« October 2006 | Main | December 2006 »

November 27, 2006

White Bean Crostini

I was going to call this post "Beans on Toast", but that really doesn't do this justice.

This recipe derived from a series of accidents and serendipities. I made the white bean mixture initially as a stuffing for some piquillo peppers. It was okay as a stuffing for piquillo peppers, but I ended up with way more stuffing than I needed for peppers. I also had some nice Italian bread that needed using. My initial idea was to toast a few bread slices under the broiler and top them with some mashed-up white bean mixture.

I turned on the broiler and a minute later, smoke started wafting out of the oven, and the smoke alarm went off.

I think that after our most recent baking adventures, the oven is simply in need of a good cleaning. At any rate, I have vowed not to use it again until I've had a chance to give it a good cleaning.

So, what to do with my slices of bread? I brushed them with a little olive oil, and toasted them in a dry skillet. Then I piled the white bean mixture on top, added a generous grating of fresh pepper, and topped with a few bits of diced fresh tomato.

It was really good - far better than it had been as a stuffing for peppers. The bread was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside and contrasted wonderfully with the softness of the beans.

Read on for the recipe...

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. In a small bowl, combine the white beans, garlic, paprika, sundried tomatoes (if using), sherry vinegar and olive oil. Taste and add more garlic, paprika, vinegar, or oil as needed.
  2. Coarsely mash the bean mixture with a fork.
  3. Heat a skilled over medium-high heat. Brush each slice of bread with olive oil on both sides, and toast in the skillet until it is lightly charred on both sides. (1 minute per side or so.)
  4. Top each slice with some of the bean mixture, some freshly grated pepper, and some chopped tomato. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 as an appetizer, or two as a main course (accompanied by a green salad).

Posted by spaceling at 08:57 PM | TrackBack

November 25, 2006

Steven Kent 2005 Sauvignon Blanc

I have all sorts of things I'd like to post about, and I'm not sure when I'm likely to get the time, but I did want to make a quick post about the wine I had with dinner last night. Mr. Spaceling and I had a celebratory meal at Manresa last night, and I ordered a glass of the Steven Kent 2005 Sauvignon Blanc. Mr. Spaceling had a taste of my glass, and immediately ordered one of his own. This is good stuff. I may go ahead and buy a bottle or two.

I'm also rather amused and pleased that the winery is over in the Livermore valley. Practically in my back yard.

Now, the thing that puzzles me - if you go and read the description of that wine at the link, you'll see they describe it as 'Characterized by the exuberant flavors and aromas of lime, fig, and the “juice of the cat,”' Er..."juice of the cat"? I definitely tasted the lime and fig (well, okay, I tasted "yummy fruity citrusy", but I'll take all the credit I can get), but...cat?

Posted by spaceling at 08:25 AM

November 03, 2006

Lentils with Red Wine and Sausage

One of the things I love about food blogs is the way it lets you see variations on an idea or recipe. Bloggers will pick up ideas from each other, or just from the general culinary zeitgeist, and run with them. It's fun to see all the variations.

The other day, I came across this post from the wonderful food blog I'm Mad and I Eat, describing a delicious-looking lentil and sausage dish inspired by this even more delicious-looking lentil and sausage dish from Becks and Posh.

So, I made my own version for dinner tonight. I followed Sam's recipe from Becks and Posh relatively closely, except that I couldn't find any Toulouse sausages. I used Whole Foods' lemon, thyme, and herb sausages. These worked fine, but next time I'll go for something with a more smoky/garlicky taste. I also substituted canned diced tomatoes for fresh, because that was what I had on hand, and threw some thyme into the lentils because it was already in the sausages.

This was really good. (Quoth Mr. Spaceling, "Can we have this again? Please?") The wine, tomatoes, bacon, and chicken stock combine to make a nice smoky rich-tasting sauce for the lentils. It's a perfect fall meal. Read on for the recipe.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and saute until soft.
  2. Add lentils and cook for a minute or two, stirring to coat with the oil.
  3. Add bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes, stock, and wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer covered for about 45 minutes.
  4. A bit before the 45 minutes are up, cook the bacon in a skillet until it is lightly browned. Add the bacon and the fat that has rendered from it to the pot of lentils.
  5. Cook the sausages in the skillet until they are browned. Cut them up into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot.
  6. Simmer everything together for an additional 15 minutes or so.

Serve with a green salad and the rest of the bottle of red wine. Makes a bunch of servings.

Posted by spaceling at 10:37 PM | TrackBack

Homemade Trail Mix

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I've become very fond of Eden Organic's nuts and seeds, particularly a mixture that they sell combining sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, dried cherries, and raisins. There are only two problems with this stuff. It's relatively expensive, and it requires either ordering online, or making a trip to the natural foods store in Palo Alto with the surly staff.

The other day, I was looking at the bulk bins at the grocery store, and it occurred to me that I could buy a bunch of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc., and make up my own mix. I came up with the following mix.

Homemade Trail Mix

Mix approximately equal parts of the following (I threw everything in a large ziploc bag and shook it all up):

I ran the numbers over at nutritiondata.com, and this has 150 calories per 1 oz. serving, 10 g of carbohydrate, and a little over 2 g of fiber. Plus the usual wonderful amounts of magnesium, vitamin E, and zinc that any concoction of nuts contains.

Makes a nice mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Posted by spaceling at 10:42 AM | TrackBack

November 02, 2006

The Great Pumpkin

When October rolled around, lots of food magazines ran features on cooking pumpkin. Vegetarian Times did one, and Cooking Light did one. So, when I came across a beautiful pile of Cinderella pumpkins at a local market a few weeks ago, I picked one up, figuring I'd cook it.

Now, the key thing to know about cooking pumpkin is that the big orange pumpkins that you buy for carving into jack-o-lanterns are lousy for cooking (according to all of these articles), though the seeds are very tasty toasted. If you're going to cook and eat the flesh of the pumpkin, you want one of the following varieties: sugar or "pie" pumpkins, cheese pumpkins, or the Cinderella pumpkin, also known as the rouge vif d'etampes.

The Cinderella pumpkin is so called because it really does look just like the Cinderella's pumpkin carriage in the Disney movie. It's a deep orange, and a lovely shape.

The Cinderella pumpkin I brought home weighed something like 3.5-4 pounds. This turned out to be a lot of pumpkin. So, I've been cooking a lot of pumpkin. Read on to find out how.

Pumpkin and Red Lentil Curry

This recipe came from the October issue of Cooking Light. It was tasty, especially the day after it was made. But it used a bit less than half of my enormous pumpkin.

I peeled the remaining pumpkin, cut it into largish (1.5 inch) cubes, and stored it in a ziploc bag in my fridge. I also separated the seeds from the pulp, and spread them on a paper towel to dry.

Roasted Pumpkin

The next day, I roasted the pumpkin cubes. I tossed them with rosemary salt, pepper, and olive oil and put them in a roasting pan. I roasted at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. The pumpkin cubes got soft and sweet and very tasty, but never browned. Next time, I'll use higher heat.

Spiced Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Proof, if more be needed, that Mark Bittman is a genius. I took his suggestion from How to Cook Everything and tossed a cup of pumpkin seeds with a teaspoon of garam masala, a half teaspoon of salt, and a tablespoon of olive oil, and spread them on a baking sheet. I put the baking sheet in a 350 degree oven. Bittman suggests roasting for 30 minutes or so, but after about 15 minutes, pumpkin seeds were exploding from the pressure of hot steam inside the shells and ricocheting all over the oven, so I declared them toasted.

I plucked a hot pumpkin seed off the baking sheet and juggled it to my mouth. "Wow! These are good!" I shouted. Mr. Spaceling came and tried a seed. And another. And another. They were really magical: crisp and hot and salty and nutty and addictive. After they cooled, I put them in a small tupperware. They are still really good, but not quite as amazing as they were hot out of the oven.

It was totally worth having to clear out half a dozen burnt exploded seeds from the bottom of the oven.

Pumpkin Soup

I used some of the roasted pumpkin to make a pumpkin soup: I pureed roughly three cups cooked cubed pumpkin with 2-3 cups chicken broth. Then I heated the soup over low heat in a saucepan, and added cumin (3/4 tsp.), cinnamon (1/2 tsp.), coriander (1/2 tsp.), and hot paprika (1/2 tsp) to make a spicy soup. When it was hot, I drizzled it with yogurt mixed with premade harissa (Tunisian chili paste). Not bad, though Mr. Spaceling liked the yogurt sauce better than the soup.

And I still have about 2-3 cups of roasted pumpkin in the fridge! Will I be cooking pumpkin again? Absolutely. But I think I'll start with a smaller one.

Posted by spaceling at 11:59 AM | TrackBack