Sunday, December 30, 2012

Simple and Satisfying: Sinigang

I love how serendipitous life can be.  At our holiday party this year I was sitting at a table where the talk turned to food.  One of my co-workers was talking about the Filipino foods he grew up eating and every once in a while he would turn to the woman who was sitting between us and ask "Have you had that?"  Her response every time was yes, so I started wondering how she had come to be so familiar with Filipino cuisine.  I finally had to ask her, and it turns out that her husband is Filipino.

One of the dishes they were discussing, called Sinigang, sounded especially interesting to me, so I asked her if she would bring me the recipe when she had a chance.  She got up from the table, went looking for paper and a pen, and sat down right then and there and wrote it out for me.  I put it in my pocket and brought it home, then promptly forgot about it.

That weekend I met a friend for breakfast and after a couple of hours of catching up we decided to walk down the street to Whole Foods.  I had no meal plans for the week and was getting ready for my annual pilgrimage to Austin so I didn't want to load up with too many groceries.  As I was thinking about what I already had in the kitchen and what I might need, I realized that I already had most of the ingredients to make Sinigang so I bought the few items I still needed, hoping that I was not forgetting anything.

Sinigang is the perfect thing to make when you want something hearty and satisfying but do not want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  It comes together quickly and easily and is a perfect one-dish meal for a cold winter's day.  It is usually made with fish or pork, but it sure was tasty with the chicken.  The tamarind gives it a fresh citrus flavor that can be achieved with lime juice of you do not have access to tamarind paste. I usually have it on hand now that I am making my own Worcestershire sauce and am always looking for other ways to use it and this is a particularly delicious way to use it. In fact, it would be worth having the tamarind paste hanging around the pantry just for this dish alone.

And it would make an excellent New Year's Day lunch or dinner.
Home Cookin Chapter: Poultry

Makes 4 servings

2 lbs chicken thighs
2 Tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1-2 whole banana peppers
1 lb chopped leafy greens, fresh or frozen
1 Tbsp tamarind paste
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Place the chicken in a large dutch oven and add enough water to barely cover.  Season with salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onions and saute until they are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute.  Remove from the heat and let cool.

After the chicken has been simmering for the 20 minutes, add the onion garlic and ginger mixture to the pot, then the tomatoes and banana pepper(s).  Bring back to a boil, cover, and cook for another 30 minutes.  Add the greens and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the chicken is done.

Add the tamarind and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the heat and serve immediately over rice.

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Friday, December 28, 2012

Baking Class: Molasses Spice Cookies

For the past few years I have been searching for a molasses cookie recipe that recreates the flavor and texture of Archway molasses cookies.   While a few came close in taste, I could not find any recipe that provided the soft, chewy texture that I loved.  Thinking it must be the shortening that I no longer use, I had pretty much given up on finding a successful version.

I recently re-discovered the Chicago Public Library and, after updating my card, checked out a few cookbooks.  One of them was Texas Home Cooking, by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.  I saw a recipe for Molasses Spice Cookies that looked different from any of the others I had tried so I thought it would be worth a shot.

 And it was worth more than a shot.  It has been a while now since I have actually had an Archway molasses cookie, but the cookie this recipe produces matches exactly my memory of how it should taste and feel.  It is soft and chewy with the rich dark taste of molasses and just the right amount of sweetness and spice.  I took them to work and got rave reviews there as well.  I will definitely be making these again.  Often.

Home Cookin Chapter: Cookies

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup unsulphured dark molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp salt
approximately 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F.

Cream the brown sugar and butter.  Add the egg and molasses and mix well.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients (except for the sugar) and mix into a soft dough.

Pour the sugar onto a small plate or saucer.  Roll the dough into small balls (about 3/4-inch in diameter), then roll each ball in the sugar.  Place the rolled balls onto the baking sheet about one-and-a-half inches apart.

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, turning the sheets halfway through to ensure evenness.  Do not let them overbake or they will not stay soft and chewy.  Remove from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes before transferring them  to paper towels while they finish cooling.

Will keep for 5 to 7 days in a tightly-sealed container.

from Texas Home Cooking, by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison(Harvard Common Press, 1993

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Simple and Satisfying: Whole Wheat Couscous with Butternut Squash

With this second "Simple and Satisfying" post, I seem to have created a new series for the blog.  This is another one of those dishes that comes together quickly when you don't have much in the pantry and are looking for something you can throw together for an impromptu meal.  Couscous are an excellent grain to always have on hand, as they can go from pantry to table in less than half an hour.

The beauty of this recipe is that it can be used as a template.  I happened to have a couple of cups of chopped butternut squash left over from something I made earlier in the week, but any vegetable will do - sweet potato, zucchini, green beans, carrots, bell peppers - pretty much anything you have in the refrigerator.  You could even use spinach or Swiss chard, or other greens.  If you don't have chicken or vegetable broth, use water and add dried herbs.  Use raisins, cranberries, dates or any other dried fruit to add a touch of sweetness.  If you don't have pistachios on hand, walnuts or pine nuts would make a particularly good substitute, but any nut will do.  You basically want the fruit for a touch of sweetness and the nuts for texture as well as for taste.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 4 servings

2 cups butternut squash, chopped
1-1/2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
Salt to taste
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1/4 cup dried mango, chopped
1/3 cup toasted pistachios, roughly chopped

Place squash in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the squash is tender.  Remove from the heat and shock the cooked squash in cold water, then drain.

Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan over high heat.   Season to taste with salt.  Add couscous and dried mango and cover, turning the heat as low as it will go.  Let it simmer for two minutes.  Add the butternut squash, cover, and remove from the heat.  Let sit for 15 minutes.

Fluff the couscous with a fork, being careful not to mash the squash.  Top each plate of the couscous and butternut squash with the toasted pistachios before serving.


Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Simple and Satisfying: Pasta with Tomato Sauce

Around the holidays when life gets crazy, sometimes simple is best.  A quick meal that takes minutes to throw together can work wonders to revive a flagging spirit.

But that doesn't mean that you have to end up settling for fast food. Something as simple as pasta and tomato sauce can come together to make a hearty, satisfying dinner.  Garlic bread and salad turn it into a meal fit for company.

The beauty of it is that it does not take long to prepare.  And it can feed a large crowd as well as one or two, for little extra effort.  And as long as you have a package of dried pasta, a can or jar of tomatoes, and some quality parmigiana Reggiano on hand you can have dinner on the table in less than an hour.  And while the fresh basil I happened to have on hand made this quite delicious (and quite Christmas-y as well), you can have an equally delicious sauce without fresh herbs.

I have posted my basic tomato sauce before, but to save you the trouble of clicking through the link here is a brief recap:

Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil.  At the same time, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Add 4 to 5 chopped or sliced cloves garlic and cook until it turns golden.  Add a can or jar of any kind of tomatoes - whole, diced, crushed, or pureed.  Add a teaspoon of dried thyme and half a teaspoon of dried basil (or adjust to taste).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Let simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency.

Add salt to the boiling water in the stockpot and cook the pasta a minute or two less than the time given on the package directions.  Reserve a cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and add it to the tomato sauce and cook for another minute or two, until the pasta is al dente and the sauce is absorbed.  Add pasta water if necessary.  Remove from the heat and add one fourth of a cup of grated parmagiana Regiano cheese and any fresh herbs you wish to use.  Serve immediately with extra grated cheese on the side.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Balsamic Lentil Soup

Now that I have been cooking with legumes for over a decade it can be challenging to find something new and exciting.  I know there is a lot more out there that I have yet to encounter, but as I have been cooking so much from scratch and working with various cuisines many new recipes that I found seem to be variations on similar themes.  There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and every now and then I run into a new ingredient or method that takes a dish to a whole new level, which is why I continue to buy cookbooks and magazines and look online for new recipes to try.  I never know from where inspiration may come.

This Balsamic Lentil Soup is a good example of this.  The only reason I gave the recipe a second look is because I had some escarole left over from a chickpea soup recipe I recently tried (that was not all that successful on its own but has reminded me that I am not overly fond of rosemary and a little goes a looooong way, and about which I have some ideas on how to improve, so I hope to have something new to share with you about that in the near future as well) and I needed a legume dish to take to work with me for weekday lunches.

I have several soup cookbooks, many of which I have not looked through since that first quick once-over I give every new cookbook that finds its way into my home, so I took them off the shelf and started looking through them to see if I could come up with anything.  I found this recipe in a little cookbook called Savory Soups and Stews by Anne Egan that I have had for several years but had not yet taken the time to look through it.

What stood out in this recipe was the use of balsamic vinegar.  Balsamic vinegar is an item that I use often in vinaigrettes and marinades, but I have not found many other uses for it.  That may be a result of its overuse in the late '90s, where every restaurant had its own version of roasted [fill in the blank] with balsamic vinegar.  Inevitably, the dish was drowning in a lesser quality pool of the stuff.

But I thought it might work well with the lentils, and provide a different flavor profile than the ones with which I am familiar.  I thought the sweetness might provide a nice balance with the earthiness of the lentils.

The result was good, but not great.  There was not enough acidity to my taste to balance out the sweetness, and overall the soup lacked a depth that I have come to expect in my lentil dishes.  I had to add more salt than I like because of it, and a dollop of yogurt increased the acidity just enough, although it could still have used more.

Overall I liked it enough to make it again, but I would add some red wine and use slightly less of the vinegar, and I would add either lemon juice or white wine vinegar at the end to up the acid level.  I could barely taste the Tabasco sauce I used as the mild pepper sauce, so I would definitely use more of that next time I make it.  Your mileage may vary. 

(This post has been edited to correct for my inability to correctly spell "Balsamic.")
Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

Serves 4
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups beef, vegetable or chicken broth
3 cups water
1 can (14-1/2 oz) diced tomatoes
1 cup dried lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 bay leaf
2 cups chopped escarole
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp mild-pepper sauce
kosher salt to taste

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.  Add the broth, water, tomatoes, lentils and bay leaf and bring it to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Stir in the escarole, vinegar, and the mild pepper sauce and season to taste with salt.  Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.

from Savory Soups and Stews, by Anne Egan (Rodale Inc., 2000)

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Baking Class: Foccacia

Let's take a minute to talk about Focaccia.  Focaccia was one of the first things I made when I started working with yeasted doughs, but once I started making pizza it fell by the wayside.  It is similar to pizza dough in process, taste and texture, so I forgot about it once I felt that I had mastered the art of pizza.  And once I had moved on to bagels, sweet rolls, and other yeasted goodies, I had little reason to go back to it.

But there have been times when I have wanted bread but had neither the time nor the inclination to mix the sponge, let it rise, let it rise again, shape it, let it rise, bake it and cool it.  While I still love to make bread and make it often, it's a weekend project and I have to plan for it.  Crackers and bagels are easier and take less time to make than bread, but they are still somewhat labor intensive and I have to plan ahead if I want to make them on a weeknight.

Focaccia, on the other hand, takes little effort and less time than the other yeasted breads I have been making, and what time it does take does not involve a lot of hands-on work.  I mix the dough in a food processor, let it rise, shape it, let it rise again, then bake it, and it can be ready to eat in about two and a half hours.  And that can be easily managed on a weeknight.

This bread has turned out to be my mainstay.  It works as breakfast toast, peanut butter delivery system for lunch or snacktime, and can be served at dinnertime with soup or salad.  I have used it as the base for pimento cheese and for tuna salad, and it is quite good on its own.

The first time I made it I used a recipe I found in Mario Batali's Molto Italiano cookbook.  Once I corrected for the typo that said to add half a cup of water instead of one-and-a-half cups it was decent, but I was not particularly tempted to try it again.  I later found a recipe in Micol Negrin's Rustico, a beautifully written and photographed tour of regional dishes that goes beyond the known specialties of each region and offers lesser-known gems.

As I mentioned above, this dough is mixed in a food processor so it comes together in minutes. The original recipe filled a half sheet and made a batch that was 18 x 13, which yielded 16 pieces.  While that is a great amount for a large group, it was more than I could handle at a time so I adjusted the recipe to fit a quarter sheet and I get 8 pieces per batch, which is just about perfect.

Here is a batch fresh out of the oven on a cooling rack.  You can eat it hot, warm, or at room temperature.  It is delicious any of those ways.

I should mention that it goes soft quickly, and gets stale after a day or two.  If I am being honest, it is only truly fresh and crispy right after it is made.  After that, it works better toasted.  Toasting it crisps up the outside, but the inside stays soft so it is really more that it is refreshing the bread than toasting it.  The slices were too wide for my 20-year-old toaster, but for about twenty dollars I found a toaster with wide slots that does the job.

The original recipe uses quite a bit more olive oil than I do.  If you want a more authentic version, mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with 2 tablespoons of room temperature water and spread that over the dough before letting it rise.

This recipe truly is fast, easy and delicious.  I make it just about once a week.

Other than the occasional specialty loaf, I have not bought bread in about four years.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 8 servings

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp dry active yeast
1-1/2 tsp salt, divided
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided, plus extra for the bowl and pan
Approximately 3/4 cup water at 110-115 deg. F., divided
1 tsp water at room temperature

Combine the flour, yeast, and a teaspoon of the salt in a food processor with the blade attachment.  Let it pulse a few times to combine the dry ingredients.  With the motor running, add about 1/4 cup of the warm water followed by 1 tablespoon of oil, and then enough of the warm water to create a soft dough that forms a ball.  Let the dough process for 45 seconds, then remove it from the processor and shape it into a ball.  Put it top side down in an oiled medium-sized mixing bowl and turn it over to ensure that the whole surface of the dough has been oiled.  Cover the bowl and let it rise until doubled in size, about one hour.

Generously oil a quarter-size rimmed baking sheet.  Place the dough top-side down into the oiled sheet and press it out evenly.  If the dough resists, let it rest for 5 minutes so that it can relax.  Spread about a teaspoon of olive oil over the surface of the dough with your fingers, and then sprinkle a few drops of water on the dough and spread it around over the oil

Let the dough rise for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle about 1/2 a teaspoon of the salt over the dough.  Using the pads of your fingers, make dimples evenly across the top.

Preheat the oven to 475 deg. F. and let the dough rise for another 30 minutes.  Bake the focaccia on the bottom rack of the oven for 20 minutes, or until crisp and golden on the top.  It can be served hot, warm, or at room temperature.

recipe adapted from Rustico:  Regional Italian Country Cooking, by Micol Negrin (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2002)

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Friday, November 23, 2012

Afghani Squash Casserole

I was looking for something new to offer as a Thanksgiving side dish when I remembered a recipe for Afghani Squash Casserole I had pulled out of the November 2003 issue of Vegeterian Times. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have not had much success with recipes I have found there and I had been always at a little bit of a loss to explain, even to myself, why I continued to subscribe since I had yet to find a viable recipe, I now have my answer.  This recipe rocks! The combined flavors of the concentrated tomato sauce, tangy mint and scallion-flavored yogurt and sweetness of the squash work in harmony to provide a complexity of taste and texture that would make this a memorable accompaniment to the traditional turkey, dressing and yes, even the ubiquitous green bean casserole.

I missed the opportunity to post this in time for Thanksgiving, but it doesn't have to be a once-a-year Thanksgiving-only dish. It is a great way to take advantage of the abundance of winter squash at this time of year, and it could hold its own as the main dish for any evening meal served over couscous, rice or noodles.

The recipe as written calls for 4 cups of spaghetti sauce. Not being sure what that meant and not wanting to use a prepared sauce, I made a quick version of my Tomato Garlic Sauce and proceeded from there. The cinnamon and cloves married well with the thyme and basil. This would make a delicious pasta sauce on its own (on which more later).

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 6 servings

2 lbs winter squash, peeled and cut into 2-1/2-inch cubes
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 14-oz cans crushed tomatoes (or 1 28-oz and 1 14-oz cans)
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1-1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 tsp dried mint, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup minced scallions, plus extra for garnish

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes, thyme and basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the cinnamon and the cloves and continue to cook until the sauce is thick, about 30 more minutes.  This can be done up to 3 days ahead.

Combine the yogurt, mint, scallions and about 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt in small bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F.  Mix the squash together with the remaining tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread out on a foil or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, until just tender but not too soft.

Arrange the squash in a serving dish and spread the tomato sauce over it but do not completely cover the squash.  Layer the yogurt spread over the tomato sauce and garnish with scallions and mint.

Adapted from recipe found in Vegetarian Times, November 2003

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cottage Pie

What is the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherds' Pie?  Short answer:  the kind of meat you use. At least if you are in the UK, where the recipe seems to have originated.  Traditionally, a cottage pie is made with beef and a shepherds' pie is made with lamb.  Both were made utilizing leftovers from the Sunday roasted meat and vegetables.  Here in the states, however (at least in my memory), shepherds' pie was introduced using beef, so shepherds' pie is what we called it.  And that is what I called it when I first wrote about it in this post.

But now that I know the difference, I am calling this dish Cottage Pie.  For reasons that are irrelevant to this post, I made a 4 or 5-pound pot roast over the weekend, thinking I would freeze half of it, but I am embarrassed to say I did not have enough room for half of a pot roast in my freezer (and there you have the reason after all).  So I chipped away at it all week and still had half left by the weekend.  What to do with the leftovers?  I thought about soup, but a chance encounter with a rutabaga at the Green City Market changed my mind. I thought about mashing it and that thought led to adding potato, and from there it was a short hop to cottage pie, and an even shorter hop led to my decision to add cheese to the potato-rutabaga mash.

I am quite proud of my achievement on this dish.  The vegetables are tender but still firm and the meat becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender.  The rutabaga lightens up the potatoes and keeps the cheesy topping from taking over completely, but it has that rich buttery flavor and texture that you want in a mashed potato topping.

And as much as I have always enjoyed this dish with ground meat, it becomes transcendent when you use leftovers.  I think I will be adding too much meat to my roasting pot more often just so I can keep making it this way.
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


Makes 6 servings

2 TBSP olive oil
1 carrot, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 oz pot roast, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 TBSP fresh chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, etc.), or 2 tsp dried
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup port or other rich red wine (or broth, or water)

3 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

Heat  the oil over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the carrot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook until tender, approximately 5 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add the beef and the peas and cook until they are heated through.  Add the herbs and parsley, stir them in, and remove from the heat.  Adjust seasoning as required.

To make the potato and rutabaga topping, combine the chopped potatoes and rutabaga in a medium saucepan and fill with just enough cold water to cover the vegetables.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until a knife slides easily into both the potato and the rutabaga.

Drain the vegetables and return them to the saucepan and place it back over the low heat.  Mash them well, adding enough milk to bring them to the desired consistency.  Add 1 cup of the cheese and the butter and stir to melt them into the mixture.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

Place the cooled meat mixture into a 2-quart round or 8 x 8-inch square baking dish.  Add the wine, being sure that the liquid does not rise more than halfway up the mixture.

Drop spoonsful of the mashed potatoes and rutabaga evenly over the beef mixture and then spread it out, making sure that it reaches all the way to the sides of the dish.  Sprinkle the remaining half cup of shredded cheese evenly across the top.

Bake at 350 deg. F. for 50 minutes.  The beef mixture should be hot and bubbling.  If desired, place under the broiler for 2 minutes to brown the potatoes.

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bean Stew (Lubiya)

As a counterpoint to the Chilean pumpkin stew that was such a disappointment to me, I thought I would share something I found much more to my liking.

I found this recipe for Bean Stew (Lubiya) in Habeeb Salloum's Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East & North Africa.  I got a copy of the book years ago, leafed through it briefly, and stuck it on the shelf where I am sorry to say it has languished until a few years ago when I took it down and leafed through it so I could mark any recipes that interested me.  I believe I tagged three out of the hundreds of recipes offered.

Back on the shelf it went.  Until a couple of weeks ago, when I was looking for something different to do with navy beans.  I don't know why I decided to look there instead of the books I usually use.  Perhaps that is specifically why I did decide to look there, now that I think about it.  I was looking for something different.

And I found it with this dish.  The flavors are clear and bright, with a flavor profile that is different from the usual bean dishes that I usually make.  It made for a refreshing change that spiced up my lunch rotation.  I will be making it again.

And once I had the book down off the shelf again, I went through it to see if there were any other recipes that might appeal.  I am pleased to report that there are now many tabs sticking up to mark recipes that I plan to try.  A win-win situation all around, if you ask me.

A note of interest (possibly only to me):  when I did an online search for Lubiya I discovered that it is usually made with black-eyed peas, which a absolutely detest.  Had the version in this book called for those instead of white beans, I would never have made it.

Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

Makes 4 servings

1 cup dried navy beans, sorted and rinsed
2tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onions, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 small chili, finely chopped
1 cup stewed tomatoes
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon allspice
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of saffron
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place the beans in a pot and cover with water by 2 inches over the beans.  Bring the pot to boil, then lower the heat and cover.  Simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender.  Check periodically and add water as needed.

While the beans are cooking, heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet and cook the onion for 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cilantro, and chili and saute for another 5 minutes.

Add the onion mixture, tomatoes, and spices to the beans and bring it back to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for another 30 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and remove from the heat.

Can be served hot or cold.

from Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East and North Africa, by Habeeb Salloum (Interlink Books, 2000)

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Chilean Pumpkin Stew with Corn and Beans

This is a dish that I will most likely not be making again, I am sorry to say.  I am especially sorry to say it because the recipe came from one of my favorite bean cookbooks, Jay Solomon's Lean Bean Cuisine.  It is the first recipe I have tried from the book that did not wow me.

To be fair, it may not be the fault of the recipe.  The herbs and spices that flavor this dish is a combination that I have discovered does not suit my palate.  Dishes that have a high proportion of paprika (without some kind of acid for balance) translate to a mustiness on my palate.  While there was nothing particularly wrong with it, it did not overwhelm me.

I am surprised that I didn't like it more, given how much I like all of the individual ingredients.  I will not make this again, but I will certainly make other dishes with these ingredients.  I will just flavor them differently.

If this recipe looks good to you, though, I would say it is worth trying.  Chacun à son goût.

A note on the beans:  You can cook them (as I always do these days) using the no-soak method I wrote about here.
Home Cookin Chapter: Beans and Vegetables

Makes 4 servings

1 cup cranberry, anasazi, or pink beans, soaked and drained
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons paprika
4 large tomatoes, cored and diced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups peeled, chopped pumpkin or butternut squash
1 cp corn kernels, fresh, frozen or canned

Place the beans in a saucepan, add plenty of water to cover, and cook  for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until the beans are tender.  Drain, reserving  1-1/2 cups of the cooking liquid, and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the onion, garlic, and paprika and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and seasonings and cook for about 10 minutes more, until the mixture is a thick pulp.  Add the beans, reserved cooking liquid, and squash and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender.  Stir in the corn and return to a simmer for a few minutes.

Serve the stew in bowls with rice on the side.

from Lean Bean Cuisine, by Jay Solomon (Prima Publishing, 1995)

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Stir Fried Eggplant with Snow Peas

This might not look pretty but it did taste good.  I found something called Thai Long Green Eggplant (Makheua Yao Keaw) at the Leaning Shed Farm stand at the Green City Market so I bought some and decided to do a stiry fry with them.  Thai long green eggplant are similar to the light purple, long and thin Chinese Eggplant except that they are a pale green, and the ones I bought seemed more firm to me.  But that might just have been an indication of how fresh they were.

I followed my usual rule when cooking eggplant:  cook it for a long time, and then cook it some more.  The end result in this case was that parts of it fell apart into the mushy sauce you see in the photo, but there were still enough discrete pieces that gave it some body.  Next time I make it, however, I will cut the eggplant into larger pieces so they will hold up better.  The peapods were a nice crispy contrast to the softer texture, and the crunchy toasted walnuts sealed the deal.

I did not put any heat into this stir fry because I made it to accompany the Corn Casserole with Chicken and Broccoli I made this weekend and that is about as much heat as I can stand in one meal.  In the future, however, I will add my usual garlic chili paste because I have become addicted to the specific flavor that it contributes to a dish.

Once the ingredients were prepped and I was ready to go, this came together in less than half an hour.  This is basically the same dish that I made earlier this year.  You can find the recipe here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Corn Casserole with Chicken and Broccoli

Woohoo!  Another company lunch with too much chicken left over.  I was able to take home about a pound's worth of meat and as much again of bone.  Truth to tell, I am more interested in the bones than the meat at this point, since I am always looking for scraps for stock.  I also scored about 1-1/2 onions, already sliced up, also for stock.  I will have to get busy this weekend.

What to do with the meat?  I thought about making another batch of the chili chicken sauce I made last time I brought the chicken home.  That was delicious served over polenta.  The only problem is that I already had planned to make my corn casserole, and that is so close to polenta that it didn't make sense to have both at the same time.

I didn't see any reason why I couldn't add the chicken to the corn casserole, though, in addition to the baby broccoli I was already planning to add.  I thought it might come close to a cheesy chicken broccoli casserole my sister used to make, only healthier without the canned cream of mushroom and cream of celery soup that go into that recipe.

I was a little worried that it might be too many ingredients for the base cornmeal, egg, butter and yogurt mixture to handle without getting too dry, but I added a little white wine and that seemed to do the trick.

One other change I made - instead of using the can of mild chopped green chilies that usually goes into my corn casserole, I used a pickled jalapeno (and yes, I did pickle it myself - more on that later).  I found the jalapenos at the Leaning Shed Farm stall at the Green Market, and they are super hot.  So hot that I added a dollop of yogurt to help soothe my palate.  It was perfect.

Because I added almost twice as much volume to the casserole with the chicken and broccoli, I baked it in an 8 x 11" dish instead of the 1.5-quart round dish I usually use.  It was a smart decision.

Adding the chicken and broccoli takes this from a great side dish to a satisfactory meal in itself.  It's a great way to use up leftover chicken.  And it is just as easy to make as the meatless version.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes

Makes 6 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 med onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Approximately 1 lb broccoli, separted, stems thinly sliced and tops cut into small florets
1-2 cups diced cooked chicken
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth, or water
1/2 cup melted butter
2 cup corn kernels, divided
2 eggs
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup cornmeal
4-oz can chopped green chilies or 1 pickled jalapeno, chopped
1 cup cheese, diced or grated
1-1/4 tsp salt
Additional yogurt for garnish

Heat the oil over medium-high flame in a large skillet.  Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and the broccoli stems and cook until the stems are tender, another 5 minutes.  Add the chicken and broccoli florets and season to taste with the salt and pepper.  Add the wine and the broth and bring to a boil.  Simmer on low heat covered, for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool while you put together the rest of the dish.

Puree the butter, 1 cup of the corn, and the eggs in a blender or food processor.  Pour into a bowl and add the yogurt, cornmeal, chilies, cheese, salt and the rest of the corn and stir together.  Fold in the cooled chicken and broccoli mixture.

Pour into a buttered 9 x 12" baking dish.  Bake at 350 deg. F. for about 40 minutes, until the top has set and has just started to brown.

Serve garnished with a dollop of yogurt or crema fresca, if desired.


Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

Friday, October 19, 2012

Aloo Gobi Redux

The last (and only) time I made this dish I was pleased with it, but it was more dry than I had expected it to be.  That was most likely because I used twice as much cauliflower and potato as the recipe required but did not increase the amounts of the rest of the ingredients.

This time, I used the amounts of cauliflower and potato that was called for in the recipe, and even added the extra ounce or two of tomato that was in the jar I was using.  I was pleased with the result.  The smaller proportion of vegetables allowed the spices to shine in a way they had not done in the earlier version.

But I still like the earlier dish.  In that one, the cauliflower and potato were the main stars and they were delicious.  In this version, all of the ingredients blended together into a more integrated meal that was delicious when scooped up with fresh chapatis.

So here is what I have concluded.  The earlier version would make a lovely side dish for a meal that featured meat.  This version makes a lovely meal in itself, especially when paired with chapatis or rice.

I got this recipe from the October 2011 issue of  Saveur  Magazine.  You can find it here.  For a drier version that highlights the cauliflower and potato, double those two ingredients.  For the wetter, main dish version, follow the recipe as written.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

DIY Pickles

I really wasn't planning to make pickles.  I know pickling is hot right now, but it just wasn't something that interested me all that much.  I like pickles well enough, although I am rather particular in my tastes; there are only one or two brands out there that I will eat.  They have to be crisp, and not too sour.  So making them wasn't even remotely on my radar.

Until I saw the beautiful batch of pickle cucumbers Iron Creek Farm was selling at the Green Market.  They were so firm, so green, and so well, pickle-like that I decided right then and there that it was time for me to make some pickles.  They also happened to have seeded dill at another stand that day so I grabbed that as well.

I looked through various recipes, not even knowing enough about them to know what recipe to use.  But the recipe in the Second Avenue Deli Cookbook looked easy to follow and did not require a lot of equipment.  I knew I was not ready to try anything that required sterilization or water baths, and this recipe just calls for you to put the cucumbers in a jar with some brine, garlic, and spices and let it sit for a few days.

And here is the jar just moments after I filled it.  It is actually more involved than just filling up the jar with the cucumbers and brine.  First, you have to cook the brine.  You bring the water and salt to a boil and then let it cool down to room temperature before you use it.  Because the brine is not hot, the cucumbers don't cook, so they stay fresh and crispy.  Just the way I like them.

Here is the first volunteer from the jar, three days later.  I wasn't sure it was going to work, but lo and behold the brine permeated through the cucumber and I had me some bona fide garlic dill pickles.  The first batch I made I used too many of the spices, but after some minor adjustments I had the combination that I liked.  Although ready-made pickling spices would work just as well.

The garlic cloves get pickled too, and I've been using them where I would use raw garlic or I'm cooking something that benefits from an extra bit of acid.  They were not blanched, though, so be warned that they are raw cloves of garlic and as strong, if not stronger, than regular raw cloves so you do not want to be eating them right out of the jar.  Just saying.

These pickles were such a success that I naturally found myself looking for other things to pickle.  After a batch or two of refrigerator pickling projects, I'm about a heartbeat away from full-on canning.

If you have been curious about the pickling process and want to try your hand at it, this is a good way to start.  The only special equipment you need is a jar that is big enough to hold the pickles.

10-12 small Kirby cucumbers, unwaxed, that are close in size
6 Tbsp kosher salt
2 quarts water
10 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/3-1/2 bunch fresh dill
1 Tbsp pickling spices (or 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp whole black peppercorns, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds and 1/2 tsp dill seeds)
3 bay leaves
1 hot dried red pepper

Clean the cucumbers under running water, being sure to scrub them clean. Combine the water and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to come to room temperature.

Wrap the garlic cloves in a towel and lightly crush them with the back of a knife.

Pack the cucumbers tightly into a wide-mouthed jar and then add the rest of the ingredients, then pour the brine over them. Close the jar and shake it to evenly distribute the spices.
Store the jar in a cool unrefrigerated place for 4 to 6 days, depending on how sour you want them. The longer they stay out, the more sour they will be. Open the jar once a day to skim off any foam.

Pickles will last in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Adapted from The Second Avenue Deli Cookbook, by Sharon Lebewohl and Rena Bulkin (Villard, 1999)

Friday, October 05, 2012

DIY: Garam Masala

The past two weeks has been a perfect storm of distractions, mild if any inspiration, and, most importantly, a Blogger dashboard update that has not gone smoothly.  If I finally figure it out there will be one hell of a recall post, but for now I have given up on it.

In the meantime, I noticed that it does not look like I have ever discussed garam masala on its own merit.  It translates to warm spice mix, and that's exactly what it is.  There are no chilies in it, so it is not spicy hot; it just has a lovely blend of aromatic spices that are commonly used in Indian cuisine, such as coriander, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon.

Although it can be added at the beginning of a dish along with the other spices that are cooked with the onions, garlic and ginger before adding the rest of the ingredients, they are often added at the end instead, where they provide an extra depth of flavor and, well, warmth.  When I first started experimenting with Indian cooking I would just use sweet curry powder whenever a recipe called for it, but after a while I started to wonder how much of a difference it might make so I bought some and discovered that it did have a discernible impact no the dish.

After I had accumulated enough of the individual spices that go into the mix as I was learning more about Indian cooking, I realized I could make my own.  And I must say, now that I have been using it for a couple of years, that it is well worth seeking out the ingredients just for this purpose.

  There's nothing like the aroma of spices toasting in a cast-iron skillet on the stove top.  Of course, you don't need a cast-iron skillet for this, any small skillet will do, but I purchased this small skillet pretty much for the sole purpose of toasting spices and I love having it.  I also use it to toast nuts in the oven.

What you see toasting in the skillet here is cinnamon bark, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, black tellicherry peppers and a bay leaf.  I toast them until I can just start to smell them, take them off the heat, add a little bit of ground nutmeg and put them into a small bowl to cool off (if I leave them in the skillet they will continue to cook and might burn so I always empty the skillet immediately no matter what I have cooked in it).  After about five minutes they are cool enough to put into my spice blender (I use one an inexpensive coffee grinder I bought years ago and now have dedicated to spices).  I grind it into a fine powder and put it in a small jar.  It lasts for a few months.

There are as many recipes for garam masala as there are people who make it.  I looked at several and came up with my own blend, which I will post here.  You should think of it as more of a suggestion than a recipe, though, and adjust the spices to your taste.

You don't have to be an expert at Indian cooking to use this.  You can add any amount from a teaspoon to a tablespoon at the end of cooking just about any vegetable or bean dish.  It's also good with eggs.
Home Cookin Chapter: Spices
Makes about 1/4 cup

8 cloves
4 tsp cumin seeds
3 green cardamom pods (whole)
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Pinch of grated nutmeg (optional)
Heat a small skillet on medium. Add all the spices except the nutmeg and dry roast the spices, stirring constantly. After about 5 minutes, the spices will darken and begin to release a unique aroma.
Remove the skillet from the heat, then add the nutmeg. Transfer the spice mix to a bowl and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
Using a spice grinder, grind the spices to a fine powder. Store in an airtight jar. The spice mixture will keep for up to 3 months.

Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (
And can I say once again how much I am REALLY NOT liking the Blogger update?
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