One Bowl of Veggies, a Week of Meals

Making a giant bowl of veggies has become a nearly weekly ritual. I’ve nearly perfected the art – it takes just the right vegetable combo, proper blanching, and a bit of creativity – but lately I’ve managed to turn my big bowl of vegetables into several different meals, and I thought it was time to finally share. Here we go.

Day 1: Make the veg and eat a simple bowl mixed veg with harissa and yogurt.

Day 2: Creamy coconut soup and top with mixed veg.

Day 3: Miso soba noodles with mixed veggies.

Day 4: Cold kale-veggie salad with coconut-lime dressing.

Day 5: Tacos topped with mixed veggie slaw.

Veg-Lentil Bowls Day1 2

On day 1, I like to keep it simple. After all, I just went through all the work of chopping and blanching and roasting, so I generally throw the veggies in a big bowl with some harissa, yogurt, and a soft-boiled egg. If I have a decent avocado, that will go in the mix as well. The harissa here is homemade, and I’ll include a recipe below, but you can also buy jars of harissa at the store.

Veg-Lentil Bowls Day1 4

Making the harissa was a process as well, since I bought seven different peppers, prepped and processed them each separately, and then mixed then in small quantities until I found the perfect recipe. I actually recommend you do the same because a) it was a fun experiment and b) your palate is likely different than mine. Eric ended up preferring a different recipe than I did, but they both had one thing in common: fresh roasted red pepper. Most recipes for harissa only call for dried red chiles, but the fresh red peppers add a sweetness that works well to counter the bitterness of the dried chiles.

Veg-Lentil Bowls Day1 6

As for the veggies, you can get creative with it, but the broccoli in my opinion is not optional. Quickly blanched, it just works. The asparagus in this bowl was on sale, which is why it is here, but I would say a good base is always squash, broccoli, and red cabbage. This trio has the perfect texture and color to make it all look so entirely appetizing. Add to that lentils and any other veg that looks good/is on sale.

Big Veggie Bowl 

1/2 head red cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 medium-sized head broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 small butternut, buttercup, or other squash of your choice, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup black lentils, uncooked
1/2 cup green lentils, uncooked

To save on dishes, I usually use two pots and cook everything in series. But, by all means, if you have 4 pots and you want to wash them all when you’re done, do it all at once! Otherwise, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, put the broccoli in for 30 seconds to 1 minute, MAX. Immediately drain the broccoli (you can reserve the liquid to blanch the cabbage if you want) and place it in an ice bath. Follow the same procedure to blanch the cabbage, though the cabbage can cook in the water for 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the black lentils in a pot with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer until all the water is gone. Put the lentils in a big bowl and reuse the pot to cook the green lentils.

While all the above is happening, roast the squash. For butternut squash, peel the skin off, but for many other types you can and should leave the skin on. Toss the cubes in olive oil and salt and pepper. For butternut or buttercup squash cut into 1-inch cubes, I usually roast them for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Other squash might take more or less time. Just check them and pull them out when tender.

When everything is finished cooking, mix it all together in a big bowl. Taste it and season as necessary. This big bowl is now the vegetable base for your week’s worth of meals.

Day 1: Mixed Veg with Harissa, Yogurt, and a Soft-Boiled Egg

1 egg
1 heaping teaspoon harissa (see recipes below)
1 heaping teaspoon greek yogurt
1/2 avocado, finely sliced
few big scoops from the big veg bowl

To make a soft-boiled egg, I place a raw egg in room-temperate water (from the tap) and turn on the burner. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, I set a timer for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, I pull the egg out and run it under cold water until it is cool enough to peel. This timing makes the whites nice and solid and the yolk still runny, but this could vary a lot based on altitude, so play around with it. For example, in Nairobi, I boil my eggs for 5 minutes instead of 2.

Layer everything in a bowl, take a picture because it’s pretty, and then mix it all around. Eat.

Homemade Harissa

To test out the recipes, I bought fresh red pepper, fresh red jalapeño, and five varieties of dried chiles: ancho, morita, mulato, guajillo, and pulla. If you want to do your own chile test, you can follow this method:

1) In a dry skillet, toast the dried chiles one batch at a time. Toast them over medium heat until fragrant but be careful not to burn them. Remove the stems and deseed the chiles as best you can. Keep the different varieties in separate bowls and label them if you need to.

2) Roast the fresh red pepper and red jalapeño. Place the red peppers under a broiler until the skin turns black. Remove them and allow to cool until you can peel the charred skin off. Roast the red jalapeños under a broiler, but not charred. Pull out and remove the stems. I kept the seeds for spice, but you can also remove them.

3) In a food processor, process the chiles. For the dried, toasted chiles, pour some water in until the peppers become a paste. Pour each paste into a jar, label it, and set aside. The roasted red peppers should process easily without water, but the red jalapeños will also need a bit of water and/or oil to form a paste.

4)  Make garlic oil. In the food processer, add 5-6 cloves of garlic and process with 3/4 cups olive oil. Pour the mixture into a pan and heat until fragrant over medium heat.

5) Taste all the chile pastes separately to get a feel for the flavor of each one. Morita chiles, for example, have a very smoky flavor, while ancho chiles are a bit sweet.

6) Start mixing and matching. Each batch should have a mix of pepper pastes in addition to salt, garlic oil, and cumin. In general, per 5 teaspoons of pepper paste, I used 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and 1 tablespoon of garlic oil. Play around with it until you find a combo you like.

Harissa 1

Harissa 3

April’s Harissa Recipe

If you already have the pepper pastes made, here are the ratios I preferred:

2 parts roasted red pepper paste
1 part roasted red jalapeño paste
2 parts guajillo paste
1/4 part cumin
3 parts garlic oil
salt to taste

If you don’t have pepper pastes, here are better measurements:

5-6 dried guajillo chiles
1 roasted red pepper
2 red jalapeño peppers
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic oil
salt to taste

Eric’s Harissa Recipe

1 part roasted red pepper paste
1 part ancho chile paste
1 part morita chile paste
1 part mulato chile paste
1 part red jalapeño paste
1 part guajillo chile paste
1 part pulla chile paste
1/4 part cumin
3 parts garlic oil
salt to taste

Eric’s is kind of a mish mash of everything. Rather than providing better measurements, I would simply buy a bunch of different peppers, process them according to the directions above, and mix them all together. The exact quantity is probably not as important as imparting a bit of each chile into the final harissa.

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Three Bean Chili with Turnip Greens

I know I have already posted two other chili recipes on here, but something with this cold weather has me making yet more chili. Different chili. This time I wanted to add some greens and lots of beans. I pureed the chili using a hand blender just before adding the (cooked) beans and greens because I wanted a really smooth texture rather than a really chunky chili. I also discovered that I like garnishing chili with fresh tomatoes like these little golden cherry tomatoes. They’re pretty, but they also add some summery freshness, which may not exactly be seasonal, but it is a nice contrast.

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I still had frozen borlotti beans from when I made a bunch last time, but you could use any variety of beans you prefer. Kidney beans would be more traditional, but I can see pinto beans also tasting great. I have been making huge batches of beans the slow way (soaking overnight and then boiling the next day) and freezing them so I always have some on hand when I want them. I’ve also seen these quick-cooking beans at the grocery store in the refrigerated section of vegetables. I think they have already been soaked – they only take 15 minutes to cook. If you can find those, they work well also.

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Three Bean Chili with Turnip Greens

2 yellow onions, diced
1 head garlic, minced
4 serrano peppers, minced
1 pound ground turkey
2 28-ounce cans San Marzano tomatoes, whole (if hand blending) or diced
2 heaping tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons chile paste*
4 cups water
1 teaspoon shaved dark chocolate
1.5 cups black beans, cooked
1.5 cups garbanzo beans, cooked
1.5 cups borlotti (or other) beans, cooked
1 bunch turnip greens, stems removed and finely chopped/shredded

Sauté the onions, garlic, and serrano peppers in a large pot (like a dutch oven) in olive oil or butter over medium high heat. When they begin to soften, add the ground turkey and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook until the turkey is browned.

Add the tomatoes, spices, chile paste, and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Taste-test not and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the shaved dark chocolate and allow it to melt into the chili.

Here you have the option of hand blending the chili to smooth out the texture. If you prefer a chunky chili and used diced tomatoes, you can leave it as is.

Lastly, add the beans and shredded turnip greens. Allow beans to warm through and serve.

*I almost always have a container of chile paste in the fridge from other recipes. I take a package (or packages) of dried chiles – check the Mexican aisle – like guajillos. I dry toast them in a pan, then soak them in boiling water for 15-20 minutes until they’re soft. Use a blender to purée the chiles by adding in water a little at a time. You can add this to soups, chili, or even make it into a hot sauce by thinning it out and adding vinegar, a touch of honey, and salt. If it is too much of a fuss to make simply for this, you can omit it, though it certainly adds another element to the chili.

Kenyan Recipes: Pilau + Kachumbari

Pilau is a spiced rice dish that is found all along the Swahili coast of Africa. Often it is made with shredded chicken or bits of beef, but this version is vegetarian. It is a dish that is heavily influenced by Indian cuisine, and it tastes great alongside another Kenyan specialty: kachumbari. Kachumbari is basically the African version of pico de gallo, except you make it a bit spicier and the chiles are of a different variety (unknown to me) that is not jalapeño.

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Here in Nairobi, you can find the pilau spice mixture at practically any grocery store or market, but you can make it at home as well. A standard recipe is here.

Also, here are a few pictures from our little trip to the suburb of Karen to visit the elephant orphanage and giraffe sanctuary last weekend.

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check out those eyelashes!

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this guy is such a douche
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that tongue – wow!

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Pilau 

1 cups basmati or jasmine rice (I used brown basmati rice)
1 medium red onion, diced

1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter or cooking oil
1 1/2 tablespoon pilau masala

salt and pepper

Cook the rice per package directions.

In a large pan, sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger in oil. Once the onions are transparent, add the pilau masala and stir around until fragrant. Add the cooked rice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for an additional two minutes or so, until the rice is warmed and the ingredients are mixed well.

Serve with kachumbari on the side (recipe below).

Kachumbari

3 large tomatoes (the variety I find in Nairobi is similar to a roma tomato, so that is what I use), diced
1/2 medium red onion
2 small hot chiles (serrano would work well), minced
1 clove raw garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of lemon juice, lime juice, or red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together well and refrigerate.

Black Bean, Butternut Squash, and Chorizo Soup

This recipe has been sitting on my Pinterest board for a while now, and the butternut squash and dried black beans have been on my counter for almost as many days. The original recipes comes by way of Sprouted Kitchen and did not include chorizo. Of course, the original recipe was much healthier! But chorizo makes everything better, and since I had some left over after I made Eric’s birthday chorizo mac and cheese, this Mexican-inspired soup seemed a perfect fit.

I had to adjust some quantities, so the recipe below is written as I made it.

Black Bean, Butternut Squash, and Chorizo Soup

adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 head of cabbage, chopped (about two cups)
3 cups cubed butternut squash
4 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, plus a little adobo sauce
3 cups cooked, black beans, plus extra liquid from black beans
1 pound chorizo, cooked

salt to taste

cilantro, for garnish
fried corn tortilla “crumbs” or strips, for garnish
pickled onions, for garnish

Sauté the onions in garlic in oil for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Then add the squash, cabbage, cumin, and cocoa powder. Stir around for a minute, then add the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

In the meantime, cook the chorizo in a separate pan. Finely chop the chipotle and add it, with some juice, to the chorizo and stir around.

When the veggies are tender and cooked, add the black beans and chorizo. To make tortilla chip crumbs, I put some day-old corn tortillas in the food processor, then fried them in oil in a pan. I also happened to have some pickled red onions on hand – to make those, soak finely sliced red onions in lime juice for an hour or more. They make for a really pretty topping, and the acidity is a nice touch. Alternatively, squeeze a bit of lime juice over the soup before serving.

Roasted Poblano Soup

I am posting this recipe with a warning: be careful how much spice you add! I, in my infinite wisdom, added one whole pepper – it was a pepper I’ve never used before, but I thought it looked ‘cool’ in the market, stupidly using the entire thing in one soup without knowing just how hot it was. Well, I’ll tell you, it was HOT. Two weeks later, my lips are still burning. Eric wouldn’t even touch the soup after a couple bites. Sounds like a winner of a recipe, eh?

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Well, the thing is, despite that quick-hitting and lingering heat, the flavor of the soup was really fantastic. Peppers and chiles, especially poblano peppers, are really among my favorite foods – especially after our trip to New Mexico last year. So it’s really easy to make this soup edible – just add less hot pepper!

Also – it seems as if I have one excuse after the other for not updating this blog enough. My current excuse – and probably the same excuse I’ve been using for a while – is I am obsessed with honeymoon planning right now. After hours and hours of online research, we have decided to cut out our trip to Cambodia. 😦 Eric and I are both very sad about this, but we decided to prioritize and focus so that we could maximize our other experiences in SE Asia; our priority = wildlife/outdoors/nature. Ancient temples? I can only imagine how amazing they are, but we’ll have to wait until our next trip to the region to explore them. We also cut out Thailand almost entirely except for a couple nights in Bangkok. This gives us 6 full days in Hanoi to explore the City and Halong Bay; TWO weeks in Borneo to explore Deer Cave and Mulu National Park (have you seen Planet Earth? the bat poop cave? yes – we decided bat poop was more important than ancient Angkor temples), Danum Valley rain forest, and Sipadan island (supposedly some of the best diving in the world, though we will only be snorkeling); and 6 full days in Bali to do whatever the heck we feel like. Of course – we don’t go anywhere without at least a loose itinerary – I can’t help it, it’s my nature as a planner. So, in Bali, I’m planning a day in Kuta – the famed surfing town loved by many Australians (just one night, and just for the experience), a couple days to explore Ubud (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) and the north/eastern coasts of Bali, then a few days hiking to the crater rim of Mount Rinjani on Lombok. Maybe, maybe if time permits, we’ll spend a day on the Gili Islands.

And well, I’m sure most of those names mean nothing to you. Just Google the names for pictures – you’ll see why I’m obsessed!

Wow, this post is long – here’s the recipe.

Creamy, Spicy Roasted Poblano Soup

adapted from Serious Eats
*I added a big dose of spinach to this soup to up the health ante and used greek yogurt instead of Mexican crema – same effect, less indulgent*

4-5 large poblano peppers
1 jalapeno, seeded and membranes removed
4-5 cloves garlic
1 medium white onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
big handful cilantro (scientific, I know) (original calls for epazote, which I did not have)
really big bunch of spinach
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup greek yogurt or Mexican crema
tortilla or corn chips or corn tortillas

Roast the poblanos over an open flame, or if you don’t have a gas stove top, roast them in the oven until blistered and black. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic to let the skins steam off.

Roughly chop the onions and garlic and start sauteing in a soup pan in the olive oil – until onion is transparent. It doesn’t matter if they’re finely chopped at this point – everything will be blended. Toss in the jalapeno and cumin and cook a couple minutes longer.

Meanwhile, remove the skins and seeds from the poblanos. Toss those in the pot as well. Stir everything around and let the cumin coat all the veggies, then dump in the stock. Bring this to a boil then let simmer for five minutes. Take the soup off the heat and add the spinach, yogurt, and cilantro. If you have an immersion blender, just blend everything together in the pot; otherwise, transfer to a blender. Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning accordingly.

If using tortillas, cut in to strips and fry them in a bit of canola or vegetable oil until crisp. Place the crispy strips or chips on top of the soup with another dollop of yogurt/crema.