The “I can’t believe it’s a $30 knife” knife

Posted January 3, 2010 by Jen
Categories: Equipment

Based on the recommendation from America’s Test Kitchen, I bought the Victoronex 8-Inch Chef’s Knife.  Now, I’ve got the MAC Santoku, and a couple of beautiful Global knives, but this knife is quickly becoming a favorite. Here’s the link to it at a $29.99 price at Amazon.


Zesty Chick Pea Soup

Posted January 3, 2010 by Jen
Categories: Bean Dishes, Cheap Eats, Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian

It’s Sunday, when, if I get my act together, I cook ahead for the week. Today, I made a few adjustments to this recipe.

Zesty Chick Pea Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. coriander
1/2 t. basil
1 t. garlic granules or garlic powder
1 t. salt
plenty of ground black pepper
3 1/2 c. vegetable stock
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans/chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can peeled/diced tomatoes
lemon wedges
chopped cilantro

Sautee the onion and celery in olive oil over medium to medium-high heat until onions are transluscent. Add cumin, coriander, basil, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Sautee for another minute.
Add stock, chick peas, and tomatoes. Simmer for at least 30 mins, or all afternoon if you can.
Squeeze lemon and sprinkle cilantro over.

“Massaged” Kale Salad: How I’m sure to get my dark green leafys.

Posted January 3, 2010 by Jen
Categories: Salads, Vegetarian

Mmm…kale.  It’s packed with nutrition and is useful for way more than salad bar garnishes.  My favorite way to eat it is in a salad-like manner, with a little bit of “cooking” to soften the leaves.

“Massaged” Kale Salad

1 bunch kale of any sort
2 teaspoons-1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. salt

Tear, wash, and dry the kale.  Place in a medium-sized bowl.  Whist the lemon juice, olive oil & salt together in a small bowl and pour over the kale.  Massage the dressing into the kale.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Keeps well for 3-4 days.

Two Legume Dishes: Imjadara/Mujadara & Spiced Chick Peas et al.

Posted January 3, 2010 by Jen
Categories: Bean Dishes, Cheap Eats, Vegan, Vegetarian

Once a month, I help with Dinner-In-The-Shul at my synagogue, a Shabbat meal for dozens.  We’re never quite sure how many are coming, with RSVPs as a vague indicator.  My role in the cooking group is to make a protein-filled vegan or vegetarian option Although I eat meat, I hate to see veggies go without protein!  Two challenges a la “Dinner Impossible” are 1) make a dish that will go well with just about any other dish and 2) limit cooking to baking because the stovetop in the meat kitchen is fairly useless.  These are the legume dishes I’ve done in the past two months. Proportions are scaled to regular meals, not the 50 people we fed with the first dish!

Imjadara/Mujadara:  Lentils with Carmelized Onions

First – bake brown rice using Alton Brown’s brilliant recipe.
1 1/2 cup of brown rice
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
dash of salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease an 8” X 8” baking dish.  Put rice in the dish and pour the boiling water over it.  Add oil & salt.  Cover with foil.  Bake 1 hour.  Fluff with a fork when cooked.

Next (or beforehand depending on method) – carmelize the onions
3-4 medium onions, thinly sliced
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil.
Salt & pepper
3 options:
1 – stovetop – preheat oil to medium high heat.  Add the onions and lower the heat to medium-low to low.  Stir the onions every 10 minutes or so for 45 mins. to 1 hour until they are golden and carmelized.  .
2 – oven – put onions & oil in a dutch oven.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 2 hours, stirring the onions every 20-30 minutes.
3 – crock pot – onions & oil in the crockpot.  Cook on low 8-10 hours.  Add about 1/2 extra onion as some sticks to the side and you lose a little this way.  But, it’s the easiest.

And then – cook the lentils
2 cups lentils with 4 cups of water
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1/2-3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for approx. 20-30 mins. until lentils are soft but solid.  Mix about half of the rice, the onions, and the lentils together and season according to preference.

Spiced Chick Peas et al.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 can chick peas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
You can combine any combination of about 3-4 cups of other beans/peas
I used:
1 lb. bag frozen peas
1 c. frozen butter peas
Mix in a big bowl.  No need to thaw the peas.  Add seasonings (proportions approximate):
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. ground pepper
3/4 t. garlic salt
1/2 t. smoked or other paprika
1/2 t. ground coriander
2 t. olive oil
Toss to mix well.

3 T. butter or margarine:  cut up into little squares.
1/4 c. water
In the bottom of an 8 X 8 baking dish, put 4 little cubes of butter or margarine and add water.  Pour half of the bean mixture.  Put 4 more little cubes on this layer, then pour the rest of the beans in and then top with a couple of cubes of butter. Cover the dish with foil

Bake for 30-45 mins.  Stir every 15 mins. or so.  Add water if the beans are getting dry.

Roasted Carrot & Cauliflower Soup

Posted December 31, 2009 by Jen
Categories: Cheap Eats, Soups, Vegetarian

I drove a friend to the airport and she had a bunch of food in her fridge that she needed to give away.  Included in the collection was a 2 lb. bag of carrots, just on the edge of sliminess, but still good.  I had some cauliflower and many onions from my food co-op.  After looking up a number of recipes, I went for roasting.

Roasted Carrot & Cauliflower Soup

2 lbs. carrots (if large/whole, peel & cut into 3 sections or so; I used baby carrots)
1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets
1 large onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, smashed
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
4 c. vegetable stock
2 t. lemon juice
1-2 t. Sriracha/Rooster Sauce or other hot sauce

Preheat oven to 400 or 425.  I have an odd habit of roasting at 410 degrees.

In a large baking dish, pour about 2 T. olive oil across the bottom.  Add carrots, onions and 2 cloves of the garlic.  Drizzle 2-4 more Tablespoons oil and toss.  Sprinkle salt & pepper.   Do the same with the cauliflower in a smaller pan with less olive oil.

Every 15 mins, turn the veggies.  The cauliflower was done in about 35 mins; the carrots & onions in 45 mins. Cool the veggies.

Once cool, put all of the roasted vegtables in a food processor and add 1 c. of stock.  Whir on medium speed until blended.  Turn up to high speed and add stock a cup at a time so the soup doesn’t get sloshy. Process until smooth.  Add lemon juice and Sriracha, whir and taste.  Return to pot to re-heat.  Adjust salt, pepper, lemon juice & Sriracha to your liking.

Next time, I may try to make a creamy, protein-filled version with silken tofu.  Will report back!

Red Mole-n-Margaritas

Posted December 31, 2009 by Jen
Categories: Drinks, Equipment, Vegetarian

I have a tradition with my friends, John and Lesa Ellis.  I cook them their favorite foods for their birthdays and in exchange for John’s handy skills around my house.  A home repair can be had for a good beer and a good lunch, with both parties happy in the end.

John’s 50th birthday happened while they were away. When vacation came around, it was time for a good birthday dinner.  Mole is a frequent dish for these meals, anywhere from the jar stuff by Dona* Maria (benefit = all of my juice glasses are mole jars), to a semi-homemade version to the adventure of doing mole from scratch for this momentous birthday.  So, I googled “authentic mole recipe” and found:

Authentic Mole (a red mole) at  Adjustments:  Based on chiles I could find, I used New Mexico, Guajillo, and Ancho/Pasilla chiles.  Currants instead of raisins.  Canned tomatoes instead of fresh, and no tortilla, just wheat bread.  Lesa has blood sugar issues, so I put some w/just a bit of agave nectar separate from the main pot, where I did about half the sugar – half agave nectar and half sugar. Oh, and I learned to only use a blender.  What a mess when I tried pureeing it in the food processor!

The kitchen smelled AMAZING.  I had a jar of Dona Maria mole verde on hand in case it was a complete disaster in taste.  No need. The mole I made was really good. I will be cliche to refer to the saying “yumm” about your own cooking from Julie & Julia – I said “yumm” many times. I served the mole on chicken thighs w/rice sauteed with onions, chile powder & cumin and small Black Bean Burgers (see other post)

We had all forgotten what the margarita proportions were so we figured it out again.  Part of John’s birthday present was that he would not need to squeeze limes one by one.  Thanks to America’s Test Kitchen’s recommendation, I got this juicer.  I agree with that recommendation.  It made easy work of all of the limes needed for the 6 margaritas.

1 part Tequila
1 part Lime Juice
3/4 part Orange Liquer – either Triple Sec or Orange Brandy

Shake it up with ice.  Salt those glass rims and go!  We used Trader Joe’s Distinqt Reposado 100% Agave Tequila I acquired on my last pilgrimage to the Trader Joe’s in Las Vegas.  This stuff needs a warning:  stealthily strong.  Great taste.  Caused “ginsomnia” and hangovers, but well worth it.  It was a fun night!

* – I’ll figure out how to do accents on here eventually.  There is an enyay in that word…

Black Bean Burgers

Posted December 31, 2009 by Jen
Categories: Bean Dishes, Cheap Eats, Vegetarian

After having a really good black bean burger in an airport of all places (Chili’s Too at O’Hare), I wanted to work on mastering my own. These turned out quite well.  I combined elements from different recipes.

Black Bean Burgers

1 15 oz. can of black beans (or 1 c. cooked from dry)
1 medium onion, rough chopped
1 green bell pepper, rough chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 sm. or 1/2 bigger chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (from canned – I freeze these 2 peppers apiece in snack baggies)
2 T. sunflower seeds
1 egg
1/3 c. quick oats
1/3 c. matzo meal
1 t. cumin
salt & pepper to taste

Process onion, pepper, garlic, chipotle, and sunflower seeds until minced into small pieces.  Important:  Drain water out of this mixture in paper towels surrounded by rags.

Mash the beans in a large bowl with a fork. Leave some beans whole.

Beat the egg slightly and add onion mixture, egg, oats, matzo meal & spices.  Mix well.  Let sit in the fridge for at least 15 mins.

Form into patties. Either bake on parchment or Silpat at 400 degrees until browned (probably 20-30 mins. depending on size of patties), or fry in a pan with a small layer of olive oil, about 3 mins. a side.