Tomato Coconut Curry

Tomato Coconut Curry

Tomato Coconut Curry

Holy crap, apparently it’s been 2 years since I started this blog, and I haven’t even posted anything yet this year. I certainly have been cooking, and I did make a half-assed attempt at writing posts the last couple months but never published them.  I guess my enthusiasm was low – about blogging, not about life, the universe, and everything. That’s been good.  Anyway, here’s a new curry that I enjoyed and I’ll follow it up with a related breakfast idea.

This is a creamy, spicy curry spiced with the following: oil, turmeric root, black mustard seed, cumin seed, garam masala, cinnamon, minced fresh ginger, garlic, salt (to taste, later in cooking); to prepare: mix spice ingredients in the oil and cook over medium heat until seeds start to pop. Ingredients include: red bell pepper (2, medium diced), serrano pepper (1, finely diced, seeds included if you like it hot; I also added 6 dried red bird peppers), red onion (1/2 large, cut into thin strips), cherry tomato (1/2 pound, whole), water (adding small amounts as necessary to keep ingredients from sticking/burning, perhaps 1- 1/2 cups), green peas (1 cup, e.g., from frozen), fresh baby spinach leaves (1 6 ounce bag), coconut cream (~1/3 can or 4-5 ounces, to desired thickness/taste).

Cherry tomatoes cooking down for Tomato Coconut Curry.

Cherry tomatoes cooking down for Tomato Coconut Curry.

Cook until tender and the tomatoes can be easily mashed.
Add the peas when the curry is nearly done, so as not to overcook them, and add salt to taste.

Adding peas (frozen) to Tomato Coconut Curry.

Adding peas (frozen) to Tomato Coconut Curry.

Stir in the coconut cream and fresh spinach leaves last.

Tomato Coconut Curry finished with coconut cream and fresh spinach leaves.

Tomato Coconut Curry finished with coconut cream and fresh spinach leaves.

While this was being prepared, I cooked brown basmati rice in a rice cooker (cheating… soaked first in water, since this doesn’t cook as quickly as, say, chinese sticky rice), and served the two together for a delicious dinner.

Tomato Coconut Curry served with brown basmati rice.

Tomato Coconut Curry served with brown basmati rice.

I didn’t base this on any specific recipe – it was born of what I had on hand, but if you’d like a more precise recipe, here are two that are somewhat similar:

This is a great curry that is both and gluten-free and vegan. I hope you enjoy it!

Spicy Squash and Carrot Soup

Spicy Squash and Carrot Soup

Here’s a zippy soup for a rainy autumn day, which is what we have here today.
It’s sweet, from butternut squash, and definitely spicy, from poblano pepper.

Ingredients (to make about 2 quarts of soup):

  • 1/2 large butternut squash, seeds removed, peeled, and cubed
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into large pieces
  • 2 medium red bell peppers (I used one large bell pepper and one smaller ripe pepper of unknown variety)
  • 2 green poblano peppers
  • 4 medium to large scallions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil, ~1/3 cup
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • water, ~2 cups (saved from boiled squash and carrots)


First, boil the cubed squash and carrot until quite tender.

Boiled butternut squash and carrot

While the squash is boiling, roast peppers and onions under the broiler. Turn and move while roasting to blister pepper skin evenly and to avoid burning scallions.
Peel, core, and remove seeds from the peppers, and roughly chop the scallions.

Roasted red bell peppers, poblano peppers, and scallions

Dry-roast two cloves of garlic until tender, then peel and roughly chop.

Dry roasting garlic cloves

Lastly, using a food processor and/or blender, purée all the ingredients while adjusting the thickness with the water; add olive oil, salt, and pepper to your taste.

I used both a food processor and traditional blender, in two rounds each with about half the ingredients because the quantity of soup exceeded the capacity of my blender.

Spicy Squash and Carrot Soup, topped with thyme and toasted squash seeds

Serve the soup topped with dried or fresh thyme leaves and toasted squash seeds, perhaps accompanied by a piece of sourdough toast.

(I toasted the lightly oiled seeds with salt, pepper, and paprika on a baking sheet in a 250° F oven.)

I hope you enjoy this blended vegan soup – it’s perfect for cool fall days!

It was inspired by this recipe:

My Favorite Salsa Recipe: Salsa Romesco

Four canned salsas based on Salsa Romesco with (left to right) pasilla, chipotle, habanero, and cayenne

Here’s a spectacular salsa that I’ve been making for 15 years – Salsa Romesco, with a surprising ingredient: almonds!

If you’re a friend to whom I’ve given salsa, it almost certainly was this one.
It’s a spanish recipe from chef Mark Miller’s excellent guide, “The Great Salsa Book.”

The particularly nice qualities of this salsa are its sweetness from red pepper, its relatively smooth, thick consistency (e.g., for dipping chips or as an enchilada sauce), and its easily adjustable heat simply based on the amount of powdered cayenne pepper. I’ve included the original recipe below.

In a moment of farmers’ market enthusiasm, I bought a 25 pound box of tomatoes for $10. It turns out that’s a lot of tomatoes! I oven-roasted about half of these large, wonderfully red tomatoes to make 4 slightly different salsas.

To oven-roast tomatoes, simply cut them and lay them out on a sheet in a 250° F oven for 2-3 hours.  I put a bit of salt on on them beforehand. Large tomatoes can be quartered and roma tomatoes, as the original recipe called for, halved.

Quartered, and salted, tomatoes ready for oven-roasting.

The roasting removes some of the moisture, setting up for a nice blended salsa of a thick consistency and water doesn’t separate so much as with raw tomato-based salsas. (Of course, those salsas have their place; who could live without pico de gallo?)

I’ve made this Salsa Romesco many, many times (recipe below), spiced just with cayenne. This time I also rehydrated some pasilla and chipotle (meco type) peppers while the tomatoes were roasting, and finely minced one seeded, deveined fresh habanero. This was to make salsa variations with differing hotness and flavors. My pasilla peppers happened to be considerably hotter than the chipotle… many pepper varieties’ hotness is somewhat unpredictable.

Soaking dried pasilla and chipotle peppers

Once the tomoatoes are roasted, you can simply blend them in a food processor or blender for sauces and salsas.

Oven-roasted tomatoes, after about 3 hours at 250° F

After the passive hours of roasting tomatoes and rehydrating peppers, you’re ready to make this salsa; everything is blended, so there’s not much chopping.

Ingredients, in addition to tomatoes, needed for Salsa Romesco.

There is a bit of work; you will need to remove the skins from red peppers. I suppose removing the skin is optional, but it does two things: (a) it makes the salsa sweeter since the skin imparts a little bitterness, and (b) it keeps the skins (mostly) out of the resulting salsa, so it doesn’t get stuck between your teeth.

Red bell peppers, roasted for peeling

For me, the easiest way to roast and peel bell peppers has been to place them on a foil-lined sheet very near the heat in the broiler, watching them carefully and rotating them until all sides are blackened as shown.  Place the roasted peppers in a plastic bag or covered bowl for a while to steam them (helping the skin to separate), and then peel them (as best you can), remove core and seeds, and rinse the pepper.

Here’s Mark Miller’s recipe (my comments in parentheses… I approximately tripled this in quantity):

  • 10 Roma tomatoes, oven-roasted
  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne powder (careful! … to taste, make separate salsas for different palates)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and purée.
Variation: Add 1 anchovy filet to the food processor.
Note: This is a classic Spanish salsa.
Serving suggestions: A versatile salsa, good with tortilla chips or as a dip for vegetables; with grilled meats fish or eggs; or as a soup garnish.
Yield: About 1 3/4 cups
Heat: 5-6 (of 10, it solely depends on how much cayenne powder you add, it’s even nice and sweet with almost no cayenne… but I usually make it spicy.)

I made 4 variations, canning some of each for wintertime and keeping some fresh in the refrigerator (for days, at least), shown left to right in the top photo:

  • Hot pasilla and red pepper
  • Medium chipotle and red pepper
  • Hot habanero-garlic and red pepper
  • Mild sweet red pepper

I shared them with friends and all were popular but my favorites were the hot pasilla and the hot (fresh) habanero and garlic.

Fresh prepared salsas based on Salsa Romesco recipe

As I said, this salsa is my favorite to make myself and is a great foundation for creativity.
It takes a few hours, but most of that is not active time; it’s just waiting.  Maybe make a nice meal in the mean time, while the kitchen has the pleasant smell of roasted tomato. :)

Swiss Chard Gołąbki with Apple-Tomato Sauce

Swiss chard gołąbki with apple-tomato sauce and sour cream

Those of you of Polish heritage, like me, will likely be familiar with gołąbki; they’re delicious stuffed cabbage rolls, often with meat and rice inside and covered in a tomato sauce.

This is a similar dish but vegetarian and made with swiss chard rather than cabbage leaves, and a sauce with an extra touch of sweetness from apple.  It’s based on a recipe for “Baked Swiss Chard Rolls” given to me by a friend who often shares her home-grown chard.

Filling rainbow chard leaves with a mixture of spiced mashed potato and slivered almonds.

I made more potatoes and a more rolls in total than the recipe called for.

Chard leaves with stuffing, ready to roll-up.

The chard leaves are pretty substantial, so it wasn’t difficult to roll them.

Swiss chard rolls in a lightly oiled baking pan, ready to be topped with sauce.

As I had just oven-roasted tomatoes for salsa, I made fresh tomato purée in a blender.

Tomato and apple purée to top the rolls before baking

Here’s the recipe as it was given to me:

  • swiss chard, 1 bunch
  • potatoes, 2 medium, boiled, peeled, and mashed
  • onion, 1/2 cup, chopped
  • cumin seeds, 1/4 t., toasted
  • cayenne powder, 1/8 t.
  • peanuts, 1 T., crushed, toasted
  • basil, 1/4 t. dried
  • salt, 1 t.
  • tomato purée, 1 cup
  • walnuts, 1/4 cup, coarsely chopped
  • dates, 2 T., chopped
  • apple, 1 small cooking, cored, grated, dressed with lemon
  • sour cream, for garnish
  • tomato wedges (optional)
  1. Select 6 large, perfect chard leaves. Trim off all but 1/2 inch of the stem. Wash the leaves well.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring 6-8 cups of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Push the leaves gently down into the boiling water and cook uncovered until limp, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 375° F.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, combine the mashed potato, onion, cumin, cayenne, peanuts, dried herbs and 1/2 t. salt. Mix well.
  5. Divide the mixture among the chard leaves, roll up the leaves, tuck in the ends to enclose stuffing. Place seam-side down in a 3-quart (13 x 9″) baking dish.
  6. Combine the tomato purée, walnuts, dates, apple, and remaining 1/2 t. salt. Stir well and pour over the chard rolls to moisten the entire surface. Cover the pan and bake until the filling is hot – about 15 minutes. Transfer to a warmed serving dish. Top with sour cream and garnish with tomato wedges (if desired.)

I liked this vegetarian recipe that was amenable to modifications (e.g., I used slivered almond and pine nuts, and puréed the apple into the sauce rather than grating it). Compared to typical gołąbki, the swiss chard (instead of cabbage) leaves are somewhat tough to eat with just a fork. Be sure to cook the chard leaves until tender. I also baked these for more than double the time suggested, just be careful not to allow the sauce to burn.

Colorful Coconut Cream Curry

Colorful curry with carrot, red potato, broccoli, and coconut cream served with jasmine rice and raita

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, mostly because I’ve been making some old favorites that I’ve already posted and otherwise enjoying the nice weather and summertime.

Today’s post is a new off-the-top-of-my-head vegetable curry with a lot of color. I’ve done a number of indian and thai curries, but this one may be something of a haphazard fusion of the two, as I just chose my ingredients by whim.

Ingredients for the rice:

  • jasmine rice
  • cumin seed
  • bay leaves
  • cinnamon stick
  • hot curry powder
  • salt

Ingredients for the raita:

  • yogurt (I was lucky to have been given some homemade, from cow’s milk)
  • garlic, minced
  • carrot, julienned
  • green pepper, finely chopped
  • tomato, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • garam masala
  • saffron threads
  • salt

Ingredients for the curry:

  • canola oil
  • water
  • carrot, peeled and sliced
  • red potato, skins intact, small-diced
  • broccoli, bite-sized pieces, steamed
  • red onion, sliced (top to bottom) into thin strips
  • garlic, minced
  • habanero pepper, seeds and veins removed, finely minced
  • cumin seed
  • turmeric
  • garam masala
  • salt and pepper
  • coconut cream/milk
  • cilantro (chopped fresh or crushed dried)
  • thai bird peppers (one per serving)

I chose coconut cream for sweetness; you could substitute coconut milk (or even a yogurt) if you prefer.  Here’s one discussion of Coconut Milk vs. Cream.


First, to prepare the rice, I simply put the ingredients in a rice cooker and let it do its thing; afterwards I removed the cinammon stick and bay leaves and added them to the curry.

While the rice was cooking, I prepared the raita.  (Of course, if you want a vegan dish, you’ll have to skip the yogurt-based raita.)  Simply mix all the ingredients together, and let sit.  (This is also nice to make in advance, and refrigerate, as the flavors mellow and blend together.)

I prepared the curry in a 12 inch cast iron skillet; first toasting the cumin seed, then mixing the spices and oil, garlic, onion, hot peppers, and cooking the potatoes.  I added the sliced carrot later, as it was sliced thinner and would cook faster.  Add water occassionally as necessary to avoid sticking to the pan, and add the (separately steamed) broccoli and the coconut cream after the potatoes and carrot are cooked to suitably tender.

Coconut Cream Curry with raita and spiced jasmine rice.

I served the rice, curry, and raita sprinkled with some crushed dry cilantro leaf and a (cooked) whole red thai bird pepper.  (This hot pepper makes it easy for each diner to spice it up to their own taste.)

A colorful curry with rice and raita

That’s it! I hope this inspires some colorful cooking for you to share to likewise share with the wonderful people that color your life. :)

By the way, WordPress tells me this is my hundredth post!
(Now the money will start rollin’ in, right?)

Coconut, Peanut, & Pea Shoot Salad

Coconut, Peanut, and Pea Shoot Salad

Here’s a delicious salad that I arrived at by accident… and, despite having two nuts in its name, it contains no nuts, since coconut is not a proper nut and peanut is a legume or bean!

I was planning to make Tom Kha Talay, but when I opened the can of what I thought was coconut milk, I found that I had bought a can of young coconut meat instead. No problem, right?

If you’ve ever bought a young coconut, often served in China-towns as a coconut water beverage, then you’re probably familiar with the tender, sweet meat that lines the young coconut cavity.  The canned version I bought is the same, but in a sweet sugar-based syrup.

So, what to do?  I still had a pile of pea shoots for a salad to accompany the soup… how about adding the sweet coconut meat to a soup and a salad?

Here are the salad ingredients: pea shoots, mung bean sprouts, sliced young coconut meat, chopped roasted, unsalted peanut, tossed with a modest amount of Trader Joes’ Goddess dressing and a dash of fresh lime juice, and topped with more chopped peanut and lime zest.

As a fairly quick lunch, a number of the ingredients are off-the-shelf from the store.
If you haven’t had Trader Joe’s Goddess dressing, it is an oil and vinegar-based dressing with a delicious flavor dominated by soy, tahini (sesame), and garlic.

Prepared ingredients

For my  lunch, the salad was accompanied by Tom Yum Goong, made from store-bought Tom Yum Paste, homemade fish stock, diced potato, sliced carrot, sliced scallion, chopped green cabbage, quartered baby bella mushroom, chopped fresh cilantro, peeled shrimp (from frozen, raw), and chopped young coconut meat.

Tom Yum Goong with Coconut, Peanut, and Pea Shoot Salad

Next time you’re in an asian grocery, pick up some young coconut, and give this great salad and/or soup a try!

Fancy Cut Carrot

Here’s a 1 minute video with a tip on how to cut carrot for presentation: Kitchen Convivial Tips: Fancy Cut Carrot

I like the way Chinese restaurants often cut carrot for presentation in their dishes.
This is simple technique to make carrot slices that are much more attractive than round pieces!

Here’s a related video on how to cut matchstick or julienne carrot: Matchstick Carrots

Leftover Rice

Here’s a 2 minute video with a great tip about how to keep leftover rice in your freezer: Kitchen Convivial Tips: Leftover Rice

You can keep leftover rice, i.e., sticky rice, as individually wrapped servings in the freezer.

Then thaw them in the microwave on their own, e.g., to use to make fried rice, or top them with your favorite accompaniment, and reheat them together.
Microwave perhaps 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on high.

Spicy Cashew and Basil Curry

Spicy Cashew & Basil Curry

This is the first vegan dish that I’ve made… well, intentionally made vegan, anyway. So I didn’t use fish or oyster sauce. An inspiration for it is the whole basil curry at a local restaurant.

One unusual ingredient I used was tahini in the sauce; since tahini paste is just mashed sesame seed, I figured this is an alternative to sesame oil for flavor and may add substance to the sauce.

Ingredients: peanut oil, raw cashews, minced ginger, scallions, green cabbage, red bell pepper, baby bella mushrooms and whole basil leaves.

Sauce: orange juice, water, black bean paste, soy sauce (substitute tamari to be gluten-free), rice vinegar, palm sugar, tahini, chili garlic sauce, and cornstarch slurry to thicken slightly at the end.
(A similar sauce with coconut milk would be nice too.)

Here are some related recipes you might like:
“Spicy Beef with Thai Basil”
(I don’t know why they say the basil will turn black if you cook it… mine didn’t when I added it last with the mushrooms, and I wanted it wilted.)

Sesame Swiss Chard

Sesame Swiss Chard

Here’s a simple, tasty Korean or Japanese-inspired vegetable dish that I served with the aforementioned Firecracker Chicken and Rice.

To prepare: roll washed and trimmed swiss chard leaves, leaving some stalk pieces intact, and cut across the leaves in perhaps 1.5 inch strips; tear these in half to manageable eating length if necessary. Sauté chard with minced garlic in oil. Add a splash of soy sauce and bit of freshly ground black pepper. When done (stalks a bit translucent but still slightly firm), mix in some toasted sesame seeds; splash with a bit of sesame oil and top with more sesame seeds to serve.

(This is based, I think, on something I saw on a favorite cooking show: Simply Ming.