“Everything Summer” Garden Kale Salad + A Summer Meal

 

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My Grandpa Ronny, a self-made first-generation American and a proud storyteller, grew up in NYC. When I moved to Brooklyn three years ago, I felt compelled to track down some of the places he often mentions in his stories.

First up was McSorley’s Ale House, one of the oldest bars in the city, where the floor is covered with straw and there are only two drinks you can order: dark beer or light beer. Supposedly, Ronny once did a headstand on a table in the back room while drinking an entire beer. Who knows if the story is true, but when I went with my sister we scanned some of the photos on the wall, seeing if his story had made it into the bar’s lore. McSorley’s is wonderfully atmospheric, and I’ve been a handful of times. Good choice for a storied bar, Grandpa.

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sister drinking date

The other place always mentioned is the Rockaways, the beach retreat where he’d spend summers in a bungalow and became a lifeguard when he was older. Today the 95th street stretch (and beyond!) of the Rockaways has turned into a newly recreated hipster “staycation” destination — the boardwalk has been transformed by a famous fish taco stand, bike rental booths, smoothie stalls, Bolivian street food, and the always popular game, corn hole.

And man is it fun! Today was my first trip there, taking the A all through Brooklyn and eventually coming out onto a lovely expanse of ocean and beach, so different from the New York I’ve grown accustomed to. Gone are the cheap bungalows and immigrant-owned amenities, but still tangibly present is the natural beauty and freedom so easily lost on our forgotten concrete blocks. Pretty sweet for a Thursday. Sorry I didn’t go sooner!

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Anyway, in honor of finally visiting my Grandpa’s childhood summer getaway, here is the  delicious, garden-fresh summery meal we enjoyed last night. Special thanks to the roommate’s community garden membership for the herbs and tomatoes. :)

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“Everything Summer” Garden Kale Salad + A Summer Meal
barely adapted from from A Sprouted Kitchen

Salad:

  • 1 small bunch kale, ribs removed and torn into small bite-sized pieces
  • 1-3 T fresh mint
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 1 small head lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • roughly 2 cups freshest possible tomatoes; I used a combination of just-picked cherry tomatoes sliced in half and slices of HUGE tomato (also just-picked)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, cut in half
  • half a crispy apple, cut into matchsticks (although cherries or nectarine slices would be great too!)
  • 1/8-1/4 c red onion, diced tiny
  • 1/4 cup feta, crumbled

For dressing, mix together:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 t dijon mustard
  • 1.5 T apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • s&p to taste

Put freshly washed kale in a bowl. Add mint, roughly torn, and 1 T olive oil, lemon juice, and s&p. Using your fingers, massage kale for a couple minutes, until greens lose their rigidness and turn a richer shade of green.

Add bite-sized lettuce leaves. Pour in salad dressing and mix thoroughly. Then add all the ingredients, give it a good whirly mix, and serve!

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The whole meal. all delicious individually though perhaps not greater than the sum of its parts.

We ate this salad alongside:

  • In Sock Monkey Slipper’s Herbed Zucchini-Feta Boats. My thoughts: Add cumin and roasted red peppers to the feta-herb mixture in the food processor for a bit of added sweetness. Don’t be shy with the fresh herbs. Use panko instead of regular breadcrumbs for extra crispiness! Needed at least 40 minutes to bake in my oven. Just as delicious with yellow summer squash as with zucchini.

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  • Smoky Mushroom Toasts: Sauté 1/4 c tiny diced onion in 1 T melted butter. Add 10 oz white mushrooms, cut in half and then very thinly sliced. Sprinkle with pepper, fresh thyme, and smoky hickory salt. Mushrooms will let out juices. Take off heat when juices evaporate and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Serve atop toasted and buttered bread. I used day-old bakery whole wheat oatmeal bread and it was deeelicious.

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  • Pine nut couscous (from a box!)
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ahh, summer…

Cilantro Quinoa Soup with Spicy Pan Seared Shrimp and Corn

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One summer when I was in college, my sister and I went to Ecuador. Highlights of the trip included an Amazonian tour guide singing “My Heart Will Go On” in Spanish as he rowed the two us back to civilization, playing barefoot volleyball on a deserted stretch of beach and needing to continually run into the sharp “pica pica” plants to fetch the ball, and peeing from a composting toilet in the Andes, where the mountains and fields literally sprawled out from the bathroom’s edge.

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a pee with a view!

The trip was all roses until the last night, when our evil hostel-mate in Quito stole Rachel’s cell phone. After Rachel had continuously berated me the whole trip for misplacing passports, money, cameras, bus tickets, etc. I would like to state for the record that even though my things get disorganized, I don’t lose them. Preach it.

The culinary high point of the trip for me was consuming the world’s most perfect scrambled eggs in a rundown roadside inn outside Papallacta. This is not a knock at the food I ate in Ecuador, it’s just that those eggs were SO GOOD. I would give anything to know the secret (probably minutes-old eggs and more butter than I want to think about.) I also fondly remember dinner from the night we stayed at the hostel connected to the World’s Most Beautiful Bathroom. It was a simple brothy quinoa stew, probably made with vegetables from the yard and quinoa from the neighboring hilly farm patches.

This version is similarly simple and delicious. We used spicy pan-fried shrimp and corn from the cob, but you could easily add stewed chicken, avocado, little potatoes, cotija cheese. Etc.

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Quinoa Cilantro Soup with Corn and Spicy Pan-Seared Shrimp
from palate/palette/plate

olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 box (4 cups) veggie broth
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves (1 big bunch, or 1.5 smaller bunches)
1 T ground coriander
1/2 t ground Ancho chili powder
s&p
1 lime
3 ears of corn
1/2 pound of raw jumbo shrimp (about 10)
1 t dried chili pepper flakes
1 t smoked paprika

In a medium large pot, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add onions and garlic and cook on medium-high heat until the onions start to soften and everything smells good, about 5 minutes. Add the quinoa and stir constantly for a minute, until the quinoa is incorporated, toasty, and evenly coated. Next add broth, cilantro, and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, and then simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, until quinoa is cooked. Keep an eye on it, and add water or extra broth if too much liquid evaporates.

Meanwhile, cook corn in desired methods. We simply husked the ears and boiled them, and then cut kernels off the cob and it was delicious. Feel free to roast or grill instead.

Five minutes before soup is ready, prepare shrimp. Heat a large pan til it’s super steamy hot. Meanwhile, shell shrimp and rinse. Coat with olive oil, pepper flakes, and smoked paprika. Pour into pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until just pink and cooked throughout. (Perhaps a wise idea to disconnect your fire alarm before attempting.)

Before serving, add chili powder, coriander, and juice from a lime. Spoon into bowls and top with extra chopped cilantro, shrimp, and corn!

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SIDENOTE: This is the artichoke we ate as an appetizer. It’s just so darn cute.

Also it was only $1. Somehow, I’ve never made myself artichokes before and had to call my Mom to ask a) how to cook them, and b) her amazing sauce recipe from my childhood. Turns out it’s just mayo + lemon juice. But ya know what tasted great as a 10 year old also tastes great as a 24 year old. Thank goodness.

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LIKE, OMG, DON’T YOU WANT TO EAT THIS?! cooking quinoa ain’t a pretty task but someone’s gotta do it

Roasted Sweet Potato, Peach, and Black Bean Tacos

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When one goes to Texas for the Fourth of July for one’s boyfriend’s family reunion and annual “rib-b-q,” one can expect to come back to NYC feeling about 15 pounds heavier (even as the sole vegetarian present, because OMG queso and beans and kolaches and cornbread salad and IHOP), many shades more sunburnt, and about fifteen times more likely to have developed mosquito-related diseases than previously.

One may also still be reeling, almost a week later, about how many meat cooking apparatuses (apparati?) can be in one backyard, including a couple smokers, a couple grills, and a giant cauldron fire pit thing.

One may, upon returning home, feel the need to return to vegetable-laden meals and (unfortunately) indoor cooking methods. One may also be exasperated by Texas’s apparent dislike towards “inauthentic” (ahem, vegetarian) tacos.

And, it almost goes without saying that it is only appropriate to roast things in a hot oven in a tiny apartment in July when you later consume those roasted things in your blissfully air-conditioned room, sitting on your bed, with the dog keeping the comforter clean, sharing with your roommate after an intensely sweaty cooking bout.

Texas, you were great and all, but this is how this Northerner does tacos.

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Roasted Sweet Potato, Peach, and Black Bean Tacos
(according to me)

Roast in a 350 degree oven:

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
half a red onion, thinly sliced
one ripe peach, cut into slices and then in half again
half a red chili pepper, diced into tiny pieces

with:
enough olive oil to cover it all
zest from one lime
1 T ish of ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1/2 t or less ground cayenne
salt&pepper

…for about half an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so, or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender and peaches are juicy, pulpy, sticky blobs of deliciousness.

Once out of the oven, mix in a can of drained&rinsed black beans, half a lime’s juice, and salt to taste.

When ready to serve, heat corn tortillas in a very hot, dry pan until slightly crispy. Top tortillas with veggie mixture, cheddar cheese, lime juice, sriracha, cilantro, ETC.

 

 

Sourdough Tofu Banh Mi

This was tonight’s dinner. Tonight’s dinner made me very happy. That is an understatement. Here, look at what I ate! Mega sandwich!

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This is Daniel’s version. It has steak:

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This is our messy prepping:

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This is sorta how we made it:

Pile atop sourdough (or any other bread you love):

  • very thinly sliced carrots (1 or 2) which sat for 20 minutes in 3/4 c white vinegar, 1 T sugar, and half a lime’s juice
  • thinly sliced radishes
  • thinly sliced cucumber
  • cilantro
  • grated pickled ginger
  • sriracha mayo: 1/3ish cup mayo with 3 big squirts sriracha and half a lime of juice
  • tofu marinated in splashes of rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, sriracha, lime juice and then lightly pan-fried

or steak. He cooked it on the stove AND the oven. That’s the extent to which I know how to talk about cooking steak.

Mostly-Rhubarb, Really Easy, Cake

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When your college best friend moves to Chicago and becomes part of a traveling puppet company, the least you can do is make the whole lot of them dinner when they and their giant van come rolling through Brooklyn. The play, which was a beautiful, shadow-puppet-filled ode to eccentric friendships, impossible ambitions, and unexpected loneliness, filled me with admiration for this roving band of puppeteers and their realized vision. They had ravenous appetites, but I guess hours in a van with bell pepper and beef jerky sandwiches *ew* can do that you. We had a delicious and quickly cobbled together meal of pasta, homemade sauce, CSA salad, focaccia, and beer.

This recipe is not at all related to that meal.

pretty strawberry

Except for, too-long after the fact, I discovered a forgotten bowl of strawberries in the nether region of the fridge that had been intended for dessert that night. It was discovered when I had already embarked upon a late-night rhubarb cake endeavor, to find I was half-a-cup short on fruit. And then, lo and behold, somehow Fridge God came through with these miraculously still-intact berries, who were begging me to hang out with their edgier counterparts. And obviously I acquiesced, since the smell of buttery rhubarb and strawberries having a juice cleanse in a sauna at midnight thirty is the stuff of which dreams are made.

…as are, apparently, giant spiders in a forgotten mansion haunting the prince of England, who is courting my sister…

….or, if you’re Daniel, an amputated hand of a salsa dancing acquaintance…

Dreams. Weird.

rhubarbcake ingredients

Mostly Rhubarb Cake
barely adapted from The Seaside Baker

1 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tbsp for top of rhubarb
3 eggs
3 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp buttermilk, but I used Mexican sour cream because that’s what was in the fridge, and it totally worked!
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups diced rhubarb and strawberries, mostly rhubarb
zest from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together diced rhubarb, strawberries, and lemon zest. Let sit.

Mix eggs and 2/3 cup of sugar with a fork until frothy. Add melted butter, vanilla, and buttermilk. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt and mix to combine.

Cut out a parchment paper circle to fit either a 8 or 9 inch cake pan (use whatever you have!). Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle fruit over the top. Then sprinkle 2 tbsp sugar evenly atop the fruit. Don’t scrimp on or skip this step! The sugar helps the fruit becomes all jammy and delicious during baking.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Eat warm and swoon.

cooked rhubarb cake

I baked this cake on a Monday night. Came back Wednesday morning and found an empty pan in the drain board and this in the fridge:

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Awww how sweet, the roommates saved me the last piece!

Roasted Beets and their Greens with Mint Yogurt Sauce

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Life is a like a bowl of expensive, organic potato chips at a rooftop party in Williamsburg. You never know if you’ll end up with sriracha, honey mustard, or plain (ew). Or like a cooler of beer in the dark–will it be Narraganset (cheapasses), Tecate (sufficiently low brow), or Weihenstephaner (overachievers)? In either case, you don’t have much say in the matter so just eat or drink it you asshole and take in that insane city view.

BUT you do have a say in brunch.

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It’s so tempting to wake up late, put on my baggy (trendy?) jeans, and sample one of the plethora of (definitely trendy) brunch places around. I live a 15 minute walk from probably forty brunch options, offering anything from traditional Brazilian to high-brow Balinese to funky Colombian to outdoor, farm-to-table Brooklyn meets Australia. With new places popping up every weekend, it’s easy to feel like you’re “falling behind” on brunch. Which is dumb. Sampling more restaurants does not give you status.

But today it was BEET DAY. And so we set the beets a roasting and strolled to the farmers’ market for dill and eggs and the local Polish deli for rye toast and yogurt.

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This was a very very good decision.

Our humble salad is unexpectedly tastier and more filling than the sum of its parts: sweet roasted beets, a tangy onion vinaigrette tangled into quick-boiled beet greens, and a spiced minty yogurt sauce. The onions mellow in the vinegar til they’re drunk and swooning. The yogurt tries to overwhelm our earthy beets with its tang, but, “Hell no,” the beets say, as they retain their characteristic sweetness and decide to co-exist platonically and peacefully. The beet greens seem massive and overwhelming and then a quick dunk in boiling water reduces their volume by approximately a zillion percent and they say “oh fine, we’ll share the spotlight. And then all this dill gets dropped on top and says I GO WITH EVERYTHING and all the veggies concede.

So for a perfect weekend: honey mustard chips, Tecate cans, and beets. Followed by watching El Mundial at a language meet-up group gathering, fixing up my bike, and discussing plans for a juggling workshop (truth).

Roasted Beets and their Greens with Mint Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from the New York Times

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Ingredients:
3 beets and their greens
3 T fresh dill, snipped

Vinaigrette:
3 T red wine vinegar
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
dash cayenne
salt and pepper
4 T olive oil

Yogurt:
1 small container full-fat Greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup)
1 small garlic clove, finely diced
2 T mint, chopped
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
dash cayenne
salt and pepper
1/2 T olive oil

Cook the beets:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash beets well. Trim off beet leaves and stringy pointy bit at other end. If beets are different sizes, cut some in half so they’re roughly the same size. Place in a single layer in a baking dish and fill with 1-2 inches of water, enough to mostly submerge. Cover with foil and cook for an hour to an hour and a half, or until fork tender. Once done, carefully drain the water and let cool. When cool, peel beets and watch fingers turn bright pink. Cut into small wedges.wpid46-BeetSalad-4.jpg

Make the greens:
Separate leaves from the pink stems, which you can discard, and cut leaves into thin ribbons. (I like the “roll and slice” method: pile about 5 leaves, roll them into a cigarette shape, and then slice rounds.) Dunk all these leaves into a big bowl of cold water, smoosh around for a minute, scoop out greens, and pour out water. Repeat until water in bowl is clean (2-4 times). Boil cleaned greens in a big pot of salted water for about 2 minutes, or until just wilted. Drain, rinse with cool water, and then squeeze to get rid of extra water.
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Make the vinaigrette:
Combine red wine vinegar, onion, and garlic in small bowl and let stand about 5 minutes. Add rest of ingredients and mix with a fork.wpid66-BeetSalad-14.jpg

Make the yogurt:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.wpid68-BeetSalad-15.jpg

To finish, dress the beet greens with 1/3 of the vinaigrette. Put another 1/3 of the vinaigrette on the beets. Plate those two, spoon yogurt mixture on top, and sprinkle dill over everything.

insta beet&greens

Leftover vinaigrette is great with scrambled eggs or for spinach salad!

DISCLAIMER: All photos but the last one taken by Daniel and his fancy camera. My apologies to anyone who can’t bare to see posts go back and forth between lovely, edited photography and the iPhone version.

 

Rhubarb, Chickpea, and Spinach Stew with Cilantro-Lemon Yogurt Sauce

all done best

  1. Rhubarb can indeed be used in something other than pies. Savory things! Although pie is also a good idea. So is crumb cake.
  2. I have been finding myself, for the first time in my life, saying “I’m watching the game,” in response to people asking me about my plans. I’M WATCHING SPORTS. WORLD CUP SOCCER SPORTS. And it’s FUN and I GET SPORTS. It’s fun watching sports with other people who like watching sports! Ah, wisdom.
  3. Running into someone you haven’t talked to since their Bat Mitzvah at a trendy bowling place in Brooklyn while waiting for a world music concert to start is, believe or not, QUITE awkward. If you’ve had nothing to say to each other in roughly 10 years, don’t be the one to suggest meeting up for coffee first. Also, are you supposed to introduce your significant other, who has been quietly sitting beside you nursing his IPA and trying desperately to seem suddenly fascinated by the surroundings, to this forgotten middle school acquaintance? I’m going to hope “no” is the answer to this question. Sorry, Amanda, I now remember your name but still don’t really want to talk to you.
  4. If you are currently tired of googling “job nyc ngo theater” and “grad school necessary? non-profit”  and “how to curly hair humidity” and “tickets costa rica asap”, it is never NOT a bad idea to make curry. Especially if it has aforementioned savory rhubarb, spinach (thankyouCSA for my overflowing spinach fridge situation), and chickpeas (FAVORITE). And then you can feel creative for inventing a yogurt-cilantro-lemon-honey sauce and feel validated in your quests to become a creative and cultured professional human. (Although I’m also not saying it’s a GOOD idea either.)

Rhubarb, Chickpea, Spinach Stew with Cilantro-Lemon Yogurt Sauce
slightly modified from Joanne Eats Well with Others

Curry Ingredients:
1 sweet potato
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth, divided
2 stalks rhubarb cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 cups spinach leaves, torn into smaller pieces

Yogurt Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
1 lemon
1/2 tsp honey

Prepped Ingredients

Rachael Ray is just so darn excited about those spinach leaves. Let’s ignore her, shall we… Next time, homemade! (yeah, okay)

1. Preheat over to 400 degrees. Wrap the sweet potato in tin foil and put in oven on the top shelf. Keep it there until pierce-able with a fork. Test for pierce-ability at half an hour. Should be done by the time recipe is done! And yeah, okay fine, this step isn’t TOTALLY necessary but, really, who doesn’t appreciate some tasty roasted sweet potato goddness for almost no additional work?

2. Make the sauce: combine chopped cilantro, greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, juice from half a lemon, and honey. Mix to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Make the spice mix: Heat 1 T olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover, and cook for about 2 minutes or until the mustard seeds start popping. Cook 1-2 minutes after that, or until they stop popping, shaking the skillet frequently so that they don’t burn. It smells like popcorn! Turn heat to low, and stir in the ground cumin, ginger, and garlic. Continue cooking on low heat until you can smell the ginger/garlic. Pour into a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

4. Curry time!

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Spinach is amazing. Always looks so overwhelming and then you blink and it’s gone.

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  • Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in that same pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 10 minutes or until the onion begins to brown.
  • Add the rinsed chickpeas and 1/2 cup broth. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the chickpeas are warmed through.
  • Stir in the rhubarb and the remaining 1/2 cup broth. Cook for 6 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until spinach wilts, about 3 minutes more. Stir frequently to make sure everything gets all mixed together. Stir in the spice mixture and continue to cook over medium heat for another minute or two while stirring. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Want to serve it with couscous? Cool, so did I!
Heat 1/2 T olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 c Israeli couscous and 1/2 t lemon zest. Toast couscous until it smells nutty and grains have turned a uniform light brown. Cover with vegetable broth/water and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and serve!

6. Plate it! Start with a big spoonful of couscous. Then, either next to or atop, add curry. Elegantly add cubed roasted (peeled) sweet potato chunks and then cover all that deliciousness with cilantro yogurt sauce. EAT!

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Please note a) the swanky sweet potatoes and b) the red pepper in the corner. It was not a helpful addition so it isn’t in the ingredient list or recipe! Feel free to add, however, if you need to use up a pepper, like me.

…and then if you’re lucky, you eat PIECES OF VELVET cake on a glorious Thursday summer evening outside at public picnic tables with a cute sassy lady. Lucky you!

we ate cake