Hearty Lentil Sweet Potato Stew

It’s not really cold here yet, but I’m already in the mood for soups and stews. This one came about on a whim a few nights ago after we bought a large bag of sweet potatoes at the local greenmarket. I’ve made this stew twice so far, the second time (tonight) just days after the original batch and at the request of my boyfriend.

What’s great about this is is how flexible it is and how quickly it comes together. And, of course, that it reheats well, which is a must for me.

IMG_6322

Lentil-sweet potato stew

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 medium shallots (or one large onion)
  • 1-3 cloves garlic (per your preference)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp hot paprika (or 1/4-1/ tsp cayenne)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1-2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup dry brown lentils
  • 16 oz. stewed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves

In a medium pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium. Chop the onion and sauté until soft, approximately five minutes. Peel and dice the garlic and add to the onion, cooking another 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cumin and paprika and cook for an additional 30 seconds.

Keeping the heat on medium, add the stock, lentils, tomatoes, and bay leaves. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into approximately one inch cubes. Add sweet potato to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are cooked and sweet potatoes are soft, approximately 30-45 minutes.

Salt to taste, though I didn’t think it needed any.

Serves 4 as a main dish or more as a starter.

Advertisements

Brown sugar-bourbon sour cherry jam

When I saw sour cherries at the farmers’ market last weekend, I knew I had to have some. I grabbed two pints of cherries, which gave me just over four cups of cherries once pitted. Ultimately, this is a jam of my own creation, but it is based on one of Marisa McClellan’s recipes. I often check out other recipes for the basics, like proportions, and then make flavor adjustments on my own that don’t affect the acidity of the final product, which is exactly what happened here. I’m quite happy with the final product!

IMG_8803Brown sugar-bourbon sour cherry jam

  • 2 pints of sour cherries, stems and pits removed
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I like Buffalo Trace)

Mix the cherries and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir, and place in the fridge for half an hour to a few hours so the cherries can release their juices.

If you plan on canning the jam, first get your water bath canner set up and start it heating up. I got three 4 oz. jars out of this recipe with a tiny bit left over.IMG_8814

Pour the cherries and sugar mixture into a low, wide pan and turn the heat up to high. Once the mixture comes to a boil, allow it to bubble until it starts to thicken, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the bourbon and boil for another five minutes. You’ll know the jam is done when it doesn’t immediately rush to fill in the space left when you drag a spoon through it.

IMG_8809

Funnel jam into jars, cap, and process in the water bath for 10 minutes.

IMG_8818

Popsicles!

It’s summer and it’s hot here in New York. One of my favorite summer foods are popsicles, but a lot of them are too sweet for me. Instead, I thought I’d try making my own this year. First, I bought myself some popsicle molds, though you could probably make them with paper cups and popsicle sticks. I used strawberries and peaches, one of my favorite fruit combinations, but I’m sure they could be switched out per your preferences.

IMG_8459

Strawberry Peach Popsicles

  • 2 pints strawberries
  • 3 peaches
  • 1/4-1/3 cup honey

Core the strawberries, chop, and place in a medium bowl. Peel and pit the peaches, chop, and add to the bowl. Add the honey and mix. Place the bowl in your fridge for several hours or overnight to macerate (allow the fruit to release juice).

IMG_8455

Once the fruit has had a chance to release dump it in a blender and blend until it looks like a smoothie. Feel free to leave some of the fruit in chunks!

At this point, you can pour the fruit mixture into the popsicle moulds or, if you have the time, let it sit for an hour or two. I chose not to let it settle and ended up with popsicles that were a bit icier than they had to be. They still tasted great, though.

IMG_8456

Once you’ve poured your popsicles, set them in the freezer and give them a few hours to set, ideally overnight.

Any extra fruit mixture can either be drunk as a smoothie, or saved to make more popsicles as you eat them.

Matzah Brei

I said I was going to post this recipe last week and now that Passover has almost ended, I’d better actually post it. Matzah brei is, essentially, french toast made with matzah instead of bread. Everyone has their own way of making it. Some like it eggier, while others like it more matzah-y. I didn’t know this until recently, but some people even eat it with syrup or jam, like you would with french toast. My family, true to our love of salt, has always prepared a savory version. The recipe I’m posting is for just one or two servings (one for me), but the recipe can easily be doubled or tripled as necessary.

Matzah Brei

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 pieces of matzah (regular works best, but I sometimes use whole wheat or bran if I’m feeling the need to be healthier)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp. oil

Beat the eggs and salt together in a low, wide bowl. Run the matzah under water just long enough to dampen each side. (You don’t want it to fall apart in your hands!) Crumble the matzah into the eggs; I usually do this by breaking it in half, then quarters, etc. until I have pieces that are no more than an inch long or wide. Mix the egg and matzah together to make sure that the matzah soaks up as much egg as possible.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Once the oil spreads easily, add the egg and matzah mixture, making sure that it is spread around the pan and will cook evenly.

You should only need to cook each side for a minute or two for the egg to cook.

And that’s it! You can add more salt if you want. I’d also add some fruit or something, because matzah has zero fiber…

Asparagus, mushroom, and leek frittata with goat cheese

This is a super easy recipe that I decided to make for the first night of Passover (minus the goat cheese, but I think it really adds something). It turned out really well and I’ll definitely be making this recipe again.

This recipe requires the use of a cast iron pan, which is pretty much the only pan that can go from stovetop to oven. If you don’t have one, you can get them used for a decent price…and used is probably better when it comes to cast iron as older pans are generally of better quality. If you’ve never used your pan before, it’s best to season it first, which is essentially heating oil in it until the oil polymerizes, leaving a thin layer bonded to the metal. Seasoning a cast iron skillet is quite easy. First, please the skillet on your stove over a medium high flame. Once it has heated slightly, add about 1-2 tsp of oil (any will work, but I like vegetable oil) and use a paper towel to spread it in an even layer around the inside of the pan. Allow the pan to heat until it just starts to smoke, then turn off and allow to cool. Once the pan has cooled sufficiently, wipe it down again, to remove any oil that has not polymerized.

Now to make the frittata!

IMG_0825

Asparagus, mushroom, leek frittata

  • 1 cup asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup chopped leeks
  • 1 cup roughly chopped mushrooms
  • 8 eggs
  • splash of milk
  • 3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp (+/-) sunflower oil

Heat the oil over medium high in your cast iron skillet. Add the asparagus, leeks, and mushrooms. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, until soft. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, milk, and salt together in a medium bowl. When the vegetables are soft, add the eggs and stir slightly to mix. Spread the goat cheese evenly throughout the skillet. Reduce temperature to medium and allow to cook until the edges start to set, about 10 minutes.

While the frittata is cooking stovetop, preheat your oven to broil. When the edges have started to set, move the frittata to the oven and broil for five minutes. Keep a close eye on it! It’s very easy to overcook at this point because the temperature is so high.

When the frittata has just started to brown on top, remove it from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

What I’m eating for Passover

Tonight marks the first night of Passover. If you’re not familiar with this holiday, The Boston Globe did a nice overview this year. The important thing to know is that for eight days (starting at sundown the night before the first day), Jews are not supposed to eat chametz, or leavened breads made from wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt. Instead, we can eat matzah, which is made from any of the previously-mentioned grains, but under close supervision by a rabbi to ensure that it remains unleavened.

Traditionally, Ashkenazi Jews (those of us with recent roots primarily in central and eastern Europe) also avoid eating foods categorized as kitniyot, such as  legumes, beans, peas, rice, millet, corn, and seeds (mustard, sesame, and poppy, for example). This prohibition on kitniyot finds its origins in a very common tradition among Ashkenazim called “fencing.” Essentially, Medieval rabbis created fences around prohibited behaviors, so that not only would people not engage in those behaviors, but they would not engage in behaviors that could even be mistaken for those that are prohibited. Because many of the foods considered kitniyot expand when cooked (even without the addition of a leavening agent) and because they can be ground down into flour that could be baked into products that closely resemble chametz, the rabbis decided that they should be avoided altogether. Jewish communities outside of central and eastern Europe do not follow this custom.

Within the past few years, rabbis from the Reform and Israeli Conservative movements have issued responsa (opinions) stating that Ashkenazi Jews should feel free to eat kitniyot during Passover. This works out well for me, since, though my family is Ashkenazi, my mother started eating kitniyot about 15 years ago anyway. Though I don’t eat much kitniyot anyway, for the purposes of this post, a few of the meal options will contain foods that some Jews won’t eat on Passover.

Breakfast

I was most worried about breakfast because I eat oatmeal most morning and obviously, that’s out. Manischewitz makes a kosher for Passover (KP) hot cereal, but it’s basically just cream of wheat (not especially nutritious) and I can’t find it anywhere in stores or online. Luckily, I recently discovered that there is a product called quinoa flakes and that they can be used to make hot cereal. Unfortunately, you’re not going to find strictly KP quinoa flakes, but I’m not super strict, so these work for me. Another good option would be my breakfast egg-veggie muffins, which contain no grain at all. My absolute favorite Passover breakfast is matzah brei (I’ll post a recipe soon), but it’s really more of a brunch dish, rather than something I could eat during the week. Of course, yogurt is an option as well.

Lunch

Recently, I’ve been eating whole wheat pita sandwiches for lunch, usually with either roasted turkey or turkey bologna (both from Applegate Farms because they don’t add nitrates). In the past, I’ve used regular whole wheat matzah as crackers, but this year, I discovered Yehuda Light Whole Wheat Bran Matzah and decided to try those. One board of matzah with 2-3 oz. of meat and some fruit on the side is a decent lunch.

Dinner

The traditional Seder dinner (at least in my house) is brisket. Jewish brisket is delicious (and not at all the same is the brisket you get at barbecue restaurants), but not something I’ve ever made myself. Instead, this year I’m making an asparagus, mushroom, and leek frittata. Passover is a spring holiday; the egg on the seder plate represents several things, among them the cycle of life, which begins anew with spring. I thought that it would be nice for the main dish to represent spring and rebirth.

Chag sameach!

Vietnamese Style Pickled Slaw

When I got the idea for the meatballs I posted last night, I knew I wanted to serve them with some sort of pickled slaw made using my new veggie spiralizer (it’s not perfect and I’m hoping to upgrade to a fancier version, but it did work for my purposes). I based this recipe on do chua, a Vietnamese pickle made with carrots and daikon, and am pretty pleased with how it came out. The boyfriend approves, too!

slaw2

Vietnamese Style Pickled Slaw

  • 1 large cucumber, seedless, peeled if the skin is waxed
  • 2-3 large carrots, peeled, with leaf end cut off
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or 1/2 packet Splenda
  • 34 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
  • 1 inch slice of ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes (optional)

Spiralize the cucumber and carrots (if you don’t have a spiralizer, you can either cut them into very thin matchsticks or use a vegetable peeler to peel off thin sections) and place in a mesh colander. Toss with the salt, place colander over a bowl, and let sit for at least 10 and up to 30 minutes. This allows the salt to pull as much moisture as possible from the vegetables.

slaw1

Place garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes (if using) in a pint jar. Separately, mix vinegar, water, and sweetener, stirring or shaking to blend.

Press on vegetables to get out as much water as possible. Place them in the jar with the garlic and ginger. pour the vinegar mixture over the top. Seal the jar and place in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 days.

Refrigerator pickles like these should last pretty indefinitely, but I haven’t had them around long enough to test out how the texture holds up.