go-to coconut curry

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For the past month or more, I’ve been collecting a few snippets of news I’ve read or articles meant to be shared, but rather than actually share, I’ve stashed them away in a folder and time has marched on.

Looking back, so much of what I had accumulated was news that was frustrating, negative, and political, in congruence with the season, even as it was about the state of our food system and climate. Those are indeed important things and I think we should all be informed about what we are eating and the nature and consequences of its production.

 

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But for whatever reason I was reminded recently of my high school riding instructor/coach, who always encouraged me to remember and focus on what’s going well, and to forget about the rest. I more often get in the mindset that if I only look through the world with rosy-hued lenses, then nothing gets done, and no real change to the status quo can occur.

But that’s not actually true. We grow better when we are happier, when we are living in joy, when our systems are not stressed with what-ifs and fear.

 

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I encouraged a nutrition client recently to start small, taking one day at a time, and to focus on only one thing each day that helps her to take care of herself. Taking a dose of my own advice, it’s early morning as I write this, and I’m unexpectedly home at my mom’s farmhouse kitchen table, sitting in what I deem the sunroom, given for it’s dusty lemon hues and big windows letting in the new day. My week has been fraught with grief, many tears, and saying one last goodbye to a truly dear grandfather, and related to that and my own internal fears and anxieties, my thoughts have been incredibly bent toward the negative of late.

Today I’ve decided to focus on the good, and to look for what is going well.

Today it’s that I did make it home to see Papa in his last hours, and it was almost as if he waited for me, the last and furthest grandchild to visit, and for his room to fill with family as he spoke his last words and slipped quietly from us.

 

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Too, the country is quiet, and I get to spend my day (and yesterday) looking out any window onto wide open pastures and birds singing and dancing their dance.

What this has to do with curry, I don’t for sure know, other than a simple and easily adaptable curry such as this has been my long time go-to for comfort, for taste, for turning whatever I have into something special and pleasing to everyone. It’s the food version of eternally positive, and a dish no matter the vegetable or bean adaptations, seems one can never mess up.

 

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Go-To Coconut Curry, serves 4-5
I used cooked mung beans, broccoli, white “spring” turnips, and frozen peas in this version, and I encourage you to use whatever you have, is in season, or are particularly enjoying just now. 

1 Tbs. coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 hot green chili pepper, diced
4 cups chopped seasonal vegetables
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne powder (adjust according to taste)
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
3/4 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, finely grated
1 can full fat coconut milk
1-2 cups water, as needed to thin
2 cups cooked beans
2 cups dark greens, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
2 Tbs. lemon juice
fresh cilantro, to serve
cooked long grain brown rice or buckwheat, to serve

  • In a large deep pan over medium heat, warm oil, moving around the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Toss in the chopped onions, garlic, and chili pepper. Stir and let cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the onion and pepper are soft.
  • Then stir in the other vegetables and cook until they are tender.
  • Add the spices. Give them a minute or so to toast and then pour in the coconut milk, water, beans, greens, and raisins. Stir everything together and let the flavors meld for 5-10 minutes more.
  • Pour in the lemon juice, adjust seasonings to taste, and enjoy with rice or buckwheat and cilantro.
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Sweet Potato Spanish Tortilla

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Almost 10 years ago to the day, I spent a whirlwind weekend in Madrid, having said yes along with my roommate when our neighbor down the hall asked if we wanted to go. I was on study abroad that term so Spain literally was a hop, skip, and two-ish hour plane ride away. So of course I said yes.

Even though the weekend was short, it took me a long time to get over it, and having also started my first foray into blogging that term, I wrote about the experience for all the friends and family back home. At the very beginning of that three days I ended up getting my purse stolen, along with virtually everything important to an international tourist save my phone–which ended up being a real saving grace.

What was supposed to be a joyful jaunt to explore the history of another culture became spending much of that time in a tourist police station getting my passport back (thank God!), and trying to be optimistic about how to manage the next few days devoid of spending money. Hostel white bread toast with jam, cheap tea, and relying on my kind but also college-student-budget traveling partners for real meals meant my Spanish food memories are dampened for the hunger pangs. Truthfully, I barely remember the food in Spain save a late night bite of churro (too much sugar), shops with large hams and sausages hanging and full of the neighborhood men, and a solo street cart on a cold, gray October afternoon selling freshly roasted sweet potatoes, warm and sweet, and made even better for the pieces were shared amongst us three as we walked, our bellies and hands growing warmer as we went.

 

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Despite the more stereotypical and/or well known Spanish foods, warm roasted sweet potatoes from a street cart eaten plain will always be my memory of the place.

And for whatever reason 10 years on, I started to get a craving for a simple Spanish meal on a cold and gray October day. So a tortilla with roasted sweet potato it is.

 

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Tortilla, which is really a Spanish omelette, is quite a common dish and one I vaguely recall having for tapas one night of my stay. Generally it’s made with white potatoes and cooked in lots of olive oil in the pan before the eggs are added, but I deviated and like to roast the sweet potato ahead, and then dice and gently crisp the edges in only a little oil. This method also makes this come together in a flash–perfect for a busy night and equally good as a to-go meal for days that call for a rush.

 

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Sweet Potato Spanish Tortilla, serves 2
1 large sweet potato
olive oil
1/2-3/4 tsp. sea salt
4 eggs
1 handful dark greens such as amaranth, arugula, spinach or kale, chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C. Scrub the sweet potato and stab a few times with a fork or knife to allow steam to escape. Roast in the oven until just soft, about 40 minutes.
  • When potato is cooked, dice into 1/2 inch / 1-2 cm cubes. Then heat a little olive oil in a 7 to 8-inch saute pan over medium heat. Sauté the diced sweet potato for 3-5 minutes, just until the edges begin to turn golden. Season with the salt and remove from heat.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a bowl and stir in the chopped greens. Then stir the sautéed sweet potatoes into this egg mixture and stir well.
  • Return the pan to medium heat, add a little additional oil if necessary, and then pour the egg mixture into the pan. Let it cook for about two minutes and then place a clean plate over the pan, flip the tortilla onto the plate, and then slide the uncooked side back into the pan. Heat for 3-4 more minutes until cooked through. It should be firm and golden once ready.
  • Remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with a side salad, roasted vegetables, or as is for a light meal.
  • The tortilla can also be stored in the fridge for a couple of days and taken as a to-go meal.

Spanish Salad with Hazelnut + Paprika Dressing

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In the last couple weeks, I’ve had a strong inclination to be more mindful when shopping for food and to put more emphasis on supporting local growers, producers, and processors. Part of this, I think, stems from the recent fires here in the west, and several conversations about a warming climate and how we will have to adapt some of our food and/or growing conditions now and on into the future. I count myself very fortunate to live in an area of the world that is rich in agricultural and ecological diversity, and one in where a strong local food scene is thriving, but I also know the many hands that go into supporting the kind of community I want to live in, and how much consistent work it takes to advocate for a local food system–as well as the flip side of how we rely so much on the status quo with generally no thought to what will happen if… natural disaster, climate change, soil degradation and nutrient depletion, loss of community due to choosing mass-market businesses, etc.

 

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On this topic I’m inspired lately by Andrea’s plan for a locally grown September, and her invitation for others to share in a similar challenge, which I’m structuring in my own way. If you’ve been reading long, or read back into the archives, you’ll know that for me, developing a connection to what is produced locally and in relationship with the producers in my community kick-started and supported me out of my disordered relationship to eating many years ago, and it’s this connection to place and community through food that always assists me when I begin to fall even a little back into old habits.

This salad came about because of my refocus on mindful consuming, using what I have grown and what’s produced nearby, while at the same time taking inspiration from Sara Forte’s Spanish chopped salad in her Bowl + Spoon cookbook.

Before I get there though, this article shares some of the conversations in California (and likely elsewhere) about long-term crop planning and climate change.

And this article, in which I’m interviewed, speaks a little to the impact of our dietary choices on our environment.

Enjoy, or just enjoy this salad. It’s a good one!

 

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Hazelnut + Paprika Spanish Salad
1 small bunch kale, chopped
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
3-4 cups arugula, torn into small pieces
2-3 green onions, finely diced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 small, diced apple
1-2 medium cucumbers, diced
1/2 cup cooked lentils
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
2-4 Tbs. parsley, minced

Hazelnut + Paprika Vinaigrette
1 clove garlic
3 Tbs. sherry or wine vinegar
3 Tbs. toasted hazelnuts
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. honey
2 Tbs. parsley, minced
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 Tbs. water, to reach desired consistency

  • Blend the vinaigrette ingredients until smooth in a food processor or blender. Add a little water at the end to thin, as necessary.
  • Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle atop 2/3 to 3/4 of the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Add a little more until you’ve reached your desired dressing level.
  • Serve immediately, while nice and fresh!