Friday, October 28, 2016

One-Pot Kale and Sweet Potato Curry

The recipes by Minimalist Baker are my entertaining secret weapon. In order to perform due diligence to the “minimalist” moniker, there are strict parameters: all recipes must require 10 ingredients or less, one bowl or pot, or 30 minutes or less to prepare.  When cooking for a crowd, this simplistic approach is critical for a smooth dinner party/my sanity.

But here’s the thing about Minimalist Baker author Dana. Not only are her recipes easy, they are unequivocally fantastic. Each recipe erupts with bright flavors, intelligent combinations, and crowd-pleasing triumph.  Translation: I feel comfortable trying a novel recipe on a group I am eager to impress.
Case in point: One-Pot Kale and Sweet Potato Curry.  Curries are known for their intense spice, and there’s no shortage of apropos savory here. Ginger, chili, and turmeric accompany Thai red curry paste (if you are a soup enthusiast, make this a pantry staple for the colder months) in a silky broth of light coconut milk and dash of maple syrup. The broth bellows cozy! hearty! filling! But keeps other descriptors like “heavy” “rich” “where’s the Tums” at bay. All the positives of ebullient flavor without the stomachache of a fat-laden soup is difficult to achieve in a robust curry. But here lies the genius of Dana’s recipes.
The broth lends itself to a host of vegetable combinations; any leafy green, potato, or squash will do. But I immensely enjoyed the juxtaposition—both flavor and texture— of the earthy, ribbed Tuscan kale against the soft sweet potatoes, dotted with peas.  I did make a few small tweaks, reflected in the recipe below: I doubled the servings of vegetables, and added chickpeas for a protein boost.
Because the curry is so flavor forward, I recommend serving over a bed of plain brown rice to balance the meal. Arranged on the side, cilantro sprigs and lemon wedges make beautiful and customizable accoutrements.

One-Pot Kale and Sweet Potato Curry (slightly tweaked from Minimalist Baker)
Serves 4

1 ½ Tbsp coconut oil (can sub avocado or grape seed oil)
1 shallot, minced
2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Thai red chili (or serrano pepper), stem removed and thinly sliced with seeds
3 Tbsp red curry paste (I like Thai Kitchen brand, which is vegetarian—note most are not)
3 large sweet potatoes, skin removed + cubed
2 14-ounce cans light coconut milk
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup, plus more to taste
1 ½ tsp ground turmeric
½ cup frozen green peas
4 cups chopped kale (I used Tuscan)
1 14-ounce can chickpeas
1 lemon, juiced

Optional additions: ½ cup roasted cashews, salt (use sparingly; curry paste has very high sodium content)
Optional serving sides: brown rice, fresh cilantro, Thai basil, lemon slices

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add coconut oil, shallot, ginger, garlic, and pepper. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Add red curry paste and sweet potato and stir, and cook for 2 minutes more.
3. Add coconut milk, maple syrup, turmeric, and a pinch of salt and stir. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
4. Once simmering, add peas and slightly reduce heat. You want a simmer, not a boil, which should be around low to medium-low heat.
5. Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to soften the potato and peas, and infuse them with curry flavor. Taste and adjust flavor as needed.
6. Once the broth is well seasoned and the potatoes are softened, add kale, chickpeas, cashews (optional) and lemon juice, and cover. Simmer for 3-4 minutes more over low to medium-low heat.

7. Serve over rice, accompanied by lemon wedges and stalks of Thai basil or cilantro.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Spaghetti Squash with Market Tomato Sauce and Turkey Sausage

Two years ago, I abandoned my quest for the perfect tomato sauce recipe because I found it in a jar. It is Cucina Antica Spicy Arrabbiata, par excellence thanks to robust flavor, whole ingredients, and absence of excess sugar or salt.  I use it for everything, from chicken parmigiana to Shakshouka.
At the Greenmarket, gourds, pumpkins, and Indian corn carouse Autumn’s arrival front and center, but I couldn’t help notice the cornucopia of late-season tomatoes, ripe and bursting in a myriad of shapes and size, that populated the tents.  As excited as I was to jump on the season’s first delicata or acorn squash, I knew these guys would stick around for months, while the tomatoes were approaching final harvest. A raw preparation seemed to a la summer, and I craved a slow-cooked concoction. As I surveyed the rest of the produce, picking at my ratatouille sample courtesy of National Gourmet Institute, it came to me. I would make a ratatouille-inspired marinara sauce! A fabulously chunky, tomato-based fusion of early Fall’s best offerings: slow cooked tomatoes, carrots and red peppers; riddled with fresh basil and thyme.  Part French country, party Italian basic. The sauce would dress spaghetti squash noodles, and accompany DiPaola Turkey Farm hot turkey sausage.
I used Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Italian Tomato Sauce for the basic recipe, and the end result was outstanding. The carrots and peppers added a sweet, complex flavor to the late season tomatoes, so that the sauce felt unique and interesting without straying too far from a classic marinara flavor.  Notes of hot red chili and fennel from the sausage added a burst of heat to the mild sauce.
The red sauce is a bit time consuming, which is why I fervently recommend you gather a giant haul of market tomatoes and make a huge batch at once. It will keep in the refrigerator for over a week, and in the freezer indefinitely.
If you are a vegetarian? Substitute cannellini beans for turkey sausage.
If you are feeling creative? Add late summer squash, sundried tomatoes, capers, or olives to the mix.
If you are lazy? Sautee onions, carrots, red pepper, garlic, and thyme for eight minutes. Add it to your favorite jarred tomato sauce.
If you are in a time crunch? Substitute spaghetti squash noodles for zucchini noodles, which take only minutes to cook.
If you are human? You can’t deny the undeniable power of a good spaghetti and meatballs…consider this its evolution of sorts. A healthier, more flavorful, locally-sourced cousin of everyone’s beloved classic dish.

Spaghetti Squash with Market Tomato Sauce and Turkey Sausage (inspired by Mollie Katzen)
Serves 4

1 large spaghetti squash
2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 red peppers (sweet or bell), diced
1 carrot, diced
5 large tomatoes, such as Jersey or beefsteak, chopped
¾ cup loosely packed basil leaves
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
½ cup tomato paste
½ cup red wine, or, 1 Tbsp honey or sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt & pepper
10 to 12 oz turkey sausage

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise, and place (cut sides down) on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil lightly coated in olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes.
2. While the spaghetti squash is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat olive oil in a Dutch over or large skillet. Add onion, pepper, carrot, thyme, oregano, and 1 tsp salt. Sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, wine/honey/sugar, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 to 30 minutes.
4. While the sauce is simmering, cooking the sausage. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a medium sized skillet, and cook sausage, turning frequently until it is browned on all sides and cooked through in the middle, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
5. Add garlic to the sauce, and cook about 10 minutes more. The sauce will have a loose, chunky consistency, but if you desire a more uniform thickness, take an immersion blender to the pot once it has cooled a bit. Stir in basil leaves.
6. To serve: scrape out the seeds of the spaghetti squash and discard. Using a fork, scrape out the flesh of the squash—it will dislodge in spaghetti-like strands—distributing evenly amongst four plates (each squash half serves two). Top each plate with two heaping spoonfuls of sauce, and turkey sausage cut into pieces of ½ inch thickness. Garnish with extra basil or thyme, and enjoy with a side of thick, toasted whole grain bread.