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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.

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Roasted Potatoes, Horseradish Cream & Watercress

Grated fresh horseradish is a treat if you can find it. One of my favorite vendors, Ayers Creek Farm, has had it the farmers market all winter.

Grated fresh horseradish is a treat you can find at farmers markets this time of year and in many grocery stores.

Memories of one of my favorite childhood meals at my grandparents’ house in the Bavarian Alps–smoked trout with horseradish cream and a green salad–inspired the recent purchase of a chunk of fresh horseradish at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. While I’ve always liked the flavor I’ve rarely cooked with it myself.  Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm  calls it Bavarian Parmesan as it truly is used liberally in Bavaria. What is NOT improved by a fresh grating of it?! What certainly IS improved is a salad dressing or deviled eggs or any manner of eggs really or roasted beets or beef of course or roasted potatoes in this case. It certainly likes to be mingled with creamy things like yogurt, creme fraiche, sour cream, heavy whipping cream and butter, which round out its heat and punch, however, a little–of both the creamy partner and the horseradish itself–goes a long way so by all means indulge!

A friend reminded me of this classic combination the other day and with my fragrant root in hand I made up a quick cream for some simply roasted potatoes and made a salad of water cress and nothing more than lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper and voila, one of the best plates of food I’ve sat down to in a while. So simple and so, so good. It’s worth seeking out fresh horseradish for the fresh, spicy bite it offers even if you have no Germanic heritage.

And for more creative, simple ways to prepare fresh produce this time of year join me and 47th Ave Farmer Laura Masterson for a cooking class on Saturday, March 16th.

Happy Cooking!

Grated fresh horseradish mixed with Greek yogurt, salt and a little olive oil.

Grated fresh horseradish mixed with Greek yogurt, salt and a little olive oil.

Roasted Potatoes with Horseradish Cream and Watercress

If you have smoked trout or other smoked fish or canned albacore it makes a wonderful addition.  You can also cook some eggs, just barely hard-boiled (bring eggs to a boil, turn off immediately and let sit in hot water for 8 minutes) and serve those alongside for a light meal.

Fingerling or Ozette Potatoes (which I used) or any firm-fleshed, waxy potato that roasts well. I used about 15 medium-sized potatoes and three of us polished those off as a side to a hearty soup. Keep potatoes whole if small-ish or cut in large wedges.
3-4 teaspoons grated fresh horseradish (or more to taste). I used the small holes on a box grater
Generous 1/2 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt or sour cream or creme fraiche
Sea salt
1-2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 bunch fresh watercress, well washed and dried and roughly torn (or arugula or other peppery green)
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F.

I almost never peel potatoes but I did for this dish and it gives the potatoes a nice thin crust but it’s just great with the  skin left on as well just give them a good scrub. Toss the potatoes with some olive oil and salt and spread on a sheet pan and put in the oven. Turn once or twice while roasting and roast until tender and crisp on the outside, about 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile grate the horseradish on the small holes of a box grater. In a small bowl mix the horseradish, yogurt, salt and olive oil and stir well.

In a salad bowl toss the watercress, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Roasted Ozette potatoes, fresh horseradish cream and watercress.

Roasted Ozette potatoes, fresh horseradish cream and watercress.

Why Not? Add a Spoonful . . .

Brothy Pinto Beans with Harissa and Parsley

Brothy Pinto Beans with Harissa and Parsley

of Harissa to my plain bowl of brothy beans for lunch? Why not do the same a few days later with chickpeas and top them with garlicky sautéed mustard greens and feta? This was such a success that I taught it in a recent class and I’ve noted the recipe below. I use this wonderful smoky, spicy paste in this greens and bulgur dish and have been reaching for it this winter to enliven eggs, bowls of rice and now beans. There are lots of recipes online to make your own Harissa and my favorite store-bought brand is Mustapha’s.

Why not? has become my new teaching refrain as well.  It of course goes hand in hand with the cook-with-what-you-have approach of substituting and adapting on the fly and is a catchy enough reminder to not be bound word for word to recipes and thus make cooking more fun, less stressful and more satisfying.

A spice paste often from Morocco of chilies, cumin, garlic and oil.

A spice paste often from Morocco of chilies, garlic, lemon and oil.

I’ve had a couple of successes with the why not? approach lately. I added lots of sliced, raw leeks instead of a little onion to a gratin of root vegetables. Not sure why I’d never done that but it gave the gratin a lush, silky sweetness. I filled burritos with pinto beans and sautéed chard and roasted tomatoes. I made the Cauliflower Pasta Risotto that I wrote about here with Brussels Sprouts and bacon. And last night I thinned down heavy whipping cream with milk since the cream was so thick I thought it might not whip into a nice light topping for my son’s birthday chocolate pie. It worked beautifully! Sometimes the why not? approach is less successful as in the time I added some homemade vanilla extract (vodka plus vanilla beans) from a very fresh batch of extract to heavy cream that I whipped for some dessert and the cream tasted sour from the vodka that had not yet really been infused by the vanilla beans.

Have you had moments like these? Successful or less so? I’d love to hear about them.

Chickpea Soup with Sautéed Mustard Greens and Harissa

This is something I’ve been eating this winter for lunch with a variety of toppings or additions. It came about one day when all I had ready to eat was cooked chickpeas in their broth, a jar of Harissa in the fridge (and a few other things but they were not suitable for lunch). I heated up the chickpeas, added a little Harissa and a good drizzle of olive oil and lunch was had, with a piece of bread, I think. It was warm and nourishing and lovely. I like the addition of quickly sautéed mustard greens (or any leafy greens) and a little feta. This is just a basic template and another quick, cheap, delicious way to use those glorious chickpeas or any kind of bean you have around already cooked.

Serves 2

3 cups cooked chickpeas (or other beans of your choice)
2 – 2 ½ cups chickpea cooking liquid
½ – 1 teaspoon Harissa (depending on what spice level you like and your brand of Harissa)
About 4 cups washed mustard greens, cut into ribbons
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
Olive oil
Crumbled feta for serving
Salt and Pepper

Heat the chickpeas and their liquid in a saucepan. Sauté the mustard greens with the garlic in a bit of olive oil until just wilted and lightly salt. This should only take about 3-5 minutes.

When ready to serve, stir the Harissa into the chickpeas and portion the soup into bowls. Top with the mustard greens and a bit of feta. Drizzle on a little more good olive oil and grind of pepper and enjoy!

Chickpeas and Harissa topped with mustard greens and feta

Chickpeas and Harissa topped with mustard greens and feta (photo courtesy of Mark Timby)