Archive for the ‘dinner/lunch’ Category

22
Sep

Stuffed Shells

   Posted by: Livia

One of the more pedestrian comfort foods. I was making this for a friend, and realized that even though this is not a dish I make frequently (maybe once every 8 years or so), I have strong opinions about it.

My strong opinion: Why so little flavor?

So let’s start with the filling.

Let’s start with the eggs in the filling. I never notice them, they don’t seem to provide much structural support, and they make your cooking/reheating slightly more complex than just – assemble and heat until hot enough you’d be happy serving it. So I don’t use them. Your mileage may vary.

But you should totally have other things in there. Other green (but not watery) things! For a pint of ricotta, there should be at least 2 scallions – sliced thinly all the way up including the green parts (but not any dried tips, let’s be real). There should be a huge amount of parsley (a fluffy pile of minced leaves that looks to be about the same volume as half your amount of ricotta). You have a mix of dried italian herbs? Throw a bunch of that in the filling. You have fresh basil? Mince and throw in maybe as much as a fluffy pile of 1/4 the volume of your container (I don’t know – it depends how flavorful your plant is – go by what smells good to you). Mix that together. Taste. Add salt. Maybe add pepper. Mix again.

Some people add spinach or chard to the recipe. Either have a delicate hand with the fresh leaves, OR cook the leaves first, press very dry, cut up finely, fluff with your hands, and stir in thoroughly making sure you don’t have clumps.

So now you have your filling.

Let’s fix the pasta – take any old box of dried pasta shells. Boil the water, pick out just the intact shells to throw in (a few more than you’ll actually need because a couple usually tear while cooking), and cook for the package directions. Most dried pasta has a range of times depending on how firm you want it, but jumbo shells boxes usually just have the time for ‘pretty darn firm’ because they know you aren’t eating them straight away – people only make them for stuffed shells. And then once they are cooked and drained, rinse them in cold water (so they stay firm – and in this case getting the surface starch off will benefit you by having them less likely to stick together and tear)

Now you get your casserole and your sauce. I just use jarred sauce. You can have your own sauce opinions.

Spoon a little bit of the sauce into the empty casserole dish and spread around.

Grab a shell, stuff it with the ricotta (you get to balance your ricotta/shell ratio based on your preferences and relative amounts of materials), and lay them out in a single layer on the pan. Again, you get to choose how orderly your layout might be.

Once you have all the shells in the casserole dish that you want to have (this works best if you have chosen a dish sized to have the shells fit fairly firmly together inside, but still all in a single layer). And pour more sauce over it. Because I am not a fan of crunchy pasta (I know people who are, so not judging), I make sure to spread the sauce to get all of the pasta surfaces at least a bit wet and red even if they aren’t buried fully in the pasta sauce.

If you have it on hand and are feeling the gooey cheese, sprinkle mozzarella on top.

(If you have a casserole dish with a lid, you can totally freeze this right now)

Bake at any temperature (250F-375F) until the dish is as hot as is aesthetically pleasing to you. I go until the cheese on top is bubbling and maybe browning in a couple spots. (If frozen, make sure it’s warm throughout before caring about the condition of the topping – that might mean thawing ahead or not using the highest heat you possibly can)

Serve and eat. Enjoy!

Okay, so if you’ll remember from the last soup, I had leftover the liquid drained from a can of tomatoes.

Well, at that enchilada dinner, one of the participants made a pot of rice (with a seasoning packet) and heated up some kidney beans. Her rice came out perfectly, and I took home what leftovers there were.

And reheated them. All classy-like. But I’m telling you about it anyway because I’m proud of having essentially made dinner for free.

Leftover Beans & Rice

First, I wanted to soften the beans a bit more, so I put them in a small pot with just enough tomato liquid to cover, and cooked that for five or so minutes.

And then I went to look around for other flavors to jazz things up.

Oh, yeah, I have a jar of pipian, so I melted about half a teaspoon into the liquid.

And I have some Lime Cilantro salad dressing, which is more like a pesto than a salad dressing, from a local restaurant – so I added a dollop of that, too.

And then I added the rice.

And as everything came to temperature, I crumbled some dried oregano in it as well.

End result – delicious and filling dinner

I also still had about a third of the roasted butternut squash lingering in my fridge. What was I going to do?

So, again, I went poking for inspiration in the other bits and bobs in there. Aha! I had a small container of coconut chutney from take out dosas a friend had brought to my house. I can play with those flavors.

Coconut Chutney Butternut Squash Soup

I diced a yellow onion fairly small, and I cooked it in coconut milk (6.5oz).

I added some asafoetida and a fairly large amount of garam masala – somewhere around a rounded teaspoon. Oh, and 3 cloves of roasted garlic because it was there.

Once everything was aromatic, I added the butternut squash. I also put a Tablespoon of mustard seeds in a dry skillet to heat.

And about a quarter cup of finely shredded, unsweetened coconut.

Like the previous soup, this one also needed some kick, so I added some cayenne pepper. And some black pepper. And a little bit of cilantro. And adding about a teaspoon of brown sugar really made it sing.

Then I thinned the soup out with some vegetable stock.

Once the mustard seeds started to pop, stirred them into the soup as well.

Done! Rich, tasty, and a bit out of the ordinary.

16
Jan

Mexican Butternut Squash Soup

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , ,

Would this soup be made in Mexico? I have no idea. No people or cookbooks provided any support for this claim. But its seasonings and flavor went well with the enchiladas my friends made.

So there I was at my farmers’ market this weekend near the end of the market – and one of the farmers had a box of butternut squash seconds for $1/lb. The tops were going mushy. And I asked the guy how many he thought I could get for $5… and walked away with 6 decent sized squash.

I scrubbed the outsides, trimmed the tops as necessary, split them in half lengthwise with my big knife, scooped out the seeds, and set them to roasting cut side down. It took 2 half sheet pans to roast them all.

Once they were tender, I let them cool a little, and then I peeled them and put the flesh all together in a container in the fridge – purpose to come soon.

Then this week I had 1 friend request vegetarian soups and another invite me over for enchilada dinner. Woo!

Mexican Butternut Squash Soup

Start off with about 4-5 cups of roasted butternut squash and a roasted head of garlic.

I began building the soup with a roux base, so I poured… oh, about 2 Tablespoons… olive oil into my soup pot and heated that up.

Since I wasn’t sure whether I would want to blend the soup smooth, I diced the (1 medium) onion fairly small. Toss that in and cook until translucent.

Once the onions were soft, I sprinkled flour on top until the onions were coated with flour, but none was still dry in the pan (about 2 Tablespoons – if it’s too dry, add more oil)

Then I opened up a jar of vegetable stock and added until everything went smooth and liquid (it took about 1 cup, but I’d been expecting to use more stock).

I added the roasted squash (2/3 of my total… somewhere around 4-6 cups) and I poured in the liquid the squash had released overnight in the fridge.

Cook that a bit until everything is hot and the squash is starting to break down. Meanwhile – drain a 24oz can of diced tomatoes (and reserve the liquid to use either if the soup becomes too dry during cooking or to use in making rice later in the week) and grind 1 tsp cumin, 2 tsp coriander, and 2 tsp ground oregano (or use ground herbs and spices).

And dices tomatoes to the squash. Stir. Break up the squash more every time you stir.

Sift the ground spices into the soup (because whole coriander is ornery in a mortar & pestle YMMV). Add salt and pepper. I added some ground savory, too. If the color isn’t pleasing, you could go for some paprika, but I was pleased with things without.

I added about half of the cloves from the roasted garlic.

Stir, mash, stir.

This soup really came together quickly – about 20 minutes – so I also added the juice of half a lime to encourage it to stay the pretty color it had hit. And I was pleased with the amount the squash had broken down (mostly smooth, with some chunks, no pieces larger than half a teaspoon), so I left it chunky.

What this soup was really missing was spice, but that was a deliberate choice based on its audience, so I took a chipotle hot sauce with me instead.

18
Dec

Hazelnut Tamarind Rice

   Posted by: Livia Tags: ,

I was very lucky back in January to catch a twitter exchange between @HeleneDujardin (of Tartlette and http://www.helenedujardin.com/) and @glutenfreegirl (of Gluten Free Girl about Tamarind Rice.

The recipe comprised only two tweets:

recipe for 3 cups dry rice: 3tb oil, sautee 1/2 c raw peanuts, 1/4 unsalted cashews, 1 tb black mustard seeds, (cont)
2:12 PM – 19 Jan 11

1 tb cumin seeds, 3/4 tsp asafetida powder. When mustard seeds splatter, add 1 cup tamarind pulp, add to cooked rice mix
2:14 PM – 19 Jan 11

Now let me link you to a more detailed version of a Tamarind Rice recipe.

So back in January I favorited these two tweets.

And then in February I ended up with a lot of leftover basmati and looking for a way to package it into lunches I could freeze.

Only I had neither peanuts nor cashews.

But I did have pine nuts and hazelnuts. Okay, so whatever. I can try that. And I did – and I’ve kept making this weird version ever since.

Hazelnut Tamarind Rice

Soak a little less than a cup of hazelnuts overnight.

Put a teaspoon or so of oil in a pan and a palmful of mustard seeds. If you remember, add a teaspoon of asafoetida, but I often forget. Turn the heat to medium high, and if you are particularly clever you might cover it with a splatter shield or a clean aluminum takeout container.

Drain the liquid from the hazelnuts.

As soon as the first mustard seed pops, but before many do, add a bunch of pine nuts (depends on how many you have and how much leftover rice you are trying to use up – let’s say 1/3 cup for now).

Oh, and you can add a bunch of whole cumin seeds, too!

After just half a minute, start stirring the pan intermittently because your pine nuts are toasting and your mustard seeds are popping.

As soon as the pine nuts are almost fully toasted, add the drained hazelnuts. Hey! Water-laden things in hot oil! This will hiss and spit very satisfyingly. Don’t stand too close without a shirt on.

As soon as you get a whiff of things getting really toasty – that is, catching it right before your nuts burn – dump in your leftover rice.

Stir it about, heat the rice thoroughly and evenly mix in the nuts and seeds.

Take a jar of tamarind chutney, and pour some in, stir, pour some in, stir – until you like the color and it tastes good.

Done!

11
Nov

Invitation – and a recipe for duck soup

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , , , ,

I have an unusual abundance of free time this weekend and an abundance of food. Want to come over and help with that?

There’s a sexy french triple cream cows’ milk cheese and some crackers.

And I’m going to make duck soup.

My duck soup all starts with a good duck stock. And my duck stock starts with going out to dinner with my parents. See – my father loves Peking Duck. So a couple weeks ago, we went to Yang Ming and got one of the prettiest ducks I’ve ever seen. And, as usual, we asked for the carcass to take home.

Duck Soup

Duck Stock
Into a pot, add the frozen cooked duck carcass.

Add onion peels (from purple onions, if possible) and leek ends. Add the skins from a roasted garlic head. Add carrot peels and herb stems. (All the stuff I keep in a bag in my freezer for stock until I’m ready) If you have ginger peels, add them.

Add a couple dried hot red peppers* (rinsing the dust off). Add some cloves and maybe a star anise. Add a tablespoon or two of peppercorns (or fewer if you crush them first, but this is how I go through pepper fast enough to keep my supply fresh). If you have it, add some thyme, savory, rosemary, or anything in that family of herbs. Add a bay leaf or two. Add parsley.

One of the best things, which I rarely have, is parsley root with its leaves.

Add water up to cover, but not much over that.

And cook. You may choose to boil or simmer.

Then strain the stock.

Duck Soup
You know what I didn’t add to the stock? Salt. Because now that you’re tasting it you can add some (and how much will vary on your tastes and how salty the cooked duck skin ended up being) – and it’s going to need a generous quantity of salt and/or soy sauce (or gluten free tamari).

Then I like adding greens. Chinese spinach is good. I’ve pickled my own mustard greens for this (or you can buy them in a package pickled, but rinse them if you go this route). Kale is delicious.

You can add mushrooms, but I prefer them either cooked before adding or from dried. Fresh boiled mushrooms aren’t tasty to me.

You can adjust the seasoning – more ginger? a splash of vinegar?

Add noodles – I like the buckwheat soba noodles for this soup, but it’s flexible and gluten free noodles are also tasty.

And then right before serving – thinly slice fresh garlic and a fresh hot pepper (I aim for the kind that’s about a foot long, 3/4 inch diameter, and bright red or green), and toast them until just brown. Sprinkle the tops of each bowl right after portioning.

*I am still working on the dried red peppers I recieved as a free sample from Marx Foods. They’re only dusty because I’ve strung them on thread and have them hanging in my kitchen where they’re pretty and reminding me to keep using them.

Next up in project clean out my parents’ freezer: pork loin

Back when I was buying cheap meat, a pork loin was one of the best bargains out there – almost all lean meat, no bones, and could be found on sale as cheaply as $1.88/lb

Being just one person, I’d cut a whole loin into three roasts and freeze them. Even then, it’s quite a lot of meat. And it has a tendency toward being dry and flavorless.

The cooking method I learned from my mother was to pick the roast with the thickest outer layer of fat as possible, embed some garlic cloves in the meat and threat some rosemary sprigs between the fat and the meat, coat the outside in garlic salt, and roast it in a slow oven. This produced a lovely, and usually juicy, meal. But the leftovers still tended to be dry.

So ever since I discovered carnitas, I’ve taken to braising this cut. And that means I can even trim off the fat layer.

Braised Pork w/ tomatoes and orange peel

Put the following things into a pot:

  • Pork roast, trimmed of exterior fat and freezer burn (cause I live a classy life)
  • 1 quart of (homemade, home-canned nyah nyah nyah) stock
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (okay, so this was storebought, but it was a great sale)
  • thinly sliced orange peel – now this one requires some explanation because I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this, but last year I started keeping my citrus peels in water. That simple: eat fruit, put clean peel into a container, fill container with water all the way up to the top so there’s minimal oxidization, refrigerate. I should probably worry about bacteria, but the citrus is fairly resiliant on its own and the peels never developed an off smell. If you change the water every couple of weeks, then the peels are less bitter with each successive change of water, and the pith softens so it can be easily scraped away. Seriously – this is amazing. Why isn’t everyone doing this? Right, so I had these from last winter and they still smelled fine, and I knew I’d be cooking the stuff for hours, so I sliced it into little orangey ribbons and delicious flavor.

And then cook it for a few hours. I went to OutFest with it on low, and then turned the heat up for a few hours once I came home and could supervise it.

I considered it done once the meat was falling apart and almost all of the liquid had been cooked out (as much as I felt confident cooking out without burning it to the bottom of the pan)

So now I had a tasty meat base, so what was I going to do with it so I didn’t get tired of it?

Well, I made half a cup of white rice, and I froze some lunch portions with the rice and about half of the braised pork.

And I had a we smidgeon of rice left, so I took another wee smidgeon (1/4 cup) of pork and made quesadillas

Braised Pork Quesadillas (pork is braised, not the quesadilla)

They key to a good quesadilla (and a good filled crepe) is to not put too much in. If it’s still flat, then you’re I’m going to enjoy it more.

So throw a tortilla in a heated skillet. Once the tortilla is warm, flip it over and start working very quickly (that is – have a mis en place).

Add the thinnest layer of cheese you can.

Pick a half of the tortilla. Cover it with a little leftover (but warm) rice that has been tossed with lime cilantro dressing, a little of the braised pork (drain the liquid away and have a mostly dry filling), and some shredded kale (some sharp onions would have also been good here).

Fold the bare (i.e. with just cheese) half of the tortilla over the filling and make a nice even sandwich. Press flat. And flip it over to brown the outside of the tortilla and wilt the kale. Peek under to see when you have a few burnt spots on the underside of the quesadilla. Decide whether you want the (now) top crisped up anymore (if so, flip and cook a little more). Then serve. Have sour cream on the side.

And I still had about half of the braised pork left. So I made a stew-type dish.

Pork and Chickpea Stew

Add a little oil to the bottom of a pot and sweat an onion, diced. Once the onion is translucent, add a drained can of chickpeas (or soak them overnight and cook them a bit longer than is called for in this recipe… since this here cooking is mostly just getting everything warm enough for the flavors to intermingle).

Now my braised pork was pretty intensely flavored, but if it hadn’t been, I would start adding seasonings here – some cumin seeds, maybe a stick of cinnamon, marjoram, and maybe some raisins would have been an interesting choice. But I didn’t do that.

I did, however, have a baked sweet potato in my fridge, and that seemed like a good addition, so I pulled it out, peeled it, sliced it a couple times against the grain, and mixed it in with the chickpeas.

And then I added the braised pork.

Cooked it for a couple minutes until the smells mixed, and then I dished it up into containers to freeze for lunches.

24
May

Fish Pie

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , , , ,

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I hardly ever cook fish. It’s not easy here to find a good fishmonger, and then you have a narrow window for getting your fish home still happily fresh. It can’t hang out in your fridge until you have inspiration – it’s a make it right away kind of thing.

And I grew up with a father who did not enjoy the smell of fish, especially as it cooks. So I have little knowledge or practice.

But I have acquired sketchy frozen fish, and I hate wasting food. How sketchy you ask? Well, I’ve been cleaning out my parents deep freeze of things at the very bottom that are too old for them to consider worth eating. And this was in a box labeled with a neighbor’s name, so we were clearly storing it for her – especially since we don’t cook fish. And this neighbor has been dead for about seven years. On the other hand, the freezer has been a very reliable freezer without power outages or temperature variations.

The fish is Oreo Dory – which, wow!, so not sustainable. But it’s a little late to lecture my former neighbor on her purchasing habits, now.

So what do you do with seven year old frozen fish? Apparently, you make pie!

I looked through several recipes, and I ended up combining traditional recipes (with roux) and modern ones with more vegetables. But I had milk nearing its life expectancy, so I knew I needed the roux base to help me use up ingredients.

Fish Pie

In one pot, pour a little less than a quart of milk and add a pound of frozen fish. Also season with a bay leaf and a clove or two. Bring it to just barely simmering for five minutes and then remove from heat and strain the fish from the milk and into a casserole dish. If you added a bay leaf and/or cloves, remember to make sure you remove as many as you added.

In another pot, clean and quarter (and peel, if you so choose) some potatoes (I did three baking-sized ones, but it could have used another potato or two) and boil them in salted water until easy to pierce with a fork.

In a third pot deep skillet, sautee a minced or finely diced onion in lipids of your choice (I used a teaspoon of butter). Now you’re going to make a roux from untoasted flour. You might need to add more fat for the right consistency. Then add the hot, fishy milk to the roux – stirring assiduously – so you get a nice, medium-thick white sauce. Mine was actually much thinner than I wanted, so the trick for adding more flour when your roux is insufficient is to spoon the flour into a small sieve and tap dustings of flour into your simmering liquid (stirring assiduously) until it’s just thinner than you want. Remember that once your gravy has boiled (which it will do as you’re baking) and cooled, it will be even thicker.

I shredded three carrots, the flesh of a mild red pepper, and the zest of one lemon and added them to the fishy bechamel, too.

By now, your potatoes should be soft. Drain them and mash them with butter and milk until you have fluffy mashed potatoes.

Take a moment to salt everything! Salt the bechamel; it needs it. Salt the mashed potatoes; they need it. Maybe even sprinkle a little more salt on the fish in the casserole dish. Oh, and black pepper. Everything needs black pepper, too.

I also added some ground summer savory and a dash of ground thyme to the sauce.

Right, so there’s a casserole dish of fish fillets. Break them up into chunks.

And then sprinkle them with some (white, if you have it) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Pour the sauce over the fish, and swish everything together.

Top with mashed potatoes. Some people sprinkle more cheese on the top of the mashed potatoes, but I didn’t.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until bubbling. After 20 minutes, my potatoes still didn’t have any color, so I turned on the broiler for another three and a half minutes.

It was surprisingly pleasing.

1) My house did not smell strongly of fish during the cooking process!!! Now were there any lingering cooking odors this morning

2) The fishy milk sauce, which just sounds disgusting, was exactly like chowder. I should have guessed, except that I always think there are extra fresh ingredients and a bit of magic in good chowders.

It was a lot like soup in a casserole dish. On looking back at the recipes, a lot of them called for half as much milk as I used (though how that will fully cover the fish as it’s poaching, I don’t know). And they call for a thick layer of mashed potatoes, whereas I barely had enough to cover.

While the taste was smooth and pleasing (like chowder), there probably is no way to make seven years frozen fish not have the texture of seven years frozen fish – i.e. rubbery and a bit chewy

The past couple weeks, my friends and I have been having collaborative dinners.

Yesterday, it went like this:

NoCounterspace: if you want to have dinner at my house (dining out is fine), I have: more potatoes, more asparagus, bell peppers, onions, eggs, cooked zucchini of dubious virtue. I could make a frittata or possibly a pizza (never tried before, but I think I can buy pre-made dough at the coop sometimes).

geeksdoitbetter: i have roasted eggplant, mushrooms, onions wanna make a quiche?

NoCounterspace: There could be quiche!

geeksdoitbetter: shall we pitch the communal cooking idea @ Lulu?

And the pitch went like this:

Lulu –

Geeksdoitbetter has concocted a quiche dinner idea. It could be cooked your house, or at mine if you want some but not until 7pm.

ingredient options from me include:
more potatoes
more asparagus
bell peppers
onions
fresh or roasted garlic
cooked zucchini of dubious virtue (just means they need checking, not that they are necessarily bad)
raw yellow squash of dubious virtue
radishes

cheddar
rustic cheddar of eww
blue cheese
parmesan
homemade soft cheeses

ingredient options from Geeksdoitbetter include:
roasted eggplant
mushrooms

And we decided to make two quiches (for 4 people). One full of tasty things that Lulu’s husband (G) hates, and one full of things he could eat. G was included in the emails and could have been in on the decision making process if he’d answered them, so there’s no gender discrimination here.

So first on pie crust. I’m new to baking, yeah? I’ve never made pie crust. On the other hand, I really like the Pillsbury refrigerated crust that you just pull out and unroll. I think it tastes good and would be aiming to have any crust I made at home taste like that one. So why not buy that one? (note: I am considering changing this attitude now that I both own a food processor and have been introduced to Lulu’s pie crust, which is indeed better than Pillsbury’s – maybe over the next few months, but not this night)

I really wanted to use up some of my potatoes, so the first thing I did was to wash two handfuls (small red potatoes), cut out any bad parts, and throw them onto a baking sheet. I added 2 teaspoons of olive oil and put them on the low rack of the oven. Then I started the oven heating up to 350F, where I’d be baking the quiches.

I tasted Geeksdoitbetter’s roasted eggplant leftovers (eggplant, onions, some herb mix that included rosemary), and they were going to be delicious with the potatoes, so that was planned. If I hadn’t found anything to go with the potatoes, they would have made a good side dish, anyway.

Then I pulled a pound of bacon out of the freezer (because the pieces in the fridge had gone off). Open the package, cut the strips in half width-wise (because they fit in a round skillet better that way) and forcibly separated about half of the half strips (quarter of the pound) out to cook (and put an eighth of a pound into a half pint takeaway container in the refrigerator for easy use later). Put that in my little cast iron skillet and popped it into the oven next to the potatoes, with the slices still all frozen together.

Now for the pie crust. I selected my two 9″ pie plates, unrolled a crust into each of them, settled it into the shape, tucked the edges under and pressed them into place, and took a fork and pricked the shells thoroughly. Then I cracked two eggs into a bowl and brushed the crusts with just the egg white bits (but no need to get another dish dirty – and you can just scramble the eggs for the filling in this bowl). Pie crusts go into the 350F oven (which had reached temperature by now) for 15-20 minutes – they’ll be golden, but not brown.

I pulled the skillet with the bacon out of the oven and started cooking it on the stovetop where I could watch and micromanage. By now the pieces were easy to separate, so I moved everything apart.

Then I took a bunch of asparagus, trimmed the bottoms, sliced them into 1cm pieces, and pre-cooked them on the stove in 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Over fairly high heat (7-8 on a knob with numbers) they got a nice bit of roastiness in 8 minutes. I could have put them in the oven, too, but I wanted to be able to look them over.

From my freezer, I pulled out the tomatoes I had grown and Geeksdoitbetter had dehydrated 2 summers ago and sliced them into small pieces.

Right – so here’s the plan.

Quiche 1 (with things G does not like): Roasted eggplant and onions with roasted potatoes and goat cheese

Quiche 2: Asparagus, dried tomatoes, bacon, cheddar cheese

Pulled the first cooked crust out of the oven… and, well, it has sagged a bit and isn’t all that pretty. Luckily, that’s the opaque pie plate, too. So because Geeksdoitbetter is dating him, she decides that G gets to have the pretty quiche, and I load up the less pretty one with the eggplant and roasted potatoes. I pull out my 5 ounce log of chevre, and I manage to fit all of it in the quiche (in nice rustic chunks). The pie is pretty full!

I mix up 4 eggs (two of which have had some of their whites used on the crust already) and pour in about a cup and a half of whole milk – not all of the liquid fits in the pie plate… let’s say I only got 2/3 of the mixture in. Set that up to bake.

Take the other pie crust, which has stayed in place and is lovely. I dump in the asparagus and tomatoes. And it’s really not taking up nearly as much space. So I do quickly sautee a smallish onion (cut into quarters and them thin crescents) and drizzle about half a teaspoon of balsamic over them at the end. Add them in, too!

So we have asparagus, 2/3 of the cooked bacon (crumbled), onions, dried tomatoes, and 3 ounces of sharp yellow cheddar cheese, thinly sliced into short pieces. I added the rest of the egg mixture and then quickly scrambled two more eggs and a bit more milk.

They should probably bake about 40 minutes, but quiche is never done when I expect it to be. I suspect it’s because there’s such a range int he possible density of fillings and that I freehand my ratio of liquid dairy products (milk or cream or whatever) to egg.

But we had it cooking for about 25 minutes when 8pm hit. By then things were not sloshy and we could relocate to Lulu’s kitchen.

The asparagus one was not as pretty as desired. My last egg scrambling could have been more thorough and patches of egg white were visible. No problem! I’d already planned to top that one with the rest of the bacon, so I gave it a quick dusting of paprika and then crumbled the bacon on top.

We relocated, put the quiche’s back into an oven, and settled down for a pot of tea and chatting. And it had to heat up from scratch, so the heating times are complete bunk here.

But 25 minutes later, both quiches could pass the knife test. We pulled them out of the oven and ate them while hot. Because hot quiche is even more delicious than room temperature quiche.

And they did not suffer one bit for all of the dodginess in the preparation. The texture was smooth and the appearance was lovely… well, lovelier on the asparagus one because the eggplant one was clearly overstuffed and abundant, so still sexy but not as elegant.

Everyone went back for seconds, and they were still tempting once we were full. Quiche is amazing!

Growing up, Passover was one of 2.5 Jewish holidays my family would celebrate.

My uncle, while he was alive, was a strong presence leading the seder with charisma and a mischievous delight in tradition. After his death, my aunt was more thoughtful and pursued discussion and commentary. Passover was the time of year I spoke most openly about Judaism at my public school, taking in butter, matzoh, and salt, and sharing with my classmates. In college I learned even more about it during that one year I was dating someone more observant than I (and she has since gone on to become a rabbi). The first time I got drunk was at Passover, and I’ll still argue passionately in favor of the richness of the cheap, sweet, syrupy Passover wines of my youth (and have so argued on this blog).

It’s a holiday that has a strong emphasis on food. On problematic food. On being rushed and hurried and fleeing servitude so that bread could not rise. It’s a holiday of learning rules through food and exploring the Jewish way of reasoning from text to law through centuries of debate and logic. It’s about learning logical discourse and boolean algebra through food. And unlike my approach to gluten free cooking (bread? Whatever – let’s eat rice! And all sorts of things are fun without wheat!), this holiday requires that you deal with the matzoh. It’s not enough to eat leavened bread, but it is also required encouraged that you partake of the food that is problematic. And that leads to creativity and weirdness and often some rather dry and tasteless food.

But you know me, and creativity and weirdness are favorites of mine. I love this holiday, but I’ve never cooked for it before. I love this holiday, but I’ve never hosted it before. But now I have a house.

And I had a friend who pinged me and mentioned that she really, really liked matzoh and could there be acquiring of it? And I took that question and replied, “Well, I guess I could host Passover.”

So I invited some friends…

And had 21 RSVPs. Including my parents, jews and non-jews, the proudly child free and three children, people who keep kosher and people who only vaguely know that ham and cheese sandwiches are problematic, vegetarians and people who refuse to eat vegetables, and also the neighbor who has taken to asking for food from me (and her boyfriend).

From them, there were the following contributions: My mother made her signature chopped liver and brought a fruit bowl; Lulu brought coconut macaroons; Redwizz brought his secret family recipe charoset; another friend offered stuffed mushrooms and spinach kugel (but they ended up canceling); and my boss kindly dropped off her leftovers from the first night’s seder she hosted. All the rest was up to me. I did end up at the last minute get some amazing help from Geeksdoitbetter and Carrie, and the seder would not have gone nearly as well without their (especially Geeksdoitbetter’s) help.

Appetizers

mystery dip
So my boss’s husband makes a vegan mushroom/artichoke mousse mold thing to offer vegetarians instead of gefilte fish. I plan to get his recipe. But also included with their leftovers were little matzoh sticks, so I knew there had to be dip! This was my mother’s job. It was rapidly determined that either cream cheese or sour cream would be likely to overwhelm the delicate flavor of the mousse, so it was thinned with mayonnaise. Then, because it was dip, the flavor needed to be boosted a bit, so she added oregano, hot pepper, black pepper, and salt. The result was pretty tasty but not perfect.

chopped liver with little matzoh crackers

(not included were the pitted dates I split up the side and stuffed walnut quarters into. I was going to toss them in the over with honey, salt, and pepper, according to an ancient roman recipe, until just warm enough to be soft and pliable. Instead, a few were nibbled just stuffed.)

Seder

Charoset Okay, so my family’s recipe is hand cut apples with crumbled walnuts, cinnamon, and red wine. Redwizz’s family recipe is apples, dates, orange juice, almonds, and cinnamon, mixed in a food processor until it looks like mortar. Oddly, they don’t taste all that different, and his is easier to eat on matzoh (as well as being acceptable to those who do not imbibe).

First Course

I gave the diners a choice among potatoes (roasted leftovers from my boss – and surprisingly tasty), hard boiled eggs (using these directions from Coconut and Lime with great results), and gefilte fish from a can.

Second Course

Chicken Soup with Matzoh Balls and/or Noodles – I make stock all the time. I make flavorful stock! And I had a bag of vegetable ends in desperate need of a round of stock making. What is more, when I was out in the Italian Market questing for chicken fat (which can not be found there!), I happened to be in line behind someone buying a quantity of chicken wings and asking for the tips to be thrown away, so I managed to acquire them for free. But I was using a larger pot than I’m used to, and even though I increased the amount of vegetables and spices accordingly, it still tasted like water after hours of cooking. Like water! So I ended up getting a (small) whole chicken just for the stock. And then it had flavor! But that was surprisingly stressful.

The matzoh balls were also a little scary. I was sure I could do it, but I kept being sure I could do it later and procrastinating it farther and farther off. Until Carrie showed up and offered to help, and I managed to talk her into making them even though she’d never seen nor tasted them before. I gave her all of the directions I’d accumulated from my grandmother (who made amazing ones) – use the recipe on the matzoh meal box and don’t handle them much) and set her to it. And they turned out a little dense, but they floated and were tasty

The noodles were storebought and standard. I’m glad I didn’t make them too far ahead because by the time the meal was over and we went to clean the pot they had turned into a gelatinous mess.

Main Course

I decided to go with both dairy and meat options (just nothing mixed) and let people choose their own adventures. I had also planned several parve/vegan dishes, but those (accidentally, I swear) ended up being the ones cut from the menu once it was clear there was plenty food.

Meat

Mark Bittman’s Braised Lamb with Horseradish and Parsley

I love that this dish incorporates food mentioned as historically relevant in the service, and I love that it’s braised – eliminating the holiday’s tendency toward dry meats. The lamb shoulder was sourced from Esposito’s, and they were willing to remove the bone and package it separately for me. They also had special seder plate lamb bone sections, but since I was already buying a lamb bone, I just went with the shoulder piece. I bought three shoulders – two in the 3 pound range and 1 in the 5 pound range. And there was a lot of painstaking trimming of fat from that cut that I’m not sure was necessary, but the end product was succulent and beautiful.

Right, so the first step was taking all of the bones, roasting them, and them adding them to a pot with some vegetables to make stock (and then cleaning them and roasting the three prettiest for the seder plate).

Then I took the huge dutch oven my mother bought me as a housewarming present (my first one of my own! At the time I wasn’t sure I’d use one that big, but I’ve already used it a lot) and browned the lamb cubes in batches, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Even with the olive oil, the lamb still stuck a bit – and I suspect it might have released if I’d waited for a proper sear, but I could not resist stirring the meat a good bit.

When I was on the last batch for browning and it was looking just about done, I added the slivered garlic and let that cook for a bit together. Then in went a glug of manischewitz concord grape (the recipe allows for white wine, but I love cooking with the manischewitz too much) and the lamb stock. And then the rest of the meat… which possibly should have gone in before the stock because I had to be very careful not to splash.

And I simmered the lamb for several hours and then didn’t add the peeled fresh horseradish (because I was scared and it was incredibly tasty without) until the last half hour of cooking, overnight, and the reheating on the day, but it didn’t end up changing the flavor much at all.

I almost forgot the parsley sauce, and few people used it – but I made it thick, with just a minimal amount of oil and vinegar (done by sight, so I have no measurements for you). It was delicious, and I’ve enjoyed using it up at leftovers – stirred into sour cream dip for chips and mixed in with egg salad)

Lemon Thyme Chicken

I feel a bit bad about this one. It has been so long since I’ve paid money for meat, that I’d planned to only spend money on ethical meat. And there I was at the farmers market staring at the $14/pound meat when this was already the most expensive meal I’d ever made and I’d been buying tables and chairs and a sink! And I walked away (after buying 4 dozen eggs) and bought cheap meat at the grocery store, where I bought enough thighs and breast meat to feed everyone for about $14. Next year I’ll do better.

Right, so step one was to peel and thickly slice an onion or two and to lay them in the bottom of the casserole dish (this adds moisture and keeps the meat from cooking to the dish, making cleanup easier).

Then I took a jar of pre-peeled garlic and shook enough into the dish to give more even coverage for the bottom – it doesn’t have to be perfect. And I tossed in about 10 oil-cured black olives to round out the flavor.

I arranged the chicken so that the thighs (with skin and fat) were around the outside and the breasts (skinless and cut into thigh-sized pieces, so three pieces per half) were filling in the center.

On top of that came freshly cut thyme (on the stem) and roughly-cut chunks of lemon. I usually make this dish with rosemary, so I used too little thyme to affect the chicken as much as I wanted, so in future I’d recommend really piling the stems on or/and also dusting with powdered thyme.

If you have more of the breast meat, you can also add a swig of wine and start the cooking process with aluminum foil over to keep it from drying. There were enough thighs (roughly half the meat) in this batch that no additional liquid was needed and it was fine uncovered. It went into the 350F oven right before we started reading, so let’s say it cooked for an hour and a half. I have, however, accidentally overcooked this dish by as much as an hour and had no ill effects or drying of the meat.

Dairy

Kale and Feta Matzoh Pie

This recipe was inspired by Gourmet’s Spinach and Matzoh Pie, but I was already supposed to have someone bringing spinach kugel and I love the more bitter greens. Really, this recipe was begging for some kale!

I bought three spring tops of curly kale from Landisdale Farm at the farmers market. The day before, I shredded the kale and cooked it down with a pinch of salt (so that I’d have more room in my refrigerator).

The next day, I assembled the lasagnas.

I mixed up a pound of fresh farmers cheese (from mexico, featured in my local supermarket… tasted like try, crumbly sour cream with a bit more culturing), 2 cups whole milk, 3 eggs, freshly ground nutmeg, and some salt and pepper, in a bowl with a fork. It was fine, even without the blender.

And I ended up with two casserole dishes almost exactly the size of a piece of matzoh, so I used one to soak the pieces in the 2 cups of the mixture while assembling in the other… and then just laid the rest of the pieces on top to assemble the second one. There didn’t seem to be any difference between the dish that had been oiled and the one that hadn’t when it came time to serve.

Then I finely diced an onion and reheated the cooked kale, squeezing out the moisture as I went. I also minced and threw in about a quarter cup of fresh dill.

Once the moisture was mostly evaporated, I stirred the kale into the remaining egg/dairy mixture and crumbled in a good half of the pound of feta I’d bought from my local halal.

Then I assembled: matzoh, filling, matzoh, filling, matzoh – matzoh, filling, matzoh, filling, matzoh. And I had just enough filling left to put a very thin layer on the top of both – perfection. And I crumbled almost all of the rest of the feta on top (let’s say 3 ounces per dish).

This was baked ahead and served only slightly warmed. It was delicious! I love the body of the kale in this, and I can’t image spinach being nearly as good.

It even freezes and reheats well! I love this dish! Such a success.

Greens and Quinoa Pie

This was my very first time tackling quinoa. I know that’s delinquent of me, but still. The grains were smaller than I expected, and there was no way they were going to be cooperative in a strainer for rinsing and draining – so I soaked them. Only then the toasting process was unfortunate, and I had to give up on that step. Perhaps toasting them dry and then soaking them next time.

So I cooked 3/4 of a cup of quinoa (because I’d eyeballed the amount and had no use for a quarter of a cup, so I went ahead and cooked it all) and set it aside until I was ready to deal with making the dish.

In my largest skillet, I cooked the romaine and some other lettuce-y head that was pale and spiky (but not frissee) and bitter enough to be related to chicory. Then I tossed them into a strainer in the sink and squeezed them occasionally as guests started trickling in and milling about the kitchen.

The last thing I did before settling people into the dining room to start the seder was to assemble the skillet of cooked onions, green onions, dill, cooked quinoa, and squeezed cut up lettuces.

Once we started taking turns reading the story of Passover, I sneaked back a couple times into the kitchen (and hid the afikomen) to get it cooked, the three eggs beaten and added, and the cheese – the remaining 2 ounces of feta and the last of the stichelton from my cheese tasting. And then I popped it into the 350F oven (in the skillet, not juggling the whole transfer to a pie plate) to finish cooking evenly.

It turned out pretty tasty, froze well, and received praise from the one guest who claimed to love quinoa. While filling and sturdy, I’m not sure it was exceptional enough to make next year.

Golden Gratin – Yam & Apricot Casserole (could have been vegan)

There is no good reason why this dish isn’t parve and vegan! No good reason! But for some reason the recipe is made for it to be meat, and there’s a tendency among the commenters to make it dairy, too. Having made it, I say that it would lose nothing from being vegan.

So you peel your orange-fleshed sweet potatoes or yams and cut them into chunks.

Then you make a base syrup out of apricot nectar (I was planning up substitute orange juice, but my coop just happened to have a bottle of apricot nectar across from the check out – and I just used the one bottle, which was less than 4 cups, but whatever)… and then the recipe calls for a cup of chicken broth. Why, recipe? Why? I happened to have a quart jar of oolong tea hanging out, so that was a perfect substitution. Other substitution options would be orange juice, white grape juice, water, or vegetable stock.

The recipe then called for 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted pareve margarine. I used 3 Tablespoons of butter because I don’t believe in margarine. Honestly? I could have skipped the butter entirely, and that might have improved the dish.

Then 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots. I had bought Turkish Apricots from nuttyguys.com on a Groupon without a purpose a while back, and they went into this. Geeksdoitbetter cut them into quarters (and she peeled the yams and washed the kale and did all kinds of things to make this dinner go).

So the apricots cook with the nectar and tea with some cinnamon and black pepper and then you add the yams and cover and cook until the yams are fork tender. At this point, I put them up until the next day.

I was careful to keep the chunks of sweet potato intact in the repackaging so they’d still be individual pieces the next day, and they were delicious.

On the next round, when I served the leftovers a few days later, I mashed them into a smooth yamy puree and topped them with a crumble topping of 1/4 cup rolled oats (not kosher for passover), 1/4 cup matzoh meal, 1/8 cup matzoh flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and as much olive oil and neccessary to get it the right amount of crumbly. Baked for 40 minutes, and it was de-light-ful. Well, it was a (potentially vegan, and it would have been fine) sweet potato casserole with a crumble topping – what’s not to love?

Parve / Vegan dishes

Asparagus

The Soup Vixen helped me acquire half a flat of asparagus from the Italian Market. I was going to roast them right before serving… and that didn’t happen. So now I have a pickling and canning project. Woo!

Dandelion Greens

Come on – what says bitter greens and spring time so much as dandelions? These were (again last minute, so didn’t happen) going to be quick sauteed with olive oil and vast quantities of garlic.

Carrot Casserole

These were going to be cut into coins in the food processor and baked with a little liquid (probably vegetable stock) and some za’atar seasoning. This was the first recipe to be abandoned because I found the golden gratin, but I still bought the carrots

Savory Red Pepper and Onion Matzo Brei (not vegan)

Also would have been tasty, but was a dish that sounded best made last minute.

Dessert

Coconut Macaroons

My friend has a quest to find the perfect coconut macaroon recipe, so I made doe eyes at her for many of them for Passover. And it worked – she made 4 batches.

Only there was an error in the handing down of the familial coconut macaroon recipe, and this try called for 2 egg whites per package of coconut (instead of the 1 called for by the condensed milk people)… and that made the recipe harder for her than it should have been. Apparently the extra egg pools out into eggy feet around the base of each macaroon, and she had to tear them off individually. (also, her dishwasher broke mid macaroon making)

That said, the macaroons were soft and sinfully delicious and way better that the dusty, dry ones from the boss’s Passover leftovers. I brought the leftover macaroons to work, and there was so much praise!

My friend, however, is still looking for an even more perfect recipe. The condensed milk flavor was more noticeable than she wanted and there was the egg issue, but the ease of the recipe was a big plus.

Walnut-Date Torte

Whooo! So my stand mixer is also new so me, so this was my first time whipping egg whites. It was amazing. It was a miracle that I didn’t eat the sugar/whipped egg white mixture with a spoon. I can see meringues in my future. Pavlovas with summer fruit.

Right, so the walnut stuffed date appetizers (which didn’t happen) and the dates for this cake were prepped at the same time. I just took my measuring cup and every time the date was dry or not pretty or didn’t split easily, it was cut into bits (quarters the long way, and then 4-5 slices down the length). I ended up with slightly over a cup and a half from that method, which was exactly what the recipe called for. Then I added the half a cup of boiling water and let it sit to hydrate.

For the walnuts, I just learned that the way that entry is written explicitly means you measure the 1 1/2 cups of walnuts, then toast them, and then chop them. Done!

And then I got out the food processor my sister got me (which I absolutely did not steal from KitchenMage) as a housewarming to chop the walnuts with 1/4 cup light brown sugar until finely ground. Then the recipe calls for 2/3 cup matzoh meal, but I’d misread the recipe before shopping and also bought matzoh flour for just this recipe, so I was determined to use it! So in went 1/3 cup matzoh meal and 1/3 cup matzoh flour, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, and a pinch of salt.

Instead of orange zest, I just happened to have some orange peel soaking in water in my fridge awaiting accumulating enough to candy… so I minced up an eighth of a cup of blanched, soaking (so much milder than fresh) orange peel and added it to the dates. I really liked this change.

I beat the egg whites until the looked like they were thinking about peaks, and then I started slowly adding the remaining 1/2 cup white sugar. And the volume didn’t increase as much as I was expecting, so I might have beat slightly longer than requested, but they were holding stiff, glossy peaks and looking lovely when I did stop. They made that lovely crinkly sound when you fold into them.

But first – the 4 yolks get mixed into the dates and orange peel. First the dates were added to the egg whites and folded in, and then the nuts and flour were folded in. This was seriously one of the most delicious cake batters ever! (And I’m a devoted batter eater. I find the batter is almost always significantly tastier than the end product, and this was no exception).

I had enough batter for two medium (8″?) pie plates. It baked at 350F for 40 minutes until a toothpick came out clean (I didn’t notice the springing away from the edge of the pan phenomenon), and I served it in the pan.

It was okay and definitely decent on the first day.

By the second day, however, it was nice! You should definitely make this 1-3 days ahead. You know what was also nice? Drizzling it with cointreau! It’s in the good fruitcake family, and it does well being treated that way.

7
Apr

Curried Collard Greens and Rice

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , ,

Yet another delicious meal made out of scraps and leftovers in my fridge.

It all started with a text message to geeksdoitbetter asking: given that I have leftover rice and leftover raita in my fridge, how many more ingredients do you think I’d need to add before I could call it food?

Her reply was that all I’d need to do would be heat it up and add curry.

On further inspection, I noticed I also had some collard greens in need of attention, so a slightly more respectable meal was born.

Curried Collard Greens

Wash and cut up your greens (I went for roughly one inch square pieces).

Heat a teaspoon or two of oil in a pan. Add a Tablespoon of mustard seeds, and drape the pan with foil or a spatter guard because they goal is to have them pop.

Once the mustard seed start popping, add a teaspoon of cumin seeds and a generous sprinkle of asaphoetida.

After just a minute (or less) of toasting the spices, add the greens to your pan.

Sprinkle with a curry powder of your choice. I was hoping to make a dent in a jar of tandoori seasoning, but that ended up needing more fenugreek and turmeric to smell right.

Go ahead and throw the rice in, too, since this will add some moisture and heat to the leftovers (note: leftover rice can develop nasty food poisoning, so store/eat with care).

And then I added both leftover tamarind chutney (1-2 Tablespoons) and the leftover raita (1/2 pt container) and stirred them in until the collards had an even coating of a fairly dry sauce.

The end result wasn’t necessarily classy, but it was a decent and serviceably dinner. It ended up spicier than I was expecting, even.