autumn-sweet-potato-kale-curry

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry

Jump to the Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry recipe.

chickpea-curry

So before proceeding to the evolution and execution of this Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry, I must take a moment to pay homage to my guy, Tim Gunn.
For the rest of you: I love Tim Gunn.

I’ve suffered through many a grim episode of Project Runway just to watch him stroll into the studio, impeccably dressed, marvelously discerning and insightful, and most of all, respectful. I’ve been trying to mastermind a Tim Gunn for President of the World campaign for, like, ever. Sigh. Tim, you will also be the secret to making the world fabulous, better dressed, and kinder in my book.
Now a lot of times on Project Runway, one of the contestants will come up with a real Fashion Don’t. And Tim will say, “I’m concerned,” and the way he says it…

…you know that he is the only thing between that contestant and an icy and heart-freezing look from Nina Garcia…

….who would disdainfully raise her eyebrows if Botox hadn’t robbed her of that ability long ago in a way that is all the more soul-destroying because in that moment, said unfortunate contestant realizes that he/she/they simply don’t exist for her and never did.

And then Tim will say, in this wonderfully hearty and stirring way, “This is what we call a Make It Work Moment!!”

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: The Mistake

Well, making this Sweet Potato Kale Curry was a total Make It Work moment for me. Because I did a very dumb thing, which was: I didn’t get all my ingredients out before hand. I say why one should never do this. Physician, heal theyself!! Or be forced to get through a Make It Work Moment.

I got my new (October 2018) issue of Clean Eating, and there’s this awesome article on spice blends. And there’s also a recipe for Squash, Spinach, and Chickpea Curry. (I’d give you the link here, but the recipe’s not online yet.)

Well, just a couple of days ago, Steve went to visit our friends at Frog Holler Farm, and he came home with this lovely butternut squash. Also, that morning, he mentioned we had some kale just kind of sitting in the fridge, and I nearly always sub kale for spinach, because the texture holds up better. Chickpeas? Tons of cans lying around. Ditto coconut milk.
Also, it was an overcast rainy day and so really perfect for some curry.

So I start merrily following the recipe. First up: A really terrific homemade turmeric blend. This is a direct copy of the original recipe at Clean Eating (and I’ll link to it when it’s available); I’ve reproduced it below in half the amount.

curry-spice-blend

There’s a little blurb in the magazine on the joy of turmeric, and this particular blend is generous with a bunch of other stuff, so mainly the turmeric adds color, because on its own it’s got kind of a weird dusty flavor. So I mixed that up straight away.

I heated the coconut oil, chopped up half an onion. We’re going gangbusters so far.

curry-sauteed-onions

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: The Joy of Improv

Then I say, “Hey, babe, did you bring in that squash from the farm?” 
“It’s in my car.”

I start to exit stage left—and then remember we left the car in Ann Arbor (the details are not that interesting). With the squash in it.

But I did have some sweet potatoes on the counter. So I thought, ok, a sweet potato will Make It Work. Phew! I peel and cube one, throw it in the onion pot that already also has some garlic and the spice blend in it, and add some broth. Everything’s bubbling away making a cozy sound.

Off to the garden to pick a bunch of basil, then wash it along with the kale. I happily chop my troubles away as the sweet potatoes cook up on the stove.

It’s time to add half of them to the blender with a can of coconut milk. Which…we don’t have.

Dammit!

How can this be? I’ve looked a at least 4 cans of coconut milk in my pantry for ages, thinking, why did I think I would use a small case of of coconut milk? (Because I was at Costco, that’s why. That place makes me think I’d better stock up for that army of epicures who are bound to kick down my door, demanding facsimiles of southeast Asian delicacies.)

I search my pantry and my apoteca, which is this kind of cool roll out door that holds the stuff that won’t fit in my smallish pantry, increasingly wild-eyed. There is no damn coconut milk.

Bauer, you can Make It Work! I told myself, feeling plucky despite my trembling lower lip. Quickly, I improvised. I had frozen a bunch of buttermilk in little 1/4 cup batches in the fridge. I threw four in the blender, along with a handful of shredded, unsweetened coconut, and a little almond milk. I blended in the sweet potatoes.

It actually worked. The buttermilk is thick and not out of place in a curry. The almond milk and coconut lent some nuttiness and sweetness.

So that was cool. I poured my coconut milk substitute into the sauce pan, being careful not to boil it (so it wouldn’t curdle), added the kale, and went to find the chickpeas.

vegetarian-curry-sauce

Autumn Sweet Potato Kale Curry: Continued Thrills

You probably saw this coming. I had dried chickpeas for days, which frankly were not going to do me a damn bit of good. But a can of cooked chickpeas? You know, one from the batch I’d bought at Costco that took forever to get rid of?

Forever, apparently, passed me by. Not a cooked chickpea in sight.

But in my frantic can search….what to my wondering eye should appear?
Oh, for pity’s sake.

canned-coconut-milk

Well, I had a half cauliflower on hand. So I roasted it…

cauliflower

….because at this point, the dream of sweet potato kale curry for lunch had evaporated and I just ate some sort of snack.

cauliflower-curry

I also had packs of rice and quinoa from Costco, which are just sitting there like all the six packs of things I get from Costco, so I threw one of those in.

chickpea-curry

My Make It Work Moment tended to be just like the ones on Project Runway—about an hour long. But I did make it work. 
I don’t recommend you reproduce my angst. Please get ingredients out ahead of time. Making It Work is gratifying, but slightly stressful. Then again, sometimes that frisson of panic is exactly the seasoning a dish needs. Bon appetit.

quinoa crust quiche

Quinoa Crust Quiche

I love quiche—or at least, the idea of it. I order it when I go out and it usually delivers my requirements: buttery crust, eggy goodness, cheesy decadence. But when I’m honest, I know that most of those buttery crusts that I’m paying other people to fill came straight out of a package. Meanwhile, I have a perfectly fine, infinitely healthier alternative on hand. That big old package of quinoa calls my name. And one of the best ways to use it up is with a quinoa crust quiche.

quinoa crust quiche

Jump to recipe.

Why, you may ask, do I happen to have said gigantic quinoa package? Well, I’m not trying to be mean, but quinoa tastes weird. I always detect this odd, sort of dusty undertaste. I know it’s not this package either, or that it’s old, or any other explanation. Nonetheless, its nutritional perks are impressive. Protein-rich, fiber-rich, chockful of vitamins and minerals—read all about quinoa’s specific health benefits here, and check out Jennifer’s terrific blog while you’re at it. Also in its favor, quinoa morphs easily as a substitute for all kinds of grains, particularly those that are already fragmented into small pieces like cracked wheat and couscous.

As a pie crust substitute, it’s super easy and SO much healthier that it’s worth a try. Just be forewarned: You are not making something that will taste like a pie crust. A quinoa-crust quiche does not flake with buttery goodness. Rather, it sits on the plate as a hearty earthy base for all the eggy-cheesy-veggie goodness you want to throw in it. These items I had on hand just begged to be added to a tasty quinoa crust quiche.

quinoa crust quiche likes veggies

(I just realized I’m writing as if I’m Kathy Najimy’s character in The Fisher King. Is she the one responsible for that thing where we add a y to the end of basically every single word? If so, huzzah to you, Kathy.)

So with the quinoa crust, you gotta remember that weird quinoa flavor that you want to camo just a tad. That means that, at the very least, you need to cook the quinoa with salt (or the no-salt sub of your choice), preferably in broth rather than water. Once all the water’s cooked in—and do make sure the quinoa’s not wet at all—and the quinoa’s cooled, add an egg. But you can add even more flavor by sauteeing and adding an onion, or lots of chopped herbs, including scallions, and—most decadent of all—a big old handful of your favorite grated cheese.

Now, simply place the mixture into a pie pan that you’ve sprayed with no-stick, or oiled, or buttered; up to you. I like to take a piece of wax paper and use that to press the quinoa into shape…

quinoa crust quiche: use parchment paper to press evenly

…keeping it even on the bottom of the pan and nicely rising on the sides.

quinoa crust quiche, the crust ready to pre-bake Then bake, and voila. Your quinoa crust is about to become a quinoa crust quiche. I used this recipe from Clean Eating as my jumping off point. When I originally posted this recipe, I had broccoli, kale, and a bunch of mushrooms on hand and quite happy to jump into the pan.

quinoa crust quiche gets filled with a mix of vegetables

This week, I did a Skype cooking session with a pal, and we both realized we could pretty much use any vegetable-ish substance. For me, that was leeks standing in for the onions, dandelion greens, kale, and asparagus; for the last, I followed the advice of a couple of vintage cookbooks and peeled the stems, making the asparagus a lot more palatable. The first go-round, I placed the veggie mix directly into the crust….

quinoa crust quiche, ready for the milk cheese mixture

…then topped with an egg and cheese mix…

quinoa crust quiche gets a layer of egg and cheese filling

…and  then more cheese. (This is actually kind of a modest amount, but I have some in the crust and also some feta mixed into the eggs. Go as wild as you like.) By the way, the speckles are from the mustard I used.

Quinoa crust quiche before going into the oven.

Here’s that one finished:

Yesterday, I separated the eggs, whipping the whites to soft peaks. I mixed the yolks and cheese with the cooked veggies, then folded in the whites. Then pour it into the crust. I actually prefer this one, so have amended the recipe below to include it.

quinoa quiche

There you have it. You’ve used up some of that sad wallflower quinoa (to use my buddy Jenny Englander’s term), and you’ve got a healthy meal you can pack up for a road trip or nosh on at your desk. Some cherry tomatoes sparkled up both the visual and flavor palates. Enjoy with your own seasonal variations throughout the year.

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Quinoa Crust Quiche: The Recipe

Sauteed Kale

If you do crossword puzzles, you must be aware that both “kale” and “cabbage” are synonyms for money. Were I a sportscaster, I would now make a forced segue into the bountiful riches that either of these two veggies will add to your holiday table. But, lucky all of us, I ain’t. Nonetheless, sauteed kale does indeed add a touch of grace to any feast. The fact that it couldn’t be simpler for a harried cook makes it that much better.

Jump to recipe.

sauteed kale, shredded and ready for the pan

Sauteed kale epitomizes simplicity. Simply stem your kale, then shred it by slicing it thin. Heat your oil; as usual, olive (not extra virgin, just the regular stuff) or grapeseed work wonderfully. I personally love coconut oil for sauteed kale; the flavors complement each other in their mutual robustness. And for true kale nirvana—vegetarian and vegan readers, please forgive me—kale loves pork. Cooking bacon til crisp, then using the rendered fat to cook the kale and sprinkling the crunchy bacon bits on top: it’s a surefire way to convert those unfortunates who suspect vegetables of ruining all their fun.

The kale should be cooked over medium high heat until it’s well-coated in the fat. A sprinkle of salt and a flash of cayenne—maybe with a little nutmeg—suffices in the spice department. When the kale’s cooked down from an overstuffed pan to a manageable one, sprinkle in chopped garlic. This pic shows how much the kale decreases in volume—and how much the color deepens.

sauteed kale before and after cooking

Then pour in a little broth; homemade is of course wonderful, but any will do. Know your broth well, and taste accordingly. In the upcoming video, I didn’t add any salt, because I hadn’t used this particular broth before. As always, a judicious hand with the NaCl is a good thing. Roasted cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds popping through the leaves may even elicit a gasp or two at the beauty you have achieved.

sauteed kale, with just a hint of garlic and nutmeg

Of course, there are nearly limitless add-ins. You could sauté sliced onions, leeks, or shallots and bell peppers in the fat prior to adding the kale. Minced ginger and five-spice powder will take your sauteed kale in a decidedly Chinese direction. A light snowfall of toasted coconut at the end, especially if you used coconut oil as your sauté medium, will transport you to some lush Caribbean paradise. It’s up to you. Just know that a big old plate of sauteed kale adds vitamins, fiber, and wholesome earthiness to your fatty, decadent groaning board. And as far as leftovers go, chopped sauteed kale mixed in with mashed potatoes or added to your morning after frittata is more awesomeness.

For more on kale, visit this post.

Sauteed Kale: The Recipe