Sunday, February 18, 2018

Turkish Red Lentil "Meatballs"

For once, I'm actually posting a holiday-centric recipe before the holiday.  These nutritious patties work great as part of a Purim vegan spread.  I made some tzatziki sauce as a dip, so these are only vegetarian, but you could substitute something dairy-free like Harissa, pomegranate molasses, mustard, or even soy sauce.  Honestly, they're so flavorful that they don't need any help.

For about a month, Sprouts had bulgur in a scooping bin.  The day I went, they had portioned out the remainder into one-pound packages.  Not only were they twice the cost per pound, but I now have to use it all somehow.  That's a lot of lentil meatballs.  If I knew I had to buy that much, I would have gone to Super Sun and bought the fine bulgur the recipe calls for.  Since this is medium grade, I tossed it in during the last five minutes of cooking with the lentils, then let everything stand.

I'm using the version posted in Give Recipe, a blog written by a Turk.  Her platter looks a lot better than mine, but I was just making this for me.  For two or more, it would have gotten impressive.

This was also the last thing I cooked before heading off on a long-delayed vacation.  I haven't taken off more than an occasional day since last March.  Maxed out my vacation hours at 5 weeks.  Using almost half of it now.  As much as I've been eating veg/vegan lately, I'm not restricting myself to it on a cruise.  I'll probably eat the vegan small plates at lunch, but dinner is likely going to involve meat 5-7 of the days.  I'll make up for it when I get back.  I'm not sure if I'll have cell service in Mexico, and blogging on a phone sucks.  I might be able to post a photo or two.

This is a half recipe of Zerrin's.  I found that it made quite a lot, enough for a 4-person main protein or a whole party of hors d'oeuvres.

1/2 C dry red lentils
3/4 C dry fine bulgur
2 C water
1/4 C olive oil
*1/2 large onion, minced
1 Tb tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
dash black pepper
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
2 Tb finely chopped parsley
1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
1 Tb lemon juice, or to taste
lettuce leaves for serving

1.  Rinse lentils.  Stir together with water in a large saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook until done, about 12 minutes.  If you could only find medium bulgur, stir it in when the lentils are starting to soften and split.  For fine bulgur, stir it in just as the lentils are done.  Remove from the heat when the lentils are done and allow to sit until all water is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.
2.  While the lentil mix is resting, cook the onions in 3 Tb oil until softened.  Add tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, and pepper and cook until fragrant.
3.  Stir onion mix and remaining ingredients into lentil mix.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

4.  Use remaining oil to grease your hands.  Form mixture into balls or kofta shapes (ovals).  Place on lettuce leaves and serve either warm or chilled.  These will fall apart if they're not served on something edible.  Lettuce cups are traditional and easiest, but you could also fill celery with it, or cucumber boats, or anything else that won't let it squish out the other side.  They're often served as part of a tapas plate with vegetables, herbs, and dips.  Pickles are a common side, so I cracked open the smaller jar of pickled radishes.  Found out they really take on the peppercorn flavor, so I'll cut down on that next time.  I also felt like having some Persian rice, which was kind of too much starch, but really good.

Difficulty rating :)

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Crumpets

Once in a while, wasting time on random YouTube channels teaches you something useful.  In all the many teas I've gone to or hosted, I've never had crumpets.  Someone said they're sold at Trader Joe's, but I rarely go there.  So I watched a video of how they made them in the 1700s.  The video was actually of pikelets, which are crumpets made without rings.  At that point, they're yeast-raised pancakes.

Crumpets are halfway between pancakes and English muffins.  They contain yeast like an English muffin, but have a batter consistency like a pancake.  And that batter relentlessly keeps rising while you're frying the batches.  The recipe out of the Tea book said it made 8.  I ended up with twice that.  Part of the problem might have been that I was using wide-mouth jar rims.  I have no idea how big a proper crumpet ring is.  The photo in the cookbook does look like they hold quite a bit more batter than the quarter cup I got in the rim.

The real question is, are they awesome enough to go out and invest in crumpet rings or matching cookie cutters?  I wasn't overly impressed.  They taste like whatever you put on them.  In this case, it was a lot of butter and the last jar of orange marmalade.  I'll probably just go back to buying grocery store English muffins.

2 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp yeast (double the whole recipe for a packet)
*1-1/4 C 100º milk
1/3 C 100º water
butter or oil for cooking
butter and jam to serve

1.  Stir sugar and yeast into warmed milk and water.  Let sit until it starts to foam, about 5 minutes.
2.  Stir together salt and flour.  Make a well and pour in milk mixture.  Stir into a batter, getting out as many large lumps as possible.  The small ones will dissolve.  Cover and set in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
3.  Get out a skillet or griddle and as many rings as comfortably fit on it.  Start preheating the skillet over medium-low heat.  Grease the rings and set aside.

4.  Stir down the batter so you don't get any big air pockets as you scoop.  Lightly grease the skillet and arrange the rings on it.  Pour the batter halfway up crumpet rings or 1/4 C into a wide-mouth mason jar ring.
5.  Cook for about 10 minutes.  When the tops are just barely dry, remove the rings.  If you cook these over too high a heat, the bottom will get dark before they're cooked all the way through.  Low and slow is the way to get them done evenly.

6.  I flipped mine to brown the other side.  Apparently there's a big controversy over whether or not to flip a crumpet.  Some purists say you should just cook them until set and pull them off the griddle.  I like things like this crispy on both sides and gave them a few minutes.
7.  Re-grease pan and rings and repeat until all of the batter is used.  Can be served hot off the griddle, but also freeze well and can be crisped up in the toaster oven on another day.

Makes 8 in crumpet rings

Difficulty rating  :)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Fennel-Tossed Potatoes and Radishes

I did like the roasted radishes, but there weren't enough to make the number of servings I needed, so I decided to mix them with some red potatoes.  As long as I was being different, and serving them with fish, fennel sounded more interesting than just salt and pepper.

This one worked great.  The root vegetables looked almost identical on the plate, and the taste was similar enough that you weren't quite sure which was which until the sharp sweetness of the radishes came through.  This is definitely an easy way to put something different on the table without scaring off meat-and-potatoes people.

1 lb red potatoes
*1 bunch red radishes
2 Tb olive oil
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp kosher salt

1.  Preheat oven to 350º.  I lined a sheet with a Silpat because I didn't know if they'd stick.  Not really, so you can go without, but it did make cleanup easier.

2.  Slice the root and stem ends off the radishes and cut in half.  Dice the potatoes into pieces about the same size as the radishes.
3.  In a bowl, toss together veggies, oil, salt, and fennel seeds.  I ground the seeds slightly before putting them in the bowl, just enough to bring out the aroma.

4.  Spread out pieces on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for 45 min to an hour, until pieces are easily pierced with a fork and the white parts are golden brown.  Serve hot.

Difficulty rating  π

Friday, February 9, 2018

Salmon Croquettes

I haven't made fish in a while, possibly since the last time I posted a fish recipe in October.  A slice of lox here and there doesn't count.  You know the guilt is kicking in when you start to add a pinch of chia seeds to one meal a day.  Gotta get those Omega-3s somewhere.

I was originally going to make something with a mammal.  I'd been having vegetarian for a while.  Then I started thinking of what I needed to use out of the garden and what I was in the mood for, and I still kind of wanted vegetarian.  Fish is close enough.

What surprised me (as I was Googling recipes in the grocery store) is that pretty much all recipes for salmon croquettes use canned salmon and very few other ingredients.  (Spring for the boneless version; I picked an entire spine out of mine.)  What I made here is considerably more complex in flavor profile than most, mainly because I don't like creamy sauces on fish and was only planning on squeezing a lemon.  It isn't common to put mayo in them, and only half the recipes use an herb other than onion.  This is simple comfort food, despite sounding French and difficult.

The oats are my own thing.  I've used rolled oats as binder before, and wanted to see what would happen with steel-cut.  They worked well enough, but aren't an end-all to making the recipe successful.  If you replace both the crumbs and the oats with matzoh meal and the butter with oil, this recipe is pareve KLP.

1 large can (currently 14.5 oz) pink salmon
*1 slice bread or 1/2 C panko bread crumbs
*2 Tb steel-cut oats (or another slice of bread)
*1/4 C minced onion
*1/4 C finely diced herbs such as parsley, dill, and/or cilantro
*1 Tb mayonnaise
1 egg
Dash white pepper
Butter for frying
Lemons and tartar sauce for serving

1.  A few hours before, stir 1/4 C boiling water into the steel-cut oats.  Allow to sit one hour at room temperature, then move to the fridge until needed.  Allow the bread to get stale.  Run through the food processor to make breadcrumbs.

2.  You can stir the rest together in a bowl.  I figured the food processor was already dirty and tossed in everything except the salmon.  Then you don't have to chop things as much.  Fold this mix into the salmon until thoroughly mixed.
3.  Melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Because I didn't put any salt in the batter, I used margarine.  Spoon mixture onto skillet to make cakes of desired size.  If these are appetizers or hors d'oeuvre, make them smaller than you would if two or three are supposed to be a main dish.
4.  Cook until golden on the bottom, about 5 minutes.  The salmon is pre-cooked, so you're just making sure the egg is done.  Gently flip the cakes, as they will be fragile.  Flatten slightly and cook until the other side is golden, another 2 minutes.  Remove to a warm plate and re-butter skillet for the next round.  Repeat until all the mix is fried.

5.  Serve warm with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.

Serves 4 as a main course, 12 as appetizers

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Chocolate Honeycomb

A friend gave me a chocolate cookbook for Chanukah.  I read through it recently, and was largely disappointed, until I got to the last page.  What they called "Hokey Pokey" is often called honeycomb or sponge candy.  Honeycomb isn't my favorite candy, but I was surprised by how easy the recipe was.  I always thought it was something that had to be made by machine.  Considering they sell it at Sprouts for $8 a pound, I thought there was a lot more to it.

This is really a science experiment.  Think baking soda volcanoes, but with sugar.  And while it's fun for kids to watch the reaction, I recommend keeping them back from the hot sugar in case it bubbles over.

The one thing I didn't like about this recipe is that it went by cooking times instead of temperature.  This is candy, which really should be cooked to a specific sugar set.  When I did find a proper recipe, it said 300º, which is hard-crack.  Without the baking soda, this is basically a lollipop.

A quick word about clean-up.  Yes, there is going to be hard candy stuck to your pot and spoon.  Don't freak out.  Sugar is one of the most water-soluble compounds that exists.  All you need to do is soak the pot and walk away.  When you come back, you'll have a clean pot and sugar water.

5 Tb sugar
*2 Tb corn syrup
1 tsp baking soda
*1 cup dark or milk chocolate, chopped

1.  Line a rimmed pan with parchment, Silpat, or butter liberally.  The recipe said 8x8, but it didn't nearly fill that.  It will if you double the recipe.
2.  Stir together sugar and corn syrup over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves and it comes to a boil, stirring constantly so you don't scorch the sugar.  Continue at a low boil, stirring frequently, until a candy thermometer reaches 300º.  This will take about 5 minutes, if you don't have one.

3.  Remove sugar from heat and stir in baking soda.  The sugar will bubble and foam.  You have about 20 seconds to pour it into the prepared pan before the reaction runs its course and the bubbles start to deflate.  Do not spread the candy in the pan; the bubbles will deflate.  You'll also notice the color change from clear to a caramel yellow.  The more you stir it, the darker it gets.
4.  Walk away.  Don't touch it.  Just let it cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, remove it from the pan and break it apart into bite-sized pieces.  I recommend protective eyewear.  Some even ended up in my hair.
5.  Melt chocolate, either over a double boiler or in the microwave.  Coat pieces thoroughly, since this will prolong the shelf life.  Set on wax paper or Silpat.  Allow chocolate to harden, then store in an airtight container.  Candy should be eaten within 3-4 days.

Makes about half a pound (forgot to weigh it before snacking)

Difficulty rating :)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Recipe Variations

Sorry I haven't been posting much, but I've been making reruns.  I did a veal and eggplant parmigiana, but with ground beef.  Then I made an herbed chickpea pancake using Mexican flavorings because I had a lot of cilantro and avocados were cheap.

There was a little pasta sauce and mozzarella left, so I made a vegetarian pizza, which should probably have its own label category by now.

Sorry my meals haven't been more blog-worthy, but the grocery ads haven't been all that inspiring.  I could have made something Big Game themed, but that was why I had pizza.  It simply wasn't a new version.  Everything else I've been having has been vegetarian and/or insanely healthy and not much worth writing about.  You can only post so many versions of broiled vegetables before someone starts to notice.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pickled Radishes

The easy way to avoid this over-abundance of radishes would be to stop planting new ones.  I do keep using the greens in place of spinach, since that is under-performing.  Then I get stuck with the radish itself.  I decided to process-can them this time, so I could have smaller jars and not the quart that I ended up with in the fermented batch.  Also, so I can eat them at my leisure, instead of now, now, now.

I picked this recipe out of foodpreserving.org for its simplicity and because most kitchens have these ingredients on hand.  The only part I didn't like was that it went by number of radishes instead of volume or weight.  Supermarket radishes are generally the same size, so that's fine if you're buying them.  It's probably two bunches.

I ended up with 1-1/2 C of wedge radishes, so I cut the original recipe in quarters.  The slices I made last time never went on sandwiches, and wedges are easier to eat as a side condiment.  Think cucumber pickle spears versus slices.

*1 bunch radishes (8-12)
*1/4 C apple cider vinegar
2 Tb sugar
2 Tb water
1 tsp kosher salt
*1/4 tsp mustard seed
*1/4 tsp coriander seed
*1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 small clove garlic, sliced

1.  Trim off root and stem ends of radishes and clean very well.  Cut in slices or wedges and measure by volume to see how many jars you need.  You will need a 1/2" headspace in each jar, which makes a big difference if you use 4 oz jelly jars as opposed to a single pint.  Wash jars and boil for 10 minutes to sterilize.  Really, boiling a couple of gallons of water is the most time-consuming part of this whole recipe.  You can leave the radish pieces and garlic slices on the cutting board while everything else is being prepped.
2.  In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt.  Bring to a low boil for 5 minutes and stir frequently to dissolve granules.  Also put your lids in warm water to soften the sealing compound.  Do not boil the lids.

3.  When the jars are ready, pack the radish pieces to 1/2" of rim.  They will shrink up a bit as they cook, so don't worry if it's slightly higher than 1/2".  Top with garlic and spices, evenly distributing if you use multiple jars.  Pour hot brine over the radishes until they start to float, leaving 1/2" headspace.  Shake or poke to get rid of bubbles and add more brine if necessary.  If you run out of brine, top with a bit of vinegar.  Wipe rims clean, center lids, and screw on bands fingertip-tight.
4.  Place jars in boiling water bath.  When water returns to a boil, set the timer for 15 minutes.  After it dings, turn off the heat and let the jars sit for 5 minutes before removing from the pot, to reduce the chance of siphoning.  Remove jars and set on a towel to cool.  You should get a "ping" within 2 minutes.

5.  Once jars are room temperature, test the seals.  Any jars with failed seals should be refrigerated and used within 2 weeks.  Successful seals will keep the pickles fresh, if stored out of direct light, for 6 months.  Wipe jars clean and store without the rims.  Allow to mellow in the pantry for 2 weeks before opening.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Difficulty rating π

Thursday, January 25, 2018

White Chocolate Wasabi Cookies

I've been getting snacky lately.  Not keeping snacks in the house helps a lot, but there are several drive-thrus on the way home.  I knew that a batch of regular chocolate chip cookies would barely make it until they cooled, so I decided to make something that was still tasty, but would leave my willpower intact.  Not a huge fan of white chocolate.  It's not chocolate!

I went looking for a recipe online, since white chocolate and wasabi is actually a thing, and all I found was a frozen cookie dough you can buy to bake these at home.  Not helpful.  I've never made the Bible's chocolate chip cookie recipe because I just use Tollhouse, but it looked perfectly adaptable.  Sub in wasabi powder, white chocolate chips, and chopped macadamias for the vanilla, chocolate chips, and chopped walnuts.  This recipe has the same amount of sugar as Nestlé's, but instead of equal parts light brown and granulated, it skews on the brown side.  That changes the moisture content, which is fine because it's a tiny bit heavier on the flour.  Basically, they don't spread out as much as Tollhouse, but have a similar texture.

1-1/4 C flour
1/2 C packed light brown sugar
1/2 C butter, softened
1/4 C granulated sugar
1 egg
*1 Tablespoon wasabi powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
*1 C white chocolate chips
1/2 C chopped macadamia nuts

1.  Cream together butter and both sugars until light.  Beat in egg until smooth.

2.  Sift together flour, wasabi powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add mixture to creamed ingredients and beat until smooth.  Stir in chips and nuts.
3.  Preheat oven to 375º.  Grease or line two baking sheets.  Drop cookie dough in tablespoons two inches apart on sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned.  Allow to cool on sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a rack.  Once cooled, cookies may be kept in a sealed box at room temperature for several days or in the freezer for a month.

Makes about 2 dozen

Difficulty rating  π

Monday, January 22, 2018

Black Bean Soup

This may have been what I was really after when I made the tortilla soup.  I love the black bean slurry I get at my local Cuban restaurant.  It's supposed to be a side, not soup, but that's how I eat it.

Minus garnishes, this recipe is vegan and gluten free.  You use the beans themselves to thicken it, rather than flour.  I chose to put avocado and corn tortillas on mine for garnish, so it was still vegan and GF, but you could easily add crumbled cheese, leftover chicken, or flour tortilla chips.  (I finally found out what made me sick, and it was the one cheese I hadn't thrown out after the incident.  Food poisoning, round two, and another dairy-free couple of days.)

I'm not forcing a specific diet on anyone, just offering a healthy option for Soup Month.  Plus, I'm going on a cruise in a few weeks (yay!) and am kind of pre-dieting.  Once I'm eating healthy on a regular basis, I'm less likely to make poor choices when I'm on vacation.  Good eating habits can be as addictive as poor ones.

*1 quart unsalted vegetable stock
*1 C dried black beans
1 Tb olive oil
1 diced red onion, divided
*2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
*1 bay leaf
*1/2 tsp dried oregano
*1 Tb tequila (optional)
1/2 C chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)
kosher salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1 lime
additional garnish options: avocado, sour cream, cotija cheese, pre-cooked chicken or pork, white rice, *tortilla chips or strips, *more cilantro, *the rest of the red onion, lime slices, etc.

1.  Pre-soak the beans for at least 4 hours, drain and rinse.  You can save time (about 6 hours) by using canned beans, but then they won't be cooked in the broth and it's going to result in a different product.

2.  Heat oil in a soup pot over medium-high.  Sauté the onion, reserving 1/4 C for garnish, and garlic until softened.  Add cumin, oregano, bay leaf, and chili powder and cook another minute until fragrant.  Deglaze with tequila, if using.
3.  Add vegetable stock, beans, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and jalapeño (if using).  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until beans are very tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
4.  Fish out the bay leaf.  Using an immersion blender, regular blender, or even a potato masher, purée half of the soup.  This is your thickener.  If you want a more brothy soup, purée less.  For something closer to mashed beans, do most of it.

5.  Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary.  Also add the cilantro.  Return to a simmer and cook until thickened and the cilantro is heated, about 10 minutes.  Stir in lime juice and serve, garnished with the reserved red onion and whatever else you like.

Difficulty rating  :)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Mustard Orange Chicken

I started to think about things I want to can this year, then saw how much jam is left in the pantry.  Kind of overdid it last year, then never threw a tea party.  I did finish off the mustards, fruit in syrup, and pickle-y things.

One of the things left was orange marmalade and some rind-free jelly from the batch.  After using half of the jar of jelly in yogurt, I decided to baste some chicken with it.  Then I thought it would be interesting to stir some grainy mustard into the jam first.  Ta-da.  Think sweet and sour with a mustard tang.

1 lb boneless chicken breast
*1/2 C orange jelly or marmalade
*2 Tb grainy or honey mustard
1 Tb oil

1.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Combine jelly, mustard, and oil into a smooth dressing.
2.  In a roasting pan slightly larger than the chicken, pour the sauce and swirl to distribute.  Place chicken in pan, and turn to coat all sides evenly.

3.  Roast until thermometer reaches 160º in the thickest part of the chicken, about 45 minutes.  Let rest for five minutes, then slice into servings.  Pour pan sauce over chicken, and frankly everything on the plate.  It's really good on veggies and rice.

Note: I did it this way because I bought a boneless, skinless breast.  If you have some skin-on, bone-in chicken, you can put it on a rack in a roasting pan and brush with the glaze every ten minutes as it cooks.

Difficulty rating π