Archive for March, 2010

Spring is officially making its way into Louisville, which means warmer weather and less soup/ stew-making. I don’t usually enjoy eating soup in warm weather, so I thought I would make this curried lentil soup while there is still a chill in the air.

Thanks again to Mark Bittman, this soup is versatile, and with some chopping, pretty easy too.

Curried Lentil Soup, from Food Matters, by Mark Bittman

(Mr. Bittman provides several variations for this soup. Below is what I did)


2 T. peanut oil

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

1 T. minced garlic

1 T. minced and peeled fresh ginger (you can freeze the leftover ginger root if you cover it well)

salt and pepper

3 T. curry powder

1  16 oz. can chopped tomatoes

1 c. dried lentils, washed and picked over

1 qt vegetable stock

1 can coconut milk (I used light)

2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 c. chopped carrots

cilantro (I forgot this. It would have added a nice, fresh flavor.)

Put the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about three minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir in the curry powder.

Cook stirring frequently until darkened and fragrant, another minute or two.

Stir in the tomatoes and lentils, then add stock and coconut milk. Bring to a boil. Partially cover and turn the heat down to medium-low so the soup gently bubbles. Cook stirring occasionally until the lentils just become tender. Stir in the potatoes and cook for another ten minutes.

Stir in the carrots, cover, and cook for another ten minutes or so, until everything is tender. Add cilantro, if you remember it, and serve.

This may be the third or fourth time I’ve made this soup and it turns out differently every time. I use a mix of curry powders. This time, I used about 3/4 T. of mild curry powder (the rest of what I had) and about 1/4 T. hot curry powder. Next time, I will use all hot curry powder.

I love this soup for its complex, spice-filled flavor and for the coconut milk.

It is also completely vegetarian.

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impromptu fruit salad

I did not do much cooking this week for various reasons. I did, however, have some fruit sitting in my refrigerator that needed to be consumed. So I made a fruit salad.

Here’s what I did:

2 mangos

1 pint strawberries

juice of one lime

some honey

some lime zest

Mix all of the above together and you have a healthy and interesting snack that gets a few extra days out of fruit sitting around your kitchen.

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cuban black beans

Today’s recipe, Cuban Black Beans, is from the New York Times, but is not Mark Bittman’s. I found it in the column, “Cooking with Dexter” – a column that usually makes my skin crawl.

Pete Wells writes the column, maybe monthly, maybe more, about cooking adventures with his sickeningly precocious gem of a son, Dexter. Dexter is five-years-old and oh-so-perfect, according to his doting dad. Hey –  I’m all about cooking with my hypothetical children, and other people cooking with their children, but please spare me the details about how little Harrison is so clever with the spices, or how your Agnes can bake a cake from scratch.

Despite my near-hatred of Dexter-talk, this recipe for the humble black bean is truly a revelation. It made my mouth water upon first reading the recipe a few weeks ago. I wanted to try out the recipe ever since.

Here’s a link to the recipe: Cuban black beans, which Pete Wells adapted from: “Tastes Like Cuba,” by Eduardo Machado and Michael Domitrovich.

I followed the recipe as directed, except for the following:

The beautiful-looking Spanish onion I purchased from Kroger was rotten on the inside. Proving again that what you learned as a kid was right: what is on the inside matters more than what is on the outside. Luckily, I had two small white onions on hand and used these to replace the rotten one.

When I chopped the jalapeno, I left about half the seeds behind. You can leave as many or as few as you want, depending on spice preference/ tolerance.

The recipe does not say to, but I did soak the beans before-hand using Mark Bittman’s method. Fill a pot with your beans, add water to cover. Boil two minutes, remove from heat and let sit until ready to use (1 to 24 hours). Refrigerate them if it is warm in your kitchen. This helps the beans cook a bit faster. I soaked them the morning  of.

I did put a ham hock in the pot to boil with the beans – but I just threw it away after. They tend to be really fatty and I didn’t feel like trying to cut the meat off the bone.

Here are some pictures of the ingredients used to make the sofrito, which, according to my trusty resources (wikipedia), is an olive-oil based sauced used as a base for beans, stews, and rice dishes in Cuba.

garlic and jalapeno


This sofrito was delicious in the beans, adding such a rich and layered flavor.

These beans were easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and tasty. Really, really tasty.

I don’t think Dexter could have done any better, even if he is a whiz in the kitchen.

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lemon bars

Another coworker’s birthday = another excuse to try out a new recipe – though this recipe is not really “new”. A friend in grad school made these regularly and they were always a hit, partially because she is an excellent baker, and partially because the recipe is Ina Garten’s. Follow Ina’s recipes and you will not be disappointed.

Here is the recipe:

For the Crust:

1/2 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 c. sugar

2 c. flour

1/8 t. kosher salt

For the filling:

6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (I just used 7 large)

3 c. sugar

2 T. grated lemon zest (I used 6 lemons for this)

1 c. freshley squeezed lemon juice (This took 8 or 9 lemons, please don’t use fake lemon juice.)

1 c. flour

powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. I do not have a paddle attachment, so I just used regular beaters. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball.

Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. This step was the most difficult. Spreading the ball of dough evenly across the whole pan was a long process and I lost my patience quickly… At this point, Ina advises chilling the dough – I forgot to do this and the bars still turned out well.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour.

Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar.

These lemon bars were great. Simultaneously sweet and tart, they went over well at the office and provided a nice, change from the usual, chocolatey fare. Because of their bright flavor, the bars also seemed particularly appropriate for the first few spring-like days in the area.

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olive oil cake

Olive oil cake… sounds strange at first, but when you examine the list of ingredients in this recipe, as I did, you might be intrigued by the flavors at work.

Here’s a link to the recipe, by Michael Chiarello: Olive Oil Cake

All the recipes of Michael Chiarello’s that I have made before have turned out well, but  they tend to be more complicated than the typical recipes I choose. By complicated I mean they use more ingredients and may involve more steps – but the results are generally worth it. This recipe was no exception.

I did burn the cakes, but after cutting off the black edges, the richness of the olive oil combined well with the savory rosemary, and citrus flavors. It was sweet and moist – and did not taste too burned.

I haven’t decided whether this cake was a success – I know it was not a failure. The flavor was great – but it wasn’t a big crowd-pleaser , as were the cookies from a few weeks ago. It was an interesting dessert and one that I would make again, but will watch the cakes and cooking time more closely.

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According to Food Network, this recipe is actually called, “Spicy Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce.” For the purpose of this post, and to fit the tapas theme from yesterday, they are also albondigas, or Spanish meatballs.

Here is the recipe: albondigas.

12 oz ground lamb

12 oz  ground turkey

1 c. fresh breadcrumbs

1 large egg white

1 c. minced onion, divided

6 cloves garlic, minced, divided

4 T chopped fresh mint, divided

1 t. ground coriander

1/2 t. ground cumin

1/2 t. kosher salt, divided

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 c. red wine

1/4 t. cayenne pepper

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray – or use a silpat (or the equivalent).

Combine lamb, turkey, breadcrumbs, egg white, 1/2 cup onion, half the garlic, 2 T. mint, coriander, cumin and 1/4 t. salt in a large bowl. Gently mix to combine.

Shape into 48 (or so)  little meatballs, about 1 T. each. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the meatballs for 10 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining 1/2 cup onion and cook, stirring, until golden. Stir in the remaining garlic, wine, cayenne and the remaining 1/4 t. salt. Simmer over medium-low heat until the wine has reduced significantly, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, return to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.

Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons mint.

Like the dates from the previous post – these took some time to assemble and prepare, but they were delicious too. You can also make them a day or so in advance. The flavor improves after sitting, sort of like chili, or gossip.

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FYI: The above picture are the dates, pre-baked.

The Oscars were last Sunday. While the broadcast itself was pretty disappointing, it has become a tradition of sorts, three-years running now, to cook some elaborate food and invite some people over to watch the show, judge the fashions, tally up winners and losers, and eat too much.

The first set of posts this week focuses on two, vastly different dishes.  The chorizo-filled, bacon-wrapped dates were the biggest hit of the party and the marinated broccoli is in my regular rotation of healthy, easy, party food.

First, the marinated broccoli, recipe from the New York Times, available here:

1 1/2 t. red wine vinegar

1 t. kosher salt, more to taste

2 heads broccoli, 1 pound each, cut into bite-size florets

3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil — I use significantly less oil, maybe around 1/3 c.

4 large garlic cloves, minced

2 t. cumin seeds

2 t.  sesame oil, recipe recommends roasted

Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes

First, mix the vinegar and salt together in the bottom of a large bowl. Then add broccoli and toss to combine.

Next, heat the oil in a small skillet. When hot, but not smoking, add garlic and cumin seeds. Cook until fragrant, about one minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the sesame oil and red pepper flakes. Pour over broccoli. Stir and let sit at least an hour until serving. If you want to serve it more than two hours after making it, put in the refrigerator.

The vinegar and salt work together to cook the broccoli a bit, so it loses its raw broccoli flavor by the time guests consume it. It comes out a vibrant green color, of which I do not have pictures. The result is a flavorful, healthy snack that counters much richer party food, like this……..

Chorizo-Filled Dates, from Epicurious:

4 oz. fresh chorizo sausage links, casings removed, coarsely crumbled

1 T. chopped Italian parsley (Italian = flat-leaf)

12 large Medjool dates

6 slices  bacon, cut crosswise in half

Cook chorizo in a small skillet over medium heat until browned and cooked through. Stir frequently to break up lumps. Drain off fat, transfer to a small bowl and add parsley.

Take the pits out of each date. This is a time-consuming, messy process, but necessary. Cut a slit along the top of each date. Gently pry open dates and remove the pits.

Stuff each date with chorizo mixture. Wrap a piece of bacon around each date, overlapping slightly. Secure with a toothpick. At this point, you can follow the Epicurious recipe and fry dates in a skillet. Since I doubled the recipe, I had too many to fit into a frying pan. I lined them on a cookie sheet and baked them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. I checked them frequently during this process. They cooked evenly and thoroughly.

Though not pretty, these were absolutely delicious, required few ingredients, and were straight-forward to assemble, if time-consuming. Luckily I had a friend around to help me (thanks Courtney). There were three, strong, complimentary flavor profiles going on – the sweet dates, the spicy, salty chorizo, and the smokey bacon. None of these remained at the end of the 3+hours of Oscars.

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Guacamole is delicious. I used to think I didn’t like it, without ever trying it. That changed when I tasted the recipe of a family member. Her guacamole was rich – full of feta, olive oil, chopped red onion, parsley, chopped tomatoes, garlic, and red wine vinegar, I was converted quickly. When I made guacamole  after that- this is the kind I always used to make.

That is until I found THIS recipe, adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites:

1 Hass Avocado, sliced in half, pitted, and peel removed

2/3 c. low-fat cottage cheese

1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

1 green onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

juice of one lime

salt and pepper

Put all of the ingredients, except the salt and pepper, in a food processor. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.

There are many wonderful things about this recipe. It  is easy, healthy, tastes creamy and rich from the cottage cheese, and, amazingly, doesn’t turn brown for several days. I’m not sure why. The guacamole with the feta and olive oil would turn brown after a couple of hours. Maybe it is the cottage cheese – that is the only thing I can think of.

This recipe has quickly become a standard. I haven’t made the feta once since I started making this.

So no, Jess, this isn’t my “infamous” feta guac, but this one, I think, is even better.

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black bean burgers

Caution carnivores: this post contains no meat.

For Christmas, I bought my little brother, who also happens to have a budding interest in food and cooking, a beginner’s cookbook written by Mollie Katzen, of Moosewood fame.

The cookbook is for beginners in the sense that the author presents a wide variety of relatively simple, straightforward recipes for people who may or may not be that familiar with a kitchen and more esoteric ingredients. While flipping through it, I noticed a simple and tasty-sounding recipe for black bean burgers, something I had never made before. I photocopied the recipe and brought it out this week.

Like many people adopting more conscientious styles of eating, I do make an effort to limit the amount of meat I consume. I also don’t like spending a ton of money on pre-packaged, pre-made items, like black bean burgers. While convenient and good, these packaged items often are more expensive than making the items from scratch, and sometimes taste synthetic.

So I made black bean burgers. Here is the recipe, adapted from Get Cooking, by Mollie Katzen:

2 T. olive oil

1/2 c. finely chopped red or yellow onion

2 15-oz cans black beans

1 large egg, beaten well

1 c. bread crumbs (I used stale bread that I mead a couple of weeks ago)

2 t. ground cumin

2 t. minced garlic

1 t. chili powder

salt and pepper

Saute onions in a t. of olive oil for 3 or 4 minutes until soft. I usually add a bit of salt when I saute onions. Set aside.

Rinse and drain the black beans. Transfer to largish bowl and mash well with a fork or potato masher like the one I recently received (thanks Mom!).

Stir in the egg, breadcrumbs, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper, and chili powder. Scrape in the onion and stir until combined.

In the same skillet used for the onions, add some olive oil and heat over medium heat. Shape the bean mixture into 4 or 5 patties. I made 5, and they were big. The recipe says to make 4. Flatten the patties into 1/2-inch circles. Cook, undisturbed, until golden brown. Flip with a metal spatula and cook on the other side for another 3 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve as desired. Ms. Katzen also says these freeze well once cooked.

While messy, and not attractive, they had a great flavor, laced with onion, garlic, cumin, and chili powder. They were also crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, but they did fall apart. Not sure why – any ideas?

I served them on english muffins with guacamole and salad. I will post the guacamole recipe at the end of the week. I would definitely make these again and maybe form the bean mixture into more compact patties to help them keep from falling apart.

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tango sur a.k.a. lots of meat

Caution, vegetarian friends. This post contains lots of meat. Also, I did not make the cake pictured above.

Spending time with my sister in Chicago always revolves around food. Actually, spending time with my family in general revolves around food. Add a birthday, and food becomes more than the centerpiece – it becomes the focus… the tie that binds… the obsession.

My sister, Kristen, had a birthday this weekend and my family met at her home in Chicago for two+ days of celebrating. Her birthday wish was to eat at Tango Sur, an Argentinian steakhouse. Most of the menu items involve large portions of beef, with potatoes, either mashed or sliced into wedges and lightly fried, and a simple salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and onion with oil and vinegar. It was also BYOB and my family arrived prepared.

After waiting for an hour at a bar nearby for our table to open, we were seated at a dim, cozy, candle-lit table in the middle of a small, crowded room. The small waiters moved nimbly between tables, always ready with water or a corkscrew. We started the meal with one each of four different kinds of empanadas (chicken, beef, ham and cheese, and spinach), and provoleta – a melted provolone cheese dish. This was followed by our entrees.

Without really knowing what to order, I thought I heard the waiter recommend the Bife Angosto, a strip steak served with salad. It was delicious. My steak was flavored and cooked perfectly. The potatoes were tasty and made a nice accompaniment to the rich meat. Perhaps most delicious, however, was the chimichurri sauce that was served with the meat. It was complex, with oil, lots of garlic, and something green – probably parsley. I was happy with my meal.

Following, our waiter brought out a piece of custard-like dessert with a candle for Kristen.

He also brought out additional plates for the cake her lovely friend bought for her earlier in the day.

We did not leave much food behind…

It was a delicious, festive, birthday dinner. I think Kristen was pleased with her choice of restaurant.

And I will not be cooking any red meat for a while.

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