Black Pepper Tofu Curry

As my diet has become increasingly plant-based, I find my self paging through my favorite magazines and mentally substituting plant-based proteins for the animal proteins. It’s actually a great exercise, if only because I love messing with recipes.

I’m also trying to add more vegan recipes to my diet, so this recipe also checks that box. I’ll admit to be intimidated by vegan cooking in the past, but now that I’ve wrapped my head around the basics, I’ve discovered that cooking vegan meals isn’t as hard as I’d once thought…though, yeah, the meal prep does take a bit more time.

Thus, this fantastic (and fast!) black pepper curry. The original recipe calls for chicken, and you can certainly use chicken if you prefer. The black pepper gives a hint of heat and loads of flavor, and it’s a great way to add vegetables to a meal.

Oh, like all curries, it’s even better as leftovers!

One Recipe, Many Ways

Recently, I wrote about an amazing lentil stew — one I’ve had a couple of times since then. The funny thing is that I haven’t made the recipe the same way twice. In fact, what I use isn’t so much a recipe as it is a suggestion.

The basics are simple: cook lentils in well-seasoned liquid much like you’d cook risotto — add about a quarter to half cup of liquid, let it absorb into the lentils, then add more. While it takes a bit longer to make lentils using this method, I like it because the lentils absorb a lot of flavor from the liquid instead of all that deliciousness getting poured down the drain with the cooking liquid. Continue reading “One Recipe, Many Ways”

Lentil and Coconut Milk Stew

This versatile recipe is perfect for weeknight suppers. It can be made vegetarian, vegan, or with the meat of your choice. The flavors can be modified to suit your fancy. And it reheats like a dream, making it perfect for lunches.

I love to serve this dish over braised greens — spinach or chard do just fine.

On Mustard

I am going to introduce a controversial topic here: my favorite condiment.

I won’t keep you guessing. I love mustard beyond all reason. My refrigerator is an embarrassment of mustard styles. Except honey mustard. I don’t understand the concept of honey mustard. Heck, I’m teetering on the edge of making my own mustard (someone, anyone, push me!).

For the record, I am not a ketchup fan. I wouldn’t even have the stuff in my house if it weren’t for the sake of maintaining a happy marriage. Someone I married a dude who reflexively ketchups just about potato item he sees. To each his own, I suppose.

In addition to the tangy heat mustard naturally has, it’s a low-calorie condiment. Unlike, oh mayo, a condiment I’ve been learning to love in moderation. And, of course, unless things have gone horribly wrong, mustard is gluten free, making it something you can trust in your kitchen.

Here are some ideas for incorporating mustard into your cooking repertoire (though I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that one of my favorite party dishes is sausage with a mustard dip):

  • Barbecue Sauce: Yeah, I love my mustard in barbecue sauces. I’m not alone. Use this sauce on everything. Literally. Everything.
  • Braised Dishes: I love to braise chicken in a mustard sauce. Even more than enjoying the sauce with that night’s dinner, I love having leftover sauce for lunches. This is a perfect comfort food dish. Serve the chicken over rice, potatoes, or quinoa.
  • Cream Sauces: The chicken dish above is essentially a cream sauce, but what about other cream(y) sauces? Like, oh, this delicious sounding egg dish with mustard-creamed spinach. Skip the breadcrumb topping unless you have gluten-free crumbs handy (I keep the ends from Udi’s loaves in freezer to make breadcrumbs on the fly).
  • Marinade: Dry mustard, Dijon, or even a traditional yellow mustard are perfect additions to marinades. Pork, fish, and chicken are perfect candidates for mustard-based marinades. I’ve even made lamb chops this way.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Oh yeah! Is there a reason why you shouldn’t add mustard to your mashed potatoes? No, not a single one.
  • Meat Rub or Glaze: Of course, you know the fun of including dry mustard in your spice rubs. But what I love is using it as a coating for pork chops or salmon. If you’re breading your pork chops, incorporate the mustard into base layer.
  • Potato Salad: My favorite potato salad features a tangy mustard-based vinaigrette instead of a creamy mayonnaise dressing (you could add a bit of mayo or Greek yogurt if you like that creaminess). The warm potatoes absorb lots of flavor from the vinaigrette, so be sure to reserve some for tossing with the potatoes right before serving. Needless to say, a grainy Dijon is perfect here!
  • Stews: I add mustard to crockpot dishes like braised beef or pork. Again, the tanginess enhances flavors. When I make a beef stew, mustard is one of my secret ingredients.
  • Veggie Flavor Enhancer: Mustard can be used in many ways to amp up the flavor of vegetables. It’s great with Brussels sprouts, and, confession, I’d probably mix up my own honey mustard for roasted Brussels sprouts. Or, if I weren’t in a sweet mood, this recipe from Michael Symon would do the trick.

What are your favorite ways to use mustard? Tell me!

Tip of the Week

Mustard, due to the vinegar used to make it, lasts a good long time (well, beyond the “enjoy by” date given by manufacturers). You can store an unopened container in your pantry for about a year. Store opened containers in the refrigerator for about a year. Do not use mustard where the liquid has significantly separated from the other ingredients or mustard, gone dark, and/or that smells “off”.

Menu of the Week

Of course, this week’s menu features lots of mustard! The chicken in the Dijon sauce is a favorite of mine — you can customize the dish for any style of chicken you like. It also makes incredible leftovers. Spoon a bit of the sauce over rice and make your mouth happy!

The addition of mustard to the creamed spinach amps up the flavor — bitter greens are greatly enhanced with a bit of mustard. I prefer to use coconut milk instead of the traditional cream because I like the subtle sweetness it brings to a dish.

  • Chicken with Dijon Sauce
  • Mustard-Coconut Milk Creamed Spinach
  • Rice or Potatoes for Absorbing Extra Sauce

Butternut Squash Curry

Fall in Southern California is more a concept than a season. While my East Coast and Midwest friends talk about cooler temperatures and extol the virtues of casseroles and other cool-weather dishes, I often grill until January.

Still, I am not immune to cravings…and an overabundance of squash. And while I love a good soup, sometimes something more hearty, yet still light, is necessary. This curry — which can be made with any squash, to be honest — is filling, just spicy enough, and perfect for warm or cool evenings.

As a bonus, this recipe is vegan, making it a perfect dish for dinner parties or potlucks.

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