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Thai Pumpkin and Salmon Red Curry

18 Feb

thai pumpkin and salmon red curry

Pumpkin and salmon might seem like a strange combination, but all doubts will leave your mind once you taste this curry. I first had this curry at Thai X-ing, an amazing DC restaurant, where it was one of a variety of courses on their set menu. While everything there was delicious, this dish in particular stood out and still comes to mind (I spend a lot of time thinking about food). The tender and sweet pumpkin melts into the spicy, creamy, curry sauce, thickening it, and the salmon adds another dimension of richness. This version captured my memory of the dish well and was far easier than I thought it would be to throw together. The most time-consuming part was chopping up the pumpkin (I think what I got was actually a kabocha squash, and it had a particular thick, knobbly skin) and prepping the salmon (it seems to be the trend around here to leave the bones in the fish when selling it). I’ve been eating this curry for just about every meal since I made it, served over quinoa (though rice will be just as good and more authentic), and I’m already planning for when I can make it again.

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Chana Masala

23 Jan

chana masala

Despite the lengthy ingredient list, this North Indian chickpea stew comes together quickly and easily. It’s more of a tart curry, rather than some of the creamy ones with lots of warming spices (cinnamon, cloves, etc). Here, acidic tomatoes, tart amchoor powder, and citric lemon juice are strong components, alongside a hefty quantity of spices, of course. But it still manages to feel balanced, especially when served over rice (or quinoa, as I served it). I added cauliflower florets to my version (I think that actually makes this gobi chana masala), which I think are great alongside the creamy chickpeas. A sprinkle of cilantro at the end proved surprisingly crucial in rounding out the flavors (I wouldn’t omit it), and a little yogurt on top helps to quench the heat of hot peppers and ground cayenne pepper. I also topped mine with pickled red onions and thought their crispness was a great complementary texture. This curry, by the way, only improves with a couple of days in the refrigerator, so don’t hesitate to make this large batch even if you’re only cooking for one or two.

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Mediterranean Fish Stew

28 Dec

mediterranean fish stew

I’m getting settled in here in Montevideo, and although a lot of things are very similar to Buenos Aires, there are also a lot of noticeable differences. For one, food on the whole is surprisingly expensive – about two to three times as much as I’d encountered in my neighborhood in Buenos Aires. So I’m cooking even more in order to save money. The river here is a lot cleaner, and we’re just at where it meets the ocean, so there’s a lot more seafood available here, and that’s one thing that’s actually cheaper. So I put together this basic fisherman’s stew, using tilapia that was on special (though any firm white fish should do). I’d never cooked something quite like this before, but it was very easy to throw together and packed with flavor. I especially liked the technique of using anchovies and garlic to create the base (instead of the usual fish stock or clam juice). Topped with fresh herbs, this stew makes a lovely simple meal.

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Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

23 Nov

ginger butternut squash soup

I love bright, colorful food. Not only does it evoke a much better visual response to a dish, making me excited to delve in, but colorful foods are also usually the healthiest ones – win, win! So here’s a nice colorful soup, using bright orange butternut squash as the base. Carrots and red lentils add to the delightful orange hue, and ginger provides the main flavoring (you can add even more than the recipe calls for, if you’d like, or stir in ginger juice (from grated ginger, wrapped in cheesecloth and squeezed) at the end). A squeeze of lemon or lime juice (either will work just fine – or even a splash of vinegar, in a pinch) helps contrast the sweetness of the squash. You can also stir in a little plain yogurt, which the original recipe called for, but I didn’t find necessary. Instead, I topped my soup with pepitas for a pop of contrast in color and texture.

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Broccoli and White Bean Soup

26 Oct

broccoli and white bean soup

When I picked up a head of broccoli recently, I was surprised to find it came with a huge quantity of thick, hearty-looking leaves surrounding it. I guess I’d gotten used to supermarket broccoli with these leaves trimmed and (I assume) discarded. After some quick searching, I found that, as I’d hoped, they were edible – and, on top of that, supposedly quite healthy and tasty! So when I set out to make this broccoli and white bean soup, I figured it made sense to toss the leaves in as well. They were an amazing addition to this delicious soup, and for those of you not quite so lucky with your groceries, you can substitute with another hearty green, like collards or swiss chard. I’m sure this soup would be great pureed, as in the original recipe, but it was great with everything left intact and still had a nearly creamy mouthfeel to it from the broccoli and beans simmered until beginning to fall apart.

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Egyptian Yellow Lentil Soup

24 Oct

egyptian yellow lentil soup

I stumbled across some yellow lentils (while exploring Buenos Aires’ Barrio Chino (Chinatown), a subject for another post), and as I often cook with the quite similar red lentils, I immediately bought them. Like red lentils (which you can substitute here), yellow lentils cook quickly and fall apart when cooked which makes for hearty soups that taste thick and creamy without the need to add extra fat. Confusingly, yellow split peas are also sometimes referred to as yellow lentils (and look quite similar) even though they’re actually distinct – but they should also work as a substitute here. I decided to make this Egyptian soup with simple flavors to focus on the lentils themselves. I added turmeric to boost the color (and, as a side note, turmeric actually has lots of health benefits as well) and cayenne pepper because I like my food spicy. I’m sadly lacking one of my favorite kitchen tools – my immersion blender – so I couldn’t puree the soup, as I would have liked, but cooking the soup just a few minutes longer so that the lentils fell nearly completely apart worked out just fine for me.

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Spanish Red Lentil and Vegetable Soup

19 Oct

spanish red lentil and vegetable soup

I love walking down the streets here and seeing lots of little verdulerias and fruterias with colorful produce piled high. Most people here don’t buy their produce in chain grocery stores, but instead stop by these neighborhood vegetable and fruit markets on a regular basis. It’s been a bit of adventure adjusting to this mindset, thinking ahead to what I need for an upcoming recipe (at these places, you tell the shopkeeper what you’re looking for and how much, which, with my limited but expanding Spanish, takes a little preparation) and trying out the multiple places near my apartment to find the best quality (and the place most willing to put up with my bad accent). I think I found my go-to verduleria though – an especially friendly place where the quality is great, and the prices unbelievably low. It was a cold, rainy day when I went to buy the vegetables for this Spanish red lentil and vegetable soup, but I came away feeling excited to prepare this bright, colorful recipe. Packed with roasted red bell peppers, bright orange carrots, fresh diced tomatoes, and green spinach, this soup is a visual treat compared to the often drab-looking (although tasty) bean and lentil soups I like to make. Not to mention the intense flavor packed in here, with the vegetables adding a lot of sweetness (really!), complemented by the spiciness of cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. Red lentils add some extra heft (I like to cook them until they’re falling apart), making this recipe perfect for a hearty meal, especially on a rainy day.

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Cauliflower Blue Cheese Soup

15 Aug

cauliflower blue cheese soup

I’m going to let you in on a secret – most places where people use potatoes, I use cauliflower, and it tastes even better. Cauliflower has lots of edges to get nice and browned when roasting or frying, and it also tastes much sweeter and more flavorful than potatoes to me. Of course, cauliflower is also significantly healthier than potatoes. By contrast to potatoes (the food with the highest correlation to weight gain in a recent longitudinal study), cauliflower is high in vitamin C and fiber and a wonderfully filling and nutritious ingredient. And, really, it tastes delicious. Like in this cauliflower blue cheese soup where it’s pureed with caramelized onions and then mixed with blue cheese and creme fraiche. An easily customizable recipe – use cheddar or gruyere for a more traditional “baked potato” type of soup, or change up the toppings with what you have around. I topped mine with parsley, smoked paprika, and crushed red pepper (I used my usual favorite, Turkish red pepper, but any should do), but crumbled bacon, diced apples or pears, or candied nuts would all also work wonderfully.

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Mushroom Bourguignon

13 Aug

mushroom bourguignon

I think mushrooms are one of those ingredients that can be pretty polarizing. Some people love mushrooms, and others can’t stand them. Personally, I’m a big mushroom fan – they’re just packed with umami! For any other fungi aficionados out there, here’s a great recipe that showcases the meaty, earthy flavor of mushrooms as the main star of a French-inspired stew. As I’m not a vegetarian, I used bacon fat and beef stock to add extra meatiness, but you’ll be just fine with olive oil and mushroom or vegetable stock. I found this bourguignon very satisfying on a rainy day, and it’s sure to make for great comfort food for other mushroom lovers out there.

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Mulligatawny Soup

30 Jul

mulligatawny soup

A while back, I posted a recipe for a Japanese adaptation of Indian curry. But by far the most well-known adaptations of Indian cuisine come from the British. These fusions have become so widespread that it’s not unlikely that you’re already quite familiar with some of them – such as chicken tikka masala and vindaloo – from your favorite Indian restaurants (and in fact, they are now prevalent in India itself). Mulligatawny soup is a great example, the name itself a British take on an Indian phrase meaning “pepper water.” There are many variations, but they’re usually a rich yellow or orange color from the spices (if you’re using a curry powder without turmeric, make sure to add some) and often contain meat. This particular version, however, is vegetarian, with red lentils and carrots providing the bulk of the soup, and coconut milk (very popular in Anglo-Indian cuisine) stirred in for extra richness.

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