February 28, 2011

Solace in a Soup

Start.  Stop.  Start.  Stop.

I've started writing here 3 times now, and each time I've had to abandon the draft.  I'm drowning in school, work and a weekend trip up to Tahoe, and let me tell you this gray winter weather isn't helping whatsoever.  If it's not braving the rain on a Saturday morning open air market then it's rain turning into hail turning into white out snow conditions preventing the last leg of a trip to a Tahoe cabin.  Of course it's all worth it in the end - to come home with handfuls of the freshest farm produce or to finally arrive to a snow covered winter wonderland after a 6 hour drive - it's just that I can't help longing for a break.

And for that, there's this lentil soup.  Thick with red lentils and yellow split peas, rich with (light) coconut milk, toasted curry powder and tomato paste and just a hint of surprise with the addition of sauteed golden raisins.  It takes under an hour to make, almost all of which your kitchen will be filled with the sultry smells of toasting spices and and an amazing buttery sizzling combination of ginger, green onions and golden raisins.  And that wary look you have on your face about the raisins, abandon it, their sweet juicy bits in the soup are entirely perfect.  It's great the first night, even better the next and it freezes like a dream.

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks 

Aside from adding in a little extra diced carrot, I didn't really change a thing, it was perfect as is.  If you don't intend to eat it right away, or imagine that you'll have leftovers for the next day or to freeze, I would suggest cutting each raisin in half.  They tend to soak up a lot of liquid and become surprisingly large after a while.  Plus, when you cut them up, you'll get more spoonfuls with raisins in them, and they're the best ones. 

6 servings

1 cup yellow split peas
1 cup red lentils
7 cups water
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
8 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
2 teaspoons sea salt
one small handful cilantro, chopped

Give the split peas and lentils a good rinse - until they no longer put off murky water. Place them in an extra-large soup pot, cover with the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the carrot and 1/4 of the ginger. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft.

In the meantime, in a small dry skillet or saucepan over low heat, toast the curry powder until it is quite fragrant. Be careful though, you don't want to burn the curry powder, just toast it. Set aside. Place the butter in a pan over medium heat, add half of the green onions, the remaining ginger, and raisins. Saute for two minutes stirring constantly, then add the tomato paste and saute for another minute or two more.

Add the toasted curry powder to the tomato paste mixture, mix well, and then add this to the simmering soup along with the coconut milk and salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes or so. The texture should thicken up, but you can play around with the consistency if you like by adding more water, a bit at a time.  Serve topped with a generous amount of the remaining sliced green onions and some chopped cilantro leaves.

February 12, 2011

Saturdays in February

 Red Russian kale - Sage Mountain Farm
Flowers - Dramm & Echter
Strawberries - Kawano Farms
Whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread - Belen Bakery
Satsuma tangerines - Heritage Family Farms
Fuerte avocado - Heritage Family Farms
Dry roasted almonds - Hopkins Ag

February 8, 2011

The Beet Goes On

These last few weeks it's felt like my kitchen has been turning out nothing but disappointing food.  Food that would sustain, but was nothing to write home about or even worth the effort to try and remember what exactly it was that I cooked.  There was a tortilla soup in there that was so underwhelming I had to go back and delete the bookmark from my recipes list in case I forgot its mediocrity and one day try and make it again.  I was just that disappointed.

So when I went to make these beet burgers I couldn't help but grumble a bit under my breath at the multiple steps it was taking to assemble something that sounded simple enough but had no guarantee it was going to be worth it.  I won't lie to you, the steps are kind of tedious - grate a couple of good size beets, cook some brown rice then puree it into a pile of mush, toast some walnuts and then chop those up, caramelize onions, and we haven't even got to the assembly or cooking yet - but here now at the other end of it all, I can wholeheartedly tell you it's worth it.

They're earthy and savory with pleasant little crunchy bits from the rice that crisps up on the edges while baking and toasted walnut pieces within.  Nothing compared to those soggy droopy things you find in the freezer section that squish out of all sides of the bun when you take your first bite.  You can of course play around with your seasonings, but I went with a combination of cumin and dried oregano and thyme to play off the earthy sweetness of the beets and caramelized onions.  I won't go so far as to say these could change the minds of beet haters out there, but I think they'd be a good candidate for the experiment.

We ate these two nights in a row, happily, and could have done another night had I not been in such a practical mood freezing the last 2 patties to eat at a later date, perhaps when the kitchen magic runs out again.

Beet Burgers
Adapted from Lucid Food

Like I said, these are quite tedious to make, but the payoff is great.  You'll dirty quite a few dishes and your hands may be tinged pink after all is said and done, but on the up side, if you're only 2 people, these burgers hold well in the fridge for a few days or the freezer for a bit too, so you'll get several meals in one.  For the final cooking definitely use a pan not a grill because while they're not mush, a few of mine really wanted to break when I flipped them.  I served mine simply with a slice of cheese melted on top on toasted bread with just a bit of mayonnaise, grainy mustard and a mix of salad greens and it was tops.  Don't pile too much on or else you won't fully appreciate the beet burger.

6 burgers

1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup water
2 beets
1 cup walnuts halves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

buns or bread, toasted
cheese slices (provolone, cheddar, monterrey jack)
toppings of choice

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small sauce pan, bring 1 cup water to a boil, add brown rice, cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes.  When the 20 minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat and let sit, covered for another 10 minutes.

Trim the tops and tails of the beets, then grate on the large side of a box grater onto a plate so as not to stain a counter top.

Meanwhile toast the walnuts on a cookie sheet until they became fragrant and turn a deep golden color, about 8 minutes.  Cool then chop finely (I just used a food processor for this) and set aside.

In a small saute pan (or use the same pan as the rice after it's done cooking and sitting), heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, add onion and stirring often, cook until the onion starts to caramelize and turn a light brown.  Add the minced garlic and herbs and spices and cook for 30 seconds more.  Deglaze the pan with 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar making sure to scrape all the good bits off the bottom of the pan and set aside.

In a food processor, process 1 cup of the rice, 1 cup grated beets and 1 teaspoon salt until it reaches a paste like consistency - this will be what holds your burger together.  Then add what remains, if any, of your cooked rice, the shredded beets, the chopped walnuts and caramelized onions, and pulse just a few times just to get everything incorporated.

Separate into six balls and form into 1/2" patties, placing them on a cookie sheet (the same one used for toasting the walnuts) that's been sprayed with nonstick spray.  Lightly spray tops of patties again with nonstick spray and bake for 45 minutes.

When ready to eat, heat a small amount of olive oil in a nonstick pan and reheat the beet burgers for 3-4 minutes per side, topping with a slice of cheese in the last minute or so to melt.  Serve on a toasted bun or bread with your toppings of choice.

February 2, 2011

Super Dip

Perhaps you'd like to be the star of your Super Bowl party?  Perhaps you'd like to make a few new friends?  Then boy do I have just the thing for you!

Take it from me, I don't even care about things like the Super Bowl, but when it comes to a 4 hour span of snacking on a smorgasbord of goodies, I'm your gal.  This is when people pull out the big guns of finger food munchies, really go all out, and I can't turn down opportunities like that.

I can't remember how I stumbled upon this recipe - tastespotting is a likely candidate, though - but it had me scrambling to the fridge within 5 minutes to check what I needed to buy to MAKE THIS RIGHT NOW.  I know my picture is probably not really doing that for you right now in all it's washed out and blobby glory, but I bet if I would have just stuck a few radish slices on top and then told you about it tangy, crunchy, garlicky, earthy flavor that might motivate you some.  There's dill and lemon and the bite of garlic at the end and all of that is studded with hot pink radish chunks that could only improve if you manage to find the rare spicy ones.

I'm telling you, you have a hit on your hands here, what you choose to do with it is up to you.

Radish Dip
Adapted from Lick my Spoon

This dip gives you options and I've already tweaked it a bit from the original by adding an additional clove of garlic - more garlic is never a bad thing - and about 3 times as much dill because I love both of those flavors.  Go ahead and use Neufchatel for a lower fat option, with everything else going on flavor wise, no one will be able to tell the difference.  I obviously dipped to my heart's content with tortilla chips (serious addiction over here), but Lick my Spoon says Frito's Scoops are the way to go.  I won't tell if you pick fresh veggies, though.

1 cup diced radishes
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
1 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced

Put all ingredients in a bowl stir until completely mixed.  Serve with chips or veggies.