• Has this ever happened to you? You get home from work, you’re not exactly sure what you want to make for dinner, and then you start poking around in the frig. Suddenly, your creative cooking muse takes over. And before long, you have a lovely, delicious, satisfying dinner on the table.

    That’s what happened this evening. On my return home from Boston, I began thinking about making soup. When I got home, I read the recipe I’d had my eye on earlier that morning. It called for red kale. Turns out I didn’t have any in the frig. Or any other greens that could be substituted for it.

    What next? I could make a salad. But I needed something else – salad wasn’t enough. There were a few interesting appetizer type spreads in my Moosewood Favorite Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. The Indian Chickpea Spread looked good. Ok, I’ll go in an Indian cuisine direction. At that point, I asked myself “Self, why don’t you just make good old regular hummus?” The answer: “Nah. Let’s try something new.”

    The chickpea recipe suggested serving it with pita bread or crudités. Didn’t have any bread made. Didn’t want to even begin thinking about how much I miss pita. A lot, just in case you’re wondering. A ton.

    Ok. Pity party over.

    I didn’t feel like cutting up veggies. Then all of a sudden a recipe for cornbread flashed across my mind. I usually think of serving cornbread with some version of chili (have a great tempeh chili recipe), not with Indian food. Cornbread isn’t really a dipping kind of bread. Not even good for scooping, but somehow it sounded perfect. But in order to make it, I needed to think outside of the ethnic box and try my hand at mixing cuisines. A little Indian, a little Mexican. Yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket. And then I thought about the textures and flavors. The chickpea dip was a little spicy and mushy in texture. The cornbread was well, cornbready, and spicy because I added diced jalapeños to the batter. The salad was cool and crunchy. But I wanted something else to cool down the spice. Yogurt dressing, kind of like raita. That’s it. Ooh, it was coming together.

    I felt like a chemist when I made the yogurt dressing. I started with a recipe from the above mentioned Moosewood cookbook. But I thought it was missing something. So I added honey and garlic and some of the garam masala I’d made for the chickpea spread. Voila! It was a great complement to the other components of our dinner. Next time, I’ll add chopped walnuts.

    So, the next time you’re in a pickle about what to make for dinner, just open the frig and pretend you’re in a Chemistry lab (I know what you’re thinking: sometimes, when you’re brave enough to open some of those containers of leftovers in your frig, it’s exactly like being in a Chemistry lab!). Anyway, invite your creative cooking muse along for the ride! And don’t be shy about mixing cuisines. You’ll end up with an international dinner!

    Indian Chickpea Spread
    Adapted from Moosewood Favorite Low-Fat Favorites cookbook
    Makes 2 cups

    ½ cup minced onions
    1 teaspoon canola or other vegetable oil
    2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    ½ teaspoon ground cumin
    ½ teaspoon garam masala (see recipe below)
    ¼ teaspoon cayenne
    1 cup diced drained tomatoes (I used canned)
    1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (16 ounce can)
    2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
    Salt to taste

    In a heavy or nonstick skillet, sauté the onions in the oil on low heat for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, garam masala, and cayenne and sauté for another minute, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Stir in the tomatoes, cover and gently simmer for about 5 minutes.

    Meanwhile, drain the chickpeas, reserving the liquid. In a food processor, grind the chickpeas with just enough reserved liquid (or water) to make a smooth puree. Stir the puree into the simmering tomato mixture, add the lime juice and cilantro, and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve hot or cold.

    Homemade Garam Masala
    Mix together and store in tight lidded bottle in cool dry place.
    Yield: ¼ cup

    1 tablespoon ground cumin
    1 tablespoon ground coriander
    2 teaspoons ground black pepper
    2 teaspoons ground cardamom
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground cloves

    Cilantro Lime Yogurt Dressing
    Yields: 1 cup
    Adapted from Moosewood Favorite Low-Fat Favorites cookbook

    1 cup nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt
    1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
    1 tablespoon minced scallions
    2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
    2 teaspoons honey
    ½ small clove garlic, minced
    ½ teaspoon garam masala
    Salt to taste

    In a small bowl, combine yogurt, cilantro, scallions, lime juice, honey, garlic, and garam masala. Add salt to taste. Set aside for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld. Store refrigerated in a covered container, it will keep for 3 – 4 days.
    Optional: about 1/8 cup chopped walnuts
    • Lynn Barry

      YOU GO GIRL! The positive out of what we used to (and sometimes still do) think is a negative situation = creativity. Good stuff!

    • Ellen

      Yes, we must think positively. Some of that is influenced (at least in this case) by my fellow GF food bloggers. Reading what you and our pals have to say about our particular situations really has a wonderfully positive influence on me. So thank you for your help and online friendhip!

    • VeganDoc

      I love the Indian chick pea recipe. I’ll have to try that out!

      You had asked about Tofutti sour cream — I buy it at Whole Foods. Look in their dairy section.

    • VeganDoc

      Ellen, I get the Tofutti Sour Cream from the Whole Foods in Boston on Cambridge Street, near MGH.

    • Slacker Mom

      Looks great!

    • Sheri

      Yum! My muse directs most of my cooking lately. Now I have a pile of different greens in the fridge that the muse needs to tell me how to use.

    • Ellen

      Sheri,

      That cooking box of foods you get looks great. I can see how you’d be overwhelmed by your wall of green. I look forward to seeing what you end up making with everything. Bring on the muse!

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