Stuff I’ve made recently, January 2012

Grapefruit

  • Beer bread (Alton Brown): The ultimate weeknight bread recipe, for when you want something starchy/tasty to go with soup, etc. Super easy and super quick. My changes: used dried dill instead of fresh, subbed in part skim mozzarella cheese for cheddar, omitted the sunflower seeds. I also used Lagunitas IPA, with great results.
  • Carrot soup with miso and sesame (Smitten Kitchen): I have a long-standing hatred of carrots. So much so that it’s become a default joke with my loved ones. Something about the texture and the underlying sweetness just doesn’t work for me, despite my best efforts to overcome the distaste. I want to like them! Really! They’re so good for you! Despite all this, something about this recipe called to me, so I just ran with it. And you know what? It was pretty darn good, even for me. The miso helps offset the carrots’ sweetness, and the toasted sesame oil is just perfect. The texture still bothered me at times, but I ate three servings of it over the course of three days, so there you go.
  • Chicken lima bean soup (Taste of Home): I made this because I was dying to use my bag of Rancho Gordo Christmas lima beans, the recipe looked easy, and I wanted a nice sturdy soup after a whole holiday vacation of splurging on baked goods. It’s a very good soup, although I think the chicken may have been a tad overcooked. My changes: used Christmas limas, used kale instead of spinach, used dried parsley and other random seasonings instead of fresh.
  • Cottage cheese muffins (101 Cookbooks): Like every 101 Cookbooks recipe ever, these were really good. I made them for an office holiday potluck, but when I make them again, I’ll have them for breakfast instead.
  • Grapefruit yogurt cake (Smitten Kitchen): I had extra grapefruits, I had leftover yogurt that was threatening to go bad, I had everything else needed for this simple loaf cake. So I made it. And I’m really glad I did. It’s very, very good, and very, very easy. Next time, I’ll try the Ina Garten original lemon version, or a lime version with coconut milk yogurt and coconut oil. My changes: I used nonfat plain yogurt instead of whole milk.
  • Macaroni and cheese pizza (Food Network): For Jeffrey‘s birthday dinner! We used the Quick Beer Crust from King Arthur Flour, which is quickly becoming my favorite go-to pizza crust recipe. This is one of the more indulgent things I’ve ever made. Wow. We sort of winged it with this recipe – I don’t remember most of the changes that we made, however. The main thing is just stovetop mac and cheese, put on a pizza crust, and baked. Yum.
  • Meyer lemon fresh cranberry scones (Smitten Kitchen): I made these for my Bay Bridged comrades to enjoy while we set up for the Bay Brewed. They were a big hit. My changes: used regular lemons instead of Meyer.
  • Rustic lentil soup (Soup Addict): Delicious, hearty stew. That’s really all you need to know. Really, really good. My changes: I didn’t have any pancetta so I used more bacon instead, omitted the fish sauce, used 3 small leeks instead of celery, and used dried rosemary instead of fresh thyme.
  • And of course, I’ve made several more 30 before 30 items. Just need to actually sit down and write them all out!

Christmas lima bean soup with kale

Macaroni and cheese pizza

30 before 30: Chana masala + naan

Chana masala

I made this at the end of a very busy Sunday – Jeffrey and I went shopping for a whole new bed setup, which resulted in us driving all around and picking up and assembling the various components from the late morning until the late evening. It was entirely worth it, however. Our new bed is divine. And HUGE. My goodness.

But here’s the downside: I’m a little disappointed that this is the first official post for my 30 before 30 project. I was sort of hoping to emerge powerfully from the gates, kitchen tools blazing, with a perfectly tasty and satisfying dish to triumphantly cross off the list.

But here’s the honest truth: while this chana masala was ultimately good, it was way, waaaaay too spicy. As in, we couldn’t finish our servings because our mouths were on fire – and this is after stirring in some plain yogurt and taking timid bites along with generous portions of naan.

Naan

And then there’s the naan. The naan was very good. However (and I expected this to happen), it was quite different from the true restaurant style – mostly because I didn’t have a Tandoori oven at my disposal. Additionally, the dough was very sticky – it proved difficult to pull and stretch the dough pieces into the ideal shape/thinness. But fresh from the oven, these were pretty great.

It’s worth noting that I used a recipe that bakes the naan in the oven. However, there are other recipes that involve cooking the naan on the stove, which may help in mimicking traditional naan.

Naan

Oh chana masala. Why so spicy? Most likely, I wasn’t precise enough in my measurements of the hot chili pepper or the various spices, and used too much as a result. Lesson learned.

Chana masala

I have some leftovers that are too spicy to eat, sadly. My plan is to make a batch of plain lentils and then mix in the chana masala for flavor. We shall see.

So, while this wasn’t a huge success, I learned quite a bit, and for that I am thankful.

Chana masala

Chana masala + naan

Here are the recipes!

Chana Masala
Adapted from smitten kitchen

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 hot green chili pepper, minced (I used a pepper from my frozen stash)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups tomatoes, chopped small or 1 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes with their juices, chopped small
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lemon (juiced)

Measure all the spices (coriander through garam masala) into a small bowl and mix together (this is an optional step, but will save you time and stress later).

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, then add the onion, garlic, ginger and pepper and sauté until browned/soft (about 5 minutes). Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the spices mix, cooking for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and any extra tomato juice. Stir in the water and chickpeas, then simmer uncovered for 10-20 minutes (until thickened). Stir in the lemon juice and salt.

If you’re not serving right away (i.e. if your naan dough has finished rising and is ready to bake), you can remove the skillet from the heat and cover until ready to eat.

Naan
Adapted from Mark Bittman

2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Combine yeast, milk, yogurt, and sugar in small bowl and set aside. Add the flour, egg, and salt to a large bowl, and mix on low with an electric mixer until just combined (I used my stand mixer). Pour in yeast mixture and mix briefly (about 30 seconds), and add 1.5 cups of water a bit at a time until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky. Mine, unfortunately, was still too sticky at this point, so I had to add about 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough was usable.

Lightly flour a work surface and briefly knead the dough to form a smooth, round ball. Lightly oil a bowl with a neutral oil, put the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (1-2 hours). My “warm place” is our oven, turned off, since the pilot light keeps the oven warm at all times.

When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and place a baking sheet (or a baking stone if you have one – I don’t) on a rack positioned on lowest shelf of the oven.

Punch the dough down on the floured work surface – feel free to use more flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the work surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (Mark Bittman suggests rolling the dough into a “snake,” then tearing the snake into 12 pieces). Let the pieces rest for 10 minutes, covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel.

Depending on how many pieces will fit on your baking sheet, stretch out the pieces individually into a teardrop-shaped oval, 6-8 inches long, 3-4 inches wide. Do this as best you can, but don’t go too crazy if the dough doesn’t stretch and keep its shape perfectly.

Take the baking sheet out of the oven and place the stretched pieces on to the sheet. Put the sheet back in the oven on the lowest rack and bake for 3 minutes. Flip the pieces over and bake for an additional 6-8 minutes. The finished naan will be nice and puffed, mottled and brown. Brush the hot pieces with the melted butter and serve.

I waited until after we ate to bake the remaining pieces of naan dough. If I were to make these again, I would likely halve the recipe – this made 12 pieces of naan, and the leftovers don’t keep especially well (although they’re decent when microwaved or lightly toasted).

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu (slow cooker)

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu

This recipe is so simple, and so tasty. And to top it all off, it’s quite healthy – full of lean protein and veggies and fiber (lentils are a total superfood). As healthy as this dish is, however, it does not skimp on flavor (and as an unexpected bonus, it’s vegan!).

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu

This recipe originally comes from a Weight Watchers slow cooker cookbook, which I made a couple of times before making some significant modifications. The original recipe calls for shrimp as the add-in at the end of the slow cooking process, which was pretty good, but not my favorite (I prefer shrimp that’s been grilled or stir-fried – plus, 2 pounds of shrimp can be really expensive if you’re not buying on sale), so I used tofu instead. I also increased the amount of garlic (because 1 clove is never enough).

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu

Lastly, I replaced the celery in the recipe with leeks. Because you know what? Celery is stupid. It’s flavorless, it smells more like sterile cleaning liquid than food and while some will argue that it provides “texture” to soup and stews and the like, I find it annoying and useless. So, I used leeks instead, because leeks provide robustness without significantly changing the main flavor.

Red lentil curry with leeks and tofu, in the slow cooker
Adapted from Weight Watchers

2 1/2 cups veggie broth
1 cup dried red lentils
1 large red onion, chopped
2-3 leeks, thinly sliced and chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon peanut, grapeseed or canola oil (any neutral oil)
16 oz. firm/extra firm tofu (firmer the better)

Add the broth, lentils, onion, leeks, ginger, garlic, curry powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne pepper (first 10 ingredients) into your slow cooker. Stir together, cover, and cook on high for 2-3 hours (I let mine cook for the full 3 hours). I believe you can also cook the ingredients on low for 4-6 hours – the mixture is done when everything is soft and broken down.

When there’s about 45 minutes or so left on the timer, brown your tofu on the stove as preparation before adding to the slow cooker. Slice the tofu blocks into bite-sized pieces. Heat up some neutral oil (peanut, grapeseed, canola – just not olive, if you can help it) in a skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and let it brown, stirring frequently after a couple of minutes so that all the pieces brown somewhat evenly (this took about 15 minutes for me, but cooking times may vary). Add the browned tofu to the slow cooker, stir, replace the lid, and continue cooking.

Serve in bowls and enjoy! The leftovers for this recipe keep quite well – in fact, they get a little spicier after sitting in the fridge, which is a nice bonus. I imagine you could also serve this dish over some grains (couscous or rice), but it works great on its own.

Spinach and bean stew with poached eggs

Spinach and bean stew with poached eggs

The most recent post on Smitten Kitchen is for Chard and White Bean Stew. I love Smitten Kitchen. I could spend days and days perusing her archives.

I made her stew last night, with a couple of adjustments. I used white kidney beans and black beans because those were the only ones I could find while shopping during my lunch hour at Trader Joe’s. And I used spinach instead of chard, also due to availability.

It came out pretty well. Not as thick as Deb’s appeared to be, but still pretty tasty. I froze the leftovers and am curious as to how they’ll taste in, say, a couple of weeks’ time.

The poached egg on top is courtesy of my newly-acquired poach pods, which make poaching eggs extraordinarily simple. I love them. And they look like cute little lily pads on your stovetop! Bonus!

Whole wheat pizza with mushrooms and spinach

Whole wheat pizza

I wanted to do two things for dinner yesterday: utilize whole wheat flour and my brand new gorgeous KitchenAid stand mixer (thanks, Mom and Dad!). Solution: whole wheat pizza!

Pinch My Salt has a very appetizing whole wheat crust recipe with fresh rosemary, so I went with that one. She provides a “tangy tomato sauce” recipe that we followed as well.

We followed both recipes exactly, except we used my stand mixer to do the kneading (so easy!) and also used a regular pizza pan and cookie sheet for the pizzas (no pizza stone available).

For the toppings: I chopped up some crimini mushrooms (I just eyeballed it – maybe about a cup and a half) and fresh spinach (around one cup). We added a touch of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper to the mushrooms and let sit while we prepared the pizza dough and sauce. The toppings were enough for two of the four pizzas that the dough recipe will yield, and the sauce yielded just about enough for all four pies.

End result? Delicious.

Whole wheat pizza

Stuffed crust pizza

Stuffed crust pizza

House-sitting at the folks’ place again meant tackling a long complicated recipe that required lots of time, counter space, a stand mixer and a good oven. Hence: Stuffed Crust Pepperoni Pizza on Local Lemons (the recipes on LL site all look amazing, plus they revolve around locally acquired + seasonal ingredients).

Our modifications:

  • We didn’t have two 8-inch cast-iron skillets, but we did have one big pizza pan, so we just made one big pizza instead of two smaller ones.
  • We didn’t make our own mozzarella cheese. That looked fun, but I didn’t really feel like tracking down vegetable rennet. Maybe some other time.
  • We added sausage as well as pepperoni.
  • We were too stingy with the cheese in the “stuffed” part of the crust. Still really tasty, but we’ll be more generous if we make this again.

Otherwise, the recipe was actually pretty easy – it just takes awhile, between letting the dough rise twice and boiling and peeling the tomatoes and all that. But it was worth it, and it’s a fun project for an afternoon devoid of plans.