post-passover tradition

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Growing up as an Ashkenazi Jew, kitniyot (legumes and legume-like foods — soy, peanuts, rice, beans, corn, etc.) were forbidden on Passover, so it became tradition for me to go overboard once it was over. As of December 2015, kitniyot are permitted, so this doesn’t have quite the same bang as it once did, but…

This is a soup without a recipe, an exercise in international pantry-clearing. Starting with a mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion), I added some pre-soaked beans (mung, kidney, black-eyed peas, yellow split peas) and grains (farro, barley), some water/broth, a can of diced tomatoes, and a some ras al hanout. Near the end, I added a diced zucchini so it wouldn’t get too mushy. Adjust for salt and… dinner.

Served with apple and (not pictured) rye bread toasted with oaxaca cheese because this really was an international event.

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mung bean and corn salad

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This is my current favorite summer salad. I’ve made it twice in a matter of weeks. It’s simple, it’s tasty, it’s filling, and it requires nothing more involved than a pot of boiling water (that you don’t need to be near) as far as cooking in a hot kitchen.

And it’s even better the day after you make it. Which is why it makes spiffy lunches, as you can see above.

I am pretty sure my entire history with mung beans involves bean sprouts, including the ones I nurtured myself in a glass with a damp paper towel inside the dining room side cabinet in elementary school. Considering how easy and quick they are to prepare as food and not science, I sort of wondered why that was – we had separate bins dedicated to varieties of beans and peas – until I mentioned this salad to my father, who proceeded to inform me that he didn’t care for mung beans.

(I think he might like this salad anyway, but I’m not going to push.)

Mung beans are cheap and easy to find and if you’re not sure where you fall on the love/hate mung bean spectrum, you can find them in the bulk bins at Whole Foods where you can buy just a little and check ‘em out.

Mung bean and corn salad

3/4 cup dried mung beans, cooked
2 large or 3 medium/small ears corn, kernels removed (about 2 cups)
1 small red onion or 2 shallots, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Throw everything together, stir, taste, and serve, basically. Warm or cold.

Notes: (1) Mung beans are extremely easy to cook. They’re small and don’t really need pre-soaking if you don’t have that kind of time or foresight; they’ll be done in well under an hour if you just stick them in a pot and boil them in water. (2) I parboiled my corn in the microwave, but if your ears are sweet and not too starchy, use them raw. (3) I used onion the first time and shallots the second and think both work equally well. Do not be tempted to add more onion or garlic if it doesn’t seem to be a strong presence right out of the gate. It will be one the following day. (4) If your corn is not very sweet, I’d add a touch of a sweetish commercial salad dressing (a raspberry vinaigrette, for instance). Don’t overdo that, either.

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I find cutting the corn ears in half to be of some help when it comes to stripping them – the kernels tend to scatter less. I still am no kind of neat about it, though.

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This picture is entirely so you can see my brand-new, spiffy metal colander. I love this colander on its own merits, not just because it meant I could retire the red plastic one of doom.

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Basil from my plant.

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chick peas two ways: tea-and-chili chana

I’m posting these recipes in order of appearance, but this was actually the one I wanted to try first. Except that, for once, I didn’t have any chilis in the house, so the amchur recipe got made first.

When I did make this one, I still (as usual) used the wrong kind of pepper. Most of the time, it doesn’t really matter much. But occasionally, the difference in size and hotness does matter and this… might have been one of those times. This didn’t turn out too hot to eat, but it was definitely a sinus-clearer as made, which is why I’m giving the recipe as written.

As for the rest of the recipe, it’s simple and a little different, using tea as the liquid instead of water. I drink copious amounts of tea all year long, so this is right up my alley – at least in principle. In actuality, I drink copious amounts of rooibos all year long. But I still have loose Darjeeling in the house, so all was well. If you don’t, I’m pretty sure the culinary gods won’t strike you down from on high if you use a couple of Tetley teabags – just make sure they’re plain.

 

Tea and chili chana
(adapted from 660 Curries)

2 TB black tea leaves, preferably Darjeeling
2 cups water

2 TB neutral oil (canola, etc.)
1 TB cumin seeds

2 TB finely chopped ginger
1 TB finely chopped garlic
2-4 anaheim/serrano/cayenne chiles [or two medium jalapenos], sliced thinly crosswise, with seeds.

3 cups cooked chick peas
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1.5 tspn kosher salt
1/2 tspn turmeric

juice of 1 lime

Make tea. Bring the water to a boil, pour over leaves, let steep for five minutes, then strain.

Heat the oil until shimmering in a medium saucepan. Add cumin and stir until aromatic, 10 seconds.

Add ginger, garlic, and chiles and saute until the ginger and garlic start to brown and the chiles are fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

Stir in the chick peas, cilantro, salt, and turmeric and mix well. Saute for 1-2 minutes.

Add tea, stir, and bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes until sauce is thickened slightly.

Stir in lime juice and serve.

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Yes, I could have made tea in the teapot, but I didn’t want to foul it.

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Tea!

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This? Is a lot of jalapeno. It’s two large peppers, which is possibly half a pepper too many because while it wasn’t too hot to eat, it was on the verge of being too hot to enjoy, which is the important barometer. I will say that it was less of an assault on the reheat/leftover side, though.

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The dry sauté to cook the turmeric.

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And here’s another of those do-as-I-say moments. I covered the pot after adding the tea and wandered off, not realizing until six minutes had passed that the whole purpose was to leave it uncovered so as to get rid of some of the liquid. So I reached for the besan (chickpea flour) and thickened it a bit that way, which is why it looks so thick here. (And please ignore that this bowl was not clean at the start; it is apparently the only picture I took after adding the tea.)

chick peas two ways: amchur chana

I received 660 Curries as a gift last year, but didn’t make anything from it straightaway because it was August and too hot to cook. My birthday falls in that part of the New York summer when it’s hot enough long enough that it’s still 89 degrees at midnight, which can mean little use for the brand-new cookbooks except as reading material at the dining room table as I sup on salad and Cheerios (not at the same time).

But then comes fall and winter and the reminder that my office is freezing and I have a lovely little thermos and hot lunches, even on blistering summer days, isn’t a bad thing because it’s always winter at work. And so even as it starts to heat up again, it’s worth socking away a few containers of stuff to heat up.

I might have started slow when it came to this cookbook, but I’ve more than made up for it in the months since then. I’m probably down to the low 640s by now in terms of curries left to try, not counting any of the ones I’ve repeated (like this and this) more than once. Not everything has been awesome and amazing, but it’s never been less than perfectly serviceable. And that’s part of the point, I think – there are fancy curries and then there are get-home-from-work-hungry kind of curries where you look at what’s in the fridge and try to find something to do with it. And this book covers both.

The two curries I’m posting are definitely in the latter category. Especially since I *gasp* used canned chick peas, at least in part.

 

Amchur Chana

2 TB neutral oil (canola, etc.)
2 tspn cumin seeds, divided: 1 tspn ground, 1 tspn seeds
2 cardamom pods
1-2 cinnamon sticks

1 14.5oz can diced or crushed tomato


2 TB amchur (mango powder)
1 TB ground coriander seeds
1 tspn kosher salt
1/2 tspn lal mirch/cayenne
1/4 tspn turmeric

3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 cans is fine)
1 cup water
4 TB finely chopped cilantro, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on med-high; when it’s shimmering, add cumin seeds, cardamom, and cinnamon and stir for 10-15 seconds. Don’t let the cumin burn.

Add the tomatoes, amchur, ground cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne, and turmeric. Lower the heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chick peas, water, and half of the cilantro. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes. The sauce should thicken up a bit.

Sprinkle remaining cilantro and onion and serve.

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You can get away with the already-ground coriander if you absolutely have to, but it tastes different – and better – this way.

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Cumin seeds in hot oil get very done very fast, which is why I don’t normally try to take pictures of it – it’ll burn by the time I get the camera ready. I was prepared this time, but it was a near thing.

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The recipe calls for crushed tomatoes and feel free to use them if you’ve got them, but I only buy diced, so that’s what I used. I buy diced because I don’t buy fresh tomatoes – I don’t eat them – and it’s the best way to simulate fresh ones when cooking. Just don’t get the kind that comes with basil or garlic or whatever else they sell.

(My dislike of raw tomatoes makes it rather ironic that I am growing a tomato plant on my back porch, but we’ll cross that bridge should I actually get tomatoes from it.)

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Ready for the final simmer, which takes it from this…

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… to this.

Tasty, fast, and done in less than an hour. Not a bad deal.

sweet-tart lentils with mustard

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I have four different types of lentils in my pantry, plus a supply of yellow split peas. But since most of them are not used in Indian cooking, I find myself making substitutions quite frequently. Such as here, where the recipe called for split green lentils, but I used the standard supermarket brown lentils and it was very tasty anyway. I’ve made it a few times already this way; eventually I will get around to trying it as written.

 

Sweet-Tart Lentils with Mustard
(adapted from 660 Curries)

1 cup lentils, rinsed and checked for stones*
3 cups water

1 tablespoon neutral oil or ghee
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt [less if you’re using table salt]
1/2 teaspoon cayenne/lal mirch
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon asefetida

1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes [or 1 large tomato finely chopped]
1 tablespoon crumbled jaggery or firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

*recipe calls for split green and I used whole brown; go with what you’ve got and adjust cooking times as necessary.

 

Notes: Decide first whether you’re going to add the sauce to the lentils or the lentils to the sauce. I find it easier to add the lentils to the sauce, but that’s a quirk of my cookware and you might decide it’s easier the other way. Whichever way you go, use the bigger pot as the destination and you’ll be fine.

Mis en place is important here, since you’re adding ingredients in rapid succession that will burn if left unattended while you hunt down the next one. I’ve grouped things in the order in which they’ll be used.

 

Start the lentils in a saucepan with the water; cook at a boil until barely tender (time dependant upon what type lentil used – split greens take about ten minutes, whole browns twice that). Skim foam as needed.

While the lentils are going, start the sauce. Heat the oil in a pan with a cover and toast the mustard seeds, covering the pan once the seeds start popping like popcorn and waiting for them to stop (30 seconds-ish).

Add the cumin seeds and stir; they’ll brown almost immediately – a few seconds.

Add the salt, cayenne, turmeric, and asefetida. Cook for a few seconds (and try not to cough on the fumes).

Add the tomato, brown sugar, and cilantro. Simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes.

Once the lentils are barely tender, combine them with the sauce. Stir and simmer, covered, for 5-7 minutes. Make sure the lentils are cooked through, but not overcooked.

 

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My frozen cilantro again, and a sign that I need to go buy more lentils. And, once again with feeling: mis en place is your friend.

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The tomato sauce. plus cilantro cubes.

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Combined and ready to simmer, sort of. I combined them early (intentionally) and so I left enough liquid to make sure nothing dried out while the lentils finished up.

curried lentils and sweet potatoes with swiss chard

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Deb took lovely pictures when she prepared this. I… did not. This is not a dish that gets much in the way of presentation points. But it is tasty and it is easy.

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I’ve made this before, but not since last winter, so I started cutting the sweet potatoes as if they would be ultimately blended. I did better on the second one.

You’ll notice the beet greens on the side; I thought I might need them to supplement the chard, since it was a small bunch. That’ll be really funny in a couple of photos.

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I know it’s easy enough to make your own garam masala. But Kalustyan’s is right there.

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This is around when I remembered that there’s a reason I usually make this in the bigger pot. There’s a way to get a pound of chard into that pot, but it’s not pretty.

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This is not a pound of chard. It’s somewhat less than a pound, which is why I thought I’d need beet greens. Heh.

As you can see from the top photo, the chard quickly reduces down to almost nothing and, if you size correctly in the first place, this is a satisfying one-pot dish. It freezes extremely well and, pre-portioned out, makes excellent lunches – just reheat and go.

My usual accompaniment is some kind of grain – rice, millet, bulgur. But I wasn’t in the mood and opted instead to go with bread. Which in turn required throwing together a quickbread, since all I had defrosted was cinnamon-raisin and that would’ve been gross.

What I got was a decent quickbread, but also a sad story of what happens when you don’t properly grease a pan. Even a glass pan.

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It looks pretty gorgeous from the outside.

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It has a decent crumb and good rise for quick bread. It’s got cumin and coriander in it, so it’s got a bit of a tint.

But something went very, very wrong. I couldn’t get it out of the pan without destroying the loaf – it stuck to the bottom in one spot and not all of the wiggling in the world would get it free. And so if you flip around this acceptable loaf around, you get this sadness:

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I got a nice crispy, crunchy shell of crust and then one naked butt of a bread. The damage is actually to about half of the loaf, which got repurposed (except for the crust, which got eaten straightaway).

ersatz falafel

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When is a falafel not a falafel? When it’s this, more or less. Another recipe from my ummah cookbook, one that I had bookmarked to try once I got around to buying bulgur.

Chick Pea and Bulgur Patties
adapted from Classic Vegetarian Cooking of the Middle East and North Africa

1 C dry bulgur
2 C chick peas, prepared (the recipe calls for a 19oz can; I had cooked-from-dried ready)
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped (no need to mince if you don’t have a press)
1/4 C fresh cilantro, finely chopped
[2 eggs]
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon allspice
pinch cayenne
1 C flour
salt & pepper

Note: these are supposed to be fried in oil. I chose to bake them. I also added the egg, which is not in the original recipe, because I had my doubts about everything holding together. Omit if the mixture is sticky enough on its own.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Prepare the bulgur according to type. I have course, which I had to cook it first. The finer grinds can just be soaked in boiling water for five minutes, like couscous.

Combine everything but the flour in a food processor and achieve a paste — I was content with a pretty course chop, but you might want to smooth it out.

Add flour and combine. If it’s too dry, add the eggs or just use water if you’d like to keep this vegan. If it’s too moist, add flour.

Form into balls the size of walnuts. [If you’re baking, you might want to move up to golf balls, since this will make many, many walnuts.] Flatten each ball so that you’ve gone from walnuts to hockey pucks.

Space them out on a baking sheet. You don’t need to worry too much about proximity — they won’t spread.

Bake 15 minutes, or until underside is golden brown. Flip, then bake 10 minutes more. This will depend on the size of the patties, so be a little paranoid the first batch so you don’t dry them out.

Keep going until done. Using half-sheets, it still took me three batches.

bulgur_peasI used cooked-from-dried chickpeas, since I had some in the freezer, but I think this is a recipe where using the can would be preferable. Canned beans are softer and moister, which are attributes you’re looking for in a recipe like this.

patty_prepI had hopes for using the blender for this, since it’s sort of like hummus, which is blender-able, and I don’t own a food processor. However, I ended up using the grinder attachment on the KitchenAid when the blender gave me those ‘are you kidding me?’ looks.

egg_adjustmentThe left is what I got after following the recipe; the right is what it looked like after I added the egg. I was guesstimating quantity with firmer, drier chickpeas, so don’t add the egg or water until you see that you need it.

patties_panThe last batch, halfway through. You can tell I worked right to left here. Also that I really, really didn’t want to make a fourth batch with just two patties on it.

patty_splitA somewhat less-than-perfectly photographed cross-section. The dip is just cilantro and plain yogurt, since it was getting pretty late and I didn’t have any tzadziki or tahini sauce recipes to hand. However, since this recipe makes enough to freeze half and still be eating it for three days, I can always go with one of those options when I defrost some. The cilantro sauce was quite serviceable, though — simple and a nice complement to the cilantro in the patties.