February, like all cold months, is when my kitchen sees a lot of me. Perhaps because it's the warmest, coziest place in the house. Perhaps because there's never a better time to bake bread, one of my favorite things to do.
I love my beans and lentils and this February, in my kitchen, I have invited some new legume friends and some old and I am looking forward to eating them one by one.
On a recent trip to my local Asian store I picked up a bag of brilliant red Azuki beans (bottom left) which I had never cooked with before. Then I found a bag of red mung beans (top right) at my Indian grocery store -- again a bean I have never cooked with, although green mung beans are a staple in my pantry. Also from the Indian store came the green chana -- green garbanzo beans (bottom right) that I remember seeing my mom use back in India. And finally, from Whole Foods, came an old favorite-- French puy lentils whose peppery taste goes perfectly with just about any Indian dal recipe. They are particularly good in this Cauliflower Dal.
In my kitchen I have revived my sourdough starter which had been sitting around, neglected, for months. But sourdough starter is hardy stuff and with some attention it is possible to coax it back to good health. Mine is now back and bubbling away in its jar and in this batch of dough for a high-hydration whole wheat sandwich bread I am testing out (if the recipe works, I promise to share it).
In my kitchen this month are fresh, healthy vegetables that I cannot wait to cook up. The Yu Choy (right), which I found at the Asian grocery store, is a new leafy for me. It is a variety of Chinese broccoli with thinner stems and since Desi and I love broccoli I am really looking forward to making something wonderful with it. Also in my kitchen this month is my favorite leafy vegetable-- one I usually can only find in the Indian store: Methi or Fenugreek leaves (left). This pleasantly bitter vegetable is eaten all over India not just for its amazing flavor but also its health properties -- it is said to lower blood sugar and cholesterol and is quite the wonder veggie. It's also a versatile veggie that you can cook up in a Baingan Methi Subzi or a mushroom curry. I love it most in Methi Chaman, a brilliant green preparation that goes beautifully with rotis.
Another wonder veggie waiting to be devoured in my kitchen -- also an Indian favorite-- is the bitter gourd or karela. Bitter gourds, warty and very bitter in taste, can be intimidating to someone not used to them but like methi leaves they possess amazing, health-giving qualities. Desi and I love karela-- he more than me -- and one of our favorite ways to eat Karela is this stuffed karela recipe. At the Indian store I also picked up these little globular eggplants-- one of my favorite veggies ever.
In my kitchen I just cooked up those wonderful Azuki beans into a Curried Azuki Bean dip. I wanted to try a different sort of dip for my Superbowl evening, one that was healthy and fat-free, and I think I got a winner with this one. I added some smoky garam masala and some sundried tomatoes and they gave the dip the perfect yin and yang.
Azuki Bean Dip
- 1 cup dry Azuki beans, rinsed
- 1 teaspoon garam masala powder or curry powder
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes (you can use the oil-packed ones if that's what you have but that would add a small amount of fat to the recipe)
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, use more or less to your taste
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- ½ cup packed parsley leaves
- Salt to taste
- Place the beans in a saucepan, add enough water to cover the beans by an inch, and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, cover with a lid, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook 45 minutes to an hour or until the beans are tender. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
- Drain the beans once they've cooled and add them to a food processor or blender along with the remaining ingredients. Blend well. I like some texture but you can make this dip smoother by blending it longer, if you wish.
- Garnish the dip with some red pepper flakes. Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips or crudites.