Red lentil, red bean and yellow split pea curry (with sweet potatoes, red peppers and kale)

Red bean, red lentil and yellow split pea curry

Red bean, red lentil and yellow split pea curry

Isaac likes to ask questions he knows the answers to. He’ll ask them again and again, and there must be something reassuring in getting the same answer every time. Of course this is dangerous when you have a mother who earned the name “Miss Snide” in her youth because of her snarky response to every question with an obvious answer, and who can’t give the same answer twice. So frequently our walks to school go a little something like this. “Mom, do you think Clio is cute?” “No, I think she’s a hideous beast.” “Mom, do you think Clio is cute?” “No, I think she’s foulfiendish.” “Mom, do you think Clio is cute?” On and on until I finally break and yell, “Of course I think Clio is cute, I only tell her so ten thousand times a day!” Last night when we were reading before bed it was, “Mom, what’s your favorite color?” “You know the answer, you tell me.” “GREEN! What’s your other favorite color?” “You tell me again,” “Blue!” And then Isaac recalled a time when one friend, who is a girl, said that her favorite colors are pink and red, and another friend, who is a boy, said she couldn’t like red because it’s a boy’s color. And then both Malcolm and Isaac said “There’s no such thing as boy colors and girl colors! Any body can like any color!” Isaac said it’s a made up myth. And Malcolm said that it sucks for girls, though, because they only get two colors, but boys get every other color there is. Well! It seemed like such a wise thing to say. It seemed like such a perfect metaphor for so much else in life, and I’d never thought about it before in that way. Pink and purple. I mean of course I’d realized how ridiculous it was to think of these as girlie colors, or let colors be so defining, and I’d always been proud of my boys for liking pink and purple in defiant solidarity. But I’d never realized how imbalanced it was. I’d never really thought about how every single other color belongs mostly to the boys. I had a funny sort of flash of “What else do we just live with and take for granted that I need my eleven-year-old to state with brilliant matter-of-fact clarity?” This week Isaac had to fill in a big poster about himself, and in the box for favorite color he drew just about every color known to magic markerdom. I love to think about my boys refining the light of the entire spectrum through the perfect prism of their ridiculously lovely combination of imagination and good sense. I love to think about them glowing with all the colors, with every color in the world.

Red lentil, red bean, and yellow split pea curry

Red lentil, red bean, and yellow split pea curry

Speaking of color! This dal had red lentils, yellow split peas and red beans. So it was very warm and autumnal. It also had red peppers and sweet potatoes, to add to the warmth and autumnalness. It was tasty, too, and satisfying. If you cook if for a nice long time, the red lentils will break down into a sort of background creaminess, but the split peas and red beans will retain their texture. We ate this with basmati rice and some Ooto flatbreads.

Here’s Louis Armstrong with What a Wonderful World.
Continue reading

Beet green, black bean, pumpkin and cashew curry with roasted beet kofta

Roasted beet kofta

While we walked to school the other day, Isaac told me that recess isn’t fun anymore because two of his friends won’t play with him. He said “sometimes I feel like I don’t exist at all.” It gave me such a pang! I used to feel that way all the time. I used to feel insubstantial and empty. But I was a teenager! He’s so young to feel that way. I suppose sometimes you’re so close to yourself – literally inside, looking out – that you can’t see yourself at all. I used to get all confused about that. I felt sort of dull and colorless, and it seemed as though everybody around me was brighter and louder – more visible, more easy to hear and understand. I still feel that way sometimes, when I’m with people who are charming and vocal, but I’m not so worried about it any more; I no longer struggle to make myself heard, because so often it just doesn’t matter. I used to try to make myself disappear, in some ways. I wanted to be small and weightless and invisible. I feel so much more solid, now. I feel as if gravity has much more pull on me, these days. But I’m fine with that, it’s a way to feel rooted and real. It’s a way to make shyness and self-consciousness immaterial. The funny thing is that Isaac is so vivid, so vibrant – he’s not shy at all, he’s the sort of boy you can imagine walking into a room and throwing up his arms and yelling, HERE I AM!! He’s like sunshine, but he’s got a seriousness and depth to him as well. We sometimes laugh that if he had a band it could be called “Little Mr. Sunshine and his Dark Thoughts.” I just hope he knows how brightly he glows!

Of course beets grow upward but they’re rooted. They’re beautiful and bright, and covered in dirt beneath the earth. We just got a big lovely bunch from the farm, with the greens attached, and I wanted to use every part. So I made a curry with the leaves, in a sauce of cashew and pumpkin purée. And I grated and roasted the beets themselves, and mixed them with chickpea flour and spices to make kofta. If you don’t have beet greens, this curry would work equally well with spinach, chard, kale, or any other kind of green you have!

Beet green curry

Here’s Linton Kwesi Johnson with Age of Reality, which, upon reflection, doesn’t have much to do with anything, but I like it.
Continue reading

Red lentil cashew curry

Red lentil cashew curry

We saw a movie last night that was such a good surprise. I didn’t know anything about it beforehand. Guess what? Madhur Jaffrey was in it! She was amazing! And Aasif Mandvi was in it, too. He wrote it! He was wonderful, too. The movie, Today’s Special was about learning to cook (and live) with your head, your heart, and your belly. It had many inspiring scenes in the kitchen. Including one in which the characters mix a masala, or spice mix. I’ve said it before, I love this idea! I wasn’t thinking very clearly about the spices I put in here, but I like the mix I came up with. Mustard seed, sesame seed, a touch of cumin, coriander and cardamom. Lordy, I love the very names of spices!

Red lentils, you say? Why is it green? Why? It’s a funny thing about red lentils. They’re such a pretty salmon color before you cook them, but they turn yellowish after. Still pretty, though, I think! And this is green because it has zucchini and spinach and cilantro. I like to make a red lentil dal that you cook for a very long time, until it separates into cooked lentils, and a delicate, flavorful broth. This isn’t like that! It’s more substantial and thick. It reminded me of oatmeal, a bit, as I was making it. The ground cashews add a sweet nutty creaminess that I find quite pleasant. This would be nice with basmati rice and naan or paratha, but we ate it with grit cakes, which was very good, too!

Here’s a song which is used to wonderful effect in the film, Eena Meena Deeka. The video is wonderful, too!
Continue reading

Spicy spinach cashew sauce

spinach cashew sauce

I’d like to apologize in advance for posting so often today. I’ve got so much I want to tell you about! I don’t know if I’ll get to it all, but if I don’t then I’ll forget how I made it, and then I’ll just have to post more tomorrow… Goodness gracious, I can’t keep up with my own self.

This one will be quick, though. Just like the sauce. It’s very flavorful, very easy, and probably very good for you because spinach and nuts have protein and iron and… other things, that are good. You’re the boss, with this sauce. You can make it quite thin and creamy, and have it with pasta or rice. Or you can make it quite thick, and use it however you would use pesto. I made it spicy, because I still have a cold, but that’s adjustable as well. It’s a nice dipping sauce for croquettes or kofta, and it’s very good with roasted vegetables, such as winter squash or sweet potatoes. It would make a nice meal with boiled diced potatoes stirred in. It’s creamy, yet vegan. And that’s all I’m going to say about that!

Here’s Duke Ellington with Spongecake and Spinach.
Continue reading

Apple & carrot mulligatawny soup


If you’re like me, and you’re a highly esteemed scholar of food history as it relates to Europeans aggressively roaming the earth and changing their cooking styles and the food-preparing habits of the people they met as they traveled… Okay, obviously I’m not an esteemed scholar of anything. But I am a bit of a buff, when it comes to the role of food in the history of colonialism. As I’ve mentioned before, in relation to savory pastries. Anyway! If this kind of thing interests you at all, than you’ll have some thoughts about Mulligatawny. I think the name means “pepper water,” and as I understand it, the soup came about because somebody was trying to make Indian flavors palatable to Englishmen. But it became hugely popular! And the whole notion of the soup is completely open to interpretation. You could put anything in there and call it mulligatawny! I made this soup thinking about a mulligatawny I ate at an Indian restaurant somewhere just outside of London, when I was about 7 years old. I remember apples. I remember pleasant spices. I remember a tawny color. And that’s about it! But something must have worked on some strange level, because my Isaac, who is 6, and who generally won’t eat much of anything unless it’s pale and has lots of butter on it…asked for 3 helpings of this soup!!

Here’s Dead Milkman Punk Rock Girl, which really has nothing to do with mulligatawny, but it’s so stuck in my head! And it’s a good song for valentine’s day tommorrow!
Continue reading