vegan kofta coconut curry


Let me start by saying that I totally skipped last Monday's regular post. I skipped it knowingly and even though I let myself feel guilty and terrible about it, sometimes a human girl just needs a break. Make sure you remember that and don't apologize for it. Onward!

Every once in awhile I get in a dinner rut. It's not that I'm tired of the foods that I'm making, it's just that I'm not putting a whole lot of new thought into what's happening on the stove or in the oven. Cooking just becomes another thing that you do. Chop this, stir that, set timer, dig in.

Don't get me wrong, you need a few recipes that you know well enough to do them with your eyes closed. Busy weeknights thrive on the tried and true. In fact, I recently read about a couple who intentionally prepare the same meals every. single. week. Seem boring? To some, sure, but then again, think about who never has to sit down and make a shopping list. Or who never has to answer the dreaded "What's for dinner?" question? Because they already know.

Still, it's a level of genius I can't quite commit to. So when I find myself in a rice bowl-pasta with herb pesto-monster salad rut, I turn to one of the greats, one of the superheroes of innovative vegan cooking. Enter Isa Chandra, the only cook I know who could transform a traditional Middle Eastern meatball into a meatless masterpiece.

All you need is some zucchini, chickpeas, a dash of cumin and the urge to change dinner forever.

For this recipe, you'll need:

For the kofta:

3/4 cup chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
8 ounces zucchini, finely shredded (this will be about 1/2 a medium zucchini)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

For the curry sauce:

1 cup cashews, soaked overnight
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can coconut milk (light works here because of the added fattiness of the cashews)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, optional (but delightful!)

In a medium bowl, mash your chickpeas with the back of a spoon (or a pastry cutter, of course) until smashed but not quite liquified.

Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Toast your almonds for about 5-7 minutes, tossing frequently to avoid burning. Transfer them to the bowl with the chickpeas. In the same pan, toast your cumin seeds until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer those to your mixture bowl as well.

Next, add your zucchini, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well and until combined. Add your bread crumbs and mix until it holds together - the best way to do this is to get your hands in there and go to town. Cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.***

While you wait, you can get started on your sauce. Drain your cashews and add them to a high-power blender. Blend until very smooth which, if you own a Vitamix, takes about half of one second. Those things are not kidding around. In a medium pot over medium heat, add your coconut oil. Sauté your onion for about 3-4 minutes or until it starts to go translucent. Add your ginger, garlic and spices, tossing together. Add your coconut milk, tomato paste, cashews and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes on low. When it's just about done, add your peas (if using) and cook for a few more minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken.

Preheat your same cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add some coconut oil, making sure to coat the entire pan. Add your kofta (pre-shaped, please!) and fry for about 2 minutes on each side, making sure they brown evenly.

You can serve these doused in sauce, over rice, over rise with said sauce dousing. There really aren't any hard and fast rules.

***How to make this recipe more Monday friendly, you ask? Well, it certainly helps to remember to soak your cashews, even though a 2 hours minimum will still do the trick. Also, the kofta mixture can be made a day in advance. Just refrigerate (well covered, of course) until you're ready to shape and cook.

Some other unsolicited advice when it comes to escaping your recipe-ruts: invest in a few good cookbooks. I don't know what "good" means, but I'd say any cookbook that makes you say, "Ooh, I want to make that. And that!" every few pages (or every page) is a good rule of thumb. Sure, every recipe and food idea ever is available online (clearly I'm not dissing food blogs, friends) but there's something nice about holding a hefty, lived-in hardback book, its folded pages stained with saucy fingerprints and jumbled with notes on how to halve a portion, etc. Maybe it's just me.

How do you plan out your meals each week?