Curried Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut Milk

This is the book that kicked off my food loving, healthy eating, conscious cooking, nutrition fascinated journey.

cook food book

I bought “Cook Food” by Lisa Jervis about five years ago in a small artsy-touristy shop in my hometown of Cedarburg, WI.  I still like looking through the stained and crinkled pages of this small paperback book at the sentences and phrases I underlined and highlighted way back when.  And although there has been much learning and growing since those days, I stay grounded in many of the methods and sentiments that Jervis offered me in this short, friendly guide to health and planet-conscious cooking and eating.

All the recipes in “Cook Food” are approximate and flexible.  Jervis encourages readers from the very first pages to “experiment, try new things, make the recipes your own.”  Well I certainly took that imperative and ran with it. I barely ever perfectly follow recipes (gasp?!) and only break out the measuring cups and spoons when I’m baking.  I tend to use cookbooks as tools of inspiration: I mine them for new flavor combinations or seek advice on how to use an ingredient I’ve never tried.  But… I have to say this non-recipe cooking style doesn’t serve me very well when I want to share something I’ve made here on Funky Beets.  Case in point: I recently made this epically tasty soup, but hadn’t really measured anything in the process. Well, luckily for me (and you!) I do have a pretty slick memory, so I think this should still work out (fingers crossed).

cauli-curry soup

I’m sure Lisa Jervis would agree here, you should take liberties with this soup, add more of the ingredients you like, leave out the ones you don’t. Get a little artsy with it, and TASTE along the way.  Tasting your cooking as it unfolds is the best way to ensure non-recipe cooking turns out fabulously; I read somewhere American cooks don’t do enough of it, so let’s prove whoever said that wrong.  Let’s dip our spoons liberally in bubbling pots on their way to becoming dinner.  Just don’t forget to blow on your spoonfuls before you sample; this soup won’t taste as good with a burnt tongue.

Curried Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup with Coconut Milk

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp coconut oil or ghee

½ medium sweet onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 heaping Tbsp curry powder (or more!)

1 tsp crushed red pepper (for medium-high spice level)

1 Tbsp powdered ginger

1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into chunks

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed

1 (8.5 oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes

1 (8.5 oz) can chickpeas

½ (8.5 oz) can coconut milk

water

salt to taste

toppings (optional):

plain yogurt

cilantro

toasted sunflower seeds

Method:

1. In a Dutch oven or other large pot, melt the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes.  Add the garlic and spices, stirring until fragrant.

2.  Next, add all the cauliflower and sweet potato chunks, stirring around with the alliums and spices until coated.  If you have extra time, you can let the vegetables get a little browned (flavor!) before moving on to the next step.

3. To the pot, add the canned tomatoes (with juice), chickpeas and coconut milk.  Now add enough water to just barely cover the cauliflower and sweet potatoes.  Stir it all together until the broth is mostly uniform in color.

4.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and put the lid on your pot.  Stir occasionally.  When the sweet potatoes are soft, the soup could be finished.  If you want to let the flavors meld a bit more, you can leave the soup on low heat for a while longer.

5. Taste the broth for salt and add as much as you like.

6. Depending on your texture preferences, you can go a number of routes here: leave it completely “rustic” and stew-like (would be great over rice), OR blend it partially with an immersion blender so there is some smoothness and some larger chunks (that’s what I did) OR blend it completely for a silky, luxurious pureed soup.

7. Finish by layering on your desired toppings.  Enjoy!

cauli-curry soup 2

Soul-Warming Leek and White Bean Soup with Cardamom

On a damp, foggy late fall day there are few things more soul-warming than nestling up to a steaming bowl of homemade soup. The ritual of chopping, sautéing, stirring, and ladling engages your hands and mind. The comforting goodness that results lifts your spirits as you revel in the small accomplishment of feeding yourself and your loved ones from a communal pot. Out of nowhere, you realize the birds outside your window are singing despite the darkness and drear.

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Unfortunate events in our lives can manifest themselves as emotional fog, casting gloom over what might have otherwise been a day of gracious, open-eyed life-living. When something happens to us, when another person wrongs us or hurts us or lets us down, the negative energy can permeate our very fibers. It takes courage and will to rise above the fog, to let the sun burn the clouds away and see the world as it really is: miraculous. And we can’t always do that on our own.

I am one of many students at my university that has recently been wronged: we’ve had money and personal belongings stolen from us, unexpectedly and in the midst of impending exams and holidays – a time when we could all use a big hug rather than a metaphorical punch in the gut. These acts hurt and enrage us and make us feel helpless. This experience made me less apt to trust others and weakened my faith in the unspoken bonds I share with all the hard-working, diverse women that surround me in our beautiful little school.

But then there are the people that burn away the fog, that fortify our belief in humanity, that help shift our outlook back to optimism and love.  Thank you to you. You are my sun today. I am writing this because you changed my thought patterns, something I could not have done alone. This soup is for you, too.

leek and white bean soup 2

Soul-Warming Leek and White Bean Soup with Cardamom

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. butter

1 very large or 2-3 medium leeks, white parts only, sliced thin

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

¼ tsp cardamom

4 medium carrots, sliced into ¼” thick coins

1 large potato, any variety, diced into ½” chunks

6 cups stock of choice (or as I did, 4 cups vegetable stock + 2 cups water)

1 29-oz can white (cannellini) beans, drained and rinsed

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

~6 leaves dinosaur kale, coarsely torn

freshly cracked black pepper and salt to taste

olive oil for serving

Method:

1. In a 4-quart or larger pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  Add leeks and sauté until just softened, but not brown.  Add garlic and cardamom and sauté a minute more.

2. To the pot o’ alliums (leeks and garlic), add carrot coins and potato chunks.  Pour in your stock and turn heat to medium-high, bringing liquid to a boil then reducing to a simmer.  Add white beans, rosemary sprig and Parmesan rind, if using.

3.  Continue simmering soup until carrots and potatoes tender, adding more liquid as needed for desired consistency.

4.  Turn heat to low.  Stir torn kale leaves into soup and cover, cooking just until kale is bright green, about 3 minutes.

5.  Remove soup from heat; allow it to cool slightly.  Puree soup with standard or immersion blender until your preferred texture is reached.  I liked it mostly smooth, allowing just a few hearty chunks of potato and flecks of kale to prevail.

6.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil plus salt and pepper to the soup-eater’s liking.

7. Let the steam from your bowl rise up and give you a mini-facial; listen for birds.

leek and white bean soup 3

Red Cabbage Gratin

Not long ago, I went on a gratin-pinning spree.   If you don’t know what that sentence means, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.  Just kidding, mom!  To my Pinterest page of recipes, I added kale and sweet potato gratin, Brussels sprouts gratin, and the beauty I’m featuring today: red cabbage gratin.  In case you’ve not had the pleasure of knowing a gratin, it’s a food preparation “in which an ingredient is topped with a browned crust, often using breadcrumbs, butter, and grated cheese” (Wikipedia).  Random aside: in grade school, the cafeteria served a mysteriously orange offering called “potatoes au gratin.”  All the kids called it “potatoes o’ rotten.”  ‘Nuff said.

head of red cabbage

Any gratin worth making is a vegetable one, in my humble opinion.  And this why when I discovered a slideshow featuring just these sorts of dishes over at the Saveur website, I went on the aforementioned pinning spree.  At the time I found these recipes, the trees had just begun their wardrobe change and the air was only beginning to resemble a Honeycrisp apple.  Now it’s full-fledged comfort food season, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, there’s nothing more welcome in my oven or my tummy than a casserole dish of cheesy, crispy, gooey vegetables.

Lest you be nervous to try a dish starring cooked cabbage, let me just tell you that the flavor of this dish is sublime, thanks no doubt to the Parmesan and breadcrumbs.  But even more special is the tender chew and sweet, nutty aroma of the red cabbage after being bathed in paprika-spiked cream for an hour or so.  Saveur recommends serving this eye-catching purple beaut’ alongside roast pork, turkey, or lamb (perhaps as awesomely out-of-the-box Turkey Day fare), but I think it would stand up just fine as a meal with a green salad and some seedy crusty bread.   This is the type of dining I like to do the night after Thanksgiving: something healthy, yet naughty enough to gently ease you off that gluttonous cliff that is the holidays.   Cheers!

sliced red cabbage

Recipe modified slightly from Saveur

Red Cabbage Gratin

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

7 cups shredded red cabbage (about 1 small head, medium shred)

1 ½ cups half and half

2 tsp. Hungarian (sweet) paprika

1 tsp. sugar

½ tsp. freshly grated pepper

salt to taste (go easy; you can always sprinkle on more just before eating)

topping:

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup finely chopped almonds (hello, food processor)

½ cup toasted whole wheat bread crumbs (props if you make your own; I used Gia Russa brand)

 Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Grease a 3-quart baking dish with one tablespoon of the butter.  Put the shredded cabbage into the greased pan and set aside.

2.  In a 1 quart or larger saucepan, combine the half and half, sweet paprika, sugar, salt and pepper.  Heat mixture over medium heat until it just begins to simmer and steam.

3. Pour hot cream mixture over cabbage and stir to distribute evenly.

4. Toss together Parmesan, chopped almonds, and breadcrumbs in a bowl; sprinkle evenly over the creamy cabbage.  (It may seem like a lot of topping, but trust me, use all of it.) Dot the top of the gratin with remaining one tablespoon butter.  Feel free to drizzle with olive oil if it seems a bit dry.

5.  Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake the gratin until the cabbage is pleasantly tender and most of the half and half is absorbed, around 45 minutes.  Then, take off the foil and turn the oven up to 400°F and bake 10-15 minutes more, until the breadcrumb-cheese-nut mixture is thoroughly browned and crispy.  Let the gratin cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

sliced red cabbage 2

red cabbage gratin

red cabbage gratin 2

Fingerling Potato Salad with Celery, Bacon and Arugula

Over the ramparts you tossed
The scent of your skin and some foreign flowers
Tied to a brick
Sweet as a song
The years have seemed short but the days were long.

-The ShinsJuly 26, 2013 009

This week’s second salad will stick to your ribs if you let it.  It’s busting out with crispy bacon and buttery fingerling potatoes.  It also has plenty of green bits: celery hearts, celery leaves, and baby arugula.  It’s awesome still warm or at room temperature.  I’ve eaten it cold straight from the fridge this week several times too.  The original recipe calls for watercress. I opted for baby arugula because I wanted its bitter bite to perk up the milder flavors of potatoes and celery.potato salad1

We picnicked with this salad on Tuesday evening at Chill on the Hill, an outdoor summer concert series here in Milwaukee.  Also in the cooler:  half a roasted chicken and a bottle of Gnarly Head red.  I sliced up a nectarine and threw a handful of blueberries into whole milk yogurt with a glug of maple syrup and called it dessert.  So fresh.

fruit salad

The food was good; the beats were funky; the mosquitoes weren’t biting; it was summer.

What more could an earthling ask for?

potatoes1potatosaladrecipe

Fingerling Potato Salad with Celery, Bacon and Arugula

modified from a recipe in Martha Stewart Living- July 2012

“Martha” says: Assembling this potato salad while the potatoes are still warm is key. They’ll absorb more flavor from the vinegar and oiil, and the heat will also slightly wilt the celery and [arugula].

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds fingerling or other small potatoes

6 slices thick cut bacon (I used venison bacon, you could do turkey or tempeh bacon!)

6 celery stalks, sliced thin

1/2 cup celery leaves

2 cups arugula

6 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

celery

Method:

Put the potatoes in a big pot covered by 2 inches with cold water.  Salt the water generously.  Bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until just barely tender. Check them often by piercing with a fork or knife.  It should take between 8 and 12 minutes depending on your spuds.

While potatoes cook, fry up your bacon in a skillet under crispy, but not burned.  Remove from pan onto paper towel and when cool enough, chop into bite-sized chunks.  Reserve the bacon grease for another use, such as bacon-flavored popcorn!

When the potatoes are done, drain them.  When they’re just cool enough to handle, cut each lengthwise and place in a bowl.  Dress potatoes with oil and vinegar, salt and pepper.  Fold in the celery and leaves, arugula.  Add the bacon if serving immediately, otherwise hold off on adding it until chow time for optimal crispness.

Serves 6-ish.  Or two at a picnic and in several lunches throughout the week.

potatosalad2

Butternut Squash Pasta with Goat Cheese and Toasted Sage Pecans

I spend more time than the average person thinking about food, I’m almost certain of it.  Before falling asleep and upon waking, I’m deciding what breakfast is going to be.  At school, at work, while making other food, I’m concocting dinner ideas, sometimes pondering ways to eek out a meal from the few things I’ve got left lying around the fridge when grocery shopping hasn’t happened for a while, other times staring at a lone butternut squash from the CSA box, trying to think of a novel way to use all that remains of our 20-week adventure of eating local produce.

I wanted to honor this beautiful squash, this bright orange beauty that turned dewy and permeated the kitchen with a sweet, musky scent as soon as I sliced it open.  So I invented something, though I’m sure the flavors have met before in other kitchen.  It’s something I’d call comfort food – like macaroni and cheese, but better.  I scribbled the game plan on an index card and got to work.

This is the kind of food we want to fill our bellies with when the weather gets feisty.  It’s pasta that has lots going on (which I love since I get bored easily when eating a lot of the same thing.)  It’s goat-cheese creamy, pecan crunchy, sage earthy, nutmeg spicy and butternut sweet, and a little nutty thanks to the addition of brown butter which in my opinion really put it over the edge of awesome.  To counter the richness of the dish, serve it with an easy mixed green salad and some pear slices.

Butternut squash and goat cheese pasta with toasted sage pecans

Prep: 35 mins   Cooking time:  a hour or so

Serves 4, probably with some leftovers

Roasted squash:

1 butternut squash, halved with seeds scooped out

2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter

1 teaspoon coarse salt

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

Pasta

8 oz (1/2 package) whole wheat linguini noodles

1 cup pasta water, reserved

3 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 leaves sage, en chiffonade

½ cup pecans, chopped

¾ cup crumbled goat cheese

freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Method

Pre-heat oven to 475° F.

Place squash halves skin side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Rub squash flesh (inside part) with coconut oil or butter; you want a nice even layer of fat.

Sprinkle squash liberally with coarse salt and grated nutmeg.

Place squash (on baking sheet) into the pre-heated oven and roast until you can easily poke a fork through the thickest part of the squash’s flesh, (but squash is somewhat firm, not mushy) about 30-40 minutes.

Allow squash to cool.

Remove skin from squash. It should peel off pretty easily, but you may need to slice some off with your knife too.

Dice squash into ½ inch cubes and store in fridge until you’re ready to prepare the meal.  (I made my squash in the morning, went about my day, and then prepared this dish that evening for dinner.)

Boil a large pot of salted water for pasta.

Once water is boiling, add half a package (8 oz) whole wheat linguini noodles.

While pasta cooks melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet over low heat.  Continue to cook butter very slowly until it takes on a nutty, almost sweet smell.

Add the garlic and onion to browned butter and turn up heat slightly to sauté the alliums for about 5 minutes under tender and slightly brown.

Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to skillet, allowing spices to toast for a minute.

Add sage and pecans, and a drizzle of olive oil if things are getting dry.  Stir and cook for about 3 minutes, until sage is wilted and nuts are toasted and shiny.

When pasta is al dente, remove from heat and drain, reserving a cup of the pasta water.

Return pasta to pot and add cubed squash, goat cheese and half the pasta water.  Turn on heat to medium low and stir to combine.

Add the pecan and sage mixture from skillet into pasta pot, making sure to get all the butter and browned bits using a spatula.  Add remaining pasta water as needed and stir to combine.

Taste for salt and adjust as needed.

Top each serving with a few whole pecans and a bit of goat cheese.   Enjoy!