Sunday, January 19, 2020

Mark Bittman's Curried Lentil and Potato Soup {An All-Time Fave}

Back in 2010, not long after I started my blog, I made Bittman's Curried Lentil and Potato Soup. This would turn out to be my very favorite lentil recipe and I would go on to make it countless times.

This is hands down one of the most comforting dishes on my blog. It is also extremely cheap, simple, and healthy. As a bonus, everyone should have these ingredients on hand in their pantry.

Lentils, potatoes, can of coconut milk, homemade broth or water, and curry powder. Years ago, when I made this for the very first time, I simply used water in place of broth and it was still delicious. This time around I used Mark Bittman's Quick Vegetable Stock that I made and shared last week.

The cost of this soup is so minimal. We're talking $3-4 for the entire pot of soup. Beyond the minimal cost, this soup is incredibly healthy, especially with the homemade veggie stock. It is vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and probably friendly for just about ANY diet. There's no butter or oil needed, so the only fat you get is from the coconut milk. Lentils are a powerhouse, low in calories, but rich in iron and folate, and an excellent source of protein. If you'd like, leave the skin on the potatoes to gain all the nutrients of the potato, full of vitamin B, vitamin C, iron calcium, and potassium.

This soup is soul-soothing. I find it so very delicious and comforting. It's thick and hearty, almost creamy, with incredible flavor. I absolutely adore it and have no problems eating the whole batch myself. In fact, it makes for a very tasty lunch at work and keeps very well in the fridge.

If you're fond of lentils, please do yourself a favor and make this recipe. I'm convinced this recipe is THE ONE as far as lentil soup goes. And, if this recipe appears too simple and you feel the need to change things up, do me a favor and don't. Make it just how it's written. The curry powder delivers the amount of seasoning. If you do feel inclined to add another spice, a dash or so of coriander seed works well.

Curried Lentil and Potato Soup
Adapted from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian
by Mark Bittman
Serves 4-6

1 cup dried brown lentils, washed and picked over
3-1/2 cups mixture (one can of coconut milk + vegetable broth or water)
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 medium russet potatoes, chopped, skins on
salt and pepper, to taste
cilantro, for garnish, if you like

Combine the lentils, liquids, and curry powder in a stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low so that the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils start to absorb the water a bit, about 15 minutes.

Add the potatoes and cover the pan completely. Cook, undisturbed for 10 minutes or so, then stir gently and check to make sure the lentils aren't too dry. If so, add a little more liquid. Add the salt and pepper as the lentils become tender.

Cover and continue to cook until the lentils are sot and beginning to turn to mush and the potatoes are tender at the center, another 5-10 minutes (mine had to go longer); add liquid if necessary. The mixture should be moist but not soupy. Add lots of black pepper, stir, then taste and adjust the seasoning and serve, garnished with yogurt, if you like, and/or cilantro.

Souper Sundays @ Kahakai Kitchen

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Mark Bittman's Quick Vegetable Stock {Zero Food Waste}

The Zero Food Waste movement has been going strong for a while, but it's something that I've always practiced in my kitchen. I absolutely CANNOT STAND to watch anyone throw food away, let alone do it myself.

I have a couple tricks up my sleeve when it comes to using what I have. Quite often I have veggies and/or fruits that start to languish. When this happens I mostly cut them up, if need be, and freeze them for later. Other times, if I have enough veggies going off at the same time, I'll make vegetable stock.

Today I gathered up some leftover veggies that have been looming around, plus some shitake mushrooms I bought at the farmers market yesterday. I don't care for the texture of mushrooms, but I am crazy about their savory earthy flavor and they make a wonderful addition to any stock.

I followed Mark Bittman's recipe, but as you can see below, there are endless combinations to choose from. Clean out your veggie bin and use what you have. That's the number one goal: zero waste.

I recommend making veggie stock to everyone I know because it is the best way to use up what you have. Simply throw it all in a large stockpot, add enough water to cover, and set to simmer. Walk away. It's one of the easiest things you'll ever make.

Now, a good question my friends ask is, "what do I do with the veggie stock?" Well, personally, I like to warm mine up in a mug and drink it. It's warm and cozy and full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Another huge go-to for me is a hearty and comforting lentil soup, but any veggie-based soup would be a wonderful way to use your stock. I also like to keep some stock around to deglaze a pan when needed. However, once you make it, you will find many uses for it!

Quick Vegetable Stock
Adapted From The Food Matters Cookbook
by Mark Bittman
Makes about 2 quarts

4 carrots, cut into chunks
2 medium or 1 large onion, unpeeled and quartered*
2 potatoes, scrubbed and skins left on, cut into chunks
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped (leaves included)
3 or 4 garlic cloves
20 or so stems parsley, with or without leaves
salt and black pepper, to taste

Optional add-ins: dried or fresh mushrooms; fresh, or canned, tomatoes; root vegetables such as parsnips or turnips; winter squash; fresh herbs; leeks; lemon zest; cloves or other warm spices; gingerroot. Avoid bell peppers or eggplant, which are too bitter. If you use cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli, their flavors will dominate.

Make sure all your produce is clean. Combine everything in a stockpot with 3 quarts water and salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil and adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily but gently. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes (cooking longer will improve the flavor, but a few minutes less won't hurt much either). I cooked mine about 45 minutes, tasting and seasoning occasionally to see if the flavors were where I wanted them to be.

Strain, then taste and adjust seasoning before using. Cool before refrigerating or freezing.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Giada's Crispy Chicken Thighs with Peppers and Capers

The beginning of the new year is a time for clearing out the old and bringing in the new. You know... your freezer, your fridge, and your pantry. Over the holidays I accumulated a lot of ingredients: antipasto, cheeses, fresh herbs, various loaves of bread, and some odds and ends in my freezer.

Giada's recipe for Crispy Chicken Thighs with Peppers and Capers is a fabulous way to use up all those bits and pieces, while also eating more healthfully.

This chicken dish is inspired by Peperonata, a classic Italian dish consisting of sauteed peppers olives, and capers that melts in your mouth. This classic combination of flavors is the perfect bed for crispy chicken thighs. Make sure to get the chicken crackly and delicious by searing them in a very hot pan for a full 8 minutes - you are looking for a dark golden brown. You want the texture of the crispy skin against the tender meat with the melt-in-your-mouth flavors of the Peperonata. This dish tastes as delicious as it smells!

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Peppers and Capers
Adapted from Giada's Italy
by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil
4 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 anchovy fillet or 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced into thin strips
1 shallot, diced small
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Dry the chicken very well with paper towels and season evenly on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the thighs in the hot pan, skin-side down, and cook without moving for about 8 minutes, or until dark golden brown. Flip the thighs and cook an additional 3 minutes. Transfer the thighs to a baking sheet and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160F. 

While the chicken roasts, place the same pan over medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the anchovy and mash it with the back of a wooden spoon until it dissolves into the oil. Add the bell pepper and salt, to taste, to the pan and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, until cooked through and soft. Stir in the shallots and cook an additional minute. Add the olives, capers, and oregano to the pan and stir to combine.  

Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the pepper mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the bread crumbs have soaked up all the flavored oil. Cook, stirring constantly until the bread crumbs are toasted and the flavors have married, about another 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Spoon the bread crumb mixture onto a platter. Top with the chicken thighs and drizzle with any accumulated juices from the baking sheet.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Yotam Ottolenghi's Seeded Chicken Schnitzel

Once a year I go through my spice cabinets. Today was the day and let me tell ya, there was a lot of ridiculousness going on in that cabinet: THREE huge jars of paprika, THREE jars of cajun seasoning, and FOUR jars of various sesame seeds. Why was I thinking?

To remedy this issue, I've made a list of the spices I have on hand and took a photo to store on my phone. My hope is that I will remember to reference this photo before buying any addition spices. Otherwise, the cabinet may explode.

Now, in all seriousness, it is imperative that I use up all these sesame seeds. I remembered Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for Seeded Chicken Schnitzel and decided today was the day.

Not only does his seeded breadcrumb chicken look absolutely delicious, but it also uses SIX tablespoons of white sesame seeds and TWO tablespoons of black sesame seeds. That is about one and a half jars of sesame seeds, friends! Woohoo! Plus it uses panko, sunflower seeds, coriander seeds, as well as cayenne, and turmeric. All of which I had little bits of that needed using up.

It's worth noting that you should use coriander seeds, not ground coriander. You will be rewarded with the most heady citrusy aroma while crushing them up in a mortar and pestle. It's intoxicating.

This is a beautiful breading, folks. Just look at all the gorgeous color and texture. It's flavorful (you can really taste the coriander, as well as the seeds) and so very crunchy with so many different textures. This is lovely with a squeeze of lemon on top, but would also be nice with aioli or some kind of dipping sauce.

Ottolenghi says, "If you get hooked on this simple supper dish- and I believe the chances are pretty good - make an extra batch of the seed and breadcrumb mix. It keeps well in an airtight container for about 1 month and is really useful to have on hand. It works as well on strips of white fish or sticks of butternut squash as it does on the chicken."

Seeded Chicken Schnitzel
Adapted from Simple
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4-8

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each piece cut 
into 3 long strips (1.5 pounds)*
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
salt and black pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/3 cups panko crumbs
6 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
4-1/2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, roughly chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds, roughly crushed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
about 7 tablespoons or more sunflower oil, for frying
1 lemon, quartered, to serve

*Notes: I used chicken tenderloins that I pounded thin in place of chicken breast. This recipe makes quite a bit of breadcrumb mixture. You could almost cut the breadcrumb mixture in half and/or make the whole batch and save half, using only what's needed. I ended up throwing away about one and a half cups breadcrumb mixture because it had been with the raw chicken and couldn't be used again.

Place the meat between two bits of plastic wrap, then, one at a time, gently flatten them with a rolling pin; they should end up about 1/2 inch thick (or alternatively place the meat in a plastic bag).

In a medium bowl, mix the flour with 1/4 teaspoon salt and some black pepper.

Put the eggs into a second bowl.

In a third bowl, mix the panko, both sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.

Dip each bit of chicken into the flour and gently shake off the excess. Now dip it into the egg, then into the seed mix, to coat well. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Put enough oil into a large frying pan to rise 1/4 inch up the sides and place over low to medium heat.  Once hot, add the chicken in batches and fry for 5-6 minutes total, turning after 2-1/2 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate while you continue with the remaining batch and serve hot, with wedges of lemon alongside.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Tessa's Omeleta {American-Style}

Early this year I tried Tessa's Omeleta Horiatiki with potato, feta, and oregano. Needless to say, this omeleta has some of my all-time favorite ingredients: egg, potato, and feta. I instantly fell in love. Tessa's recipe went right to my favorites list for the year.

This time of year is full of reflection and I feel a great amount of comfort & joy in recipes that are loved so well they become part of my regular rotation.

This time of year is also as busy as can be and I find a great amount of comfort & joy in recipes that are easy to make, yet delicious.

This time of year is also the time I go COMPLETELY out of my way to stay out of the store. So, it is with the GREATEST amount of comfort & joy that some version of this recipe can be made with ingredients found at home.

This time of year is also for Christmas vacation, sleeping in, and enjoying LOTS of leisurely breakfasts, my all-time favorite meal.

So, on day 2 of my 16-day Christmas vacation, I raided the fridge and came up with this Christmasy version of Tessa's Omeleta, keeping the potato crust (because that is a must) and adding some steamed broccoli for the green, some chopped cooked bacon for the red, and some good ol' American cheddar cheese to bring it all together.

Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Adapted from Food From Many Greek Kitchens
by Tessa Kiros
Serves 4

1/8 cup olive oil
1 small potato, peeled, cut into 1/8 inches rounds
3 eggs, scrambled
steamed chopped broccoli
couple pieces chopped cooked bacon
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and black pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste

Note: This recipe is halved to make a personal pan sized frittata.

Heat the oil in a small 6" or 8" inch nonstick skillet. Add the potato rounds and fry gently on both sides until golden (but not too crisp) and completely cooked through. Salt and pepper lightly. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if using. 

If you have a broiler, preheat it now. Pour the eggs into the skillet, shuffling gently so that they can leak down and around the potatoes. Add the broccoli, bacon, and cheese and cover with a lid until the eggs are set throughout but still runny on top. Keep an eye on the heat to ensure that the bottom doesn't burn but forms a golden crust. Take the lid off and place the skillet 4 inchesor so under the broiler. When the omeleta is no longer runny, remove from the heat and leave it with the lid on for a couple minutes. Loosen the edges and slide it out of the skillet onto a serving plate. Serve hot, with a grind of black pepper, to taste.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Ina Garten's Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread can be a tricky thing. The dough tends to be a crumbly mess and takes quite a bit of finesse. I've tried my hand at shortbread half a dozen times with various results.

This time around I read up on some tips. Proper shortbread is a few simple ingredients: butter, flour, sugar, salt, and maybe vanilla. The first ingredient, butter, is the most prominent ingredient and it holds a fair amount of moisture. One of the secrets to achieving the desired crumbly texture and sweet flavor is to allow the dough to dry out, or rest. Chilling, or resting, the dough allows the moisture from the butter to evaporate, and with less water in the dough, the sugar concentrates. Since the dough is comprised of only three essential ingredients, this is a crucial step to ensure that all the flavors stand out.

Also, I didn't want to overwork the dough and have tough, hard cookies so I took a slightly different approach than Ina. I didn't use my stand mixer because I feel like I tend to overmix with it. Instead, I used my hand mixer until the dough started to come together and then I used my hands to warm up the butter in the dough and help everything come together.  This was a successful approach and the dough came together quickly with the warmth from my hands. Our hands are our best tools, and since the first recorded recipe for shortbread was printed in Scotland in 1736, I'm positive this is the way to go.

Ina calls for you to shape the freshly mixed dough into a flat disk and chill. For the life of me, I can't understand this step. First, it's entirely unnecessary and second, it has you kneading the tar out of the dough, essentially overworking it. Why not shape the dough into a rectangular log so that when you remove the chilled dough you can simply slice it and bake it? So I did it my way.

When I went to slice the dough  I was worried that it would crumble apart. It did not. It sliced like a dream and baked up the most beautiful shortbread cookies I've ever made! This is a fabulous recipe! The cookies themselves are GINORMOUS, but have the perfect texture and flavor, especially with the added chocolate. This is going to be my new go-to shortbread recipe. The only thing I might do differently next time is experiment with making them smaller. These cookies as written are about 2 inches wide and one inch thick. Too big, even for a sweets lover.

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Food Network
Recipe by Ina Garten
Makes 20-24

3/4 pounds butter, at room temperature (3 sticks butter)
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
6-7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer as I did), mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat dish (or skip a step and shape the dough into a rectangular shaped log so that you can immediately slice the cookies once the dough has chilled). Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. 

Roll the dough 1/2" thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter (or do things much simpler by following my directions above, making a log with the dough and slicing the dough into cookies once chilled). Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet (I used parchment) and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (mine were done in 20 minutes), until the edges begin to brown. You do not want to overcook these cookies so check frequently and pay close attention! Allow the cookies to cool to room temperature.

When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Put 3ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave for 30 seconds, stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it is completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.

Dunk the cookies or drizzle the cookies as you wish, with as much chocolate as you like. I was afraid the cookies would crumble when I dunked mine (my chocolate was quite thick) so I used a spoon to coat the cookies. This is where you can be creative and put a small amount of chocolate or coat them entirely in chocolate. Have fun with it! Make it your own!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Giada's Sausage and Broccoli Pizza

You ever notice how you can make something 20 or 30 times, the same exact way, and yet it turns out differently from time to time? This happens to me frequently. I've made a lot of pizzas. They always turn out good. Then I made this pizza, the same way I always do, and it turned out extra fabulous!

Beautiful golden-brown crust rising up perfectly around the edges with lots of bubbles (I love bubbles on pizza crust), cheese perfectly melted, just the right amount of toppings, and a little bit of oil on top (some people like to blot that oil on top, not me - that's good flavor right there).

I was marveling at the pizza as I pulled it out of the oven. How in the world did the pizza turn out so well? I'll confess: I didn't even want to make the pizza so it definitely was not made with love. I also used the same ingredients as I usually do. So, what gives?

While I'm not sure why it turned out so well I can only hope that I can get the same results again because this pizza was INSANELY DELICIOUS! Golden brown pizza crust with my favorite Rao's sauce, spicy Italian sausage, broccoli, melty mozzarella, nutty Parmesan, topped off with red pepper flakes, fresh torn basil, and marinated garlic and olives. There's just a little bit of everything going on here. It's pizza perfection. The perfect treat for enjoying while we trim the Christmas tree.

Sausage and Broccoli Pizza
Adapted from Food Network
by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
One 28-ounce can tomato paste*
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casing removed*
1 bunch broccoli, cut into bite-size florets (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons flour
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
1 cup Parmesan
red pepper flakes, to taste
Optional: Marinated olives and garlic, for topping*

Notes: I only used about 1/2 to 1/3 pound of sausage. This recipe calls for making a homemade pizza sauce. I love Rao's pizza sauce so I used that. I also added marinated black and green olives and marinated garlic from the olive bar at my local Whole Foods.

In a medium bowl, combine the basil, 1/2 cup of the olive oil, the salt and tomato puree. Stir together until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours to allow flavors to marry. (Or, alternatively, buy your favorite jarred pizza sauce - I used Rao's and I love it. My all-time favorite).

Preheat the oven to 500F. Place a rack on the highest level and also on the lowest level (you will be switching starting the pizza on the bottom rack and moving to the upper rack).

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the sausage and cook, breaking apart with a wooden spoon to form bite-size pieces, until golden brown and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add the broccoli to the pan and stir to mix with the sausage. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. 

Dust an upside-down rimmed baking sheet with the flour. Gently stretch the pizza dough and place it on the dusted tray. Continue to stretch out to 1/4" thick, leaving it a little thicker around the edges. Spread 1 cup of the sauce over the dough and top with the sausage and broccoli.  Spread the sausage and broccoli around evenly and top with torn pieces of mozzarella, filling in the holes and distributing evenly. Then top with the Parmesan. If using the marinated garlic, as I did, scatter it over the pizza. Add a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, if you wish.

Place the into the oven on the bottom rack first. You really want to cook the bottom of the pizza first. Bake for about 5-6 minutes. Then switch the pizza to the upper rack and cook for about 5 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Top the pizza with more Parmesan, torn basil, and marinated olives, if you wish. The olives really brighten up the dish and lend a fresh zingy flavor.

Tree Trimming Treats @ IHCC