SAVORING the MOMENT

Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle

Wednesday

February feasting

News flash: It gets cold in California. Folks visiting from the Midwest would laugh out loud to hear me complain about temps of Fahrenheit 45, but hey, I have small bones and really feel the chill.

When I lived in Sacramento, California's capitol, February was often the month of fog. Mists would rise up off the two local rivers and envelop the city in a gray blanket that stifled every cheerful thought, sometimes for weeks on end. In the San Francisco Bay area, the weather is more dynamic. Right now it's overcast and a bit breezy (and did I mention cold?). This afternoon it might be sunny enough for a walk along the white-capped water. This is one of the reasons I love it here. Change is always in the air.

I've been leafing through my cookbooks, looking for a great cold-weather recipe, the first to appear on this blog. Will it be a casserole, stiry-fry, or hearty soup? Since I've written 13 cookbooks, there are lots to choose from. It's an embarrassment of riches.

Here's one from my latest: The 15-Minute Vegetarian. It was inspired by a dish I once ate at an award-winning Indian restaurant in Berkeley (one of many, I might add). If you think you hate okra, this recipe will convert you. All the ingredients are available year-round in my supermarket; hopefully at yours, too. (The book, by the way, just came out and is available now, in your local stores or online.)

Can you really make this stew in 15 minutes? Depends on whether you're a raw beginner or have some experience with cooking. Here are the ground rules: Set out all your ingredients and implements before starting the clock and read through the recipe to get an overall picture of the process before you begin. Then stay focused and work with an attitude of calm efficiency. It may take 20 minutes or so the first time out, but this really is a very simple recipe, sure to satisfy on a winter day.

CURRIED OKRA AND BLACK-EYED PEA STEW
This hearty stew is an exotic way to enjoy two favorite foods of the American South, okra and black-eyed peas. Serve it with toasted chapatis (Indian flatbread) and a leafy salad for a perfect cold-weather meal.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups (360 g) canned diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) vegetable broth
1/2 cup (120 ml) light coconut milk
1 tablespoons mild curry powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoong round cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 ounces, or 420 g) black-eyed peas
2 1/2 cups (450) frozen sliced okra
1 carrot, finely diced
1/3 cup (60 g) dried couscous

In a large stockpot ov er medium-high heat, combine the tomatoes with the broth,c oconut milk, curry powder, garlioc, cardamom, and salt. Place the black-eyed peas in a colander, rinse, and drain. Add them to the soup, along with the okra and carrot. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then add the couscous, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

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