August 29, 2012
Red Lentils with Fresh Herbs and Yogurt

Good god lentils are delicious.  Quick, easy, and deeply satisfying, I’m not sure why I don’t make them more often.  Something tells me I’m going to be eating a LOT of lentils in the coming weeks.

In a sturdy soup pot, sauté 3/4 of an onion (diced) in a 1-2 tablespoons butter, salting to sweat.  When softened and translucent, add a generous pinch of paprika and cumin, stirring to combine.  Cook for 30-60 seconds longer, until fragrant.  Add 1 1/2 cups lentils (I used red, but any will do) and 3 cups water (or stock of your choice).  Stir to combine and cover with a lid.  Simmer, covered, over low heat for 20-25 minutes, until lentils are tender and water is absorbed.

Once cooked through, add the juice of 1 lemon and season to taste.  Scoop into bowls; garnish with a drizzle of good green olive oil, heaping spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, and fresh herbs (basil, mint, or cilantro are all bright and delicious complements).  Serve immediately.

Simple, hearty, and tasty as can be.  They’ll make you wonder why you aren’t eating more lentils too.

August 16, 2012
Linguine with Chunky Tomato Cream Sauce

This dish is a hybrid between my go-to tomato sauce base and vodka sauce.  Rustic bites of tomatoes and onions are blanketed in rich cream.  The fresh basil and vodka are omitted, leaving behind a simple, comforting dish that’s easy to pull together with staple pantry ingredients.  Shared with loved ones or enjoyed solo, it makes for a great weekday indulgence.

This is one of those recipes that doesn’t have an actual recipe.  It’s something I’ve made for years (with the exception of the cream, which is a slight variation) and tweak according to my provisions and tastes at the given moment.  The base ingredients are simple: tomatoes (both fresh and canned), onion (or shallots), salt, and cinnamon.  Garlic, basil, cream, crushed red pepper, eggplant, and so on can all be added if desired.

In a deep skillet or large wok over medium-low heat, sauté half an onion in 1-2 tablespoons light olive oil, salting to sweat.  Once softened and translucent (about 5 minutes), add 2 cloves garlic, diced.  Sauté for 1 minute until fragrant.  Add 1 large ripe tomato, diced.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 1 28-ounce can tomatoes, crushed or diced (whatever you’re feeling; I typically opt for diced), and a large pinch (approximately 1/2 teaspoon) of ground cinnamon.  (Cinnamon cuts the acidity of the tomatoes and takes every pasta sauce from good to bangin’.  Do this.)  Stir everything together and simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes, allowing flavors to meld.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook your favorite pasta (remembering to salt the water after it is boiling, not before).  My favorite pasta is shells or cappellini, but I opted for the landlord’s favorite in this instance: linguine.

Once pasta is cooked and drained, add it to your extra grande sauce pan.  Add a generous splash of cream (and by “splash” I mean 1/2+ cup — go for it), 1 tablespoon butter, and another pinch or two of sea salt.  Toss with tongs to combine and serve immediately.  Garnish with fresh basil and parmesan if desired, or enjoy simply.

Finger. Lickin’. Good.

August 8, 2012
Spicy Sauerkraut

There is a special place in my heart for store-bought sauerkraut that is simmered with beer and brisket.  My mom serves it every New Year’s Day with said brisket and buttery smooth mashed potatoes.  I’d devour fork-full after fork-full of pillow soft potatoes smothered in tangy sauerkraut.  Talk about comfort food.

This sauerkraut tastes nothing like the beer and beef broth kind of my childhood, but it is tangy and crunchy and satisfying all the same.  I ate mine topped with a decadently runny fried egg, but it’d also go well alongside sloppy joes or barbecued anything.  Light and versatile, it’s the perfect summer side dish.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
3/4 cup vegetable stock or water, divided
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Directions:
Heat oil in a deep non-stick skillet or large wok over medium heat.  Sauté onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add cabbage, salt, sugar, and chili flakes and sauté, stirring occasionally, until starting to wilt, about 3 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup stock or water, scrapping up any brown bits from the onions.  Turn the heat down to low, and simmer until the liquid is nearly evaporated, about 6-8 minutes.  Add the remaining stock or water and repeat until reduced by half.  The cabbage should be cooked through but not mushy.  Stir in the vinegar and remove from the heat.  Serve immediately.

Sauerkraut will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Recipe adapted from Big Girls Small Kitchen.

July 26, 2012
Pro Tip: Not All Substitutions Are Equal

Yesterday I made pancakes.  I used a recipe that I’ve used for years, except I made two changes: I substituted heavy cream for milk, because I thought it would add richness; and I added peaches, because, well, peach anything is delicious.

I knew that cream and milk were not equal.  I knew that cream’s higher fat content affects how things are baked.  But pancakes aren’t baked, they’re pancakes.  Simple, no fuss, hard to screw up.

Alas.  I screwed up those pancakes real good.

The pancakes were heavy and dense.  They weren’t light or fluffy or supple or any of that.  They were heavy, and unpleasantly so.  As they cooled, they hardened.  They were awful.

The peaches (lightly sprinkled with a pinch of salt and sugar) browned nicely on the bottom of the pan but made the pancakes terribly difficult to flip.  I had one success and one failure — my second pancake resembled a glutinous omelet.

Perhaps if I had added baking soda or baking powder to help the fluffiness.  Perhaps if I had used half cream and half milk to help balance the fat content.  Or perhaps I should’ve left well enough alone.  If it ain’t broke…

My silver lining?  I’m really, REALLY glad I was my own guinea pig.  I’ve been itching to make these for weeks and haven’t had the chance.  If I’d had such a spectacular culinary flop in front of the landlord or friends I would have been horrified.  Lesson learned: always try new recipes on yourself before making them for someone else.  Humiliation averted.

July 25, 2012
Summer Corn Pasta

This is a go-to recipe of mine that is the epitome of laid back summer evenings.  Seasonal ingredients paired with no-fuss preparation make it a terrific weeknight dinner.

Ingredients:
3 ears of corn, kernels sliced off the cob
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup fresh basil, stems removed
1 1/2 cups pasta (I prefer small shells, but use whatever you like)
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
salt

Directions:
In a large pot, set water to boil.  Once boiling, salt water generously and add pasta.  Cook until al dente (8 minutes if using small shells).  Using a colander, drain pasta and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, place a large sauté pan over medium low heat.  When hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute garlic until golden and fragrant, 2-3 minutes.  Add corn kernels and butter, stirring to coat.  Season with salt.  Add diced mozzarella and stir to incorporate, cooking until corn is heated through and mozzarella begins to melt, about 1-2 minutes.

Add cooked pasta and 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, stirring to incorporate.  Remove from heat.  Garnish with fresh basil and serve immediately.

Garlicky pasta, lightly buttered corn, melted mozzarella, and fresh basil in wedded bliss.  Savory and satisfying, you’ll be craving this all summer.

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