Tag Archives: butternut squash

Never Fail Tomato Eggplant Curry

Never Fail Tomato Eggplant Curry
This particular version highlights eggplant, asparagus, bell pepper, and spinach

Rarely a week goes by without a simmering pot of curry. This is my stand-by no-fail recipe, with infinite possibilities of vegetables, protein, and spicy level. The basic components are: tomato based curry sauce, meaty eggplant simmered in the sauce, greens for the eggplant to rest between, and a wide assortment of vegetables – whatever you have on hand that day and/or need to use before they go bad. The veggie selection is easily changed to reflect the season/mood. Sick and tired of cauliflower and squash in March? Then throw in some greenery, peppers, and cute cherry tomatoes. Super stoked that it’s squash season in September? Butternut squash, spinach, peppers, and eggplant is a combination that cannot be beat! If you like, you can throw in your choice of protein – lentils, chickpeas, tofu, or tempeh have all been winners in the past. Spice level can be adjusted to taste preference, and the recipe is easily scaled back or quadrupled depending on how many mouths you are feeding that day. This is my Indian “chili”. Always delicious, always a winner.

The recipe is more of a guideline, developed over the years by throwing things in the pot and trying to remember what tasted the best. Take these guidelines and make them your own – tweak as you like, and enjoy your efforts!

Never Fail Tomato Eggplant Curry

2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. mustard seeds
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2” piece fresh ginger, minced
2 jalapeños, seeded and diced (if you like the spice, don’t seed the peppers!)
3 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
⅛ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt, to taste
4 cups of your ‘meaty’ veggies: eggplant, squash, potato, etc.
4 cups diced tomatoes, or 1 (28oz.) canned tomatoes (Note: Whole canned tomatoes are also nice – rip them apart with your hands when you add them to the curry)
4 cups water
2 cup of your ‘crunch’ veggies: asparagus, bell pepper, snap peas, green beans, …
~10 cups fresh greens: spinach, swiss chard, collard greens, or kale
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Directions:
1) In large pot, heat olive oil and add mustard seeds. Sauté until seeds start to pop – cover pot with a lid to prevent seeds from escaping!
2) Add onion. Sauté until translucent and beginning to brown, ~7min. If pan looks dry, add a splash of water.
3) Add garlic, ginger, and jalapeño. Sauté ~1min.
4) Add the spices. Stir to coat and lightly toast.
5) Add the ‘meaty’ veggies. Stir to coat with spices and lightly sear.
6) Add the tomatoes, water, and ‘crunch’ veggies. Stir and bring to a boil. Lower heat and partially cover, simmering ~5min.
7) Add the greens in handfuls, stirring as you go. Cook until greens are bright green and wilted. (If you are adding cherry tomatoes, add them at this point).
8) Turn off heat, and add cayenne pepper. Adjust all other seasonings to taste.
9) Serve hot with rice, and/or your favourite Indian flat bread.


Butternut Squash Latin Salad

This simple salad was an accompaniment to my most recent variation of my Ultimate Veggie Burgers: Butternut, Beet, Buckwheat, and Black-Eyed Pea burgers. An absolutely delicious combination hearty burger that carries both Sriracha and hummus toppings with aplomb. The downside to the burgers was that I had overestimated the grated squash required, and thus had a whole mountain left over. So what is one to do other than create a crunchy salad?

The inspiration for this salad was the Thai Mango Salad, which was surprisingly delicious when mango was grated. If it would work for mango, why not butternut squash? I realize my line of thought is often not linear, but my creativity/desperation often benefits from my wacky associations. There isn’t really a recipe for this salad, as it was born out of desperation and a finite amount of grated butternut squash. But the salad guidelines are as follows:

– Grated butternut squash (I used my food processor as I had a lot from the burgers, but a handheld grater would also work. Grating butternut squash is the easiest thing you will ever do – even easier than carrots!)
– 1-2 tomatoes, diced
– ½ of a green bell pepper, diced
– 1-2 green onions, chopped
– 1-3 jalapenos, depending on personal preference
– 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
– dash of cayenne, cumin, and chili powder
– sprinkle of red pepper flakes
– salt/pepper to taste
– cilantro for garnish

Directions:
1) To grate butternut squash: Slice in half the slice again in 2″ strips. Peel the strips with a vegetable peeler, or cut the rind off. Proceed to grate the squash with your preferred method: food processor, manual, or if desperate julienned squash would work as well!
2) Toss all vegetables in a bowl.
3) Season with lime juice and all other seasonings.
4) For best flavour, loosely cover with saran wrap and let sit in fridge for 1h before serving.

As with most coleslaw salads, this recipe only improves with age. Bright, fresh, and crunchy it adds zing to whatever meal you desire! I ate it as a side for lunch and dinner, and even served it with some cooked quinoa for breakfast. Embrace the raw squash – it’s delicious!


Veggie Burgers: A Formula

The “Salsa” Veggie Burger

The burger is quite possibly the most recognized American contribution to the culinary scene. McDonalds has done a formidable job infiltrating every corner of the globe, so you can get your McD’s made the exact same way from Japan to Italy to Topeka, Kansas. I am not a fast-food fan, and had my last fast food experience on a Junior High field trip. I have nothing against homemade burgers however, and love them’ deconstructed’ (aka. no bun!).

I have experimented with various permutations and combinations of veggie burger. I’ve changed up the protein (from beans to almonds to sunflower seeds), the grain, how to cook them, what vegetables to add (if any), baked vs. pan cooked … you name it, I’ve tried it. I came across this burger recipe and am now convinced that it is the best burger recipe to date. Unaltered it results in delicious curry burgers, but it’s easily customizable to whatever mood you’re in. Above is this recipe tweaked for a “salsa” burger. I’ve also used this as a base for beet burgers, zucchini burgers, and lentil burgers – all delicious! The recipe can be found on Food Network Canada here: Boon Burger’s Buddah PattyIt is compliments of Boon Burger, a restaurant in Winnipeg, Canada which serves the best vegan burgers I have ever had. The restaurant was featured on Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here, which is the Canadian version of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. If you are ever in Winnipeg, be sure to check out Boon Burger. But until then, satisfy your burger craving with this toothsome, filling patty that surpasses all others!

Tips to Change Flavours:

The Legume: You can use whatever cooked bean you wish in this recipe. Black beans lend a more ‘southern’ flair; lentils and black-eyed peas are a neutral background that let your other flavours shine through; chickpeas add a middle-eastern or Indian flair; edamame for an Asian burger; or you could substitute the beans for the same volume of mushroom/walnut/almond meal!

The Vegetables: The best way to add vegetables to burgers is to grate them first. Squeeze out any excess water if they are particularly watery, like zucchini. Vegetables that I have had amazing success with include beets, carrots, zucchini, squash (butternut or acorn), sweet potato, or diced mushrooms.

The Binder: If tomato paste doesn’t match your spice flavour profile, tahini, 1-2 tbsp. chickpea flour, or more beans/grains also work. The binder helps hold the burger together, but I have found that if you use the food processing technique in this recipe the burgers hold well with or without the binder.

The Grains: Rice, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, barley, bulgur wheat … really any grain you want! Don’t be afraid to mix and match! Instead of potato flakes/bread crumbs, I usually increase the amount of grain and add 1/4 cup cornmeal or sprouted grains. The cornmeal/sprouts helps act as a binder while giving the burger a bit of texture.

The Seasonings: Season to your mood! Put in as much or as little as you want. These burgers are infinitely adaptable, so whatever strikes your fancy just throw it in! I really like the combination of thyme and beets, chili spices with black beans, curry spices with lentils/chickpeas and carrots, wasabi ginger burgers with edamame, and fresh herbs with zucchini. That’s the beauty of food processor recipes – virtually everything tastes delicious!

These burgers freeze really well, and don’t turn crumbly when you reheat them. They are excellent hand-held on-the-go meals, sure to satisfy your appetite for a while. If the thought of eating a patty straight doesn’t appeal to you, instead of forming burgers spread the burger mixture on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and top with standard pizza toppings. Bake the ‘pizza’ to the burger specifications, and now you have portable all-dressed burgers! So get creative and enjoy these burgers!

Note: Above I have the “salsa” burger with black beans, tomato paste, cornmeal, and chili spices. I served it over a fresh salsa salad, made of diced tomatoes, green bell pepper, jalapeno, and chopped cilantro sprinkled with lime juice. Delicious!


Butternut Rancheros

Southern comfort food in a bowl. Black beans and butternut squash prove once again that they are a match made in heaven. This is what I would consider a fantastic breakfast, but really it’s a meal that can be eaten anytime. It also serves a double purpose of curing all that ails you – between the jalapeno and chili powder you sweat out all those toxins! The recipe itself is another easily adaptable base recipe, and will accept all various vegetable and spice combinations that you throw at it. I like to serve it over a bed of spinach, but it would also be fantastic served with basmati rice or polenta for a more complete meal. It would also make an excellent stew – add some water or vegetable broth and have chili for breakfast!

The original recipe is from The PPK, found here: The PPK Butternut Rancheros.  I adapted it as follows below. As a recommendation, I strongly recommend having a fan going and/or a window open when you sauté the spices and jalapenos otherwise your eyes will water and depending on the sensitivity of your fire alarm it will go off. Unless of course you live for that sort of extra excitement 🙂

Butternut Rancheros

4 cups butternut squash, cut into 1″ cubes (~1 squash)

2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. chili powder (optional: for the spice seekers out there!)
2 tsp. oil
1 yellow onion, diced to ‘medium’ size
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (32 oz.) can diced tomatoes
2 (19oz.) cans black beans (~3 cups cooked)
½ tsp. salt (to taste)

Optional vegetable additions:
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 bell pepper, diced

Directions:
1) In large saucepan dry roast cumin seeds, coriander, and chili powder over medium-high until fragrant
2) Add oil, onion, garlic, and jalapenos. Sauté until onions translucent.
3) Add any additional vegetables. Sauté ~1 min.
4) Add butternut squash. Stir to coat the squash.
5) Add tomatoes. Stir, cover, and let simmer 10-15min, or until squash fork-tender. Add water as necessary if mixture is looking dry.
6) Add black beans and salt. Stir and let simmer ~5min, or until beans heated through.
7) Serve over a bed of greens and/or with basmati rice or polenta.


Pesto Moussaka-Lasagna

The lovechild of lasagna and moussaka

On an evening where I was at a loss in the kitchen, I was inspired by many ingredients that only seem unrelated. I was tired of winter stews, chilis, and soups and wanted something fresh and spring-like. I had an incredible craving for Edamame Pesto, and wanted a medium that would make the pesto the star of the show. I also wanted lasagna and moussaka, but wanted the edamame pesto more. So of course I combined all inputs to this delectable lasagna-moussaka that is as delicious as it is green!

The edamame pesto recipe is, in my opinion, the best pesto recipe out there, bar none. My first experience with pesto was in a hostel in Oslo. If you have ever travelled to Oslo, you know that food is ridiculously expensive and you can almost feel your change purse get lighter just smelling the bakery scents on the street. A stop at the grocery store got me some Ichiban and a jar of pesto sauce. A quick stop at the 7/11 and I got a coffee stir stick as a utensil. Using some ingenuity, I cooked the noodles in the cup and stirred in the pesto sauce: instant dinner. Although good at the time, later in the evening I felt horrible. Enter the ‘pesto baby’. At 4:30am I vowed never to eat pesto like that again. This edamame pesto is light, fresh, lemony, and not oily at all – everything I think the Italians originally meant pesto to be. Serious deliciousness with a 5min cook time. Nothing wrong with that!

The cauliflower ricotta was a similar surprise. Usually I make the tofu ricotta from Veganomicon and have been pleased. Not blown away, just pleased. Roasting the cauliflower then mashing it with my new avocado masher (one of the best “useless” kitchen gadgets out there!) turned the ho-hum tofu ricotta into a BAM! moment. So much flavour just from the cauliflower alone! Once again, Isa hits it out of the park.

I used the Lasagna with Roasted Cauliflower Ricotta and Spinach from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz as my base inspiration. The complete recipe can be found here. Instead of tomato sauce, I used the Edamame Pesto recipe from the same book, which can be found here. Finally, to make the lasagna a moussaka, instead of lasagna noodles I roasted one eggplant and three zucchini and used those as the ‘divider’ layers. To roast the vegetables:

1)      Slice them lengthwise in ~3-5mm thick slices and placed on parchment-lined baking sheets.

2)      Roast at 400dF for ~35min, then let cool in a colander

3)      Before assembling the lasagna/moussaka, gently squeeze excess liquid from the roasted vegetables so the casserole doesn’t get too soupy.

To assemble the lasagna/moussaka:

1)      Spread a bit of pesto on the bottom of a lightly oiled 9×13” pan

2)      Layer some roasted vegetables on top

3)      Dollop some pesto on the roasted vegetables, then spread evenly

4)      Dollop some ricotta on top of the pesto, and spread evenly

5)      Layer some fresh spinach on top of the ricotta

6)      Repeat the layers until the pan is full, ending with ricotta. I got 2 full layers, but I have a shallow pan – you may get 3 or even 4!

7)      Bake at 350dF for 40min. Let set up for 10min (if you can wait that long!) before cutting into pieces.

It’s that easy! Exactly what I was craving, combining all my ‘must have’s’ in one glorious slice of heaven. Light, lemony, pesto-y (without the pesto baby), and chalk full of flavour, this dish is now a go-to recipe!

Update:

I made this lasagna recently with a “winter” theme. Layers were made with roasted butternut squash slices, celeriac root slices, and swiss chard. Pesto and butternut squash you ask? Have some faith – it’s delicious! This winter theme proved to be just as successful as the zucchini-eggplant version with the added bonus of being less watery. It turned out to be almost a stuffed layered sandwich, perfect for toting to work as leftovers. Delectable down to the last morsel!

Butternut Celeriac Pesto Lasagna

Butternut Celeriac Pesto Lasagna with Swiss Chard


Spinach Tomato Curry

One cannot be prouder than I am right now to present to you this wonderful bowl of curry. This is my very first attempt at a recipe completely by scratch, and it was a smashing success! Sure, I frequently work off of 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5) recipes to create a dish, and I am no stranger to the ‘just dump it in’ philosophy, but usually there is some method to the madness. I have also never been ambitious enough to tinker with curry spice blends. I have over cumined before, and it was not pretty. But as I was staring into the depths of my freezer, the squash, spinach, and curry leaves were beckoning. Why can’t you combine these elements? I say go for it! I added some tomatoes because I prefer tomato curries to coconut milk curries (and I don’t care what Tom Collicchio thinks: squash + tomatoes = greatness), and this dish was born.

A quick note about curry leaves: These were a find at the Asian supermarket, and I now want to grow a curry leaf plant. I have seen them described as the Indian ‘bay leaf’, but I think this is an unfair description. I have yet to figure out what value bay leaves add to a dish, although I faithfully put them in every time. Curry leaves are aromatic, slightly oily to the touch, and give a nice sizzle when added to the pan. And they don’t taste like wood when you accidently eat them!

The curry leaves and fenugreek add that extra something to the spice mix, which you may only notice if you use them. I’m sure, having been curry leaf and fenugreek-less for the majority of my cooking ‘career’ that this curry would be fantastic without.  It comes together quickly, and the dry-roast of the spices at the beginning is definitely worth it. To save time, you can use a block of frozen spinach instead of fresh – just add it into the stew when you add the tomatoes. This dish tastes just as good as it smells, and the leftovers are sure to disappear quickly!

Spinach Tomato Curry

Spices:
2t. ground cumin
1t. ground coriander
0.5t. fenugreek
0.5t. turmeric
1t. garam masala

Other stuff:
1t. mustard seeds
1t. canola oil
0.75c. onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1T. fresh ginger, minced
4 curry leaves
2-4 jalapenos, diced
1 butternut squash, cut into 1″ cubes (~4.5c.)
1-2c. water
1 (28oz.) can diced tomatoes
4c. spinach, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
0) In saucepan, dry roast spices until fragrant. Set aside.
1) In same saucepan, saute mustard seeds in oil until they start popping (I find it helpful to use a lid otherwise mustard seeds go splattering everywhere)
2) Add onion, garlic, ginger, and curry leaves. Saute until onion is translucent.
3) Add chilis. Saute ~1min.
4) Add spices. Stir to prevent burning.
5) Add squash and water. Cover and bring to a boil.
6) Add tomatoes. Stir.
7) Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook ~20min, until squash tender. (Stir occasionally to prevent bottom-burn!)
8) Add spinach. Stir in and cook until wilted
9) Taste for seasonings.
Serve with rice.


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