Category: Curry

Butternut Squash-Zucchini Curry with Couscous or What is Home??

Butternut Squash-Zucchini Curry with Couscous or What is Home??

Last summer, when I began to make the first vegetable curries of the season, I was right here in our Colorado house up on the mesa.  I needed a quick dinner and had a bunch of vegetables lying around the counter–including lots of tomatoes.  A pot of rice was put to boil and I threw a bunch of vegetables and a little curry powder into a big skillet.  We ate quite happily very soon thereafter.

DISCLAIMER:  I’ll freely admit I’m no authenic Indian cook; check out Just a Girl from Mumbai or The Lady 8 Home (two of my Ina Friday friends’ blogs) for authentic recipes.  Or, for a general set of instructions, check out this post. 

Colorado kitchen

Last week, we moved permanently from Saint Paul back to Colorado into the house we’ve owned there for eight years by now.  To say it was or is a wrench is an understatement, because we love Saint Paul and I so loved my choir job at Prospect Park United Methodist in Minneapolis.  Finances dictated a change to owning one house only and here we are.  I’m still in the midst of figuring it all out and can’t believe what an emotional upheaval it’s been.  After all, it’s just a house–right????

St. Paul backyard

Gab and Tuck were both puppies in CO

While we are born midwesterners through and through (Dave from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and me from the south suburbs of Chicago)–and adore the four seasons, as well as the Twin Cities culture, we have always just sunk into the beauty and comfort of our ranch house in Colorado.  At night in bed in the middle of a frozen Minnesota winter night, I’d walk through the Colorado house in my mind–poring over each room, looking out each window, nearly crying that no one was there.  Come holidays or summers when the choir was off, we’d drive out west with Miss Gab and Tucker, and I often sobbed in relief as I walked into the house.  I spent hours on the living room couch, reading and dreaming out over the city of Colorado Springs, which spreads just east of our property.  On a clear day, you can see forever.  I often watched Dave’s planes take off from the airport which is over 13 miles away.  The same distance in the opposite direction brings views of approaching winter storms from the north or, in the case of this last summer, fires from the northeast in Black Forest.    Step Inside this House–sung by Lyle Lovett.

And while it appears idyllic (“Oh, Colorado is so beautiful!”), and often is, it can be a harsh environment.  Bears, coyotes, bobcats, and the occasional mountain lion make it through our neighborhood.  Right now, we have a bear family traveling between our houses, snacking on available garbage, charging people and dogs and simply refusing to hibernate.   In other words, sitting outside at night in the summer  is best done on the deck with quick access to the house through a strong door!   Fires — and recent floods — are often our frightening nearby companions.  Sudden winter storms create havoc and, here in the ‘hood, mean walking home up the steep icy hill unless you have a great four-wheel drive vehicle.

Stollen cooling on the east deck
Photo: Mama bear and young in neighbor's backyard
bear photo borrowed from a neighbor

Cooking and baking  at 6,300 feet above sea level can be a consummate challenge.  Bread left out ten minutes can be as dry as toast; cookies must be eaten that day or frozen.  Many recipes must be adapted, though I’m pretty intuitive about it by now. Thanksgiving dinner WILL be begun really early or you won’t eat until late–as I found out when we first moved here in 1996 and ate at 7 instead of 4.  There’s little to be grown in sand or bedrock when it doesn’t rain for 9 months at a time.  Cooking local Colorado food means bison, lamb, trout, Rocky Ford cantaloupe and western slope peaches and cherries.  Southwest of us are irrigated apple orchards, but it isn’t unusual for them to produce very little any given year.  Gardening right on your own patch isn’t so simple with hardly any good dirt and strict watering restrictions.  I will say that some micro-climates within the city of Colorado Springs limits have abundant gardens, but they’re the exception.   Example:  We save every bit of water and reuse it.  When I make pasta, the water is cooled and used to water plants.   A little leftover water in a water bottle is tipped into the flower pots or herb garden as I walk into the house.  We can catch no rain water (if and when it rains) because it’s against the law.

Photo: :)
Dave with grandson, Rhyan.  One of the joys of living in Colorado is our son Sean and family are here–living with us temporarily while their house is being renovated.
But it’s all part of the challenge of being a westerner, or a south westerner, I guess–and it’s usually worth it. Million-dollar sunsets over the front range, spectacular sunrises in the high plains, fall drives into the mountains to see the golden, whispering aspens, Rocky Mountain National Park in Denver’s backyard, world-class skiing, Rockies baseball, and the unarguably most beautiful interstate drive in the country (I-70 from Denver – Utah).  And if you live here, you embrace it for what it is.  (And if you’re like me, you travel to sea-level on a regular basis so you can see green.)
Sunrise in my backyard
What’s happened is that I’ve had to regroup my notion of “home.”  I’m no longer sure what it is.  Is it where I breathe the easiest?  Is it where my heart sings as that city comes into view from 10,000 feet?  Is it where I laugh with the most people?  Is it where I can earn a living or be in love with a choir?  Is it where the best orchestra plays or I can walk across the street to the corner bar?  Where I sink into a bed dipped into my own curves?  Or is it just where Dave and the dogs are–which can be right in our Subaru Forester?  It’s an on-going discussion in my heart and head. I’ll keep you posted.
Right before we left Saint Paul, our victory garden neighbor, Wendy, gave us another huge zucchini–the very last of the season. In my kitchen was a little leftover butternut squash and the final pick of tomatoes from our Minnesota garden.  I made a big skillet of curry that we ate off of for a couple of days; we had to pack and clean, not keep cooking.  This particular early-fall prize was so tasty I thought I’d share it with you.  It’s nothing too unusual and you can change out the veg to suit yourself or your larder.  There’s not much in the vegetable family that can’t be made into a fast curry supper and you can pretend you’re in the Indian restaurant downtown.  Here’s how:
butternut squash-zucchini curry with couscous
4 generous servings
  • 4 cups–give or take– cooked couscous  (I used 1 box Near East couscous with olive oil and garlic)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Large onion, chopped
  • Celery stalk, chopped
  • Red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and thinly sliced (don’t peel)
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped cooked butternut or acorn squash
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder*
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper or a small pinch of cayenne, optional
  • 1/4 cup white wine or vegetable or chicken broth
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated or finely chopped ginger
  • 2 cups chopped cherry or regular tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup each chopped fresh basil and fresh parsley
Instructions:
1.  Cover couscous to keep warm while you make the curry.  Toast almonds in a small, dry pan over low heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Set couscous and almonds aside.
2.  Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or sauté pan and add onions, celery, red bell pepper, carrots, zucchini, and butternut or acorn squash.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, curry powder, and crushed red pepper or cayenne, if using.  Let cook ten minutes or until softened, stirring regularly.  
3.  Stir in wine or broth and let cook down a few minutes, adding more if the vegetables appear dry.
4.  Add garlic, ginger, and tomatoes. Cook, stirring, another two minutes or until garlic is fragrant, tomatoes are just softening, and other vegetables are tender.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
5.  To serve, spoon over or to the side of a cup of couscous for each serving.  Top with a few sliced almonds and a sprinkling of the chopped fresh basil and parsley.  Serve hot.  Cold or hot leftovers will be luscious for lunch.  (If you reheat the curry, you’ll need to add a bit more curry powder or seasonings.)
Cook’s Note:  For a more authentic Indian curry, you can add a little tomato paste and/or coconut to the vegetables.  For a Thai style, add coconut milk and/or lime juice. (Skip my wine!) Everyone makes their curried vegetables a bit differently; my versions come from American trial and error cooking.  Do a bit of googling and see what kind of curry you might like best; there are many different kinds.
*Curry Powder comes in many varieties in the United States.  I think the most important thing about it is to use fresh curry powder.  If it’s sat a while, buy new.  Penzey’s Spices sells several sorts of curry powder and I used half Maharajah Curry Powder and half Sweet Curry Powder.  You can, of course, make your own curry powder by blending a variety of spices—you can grind them yourself–to suit your taste.  Google  “Making curry powder” or check out the CHOW recipe.
                                         
                                                                       ***

If you liked this, you might also like my curried peppers and tomatoes on rice with grilled chicken or cooking in a time of grief

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”   — John Muir

Sing a new song,Alyce

Curried Peppers and Tomatoes on Rice with Grilled Chicken or Cooking in a Time of Grief

Curried Peppers and Tomatoes on Rice with Grilled Chicken or Cooking in a Time of Grief

 

There have only been a handful of times in my life when I didn’t want to cook.  This is one of them.  For a couple of days, we just ate out or ordered something sent over.   I did send up a big pot of chicken noodle soup to the family, because they wanted it.   I guess we had to eat, but I had no interest in figuring out meals for us or lighting the stove.   After a while we thought we’d better fix something, so Dave grilled some chicken and I rustled up a big pan of vegetable curry.  We ate it on trays in front of the tv watching “The Newsroom,” my newest tv crush.

Continue reading “Curried Peppers and Tomatoes on Rice with Grilled Chicken or Cooking in a Time of Grief”

Lamb Chops in Curried Red Lentil Soup

Lamb Chops in Curried Red Lentil Soup

I am both blessed and cursed to be forced to cook for just me on a regular basis.  My better half has always traveled, and while for years I cooked for the kids and me, the kids are off cooking for themselves now.  These days, it’s often just “the babies” and me for dinner.

“The Babies”

You might remember or know the story:  There was a time when I was so relieved at not having to cook for a big group all the time that I just made eggs and toast.  It wasn’t long, however, before I got pretty tired of that and began to look around and start cooking exactly what I wanted for dinner.  Why not?  In fact, the kids talked me into writing a separate blog about it.   If you’re a regular reader, you know I blog elsewhere.  Otherwise, check out dinnerplace dot blogspot dot com. 

Stop in at The Groveland Tap:  Fairview/St. Clair — Saint Paul, Minnesota

It doesn’t mean there aren’t nights when I don’t feel like cooking (or cleaning up) and just bring home a great meal from the Groveland Tap–our fine family bar and grill one block down. (We can take the babies to the Tap and sit outside in good weather.) And, of course I sometimes go out with a friend — but most times I do cook.  Often I’m working on something for the soup cookbook or for one of blogs (this gives me real reason to cook), but there are times when I just feel like making myself something scrumptious.

Lamb Chops in Curried Red Lentil Soup is sort of an amalgam of a couple of those nights.  Many friends and/or testers have eaten  my red lentil soup; it’ll be in the upcoming book.  (In fact, I have made it for an ecumenical Taizé prayer dinner; the soup itself is vegan.) It’s still being tweaked, so I won’t include the recipe here, but  provide a link to a similar soup.  You can also bring soup home from the deli or your local soup nazi.  Anyway,  I had made a big pot for Souper Sunday, a fundraiser at Prospect Park United Methodist (where I work as a choir director), and also had some beautiful Colorado (the best) lamb chops that needed cooking.  The frig held nothing that sounded good as a side for lamb chops, but I kept eying that pot of soup. The aromatics with the heat, tomatoes, lentils, and curry are natural companions to lamb.  I’m partial to rosemary with lamb and, oddly, the flavors melded beautifully.  No arguments were heard between the spices or in my mouth.

If you can get it–and it’s hard to find–buy Colorado lamb.  Here in Saint Paul, Kowalski’s, a small local grocery chain sells only Colorado lamb.  You can easily cook frozen lamb chops; it will just take a couple of extra minutes.

Chops in already-cooked soup make for a truly fast dinner; lamb chops are cooked in just a few minutes. This is a meal you’ll need spoon, fork, and knife for–but I encourage you to pick up the lamb chops at some point. (Red meat is quite a treat.) Get your hands dirty and don’t waste a bite; the tenderest morsels are always closest to the bone.  You can hold the chop by its bone and dip it into the soup if you like.  A bit of crumbled feta is the perfect topping.  While curry and red wine aren’t always companions, I had no trouble putting them together here.  I drank some leftover California cab and was a happy Minnesotan.  While I loved this all by myself, it would make a tasty meal for friends.  (Add some olives for starters, a bit of bread –grilled pita?– with the soup, lemon sorbet for dessert.)  Try this:

Set the table and pour the wine before you cook. You’ll be ready to eat soon.

lamb chops in curried red lentil soup
  serves 2 (two chops each) or 4 (one chop each) with 2 cups of soup for each serving

Hot red lentil soup (4-8 cups)
4 lamb chops, room temperature (I like loin or rib chops, but any will do.)
Olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground or cracked black pepper
1-2 teaspoon(s) finely minced and crushed dried rosemary, to taste and optional
2 tablespoons crumbled feta for each bowl

Colorado loin lamb chops

Heat stove top grill (or outdoor gas/charcoal) over high heat for 2-3 minutes. (You can use a cast iron skillet, too.)  Meantime, drizzle the chops with a little olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary, if using.  Grill for 2-3 minutes without moving, turn, and grill another 2-3 for medium-rare.* As you turn them, do let the chops cook briefly on their sides to cook off/crisp up some of the fat.  You don’t want these too done, as the soup is hot and may cook them just a little more.  Remove to a plate and let rest 2-3 minutes.

Into warm pasta bowls, ladle about two cups of the hot lentil soup.  Add a chop or two for each (as well as any juices on the plate) depending on how big of a portion you’d like, and top with crumbled feta.  Pass pepper grinder and hot sauce at the table.

USDA Cooking Temperatures

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Curried Cauliflower or I Can’t Play my Piano

Curried Cauliflower or I Can’t Play my Piano

 At Thanksgiving, when cauliflower is so very dear (and it’s supposed to still be in season), I’ll wish I’d bought a few extra heads in September.  Made a little gratinee with lots of garlic, cream, and Swiss cheese.  Thrown in an extra casserole for Jeanne.  Maybe even made some cauliflower soup–even though it’s so very easy and is even good made with frozen cauliflower.  Once in a while I get it all done, but not this year.  The basement freezer isn’t bought, though it’s on the list (after paying the floor guy and the radiator repair guy) and I expect  it’s not too far in the future.  But right now, we’re eating what I cook and not putting much away for the winter. I did sneak a big bag of blueberries into the side-by-side and have a couple of on sale whole chickens (for chicken noodle soup) down in the bottom.

Make-do steamer.

I’m not much for raw cauliflower.  I’m not saying I don’t eat it from the raw vegetable platter; I do.  But the mealy, cabbagy sensation isn’t what I’m after; it’s not my favorite.  But steam it, stew it, boil it, roast it, fry it and I’m all over it.  I don’t care if it’s a bit crispy or grandma-done; I like it.  This curried dish is a mix of two preparations.  First you  briefly steam it. Next you saute some sliced onions and garlic with curry powder.

Then add the steamed cauliflower..

Stir and cook until quite golden and nearly tender. 

Curried Cauliflower

1 head fresh cauliflower, cleaned, cored, and cut into florets
2T olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp curry powder (Penzey’s has a great variety; try a couple of different ones.)
Kosher salt, pepper, and ground cayenne (if your curry isn’t too hot)

Steam cauliflower in a veggie steamer (or in the microwave) for about seven minutes, until just losing its crispness.  Meantime, in a large skillet, heat oil and saute onions for 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic, curry powder and sprinkle with salt, pepper and ground cayenne, if using.  Add steamed cauliflower and stir well.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until cauliflower is nearly tender.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  (To increase cooking speed, add a couple of tablespoons of water to the skillet and cover for a  minute or two.)  Serve hot.

———————

At least that’s what I did.  And walked the five steps to the dining room to eat it paired with a little steak Dave and I had.  That’s as far as we can go because the couch is in the dining room, too, due to floor repair and refinishing in the living room.  Where the piano is.

Can’t get to the piano.  Or the bedrooms.  Or the front door.

You could call it cozy.

If I climb over the couch, and land in the perfect place, I can quickly scoot over and land on the piano bench.  If.  I haven’t tried it.  If we didn’t have dogs, we would be able to walk through the living room tomorrow.  If. But we do have dogs, so we’re waiting until Wednesday.  Sleeping in the basement where we can watch tv lying in our great (no, really, it is) sofa bed.

Next they’re tearing up the kitchen floor (6 layers?) down to the sub floor in order to lay a new wood floor.  And, yes, the stove and frig must come out for a two week period.  Ought to be interesting in our dining room; that’s where they’ll go.  I love fixing up old houses, don’t you?

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

Came home Friday to find Alvin running around the kitchen….

                          He jumped up in the window and I closed him in there.  Quick thinking, huh?   The floor guy, aka Bob,  had left the door open.  This chipmunk, aka Alvin, has been in our yard all summer, eating the painter’s lunches and jumping out into the path, scaring the crap out of us.  Our painter and friend, Chris, kept telling us that chipmunk was too smart for his own good and was going to get in the house.  We laughed.  Until Friday.

Still, all was well.  We finally snuck open the bottom of the window, pushed the screen out, reclosed the window and went around outside to pull the screen out and watch him fly through the air into the still-blooming (really) day lilies.  None the worse for wear, he yelled as he passed my head, “Just wanted to see what you’d done with the house.”

Still picking flowers from our yard.
Snuggin’
Not quite the last rose of summer, but nearly.

Meantime, come sing your heart out at Prospect Park United Methodist over in Minneapolis.  We worship at 9:30 am and have coffee and then Sunday School after that.  Wander over and see what we’re up to next Saturday, October 1 at 7pm when we present “Pops and Pies,” a toe-tappin’ evening of music followed by scrumptious pie and, of course, coffee…

Pie, me oh my:  I love pie.

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Curried Cauliflower Soup or The Rite of Spring on Bach’s Birthday

Curried Cauliflower Soup or The Rite of Spring on Bach’s Birthday

Hot lunch on a cold spring day

 Outside the window in the new/old (1915) St. Paul house, it’s fairly gray.  Everything’s gray, in fact.  Melting snow, sky, sun, trees…even the birds appear kind of gray.  But spring it is!

Jack Sparrow and Friend

When you’ve moved, the chores are myriad.  It seems you’re always running to the hardware store for a light switch cover or to Target for garbage bags and peanut butter.  If you’re not running, you’re on the phone with the phone company or recycling folks.  If you’re not on the phone, you’re looking at paint samples or asking where the post office is.  (What happened to phone books?)

Sooner or later, plates seem to be on shelves and towels are clean and folded in the bathroom.  You know where to turn the light on for the basement and have figured out what that horrible sound is between the floors or in the walls. (Hot water pipes.)  You have the turn to your house memorized and don’t have to count houses from the corner anymore.  And one day, you start making meals again–hardly noticing the skipped nights or that you’re in a different kitchen.  Well, I wouldn’t go that far.  I am definitely in a different kitchen, though I’m feeling the similarities as I get things squared away.

I had things to do this morning like

  • clean the back porch
  • scrub the basement stairs (honest-to-God linoleum)
  • wash rugs and bathmats
  • bleach down the bathrooms, one of which has an old-fashioned claw-foot tub

 Cool thing was, these are typical house chores–not moving chores.  We’ve been here long enough for the bathrooms to need a scrub.

So when I got done with the morning work-out, I wanted real food for lunch.  I was sure my hard-working husband wanted some, too.  Scouting out the frig and pantry (still not full, of course), a big cauliflower reared up its head called me by name.  A quick look around the counter and I located onions, shallots, garlic, apples and one lone pretty ripe pear.  I thought I’d throw most of it in the oven to roast while I did one last chore and then puree it all with some chicken stock and curry powder.  Here it is just for you.

As Dave and I sat down to eat, Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” (1913) came on the local NPR and the day just came together.  A spring-like light, but warming soup with a kick.  I just couldn’t figure out how Bach’s birthday figured in, but it’s today, too.  Happy Birthday, Johann.  And thanks for Bach, God.

Curried Roasted-Cauliflower Soup
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 apple, peeled and cut up into eighths
1 large onion, same drill
4t olive oil, divided
Sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 shallot, cut in large pieces
1 garlic clove, same drill
1 small carrot, minced
1 stalk of celery, minced
1 ripe pear, peeled and cut up
1 t curry powder, divided
Pinch each cinnamon and crushed red pepper

1 qt chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 c each white wine and water (or 1 c water)
1/3 c parsley, chopped
1/8 t cinnamon
1/4 t kosher salt
1/8 t white pepper, ground


  Preheat oven to 350 F. On a large baking sheet, place cauliflower, onion and apple.  Drizzle with  2t oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place sheet in oven and roast for about 30 minutes.

 Meantime, in a small soup kettle (4qt),  saute shallot, garlic, carrot and celery in the other 2t olive oil about 5 minutes over low heat, taking care to not burn the shallot and garlic.  Add pear,  1/2 t of the curry powder, parsley, cinnamon and crushed red pepper.  Stir and saute another minute or so.  Add stock, wine and/or water, cinnamon, salt and pepper and stir.  Bring to a boil and lower heat to a bare simmer.

When cauliflower, apple and onion are roasted, add them to the stockpot and stir.  Bring soup up to a boil and lower heat to a slow boil.  Add rest of curry powder.   Let cook 5-10 minutes.  Puree with immersion blender or in batches in the food processor (carefully).  Taste, adjust seasonings and serve hot with a piece of buttered whole wheat toast.

 Easier yet:  Roast everything, add to stock and puree.  Leaving out fruit, celery, carrot, etc. will produce a more pronounced cauliflower-tasting soup, but also makes things simpler.

Now I’m off to Ace to buy a mesh strainer for the end of the washing machine hose.  Oh well.

Sing a new song or warm up your fingers and give Bach a whirl,
Alyce