Salty Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash

miso-molasses-orange-butternut-squash

For those of you who, like me, have a salty sweet tooth, this is the perfect combination. The flavors of miso, molasses, and fresh orange juice contrast perfectly and make a fantastic glaze for roasted squash.

Peeling squash is kind of a pain. Butternut squash isn’t the worst though, and with a little technique it’s not too bad. I think I’ve talked about this before but here it is again. Boil it first in a pot of water for two minutes on each side, allow it to cool. Cut off the top and the bottom so that it can stand flat, and you can remove the rest of the skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut the “neck” off the “bulb” (technical terms), then slice both in half vertically. Scoop out the seeds, then go about chopping it into cubes.

Salty Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp miso
2 tbsp molasses
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
zest and juice of one large orange
cilantro to garnish

Preheat oven to 400°. Spread squash in a roasting pan. Whisk together miso, molasses, olive oil, orange zest and orange juice and toss together with squash (it will be liquidy at first, but as it roasts it will thicken into a glaze). Roast squash until soft, about 30 minutes, stirring/flipping a couple of times.

Pile in a bowl and garnish with cilantro.

Harira (Moroccan Chickpea Soup)

harira

Our friend Stephen has mentioned a couple of times this yummy Moroccan soup he makes – chickpeas, tomatoes, and spices. It sounded delicious, and this lazy Sunday Zoeya and I were just hanging around the house so it seemed a great time to try it (I feel much less lazy if I have something simmering on the stove while I’m doing nothing else important).

Harira is traditionally eaten to open fast during Ramadan, but there’s no need to wait until then. This is complete comfort food, with the added bonus of perfuming the whole house with cinnamon – heavenly!

Harira

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
salt & pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp saffron, crumbled
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
heaping cup dried chickpeas – preferably soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp lentils (I used chana dal)
6 cups water or vegetable broth or combo
handful broken vermicelli (or spaghetti in a pinch!)
handful cilantro, chopped
handful parsley, chopped
juice of half a lemon
one bunch spinach, roughly chopped

Heat olive oil (medium highish), and add onions, garlic, and ginger, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Add all spices, and cook, stirring. Add tomatoes and cook until they start to break down. Add chickpeas, lentils, and broth/water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; simmer until chickpeas are soft, an hour and a half to two hours (during which time your house will smell wonderful).

Add vermicelli (or spaghetti, lame), parsley, and cilantro, and simmer several minutes, until noodles are cooked. At the end, spritz the pot with lemon juice and adjust seasoning (you’ll probably need more salt) and add spinach and cook until wilted.

Serve hot!

By the way, this is my 100th post! Here’s a witchy gypsy song to mark it – play it while you’re cooking this, will definitely set a spicy mood.

Tan Cani by Aloehverah on Grooveshark

Lentil and Kale Fritters with Tamarind Sauce

lentil-fritters

I Lentils.

I make a pot almost every week, and I make it different every time (one of my recent experiments was lentils with pumpkin and coconut flakes – delicious!). And they get reinvented every meal until they’re gone: lentils over rice. Lentils over greens. A spoon of lentils in my miso soup.

The last of this week’s pot – I made my East Indian Lentils, only I used little white urad dal instead of split red lentils – got reborn as lentil fritters. Zoeya was a fan. Kids love when you take something nice and healthy and fry it! Not that I’m recommending that for every day, but this was a nice treat, and I think she accidentally ate some kale which she normally complains about if it’s not in chip form.

What takes this up a few thousand notches is the tamarind sauce. I just adore the fresh tartness, which turns my mouth inside out and contrasts perfectly with starchy bites, like aloo tikki (potato fritters), chickpea or potato samosas, or pakoras. Yep, I’m the chick at the Indian buffet sneaking two or three little bowlfuls.

Lentil and Kale Fritters with Tamarind Sauce

For the fritters:
leftover lentils – any kind you want, I have several easy recipes
handful cilantro, chopped
handful kale, stems removed and chopped
You can also add: diced onion, chopped garlic, lemon juice, or whatever else you are in the mood for
enough bread crumbs to hold them together
vegetable oil (or some less evil oil) for frying

If you’re using stewy lentils, you don’t need to bother with draining them, but if you’re using lentil soup you will probably want to drain some of the liquid before you get started.

Heat a quarter inch of oil and combine the rest of the ingredients. Roll into small balls and flatten. Fry a few minutes on each side until golden brown, remove to a paper towel lined plate.

For the tamarind sauce:
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp water
generous sprinkle salt & pepper

Whisk together all ingredients. Put in a pretty little bowl for dipping!

While I’m cooking, Zoeya is often hanging out in the kitchen with me playing with her magnetic letters. She knows how to spell her name, forwards and apparently also backwards. Shan and I didn’t notice this until the next morning, it cracked us up. Cutest thing ever.

#weekendEgg: Pumpkin and Sage Scrambled Egg with Warm Kale Salad

pumpkin-egg

Is it nerdy to put a hashtag in the title? It’s functional anyway, it’s what I’m using to tweet out my crazy eggs…which is just the one so far, heh.

This egg combo from last weekend was amazing! Seriously, I was shocked how good it was. Something about the pumpkin and egg together did that magical kitchen alchemy thing where the product is greater than the sum of it’s parts. The chipotle and sour cream egg with picked onions was the best of 2011; it’s early but I declare this the best of 2012.

Pumpkin and Sage Scrambled Egg with Warm Kale Salad

For kale salad
olive oil
1 garlic clove, grated
handful of kale, torn off stems and roughly chopped
salt & pepper
walnut oil
fresh lemon juice

Heat just a teensy bit of olive oil, and saute garlic, stirring so that it doesn’t burn. After a minute, add kale, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until just wilted. Remove to a plate and drizzle with walnut oil and spritz with lemon juice.

For egg
olive oil
one egg
1/3 cup mashed pumpkin
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp paprika
salt & pepper

Heat a little bit olive oil. Combine the rest of the ingredients and cook, stirring, until egg is cooked. Place on top of greens.

Sprinkle the whole thing with toasted pumpkin seeds or walnuts (I used pumpkin seeds).

Disclaimer: the measurements I bothered to put are a guess, do you think I’m using measuring spoons on a Saturday morning? No!

Weekend Egg: Scrambled with Sour Cream and Dill

Weekend mornings are the best, sleeping in (until 8AM!) and having a leisurely breakfast. Shan and Zoeya eat the same breakfast every day: fried egg and toast. Classic, but yawn. I’m pretty sure Shan has had this breakfast every day of his life. “I am a simple man.” he tells me.

I must be a complicated woman.

This weekend, it was an egg scrambled with sour cream, dill, salt and pepper on toast:

Here are some of last year’s:

First row

  • Fried egg with carmelized onions on mixed greens dressed with olive oil and balsamic
  • Fried egg with paratha and coconut cilantro chutney
  • Quickie egg florentine

Second row

  • Scrambled egg with sour cream and chipotles in adobo sauce with pickled shallots (this was my favorite)
  • Rolled paratha with egg scrambled with feta
  • Fried egg over spinach dressed with olive oil and lemon juice

Ga Kho Xa (Lemongrass Caramel Chicken)

lemongrass-caramel-chicken

Less than a week into the New Year and my excitement has transformed, but in a way, I am even more motivated – disappointment, frustration and spite are pretty motivating. I’m putting together a plan of attack. A plan of attack!

I was listening to The Nerdist podcast, an interview with Emma Caulfield (who I love! Admittedly for Buffy but also for doing all this other creative stuff and embracing web culture), and she said she is really busy and frustrated which is how I feel sometimes. The host Chris Hardwick throws out some sage wisdom, ideas like “controlfreakism” and “make your third reaction your first reaction.” Hmm.

But enough reflection. She says she turns off the internal chatter by running, I do it by cooking (obviously). This week I made ga kho xa, which is Vietnamese lemongrass caramel chicken – my friend Gloria sent me several recipes for what to do with my lemongrass. Small triumph, I managed to turn my frustrations into something sweet and salty and delicious.

Ga Kho Xa (Lemongrass Caramel Chicken)

Adapted for convenience from Gloria’s recipe

1 lb chicken thighs or drumsticks – leave on skin and bones for more flavor
2 tbsp + 1 tsp brown sugar (I actually misread this and there should be more sugar in the sauce, but I’ll just tell you what I did and it was still yummy)
2 tbsp + 1 tsp fish sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemongrass stalk, chopped in half and smashed with a rolling pin
1 onion, sliced
2 red chiles, thinly sliced (I left this out per usual for Zoeya, served with chili sauce for me and Shan)

In large bowl, marinate chicken with 1 tsp fish sauce and 1 tsp brown sugar.
In separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients and set aside.

In large deep pan, sear chicken skin-side down with some oil until browned.  Add a little bit of sauce to the pan to coat bottom of pan.  Allow sauce and chicken to caramelize.  Flip chicken and add in the remaining sauce cooking over medium heat until sauce thickens and chicken is fully cooked. Remove lemongrass stalks.

Serve with rice. I served with brown rice and sauteed kale.

My plate looks like My Plate. Also, Zoeya is so silly.