Thursday, October 20, 2011

| tasty lentil side |

I don't mean to brag, but I just made the best lentils my mother-in-law has ever had. No, a correction. The lentil soup at our local Turkish restaurant has the best lentils she's ever had, but these come in second. Another correction. I do mean to brag because these lentils were off the chain.

We were having zucchini, basil, and cream pasta for dinner and I needed to throw together a side dish with some protein. I first thought of white beans, but we were out, so it had to be lentils. Here's what I did.

1) I boiled about 1/2 cup of lentils in an ample amount of water with a little veggie stock base and about 1/4 cup of finely chopped herbs. I used lovage, because we just got some in our CSA. But you could use any ole herb that sounds good. I let them boil for about 15-20 minutes, until they were soft, but not falling apart. (P.S. Lovage is amazing. It tastes a lot like celery leaves, but better).

2) I sliced baby carrots into quarters, lengthwise. I did the same with some long radishes from the CSA. I'd say there was about 2 cups of veggies, in total.

3) I headed 3 T of butter in the cast iron skillet. Once it was hot, I added a couple cloves of garlic, sliced thin. I let it soften, then added the veggies.

4) I put the radishes face-down and the carrots just however. I let it cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the radishes started to blister. Then I stirred it all up and let them finish cooking until the veggies were al dente.

5) I added about a tablespoon of chopped parsley and about a tablespoon of lemon juice.

6) I took the lentils out of their water with a slotted spoon and transferred them into the butter/veggie mix. Stir, stir, and serve.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

| rosti = thank you switzerland |

My mother-in-law, who is a big-time genealogist told me a few years ago that I'm Swiss. And after our dinner tonight, I have to agree. These are definitely my people.

I recently received The Earthbound Cook by Myra Goodman. I have to say that, in general, I'm underwhelmed by the book. It would be a good one for people who know almost nothing about cooking or very little about eating in season. But if you're already into that kind of thing, there's not a lot new here. It's certainly no Moosewood. That being said, there are a few recipes that I definitely want to try and, tonight, we started with Rosti.

Rosti (pronouced RAW-stee, ROOSH-tee, RO-sti, or REU-shti) is basically the best hashbrown potatoes you've ever eaten. No, seriously. Goodman suggests serving them with sauteed veggies and a fried egg on top. And I would heartily agree. I also added a dollop of Greek yogurt with lemon juice. It was fan-freaking-tastic.

Thank you, Switzerland.

I'm going to tell you my version of the recipe - which was actually pretty close to her instructions

1 to 1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, shredded (about 3 cups)
1/2 medium onion, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
4 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil (I used safflower instead)

1. Shred your potatoes and onion. Put them in cold water to soak for 5 minutes. While they're soaking, grate your cheese and set it aside.
2. Drain the potato mixture and then rinse it again to get all the starches off. Drain and press hard into your colander to remove as much water as possible.
3. DON'T SKIP THIS STEP: put the potatoes into a clean and dry kitchen towel. Wrap tightly and squeeze out as much water as you are able. Then squeeze again.
4. Heat the oil in a skillet over med-high heat. Melt the butter in it. You want a 12 inch skillet, preferably cast iron.
5. While that's heating, mix the potatoes, cheese, flour, salt and pepper in a dry bowl.
6. Dump the potatoes into the pan, press it down into an even layer with your hands. Cover and cook for 6 minutes. Remove the cover and cook 6 more minutes.
7. Use a spatula to loosen the bottom of the Rosti from the pan. It should be all hard and glorious on the bottom, but you've got to get it unstuck before you do the next step.
8. Slide the Rosti onto a plate, then flip it back onto the skillet so you can cook the other side. Cook, uncovered about 8 more minutes.
9. Transfer to a serving plate, top with sauteed veggies and a fried egg. Cut into wedges and serve. This will probably serve 3 people if you do 3 eggs.

For the veggie saute, Goodman recommends 1/2 an onion, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 5 oz baby spinach and a seeded tomato. I didn't have those, so what I did was 1/2 an onion, 1 cup mushrooms, about a cup of chopped kale, and about 1/2 cup of diced yellow squash. No tomatoes around here anymore, so I added about a cup of diced canned tomatoes. It was super tasty. You could do any kind of veggies you like, really.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

| gnocchi to die for |

If you like to cook (or even just like to think of yourself as a cook but never really have time to do it) you NEED to have a subscription to Cook's Illustrated. It's like having a little bit of Alton Brown delivered to your doorstep each month...minus the wonky personality and weird camera tricks. This magazine has tons of brilliant tips and the bulk of each issue is devoted to taking recipes for "standards" and perfecting them. The most recent issue had recipes for roasted chicken, pot-roasted pork loin, vegetable lasagna, and chocolate pudding.

There's nothing earth-shattering about the choices of dishes...what's amazing is the end product when you cook them. Each article tells how they've painstakingly gone through various iterations of the recipe, trying out old ones, tinkering, and having lots of taste tests. The final recipe is ALWAYS perfection.

Now that's I've extolled the magazine's virtues, I want to share a recipe from the latest issue. If you try this and like it, or if the magazine just sounds good, BUY IT NOW. They are not paying me to say this. I am paying them to receive their magazine.

(note: these aren’t the exact instructions. I’m paraphrasing. Also, I redid the original portions – doubled it)

Makes about 6 entree-sized portions.

For the gnocchi:
4 pounds russet potatoes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
8 ounces (1 ½ cups plus 2 T) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 teaspoons salt (plus 1 T for the boiling water)

For the sauce:
8 T butter (1 stick)
2 small shallots, minced (I used green/spring onions, b/c that’s what we had)
2 t minced fresh sage
1 T lemon juice

1)    Make the gnocchi dough/pieces:
-       You’re going to need to bake your potatoes. To save time, microwave them for 10 minutes (after piercing with a fork) and then bake them at 450 for 18-20 minutes.
-       Remove them from the oven and peel them right away (hold them with a hot pad or dish towel). Throw away the skins.
-       Run the potatoes through ricer or a food mill onto a rimmed baking sheet. Let them cool for about 5 minutes.
-       Transfer just 6 cups (32 ounces) of the potatoes to a large bowl. If you have extra, don’t use them b/c you want your proportions to be correct. Add the two eggs – stir gently with a fork until just combined.
-       Sprinkle the flour (all of it) and the salt (2 t of it) onto the mixture. Stir until no large dry pockets of flour remain.
-       Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until it’s smooth but still slightly sticky, about 1 minute. Dust the counter as needed with more flour.
-       Divide the dough into 16 pieces of the same size (a bench cutter is handy). Roll each piece into a snake that’s about ½ inch in diameter. Use a fork to cut the snakes into ¾ inch long dumplings.
-       To shape the gnocchi you need to roll it on the fork tines. Turn the fork with the tines facing down. Press each dumpling  against the tines with your thumb, then roll off down the tines to create the indentations.
-       Place the formed gnocchi onto pieces of parchment paper. You’re going to want four pieces of paper to cook them in four batches.
2)    Make the sauce:
-       First, get a big pot of water boiling on the stove with the tablespoon of salt in it.
-       In a large skilled, heat the butter over med-high high, stirring occasionally. When the butter is browned and has a nice, nutty aroma, turn it off (about 90 seconds of cooking).
-       Add in the shallots/onions and the sage to the hot butter and stir. Wait about a minute, while stirring, then add the lemon juice.
-       Cover the sauce to keep it warm.
3)    Cooking the gnocchi:
-       Once your water is boiling, it’s time to cook the gnocchi. This is the easiest/fastest part!
-       Add ¼ of your gnocchi pieces (you can just slide them off the parchment paper into the water). Give it one quick stir, then leave them alone until they start to float (about 90 seconds). Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer directly into the sauce. Try to drain off the water carefully as you move them.
-       Repeat with the other three batches. Toss the gnocchi and sauce to combine. Serve. Die and go to heaven.