Lentils Three Ways

Lentils Three WaysIf you’ve recently grabbed some beans for your pantry, chances are you probably reached for lentils. I know I did. But, I will admit I don’t make lentils very often. If I do it’s usually the little green French ones that I serve with salmon. I’m not a habitual lentil consumer. But, now I have these lentils and I have been looking for new ways to use them.

Thoughts of lentils make me turn to Indian cuisine for advice—which makes sense. The pervasive use of lentils in Indian cooking makes them the experts. So, I turned to my library of Indian cookbooks and naturally found some answers.

If you have even a small affinity for Indian food I would recommend obtaining a Madhur Jaffrey Indian cuisine cookbook. She has many. She is also widely considered an expert on all things in the Indian culinary world. I found the following recipes in her World Vegetarian cookbook. The first is a basic recipe for lentils that can be eaten as is or used as a base for other recipes. So if you’re sitting there wondering what to do with your stash of lentils give these options a try.

Lentils with Onion and Garlic
Adapted from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey
Yields 4 servings

The addition of a dollop of dairy (either butter in the first recipe or yogurt in the second two) adds a smoothness to the normally slightly dry texture of lentils.  Read more…

Breakfast Grits with Succotash

Breakfast Grits with SuccotashSouthern Romance
I’m a reader. I easily read 2-3 books a week. Granted, I am not always reading the really heavy stuff. (I have a thing for romance novels. Sorry, not sorry. 😜) I am also that person who will read a series over and over if I love it—which is what I started doing last week. My current selection is a Romance series I have now read three times. It is set in the charming city of Charleston, SC and while all of the characters are fantastic, the real star of these books, in my opinion, is the food.

There’s a lot of talk about bacon, and shrimp, and cheese grits in these pages and it has been making my mouth water the whole time. I have always been a fan of a tasty bowl of shrimp and grits. And, to read the words used to describe them in the story makes my culinary imagination run wild. The recipe that stands out the most is one for a bowl of breakfast grits topped with southern succotash and a poached egg. I mean. I just can’t even…It’s killin’ me!

Unfortunately, there is no recipe to go along with the tasty prose so I had to recreate it on my own. For the first time in a while, I will actually be able to sleep in this Saturday so my plan is to indulge in this recipe over the weekend.

It’s important to use good grits in this situation which, if you ask any self-respecting southerner, means stone-ground grits. Not instant grits. It’s up to you whether you go with the white or yellow version. Personally, I prefer the yellow. Here on the West Coast, it can be difficult to find the really good artisan grits though you can sometimes find them at the farmers market or you can always get them online. If you don’t want to wait that long (I feel your pain.) I recommend Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Grits.

And, I called for fried eggs for the recipe because they are easier. But, if you have a good system for poaching go to it! They’ll be delicious.

Also, butter and half n half are a must. Leave your diet at the door. Anything worth doing is worth doing it the right way. And, in this case, that means butterfat and cream. Oh, and bacon, let’s not forget the bacon. I will be leaving the okra out of the succotash, though. My Florida raised husband had okra forced upon him as a child and it didn’t end well. If I served this to him with okra, he might get lawyers on the phone…

Breakfast Grits with Succotash
Yields 4 to 6 servings
Read more…

News From the Fancy Food Show & Tahini Noodles Recipe

Tahini Noodles with Green Beans and CarrotsPlant Food
In what has become an annual tradition, I spent my Martin Luther King holiday walking the aisles at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco looking for and tasting the latest and greatest that the culinary world has to offer. As per usual there was plenty of gorgeous chocolate and cheese from around the world—including a guacamole cheese that was divine despite being a dark green not usually associated with cheese in a positive way.

There were teas, there were coffees and there was an extraordinary number of waffles, both of the regular and of the Stroop variety. I like waffles as much as the next gal. But, do we really need that many? And there was bottled pickle juice…because, of course, there would be bottled pickle juice. (I brought one home for my kids to try. My pickle loving son tried it and said it was too intense yet he keeps going back for another sip. Kind of like a bad accident. You can’t help but look.)

There was no missing the one big take away from this show: The future of food is plant-based.

From beverages to snacks, to frozen foods, each and every grocery category had multiple vendors showing their plant-based products. There were plant-based frozen desserts being offered down every aisle either by the pint or as bars. Plant-based meat alternatives have grown way beyond the Impossible Burger. The snack category was huge including puffs made out of avocado that were a big hit at my home, as were the butternut squash pretzels. While I expected to see more plant-based noodles than I did, they were still well represented as were the Asian cuisines they support.

Staunch carnivores should not fret too much, though, as there were still plenty of offerings for them. Duck Sausage anyone? Small family-owned ranches held their own amongst the plant-based surge by offering natural, humanely-raised alternatives to beef like venison, bison, elk, and even wild boar. And while the jerky revolution has died down some, there were still plenty of meat and salami sticks to be sampled.

While plant-based foods comprised a large percentage of the products being shown this year, it was very obvious that we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to plant-based innovation. This is not a food trend that will just fizzle out. The possibilities are endless and the masterminds are just getting started…

Tahini Noodles with Green Beans and Carrots 
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Refrigerator Soup

Refrigerator SoupI don’t know what it looks like in your fridge after the holidays—but I can tell you there are a lot of leftovers in mine. Some are starting to show signs of becoming a science experiment and are ready to be thrown out. But, others are the remnants of a very tasty week-and-a-half. This is when I need to get creative.

At the end of the holidays, I always have a lot of random leftovers. A carrot or two here, a parmesan rind there, or that last handful of Blue Lake beans that we didn’t use. Occasionally, there are bones left over which I use for making stock. Sometimes it’s beef, sometimes it’s chicken, and if I am really lucky there’s a ham bone. And always there are leftover herbs because inevitably you only needed half of the bunch of parsley that you bought.

These are the days for what I call “refrigerator soup”. There is no set recipe. The only requirement is that you use up what you have. If you are lucky enough to have beef or chicken bones, make some stock. If you don’t have bones, the second carton of chicken or beef stock that you bought and didn’t use would be perfect right now. If you have a leftover ham bone, I would throw it directly in the pot with the veggies and then add water.

As for what goes in the stock, I generally start with onions that I always have on hand. I dice them up and sweat them in some olive oil. After that, it’s whatever strikes your fancy. Got carrots? Chop ’em up and throw them in. Same with any other veggies like potatoes and celery or green beans. Bell Peppers work well here too. Add some chopped garlic if you like and any fresh or dried herbs you think would taste good. Found can of diced tomatoes? Why not drain it and throw them in too?

Add your stock, bring it to a boil, and let it simmer for an hour or so. At this point, you can add a can of beans, or some cooked pasta, or rice. Alternatively, you could put it all together in a blender and make a blended soup. It’s totally up to you, but in the end, you have a warming bowl of goodness for lunch or dinner. And, you used up what was left in your fridge. Probably the best part is you didn’t have to leave the comfort of your home…

Amy’s Fat Pants Potatoes

Amy’s Fat Pants PotatoesAny Way You Slice It
I have a number of kitchen tools that I just can’t live without. Some of them I use on a daily basis (like my mini prep) but other tools only come out occasionally. These tools are worthy of their spot in the cabinet because they make quick work of whatever I am doing. My tortilla press is one example. My mandolin is another.

If you do not own a mandolin, I would highly recommend you put it on your Christmas list. It doesn’t even need to be one of the super-expensive freestanding kind, though those are pretty nice. The only requirement is that it be sharp because to do what it needs to do, you gotta have a sharp blade. Just watch out for your fingers. It’s really easy to take off the tip of your finger. I speak from experience!

Don’t let the danger turn you away, though. A mandolin can be the key to crispy homemade potato chips or really fantastic gratin dishes like the one below that I like to call Fat Pants Potatoes. I only ever make these during the holidays because if you eat them more often than that you will have no choice but to wear pants with a little give in them.

If you don’t have a mandolin, never fear. A similar result can be found using a food processor with a slicing blade or by even, gasp! using a knife like most people.

Amy’s Fat Pants Potatoes
Adapted from Food 52 Genius Recipes
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…