Friday, November 30, 2012

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup

I didn't used to be a huge fan of lentils, but I've gotten really into cooking them this year - they're cheap, healthy, easy to prepare, and they work well with all sorts of flavors and cuisines.  This Asian-inspired coconut curry soup is a great example of that - mild red lentils are a perfect base for flavorful spices, coconut milk, citrus, and lemongrass.  I really enjoyed this soup, but I'd make a couple of changes if I make it in the future.  First, I'd add more veggies - the spinach I added wilted down to almost nothing, so next time I'd either add more spinach or throw in some carrot or squash to bulk things up in the vegetable department.  I'd also put in larger pieces of crushed lemongrass, let them cook with the soup, and then fish them out before serving - although the minced lemongrass approach does work with some dishes, in this case I found the texture to be distracting, though the flavor was good.  Overall, this is a comforting, warm bowl of soup that will totally satisfy for lunch on a rainy day!

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, original recipe here)
Serves 4-6

1-1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp dried oregano
1 T coconut oil, more as needed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks lemongrass, outer layer removed, lower portion finely minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
A few shakes of red pepper flakes (or to taste)
A few grates of nutmeg
1 can full fat coconut milk
A few handfuls of baby spinach, coarsely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime

1. Combine the lentils, broth, thyme, and curry powder in a soup pot.  Bring to a boil and then simmer about 15 minutes, until the lentils are cooked.
2. Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until just browned  Add the lemongrass, along with the salt, cardamom, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, and nutmeg.  Cook for another minute or so, stirring often.  Scrape the onion mixture into the cooked lentils.
3. Add the coconut milk and spinach to the soup and bring to a simmer.  Simmer about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the lemon and lime juice, and then taste and adjust for seasoning.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Butternut Squash-Goat Cheese Lasagna

Following up on my lasagna love from last week is another delicious lasagna I made recently.  This one is definitely quite a bit more involved - a weekend project for sure.  But, all the work was totally worth it - this is one tasty lasagna!  Thin homemade egg noodles are layered with a creamy goat cheese-squash-spinach layer, and then the whole thing is topped off with cheese and crunchy breadcrumbs.  The only thing I'd change would be to add more goat cheese - perhaps crumbled in between some of the layers.  While the filling was really delicious, the squash flavor definitely dominated and I didn't get quite the goat cheese-y 'tang' I was looking for.  That's a small complaint, though, because overall Tim and I loved this dish!  It's pretty rich, so it will serve a crowd.

Butternut Squash-Goat Cheese Lasagna (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Makes one pan, serving 6-8

1 large butternut squash, about 3 pounds, halved lengthwise and seeded
Olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
5 T butter, divided
1 large leek, white and light green parts chopped
1 small bunch fresh spinach (about two handfuls), large stems removed, chopped
1 large sprig fresh sage
1/4 cup flour
3 cups skim milk
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/3 cup panko
1 recipe Fresh Pasta, rolled into lasagna sheets (no need to boil)

1. Prepare the filling.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Place the squash halves cut-side-up on a large, foil-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with oil and rub onto all the cut surfaces.  Place 2 garlic cloves and 1 sprig of thyme in the cavity of each squash.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast 40-50 minutes, until the squash is tender.
2. Let cool until easy to handle.  Discard the thyme leaves.  Peel the garlic and place in a large bowl.  Mash with a fork.  Peel the skin off the squash (it should come off easily), and mash into the garlic.
3. In a large non-stick skillet, melt 1 T of the butter.  Add the leeks and cook over medium-low heat until softened and just starting to brown.  Rinse the chopped spinach and transfer to the skillet with a little water still clinging to the leaves.  Stir until the spinach is wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer to a paper-towel-lined colander and press out any excess moisture.  Add to the bowl with the squash and stir to combine.
4. Prepare the sauce.  In a large non-stick skillet, melt the remaining 4 T butter over medium-low heat.  Add the sage and stir until fragrant, a few minutes.  Remove the sage.
5. Whisk in the flour and cook until nicely browned.  Whisk in the milk, pouring it in slowly to prevent lumps.    Continue whisking until the mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes.  Whisk in the goat cheese and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and stir over the heat until melted.  Season with salt and pepper, and then taste and adjust seasoning.
6. Finish the filling.  Pour 1-1/2 cups of the sauce into a liquid measuring cup.  Pour the rest of the cheese sauce into the squash filling, and stir to combine well.  Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
7. Assemble the lasagna.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Pour 1/2 cup of the sauce into a 9x13 baking pan.  Add a layer of noodles, cutting them to fit into the pan.  Add 1 cup of the squash mixture and spread in an even layer.  Continue layering noodles and squash until you run out - it's ok if you end up with an extra-thick layer of squash or a double layer of noodles at the end!  Just make sure to end with a noodle layer.
8. Pour the remaining 1 cup of sauce over the final layer of noodles and spread it out evenly.  Sprinkle over the panko, followed by the remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan.
9. Bake the lasagna.  Spray a large piece of tin foil with oil and place it foil-side-down over the lasagna.  Fold over the edges.  Place the lasagna pan on a large rimmed baking sheet and then transfer to the oven.  Bake 40 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 15-20 minutes, until browned and bubbly.  Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cranberry Hand Pies and a Thanksgiving Feast

Tim and I spent Thanksgiving this year with my aunt, uncle, and cousins in Seattle - it was a weekend of amazing food and lots of fun sight seeing and conversation.  We got into Seattle around noon on Thanksgiving, so I didn't do a lot of cooking, but I did help out with a batch of cranberry hand pies.  These were so tasty - we thought they tasted like super fancy Pop Tarts!  The crust is extra tender and a little sweet, and the filling is tart and scented with orange zest and vanilla bean.

The only warning I'll give about this recipe - and it's certainly not a bad one - is that the yield on the recipe is way off.  I would say this could make almost twice as many pies as the recipe claims (16).  We ended up making 16 for Thanksgiving, and then rolling out the extra dough and filling a smallish pie plate with dough and filling the next day - both versions were totally delicious...the little pies are more fun, but also more work, so you mileage may vary as to which way you want to put this together!

Cranberry Hand Pies (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Makes 16 hand pies + 1 pie, or divide this up as you like

For the dough:

3-2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 3 T unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
1 cup Crisco

For the filling:

1 pound fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup fresh (or frozen, thawed) raspberries
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon instant tapioca (not starch)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out

To assemble:
1 egg, beaten
Raw sugar, to sprinkle

1. Make the dough.  Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Cut in the butter and shortening.  Drizzle in about 1/4 cup cold water and mix in with a fork.  Continue to add water a little at a time and stir with a fork until a dough forms.  It's definitely ok if there are some larger pieces of butter or shortening visible in the dough.  Divide in half, form into disks, and wrap in plastic.  Chill for two hours.
2. Make the filling.  Combine everything in a medium saucepan - include both the vanilla beans and the scraped seeds.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Then cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer and begins to thicken, about 10-12 minutes.  Let cool completely.
3. Assemble. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll out the dough as thinly as possible, using lots of flour as needed (this is a soft dough).  Aim for an eighth of an inch to a sixteenth of an inch thick, working with one disk at a time.  Cut out circles using a 3-inch cookie cutter or a glass with a similar diameter.
4. Place half the circles on the parchment-lined baking sheets.  Brush the edges of the circles with beaten egg.  Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling in the center of each circle.  Then top with the remaining circles.  Crimp the edges with a fork.  Brush the tops with egg, and sprinkle with raw sugar.  Cut a small X in the top of each pie.  Let chill for 30-45 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Bake pies until the crust is golden brown, 17-20 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes and then cool on a wire rack.

Thanksgiving Dinner!  We had turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes with celery root, stuffing, cranberry sauce, ginger-cranberry compote, roasted green beans, kale-kohlrabi salad, Waldorf salad, brown butter Brussels sprouts, pickled plums, and fresh sourdough rolls.  Such a feast!

Tim is ready for dessert!  Along with the pies we had my cousin's salted caramel ice tasty!

I'm sending this recipe to My Kitchen Addiction's Holiday Recipe Challenge!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna

Something about fall weather always puts me in the mood for baked pasta - and especially for lasagna!  My go-to recipe is an easy vegetarian lasagna based on my mom's recipe, but this year, I've been playing around with some different options.  I made this roasted red pepper lasagna for my book club, and it was a big hit.  (That was a good thing, because our book was a bit of a dud!)

You get great pepper flavor in this dish from both the sauce (I used a jarred red pepper sauce) and lots of chopped roasted peppers.  Of course you can make this lasagna more 'homemade' but making your own sauce and your own roasted peppers, but it was really delicious even using the jarred varieties of both.  The roasted red peppers are complemented by four types of cheese: creamy ricotta, tangy goat cheese, gooey fresh mozzarella, and a sprinkle of Parmesan.  I also added Italian turkey sausage to the lasagna simply because my book club is more of a meat-eating bunch, but I didn't think it was essential - this would also be really delicious as a vegetarian main.  Serve it alongside garlic bread for a fantastic Italian feast!

Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna
Serves 6-8

1-1/2 jars pasta sauce (I used red pepper sauce from Classico)
12 lasagna noodles
10 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 pound turkey Italian sausage, crumbled and cooked through
1 jar roasted red peppers, chopped into bite-sized squares
Grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
16 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using a 9x13 lasagna pan, spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan.  Fit four noodles into the bottom of the pan (three will go lengthwise, and the fourth will go crosswise with a bit broken off the end).  Spread each noodle with a thick layer of ricotta (use about half the ricotta).  Scatter over half the turkey and half the Italian sausage, and then sprinkle on a good amount of Parmesan cheese.  Drizzle over a thick layer of sauce, and then spread everything together with the back of a spoon.
2. Cover with another layer of noodles. Spread the remaining ricotta over the noodles.  Sprinkle over the remaining sausage, red peppers, and all of the goat cheese.  Drizzle with another layer of sauce and then even out the layer with the back of a spoon.
3. Cover with a final layer of noodles.  Pour the remaining sauce over the noodles, spreading with spoon to make sure all exposed noodles are covered.  Distribute the fresh mozzarella as evenly as possible, and then sprinkle with Parmesan.
4. Spray a big piece of foil with oil, and then cover the lasagna.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.  Remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes to let the cheese get browned.  Remove from oven, recover with foil, and let rest 10-20 minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Chickpea Fritters with Shocking Pink Beet Tzatziki

I made this somewhat strange dish because we had tons of beets from our CSA box to use up.  It's definitely for people who are feeling a little adventurous, as the beet tzatsiki is seriously hot pink.  Color aside, the tzatziki is really delicious - creamy, tart, and the perfect complement for fritters of any sort.  These chickpea fritters were also both tasty and a bit cosmetically challenged.  The fritters were pretty crumbly and difficult to flip, but the flavor was good - sort of hummus-flavored with a little kick from the Aleppo pepper.  I probably would not make them again though - I've had tastier fritters and these were just a bit too fussy.  I'd definitely make the beet tzatziki again - but maybe with golden beets next time!

Chickpea Fritters with Shocking Pink Beet Tzatziki (adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater)
Serves 2 as a light meal with a salad

14 ounce can of chickpeas
3 cloves garlic, peeled, divided
1 tsp ground cumin
1 heaping tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Generous pinch Aleppo pepper
1 egg
Salt and pepper
1 large raw beet, peeled and grated
3/4 cup plain yogurt
Olive oil

1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.  Place them in the food processor along with 2 cloves of garlic, the cumin, coriander, paprika, egg, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper.  Process until mostly smooth with some texture remaining.  Let sit while you prep the tzatziki.
2. Mince the remaining garlic clove and combine in a bowl with the beet and yogurt.  Season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the skillet. Scoop spoonfuls of the chickpea mixture into the skillet and press down on the top a bit to flatter.  Let cook without disturbing until the bottoms are golden brown, and then very carefully flip and cook the other side until browned.  Finish cooking in batches until all the fritters are cooked.  Serve with the beet tzatsiki.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Curried Sweet Potato, Carrot & Red Lentil Soup with Ginger

I made this recipe because we got sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions in our CSA box, and I was so happy I did.  One problem with some lentil soup recipes, at least in my book, is that their veggie content is fairly minimal - so while they're certainly still one of your healthier lunch options, there's still a little something lacking.  This recipe solves that problem by combining a small amount of red lentils with lots of carrots and sweet potatoes to create a comforting bowl of orange soup.  It's great because you get lots of flavor and vitamins from the vegetables, but the soup is also more hearty than a veggie-only soup because of the lentils. Definitely don't skip the squeeze of lemon at the end - the acidity really brightens up the flavor.  Serve this alongside a piece of bread for a super tasty lunch.

Curried Sweet Potato, Carrot and Red Lentil Soup with Ginger (adapted from Dinner with Julie, original recipe here)
Serves 4-6

Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 T minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup dry red lentils
1 pound sweet potato, peeled and chopped (about 2-1/2 to 3 cups)
1 bunch small carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tsp garam masala or curry powder
4 cups chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt, to taste
Plain yogurt, to serve

1. Set a soup pot over medium low heat.  Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, and ginger.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the lentils, sweet potatoes, carrots, garam masala, and chicken stock.    Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer about 30 minutes, until the veggies are tender.
3. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until very smooth.  Continue to simmer until the soup is as thick as you like it (I went another 20 minutes or so).  Stir in the lemon juice, and then taste and adjust for salt - you may not need to add any if your chicken stock was salty.
4. Serve with a bit of yogurt stirred into each bowl.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Crispy Creamy Fennel Gratin

Potato gratin is one of my favorite celebratory side dishes, but sometimes it's fun to switch it up (whether it's a holiday or not).  This gratin replaces the potatoes with thinly sliced fennel, which is a veggie I love and use all the time.  It's great raw in salads, and it's a great substitute for celery in pretty much everything if you're not a celery fan (like me).  This gratin is yet another use for this versatile vegetable.  Despite all the cream, the dish feels much lighter than a potato gratin, with tender slices of fennel in cream sauce covered with a blanket of Parmesan bread crumbs.  Serve this next to simple roasted meat or as part of a holiday side dish spread, and it's sure to add something special to your meal.

Crispy Creamy Fennel Gratin (adapted from Serious Eats, original recipe here)
Serves 4

2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced (I used a food processor)
1 cup heavy cream
2 T water
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup panko
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T chopped parsley
1 T olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with oil.
2. In a large skillet or pot, combine the fennel, cream, and water.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Transfer to the casserole dish.
3. While the fennel-cream mixture is coming to a simmer, mix together the panko, Parmesan, parsley, and olive oil in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, and mix to combine.  Sprinkle over the fennel
4. Place the dish on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake until the topping is golden and crisp, 30 minutes.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Swedish Meatballs with Fresh Egg Noodles

If you liked the crispy smashed potatoes I posted on Monday, you won't want to miss the main dish I served with them: Swedish meatballs!  I have to admit, I've actually never had the famous Swedish meatballs from Ikea, mostly because I am always too tempted by their mac and cheese!  So, I can't say for sure how these compare - but I can definitely say they are really delicious.  These meatballs get a shortcut by starting with Italian sausage, so they're pre-spiced.  Just add breadcrumbs, milk, and a little bonus nutmeg to get great meatball flavor.  Most of the effort in this recipe is rolling the meatballs, so grab a partner if you've got someone that can help.  After the meatballs are rolled, they're simply browned and combined with a simple pan gravy.  My sauce never really thickened like it was supposed to, but it was still totally creamy and delicious - next time, I might splurge on some creme fraiche for a fancier sauce, but sour cream totally got the job done.

I served these tasty meatballs over fresh pasta.  I've been participating in a political forecasting project for the past year or so, and I used my 'honorarium' from the first year to snag a pricey item I've been wanting for a long time - the pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid!  I've had a manual pasta machine in the past, but it was ultimately just too much work and I didn't like using it.  The Kitchen Aid version is awesome - it definitely made making fresh pasta a lot more fun.  Still a weekend activity, but one I can look forward to rather than dreading!  And the pasta turned out perfectly - score!  I'll definitely be making this again soon.

Swedish Meatballs with Fresh Egg Noodles (adapted from French Revolution, original recipe here)
Serves 4

For the pasta:
4 large eggs
3-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 T water, plus more as needed
1/2 tsp salt

For the meatballs:
2 pounds bulk mild Italian sausage
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup skim milk
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, divided
Olive oil
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup sour cream
Chopped flat leaf parsley, to serve

1. Make the pasta.  Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix with the paddle for about 30 seconds, and then switch to the dough hook and mix on low speed for a few minutes, adding more water as needed, until the dough pulls together in clumps.  Knead by hand for a minute or so to create a cohesive ball of dough.  Cover with a towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
2. After the dough has rested, divide into four pieces and roll out in a pasta machine following the instructions for your pasta machine.  Cut into desired shape (I made fettuccine).  Let dry over the backs of towel-covered chairs while you prepare the rest of the recipe.
3. Make the meatballs.  In a large bowl, gently mix together the sausage, panko, milk, and half the nutmeg.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roll into smallish meatballs.
4. Heat olive oil in two wide non-stick skillets - use enough to just cover the bottoms of the skillets.  Brown the meatballs on all sides, and then add 1 cup beef broth to each skillet.  Cover and simmer about 10 minutes.  Uncover and continue to simmer until the broth just coats the back of a spoon.  Meanwhile, put a big pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
5. Combine the meatballs and sauce into one skillet (assuming it fits - if not, you can keep them separated).  Add the remaining nutmeg and the sour cream.  Stir briskly to combine the sauce - mine stayed a little separated, but was still tasty.
6. Cook the pasta in the boiling water for about 2 minutes, and then drain.
7. Serve the meatballs and sauce over the fresh pasta.  Sprinkle with parsley.

Alternate gravy, no issues with breaking:
Make a roux with 1/3 cup butter and 1/3 cup flour. Whisk in 2 T Better Than Bouillon beef stock. Add a pink of nutmeg and several grinds of black pepper.  Gradually whisk in 4 cups hot milk.  Whisk over medium-low heat until thickened.

Monday, November 5, 2012

SRC: Crispy Smashed Potatoes

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was paired up with Veggie Grettie.  Gretchen's blog is full of awesome-looking recipes, and they're all vegan and gluten free!  I chose to make her recipe for crispy smashed potatoes.  I've seen this sort of recipe on a few different blogs and it always looked really delicious, so this was the perfect excuse to give it a spin!  I'm definitely a big fan - the potatoes come out of the oven with a perfectly crispy, salty exterior and a creamy interior.  They make a great side dish, and you can easily change up the flavor by using different sorts of seasoning salt.  I served these with Swedish meatballs and homemade egg noodles - recipe coming soon!

Crispy Smashed Potatoes (adapted from Veggie Grettie, original recipe here)

Small potatoes (such as fingerling or new potatoes)
Olive oil
Seasoning salt (I used this awesome Aleppo chile salt)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with foil.
2. Toss the potatoes with a generous amount of oil and a good sprinkling of seasoning salt.  Place in a single layer on the baking sheet.  (If the potatoes don't fit in a single layer with a good amount of room between each potato, use two sheets - you're going to be smashing the potatoes later, so they need some space.)
3. Bake 20-30 minutes, shaking the baking sheet occasionally, until the potatoes are tender.
4. Use a heavy water glass or something similar to smash each potato until it is slightly flattened.  Space out the potatoes evenly, and then drizzle with a bit more oil.
5. Bake another 15 minutes or so, until crispy.