“I mean, I expected it to be good, but this sauce is f*ing amazing.” I was not anticipating this response from my best friend, for whom I had recently prepared this meal on a chilly Friday night after a long week at work, each of us plagued by similar struggles manifesting in different forms (and people). I wasn’t expecting it for two main reasons, but took it as a sign that perhaps the recent developments in my life—namely, that I’m writing a cookbook with Abbey Rodriguez, coming from Tiller Press in 2021—were maybe on the right track.
First, the sauce that she was so bowled over by was not anything I expected it to be. I was juggling a few things on the stove and forgot to put on a key ingredient—the adzuki beans—to cook sufficiently. My all-purpose cooking solution is to dump everything in the same pot, which is what I did here, with some trepidation, but apparently decent results. I dumped the beans in with the spinach and other curry sauce components and let it cook. And cook. And cook. Adding water along the way until those tiny beans stopped being hard as rocks, and creating along the way some curry hybrid miracle. When I showed up at her house, I was actually thinking, man, this curry is going to be gross and all that food and time will have been for nothing. But if, as Ayurveda teaches, our food can be our medicine, here was penicillin.
Second, the whole idea of sharing the food I make in the private space of my kitchen is kind of new for me. Sure, I have this blog and many other recipes floating around the internet, but the readership is (for now) pretty consolidated to a group friends who I can count on one hand and my mom (hi, Mom!). Given my complicated relationship with food over the years, I’ve felt very protective about how and with what I feed myself. Like my yoga practice, eating well is something I treat like a personal prayer and way of honoring my body, and I know that the integrity of that practice is sacred. Like any practice, it’s still hard to do every day, three times a day in the case of eating, and so I’m hyper-aware of the fact that any change in the ritual, even when that change involves people I love and who love me, might dismantle the entire sanctuary in which I do this daily food-worship.
The biggest risk to this, of course, is the judgment. Oh, the judgment monkeys, always getting in the way just when you have things neat and tidy. What if, when I make and share this food, I find out it’s actually really disgusting? What if no one likes it? What if no one likes me, and stop wanting to hang out with me and don’t buy the book (a fate that, as an editor, I’ve been convincing authors won’t happen with great conviction for years, and yet can’t quite shake for myself)?
My one consolation in this long, intense, imaginary debate I’m having with myself is that, unlike before, when my internal reserves of confidence and resilience were bone dry, I’ve got some precedent for sharing and everything turning out okay. When I chose to share my yoga practice as a teacher, I didn’t lose hold of the ritual I found sacred and nourishing. In fact, it became more so, because I had to really clarify what it was I did with my own bodymind in order to articulate those things to others, so they could find their own practice. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a repeat of that with this whole cookbook thing—you’ll have to tell me.
Anyway, you came here to read about curry, not my existential crisis—though what existential crisis isn’t solved by curry? Ayurveda tells us why, in the fact that these warm, unctuous, and rooted ingredients balance the fearful, panicky vata dosha, which by the way is having a free-for-all this time of year (late October/early November). No matter when you’re reading this, if feelings of ungroundedness, anxiety, dryness, cold, bloating and constipation, or “spaciness” are affecting you, eat up, my friend. The long, slow, ready-when-it’s-ready quality of the curry itself, and the accompaniments, is just what you need to remind your body—and heart—that what you fear will fall out from underneath you has more stability than you think.
Spinach and Adzuki Bean Curry with Roasted Vegetables
- 1 cup cashews soaked overnight
- ½-1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 2 lbs. butternut squash cubed
- 1 lb. carrots chopped
- 1 medium red onion chopped
- 1 lb. Brussels sprouts whole
- 1 bunch fresh broccoli chopped
- ½ cup adzuki beans soaked overnight (or at least 4 hours)
- ¼ cup cashew cream
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ bunch fresh spinach roughly chopped or torn
- ½ cup raw cashews roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 inch fresh ginger chopped into small pieces
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- Lime wedges
- Cilantro leaves
- To make the cashew cream, blend the cashews in their soaking water in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Add water as needed to make a thick consistency, like a grittier, lighter sour cream.
- To make the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Let the coconut oil melt on a large baking sheet if it’s solid. Distribute the squash, carrots, and onions evenly, and toss in the oil. Place the Brussels sprouts and broccoli on a separate pan (without oil). Roast for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and slightly crisped.
- Meanwhile, prepare the curry: In a medium sauce pan, combine soaked beans with 1 cup water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cashew cream and spices; stir to combine, and cook for 5 minutes together. Add the spinach and, if the pan has lost a lot of water, a bit more water. Cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes longer, or until the beans are soft, adding water as you go. The spinach will be very reduced, and the sauce should be thick like a creamy soup.
- To make the topping: Add the chopped cashews, fennel, and ginger to a large dry saute pan. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the fennel is fragrant and the cashews have started to brown. Then add the coconut flakes and cook for another 2-4 minutes, until the coconut is toasted.
- To serve, divide roasted vegetables among plates. Top with curry sauce, cashew-coconut topping, a squeeze of lime juice, cilantro leaves, and extra cashew cream as desired.