Currying Favor

Dan, my world traveling, three bean salad-loving friend, is back stateside. When he came to visit, he came bearing gifts from Cambodia: a scarf for me, a T-shirt with what I assume is the Cambodian alphabet for Lilli, and some spices. Actually, I guess he only came bearing gifts for me and Lilli. “You can write an entire blog post about those spices,” he said with a slight smile.

Lilli's 1st Bday at Hebrew Play

Of course, all this happened months ago, and the curry powder and lemongrass, elaborately packaged in handmade woven sacks, remained unopened in the cupboard. Until last week, that is, when I was sent Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson from the kind people at Harvard Common Press. I know, first Rich doesn’t get a gift, and then he gets a week of vegan food. But every dish we had (and I choose dishes I thought he’d enjoy) was very good. The sesame noodles were slurped up by us and Lilli, who is turning into a carb fiend. The chocolate peanut butter brownies were good but not great (you know how picky I am about my chocolate and peanut butter). The morning mushrooms, sizzled in a pan with equal parts Tamari and maple syrup, were great, and not just in the morning.

But the best dish we’ve had so far from the book were the baked sweet potato and green pea samosas. They were terrific, actually. And I got to use the curry powder Dan brought us (see, I made the spices into a gift for all of us to enjoy) for the filling. I haven’t had a chance yet to make the sweet potato and pineapple gratin with coconut milk, but doesn’t that sound so good?

The samosas were a very hands-off dish for most of it, and they’re doubled baked and not fried. First you bake a sweet potato. It called for a large sweet potato, and I grabbed a huge one — 1.5 lbs to be exact — too big, it turns out, for the toaster oven. So after I scrubbed it (skin-on) and wrapped it in tin foil, I tossed it in a 450F oven, and walked away for about an hour. Helpful hint: Place a pan underneath the sweet potato because it will probably drip gooey innards onto the floor of your oven. Trust me on this one; I speak from experience.

The dough is simple: water, flour and a touch of oil. It’s mixed together in a bowl and left alone, covered on the counter, for a half hour. Once the sweet potato is roasted, you add it to a sauté of minced onion, garlic, ground coriander and curry powder — in my case, curry powder which was hand-delivered from Southeast Asia. The recipe calls for the addition of fresh or frozen peas, which is a natural for samosas, but I saw this as an opportunity to add edamame for a little bit of protein.

Lilli and Oma

Once you roll out the dough and add the filling and seal it with just a touch of water – remember, we’re dealing with a vegan recipe – you bake them until they’re golden brown. You can actually bake the sweet potato a few days before you get around to making the dumplings.

The results are delicious — not delicious-for-a-vegan-dish, just plain delicious. Ask Lilli, who has become very picky about her sweet potatoes. She usually drops them to the side of her high chair, but absolutely adored this spiced filling. There was more filling than fit in the samosas, so I gave it to her as a side for a few meals – minus the edamame, to avoid choking hazards.

I don’t have any photos of the samosas. In most cases, I forget to snap a photo, but in this case, Rich thought the finished product was remarkably unattractive, so I let it be. None of them turned out like the puffy triangles at Indian restaurants. But don’t let that stop you from making this dish.

Baked Sweet Potato and Green Pea Samosas from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

Ingredients

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

¼ cup water

1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons neutral vegetable oil, plus more for brushing

1 small onion, minced

1 large sweet potato, baked until tender, peeled and diced (Note: I just scraped the flesh off the skin and plopped it into the pan of spiced onions)

½ cup fresh or frozen peas or edamame

1 garlic clove, minced

2 heaping teaspoons curry powder

½ heaping teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, water, and 2 teaspoons of the oil until well blended. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and garlic are soft and the flavors have developed, about 10 minutes. Mash the filling slightly to combine. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and set aside. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 16-inch square that is about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into sixteen 4-inch squares. Place a small amount of the filling in the center of each square. Dab a little water on the edges, and fold one corner over the filling to the opposite corner to make a triangle. Seal the edges. Place the samosas on the baking sheet and brush lightly with oil. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Easy Peasy

that's my girl!

It’s CSA season again, and while I love getting my produce straight from the farmer, this year I have come to appreciate the best feature of getting my week’s veggies in one box: I don’t have to schlep baby to go grocery shopping. No car seat, no stroller, no grocery bags hanging from the stroller handle by a Mommy Hook, no figuring out how to fit baby and produce into our tiny car. Easy peasy.

Convenience and time saving also led me to bite the bullet and buy a new food processor this week. I use my food processors a lot in tandem with the CSA. I used my mini one to whirl up the caper and anchovy dressing for my radish and white bean salad. I used my 12-year-old Black & Decker to whip up a romesco sauce to go with grilled spring onions, a Catalonian classic I got from Garum Factory.

make this. right now.

Unfortunately, the Black & Decker is still missing the spindle for the slicing and grating blades. I’ve made do for a while, but this week, when I found myself standing at my counter, grating the potatoes and zucchini for these latke waffles my friend Cara invented, I’d had enough. And so, using an Amazon gift card JewishBoston gave me a gift card for a job well done, I bought an 11-cup Cuisinart food processor. It even has a dough setting! It’s shiny and pretty and now lives on my counter.

And so, armed with my new toy, I took on this Ottolenghi recipe, which is the best thing I’ve ever done with fresh peas. (I’m sure it will be excellent with frozen peas in the winter, as well.) He explains this recipe was inspired by the Palestinian classic shishbarak – ravioli-like dumplings stuff with meat, topped with a hot yogurt sauce.

Unfortunately, fancy as it is, my new device doesn’t have a “shell peas” setting, so took a looong time to shell two pounds of fresh peas. At least I was able to do that at the table with Lilli. It will be awhile before Lilli can shell anything; for now she’s working on petting the cat.

Lilli and Rooster

Minus the pea shelling, this recipe came together in less than 20 minutes, including waiting for the pasta water to boil. Mark this another one for working parents, and people who are short on time in general.

Even though his recipes are generally perfection, I did change a few things. I substituted pistachios for the pine nuts, only because I couldn’t find any pine nuts in the house. It worked out great. To save time, I cooked the peas in the same water I used for the pasta. Ottolenghi calls for conchiglie, which are shells, but I had fusilli in the house, so that was that. And, just to be clear, use Aleppo pepper when he calls for a Syrian pepper. The two pounds of peas became 14 ounces post-shelling, which I decided that was close enough to the one pound this recipe calls for.

Fusilli (or shells, or bow ties) with yogurt, peas and chile from Yottam Ottohlenghi’s Jerusalem

Ingredients

2 ½ cups/ 500 grams Greek yogurt

2/3 cup/ 150 ml olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 lb/500 g fresh or thawed frozen peas

Scant ½ cup/ 60 g shelled pistachios (or pine nuts in the original recipe)

1 lb/500 g pasta shells, bowties or fusilli

2 tsp. Aleppo pepper

1 2/3 cups/40 g basil leaves, coarsely torn

8 oz/240 g feta cheese, broken into chunks

Salt and white pepper

Directions

Put a large pot of water, salted heavily, on to boil.

Put the yogurt, 6 tablespoons/90 ml of the olive oil, the garlic, and 2/3 cup/100 g of the peas in a food processor. Blitz to a uniform pale green sauce and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Cook the pasta until al dente. As the pasta cooks, heat the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the nuts and Aleppo pepper and fry for 4 minutes, until the oil is deep red. (If you are using pine nuts, the nuts will be golden.) When your pasta has 5 minutes left of cooking, add the rest of the peas to the water.

Drain the cooked pasta and peas into a colander, shake well to get rid of the water, and add the pasta and cooked peas gradually to the yogurt sauce; add it all at once may cause the yogurt to split. Add the basil, feta, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon white pepper. Toss gently, transfer to individual bowls, and spoon the nuts and their oil.

Serves 6.