Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Lentil soup

Lentil soup is what you make when you need to go grocery shopping, because there's hardly anything in it - and it's reliably good.

Lentil soup:

8 oz dry lentils (brown, black, red, yellow...)
2 TBSP olive oil
1 Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
4 or 5 cloves garlic, minced (not crucial to include)
1" piece of ginger root, peeled and minced (if you happen to have it)
2 or 3 carrots, sliced
1 or 2 celery ribs, sliced
1 lg tomato, chopped (if you feel like it)
1 tsp salt (more to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper (more to taste)
Juice of a lemon
A handful of fresh spinach or other greens, washed and sliced.

Soak the lentils in plenty of water for several hours or overnight. Lentils are the gassiest mothers in the bean family, but it really does help if you change out the water a few times over the course of the soaking. Don't freak out if they sprout a little - they're actually better for you this way. Drain and rinse just before cooking.

Heat a soup pot to medium-high and add in the olive oil, onions, and the garlic and ginger if you're using them. Cook a couple minutes, until the onions soften (be careful not to burn the garlic).

Stir in the carrots and celery, and the tomato if you're using it. Add the drained lentils, enough water to cover by a couple of inches, the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Bring to a boil and then let simmer slowly for 40 minutes to an hour, or until the beans are al dente. This varies depending on the type of lentils you're using. Pink ones cook fastest, in my experience.

When the beans are cooked, add in the greens and turn off the heat. Let sit, covered, for a few minutes.

Serve garnished with a drizzle of olive oil or a fresh salsa (or both).

The salsa in the photo is a combo of fresh avocado, garlic, cilantro, olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Cornbread, y'all

I love making soup, and cornbread goes nicely with soup, so here is cornbread...

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 TBSP sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
A splash of coarse-ground yellow grits
1/2 cup butter or oil
1 cup yogurt or buttermilk (or soy/almond milk)
2 eggs, slightly beaten (or 2TBSP flax meal soaked in a little hot water for 10 minutes)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Add the butter or oil to a 9" cast-iron skillet and stick the skillet in a 400°F oven until the pan is hot and the butter/oil shimmers (it's hot, too). This step is what makes the crust delicious.

Add the yogurt/buttermilk and the eggs to the dry ingredients and whisk together.

Remove the skillet from the oven and carefully pour the hot oil into the bowl and whisk together just to combine. It will sizzle and froth.

Pour the batter into the hot skillet, level the top with a spoon, and put it back in the oven.

Bake at 400°F about 25-30 minutes, or until the center is set and the top is a delicious shade of brown.

It goes really well with soup.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

collard kraut, y'all

Well, will you look at this? After two months of saying, "we should make sauerkraut with those collards, they are amazing and prolific," I am making sauerkraut with those amazing and prolific collard greens! I know, right? These ladies have been putting out for a year and a half now, with no visible end in the picture, and if you belong to the sort of household that owns a book by Sandor Katz - even if that book is not locatable when it's needed, ever - you know you need to kraut those bitches.

collard kraut

a mess of collard greens, as they say in Tennessee
sea salt
caraway seeds


a gallon-sized ceramic crock or glass jar
a plate to fit inside the crock or jar
a weight - a milk jug filled with water, a stack of canned tomatoes, or a cleaned and boiled rock
a cloth and string or rubber band to secure it over the crock or jar

Pick your greens, plunge them into a sink of cold water to wash them, and then begin the laborious task of stemming those babies. 
One giant basketful from four plants equals a gallon of tightly packed sauerkrauts.

My process goes like this: I pile a few leaves on my cutting board, then one-by-one fold each leaf in half lengthwise and run my knife blade along its spine - it's faster than you think, even for an overloaded sinkful of collards. As I de-spine, I stack the still-folded leaves in a little pile that I move to a fresh sink of water while I de-spine the next stack... until all the leaves are naked.
Collard spines. Tough, but still tasty. If you have a good collard-spine recipe, post that darling.

When all the stem/spines are relegated to the compost bowl, you can slice your leaves into whatever shape you like for kraut. I like them sliced into thin strips, so I take a stack of leaves, shake the water out of them, and roll them into a thick bundle to slice on the cutting board. You guys do it how yeh like it.
See how my big ol' knife slices through fresh collards like butter? It's not butter, though, it's collards.

As you slice/grate/chop your greens, layer them in a giant steel or glass bowl and sprinkle each layer with salt. I'm just doing what Sandor told me to do. I wonder how ginger would fare in this baby.
What we have here is a giant bowl of collard strips layered with sea salt, a compost bowl of dang ol' collard spines, and a compressed layer of collards in a crock, that's fixin' to get sprankled with caraway seeds. I like to say sprankled when I'm talking about collards. It's more southern.

Once everything's sliced/grated/chopped, layer the greens into a very clean ceramic crock or gallon-sized glass jar. As you put in each handful, punch the greens down to squeeze out air and water and make a tight pack. Sprinkle on a dab of caraway seeds, and then pile in another handful, pack it down, and lay in some more seeds until the crock/jar is full.
Oh my goodness, isn't this pretty?

Top the whole deal off with a little plate, maybe a tiny saucer that your sister gave you, or a kids' tea-set saucer from IKEA. Whatever you use, it needs to press down on the greens while supporting the jar of water or big boiled rock that you're going to set on top. 
My friend Norma gave me this crock a whole lotta years ago and I used to make beeswax candles in it. What? You didn't know I could make candles, too? Please. I made kimchi in it once, but it wasn't a nice story.

Yeah, man, I said rock! I boiled a rock! This is awesome to me because when I was a kid, Stone Soup was my favorite book. Still, though I should have known I would totally dig cooking as an adult based on my love of Stone Soup as a kid, I never anticipated the actual boiling of a rock in my kitchen. Well. that rock is super clean now, and it's sitting on top of a pretty brown saucer my sister gave me, weighing down some damn collard kraut! 
Look at that dang rock! Do you like rocks as much as I do?

Cover the whole shebang with a cloth. I use the little bird hankie that my brother gave me, because I don't have too many colds, but I like to use that hankie.

I keep my crocks of fermenting stuff on a shelf in my kitchen. I would like to say that no oranges ever fall onto the crocks of fermenting stuff, but that's only because I like to tell stories.
Press down on the rock occasionally, to squeeze enough water out of the greens that it covers the little plate. Sandor says this should take 24 hours, and if it doesn't happen, mix up some saltwater and pour it in there. You know where to find out what Sandor says.

Let the kraut ferment at room temp until it tastes krautish. I'm going to have to let you guys know about this part, because my kraut's still just a bunch of green collards in a crock layered with salt... 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Singapore mei fun like nobody's business

Singapore mei fun is my favorite Chinese food, mostly because it's curry-flavored, but also because it's delicious and greasy and perfect. I've tried several recipes from around teh internets, but most called for too much soy sauce, and none were greasy or curry-y enough to mimic what I get from New China. I've also tried several curry powders, and the one I like best comes from the UK.

You're not going to make this every week, not because you won't want to eat it, but because if you're making it right, in my opinion, it's not diet food. Don't let that stop you.

The cooking goes pretty fast, so you'll want to have all the ingredients rinsed, drained, minced, measured, etc. before you start cooking. Don't feel too guilty about adding oil between each addition to the wok—it really is crucial. When you do add oil, drizzle it around the edge of the wok, so that it slides into the bottom, and for this recipe, add both olive and toasted sesame oil in equal amounts.

You may notice there's no shrimp in this version, unlike the restaurant variety. Feel free to add it if you like, before the other meats.


singapore mei fun

This makes enough for four or five people.

You'll need these:
a wok
a big bowl to soak the rice stick
another big serving bowl
a wok spoon (this looks like a spade), or whatever you normally stir-fry with
See that wok spoon?

Rajah hot Madras curry powder from the UK—only $3.99 at my Asian market
And these:
1 lb. super-fine rice stick (rice noodles from the Asian market, or from the grocery store, if you enjoy paying three times the price)
3/4 to 1 cup olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
3 eggs, whipped furiously with a fork like my mom does it, with 2 tsp toasted sesame oil mixed in
3 TBSP hot madras curry powder (or whatever kind you like, sissy)
1" knob of ginger, peeled, minced
5 or 6 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled, minced
1/2 cup napa cabbage (5 big leaves or so), finely sliced
2 cups fresh bean sprouts, rinsed, drained, and relatively dry (2 big handfuls)
3 green onions, cut into 1" pieces
some cooked chicken (optional)
some char siu (optional)
3 tsp or more thin soy sauce (regular, not the dark stuff that's best for fried rice)
1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Get everything prepped before you begin cooking. You're welcome.
  1. Set the wok on a burner and heat on high.
  2. Place the rice stick in a bowl large enough to hold it with room to spare and cover with cool water. Soak the noodles for 30 minutes, until softened, but not mushy, pour off the water, and coat with 1/2 cup olive oil, mixing well. Set aside.
  3. Into the very hot wok, pour enough of equal amounts of olive and sesame oil to coat the sides.
  4. Pour the eggs and sesame oil mixture into the hot wok. Let the bottom set just a touch, and stir gently with the wok spoon until just cooked. Remove the eggs to the serving bowl.
  5. Add more oils to the hot wok and add in 1 TBSP of the curry powder. Stir around a bit, and if necessary, add enough oil to rise above the powder, so you can fry the vegetables.
  6. This part goes pretty quickly... Add in the garlic and ginger and fry just a minute, until fragrant. Add in the vegetables in order of slowest-cooking to fastest, pushing vegetables aside and adding oils between each addition, and stir fry until just beginning to soften.
  7. (Skip this step if you're not using meat.) Push the vegetables aside in the wok, add oils, the meats, and 1 tsp soy sauce, and stir-fry until heated through. 
  8. Remove the vegetables and meats to the serving bowl.
  9. Add oils to the wok, and then add in the 2 TBSP curry powder and stir around. 
  10. Add the noodles, 2 tsp of the soy sauce, and a small amount of stock. Stir around to mix everything together and fry the noodles, adding more stock as necessary just to keep from sticking. You want a nice, slippery mess of fried curry goodness, not soup.
  11. Taste, and add more soy sauce if you'd like.
  12. Turn off the heat, stir in the cooked vegetables and eggs, and dump it all into the serving bowl.
Save some for lunch tomorrow.

Friday, December 14, 2012

papaya salsa in a hot minute

Papaya makes a lovely salsa that you can toss together in a few minutes to lighten up a dinner or just use up that leftover half in the fridge. You can really add a variety of fruits and vegetables (peaches? apples? jicama?), but then you're stepping into time-consuming fruit salsa territory.

Papaya Salsa
Super quick and lovely with everything.

papaya salsa

1/2 of a papaya, peeled, seeded, chopped
3 or 4 green onions, sliced
an ear of corn, cut from the cob
a handful of grape tomatoes, quartered
a handful of basil, roughly chopped
juice of two lemons
1/2 tsp or more salt
chili, if you like it

Toss it all together in a big bowl and chow down.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

homegrown collards with bacon, caramelized onions, and figs

Collards have been kicking butt in my garden since early summer. Thank you, collards. I probably don't need to tell you that you can make this with kale or mustard greens as well, and if you hate figs, use sundried tomatoes or whatever you fancy, you weirdo.

super easy and delicious collards with bacon and figs

homegrown collards with bacon, caramelized onions, and figs

1/4 lb. bacon, roughly chopped
a yellow onion, thinly sliced
a handful of dry or fresh figs, roughly chopped
a pile of fresh collards, rinsed and sliced how you like 'em (enough to fill a 2-qt stockpot, though you don't need the stockpot)
a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
salt and red pepper to taste

Saute the chopped bacon in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When it's crisp, remove the bacon to a serving bowl.

Into the bacon fat in the pan, add the sliced onions and stir around for a minute. Turn the heat down to medium-lowish and let the onions caramelize while you chop the figs and the shitload of greens on your cutting board. 

When the onions are nice and golden, add in the figs and saute just a couple of minutes.

Add the sliced greens to the pan, being sure to jerk your hand back in time to miss the fat flying out as the water droplets from the greens hit the heat.

Turn the heat back up to medium-high and stir the greens around a bit until they wilt and begin to actually fit in the pan. You want them to cook before browning, but you do want them to crisp up a tiny bit once the liquid from the greens begins to evaporate.

Once the greens begin to embrown, drizzle the whole deal with balsamic vinegar, salt, and red pepper to taste.

Toss the bacon on top, and dump the pan into the serving bowl. Delicioso.

Serves two people who love greens, or five who can only stomach them from time to time.

Monday, June 04, 2012

international cheese ball

If you haven't seen Roxanne Webber's Turducken of Cheese Balls recipe on Chow yet, reading its title just now has probably piqued your interest. If it hasn't, then this recipe probably won't thrill you, either. No matter what, click that link, because it's animated! It's a cross-section animation! How freaking cool!

What we have here is a vegetarian -- not vegan by any means -- version of that behemoth party food, using black olives and sundried tomatoes in place of chorizo and bacon. I call it the International Cheese Ball because -- and I'm sure you can figure this out on your own -- Switzerland, Spain, Italy, France, and the US are all represented in its ingredients. I haven't tasted the Chow ball, but I would venture to say that even carnivorous types won't miss the meat in this one.
Nothing says "party" like "cheese ball." Party! Cheese ball! Party! Cheese ball!
I did follow the Chow recipe, so mine is not very different and completely not original -- Roxanne Webber deserves full credit for the inspiration (and Lisa Campbell gets the credit for "inspiring" me to make it). I've grouped the steps a little differently than Webber did, though. What can I say? I have a different flow, y'all. You get my entire recipe here, but check out Chow for the backstory.

The Brie I used was triangular, so I cut it in half lengthwise and put it back together in a square shape. I subbed Jarlsberg for the Emmentaler because that's what I could find, and what the hell, they're both Swiss. I also subbed a not very ripe mango for the Asian pear because I like it, and green onions for the chives because why start believing that chives aren't green onions at this point in my life? I bought the cheeses whole and shredded them in the food processor. No, I didn't clean the thing between cheeses. Yes, I touched every ingredient with my hands. A lot.
I kept the ingredients in little bowls, labeled with their wrappers for easy identification.

Get your cheeses ready:

  • a small Brie, unwrapped
  • 2 1/2 lbs cream cheese, unwrapped
  • 1 cup Manchego, shredded
  • 1 cup Jarlsberg, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 cups chèvre, unwrapped

Get your nuts ready:

  • 1 1/4 cups walnuts, toasted, coarsely ground
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground
  • 1/2 cup almond slices, toasted, coarsely ground

Get your fresh stuff ready:

  • 1 small, firm mango, peeled, pitted, minced
  • 1 cup sundried tomatoes, rough chopped and then blended in the food processor
  • 8 mission figs, minced
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup green onion, minced

You'll also need:

  • cracked black pepper
  • a mini-can of minced black olives, absolutely drained and dry
  • at least two baguettes, but three is better
  • a sturdy cutting board, at least 9" wide
  • a food processor
  • the ability to get your hands cheesy
  • a tolerance for crap all over your kitchen floor, countertops, and stove
  • space in your fridge for that cutting board with a giant cheese ball on it
I only cut one finger while mincing all of this fruit...

Here goes...

Spread a couple of tablespoons of cream cheese on the top and sides of the brie, and then place it smack in the center of the cutting board, not off to the side, like I did. This baby grows l a r g e.

Sprinkle with black pepper and then smoosh the black olives into the cream cheese.

Now the next step you'll repeat five times, once for each cheese...


Manchego and figs

In the food processor, blend the Manchego and half of the block of cream cheese that you used for the brie. Remove the blade and swish out the cheese blob with your hand. Smoosh it into a flat circle in your hands (don't do anything daring like press it out on some waxed paper -- that's industrial-strength glue that will never lift off). Drape the cheese circle over the olives, pressing it on and shaping it into a ballish shape.

Press on the figs. Aren't they pretty?
I was ready to eat it at this point.


Jarlsberg, parsley, and green onions

Blend the Jarlsberg with the other half of the cream cheese, and repeat that performance.

Mix together the parsley and green onions in a little dish and then smoosh them on.


Cheddar and mango

You know how it goes this time... blend the cheddar with half a block of cream cheese, disc it up, lay it on.

Smoosh on the mango.
I did a terrible job of separating my shizz. I like a little intermingling, anyway.


Bleu and walnuts

Lather, rinse, repeat for the bleu and half-block of cream cheese, except don't let anyone tell you that you can form a mixture of bleu and cream cheeses into a dough that will ever leave your hands, let alone resemble a disc-shaped structure. Maybe in Norway where the kitchens are cold, but no way in hell/Florida. I believe I switched to a butter knife at this point. Just spread the cheese blob onto the ball.

Walnut it up.


Chèvre, pecans, almonds, and sundried tomatoes

This one's even more comical in the "make a disc out of this cheese" department. Have you even seen a chèvre? Please. So yeah, blend the chèvre and half-block of cream cheese and spread it on the ball. It won't be easy. It will be difficult. It is worth it. Employ your cake-frosting skills.

Now mix together the pecans, almonds, and sundried tomatoes in a little bowl and then smoosh that goodness onto the ball. Shape it up and then brush all of the leftover toppings off of the cutting board onto the kitchen counter. Place a giant bowl upside down over the ball to protect it, and then stick the whole deal in the fridge for a few hours to firm up. Unless you live in Norway.

While the ball chills, scoop all of the crumbs into a little bowl and get a spoon. You know you want to.


Party time

At party time, take the bowl off and slide a spatula under the ball, then lift it onto a pretty plate. You can garnish the ball with more parsley if you want. I didn't want. Stick the ball on the table with a couple of butterknives, some little plates, wine glasses, and a few bottles of wine.

While the ball comes to room temp, toast up the baguettes and slice them. Put them on the table too, duh.
With only a tiny slice of International Cheese Ball left and at least seven (visible) bottles of hooch drained by the end of the night, I'd say it was a successful party.

Serves six chatty ladies, one absent husband (not mine), and three lovely youngsters, who waited very patiently until the chatty ladies saw how pretty this danged thing was before launching in.