Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry (V, GF)

photo of kabocha squash-red lentil curry in white bowl on purple placemat on the dinner table

Community cookoffs are a delicious way to bring people together!

It’s almost time again for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance (AFBA) Annual Community Cookoff! This year’s theme is “Oodles of Noodles” and will be held on Sunday, September 23, 2018 from 2-4 pm at the Brew & Brew. It will be a celebration of carbs and the recipes of many chefs working hard to please your palate!

This year’s cookoff motivated me to post about last year’s AFBA 2017 Collossal Curry Cookoff. As a brand new member of the AFBA, I decided to enter my Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry in the cookoff. I was a bit scared, but I thought it would be a good way to meet my fellow AFBA members and showcase the type of food that I cook.

Curries don’t have to be hot to be flavorful, aromatic, and delicious!

I was excited for people to try my vegan curry which was not at all hot and spicy. I wanted to make the curry flavorful (with sweet kabocha squash, fennel, sweet potato, and curry leaves) and spicy rather than hot (with ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin, and cinnamon). I also used red lentils to give the curry great body, flavor, and texture. Yum!

fresh ginger and bowl of spices for Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry

Kabocha Squash and Red Lentil Curry (V, GF)
 
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Author:
Serves: 2 quarts
Ingredients
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 1 cup sweet onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup carrot, finely diced
  • ½ cup celery, finely diced
  • 2 fronds fresh curry leaves, chiffonade or 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 cup sweet potato, small dice
  • 1 cup fennel bulb, small dice
  • 2 cups kabocha or butternut squash, small dice
  • 1 cup zucchini, small dice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups filtered or spring water
  • 1 teaspoon tamari, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar, or to taste (optional)
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chiffonade
  • lemon or lime wedges, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Rinse red lentils several times and soak in a bowl with water for about an hour.
  2. Heat heavy-bottomed soup pot on medium heat. When hot, add coconut oil, onion, and pinch of sea salt. Sauté on medium heat until soft.
  3. Add the carrot, celery, curry leaves or bay leaf, ginger, and garlic and sauté on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Stir in powdered spices.
  4. Add the chopped sweet potato, fennel, squash, zucchini, salt, and pepper. Sauté for 4 minutes.
  5. Drain red lentils and add them to the vegetable sauté. Add water, bring to a boil, then turn to low and simmer until lentils and vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.
  6. Stir in coconut milk. Season with tamari and ume vinegar (or sea salt). Heat until simmering.
  7. Add fresh herbs and turn off heat.
  8. Serve on top of rice with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

3rd place finish!

After a few hours of curry tasting and ballot casting, I was thrilled to get a 3rd place finish, and went home with various gift cards and goodies from local businesses. It ended up being such a fun day!

I hope you’ll try making this recipe when you are in the mood for something sweet, savory, and nourishing. It is delicious with basmati rice and a crisp green side salad. I also add baby spinach when warming up leftovers to give it some freshness.

Sign up for this year’s cookoff!

And by the way, get your tickets here for the 2018 AFBA Oodles of Noodles cookoff on September 23rd. It will be an experience to remember!

Please let me know if you’d like to chat about cooking lessons, corporate team building, dinner parties, or yoga retreat catering. My public group cooking classes are listed here.

Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps (V, GF, soy-free)

Asian mushroom lettuce wraps are the perfect start to an Asian-themed meal or any plant-based gathering. I brought these to a potluck last week held in honor of a friend visiting from Asheville. By the end of dinner, all that was left was one lonely lettuce leaf!

I wanted to make these lettuce wraps healthier than the restaurant variety, so added more vegetables, and left out the soy, sugar, and gluten! Instead of soy sauce or tamari I used Coco Aminos (I like the Big Tree Farms brand) which is naturally sweet and savory. If you like your filling a little sweeter, you can always add a dash of maple syrup or agave, but you probably won’t need to.

 

Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps (V, GF)
 
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This recipes is a vegan, gluten-free version of Chicken Lettuce Wraps served at Asian restaurants.
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Asian, Vegetarian
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons untoasted sesame oil
  • ½ cup leek, spring onion, or sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 3 cups mushrooms (crimini, shiitake, and/or oyster), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup carrots, small dice
  • 1 cup zucchini, small dice
  • ½ cup water chestnuts or celery, finely chopped or sliced
  • ½ cup bamboo shoots, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoons brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (Big Tree Farm brand recommended)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 head green or red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, or Romaine lettuce
Instructions
  1. Heat large skillet or wok on medium-high heat. Make sure all ingredients are prepped so they can be added to the pan quickly. Add sesame oil and swirl to coat pan.
  2. Add onion, garlic, ginger, and a pinch of salt. Sauté for about a minute. Reduce heat a bit to prevent burning.
  3. Add carrots, zucchini, and another pinch of salt and sauté a few minutes more.
  4. Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are cooked through.
  5. Add water chestnuts and bamboo shoots.
  6. Season with brown rice vinegar, coconut aminos, and sea salt (to taste).
  7. Put mushroom filling into a serving bowl in the middle of a large plate or platter. Garnish with cilantro and green onion. Place lettuce leaves around the bowl or on a separate plate. To serve, take a lettuce leaf, place a spoonful or two of mushroom filling onto the leaf, and eat like a taco.
Variations
  1. For a heartier appetizer or main dish, add ½ lb. cooked chicken thigh cut into bite-sized pieces. Adjust seasonings.

 

Chef Rachel Zierzow is available for group classes, private dinners, and corporate team building sessions. Contact her below to find out more.

Guacamole with Pomegranate Seeds

Guacamole is one of my favorite dips of all time. There are so many versions of guacamole out there, but regardless of your recipe, the most important thing is that you use perfectly ripe avocados (not too hard, not too soft, and not bruised) so that your dip is creamy, bright green, and fresh tasting. The way I ensure perfect avocados is to buy large avocados when they are mostly green at least a week in advance. Ripen at room temperature until black on the outside and then refrigerate (so they don’t become too ripe) until ready to use.

Guacamole with Pomegranate Seeds is my favorite way to serve guacamole during the holiday season, because pomegranates are abundant, the flavors go well together, and the colors are perfect for the holiday table. Take this dip to your next holiday gathering to go with tortilla chips, tamales, or vegetable crudité.

Guacamole with Pomegranate Seeds
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 large avocados, ripe
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons umeboshi (ume plum) vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
  • ½ serrano pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
Instructions
  1. Cut avocados in half, remove pits and any bruises, and scoop flesh into a bowl. Mash with a fork until it is a chunky consitency (do not overblend).
  2. Gently mix in other ingredients.
  3. Adjust sea salt to taste.
  4. Put guacamole into serving bowl.
  5. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.
Note
  1. Umeboshi vinegar goes really well with avocado owing to its salty and sour tastes. However, if you don't have any, you can use more lime juice and sea salt in place of the umeboshi vinegar.

We’ll be making this at my upcoming Holiday Tamales Workshop in Austin this weekend. More photos to come!

Upcoming cooking classes with Chef Rachel Z in Austin, TX

7 Healthy Holiday Recipes from Chef Rachel Z

All recipes on chefrachelz.com

Please keep in touch!

photo of guacamole with pomegranate

Cilantro Lime Dressing

Here is one of my favorite salad dressings that I use on simple garden salads, buddha bowls, and even tacos! It goes especially well with any dish including avocados, such as my Southwestern Summer Salad! Cilantro lime dressing is best made in a blender to get a smooth texture and beautiful green color.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Cilantro Lime Dressing
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dressing
Cuisine: Southwestern
Ingredients
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, packed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon sweet white miso
  • 1 tablespoon umeboshi (ume plum) vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tamari, Eden brand recommended
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • spring or filtered water
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients except water in blender until smooth.
  2. Add water one tablespoon at a time if a thinner dressing is desired.

Want to learn how to make delicious, healthy food while meeting new people? Chef Rachel’s current class schedule is available here. 

Cecilia’s Pozole Verde

pozole verde

Mmm… Posole soup! Cecilia Torres, my friend and former student, sent me this recipe for Pozole Verde after returning home to León, Mexico this winter. Upon finishing her culinary studies at The Natural Epicurean, she got right back to work cooking amazing things in her kitchen, including the creation of authentic Mexican versions of recipes we did in class. They are all incredibly beautiful! Be sure to check out Cecilia’s food pictures on Instagram.

Pozole or posole refers to the large type of corn as well as the soup made with it. Perhaps you are familiar with pork or chicken-based pozole soups that are stewed for a whole day or two. This version is much fresher, greener, and gets its flavor from the poszole corn and the delicious verde sauce made with roasted poblanos, tomatillos, and lettuce. Flavorful ingredients are made fresh to top the soup with, making it fun for kids of all ages to customize their own bowls.

Cecilia's Pozole Verde
 
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Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
Soup
  • 4 cups pozole corn, soaked overnight
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or filtered water, or more as needed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 roasted poblano peppers, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 pounds green tomatillo, chopped in halves or quarters
  • ½ head iceberg or romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 or 2 xoconostles, peeled and seeded (optional)
  • reserved pozole cooking liquid
  • vegetable stock or filtered water, as needed
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Toppings
  • cooked pozole (see instructions above)
  • 3 cups mushrooms, sliced and sautéed
  • ½ head iceberg or romaine lettuce, shredded
  • ½ bunch red radishes, julienned
  • ½ yellow or white onion, minced
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • ½ bunch cilantro leaves
  • 4 limes, sliced into wedges
Instructions
  1. Cook pozole in water or vegetables stock until soft, 60-90 minutes. Drain, reserving liquid for soup base. Set aside.
  2. Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent.
  3. Add garlic, peppers, tomatillos, and lettuce and cook until vegetables are soft and bright green.
  4. Pour sautéed vegetables into a blender with reserved pozole cooking liquid and more vegetable stock (if needed) to make a creamy soup base.
  5. Pour soup base into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  6. Add more vegetable stock to reach the desired consistency of your soup. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve toppings in separate bowls with spoons so that each person can serve up a bowl of soup and put the toppings they would like in their bowl.
Variations
  1. Sauté cooked pozole in olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and chile powder. The result is a beautiful and tasty pozole to garnish the soup with.
  2. Use sliced zucchini in place of some or all of the poblano peppers for a milder version.
  3. Pickle thin radish rounds in umeboshi vinegar for about an hour before serving the soup, and use as a topping.

 

Here is the the version I made with Nelson at home yesterday. We added zucchini and serrano pepper (as we forgot to buy the poblanos) as well as a little shredded chicken we had leftover from making a chicken stock. It was still amazing! Another thing we tried was to sauté the cooked pozole corn in olive oil with ground Ancho chile and salt. It had a beautiful color and amazing flavor when added to the soup as a garnish.

Here is a photo of Cecilia and I at the Vegan Thanksgiving class we taught together at the Natural Epicurean in November 2016. I miss her so much!

Cecilia and Rachel cooking together at The Natural Epicurean- November 2016
Cecilia and Rachel cooking together at The Natural Epicurean- November 2016

Winter Squash Salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Winter Squash Salad
 
Sweet, colorful, and crunchy, this salad is a unique alternative to potato salad. Great for picnics and potlucks!
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Ingredients
  • 1 medium kabocha squash, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 cup organic sweet corn
  • ½ cup purple onion, cut into thin slices
  • 2 tablespoons sweet white miso
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons spring or filtered water, divided
  • 4 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon unpasteurized shoyu or tamari
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro and/or fresh basil, chopped
Instructions
  1. In large pot with steamer basket and lid, steam kabocha squash with a pinch of salt until soft, but not mushy. Set aside in a large bowl to cool.
  2. In the same cooking water, add sweet corn and cook for one minute. Remove from pot with skimmer and add to squash.
  3. In a small bowl, toss together sliced onion, a teaspoon of ume vinegar, and 1 tablespoon hot water. Set aside to marinate.
  4. Whisk together white miso, lemon juice, water, mirin, olive oil, and shoyu. Toss the dressing with the squash, corn, and pickled onion.
  5. Garnish with chopped cilantro and/or basil.

Healthy and Delicious Spring Rolls

Mmm… what could be more refreshing on a warm day than a light veggie spring roll with a tasty Almond Butter Dipping Sauce?
Spring rolls are best eaten right away, as they can either dry out or tear if refrigerated for more than a few hours.
Save extra filling ingredients and store in a glass container in the refrigerator to make more fresh rolls the next day.
This particular recipe is dedicated to my friend Lindy who was kind enough to give me an authentic Vietnamese spring
roll making lesson many years ago. She likes to make them full of spring mix and fresh herbs, like the ones I made below,
rather than the ones you often find at restaurants that are full of noodles and little specs of veggies.

Healthy and Delicious Spring Rolls
 
A fresh and light spring roll filled with vegetables. Quick to make, yet filling and delicious. For a variation, try adding a layer of chickpea hummus, pan-fried tofu, a ¼-sheet of toasted nori, or sautéed shiitake mushrooms over the basil and cucumbers for a heartier spring roll.
Author:
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces rice noodles or mung bean noodles
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 cucumber, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 cups spring mix
  • ¼ cup organic fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup organic fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ cup organic fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 avocado, cut into thin, wide strips
  • round rice paper spring roll wrappers
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add noodles to boiling water and turn off heat. Let sit for a few minutes until noodles are soft, then drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  2. Lay all ingredients out for assembly; noodles, carrots, cucumbers spring mix, herbs, avocado slices, and spring roll wrappers.
  3. Prepare a large bowl or plate with warm water. Water does not need to be hot but warm enough to soften rice paper and the bowl wide enough to fit a sheet of rice paper
  4. Take one sheet of rice paper and soak it in warm water until it is pliable, about 10 seconds. Spread the wrapper on a large plate or other clean surface. Work quickly so rice paper does not fall apart.
  5. Place a large basil leaf vertically with 3 cucumber slices to the right of it (stacked vertically) in the middle of the spring roll wrapper. Place a layer of avocado, noodles, carrots. Sprinkle with spring mix and cilantro and/or mint leaves, making sure that 1 inch of rice paper remains visible on the edge closest to you and on either side of the ingredients. Be sure not to overfill spring roll.
  6. To wrap, bring up the lower lip of the rice wrapper and wrap around the ingredients, tightening slightly as you tuck and roll the wrapper. Fold in the sides to enclose the filling then continue rolling the wrapper. The rice paper will seal itself. Set aside to rest with space in between rolls.
  7. Continue wrapping spring rolls until all ingredients are used up.
  8. Serve with a dipping sauce such as spicy peanut or almond butter sauce or basil pesto.

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