Thursday, December 31, 2009

Moong dal

We visited Jon's family in Rhode Island and New York for Christmas, and we got back a couple days ago. I made this for lunch yesterday before we went grocery shopping. It's mostly pantry staples for us, and it came together very easily. The basic idea is from Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Sumana Ray, but I have modified the directions. She has you cook the lentils for over an hour, which I find unnecessary. It's a warming, beautifully spiced soup. I leave the whole spices in because as it sits they contribute more and more to the flavor. The cardamom pods can be eaten whole if they've been sitting in the soup for a while. They'll give you a nice burst of freshness.

Moong dal

1 cup split beans (I used a combination of urid dal and split mung beans, or moong dal)
5 cups water
2 chopped tomatoes or 2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil
1/4 cup diced onion
2 bay leaves
4 cardamom pods
1 inch stick cinnamon
3/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 dried chiles, cut in half if you want a hotter soup

Place beans and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that forms. Add the tomatoes, salt, turmeric, and ground cumin and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until beans are done, about 15 minutes. While you're waiting, you can prepare the rest of the ingredients. In a small saute pan, heat the ghee or oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 4 minutes or until soft and slightly translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients and let sizzle for about a minute. Remove from heat. When the beans are done, add the ghee and spices to the lentils and stir to combine.

Inspiration pizza

A couple weeks ago, we got home late and hungry with very little food in the house. (We were even out of parmesan-the horror!) I felt like a Chopped! contestant. We had a beer pizza crust in the fridge from a couple days before. There were also some green beans that needed to be used. I marinated them in a mixture of lemon and tangerine juice with some black pepper, smoked paprika, and chopped garlic while I rolled out the pizza dough and assembled the rest of the ingredients. I spread some extra-virgin olive oil on the dough, followed that with a hearty helping of jarred pesto. I dotted the top with sun-dried tomatoes and layered the green beans on top. I wasn't sure that the feta would be good on the pizza, so I only put it on half of it. I put it in the oven at 375 and cooked it for about 12 minutes. I sprinkled on some pine nuts and then cooked it for another few minutes. It wasn't bad at all. If I decide to make green bean pizza in the future, I will chop them smaller, but other than that it pretty much worked. The leftover green bean marinade was a nice drizzle for the top. I was impressed by my kitchen ingenuity.
I'm thinking about doing a Chopped-style weird ingredient challenge every once in a while. My idea is that Jon and I each come up with two ingredients and then we each make a dish that has all four. It's dorky, but we don't have TV or internet at home, so how else are we supposed to entertain ourselves? If these challenges ever materialize, I'll post them here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Clementine Negroni

This gorgeous red-orange drink was in the December issue of Bon Appetit, and it looked so good that I even bought Campari so I could try it. It has a decent amount of sweetness from the juice, but it doesn't taste very sweet because it's balanced by the bitterness of Campari. Jon made it for me for the first time a couple weeks ago after I had a long day. I got to sit at the table doing my crossword puzzle and sipping a negroni while watching him cook me a great dinner. It is a charmed life sometimes.

Clementine Negroni
This could make two drinks, but Jon usually pours the whole thing into one glass, and I drink it slowly.

3 clementines or tangerines, peeled, or about 1/2 cup orange juice
3 dashes orange bitters or other bitters, optional
1/4 cup gin
1/4 cup Campari
3 tbsp sweet vermouth
Ice cubes
Clementine slices for garnish, optional

Muddle clementines and orange bitters in a cocktail shaker until clementines are broken down. Add alcohols and fill shaker 3/4 full with ice cubes. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. Strain into one or two martini glasses if you have them (wine glasses for us). Garnish with clementine slices if you're fancy like that.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Edamame soup

In honor of two friends visiting from San Antonio, I had people over last night for dinner. I decided to serve three soups, a salad, and homemade bread for a simple, cozy supper. The three soups I chose were butternut squash, beet, and this edamame soup. They are three of my favorite soups, and I thought they went together well. They are all pureed soups focused on a single vegetable, and the colors contrast nicely. Jon made an excellent salad, and I made some rye crescent rolls for the first time. The rolls burned slightly on the bottom, but they were still pretty good.

I had forgotten that one of our honored guests avoids dairy, but I was pleased to realize that our menu was already dairy-free, so we didn't have to change anything. It was a good reminder to me that it is very easy to make vegan soups that are flavor-packed and don't leave people feeling deprived. It was one of the easiest dinners I have had. I needed to make sure to put the ingredients in the bread machine early enough to get the rolls done on time, but other than that, I just dawdled around sipping wine and preparing three easy soups. The soups stayed warm for a while, and everyone seemed to like at least one of them. We had a total of about 2 cups of soup leftover at the end, and the salad and bread were both completely gone.

I got this soup recipe from 101 Cookbooks. Her recipe includes creme fraiche, but I have always just omitted it. I forgot to take a picture of this, but the one at the top of her page is a lot better than mine would have been anyway. This soup is very simple, and you really get the edamame flavor shining through. The potato thickens it and makes it hearty enough for a meal. Several times I have started to make the soup only to realize that I don't have as much edamame in the freezer as I thought. No worries, I just throw in some frozen lima beans or green peas to whatever edamame I have, and it's still delicious.

Edamame soup
You don't need to worry about dicing the onion or potato very small because they will be pureed. The smaller you dice them, the less time the soup has to cook, but it's not very time-intensive anyway.

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 quart vegetable broth
1 1/2 lbs. frozen edamame
salt to taste
chopped peanuts, optional
toasted sesame oil, optional

Saute the onion and potatoes in the oil for a few minutes, stirring often to prevent the potatoes from sticking. Pour in the broth and edamame. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are done, about 20 minutes. Puree in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Adjust salt or just let people do it at the table. Garnish with chopped peanuts and toasted sesame oil if desired.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sweet potato soup

I got the idea for this recipe from the inside of a Dannon yogurt container foil, but the foil accidentally got thrown away before I made the soup, so I had to wing it on the amounts of everything. Sweet potatoes were only $0.19/lb the week before Thanksgiving, so I bought a ton of them, and this soup was a very comforting, tasty way to use some of them.

Sweet potato soup

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chili powder (by which I mean the spice blend containing cumin, oregano, and ground chiles)
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 10 oz each), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 qt vegetable broth
Pumpkin or squash seeds for garnish, optional
Yogurt for garnish, optional

Saute the onion in the oil until translucent. Sprinkle spices on top and saute another 30 seconds. Add sweet potatoes and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, or until sweet potato is soft. Use an immersion blender to make it nice and smooth, or process it in batches in a food processor or blender. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and yogurt if desired.
Stirring the yogurt into the soup yields beautiful patterns and reminds me of a scene in "Arcadia."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Unresolved raspberry-rhubarb pie

This past Saturday was the annual Houston Sacred Harp singing. (You can read about Sacred Harp at this website.) It was snowy all day Friday, so I spent most of the day inside cooking in preparation. (Part of the Sacred Harp tradition is serving dinner on the ground to guests who have come from out of town.) This is one of the dishes I contributed. Since I had a little crust left over after putting it in the bottom of the pan, I made a treble clef and some shape notes (explained on the Sacred Harp website) out of the extra and put it on the top. I think of rhubarb as a spring or summer pie, but I had a bag of frozen rhubarb and remnants of a couple bags of frozen raspberries in my freezer, so I didn't have to go out and buy anything to make this pie. And I got a bonus of extra room in my freezer. This pie recipe won third place and "most creative" in a Pi Day pie contest last March. I made it up because one bag of rhubarb isn't quite enough fruit for the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook rhubarb pie recipe, and I happened to have just enough raspberries in the freezer to round out the volume the first time I made it.

I call this pie unresolved because the notes I have on it, "fa, sol, la, mi" are the equivalent of "F, G, A, B" in C major, hence an unresolved leading tone. For the record, I did made two fa's, but only one would fit on the pie, and if I went down to the next line, I'd have to make another clef for it to make any sense. I didn't think about the fact that I could put the fa at the end and get "G, A, B, C" and a lovely resolution. And yes, I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about this. It's what I do.

Raspberry-rhubarb pie
1 pound frozen rhubarb (about 4 cups)
2 cups frozen raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 pie crust, made with either all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
splash of milk
tiny amount of sugar

Place fruit in a large bowl. Let stand for about 45 minutes, or until icy but not frozen. (During this time, you can make your pie crust if you haven't already.) Stir in sugar and flour.
Place pie crust in pie dish. Trim any overhanging edges and cut them into fun shapes if you want. Pour fruit mixture into pie crust. Arrange fun shapes on top. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar for extra beauty and crunch.
To prevent the edges from burning, place aluminum foil around the edges. Bake at 375 for about 50 minutes. (If using fresh fruit, only bake for 25 minutes.) Remove foil and bake for another 20-30 minutes, or until filling is bubbling at the edges and crust is golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Spiced Butternut with Amaretto

I had more squash than I needed for the bread pudding on Thanksgiving, so I made this up to use the extra. I like the combination of squash and Indian spices, and I added the amaretto to enhance the sweetness and give it some liquid for steaming. I ate mine on a bed of kale, but Jon preferred it on its own. He said some very nice things about it. "I can imagine getting this in an Indian restaurant and commenting about how the spices are interesting without being overpowering and how difficult that is to do at home. I really like it." I felt like a brilliant culinary goddess.

Spiced butternut with amaretto

1 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 tsp garam masala
3 tbsp amaretto (or white wine or apple juice)
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the squash and let sit for about two minutes without stirring to try to develop a little browning. Add the onion and stir. Saute for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the garam masala over the top and stir to combine. Add the amaretto all at once and quickly put the lid on the pot for maximum steaming. Turn down the heat to medium-low and let steam for about ten minutes or until squash is soft enough for you. Stir once or twice during this time. Remove from heat, and add salt to taste at the table.