Indian Feast

Last week I solicited your advice about what to make as a filling meal for myself and a friend who had very different dietary restrictions. You all gave me a ton of amazing suggestions, and I am so appreciative. The food blogging community rises to any challenge!

Inspiration struck after my friend replied to my request for a list of well-loved veggies and cuisines. I turned to a couple of my favorite cookbooks to whip us up an Indian-inspired feast!

I had a ton of beets and lettuce from my box, so we started off with a not-at-all-Indian salad of red leaf lettuce, roasted beets, and spiced candied pecans in a citrus vinaigrette. Then I served a couple of my favorite easy curries – Aloo Gobhi (cauliflower and potato) from Vegan Express and Sweet Potatoes with Mustard Seeds from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes – accompanied by white basmati rice and a little spiced cabbage condiment, also from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. It was an altogether delicious, healthy, and filling meal that satisfied our different diets and our taste buds! Plus, I had so many leftovers I got to eat Indian lunches for nearly a week. That’s my kind of feast!

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Oh, okra…

Sticky, slimy, gooey, gummy – okra.

Our CSA farms like to push our boundaries and challenge our culinary repertoires with odd and unexpected vegetables, but I don’t think Eatwell ever dared to put okra, one of Northern America’s most reviled and misunderstood vegetables, in my box. But even though I never get it in my box, I get so excited every year when I finally spot okra at the farmer’s market. I don’t pretend to have mastered this challenging vegetable, one that seems to explode into snot-strings if you so much as look at it funny, but I do have one recipe that’s so delicious it keeps me dreaming of okra all year-round.

I’ve heard various techniques for dealing with okra’s challenges, from “never get it wet” to “never cut it – only cook it whole” to “just embrace the sliminess, haven’t you heard of gumbo?” But this magical recipe, straight from my beloved 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, breaks the first two rules and still in no way requires an enthusiasm for slime.

Relying firmly on the “everything tastes good fried” rule of cooking, this recipe for okra raita combines crisp, delicious rounds of pan-fried okra with smoky mustard seeds. The tadka, or spice mixture, is placed raw on top of the yogurt, and the delicate spices get cooked perfectly when you pour the hot oil from the mustard seeds right onto the yogurt. The okra is beautiful, making a flower-like shape when cut crosswise, and the colors of the cooked vegetable range from green to orange to brown.

I really debated whether or not to post this recipe, as I have already posted a few from this cookbook and I try to limit the recipes I post to “just a taste” from a given book. But I want folks to try okra, to not be intimidated by this delicious vegetable, so I am going to share this one. And I fervently hope that you will try this dish and be so blown away that you will run out immediately and buy 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, a terrific, solidly-written, Indian-made-simple (but fabulous) cookbook from which I have made nearly every vegetarian dish and whose recipes form a solid portion of our regular cooking repertoire.

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Chard and Spinach

There was a recipe in my box newsletter for a bhaji (a simple vegetable curry) using chard and spinach, both of which came in that week’s box. It was a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, and while the fact that she seems to be universally adored by vegetarians was definitely a recommendation (I’ve never cooked any of her recipes myself), I scanned the recipe and thought it looked a little bland. I really liked the concept, though, so I decided to make a similar favorite from 5 Spices, 50 Dishes instead. It’s a versatile dish that can be made with any combination of dark leafies – I’ve also used kale and beet greens in the past – and this time my Punjabi Creamed Greens had wonderful flavor – and lovely red-flecked color – from a huge bunch of red chard and a giant bag of Polar Bear spinach.

Creamed Greens (chard and spinach)

The recipe is more involved than my usual fare, seeing as how it involves a food processor and various other implements that will of course then need to be cleaned. But it must be worth it, because these yummy, creamy, slightly gingery greens have entered standard rotation and I find myself craving them even more often than I make them, which is pretty often.

Recipe and more commentary about the dish can be found over at my post at grouprecipes.com. There was one difference between the posted recipe and this week’s preparation: I sliced up the chard stems and cooked them with the onions until tender. That’s part of what gave the dish its red and green hues.

The Canon

essential cookbooks

So many people have written to me to say they are enjoying the blog and the recipes, which makes me so happy! I definitely created this to share with the CSA and the prospective-CSA community, and I love knowing that I am helping people find new ideas for what to do with what comes in their boxes. I wanted to explain, however, why there are a lot of dishes that I photograph and write about where I don’t give the recipe. Partly this is because the intention of many food blogs is to share recipes with notes about how they turned out and so on, and the intention of mine, of course, is to let people know what it’s like to get a CSA box.

The main reason that a lot of the most wonderful things I cook are coming to you without instructions for how you might reproduce them yourself is because I get my recipes from 4 main sources: the internet and the three cookbooks shown above. These three books are my go-to books for any vegetable, any time, because the recipes are easy to make, beautifully laid out and well explained, and there are enough vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes to make owning the books worth my while. But, because I’ve cooked at least half the dishes in each of these books, if I posted each recipe as I made it I would feel like I was robbing the three women whose terrific cookbooks are a cornerstone of my kitchen.

So instead I will urge you all to check out Sara Deseran’s lush and comprehensive Asian Vegetables, Ruta Kahate’s Indian-made-joyously-easy 5 Spices, 50 Dishes, and Deborah Madison’s “somewhere between the bowl of cereal and the all-out dinner party” Vegetarian Suppers. If you have any questions about the books or want to know more about why, with a groaning shelf full of choices, these are the ones I adore, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Bok Choy and Turnip Greens

Well, tonight I had my first-ever disappointing experience with a 5 Spices, 50 Dishes recipe. My first response, as I doctored up the tasteless, watery black-eyed pea curry, was anger and a sense of betrayal. But as I realized the specific missing flavors that I was trying to add into the dish – fat and sweet – my eyes strayed over to the empty can of coconut milk – lite coconut milk (it was all I had in the house!) – and I knew I had no one to blame but myself.

Well, the curry ended up quite edible after generous infusions of ginger, Earth Balance, salt, and vermouth. (How does vermouth make absolutely everything better?) And I accompanied it with a fabulous side – spicy bok choy and turnip greens stir fried with garlic and ginger. Unfortunately at this late stage in the game I had to compost at least half the turnip greens, which is a shame. I don’t know if I’ve ever cooked them before. I was put off by their prickly texture when they were raw, but once they were cooked I could not get enough of them. Super-yum!

Stir-fried Bok Choy and Turnip Greens with Goan Black-Eyed Pea Curry Over Brown Rice

I’m about to run out of garlic (although luckily Libby left me some she had in her bag from hostelling), and the curry used my second to last onion. I may have to go shopping soon for these must-have staples if the magic box fails to provide…

With no further ado, however, here is the recipe I used for the bok choy (it’s modified from the internet and I want to make sure I have a copy for the future – it was that good).

Spicy Bok Choy and Turnip Greens with Garlic and Ginger

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
  • 1 head mature bok choy, sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 bunch turnip greens
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons broth
  • 2 tablespoons vermouth (recipe called for Shaoxing rice wine, which would be great, but I’m out)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

Heat a large wok or skillet until very hot. Add the canola oil and heat until just smoking. Add the garlic, ginger and chili paste and stir-fry until lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Add the bok choy and turnip greens and a pinch of salt and stir-fry until crisp-tender, 5 minutes. Add the broth, cooking wine and soy sauce and cook, tossing, for 2 minutes longer. Finish with a drizzle of sesame oil.

Sweet Corn

The last sweet corn of summer. Three ears yielded a lot of kernels – maybe even more on these cobs than the non-bonus cobs I had a couple of weeks ago. Libby husked and de-silked the stalks. She reported finding corn worms, but this time I was spared interacting with them in person.

Tonight for dinner Libby and I had a beautiful meal of Star Anise Tempeh (from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers), pillowy white sushi rice, a huge green salad (using some of a previous week’s lettuce and radishes and carrots, plus some leftover Nicoise green beans), the Indian Yogurt I’m obsessed with which is a variation of a 5 Spices, 50 Dishes recipe, and our yummy, yummy corn, cooked up with turmeric, mustard seed, dried serrano chiles, parsley, and hint of sugar in a delicious preparation from 5S, 50D.