Friday, October 24, 2008

Polenta with mushrooms

Mushrooms are one of those things that I don't buy regularly. But I'm constantly reading recipes that sound delicious and I think, I should write this on my shopping list and plan to make this! But then I don't. On the other hand, when I do buy mushrooms, but don't have a specific plan for them, they tend to wind up in the compost a couple of weeks later. I took that risk earlier this week, though: I bought a package of baby bella 'shrooms without a plan.

Thursday is the night Jon has class, and so I usually throw together whatever for dinner for the kids and me . . . but this week I sort of forgot that he wasn't coming home for dinner that night, and had the brainwave to make creamy polenta with sauteed mushrooms on top. When I remembered that I'd be eating it solo (no way would my kids touch this), I thought, oh, so what. It's what I want to eat, so I'm going to make it anyway.

And then I sliced polenta and fried it up with eggs for breakfast for the next few days. Yum!


2 cups coarse cornmeal (I use Bob's Red Mill)
6 cups water (broth is excellent: think chickpea, or cannellini . . . darker bean broth will make it a little dingy-looking [though still delicious])
1 tsp salt
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar (optional, but yummy)

Mix all in a 9 by 13 pan. Put in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Stir, then bake another 15 minutes. It's a miracle -- delicious, creamy, slow-simmered polenta with No Stirring.

Mushrooms were just sort of thrown together -- onions, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper.

Pita chips

This is gratuitous -- just a picture (I think I posted instructions already!) But these were fantastic with hummus. The other night, that's what we ate for dinner, with a big pot of squash. Everyone ate it and was happy . . . that just might make a regular appearance on our dinner table . . .

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I love this granola mixed with plain yogurt! My kids prefer it plain. Adding the optional puffed cereal makes it lighter. I get mine in bags at Whole Foods.

Actually, this is a VERY forgiving recipe -- practically any of the ingredients can be left out or substituted. Other kinds of nuts or seeds, some nutmeg, oat bran for the wheat bran . . .

5 cups rolled oats
3 cups puffed rice or millet (optional)
1/4 cup wheat bran
1 cup walnuts
1 cup sliced almonds
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2-3 T molasses

Preheat the oven to 350. Oil a large roasting pan or baking sheet (or a couple, if you're adding the puffed cereals.)

Mix dry ingredients in a big bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a measuring cup or small bowl and whisk together. Drizzle over the oat mixture, tossing well to coat it all.

Spread out the granola in the pan(s) and bake for 30 minutes, stirring at 10-minute intervals. Let it cool, and then pack up in airtight containers.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

lentils with onion and tomato sauce

This is adapted from a recipe in Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven. It's not a lot of work, but it does require attention every now and then for a couple of hours.

I've become somewhat particular about lentils, I must confess. I really don't like the supermarket green/brown lentils very much anymore, particularly in soup. They fall apart and the skins kind of bug me. I'd much rather eat those snooty "French" lentils, sometimes called lentils de puy, for soup or pretty much anything else. This is one recipe that works really well with the plain, ordinary (cheap!) brown lentils, though. I've never tried this with red lentils, though I bet it would be pretty good.

1 1/2 cups lentils, cooked in 4 cups water
3-4 good sized onions, chopped fairly fine
2 T olive oil (or a combination of olive oil and butter)
1 T (or maybe a little more) balsamic vinegar
2-4 T brown sugar
1-2 cups diced tomatoes (amount variable, also kind of tomatoes variable -- I've successfully used crushed tomatoes, sauce, leftover pizza sauce . . . )
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions and several pinches of salt. Stir every few minutes for 10-15 minutes, until they start to get brown around the edges. Then put a cover on the pot and turn the heat down to low. Stir only every 15 minutes or so until the onions are nice and brown. (When I take the lid off, I drain the condensed steam off the lid but not back into the pot. The onions will brown better with the liquid removed.)

Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Keep simmering, uncovered, until the tomatoes reduce and meld with the onions, making sort of a syrupy sauce. Then add the remaining ingredients, starting with the smaller amounts of vinegar and sugar. Don't be afraid to add more, though. Stir well. Taste for salt; it might need quite a bit.

This is not a particularly pretty dish, but it is delicious.

I served it with a rice and broccoli raab gratin: not terribly gorgeous, but warming and good comfort food.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chickpea minestrone

I'm not sure I can even re-create the elements of this soup, but it turned out really well, so I wanted to try.

2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium carrots, sliced into thin rounds
a spoonful of honey
1/2 bunch "dinosaur" kale*
several sprigs of thyme and one of parsley
1 cup cooked chickpeas, plus 2 or 3 cups of their broth
2 cups leftover pizza sauce **
cooked pasta, pepper and grated romano cheese on top when serving

*for the kale: wash it, chop it fine, and cook in a cup or so of lightly salted water for 5 minutes. Save the cooking water for the soup! The more finely it's chopped, the easier it is to eat the final soup. No "strands" dripping off your spoon and down your chin.

**my usual pizza sauce is adapted from Peter Reinhart's American Pie. This time, instead of using basil and oregano, I used some Penzeys "Pizza Seasoning," which they sent me a small jar of as a free sample in my last order. It has crushed tomatoes, a bit of red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, crushed garlic.

Saute onions with a pinch or two of salt for 10 minutes over medium heat (has anyone else noticed how often my recipes begin with more or less that same direction??); add carrots and saute for an additional 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and herbs and stir constantly for another minute or two, then add the pizza sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add chickpeas, broth, the kale and its cooking water. Simmer another 20 minutes or as long as you have.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wild yeast ("sourdough") rye

I made this straight out of Peter Reinhart's Crust and Crumb, but I have a few notes I want to make.

After trying coffee and cocoa powder to get a dark rye bread, and even attempting to make my own caramel color, I finally gave up and just ordered the little jar of powdered caramel color from King Arthur. But along the experimental way, I decided I really like the flavor and aroma that the cocoa powder delivers, even if it doesn't add the color I was looking for. So this time I used a scant tablespoon of cocoa powder as well as a scant tablespoon of powdered caramel color.
(My real purpose in buying the powdered stuff is to try to make marble rye bread, just because I think it's cool. This time I used it just for kicks, to see how dark it made the bread! I was very pleased.)

This recipe calls for making a rye starter from ripe wild-yeast starter one day, which I did, and then a secondary starter the day after, before finally making the finished dough on the third day. I baked the bread that same day I made the final dough, rather than shaping the loaves and then retarding them in the fridge overnight and baking them on the 4th day as Reinhart suggests. I have not yet found a good method for getting the breads into the fridge and keeping them well-covered so the edges don't dry out. He suggests a giant food-safe bag, but I haven't found a source for those.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Chickpea stew with ginger and kale

When I put ginger on the grocery list, my husband bought the biggest piece at the store. Good grief. When I made this stew, I used a piece of ginger the size of an egg. What else to do with all of it?

1 bunch "dinosaur" kale, stemmed and chopped
3 T oil, divided
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3-4 cups cooked chickpeas, plus about a cup of their liquid
1 onion, chopped fine
4 or 5 cloves of garlic minced with several tablespoons of ginger
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander

Cook the kale: heat a couple teaspoons of oil and toss in the red pepper flakes. Add the kale and a few pinches of salt and stir to coat. Add a generous cup of water, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 12 to 15 minutes. Let it get nice and soft.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil and saute the onion with some more salt till lightly browned. Add ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander, and cook another minute or two, stirring constantly. Add chickpeas and their broth, as well as the cooked greens and their broth. Simmer to combine the flavors for at least 15 minutes.

I served this over brown rice, and it was good, if a little austere. I think it could have used some other vegetables, maybe some carrots and diced tomatoes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Raspberry leaf tea

Herb tea has never really done it for me.

I like black tea, and a few flavored black teas (say, Earl Grey?), but I'm pretty boring in my taste.

Some fruit-flavored herb teas are just awful. I like chamomile when I have an upset stomach, and sometimes when it's late in the day and I don't want a caffeine hit yet I do want something warm to drink, I suck it up and drink something -- red zinger, or honeybush, or whatever I might have bought thinking maybe this would be the one to convert me to the wide world of herb teas.

When I was pregnant with Annie, I read a lot about raspberry leaf tea: just dried raspberry leaves, steeped in hot water. I wasn't using caffeine at all, so I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. I was so happy to find something else I liked. I think it's the tannic acid -- it has a little of that same puckery bite to it that black tea has.
(Oh, I also happened to like nettle infusion, which I drank for the iron after Annie's birth, but I haven't seen nettle growing in my yard.)

The raspberries I planted last year yielded some berries -- enough for the kids and me to go on a daily quest for the few that we'd get -- but I was eyeing those leaves all summer. Last weekend, I clipped off about 8 or 9 branches, tied them into bunches, and hung them upside-down on the basement clothesline to dry. I wasn't sure how long it would take, but they certainly seemed dry enough inside of a week. Last night I pulled off the leaves and put them into a jar for storage.

Now I'm just waiting for an inevitable cool late-afternoon tea-drinking urge to see if it lives up to my memories . . .

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Red pepper jelly

We have friends whose usual pre-dinner snack is a chunk of cream cheese covered with spicy red pepper jelly, served with crackers and a knife for spreading. There's something sort of retro about it, but it is delectable, and addictive! I asked them where they get their jelly, and of course they make it. Well. I can do that.

So last week at the farmer's market, I bought a pile of red peppers, and I finally, after several days of admiring how pretty they looked in a basket, set out to make some of my own!

I trimmed them and cut out most of the seeds, but I wasn't religious about it. My fingertips stung for about the next 15 hours -- if ever I make a bigger batch, I'd better wear gloves! I think I wound up with about 9 oz. of coarsely chopped peppers. I pretty much followed the recipe in the Ball book I've used lately, but I used the weird "crunchy" brand of pectin Jon got me at Whole Foods.

As the jelly was coming to a boil on the stove, I was standing there studying the directions that came with the pectin, and trying to decide how much to use since it's not really a standard kind . . . and the jelly boiled over. That's what you get for turning your back on the stove. I actually coped pretty well, and managed to clean it up and even finish the batch and heat processed it and all without getting injured or bursting into tears. Lucky for me Jon had just gotten home and washed about a million dishes to ease me through the rest of the project. Thank goodness.

The other night I finally cracked it out (Phantom was visiting!) and we were quite pleased with the results. I think I'm going to check and see if there are more peppers at the market tomorrow . . .

(Oh, and do you remember the peach jam debacle? the one of the lost directions? I found the directions this week -- tucked inside Peter Reinhart's Crust and Crumb, of course. Where else? Sigh.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lentil soup, redux

I'm just posting the prep picture here -- let's just say that this pretty array of ingredients was the high point of this batch of soup. Sometimes things just don't come out as good as we were hoping . . .

Friday, October 3, 2008

Two soups (red lentil and broccoli cheese)

It was definitely soup weather this week.

Last year my mom gave me yet another Deborah Madison cookbook: Vegetarian Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen. (I must say -- I finally returned the favor and gave Mom one of her books a few weeks ago!) I have spent many happy hours browsing in that cookbook, but I had not yet actually applied myself to to the task of making one of the recipes. This week, I fixed that oversight! And I must say, if either of these recipes are an indication, I could probably happily cook every recipe in this book and eat well for weeks/months to come.

Tonight I made the broccoli cheese recipe. I must say I'm reluctant to post recipes verbatim that I make more or less verbatim -- without any modifications to speak of, that is. And this one, I made pretty close to the recipe. I wish I'd taken pictures of the broccoli before I cooked it -- we got two ENORMOUS heads from Drumlin this week, totalling 1.75 lbs! I used it all, as well as about 0.75 lbs red potatoes. Oh, and I had no celery, so I left that out. The seasonings included marjoram, bay, thyme, cayennne, dijon mustard -- I pureed it but left a little texture.

The red lentil soup I didn't exactly follow the recipe for, and there were other modifications I wish I'd made. I think I wanted it to go in more of a curry direction: so should I post the recipe I should have made?

3 T butter
1 cup red lentils
1 cup leftover chickpeas and their broth
1 delicata squash, peeled and diced
3 carrots, cut into half moons
2 onions, diced
1 cup canned tomatoes (I used some of my own home-canned crushed tomatoes!!)
1/2 tsp cumin (should have used more)
1 tsp turmeric
1 cup basmati rice, cooked in 1.75 cups water and a 1/2 tsp salt

Melt the butter; add the onions and a tsp of salt. Cook at medium for 5 minutes or so, and then add the rest of the veggies. Saute another 10 minutes or so, then add tomato, lentils and 5.5 cups of water.

I wish I'd also added a healthy tablepoon or two EACH of minced ginger and garlic, added toward the end of the vegetables getting browned. She also called for scallions to be sizzled in butter at the end and added as a garnish -- personally I'd have liked scallions just sprinkled over the top of each bowl for a garnish, but I left them out.

I served this with rice in the bottom of each bowl.