Tuesday, January 30, 2007

‘Twas a really, really cold day both outside and inside the old farmhouse! Actually, the afternoon temperatures reached “up” into the low 20’s but I just felt chilled. I had to venture outdoors to fill the birdfeeder, dump used teabags and last nights’ dinner veggie scraps into the compost bin, melt a hole in the goldfish pond, and walk to the mailbox for today’s bills and junk mail. It was snowing and windy so after I returned indoors I decided to make a nice, hearty, spicy stew for lunch.

I make this often, using bits of whatever vegetables I had in the freezer or the refrigerator. Today we ate it with naan (thawed and crisped under the broiler), but usually I thicken it a bit with cornstarch and serve over brown basmati rice.

Curried Chickpeas and Vegetables

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 medium red bell pepper, ¼” dice

1 medium carrot, ¼” dice

1 medium onion, ¼” dice

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot

1 tablespoon sweet curry powder (+ some hot, if desired)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 large Roma tomato, ¼” dice

8 ounces light coconut milk

¼ cup vegetable broth

9 ounces cooked chickpeas (or one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)

¼ cup frozen peas, thawed

1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice

Drizzle the oil in a large nonstick sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and carrot. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add onion, cook for another minute, then add garlic, and cook for another minute. Reduce the heat to medium and add gingerroot and curry powder; stir constantly for two minutes. Add salt, tomato, coconut milk, and vegetable broth and heat until almost boiling. Lower heat a bit and add chickpeas and green peas. Simmer for 10 minutes.

This recipe makes two generous servings as a stew, but served over rice would serve 3.

Depending on what’s available, I have made this with spinach (fresh or frozen), cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, etc. And it can be made into a heartier meal by adding chicken.

Today, instead of fresh gingerroot, I used the “prepared ginger” which I found in a tube in the produce section of the grocery store. I like having the tubed ginger, cilantro, and lemongrass on hand. If I know I will need large quantities of those herbs, I’ll buy fresh, but for day-to-day I keep these in the refrigerator. Once the expiration date has passed, I keep them in the freezer. It really takes only about 15 minutes at room temperature to thaw the tube enough to extract what I need.

I want to note, also, that I use only half of the amount of light coconut milk that is called for in a recipe. The other 4 ounces is either lowfat half & half (which is what I used today) or skim milk. I then mix in ½ teaspoon of coconut extract just before serving. Even light coconut milk contains too much saturated fat for me, and any extra remaining in the can I freeze in ice cube trays then pop into labeled plastic freezer bags for storage.

And, finally, curry. I use Penzey’s Sweet Curry, the flavor of which I love, but I also add a shake or two of their Hot Curry. And, baby, is it ever hot!!! One or two short little shakes will up the spiciness of any curry recipe. You gotta know your limits, and I found mine out quickly!

I need to dig up more oven-prepared dinner recipes. I got caught up in work this afternoon and didn't even think of dinner until 6:30. The kitchen (unheated) was quite "nippy". I cooked some whole wheat penne, soaked dried tomatoes in boiling water, and used onions, garlic, mushrooms, thawed spinach, red wine, canned diced tomatoes, hot red pepper flakes, ricotta, and parmesan to make a "skillet pasta" dish.

It was pretty good for a "thrown together" dish... :) High temperatures for the coming weekend are supposed to be in the teens, so it looks as though I'll be baking. Must make a plan, and a grocery list!