Monday, December 20, 2010

Pasta with Tuna-Tomato Sauce

[insert usual "It's been a while..." + applicable excuses/commentary] Whether I catch up with old recipes or not, onwards.

The pleasures of being at home on a winter weekday and cooking for myself were redoubled by a handful of fresh parsley and chives from the garden. This simple, loose recipe is perfect for such days; next time (perhaps even tomorrow) I'll add some carrots and celery, maybe some red pepper flakes or cayenne powder.
  • some pasta (I used enough penne to make 2 or so cups, cooked)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped (about 1 heaping tbsp.)
  • 1 five oz. can of tuna, drained
  • 1 12 oz. can of diced tomatoes, with their liquid.
  • salt and pepper to taste
Bring salted water to a boil. Cook pasta till done; drain and reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water, just in case.

Meanwhile, saute the onion in oil over medium heat till soft. Add the garlic; cook for a minute or so, till it's fragrant.

Add the tuna. Stir to mix, then add the tomatoes. Cool several minutes more, till the sauce is to your liking (I was too impatient to wait for the tomatoes to break down, which was fine - it was sharper than it would have otherwise been). Season to taste.

Add pasta and stir to combine, adding some pasta water if needed. Garnish with herbs (in this case chopped parsley and chives).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Herby Chicken Salad

In honor of this year's Opera in the Outfield, I scoured the internet and my cookbooks for something picnicky. This salad, which uses olive oil instead of mayonnaise and put our little herb garden to good use, was perfect - bright and delicious. Thanks again, Mark Bittman! My variation below:
  • 1.75 lb. chicken leg quarters (would be fine with pre-made chicken, too), cooked then meat shredded
  • 3-4 shallots (about 4 tbsp.), minced
  • 1/4 cup Kalamanta olives, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. lemon zest
  • 2/3 heaping cup mixed herbs (used mostly basil, with some parsley, chives and thyme), chopped
  • 3 tbsp. lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste (ended up using about 1/3 cup)
  • salt and pepper to taste
If you aren't using pre-made chicken, cook the meat any way you please. (I poached the legs in about 5 cups of water with onions, garlic, celery, carrots, peppercorns, salt and pepper, then reserved the broth for other uses). Shred the meat.

Mix the chicken, shallots, olives, and lemon zest. Add the herbs, lemon juice and olive oil and mix, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate till cold, then serve either as-is or over a bed of salad greens. (The leftovers were excellent with couscous the next day, too.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Seared Tuna with Greens and Ginger Dressing

John and I had no idea what we wanted for dinner. He got some lovely fish and salad greens at the market. The former was a really nice tuna steak, which he marinated in white whine, Bragg's and brown sugar; the latter we mixed with some onion and shaved carrots. When I got home, I was tasked with making the dressing, and decided on a ginger vinaigrette. Have since lost the bookmark, but I remember the proportions. The tang and sweetness of the dressing complemented the salad and perfectly-seared tuna wonderfully. Unfortunately I used some off corn oil, which tasted a bit plasticky, but more vinegar and ginger corrected it. Next time, veg oil for sure, and perhaps some experimentation with garlic and such.
  • 1 tbsp. ginger, finely grated
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix the first three ingredients till blended, then drizzle in the oil, whisking all the while, till emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve over greens and/or fish.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pasta with Sausage, Cream and Cheese

I was ready to have leftover  split pea soup (made with ham hocks, naturally) for dinner before I came across this recipe. John kindly bought ingredients, and we had a rich, flavorful dinner. Next time: more blue cheese (we could hardly taste it, even after tripling the amount in the recipe). This would also be a good one-pot meal with a bunch of spinach or other leafy greens added. Tweaked version below.
  • 8 oz. pasta
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 oz. sweet Italian sausage, cut into 1 in. lengths (6 oz. in original)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed basil, chopped (oregano in the original)
  • 1-1/2 oz. blue cheese (1/2 oz in the original)
  • 1/4 cup half and half (cream in the original)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated, for garnish  (a treat, as we didn't have Parmesan handy)
Bring lots of salted water to a boil and cook pasta till done. Reserve a half cup or so of pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and brown, about 5-10 minutes.

Add wine, turn to high, and reduce for about 2 minutes. Add herbs, blue cheese and cream, cooking till the cheese is melted and the liquid has begun to thicken.

Mix with the pasta, adding pasta water or additional cheese till a nice, saucy consistency has been reached. Serve, passing around Parmigiano-Reggiano/Parmesan to garnish.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mirepoix Tomato Sauce

Alright, not quite, since the proportions of onion, celery and carrot are equal. But it's a quick, simple sauce, straight out of Bittman, and its aromatic sweetness was the perfect counterpoint to the chicken breasts in ancho chile sauce that John made to go with it.
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 28 oz. can tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, celery and carrots and cook till tender, 5-10 minutes.

Crush the tomatoes and add them to the pot, with salt and pepper to taste. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook till the tomatoes break down and the mixture is saucy, about 10-25 minutes.

Serve over pasta or meat.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chicken and Potato Pesto Salad

I'm ashamed to admit that this was our first Nats game of the season, but hey - they blew out the Mets (Espinosa even hit a grand slam, I think the first I've seen in this park) and we had a delicious picnic lunch. Pesto recipe modified from der Bittman's. I've included the chicken cooking here, though ideally this would be made with leftovers.
  • 1.5 lbs. chicken thighs
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • salt to taste
  • 6 small potatoes, brushed (and peeled if you're so inclined) and cut into quarters
  • 2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tbsp. - will use more next time though)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped walnuts (will try more next time)
  • about 1/4 + 1/8 cup olive oil
  • salt to taste (I ended up using about a heaping 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
If you aren't using leftover chicken, cook the thighs in water to cover with  garlic, onion, peppercorns and salt. When done(30-40 mins.), put the chicken in a bowl to cool; remove skin and shred chicken. Reserve chicken broth.

Cut potatoes into chunks and cook in the broth till done but still firm (8-12 minutes).

Combine basil, garlic, walnuts, 1/4 cup olive oil and salt in food processor. Pulse till saucy. Add more oil as necessary (I ended up using just another 2 tbsp. or so). Add cheese.

Toss chicken, potatoes and pesto till coated evenly. Adjust seasoning, then refrigerate.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Roasted, Mashed Vegetables: Potatoes, Carrots and Garlic

Yes, I know it's not a very appetizing picture, but I was grumpy and hungry. And seriously, it tasted great.

I had a couple of teeth extracted last week, and am thankfully past the protein-shakes-and-pudding phase of things. Over the past few days, I've been eating a lot of chicken tinola (may (re)post my current favorite recipe later), mashed potatoes (courtesy of John) and sundry soft food. Yesterday, I found the idea for mashing roasted vegetables somewhere in a wisdom tooth extraction thread on the internet, and decided to try it. Simple, delicious, and definitely something to return to even after my mouth fully heals.
  • 2-4 tbsp. olive oil (not sure how much exactly - enough to coat the vegetables when tossed)
  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1-1/2 - 2 lb. potatoes, peeled if you want to peel them (I didn't) and chopped
  • 1-1/2 head garlic (about 10-12 cloves), peeled
  • 6 long sprigs thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
Combine vegetables, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper in a roasting pan, tossing till the vegetables are evenly coated.

Roast in an oven at 350 till vegetables are tender and easily pierced by a fork (1 - 1-1/2 hours).

Mash with a fork, ricer or whatever, adding butter and milk till desired consistency and richness is reached. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sauteed Green Beans, Filipino-Style

Had a big bag of green beans from the farmer's market and a super-cheap bunch of bacon ends ($1 for over a pound!), so I thought I'd make this favorite. Using canned shrimp instead of fresh made for a bit of a crumbly texture that wasn't unpleasant, though next time I'll try with fresh shrimp and a bit more patis or perhaps anchovy paste. Regardless, this turned out to be a good combination of fresh, green taste and porky richness. Never mind pancetta or regular bacon - for this dish, this stuff is the way to go!
  • 4-5 oz. bacon ends, chopped into small pieces (I used a mix of pure fatty pieces and some with some meat and skin on them)
  • one small onion, chopped (didn't have one, so substituted a shallot)
  • 3-4 plump garlic cloves, minced (about 2 heaping tbsp.)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped (used 1 small heirloom and 4-5 grape tomatoes)
  • 1  4.25 oz. can of tiny shrimp, drained
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. patis
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • about 1 or 1-1/2 lbs green beans, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup water or broth
Put chopped bacon ends in a pot with about 1/4-1/2 cup of water. Turn the heat to medium and cook till the water's gone and the fat's rendered, about 5-10 minutes. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.

Saute onion in the rendered fat till translucent, about 2-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook till it begins to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add tomato and cook till it becomes mushy, about 5-7 minutes. Add shrimp, sugar, fish sauce and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to mix everything evenly.

Add green beans and 1/2 cup water or broth. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook, covered, till beans are tender but not mushy (I like mine with a little bite left in them), about 7-10 minutes.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Spaghetti Squash "Pasta"

We finally got around to cooking the sole spaghetti squash we harvested a while back.

When we cut it in half, I was slightly disappointed not to see any noodly strands.

But once it was cooked through, the magic happened!

 Finished product looks just like pasta - albeit a bit shinier.

I'm glad those boxes of whole-wheat pasta cluttering up my pantry won't go bad. This is a wonderful, light but somehow meaty pasta substitute that goes really well with a basic tomato sauce. Even if our plant doesn't give us any more, I'll certainly be looking for these in the market. It was a light dinner for two, and could easily be a hearty meal for one.
  • 1 spaghetti squash (ours was barely 8 oz.)
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, minced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 heaping tbsp.)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 5-8 basil leaves, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese to taste, grated
Preheat oven to 350. Halve and seed squash. Lightly grease a baking sheet with about 1 tbsp. olive oil and place the squash on it, cut side down. Place in oven and bake till a fork pierces the squash with nearly no resistance (30-45 minutes). When done, remove from oven and let cool till you can handle them.

Meanwhile, put 2 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onions till soft, about 3 min., then add garlic and saute till fragrant, another 2-3 minutes.

Add tomatoes and let cook down till saucy, about 15-20 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Scrape squash halves out into bowls (note the awesome noodly shapes and texture). Top with tomato mixture, add chopped basil and grated cheese, mix then serve.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Quick and Easy: Cannellini Beans with Cheese

From today's Mr. Bento. So simple and easy, yet so good.
  • about 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 plump clove garlic (about 1 tbsp.), minced
  • 1/2 small onion (about 2 heaping tbsp.), minced
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme leaves (about 1/2 tsp.), pulled from stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 15.5 oz. can cannellini beans
  • Parmesan cheese to taste, grated (used about 2-3 tbsp.)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Drain the beans and rinse them.

Put the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Saute garlic and onions till onions are soft and translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add thyme and stir around.

Add beans and cook till they're hot, about 5 minutes. Turn heat to medium-low, then grate cheese into the pot. Stir and cook for a few minutes more, then turn off heat and cover.

Garnish with thyme and serve (in my case, I had it for lunch the next day over rice).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dill Vodka Bloody Mary

So we've discovered that dill vodka tastes wonderful - smooth, light and refreshing -  in a one-to-one vodka tonic. It also tastes really good in a Bloody Mary: sweetish under the V8 tang, but able to hold its own with enough hot sauce to keep heat on the lips and tongue after a swallow. I'll probably add a couple of drops less next time - enough to keep the heat but allow the vodka to shine through more. Based on this Algonquin Bloody Mary recipe, doubled and slightly tweaked:
  • 4 oz. dill vodka (recipe here)
  • 8 oz. low-sodium V8
  • juice of one small lime
  • 6 or so drops of SKU 1408 sauce (Xtreme)
  • pepper to taste (a couple of turns of the grinder)
Mix the vodka, V8, lime juice and hot sauce in a shaker over ice. Strain into a glass and season with pepper to taste.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pickle Day: Bread-and-Butter Pickles

No, I'm not yet out of vinegar. Yes, I am really looking forward to the next few days, when I get to start sampling. This is basically Alton Brown's recipe, but with spears and cipollini onions instead of rounds and standard onions. I also made a bonus jar of dill-infused vodka (not pictured). And I'm right now in the process of making things for Mr. Bento, so this is pretty much a Sunday of food win.

Pickle Day: Hard-Boiled Eggs

John has pickled hard-boiled eggs before, but with beets and far less heat. I wanted to try Lisey's version, which rocks the hot peppers, wasabi and umami-laden wakame , among other things. By neccessity, I had to substitute fresh banana peppers for jarred ones and severely lessen the amount of wasabi, but hopefully these will turn out well.
  • 12 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled (we had two casualties, and so only used 10 + a stray half-tomatillo)
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6 strips wakame
  • 4-6 leaves red cabbage, sliced
  • 4 hot banana peppers
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2-2/3 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. wasabi (used the tube kind)
  • 2 tbsp. + 1-1/2 tsp. pickling spice
Hard boil eggs (I use a simplified version of Julia Child's method - put in water, bring to boil, cover, remove from heat, let stand 17 minutes, put in ice bath for 2 minutes), then cool and peel them. Add to jars along with garlic, wakame and cabbage.

Bring vinegar, water, sugar, turmeric, salt, wasabi and pickling spice to a boil. Pour into jars, completely covering everything and leaving 1/2 inch room at the top.

Seal, cool, then refrigerate. Wait at least 72 hours.

Pickle Day: Tomatillos

Confession: I've ordered tomatillos from Peapod twice before. Each time, they ended up mouldering, unused, in the back of the fridge. This time, armed with this pickling recipe, I've finally used them. The raw ones taste wonderful, too - tart and firm; they remind me a bit of green mangoes. The urge to find some bagoong to have with them aside, here's the recipe I ended up using:
  • about 1 lb. tomatillos, quartered or cut into eighths
  • 1 cherry bomb pepper (no habaneros at the market)
  • 4 cloves garlic, whole
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cumin seed
  • 1-1/2 c. water
  • 1-1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
Put the tomatillos, garlic, pepper and cumin into a Mason jar.

Bring the water, vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil. Pour the hot liquid into the Mason jar, covering everything completely and leaving 1/2 inch space from the top of the jar.

Cover, let cool and refrigerate. Recipe says to let them stand for at least 24 hours, and that they should last for about a month.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Staple: Sausage and Couscous

I keep forgetting what an awesome summer food couscous is - quick, light, addition-friendly and especially good when cold. This is more a sample recipe than a base - just happens to be the one variant we had. A single box made three meals for two people: Saturday night dinner, with lamb sausages; Sunday brunch, with spicy longaniza and vinegar dipping sauce (pictured above); and Sunday snacks, with salami, while we waited in line for "One-Man Star Wars Trilogy" tickets. The lamb sausages were simply boiled; the longaniza, cooked in 1/4 cup of water till the liquid evaporated, then browned over low heat for 3-5 minutes in the rendered fat.
  • 1 box Near East plain couscous (one day I'll find and try cooking the real stuff)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 summer squash, halved and sliced thin
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp. lemon juice, to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a saucepan with a cover, add the olive oil to two cups of water and bring to a boil. Add couscous, mix, cover and set aside, off the heat. (I actually added the squash at this point as well, because I wanted it slightly softened but not cooked.)
When couscous is cooked (about 5-7 minutes), mix with scallions, squash (or whatever other vegetables and/or nuts you're using). Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Infusion: Dill Vodka

Wanted something light and cool for summer cocktails, hence this. Basically: 750 ml (a bit more in this case, as I nearly filled the jar) of Svedka and a heaping packed cup of dill (about 1/2 of a generous bunch from the farmer's market). Spent a happy 10 minutes stripping the  fronds from the stems and enjoying both the delicate, feathery texture and the intoxicatingly springlike smell. Will check on it tonight and see if it's ready.

UPDATE (17 July): Strained it into another container after six days. Perfect in a one-to-one vodka tonic: dilly and refreshing. This will become one of my go-to summer drinks; I've already bought another bunch of dill.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Egg Salad with Dill

Given that I've been craving cold summer salads and the dill has been bolting, egg salad seemed a natural. At first, the proportions in this recipe, which I halved, seemed much too saucy. So, I asked John to bring home two more hard-boiled eggs, mixed those into the dish, and all was good. My version, with tweaks, below:
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
  • heaping 1/4 cup red onion, chopped, plus more for garnish if desired
  • heaping 1/6 cup dill (though some found the original proportions too much, I love this herb and actually increased the amount)
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/8 cup sour cream (seriously, don't skip this - adds a wonderful rich tang)
  • 1/8 cup Dijon mustard (Grey Poupon country-style worked very well, as the seeds added texture)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Put the eggs, red onion and dill in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream and mustard. Add to the egg mix, toss, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Refrigerate for a few hours or serve warm with bread or crackers.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Quick Black Beans And My New Favorite Salad

While neither of these recipes are terribly complex, I do want to make a record of them - especially since the salad and variations of it are already a staple in Mr. Bento.

Quick Black Beans
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1-2 heaping tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large or 1 small onion, diced
  • a 15 oz. can of black beans
  • 1-2 tsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  • sour cream
Put the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and saute till they soften, 3-5 minutes.

Drain some, but not all of the liquid from the black beans. Add beans and leftover liquid to pot. Season with cumin and cook, stirring occasionally, till warmed through and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste, mixing thoroughly to incorporate. Remove from heat. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over rice with sour cream.

Quick Summer Salad with Feta
  • big handful of spring mix
  • 1-2 tbsp. chopped onion
  • 2-3 tbsp. crumbled feta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon wedge
Combine veggies, top with cheese, season to taste. Squeeze lemon over everything and mix before eating.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tonight's Fried Rice

After a two-day hiatus, I decided to close out the work week with another Mr. Bento and get rid of some leftovers. Recipe's vague and of course proportions and ingredients can be not just tweaked but turned topsy-turvy. Love how the scapes add green bean texture and a subtle, garlicky tang to it.

  • 3 tbsp. neutral oil (peanut this time)
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and diced
  • 4 garlic scapes, bulbs and ends removed, chopped
  • 3-4 cups old, cold rice, de-clumpified with a fork or your hands
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce, plus more to taste

Put a skillet or wok on medium-high heat; add the oil and wait till it makes things sizzle.

Add onion; cook, stirring, till beginning to turn translucent, about 1-2 min.

Add carrot and scapes; cook, stirring, till they begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes.

Add rice. Cook, stirring, till it's heated through. Add soy sauce and stir to mix.

Adjust seasonings, remove from heat and serve (or pack for lunch).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Garlic Scape Soup

Though I was fighting off yet another illness, in between naps I managed to make some of this creamy (even without the optional dairy), flavorful and comforting soup. Remind me to consider unpeeled russets in future soups and stews -- the skins add welcome texture to the dish, and contrast nicely with the scapes. And the smell  of scapes sauteing in olive oil is a wonder - garlicy and yet with a snappy freshness reminiscent of green beans or grass. Original recipe here - halved and tweaked version below.

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 14 garlic scapes, chopped and with bulbs removed
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1/2 in. dice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (used Swanson this time) + about 1/3 cup water
  • 1 handful baby spinach leaves (about 2 cups)
  • juice of 1/4 lemon
  • salt to taste (since the broth was heavily salted)
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/8 cup heavy cream (optional - skipped in this case)

Place the oil in a pot; turn the heat to medium. Add the scapes and saute till they start to ever so slightly brown, 2-4 minutes.

Add the potatoes and liquid. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer till the potatoes are cooked through but not mushy (20-30 minutes).
Remove from  heat, then add the spinach. Blend if you want to (I prefer chunky soups, so I didn't), then season with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lemongrass-Braised Chicken with Garlic Scapes

Originally I had planned to follow the Bittman recipe exactly (but halving it). But, when I realized the lemongrass from our garden was way too small and only imparted the barest hint of flavor to the braising chicken, I added a couple of garlic scapes (first time I've ever cooked with them - I bought almost a pound, so more recipes will follow) and a smidge more of soy sauce. Tasted not-quite-lemongrassy but still good when served with rice, cilantro (also from the garden) and lime juice.

The garlic scapes turned out tasty and almost-crunchy, though one or two bits were too tough. Will have to experiment with the cooking time - will also have to try this recipe again, sans scapes, with mature lemongrass.
  • 1+1/2 tbsp. neutral oil (used corn)
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, halved and smashed (used 5 very thin ones - not quite enough)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 chicken thighs, skin-on
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 garlic scapes, cut into 2-inch lengths
  •  2-3 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
  • lime wedges
 Put oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the lemongrass and cook till it grows fragrant, about 2 minutes. Salt and pepper the chicken.

Turn the heat to medium and add the chicken thighs, skin side down. Cover and cook till nearly done, about 20-30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes or so and basting with a bit of soy sauce.

Add the garlic scapes. Cook for another 10 minutes or so.

Remove from heat. Garnish with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dinner Salad

Summer is salad and leftover-using time, all at once - and without the need to turn on the stove. This particular one (of two) consisted of two big handfuls of leaves from our obliging Parris Island lettuce plants, a handful of baby arugula from the market (our sole plant didn't quite have enough to contribute), maybe 1/4 cup of chopped red onion, 1/3 cup chopped tomato (half a large one, seeded), a can of Matiz sardines and some lemon vinaigrette (courtesy of John).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lamb Shanks Cooked in Yogurt

Was craving a hearty stew and something light at the same time, so this minty recipe, found in Bittman's Best Recipes in the World (thank you, Norah and Jeff!), seemed like a decent compromise. The title's perhaps a bit misleading, as the yogurt is added during the last few minutes of cooking, but this turned out wonderfully. Used slightly less meat and more garlic (surprise) than the recipe called for, but it turned out wonderfully - rich and yet with a tangy lightness from the yogurt and the mint (fresh from our garden patch); when the dill comes in, I'll use that in a variant of this dish. Served it with couscous and chives (also fresh from outside).
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 meaty lamb shanks (3.2 lbs)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 25 or so garlic cloves (2 heads), peeled
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 quart yogurt (used full-fat Greek)
  • 1-2 tsp. minced garlic (used two fat cloves)
  • chopped fresh mint leaves for garnish (used about 1.5 tbsp. per serving)
Put olive oil in a deep pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Wait for a minute, then add the lamb shanks. Brown well, turning as necessary and sprinkling the meat with salt and pepper as it browns (about 10 min.).  Action shot below:

When meat is browned, add whole garlic cloves. Cook for another minute or two, then add the onions. Stir to distribute everything evenly, turn the heat to low, and cover. Cook gently, checking to make sure the mixture doesn't dry out - add water or stock in half-cup increments if it does (mine had plenty of fluid from both the meat and the onions).

Cook till the lamb is quite tender, about 1.5-2 hours (more like 2 hours for me).

Thin the cornstarch with two tbsp. of water, then stir into yogurt along with the minced garlic. Then stir this mixture into the pot with the lamb. Simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes (I went about 10, but that's partially because I was preparing couscous). Adjust seasoning, then garnish with the fresh herbs and serve.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Simple Chicken Soup (Nilagang Manok)

This simple but nourishing soup (pictured at the noon and 3 o'clock marks) served as a light dinner for two people fighting off a bug, a breakfast and three days of lunch. A few splashes of salty, savory fish sauce make it sing, so make sure you have your favorite (nuoc mam, patis, whatever) on hand.

My [vegetable] mise en place, let me show you it

The recipe can vary widely depending on  your mood and what you have on hand (for example, I replaced the traditional cabbage with baby bok choy); the following  is just what went into this particular iteration. I forgot to separate and weigh the potatoes and green beans (which came with a tomato in a farmer's market grab bag), so all measurements are approximate.

  • 2-2.5 lbs. chicken thighs (five plump ones in this case)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/2 head garlic, cloves peeled and smashed (about 7 fat cloves)
  • 3 young onions, sliced, with greens washed and tied together
  • 1-1.5 tsp. salt
  • 5-6 young potatoes,  quartered
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled and chunked
  • 10-12 oz. green beans, sliced
  • 6 baby bok choy, stems and leaves separated and roughly chopped
  • salt to taste
  • patis to taste (I like about a tbsp. per small bowl)
Put the chicken, water, garlic, onions and onion greens in a large pot. Bring to a boil then simmer till chicken's fairly well cooked but not yet done, about 20 mins. Remove greens and discard.

Add salt, potatoes and carrots. Cook till the vegetables start to soften, about 7-10 minutes. Add green beans and bok choy stems; cook till beans are becoming tender, but still have a bite to them (about 5-7 minutes).

Taste and adjust seasoning. Add baby bok choy leaves, cover and remove from heat. Serve with rice and patis on the side.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

On Repeat: Mockquavit

In preparation for more seedlings, we decided to thin out the wall of mint in our shared front garden (a full pictoral account of our minty day is here). What to do with a heaping bowlful of the stuff? Infuse alcohol, of course. I basically doubled this recipe (minus 3/4 cup of vodka or so) and am now looking forward to enjoying some of this nice, fresh, mellowness over ice in about three weeks.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chicken with Onions and Summer Squash

Clockwise from top: cheese and chocolate, salad, chicken with onions and squash, rice
It's been a busy couple of weeks, so I've barely cooked or packed lunch (or even noted down the recipes when I have, hence the lack of a lentil soup post from last week). We went to the market after getting back from my sister's on Sunday, and I made up a huge batch of take-to-work stew based on Bittmans' "Chicken with Onions." Couldn't resist the summer squashes at the market, so bought a few to add and made a few more tweaks, as noted below.

Things I will do differently next time:
  1. Brown the chicken beforehand. It's still tasty, but would have been even better with some help from the Maillard reaction.
  2. Onions and summer squash release a lot of liquid. No need to add more liquid to the recipe unless you feel like soup.
  3. Add the squash 20 minutes before the chicken's done. Had a brain fart and put it in right after the chicken, with predictable overcooking results. 
 Ingredients and procedure are below.
  • 3-4 lbs. chicken (about 6 big legs in this case)
  • 1 cup flour (if browning - otherwise, no need)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 medium-sized onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water, stock or white wine (used sake, as I didn't feel like opening the last bottle of Breaux vigionier)
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 medium summer squash, sliced into 1/2-in. rounds
If not browning the chicken, skip this step. Separate the legs and thighs, then pat dry. Coat in flour then brown in the oil over medium-high heat, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove chicken from heat, reserve, and pour off all but a tablespoon of oil.

Saute onions in oil till soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute till fragrant, another 1-2 minutes. Add thyme and stir.

Add liquid, summer squash and chicken to pot; add . Bring to a boil, cover then cook over medium-low heat till chicken is done (about 20 minutes if browned, longer if not).

Monday, April 19, 2010


The dish so nice I packed it twice - pictured here with the rest of today's bento: rice and a spinach-red onion salad with homemade red wine-Dijon mustard vinaigrette.

I was hankering for some home cooking, and so created a riff on this recipe. Alas, the butcher stand was out of goat, but I made do with what was left of the stew lamb and some beef to make up the difference. Turned out wonderfully - rich and umami-filled from the long-simmered meat and soy sauce, tangy from the vinegar and tomato sauce, and just a tad sweet from the vegetables. Next time, I'll probably add another bell pepper, more peas and carrot; I'll also add some garlic during the vegetable sauteing process and remember to use either liver pate or the liverwurst we had in the fridge.
  • 2 lbs. stew meat, cubed  (I used 1-1/2 lb. lamb and 1/2 lb. lean beef and cut it into 1 to 1-1/2 in. pieces)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 heaping cup garlic, minced (most of a plump head)
  • 2-3 tbsp. oil (I used peanut)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 heaping cup)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 1-1/2 medium carrots, chunked (about 1-1/2 to 2 cups)
  • 1-1-1/2 lbs. potatoes, chunked (about 3 heaping cups)
  • 1 cup peas (frozen were fine)
  • 1 small can liver pate (couldn't find any, alas, so skipped this)
Marinate the meat in the soy, vinegar and garlic for at least an hour. Pat the meat dry (forgot to do this) and put in a bowl; reserve the marinade.

Put the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown the meat briefly, in batches (got about halfway through this and raised a decent amount of fond despite the added moisture from the marinade). Remove from pot and set aside.

Add more oil if necessary. Saute the onion and bell pepper till onion is translucent, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce and simmer till slightly reduced, about 3-5 minutes.

Return meat to pot. Add reserved marinade and water or broth. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, till meat is tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Add carrots, potatoes and peas. Simmer till vegetables are tender, about 30-45 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir pate (next time!) into dish. Adjust seasoning and serve over white rice.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dinner: Pasta with Butter and Chives + Peas with Olive Oil and Mint

A quick, light dinner, made even tastier with the addition of fresh herbs from the garden. John made the peas (from this recipe), while I made the pasta - they were ready at about the same time. The dish was one of my grad school go-tos, but having fresh chives instead of dried makes a lovely difference.

Pasta with Butter and Chives
  • 12 oz. pasta (used a box of tricolor rotini)
  • 2 tbsp. butter, or more to taste
  • about 1/3 cup chopped chives (a healthy handful from our flourishing plant)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta till al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Add butter, chives and salt and pepper to taste (be generous!). Mix well and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Overlooked: Cucumber-Infused Vodka!

I blame our recently-concluded conference for my forgetting to post this recipe and pic. The above is about a heaping cup of peeled English cuke in 750-800ml of Svedka vodka. Though a few recipes advocated letting it sit for a mere four days, I waited a week and a half, and was rewarded with a cool, gentle, almost bite-less concoction. It's lovely over rocks or chilled by itself, but I'd like to think up some recipes for it. John's already put up another two jars, this time with more cucumber. We'll see how those turn out.

Happy spring, everyone!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

On Repeat: Vietnamese Cabbage Salad

Not a new recipe, but one that I suspect we'll be making a lot this year - especially for taking to the baseball stadium. We just had some for dinner while watching the Yankees-BoSox season opener. More to the point, it looks yummy, and I hadn't yet posted a picture of it. Recipe here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

From the Garden: Pasta with Wild Onions and Chives

So simple and yet so good. Cut a fat handful of wild onions from the garden, added 10-12 chive stalks from John's plant (raw materials pictured here), sauteed them in butter, added some leftover pasta, then seasoned with salt and pepper. Next time, I'll saute them more - till they're meltingly tender versus a bit al dente. Nonetheless, the dish made a yummy and satisfying afternoon snack for two.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Split Pea Soup

Time has leaped forward and spring is sproinging, but I was in the mood for split pea soup nonetheless. On the advice of one of the Canales butchers, I made sure to procure smoked ham hocks for it - and I think that's made a delicious difference, at least compared to the soup mixes I used to settle for. My recipe's mostly based on this one, albeit with less oil, less water and more aromatics; it also took far longer to cook on my finicky stove (I regret losing the bones for the last half hour, for example). It's a good, solidly-flavored soup, with a lovely smoky depth from the hock (though I only used water, not stock); next time I'll probably add some garlic, keep the bones in the entire time, and start experimenting with spices.
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil (could probably make do with less)
  • 1-1/2 c. onion, diced (one huge one)
  • 3/4 c. celery, diced (about 3 thinnish stalks)
  • 3/4 c. carrot, diced (about 1-1/2 medium ones)
  • 1-1/2 lb. smoked ham hock
  • 1 lb. split peas, rinsed and picked over
  • 6-8 cups water or broth (used 6)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onion till beginning to soften, about 2-5 minutes. Add the celery and carrot; saute till they grow aromatic - another 2-5 minutes.

Add the ham hock (recipe says to score it but I'm not sure why, except perhaps for ease of meat removal later - and it didn't seem to make that much of a difference, convenience-wise), peas and water. Bring to a boil then simmer, uncovered, till peas are almost but not quite disintegrated - recipe says about an hour, took nearly two on my stove.

(Note: Some like to puree some or all of the soup; I prefer as-is slight chunkiness.) Remove the ham hock and let it cool. Season the soup to your liking. Remove the meat from the ham hock, shred it, and use it as garnish for the soup.

NOTE (20 March): The above picture was taken maybe 30 minutes-1 hour before the soup was actually done the way I like it - almost thick enough to be a stew.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mackerel Simmered in Soy Sauce

Another first - cooking with mackerel, which is one of my favorite fishes (especially in sushi). Bittman's recipe was simple, easy and flavorful - perfect over white rice with a side dish of butter-sauteed enoki and a bottle of Jennifer's Jamabalaya. Recipe, with a couple of tweaks, reproduced below.

UPDATE, 8 Jan 2010: Doubled this recipe, skipping the water and using mirin instead of the sake and sugar. Also tasted wonderful.
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sake
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8-9 thin slices ginger, peeled
  • zest of 1 lemon, grated (about 1 loose, heaping tbsp.)
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 skin-on mackerel fillets, 1-1.5 lbs.
  • 1-2 scallions, chopped
 In a skillet large enough to hold all the fish fillets in one layer, mix the soy sauce, sake, sugar, rice vinegar, water, ginger, lemon and garlic. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Put the fish in the skillet, skin-side down. Simmer till done (when the fish is opaque, about 7-10 minutes).

Serve on a plate with white rice and some of the sauce, garnished with scallions.

Getting to Know You: Enoki

The corner store recently revamped and expanded its veggie section. Though I have yet to visit, John brought me proof of the change in the shape of a 7 oz. bag of enoki (which, surprisingly, comes bagged with its roots intact). While most of the recipes produced by a quick Google search used them raw in salads or as soup garnishes, I thought I'd give them the standard mushroom treatment first: saute with butter and shallots. They turned out well, crunchy and flavorful, like umami-filled bean sprouts, with a sweet richness from the other ingredients. With a bit of salt and black pepper, they were a very good side dish for the soy-braised mackerel and rice we had for dinner.
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium shallot, diced (about 3 tbsp.)
  • 7.05 oz. enoki, trimmed about 2 in. above the root and separated
Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and saute till soft, about 3-5 minutes.

Add enoki. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cook, stirring often, till slightly softened but still crunchy (about 5 minutes on my stove). Season to taste and serve hot or warm.

Butter-Braised Leeks

A quick but hearty post-gym dinner. Followed this Bittman-based recipe, substituting 1/2 cup of water for the tomatoes and reducing the resultant liquid quite a bit. Delicious with buttery couscous and tangy-sweet tomatoes - also reminded me why leeks are one of my favorite things.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Leek, Potato and Mushroom Soup

The soup that keeps on giving - just finished the last bit today, but it's featured in two other packed lunches this week and a few meals at home besides. The recipe is courtesy of the talented Flit, who I encountered via the Mr. Bento Flickr pool; my halved and tweaked version is below. My first attempt turned out extremely tasty, though a bit watery, partially because I had more stock than expected. Next time, I'll lessen the amount of liquid (and probably reduce what I do use a bit more beforehand); I'll probably also keep the increased leek and carrot proportions and cut down the dairy a bit.
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 large leeks, white and pale green parts, sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 8 oz. mushrooms
  • 2 russet potatoes, diced (about 2. cups)
  • 5-6 cups chicken stock (homemade this time - next time I'll use less and reduce what I do use)
  • 1 tsp. dry dill
  • 1 tsp. dry thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half (will try less, maybe 1/2 cup next time)
Over medium or medium-low heat, sprinkle the leeks and carrots with salt and sweat in the butter till soft, but not colored (around 5-10 min.).

Add mushrooms, potatoes, black pepper, dill, thyme and bay leaf; then add enough broth to cover by 1-2 inches. Simmer till potatoes are tender (around 20-30 min.).

Remove from heat. Stir in half-and-half.

If possible, let sit a few hours/overnight, then reheat before eating.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Slow-Cooked Green Beans 2

The market was beautiful last Sunday, and the bags-of-mixed-veg lady ($4 per instead of her usual $3, alas, though she hopes to have the prices back down soon) had irresistible green beans and Brussels sprouts for sale.This recipe is a riff on the one in both Bittmans - just increased the amount of onion and tomato, added garlic and seasoned with fish sauce at the end.

NOTE: Apparently, I have cooked this before. While that version is good, I'm ok with the double-post because of the picture and the patis variant.
  • 1.75 lbs. green beans, trimmed
  • 1-1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1-1/2 cup tomato, chopped (mine was a mix of hand-crushed and diced)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water, plus more if needed
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • at least 1 tsp. fish sauce (patis)
Combine everything in a large pot and bring to a boil. Cover tightly and cook over medium-low heat for at least one hour, checking every 15 minues and adding a couple of tablespoons of water if necessary.

When the beans are very tender and the liquid is gone (didn't wait quite that long in this case - they were falling apart and creamy-tender about 1-1/2 hour in), they're ready. Season with fish sauce to taste.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chicken Adobo (4) with Livers

This latest in the adobo chronicles is a fairly mellow, but flavorful and rich (perhaps partially because of the chicken livers) version. The base recipe comes via Burnt Lumpia (who adapted it from Steamy Kitchen); I merely fiddled with some proportions and added the livers. Next time I may try crushing the garlic instead (which gives me discrete cloves to nibble on or smash into the rice) and adding gizzards (balunbalunan in Tagalog; grandma used to put an extra helping in her adobo for me).
  • about 3 lbs. chicken (4 leg quarters in this case)
  • 1/2 lb. chicken livers
  • 2/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 6-8 cloves garlic (minced or smashed, as you prefer)
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Marinate for at least two hours.

Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer till chicken is done (about 20-30 minutes).

Remove chicken from pot and reserve. Bring heat to high and reduce the sauce, stirring often, till it thickens to desired consistency (I was getting hungry, and so stopped after about five minutes - perhaps halfway to almost-thick-enough-to-coat-the-back-of-a-spoon. Tasted fine, though.)

Pat the chicken pieces dry, then place them skin-side-up on a baking sheet or in a cast-iron skillet. Place under a broiler and broil till the skin is crisp, about 2-4 minutes.

Serve with white rice, pouring sauce over everything.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

During a business trip to San Antonio in 2008, I was struck by a mighty cough and cold. Though enervated and mostly voiceless throughout, I managed to stick it through, sustained in no small part by multiple daily helpings of flavorful, nutritious chicken tortilla soup from Sazo's. The recipe below is adapted from their own - it turned out to be a rich, comforting soup with just the right amount of heat, though I skipped the cheese and fried tortilla strips, and despite a rather makeshift broth. (The chicken parts I was planning to use for stock had spoiled, and I didn't have any good canned broth available, so I made do with 4 cups water, two cubes of Telma veggie boullion and a cheesecloth-wrapped bundle of chopped onion, 6 cloves of crushed garlic, 1/2 tsp. of black peppercorns and a smattering of dried thyme. Simmered all that for 20 minutes, squeezed all the juices out of the bundle - the resultant broth turned out quite tasty - then proceeded with the recipe.)
  • 4 cups chicken stock 
  • 2 chicken breasts (originally 3, but I made do with what the little bodega had)
  • 2 cups tomatoes, seeded and diced (used canned Muir Glen; original called for 3 large tomatoes)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced (originally a white one)
  • 1 cup salsa - Jardine's 7J Ranch Texasalsa, Hot (originally 2 cups of picante sauce)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • guacamole to taste (used this recipe)
  • fried tortilla strips (skipped this time)
  • cheese to taste (skipped this time - may use a mixture of cheddar and Monterey Jack next time)
Place chicken and stock in a pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer till chicken is done, about 15 minutes (when it reaches 160 degrees). Remove chicken from liquid and reserve.

Add tomatoes, onion, salsa/picante sauce, salt, pepper and cumin to liquid. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Dice cooked chicken and add to liquid. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Adjust seasoning if necessary, then add cilantro.

Cut tortillas into strips and fry till crispy. To serve, place tortilla strips, a generous scoop of guacamole, and grated cheese in a bowl, then ladle soup over everything.

Guac It to Me!

I had never made guacamole before - but I'm feeling poorly again, and have been craving some chicken tortilla soup that requires it for a garnish. A slight modification of Alton Brown's recipe (to fit the contents of my pantry) produced something rich and flavorful, more than capable of standing on its own.
  • 1 avocado, seeded and peeled
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
  • 1/4 large red onion, diced
  • 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced (used about 2/3 cup of canned Muir Glens)
  • 1 tbsp. cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
Combine avocado and lime juice in a nonreactive bowl. When avocado is coated, drain and reserve any leftover juice.

Add salt, cumin and cayenne; mix and mash together (used two forks).

Add red onion, tomato, cilantro and garlic. Mix and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Add reserved lime juice (if any - there wasn't any for me). Let sit at room temperature for an hour, then serve.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Spicy Lentil Soup

With the tinola gone and Snowpocalypse 2: Electric Boogalo imminent, my thoughts turned once again to soup. This is a hopped-up version of a Bittman recipe, with more than double the amount of ginger and garlic. It's also, thus far, a flavorful soup - earthy from the lentils and cumin, sharp from the ginger and cilantro, a bit hot from the cayenne - and, above all, comforting on this cold evenkng. When I started chopping the cilantro, the grassy tang that filled my nostrils was a welcome moment of spring in the winter evening.
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (didn't have this, so skipped it this time)
  • 6 cups broth or water
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 heaping cup)
  • 1-2 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. ginger, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped tomato (I used canned and added the juices to the lentil cooking liquid)
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
Put lentils, carrots and celery (if you have it) in a pot with the liquid. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer till the lentils are soft (about 30-40 minutes).

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a skillet over medium-low (or medium if you have my cantankerous stovetop) heat. Add the onion and ginger and saute till the onion's soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook till that softens too, about 2-3 minutes more.

Add the cilantro, tomatoes, cayenne pepper and cumin. Stir, then keep on low heat. When lentils are ready, add the tomato mixture to the lentils.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Blessed Are The Cheesemakers

In the post-snowpocalypse lull, we finally got to try out Kate's wonderful Christmas present - a DIY goat cheese kit. Thanks are also due to Bradley, who procured goat's milk from a Whole Foods near his workplace.


First, we sterilized the various implements by boiling them in water for 5 minutes.

While waiting, we dissolved a teaspoon of citric acid in 1/4 cup of water.

Once the sterilizing was done, we improvised a double boiler and started heating the milk till it was foamy and steamy (180-190 degrees F), stirring often - well, in my case, pretty much constantly - to prevent scorching. This coincided with the Who's halftime show, which the stirring person was able to see most of via reflection in a painting frame.

Once it reached the desired temperature and began foaming, we drizzled in the citric acid solution and, following the dirctions, stirred for 10-15 seconds till we saw some subtle curding.


Yeah, I wasn't sure if I those counted as curds, but John convinced me to trust the recipe.Then we removed the pot from the heat and continued to stir, adding a bit more citric acid, till the whey turned a very pale shade of yellow-green instead of staying whitish.

Then we poured the curds and whey (along came no spider, thankfully) into a cloth-lined colander. My trepidations regarding what I wasn't quite sure counted as valid curds were relieved, at this point, when they formed into something very much cheese-like.


Since this was the first batch, we decided not to get fancy with herbs and/or additional seasonings, and just see how it turned out. After another 5-10 minutes of draining, it was time to shape!

We pressed about half the cheese into the provided molds,


and shaped the other half into a rough wheel.  (Note the jar of expired homemade pickles weighting the cheese down.)


After an hour in the fridge - congratulations, Saints! -

it was ready to sample.

It turned out well, too - creamy and mild, though perhaps a bit less tangy than one might be used to. Now that the basics of a system are in place, though, we can't wait to experiment some more - especially since that kit promises to make nine more batches. Thanks again, Kate!

UPDATE: Below: the baby cheeses!