Monday, March 29, 2010

Handmade Pappardelle with Goulash-style Beef

The pasta experiment keeps on going. Above is my second attempt. I had some beef stew meat in the freezer that I bought a while ago to make borscht. That never happened.

I also had plans to make my first ever trip down to Paulina Market. I felt a little bad because it's been a while since I've been down to the Apple Market, but I'm just not buying that much meat any more these days. But I was not feeling badly enough not to be excited about my coming adventure. But my freezer has enough meat in it; I needed to clear something out to make room for the new.

I had recently run across a recipe for goulash that a book rep had given me years ago. It was her family recipe, and it seemed easy enough. I had half a package of egg noodles left over from my pot roast so I was going to use those, but as the day progressed and I kept thinking about it, I decided to take another stab at handmade pasta.

The main reason I had decided not to make the pasta myself was because I was gong to make it Monday night, and I thought it would be too much work to cook the goulash and make the pasta on a weeknight. But then I started thinking about the fresh pasta that is sold at the grocery store - I was pretty sure that didn't have to be cooked on the same day it was made, so I did a little investigating and discovered that once the pasta is made, rolled out and cut, it can last up to three days in the refrigerator. So I decided to make the pasta Sunday night, and then I would only have to cook it up on Monday after I made the goulash.

It worked beautifully. I decided to make papardelle this time, to go with the goulash. It only takes a few minutes to mix up the dough, then it rests for about twenty minutes, and then it takes maybe half an hour to roll it out and cut it. I had it in the refrigerator and ready to go in short order.

I came home from work Monday evening and got the goulash started, so it could simmer for a couple of hours. After an hour, I put a pot of hot water on the stove to get it simmering so it would be ready for the pasta when I needed it. After the meat was tender and the goulash was about ready, I brought the water to a roiling boil, added salt, and threw in the noodles. They were ready in about two minutes.

I could not discern any difference in the quality of this batch from the first batch I made, which I cooked right away. I am so happy to have discovered that you don't have to cook the pasta on the same day you make it. Breaking it up into two stages makes it much more convenient to plan a meal with handmade pasta.

Following the rule of three, I fully expect to have the pasta down by the next time I make it. It should go well with the lamb chop I expect to pick up at Paulina Market.

The goulash? It was ok. The ketchup made it a little too sweet, but other than that it was a good recipe. The next time I make it I will leave out the ketchup. Or maybe by then I will have made my own and it will not be as sweet.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spicy Eggplant Stew with Potatoes, Mushrooms and Chickpeas

Spicy Eggplant Stew with Potatoes, Mushrooms and Chickpeas was the first recipe I made back when I decided to eat less processed foods. This was some time at the beginning of 2000. It was a new century and I wanted to start off on a healthy note. I had just quit smoking, and it was such a rush I was eager for more things to give up. White flour, white sugar, white bread, white rice - my main rule of thumb, which actually came from my brother, was that I couldn't eat anything white.

I have always been interested in vegetarian fare, starting with my brief fling in my high school days when my sister convinced me it would be a good idea. That lasted six months. The next time, I think I lasted almost a year. After that, I decided maybe it would be all right if I just cut back on my meat consumption, since I seemed unable to give it up completely.

One of the cookbooks I received at the time was Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. It had just come out in hardcover and I was looking for it, hoping to find a recipe or two that was not too intimidating. I don't know why I opted for the Spicy Eggplant Stew with Potatoes, Mushrooms and Chickpeas. Maybe I had an eggplant in the refrigerator. Maybe the ingredients were familiar enough, at least most of them.

Well, except maybe for the asafetida. I didn't have that. I'd never even heard of it. And when I looked it up, I figured it wasn't anything I ever needed to get. I figured they didn't call it Devil's dung and stinking gum for nothing. But I also read that it replaces onions and garlic, so I figured I could just stick with the garlic and not worry about the stinkweed. I also didn't have cumin seeds the first time I made it, so I used ground. Not having anything against which to compare, I was pleased with the results. It went well with whole wheat couscous.

As it became a dish I made with some regularity, I started thinking about the cumin and the asafetida. I picked up the cumin seeds on my next trip to the Spice House, but when I asked about asafetida, they said they didn't currently have it but might get some in in the next month or so. I didn't expect that they really would get it in, but the next time I was there and asked, they had it. It came in a small plastic jar in a plastic bag, and even before I opened it I could smell it. I can't even begin to describe the way it smells, but Devil's dung and Stinking gum are, indeed, apt names.

But I have to admit, it made a difference in the Spicy Eggplant Stew. The unpleasant odor mellows in the heat, and the spice adds a warm, mellow flavor that is hard to define, but having tasted it once, I know when it is missing. I have since had occasion to use it in other Indian dishes I have made, and while I would not want to use it every day, there are times when it is a necessary component to a dish, and nothing else will do.

In between those times, however, I keep the little plastic jar in a plastic bag in yet another jar, and store the whole thing on the top shelf of my spice cabinet, as far away as possible.

If you're feeling adventurous, pick up some asafetida and follow the recipe. If not, just chop up some garlic and use that instead. Either way, you can't go wrong with Spicy Eggplant Stew. It's smoky, spicy, and travels well for work lunches. Or add a salad and a nice, crusty loaf of bread and you have the makings of a mighty fine dinner.

I was talking to my sister while I was making this, and I mentioned my mise en place. "Take a picture of that for me," she told me. So I did. And here it is. Minus the oil (I used ghee) and the chickpeas, which I almost forgot about entirely.

Anyhoo, I have gotten in the habit of setting all of my ingredients out when there are a lot of them that need to be added in a certain order. It takes a little longer, but it does make the process easier.
Home Cookin Chapter: Soups and Stews

India--Shorvedar Baigan Aur Aloo

Serves 4-6

1/4 cup peanut or canola oil
1/3 tsp ground asafetida
1-1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
3 whole dried hot red chiles
2 cloves lightly crushed peeled garlic
3/4 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1-1/2-inch chunks
3/4 lb. eggplant, cut crosswise into 1 1-1/2-inch chunks
3/4 lb. large white mushrooms, cut into halves or quarters to match other vegetables
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 cup tomato puree
2-1/4 tsp salt
3/4 well-packed cup (3 ounce) very finely minced fresh cilantro
2-1/4 cups drained cooked chickpeas

Put the oil in a large, wide pot and set over high heat. When hot, add asafetida and cumin. Let them sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the red chiles. As soon as they swell and darken (a matter of seconds), add the garlic and the potatoes. Stir and fry for a minute. Add the eggplant chunks. Stir and fry 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and stir and fry another 2 minutes.

Add the turmeric and ground coriander. Stir once, and then add the tomato puree, 4 cups of water, salt, cilantro, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil. Cover, turn the heat down to low, and simmer gently for 35-40 minutes, until all of the vegetables are tender.

Serve over brown rice or whole wheat couscous.

adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian (Clarkson Potter, 1999).

Exported from Home Cookin 6.45 (Beta 1) (

Monday, March 22, 2010

Purple Potatoes with Chorizo and Onions

My first encounter with chorizo was when one of my housemates would scramble up some eggs with it back in Austin. It was greasy and it smelled funny to me, and I wanted nothing to do with it. Much like a different housemate who brought home some squid and, not having the least idea how to prepare it, scrambled it up with some eggs. I don't really remember a taste so much as little strips of rubber that, no matter how much I chewed, refused to go away. I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I was in no hurry to experience either chorizo or squid ever again.

When I moved to Chicago, I encountered squid fairly quickly on the menu of almost every Italian restaurant, cleverly disguised as calamari, but I wasn't going to fall for that. And then I was dining with someone who ordered it and convinced me to take a taste. So I took the teeniest, tiniest little fried ring I could find and drowned it in the marinara with which it had been served. And then I took another, bigger, ring and only dipped it in the sauce. And then I asked my dining companion what he was going to have for his appetizer. Just kidding, but it was that good.

So I started thinking about chorizo, and I began to wonder if maybe it was the preparation that made it so unpalatable to me. I had run across references to it over the years, in recipes and online discussions, and I began to think maybe I should give it a try. So I decided to pick up a package the next time I was at Treasure Island.

I wasn't completely sure how I was going to prepare it, so I wandered over to the produce department to see if I could find some inspiration there. As luck would have it, I saw some beautiful purple potatoes, not something I see every day. I know potatoes and sausage go well together, so I decided to go with that. I thought it might make a good accompaniment for my corn casserole.

I thought it would go faster if I roasted the potatoes first, rather than cooking them in the skillet with the onions and chorizo. I washed and quartered them, but did not peel them.

You can see how pretty they are inside Unfortunately, they just turn brown when they are cooked and aren't so pretty.

I tossed them in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin and a little chili powder. I roasted them in a 350 degree (F) oven for about 20 minutes, until they were tender, but not too soft. I knew they were going to cook some more in the skillet and I didn't want them to fall apart on me.

The chorizo came in a plastic-wrapped tube. I split it open and squeezed the sausage out into my heated cast-iron skillet. I knew it would be greasy so I did not add any oil to the pan before I started heating it. I mashed it around with the wooden spoon until it broke down like ground meat, and then I added the onion. Chorizo already has garlic so I did not add any more, just the sausage and onion. No salt or pepper, either.

I let the onion and sausage cook until the sausage was thoroughly browned and the onions were nice and translucent. I added the potatoes at the end and left them in just long enough for them to get coated and to be completely heated.

They were good on their own, and they nicely complemented the corn casserole. I will definitely experiment with chorizo again. And I have since discovered that they are supposed to be good with scrambled eggs, so I believe I might just have to try that myself, now that I know how the sausage is supposed to be cooked.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hand-made Pasta with Asparagus

It's been a rough week, but I did have some time to take my first stab at hand-made pasta. I learned the basics in a Master Chef Class I had the privilege to take last month at the Foodservice Educators Network International (FENI) conference. I did not actually make pasta in the class, but it certainly helped to watch the Chef make it and listen to her describe the process as she made the most delicious stuffed pasta dishes it has been my pleasure to taste.

Overall, I am pleased with my results. I rolled the pasta out as thin as I could, and it did get quite thin, but it absorbed a lot of the water and expanded during the cooking. It was perfectly al dente, and held up well to the sauce.

I kept the sauce simple. I broke the ends off of asparagus spears and simmered them in water for a quick stock, and then I blanched the tips. I sauteed a large sliced shallot in a mix of butter and olive oil, added the asparagus broth, and cooked it down. When it was about ready I boiled the pasta for about two minutes. I added the asparagus tips to the sauce just as the pasta was done, and then I added the pasta to the sauce as well, along with about a quarter cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

I will definitely be playing with pasta again. Once I have had more practice and a better understanding of how it works, I will share my new-found knowledge with you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Curried Squash and Red Lentil Soup

For the past several years there has been some item of produce that has stood out for me, that I have not been able to get enough of. One year it was tomatoes. Another year it was melons. Last year it was beets.

This year, there didn't seem to be anything that stood out as being particularly spectacular. I suppose it was the crappy growing season, or maybe it was the economy and my budget not letting me run too wild at the green market.

I was thinking about it just the other day as I threw yet another butternut squash into my shopping basket. And then realized I had thrown another butternut squash into the cart. And then started counting up, and realized it was the fourth butternut squash I had bought in the past three months (sixth if you count the two I bought in Austin to make roasted butternut squash soup for my family down there).

And just like that, I realized that butternut squash has been my vegetable of the season this past season. I have not been able to get enough of it. I've mostly made soups with it, but they have all been different enough that I do not feel like I have been eating the same thing.

This squash lives up to its name. It has a rich buttery flavor with a hint of nuttiness that holds up well to other flavors. The flesh is dense and solid, and does not fall apart when sauteed and added to stews and other vegetable dishes. And it purees up into a rich, creamy soup that goes down like smooth velvet.

I had gotten in the habit of peeling the squash, cutting it into cubes, and roasting it along with shallots and then making a lovely soup with my stick blender. I was halfway there with the most recent one. I thought I would go for an eastern flavor for this soup, and coated the squash with olive oil, cinnamon, cumin, a little chili powder, and cardamom. I roasted the squash and shallots but did not make the soup right away.

In the meantime, I still had about two pounds of red lentils to go through and needed something thick and hearty for work lunches. I skimmed through my list of untried recipes and came across something that used both red lentils and butternut squash. As I skimmed over the list of ingredients and instructions, I realized the squash I had already roasted would work for this recipe.

I knew the squash already had a strong flavor profile going for it, but I was sure the spices I had used in the roasting would complement the curry and ginger called for in the soup. Instead of adding the squash with the other vegetables and cooking them in the pot, I waited until the rest of the vegetables were tender and added the squash and the shallots at the end, just long enough to heat them through.

This soup is truly a party in the mouth. There's the slight hint of sweet sneaking in from the cinnamon and cardamom, with a smart blast of heat thrown out by the curry powder, cumin and chili powder. The sweet heat of the ginger bridged the gap between them.

This was the recipe for which I made the cilantro oil I posted about here. The soup was good without it, but with it the flavors sang. For lunch I spooned it over dill rice, which brought out a completely new dimension.

I fell head over heels in love with this dish. If you try it, I think you will, too.
Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables


3 Tbsp grapeseed oil, separated
2 Tbsp ghee
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp ginger, peeled and minced (or 1 Tbsp dried)
1 tsp madras curry powder
2 tsp sweet curry powder
1 cup red lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 quarts water
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Cilantro Oil
Dill Rice

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. and line a lidded baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place squash in a bowl and add salt & pepper and the cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, chili powder, and a dash of cayenne. Add a tablespoon of oil and mix everything together.

Spread the mixture evenly on the foil-covered backing sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes in the oven, until the squash is tender but not mushy. Remove from the oven. (Can be done the day before.)

Heat oil and ghee over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the onions have begun to turn brown, around 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the curry powders and add pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the lentils and the water and bring to a boil. Skim anhy foam that develops from the surface. Lower heat,
cover, and simmer for about 40 minutes, until lentils are tender. Stir in the lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat.

Serve over dill rice. Drizzle with cilantro oil before serving.

adapted from Gourmet Magazine (R.I.P.), February 2009

Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (

Monday, March 08, 2010

Cilantro Oil

I was back in Austin this weekend and didn't have a lot of time to write so I am keeping it a bit simple this Monday morning.

I am a big fan of flavored oils and sauces, but for some reason I do not make them often. Perhaps it is because they are usually made for specific purposes, and once they have been used for that purpose I am never sure what to do with what is left over. Which, in the writing of it here, makes me realize how stupid a reason that is, given how delicious any flavored oil would be over any steamed, sauteed, or roasted vegetable, casserole, soup or stew.

I found a recipe I wanted to try that called for cilantro oil and decided to make it. It turned out to be delicious, and finished off the dish perfectly. Like the gremolata, it melts into the hot food and adds a punch of fresh grassy flavor to every bite.

1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup grapeseed or other neutral-flavored oil

Place oil and cilantro in blender and puree until well blended. Can be made with a stick-blender.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Roasted Asparagus and Grapefruit Salad

Spend enough time in Chicago and you will inevitably hear someone mention that the Windy City has two seasons: Winter and Construction. I'd like to point out a third season, that starts sometime around the last week of February and lasts through March 17th. There's a run on corned beef at the grocery stores, beer and the Chicago River turn green, and people wear the most ridiculous things just so they, too, can wear green. Chicago is B-I-G on St. Patrick's Day. Go figure.

There's another, more exciting green that appears about this time of year. Asparagus pops up everywhere, and it's on sale for an incredibly low price. I don't know if it's local, and I'm sure it's not organic, but it's fresh, and cheap and I always end up buying as much of it as I can and eating it until I can't stand to eat any more. Which is fine because, by then, it is no longer fresh and the price has gone up.

I don't know if there's a direct connection between asparagus and St. Paddy, but they will always be interlocked in my mind because asparagus is green and it always shows up right right before March 17th. Which is more than fine with me.

And if I'm particularly lucky, Texas ruby reds will also be available, and I can make this delicious Roasted Asparagus and Grapefruit salad. It's another one of those bridge dishes that starts to whisper sweet nothings of springtime in my mouth.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


1 bunch (approximately 1-1/2 lbs.) asparagus
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 large grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
2 Tbsp gorgonzola or bleu cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 large or 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

Trim the bottom ends from the asparagus and rinse under cold water. Toss with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place on a shallow baking sheet and roast until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the grapeseed oil in a small skillet. Add the shallots and saute, stirring frequently, until they are well browned, but not burned. Remove from the skillet and place on a paper-towel covered plate so they will drain and get crispy.

When the asparagus is tender, remove from the oven and divide them by four. Arrange each fourth on a salad plate in a single row and cover with the cheese while they are still warm.

Divide the grapefruit in fourths, and arrange each fourth on top of the asparagus and cheese, and then top each dish with the basil, nuts and shallots.

Makes 4 individual salads.

Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (

Monday, March 01, 2010

Orzo, Broccoli and Pea Salad

We're deep in the heart of winter, but there are signs that spring might not be too far away. There is a ten-minute window of daylight before the sun sets when I leave the office, and the wind has shifted just the slightest, with the barest hint of humidity .

While I am still enjoying the hearty soups and stews for which the season begs, I find myself dreaming in anticipation of spring fare. Asparagus, spinach and peas are just around the corner and I can hardly wait.

And I start thinking of salads, and other light fare.

This orzo, broccoli and pea salad was born out of just such a yearning. It is based on the Marinated Whole Wheat Pasta and Vegetable Salad I wrote about here back in May of 2006. In fact, I used the marinade recipe as written, changed the rotini to orzo, cut up salad tomatoes instead of cerry tomatoes, threw in some fresh basil in addition to the parsley, and topped it with chopped toasted hazelnuts.

I wasn't sure whether or not whole wheat orzo would be available here, but I found it at Treasure Island. It's the same brand that produces a great (and the original, I believe) Texmati brown rice - RiceSelect.

It is quick and delicious, and makes a great light lunch or dinner. And it lends itself well to mixing and matching with whatever pasta and vegetables you have on hand.

And it will tide you over while you wait for those first true spring vegetables to appear.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...