Tag Archives: Vegetables

What do YOU eat in Winter?

Toast slathered with butter.  Couscous porridge with butter and whole fat milk.  Potatoes mashed with butter, whole fat milk, and an entire head of garlic.

See a theme here?  For me, winter is all about fat and carbohydrates.  I have no qualms confessing that my diet is highly influenced by the season; I know I’m not alone here.  Most of humanity begins thinking this way as evening falls earlier and earlier and we all huddle about wondering how to survive another long, cold winter.  We may not be able to hibernate for the entire three or four months, but we can sure eat like we’re preparing to!

Tonight I made a cheesy potato-corn-white bean chowder.  It started out with onion cooked in a large chunk of butter until translucent, then a few minced cloves of garlic, two smallish diced potatoes, and about 2 1/2 cups each chicken broth and fully fat and wonderful milk, brought to a boil and simmered gently.  Oh, it smelled heavenly!  Once the potatoes were tender I added one (drained) can each of corn and white beans, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and some cubed cheese, maybe 1/3 cup, which led to the only slightly disappointing part of the whole shebang.  In my extreme cheapness, I had forsaken the real cheese and bought processed cheese.  I was thinking Velveeta; what I got instead was a sticky white brick that refused to melt even when cut into very small pieces, meaning that instead of a consistently gooey cheesy broth, I ended up with a milky broth with bursts of cheesy(ish) goodness.

(That’s all the recipe you’re getting for this.  It’s so very simple.  And soup is really something that was made for adaptation and improvisation, so you can take this idea and recreate it yourself in whatever manner works for you.  I would suggest better cheese, though!)

And I ate it out of a mug, because it is a well known fact that soup (umm, or chowder, whatever the difference may be) always tastes best when eaten out of either a mug or a bread bowl.  Bread bowls being in short supply round these parts, I happily grasped my mug in both hands (giving the additional benefit of warm to my chilly little fingers) and soaked up my leftover broth with a warm wheat roll.  (And no, I did not butter the roll.  But I did consider it…)

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Havij Polow (Rice with Carrots)

I’ve been very slack lately in cooking in general, but especially in branching out and trying new things.  It is definitely a season when I am leaning towards my comfort foods (tonight for dinner: macaroni and cheese with peas–the way my mom has always made it–and garlic mashed potatoes), and not very excited about dishes that make me think.  However, with a bag of slowly wilting carrots in the refrigerator and and inkling to eat some meat, I pulled this Persian pilaf out of my main cookbook, Ms. Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.  (Maybe I never mentioned it before, but when we moved to the Middle East I only brought two cookbooks with me.  Two.  I realized that perhaps this was not normal when I read A Crafty Lass‘s account of paring down her cookbook collection before moving internationally.)  Anyway, this pared with some roasted vegetables was good as a main dish, and could easily be made according to vegan or vegetarian standards.

Havij Polow (serves 6)

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3-1/2 cup butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, coarsely grated or cut into little sticks
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar, or more (optional) (but good, in my opinion)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional) (again, you should add this)
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon rose water

Wash the rice in warm water and rinse ina  colander under the cold water tap.

Fry the onion in 2-3 tablespoons of the butter or oil until soft and golden.  Add the grated carrots and saute gently for 10 minutes.  Add sugar and cinnamon and cook 3-4 minutes longer.

Boil the rice in salted water in a alrge (9-10 inch), heavy-bottomed, preferably non-stick saucepan for about 10 minutes, until not quite tender and still a little underdone.  Drain and mix with the remaining butter or oil, keeping aside 2 tablespoons.  Heat the 2 tablespoons butter or oil in the bottom of the pan, then spread alternate layers of rice and sauteed carrots, starting and ending with a layer of rice.  Sprinkle rose water over the top and cook over very low heat for about 30 minutes.  The rose water, a relic of early-medieval times, gives a subtle perfume to the dish.  (Note from me: I always panic at around minute 25 of cooking the rice, thinking that it must be burning, and turn it off then.  Big mistake…the end result is supposed to be a layer of crusty golden rice, but if you remove it from the heat too soon it’s more like greasy golden rice, and not so pleasant to eat.)

Note: for meatballs, season 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (I used beef) with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Mix well and knead until smooth and pasty.  Shape into marble-sized balls and fry in a little oil for about 8-10 minutes, turning them over, until browned all over but still pink and juicy inside.

To serve: Turn the pot of rice upside down onto a platter on top of the meatballs, so that the meatballs are buried.  If you have achieved a good crusty golden layer of rice, that would traditionally be removed and served separately, as a delicacy.  Then the remaining rice and carrots would be stirred together.  (Clearly, I did not follow any of these steps myself.  Just telling you how it’s supposed to be done.)

LEFTOVER LAMENTATIONS

This has not been a stellar week for eating in my house.  I’m not quite sure what exactly to blame it on…I have a few suspicions (well, one in particular), but in general I can say that it has been very difficult to get back in the swing of things.  Especially because, at this point in our lives, we are in a period of rather inactive waiting with nothing specific to do, and I have found that in times of aimlessness like this, I am prone to wasting inordinate amounts of time doing absolutely nothing.  Hopefully we have only one or two more weeks of this before some of our future life murkiness clears up…

Upon returning from our long trip, we spent several days grudgingly eating thawed chicken-and-vegetable noodle soup, the very same soup that seemed like such a lifesaver when we returned from traveling and there it was, ready to eat in just minutes!  Two days later, there were still several servings lingering in the fridge, and in my desperation to clear out that precious space for food that we actually wanted to eat, I threw the remaining soup in a casserole dish, spread a thick layer of garlicky mashed potatoes on top, and baked it to a bubbly, golden brown.  (This is one of my main tricks of reinventing leftovers…thankfully, it usually works.)  In this case, it was like a potato-y version of chicken and dumplings, and I was happy.

We managed to finish that off, and to replace it with…

Disaster.  I don’t know what happened.  I went to make one of my old stand-by dishes, a spinach-tomato-and-chickpea bake, a dish I have made so many times and which is so fundamentally easy in its composition that I don’t even have a recipe anymore.  And yet this time it turned out weird and watery and I still haven’t figured out what went wrong.  We choked it down the first night and then it sat in the fridge for two days while I wondered if there was any way to save it.  Last night I threw a bunch of curry spices in a pot with some chopped potatoes and cauliflower, and then added the spinach yuckiness, which resulted in a tolerable (although still not entirely enjoyable) curry.  I also put it in a nice serving dish, which is another trick I have for increasing edibility.  However, the addition of more vegetables increased the volume to such an amount that there are, again, leftovers sitting in the fridge.

I really, really hate throwing food away, even when I really, really don’t want to eat it.  But at the same time, I have a very low tolerance for food repetition, especially if it is a food that didn’t taste good the first time I ate it!  There is a good chance that this curry will languish another day or two until I give into the guilt and throw it away.  I doubt even the stray cats that live off my garbage will be interested in it!

 

P.S.  Do you have any favorite leftover-saving tricks?

MOROCCAN VEGETABLE TAGINE

I am happy to report that after what seemed like a very long, hot summer, I am sleeping under a blanket once again, enjoying the feel of my cold nose peeking out above the covers.  After all, it gets down to 72/73F in my bedroom at night—chilly!  But apparently the real cold is yet to come; yesterday the neighbors were admonishing me that we need to hurry and buy a heater, because the temperature will start dropping fast and before I know it, there will be rain and even snow.  Life in non-insulated buildings with drafty windows can become very difficult in winter for those of us who are most sensitive to the cold.

One way of dealing with this?  Spend a lot of time in the kitchen, preferably concocting things full of spices and butter and meltingly soft vegetables.  Today I wandered around the market gathering things that may not be at the height of their growth season right now, but are definitely appropriate according to my internal sense of what to be eating in autumn.  This evening, as Maghrib (sundown) happened just before 6:00 p.m., I was at the stove putting together one of my favorite fall dishes, a Moroccan-style vegetable tagine.  (I have no idea where I got this recipe…I found it somewhere on the internet three or four years ago.  My apologies to its creator.)  It is fragrant and sweet and savory and full of nutrition and makes me feel like I have a warm blanket of happiness wrapped around my internal organs.

MOROCCAN VEGETABLE TAGINE

(makes 4 large servings or 6 small)

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 lb. pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 14 oz. cooked chickpeas
  • 2 tsp. harissa (I used 1 ½ tsp. Sriracha instead)
  • ¾ c. raisins, dried cherries or dried chopped dates
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • Salt and pepper

In a large pot, heat oil and add the onions.  Cook gently for 5 minutes, then add the garlic, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon.  Cook over low heat, stirring, for 2 minutes or until aromatic.

Add the carrots and water, stir well, and cover.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Add the pumpkin/squash, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, harissa, raisins, and honey; cover and simmer until vegetables are tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with couscous.