Lentil, Sweet potato and Apple salad

This recipe came together as a result of trying to use up some pantry ingredients.  I remembered a lentil and apple salad that I had made before, and it seemed like adding some roasted sweet potato would be a good addition.  I wasn’t disappointed.

As soon as I made it, I was kicking myself for not having written down the measurements as I went along – I knew I’d want to make it again. So I immediately went up to the computer to type up what I could remember. This is the result of that effort, and I hope that it’s at least close (dressing may need a little tweaking to your taste).

lentil apple salad

Lentil, Sweet potato and Apple salad

1 large sweet potato

Peel and cube sweet potato. Drizzle generously with olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar and toss well. Spread out into one layer on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender and starting to brown. Sprinkle with a little salt.

8 oz. dried lentils

Rinse lentils. Add 2 cups of water and about ½ tsp. salt. Bring to a boil in a medium pot, then cover and reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain well.

2 small apples (I used Gala), diced

¼ c. olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
3 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. rice vinegar
2-3 tsp. Dijon mustard, to taste
1/4 tsp. ground cumin (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together dressing ingredients, taste and adjust.  Add lentils and mix, then add apples and sweet potatoes. Toss to cover all with the dressing, and serve.


Black-eyed Peas in Coconut milk

Black-eyed peas are one of those overlooked ingredients that I rarely cook with but always enjoy. Here’s another adaptation of a dish from Marcus Samuelsson’s “The Soul of a New Cuisine”.  Starting with dried beans makes this an economical side dish, and I’m eating it with pork and collard greens for the full ‘Southern’ effect :)

black eyed peas
Coconut Black-Eyed Peas

1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1/4 cup butter or spiced butter (niter kibbeh)
1/2 white onion, chopped
3-4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 green chile pepper or jalapeno, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 cup coconut milk
2 tsp. Berbere spice (or 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder + 1/2 tsp. ground cumin)
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
Cilantro, to garnish

Soak the dried black-eyed peas in cold water for 8 hours or overnight. Drain the black-eyed peas, add new water and simmer for 45 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion, chile pepper, and tomatoes. Saute for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, coconut milk and chili powder or Berbere. Stir briefly to combine. Then add the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes (this can be done while you are cooking the black-eyed peas).

When the sauce is thickened, add the drained black-eyed peas and salt to taste. Simmer for another 20 minutes until the liquid is mostly absorbed and the flavors are well-blended. This could be served as a side dish, or on top of rice for a main dish.

Spiced Semi-mashed Vegetables

I enjoy reading cookbooks, and The Soul of a New Cuisine by Marcus Samuelsson was a fun one this weekend. Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, and brings both of those cultures into his cooking. This cookbook is focused on fusion/modernized recipes stemming from African tradition.

The first one I decided to try was this riff on irio – a mashed potato dish with corn and peas. I really like the idea of a mashed potato that isn’t completely smooth, but has some chunks in it.  And this recipe is even better because it involves spices and uses sweet potato instead of white potato. Here’s my adaptation.

Spiced Semi-mashed Vegetables
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
3 garlic cloves, peeled

Toss with 2 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil and roast at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the garlic and continue roasting until sweet potato is tender and just starting to brown – about 25 more minutes. Then add the garlic back.


Mash with a fork or spoon in a bowl. Don’t worry about this getting completely smooth. Set aside.


3 Tbsp. butter (or Ethiopian spiced butter is even better, there are multiple recipes out there on the web)
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno or other green chile, seeded and minced
1 1/2 cups frozen green beans, thawed briefly in boiling water
1+ tsp. Berbere, Ras el hanout, or any favorite spice blend, to taste
Salt, to taste

Heat the butter in a saute pan over medium heat, add the ginger, carrot, onion, and jalapeno. Stir and saute until onion is translucent and carrot is cooked. Add the green beans and spice blend and continue to cook and stir until everything is cooked. If you like your vegetables well-cooked, you can add a bit of water and simmer to cook further. Personally, I prefer my veggies ‘snappy’, so I didn’t do that step!

Then add the sweet potato mash back into the pan, stir well, and season with salt. This recipe makes enough for 4 hearty servings as a side dish.

final dish

Pickled Beet Eggs

Beautifully-pink pickled beet eggs were a staple from my childhood Easter holiday. They’re simple to make, you just have to plan ahead long enough for them to soak the juice in over a few days.


You can start by draining 2 cans (14-15 oz. each) of beets, reserving the juice in a medium saucepan.  To the beet juice, add 1 cup of apple cider, 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1 tsp. of salt. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.


Pack ~12 peeled, hardboiled eggs and sliced beets with the vinegared juice in a couple of jars and keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days, up to a week before serving. When you cut the eggs in half, you’ll see that they have turned a lovely pink color and taken on the flavor of the vinegar and beet juice.

pickled eggs

Kimchi dumplings

This will be the last kimchi-related post, I still have a jar-full but it keeps getting more sour, and I just don’t have the tolerance of a native Korean!

The filling of these dumplings is made of tofu and kimchi with a few other ingredients.


You can put just about any filling inside dumpling wrappers. The biggest trick is not to stuff it too full. Then wipe a little bit of water on the edges before you press the edges together.


I’ve recently used more of the round dumpling wrappers, so I had to remember how to fold the square ones. You could just do a simple triangle or rectangle by pressing the edges directly together. Or you could get a little more fancy, as is shown on the wonton/dumpling package.

dumpling formed

Then just steam them, fry them in oil, or freeze them for later!

Kimchi Dumpling Filling
14-16 oz. firm or extra-firm tofu
1 cup kimchi
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, or similar amount of Chinese chives, minced
1 egg
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sesame oil
dumpling wrappers

Drain the tofu and press out additional liquid. It’s important to have a dry filling for dumplings so that they won’t leak out. Crumble the tofu into a bowl.

Drain some kimchi as well and squeeze out extra liquid. Chop really small and add a packed cup-full to the tofu. Mix in the rest of the ingredients except the dumpling wrappers.

Fold the filling into the wrappers, and cook as shown above.

Adapted from: Eating Korean, by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

Soto Ayam

This weekend I finally had an opportunity to make soto ayam, a recipe shared from my friend Hans who lived in Indonesia for a number of years.  Soto ayam is a chicken coconut curry soup with lots of ginger and its relative galangal, also an aromatic tuber.

soto ayam without toppings

The soup itself is flavorful, but you can see from this picture that it doesn’t look very exciting, even with the chicken chunks and rice at the bottom of the bowl.  What makes this dish a fun party food (and a fresh and hearty meal) is all the toppings that go with it!

soto ayam

Isn’t that better?  This recipe is included in our Flavors of the Triangle cookbook (now on sale at the Ten Thousand Villages store in Cameron Village, Raleigh).

Soto Ayam
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
4 shallots (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (ground or finely chopped)
1 Tbsp. turmeric powder
2-inch piece galangal (peeled, ground)
2-inch piece ginger (peeled, ground)
Vegetable oil
2 glasses water
1 can (14 oz.) chicken broth
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
1 stalk of lemon grass (cut into 3 strips)
Breast meat from 1 chicken (cubed, about 1.5-2 lbs.)
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

Warm the spices (coriander through ginger) in a large stock pot, then add a bit of oil to cook lightly, until it turns slightly brown and fragrant. Add water, chicken broth, coconut milk, and lemon grass strips. When the broth is boiling, add the chicken, then cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Add salt to taste, and season with fresh lime juice.

Serve (with sambal – hot chili paste) over cooked rice, then let your guests add:

2 c. chopped, blanched green cabbage
2 eggs, cut into wedges
2 c. bean sprouts
3 Tbsp. chopped celery leaves
1 small package soaked glass noodles
Crushed potato chips
2 limes, cut into wedges

I’d estimate that this amount of soup serves about 8 people.

Vimila’s Curryblossom Cafe

If you’re in the Triangle and haven’t been to Vimila’s Curryblossom Cafe in Chapel Hill – you’re missing out!  Delicious and healthy Indian food made with local and fresh ingredients.  I was there for a librarian networking event a few weeks ago, and didn’t have a camera with me – but the food was wonderful. I had a couple of samosas that were light and flaky, served over chana masala (chickpeas). Although I enjoyed my meal, I also experienced some envy of my neighbors’ choices – so I know I need to get back there and try some more things!

With my meal, I ordered the ‘house tea’. This was a fragrant hot tea with the tang and redness of hibiscus and freshness of mint. I liked it so much that I asked if the restaurant would sell the tea mix to take home.  With the gracious hospitality of a local restaurant, the manager made me up a pint to-go container and sold it to me. Isn’t it beautiful?

vimila's tea

It’s basically an equal 3-part mix of hibiscus flowers, lavender blossoms, and mint leaves. I’ve made a few cups-full at home, not only is it a relaxing drink, but it makes the whole room smell wonderful at the same time.