Potato and Lentil Curry.

This weekend, my little sister came down to the city for the night to have a sleepover at my new apartment. We walked around my neighborhood and then had an amazing dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. Indian is one of our favorite types of foods, ever since we first tried it on a trip to London. I’m always meaning to cook it at home more often, because homemade Indian tends to be inexpensive and relatively easy—if you already have all the right spices, that is. This dish was a breeze because the ingredients are really easy to keep around all the time, and it’s a healthy lunch that will travel well to work. Maybe next time my sister comes to spend the night, I’ll save us our $50 and make our own Indian feast!

UPDATE: I tried replacing the potatoes with sweet potatoes and it was just as good. Yum.

INGREDIENTS

1 medium onion, chopped
olive oil
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 small potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups), scrubbed and cubed
3/4 cup lentils, rinsed
1 1/2 cups stock

DIRECTIONS

In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat olive oil and add onions. Sweat for 2 minutes, stir in the spices, and cook until onions are softened.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Then stir in the potatoes and cook about 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer with the lid on until the lentils are tender and the potatoes are soft.

Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve over rice or with garlic naan and a dollop of sour cream.

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Homemade Pickles.

When I found myself in possession of some cute miniature pickling cucumbers, I wanted to try making pickles in my humble little apartment kitchen. Canning your own food is an art—-and it’s an art I have not mastered. I’d love to get the proper equipment and learn to home-can, but for now, this method will do the trick. The bright cucumbers and spices make for such a pretty jar in your fridge, and they crunch and taste just like store-bought pickles! This recipe will make a jar of garlicy dill pickles with a bit of spice, and while they won’t last as long as the properly-canned kind, they’ll keep in your fridge for about 3-4 weeks of crunchy pickle goodness.

INGREDIENTS

6 pickling cucumbers, cut into whatever shape you want (I cut them into spears)
3/4 cups distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup cold water
pinch of ground coriander
pinch of turmeric
1/4 tsp dried dill
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

In a stainless steel or teflon pot over medium heat, whisk together vinegar, salt, and sugar until dissolved. Pour into a bowl and whisk in cold water. Refrigerate the brine until chilled.

Fill a clean jar (I used an old salsa jar and they fit perfectly) with cucumbers. Sprinkle the flavorings around the jar and then pour in the brine.

Refrigerate at least 24 hours before you dig in. Try your pickles on a Chicago dog or with a buffalo chicken grilled cheese!

Herbed White Bean Dip.

I made chili with the first can of accidentally-purchased white beans; now, what to do with the second can? I considered making another batch of that heavenly chili, but a brave chef would branch out and try something new. And I really do try to be a brave chef, after all. So I took the advice of my cousin Caitie and my reader Laurie and made a bean dip. This herby, spicy dip is a great substitute for hummus (ironically, that’s what I meant to make when I picked up these cans of beans in the first place!), but spread a hefty scoop on a sandwich and you’ll go nuts! A totally guilt-free dip or spread–what more could I ask for from an ingredient I bought by accident?!

INGREDIENTS

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/8 tsp fresh lemon balm, minced
1/4 tsp fresh parsley, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
generous pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste (you’re gonna need more salt that you think, so go easy and add more as needed)
1 can great northern beans or other white beans, drained
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients in a food processor: first the gorgeous garlic, herbs, and spices.

Then the beans and olive oil.

Blitz everything until you reach desired consistency. Add more olive oil as needed. Then add more cayenne pepper because you didn’t add enough the first time.

Garnish with parsley and serve with warm pita bread, tortilla chips, spread on a sandwich, or my favorite, with orange and purple carrot sticks.

Summer Carrot Salad.

While wandering around the farmers market on Saturday morning, I encountered a little boy standing in front of a big pile of purple carrots. He was trying so hard to make sense of these strangely-colored vegetables, and both his mother and the man behind the table were indulging his curious questions. I love to see little ones engaged in farmers market culture, so I decided to play along, too. “I think I have to get some of those,” I said to the boy. “Would you pick me out a nice bunch?” He looked back at me with wide eyes and then started to dig through the purple carrots, handing me a bunch that he seemed to have chosen for no reason in particular. I thanked him, smiled at his mother, paid the $3, and went home to make this salad for my family. Goes great with flank steak. A good day.

INGREDIENTS

1 small onion, diced
2 bunches orange carrots, grated to thin, long strips
1 bunch purple carrots, grated to thin, long strips
2 cloves garlic, minced almost to a paste
3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for sauteing the onions
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
parsley for garnish
handful of raw almonds, crushed with the back of a knife

DIRECTIONS

Heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat and add onions and a pinch of salt. Saute until soft and translucent. Set aside to cool.

Combine garlic, the rest of the olive oil, vinegar, cayenne pepper, coriander, sugar, and salt and pepper. Mix well with a fork.

Combine carrots, onion, dressing, and almonds, and toss. Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving. Garnish with parsley and enjoy with steak or burgers as a healthier replacement for cole slaw.

Watercress and Radish Salad with Mustard Jalapeño Vinaigrette.

The farmers market had some beautiful watercress and radishes on Saturday, so I picked up a few bunches of each, content in the knowledge that a yummy salad was in my future. Most of the time, I’m not a salad fan–or more accurately, not a lettuce fan. I’ve found that the salads in my life fall into two categories: boring or bad for you. That’s why, when I think of a salad like this one, which is neither boring nor bad for you, I get really excited and have to share it!

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp orange marmalade
1/2 shallot, minced
1/2 tsp jalapeño, minced
1/2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch watercress, rinsed
1 bunch radishes, rinsed and sliced
1/2 tomato, diced

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, marmalade, shallot, jalapeño, parsley, and salt and pepper.

In another bowl, combine watercress, radishes, and tomato. Toss all ingredients together.

Pile onto a plate and  sprinkle with more pepper. Enjoy!

Easy French Bread.

My search for an easy recipe for a perfect loaf of French bread started on my trip to Denver last month. My cousin and I were browsing bread recipes and found them all totally convoluted, intense, and just impractical, so I promised that I’d find out the secret to easy French bread and then share it with her on this blog. Well, I’ve found that secret in another gem from my cooking idol, Laura Calder. I’ve switched up a few things from her original recipe: I added a bit more salt and used half whole wheat flour. A word of caution, though: it might be an easy recipe, but it takes a really long time—you might even say, foreverrrr.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/2 cups plus 1/4 cup warm water
additional flour or cornmeal, for dusting

DIRECTIONS

Whisk together flours, salt, and yeast. Stir in 1 1/2 cups warm water, and add the 1/4 cup water if needed. The dough should not be dry, and it’s okay if it’s pretty wet–it should be sticky, rather than a firm dough ball.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for at least 12 hours, or at most 24 hours (I let mine sit 16 hours in the oven–keep the oven off, but leave the oven light on).

The dough is ready for the next step when you see little bubbles formed on top, and it will have just about doubled in size. If a brown crust has formed over the top of the dough, just use a spatula to fold it over once or twice to work this crust into the rest of the dough.

Take a tea towel and flour it generously. Place the dough onto the floured towel and turn the dough over so that all sides are floured. Knead it twice, fold the sides underneath it and shape into a dome.

Dust with more flour or cornmeal and wrap dough ball lightly in floured tea towel. Let sit for 2 hours.

Just before 2 hours is up, preheat oven to 450 F with Dutch oven or bread pan inside to heat. The dough ball will have more than doubled in size.

When the oven is preheated, transfer dough, seam side up, into the pan. Shake the sides of the pan to settle dough evenly, and bake for 30 minutes with the lid on.

After 30 minutes have passed, remove lid and let bread finish baking uncovered, about 20 minutes, until nicely browned.

I love this bread with cold butter and orange marmalade, and it makes great garlic bread too. Enjoy it, and be proud of how gorgeous this easy bread turns out!