Archive for January, 2012

Family Obsessions

January 20, 2012

In my family, there is this thing we do when we find something we want.  Some might call it obsess.  Some might call it fixate.  However you want to name it, both of my brothers and I will, on occasion, seize upon something and not let it go until it is ours.  My dad has a touch of this characteristic so it probably came from his gene pool.  This thing we want is not necessarily a tangible thing.  Maybe it’s an experience we want to try or a place we want to visit.  One of the earliest memories I have of this trait is my brother Alex saying over and over again that he wanted to go see the movie Outrageous Fortune.  It was 1987 and we were on a ski vacation staying in sleepy town in central Washington.  All that stands out from that trip is him saying, “All right, let’s go see Outrageous Fortune” over and over again until we finally went just to shut him up already.

This same brother recently got it in his head that he wanted an almost full sleeve Polynesian tattoo.  (For the record, my family is Jewish and hails from Eastern Europe.)  He did a lot of research and found that one of the experts in the country lives in Vegas.  He booked two trips and sat for almost 24 hours under the needle to get this tattoo.  His wife was not excited about it but she has learned that once Alex gets an idea in his head, that idea is happening.  My brother Michael’s obsessions have included bikes and biking gear.  With my dad, stereo equipment.  Me, well, there have been some big things – like the past two houses we have owned – and small-ish.  Like a blender.

About  a year ago, I got it in my head that I needed a VitaMix blender.  I had seen enough bloggers write love letters to their VitaMix and knew enough people who had an adored one that I felt it was the one appliance keeping my kitchen from being perfect.  I had a blender, of course, but it was over ten years old and really didn’t work that well.

Now, I am more subtle than Alex.  I only worked the VitaMix into conversations a couple of times a week for an entire year – not multiple times daily.  But I did it enough that Spencer, who is not quite five, said as I was making him a lumpy smoothie, “Mommy, you need a new blender”.  Lo and behold, a few weeks before Christmas, we got a friends and family discount coupon from Williams Sonoma for 20% off.  Now, those blenders never go on sale – never.  The price at Costco is the same price everywhere – there is no deal to be had.  I know this because my husband looked around to, you know, shut me up already, and he kept finding the same price.  And that price is expensive.  But 20% off is slightly less expensive so Randy passed the coupon on to Santa and the man in red brought me a blender.

My first smoothie test drive came on Christmas morning.  And it was good.  Smooth.  Not earth shattering.  And I had to keep using the tamper to move the contents around so the blades would keep moving.  Is this what you get for an over $400 blender?  I kept making smoothies and kept worrying that I had made a mistake.  Wondering if Williams Sonoma might take back a blender without the box because it’s not earth-shattering.  So I started asking around.  What did people who owned them make in their VitaMix?  What made it irresistible?  I got several different answers but all the people I asked said soup.

Of course.  That dreamy but ever elusive soup with the smooth velvety texture you find in restaurants.  The perfect purée.  I have tried with my food processor, my blender, and my very competent immersion blender but I could never get a lump free soup.  I even tried all three appliances for one soup for a very special dinner and I made an enormous mess and a still somewhat lumpy soup.  An intriguing bread recipe came through my inbox recently, which I will write about soon, and there was a link to a celery root soup.  I knew this would be my test run for the blender.

Do you use celery root in your cooking?  I think it is the loveliest tasting ugly vegetable out there.  I love recipes that tell you to “peel” it – I know of no peeler you could use to successfully navigate the thick skin and gnarly roots of this beauty.  A sharp knife is the best tool for this job and under that somewhat scary exterior lies a smooth white subtly scented interior.  Celery root is wonderful shaved raw, diced and sautéed, simmered, and boiled to oblivion and puréed.  Not too many vegetables you can say that about.  In this soup, it simmers along with leek, potato, garlic, and a chopped apple.  I added some thyme to the recipe – it needed an herb.  Your end result is one of those subtly flavored, perfectly textured soups that tastes creamy, feels creamy in the mouth, but contains no cream.  In fact, this soup is vegan.  I’m keeping that VitaMix.

One Year Ago:  Winter Market Soup
Two Years Ago:  Lasagne with Eggplant and Chard
Three Years Ago:  Sicilian Eggplant Spread with Crostini

Celery Root Soup
Adapted from Chow
Serves 4-6

I topped this soup with a sprinkle of garlicky breadcrumbs that I had leftover from another recipe.  I loved the added dimension of texture and the hint of flavor.  This soup would also taste great with larger croutons of grilled bread or without any garnish at all.

Olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced leek (about 1 medium), white and light green parts only
Kosher or sea salt
2 ½ pounds celery root, also known as celeriac (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
12 ounces boiling potatoes (about 2 large), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped or 1 tsp. dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth (I like Rapunzel brand)
Bread crumbs, for garnish (optional)
Garlicky breadcrumbs, optional

Place a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high.  Pour in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the leeks with a large pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add celery root, potatoes, apple, garlic, thyme, another pinch salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir to coat vegetables with oil, add water and broth, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until vegetables just give way when pierced with a knife, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap from the blender lid (the pour lid) and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam from the hot soup to escape and prevents the blender lid from popping off). Once blended, transfer the soup back to the saucepan and keep warm over low heat.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. To serve, drizzle with olive oil and breadcrumbs if desired.

Garlicky Breadcrumbs

3 large thick slices stale country bread
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher or sea salt

Tear the slices of bread into small pieces.  Put into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Process into very fine crumbs.  You may need to stop the machine and move the bread around a bit and will have to process for a couple of minutes to get the right consistency.  Set aside.

Place a sauté pan over medium heat.  Drizzle in the oil, then add the bread crumbs and the garlic along with a large pinch of salt.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the bread is nice and crunchy, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.  (Unused breadcrumbs can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.)

A Spinach Salad

January 18, 2012

I’ve been cooking regularly since I was 23 years old.  And, at the risk of sounding old, I will tell you that was 18 years ago.  Because my mom always made salad and therefore dinner to me means “accompanied by salad”, I have made a lot of salad in my life.  I have a lot of salad recipes here on this blog.  Not to toot my own horn, but I make a pretty darn good salad.  Over the years, I have learned things that have added to my salad expertise – always make your own dressing (tastes better and no nasty chemicals), always salt your lettuce before you dress the salad (lettuce is a vegetable and it needs to be seasoned), sliced hearts of palm are an exceptional addition to any salad, etc.  For the three years I was a personal chef, I made probably upwards of 100 different salads – I wanted to keep things interesting.  Still, when left to my own devices, I make more or less the same salad night after night.

When I made the Vindaloo the other night, my regular salad just didn’t seem right.  So I bought some spinach and decided I would just figure it out.  That night’s dinner came, I pulled open the refrigerator and created something that I’m in love with.  This is saying something because, previous to this creation, spinach salad was something I tolerated rather than embraced.  When I make Mexican food, I  make a spinach salad with thinly sliced red onion, mushrooms, avocado, and Mandarin orange segments (from a can) because Randy loves spinach salad and canned Mandarin orange segments.  Me?  Not so much.

But this.  Oh my.  Baby spinach, bean sprouts (nice and crunchy and a bit nutty), thinly sliced mushrooms, black olives, slow-roasted tomatoes, hard boiled egg.  This salad could be a meal.  A meal I would be happy to find in any of the restaurants where I dine on sub-par salads for lunch.  Hearty, tasty, well-balanced.  I give this to you not because it’s so innovative or will change your life.  I give it to you because it’s good and good for you.

A few notes.  Baby spinach is key here.  The big stuff will be too tough.  I like to tear the larger stems off but you don’t have to.  The slow-roasted tomatoes are probably the most important part of the salad flavor-wise.  Especially in winter when fresh tomatoes are tasteless red orbs.  I’m suggesting you roast two pounds of them which is way more than you will need for the salad.  You will put them in everything, trust me.  I have an egg slicer, a seemingly silly tool, except that I use it all the time.  I like being able to get super thin slices but you can, of course, just cut the egg in quarters.  Hearts of palm are found on the canned vegetable aisle, usually right near the canned artichoke hearts.  They can be expensive so if you live near a Trader Joe’s, buy them there.  In addition to being less expensive, they often come in a jar instead of a can so you can easily store what you don’t use.  Costco sometimes has them too.  I often use these vegetable sprouts in my salads called Three Bean Munchies – they are nutty and crunchy.  They are not alfalfa sprouts.  Grocery stores around here carry them in little plastic packs and they feature  Chinese red bean, pea, and lentil sprouts.  You can always just use sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds if you want some crunch (and protein).  Finally, you might be surprised by my choice of canned black olives instead of the more flavorful kalamata.  Sometimes I find their subtle flavor and firm texture really welcome in salad and I like that they didn’t compete with the tomatoes.  But use what you like.  That is more than a few notes.  Have I mentioned I am a salad geek?

One Year Ago:  Deluxe Double Chocolate Cookies
Two Years Ago:  Chunky Vegetable Pot Pie
Three Years Ago:  Pea Salad with Radishes and Feta Cheese

Spinach Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Champagne Vinaigrette
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

When slow roasting tomatoes, I usually use Roma tomatoes but they are so disgusting right now, I can’t bring myself to buy them.  I found some smaller round ones on the vine and those turned out well.

2 pounds tomatoes, cored and seeded
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 hearts of palm, thinly sliced
¼ cup bean sprouts
2 hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced or quartered
Small handful black olives, halved
4 white mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
7 ounces baby spinach
Champagne vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 250ºF.  Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with the sugar, oregano, a teaspoon of salt, and a few grinds of pepper.  Use your hands to mix.  Put in the oven and roast for 1 hour.  Take out and, using tongs, turn the tomatoes over.  Put back in the oven to roast for another 30 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.  (These tomatoes will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.  Place a single layer of them in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, then lay down another layer, drizzle with more oil, and repeat.)

Place all the ingredients, including about 10 of the tomato halves (or more), in a large salad bowl.  Top with the spinach.  Sprinkle the spinach with a large pinch of salt.  Drizzle on a bit of dressing – use a light hand to begin with – and toss gently.  Add more dressing to taste.

Champagne Vinaigrette

This is my house dressing.  I make a batch almost every week.  Any leftover dressing will keep at least a week in the refrigerator.

1 small shallot, minced
2 tbsp. Champagne vinegar
1 tsp. mustard
1 tsp. honey
Large pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. olive oil

Place shallot and vinegar into a wide mouth jar.  Allow to sit for about 10 minutes.  Then add the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper.  Put the lid on the jar and give it a vigorous shake.  Remove the lid and add the oil.  Give another vigorous shake and taste for balance, adjusting as necessary.


January 15, 2012

Before having children, I would say I was a champion sleeper.  My head hit the pillow at night and off I went into dreamland, only to be awakened by my alarm clock (and a couple snooze buttons pushings) the next morning.  My freshman year of college, I lived at one end of campus and on the weekends, meals were only served at the other end.  Brunch stopped being served at 1pm and it was a struggle of superhuman proportions to get there before they pulled the food.  At 1pm.  And I did not drink in college.  It’s hard for me to even imagine (both of those things) now.

Because now, things are a little different.  First of all, I have these kids.  But I can’t really blame any sleeplessness on them.  My boys are great sleepers.  They go to sleep without a peep and, barring a bloody nose or a tummy ache, stay asleep until around 7 the next morning.  They even now will creep out of their rooms and go into the TV room for some PBS or Disney channel before I can rouse myself.

Maybe it’s the months of waking in the middle of the night to breastfeed, maybe it’s the worry that comes along with being a mother, maybe it’s getting older, but I’m not nearly as good a sleeper as I used to be.  Sometimes it takes me a good couple of hours to fall asleep.  Sometimes I fall asleep fine but then wake at 3am and feel wide awake even though I know exhaustion is waiting for me as soon as the day dawns.  Some people say that if you can’t sleep, you should change your environment – go to another room and read with a low light.  But usually I am too cold to leave my warm bed and so I just lay there awake, thinking about food and cooking.

Some people count sheep, I go over recipes for my week.  I had one of those nights earlier this week, right before I had planned to make these bars.  Even though December has passed us by, I am not quite ready to give up gingerbread and I was intrigued by the combo of gingerbread and white chocolate.  In my sleepless state, I remembered reading that you were supposed to make these bars in a 17×12 baking sheet.  That seemed awfully large to me and so, because I had nothing better to do except, well, sleep, I thought about other options.  13×9 would be too small, the bars too thick.  How about a 15×10-inch pan traditional jelly roll pan?  What if I made them in cake pans and cut them into wedges instead of rectangles?  Yes, the boredom of thinking about pan sizes did eventually put me to sleep.

When I was ready to make the bars, I opted for the jelly roll pan.  And I am very glad I did.  I can’t imagine this amount of batter filling any larger pan and even if I was able to spread the batter to within an inch of its life, they would have been very thin, very sad little bars.  In the properly sized pan, they came out just the right thickness and the bars have a perfect soft bite, like a brownie, but with a lovely spice and a tiny bit of crunch from the white chocolate bits.  Say what you will about white chocolate, I think it’s really nice from time to time.  I find that, even more so than dark chocolate, quality plays a huge role in the taste and creaminess of white chocolate.  I used Lindt in these bars and I thought it was terrific.

One Year Ago:  Baked Tofu with Peppers and Olives
Two Years Ago:  Oatmeal Carmelitas

Gingerbread-White Chocolate Blondies
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen, depending on how you cut them

2¾ cups plus 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1¼ tsp. baking soda
1¼ tsp. salt
1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1¼ cups packed light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
1¾ cups coarsely chopped best-quality white chocolate (10 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Coat a 15 by 10-inch rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Allow a couple inch overhang of the parchement on each of the short sides.  (I used the wrappers from the butter to coat my pan.)

Whisk together the flour, soda, salt, and spices in a bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until creamy and pale, about 3 minutes.  Add eggs and yolk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add vanilla and molasses and mix on medium speed until combined.  Add flour mixture on low speed until combined.  Stir in the white chocolate.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan and bake until golden on edges, about 25 minutes.  Let cool completely in pan.  Using the “handles” of the parchment, remove the bars from the pan and cut into even squares or rectangles.  Blondies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Trust Me

January 12, 2012

Before I ask for your trust, I have a small announcement to make.  I am teaming up with the Yoga Tree, one of the very best yoga studios in Seattle and the one where I started my own yoga journey 12 years ago, to do an Urban Retreat next Saturday, January 21st, from 3:30-8pm.  The retreat is called Winter Warmth and Nourishment and participants will spend two hours building heat (and an appetite) through dynamic yoga flow, and then another two hours in a cooking class with me, right next door!, at Book Larder.  I am really excited about this partnership and the retreats are something we plan to do seasonally.  (Next one will be in April if you want to plan a trip to Seattle…)   Registration information can be found here.

OK, so now I am asking for your trust.  Trust me – those are not fingerling potatoes on the pizza – it is poorly melted smoked mozzarella – I bought the wrong kind.

Trust me – eggs are good on pizza.

Trust me – this combination of leeks, smoked mozzarella, and egg is magical.

Trust me – it may not be beautiful but it is tasty.

Last Thursday, as I was getting excited for night out with three of my lovely friends to a new super hot pizza joint, I got a message from Spencer’s teachers at preschool.  He was running a fever and I needed to come pick him up.  He was sleeping when I called back (a red flag – he never sleeps at preschool), but when I went to get him an hour later, I was shocked.  With kids running all over the room, chasing each other, doing art projects, eating snacks, my (not so) little baby was lying in the middle of the floor on a mat just staring off into space.  I dropped to my knees next to him and could feel the heat radiating off his body.

He let me carry him to the car (another red flag) and when we got home he was shaking so badly that he could not hold the little cup of Tylenol steady enough to put it to his lips.  Absolutely heartbreaking.  But that Tylenol is a wonder drug and after he was able to take it, with the help of an oral syringe, he seemed much better.

But not better enough to go to Cub Scouts with Graham and Randy that night and so, I had to email my friends and ask that they either go without me or come keep me and the patient company.  A flurry of emails when through the ether – yes, they would come over!  Yes, we could make our own pizza!  Yes, I have salad stuff!  Yes, I’ll bring what I have!  It is a great thing to have friends who are great cooks and like to eat.

So, we made our own pizza and salad to which we each contributed various things.  I had one hunk of dough, slow-roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and some leeks I had sautéed to silky.  Others contributed salad makings, another hunk of dough, a knob of smoked mozzarella, eggs, and wine.  What a great way to cook!  Coming together as a community and offering up yummy things.

So we made two pizzas and the standout, by far, was the one I drizzled with olive oil, then topped with a healthy mound of the leeks, thin slices of smoked mozarella, and – after it had been in the oven for a few minutes, two farm fresh eggs.  I can’t take full credit for the pizza, we all contributed.  And we all really loved it.

I  loved it enough to make it again a few nights later.  Even with the wrong mozzarella, it was really tasty.  I loved the contrast in flavors and textures.  Crisp savory crust (salting it is key), soft sweet leeks, smoky melty cheese, and a runny egg.  So good!  Unless you want want your cheese to not melt and to look like fingerling potatoes (which are delicious on pizza by the way – another pizza post for another time), do not buy the mozzarella that is braided and very firm.  Buy one that is cryovaced and soft and with some copper colored markings.

Pizza with Silky Leeks, Smoked Mozzarella, and Eggs
Dana Treat Original (with assistance)
Makes one medium size pizza, serves 3-4

I made this pizza with approximately one half of the recipe of my favorite pizza dough.  I put the other half in a ziploc bag and into the freezer.  The night before I wanted to use it again, I took it out and let it thaw in the refrigerator, then took it out and let it rise at room temperature for about an hour before using it.

Olive oil
4 large leeks
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
6 oz. smoked mozzarella, very thinly sliced
2 large eggs
½ of Mark Bittman’s pizza dough

Place a pizza stone in the oven and turn the heat as high as it will go.

While the dough is rising for the second time and the oven is heating, place a very large skillet over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the leeks with a large pinch of salt.  They will be very crowded in the pan but will wilt down so don’t worry.  Give the leeks a few good stirs and then add the thyme leaves.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they are silky soft and wilted, about 25 minutes total.  If at any time they seem to be browning, turn the heat down lower.  If necessary, add a bit of water to keep them from browning.  (Browned onions are good, browned leeks are not.)  Once they are really soft, if there is quite a bit of liquid in the pan, turn the heat back up to medium and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Seasons to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel and stretch the dough out to your desired shape.  Place the dough on the prepared peel and drizzle the surface with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of salt over the top.  Mound the leeks on the dough leaving a small border around the edge and top with the thin slices of smoked mozzarella.  Slide the pizza off the peel and onto the baking stone.  Bake for 5 minutes.

Crack the eggs into a small ramekin.  At the end of 5 minutes, slide the oven rack with the stone on it out enough to put the eggs on the pizza.  Be very careful because everything is super hot at this point.  Put one egg on one part of the pizza and the other on another part.  Push the rack back in and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until the crust is brown and the eggs are set.  (If you want your eggs runnier, you can add them later in the process.)

Slice and serve.

Two Potato Vindaloo

January 11, 2012

At the ages of seven and almost five, my children often say funny things.  Long ago a friend recommended that I write down their cute little sayings, insisting that I wouldn’t remember.  It was one of those ideas that made perfect sense at the time and yet is something that I just never did.  And, although I thought I could rely on my very good memory, I don’t remember all the cute little things they have said over the years.  The only ones I remember are those I wrote down on this blog, captured either with my phone or the flip camera, or the ones I told so many times that they are burned into my memory.

Last night, Graham said, “I have a good idea. If people want to eat your yummy food, we could open a window in our house, just like Taco Time!”

And now for some clarification.  First of all, Taco Time is not Taco Bell.  It is a locally owned fast food-ish place where the emphasis is on fresh.  I haven’t eaten at Taco Bell since my early 20’s but I don’t mind Taco Time.  Second of all, I’m not a drive-thru kind of person but last summer our beloved babysitter took them through there and on to the park where they had a picnic.  They are still talking about it six months later.  Third of all, when Graham was the praises of my food, he was not talking about this Two Potato Vindaloo.  He was talking about a taco (sense a theme?) that I made him with black beans, cheese, homemade salsa and guacamole.

So no, we are not quite at the point where I feed my children Two Potato Vindaloo although I think that Graham, my hearty and relatively adventurous eater, would probably have liked it.  I have, oh, about one ton of leftovers in the refrigerator so maybe we will give it a try tonight.  I know that Spencer would not touch it.  But I bet, if I opened a take-out window in my house (a friend on Facebook called it the Dana Treat Drive Thru), I would sell out of this dish.

This recipe comes from the beloved Plenty cookbook.  I swear this book has magic powers.  I feel like each time I open it, there are delicious things in there that I have never seen, never noticed.  This recipe, starring both red potatoes and sweet potatoes, I always notice and the only reason I haven’t made it until now is that I don’t always have fresh curry leaves on hand.  You could, of course, leave them out, but I dearly love curry leaves and just the scent of them as they hit the pan reminds of me the year we lived in London and all the amazing Indian food I ate there.

I made a few changes, streamlined the cooking time.  Ground spices instead of toasting whole ones and then grinding them.  Canned tomatoes instead of fresh (have you seen “fresh” tomatoes in Seattle these days?  Yuck.)  I have the British version of the book so I always tweak the recipes a bit with the measurements and all.  Having made so many delicious things from this book, I have learned to trust Mr. Ottolenghi’s taste.  I hesitated at the amount of vinegar in this dish but the acidity cut through the any heaviness that curries can sometimes have and also helped boost the flavor of the spices.  I’m telling you, that man is a genius.  The only other thing I can add is that, unless you are vegan, definitely add a dollop of plain yogurt to your bowl.  More acidity and some creaminess are most welcome in this curry.

One Year Ago:  Gingerbread with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Two Years Ago:  Black Bean Chilaquile
Three Years Ago:  Milk Chocolate Frosted Layer Cake

Two Potato Vindaloo
Adapted from Plenty
Serves 6-8

Unless you live near an Indian grocery, fresh curry leaves can be hard to find.  If you do use them, they are totally edible.  I like the way they taste but you can also pick them out like bay leaves.  I know some people substitute bay leaves for curry leaves (I haven’t tried it – the flavors are not the same), but if you do I would only use four of them and be sure to pick them out before serving.  Don’t worry if you don’t have fenugreek seeds – just leave them out.

½ tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground tumeric
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
6 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp. mustard seeds
½ tsp. fenugreek seeds
Kosher salt
12 large or 24 small curry leaves
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 fresh red chile, seeded and finely chopped
1 14-ouce can diced tomatoes
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 tbsp. sugar
1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1-inch chunks
Mint and/or cilantro to garnish

In a small bowl, combine all the spices except the mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds.  Set aside.

Place a large heavy based pot over medium heat.  Add the vegetable oil along with the shallots, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté for about 8 minutes, or until the shallots brown.  (You might want to have a lid handy in case the mustard seeds start to pop.)  Stir in the spice mix, curry leaves, ginger, and chile, and cook for a further 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes (with their juice), vinegar, water, sugar, and another pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, then leave to simmer, covered for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes and red peppers and simmer for another 20 minutes.  For the last stage, add the sweet potatoes.  Make sure all the vegetables are just immersed in the sauce (add more water if needed) and continue cooking, covered, for about 20 more minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the lid and leave to bubble away for about 10 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce.  Serve hot with plain rice and garnished with herbs.  Serve yogurt for garnishing at the table.

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