Posts Tagged ‘“Taste of the South”’

With Apologies to Pakistan: Sweet Potato-Lentil Curry with Kale

October 13, 2014

india stew


Are you there Kitchen Mischief? It’s me, Josh.

I never really left you. I’ve been piddling about, doing some professional mischief for my day job at Taste of the South magazine, and some ramshackle weeknight mischief at home, which has been edible but just that; not necessarily remarkable. And then this “curry” happened.

I say “curry” because this dish has curry in it. No self-respecting person of Indian or Pakistani descent would dare call my cooking “Indian.” And that’s OK. Regardless of its authenticity, I can attest to the fact that this stew was durn good.

It was richly spiced but not hot as hell; creamy but not fatty, and vegetarian-ish but not obnoxiously so (I used chicken broth). Oh, and hearty and healthy, thanks to the kale, lentils, and sweet potatoes (thanks, Mom!). And the best part—it took right around 30 minutes.

Let’s get on to that recipe. I’ll ramble on a little more below if you’re still in the mood to read. 😉


Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry with Kale

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Before we begin, a note on spices. Every curry powder is a little different. I would recommend starting with a mild curry powder, a teaspoon at a time, until you get to know each other. You can always increase the heat level to taste with cayenne at the end. If you’re really adventurous, start by toasting whole spices in the canola oil before adding the onion. (I used cumin seeds because I had them). Otherwise, just proceed as directed below, and get ready to have your house smell like Pakistan.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cinnamon stick
1 to 2 tablepoons curry powder* (see note)
5 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional to taste
1 (48-ounce) container chicken broth
1 1/2 cups reduced fat coconut milk
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
1 strip lime zest
About 1 cup water
4 cups chopped fresh kale, firmly packed
¼ to ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Toasted naan bread, to serve

FIRST: In a large Dutch oven, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add cinnamon stick, onion, and curry powder. Cook, stirring often, until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes more. Add sweet potato and salt, stirring to coat.

THEN: Add broth, coconut milk, lentils, zest, and water as needed. Increase heat to medium-high to bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes. Gently stir in kale in batches; cook 5 minutes more. Season with additional salt, to taste. Stir in cilantro just before serving.


About Naan

If you’re not familiar with Indian cuisine, let’s talk about naan (pronounced ‘non,’) which always confuses my father. I say, “Dad, we’re having naan-bread pizzas for supper,” to which he responds with a Southpark-like blink-blink, trying to figure out why I’m taking his bread away, and what the nether-hell I’m going to make the crust out of. Naan bread is an Indian flat bread, like a cross between pita bread and a pizza crust. There’s a version available in many supermarkets by Stonefire; it’s really tasty. Anyhoo, I brushed one flatbread with olive oil, sprinkled with seasoning (cumin and special salt, from Matthew), and baked at 350° for 10 minutes. This pretty picture was not taken by me.





Perhaps this stew was made all the better by the gifts that brought it into being. Mom brought over a bag of sweet potato discards from the garden, sweet little orange runtlings that were destined for the compost heap. After a good scrub and peel, and they were good as new. And Matthew (fresh from Paris) brought me a treasure trove of artisan-blended Parisian spices, which I used to flavor my naan bread. Best. Stuff. Ever. I’ll do a whole post on it later.


india spice


And of course it was made all the more mischievous because I was cooking in our new kitchen. You see, we’re trying to sell our old (current) house, and I’m not joking about the whole your-house-will-smell-like-Pakistan thing. It’s a fragrant truth. And it’s not that I have anything against Pakistan; I just think there’s a reason realtors tell you to whip up a batch of homemade cookies and NOT a pot of curry before potential buyers come over.

ANYWAY, cooking in the new kitchen is like camping—you get to improvise. So when it was time to transport the stew back to the other house for dinner and I couldn’t find pot holders, I had to get resourceful.


india travel


And yes, between coming up with my makeshift potholders and lucking into this delicious stew, I was QUITE pleased with myself. I hope that you have the same success with this “curry” as I did, and that it brings a mischievous smile to your face, too.

Happy Cooking, and light a candle! 😉


Breaking the Rules -or- The Great Pumpkin Soup

September 22, 2013


When it comes to preparing recipes, no matter where you look, be it the pages of a magazine to cookbooks to celebrity TV chefs, EVERYONE says the same thing:

“When entertaining guests, don’t prepare something you’ve never made before.”

I realize we’ve got ourselves a double negative there, and perhaps that’s the crux of it; somewhere in my mathematically handicapped brain, two negatives make a positive. (Right?)

So that, dear friends, is why I decided it was a marvelous idea to A) Purchase a whole pumpkin at the Pepper Place Farmers’ Market; B) Hack into said pumpkin, jack-o-lantern style; C) Fill the sucker up with broth and cheese and spicy goodness; and D) Roast the whole thing in the oven until it became an edible tureen. Oh, and E) serve it to company.


I’d seen a recipe years back and had been dying to try it out. So what that I was breaking the essential entertaining maxim of “cook what you know.” I mean, what could possibly go wrong while roasting a 10-pound gourd full of boiling liquid?

Let’s take a moment, shall we, and stop to ponder the amazing amount of potential mischief that could ensue from such an endeavor:

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #1:
The pumpkin could collapse while roasting in the oven, dousing the heating elements with 7 to 9 cups of broth, cheese, and bread crumbs, which undoubtedly would find a way to catch fire, resulting in much cursing and requiring the procurement of a shop-vac.

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #2:
The pumpkin could collapse at the table, resulting in a tsunami of lava broth splashing into the laps of my guests, yielding at least second-degree burns, much yelling, and a potential head injury to a certain cross-eyed feline, who, when scalded by said broth splashdown, would take off like a cat rocket, likely straight into a wall or chair leg.

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #3:
Upon finishing cutting the top off my pumpkin, I could have lifted the lid to discover it full of black widow spiders, which would have resulted in yours truly suffering an instant, massive, and undoubtedly fatal heart attack.*

But none of these things happened. Well…to be fair, the pumpkin did leak a little broth, but not a calamitous amount. The soup was savory, rich, and comforting…a perfect bowl of fall goodness. Here’s what you need, and how to pull it off without injuring your friends and/or visually handicapped pets.

Whole-Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Yield: 4 to 8 servings 

1 (6 to 8-pound) cinderella or cheese pumpkin

¼ cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon ground fennel (or ½ tsp ground cumin)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup finely ground fresh bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

5 to 7 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Garnish: Parmesan cheese 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.


2. Cut the top off your pumpkin, and scape out all the seeds and stringy bits (like you would if carving a jack-o-lantern). Note: Do NOT carve a face into your pumpkin. Doing so would result in your pumpkin barfing soup out of its mouth, which is a novel yet impractical method of serving the soup.


3. Once all the stringy bits are gone (from the lid, too), rub the insides of the pumpkin with butter, and sprinkle evenly with fennel, paprika, and cayenne pepper.** Lightly season with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkin on the prepared pan off-center, leaving enough space on the pan for the lid, eventually (we’ll get to that in a minute).

4. Add cheese, bread crumbs, and garlic. Add broth, filling to within 3 inches of pumpkin rim. (At this point, I’ll be honest; it looks pretty nasty. Just push through.) Place the lid on your pumpkin, pop her in the oven to roast for 1 hour.

When filled with the broth and all that cheesy spicy goodness, this pumpkin is HEAVY. Move it mindfully, and use full-on oven mitts if you have them. Imagine the horror of burning your hand on the pan, hollering like a big woman, then flinging the hot-lava-pumpkin bomb into the air, spraying your walls (and your cat) with molten cheese and broth. Yeah. So be careful.

5. After an hour, remove the lid, and place it on the baking sheet, bottom side up.  Continue roasting until the pumpkin is tender, 30 to 60 minutes. (You can test this by poking the lid with a fork.) Here’s how she looks after roasting:


Ta-da! To serve, ladle the broth into bowls. Then, using a spoon and starting near the rim of the pumpkin, gently scrape out spoonfuls of pumpkin, and divide among bowls. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with extra cheese, of course.


And that, friends, is it. Do I recommend that you tackle this project for a major event without practicing the recipe first? If I were editing this recipe for Taste of the South magazine, I’d caution no. But you know what? This is Kitchen Mischief, so why the hell not? It’s really not that hard. Just follow the instructions, and be careful.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this soup is 110% baby approved! Precious Moment herself, Miss Harper Elaine Walker, commandeered her mother’s portion, exclaiming “More! More!” until there was nary a drop left. Mischief accomplished. J


*So, about the spiders. A long time ago, somebody told me a story about picking up a discarded jack-o-lantern from their yard, only to find it infested with black widow spiders. Oh, the humanity!!! That horrific image is SEARED into my imagination, hence my irrational fear that any seemingly innocent pumpkin could be a WSD (Weapon of Squirrel Destruction).

**Don’t feel hemmed in by my spice choices. Curry powder would be great, as would a good rich chili powder.

Maple Mischief

February 18, 2013


Much to Matthew’s chagrin, I’m a bit of a risk-taker when it comes to food-borne illness.

Before you conjure up any horrifying visuals, let me set the record straight. No, I do not lick raw chicken. However, I have been known to taste-test things like eggs and (gasp) burgers before cooking, to test for seasoning. Wise? Hardly. Foolhardy? I suppose. I guess I’ll continue this game of culinary Russian Roulette until I wind up in the E.R.

That being said, my latest devil-may-care mischief involved some maple syrup I purchased at TJ Maxx.

Two years ago.

That I opened one year ago.

And never refrigerated.

I sense that you have questions and concerns, so I’ll do a little roleplay and try to answer them here.

“Josh — of all places, why would you buy maple syrup at TJ Maxx?”

I must admit that, for most people, this IS a valid question. I myself was once terrified at the prospect of purchasing what I called “TJ Snaxx.” Then I found some Nielsen-Massey Vanilla there for half price. Then I found some artisan salts. Next some herbs de provence. I used them and didn’t grow a tail or a horn. So, I gradually got cozy with the idea of what my friend Greg refers to as “distressed merchandise.”

“Why are you using two-year-old maple syrup?”

This is a two-part answer. 1. David grew up during the Great Depression, so we don’t waste ANYTHING in this house, and 2. Maple syrup is best when aged.*

“Why did you never refrigerate the syrup like the label clearly requested?”

Because I can’t read.

“Why did you continue with your food preparation, knowing that your syrup was possibly contaminated by potential pancreas-poisoning toxins?

Ironically, it was a decision based on logistics. Restarting would require two trips — one to TJ Maxx for more maple syrup, and one to the grocery for more sweet potatoes. I measured the potential risk of three days in the hospital versus the definite sacrifice of 25 minutes and $7 for potatoes and distressed maple syrup, and made the logical choice to gamble on the past of less immediate resistance.

So, how did it turn out? Well, it’s twelve hours later, and I’m drinking my morning coffee and writing this blog post. So…so far so good. Wait…I’m sensing another question…something I might have forgotten to mention due to my long-winded dissertation on discount maple syrup…

“This is a food blog, dummy. What did you cook???”

Ah yes. I suppose that would be pertinent. And so we begin. 😉


Roasted Chicken with Chipotle-Maple Sweet Potatoes
Don’t choke — I actually followed a recipe for once! I snagged this one from the Jan/Feb issue of Taste of the South magazine. I was intrigued by the maple-chipotle combo, and the ease of cooking it all in the cast iron skillet. I was not disappointed — it was very tasty. Recipe adapted below.

1 TBSP + 2 tsp olive oil
4 small chicken breasts (or thighs) … see NOTE
1 tsp salt + half tsp pepper
½ tsp ground coriander (or cumin, I used both)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
¼ maple syrup
1 TBSP minced chipotle pepper … see NOTE
2 lemon wedges.

I like to get all my chopping done before heat comes into play, so I began by taking care of my potatoes, onion, and chipotle. While we’re on the subject of chipotles, if you have no idea where to acquire them, read this. Put onions and potatoes in a medium bowl.

Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Season your chicken with salt, pepper, and coriander/cumin. Heat a TBSP of oil over medium heat in a 12-inch cast iron (or any oven-proof) skillet and brown chicken for 3-5 minutes, then flip and remove pan from heat.

While that’s settling, add remaining oil, minced chipotle, and maple syrup to sweet potatoes, tossing to coat. Pour veggies around the chicken, and bake for 40 minutes, or until chicken is done.

NOTE: I used tiny chicken breasts, and their packaging indicated a 20- minute cook time due to their size. To solve this issue, I removed the chicken from the cast iron, added the potato mixture, and baked for 20 minutes. Then I added the chicken and cooked for another 20. Perfectly done!

And that, darlings, is pretty much it. Finish with a nice spritz of lemon, and you have a rather tasty, somewhat death-defying, meal.

So what’s the lesson here today? Don’t discriminate against distressed merchandise, but do try your best to avoid distressing it any further before you use it. Happy mischief making! 😉

*This is not a statement of fact. It is pure snarky sarcasm. Kitchen Mischief does not recommend the use of potentially hazardous food items and cannot be held responsible for medical co-pays incurred after consuming such items.

Cast Iron Confessions

January 31, 2013

I’m almost too embarrassed to admit it, but I just got around to purchasing my first proper cast iron skillet. I can hear you now — “(Gasp!)” “I declare!” “What the tarnation?!!”

While I realize that you are neither Foghorn Leghorn nor Yosemite Sam, I can’t imagine your real-life disbelief is far off the mark. I mean, I talk about cooking ALL THE TIME. We have like, hundreds of recipes on here. I’m from MISSISSIPPI, for heaven’s sakes! I accept your culinary shaming and the righteous indignation with which it was delivered. Now can we please get on with the introductions? I’d like you to meet Big Molly.


I got Big Molly at Little Hardware in Mountain Brook Village shortly after receiving the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for Christmas (Thanks, Jen & Ben!). In it, author Deb Perelman (an awesome food blogger) wields her honkin’ cast iron skillet like a culinary swiss army knife, browning, braising, baking, and generally making tons of tasty magic. I simply had to have one for my mischief!


Truth be told, I’m not a complete cast iron novice. When I moved in with my partner David seven years ago, I inherited a tiny little cast iron skillette (see what I did there? Grin.) I mean, if Puss in Boots were to make anchovy omelets for his Lady Cat Callers, this is the skillet he would use. See how Petite Polly nestles right down into Big Molly’s generously seasoned embrace?


So I was glad to trade up and graduate to a “traditionally built” cast iron skullet. “U” feels like a more substantial vowel than “I,” yes? I christened Big Molly with an odd dish from the Smitten Kitchen book — Roasted Chicken with Olives and Grapes. Yes, GRAPES. Here’s a peek.


It was a little weird, but good. Subsequent recipes have been increasingly pleasing. The real tests are yet to come — GIANT cornbread, and yes … Fried Chicken! Thank goodness they built a new fire department just two blocks away in Avondale!

Wish me luck — and the arm strength to dance around this kitchen with Big Molly! Bring on the Mischief! 😉

PS: In the meantime, check out Deb’s blog and try out some of her recipes, or take a peek at the tasty cast iron slideshow I stumbled upon over at Taste of the South.