Butternut Squash and Spinach Curry

Its my last few days in Budapest and everything is crazy-go-nuts!

I'm teaching an LSAT prep class at the Central European University, I'm going to Belgrade, Serbia for a conference on Wednesday through Saturday, and I still have to sell my bike, move and say goodbye to all the nice folks I have met. However, I'm not all that stressed! I think being busy is the secret to happiness and success, and my problem on the whole, as an unemployed person, has rather been too much of the opposite. So I'm taking advantage of this nice busy back-to-school feeling and hoping it can hold over when I arrive back in Berlin.

I'm also trying to take advantage of my last few days in Budapest to admire the awesome fall weather and even awesomer fall produce.

One of the very rad things about Budapest (or at least my neighborhood) is the availability of local produce. Little stands or hole-in-the-wall stores stock whatever fruits and vegetables currently in season in Hungary, plus homemade pickles or other extras like herbs or eggs.

Unlike in Berlin, or DC for that matter, most of the produce comes from within the country and not from, say, Italy or Chile. As a result its not so often that I stumble across avocados, or sweet potatoes. (They are, naturally, available at specialty or big grocery stores.) However, this sort of local eating has its benefits. First, the produce I do get is always perfectly in season and awesome. I can't get cherries now, sure, but in the beginning of the summer there were cherries everywhere and they were incredible- and now we have pears. The second thing is, having limits on what's available to eat makes me try to develop simple ways to enjoy what's available. For example, when there are gorgeous peppers and tomatoes everyone you know you had better cook up some lecso.

Or now, when butternut squash has appeared along with some rare handfuls of spinach, I can tempt myself and my nosy Hungarian neighbors with this awesome and incredibly simple butternut squash curry. Even with my limited travel spice rack I could make it, and for those of you with more advanced curry techniques, just add'em on in. It was super easy and the butternut squash basically melts, making this excellent fall comfort food.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Curry (serves 2)

-1 big onion, diced
-3 garlic cloves, diced
-1 T ginger (about 1/2" peeled and diced small)
-2 T good quality curry powder
-1 medium butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into 1" cubes
-3 cups Spinach, washed
-1 16 oz can coconut milk (or lite coconut milk)

1.) In a large saute pan, cook onion with a pinch of salt over medium low heat for 2-3 minutes. Then add in garlic and ginger. Cook until fragrant and soft, then add in butternut squash. Sprinkle with curry powder and cook for 10-15 minutes, until squash pieces are slightly browned on the outside and softer.
2.) Add in coconut milk and raise heat to medium/ medium high. Add in spinach on top, then stir into mixture as it starts to wilt. When coconut milk comes to a boil, lower heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes. Adjust for salt and curry powder and cook a few minutes more if necessary.

Serve over basmati rice, with pumpkin seeds for garnish.
In addition to all the other craziness, did you guys know that its practically Vegan MoFo? The cut-off date is Wednesday, so if you want to sign up, or have no idea what I'm talking about, head on over to Mofo HQ to get the business.

Song of the Day: Paperdoll- You can't stop it


Corn Soup and Scenes from late summer

I love summer as much as the next Leo, but can anything beat the back-to-school feel of early September? You still have all the best things about summer- sunshine, perfectly ripe veggies and fruit, a tan- but the focus subtly shifts from decadence and laziness to a feeling of getting down to business. I'm not in school anymore, but I still love to re-arrange my closet, sharpen my pencils, and get to work.

But even so, here in Budapest the last few weeks have had all of the pleasures of late summer- perfect bike riding weather, all the amazing peaches, plums, and sweet corn you can eat, and even a quick day trip to Tokaj, Hungary's volcanic wine region. (As you can see from the photos above, its pretty gorgeous, and full of cute dogs.) But now, with the days already getting shorter I'm ready to get on my grind. And for me, that also means actually cooking, instead of, say, rubbing garlic and tomatoes on crusty bread for dinner every night. (Not that this isn't a lovely meal.)

Last night I decided to cook all the leftover bounty into a nice hot soup (that's right Hungarians, none of this cold creamed frout soup bullshit, I'm an American!) with plenty of late summer's greatest hits. Wilted peppers, sweet corn and their cobs, with just tomatoes and potatoes for a little umami and heft. It was deeply satisfying, and actually easy enough that you could probably figure it out yourselves, but I'll give you just a run down of how I made it below and you can adjust it to what's left in your kitchen if you so desire.

End of Summer Corn Soup
1. Make the stock- remove the kernels of corn from 2-3 cobs of corn and set aside. Fill a stock pot 3/4's full with water, and add in: the leftover cobs, 1 onion cut in half, 2-3 smashed garlic cloves, a buillon cube, salt, and several whole peppercorns (a dried chili wouldn't be out of place either, just be sure to fish it out later). Let it boil down for an hour or so.

2. Next add in a good glop of olive oil and any chopped up veggies and beans that you have laying around- diced red peppers, diced boiling potatoes, peas, cranberry beans, greens, the corn, ect.

Serve with salt and pepper and crusty bread, and baby, you got a soup on!

Yes, I'm fully intent on squeezing the last bit of summer into my Fall, and also getting every last minute of enjoyment out of Budapest. In a few weeks I will head to Belgrade, Serbia for a conference, and then back to Germany... and who knows where the wind will take me next?

Song of the Day: Squeeze- Tempted