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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The Instant Pot cult

I admit that I’ve succumbed and now have an Instant Pot (IP).  I’m pleased with everything I’ve done in it so far, but I think I’m cognizant of what its capabilities are so I’m not going to ask it to do things that just aren’t realistic. I don’t expect the same results from a braise done in the Instant Pot as I would from a braise done in my Le Creuset enamel cast iron dutch oven over hours in the conventional oven, and to be perfectly frank, I’ll not quit doing braising in that conventional oven even though the results from the IP can be very good but definitely not the same.

I’ve been looking at cookbooks oriented to cooking with the instant pot–and I find that a lot of them need a healthy dollop of skepticism about what the IP should–not can–do. The IP is, after all, a kitchen tool. There is no such thing as one-tool-does-it-all. My expectations of the IP are based on what I know about the cooking environment inside that appliance–just as were my expectations of what my Krups multifunction cooker would do.

The article from Taste titled “Don’t Cook With an Instant Pot Just Because You Can”  (a discussion of Melissa Clark’s IP cookbook titled “Dinner in an Instant“) has that healthy bit of skepticism–no one tool does it all. The book confines itself to recipes which the IP does really well making it a good addition to the library if you are learning about an IP–it will help with a realistic expectation about what this kitchen tool does really well.

The other cookbooks that I’ve added to my library since acquiring the IP are “The Essential Instant Pot CookbookThe Essential Instant Pot Cookbook” by Coco Marante and “The Instant Pot Miracle” (authorised by Instant Pot). These two books provide a good introduction to the IP and to pressure cooking, as well as an array of recipes that have been tested in the IP.  So, good additions.

I guess my point in this ramble is that the IP is an expensive kitchen gadget and you don’t want to be disappointed and relegate it to a dusty corner somewhere to be with the “fry baby” that also never gets used. So far I think it is well worth the price so long as I have realistic expectations of what it does well.

I know that it’s not going to put out anything crispy or crunchy, and I haven’t really figured out why I’d want to use it to cook fish. I do like steaming some vegetables in it, and I love the way hard-cooked eggs peel when cooked in it. Rice was fine too, although I did mine with the pot-in-pot technique which is wonderful for cooking for one–so far a very happy addition to the kitchen!

 

 

Beans & Rice

This was a kitchen happening–not really a recipe with given quantities of anything–just because I wanted rice and beans. Everything is flexible, depending on your taste and how many servings you need. (I wanted to have some extra to put in the freezer for quick side to grilled meat.)

It’s SO hot here that cooking just isn’t very appealing even with air conditioning on. One of my solutions is to eat things can be prepared without turning on the stove. I did this in the Krups multi-function pot that I love and use in so many different ways. (Tomorrow I’ll be using it to make tuna confit since my supermarket had lovely tuna medallions on a really special sale. That will keep me in tuna for my summer salads for a bit.)

Black Beans & Rice with Chorizo

Ingredients

  • rice (about 1 cup)
  • olive oil (healthy dollop)
  • onions, chopped (lots)
  • black beans
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • canned diced tomatoes with green chilis
  • red pepper flakes (dash)
  • pimenton (dash)
  • Mexican oregano (good healthy pinch)
  • pork chorizo (about 1/2- to 3/4-pound fresh)
  • water or extra tomato juice/V8 juice as needed for the rice

Preparation

  • Sauté onions in olive oil until translucent and starting to soften
  • Add red pepper flakes, pimenton, oregano, salt and pepper and sauté until the spices are aromatic
  • Add chorizo and sauté until it starts to turn opaque
  • Add canned tomatoes
  • Add rice and black beans (canned or frozen)
  • cook until rice is tender

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It’s hot and humid here, and I was being particularly lazy, despite my desire for food so I did this in the multifunction pot. I did make this as easy as possible–frozen chopped onions, canned tomatoes, and frozen black beans (these from 13 Foods) but Stahlbush Island Farms also has black beans and brown rice that make a good starting place for this. The result with frozen legumes is much better than with canned, though those will work as well.

A note on the oregano–it was Mexican oregano which is definitely not the same as Greek or Turkish oregano. If you don’t have Mexican oregano, then I would substitute thyme or cilantro. I can’t get my head around the Greek or Italian with this mix of flavors.  The pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) adds a bit of smoky flavor.

I first measured my rice so that I’d know how much liquid needed to be added to have it cook to proper doneness. Everything else was added (as indicated) by the dash, dollop, or pinch.

The chorizo that I used was fresh, made in-store from my Harris-Teeter supermarket, and not in casings so all I had to do was break it up into the pot to sauté.  Couldn’t get any easier. If you can’t find “loose” then just remove from the casing, or put the whole sausages in to make this a meat-centric dish.

Everything was sautéed using the rice cooker setting with the lid open. Quite quick and easy although it does require a little attention. Once the tomatoes (with juice) and beans were added, with just a bit of spicy V8 juice to give enough liquid to cook the rice, the lid was closed, and I went away to do something else–until my meal was done. The caveat here is that you do need to be sure that the amount of liquid is appropriate for cooking the rice–too much and you’ll have “blown out”, mushy rice; too little and it will still be crunchy–you’ll need to add more liquid and continue to cook until tender.

Quantities and totally flexible–maybe you like more rice than beans–or the other way round. I love lots of onions, but if you don’t, then just don’t use many.  The proportion of chorizo depends on how meat hungry you are–it can vary too, from almost a seasoning to a lot. Next time I make this I will add just a bit more than I used this time, although it was quite good this way.

A son gôut!

Ò¿Ó

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.

õ¿õ

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.

Pheasant soup

Immediately after Christmas dinner, while I was still sipping my wine, I took care of the leftover pheasant. Since there was a carcass, there just had to be soup!

  • remove meat from the carcass when the meal is over,  refrigerate for later use
  • break up the carcass as much as possible
  • put in slow-cooker and flatten out as much as possible
  • add water to barely cover
  • add healthy pinch of salt
  • set for 6 hours–in other words, until morning
  • strain stock and put back in slow-cooker
  • add any leftover truffled au jus 
  • add a generous handful of barley and  generous handful of lentils
  • taste for salt and seasonings; add a dash of soy sauce and nam pla
  • add one pasilla chilli pepper, whole
  • add generous dash of herbs de Provence and/orle any other seasonings you wish
  • set slow-cooker for about 4 hours
  • when lentils and barley are tender, refrigerate or use immediately.
  • add pheasant meat to hot broth and reheat.

Now if you have leftover soup (from your first round of soup) and leftover cabbage and rutabaga from the side, and any remaining pheasant meat, add those and you have soup that’s a bit different for the final day of soup.

A son gôut!

Another lamb and garbanzo bean stew

Yesterday was the day for a trip to the supermarket–as usual dictated not by coupons but by me being low enough on milk that I was not going to be able to make enough caffè latte to get me awake and doing what I needed to do today. As usual, I didn’t go with preconceived notions of what I might bring home to cook.

I got my milk and eggs–just not possible to be out of eggs, but I was–and did my usual troll past the butcher counter. I found a manager’s special that was simply too good to pass up: lamb stew meat at a great price. Since my agenda today was mostly minor chores I thought I’d have time to cook, so I came home with lamb stew meat and actually remembered to soak (in brine) the garbanzo beans last night. You’re probably thinking so what?

Well, it’s fall and that makes me want to cook hearty stuff and lamb stew just seemed to be a really good idea: economical, tasty, some to go in the freezer for quick meals, and some to eat now. Unfortunately, the weather is not really cooperating–my thermometer is showing 82ºF right now–but at least it’s cooler in the evenings now so stew is not completely amiss. Still, so what?  Right?

Well, as I started my morning caffeination by browsing Facebook I was informed that I had memories from two years ago. Now I’m still not convinced the FB really cares about my memories, but the top item on the list was my post about making–yep!–lamb and garbanzo bean stew in the oven. Well, same today: it’s unseasonably warm again, but not too humid, and it’s sunny and breezy today so it’s oven rather than slow-cooker version this time. Since I did forget to soak the Romertopf  ahead of time, I just pulled out the Dutch oven instead.

I did look for recipes last night but didn’t really find anything inspiring, so today’s lamb stew was a “kitchen happening”–let’s just see what turns out. That two-year-ago lamb stew was an oven version of a slow cooker recipe. This year, given the weather I decided that I’d (again) do oven braising. (The slow-cooker version was good, but no way as good as the one done in the oven.)  I haven’t looked back to see what went with that version–all I really remember is that I used canned beans that time.

Oven-braised lamb and garbanzo stew (2016)

Ingredients

(I’m not giving much in the way of measurements here since this was a “kitchen happening”)

  • Lamb stew meat (about 3 pounds with some bones included)
  • Garbanzo beans (brined over-night)
  • Lots of onions (cheated and used frozen chopped ones)
  • Bay leaves–2 large
  • Salt about 1-1/2 teaspoons, give or take–will taste later
  • French thyme (dried)
  • Marjoram (dried)
  • Garlic powder (Oops–not a single head of garlic in the house!)
  • One 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes–drat, out of fire-roasted ones.
  • Smoked Spanish paprika
  • Olive oil as needed for browning lamb

Preparation

  • Brown stew meat (bones included; they will make good stock as the beans and lamb cook ).The bones are big enough to get out easily when the stew is done. Add to Dutch oven.
  • Saute onions until just golden, and add to Dutch oven with meat, beans, and tomatoes
  • Deglaze skillet with water and add to braising pot
  • Add  salt, herbs, and spices.
  • Bring to a simmer on the stove-top
  • Place in a 185ºF oven  and cook until beans and meat are tender–about 3 hours.

Ò¿Ó

Here I was, again, making this lovely stew in unseasonably warm weather but still cool enough to use the oven rather than the slow-cooker. Cooking my own garbanzo beans was well worth the thought and bit of effort that it took to soak them. Brining them seems to make them cook much more quickly. Leaving the bones in with the meat really gave a lot of lamb flavor–worth the effort of taking them out after the meat was done.

I love this combination of lamb and garbanzo beans–it seems that I’ve used different seasonings almost every time this “happens” in my kitchen, but it’s good every time! No recipe needed just season as you like…a son gôut!

 

Black bean pasta

I’ve had a long work week, which  ended  in frustration  this evening in–I’m hungry, but the planned meals just don’t DO it. After staring in the fridge for a while, and going back to take a few of those silly online quizzes, I still hadn’t the foggiest idea what I wanted to eat. More peering into cabinets (sardines–nope, tuna–NOT).

While skulking through the pantry, I realized that what I’d most likely cook were I not trying to be really serious about weight loss would be pasta.  Obviously, that won’t do–at least not pasta, as we most commonly think of it.

On my grocery rounds day before yesterday, I noticed that there was a new section of pasta displayed with lots of signage designed to attract attention–it was gluten-free pasta. I’m not gluten intolerant so I usually don’t pay attention to that (and I get really irritated when I see fruits and vegetables touted as gluten free–but I won’t go there now). As I stood perusing the boxes, I had a faint memory of a friend telling me that her grandchildren liked black bean pasta, so I read the ingredients list–and it was only black beans. I found that rather amazing, since so many gluten free products have potato starch or other things that are off limits to me right now. I succumbed–I bought a package of black bean pasta.

I stashed the black bean pasta (pasta?) in the pantry and went straight to  the Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary to look up pasta. I discovered that it was defined as “an alimentary paste in processed form”. While spaghetti was given in an example nothing was specified as to what the paste was made of.  Ok–it’s black bean pasta.

I spend a little time thinking about why I eat pasta. It’s because I like pasta. I like the different shapes, too. I like the flavor of pasta made from wheat, but there is a texture factor there as well. Maybe there is more than that–maybe there is something about twirling spaghetti or angel hair pasta around a fork to get it into my mouth–part of the process of eating that’s satisfying–more than just the flavor.

What I’d usually make is spaghetti aglio e olio–sorry, that just sounds better that plain olive oil and garlic–so I decided to give the black bean pasta a trial that way. I got out my favorite pasta-cooking gadget. For this to keep with the meal plan in some remote fashion, I needed to add some vegetables. Spinach!  I sautéd the and spinach in the olive oil and dumped it over my black bean pasta. (I know I had a bigger serving of carbohydrate than I should have, even though it was black bean pasta, but at least I had veggies with it.)

The result? A pleasant surprise! It was remarkably satisfying (maybe just because I was hungry); the texture was good though not quite like pasta made from wheat flour. It’s not overwhelmingly “beany” either. It was so satisfying that I had to think that there is more to my liking pasta than just the flavor. Would I rather have had “real” pasta? Yes, but this was good. Black bean pasta is not going to replace the traditional stuff made of durham wheat flour. It certainly beat trying to fake it with spaghetti squash (though I like that too, but it’s definitely NOT pasta–it’s a vegetable so don’t tell me to use it instead of spaghetti).

The final call? I’ll cook  pasta made from black beans again until I can have the traditional kind that we usually think about. I don’t know why I had this resistance to this as pasta since I like soba and rice noodles. It’s a good stand in for this meal plan. After eating that I find that there is also pasta made of chickpeas (garbanzo beans).  I’m sure I’ll find some other uses for it as well, and I’ll explore other “alimentary pastes” to add to the soba and cellophane noodles as well. But I’ll still want that plate of “real” spaghetti aglio e olio!

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