I often find myself buying a spice to use in a specific recipe, using a teaspoon of said spice and then letting it languish on my shelf for months. (I’m looking at you onion powder and ground mustard.) While I’m pretty opposed to buying a rack of ingredients for just one use, some recipes require a special something-something that can’t really be replaced, so I fork over the $3 for a jar that I may never use again.
Cumin is the opposite of that. I use cumin in everything, from chili to tacos to curry to couscous (and so. much. more.) I go through so much cumin that, rather than trifling around with 3-ounce jars, I went ahead and bought a 7-ounce bag and I’m already halfway through that. I love its warm smokiness, the way that it adds heat to a dish without too much fire and the way that it complements everything from beans to squash to kale. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it features predominantly in some of my favorite cuisines: Indian, Mexican and North African.
This recipe is a variation of a variation of a popular Egyptian dish, ful medames. Made with cooked mashed fava beans, parsley, garlic and lemon juice, the dish is often eaten for breakfast with pita bread and eggs. (Versions of ful are a staple across North Africa and the Middle East. As if I needed another reason to go there.) Eating Well used edamame rather than fava beans, and created a tomato-based stew. I threw in some chickpeas, a pepper and a touch of cinnamon, adding an extra North African kick to the dish.
Given how much I currently value low-maintenance meals, it’s no surprise that I loved this — half an hour’s worth of effort is rewarded with a warming, hearty stew that has the added bonus of being very good for you. My beloved cumin, along with the coriander, cayenne and cinnamon, create a deeply fragrant, spicy broth that is divine with warm pita. Continue Reading →
In a complete 180 from a few years ago, I’ve become one of those people who brings lunch to work every day. (No longer being funded by the ‘rents will do that to ya.) Because I’m not so into lunch meat, I usually make a big batch of something that can be eaten with a spoon/fork, reheats well and hopefully doesn’t make a complete mess of my desk. Stews are big go-to, as are salads, pasta and pretty much everything I’ve ever made on this site, since I almost always bring leftovers to the office.
Most of the time, if my lunches get any reaction at all, it’s positive — “oh, that looks good,” “that smells amazing,” etc. But when I brought this to work last week, the only reaction it got was an incredulous “are you eating a bowl of kale?”
Apparently, most people don’t consider sauteed kale topped with a bit of bacon, some breadcrumbs and some Pecorino to be a balanced meal. They would mostly be wrong, since there’s a vegetable + protein + dairy + whole grains. Okay, so maybe there’s barely any dairy and whole grains and bacon is less protein than fat, but proper nutrition is so overrated, amirite?
Needless to say, the next day I made some quinoa to go with the kale as kind of a pseudo-pilaf. Alternately, you could round out the meal by topping the kale with a fried egg, and yes you should definitely do that because it sounds de-lish. (Plus you get to eat bacon and eggs for dinner! Ron Swanson would approve.)
However you dress it up, this kale is good. Spicy and smoky and salty and nutty and crunchy and crisp, all in less than 20 minutes of work. It’s delicious enough to eat solo — I promise I won’t judge. Continue Reading →
My first encounter with grits stems from one place and one place alone: this clip. (And also this one. Does that make it two places? To be fair, it is the same [excellent] movie*.) If you’re not into watching laugh-out-loud movie clips in horrifyingly low resolution, grits are coarsely ground dried corn or hominy, simmered in water and then topped with butter. They’re a staple down South, but have been largely ignored up North — often passed over for their Italian cousin polenta, at least in my experience. (Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences, if you’re curious.)
But anything cooked with copious amounts of cream and cheese is guaranteed to re-pique my interest, especially if that food originates in the Dirty. Obviously my quest for anything Southern led me straight to the Pioneer Woman, who takes such beautiful pictures of life on a farm that it makes me want to up and leave NYC immediately.
She tops her cheesy grits with a smoky, spicy chipotle beef stew that pairs beautifully with the sweet corn. The stew also had the double purpose of heating up my apartment for a few glorious hours, wafting the aromas of cumin and chili and garlic like a delicious scented candle.
Separately, the stew is a touch on the salty side and packs quite a spicy punch, and the grits are a bit too sweet to be eaten alone. But eaten together? This chipotle beef with cheddar grits equals pure cheesy, meaty, hearty bliss, a much-needed salve against the chill of winter.
*No seriously, My Cousin Vinny is high on my list of favorite movies. I have may or may not have considered dropping a friend because she hasn’t seen it yet … (kidding. sort of.) Continue Reading →
Obviously, a major focus of my recent trip to India was tea. Darjeeling aside, much of the tea we drank day to day was masala chai, black tea with milk, (a lot of) sugar and a plethora of spices.
Cardamom and ginger are the most common, but cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and even anise or fennel can be used. The chai itself is almost dessert-like, a far cry from the grassy, earthy green tea that I usually drink.*
When at home in Maryland, we don’t usually make chai with all of the spices (or sugar. Seriously, Indian chai has so.much.sugar.), so last weekend, missing the spicy-sweet combo of cardamom and ginger, I baked them into pear bread. Pears are a nice pairing (see what I did there?) for these warm spices, as they’re sweet and faintly floral, similar to many of the teas that comprise masala chai.
As we know, I’m a little bit into quick breads. They’re so easy and so versatile: indulgent breakfast or brunch material? Check. Something to snack on with afternoon tea? Check. A mildly sweet treat for the end of the day? Done and done. This one is studded with pieces of soft pear and pecans and is the subtle, slightly delicate cousin of our favorite banana bread. It’s perfect for those weekends when your only plans are lying about and staying warm.
*Remember when I gave up coffee for a few
months weeks? HA. Though I will say, I’m down to about a cup a day, which is nothing compared to the past … Continue Reading →
Given my penchant for doing typical-Christmas-in-New-York things and needing to run get-ready-for-India errands* and also maintain a semblance of a social life and oh hey, work and sometimes I like to run too, it’s safe to say I’ve been a leeeeetle busy the past week. But based on the hordes of people I’ve seen everywhere, I think everyone is a little crazed this time of year — presents to buy! Holiday parties to attend! Piles of cookies to bake! Homes to decorate! Advent calendars to eat! (No? Maybe that last one is just me.)
So it’s good to have a recipe or two to fall back upon, one that requires minimal effort and fills you up with meaty, cheesy goodness. This recipe comes courtesy of my main PIC Mili, and is similar to lasagna. However, instead of noodles, there are chunks of butternut squash, sweet and fork-tender and nicely balanced with the spicy tomato sauce.
I went the pre-cut cubed route (we all know how my cutting skills are), which makes this dish pretty easy, and you could go even easier by using jarred sauce instead of making your own. The oven does 80% of the work, so you’re free to deck the halls and fa-la-la-la-laaaa and all that.
(Also, I apologize for the lack of pictures — in my holiday craze I accidentally deleted all of the pictures of this butternut squash casserole. My B.)
*True story: my dad called on Friday to instruct me to buy a bottle of whiskey and pack it in my checked luggage (there was no explanation as to why). And when I asked my mom what exactly I was supposed to do in Heathrow for 5 hours by myself, she said “shop.” Is it any wonder that I am the way I am? Continue Reading →