Winter has arrived. Or least poked its head up. It was frigid as I biked to work on Friday. Cold and windy, a terrible combination. No snow at that time, but -11C with the windshield (12F for my American readers). Snow came later.
It is supposed to warm up again this week, although the city already dropped down the salt. Snow and more importantly, the salt, is what causes me to pack up my bike for the season. I was hoping to break 13,000km on my bicycle odometer this year. My goal used to be 12,000km but I surpassed that last month. I am 300km short of my goal. With a 20km daily commute, that would only take me 3 more weeks, basically right before Christmas holidays. The odometer has been ticking since I bought my commuter bike in October 2009. It followed me as I cycled to Cornwall, Niagara Falls and Kingston. Averaging over 4000km each year, it seems more impressive than it entails. This year, Rob and I did very little recreational cycling. My distance is purely based on a longer commute. It is amazing how quickly the extra distance can add up.
I will have to see how much rain we get before I decide how to get to work on Monday. Bike or transit?
In addition to the cold, one of the things I do not like about the winter is the limited amount of fresh vegetables. In the summer, everything is at my fingertips. Cheap local produce at its peak. Now I am not as excited by the grocery flyers… veggies rarely make it to the sales page. I try to capitalize on anything veggie-like on sale. Mushrooms, greens, broccoli, carrots, anything.
This week spinach and red lentils were on sale. 4lbs of red lentils for $1.27. 3 bunches of spinach for $2 (last week it was 2 bunches of spinach for $1). What amused me most was seeing how many people were buying the spinach. So many people! The grocers kept wheeling in more spinach. Big bunches, too. Spinach for the win!
When Ella posted her Red Lentils and Spinach in a Masala Sauce, I knew it was destiny. Destined to be my dinner. Turns out it was also my parents’ lunch when they came to visit last weekend. A last minute change of plans had them staying for lunch. Thankfully I had something that everyone could enjoy.
I made my own curry paste with toasted cumin and coriander seeds and combined it with ginger, cilantro, smoked paprika and garam masala. Tomato paste and pureed tomatoes made this a bit more complex and the cashew butter a more luscious body. Red lentils cook down into a mush and the spinach added a healthy bulk. A nice, solid curry. Tikka masala without the tikka? Probably not… this isn’t a super creamy sauce. Cashew butter can only accomplish so much! Next time, I might add in tempeh, like Rob did with his Tempeh Tikka Masala.
What are your favourite vegetables in the winter?
PS. Is tomato paste always so sweet? I licked some from the can and it was so sweet! My can is definitely no sweetener added, so I wonder if it is a side effect from my sweetener-free challenge.
Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala)
Adapted from Naturally Ella
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 large red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1.5 tsp coriander seeds
2″ piece ginger, peeled and cut into pieces
1/2 tsp Aleppo red pepper flakes
2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
2 cups homemade pureed tomatoes
1 tbsp cashew butter
1 cup dry red lentils, rinsed
1/2 bunch spinach, trimmed and coarsely chopped (150g prepped)
1. In a medium saucepot, add oil. Once hot, add onion and saute until softened, around 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add lentils and 2.5 cups of water. Increase heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until lentils have softened.
2. Meanwhile, make your masala paste. In a dry skillet, toast your cumin and coriander seeds. Allow to cool slightly. Grind in a spice grinder and set aside.
3. In a food processor fitted with its S-blade, pulse ginger until almost a paste. Add chile flakes, smoked paprika, garam masala, salt and ground spices (cumin and coriander). Pulse to mix well. Add tomato paste and cilantro and pulse to incorporate.
4. In a small frypan, heat oil over medium heat. Add spice paste and cook for 1-2 minutes until beginning to brown. Add to cooking lentils.
5. Once lentils have cooked, add tomatoes and cashew butter. Stir and return to a simmer. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in spinach, allowing to wilt around 2-3 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Serve with rice, naan or bread.