March 11, 2009

Braised Carrots and Chickpeas

This makes a nice herby but sweet side dish, or could be a complete vegetarian meal with a bit of bread, rice, or couscous to mop up the broth. (Actually, bread, rice, or couscous to mop up the broth would be nice in any case - I didn't think of it when preparing last night's dinner, though.)

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan until hot. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or so, until the onion starts to soften.
  2. Add the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes or so. (I just let the carrots cook while I prepped the sage, parsley, lemon, and the ingredients for the rest of dinner.)
  3. Add the chickpeas, sage, lemon zest, and enough broth to not quite cover the mixture in the pan. Stir it all up and bring it to a simmer.
  4. Cover and cook until the carrots are tender, but not mushy. Probably about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on how thick the carrots were cut.
  5. When the carrots are done, stir in the parsley, the lemon juice, and the butter, if using.

Posted by spaceling at 07:24 AM

January 06, 2008

Lentil and Farro Stew

This stew was a perfect for an evening of keeping cosy warm indoors while the rain poured down outside. Of course, since I hadn't been out to the grocery store in a few days, it was also a bit of a "let's scrounge through the fridge and the pantry and see what we can throw together" kind of recipe. (For example, I don't think it's really necessary to use two kinds of lentils, or both chicken and beef broth, but I was using up odds and ends that were on hand.)

The Ingredients

The steps

  1. In a large soup pot, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Pour off any excess fat.
  2. Add the onion, peppers, and carrots, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables start to get soft. (About 5 to 7 minutes.)
  3. Add the farro, and cook, stirring, for a minute or two.
  4. Add the lentils, white wine, and herbs and spices. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up any browned bits.
  5. Add the tomatoes, broth or water, and the bay leaf. Stir. Bring to a simmer, and simmer until the lentils and farro are tender. (About 25 to 30 minutes.) Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve.
Makes...a lot. Maybe 6 to 8 servings?

Posted by spaceling at 10:09 AM

July 21, 2007

Mushroom, White Bean, and Summer Squash Ragout

This recipe is a riff on the Mushroom and White Bean Ragout with Truffle Oil that I blogged a few months ago. It was inspired by my coming across some itty-bitty bite-sized baby pattypan squash at Whole Foods, and by having ~3/4 lb. of shiitake mushrooms in the fridge that really needed to be used up.

It was very tasty, and this time Mr. Spaceling ate all his mushrooms instead of picking them out. (Perhaps Mr. Spaceling like shiitake mushrooms better than crimini mushrooms? Maybe it's the magic of parmeggiano reggiano cheese? I dunno. Further experimentation warranted.)


The Steps

  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat, and add the leeks. Saute for a few minutes until they start to get soft.
  2. Add the garlic, sage, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are just starting to look cooked through, 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add the water or broth, and then arrange the squash in an even layer on top of the mushroom/leek mixture. Cover the skillet and let the squash steam until tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cannelini beans, stir everything together, and cook for just a couple of minutes to heat through and blend the flavors.
  5. Ladle the mixture into bowls. Drizzle each serving with a bit (~1/2 tsp. or to taste) of white truffle oil, and top with a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Makes about 4 servings.

Posted by spaceling at 05:26 PM

June 24, 2007

Chickpea Curry With Dill

I recently picked up a nifty little cookbook called 5 Spices, 50 Dishes. This features 50 relatively simple Indian recipes, centered around the five spices of coriander, cumin, mustard seed, cayenne pepper, and turmeric. Not every recipe in the book uses all of these spices, and many recipes use additional spices, but they are the flavor backbone of the recipes.

The first recipe I made from this book was a black-eyed pea salad with cayenne pepper, cumin, cilantro, chilies, and mustard seed. It was pretty tasty, but I had to substitute ingredients liberally because I hadn't checked the recipe before grocery shopping, so I think it didn't quite taste the way it was supposed to. The second recipe was this chick pea curry. It caught my eye because, as the author notes, it uses dill as more of a vegetable than an herb. It uses a lot of dill. If you are not a dill fan, skip this recipe.



  1. Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan or a deep skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion until it has softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cayenne, coriander, garlic, ginger, and turmeric and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the dill, chick peas, water, and salt. Cook, stirring, for 5-8 minutes or until the dill is tender.

I served this with a simple raita made by stirring together strained yogurt, diced cucumber, diced red bell pepper, finely chopped garlic, and a bit of ground coriander, salt, and pepper.

Serves about 4.

Posted by spaceling at 08:44 PM

June 10, 2007

Garlicky White Beans and Kale over Teff Polenta Wedges

When I was in Florence back in April, one of the most amazing dishes I had was "fettunta": slices of bread brushed with olive oil and grilled, and topped with a mixture of sauteed cavolo nero (Tuscan kale) and white beans.

Since then, I've been itching to recreate that dish. I've also been wanting to have another try at teff prepared-polenta style. When I came across some nice Tuscan kale at the farmers' market yesterday, it occurred to me that the kale and white bean preparation would make a great topping for polenta.

The recipe turned out great. It would be equally good served over corn polenta. But if you want to recreate what I did, start by making your teff ahead of time, because it needs time to chill.

This recipe uses quite a lot of olive oil, because such amounts were called for in all the cookbook recipes for fettunta that I consulted for inspiration. ("Fettunta" apparently means "oily slice".) You could probably cut down some on the oil, although the oil and the starch from the beans emulsify into something that gives the dish a nice creamy texture. Mr. Spaceling described it as being like creamed spinach, only good. (Mr. Spaceling does not like creamed spinach. I fall more in the camp of thinking that anything that combines spinach and fat cannot be bad.)

Teff Polenta



  1. Bring the water to a boil. Add teff and salt.
  2. Turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the teff reaches the consistency of a thick spreadable porridge.
  3. Stir in the cheese. (To avoid getting clumps of melted cheese, add it bit by bit and stir thoroughly.)
  4. Line a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Spread the teff out in the pan and let it cool a bit. Cover with more foil or plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  5. Cut the polenta into wedges or squares. (I got 8 wedges out of a 9 x 9 pan.)

White Beans and Kale



  1. Wash the kale. Remove the leaves from the stems, and cut the leaves into bite-sized ribbons. Discard the stems.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the kale for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. (Plunging the kale into a bowl of ice water would probably be the approved method for shocking your greens. Rinsing with cold water worked fine.) Press out the excess water.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medim heat. Add the garlic, and saute for 30 seconds or so. Then add the greens and the beans. Simmer everything gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. In another skillet, heat a thin film of olive oil over medium high heat. Cook the polenta wedges, in batches, until browned and slightly crispy on each side. Keep the cooked wedges on a plate covered with foil to keep warm.
  5. Serve a wedge or two of polenta in a shallow bowl, with the bean and kale mixture piled on top.

Serves 4 or so.

Posted by spaceling at 08:38 PM

May 20, 2007

Sweet and Sour Chickpeas and Sausage

Mr. Spaceling and I went out to Half Moon Bay today - had a great time walking on the beach and drinking coffee in a local cafe. When we arrived back home it was after 8:00pm, and I hadn't been grocery shopping all weekend. I threw this recipe together from some stuff I had in the fridge and the pantry. It was good enough to be worth repeating.

The recipe uses tomatoes and sherry vinegar to give a kind of sweet and sour effect. (It's not super sweet.) It also uses lots of Spanish smoked paprika, which continues to be one of my favorite ingredients for giving a simple dish an extra flavor boost.

The Ingredients

The steps

  1. Cook the sausage in a deep skillet until lightly browned.
  2. Add the vermouth, and let it cook down for a few minutes.
  3. Add the chick peas, the tomatoes, the paprika, and the Tabasco sauce (if using).
  4. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have broken down to a slightly saucy consistency.
  5. Stir in the vinegar, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

Serves 2.

Posted by spaceling at 09:42 PM

May 12, 2007

Black Bean, Fresh Corn, and Mango Salad

You can tell that spring is here, because suddenly all I want to eat is salad. And fruit. (But oddly enough, rarely fruit salad. I'm not a fruit salad kind of girl.)

I was in the supermarket this afternoon, and came across some fresh corn and a lovely looking mango. And the idea for this salad was born. It's a bit sweet, a bit spicy (or a lot spicy if you want), and loaded with more anti-oxidants than you can shake a stick at. And it takes almost no time at all to make.

I like the combination of Tabasco and Sriracha hot sauces in this recipe. I find that Tabasco gives a nice vinegary bite, but doesn't taste rounded enough on its own. Sriracha adds a nice depth of flavor without being overpowering on the heat. It might be interesting to experiment with different hot sauces.

The Ingredients

I learned a neat trick recently for removing kernels from a corn cob: start by cutting the cob in half across the middle. This gives you two short pieces of cob, each with a flat end, and you can just stand them on your cutting board and slice the kernels off with a knife. Amazing. For the first time ever, I've cut kernels off an ear of corn without getting corn all over the kitchen.

The Steps

  1. Combine the corn kernels, black beans, tomatoes, avocado, mango, scallions, and cilantro in a large bowl.
  2. Squeeze over the lime juice, and drizzle on some olive oil. Add a bit of the Tabasco and Sriracha sauces, and toss everything together well.
  3. Taste, and add more lime juice, hot sauce, oil, salt, or pepper to taste.

I served this over some baby spinach for a bit of extra greenery. It worked pretty well.

Serves about 4.

Posted by spaceling at 07:32 PM

May 07, 2007

Lentil Salad with Whole-Grain Mustard Dressing

I whipped this up tonight because I felt like lentils for dinner, but due to the hot weather I didn't want anything too heavy. Mr. Spaceling requested that I blog this so I can be sure of making it again.

The secret ingredient in this is a whole-grain mustard. It helps add a nice sharpness to counterbalance to earthiness of the lentils. I used a British whole-grain mustard that's pretty mild - you'll probably need to taste frequently as you put the salad together to figure out how much mustard you need.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put the lentils in a pot with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and cook, about 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender, but still relatively firm.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, cut up your vegetables, cheese, and salami, and put all the ingredients except the lemon juice, mustard, and oil into a large bowl.
  3. Whisk the lemon juice, mustard, and olive oil together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper, taste the mixture, and add more mustard or lemon juice if necessary.
  4. When the lentils are cooked, drain them, and toss them while they are still warm into the large bowl. Add the dressing, and toss everything.
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (You might find that you need to add more mustard.)

Posted by spaceling at 09:34 PM

April 22, 2007

Mushroom and White Bean Ragout with Truffle Oil

I adapted this recipe from the April 2007 issue of Vegetarian Times. It makes a nice quick vegetarian supper that's especially great for mushroom lovers. (Mr. Spaceling, who is not a mushroom lover, picked out most of the mushrooms from his serving, but still enjoyed the dish. I'm trying to think of a variation that would allow for substituting the mushrooms with something else. Butternut squash would probably be very tasty, but Mr. Spaceling is not all that fond of that either. Hmm...)

The original recipe called for topping the ragout with toated whole wheat breadcrumbs, which probably would have been tasty, but the recipe is quicker and dirties fewer pans without it.

This recipe uses white truffle oil. As I understand it, white truffle oil is basically an artificial flavoring with no real relationship to actual white truffles. Many chefs disdain it for that reason. I think it works in this dish, though the dish would also be tasty without it.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet and saute the mushrooms and leek until soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add beans, broth, garlic, and thyme. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and stir in about half the parsley.
  4. Ladle the ragout into bowls, and drizzle each serving with about 1/2 tsp. of white truffle oil.

Serves 4.

Posted by spaceling at 07:00 PM | TrackBack

March 23, 2007

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

I've been making this tasty and versatile salad quite frequently of late. It's quick. You can serve it as a main course, or a side dish. You can add whatever vegetables you have on hand. It would probably also be good with diced cooked chicken or tofu if you wanted to really boost the protein content.

I thought I'd blogged about quinoa before, but a quick search didn't turn up anything. Quinoa is a Peruvian grain that is one of my favorites, because it is a whole grain that cooks in less than 15 minutes. You can use it in much the same way that you would use bulgur or couscous. Tonight, I used the "Inca Red" variety, which is an heirloom variety that's a very striking dark brown red color. Ordinary quinoa is kind of a pale yellow-beige.

Since this is such a versatile recipe, I'll give the basic proportions, and then describe some ways in which I've embellished them.

Basic Quinoa Salad Recipe

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Put the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it well. (Quinoa seeds have a bitter saponin coating that keeps the seeds from being eaten by birds. Many commercial varieties have been either pre-rinsed or bred for lower saponin content, but I always rinse, just to be safe.)
  2. Put the quinoa into a sauce pan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the water is absorbed. (About 12-15 minutes.) Quinoa seeds have this funny little opaque band around the outside of the seed - the quinoa is cooked when this band has partially or fully separated from most of the seeds.
  3. Let the quinoa cool a bit, then toss with the chick peas, olives, feta, and other embellishments. Season with salt and pepper, and dress with olive oil and vinegar/lemon juice to taste.

Quinoa Salad Embellishments

A selection of the following additional items can be added to the salad as appropriate:

There are probably lots of other things you could add. Tonight's variation used tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and roasted asparagus and was dressed with sherry vinegar and olive oil. (Good sherry vinegar, if I haven't mentioned this before, is a revelation. The stuff I get at the local grocery store is just meh, but the stuff I got at Whole Foods is amazing.)

Posted by spaceling at 08:50 PM

December 16, 2006

Roasted Vegetable Salad

I'm catching up a bit on things that I made while my computer was being wonky. I made this for dinner one night last weekend. It was loosely inspired by a recipe in Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries, and by the fact that I'd picked up a pound of baby eggplant without any real notion of what to do with them.

The Ingredients

*Harissa is a Tunisian spice paste, composed primarily of red chilies, cumin, and coriander. It's hot, but not tongue-searing. I bought mine from Kalustyan's, though I'm not sure I picked a particularly good one. It seems a bit tame. I'll probably try making my own soon, since I have about half a dozen recipes for it in various books.

The Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Put the tomatoes in a baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer. (I used a 9 x 9 inch square pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Shake the pan until the tomatoes are coated with olive oil.
  3. Quarter the baby eggplants. (Or cut large eggplant into 1 x 1 x 2 inch chunks.) Put them in a baking dish large enough to hold in a single layer. (I used a 9 x 13 inch pan.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil, and stir/shake to coat. (I also meant to add about a teaspoon of whole cumin seed at this point, but I forgot. I will try it next time, though.)
  4. Roast the tomatoes and eggplant for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring or tossing every 15 minutes or so, until they are browned and soft. (I went about 55 minutes, which I think was slightly too long for the eggplant - it was a bit dry when it came out of the oven, though it recovered nicely as it soaked up the dressing.)
  5. Let the roasted vegetables cool slightly while you prepare the other items.
  6. Combine the chickpeas, peppers, halloumi, and olives in a large bowl.
  7. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, harissa, cumin, and lemon juice to make a dressing.
  8. Stir the roasted vegetables and their juice into the chickpea mixture. Then stir the dressing and the cilantro into the salad.
  9. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve garnished with mint leaves and with warm pita bread on the side.

I think this would be equally good with a different mixture of roasted vegetables. Some roasted onions might be very nice, or chunks of zucchini. Perhaps even some root vegetables. I'll experiment when I next make it.

Posted by spaceling at 03:56 PM | TrackBack

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 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

October 28, 2006

Meatball and Butter Bean Stew

Premade sausages or meatballs are a great way to throw together a quickie dinner. Since they're usually highly seasoned, you start with a lot of flavor, and they cook quickly. If you read labels carefully, you can usually get chicken or turkey sausages/meatballs that aren't ridiculously high in fat. (Do read the label, though. Just because it's turkey doesn't mean that it's lean.)

This was an improvised quick supper that I threw together a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Spaceling liked it enough to request that I make it again sometime. Hence, it goes in the blog for posterity.

The canned butter beans called for in the recipe are very large white beans that have a nice flavor and a creamy texture, but if you can't find them, I think cannelini beans would work.


The Steps

  1. In a deep saute pan or sauce pan, brown the meatballs. Remove to a plate.
  2. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until translucent.
  3. Add the tomatoes with their juice, butter beans, olives, herbs, and the browned meatballs. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the meatballs are heated through and the tomato juice has reduced a bit.
  4. Stir in the spinach (you may need to do this in batches) and cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted. Serve.

Posted by spaceling at 12:28 PM | TrackBack

August 06, 2006

Summer Chili

This chili sort of came about serendipitously. On Friday, I was in the grocery store, and came across some habanero and green chile chicken and turkey sausages. I thought, "Hey, I bet this would be good in a chili," and bought them.

Yesterday, I was at the Willow Glen Farmers' market, and bought some ears of white corn. And I thought, "Hey, corn is good in chili."

Today, I decided it was finally time to make that chili. It came out really good. Spicy enough to clear your sinuses, but not overwhelmingly spicy, and tasting very summery with the corn and tomatoes and peppers. Quoth Mr. Spaceling, "It's good to be Mr. Spaceling."

(The fresh tomatoes were an accident, too. I was planning on using canned, and then realized in the middle of the recipe that I didn't have any canned tomatoes. So I grabbed a pint of grape tomatoes that I had been planning on using in salad.)



  1. In a large pot, saute the sausage over medium-high heat until it starts to brown.
  2. Dump in the onion, pepper, tomatoes, garlic, chipotle, and chipotle powder. Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the corn and the beans, and about 1 can of water. Bring to a boil.
  4. Turn heat to low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust seasoning, and serve.
Makes a bunch of servings. (At least 6. Maybe more.)

For a little extra punch, serve with a bit of shredded habanero jack cheese on top. (I seem to be on a habanero kick lately. I'm still too scared to actually buy and cook with the raw chilies, but if it's habanero flavored, I'll probably buy it.)

Posted by spaceling at 08:57 PM | TrackBack

July 11, 2006

Puy Lentil Salad

I adapted this recipe from a recipe in the British food magazine Olive, which accounts for some of the measurements being in metric. If I'd been thinking about blogging while I was making the recipe, I'd have stopped to work out what 225 g of lentils is in cups, but I didn't. Maybe about 2 cups? At any rate, I think the proportions in this recipe are pretty flexible - add more of things you like, and less of things you don't, and it'll come out fine.

This is a handy recipe to help use up some of the basil that one always seems to have too much of at this time of year if one is a gardener or an enthusiastic patron of farmers' markets.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Pick over and wash the lentils. Put them in a pot, add water to cover by ~2 inches, bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not mushy.
  2. Meanwhile, put the onion slices in a large bowl and toss with the juice of 1 lemon. Let the onions marinate while the lentils cook.
  3. Prep all your other ingredients while the lentils cook
  4. When the lentils are done, drain them if necessary. Add them to the onions. Stir in the peppers, sundried tomatoes, remaining lemon juice, mozzarella, and basil. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
  5. To serve, put a handful of greens on a plate, and top with the lentil mixture.

When I was making this, I was a bit worried that it didn't include any instructions for cooling the lentils, and I was worried about serving up piping hot lentils on top of salad greens. Turns out I needn't have worried. By the time you've stirred everything together, and gotten your proportions of olive oil and seasonings right, the lentils are just pleasantly warm.

This would probably lend itself to some nice variations - for example, with feta in place of the mozzarella, or cilantro in place of the basil.

Posted by spaceling at 07:17 AM | TrackBack

April 25, 2006

Leftover Lamb and Chickpea Curry

A couple of nights ago, Daniel and I had dinner with a friend of ours at Amber, a very good Indian restaurant down at Santana Row. We came home with some leftovers, including some lamb shank that had been braised with ginger and other spices.

Tonight, I concocted a curry using the leftover lamb. It was very loosely based on recipe from Jamie Oliver's Happy Days Live DVD. It came out very tasty, though the lamb ended up being more of a flavor accent than a main ingredient. Unlike most of my previous attempts at curry, it really tasted like a curry, thanks in part, I think to a secret ingredient - a can of light coconut milk. Using good quality curry powder probably helped as well.


The Steps

  1. Cook the onion in a bit of vegetable oil until it is soft and starts to brown.
  2. Toss in the ginger, curry powder, and garam masala, and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring.
  3. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, and coconut milk. Bring it to a simmer, and cook everything, stirring, until the sauce thickens up a little.
  4. Toss in the lamb, and cook until heated through.

Very tasty. I'll have to try adapting the recipe so that I can make it starting with raw lamb or chicken - I don't usually have leftover lamb shank lying around.

Posted by spaceling at 10:12 PM

April 09, 2006

Chicken, Meatball, White Bean, and Fennel Soup

I was puttering around the house this morning, mentally composing a grocery shopping list, and I decided that I wanted to have chicken soup for dinner. And I remembered that I had a bulb of fennel sitting in the crisper that I needed to use. So, I went to the store and started grabbing things that I thought would go well with fennel and chicken. The resulting soup is kind of a riot of vegetables and chicken and stuff. But it's very tasty.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the fennel, leeks, celery, carrots, garlic, and herbs and cook, stirring, for 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are starting to get translucent and everything smells amazing.
  2. Add broth/water. Bring it to a slow simmer. While the broth is heating up, trim excess fat from the chicken thighs and season them with pepper.
  3. When the broth is simmering, add the chicken thighs. Poach them for 20 minutes, being sure to keep the broth at a simmer and not letting it get to a full rolling boil.
  4. Remove the chicken thighs to a plate. Add the tomatoes, beans, kale, and meatballs, and bring everything back to a simmer.
  5. Shred the chicken. Return it to the pot and continue to simmer until the kale is fully cooked. (Perhaps another 15 minutes.)
  6. Adjust seasoning, and serve

Makes a whole bunch of servings. It's a good thing I like this soup, because I have enough leftovers to last a while.

Posted by spaceling at 12:04 AM

March 18, 2006

Lentil, Mushroom, and Spinach Soup

I came up with this recipe to use up some stuff that I had in the fridge. I had a half a bunch of spinach left over from making the salad, and I had 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms that I'd intended to put in said salad before the salad took a turn in another direction. I also had some fresh thyme.

My first taste of this soup made me say, "Wow!" It is amazingly rich and hearty tasting, even more so than most lentil soups I've had. I'm not sure if the key is the red wine, or the mushroom bouillon that I used, or what, but it's good. And completely vegan. (Well, if your wine is vegan. I didn't check mine.)

The Ingredients

The Steps

    Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion starts to get translucent.
  1. Add the mushrooms, and cook another 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms start to get tender.
  2. Add the red wine, and cook until it's reduced down considerably. (By at least half, I'd say, maybe a bit more.)
  3. Add the broth, lentils, and herbes de Provence. Strip the leaves off the fresh thyme sprigs and drop them into the pot (the leaves, not the stems). (Alternatively, you could just toss in the whole sprigs, and fish them out again before serving, but I like having the thyme leaves in the soup.)
  4. Bring the pot to a slow boil, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes (or longer), depending on how long it takes the lentils to be done.
  5. About 5 minutes before the lentils are done, stir in the spinach.
  6. Just before serving, taste and add freshly ground pepper and/or salt (salt probably not necessary if you used reconstituted bouillon) to taste.

Posted by spaceling at 09:16 AM | TrackBack

February 08, 2006

Refried Black Beans

One of my favorite things about cooking is when I get to make a dish that is really simple, and yet really good. I also love it when I cook something that I've only had in restaurants, and the homemade version comes out better. The refried black beans that I made last night were a wonderful instance of both of these.

I more or less followed the recipe for 'Fried Beans' in Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday. (Bayless quite correctly points out that the Spanish refritos, usually translated as "refried", more properly translates as "thoroughly fried".) I cut down on the quantities, since there were just two of us. We gobbled up every bite, so next time I may just go ahead and make a larger batch. But here's what I used:

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. (A nonstick skillet makes cleaning up a breeze - I recommend it.) When the oil is hot, toss in the garlic, and cook it for about a minute. Add the beans, and mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon. (Or with a fork, or a potato masher.) I mashed to a fairly coarse consistency, leaving a fair number of whole beans. Keep cooking, mashing, and stirring until the dish has the consistency of mashed potatoes.

These are so much better than the gluey mess of pinto beans you get at a run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant that it's not even funny. (You could make this recipe with pinto beans instead of black beans, and I expect it would still be yummy. Perhaps I'll try it sometime, though Mr. Spaceling professes a certain antipathy toward pinto beans. I suspect that this has to do with having eaten in too many run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurants.)

I served these with puerco a la Mexicana, another dish from Bayless's book, which was good enough to deserve an entry of its own. Stay tuned...

Posted by spaceling at 10:35 PM | TrackBack

January 19, 2006

Tunisian Style Chickpeas and Chard

Tonight I tried a new recipe that I found online: Paula Wolfert's recipe for Chickpeas and Swiss Chard in the Style Tunisian Sahel. Just to make it really simple and easy, I used canned chickpeas, and substituted vegetable broth for the chickpea cooking liquid.

The most fun part of this recipe is pounding up the garlic, chile, salt, and coriander in a mortar. I have an inexpensive Japanese-style mortar (called a suribachi). It's more lightweight than other types of mortars I've seen, and it's probably not robust enough for some pounding jobs, but for bashing up a couple of cloves of garlic with some spices, it works just fine. The garlic/chile/coriander paste just smells heavenly. Pounding everything in a mortar that way really amplifies the aromas.

I served this with pita bread and a salad of sliced tomatoes and olives dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. (I've been getting really good tomatoes at Mollie Stone's in Palo Alto lately. They're not quite equal to a really great summer tomato, but they actually smell and taste like real tomatoes.)

Posted by spaceling at 09:13 PM

January 07, 2006

"Hoppin' John" soup

I was in the grocery store one night last week, and I spied some bags of fresh black-eyed peas. Black-eyed peas are of course traditional to eat on New Year's day, for good luck, and one very traditional dish to eat them in is Hoppin' John, a mixture of black-eyed peas and rice, usually flavored with salt pork, or smoked ham hock, or something of the kind.

Even though it was a few days after the start of the new year, I decided that a little belated luck was better than none. I created the following soup, loosely based on the Hoppin' John concept. It turned out really great - it had a nice slightly spicy, smoky flavor and makes a good, hearty one dish meal.


The Steps

  1. In a soup pot, saute the sausage over medium-high heat until it is cooked through and beginning to brown a bit.
  2. Add onion, celery, and peppers. Cook until onion is translucent. (And be sure to lean over the pot and take a good whiff, so you can smell while Cajun cooks call onion, celery, and bell peppers the "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking.
  3. Add tomatoes, broth, black-eyed peas, Cajun seasoning, and Tabasco. (I gave it 3 or 4 good dashes from the bottle, and I thought the soup was pleasantly spicy but not fiery.)
  4. Simmer until the peas are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve.
Mmmmm. Not just a yummy dish, but a pretty darn easy one, too. Perfect for a weeknight dinner.

How yummy was it? Mr. Spaceling had some of the leftovers the next day for lunch. Most of you probably can't appreciate the significance of this the way I can. Let's just say that Mr. Spaceling doesn't do leftovers. Except for this soup.

Some notes on the ingredients: If you can't get fresh black-eyed peas (and I'm not sure if I can get them outside of the New Year's season), then you can probably substitute canned or cook some up from dried beans. If you don't want to use (or can't find) the Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes, you can use regular canned tomatoes - I think the fire-roasted ones contribute a nice hint of char and smokiness to the dish, but I don't think it's critical.

Posted by spaceling at 02:43 PM