Green Goddess

Despite the general lack of cold weather out this way, something about the months of January and February call to me, like those siren songs that tempted Odysseus at sea, and all I hear is sweet, beautiful pleas to make soup.

Of course, our weatherman did say that we were having “bone chilling” cold weather last week. Which to the crazy Californian he is, meant that we had weather in the high 30’s in the wee morning hours, which promptly increased to the 40’s and 50’s. For crying out loud, some people were wearing down coats and scraping “ice” from their cars. Ah, perspective.

Bone-chilling cold weather or not, I gravitate towards soup with open arms, without (bees)wax in my ears, with no restraint or need to resist the temptation whatsoever. There have been quite a few dinners of the soupy, stewy variety as of late, although my inability to post more than once a week has really done a number on the recipes I share with you.

I also haven’t had the chance to talk nearly as much about our meandering as of late, which makes me a little weepy. We’ve had some really awesome weekends out here lately, and maybe one of these days I’ll do a quick Friday post or something to post some pics about life outside of food.

But for the moment, that ain’t happenin’.

If you are finding yourself in a cooking rut (or cookbook rut, I suppose), I still can’t recommend Heidi’s Super Natural Every Day enough. True, I’ve had it for quite some time now, but I still manage to find a recipe to cook that doesn’t disappoint. This lentil/split pea soup is all up in the Interwebs (my friend, Liz, for one as well as here, here, and of course, the source) and for good reason. It’s pretty tasty.

And for me, it meant I got to use my ultra-pink immersion blender that I finally re-bought! A year was way too long to go without my blender, because pureeing in batches in a regular blender is just not something I’m into.

Now, it just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t make a few modifications to a perfectly good-as-is recipe, but I did anyway, although not too much. I definitely recommend using coconut oil for sweating your veggies, although olive oil would work if needed. The coconut oil with the coconut milk though? Rock solid. I also drizzled mine with more of a coconut-curry oil than a butter, because I liked the idea of really driving that coconut flavor home, if you know what I mean. And yeah, I probably used a little less broth than some might prefer, but I like my soups well, less soupy. Oh, and I think the cilantro is a nice finish, but you could stick with the original and do chives, because that sounds pretty awesome too.

Last but certainly not least, I chose green split peas instead of green lentils, but I’m certain they’d both be tasty. I just liked the idea of making my soup “greener” since it was more photogenic. Oh, the things we do for these blogs ;).

 

Green Split Pea Soup
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day; serves 4-6

time commitment: 45 minutes

printable version

ingredients
3 T coconut oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 t red pepper flakes
4-5 c vegetable broth
1 1/2 c green split peas (or green lentils), picked over and rinsed
1/2 t curry powder
1/2 c light coconut milk
salt to taste
cilantro, chopped

instructions
In a large pot over medium heat, melt 2 T coconut oil. Add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and stir often until onion softens, a few minutes. Add 4 c vegetable broth and the split peas. Simmer, covered until split peas are tender, 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 1 T coconut oil in a small pan and add curry powder. Stir into the oil and saute for about a minute over medium heat, until warm and toasty smellin’. Set aside.

When lentils are tender, remove from heat, stir in coconut milk and 1/4 t salt. Puree using an immersion blender (or in a regular blender or food processor) until smooth. Add more vegetable broth if you prefer your soup less thick. Taste and add salt, if needed. Serve drizzled with curry oil and sprinkle with cilantro.

Building Mussels without Breakin’ a Sweat

thai green curry ingredients


We took our cats in for their annual vet visit a couple of weeks ago. And although my cat has always been on the larger side, she’s never been officially classified as fat. Well, not until this visit. We’d tried portioning out their food for the past year to avoid the inevitable weight gain, but we began to notice that my cat would eat not only her portion, but also the portion of her smaller, more timid sister. Two things wrong with that picture: my cat continues to eat too much, and the other cat doesn’t eat at all. Both will lead to poor outcomes…



So anyway, after pondering various ideas, we came to a solution that will avoid both of the former scenarios. We’d feed the “non-fat” cat on the counter, since she can jump up with ease and the “fat” cat can’t, and we’d switch my cat to canned food to easily portion it out and guarantee that the other cat won’t eat it, since she refuses canned food. In trying out various brands of canned food, I’ve realized a thing or two. Some of them are true delicacies, especially for a cat! One kind I bought her was called “Savory salmon w/ lentils & ginger”. I mean, c’mon. It’s no wonder she didn’t like it. And after trying 5 different brands, I’ve come to the conclusion that she, like me, has turned into a Whole Foods snob! Their brand was the only one she ate every flavor of, and the only one she ate with pure excitement. Some, despite her normal tendency to eat all things in sight, were left untouched – overnight. Who would have thought a cat would be able to pick out organic cat food. Fortunately, their foods, unlike human food, are not too much more expensive than the brands at Petsmart.

tange & sasha

And so, in my attempt to find tasty, nutritious, balanced food for my cat, I also went on a mission to find ingredients for my weekend meals. Once I got over the fact that my cat and I now shop at the same store, I was then faced with the frustration of the WF move. The WF I normally buy groceries from is expanding and jumping a block south next month, so finding all ingredients I need at one store was like finding pizza in Chinatown. But no worries, because Dirk’s Seafood was just around the corner, and I knew they’d have the final ingredient on my list, mussels. Oh, I do love mussels.

And, I love curry, and Thai food in general, so a Thai version of clam chowder with mussels instead of clams was right on par with something I’d cook.


mussels in curry broth



The last dish I made with curry is one of my very favorites. Plus, I’d been on a break from coconut since early April, and I was ready to bring it back into my life.

I did make some changes to the original recipe. I’d gone to an Asian grocery a while back and stocked up on some hard-to-find ingredients, so I had Kaffir lime leaves and thai chiles in the freezer. I still added more lime flavor. I’m sure if you can’t find Kaffir lime leaves you could leave them out, but they do add a lot of Thai-ness to the dish. Actual kaffir limes look a lot like regular limes but are sort of bumpy, and they’re smaller. The leaves look like two leaves stuck together. And thai chilies can be bought in little bags with tons in one bag. They both freeze well and last a long time. The ones I had in the freezer are over a year old and are just as fragrant as when I bought them. Also, the recipe called for scallops, and that didn’t seem as good as more shrimp to me. So I doubled the shrimp and took out the scallops. And last, the recipe had no ginger! So I added some.


seafood with thai green curry


I tell you, straight up, this is one of the easiest dishes I’ve made in a long time. It’s full of veggies, seafood, and exotic, complex flavors. It’s actually healthy, although it looks too creamy to be low-fat. But it is. People get real excited about mussels, and the fact of the matter is that they really are a piece of cake to prepare. You literally dump them in a pot and close the lid. Voila. That being said, this recipe would be a true crowd-pleaser and a sure thing for company. And for those with dietary issues – gluten & dairy-free. Need I say more?

green curry broth

Thai Green Curry w/ Seafood
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2009; Serves 4


printable recipe

ingredients
2 T unrefined peanut oil (could use standard refined but will not be as robust)
5 green onions, chopped, dark green parts separated from white and pale green parts
3 T minced fresh cilantro, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 T Thai green curry paste
1 1/4 cups water
1 can coconut milk (light works just fine)
2 red Thai chilies (or 1 red jalepeno chile)
2 kaffir lime leaves (or 2 T lime juice + 1 t zest)
zest of 1/2 lime
juice of 1/2 lime
1 t fresh grated ginger
1 T fish sauce (Thai kitchen brand is gluten free)
1 large carrot, peeled, thinly cut diagonally
4 cups thinly sliced bok choy
1 lb uncooked medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 lb green or black mussels, scrubbed, debearded
2 T chopped fresh basil
2 cups cooked white arborio rice

instructions

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add white & pale green onion parts, 1 T cilantro, and garlic; saute until tender, about 2 minutes.


2. Add curry paste; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add water, coconut milk, chiles, lime leaves, lime zest, lime juice, ginger, and fish sauce. Bring to simmer. Add carrot; cover and cook until carrot is just tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Layer bok choy, shrimp & mussels in pan. Cover & simmer until mussels open and shrimp & bok choy are cooked, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in dark green parts of onions, 2 T remaining cilantro, and basil.

5. Divide rice among 4 bowls. Ladle curry mixture over rice & serve.