“...the heart is an organ of fire.” ~The English Patient
As human beings, we live by our hearts – both physiologically and emotionally. The heart is what keeps our blood pumping through our veins and arteries, propelling us through the world and allowing us to seek out the very things we desire with it. Emotionally, it is the base of the soul and the source of who we are – the dichotomy of feeling things with our hearts or trying to analyze them with our heads, and choosing between the two, is a conundrum that captivates even the most callused of individuals. The heart and the emotions emanating forth from it have captured the imagination of poets and artists alike for centuries and will continue on for as long as poets and artists exist. Its location in our chests is the very place we feel the blossom of love and the poignant pain of losing it (even if it is our brain that ultimately controls such things). And in certain philosophies, the heart is the utmost center of our being – and thus no other organ has such profound importance.
We cannot live without our hearts. Physiologically and emotionally, we must protect them in order to go on living. While the complexities of the emotional heart are far too great to go into here and warrant far more in-depth discussion, scientific research shows that there is much we can do to protect the physical heart. Low sodium, lots of antioxidants, low saturated fat, lots of fruits and vegetables – we’ve been collecting dos and don’ts for quite some time. And Joanna, Ilva and I have been collecting heart-healthy recipes for nearly a year now for the Heart of the Matter – our blog and archive of healthy eating to protect your heart. This month, the theme was Stews and Casseroles, and the heart-healthy dish I’m offering up is a Cauliflower and Rice Curry Casserole. It’s gluten-free, low in saturated fat, packed with veggies (vegetarian, even) and heart-healthy ingredients (like pecans and mustard greens) and better still, it’s delicious.
Like love, there are some dishes that are difficult and take time to develop, but the end result is worth it. This Indian-style casserole takes a similar approach. Be aware that it’s almost an hour of chopping, measuring, making dirty dishes and wondering if you’re doing it right (I was sure there wasn't enough rice and too many mustard greens). But in the end when it finally comes together and out of the oven, all tender and steaming and with just the right amount of spice, everything cooked down and flavorful and mellow, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
There is a little less than one week to get me your entries for HotM 12: Stews and Casseroles. I’ll happily take them until the 25th of February (even giving you an extra day!) and try to post them in the round-up by Wednesday or Thursday. If you have never participated, you can find the announcement and rules by checking here and here, and we would love to have you join us! If you’ve already been submitting recipes in previous months, we hope you’ll be joining us once again this month (I haven't received very many entries yet...)! You can send your entries to me at mphilli4 AT uoregon DOT edu
Cauliflower and Rice Curry Casserole, serves 6
adapted from Eating Well
2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 sweet onion, 1/2 coarsely chopped and 1/2 thinly sliced
2 fresh Thai chiles, finely chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup raw pecans
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 cardamom pods, crushed slightly
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 cup brown rice
1 bunch (8 ounces) mustard greens, tough ribs removed, leaves finely chopped
8 ounces cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch florets
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
4 cups water, divided
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Cook the brown rice in a rice cooker or pan with 3 cups of water and the saffron until the rice is tender and perfumed with the saffron.
Meanwhile, puree tomatoes, chopped onion and chiles to taste in a blender or food processor until smooth. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add raisins and pecans and cook, stirring, until the raisins are plump and the nuts are lightly brown. Transfer the nuts and raisons to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan.
Add cumin seeds, cardamom pods, and the cinnamon stick to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then add the sliced onion and cook, stirring, until the onion turns a light brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully pour in the pureed tomato mixture and reduce heat to medium. Stir in garam masala, 3/4 teaspoon salt and turmeric. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes. Stir the mustard greens, cauliflower, chickpeas and 1 cup water into the tomato sauce. Cover and remove from the heat.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half the chickpea curry evenly in the prepared baking dish. Spread half the rice mixture on top of the curry. Spoon the remaining chickpea mixture over the rice, then spread the remaining rice on top of that. Scatter the reserved raisins and cashews over the top, then cover tightly with foil. Bake until the cauliflower is tender, about 40 minutes. Remove the cardamom pods (if you can find them!) and cinnamon sticks before serving (you could remove the cardamom earlier if you’re having guests and are worried about them).