Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kung-pao Stir-fry

Just yum.  
Also very veggie.
chicken marinade
1 Tablespoon pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
2 chicken breasts, diced (alternatively, tofu chunks, marinate overnight)
1 Tablespoon peanut oil

1.       Combine juice, starch, salt, and pepper. 
2.       Add chicken and oil, stirring to coat.
3.       Let stand 15 minutes.

cooking sauce:

2 Tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce)
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
2-3 teaspoons cornstarch
(optional coconut milk)
¼ cup liquid: pineapple juice, mandarin juice, a touch of honey; or broth or water with 2 tsp sugar

1.       Mix and put aside.

stir fry:

3-4 cups vegetables, chunked: broccoli, carrots, bok choy, onions, celery, cauliflower, green beans, etc.
4-6 small dried hot chili peppers
½ cup peanuts or cashews
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 green onions
(optional: pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges, bean sprouts, water chestnuts)
3 Tablespoons peanut oil

1.     Heat wok over medium heat.  Add 1T oil. 
2.     Add hot peppers and nuts, stirring until peppers just barely char.  Remove and set aside.
3.     Add 2T oil, heat to high.
4.     Add ginger and chicken, stir fry until chicken is opaque (3 min).
5.     Add raw vegetables and stir fry.
6.     Add peppers, nuts, green onions and optional fruit, etc. 
7.     Stir cooking sauce and add to pan until sauce bubbles and thickens.
8.     Serve with rice.  (Brown basmati is best.)

Makes 4-6 servings

Molly Brown Casserole

Comfort food from my childhood and a perennial top choice for my own children's birthday dinners.  A mid-20th century take on lasagna -- this mildly tangy casserole is easy to make and easy to like.  When I can't find crinkly noodles, I use mini lasagna noodles or even regular lasagna broken in pieces or, in a pinch, egg noodles.  But the pasta's ruffled edge is part of the pleasure of this dish and worth looking for.

In lightly salted boiling water, cook
1 (16-oz) package crinkly noodles
then drain and stir with
3 Tablespoons butter
in a 9"x13" pan.

1 lb. hamburger
1½ cup cottage cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
⅔ cup sour cream
¼ cup grated onion
1 teaspoon marjoram
and pour over noodles.  Mix browned hamburger with
2 cups tomato sauce
½ Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 drops Tabasco sauce
and pour over cheese mixture. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes.

Coconut Beans + Chapatis

This simple and satisfying recipe came to us from one of our daughter's
friends from Kenya.   The chapati recipe is softer than
other homemade chappatis we have made.

Coconut Beans

4 cans black beans, drained
1 can coconut milk
1 chopped onion
1 Tablespoon oil or fat
 Salt to taste

  1. Fry onion in large skillet.
  2. Add drained beans.
  3. Mix in  ¾ can if coconut milk
  4.  Let it simmer until it cooks down, then add the remaining  ¼ can of coconut milk.
  5. Serve warm with chapatis or pita bread.
 2 cups flour
 ¼ teaspoon salt
 ¾ - 1 cup hot water
melted butter
  1. Mix flour, salt, and hot water.  Knead until elastic.
  2. Divide dough into fourths.
  3. Roll each into thin circles and spread thinly with melted butter.
  4. Roll up like a small jelly roll and then roll it into a coil, tucking end into the middle.
  5. Roll flat again.
  6. Lightly oil a hot heavy skillet and fry until golden-brown on both sides.   


Lemon Cakes with Basil Lemon Syrup

These little cakes are ineffably good.  We like them with the King's Feast
to celebrate the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday 
the week before Easter.  It's a wonderful start to Resurrection Week.  
I bake them as mini muffins so they are tiny, 
perfectly so. The lemon-basil sauce, though, 
is the secret key.
The original recipe in Gourmet, April 2005, 
adds a dollop whipped cream,
which seems gilding the lily to me, 
but you could add it if that appeals.  
I always have sauce leftover and it is delicious poured over,
for example, apricot & golden raisin bread pudding.

½ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 ½ Tablespoons, melted (or olive oil)
¾ cup matzo cake flour plus additional for dusting

⅔  cup plus ¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature for 30 minutes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest 

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly brush mini-muffin cups with some of melted butter and chill 2 minutes, then butter again and chill 1 minute more. Dust cups with matzo cake flour, knocking out excess. 
  2. Beat together softened butter, cup sugar, and teaspoon salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until well blended.  
  3. Beat in lemon juice and 2 teaspoons zest until combined. 
  4. Add flour and mix at low speed until just combined. 
  5. Beat whites with remaining teaspoon salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they hold soft peaks. 
  6. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, beating, then beat until whites just hold stiff peaks. 
  7. Stir ¼ of egg whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly. 
  8. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. 
  9. Blend remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon zest with your fingertips and sprinkle over batter, then bake until cakes are puffed, edges are golden, and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. 
  10. Cool cakes in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then lift out cakes carefully (tops will break easily) and cool completely on rack.

¼ cups sugar
½ cups water
1 (4 x 1-inch) strip fresh lemon zest
½  cup fresh lemon juice
8 large fresh basil sprigs 

  1. Bring all syrup ingredients to a boil, covered, in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, then remove lid and boil 10 minutes. 
  2. Pour syrup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on and then discarding solids.  
  3. Cool to room temperature.

Cakes are delicious served simply on a plate with sauce drizzled generously over them.  Garnish with tiny basil leaves, if desired.  A dish fit for a King!

Full Moon Soup

Portugese kale soup from the best cookbook for children and their adults:  Blue Moon Soup, by Gary Goss. We tend to like more vegetables and more spices than his recipes call for, so here are our tweaks played upon his general theme.  The original recipe calls for canned kidney beans which you can certainly use, but we think it looks especially full moony with lima beans soaked overnight. 

1 cup dried beans 
and soak overnight in
3 cups of water 

Crockpot HIGH for 4 hours.

[or substitute 1 can of  beans]

Heat skillet over medium heat, then add
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 - 2 onions
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 - 3 carrots, chopped
half of 2 - 3 cups kale, chopped
1 - 2 teaspoon dried basil
(or 1 - 2 cubes frozen basil)
1 - 2 teaspoon dried oregano
(or 1 - 2 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
2 pieces linguica sausage, sliced into rounds 
Sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the other half of the kale, the beans with their broth and more water if desired. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, covered, 20 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and garnish if you wish with
minced kale, optional
grated parmesan cheese, optional

Though it's very good just as it is and even better served with Cornbread.

Dutch Babies

We sometimes discuss how these should really be called Dutch Bakies,
because they're a kind of eggy baked pancake, but the other name sticks best.
I'm sure you could fill these with something healthy -- sauteed greens maybe which 
I love with a nice scrambled egg and bacon, especially when there's a nutty raisin bread
to soak up the juices -- I can imagine that combination going very nicely with Dutch Babies,
but honestly, we usually just eat them with powdered sugar or jam.  Or au natural
which is also very nice.

¼ cup butter
6 eggs
1½ cups milk
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat oven 425°.  Melt butter in pan; remove as soon as butter is melted.
  2. Beat together eggs, milk, flour, and salt.
  3. Pour batter into hot butter. Return to oven and bake until puffy and nicely browned, 20-25 minutes.

Polenta and Red Lentils

Polenta, or corn grits, are available for me locally through Bob's Red Mill 
(a coarse cornmeal poured slowly into three times as much boiling water 
while stirring and then cooked on medium low until thick—stirring regularly 
all the while.  Season the cooked polenta with a tablespoon or so of olive oil 
and salt.).  

Red lentils are also sold by Bob’s Red Mill and can sometimes be found 
at my local grocery in the health food / bulk section.  They cook up 
into a beautifully golden, soft mashed-potato consistency and are surprisingly 
satisfying and delicious served with polenta  for breakfast or an easy supper
Slices of very ripe tomatoes would make this combination beyond delicious.

Both of the recipes below are based on the directions that used to be
 on the polenta and red lentil packages from Bob's Red Mill.


3 Tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
2 cups polenta
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 cups water

  1. In a large, deep pan over high heat bring water and sea salt to a boil; gradually stir in polenta. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently to prevent sticking until mixture is very thick (about 30 minutes); use a long-handled spoon because mixture pops and bubbles and can burn.
  2. Stir in butter (or olive oil),  and more salt if needed.
  3. Oil a deep medium sized bowl, spoon polenta into bowl and let set for 10 minutes. Invert onto a flat plate. Mixture will unmold and hold its shape. Cut polenta into thick slices and serve hot.

Makes 6 Servings.

Red Lentils

1 cup onions, chopped
1 - 2 Tablespoon butter or oil
1 cup red lentils
3 cups boiling water
1 ½ teaspoon salt

  1. Set water to boil.
  2. Sauté onions in butter or oil.
  3. Stir in lentils and sauté for a few minutes.
  4. Add boiling water.  (I've also had good success by just adding to cold water and then bringing to a boil—this method may take a little longer but not much)
  5. Boil gently 30 minutes, stirring often, until very soft.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
Makes 6 (1/2 cup) servings

Breakfast Plum Cake

A hybrid of my mother's Breakfast Cake and
my husband's grandmother's Plum Cake.
Not for everyday.  But enough to make
any day a special day. 

2½ cups flour (white/whole wheat or other grains)
2 teaspoon baking powder
¼ -½   teaspoon salt
¼ -½  teaspoon cardamom (optional)
½ cup honey
2 eggs
½ cup mild-tasting oil
1 cup milk
⅓ cup juice from frozen of bottled plums
juice from one lemon

4 Tablespoon toasted wheat germ (or matzo meal or oats)
¼ cup sugar (turbinado/ brown)
2 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
½ teaspoon allspice (optional)
chopped nuts (optional)
2 Tablespoon butter (or good quality bacon fat)
1 quart frozen or bottled plums (or other fruit)

  1. Sift dry ingredients.
  2. Add oil, eggs, milk and juices. Mix until blended.
  3. Spread in greased 9x9 square pan. 
  4. Mix dry ingredients of topping, then add butter
  5. Place plums cut-side down on batter.  Sprinkle topping over batter.
  6. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes.

Real Split Pea Soup

After long search for real split pea soup . . .
Nothing like what I grew up with.
Something at least as good as the canned stuff.
Something approaching the ambrosial peppery split pea I had once 
at a restaurant, high in the Canadian Rockies, after a long cold hike

. . . I think I've finally found it.

[NOTE: To make frozen basil cubes (at their height in summer):  chop fresh basil,
pack in ice cube tray, fill with water just to barely cover.]
This recipe is loosely adapted from one for Hoppin' John, a black-eyed pea stew,
in Rick Rodgers' Christmas 101.

Ham bone (I used the one leftover from our Christmas Eve dinner, with still some meaty bits left on)  
2 medium onions 
3 medium celery ribs, with leaves, chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon dried basil (I used two cubes of frozen chopped basil)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (I used a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme from my winter garden)
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
a scant ⅛ teaspoon cayenne

1 lb. split peas, rinsed and drained

  1.  Place ham bone, 1 onion, and 1 celery rib in crock pot and add 3 quarts cold water on HIGH.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add oil and the remaining onion and celery ribs.  Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and spices (except pepper) and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in split peas.
  5. Add to crockpot, set at HIGH, for 3-4 hours.  Cook until peas are soft and mush easily.
  6. Remove ham bone and when cooled enough to handle, chop any remaining meat and add back to soup.
  7. Blend or mash soup thoroughly.
  8. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Brown Rice and Lentils

When I stir in buttermilk I call this Syrian Mujdara, 
when I use milk I call it Lentils and Rice.
My family calls it YUM.

adapted from Andrea Chesman's
365 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans, and Grains
which is the one recipe book I would want if I could have only one.

1 cup dried green or brown lentils, rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup uncooked brown basmati rice
2 ¾ to 3 ¼ cups water

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 onions, thinly sliced in rings
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 ¼ cups buttermilk, kefir, yogurt or whole milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. In medium saucepan, cover lentils with water by about 3 inches and add ½ teaspoon salt.  Bring to boil, then reduce to gentle boil and cook until lentils tender but still hold their shape, about 25 minutes.  Drain lentils a little if too much water remains.
  2. While lentils cook, combine rice, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and the water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, until rice is tender and the water has been absorbed, 15 to 30 minutes.
  3. While rice and lentils cook, heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large saucepan.  Add the onions and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are golden, about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
  4. Add the cooked lentils and rice to the onions.  Add buttermilk or other milk to moisten and bind mixture.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Delicious served over spears of romaine lettuce with a blue cheese vinaigrette to the side.

Asparagus Basil Risotto

Ah! This dish is pure spring to me. Elegant and refined and utterly delicious. We make it to celebrate Palm Sunday, the week before Easter, when Jesus entered Jerusalem and was hailed as King.  Asparagus Basil Risotto is the ideal choice, firstly because I love asparagus. It reminds me of my grandma who grew it out along the ditch bank. And secondly, because what says spring so well as this sweet green sprouting grass? And thirdly, asparagus looks so much like a king's scepter and in Greek basileus = king, so asparagus-basil anything seems almost divinely designed for our feast to welcome in Easter's King. 

 I love especially the responsiveness and delicacy of this recipe, the required admiring of its colors and scents,  not to mention the "Keep tasting" section. We began making this with a recipe from Healthy Mediterranean Cooking by Rena Salaman and have made a few adjustments to satisfy our own palates.

Cut the tips from
14 oz. asparagus, trimmed of hard stems
and set aside the tips.  Cut each stalk in two and cook in plenty of lightly salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Drop asparagus tips in boiling water, 30 seconds only.  Remove with slotted spoon. Turn the boiling asparagus cooking water down to simmer. Place just over half of the asparagus stalk pieces in blender with
3 Tablespoons cream a few basil leaves with their stems
and 2-3 Tablespoons of asparagus cooking liquid.  Blend into a light green velvety sauce and set aside. Chop the remaining stalk pieces into thin rounds and set aside. Heat a heavy skillet and add
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped4-5 green onions, coarsely chopped
until just wilted. Add gradually
14 oz. risotto rice (a short-grained type like arborio)
stirring over a gentle heat until well coated in oil. Add
½ cup white cooking wine
once absorbed, start adding by ladleful
8 cups hot chicken stock
and ½ cup of the asparagus cooking liquid.  Keep stirring to prevent rice from sticking.

After about 25 minutes -- when rice has doubled in volume, is losing its chalky color and is becoming soft -- season to taste and add the blended asparagus sauce.  Stir the sauce gently into the risotto, which will turn a lovely pale green color.  Simmer for 10 minutes more.  Keep tasting the rice at this step in order to catch it at the desired moment.  It should be soft outside but firm in the middle, with a very creamy appearance.  Add more liquid if necessary. 

Once risotto is ready, add
salt and freshly ground pepper
to taste and gently stir in
a couple handsful of basil leaves, roughly torn - reserving a few pretty leaves for garnishand 2 oz. grated parmesan
plus the asparagus rounds and half the tips.  Mix gently, cover and remove from heat.  It can now wait for 5 minutes but no more. Empty onto a warm platter, scatter the remaining asparagus tips over the top, garnish with a few more basil leaves and serve with a bowl of
1 - 2 oz. of grated parmesan

And for dessert . . .
is simply divine and very Kingly.

Civil Rice for Human Beans

Traditional at our house for Martin Luther King Day, 
this is a simple and simply delicious way to eat black beans and rice.

based on a recipe in Andrea Chesman's 
 365 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans, and Grains

1 cup dried black beans, rinsed and soaked overnight in 4 cups water then drained

6 cups water
2 dried chipotle chiles
2 bay leaves 

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes
 1 (3-oz) jar chopped pimientos, drained
½  cup long-grain white rice
½ cup long-grain brown rice -- jasmine (basmati) is best!

1 ¾ cups water
1 ½ teaspoons salt

  1. Combine drained beans and 6 cups fresh water, chiles, and bay leaves in crockpot (or large saucepan) on HIGH for first hour, then reduce to LOW for 5 hours.  (Or bring to boil, partially covered, then reduce heat and boil gently until beans tender, not mushy, about 1 hour).  
  2. Drain beans, discarding chiles and bay leaves
  3. Heat olive oil.  Saute onion until limp, 3 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and saute until fragrant.
  5. Add tomatoes and pimientos another 1 minute.
  6. Stir in uncooked rice, cooked beans, water and salt.
  7. Cover and bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until most of the water absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and stir with a fork.  Crumple a clean kitchen towel over the rice.  Replace cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

Barley and Lamb

A simple lamb dish for our Eastertime Passover meal. 

2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup barley, rinsed and drained
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 medium onions, chopped
1 pound lamb stewing meat, boneless and trimmed of fat, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt to taste

6 cups chicken stock, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Brown barley in butter and set aside.
  3. Saute garlic and onion, then layer in a 2-quart casserole pan.
  4. Generously salt and pepper lamb.  Brown lamb in olive oil, then layer over barley mixture.
  5. Pour 3 cups chicken stock over meat.
  6. Cover casserole dish and bake for about 1 hour.
  7. Add another 3 cups chicken stock, cover again and bake for another hour.  Dish is done when lamb is tender and some chicken stock remains.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.
Serves 6.
Prep: 2+ hours

Brazilian Black Bean Soup

 We love this bean soup, adapted from one 
in Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook.  
The orange juice is not optional.  Trust me, you will love it.

2 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight in
           6 cups water

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cups onion, chopped
10 medium cloves garlic, crushed and minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 to 2 ½ teaspoons salt
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced

4 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 ½ cups orange juice (fresh is really good)
black pepper, to taste
cayenne, to taste (go light)
(optional: pinch of cinnamon or cardamom)
2 medium tomatoes, diced

optional toppings:
sour cream
minced cilantro

  1. Bring soaked beans to a boil, cover and simmer until tender (2+ hours).  For crockpot directions, see below.
  2. Heat olive oil in skillet.  Add onion, half the garlic, cumin, salt, and carrot.  Sauté over medium heat until carrot is just tender.
  3. Add remaining garlic and the bell pepper.  Sauté until everything is very tender (another 10 to 15 minutes). 
  4. Add sautéed mixture to the beans, scraping in every last morsel.
  5. Simmer until ready to serve, then stir in orange juice, black pepper, cayenne, and tomatoes.  Mash or purée some of the soup and return to pot.  Simmer over very low heat 10 to 15 minutes more.
  6. Sprinkle in minced cilantro and serve topped with a teaspoon dollop of sour cream.  Also salsa if desired.

Delicious served with sweet potatoes baked in their skins until very soft, then split and sprinkled with fresh lime juice.

To adapt to crockpot:  Cook beans 1- 2 hours on high alone.  Then add sautéed carrot, onion, cumin, bell pepper, and garlic to crockpot.  Cook on high 4-6 hours (on low 6-8).  Right before serving, stir in orange juice, black pepper, cayenne, and tomatoes.  Sprinkle with cilantro.). 

Almond Pomegranate Thumbprint Cookies

This is a recipe for passover-appropriate cookies I adapted from one in Gourmet, April 2006. 

I buy my almonds already ground into almond meal from Bob's Red Mill, carried on my local grocery shelves, though you could toast, cool and process blanched sliced almonds if you prefer.  My jam of choice is St. Dalfour's Red Raspberry Pomegranate Conserve, also found at my local grocery, and delicious. Homemade, I'm sure, would be better. Maybe.

I only make this once a year, out of the best ingredients, during our Easter celebrations.   

Yield: Makes about 2 dozen
Active Time: 20 min
Total Time: 1 1/2 hr

3/4 cup almond meal
2/3 cup turbinado sugar
2/3 cup matzo cake meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
About 2 tablespoons red raspberry pomegranate conserve (or other fruit preserves)

  1. Whisk together almond meal, matzo cake meal, and salt.  
  2. Add butter, egg, and extracts until combined well. 
  3. Chill dough, covered, until firm, about 30 minutes.
  4.  While dough chills, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
  5.  Drop level tablespoons of dough 1 inch apart onto parchment paper on baking sheets. 
  6. Roll dough into balls, then chill until slightly firm, about 10 minutes. 
  7. Make a 1/2-inch-wide (1/3-inch-deep) indentation in center of each ball using your thumb or the rounded end of a wooden spoon. 
  8. Fill each indentation with 1/4 teaspoon jam and bake, 1 sheet at a time, until tops are pale golden and undersides are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. 
  9.  Transfer cookies to a rack and cool completely.