Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Despite the one day biscuit and pie vacation for Thanksgiving we are still in the midst of our gluten free experiment around here so these meatballs topped a bowl of beautiful steamed Romanesco cauliflower.
Monday, December 2, 2013
I started with a recipe by Melissa Clark, writer of The New York Time's " A Good Appetite" column. It seemed simple enough, I had a few other chores going and I was just going to follow a simple recipe and make sure dinner was on the table relatively early. I'm not sure where it is I go astray. Dutifully following along suddenly my mind started to wander to the tube of harissa, a North African chili sauce of which I am absurdly fond, in the fridge. Once I'd gone in that direction the simple pot of soup called out for warm spices -- saffron, cinnamon, ginger, coriander. My adapted version was just the right dish for an evening turned cold. Try it at home.
Monday Night Lentil Soup
4 TB olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 large shallots, chopped (I could have used two onions but I didn't have another)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB tomato paste
1 1/2 TB (or to taste) harissa
salt (about 3/4 tsp kosher salt) and pepper to taste
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 quarts chicken broth
2 cups red lentils
3 carrots, peeled and diced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat until hot and just shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, harissa, and all of the spices (except the saffron threads). Let cook about 2 minutes longer. Add the broth, 2 cups of water, lentils, carrots and saffron threads. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for about 30 minutes until lentils are soft. Taste and add salt if needed. If desired, purée half the soup with an immersion or countertop blender for a slightly thicker soup with smoother texture (don't go too smooth). Return the soup to the pot, reheat slowly and stir in the lemon juice and 12 of the chopped cilantro, reserve the rest or garnish.
If we weren't in the midst of "clean eating" challenge at home I might have drizzled the top of the soup with olive oil or better yet fried up some garlicky croutons but even on it's own this simple soup got no complaints.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
harissa roasted carrots with chick peas. James doesn't really like cooked carrots (I can't explain it) so I set out to make her spicy recipe with cauliflower (I couldn't resist a few roasted carrots in with the mix). Thomas calls it a side dish but with salad and maybe rice this could have been a great main dish. But, strolling past the fish counter I saw beautiful wild halibut filets. I rarely cook fish but these beautiful steak-like slices (and a best choice from the Monterey Aquarium shopping list) caught my eye. I pan roasted the fish with a sherry vinegar, tomato wine sauce and served the harissa kissed cauliflower and legumes on the side.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
A trip to the farmer's market and a vegetable dinner wasn't far behind. A bundle of fresh green beans instead of calling out for crisp cooking and tangy lemony vinaigrette as they do in summer seemed to ask to be slow cooked until sweet and melt in your mouth tender. I started a pot with chopped onions, chopped carrots, crushed garlic cloves and olive oil. After about 5 minutes I added in the beans and a good sized pinch of salt. While the covered pot simmered I splashed in a little chicken broth here and there to make sure the beans didn't scorch. After 40 minutes what emerged was in no way a modern dish but comfort food from years gone by before haute cuisine gave vegetables a new identity and a new resilience on our plates.
Two Italian dishes, two types of beans one weekend dinner from our little kitchen in the valley.
Friday, November 29, 2013
For inspiration I turned, as I often do for food in jars, to Edon Waycott's Preserving The Taste, an invaluable compendium of jellies, fruit butters, pickles and more. Waycott's tomato jam uses peeled fruits. I opted instead to seed some, and chop them all allowing the skin to give texture to the final product. Searching the internet I found a host of recipes that start by rough chopping the whole tomatoes in the food processor. I gave a rough chop by hand and combined the tomatoes (Edon's recipe was based on 8 pounds but I doubled it) with 4 tsp salt, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp of white pepper, 2 tsp of cinnamon and 2 tsp of crushed chile peppers. The whole mixture cooked down for almost an hour and after a taste I added in a heavy TB of honey and a rounded tsp of saffron threads. After almost another hour cooking the jam was shiny and sticky and ready for jars.
Nothing left to do but process the jars for five minutes in a hot water bath, top with homemade labels, and wait for Christmas gift giving opportunities to come my way.