Lentil soup from Taste magazine

pantry-de puy lentils cropped IMG_1115

We all know that I’ve got a “thing” for lentil soups. Here’s the latest recipe added to my collection:  Lentil Soup with Sausage and Fennel.

(I’ve become a serious fan of Taste magazine, especially the cookbook recommendations and the great deals on ebooks.)

My pantry always contains Le Puy lentils; they are for anything made with lentils. This hearty soup is great in cold weather. But, now it’s starting to get warmer here, so it will soon be time to switch to lentil salads. The sausage doesn’t suggest a salad, but I think the fennel and lentils have possibilities for a salad–add some cheese…

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Another Beet Soup

Beets image from Swallowtail Garden seeds

beets

It’s no secret that I love beets, beet soups (cold or hot) and salads so any recipe for beets catches my eye, and may evoke some interesting gustatory imagery as well as an urge to run to the kitchen and cook.

Perusing my email this morning I found a recipe for a beet soup from Will Frolic for Food that sounded so intriguing that I just had to add it to the collection. I’ll confess to total ignorance about hemp hearts until reading this recipe, but I did note that they may be omitted if they don’t occupy a place in your pantry.

The list of ingredients really sparked my interest–lots of things that I have in my herb and spice collection, but that I hadn’t thought to combine with beets. And if you’re wondering I haven’t made this yet, but I’ve updated my grocery list for a few of the things that I need to make it–including the pink peppercorns for garnish.

 

 

Bouillabaisse–for one or two.

I’ve decided that one of the things that I should always have in my freezer is some good quality frozen fish.I like it packaged in individual servings so that I’m not trying to figure out what to do with the remains of a meal of fish. True, a bit of “leftover” baked, broiled, or even pan-fried fish can be turned into chowder…or tuna or salmon can be “re-purposed” into a salad. However, as much as I like fish, I’m not really into it as a leftover so it’s either get it from the fishmonger/supermarket, or in individual Cryovac packages. I do like variety in my fish so I usually check out the fish counter at my local Harris Teeter or The Fresh Market anytime I’m there–and if lucky, come home with something special like monkfish,  “manager’s special” tuna steaks, or wild-caught salmon. I do bring home the occasional tilapia (though with some thought to the downside of the farm-raised fish).

I love Chilean sea bass but that’s just not in the budget for everyday fish although my freezer does have some that I found at Costco. My favorite standby fish is cod. Firm, tasty white fish that lends itself to cooking in many different ways. Again, my favorite source is Costco.

I’m also fond of reading recipes–if only for inspiration rather than mindless to-the-letter following. Skulking through my inbox today I found an email from Bon Appétit that provided some interesting reading: recipes for cod–an interesting collection that all looked tasty.

One particularly caught my eye was poached cod with tomatoes and saffron–which brought to mind another cool-weather favorite that I don’t make all that often unless I’m making it for friends: bouillabaisse. Looking at this recipe made me wonder why I hadn’t made an effort to make mini-bouillabaisse for myself. It’s really just poached fish in a yummy tomato soup.

Though bouillabaisse typically has lots of different kinds of fish and seafood in it, I could certainly start with a single-serving size piece of cod and add a couple things. My Harris Teeter fishmonger is used to me ordering strange quantities, so probably wouldn’t bat an eye over two shrimp and a scallop–or maybe even a clam or two.

Taking this basic recipe for poached cod, I’d need to add a couple things to recreate the taste of the traditional bouillabaisse: most notably some fennel and pastis (licorice-flavored aperitif).

Mini-bouillabaisse

Ingredients

SERVINGS: 4
  • one 4-5 ounce skinless cod fillet
  • 2-3 shrimp
  • 1-2 scallops, clams, or muscles.
For the poaching liquid (from the Poached Cod with Saffron)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (with juice instead of adding water)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (keeping this instead of using  fish stock)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Adding for traditional bouillabaisse flavor:

  • scant 1/4 cup diced fennel
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons pastis/Pernod (season to taste)
  • 1/2 medium onion or 1 small leek

Preparation

  • Sauté leek and/or onion in olive oil until softened.
  • Add garlic and sauté until fragrant but not browned.
  • Add tomatoes, wine water, fennel, bay leaves, pepper, and salt and simmer 10 to 15 minutes to let flavors meld. Reduce to a bare simmer.
  • Add cod filet and about 3 minutes later add the shrimp, scallop, clams, or mussels and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes (until the shrimp begin to curl, the scallop is opaque, and clams or mussels open.

If you want to bulk this up for extra hungry people, add cubed potatoes while the soup base is simmering and cook until almost tender; then add fish and continue as above. There is more soup/sauce here than is needed for one serving. Put it in the freezer for the next time you want bouillabaisse for one–you’ll have a quick meal–even if it is only a fish filet without the extra seafood.

A rather traditional accompaniment to bouillabaisse rouille, a garlicky “mayonnaise” to dollop into your bowl but I don’t always make it. Bouillabaisse can be eaten without it.  My favorite is the version by Anthony Bourdain with the roasted red peppers, egg yolk, and lemon, and lots of garlic. My most often-used version of  rouille uses a mayonnaise base as it’s faster and easier (from Saveur). Traditionally this would be made with soaked breadcrumbs or egg yolk and  other ingredients into which olive oil is emulsified–like mayonnaise. The mayonnaise version is easier for single-serving, solo cooking. (If there’s any left over it’s good on a sandwich or with other meat since I don’t use the fish stock in it.)

Rouille (my version)

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic mashed to paste with pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a squeeze of lemon juice, to taste

Preparation

  • Blend garlic, paprika, saffron to a paste with a few drops of water if necessary.
  • Add to the mayonnaise
  • Add the squeeze of lemon juice to taste, and salt to taste.
  • Thin with a few drops of water if necessary.

 

 

 

Recipe for a dreary day

There are pros and cons of working freelance; however, one of the good things about it is that you can declare a “mental health” day when needed (within reason). Since I’m having a hiatus (but expecting incoming work so I know that I can’t do it again for a while, I’ve declared today a “duvet day: a mental health day in advance.

It’s not actually raining–merely drizzling so the patter of rain on the roof is missing, but it’s a duvet day!

Duvet Day

Ingredients

Take one chilly, dreary, drizzly, or rainy day and add as needed

  • One duvet
  • One cat (or more) or dog (or more)
  • Several good books of various genres  (hardcopy or digital, or both)*
  • PocketJuice for uninterrupted reader or tablet use**
  • Music to taste

Add sporadically throughout the day as required:

  • Tea (Harney & Sons) and toast***
  • More tea or herbal tea
  • Grilled cheese sandwich with soup of choice–chicken or tomato perhaps…. (sorry, not Campbell’s)****
  • Additional warm beverage as needed
  • Popcorn  (with truffle salt)*****
  • More books, as needed
  • Good bread, cheese, fruit, and wine for supper
  • Hot chocolate  (with a dollop of Jabberwock or Krupnikas), repeat as needed

Preparation

Combine as needed in desired quantities. A son gôut!

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*J. J. Salkeld is good–Lake country, non-bloody mysteries.

** external battery pack if you’re going digital. Large, heavy (as these devices go, usually used only for travel) but supplies a day’s worth of reading and keeping up with Facebook on a tablet,

***Coffee not applicable; get-up-and-go beverage not useful; favorite tea or herbal infusion

**** Progresso Hearty Tomato is easily turned into cream of tomato with just a dollop of heavy cream as you heat, but don’t let it boil

*****from Bull City Olive Oil (yummy, especially if a little olive oil is used to pop the corn)

O¿O

Beef and barley stew redux

The snow happened, and melted quite rapidly but with the temperature only reaching into the mid 40s, it’s still a good day for beef and barley stew. Just from browning the meat and the vegetables (including the garlic, tomato paste, and the Vegemite), it already smells like comfort food. I did opt to be lazy and finish cooking the stew in the oven (275ºF).

Now I’ve experienced the jar of Vegemite (Marmite wasn’t available at my local supermarket) although I’ve not gotten to the point of trying it spread on toast. I like the aroma from the jar–but that really didn’t come as any surprise because I already knew I liked the aroma of yeast-y thing: certain champagnes, bread dough….

The prep for this is really easy–most of the time spent browning the meat and vegetables but the hands-on work is still minimal, especially since I bought boneless short ribs, so chunking them up was quick and easy. To my dismay, I did find that I hadn’t any whole canned tomatoes–only diced, so diced was what I used.  I did “cheat” and use frozen chopped onions (probably my favorite “convenience” thing except for mirepoix (homemade and put in the freezer), and the kale will be from a bag as well. For now,  it’s time to wait, and anticipate!

Since I’m cooking this for only one person–and this half recipe should be two quite generous servings, I’m going to add the kale (frozen) to only what I’m going to eat today. Whether I decide to freeze half or simply reheat in a couple days, I’ll add the kale to that serving then so it not overcooked. That’s one of the advantages of frozen stuff when it comes to cooking for one.

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…Ò¿Ó…

…and finally, it’s time to eat! This is the first time for tomatoes in beef and barley stew, but I like it as an alternative to the more stripped down version that I usually do (read beef and barley with seasonings)–but I think I’ll try adapting mine by adding the extra umami sources and the kale but omitting the tomatoes. Beef and barley stew, for me, is a bit like lentil soup: you can never have too many variations.

I’ve not used short ribs often for stews, but in cooking for one when I don’t want to volume that I’d get with chuck, I think I’ll me using them more often–even though they are not really cheap, the have the advantage of being available in quantities suitable for single-serving, or two-serving, cooking.  Another adaptation that I’ll make is to increase the proportion of barley (and, obviously, the liquid) in my efforts to shift toward using less meat.

I suspect it would taste really good even without the Vegemite, but that jar of yeasty stuff is going to hang out with the fish sauce, anchovies, and soy sauce because it certainly is tasty with it.

This was a yummy meal for a chilly day!

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…Ò¿Ó…

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Spring is here?

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Mertensia virginicia

Here in NC it’s beginning to feel a lot like spring! The maple outside my house is well into bloom; on my deck there are Virginia bluebells or cowslip (Mertensia virginica) blooming, and other green shoots (including the sorrel) are starting to peek out of the ground.

The birds are acting like it’s springtime, too; the Pine, and the Yellow-rumped Warblers that suddenly appeared (just in time for the Great Backyard Bird Count) seem to have disappeared as quickly as they appeared, and as I write I’m listening to a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk calling close by . Other harbingers of spring, catalogs from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Brushy MountainBailey Bee Supply, and Dadent, have arrived, too (and I’ve ordered my package of bees to restart by beekeeping career).

I’ve been happily indexing with the doors and windows open on some days (like today) when the temperature rose into the 70s, and my cooking thoughts have turned to more spring-y things–like shad roe, fresh garden peas, and asparagus–instead of things like pot roast, chicken and dumplings that are so comforting in cold, winter weather. That was until I looked at the weather forecast this morning while I was imbibing my morning quota of caffeine. On my second cup of café au lait, doing my Facebook catch-up, I spotted a post from a friend about possible snow on Sunday–that’s right on 12 March 2017–after days of warm weather and blooming flowers!

Ever on the lookout for “fake” news these days, I pulled up the Weather Channel, and WRAL for local forecasts–sure enough–after daytime temperatures of 70 to 75ºF until Friday the forecast highs plummet to mid-40 to 50ºF for the weekend–and freezing (to below freezing) nighttime lows for the weekend and Monday. Yes, there were those cute little snowflakes in the graphics with the raindrops!  Here’s hoping that whatever we get, it’s not one of the infamous “ice storms” with freezing rain and all its complications.

That shifted my cooking thoughts in a rather abrupt manner: one last fling of winter food before we get to the kind of weather that makes me cringe at the thought of things like beef stew, pot roast, or beef and barley stew just because it hot and humid.

9780393081084Those specific things came to mind because I’ve just been reading  The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J.Kenji Lopez-Alt. Yes, food science with attached recipes (and experiments to demonstrate his points)–a good book to get you started with cooking by understanding the science (without too much science detail to bore you).

Considering that my freezer is already pretty well stocked with pot roast to get me through the damp, drizzly spring weather, I decided that wasn’t my option for my last winter cooking fling.

(So you’re asking why I’m doing one last bit of winter cooking instead of just pulling some pot roast out of the freezer? Well,  for me, part of the satisfaction of winter cooking is all about the the aroma of whatever is cooking in the oven (that’s also helping make the kitchen warm and cozy). It’s not all about putting stuff in the freezer for later although that’s good–it’s about the immediate experience, too. That’s what I mean by “comfort food”!).

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I’ve decided that I’ll try the recipe for Beef and Barley Stew. This may be the first time that I’ve ever used a recipe for it but this one looks interesting, and maybe, an improvement on my usual throw-together version. So–from The Food Lab (Kindle location 3875), here’s what I’m going to try (though I’ll adjust the quantities since it’s to serve only me–and the cat). The recipes in this book are very easy to follow–instructions complete, and the science explained before the recipe, thought it’s easy reading and not so tedious as some food science can be. The recipe below is a good example of what’s in this book.

Beef and Barley Stew

from The Food Lab (Kindle location 3875-3896)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, split in half lengthwise and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium stalks celery, split in half lengthwise, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Marmite
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated on a Microplane [grater/zester] (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
  • one 14-1/2 ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups loosely packed roughly torn kale leaves

Preparation/assembly

  1. Toss the short ribs in a large bowl with salt and pepper to coat. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over high heat until smoking. Add the beef and cook without moving it, until well browned on first side, about 5 minutes. Stir and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes total; reduce heat if necessary to keep from scorching. Return the meat to the bowl and set aside.
  2. Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the Marmite, soy sauce, garlic, and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the stock and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes, barley, and bay leaves, then return the beef to the pot, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce to the lowest possible heat and cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is completely tender and the barley is cooked through, about 2 hours.
  4. Stir in the kale and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, or, for best flavor, cool and refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 5 days before reheating and serving.

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Why did I decide to try this recipe? Well, in a word, umami. Good food is all about flavor–and I’m investigating an ingredient that I’ve never tried before: Marmite. I’ve read that it’s a love-or-hate thing with Marmite, but it’s supposed to enhance umami. I don’t think I’ll hate it–after all I’m not going to eat it straight, and I do use anchovies and nam pla (fish sauce) so why not try this one?

I’m not dissatisfied with my usual beef and barley stew or soup (which does contain most of the ingredients here except for tomatoes and Marmite), but I’m feeling adventurous–my ever-present curiosity about ingredients that I haven’t tried rears its head.

However, I’m thinking of one modification here–depending on my work schedule for Sunday. If an anticipated manuscript arrives for indexing, ending my hiatus of goofing off and spending quality time with the cat–meaning I’ll actually be working–the 2-hour cooking may take place in a slow (275 ºF) oven–with the lid slightly ajar as suggested in this recipe since it reduces the watching necessary with stove-top cooking; it’s usually my preferred method because it eliminates the possibility that I’ll get involved and not give the pot proper attention; nothing worse that a scorched pot to clean up–not to mention ruining good food!

There’s one other deviation that I’ll use with this recipe–because I’m only cooking for one and bunches of greens tend to be a bit overwhelming (read just too damn much of even a good thing), I’ll be getting my kale out of a freezer package (my usual  Stahlbush Island Farms chopped curly kale) so that I don’t have to deal with the excess. Since I’ve got a few “winter” veggies in the crisper that need to be used I’m planning  different vegetable sides for the week–something with rutabaga, and kohlrabi.

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Lamb Stew (Alentejo-style)

My bargain shopping got me a butterflied leg of lamb that was on special. Rather than roast it whole, I decided our chilly, grey, damp weather needed stew.

I cut the lamb leg into 3 cm cubes; I decided that I wanted some variety in my stews so since I had two pounds of lamb so all I needed to do was halve the recipes.Since I’ve not done much Iberian cookery I got out The Food of Spain & Portugal: The Complete Iberian Cuisine by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz (page 152).  

pimenton-de-la-veraThere are a lot of lamb stew recipes in this book. I finally made a decision based on seasonings that sounded interesting: garlic, parsley, pimenton de la vera (smoked), cayenne, and cloves. (The recipe only said “paprika”–which I’m sure would work fine, but I particularly like the smokiness of the pimenton de la vera, but I used the amount called for.)

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Carneiro à Alentejana

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 900 g (2 pounds), lean, boneless lamb, cut into 3.5 cm/1-1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil or lard
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 175 mL/ 3/4 cup dry white wine

Preparation

  • Mix garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the lamb to the garlic mixture and marinate about 2 hours. (I left mine overnight)
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil or lard and brown the lamb pieces all over.
  • Transfer lamb to a flameproof casserole.
  • In the remaining oil and sauté the onion until soft and add to the casserole.
  • Add paprika, cayenne, cloves to the casserole. (I like to “bloom” dry spices in oil before adding liquid so I added the paprika while sautéing the onions)
  • Bring to a simmer on the stovetop.
  • Cover and put in a moderate oven (180ºC/350ºF) and cook until the lamb is tender (about 1-1/2 hours).

The author recommends serving with a light red wine (red Vinho Verde or Dão, and notes that in Portugal meats are usually served with both potatoes and rice.

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I halved the recipe above and used the other pound of lamb to make my favorite lamb and cabbage stew (Fårikål) with the other half. I considered being very energy conscious and making both at the same time; however, my hedonism won and I made them on different days because I love to luxuriate in the aromas of cooking–that’s part of the anticipation and enjoyment of cooking and eating. I just didn’t think I would get to enjoy them in the same way if I were to cook both at the same time. I would have missed some of the pleasure of cooking had I done that. The smell (especially of the pimenton de la vera) was particularly appetizing.

The combination of the pimenton, cayenne, and clove was wonderful. I don’t often use the “sweeter” spices with meats but that little dash of clove has made me wonder why I haven’t used them more with meat. I need to broaden my perspective on the “appropriate” spices to use with meats.

The balance of the seasoning in this recipe (I didn’t change anything) was wonderful–just enough cayenne to give a little “burn” as you eat your way through a serving, but not every getting to the point where you felt as if you had blisters on your taste buds–and the clove didn’t smack you in the face either. All in all a very well-balanced seasoning. I’ll probably try this with lamb shoulder chops–even without cutting them up.

Oh, wine? Well since there was a bottle of my “house wine” already open, I used that–it’s one of the things I like about that wine: it’s very versatile. Rice? Potatoes? Nope–garbanzo beans.

There is one modification I think I’ll make next time–I’ll add more onions they were luscious after cooking with the lamb and seemed just right with the pimenton.