My favorite Thai restaurant has a dish that a friend turned me on to several years ago. It’s quite possible that without her recommendation, I’d never have tried it and experienced the magic. It’s a pumpkin red curry, and up to that point I was a staunch yellow curry fan. And I only liked squash in one thing: pumpkin pie (which isn’t even close to my favorite pie).
But I instantly fell in love with the pumpkin red curry (made with kabocha squash). It became my go-to dish at Thai Spices and it’s not something I’ve seen at other Thai restaurants for some reason. Eventually I tried other things as well (because if this was so good, might not other menu items be as delicious? Yes, yes they are. They make a special shiitake mushroom and basil dish that knocks my socks off.)
I’ve been wanting to try the pumpkin red curry for several years but never quite found the right red curry paste, and the kabocha squash intimidated me. But at a recent trip to the Asian market — which happens to be adjacent to Thai Spices — I picked up 1/2 of a kabocha squash and a jar of red curry paste. It’s Malaysian curry paste, not the Thai red curry paste I was hoping for, but I took a gamble. Which paid off well!
Adapted from Thai Red Curry with Kabocha Squash
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 medium white onion, medium dice
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 orange bell peppers, large dice
- 1 tbsp pureed fresh ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 kabocha squash, seeded and peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 tbsp Malaysian curry paste
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2 c water
- 1/2 c frozen peas
- 3/4 c frozen thin green beans
- 1 tsp lime zest (didn’t have lime juice)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
Saute the onion in oil over medium heat until it’s softened, then add the peppers, garlic, and ginger. Cook for a minute.
Add curry paste, cook for a minute, then add coconut milk, water, soy sauce, and salt. Bring to a simmer.
Stir in the squash, and simmer on low for about 20 min. Add the frozen veggies and lime zest, heat through, and serve over steamed rice.
I feel like I’ve finally discovered the secret to good Thai curry at home: the combination of the jarred curry paste and coconut milk is heavenly. And the kabocha, while a major pain to peel, turned out perfectly. The dish was so similar to the restaurant’s version that I was in disbelief.
Curry is one of my favorite comfort foods, and this one is a wonderful blend of sweet, hot, and rich. Can’t wait to make again! I may try baking the squash before peeling and cutting because I’ve read that it makes it easier to get the skin off. But then I’d want to add it to the sauce later, and it may not have such a great, deep flavor. I think buying the already-cut-in-half squash would be smart to do again — for safety’s sake.
Good cabbage prices means it was my go-to green veggie recently. Most of what I bought went into Asian-style dishes. But with a remaining half sitting in the produce bin, I wanted to make a veggie-packed stew with it as a change of pace. Having a hearty vegetarian stew in the freezer is awesome for those days when I haven’t gotten enough veggies with my meals. It’s an easy way to get a bunch at once.
Bean and Cabbage Stew
Makes 6-8 bowls
- 1/2 cabbage, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 1 medium brown onion, diced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2/3 c leftover red wine (I used cabernet sauvignon)
- 14.5 oz can tomatoes, pureed
- 2 c vegetable broth OR 2 c water, heated to boiling + 2 tsp vegetable bouillon base (I used Better Than Bouillon)
- 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- caraway seeds
- In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat and saute carrots and onion for about 15 minutes, until they’re softened.
- In a separate chef’s or frying pan, saute cabbage in canola oil over medium-high heat. Stir often to prevent sticking, but letting it get browned helps develop good flavor. Add a splash of water if needed.
- Once the carrots and onions are ready, add wine and reduce until thick. Add garlic, paprika, thyme, freshly ground pepper and salt (to taste). Stir in tomatoes, broth, and beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
- Stir in cabbage and heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar.
- Sprinkle in caraway seeds if desired.
St. Patrick’s day brought great sale prices on green cabbage, so I’ve had a couple to use for new things this month.
One new thing was a stir fried cabbage that I absolutely loved, and was able to use both as a regular side dish and as an ingredient in my customized version of Dragon Noodles. My husband found this recipe too sweet for his taste, but I couldn’t get enough.
Stir Fried Cabbage
This makes a small batch, enough for 2-3 sides.
- 1/4 of a small cabbage, chopped into roughly 1-inch pieces
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1/4 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 1/2 tsp Sriracha
- 2 tsp rice wine
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- Mix granulated garlic, Sriracha, rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, and water in a small bowl.
- Heat oil in saute pan over high heat, until it’s hot and shimmery.
- Add cabbage and soy sauce mixture, and stir fry for a couple of minutes, until the cabbage softens.
- Stir in the rice vinegar and onion powder, and continue cooking over high heat until the cabbage browns and caramelizes in some spots, then remove from heat and serve.
These days I’m on the lookout for new, delicious ways to prepare a bunch of russet potatoes. This recipe for Oven Potato Wedges from onceamonthmeals.com was a big hit. Most of them went in the freezer for future meals, and I don’t know how well they’ll reheat yet, but I’m optimistic. The fresh ones were delicious, mostly thanks to the seasoning blend. It’s called Best Burger Seasoning and it adds a lot of flavor and a little spice to basic roasted potatoes.
- used 12 potatoes (which were on the small side)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp Best Burger Seasoning blend (I adapted the seasoning recipe to get about 2 tbsp of seasoning):
- 1 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 3/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground cayenne chili powder
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp dried basil
- pinch celery salt
I could not pass up the seasonal 10-pounds-for-$.87 sale. Even though last year I swore I wouldn’t do it again because most of the potatoes went bad long before we could eat them.
But this Fall I have a new plan: freezing. I broke that 10-pound bag into a few groups:
- 4 to bake and freeze
- 5-6 to shred into hash browns and freeze
- 5-6 to dice into cubes and freeze
- 6 for the refrigerator to use in the immediate future
For the baking group, I scrubbed them clean, pricked once with a sharp knife, and baked for 60 min. at 300°. They didn’t get wrapped, just went right onto the baking rack. Then cooled, wrapped in foil, and frozen.
For the hash browns group, I followed the freezing potato instructions from Taste of Home.
- bring a large pot of water to a boil
- peel potatoes
- shred potatoes (in food processor with shredding blade)
- dump them into a large bowl of ice water, resting for a couple of minutes
- add to boiling water, cooking for 3 min.
- prepare a new ice bath
- drain potatoes
- cool them in the ice bath
- drain again
- spread on paper towels and blot dry
- divide into sandwich bags, 6 oz each
- squeeze air out, wrap in foil, label, and freeze
For the diced group, I did the same thing, except instead of shredding them I diced them, and cooked for 4 min. These divided into 9-oz bags.
I’d like to make some potato salad from a couple of the refrigerator potatoes, and some regular old baked potatoes for a couple of dinners.
My goal is to use up the freezer potatoes within 12 months as directed. Which sounds like an easy thing to do, but I’m continuously shocked by how many things I put in the freezer don’t get used within the year. A sign that it would be smart for me to get back to my menu planning based on what’s in the pantry/refrigerator!
After reading that potato-freezing results were hit or miss, I sure hope these work OK. The thought of stretching that $.87-bag over many, many meals just delights my frugal side.
Update: In mid-February (about 3 months later), I finished the last of my freezer potatoes. My results from freezing were mixed, and I’m going to find new ways to take care of a big bag of potatoes.
The baked potatoes did not fare well, and the texture upon reheating (in the microwave) was awful. The insides were tough and stringy, and became kind of laminated. The hash browns didn’t cook up very well, at least the way I did them. I would cook them in a pan on the stove top (first squeezing out the water so they didn’t splatter), in some butter and/or oil. They got very thin and dry, and never really browned up. The cubes did the best. Those I roasted in the oven until browned. But the down side was that they were rather dry inside, almost like hollow cubes.
After finishing Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, I was craving Middle Eastern food. Specifically, I was craving the Middle Eastern food from my favorite restaurant for that sort of thing. They make this fried eggplant dish that is like candy, and these spicy cooked carrots that burn the tastebuds but are soooo tasty. But instead of running over there for takeout, I wanted to try cooking my typical order at home.
Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita adapted from Skillet Baked Whole Wheat Pita (Using Sourdough)
Hummus adapted from Lebanese Hummus Recipe From Scratch – Hummus b Tahini
Fried Eggplant adapted from Fried Eggplant with Garlic and Parsley Dressing
Spicy Carrots adapted from Spicy Carrots for Clear Skin
Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita
- 4 oz sourdough starter (fed)
- 4 1/2 oz hard white wheat flour (unsifted)
- 3-4 oz water (filtered)
- 1 tbls honey
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbls vegetable oil
1:50 p.m.: Mix starter, flour, water, and honey together for a couple of min. (added quite a bit of extra water at this stage), then let sit for 15 min. Then add salt and vegetable oil. Mix for 2 min. on med-low. Do 4 stretch & folds with 5-min. intervals.
2:25 p.m.: Rest dough, covered.
4:00 p.m.: Dough isn’t rising enough, so move to slightly warmed oven until time to make pitas.
5:30 p.m.: Divide dough into 4 pieces and flatten out, using flour. Rest for about 15 min. then cook in hot, unoiled cast iron skillet for a few minutes on each side.
- 1/2 lb dried chickpeas*
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tbls tahini paste
- 1/3 c fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 to 1 c warm water
Process chickpeas with 1/2 cup warm water for 3 to 5 min. Add garlic, salt, and paprika, and slowly add tahini while processor is running. Slowly add lemon juice while processor is running, then mix for 2 min. Adjust seasoning and add more water if needed.
Serve at room temperature with olive oil drizzled over top.
*I put 1 lb of dried chickpeas in the pressure cooker with some salt and cooked for 40 min., using natural pressure release when done. It yielded 2 1/4 lb (940 gm) cooked chickpeas.
- 2 Philippine eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 tsp salt
- Oil for frying
Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and set in colander for 30 min. Then rinse under cold water and wring out water using a thin towel.
Heat oil in skillet and fry for several minutes on each side until golden. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.
- 1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced 1/8″ thick
- 1 tbls olive oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp chili paste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Dash of caraway seeds
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/4 lemon, juiced
Saute carrots in hot oil in nonstick skillet for 5 min. Cover and cook for 3 to 5 min., stirring occasionally. Add cumin, paprika, turmeric, and salt. Saute until fragrant and pasty. Stirn in chili paste, garlic, caraway, honey, and lemon juice. Cook briefly, then serve. This is good at room temperature.
Overall, I’m happy with how things turned out. I’m most excited about the hummus recipe. I had come to the conclusion that I didn’t really like tahini in my hummus, but it turns out that my last container of tahini paste was just really stale. The new one I picked up for this recipe was smooth and has a wonderful flavor. This hummus recipe is the best I’ve ever made and I’ll definitely make it again.
I had some problems with the pita dough sticking to my hands when I placed it in the pan to cook, so some of the pitas are wildly misshapen. They taste good though. Next time I’d try an overnight proofing to help strengthen the gluten (or more kneading), and less water.
The spicy carrots turned out really well. Next time I could up the chili paste a tad bit.
And the fried eggplant was OK, but rather bland — definitely not the magical eggplant I have at the restaurant. I wonder how they do it there…