Monday, April 13, 2009

Pesach Ramblings and Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup

Hi everyone, sorry I've been so absent. I'm taking the MCATs this weekend, and my life is a bit hectic what with studying and practice tests and cooking for Passover. I promise to be better after Saturday is over. :)

I've noticed two things about my Passover eating habits. First, many of my standard go-to snacks are grains, so I've had to plan in advance more than usual to make sure I have cooked food around that I can eat whenever I want. I'm a many small meals type of person--I get hungry every two to three hours and need a little something. Fruit helps, as does matzah with its various toppings, but it's not quite as easy nor as filling as just eating a piece of whole wheat bread, which is one of my default snacks during the rest of the year.

The second thing I've noticed is that there aren't many stick-to-your-ribs foods that are free of grains or meat. (Not that I'm vegetarian, but I just don't eat meat that often.) My family keeps Sephardic-style kosher, so beans have been a great help. Last week I made a fantastic sweet potato coconut curry soup with garbanzo beans thrown in (see recipe below), and this weekend I made a big stir fry of baked tofu and green beans flavored with orange juice and soy sauce. Both of these are well within my comfort zone of cooking. In the interests of trying something new, though, I was inspired by a Mark Bittman article on tortillitas to make a big chickpea flour pancake with local mushrooms. Didn't look too pretty, but it was still good. Torian had the bright idea of putting ketchup on it, which was surprisingly delicious.

On the dessert side of things, I've tried out two of the recipes I referenced before: the flourless chocolate cake and the almond cookies. I used dark agave syrup instead of dark corn syrup in the chocolate glaze; I'm trying to avoid corn syrup more and more and agave is a great alternative. The cake uses a technique of folding in beaten egg whites, ostensibly to make it lighter and fluffier. Didn't really do much if you ask me; it was just barely cakier than a slab of chocolate truffle. Even so, it wasn't drop dead good. I mean, it was good for Passover, but I wouldn't make it again. Does anyone have a blow your mind fabulous flourless chocolate cake recipe they'd recommend? I'd be very appreciative.

The almond cookies were unbelievably easy to make, but they bake up as almost a pure marzipan cookie. Not that there's necessarily a problem with that. Just be forewarned: they look like a normal cookie and are solid enough to pack and store and such, but they are incredibly chewy and marzipan-y on the inside. Delicious with a bit of raspberry jam or chocolate sauce to sandwich two together. I cut the sugar in half when I made my cookies so that they wouldn't be too sweet with the fillings, and they're just sweet enough. I wouldn't use more than a 1/2 cup of sugar for a roll of almond paste.

Since I've already given you a couple of these recipes, here's a new one that I referenced above. My friend Jordan used to make this fabulous curry/soup in Synergy, and I just had to have the recipe. Anything that's easy enough to make for 60 is easy enough for me! Once you've baked the potatoes (which you could do a day or two ahead and store in the refrigerator), you can throw the whole thing together pretty quickly.

Photo (and kitchen, I presume) from Mike_el Madrileno on Flickr, Creative Commons License

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soup

2-3 sweet potatoes
2 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
1-2 tsp. red curry paste, to taste
1 can coconut milk
4 C vegetable broth
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash your sweet potatoes and prick them a few times with a fork. Place on a pan with sides (to catch any drippy juices) and bake for about 45 minutes, until they're soft and the skin can be removed easily.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook a few minutes until translucent. Add the chopped ginger and curry paste, cook a few minutes more until golden and fragrant.

3. Add the coconut milk, vegetable broth, salt, and pepper to taste. (I also added a can of garbanzo beans here, if you'd like to make it a bit more hearty.) Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat to low and let simmer for 20-30 minutes.

4. Remove skins from cooked sweet potatoes and cut into bite-sized chunks. Add to soup and heat through. Top with a drizzle of sesame oil and/or a sprinkle of cilantro before serving. Or just eat it plain--it's that good!

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