Saturday, February 14, 2009

Chana Dal with Potatoes

It's easy to find recipes that require hours at the stove, and sometimes that's exactly what I feel like doing. But most nights I cook things that come together relatively quickly and that make a lot, because leftovers are like gold around here. The dish below meets both requirements: a fairly standard curry using potatoes, chana dal (yellow split peas) and coconut milk, which are all staples in my cupboard.

This dal is quite mild and family-friendly, but you can always add some chili peppers, cayenne or a shot of hot sauce if you want to heat things up. I usually serve curries with plain or saffron rice, but go ahead and use whatever grain suits your style. Add some naan and spicy pickle, and you'll have a delicious, healthy dinner as good as anything you'll get in a restaurant, with the added bonus of being able to eat it in your pajamas.

Chana Dal with Potatoes
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 tsp. black or yellow mustard seeds
~ 1 tsp. cumin seeds
~ 1 large yellow onion, diced
~ 2 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger
~ 1 tbsp. each: fenugreek powder, curry powder
~ 1 tsp. each: kosher salt, garam masala, cumin, chili powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: asafoetida, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne
~ Dash of nutmeg
~ 4 cups cubed potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
~ 1 28 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes, including liquid
~ 1 cup chana dal (yellow split peas)
~ 2 15 oz. cans "lite" coconut milk
~ 1/2 lb frozen spinach
~ 1 cup frozen green peas
~ 1 cup chopped, fresh cilantro

~ In a large, deep pot heat the oil and toast the mustard and cumin seeds over medium heat until they begin to pop (about 1-2 minutes; you might want to cover the pot for this part).
~ Add the onions, garlic, ginger and seasonings. Continue cooking another 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.
~ Add the potatoes, the chana dal, and tomatoes with their liquid; cook another few minutes.
~ Add the coconut milk, cover the pot, and bring to a boil.
~ Reduce heat to low and cook (about) 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to prevent sticking; you can add a splash of water if it looks like things are getting too thick.
~ Add the frozen spinach and peas and cook another 5 minutes.
~ Stir in the fresh cilantro and serve hot over plain basmati or saffron rice.

Saffron Rice
~ 1/2 tsp. saffron, soaked in 1.5 cups hot vegetable stock for 5-10 minutes
~ 1 cup plain unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance (or oil, I just like EB here)
~ 3 scallions, thinly sliced
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ 1.5 cups basmati rice, rinsed several times and soaked at least 20 minutes

_ In a saucepan, heat the EB or oil over medium heat; add the scallions, salt and saute about 3 minutes.
~ Add the rice and cook another few minutes until all the grains are coated.
~ Pour in the hot saffron/broth mixture and the soy milk.
~ Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 10-15 minutes.
~ Fluff with a fork and serve!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mushroom Stroganoff

"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" (O Wind, I certainly hope not.)

Here in New England. we are currently in the midst of The Winter That Wouldn't Die. Day after day, like unto my adolescent self in gym class, the mercury struggles to pull itself over the chin-up bar of 20 degrees; day after day, I look at the calendar and think, "Okay, this is crap, can it be over now?" (The perceptive reader may be getting the impression that I'm not a fan of cold weather; is so, s/he is entirely correct.) As a result of this miserable state of affairs, recent menus have focused on hearty, filling things like stews, pasta, potato-based dishes, etc. When, or indeed if, spring comes, there's going to be a whole lot of salads going down the hatch, but for the present, it's podge city around here.

When I think of podgy food, thoughts of my mother are rarely far behind. She is an excellent cook in the meat-and-potatoes tradition of her native England (unlike her own mother, who could kill a brussels sprout with a look at 20 paces), but also well-versed in all the staple dishes of 1950s/60s America. This being the case, beef stroganoff turned up on the table fairly often when I was growing up, which for me (a nightmarishly picky eater) usually translated to a dinner of buttered noodles. As I got older, though, I fell madly in love with mushrooms, and by the time I was a teenaged vegetarian learning to cook, I'd discovered Mollie Katzen's first two books, The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Both feature many dishes with a strong Eastern European influence, so mushrooms, noodles, paprika, and dill made frequent appearances in my early cooking experiments, flavors I still love as an adult.

One night a few weeks ago we had a shocking quantity of mushrooms in the refrigerator, so I decided to recreate my mom's stroganoff (without the beef, obviously). I looked through a few cookbooks for general ideas, but in the end I basically made it up by tasting, adding more stuff, and tasting again until I was satisfied with the result. Everyone at my house pretty much went nuts for it, especially my partner and middle son, and the leftovers disappeared quickly. I didn't photograph it because A. the camera was out of batteries, and B. it wasn't very pretty anyway (hence the groovy fungal fan art above). That said, it was really good, and there are few things more welcome on yet another cold winter evening than a thick, mushroomy stew ladled over a big pile of noodles, right?

Mushroom Stroganoff

~ 1 cup dried mushrooms (I used Polish cepes), soaked in 2 cups hot water or broth for 30 minutes
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 cups thinly sliced onions
~ 4 big portobello mushroom caps, chopped
~ 3 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
~ 1 tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill (or 1-2 tbsp. dried, to taste)
~ 1 tsp. each: kosher salt, thyme, smoked paprika
~ 2 tbsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
~ 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
~ Lots of fresh black pepper
~ 1/2 cup dry red wine
~ Juice of 1 lemon
~ 1 tsp. dijon mustard
~ 1 lb. lite silken tofu
~ 1/2 cup nutritional yeast

~ In a large, deep skillet or wok, heat the oil and saute the onions and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the sliced mushrooms and seasonings and cook another 15 minutes.
~ Add the red wine and lemon juice; stir to combine and cook another 5 minutes.
~ In a food processor or blender, combine the soaked mushrooms (with their liquid), mustard, nutritional yeast and tofu; blend until smooth.
~ Pour the blended tofu into the mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Continue cooking another 5-10 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.
~ Serve over rice, kasha, linguine or (best of all!) vegan "egg" noodles.