Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Curried Lentil Soup

Even though the weather is getting warmer and this recipe is somewhat reminiscent of winter, it it still a perfect dish to have around and even better for freezing so you can have something delicious to eat when you don't feel like cooking or have time (like when you're in finals mode).
It is super easy to make and while you can make it on the stove, it is really just perfect to dump into a crockpot and and come back to 6 hours later.
What you'll need:
3/4 pound dried lentils
2 chopped carrots
1 large chopped yellow onion
1 large can crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons currry powder
1-2 tablespoon chopped ginger
1-2 tablespoon garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
dash of thyme and oregano
Optional: greek yogurt and cilantro for garnish

Soak the lentils overnight in water.  Make sure there's enough room in the bowl you soak them in because the lentils will expand!
The next morning:
Heat the oil in a large pan and put the onion in.  When it begins to sweat, add the curry powder and stir to mix in, making sure the powder isn't lumpy at all.  Then, add the carrots, garlic and ginger.
When the garlic cooks and begins to smell amazing, add 1 cup of the chicken stock and salt and pepper.  Let it all simmer for about 5 minutes.
Next, dump the pan into a 5 quart crockpot and add the crushed tomatoes, lentils and spices.  Add a dash of chili powder if you feel like a little spice,  Turn on high and come back in 6 hours.
Taste it and add more salt and pepper if needed.  Garnish with greek yogurt and cilantro and enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tomato Garlic Mussels with Scallops, Shrimp and Chorizo

This, my friends, is an A-mazing recipe, easily adapted for a luxurious or a rather frugal dinner.  This is also a recipe to take the mystique out of cooking shellfish, and to show how cheaply, easily, and healthy it can be prepared, or conversely, how decadently and complicated a simple recipe can become.  Everyone thinks shellfish and seafood in general is so expensive, but did you know that mussels cost less than 3 dollars per pound?  You can adapt this recipe by leaving out the scallops and shrimp.  You can also add lobster or clams.

This recipe right here kind of strikes a balance.  It has many steps but please don't be scared off because all of the steps are EASY!  And can be prepared in small stages throughout the day if you don't have time to prepare it all at once.  I'll break it up into parts so you can separate if you'd like.  Also, seeing the steps separately helps to keep everything neater and more easily accessible so you can just throw things into a pot!

What you'll need:
1-2 pounds mussels
1/4 SHELL-ON shrimp
1/4 pound scallops
1/2 yellow onion
1 can peeled tomatoes (28 oz)
2 links of chorizo/sausage
a few tablespoons of heavy cream
3 garlic cloves
1 cup white wine

Roughly chop the onion, garlic, parsley and basil and set it aside.

Prep the shellfish
Shrimp: simply rinse.  By the way, notice how I mentioned the shrimp should be shell-on?  Well, that's because I experimented with my shrimp--I left half with their shells on and shelled the other half and the shell-on shrimp were SO much more moist and delicious and worth the little hassle of taking the shell off while eating.
Scallops:  You need to brine these delicious little sea creatures in very heavily salted water.  You get the water to be very salty by heating it first, then mixing in A LOT of salt.  Then, cool it down with ice cubes and place the scallops in there for about 10 minutes only when the water has cooled down so you don't cook the scallops while brining.
Mussels:  Clean the mussels by rinsing them twice under cold water (not hot, because you don't want to cook them).  Scrub them and try to get the beards off as much as you can. Then, let them sit in a pot of cold water for about an hour with a few tablespoons of baking soda.  That will help the mussels release any sand or grit inside.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of the scallops.  Heat a touch of oil (preferably vegetable or canola oil and not olive oil) in a cast iron pan and put the scallops in alongside the chorizo.  Cook the scallops 3 minutes on each side and then remove everything to a plate.
 Next, add the onions to the same pan with the chorizo fat and leftover oil.  Do NOT clean the pan--all the flavor is in the pan!
When the onions begin to sweat, add the garlic.  When the garlic smells wonderful and cooks through, add the tomatoes and crush them with the back of a wooden spoon.  Then, add the herbs, the white wine and salt and pepper. 
Let it sit uncovered for about ten minutes until the alcohol has evaporated.  Then, put in the mussels and shrimp.  
COVER for about 3-5 minutes until the shrimp are opaque and the mussels have opened.  The mussels are an excellent timer because they let you know exactly when they are done!  (See how easy this is?!)
Then, toss in the scallops and chorizo (which you need to cut into smaller pieces) to re-warm them and a touch of heavy cream to make the sauce creamy.  Serve with crusty bread and the rest of that wine!
I learned a new trick: put a rolled up paper napkin under one part of the plate so the sauce only goes to one side and doesn't get the bread soggy (although that's yummy) and the other side dishes you serve with this (although it doesn't need any) don't mix.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Raisin Rice Pudding

Ever wonder what to do with this, other than typical leftover fried rice?
(Lonely carton of white rice that comes standard with every Chinese takeout order, still sitting in your fridge)

Well wonder no more.  This is my mother's special rice pudding, passed down from her grandmother.  It's super easy to make, just has a few ingredients, and will be sure to cure you from the previous night's Chinese food coma.  This is comfort food at it's easiest and finest! (And it also bring back great memories)

What you'll need:
1 carton of white rice
whole milk (at least 2 cups) (Do as I say, not as I do!)
3 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of butter
1 handful of raisins (I used both golden and regular but you can use one or both or neither)
2 teaspoons of vanilla
Put the rice in a pot, and fill the pot with enough milk so that it just covers the rice.  Then put in the rest of the ingredients
Stir together.  Cover the pot and turn the heat on the lowest possible setting for about 15 minutes.  Then, uncover and continue to let it sit until the rice has absorbed all of the milk and your house smells like vanilla.  Stir occasionally so the rice doesn't stick!
How do you know when it's done? Overall it'll take about 30 minutes.  But you'll really know when it's done when you simply taste it!  Some people like the pudding a little more firm, others most liquidy, so make sure it's the right consistency when you take it off the stove.  Also, you can always add a bit more milk while cooking if the rice absorbs it too fast. Mine looked like this when done:
Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Garlic Pickled Green Beans

I recently tried pickled green beans at a restaurant/bar downtown (Ward 3 on Reade st--check it out for awesome cocktails and interesting bar snacks--whiskey chicken liver pate anyone? YES) and fell in love with them.  I knew I had to attempt to re-create them so here is my first try. I think they came out OK for a first try--the taste was there, but the technique was a bit off.  I modified the recipe to take that into account and I think it'll work out much better this way.  So try this out if you like pickles and need a new, spicy spin on them.  And if you attempt them and have modifications--leave comments below!

What you'll need
1/2 pound green beans
4 peeled cloves of garlic
dash of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons of salt
6 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 pot of boiling water for blanching
First, start by cleaning the green beans and chopping off the ends.  In the meantime, boil a pot of water
Put the beans in the boiling water for a minute, then remove them and place in cold water to stop the cooking process.
Separately boil one cup of water (microwaving works well and fast)
Next, combine all of the ingredients except for the beans and garlic in a glass container.  
Shake it all up so the sugar and salt dissolve.  Then, submerge the green beans and garlic, cover, and put directly in the fridge.  They should be ready in about 4 days, and should last a while in the fridge after that.  Enjoy!
*side note: the first time I made these, I skipped the blanching step and the pickling juices didn't pickle quite the whole bean.  I think blanching them will make them pickle-y throughout! Try them and let me know how it goes!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bacon Apple Brussels Sprouts with Orange Sesame Vinaigrette

I know...you're thinking--brussel sprouts, again?! I'm sorry, but my thought is that I could keep this recipe to myself, but I think it would be a mistake to not pass on the goodness.
This is another one of those recipes that turns something healthy into something not so healthy, by again--adding bacon--but is somewhat redeemed by adding a fruit? Maybe? 

Anyway, straight to the point, this recipe has everything: tart, sweet, salty, smoky and tons of umami (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umami).  I can hands down guarantee you'll like it, and if not--your money back =)

Bacon Apple Brussel Sprouts
1 package bacon
1 pound brussel sprouts
1/2 tart apple, preferably gala or jazz

Orange Sesame Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce (can substitute low sodium soy sauce but fish sauce is preferable)
4-6 tablespoons orange juice
zest of 1 orange

Start by preheating the oven to 400.  Then, fry a package of bacon in a hot pan until crispy but not burnt. 
Remove bacon to drain on a paper towel and allow it to cool and dry, with a paper towel on top as well.  Throw out all but 1-2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and toss that with the brussel sprouts which you've previously cleaned and cut in half.  (Refer to Lime, Honey & Sriracha Brussel Sprouts to see how to cut them)
Put the sprouts in the oven for 20 minutes, tossing after 10 minutes.
In the meantime, chop half of the apple into small pieces.  
Then, blend all the vinaigrette ingredients together (whisking probably isn't good enough because the oil won't emulsify and it'll be too overpowering) and modify accordingly so it tastes delicious to you!  This should be a light dressing to complement the heavy ingredients.  It should look frothy and orange-y
 Crispy sprouts:
 When the sprouts are done, toss them with the crumbled bacon, apple pieces and vinaigrette.  The contrast between the bitter sprouts, salty bacon and cold and sweet apples is really just fabulous--I had no leftovers. And may have licked the bowl. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fruity-Tutti Guacamole

Last year I went to this delicious Mexican restaurant in midtown called Toloache.  I remember enjoying a great drink and delicious food, but what truly stuck out in my mind was this amazing (and quite expensive) guacamole that they make fresh to order.  The guacamole is so deceptively simply--filled with chunks of fresh fruit--that it makes you mad that you never thought to put fruit in with your avocados before!  I mean, I can't believe I spent my life up to this point without fruit guacamole.  AND I can't believe I shelled out $12 for a scoop of guacamole that cost under half that to re-create myself.  

This recipe is good to make as an appetizer for a bigger group because you have to buy all of the fruit for it, might as well make a larger batch and share

What you'll need (makes enough for 2-3 people)
2 avocados
1 lemon
1/2 mango
1/2 gala apple
5 ish strawberries (or if you can find pomegranate, this is preferable but unfortunately out of season here in NY!)
*basil optional--great addition if you have it around

Simply chop!
Mango trick I learned from Paula:
Score the top of the mango
Flip inside out to easily cut chunks of mango (sorry for the poor picture taking here)
Lightly mash the avocado with a fork
Mix together
Add s+p and juice of 1 lemon
 Enjoy immediately!