Thursday, April 30, 2009

Grapefruit Supreme

Every once in a while, if I am lucky, my grocery store will have put a five-pound bag of Texas Reds on sale. That was the case a few weeks ago so I was quick to grab one, even though it meant a heavier load than I had anticipated on the way home from work.

I have mentioned before how much I love my Texas grapefruit, but I can never say it often enough. These beauties are just sweet enough to counterbalance the natural sourness so you get the perfect blend of both. Like Homesick Texan, I too used to only be able to eat grapefruit with a generous sprinkling of sugar. And even that didn't help much. Grapefruit was never a big staple in my kitchen.

Until I discovered ruby reds. There are many things I miss about Texas, but the two that stand out are Ruby Red Grapefruit and Pecos cantaloupes. Shiner Bock used to be on the list, but that has finally made its way up here, I'm happy to say.

I have yet to see a Pecos cantaloupe (and I look every year), but every once in a while I will see the five-pound bags of Texas grapefruit, and will always take one home.

A trick I have learned since I first started supreming my fruit is to supreme all of the grapefruit at once and put the segments into a large container. Then I can portion out servings whenever I am in the mood, rather than having to decide whether or not it's worth the effort to supreme them individually when I want one. This method also provides a few glasses' worth of freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice. Yum!

Here is the yield from those six beauties up above. I feasted on this for days. It easily lasts a week, and leaving them in the juice leaves them plump and fresh. They're good in salads, with chicken or pork, or all by themselves.

Preparing them ahead of time like this gives me the same benefits as buying those jars of peeled and segmented grapefruit, without the extra stuff:
INGREDIENTS: Grapefruit, Reconstituted Grapefruit Juice, Corn Syrup, Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate (Preservatives), Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid.
I don't know about you, but I can taste all of those extra little goodies. The beauty of these sweet gems is that they taste super delicious all by themselves.

It's cheaper this way, too. What's not to love?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Couscous, Green Beans and Salmon

I'm on a roll with the salmon these days. I bought several cans a few years ago that were on a seemingly permanent two-for-the-price-of-one sale, and I just noticed a few weeks ago that the cans that were left were getting close to their expiration date. And these days I don't want to be wasting any food, so I have been eating a lot of salmon lately.

Green beans were on sale at the grocery store last weekend so I picked up a pound or so, brought them home and trimmed and blanched them. I've gotten in the habit of blanching certain vegetables as soon as I get them home. That way, they're ready for whatever I decide to do with them when I'm ready to use them.

I had one last can of salmon that needed to be used before the end of the month, and I've had success with green beans, salmon, and couscous before, so I decided to make something with those ingredients. I had some roasted pistachios I bought a while ago (and had just eaten some the day before the recall so I knew they were ok), and I knew they would work really well in the couscous. I also had some radishes left over from the week before's salad and with my new determination not to waste anything, I thought they might add an interesting element there as well.

And they did. Throwing them in after the couscous were cooked allowed the flavor to soften just a little, without losing too much of their crunch. I've also found that couscous taste much better when they're cooked in chicken or vegetable broth instead of water. Add herbs, nuts, and a little vegetable crunch and you have a fast, delicious side to complement just about any protein.

I wanted a vinaigrette to bring everything together and to keep the couscous moist, and I had some beautiful navel oranges that Ithought would complement the other flavors. I've been in a zesting mood lately too, so I decided to zest the orange before I juiced it and throw the zest in with the beans. It brought everything together beautifully.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 lb. green beans, trimmed, halved and blanched
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp orange zest

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
juice from one orange, less 2 Tbsp
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 Tbsp dried thyme
6 radishes, quartered and sliced
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, chopped

1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp olive oil

1 14.75-oz. can fancy sockeye or pink salmon, boned

To blanch beans: Bring water to a boil in large saucepan. Turn off heat, add beans, cover and let sit for 4-5 minutes. Drain and place in a cold water bath to keep beans from cooking more. Can be used immediately, or storedin the refrigerator for a few days.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions, salt, and pepper, and saute until the onions are tender and starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add green beans and cook until just warmed through, about five more minutes. Add orange zest and stir to mix it in, then turn off the heat.

In the meantime, bring the chicken broth, orange juice, and enough water to make 1-1/2 cups to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan over high heat. Add couscous and thyme, stir, and cover. Lower heat and let simmer for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Add pistachios and radishes mix them in as you fluff up the couscous with a fork.

Combine white wine vinegar, orange juice, mustard and salt. Whisk together briskly. Add olive oil in a stream, whisking the whole time until an emulsion has formed.

Make a small mound of couscous on the plate, then top with the green beans. Drizzle the dressing over the beans, then arrange the salmon over the beans.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.7 (

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mashed Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Onion

My lentil curry with potatoes, carrots, spinach and chickpeas only uses half a cup of chickpeas, so I was left with over half a can's worth that were in danger of going bad in the refrigerator. I needed to do something with them, but what?

At first I thought I might make a small batch of hummus, but I wasn't really in the mood and I didn't have anything into which to dip them.

And then I remembered the Guyanese Channa I made a few years ago when I was similarly faced with an abundance of chickpeas. It was a lot of work to mash the chickpeas in the pan, but it was delicious and I always planned to make it again. This seemed like a good time.

I didn't feel like looking up the recipe and I was pretty sure I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand anyway, so I decided to improvise. I'm quite pleased with the results. In fact, I think I might like it better than the original.

This is such an easy dish to make, and it's full of flavor. Add a salad and you have a satisfying meal.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
dash sugar (optional)
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14.5-oz. can chickpeas, preferably with skins removed
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium heat in 3-quart saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have completely softened, about 10 minutes.

Add cinnamon, turmeric, and cumin and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add tomatoes, chickpeas, salt and pepper. Taste and, if necessary, add a dash of sugar to counteract the acid of the tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, until tomatoes have thickened.

With a potato masher or a fork, give the chickpeas a rough mash. They don't have to be completely mashed, but there shouldn't be any whole chickpeas in the pan.

Let simmer another ten minutes. Serve hot.

Created 4/19/09

Exported from Home Cookin 5.7 (

Monday, April 20, 2009

Whole Wheat Bread

Ever since I made those first loaves of whole wheat bread for Zorra's World Bread Day event last October, I have been making it on a regular basis, and if I do say so myself I have pretty much perfected it. My goal was to make it often enough that I no longer had to refer to the recipe, and I achieved that goal a few months ago.

And I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. The first loaves tasted good to me because I had made them, but they didn't seem like real bread to me compared to the whole wheat bread I was bringing home from the grocery store. There was something a little off with the texture, and it was a little more dense even than I like, and I like dense bread.

There were some other problems as well. The recipe I was using made two loaves of bread, and I was starting to drown in bread. I froze some and gave some away, but still there was more. Luckily, I discovered that homemade bread does not get moldy, it just gets stale. Which was odd to me at first when I considered that processed bread has all of those preservatives to keep it fresh, but it will often turn moldy within a week. My unproven hypothesis is this: preservatives help keep the bread first-day-out-of-the-oven soft, but they do not actually keep the bread fresh. Without the preservatives, the bread starts to dry out after the first day and just keeps getting more and more stale, but it does not actually go bad. And this is where toast, bread pudding, and french toast came into being. They offered a tasty means by which to finish off those last stale hard bits of leftover bread.

Another problem was that two loaves of bread use a whole lot of flour, and it takes a lot of elbow grease to mix and knead that much flour. But after I figured out how to half the recipe so I could experiment with yellow pistachio whole wheat bread for Bread Baking Day 14, I realized that I could just make one loaf at a time and life has gotten a whole lot easier. One loaf easily lasts me through the work week, and then I have the last little leftover bits with which to experiment. And it takes much less work to knead four or so cups of flour than it does to knead eight cups.

It now takes about as much effort to bake my weekly loaf of bread as it does to do my weekly laundry. That is to say, it keeps me close to home for a few hours, but it doesn't really take all that much work. It's become my Sunday routine. I mix up the sponge, set it in the oven for the first rise, then call my sister for a long chat, during which I will add the flour and knead it, let it rise, then bake it. And there's nothing like a slice of fresh-out-of-the-oven (for real, not preservative-induced) bread slathered with butter. Yum.

I didn't include the recipe for my World Bread Day post because I thought (and still think) that anyone who wants to learn how to bake bread should get a copy of The Tassajara Bread Book. I am posting my one-loaf version in the hopes that it might inspire anyone who has always wanted to make their own bread but is afraid to try.

The final perfecting touch was when I bought some sesame seeds and started sprinkling them over the top of the loaf. Makes all the difference in the world.

Home Cookin Chapter: Breads and Muffins

Makes 1 loaf

For sponge:

1-1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup whole wheat white flour (optional)
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour (2 cups if not using white whole wheat)
1/8 cup honey
3/4 Tbsp instant yeast (1 packet)

For bread:

olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/6 cup canola or grapeseed oil
2 cups whole wheat flour

1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp sesame seeds

All of these instructions are intended to be used as guidelines rather than strict Instructions. It will not make that much difference if you don't let the dough rise exactly one hour. or if you add more or less honey, oil, or salt. After you have made it once, you will get the idea and can make the technique your own.

Place the 1-1/2 cups whole wheat and the 1/2 cup whole wheat white flour in a bowl and mix together.

Place lukewarm water in a large bowl. Add yeast and stir with a wooden spoon until the yeast dissolves. It may not seem like the yeast is going to dissolve, but be patient and keep stirring gently and eventually it will dissolve into the water. Add honey and stir until it has also dissolved. Add the flour, 1/2-cup at a time, and vigorously stir it in. You will end up with a thick, muddy consistency. This is called the sponge.

With the wooden spoon, beat the mixture for 100 strokes. Cover with a damp cloth and set it in a warm place to rise for an hour. I use the oven (but I do not turn it on).

After an hour, take the sponge out of the oven. Add the oil and the salt and fold the mixture with the wooden spoon until it has incorporated into the sponge. Add the flour, incorporating it 1/2 cup at a time, until you can't add any more. This may or may not take all of the flour; most likely you will have some left over. Spread some over a clean, dry counter and empty out the dough onto the floured surface. Knead the bread by folding it over towards you, then pushing it away with your palms. Turn it one quarter and repeat. Add flour as needed to keep it from sticking, until you can knead the bread without needing to add any flour. Form it into a ball.

Pour a little olive oil into the bread bowl and put the dough into the bowl top-side down to cover it, then turn it over so the whole ball has a covering of oil (to keep it from drying out as it rises). Cover with the damp cloth, set it back in the warm place and let it rise for an hour. Punch it down with your fist (about fifteen times), then cover it again and let it rise for another hour.

Remove from the oven and punch it down again. Remove the dough from the bowl and form a ball. Cover with the towel and let it rest for five minutes.

Turn on the oven and set it to 350 deg. F. Grease a bread pan.

Knead the dough about six strokes or so, then lay it out on the counter. Starting with the narrow end, roll it into a loaf. Put it in the loaf pan, top side down, and press the seamed ends together. Turn it over, press it flat with the front of your fingers laid flat, cover it with the damp towel and let it rise for 25 minutes or so.

Beat the egg with the milk. With a sharp knife, cut two diagonal strips on top of the loaf. Brush with the egg, then sprinkle the sesame seeds liberally over the egg.

Bake for one hour, or until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it. Remove from the oven and take out of the pan. Let cool at least one hour before slicing (if you can stand to wait that long).

Halved recipe from
The Tassajara Bread Book, Revised and Updated Edition, by Edward Espe Brown (Shambala 1986)

Exported from Home Cookin 5.7 (

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lentil Curry with Potatoes, Carrots, Spinach, and Chickpeas

This is another one of those dishes that I discovered years ago but have recently fallen out of rotation. It is chock full of healthy vegetables, legumes, and spices. Add brown rice and you have a complete protein that is delicious and filling. The amount of ingredients makes it a little bit of work, but a lot of those ingredients are spices and just need to be measured out. You can do most of the prep work after you've started cooking the onions.

If you don't use ginger often and want to use fresh but are tired of the remainder going bad before you want to use it again, try this: peel and chop all of the ginger at once, then put a tablespoon of what you're not using in each of the compartments of an ice cube tray. Add just enough water to come to the top of the ginger and put it in the freezer. Once the cubes have frozen, you can put them in a freezer bag or freezer container and you have it ready whenever you need it, in just the right amount.

And here's an even better tip you may not have realized: you don't have to buy an entire piece of ginger at the store. They sell it by the pound so just find a piece that looks fresh and pull a knob from it. One knob will give you 4-5 tablespoons, which is more than enough than you will most likely need for a while.

I only made one change to this dish. The original recipe does not have regular peas in it, but when I made it the first time I kept thinking it had peas in it, and I would be surprised when I was eating it that there weren't any there. It was such a strong feeling that I added them the next time, and it threw everything into better balance for me. Your mileage may vary, of course, so feel free to omit them.

I also discovered that the rich, spicy warmth of the curry is beautifully enhanced by the use of smoked paprika. The smokiness brings all of the spices together without overpowering them.

This is another dish that travels well for work lunches.
Home Cookin Chapter: Soups and Stews


2 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp butter (optional)
2 large or 3 med onions, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 fresh serrano chilies, finely minced
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp ground coriander
1-1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp paprika (preferably smoked)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 quart water
1 cup red or brown lentils, rinsed
2 large potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 carrots, cut into 1/2" thick rounds
1 pound fresh spinach
1/2 cup cooked chick-peas
1 cup frozen peas
2 tsp fresh lime juice

Heat oil and butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute, stirring frequently, 10-15 minutes, until onions turn golden brown. Add garlic, chilies, ginger, coriander, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, paprika, salt and pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes longer, stirring frequently.

Stir in water and lentils. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook 10 minutes. Add potatoes and carrots and simmer 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Add spinach and chick-peas and simmer for 5 minutes longer. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in the lime juice.

Serve with brown rice.

Adapted from
The One-Dish Vegetarian, by Maria Robbins (St. Martin's Griffin, 2000)

Exported from Home Cookin 5.7 (

Monday, April 06, 2009

Curried Lamb with Cabbage and Potatoes

This was going to be my St. Patrick's Day post. This seemingly never-ending winter and workday stresses have left me feeling a little blah about blogging, and I am not at my most inspired in the kitchen. But there have been some symbols of spring to inspire me, both in the kitchen and out in the world.

Like this robin Bob and I saw in Andersonville last Saturday on our way to brunch. It was a little chilly still, and overcast, but we could almost smell spring in the air, and this bright cheery bird helped foster the illusion that warmer weather was a'coming.

But alas, it was not to be. Instead, we got a wet, sloppy snowstorm that lasted all day. This is the bus stop where I get off to go to the Big Apple on Clark Street. It was depressing to be out in all that snow at the end of March. And what's worse is that it's supposed to snow today as well. Happy April!

So back to St. Patrick's Day. I've done corned beef twice in recent years, and I made an Irish lamb stew in between. I wanted to something a little different this year, and I had two lamb shanks in the freezer just waiting to be braised.
As usual, I braised my lamb the day before I used it. I knew I wanted to make some kind of stew with it, but I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to flavor it, so I kept the seasonings of the braise pretty simple - just salt and pepper. I kept the aromatics pretty light too, mainly because I didn't have that much in the refrigerator and I am trying to be a little more frugal and just use what I have on hand at any given time. So I cut up an onion, some garlic, and a few celery ribs. For the liquid, I used about three cups of chicken broth I cooked up in my slow cooker, half a bottle of red wine, and a cup of water.

They came out quite lovely and yielded an abundance of meat. I had decided to put an Indian spin on them, and planned to make a curried stew. But they had cabbage and red potatoes on sale for a ridiculously low price (and the cabbage was from Texas no less), so I decided to use the more traditional Irish stew ingredients, but stay with Indian spices. A cool raita could bring it all together, I thought.

The end result was not exactly what I was expecting, but it tasted pretty good all the same. The potatoes were too big, but that's easily fixed. I thought the cabbage would take longer to cook down so I didn't even check it for an hour, at which time I discovered that it was pretty much mush. I used a tablespoon of sweet curry and a tablespoon of Madras curry, which made it just a touch hotter than I would have liked it, especially for this Irish/Indian blend. But the grated cucumber in the raita provided the bit of crunch I had hoped to get from the cabbage, so that worked out ok in the end.

Would I make this again? Probably not, which is why I am not going to share a recipe with you. But I will definitely be doing something with braised lamb shanks again.
2 lamb shanks
2 Tbsp canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups lamb, chicken or vegetable broth
half a bottle of red wine
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 large cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 ribs celery, sliced or chopped
any other vegetables (carrots, fennel, leeks, etc.)
any fresh or dried herbs (oregano, thyme, marjoram, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F. Line a cookie sheet (one that has a shallow lip on all four sides) with aluminum foil. Season the lamb shanks liberally with salt and pepper and place on the cookie sheet. When the oven has reached 400 degrees, put the shanks in the oven and cook them for 15 minutes (until they are just browned).

In the meantime, heat the oil in a dutch oven or saucepan big enough to hold the lamb shanks. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for about five minutes. Add the garlic, celery, and any other vegetables you are using and cook, still stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes or so, until all of the vegetables are wilted and translucent. Add the broth and the wine. Lay the lamb shanks in the mixture, and then use water to bring the liquid up to cover the meat about two-thirds of the way.

Bring just to a simmer, then turn the heat as low as it will go without going out. Cover and cook for two to three hours, until the meat falls away from the bone when you test it with a fork. Check after two hours; it might take longer than three.

Remove the shanks from the pan. Skim the fat from the liquid and continue to cook until it reduces by about a third. Remove the meat from the bones and return it to the liquid. Or, strain the liquid and store it separately from the meat if you want to make soup or stew. You can refrigerate the shanks overnight and remove the meat the next day.
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