Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Oven Roasted Peppers

What better way to spend a cold winter day than warming up your apartment by roasting vegetables in the oven? As the deep freeze starts to settle in here in Chicago I’ve been going nuts for roasted vegetables. I’ve got several goodies to show you.

I’ll start with the latest. Since I showed you how I roast peppers over a gas range back in the summer heat of July, I thought you might like to see how I roast peppers in the oven now that it’s colder.

It must be a good year for peppers. They were on sale at the grocery store again last night when I stopped in on my way home from work, so I bought three big beautiful orange ones and brought them home. Usually I would have bought an assortment of colors, but the orange ones were the only ones on sale. That’s ok, though, because I think I like them best. Big surprise; they’re the sweetest.

The first thing I did was to turn the oven on at 425 deg. F.

After washing the peppers, I cut them in half lengthwise up to the stems, then pulled them apart, taking the stem and seed cluster out at the same time. I trimmed the white parts off the ribs, then put them skin side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. I put a tablespoon of canola oil in a little bowl and, with a pastry brush, brushed the oil all over the outsides of the peppers.

After the oven had reached 425 deg., I put the peppers in and set the timer for half an hour. After about ten minutes, the most beautiful aroma of sweet roasting peppers filled my kitchen. After twenty minutes, the aroma had spread out to the living room. It’s funny how the smell of roasting food adds to the overall feeling of warmth and well-being in these chilly winter months.

After half an hour, I checked on the peppers. They were looking good – soft, with some brown roasted spots on them. I left them in for another ten minutes, so there would be even more brown roast spots, then took them out of the oven.

I put the peppers into a small glass bowl, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit for fifteen minutes. Then I peeled the peppers. It was a lot easier to peel the oven-roasted peppers than it is to peel the peppers roasted over a gas flame.

And here they are. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with them yet. Any ideas?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Simple Chicken (Turkey) and Oat Groat (Wheatberries) Soup

Over the past few months Mary has been passing along to me her old copies of Cooking Light Magazine. I finally decided to go through them to find some cooking ideas. I’m trying to be scrupulous about whether or not I will actually make something that looks interesting to me before I tear out a recipe because the last thing I need is more recipes in my collection that I will never get around to making. Even so, I’m averaging 3 or 4 recipes per issue.

So last weekend I decided I had better start cooking some of them. And with Operation Freezer Burn, it seemed like a good idea to try to pair up food I’m trying to use up with some of these new recipes I want to try.

It’s been pretty cold here these days now that winter is finally here. This is the time my thoughts turn to soup – a hearty and satisfying meal in a bowl that warms me up and sticks to my ribs.

My Dad made a lot of soup, mostly turkey soup after Thanksgiving and Christmas. He would simmer the carcass over a fire as low as the burner would go without going out, and he would leave the pot on the stove overnight. My mother always complained about the way the smell spread throughout the house, but I kind of liked it because I knew what was coming. After that slow simmer of stock, he would start adding the vegetables.

And he put anything and everything into that soup. Onions, garlic, carrots, celery, corn, green beans, kidney beans, lima beans, peas, and barley. I will always regret that I never found out what spices he used because they were fragrant and delicious without overpowering. I think it was most likely oregano, thyme and maybe a little sage. And he cooked everything over that same low, slow heat. By the time he was done there were several quarts of soup – some for eating and some for freezing. It was always delicious.

He never used a recipe. And as I started my own culinary journey, I rarely used a recipe when I made soup either. I rarely have any turkey carcasses around so I mostly make chicken soup. And I am always experimenting with different combinations and spices. It's usually good; sometimes brilliant, sometimes not so brilliant, but it never comes out the same way twice.

Every once in a while I see a soup recipe that intrigues me enough that I will decide to follow it. The Navy Bean and Bacon Soup recipe in the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook was a huge success. The Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup recipe I got online from rec.food.recipes has become a regular rotation since I found it. As has Curried Red Lentil Soup.

One of the things that's been burning a hole in my freezer is the leftover turkey I cooked up at Thanksgiving. I still have half a breast, all the dark meat, and a humongous carcass waiting to be used, so as I was looking through the recipes I kept the dark meat in mind, thinking I might find something I could make with that.

And near the back of the September 2006 issue I found a recipe for chicken soup with groats. What are groats? Groats are whole oats that have the tough outer husk removed and are then toasted. I would show you a picture but I don't have any yet. All of my local grocery stores let me down and I will have to wait until I can make it to Whole Foods or maybe Fox and Obel to find some.

But I didn't know that I wouldn't be able to find groats when I decided to make this recipe. I thought it might work well with the turkey. When I couldn't find groats, I decided wheatberries were similar, being whole grains and all, and bought some of those instead. I prepared them the same way the recipe called for the groats to be prepared, and they worked just fine.

The turkey worked just fine, too. One thing that doesn't translate as well to the turkey as it would have for chicken is the amount of basil used in this recipe. I think it will be just fine with the chicken though, so if I ever use turkey again I would probably leave out the basil and add a little bit of sage.

Bu I will probably use chicken the next time I make it. And I will definitely hunt down some groats. Although now that I have finally bought and cooked wheatberries, I will be doing more with them. They are delicious.


Cubed dark meat turkey
Turkey broth

Simple Chicken and Oat Groat Soup

Note: I substituted turkey for the chicken and wheatberries for the groats. I also used waffle-cut frozen zucchini chips; I let them defrost a little, then diced them.

2-1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked oat groats
1 Tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped carrot
1 cup diced zucchini
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 cups chopped skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
1 cup (1-inch) cut green beans
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

Combine 2-1/2 cups water and groats in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until tender (do not overcook). Drain; wipe pan with a paper towel.

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Add zucchini and garlic; sauté 2 minutes. Add cooked groats, broth, and next 5 ingredients (through tomatoes); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in peas and basil.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 2/3 cups)

CALORIES 285 (20% from fat); FAT 6.4g (sat 1.2g,mono 2.9g,poly 1.3g); PROTEIN 23.3g; CHOLESTEROL 40mg; CALCIUM 87mg; SODIUM 635mg; FIBER 7.4g; IRON 3.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 35.2g

Cooking Light, September 2006

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sichuan Peppers

The Sichuan pepper is the dried fruit of the prickly ash tree and should not be confused with the black and white peppercorns that come from India. While the flavor is warm, it is not really spicy, and it is a major component of Chinese Five Spice Powder.

Until recently the Sichuan pepper was banned in the United States. A distant relative to citrus, there was concern that imported pepper might also bring a citrus canker that, while not dangerous to humans, would not be good for our domestic citrus crop. The ban was lifted in 2005 with the stipulation that any peppers brought into the country would be heated to around 160 degrees Fahrenheit before importation.

And now it's time for a little confession. I'm not a huge fan of Chinese Five Spice powder, which is apparently the main use for these peppers. But I was curious about them, and they smell warm and woodsy, and I'm curious to see what they will do to chicken, fish and vegetables.

To find out more about Sichuan peppers, check out my two favorite resources: Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference, and Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages.

To buy them, go to my favorite Spice shop.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Early Saturday morning I called Bob to see if he wanted to go for a walk like we did last week.

"It's 11 degrees outside," he said.

Oh, yeah. Maybe not. After a few hours, it warmed up to a balmy 20-something so I put on my walking shoes and walked down to the Spice House to get some coriander and cumin seeds. As usual, I came away with so much more . . .

According to Herbs & Spices: The Cooks Reference, Sumac is the fruit of a decorative shrub that grows wild on sparsely wooded uplands around the Mediterranean, especially Sicily. Indigenous to Iran, it also grows elsewhere in the Middle East, most notably Turkey. Ground sumac is sprinkled liberally over rice and mixed with freshly-cut onions as an appetizer. It is also used in the Turkish specialty doner kabob and it's an ingredient in one of my favorite dishes, fattoush salad.

Sumac is an essential part of za'atar, a blend of sesame seeds, thyme and sumac which is used in marinades, rubs, and dips. Expect to hear more about this later, as I plan to make it pretty soon. Mixed as a paste with olive oil, it can also be spread over bread or mixed directly into the dough before baking.

Sumac is used primarily as an acidulant, much like we in the western world use lemons and Asia uses tamarind. It does not have much of its own taste, but brings out the flavors of the foods to which it is added, much like salt. In powder form, it is rubbed onto food before cooking - fish, kebabs, and vegetables. In most Middle Eastern houses bowls of sumac and chili flakes sit on the table, much like our salt and pepper.

Sumac is good with chicken, chickpeas, eggplant, fish and seafood, lamb, lentils, raw onion, pine nuts, walnuts and yogurt. It combines well with allspice, chili, coriander, cumin, garlic, mint, paprika, parsley, pomegranate, sesame, and thyme.

The berries vary in color from brick red to red-brown or maroon, depending on from where they are grown. The sumac above actually has more red in it than the picture shows.

For more information on this intriguing spice, check out my favorite online spice reference, Gernot Katzer's spice pages.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Salmon with Green Beans and Mushrooms over Couscous

This is the second version of this post. The first one was lost last night when I closed the tab instead of going back.

I thought it was time to revisit the green beans and tomatoes with couscous recipe I first played with here when I got back from my brother's house the Christmas before last. The vegetables worked well together, the seasonings were fresh and vibrant, and it went really well with whole wheat couscous. But the eggs were only so-so. They really only worked because I like hard boiled eggs, not because they added something specific to the overall effect.

I made it one more time as a side dish, without the eggs. And again it was good, but nothing special. I put it on the back burner and always meant to work on it some more some time.

Some time came last week when green beans were on sale and the mushrooms looked really good. I decided to make it again, but I wanted to find something to pair with it other than eggs. Beef and pork seemed too heavy, and chicken didn't seem like it would stand out enough.

I don't cook much with fish, so it doesn't often come to my mind as a possibility for a dish I'm working on. But when I thought about adding tuna, I knew it would be perfect. Unfortunately, the fish did not look too good that night at the grocery store. I thought about buying some tuna in a bag, but I have all these cans of salmon on hand I bought when there was a run of "buy one get one free" on it a couple of years ago. Salmon seemed like it would be a reasonable substitute for the tuna.

And it was. I suspect it would be even better with tuna. And I now have some flash-frozen ahi tuna from Trader Joe's sitting in the freezer for next time. It's a good thing I'm working on emptying out my freezer. A trip to Trader Joe's this weekend filled it right back up again.

Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

Salmon with Green Beans and Mushrooms over Couscous

Serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and snapped into bite-size pieces
1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tsp thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 16-oz. can salmon, boned.
1-1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 cup couscous

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onions and saute approximately 5 minutes, until translucent. Add green beans, salt and pepper and cook another 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

While mixture is simmering, prepare couscous according to package directions.

Remove green bean and mushroom mixture from heat and stir in lemon, parsley and basil.

Fluff up the couscous. Serve vegetable mixture over couscous. Top with salmon and garnish with chopped parsley and basil.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (www.mountain-software.com)

Why There's No New Post Here Today

I was putting the finishing touches on my post for today when I went to look at a site to check something out. Instead of opening a new tab to check it out, I went from my post. Instead of going back to my post, I closed the tab.


It's too late and I'm too tired to recreate it so I'm off to bed.

In the meantime, there's still time to enter the Haagen Daz create a new flavor contest. You don't get any money for your idea, but they'll pay your expenses to a trip to New York to help them market it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Brown Rice with Curried Lentils

One of the few benefits of having a blog that very few people read is that I can repeat myself and few, if any, people will notice. A while back I wrote about this Brown Rice, Lentil and Spinach Curry and posted a picture that, had I been trying, could not have made the finished product look any less appealing. In fact, I guess I could proudly say that it might have been a contender for James Lileks’ Gallery of Regrettable Food, except that it is a current recipe, and not from the ‘50s or ‘60s.

But it was good. Really good. The lentils, rice and spinach seem made for each other, and the spices all come together for a satisfying curried flavor. I suppose you could make it easier on yourself by just using your favorite curry powder, but to me there’s something satisfying in pulling out each spice jar and smelling the flavor structure as it builds layer by layer.

As I was pulling out the spices, I realized that I did not have any ground coriander on hand. I did, however, have some coriander seeds that I had just bought, so I ground them up.

I am quickly becoming a proponent for grinding one's own spices. They are so much stronger, cleaner, and fragrant than anything you can buy pre-ground. They have much more personality and can hold their own when mixed with other spices. Most pre-ground spice mixtures are one-dimensional. No matter how good they taste, they just have the one note. But when you mix freshly ground spices together, each one brings its own strength to the table so that what you taste is the mingling of each fantastic flavor. Have I convinced you? I hope so.

I don't know if this picture does more justice to how good this is. Go on. Give it a try and see for yourself.
Home Cookin Chapter: Pasta and Grains

Brown Rice, Lentil, And Spinach Curry

3/4 cup lentils
1/4 cup saute liquid
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 small Green chile, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 cup long-grain brown rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-1/4 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 pound spinach leaves, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Wash lentils and put them in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to very low, and cook 20 minutes. Remove from heat until ready to add to the rice.

Heat the saute liquid in a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven. Add onion and celery and cook 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 3 minutes. Add carrot and chile. Cook, stirring, 1 or 2 minutes. Add ground spices and cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add rice. Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes, until grains turn translucent, then opaque, but not scorched. Stir in the lentils and any unabsorbed water in the lentil pot. Add salt, pepper, and broth or water. Cook at a low boil for 15 minutes. Add the spinach, pushing it down into the rice mixture. Cover, reduce heat to very low, and cook 30 minutes.

In a small skillet or saucepan, cook the cumin seeds until they begin to darken and pop. Pour over the lentil-rice mixture, add the lemon juice, and serve.

from http://fooddownunder.com Recipe 37348 of 281476
Note: Edited 02/13/11 with actual source: from Pilaf, Risotto, and Other Ways with Rice, by Sada Fretz (Little, Brown 1995).

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (http://www.mountain-software.com/)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Broccoli with Roasted Pepper and Walnut Sauce

As is to be expected, there were a few things in my freezer that I overlooked when I made my list here. So what better way to kick off Operation Freezer Burn (clever, huh?) than to start with an item that wasn’t even on the list?

A couple of weeks before Christmas I bought some red and orange peppers. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them so I decided to roast them, and then see what inspiration came out of that process. As they were roasting I decided to make my own adaptation of the muhammara I made as part of my review of Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun for the Wellfed Network. But instead of eating it with bread, I thought I would make something that would go with pasta.

In all honesty, I can’t remember exactly what I put into it. I know I used the roasted peppers, dried crushed aleppo chilies, and walnuts. I did not use any bread crumbs because I did not want to bind the sauce. I probably added garlic because I always add garlic. Salt and pepper to taste and that may have been it.

It made a lot. About a quart. More than I needed for a pasta dish. So I poured half into a jar and stuck it in the freezer. I added about 1/2 cup of fresh grated Pecorino Romano to the other half, and then added it to whole wheat cavatappi, a la pesto.

The end result was less than favorable. Which is why there is neither a photo of it nor a post about it. Without oil it did not coat the pasta the way pesto does, and the way I expected I to. And I think I just solved the problem of why it didn’t work. Maybe I will have to try it again, using some olive oil in addition to the cheese. The flavor of the pepper sauce was good, it just didn’t work with the pasta.

After I made my list of what was in the freezer and posted my project to use up everything that was in it at the time, I discovered that I had overlooked the roasted pepper sauce, in addition to cacao nibs and some smoked sun-dried tomatoes my sister picked up for me outside of Austin after I saw them on the FoodTV Network.

I thought it would be nice to find some other use for the roasted pepper sauce than to put it on pasta. When I was testing recipes from the 12 Best Foods Cookbook for Fitfare, I was especially pleased with the Tomato Broccoli recipe, and thought it might be interesting to try something similar with the roasted peppers.

It worked really well. The roasted peppers, aleppo chilies, walnuts and broccoli blend well with each other. This would go well with almost any meat or fish dish.

Broccoli with Roasted Pepper and Walnut Sauce

2 Red or Orange Bell Peppers
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1 tsp Aleppo or other red chili flakes
1-2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. broccoli, cut into spears

Put everything in the food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan and, over low heat, bring to a simmer. Simmer until most of the liquid has been cooked out.

While the pepper sauce is simmering, prepare the broccoli the way that you like it (I blanched it for four minutes, then steamed it for ten minutes).

Pour the sauce over the broccoli and serve.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Big Trouble in the Windy City

Just when I thougt I was out of the sugar zone these darned things arrived last week. I had completely forgotten that I had ordered them and certainly wasn't expecting them to arrive so soon after the new year.

What is it about Girl Scout Cookies? They're not the best cookies I have ever tasted, but once I open a box it is almost impossible to stop eating them. I should give them away, but every time I think about it I just can't do it. So I'm going to try restraint. Ha!

Actually, I have done pretty well with them. They came home with me Friday. I opened the Caramel Delites (nothing lite about these though) and only had two. Last night I opened the Peanut Butter Patties. I might have been able to just have two but I had already eaten a slice of pizza and Coney Fries (french fries, chili, onions and mustard - YUM!) at the Avenue Bar after seeing The Painted Veil, which was a beautiful film. The coney fries are the kind of thing that you look at and you can just see how bad it will be for you, but you just can't stop from reaching out and taking just one, so you can see what it tastes like. Then before you know it you're shoveling them into your mouth as fast as you can, almost snarling if someone gets too close to the one you were just going to grab.

So I had more than just 2 of the peanut butter patties last night. And I had some more caramel delites too. But (at this point I'll take anything) - I still have some of each left in the first boxes. I don't dare open the Thin Mints because I know they'll pretty much disappear immediately.

I need to throw them in the freezer. Good thing I've started my freezer project so I can make some room for them. I already had some Boca Burgers, but I don't really count that as part of the project because I didn't have to do anything with them other than throw them in the microwave and eat them. But I have been busy cooking this weekend and have made some progress.

But the four-hour season premiere of 24 starts tonight, so I won't be doing any more writing tonight. I was so mad at the last season that I wasn't gong to watch it anymore, but here it is and there you have it.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Time for a New Project

Here's what's in my freezer (not necessarily in order, or in view):

Ground turkey
Dark meat turkey, cubed
1/2 a turkey breast
1 turkey carcass
anasazi beans
black bean and corn casserole
turkey broth
turkey stock
chickpea broth
chicken stock
cookie dough
brown rice
pine nuts
bread crumbs
lime juice
lemon juice
boca burgers
smoked sun-dried tomatoes
1 serving of carrot-ginger soup

Now I have a relatively small freezer, and it's full to capacity. And some of the things in there have been there for a long time. So long that they've become invisible to me.

For the past couple of weeks I've been thinking about a winter project. One year I followed Lynda's lead and decided I was going to make at least one new recipe from every cookbook I owned. Since I owned over a hundred cookbooks at the time (and have even more now), I was pretty much doomed to failure, but I did manage to work my way through quite a few of them, and got some really great recipes out of it.

So here's what I'm thinking for my winter project. By the end of March, I will have used up (or at least used) everything that's in my freezer at this moment.

Don't you think that's a good project? What's in your freezer?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Turkey Stuffed Peppers with Pine Nuts and Basil

Last week yellow and orange bell peppers were on sale at Jewel so I snapped up a couple and brought them home with me. I chopped the first two and used them instead of tomatoes in my Marinated Vegetable and Whole Wheat Pasta Salad, which made for some lovely lunches.

I was a little at a loss as to what I should do with the other two peppers. I had recently roasted some and made a sauce so I wasn't in the mood to do that again. I could cut them up and bring them to work for a snack :yawn: So I did nothing, and they sat in my vegetable bin for a couple of days.

But I didn't forget them. I just let them sit there, trusting that I would eventually think of something to do with them.

So I stuffed them with ground turkey, couscous, and some broccoli florets I had also cooked up last week that needed to be used soon. Pine nuts, fresh basil and lemon juice gave it a lovely Mediterranean flavor that made for a light and fresh meal.

These were originally going to have a Middle Eastern flavor. I had my mind set on lamb, with mint, cinnamon and pistachios. But they were out of lamb at the Apple Market. What was I to do? I needed to stuff those peppers!

I waltzed back and forth in front of the meat counter trying to decide what to do. I really didn't want to use beef or pork. I really didn't want to use anything else. Although they did give me some funny looks, the guys behind the counter were pretty patient while they watched me go back and forth from the pork to the poultry while I tried to decide what to do.

It took a complete change in direction, but I finally settled on ground turkey. I probably could have kept with the Middle Eastern flavors, but my heart wasn't in it without the lamb. So I put back the mint and the pistachios and grabbed some fresh basil and pine nuts instead. And it worked out just fine.

When I cooked the turkey, I took care not to break it down too much. I wanted everything to be on the chunky side so there was some substance. I liked the way it worked out.
However, while not dry, they were a little crumbly because I didn't add anything to bind the mixture. Parmesan cheese would really add to the flavor, and would help bind it as well. That's what I will do next time.

After I make my lamb-stuffed peppers, that is.

Home Cookin Chapter: Poultry

Turkey Stuffed Peppers with Pine Nuts and Basil

Serves 4

4 bell peppers, red, yellow or orange (or a combination)
1 cup whole wheat couscous, prepared according to package directions
2 Tbsp oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground turkey
1 cup tomato sauce
2 cups chopped broccoli
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped, with 1 Tbsp reserved for garnish
4 Tbsp fresh chopped basil, plus 1 Tbsp for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the tops off of the peppers and take out the seeds. If necessary, trim the bottoms so the peppers will stay upright in an 8 x 8" baking dish. Stand the peppers in the dish and pour about 1/4 cup water into the bottom of the dish. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes.

While peppers are baking, heat oil in large skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook five minutes. Add ground turkey and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until turkey is just cooked through. Add tomato sauce and broccoli and heat through. Add lemon juice and remove from heat. Add the basil, cheese and and pine nuts.

Divide mixture evenly between the four semi-cooked peppers and stuff them. Bake for an additional 30 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil and pine nuts before serving.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (www.mountain-software.com)

Spicy Indian Yellow Lentil Curry

My friend saw my post yesterday about my not having a lot of inspiration, and she emailed me suggesting that I take a little trip to Fox & Obel over at North Pier. I think that's a most excellent suggestion and plan to head over there the first chance I get. It's a little off my beaten path so I don't make it there as often as I'd like. I'm also way overdue for a trip to Trader Joe's.

In the meantime, I did have the urge to cook today and have been quite busy in the kitchen. The first thing I wanted to take care of was another yellow lentil recipe I wanted to try, especially because it contains tamarind paste, and I just happened to have a jar of tamarind paste I bought a while ago and had not yet had the chance to try.

I've been a little squeamish about the yellow lentils since the last time I made them. It's not really their fault. The last time I ate them was the day I came down with a sudden fever that lasted 24 hours. I know it wasn't the lentils that gave me the fever, but I've been a little superstitious about eating them ever since. So I figured it was time to confront that irrational fear and try out the tamarind paste all at the same time.

I thought I had found the only yellow lentil recipe I would ever need with the Masala Dal I made back in October, but I think this might be even better. The recipes are almost identical, but it's the differences that make this one stand out a little. This recipe calls for chilies instead of chili powder. I used serrano peppers and it was a sharper, cleaner, stronger heat than the chili powder. Whole coriander seeds are used instead of ground, and they lend occasional bursts of sweetness throughout the dish. And the tamarind adds a nice tart counterbalance.

I found this recipe at Recipezaar.com when I googled "yellow lentils recipes." I haven't really spent much time there so I don't know how reliable their recipes are overall. It's ad heavy and pretty busy. I like my sites a little cleaner.

This recipe came out with more liquid than the other one, and I like that better too. All in all, I think I prefer this version, even if the other one was prettier.


I used a 14.5-oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained, with the liquid combined with the water for the 3 cups that cooked the lentils.

I used 3 serrano peppers

I looked for information on sambar onions. Apparently, they're tiny purple shallots, smaller than the ones we get here. I used regular shallots and sliced them.

The Asian market down the street let me down and did not have any fresh curry leaves, which they usually carry. I used bay leaves instead, put them in whole, and took them out before serving.
Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

This is Gayatri Venkatesh's recipe from the Thursday magazine. Its really tasty. You can tone down the spiciness by reducing the number of green chillies if you please. Enjoy!

Spicy Indian Yellow Lentil Curry
Serves 4
1 cup toovar dal, washed thoroughly,drained and refreshed with clean water to soak dal (yellow lentils)
2 medium tomatoes, washed peeled and chopped
1 pinch turmeric powder
1-1/2 Tbsp tamarind pulp
7 green chilies, washed and slit
100 g small sambar onions, peeled and washed

For seasoning:
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 pinch asafetida powder
3-5 sprigs of fresh curry leaves, washed and torn
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Put the lentils, tomatoes and 4 cups of water with a pinch of turmeric powder in a pot and cook until the lentils are tender.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pot. Add mustard and cumin seeds. Cook until seeds begin to pop. Once they stop spluttering, add coriander seeds, asafoetida powder, curry leaves and green chillies. Stir-fry for 5 minutes.

Add onions and stir-fry till they become golden brown in colour. Remove from heat and add to the lentils. Stir well. Add tamarind pulp and salt to taste. Mix well and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot over rice along with some plain yogurt on the side or with dosas and chutney.

Recipe #105728, posted by Charishma Ramchandani at http://www.recipezaar.com

Exported from Home Cookin 5.4 (www.mountain-software.com)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

When I Don't Feel Like Cooking

I've been in something of a slump since I got back from Austin. I haven't really felt much like cooking, and I haven't had much inspiration. It's been harder getting back into the routine of going to work every day than it ever was before, even though I like my job and I like going to work. I suppose I'll get back into the swing of things next week now that all of the holidays are over. And I always love to cook in winter, when I can really crank up the oven and let all those warm wonderful smells blanket the apartment.

Walking home from work Friday I stopped at the grocery store with the hope that I would find some inspiration, but it was so crowded I just left the few things I had picked up and wandered down to Treasure Island instead. Nothing appealed, until I wandered by the deli and thought to ask if they had any Best's Kosher Salami. They did, so I bought some, along with some dark Polish rye bread and mesquite barbecue-flavored potato chips.

It might not have been home cooking, but it was mighty tasty and went down marvelously with a nice cold glass of milk.

I stopped at the Big Apple Market on the way home from the knitting store today, where I did find some inspiration. I've got something planned for tomorrow. I hope I feel like making it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Knit-Along Fever

I am writing this post on my new laptop. I bought it when I was in Austin over the holidays. My brother picked it out for me. I used to harbor delusions of knowledge of computers and the like, and while I do probably know more than a lot of people, I don't really know all that much. So it was a relief to ask my brother to help me pick one out.

"What do you want?" he asked me.

"Yours," I replied. "But newer and better."

And that's what I got. It's taking some getting used to, especially the keyboard, but I'm starting to get comfortable with it. My building offers free wireless and I just got hooked up with that so there's no stopping me now. I imagine I will be spending more time than I should be playing with it. It should make upgrading to the new Blogger an even more thrilling adventure I'm sure..

So what does all of that have to do with that little bit of sweater bottom up there? Nothing. I just wanted to mention my new computer. That little bit of sweater bottom is my new knit-along project. It's the Nantucket Jacket that's on the cover of the Winter 2006 Interweave Knits:

Mary at the Knitting Workshop and I had both been admiring it and started looking for yarn that would work. It uses a bigger yarn than I thought from looking at it, and I had some discontinued Maggi's Aran in a kind of silver grey (the photo actually comes close to reality for a change) that works perfectly.

I've been waiting for Yam and my friend Mary to start our Knit-along of Whisper out of Rowan Calmer, and in the meantime Shop-owner Mary (as we call her when we need to distinguish between her and our friend Mary) and I get all caught up in our enthusiasm for the Nantucket Jacket, so we decided to start a little Knit-along of our own. We started on New Year's Eve. Mary was there when we got going on it and decided she had to join in as well, so she cast on and got started when she got home.

It's not a terribly complicated pattern, but it is just a touch counter-intuitive. I had to start it over twice, but I'm on a roll now and it is really looking good. Shop-owner Mary is making hers with Wave, and friend Mary started hers in Bouton D'Or's Ceres.
I don't know if you can tell in the close-up, but this yarn has a beautiful sheen, and it's springy and soft. I think it's going to make a beautiful sweater.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Anasazi Beans

When I was in Austin for the weekend last October, I went to Whole Foods with my sister and bought some Anasazi beans. There they are, just after being sorted and rinsed and right before the soaking water was added to the dish.

I bought them because I've been eager to expand my bean repertoire. And now that winter is approaching, I'm thinking about perfecting my baked beans, and experimenting with some new varieties.

These beans were called "Bob's Anasazi Beans," I'm not sure why, since they were in the bulk section of the store.

I wasn't sure how I wanted to prepare them so I did a little online research. I found this interesting site, although I'm not sure how credible the information is. Most of what I found confirmed what I already suspected; that anasazi beans could be prepared pretty much the same way as pinto beans. I did find out that they are easier to digest and cause less gas than other beans. They also cook faster.

I usually cook my beans for about an hour or so after soaking them overnight or for at least 8 hours. I don't use any seasoning (I've heard that salt keeps them from getting tender), just the beans and water. If I'm cooking a pound of beans then after they're done I freeze half and prepare the other half for immediate consumption.

I knew I could just fix these up the way I cook up pinto beans, but I was looking for something different. I didn't find many specific recipes online and wasn't sure what I was going to do. And then I saw a recipe that used a lot of the same ingredients as a mole sauce, so I thought that might be good, and a little different. I had already been thinking about cooking up some mole to go with the turkey breast I still have in the freezer from Thanksgiving, but in all honesty I just didn't feel like taking the time and trouble to make it.

Instead I decided to improvise on Hedy's Black and Red Bean Soup and was going to cook them up with some corn and chili powder. But once I got going, the mole idea wouldn't completely disappear. In addition to the chili powder I added some ground aleppo peppers. The cinnamon stick pretty much jumped in all by itself. And then I remembered the ground half tablet of mexican chocolate I had left over from the pomegranate kisses, and threw that into the pot as well.
It was decent for a first effort, but not spectacular. The cinnamon and aleppo peppers worked well with the subtle creamy taste of the beans, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this) the mexican chocolate made it too sweet. I think cacao nibs and cinnamon are the way to go because it was definitely a good flavor palate.

Once I've had a chance to play around with this, I'll post a recipe.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What Could Be Better Than Cacao Nibs?

The holidays are over and I'm already settling back into the daily routine, which means I'm trying to wean myself back off of sugar. Which is really hard because I have these beautiful little chocolate covered cacao nibs that I found at the World Market in Austin when I went shopping with my sister. Chocolate Santander is a Columbian company. If my Spanish were better I could probably tell you more about it, but it looks like they have chocolate covered coffee beans and chocolate covered cacao nibs Their products are organic, GMO free, and are "fairly traded with with small farmeres from our country." Oh, and did I mention that they're also kosher, and ISO certified?

They actually taste a lot like chocolate covered coffee beans, but they're smaller. They would be good on ice cream and would make a lovely garnish for any cake or cookie.
I can think of all kinds of fun things to do with these babies.

We had all kinds of treats over the holidays. My sister brought over some wonderful cinnamon bread she picked up at a local kolachy shop and some awesome Chocolate Almond Laceys made by Desserts on Us (the picture does not do them justice). I found an assortment of chocolate-covered marzipan that disappeared pretty much within a few hours of being opened. And my nephew brought a box of crack almond toffee home from Christmas in Galveston with him. I can't remember the name of that stuff, but it warrants a post all its own when I find out what it was. It's one of those things that doesn't look all that impressive, and you can't believe anything could really be as good as everyone says it is. Then you put some in your mouth and it just melts into the most amazing buttery sugary almondy with just a hint of chocolate puddle in your mouth. You don't really swallow; it just kind of flows down your throat.

Ok I have to stop now. The stores are still open and I must not have any more sugar!
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