Monday, October 8, 2012

Kabocha Kale Thai Curry

Made this curry last night in as much time as it took to cook the quinoa (aka about 25 minutes). I had pre-baked my kabocha squash earlier in the week when I had my oven on, not sure what I was going to do with it yet, but knowing it would be better to have cooked rather than raw squash. It's a great example of how pre-roasting early in the week saves a lot of time later.

Besides the rich, satisfying curry flavor, here's why I get excited about this dish:

Kabocha squash (pronouned kah-bow-cha) is a Japanese variety of winter squash, sweeter even than the more well-known butternut, in some cultures revered as an aphrodisiac. It's packed with vitamins C and A, beta carotene, fiber and a significant amount of other vitamins and minerals. They are a great source of antioxidants and are a great anti-inflammatory food. Quickest way to prep it is to steam it (only takes about 7 min), though I often roast.

Kale is a powerhouse, one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat. For 1 cup cooked (36 calories), you get 1328% of your vitamin K, 354% of vitamin A, 89% of vitamin C, 10% of your fiber, 9% of calcium, plus some omega-3 fats and 5% of your protein (more here and at all other links!). Eating it boosts your energy, strengthens your immune system, promotes natural detoxing, fights free-radicals and cancer, and lowers your cholesterol. If there is one mega-super food to start finding ways to get into your diet every week, this is it.

Quinoa is an ancient grain with a full protein profile (contains all 9 essential amino acids) - so don't balk at this recipe being vegan. You're getting arguably one of the best sources of protein on the planet here. Quinoa's also known for it's high antioxidant levels, anti-inflammatory phyto-nutrients, and high levels of minerals. It's also gluten-free.

Coconut milk is higher in calcium than regular milk and contains protein as well as a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, and many of the B vitamins. Do not be afraid of the fat (I always buy and eat full-fat products) - the saturated fat in coconut is made up of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids which the  body quickly turns into energy instead of storing as fat. Therefore, even though it’s high in saturated fat, coconut can aid in weight loss. It's also known for aiding in digestion and boosting the immune system!

Kabocha Kale Thai Curry
Any winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, delicatta) can be substituted in this recipe.

1 cup quinoa
1 yellow onion, chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 very large bunch of kale (or more, whatever you like)
1 medium-sized kabocha squash
1 can full-fat coconut milk
2 tablespooons red curry paste (buy pre-made)
1 lemon
cayenne pepper (optional)

Rinse quinoa under cold water until it runs clear. Combine with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat and simmer, covered (no peeking) for 20 minutes. Turn off, allow to sit for a few minutes then fluff with a fork.

In the meantime, chop onions and garlic. Saute with coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until onions are translucent. No need to stir constantly.

While that is happening, strip kale leaves from stems and rip into rough pieces. Combine with onions and saute until just wilted. Season with a light sprinkle of salt.

Add coconut milk and stir in curry paste. Reduce heat to medium-low so it can simmer while you cut up squash (remove skin, cut into 1-inch cubes). Add to pot, stir to combine. Add salt to taste. This curry powder is not very spicy at all, so if you want to kick it up a notch, add cayenne.

Turn off heat and squeeze half of lemon over curry. Stir to combine, taste and adjust any other seasonings and serve spooned over quinoa in bowls. Makes about 5 servings.

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