peel and chop up some beets and potatoes and throw them in with chopped shallots (I didn’t have any on hand so used a yellow onion which worked out just fine) into a roasting pan, toss with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper and then add a couple of twigs of thyme and roast them all in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Once the roasting is done, discard the thyme, and add the vegetables to a large pot with 5 cups of chicken broth or water and bring to a simmer.  Then you mash the vegetables with the back of a wooden spoon or potato masher or use an immersion blender and voila.  Add a splash of red wine vinegar and top with sour cream and scallions or parsley if you so desire.  I skipped the toppings and it was delicious.  Roasting is the way forward.

Roasted Beet and Potato Borscht (from Everyday Food magazine, also found at www.marthastewart.com)

  • 2 pounds red beets, scrubbed, peeled, and diced medium
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced medium
  • 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 to 5 sprigs thyme
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • Sour cream, (optional)
  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  • Thinly sliced scallion greens (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together beets, potatoes, shallots, thyme, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until beets and potatoes are cooked through, about 45 minutes.

Discard thyme. Add vegetables to a medium pot, along with broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. With a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon, mash some vegetables until soup is thick and chunky. (I made quick work of it by using my immersion blender.)  Stir in vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, top with sour cream, parsley, and scallion greens, if desired.

o is for okra

Normally, I’m a list person.  I don’t go anywhere without a list, especially not to a place that almost requires a list like a grocery store.  That would be like leaving the house without my cellphone.  You know what I mean.  Leaving your house without your cellphone is the new leaving your house without clothes on.  You feel vulnerable and lost without it these days.

So Saturday morning I did something radical: I threw caution to the wind and decided to go to the farmer’s market sans list.  It was wild.  I wound up picking up a few predictable things: raspberries, green beans, kale, but also came home with a few surprises: namely, okra.  I have eaten it in restaurants before but if the farmer’s had not labeled the okra in their stands I would not have recognized it in its whole form.  But what the heck, I could find something great to do with it.

I did a little research on my iPhone and the first recipe I came across was the one I decided to go for: curried okra with chickpeas and tomatoes.  This was perfect because a) I love curry, and b) I had both chickpeas and a can of tomatoes that needed to be used up in my pantry.  One thing that I wish I had known beforehand was that it is better to buy small okra.  My greedy eyes thought that bigger would be better so I bought okra that was 5 to 6 inches in length when apparently 2 to 3 inches is better.  I definitely could have fit more okra into my pot if they weren’t so big.  But nevermind, they still tasted great and I’m totally psyched about cooking with okra again in the future.  Sometimes it’s a very good thing to leave your lists at home!

Curried Okra with Chickpeas and Tomatoes (recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  •   1 ¼ lb small fresh okra, left untrimmed, or 2 (10-oz) packages frozen whole okra (not thawed)
  •   1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  •   1 medium onion, chopped
  •   2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  •   4 teaspoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  •   2 teaspoons curry powder
  •   1 (14- to 15-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, tomatoes chopped, reserving juice
  •   1 (19-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (2 cups)
  •   2/3 cup water
  •   ¾ teaspoon salt
  •   ¼ teaspoon black pepper

If using fresh okra, trim, leaving tops intact, being careful not to cut into pods.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion and garlic with ginger and curry powder, stirring, 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, chickpeas, and water and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Stir in okra, salt, and pepper and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until okra is tender, about 10 minutes.

Serve over rice or quinoa.

a dish that will keep the vampires at bay

After discovering last year that I love kale I wanted to find another way to prepare it because even though I could eat kale chips until the cows come home I thought it might be nice to diversify my kale repertoire.

This preparation is equally as simple and slightly more flavorful with the addition of not one, but two different cuts of garlic (sliced and minced) and red pepper flakes.  You can go crazy with the garlic– the recipe suggests 5 to 6 cloves, it just depends on what your plans for the rest of the evening are.  You for sure will be breathing it all night if you go full on with the garlic but on the bright side you will be warding off colds and vampires in equal measure.  Not bad things to do.

The kale is so tender and well-flavored that I could eat a giant bowl of it, and in fact did.  It makes a great side along with fish or pork or chicken or really any old thing you want to pair it with.  Yeah kale!

Kale with Double Garlic (from “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman)

  • 1 pound kale, collards, or broccoli raab, with stems under ¼” thick, well washed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced garlic, about 5 or 6 cloves, plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic, or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water
  • Lemon wedges

Coarsely chop the stems and leaves of the kale.

Place the olive oil in a large, deep saucepan.  Add the sliced garlic, pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper and cook over medium-high heat for about 1 minute.

Add the kale and the stock or water.  Cover and cook over medium-high heat for approximately 5 minutes, or until the greens are wilted and just tender but still a little firm.

Uncover the greens and continue to cook, stirring, over medium-high heat, until the liquid has all but evaporated and the greens are quite tender.  Taste for seasoning and add red or black pepper and salt as needed; add the remaining minced garlic, cook for 1 minute more, and serve, with lemon wedges.

spicy lentil dal

Do you know what yesterday was? The one-year anniversary of this here blog. Happy birthday Baxter & Main! I had high hopes of redesigning the layout, getting a new font, real logo, and proper header to mark this occasion… but alas, it did not happen in time. Such is life. Until I get around to all of those things I will still bring you good food, such as this spicy lentil dal.

The recipe calls for red lentils which cook down in a hurry and turn into something of a paste in the process. The author recommends serving it over rice, as I have done here, or but you can also serve it like a dip with crackers. I did not have red lentils on hand but had plenty of brown and green lentils so decided to substitute those instead. Note that if you use brown or green lentils the simmering time is going to be longer (doubled for brown, tripled for green) and also the texture more firm. I can assure it tasted great just the same.

I cooked up some black rice to serve with the dal as it is supposed to be extra healthy since it is full of antioxidants. Plus it looks really pretty and I’m a sucker for aesthetics. (Speaking of, check out my new plate below: I scored several boxes full of these dishes at a barn sale last weekend for the whopping grand total of $4. Jackpot!)

Spicy Lentil Dal (adapted slightly from recipe found in Vegetarian Times magazine)

  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed (you can also use brown or green lentils as I have done here, however consistency will not be as intended)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ cup light coconut
  • 2 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Bring broth and lentils to a boil in pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer 10 minutes, or until lentils are tender (if using brown or green lentils simmer time will be between 20 to 30 minutes). Cover, and remove from heat.

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper flakes; sauté 5 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, and coriander; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste, and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add coconut milk.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in lime juice. Serve over rice.