February 28, 2010

links: recipes

Our meals this week were all inspired by recipes/articles I found on the internet. I thought I'd pass along links to the best of the bunch.
  • Rasa Malaysia's steamed tofu. Quick and satisfying. My meatless take: Steam a slab of soft tofu (5 minutes). Next, saute chopped ginger, chopped garlic, sliced birds eye chiles, a big handful of sliced shitakes, and half a bunch of chopped scallions. A splash of soy, a splash of oyster sauce, some water, and a bit of cornstarch to thicken the sauce. We ate this with steamed rice and a mess of stir-fried green beans.
  • THE best spiced cauliflower dish I've ever made (and, believe me, I've made a lot). This had great flavor and texture. I omitted the potatoes, cut back on the oil to compensate, and it was excellent - the first time in history that Mark fought me for the last bite of cauliflower. We ate this with whole wheat chapatis, lime pickle, kidney bean curry, and cilantro raita.
  • I read an article in which Rick Bayless talked about how well lime and cilantro complement salmon. I have been using his cilantro-lime vinaigrette to dress salads for forever but, once I read that, I couldn't stop thinking about how good it would taste drizzled over Alaskan sockeye salmon filets! Well, Rick was right. (He usually is.) I also learned you can make decent quinoa using a rice cooker. 1/2 cup quinoa: 1 cup water.
  • Korean vegetable pancakes. Packed with vegetables (shitakes/scallions/onions/jalapenos/grated carrot/grated zucchini), these made a nice Sunday lunch along with a salad and some kimchi. Sort of like a Korean frittata.
  • I made ricotta on Saturday (using this excellent Serious Eats recipe). Then, Mark and I made lemon ricotta pancakes while we were watching the Olympics. Deelicious. Light and fluffy from the whipped egg whites, with slightly crisp edges and a wonderfully creamy interior. Instead of topping these with lemon curd, I added the zest of a lemon to the batter and topped them with warm blueberry sauce.

February 20, 2010

cooking for 1 + harira

Mark was invited to give a talk at a conference in South Carolina so I've been enjoying being on my own these past few days. I love making dinner with/for Mark but sometimes ... I miss cooking just for me. Cooking for 2 or more usually means compromise: I love roasted broccoli but Mark is lukewarm about it. He loves bread; I prefer rice. I could eat soup every day, while he tires of it after a day. One of my favorite things in life is cooking with Mark and cooking for others -- but, still, there is something nice, even indulgent, about cooking/eating only to please your own tastes.

When I'm out of town, Mark invariably turns to pasta: a jumble of spaghetti tossed with olive oil+garlic+chiles, showered with good parmesan and cracked black pepper, and topped with a glistening fried egg. When Mark is gone, I go crazy for soups. This week I made a chunky Puy lentil soup; potato and leek soup; a spicy shrimp broth with julienned zucchini, cilantro, and scallion; and a hearty, warming, vegetarian harira, using a recipe from our friends Robin and Ilan.

(Also perfectly fine: those nights when dinner is a hunk of baguette, eaten over the sink -- saving a plate and catching the crumbs!-- and whatever knob of cheese is hanging out in the refrigerator. Then, parking yourself on the couch. Olympics! I'm obsessed!)

And a final note is that we decided to go pescetarian during Lent this year. We love our burgers, porky dim sum, chicken broth, and Marcella Hazan's insanely delicious beef ragu but don't intend to touch meat until Easter. I've been busily making a list of vegetarian/pescetarian meal ideas but would be grateful for more! Also, I'm totally curious about everyone else's "alone" meals so please indulge my curiosity and share. My sister told me about a great book called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant on this subject. Must read.

Harira (Moroccan-inspired vegetable/chickpea/lentil soup)

Harira is traditionally eaten during Ramadan to break the fast. I first tried harira at a Moroccan restaurant in Paris, and their version was rich with lamb, tomato, chickpeas, and egg noodles. This version is quite a bit lighter, though it still has nice flavor. I especially recommend swirling in some harissa for extra heat.

To get 1 cup of cooked lentils: in a pot, add 1/2 cup of lentils + enough water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer 20-25 minutes, or until tender. Drain.
1 cup chopped onions
4 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 cup peeled and diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1 cup undrained canned tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
pinch of saffron
1 cup cooked lentils
1 cup drained chickpeas
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper to taste
lemon wedges

In a soup pot, simmer the onions in 1 cup of the stock for 10 minutes. Combine the cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and cayenne in a small bowl and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the hot liquid to form a paste. Stir this paste into the hot pot along with the carrots, celery, and the remaining stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and potatoes and continue to cook, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Crumble in the saffron. Stir in the lentils, chickpeas, lemon juice. Add a fat pinch or two of kosher salt and a few grinds of ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and serve with lemon wedges and cayenne pepper or harissa for an extra kick.