Posts Tagged ‘spinach’

Indian Curry

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Ever since my inaugural chutney attempt, I’ve been looking for an appropriately delicious curry with which to pair it. And I think I found it. I’ve been making curries for years – relying solely on “curry powder” that comes in handy little jars from the grocery store. I’ve always known that a true curry, at least the Indian version*, is made from mixing a bunch of ingredients together to make up the famously vivid yellow sauce.  However I have been intimidated by the long list of exotic spices needed to make it authentic.

I’m happy to report that I finally overcame my insecurities. Thank goodness my friend Leslie reassured me that it’s really not that difficult. Yes, you need to purchase a number of spices – many that might not be all that familiar. And some funky looking ingredients like whole cloves and cardamom pods (pictured) are critical elements. But I urge you to head straight for Whole Foods – or any other grocery store that sells spices in bulk. Just grab a teaspoon of this and a tablespoon of that and voila! You’ll have all the spices needed to make this mouth-watering dish. And once you have all the ingredients – the preparation is a walk in the park.

The recipe below is for Indian Curry Sauce. I paired mine with roasted cauliflower, green beans and chickpeas. I also tossed in some fresh spinach before serving it over brown jasmine rice. And of course I topped it with my fresh peach chutney and a smattering of flaked coconut.  This sauce would pair very well with chicken or shrimp. And I’ve no doubt you can rustle up some pretty decent pre-made chutney – a mandatory accompaniment in my book.

Namaste!

Curry Sauce
Yield: enough sauce for ~ 8 servings (you can freeze half for later use)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic – crushed
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 4 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 2 tablespoons crushed coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 cardamom pods
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (to taste)

Instructions:

Heat oil in a large sauté pan and add diced onions. Sauté approximately 5 minutes on medium high and then add crushed garlic and grated ginger. Continue to cook over low heat for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, measure out turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom powder, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper and salt and mix together. Add spice mixture to sautéed onions and cook over low 10-15 minutes. (Note – be prepared to have your cooking implements stained a vivid yellow by the turmeric!)

Add cardamom pods and cloves along with coconut milk and yogurt and simmer for approximately 20 minutes. I used Greek yogurt which has a lower water content than regular yogurt – so I added about a half a cup of water to loosen up the curry sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings – adding a bit of sugar will enhance the flavor.

When you’re ready to serve, remove cardamom pods and cloves.

Note:  I did a bit of research into the word “curry” and Wikipedia explained that it is a “generic description used throughout European culture to describe a general variety of side dishes, best known in South Asian cuisines, especially Indian cuisine. It is analogous to “soup” or “stew” in that there is no particular ingredient that makes something “curry.” The word curry is an anglicised version of the Tamil word kari (கறி ), which is usually understood to mean “gravy” or “sauce” rather than “spices”.

Veggies for Breakfast

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

I was taught to appreciate the importance of a good breakfast. Thankfully I didn’t grow up dependent upon sugar-infused cereals – though I was jealous of friends who had Captain Crunch and Count Chocula as breakfast companions. Mom served heartier, healthier fare – oatmeal, eggs and the occasional treat of sourdough waffles with fresh strawberries (a personal favorite).

That said, there have been times when I ignored all the messages we hear about eating a healthy breakfast. I shudder to think of the things I ate in the early mornings during my “I don’t care what I’m putting into my body – I just want it to taste good” years. A large latte paired with a pumpkin scone drizzled with pure sugar icing was standard fare. Close to zero nutritional value and a starch-infused whollop of countless calories that had my energy flagging by mid-morning. Granted, I still enjoy an indulgent brunch of gooey cinnamon rolls or steaming pancakes from time to time. But these days – especially during the work week – I try to navigate to something that will keep my motor running.

Two personal favorites of late …. muffins scattered with bright orange shards of sweet potato and green specks of zucchini and individual frittatas packed with healthy spinach and flavorful leeks. It’s not as hard as you might think to sneak in some extra vegetables and a hit of protein first thing in the morning. I’m a huge fan of preparing meals in advance and if they’re portable – all the better. So I want to take this opportunity to thank whoever invented the muffin tin. Because these two breakfast items I am alluding to can both be prepared in this ingenious kitchen apparatus. I give you Zucchini & Sweet Potato Muffins and Spinach & Mushroom Mini Frittatas.

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 Zucchini & Sweet Potato Muffins 

I stumbled upon a version of this recipe on Epicurious. Thanks to all the kind folks who leave comments about their personal experiences with posted recipes, I was able to develop a beautifully moist muffin chock full of healthy walnuts, nutrient-rich sweet potatoes and vitamin-packed zucchini. And this time around, my improvisation and substitutions paid off – adding whole wheat flour, replacing the majority of oil with apple sauce, cutting the sugar by half. You can elevate the flavor even more with the addition of  ½ cup of dark chocolate chips. Chocolate is made from plants after all, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables (i.e. lowering blood pressure and cholesterol).

Yields: 12 (large) muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup walnut or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups zucchini
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potato
  • 1 cup walnuts

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grate zucchini and peel and grate sweet potato. Chop walnuts.

Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and lightly flour.

Sift or mix first 7 ingredients into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat (or hand mix) sugar, oil, apple sauce, eggs and vanilla. Fold in zucchini and sweet potato. Add dry ingredients and walnuts and stir well.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins – filling twelve. Bake ~25 minutes. Allow to cool in tins for 10 minutes, then use a knife to cut around each muffin and remove. Let cool on baking rack another 15 minutes.

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Spinach & Mushroom Mini Frittatas

These diminutive treats pack a healthy serving of vegetables and protein and there is no end to the kinds of fresh produce that can be used. You can also jazz them up by tossing in some fresh herbs (or dried if that’s what you have on hand). Rosemary, thyme and/or oregano are all delightful additions. I have even made these without cheese for an especially healthy version and they were still satisfyingly delicious.

Yields: 1 Dozen

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 large bunch fresh spinach
  • 2 cups mushrooms (Cremini, button, whichever you prefer)
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 1/2 small yellow onion or a few shallots
  • 3/4 cup cheese (any kind will do – parmesan and goat cheese are personal favorites)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Dash freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray two pans of 6-cup muffin tins with cooking spray. Be sure not to omit this step, or the quiches will stick badly to the baking cups.

Steam the spinach in a microwave-safe container (about 2-3 minutes), press out all juice, then chop. Chop the peppers and onions into a small dice. If using shallots, mince finely. Thinly slice the mushrooms.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl and fold in all the remaining ingredients and stir well.

Fill the muffin tin cups with the mixture. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. You will know they are done when a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

These can be stored in the refrigerator or even frozen in freezer bags.

Mighty Spinach

Monday, January 18th, 2010

I was fortunate enough to spend a recent afternoon with two of my dearest friends – lolling about the soothing pools at local spa Banya 5. We were gabbing about everything from philanthropy to epilepsy to men to best friends (AKA dogs) when the conversation turned to … spinach.  Ah, spinach. I love it so. Its silky consistency when braised with garlic. Or soft, subtle texture when tossed with crumbled feta and slivered almonds. And then you add in the antioxidants, calcium, magnesium and other plentitude of vitamins and spinach is, in my book, a culinary champion.

So I was thrilled to hear that my friend’s sweet, 7-year old son Jack recently became a convert.  Just a month ago his mom had told me that spinach was high on Jack’s (thankfully short) list of “icky” foods. Not a chance he would eat it.

 

Then his kindergarten teacher sat Jack and his classmates down and told them that spinach would make them strong. “Spinach will make you as mighty as superman,” she explained. So the minute Jack sauntered through his front door he asked his mom for spinach. “Mom,” he said, “may I please have seven leaves of spinach?” Why this particular number of leaves we’ll never know. And I can only imagine his mom thought she had been transported into a parallel universe. But I think Jack’s teacher deserves the key to the city!

Talk of Jack’s new found fondness for this leafy delight soon turned to a recollection of the dinner my other friend served – which was more than EIGHT YEARS AGO. It revolved around her amazingly delicious recipe for Sautéed Spinach with Chickpeas and Garlic. Honestly, I still remember this simple dish all these years later. And it has become one of my favorite go-to, quick & easy, yet amazingly healthy dinner staples. I wonder if Jack might like it…

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Sautéed Spinach with Chickpeas and Garlic

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large bags pre-washed spinach (or loose leaf – about 1 ½ pounds)
  • 1 can chickpeas (AKA garbanzo beans)
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (or crushed)
  • 1 large lemon
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Pita bread (4 pieces)

Preparation

Open can of beans and rinse. Allow to drain – ensuring as much liquid is removed as possible.

Select a large sauté pan – the bigger the better as you’ll be wilting a lot of spinach – it really reduces upon heating. Heat sauté pan, warming olive oil over medium high heat. Add sliced garlic and red pepper flakes (if using). Cook over medium until garlic starts to brown. Remove as much of the garlic as you can and set aside.  Add drained beans to pan and heat on medium – about 2-3 minutes. Add spinach. Sauté for two minutes until it begins to wilt.

Zest lemon and set aside zest. Add juice of lemon to bean and spinach mixture and continue to stir until all the leaves have wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and lemon zest and continue to cook another 1-2 minutes.

Serve with warm pita.

Serving Options

  • Crumble feta cheese on top and put under the broiler. Serve with pita as an appetizer.
  • I make a double batch and put leftovers in a tortilla or wrap for a quick lunch the next day.