Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Split Pea and Vegetable Curry

A giant cauliflower in my refrigerator pushed me toward making this recipe. Okay, not literally, of course. But, you know, I remembered this recipe seems to need cauliflower to make it right, so I found the journal with my notes about it and prepared to try it again. When I looked at the recipe and saw that it only needed a tiny fraction of that giant vegetable, I plunged ahead anyway. It’s good food. So what if it doesn’t require lots of cauliflower.

This is a thick, stew-y curry with a base of yellow split peas, plenty of potato and a variety of vegetables. In my old notes I wrote, “I feel like the cauliflower is essential.” The underlining is in the original note, so who am I to argue with myself. That being said, other vegetables would be welcome in addition to or as replacements for the cauliflower. The same goes for the other vegetables. While I like the zucchini, the original recipe called for eggplant. Green beans are good, but I only had a few from my garden, so I added sugar snap peas to them. Both are fine.

I like the way the split peas and potatoes thicken this stew, so I probably wouldn’t replace those. I also wouldn’t do much messing around with the spices: fresh ginger, garlic, chile, and toasted cumin seeds. It’s a good, deliciously flavorful balance. I used 2 small chile peppers and quite liked the spice level. You can adjust that to your own taste, of course.

In addition to being hearty and delicious, this is also quite a healthy dish, with a high flavor to calorie ratio. It also has a high whole food quotient with all the good stuff that’s in legumes and vegetables. It’s vegan, too, but even if you eat meat regularly, you won’t miss it in this wholesome curry. I served it with flatbread (I wish I’d had time to make this naan to accompany it!), but I think you could serve it over brown rice, instead.

With cooler weather coming on us, this is a great warming stand-by. Now, about the rest of that cauliflower…

Split Pea and Vegetable Curry
Adapted from Eating Well magazine

1 cup yellow split peas
5 ¼ cups water, divided, plus more if needed
2 cups potato (peeled if desired), cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup cauliflower, cut into 1-inch (or smaller) pieces
1 cup chopped green beans and/or sugar snap peas
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral oil)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 finely chopped fresh chile peppers (or to taste)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lime

1. Place the split peas in a sieve and rinse well in cold water. Drain well.

2. Place the split peas in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the 5 cups water. Bring to a boil and skim any foam that forms on the surface. Add the potatoes. Return to a boil, reduce the heat and boil gently, uncovered for 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the cauliflower, green beans and/or snap peas, zucchini, carrot, salt and turmeric. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and cook at a gentle boil until the vegetables are tender and the split peas are soft, but not falling apart. Stir occasionally and add more water if you think the stew is getting to thick. This should take about 20 minutes, but rely more on the state of the split peas than on the time.  

4. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook about 15-20 seconds, or until sizzling and fragrant. Add the garlic and chiles and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is just beginning to brown, about 30 seconds or so. Remove from the heat.

5. Stir the cumin mixture into the stew. Pour ¼ cup water into the skillet. Swirl the water around the pan and pour into the stew.

6. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Taste for seasoning, specifically salt and lime juice, and adjust as needed.

Makes about 6 servings.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cheddar Jalapeno Cheese Ball

I love snacks. I think that’s why I hang so tightly onto my football fan self, even though I’m so over the celebrity worship that professional sports displays have become. I need to have a time that demands snacks. Indoor tailgating from the comfort of my own couch on my weekends off is how and when these snacks will happen.

Like this Cheddar Jalapeno Cheese Ball. I had never, ever made a cheese ball in my life until I tried this one. Now, I may never stop making cheese balls! This is that delicious! Cream cheese mixed with lots of sharp cheddar, a bit of garlic, some smoked paprika and the spicy kick of jalapeno chiles. Many, many crackers are going to give their lives in the service of this fabulous cheese spread.

There are a million ways you could go with this basic formula, but I really liked this pretty simple direction. I used jarred pickled jalapenos for this, and I think that was a good move (although you could use fresh peppers if you like). I liked that they’re softer in texture than fresh peppers, and I liked the addition of the bit of inevitable briny flavor they carried along. The amount in the recipe below is fairly spicy. You could use more or fewer chiles to taste.

Finally, a word about bacon. I didn’t use any. I know you want bacon. The recipes I looked at in developing this one included bacon, but I left it out. This cheese ball would probably be great with added bacon, but it was delicious without it. Think of me what you will. But make some version of this cheese ball!

Cheddar Jalapeno Cheese Ball

If you don’t have smoked paprika, you could use ground cumin, chili powder, or a combination of the two. You could also use different chile peppers. I think chipotle chiles canned in adobo would be pretty great.

1 small garlic clove
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for garnish if desired
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
about 1/3 cup crushed tortilla chips

1. Finely chop the garlic clove. Sprinkle with the salt and chop and rub into a paste as described in this post.

2. In a medium-size bowl, combine the cream cheese and cheddar. Add the garlic-salt paste, smoked paprika, lime juice and pickled jalapeno peppers. Stir together to combine well. All the ingredients should be well distributed.

3. Shape the cheese mixture into a ball. (Your hands are the best tool for this.) Roll the ball in the crushed tortilla chips. Sprinkle with a few dashes of smoked paprika if desired. Place the cheese ball on a plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill for about an hour, or until ready to serve. Serve spread on sturdy crackers.

Makes many snack servings.

Another recipe like this one: Garlic and Herb Vegetable Dip

One year ago: Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Energy Bars (one of my favorite recipes!)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Melon and Lime Cocktail

This is a first on The Messy Apron. A cocktail! Sure I said you could spike this Mulled Apple Cider and you could doctor up this hot chocolate with a liqueur, but I’ve never mixed an alcoholic beverage with other stuff in a glass just to make a particular drink.

This concoction, I suppose, doesn’t actually qualify as a cocktail anyway, depending on whether you hold to a purist’s definition. I’m still going to tell you about it, though, because it’s really good. It’s a simple mixture of Midori melon-flavored liqueur and lime juice riding in a vehicle of club soda. It’s fairly sweet, but that sweetness is tempered by the squeeze of lime. Those sweet and fruity flavors along with the carbonated water make it all go down kind of like soda pop. (Enjoy responsibly!)

I just kind of made this drink up several years ago, and I can’t really remember what I was thinking (except, perhaps, “what am I going to do with this bottle of Midori?”). I really liked it, so I started paying attention to measurements and such so I could tell other people about it.

If you like those fruit-flavored bottled malt beverages and hard ciders, this might be the simple homemade drink for you. Other fruit liqueurs would also work here, and I’m guessing other citrus juices would, too. The Midori is just such a pretty green, though! This cocktail, if you’re willing to let it have that name, is easy to put together, fun to drink, and attractive to look at. That’s a powerful triple threat, but it tastes so good that those other things might not even matter.

Melon and Lime Cocktail

2 ounces melon liqueur (such as Midori)
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
4 ounces cold club soda
a few ice cubes

1. Combine the melon liqueur and lime juice in a drinking glass. Pour in the club soda. Add the ice.

Makes 1 cocktail.

What to do with the rest of the bottle? Try this Sweet Melon Soup with Mint and Midori

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Corn and Bean Skillet Pasta

This was meant to be an empanada recipe. A spiced pie crust (probably like the one I used in this post) would be wrapped around a seasoned fresh corn and black bean mixture. Little savory hand-held pies.

What threatened to kill me was making the crust. I just couldn’t drum up the ambition to measure and blend and roll and cut and fill and bake. I put it off until several tomorrows before I just gave up. Well, almost. I still had the nice seasonal corn, and some really good home-cooked black beans (I bought them dried from here). And so, as often happens when I’m too busy or exhausted to do what I really want, I fall back on my motto of hearty supper simplicity: When in doubt, toss it with pasta.

And that’s all this is: peppers, corn, beans, spices, tomatoes and scallions tossed with rotini pasta and covered with melted cheese. You could put whatever you like on your tacos (or in your empanadas or enchiladas or whatever) in a pasta toss like this. you could also use whatever cheeses you like or have on hand (I used Colby-jack and pepper-jack). Maybe you won’t impress anyone with your pastry skills or anything like that, but you’ll make something delicious in a pretty small amount of time. I know that’s been one of my main goals lately!

I served this simple pasta dish alongside this Zucchini Skillet Cornbread. Since the oven was already on for that, it was worth it to keep it hot just a little while longer to melt the cheeses on the top of my pasta dish. It was a good combination, I must say, and made a meal full of healthy vegetables. And I know I'm not the only one with that as another of my main goals!

Corn and Bean Skillet Pasta

6 ounces short pasta (I used rotini)
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
1 cup finely chopped bell pepper
½ teaspoon salt, divided
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1-2 fresh chile peppers, minced
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup black beans
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 (15-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes
½ cup finely chopped scallions
1 cup shredded Colby-jack cheese
½ cup pepper jack cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and ¼ teaspoon salt. Saute until the pepper is browned, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the garlic and chile and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Stir in the corn, beans, cumin, chili powder and remaining salt. Cook until the corn and peppers are tender. Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Stir in the cooked pasta.

4. Stir in the scallions and remove from the heat. Sprinkle the cheeses over the top of the mixture in the skillet. Place in the oven and bake about 10 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Another recipe like this one: Pasta with Yellow Squash, Corn and Bacon