Winter Squash, Chickpeas, Lemongrass & Coconut Milk

Marina di Chioggia Squash

Marina di Chioggia Squash

I’m not at all tired of the months of sun and warmth captured in a deep orange winter squash enjoyed in the last throes of winter. A friend gave me a gorgeous Marina di Chioggia squash last fall and we’ve been enjoying it all week in a variety of forms. It started with gingery squash muffins baked with a big dollop of apricot jam on top and it has continued with this warming but bright Indian-flavored dish.

This dish is only slightly adapted from the inimitable Nigel Slater who in the headnote describes ground turmeric as having a “dusty, old as time itself” taste which is such an apt description for this spice. The lemon grass and ginger balance the turmeric in a dish that is both light and fresh and creamy and deeply satisfying. I had it for breakfast this morning, without rice and with lots of lime juice. I have tended towards savory breakfasts for the past year and this may have been the best one yet!

Happy Cooking!

P.S. There are sill spots available in the Winter/Spring Cooking Class at Luscher Farm on March 16th. We’d love to have you!

Chickpeas, squash, lemon grass and coconut milk--a pretty winning combination when slowly cooked with cardamom and turmeric.

Chickpeas, squash, lemon grass and coconut milk–a pretty winning combination when slowly cooked with cardamom and turmeric.

Chickpeas with Winter Squash, Lemongrass & Coconut Milk
–slightly adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater

If you don’t have whole cardamom pods you can use 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom and add it when you add the ground coriander and turmeric. Whole green cardamom pods are a good thing to have in your spice drawer since they stay fresher much longer than the pre-ground spices.

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas soaked for six or more hours, drained
2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons peanut, coconut or olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
3 large stalks of lemongrass, root end trimmed and several tough outer layers removed, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
6 green cardamom pods, crushed (or ground cardamom–see headnote)
2 Serrano chilies, finely chopped and seeds removed (or keep seeds if you want it spicier)
1 lb peeled and seeded winter squash (about 4 1/2 cups of bite-sized pieces)
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or chickpea cooking liquid seasoned with 2 teaspoons of homemade veggie bouillon base
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (full fat if at all possible)
1 tablespoon brown or yellow mustard seeds
1 cup chopped cilantro

To serve

Cooked basmati rice
Lime wedges

Drain the chickpeas and bring them to the boil in deep, unsalted water. Let them simmer for 40 to 50 minutes till tender.

Pour the oil into a deep pot and add the onions, letting them cook over a moderate heat till soft and translucent. Meanwhile make a rough paste of the garlic ginger and lemongrass in a food processor. The lemongrass won’t break down all the way and will still seem very fibrous but process for quite a while. The fibers will soften in the stew and practically disappear. Stir the paste into the softened onion and continue to cook. Add the ground coriander and turmeric, then add the crushed cardamom pods.

Add them, together with the fresh chillies, seeded and finely chopped. Keep the heat fairly low and don’t allow to brown (though nothing dreadful will happen if you do).

Add the squash to the pan, along with cooked chickpeas and the stock or chickpea cooking liquid. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and continue to cook at a gentle simmer till the squash is tender, about 25 minutes. Stop as soon as the flesh is yielding to the point of a knife – you don’t want it to collapse.

Stir in the coconut milk and continue to simmer. Put a splash of oil into a pan and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop add them to the pot, together with the chopped cilantro. Serve with the rice and the limes wedges.

Winter Recipe Challenge

Garlic, yellow onions, russet or purple potatoes, Napa cabbage, collards, carrots, parsnips, beets, and rutabagas. . . that is the text I received last week from one of the farmer’s I work with. This is the list of produce members of the farm’s CSA received this week.

I get this list a few days before the share pick up and go to work collecting, testing, and adapting recipes to accompany the produce. It is particularly fun doing this work in the winter as we are blessed to live in a place where one truly can eat locally year-round. And since the bounty is actually so diverse here in the winter I have eaten well for many winters (buying at the farmers’ markets here) without eating many, if any, rutabagas or turnips. With this new gig, however, that’s changed and I am forever grateful.


So the winter recipe challenge is as follows: If you have been or would like to be buying local produce this winter and are curious how best to prepare something new to you.. .. or if you need a new idea for an old standby, post a comment below and I’ll do my best to respond next week with ideas or recipes. Or if you have favorite tricks and recipes, please share those as well!

The choices are certainly fewer this time of year than at the height of the growing season, however, the possibilities are not. And by having one’s grocery shopping choices eliminated (or narrowed) by the farmer (or the market vendor) we can spend our creative energy making the most of these delicious veggies that have stored up a summer’s worth of sun for us to enjoy this time of year.

And if you are curious about CSA (and happen to live in the Portland area) I will be teaching a class with Shari Raider of Sauvie Island Organics on February 4th where we’ll not only cook with local veggies but have Shari on hand to answer questions about our winter (or any season) veggies, the connection between farmer and eater and all that goes into growing food. Join us for what’s sure to be an interesting few hours of good cooking and conversation. I will be working with Sauvie Island Organics this year to create recipe packets for their CSA as well and if you sign up for their share this month you get a nice discount on any/all Cook With What You Have classes this year.

On another local note, Slow Food Portland is hosting a panel discussion on small-scale meat processing in our area. The event is next Thursday, January 26th. Visit Slow Food Portland for details.

Don’t forget to submit your comments with winter veggie questions or favorite preparations of yours, and check back next week for lots of new ideas on how to prepare them!

Happy Winter Cooking and Eating!

Change

A quintessential last minute dinner: Quinoa with bacon, peas, and hardboiled egg.

I’ve been thinking about change a lot as I develop and gear up for my new cooking class series entitled Eat Better: Kitchen Fundamentals, Pantry Stocking and 30-Minute Dinners.  It seems that in the world of cooking, foods and methods of preparation have changed as our lives have changed. We’re busier, we work outside of the home for longer hours, we have other priorities. So I devise a series on how to make cooking real meals with whole ingredients possible in this kind of a world. But even 30 minutes of solid cooking in the evening plus the time it takes to keep that pantry stocked and a few things prepped here and there is a big shift for many of us.

So the question I keep asking myself is how to find that balance between offering lots of creative short-cuts and menus that fit into our busy lives and helping people want to spend a little more time in the kitchen because the pay-offs can be so, so great. So maybe having our lives change just a bit to enable real, good food to hit our table more often, means that instead of needing the cooking to be crammed into our crazy lives we decide to make our lives a little less crazy in order to fit in some real cooking.

Even though I work from home and my work is food, I still often don’t know what I’m going to make for dinner when 5:30pm rolls around. I do have a very well-stocked pantry and several decades of cooking under my belt so the task is not so daunting and often a nice break from the computer. But even with my time at home and years of experience, I chuckle when I read cookbooks  that say things in the head notes of a recipe like this: Serve this ____ main dish with ___ salad with ___ dressing and ___ vegetable dish for a simple satisfying supper. What?!  I can’t count on 2 hands the times my regular week night dinners have included the above components in the last six months. Maybe I’m unorthodox in my focus one one-dish dinners or one dish plus fried egg or one dish plus slice of bread or one-dish plus something I had in the freezer or made extra of the day before, but that is my reality and I find truly simple meals like this very satisfying. And I don’t think I’m feeding my family nutritionally unbalanced meals. This way of cooking certainly is informed by growing up in a household with three brothers and usually an exchange student or two and two parents who liked to eat. My mother just made quantities of one or two dishes and that was that. It was always delicious. And, I should add, she always made some kind of dessert because my father mandated it!:) But I digress.

What I think I’m trying to say is that real, good food can be made fairly quickly and regularly and the investment in time it takes to build that skill and confidence level is worth it.

The first time Ellis actually saved me time in the kitchen. He perfectly hollowed out both halves of this squash–no stray strings or seeds! So, if you have kids, put 'em to work!:)

So I’ve tried to tackle a big subject in these few muddled paragraphs and I would love to hear your thoughts on how you find a balance between cooking and all your other interests, demands, needs, etc. And I’m curious whether you would like to spend more time cooking, less time, would like to cook differently, more simply, more creatively. . .

Happy New Year and happy cooking and thanks for reading.

Katherine

P.S. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m a guest blogger at Culinate these days and if I’ve missed a blog post or two of my own lately it’s because I’ve been posting there as well and there are only so many hours in the day. . . So if you’re curious, there’s this recent one and this one. Enjoy.

Simplicity

Polenta with Greens and Beans

We’ve been to lots of holiday parties over the past two weeks. I’ve baked a lot, made some candy, and generally have been a bit out of my routine. I love the parties and this time of year in general but tonight, I just cooked a regular old dinner and it was just the three of us and Ellis went to bed on time.

It’s during times like these where the cook-with-what-you-have philosophy and capacity is especially useful. When your grocery lists focus on sweets or what you’re going to bring to Christmas dinner, being able to make a frittata with a handful of herbs and a few diced potatoes, or a bowl of polenta with greens or beans or both, is a blessing.  So instead of sending out a final cookie recipe or some glamorous holiday dinner center piece, here are a few photos and ideas of what to make when you just need a regular old meal to keep you going, happy, and healthy.

Herb and Potato Frittata

If you don’t have time for the polenta and have some cooked or canned beans on hand, just braise whatever greens you have (kale, chard, collard greens. . .) with a little crushed garlic and some salt and mix with the warmed beans. Drizzle generously with olive oil and enjoy with our without a piece of bread.

Or, dice some winter squash and/or carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, etc. and toss with olive oil, maybe some cumin and chili flakes and roast at high heat until tender. Fry an egg and pop it on top of those veggies and dig in.

Another favorite is to cook a few, chopped leeks in a little butter or oil. Toast big slices of bread and spread on some goat cheese or a few slices of any kind of cheese you have on hand, top with the hot leeks, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, add a few grinds of pepper and salt and olive oil and enjoy!

More ideas of course on the recipe page and please share your favorite quick winter meals in the comments if you’d like.

I wish you all a peaceful, delicious and convivial holiday. Thank you for reading and cooking.

Gratefully  yours,

Katherine

My mother and me with some of the Thanksgiving pies in the background