Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Garbanzos and Cauliflower

Vacation, Food and Friends

I feel as though I have been on hiatus. Last week was February vacation, and I got to get away for a few days, solo, to visit my best friend in Seattle. It was fabulous.  So, I'll just pretend like I haven't been absent and  fill you in on my trip to Seattle and then focus on this wonderfully simple and tasty recipe that I made last night for dinner. 

It's funny, you don't think of Seattle as being a tropical paradise vacation in February, but their unusually mild winter, and early spring compared to the weather we have been experiencing in Maine, sunshine, flowers and fifties felt amazing. 

When I arrived, the daffodils and crocuses were blooming, and so was a hedgy bush, with small pink flowers which filled the air with the intoxicating smell of Earl Gray Tea. Over the days, the cherry trees popped, softening the grayness of February sidewalks with their velvety pink, popcorn shaped blossoms. Even the magnolias were starting to burst on the last day of the visit. It was also so clear, that Mt. Rainer appeared ever day, like a movie backdrop, snow-covered and surreal, sketched faintly into the distance of the city. I packed a lot into the 3 1/2 day visit and of course, ate a lot of good food. I arrived on Friday afternoon, to a whopping 64 degrees. After the airport pickup, my BFF Carrie and I walked her fabulous pup, Speck, through their neighborhood of Ravenna. We covered three miles as I sipped a
Seattle Brewed latte. As airplanes and airports leave a bit to be desired in terms of meals, and I was still on East Coast time, we strolled to  Sushi Tokyo, on Roosevelt Way for dinner, me half asleep. The place has spotty reviews, good for sushi, bad for service and noodles. The Maki rolls were great. The Space Needle Roll was excellent and my favorite. A shrimp tempura roll, with spicy tuna, albacore tuna and the best part, topped with crispy red onion. After dinner, I was basically a walking zombie, we met Carrie's Fiancé at Toronados, a pub on the corner for a drink. I wasn't a fan, hard rock and not much of an atmosphere. Then it was home and to bed for me. 

Saturday morning, I amazed myself at the ability to sleep until 6:00 am! After a cup of coffee, we headed out for a perfect long morning walk with Speck. We were home by 8:00 am and to brunch with the college girlfriends at Hi Spot Cafe in Madrona by 10:00. Great spot in an old house, with yummy Mexican inspired dishes and tasty cocktails. Carrie is getting married in August, so after brunch we took her to the MAC cosmetics store to buy some makeup for her wedding. She ain't a makeup kind of gal. It was pretty entertaining, because she couldn't have made that any more apparent to the sales clerk who did her eyes and lips. I think the woman was wondering if her gesture to create a natural and subtle look for Carrie and her how to's were in vain. But Carrie jumped on board, she bought the make up and I will be dolling her up for the big day. I also got to spend some quality time with my old friend Sharon, watching the ships come and go in the sound and wrap the afternoon up finally meeting her darling three and a half year old son with a family trip to the playground and a story en español. 

Sunday, Carrie and I woke up with the sun, and walked Speck to Cloud City Coffee, in the
Maple Leaf Neighborhood. Tasty lattes and moist coconut bread (cake really) on the chilly patio. From the park nearby you could see the Olympic range to the west, Cascades to the east, Rainer and the gleaming skyline of Seattle below. Later in the morning, I got to experience Downtown Seattle with Pike Place Market, filled with lovely displays of fresh fish and seafood, fruits, mushrooms, veggies, and lovely arrangements of spring flowers. This was followed by a ride across the sound to Bainbridge Island, where I was reunited with a family that I met ten years ago, when I was hired to work with their daughter. She is sixteen now, which seems unbelievable. She was  just as I remembered her, sweet and smart,  just a wee bit taller and
more grown up. We took a lovely walk along the beach, caught up and even had the luck to see a Bald Eagle. Then it was a quick tour of downtown, before I met up with Carrie and Aaron again on the ferry back to the mainland. Somethings are just worth waiting for, and our 9:00pm dinner that night was one of those things,  amazing Ethiopian food at Saba Ethiopian Restaurant.  We walked in, the place was packed with families all having their evening meal, men drinking, conversing and laughing at the bar, and servers bustling around with platters of injera and delectable heaps of lentils, collards, meats. They made room for us and we pretty much inhaled the platter of food, which we accompanied by a couple glasses of honey wine. It was like being transported elsewhere. The smells, tastes, and the language, as we were the only ones speaking English. 

On my last day, we took one last walk. I enjoyed the flowers, birds chirping, and florally, earthy smells, soaking them all in and storing them away, until Spring decides to show up again in Maine. After a little shopping, pushing us into a slight cranky space, Carrie and I came to a joint conclusion around 1:30 that we were both very hungry. We met up with our friend Marita, grabbed some Bahn Mi sandwiches, and ate lunch on the shores of Lake Washington. This was my first introduction to Bahn Mi, the tasty and satisfying Vietnamese Sandwiches. I'm hooked and actually going to be making some Do Chua (pickled carrot and daikon) to put on the Bahn Mi I am going to make this week. From the lake, we were off to Little Saigon, where I bought some gifts for Zsuly at the Asian Market and Gift Store. It was like the Asian variety of Walmart. Training chopsticks, stickers from Korea, Maneki Neko, the lucky Chinese Cat, and a dragon fruit. With some room still in our bellies, we stopped by Molly Moon's Ice Cream Shop, indulging myself in a waffle cone with a scoop of chocolate fudge browny and a scoop of salty caramel, yum! And just because you absolutely, cannot get on a 10 pm red eye on an empty belly, Aaron whipped us up a delicious vegetarian Pad See Ew for dinner. I crossed the jetway exhausted after such a whirlwind trip, happy to have spent those days with such wonderful friends, sad to be leaving, angry to be returning to the unforgiving winter and with itchier feet than ever. 

This experience has sent my thoughts into a perpetual cyclone, trying to figure out how to satisfy that itch which has sat dormant for the past four and a half years. My heart and soul are  adventurers, whose layers of exhaustion and stress peel away in warmer, sunny climates. I spent the first twelve years of my adulthood exploring, thriving on change and the challenges it meant facing. Being a mom, definitely entails challenges on a daily basis. But I believe there is more to life than the mundane of the American 9-5 job. I want my daughter to experience life to the fullest, and see her greatest role model, her mom, doing so as well. 

Since being back, in tandem with this thought process, I have been trying to recreate some of those fabulous tastes here at home.  Trying to keep my head above water, as I desperately wait for spring, by doing something I love, cooking and sharing the dishes I cook with loved ones. Friday night, it was Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Pan Fried Basil, Garlic Chicken with Collards.  Saturday Zsuly made cucumber and cottage cheese sandwiches and Sunday, it was this post's featured recipe. 

This recipe comes from Chop Chop Magazine's Winter 2014 edition. My mom worked with Cooking Matters and Food Corp for a while and inherited these fabulous, kid and family friendly cooking magazines.   They not only have a plethora of wonderful recipes, but really encourage kids to take a part in food prep and cooking.   Zsuly actually picked it out this particular edition while staying at my parents. I adapted it a bit, adding in some extra ingredients. Its wonderful served over brown rice, and topped with cilantro, a dollop of plain yogurt, and raisins. 

Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Garbanzos and Cauliflower 

Serves 4-6


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (I like Simply Organics)
  • 1 ounce coconut cream
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (small cubes work best and cook the fastest)
  • 1 small head cauliflower, washed, broken into small pieces and lightly steamed
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin 
Step 1 :
Put the skillet or wok on the stove and turn the heat to medium-low. When the skillet is hot, add the oil. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring just until you can smell them (about 30 seconds). Stir in the curry powder.

Step 2: 
Add the coconut milk, tomato paste, water and salt and turn the heat up to medium. When the mixture is boiling, add the sweet potatoes and garbanzos and stir to coat well. 

Step 3: 
Turn the heat down to med-low, cover the skillet and cook at a gentle simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender (mine took 25 minutes). 

Step 4:
Uncover the skillet, add the cauliflower, and red pepper and peas. Cook for another 5 minutes or so.