Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spiced Lentils with Mushrooms and Chard

The first time I made this dish I was deep in the throws of a nasty head cold, and it was a blessing since it didn't require any fancy knife work, and packed a good punch of sinus-clearing flavor.  The recipe is from last month's Food and Wine, and the first time I made it, since my sense of taste wasn't picking up subtleties, I made the recipe as is.  It was good, and Matt inhaled it (always a good sign!) but today I tweaked the recipe a bit, made it less watery, more focused in flavor by stepping things up a bit, and used white button mushrooms instead of shiitakes, because, well...they taste good and are a heck of a lot cheaper, especially when bought loose.  This dish is insanely healthy, so if you want to eat a ton of it and turn the below recipe into 2 servings, knock yourself out.

Although it may seem like an optional condiment, the sriracha as a finishing touch really brings this dish together with a sweet, puckery spiciness.  The picture is of my serving, so just a few dots of sriracha on mine, but Matt's looked like lattice work, with long lines of sriracha stretching across the bowl.  The only wild card here in terms of how fast the meal is on the table, is how fast your lentils cook, which can vary depending on age.  The older the lentils, the longer they take to cook.  Also, if you have to entertain vegan people and non-vegan people simultaneously, this dish will make everyone happy.  If you aren't entertaining vegan people, toss a poached or fried egg on top to gild the lily.  If you aren't light eaters, definitely add the egg, and some nice bread on the side too.  Maybe a rye with some sharp cheddar along with it...but I digress....

Serves 4 modest meal-sized servings (and makes great leftovers!)


  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 pound mushrooms (white button, shiitake, crimini or mixture) stems removed, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • a few (and then a few again) grinds fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 medium bunch chard (green or red or rainbow), stems and ribs removed, cut into ribbons
  • Sriracha
  • Put lentils and bay leaf in small pot, cover with a couple inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat very low and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender.  This will take 20 to 40 minutes, so start testing after 20 minutes so you don't overcook them.
  • Meanwhile, prep the mushrooms and chard (this is what makes the dish quick, if your lentils cooperate and cook quickly).
  • In your widest saute pan with sides, or big pot with a wide bottom, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, sprinkle on a couple big pinches of kosher salt, and cook, stirring regularly, until all the liquid is thrown from the mushrooms, and most, but not all liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are tender.
  • Add garlic and spices and cook for a minute or so, stirring.
  • Add chard ribbons, and stir into mushroom mixture, until wilted. (depending on how big your pan is, you may need to add the chard in handfuls, stir it down, then add another handful and so on).
  • Drain lentils, discard bay leaf, and add lentils to chard and mushroom mixture.
  • Serve with sriracha at the table.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup with Roasted Garlic

Are you craving a super silky incredibly flavorful soup?  Something that welcomes you back in from shoveling the driveway from another snowstorm?  Looking for a bright and cheery way to illuminate the long dark days of winter?  I give you:  Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup with Roasted Garlic.  I love pureed vegetable soups that are healthy, full of intense flavor, and velvety, silky, or creamy (but without any cream!).  Being winter, butternut squash soups are all over food blogs and magazines.  Matt is crazy about sweet potatoes and I had some rosemary and sage leftover from yesterday's veal stew with mushrooms (a Marcella Hazan recipe) and a half a butternut squash from last week's crispy chicken with golden raisin and butternut squash compote from Food and Wine Magazine.  I also still had one quart left of vegetable stock in the freezer, so this was a no-brainer today!

You will need:
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 TBS olive oil or butter (I prefer butter, but olive oil will work, and it is healthier!)
  • 2 medium onions, diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 pound butternut squash (half of one medium squash), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 3 small/medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh sage, with two or three leaves
  • 1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • kosher salt
What you will do:
  • Heat a cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium heat.
  • Place garlic cloves in dry pan and pan roast, turning regularly, until cloves are soft and very fragrant, they will likely get a few black spots.
  • Remove garlic cloves from pan and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed 4 qt pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add onion and a few pinches of salt, lower heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent.
  • Add squash and sweet potato to pot, and sweat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes
  • Add stock, rosemary and sage sprigs.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer soup for about 15 to 25 minutes, or until squash and sweet potato are very tender.
  • Remove pot from heat and remove rosemary and sage sprigs, discard.
  • Peel roasted garlic, removing any burned parts and tough stems.
  • Place garlic and soup into a food processor (you may need to do this in batches if your processor is less than 12 cups capacity, alternatively, use an immersion blender in your pot).
  • Process until silky smooth.
  • Season with black pepper and salt to taste, a couple grinds and a pinch at a time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Tuna Salad Sandwich

I know, I know.  What's so exciting about tuna salad?  Well, usually, not a lot, but with this tuna salad, you'll be singing a new song!  Modified from the filling for Roasted Pepper Tuna Rolls from Lidia Bastianich, this has fast become a favorite to make, even if I'm not making the pepper rolls.

In the past I've made tuna melts with a tuna salad including water packed tuna, celery, shallots and lemon juice.  And I love the classic flavors in that, but THIS tuna salad needs no melty cheese to make you swoon.  What mustard you use in this salad is very important, so pick wisely and select something multidimensional.  I like to use Raye's Wintergarden Mustard, which has a touch of dill and garlic in a mellow, but flavorful medium brown mustard. While you are eating this tuna salad, it is soooo good, that you plan to make it again for lunch the next day, before you finish eating the sandwich in front of you.  If you make a double batch, this keeps excellently in the fridge for a week, easily.

For two large sandwiches~

With a fork, mix together in order, until a few small chunks of tuna remain, but the salad is mostly uniform
  • 1- 5 ounce can of oil-packed tuna, well drained and flaked into pieces
  • scant TBS capers, drained, rinsed, and finely chopped
  • 1/2 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TBS Mayonnaise
  • generous 1/2 TBS mustard
  • 2 TBS chopped parsley
  • a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
Serve up on a baguette or a ciabatta roll.  Along with all his other bread recipes, I'm especially crazy about Jim Lahey's stecca recipe for sandwich bread, which is the nicely browned half-stick of "baguette" in the picture, sprinkled with a little Maine Sea Salt.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mixed Chile Chicken Enchiladas

The sauce used in these enchiladas has unfathomable depth.  I'm talking rich layer upon rich layer, insane amounts of flavor.  Using half New Mexico chiles and half Guajillo chiles, you arrive at a sauce bearing a bright, tip of the tongue, tantalizing introduction, followed up by a dark, eye-roll inducing, earthy, smoky relationship.  The perfect sauce.  The recipe is my slight modification of a Rick Bayless recipe.  I knew I wanted to fill the enchiladas with chicken (tons of shredded chicken in the freezer!), but I had to kick up the chicken a touch, in order that it would stand up flavor-wise to this amazing, taste-bud party, extravaganza of a sauce.  A little onion and cilantro with the chicken and cheese, and ecco, the perfect filling.  These make great leftovers, so be sure to make the whole recipe, even if there are only a couple of you!

Makes 4 to 8 servings of 2 to 4 enchiladas each

For the sauce:

  • 6 garlic cloves, skin on
  • 2 ounces dried New Mexico Chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut open
  • 2 ounces dried Guajillo Chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut open
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 cups broth (preferably homemade, chicken or vegetable)
  • 1 1/2 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Heat a dry cast iron pan to medium heat, place garlic cloves in pan and dry toast for about 15 or 20 minutes, turning a few times, until soft, fragrant and blackened in spots.  Set aside to cool, remove skins, and roughly chop.
  • Using same cast iron, toast chiles a couple seconds per side, pressing down with a potato masher, then add to a bowl of hot water.  Continue toasting all chiles until done.  Then let chiles sit in hot water for 30 minutes, and then drain chiles, discard liquid.
  • Put chiles, garlic, spices and 2/3 cup of broth into food processor (or blender).  Process until you get a smooth puree (you'll have to scrape down the sides a few times).
  • With a rubber spatula, work puree through a size to remove any bits of skin or seeds.
  • In a medium or large heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium heat until a sprinkle of water sizzles.
  • Add puree and cook, stirring constantly for about 5- 10 minutes to let sauce cook and reduce (it will darken).  Taste after 5 minutes, if raw taste of chile is gone, you're all set, if not, continue to cook.
  • Add remaining broth, set heat to low and simmer sauce for at least 30 minutes, until the consistency of cream soup.  This will take 30 to 60 minutes, depending on your pot and your stove.  If you've been simmering for 30 minutes and the sauce is too thick, add a little more broth.
For Enchiladas
  • One large onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 pound shredded chicken
  • 2 TBS chopped cilantro (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 pound monterey jack cheese, shredded (or grated on the large holes of a box grater)
  • 16 taco-size tortillas (corn or flour)
  • Heat oven to 350.
  • Heat olive oil over medium- high heat, add onion and salt.  Drop heat to low
  • Cook onion slowly, until translucent, but still with a bit of texture.
  • Take pan off of heat.
  • Mix in chicken, cilantro and two-thirds of the cheese.  Divide in half, and then those sections in half again, and then again and again.  This way you can "eyeball" a 1/16 of the filling for each enchilada
  • In a baking dish, ladle enough sauce to lightly cover the bottom (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup)
  • Heat tortillas (in oven or microwave) until pliable.
  • Fill each tortilla with 1/16 of the mixture and roll tightly.  Place seam side down in baking dish.
  • Continue with all tortillas and then cover with remaining sauce.
  • Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.  (At this point, you can put enchiladas in the fridge to be baked off later in the day, or the following day).
  • Cover dish with aluminum foil, and place in oven for 30 minutes.
  • Remove foil and continue cooking for 10 minutes
  • Let enchiladas cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Sprinkle cilantro on top and serve.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sweet Sriracha Wings

Chicken wings were on sale at Whole Foods today, so I thought I'd buy some and surprise Matt with a fun dinner.  We shared a pound and a half of wings for dinner.  That's it.  Probably should have eaten a salad too, but time!  I put together this recipe after a little research into other non-fried chicken wings.  Matt said that the desired crispiness of fried wings was there, and I agreed.  Matt (who is the champion kitchen cleaner around here) also liked something else about these wings other than the mind blowingly awesome flavor, crisp outside and juicy inside: super easy clean up!  If you don't like my sauce suggestion below, you could always just toss the wings in some buffalo sauce and call it a day as well.

So, it is a little late to make these for today's big Pats game day, but since I'm sure they'll be playing next week...plan ahead accordingly! :)

The following recipe makes enough for two very hungry adults not eating anything else (except maybe a salad, to you know, balance things out).

For the wings:

  • 1 1/2 pounds wings (if the wing is still attached to the drumstick, separate, although often you can buy wingettes and drumettes together, already separated) 
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (or 1 tsp of your favorite chili powder blend
  • Preheat oven to 450
  • Put flour, salt, pepper and paprika in a large ziplock bag and shake to mix.  
  • Add wings. 
  • Close bag and shake to coat wings all over with seasoned flour.
  • Cover rimmed baking sheet with foil (this is the easy cleanup part!) and lightly oil with olive or vegetable oil
  • Place wings on foil-lined baking sheet, drizzle or spray a little oil atop each wing
  • Place in oven for 45 minutes until browned and crispy.
  • Turn wings at 30 minute mark and 15 minute mark.
For sauce:
  • 2 TBS unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 TBS jalapeƱo jelly (or other hot pepper jelly, like an apricot-habanero), melted (careful melting this in a microwave, it melts within about 10 seconds)
  • 2 TBS Sriracha
To prepare wings to serve:
  • Put sauce ingredients in a large bowl, whisk to combine
  • Add wings, hot from the oven
  • Toss to coat wings in sauce thoroughly
  • Consume whilst making mmmm noises and marveling that you don't have 3 quarts of oil to clean up, or a pan to scrub or anything more than washing a bowl and a couple plates....

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fried Pickles

This is a favorite treat of Matt's and it only takes about 30 minutes to assemble and cook.  And if you happen to be the proud owner of stylin' fry baskets (like we are thanks to my cousin Aurelia), you can also make this treat extra festive on a random day.  If you happen to keep panko bread crumbs around your cabinet, this treat also can be made with what you have in your fridge and cabinets.  For our fried pickles, I use pickles made by my mother; specifically, dill cucumber spear pickles and spicy dill bean pickles (the skinny ones in the photo are the dill beans).  But you can use any pickles, preferably in a stick/spear/wedge shape.  I've tried frying pickle chips, but the centers get soggy almost immediately after getting out of the oil.  If you have whole cucumber pickles, just slice into spears or halves before frying.  You can eat them plain (as I like to do) or dip them in your favorite dressing or dip (Matt dips them in blue cheese dip, quelle surprise).

The process is pretty simple.  Line up 3 pie plates/cake pans, or similarly shaped vessels.  In first vessel put seasoned flour (see below).  In second vessel beat a couple eggs together until uniform.  In third vessel, place panko bread crumbs.

First, blot off extra brine from pickles, but do not blot completely dry.  Dredge pickles in flour, shake off excess flour.  Coat pickles in beaten egg.  Coat pickles in panko.  Place on a plate to ready for frying.

Heat 1 1/2" of canola or peanut oil in a deep saute pan over medium heat.  Using a deep fat or candy thermometer, heat oil to 350 degrees.  Do not touch tip of thermometer to sides of bottom of pan when taking temperature reading, or your reading will be off.  Gently place a few pickles into oil and fry for 30 to 60 seconds, using chopsticks to move pickles around and flip over if necessary.  When they reach desired deep brown color, remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels on a cooling rack placed over baking sheet.  Only fry a few pickles (3 to 6 depending on size of pickles and size of pan) at a time, if you add too many, you will crowd the pan and the pickles won't cook properly.  Since you aren't "cooking" the pickles, remove as soon as they are browned nicely, and they'll be perfect.

For the seasoned flour, mix together the following ingredients with a fork:
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground chipotle

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Masala Chickpea Stew with Bacon

Invented this chickpea stew for lunch today.  Most of the spices are Indian, so I'm calling it a masala. I only made enough for the two of us, in case we didn't like how it came out, and that was unwise. Below is what I'll make in the future to give us leftovers. This is the sort of dish that you know will taste ten times better the next day. You could leave the bacon out and make this vegetarian, but the dish leans toward the sweet side, so the smoky salty addition is nice. Also, unless you are a vegetarian, it is less than an ounce of bacon per serving, so that's not too unhealthy (or so I keep telling myself). I liked mine with a dollop of greek yogurt, Matt preferred his without.  But don't forget the squeeze of lime!

Makes 4 servings


  • 3 ounces bacon, diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 small/medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/8" half moons
  • 2  fat cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp ground chipotle
  • 1 28-ounce can, diced tomatoes, preferably fire roasted
  • 2 TBS chopped cilantro
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • lime wedges, for finishing
  • In a 4 qt. heavy bottomed sauce pan, render out bacon over medium heat until crispy.  Remove bacon and set aside.
  • Add onion and carrot to pot and cook over medium low heat, stirring regularly until onions start to brown and carrots start to soften.
  • Add spices and garlic, stir in pot for about a minute, toasting spices.
  • Deglaze pan with a few TBS of water.
  • Add can of tomatoes, including liquid.
  • Bring sauce to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and stir in cilantro
  • When sauce begins to thicken, add chickpeas.
  • Stirring regularly, continue simmering until most liquid is evaporated and chickpeas are warmed through
  • Sprinkle bacon over top, and serve with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Artichoke Tapenade

Made from ingredients you probably have in your fridge and pantry, this tapenade is an impressive and easy appetizer to toss together.  Inspired by a Mario Batali recipe, what I like about this tapenade, is the ease of ingredient access.  Sure, you could seek out super fancy and expensive olives for this.  And if you do, enjoy!  The type of olive you choose for a tapenade certainly will make your tapenade different from another's.  At some point, I might like to try to make this with picholines, a favorite green olive of mine.  However, I have found that sourcing picholines can be tricky.  I usually only see them as part of an olive medley, or they have already been seasoned a flavored beyond their sweet, slightly woody delicate flavor.

Anyways, the olives I used for this are your basic jarred green olives.  I used Sicilian ones from Pastene, but look in that section of the grocery store and you'll see Sicilian, Queen, Manzanilla from various brands.  All will work here and are very affordable.  To pit the olives, use the heel of your palm to squish the olives hard, so that the flesh comes loose from the pit.

It is very important to squeeze the artichoke hearts to remove as much liquid as possible.  Just put them in your fist and squeeze.  Otherwise you will have soupy tapenade.

Ingredients- makes 2 cups of tapenade
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained, then squeezed well of all excess liquid.
  • 1 cup of pitted green olives
  • 1/2 TBS capers, drained and rinsed very well
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 4-5 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • Put all ingredients into food processor and buzz until mostly smooth
  • With food processor running, pour in olive oil slowly until desired tapenade texture is achieved 
Serve on baguette toasts or water crackers.  You can also take a few tablespoons and blend into softened goat cheese for a yummy fun spread.

Vegetable Stock

I run out of homemade chicken stock very quickly.  One batch of risotto, a couple soups and sauces, and poof! It's gone.  Although I'll used boxed or canned stock when I run out, I don't really like to.  I'd have to roast a chicken every week to get enough stock, especially in the winter when I'm making stews and soups and such.  And since I only buy sustainable, humanely raised, not-cheap chicken, I only do roast a chicken about once, maybe twice a month in the very dark months of winter.  Also, sometimes I cook for vegetarians, and having vegetable stock around for soups is needed, and every time I needed vegetable stock I would buy a box of it.  Of which, the Imagine low sodium vegetable broth isn't bad.  But it isn't cheap, and I thought I could probably make something better.

So, I needed an affordable, flavorful, robust stock that can stand in for chicken stock proudly.  A vegetable stock that is not wimpy.  The key to this is LOTS of ingredients, and most importantly, mushrooms.  Mushrooms give a meat-y, earthy, umami flavor that gives the stock a good backbone (pun intended).

Instead of just throwing in big pieces of vegetables, you want to chop everything, and then brown the vegetables before adding the water.  This process releases more flavor and makes a richer stock.

This will make two quarts of stock, but feel free to double the recipe.  Basic guideline is 2 quarts of water to 1 quart of veggies.

  • 1 cup celery hearts/ribs, chopped
  • Two small carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 or 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • stems of one bunch of parsley
  • one bay leaf
  • 5 or 6 whole peppercorns
  • 5 or 6 sprigs of fresh thyme 
  • 2 quarts water
  • Drizzle a little olive in a medium or large heavy bottomed pot, heat over medium heat.
  • Add celery, carrots, onions, mushrooms and garlic to pot.  Sprinkle with teaspoon of salt.
  • Saute over medium heat, stirring regularly, until vegetables soften, start to brown, and little bits are sticking to bottom of pot.  This should take about 10 or 15 minutes.  If medium heat on your stove is causing this to happen more quickly, lower the heat.
  • Add parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme and water.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer very gently for about an hour.  Unlike stocks with bones, this stock does not like hours and hours of simmering.  An hour will get you all flavor you're going to get.
  • Put into containers and store in the fridge for one week, or put into freezer.

Black Bean Soup in Five Minutes

This is our new favorite soup.  I got the idea from another food blog, and made it mine.  One of the lovely things about the soup besides it's amazing flavor and texture is that if you pick the right salsa, you know exactly what you are eating.  For two people, make the recipe below and serve with a salad and some bread or tortilla chips (my mom suggested quesadillas on the side, which is a great idea).  Or double the recipe, have just a big bowl of soup each, leaving one serving for someone for lunch the next day.

Our preferred salsa is Green Mountain Gringo Salsa, the Roasted Chile kind.  You can identify all the ingredients, there is nothing that isn't real food in GMG Salsa.  We love it, and with the beans it is great.

You can use vegetable broth, chicken broth, or even water.  Whatever you have around.  I would use water only in a pinch, because you want the liquid to add flavor to the soup.  I used homemade vegetable broth when I made it the other night, and will again tomorrow when I make this for company.  (Yes!  This soup is so delicious and pretty, it is company-worthy, and fun by putting out different garnishes to choose from.)

The garnishes are optional, and you have lots of options.  I would do at least one garnish, even if it is just some cilantro, but none are necessary, this is a super flavorful soup.

  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 3/4 to 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Optional Garnishes
  • Shredded cheese (sharp cheddar is great)
  • Cilantro
  • Diced avocado
  • 0% Greek yogurt
  • Crushed tortilla chips
  • Put all ingredients in a food processor or blender, start with 3/4 cup broth and add more if needed to reach desired soup consistency
  • Blend until smooth
  • Pour into pot and heat over medium heat
  • Eat