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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cumin Sweet Potato Soup with Chipotle Lime Aioli

I'm really excited to share this recipe with you. One, because I just love soup. Two, because I love spicy soup. And, three, because the flavors in this spicy soup just got so well together. (On the other hand, I'm not so excited about the photograph of the soup. But I cooked, snapped and ate so by the time I realized how poorly the pictures had turned out it was too late.)

Andrew likes a good bowl of soup but he doesn't share the all-I-want-to-do-is-put-on-a-cozy-sweater-and-sit-down-to-a-big-bowl-of-soup kind of affinity. When I tell him we are having soup for dinner as the main course (which I do quite often), I can tell he is doing his best to mask a tinge of disappointment when he replies, "Oh, ok, that sounds great." This soup, however, he loved. Closed his eyes for a second, loved. The flavor combination is just right on. Sweet sweet potatoes meets savory cumin meets spicy chipotle. Plus a little touch of lime to really make all the flavors sing.

By following these recipe quantities you'll end up with more chipotle lime aioli than you'll need for this dish. But its really not worth making less, so save the rest. It will keep for up to a week and would be wonderful spooned on top of a baked sweet potato, fish tacos or crab cakes.

Cumin Sweet Potato Soup with Chipotle Lime Aioli

Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1-1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 cup sour cream
1 canned chipotle pepper, minced (or a little less, depending on your spice preference)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cubed sweet potatoes in olive oil on a large baking dish and spread out in a single layer. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until slightly caramelized and tender.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onion until transparent. Add in the flour and stir for 1 minute to cook off the raw flour taste. Add in the stock, roasted sweet potatoes and cumin and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Carefully puree the soup with an immersion blender, or working in batches, puree in the blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Prepare the garnish by stirring together the sour cream, minced chipotle pepper and lime juice. Serve hot soup topped with a dollop of the aioli.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Garlicky Braised Savoy Cabbage

I can't help it. I'm a sucker for pretty vegetables. If you're selling a gorgeous head of romanesco or purple cauliflower, I'm your gal. I won't turn away empty handed. That's how I feel when I see savoy cabbage at the farmers' market. It's simply gorgeous. I have to hold back from gushing to fellow shoppers, "Isn't this beautiful?!".

Crinkly, vibrant and lustrous, it's like the vegetable equivalent of a peony in full bloom. How could one possibly resist? If I'm seeming like a complete crazy lady who has lost touch with reality and has started a sordid love affair with a head of cabbage, so be it. I can take it.

Now what does one do with a big head of cabbage in the middle of winter? Coleslaw season is months away, you say. Well, I like to braise it. In garlic and butter and bit of stock. It's mellow and earthy and pairs well with a number of different dishes (my favorite being roasted pork tenderloin with apples). Now, that said, this is less of a recipe per se and more of a technique. It's a simple and straightforward braising method that can be applied to various other types of cabbage and leafy greens. This post hopefully, though, will serve as a reminder to the various ways cabbage can be enjoyed - outside of coleslaw season.

So if you are lucky enough to find a head of gorgeous savoy cabbage, don't resist. The pretty quickly becomes the delicious with just a few staple ingredients and a little love.

Garlicky Braised Savoy Cabbage

1 head savoy cabbage
3 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
salt & pepper to taste

Peel tough outer layers from the cabbage and discard. Quarter and remove the core. Slice leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. When the foam subsides, add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add in the cabbage and stock and stir to combine. Cover the pot and braise for about 30 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the cabbage is very tender.

Season well with salt and pepper and serve.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Curried Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens

2011 was an exciting year. We traveled here, attended six beautiful weddings, became increasingly experimental in the kitchen and tirelessly rooted on two NFL teams that, by the skin of their teeth, have successfully made it into the playoffs. With that said, I still am welcoming 2012 with wide open arms. We have trips planned to the Outer Banks and Israel. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of close friends and family's little ones. I started writing articles for the website SheKnows on seasonal eating and lifestyle choices. And we optimistically may see one, if not both (Giants vs. Bengals, anyone?), of our football teams in this year's Super Bowl.

I'm usually not one to make resolutions, but this year I've decided to kick off the new year with an ambitious goal. I want to be more proactive and less reactive. I want to be ahead of the game and be a better planner. I thankfully ditched my procrastinating ways midway through college, but even still, I often find that I'm taking care of work, or planning for meals, right before things absolutely need to be done. My work gets done, and meals get cooked, but wouldn't it be easier and so much less stressful if I operated slightly ahead of the game?

One thing that encouraged this new year's goal are the numerous containers of dried beans stacked in my pantry. I like beans. They're versatile. They're an inexpensive and healthy protein. So why am I not putting these all-around fabulous little guys to use? Well, it takes planning. Most of them have to be soaked a few hours, or overnight, and that requires a good bit of planning ahead (an area that, despite being a food blogger, I admittedly could improve in).

I decided to first tackle the dried heirloom black eyed peas. They are supposed to bring good luck in the new year, right? And being that black eyed peas and collard greens are two of my favorite southern-style side dishes, I chose to combine them in this dish. The spices are anything but southern (except for the cayenne pepper, that is) but it all comes together just deliciously.

Curried Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens
You can use either a premixed curry powder, or you can elect to mix your own. A sample curry mix recipe is noted below. To make this an even more substantial entree, top each serving with an over easy egg.

Serves 4

1 pound dried black eyed peas
1 fresh bay leaf
1/2 onion
1 pound collard greens
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder (see below for my homemade mixture)
3/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt

Soak the beans in cool water for 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a pot. Cover by 2 inches with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add in 1/2 onion and bay leaf. Simmer for 25 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Drain and transfer to a baking sheet to cool.

De-rib the collard greens and discard stems (or save for vegetable stock!). Roll the leaves up and slice into 1" thick slices. Boil in lightly salted water for 20 minutes. Drain and press out excess water.

Heat olive oil and butter in a high sided skillet. Saute chopped onion until translucent. Add in garlic, collard greens and black eyed peas and saute 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder and yogurt. Season with additional spices and salt and pepper to taste.

Curry Spice Mixture
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper