Monday, January 13, 2014

Soul Food

With temperatures dropping to an all-time low, it's the perfect time to heat things up in the kitchen.  Here is a wonderful menu for a cozy night at home in front the fire or even Valentine's Day.  Its cross-cultural flavors like curry, masala, cumin, coriander, and pistachio really keep things interesting while the cayenne pepper gives it the perfect amount of heat to make it memorable. 

Don't let the fancy names deter you. This meal isn't as hard to prepare as it sounds.  In fact, the lamb chops can be made in 15 minutes flat.  I was feeling extra ambitious when I made this so I served it on a Friday night with a Fig, Olive oil, and Sea Salt Challah.  Recipe to come. The meal was divine. 

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Pistachio Masala Lamb Chops with Cucumber Mint Raita
Couscous with spiced Zucchini

Recipes after the jump

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 8
2 tbsp butter
2 large carrots, peeled, sliced
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp minced gingerroot
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/9 tsp nutmeg
2 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped
3 cups (or more) apple juice (or chicken broth)
1/4 cup heavy cream

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until melted.  Add the carrots, onion and garlic and mix well.  Saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Stir in gingerroot, curry powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Cook for 1 minute.  Stir in squash and apple juice.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat.

Simmer, covered for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender.  Process the soup in batches in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Return the soup to the saucepan, adding additional apple juice (or chicken broth) if needed for desired consistency.  Stir in the heavy cream.  Cook until just heated through, stirring occasionally.  Ladle soup into bowls.  Drizzle with additional whipping cream if desired.

*Can be prepared 1 day in advance.  Store covered in a refrigerator.  Reheat before serving.

Pistachio Masala Lamb Chops with Cucumber Mint Raita

Serves 2

1 cup full-fat plain yogurt (I used low fat)
1/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp minced fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup minced English cucumber
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of sugar

1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2 to 3 tsp chaat masala (I used garam masala)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
6 small lamb chops (about 3 to 4 ounces)
table salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Make raita: mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

Make lamb chops: Grind the nuts and spices in a food processor in short pulses until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Pile them on a small plate, and set aside.

Season your lamb chops generously on either side with salt and pepper.  Allow them to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Coat a large saute pan generously with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the lamb chops (three at a time) and sear them for 2 minutes per side.  Lower the heat if the pan begins to smoke.

Holding the bone end, dip the seared sides of each chop in the nut-spice mixture.  Arrange the chops on a baking sheet and roast for another 4 to 5 minutes in the preheated oven.  Remove the chops from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Serve with raita.

Couscous with Spiced Zucchini:
Serves 4-6


1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup plain couscous
2 tbsp EVOO
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 lb zucchini, cut into 1/2" cubes
3/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Bring broth with 1/4 teaspoon salt just to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over couscous in a bowl and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside until ready to use.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion with 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add zucchini and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to moderately low, then stir in coriander, chili powder, cumin, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Gently stir zucchini mixture into couscous and cool to warm or room temperature. Just before serving, stir in mint and lemon juice.

PC: Zucchini, lamb: Tampa Bay Times, soup:

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