I got myself this fancy template a little while back, a fancy layout for my fancy, fancy, pompous drivel.
It seems I don't know how to pick classy company, as they've run out of bandwidth for certain elements on this page.
Embarrassing to say the least.
It's my intent to work on that, but I have Buttermilk-Lemon Sherbet coming up this evening in the kitchen, and I've been trying to master the vagaries of pulled pork in the oven (I am thinking of calling it Semi-lina Barbecue, I'll explain that later...) So I've been busy.
And I'm sorry.
And I know one should never begin sentences with "and" except when one should.
In the midst of all of this, and job hunting, I vow to maybe think about considering the following "action items":
1) New template
2) Adding pictures (iphoto makes my life living hell, I just haven't gotten ambitious here... and to make things worse, while I'm an adequate hack/hobby photographer, I can't seem to get he porn-ish shots that I see elsewhere. Life is a humbling experience.)
3) More updates... though this is a bit like apologizing to a diary for not writing more often. It is, sadly, true that I have little else important going in my life.
Finally, ice cream experiences are coming... I'm on a kick of making ice cream, and am intending to start on Peter Reinhart's "Breadbaker's Apprentice" in the near future. I am loath to include specific recipes from either, as (a la carolcookskeller.blogspot.com) I feel like they are both such tremendous resources that if you want them, you really really really should own them.
So. If you want to make the best bread of your life, buy this.
If you want to make ice cream, buy this.
You know whether you want them or not, and I'll share the experience with you as I do the occasional bit/piece/recipe from them.
If a recipe is one that I've significantly messed about with, or I can link to in the public domain, you'll see it. If I haven't, or can't (respectively) you won't... you want 'em? Buy the books. I wouldn't steer you wrong, hypothetical readers... don't you trust a complete stranger on the internet?
As with the earlier incident involving salad dressing, I have a pompous AND wordy recipe for Red Lentil Soup today. It's vegan, which is a shocking situation for me, but it's just a recipe that happened to turn out that way. I won't let it happen again.
A friend, who's vegan, and bored with her dietary options, had asked about it, and I sent her this write-up...
Red Lentil Soup
2-6 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Knorr Vegetarian Vegetable Bouillon Cubes
9 cups water
1 ¾ C. Split Red Lentils, picked/culled, rinsed and set aside
1 large onion, chopped reasonably fine
1 medium-large carrot, chopped into a moderately fine dice
3 cloves garlic, crushed/minced
1 tsp. ground Cumin
½ tsp. ground Turmeric
1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper &/or ALEPPO PEPPER
½ tsp.-1 tsp. Ras El Hanout
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Lemon Wedges/Fresh Lemon Juice
Time to Cocktails: 15 minutes
Time to Table: 1:30-1:45
Time to plate: 0:10 (give or take, based on your decision on blending and the method you might use.)
Cost (Not Counting oil, herbs, spices, pantry items):
Roughly $3.00 total, $0.50 per serving
It is summer at the moment, and while Winter always seems singularly appropriate to soup making, and soup eating, we are still going to discuss this now. We are going to be using Red Lentils (which are also referred to as Pink Lentils, and may be known as “Masoor Dal” in the context of Indian grocery stores.) You can find them online, in particular www.kalustyans.com will have them in various degrees of bulk, but at a price. I buy them in bulk at the Flatbush food co-op in Brooklyn, where they sell somewhere around $2.59ish per pound. There is a small discount for members, but that’s the base price. In addition to the flavor, one major advantage of red lentils is that they don’t require pre-soaking, and can go straight into the soup.
One thing to note: when cooking with lentils, they don't precisely "go bad", but as they have been in the pantry longer, they require a different amount of time to cook, so use old or new lentils as you wish, but don't use them at the same time, as the texture will vary between the two bags/batches.
It’s easier than you might think, and it’s one my favorites, and one of my wife’s as well.
Lentils have a very complete mix of protein, and this recipe is very low in fat, and cholesterol. You can check www.nutritiondata.com for the details as you prepare any foods, and while it can be time consuming, it’s one way to tell how your foods stack up when you cook for yourself. If you would like to use regular lentils, I have had reasonably decent luck with that as well, but
Begin putting a 5-plus quart stockpot onto a medium flame. When the pot is hot enough to cause water to sizzle (put a drop on your finger and flick it in, when it hisses, you are ready), add 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and toss in your onions and garlic. Reduce heat slightly, and sauté the onions and garlic until lightly browned and translucent. Add your diced carrot, and continue to sauté for a few minutes more, reducing heat if necessary to prevent burning.
When the carrots have sautéed for a few minutes, add the water, vegetable bouillon cubes and lentils. Stir lightly to combine the ingredients and prevent the lentils from clumping. Increase heat to high, and bring to a healthy boil. You may add some salt at this time, but err on the side of UNDER-salting at this point in the process, you can always add more, but it is impossible to effectively remove it once you have too much. Furthermore, salt is said to toughen lentils when added before they are cooked.
Once the soup has boiled, reduce heat until the soup is simmering, add in your pepper as needed, along with cayenne, turmeric and cumin. I’m a huge fan of Aleppo pepper (sun-dried flakes) in this recipe in lieu of or in addition to the cayenne… it is a warmer, rounder, less hot pepper than cayenne, & provides a great deal of flavor in addition to purely heating up the palate. You can adjust the amounts based on your own taste, the Cayenne in particular is a personal judgment call. Stir the spices in, and cover at a simmer. Check/stir periodically while it cooks. Simmer for roughly an hour, check the lentils for doneness at that time. If you like a thicker consistency, you may continue to simmer with the lid on or off (removing the lid will speed up the reduction in liquid.) At a low simmer, the soup will hold (with potential additions of water periodically) if you need to prepare other dishes for a meal or seat guests as necessary.
If you have a “stick” blender, here is where it’s extremely useful, and to my own taste the soup is much preferable smoothly blended together. You can also use a regular countertop blender, though it is far more time consuming.
Once the soup is blended, adjust seasonings (chiefly salt/pepper), while bearing in mind that the final flavor will be affected by the addition of lemon to each bowl, or to the entire quantity. Don’t be afraid to season, but be cautious of over-salting. It is best to stop while it seems “not quite salty enough”. You or your guests can always add their own if they so choose.
If you are freezing a portion (or all) of the soup, do not add the lemon at this time. When it is served, either add the lemon at the very end of the cooking, once the heat is shut off, or serve with lemon wedges at each place at the table. You can choose to float some olive oil in the surface of the soup for flavor and aesthetics as well as an added unctuousness, or richness. I have on occasion added a dollop labneh, crème fraiche or plain yogurt on the surface as well, but it is far from necessary.
Serve with warm, crusty bread if desired. This soup will also keep very well in the freezer, simply reheat on low, with a trace of water to start thawing the frozen brick of soup.
-If you are not planning on blending the soup together, you may want to chop the onion/garlic/carrot much finer, to your own taste and preference, probably more along the lines of a brunoise. I always hand blend this soup, but your mileage may vary.
-When preparing the lentils, put them on a light colored plate, and sift through, checking for off-color pieces, or even small stones. Remove anything unappetizing, rinse in a strainer, and leave to add to the soup as needed. Whole lentils, red or otherwise, will require a longer cooking time than split lentils. Also, do not mix newly purchased lentils with ones you have had in the pantry for a longer period of time, as they will cook unevenly due to moisture loss over time.
-Ras el Hanout (there are alternate spellings) is available in specialty markets, and has roots in Morocco. It has an aromatic quality, and is a blend of a huge number of other spices. It means “top of the shop” in the local vernacular, and while you don’t need it, I find it adds a nice depth of flavor to the soup. It is also useful for flavoring couscous and an array of other middle eastern dishes.
-You may decide to use a bouillon other than vegetable, but it is certainly more than adequate to the process. If you are watching your salt intake, consider reducing or eliminating the bouillon included, if necessary. Clearly it significantly improves the flavor, but if salt is an issue, increase the acidity with lemon juice, and you will be unlikely to miss the saltiness. One bouillon cube has 70% of your daily value of sodium, so use your own discretion. I have made this with two or three cubes, generally.
-If you are using regular lentils, be prepared to cook longer than indicated below, and be advised you may also want to check and add water to the soup to keep the lentils from drying out, burning/sticking. Check individual lentils for doneness every twenty minutes or so beyond the first hour.
-A stick blender (also called an “immersion blender”) is incredibly useful for soups, and will come in handy for smoothies, whisking eggs (most have a replaceable set of attachments) and other tasks. The price over-all is not excessive, and when it’s needed I’ve found mine to be indispensible.
-Cost is according to what I’ve paid for this dish most recently, and you may see some variability in price. In this dish I’ve included the cost of all the vegetables, lemon, and bouillon, but I’ve not counted the cost of oil, seasonings, salt or water ;) As with all things, you will have to determine the price point of your own local store.
-Your “time to cocktails” above is roughly the amount of time you need to put in before the cooking process is relatively hands off, though you will need to cast an eye on things from time to time.-“Time to table” is roughly how long it will be including prep and all other phases of the cooking process until you are ready to serve the dish into plates or bowls. I’m leaving it there as I don’t know how long a walk it is from your kitchen to your dining room.
Yeah, the "Elegant" part of the last two posts, that's partly up to your own eye and sensibilities.
You can make any dish ugly, and make any dish gorgeous (not "any dish" exactly, but you know what I mean, I trust... either that, or congrats on getting the staff to let you use one of the internet connected PC's at the home.) It's kind of up to what you want to put on top, or how you wish to arrange it.
Just, you know, for all that that's worth.
Labels: And Another Thing
Sadly for this, as for the prior, no pictures were taken. I was cooking, and (to be honest) drinking. The next go 'round we will take some photos, hopefully of adequate quality, and provide them here.
Next, as I've always loved the classic prosciutto and melon as a summer appetizer or course, and as my wife doesn't eat red meat, this is a slight twist for pescatarians... you can of course make these without the lime and onion and simply make little prosciutto/melon bites, but you didn't some schmuck to tell you that... you probably don't need me to tell you this either, but you can always stop reading.
The more flavorful the melon, the better the dish will stand up, and of course be willing to look at other varieties of melon (as honeydew and canteloupe are often very bland depending on the season.) We've had interesting luck with so-called Santa-Claus melons, and I'm fond of Canary melon (though not for this dish, as I learned this time around... it lacks firmness, and has too subtle a flavor.)
Make sliced squares of melon, again we are using these as a sort of tray/cracker/handle for the bite of snack, so size accordingly... as always, it's to taste.
Sliced nova lox in appropriate shapes are added on top, along with some slivers of red onion, and when you are ready to serve you can squeeze a trickle of lemon or lime juice over the tops, and finish with a grind of pepper for each.
Just a really quick take, we had folks over for dinner the other night, and did a few things that were well received, and some of them were a new twist...
Here then are two simple appetizers/Hors D'Oeuvre, one based on the beef we made an eon ago.
I had bought an eye round to make sandwich roast beef, and found out we were having company over, and decided to do a quick take on the classic Roast Beef with Horseradish...
You'll have a sizable amount of roast beef before, I made it the day of, when it really is at its best...
Sour Cream (lowfat/nonfat is FINE)
Tellicherry Pepper*, cracked or coarse ground
Mayonnaise (lowfat/nonfat is fine here too)
Horseradish, your choice of type
Peel and slice your cucumber (thick enough that they will hold up almost in lieu of a cracker in a canape), sprinkle a little bit of kosher salt over it, to add flavor, and almost "quick pickle" the cuke. Put it in tupperware or on a plate, covered, in the fridge. The cold cucumber is much better than warm...
Combine sour cream and mayonnaise, I started with about four parts sour cream to one part mayonnaise, but it's not an exact science. Grind black pepper into the mix, add horseradish to taste. Bear in mind that this will be a little dab of flavor on the eventual bite of food, and a bit of punch to the horseradish is just lovely.**
Take the sliced beef, cut up the pieces to fit the cuke slices, top them, add a dab of horseradish sauce (more or less based on your preference, but not so much that it slops onto the serving plate, it's nasty looking,) grind fresh black pepper over the whole plot, and you are DONE.
*any other variety of black pepper is fine, but Tellicherry really has an exceptional flavor, and where you are relying on a present and up front hit of black pepper, it's worth the few extra pennies a pound. As always, for god's sake, DON'T EVER USE PRE-GROUND PEPPER. Buy a pepper mill, okay? Trust me, if you wouldn't mind.
**This horseradish sauce makes a wonderful topper for those eventual cold beef sandwiches, and it's especially fabulous with some whole grain mustard, and a handful of arugula on a baguette...
This is for T., who was over for dinner and wondered how the salad dressing came together...
Mirin-Miso Miracle Dressing:
You'll need the following base...
8 parts neutral oil (rice bran or grapeseed are you loveliest of heart healthy options...)
4 parts mirin (japanese sweet cooking wine)
4 parts rice wine vinegar (if you like the dressing sweeter, you can substitute mirin for some or even all of the vinegar, but it's not my personal preference, plus vinegar is a calorie free way to add bite and flavor, while mirin is definitely not)
1 part Dijon mustard (more to taste if you like)
*1 part miso paste (red/white to taste)
Once these are combined, add salt and pepper to taste. It's quite important to put the miso in BEFORE adding in the salt, as you otherwise risk over-salting the dressing altogether.
Depending on the density of the miso paste, you might find it useful to add the liquid to the miso a little bit at a time, blending it in, so that you don't have chunks of miso paste floating in the liquid... nasty, and a pain to get rid of.
We keep a few different dressings on the sideboard in the dining room, in old, clear wine bottles... it's the "Re-Use" part of green living, and they are a pretty good size both for mixing and for holding a reasonable volume of dressing close by.
Use less miso, or none at all, but in that case you'll need to increase the amount of salt, and probably increase the mustard portion. That's my own taste talking, but I find it's a bit bland without some added beefing up.
If you want a more hearty and robust version of this dressing, substitute sesame oil for a portion of the neutral oil indicated. Be advised that a little goes a LONG way, you can always add a touch more if you like.
With any dressing/vinaigrette, trust your own palate; if you need more acidity, add vinegar, more sweetness to balance the acidity comes from mirin, mustard rounds out the flavor and emulsifies the dressing (this will keep it from separating back into oil and vinegar in the bottle), and salt tastes, well, salty.
Just a quick thought in retrospect, regarding the mussel recipe: it's got a fundamental factor that I find really relevant to broader thoughts about cooking... aioli.
What have you (entirely hypothetical) folks been up to?
I've been struck with Chilean Hopping Death Plague.
That doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about ways to make simple delicious fare for yourself and your loved ones...
So in that light, I've discovered a really great trick:
Take some of these (apparently they're called "bouillon cubes")
I don't know where to recommend looking for them, I have had some luck finding them at my local green grocer's.
There are versions available that are based on the essence of seafood, of beef, and even of vegetables, but I've stayed here with the traditional chicken... it has that certain something.
Measure out a portion, prepare precisely two cups of water, in a pot, with the "bouillon cube", and bring to a boil.
Be absolutely certain that it has fully incorporated, you may want to whisk it in one small piece at a time to be certain that you the soup doesn't break... once complete, simply serve in a bowl!
Best enjoyed while sweating under a blanket, watching infomercials while you are in too much pain to find the remote and look through your tivo list.
Labels: REALLY DIFFICULT
There is hope, though, and it comes in the form of the humble Blue Mussel. I can hear you now, there are plenty of people who just plain dislike mussels, and my wife was among them. The chow folks do not lie, this will change the minds of people who don't think they like mussels. Here's how they find out (or you find out) that there was something you didn't know...
- When it comes to cutting, after the rest, cut across the grain, as thinly as possible. With most beef this is the case, but the tougher the cut tends to be, the more crucial both of these things are. Beef gets roasted when it's monstrously hard to eat straight (unlike a good steak.)
- You can buy pre-seasoned cast iron skillets at any decent department store, and pretty much the only company still making them is lodge kitchenware.
- This is a link for the thermometer I have and use. I can't speak the specific quality of that site, as I bought mine here. It's got a braided steel covering on the remote probe line, which is essential (the silicone wears out with any edge pressing on it, sooner or later it will fail and you'll throw the thing out.) It also has an included timer (never a bad thing) and will keep you updated both on the oven temperature AND the internal temperature of the food at the same time. It's the only gadget I've seen that does this, and having a good read on the actual operating range of your oven is incredibly helpful. Most residential ovens swing through wide arcs of temperature, and many are far off of where they ought to be. This will cover you in that regard.
- In terms of pepper, where it's a particularly prominent flavor, get yourself some tellicherry from here. If you are actually tasting any element of pepper, tellicherry is the top of the line, and Kalustyans' version was the highest rated in, you guessed it: Cook's Illustrated. They may be operate with an incredibly exhausting level of detail, but that's just because they're also incredibly exhaustive, and here's where that's a bonus. Tellicherry is barely more expensive than awful supermarket black pepper, so don't waste your time, unless you want to, it is after all your meal.
- Don't use teflon pans in the oven. Apparently they give off fumes that have been shown to grow extra heads on lab animals. Avoid unless extra heads and or tumors are something you're personally looking to develop.
- You may find making a roast easy, but personally I've never been close friends with things that happen outside of my control, and inside of an oven. I'm not a fan of hoping that everything is done right, I'm a fan of fixing as I go along... hence this felt like a bit of a victory, always pleasant when money is being saved as well.
- Comes right before 8.
Labels: And Another Thing