Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Spicy Lentil Soup

I really don't know what's with me these days - it's been topping out in the 90s here in Minnesota, but I get all excited when I see a new soup recipe that I want to try.  I guess that this proclivity makes me thankful for central air conditioning.

When I first tried this recipe - found in the most recent issue of the Food Network magazine - I was imagining all the changes that I could do to make it better - maybe a mirepoix to start out with of carrots and garlic.  A little bit of chicken broth, perhaps?  But when I finally sat down to try my latest creation, I decided that it was damn good as is.

Spicy Lentil Soup
from Food Network Magazine, September 2010

2 c. red lentils
1 serrano chile pepper, chopped (if you want less heat - remove the seeds. If you are brave or maybe suffering from a head cold and need spices to knock you back into normality, go ahead and leave them in.)
1 large tomato, rough chop
1 1 1/2 piece of ginger, peeled and grated
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 tsp. ground tumeric
Kosher salt
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 c. plain yogurt

Combine the lentils and 7 cups of water in a pot, bring to a boil.  Add the chile pepper, tomato, ginger, garlic and tumeric.  Simmer over medium heat for 18-20 minutes, until the mixture is thickened slightly.  Stir in the cilantro.  Season with salt.  (Trust me - it will need salt.)

Mix the yogurt with 2 T. of water in a small bowl.  Ladle the soup into bowls and top with some of the yogurt.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kiddie Cocktails a.k.a. "Kitty Cottontails"

I'd like you guys to meet my nephew Joe.

This is Joe ... he's pretty cute.

Recently, I got to go on vacation with my family - my parents, my older brother and his wife, and their three youngest sons - Jordan, 14 (going on 23); Cody, he turned 11 on the trip and Joe, who is six.  I think.  Anyway - my mom had broken her ankle, so she asked me if I would help out on this trip - unfortunately, my husband stayed at home - so I drove solo to the Wisconsin Dells to meet up with my family.

I had the honor of accompanying Joe on his first excursion in a waterpark.  And after we had conquered the pirate ship (with some young punk demanding that we call him "Captain Jack."), I told my youngest boy that it was time for refreshments.

"I want a kitty cottontail," Joe stated.
"A what?"
"A kitty cottontail."

I looked over at my mom who translated for me.  "He wants a kiddie cocktail."  I was immediately transported to when I was a kid and we'd have happy hour over at my grandparents' house.  Yeah, you read that right - a CC Sweet for grandpa, something with sloe gin in it for my grandma, kiddie cocktails for me and my brother and Keebler Butter Pretzel Twists all around, dipped in French onion dip.  (Ooh, the decadence of French onion dip!)  We'd then play euchre and revel in how sophisticated we were to have happy hour with my grandparents.

Given that my nephew Joseph Stanley was named after my grandpa Stan, there was something appropriate about his request.

Having a hankering for a kitty cottontail?  You can find instructions on how to make them, here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tomato Cucumber Salad

This recipe doesn't really need any kind of introduction - it's the kind of dish that celebrates seasonal ingredients and stands on its own.  (And it's the kind of dish that I dream of come winter when cucumbers and tomatoes are available, but so incredibly pathetic ...)

Tomato Cucumber Salad
by ShelleyBakes! And an amalgam of about a dozen different recipes I've drooled at over the years

2 medium cucumbers, sliced
1 large tomato, cut into wedges
1/2 C of those little mozzarella pearls that you can find in the store
Fresh basil (to your taste - I didn't have very much, would definitely add more)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Toss ingredients with Simple Balsamic Vinagarette dressing.  Let sit for about 45 minutes to an hour to let the flavors meld together.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Summer Berry Cobbler

I admit that I'm kind of late to the Tyler Florence bandwagon.  Yes, the man is handsome.  Yes, the man can cook, but he's no Ina Garten.  And for some odd reason, other than the occasional foray into "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" territory or a chance tryst with Alton Brown's "Good Eats," I like my food show hosts to be female.

I really don't know what that says about me.

Anyhoo ... I had some wonderful friends over for dinner a few weekends ago and although I did not intend to make dessert, I was celebrating the foods of the season - a tomato and cucumber salad with vegetables fresh from the farmer's market!  Wine! (That never is out of season.) Grilled meats!  Although ice cream would have done the trick, it really wasn't the finale that my meal was calling for ... so I went to and typed in "cobbler."  And this was the nummiest dish that they spat out at me.

Hello, lovah ...
Summer Berry Cobbler
Adapted from Tyler Florence

    * 1 pint blueberries
    * 1 pint raspberries (**I used some frozen ones that I had in my freezer.  Didn't give 'em time to thaw, just chucked them in there.)
    * 1 pint blackberries
    * 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more, for dusting
    * Pinch cinnamon
    * 2 tablespoons cornstarch (**Can't find my fracking cornstarch - used a scant tablespoon of flour.  Which didn't necessarily hurt the recipe, but didn't really help it either.)
    * 1/2 lemon, juiced
    * 1 recipe scone dough, recipe follows
    * Melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, combine berries with sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch and lemon juice. Stir gently to combine. Spread berry mixture out on a 10-inch tart or gratin dish. Dollop spoonfuls of scone dough evenly over the top of the fruit; leave a border around the edge of the dish for spreading. Drizzle the surface with melted butter and dust with sugar. Set on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 to 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and the fruit juices bubbling.

Cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with heavy cream, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

These are next day's leftovers.  Can't tell if my husband actually likes the cobbler or if he's using it as a vehicle for ice cream ...

Scone Dough Recipe:

    * 2 cups all purpose flour
    * 1 tablespoon baking powder
    * 1 teaspoon salt
    * 1/3 cup sugar
    * 1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut in chunks
    * 3/4 cup buttermilk or cream
    * 1 egg

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar; mix thoroughly. Cut in butter using 2 forks or a pastry blender. The butter pieces should be coated with flour and resemble crumbs.

In another bowl, mix buttermilk and egg together, and then add to the flour mixture. Mix just to incorporate, do no overwork the dough.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Morrocan Meatball Stew

Because I want to fit into this really cute top that I recently bought and eventually spawn with my husband, I joined Weight Watchers last month.  As anyone who has been on this program will tell you, it's nice because you can eat anything that you want as long as you follow the alloted points assigned to you and for someone like me, it really helps me with portion control.

Thie recipe comes from a Weight Watchers cookbook that I acquired awhile ago from my favorite thrift store.  Boldly flavored, it's the kind of dish that makes you think "what diet?"

Morrocan Meatball Stew
Adapted from Weight Watchers

1 lb. lean ground beef
2 T. cilantro, chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. paprika (I used hot Hungarian paprika - yeow!  Good stuff!)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T. olive oil
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
3 oz. tomato paste (that's half a can)
3/4 c. water

Take the ground beef and add 1 T. of the cilantro, 1 tsp. of cumin and 1 tsp. paprika.  Throw some pepper in there for good measure and salt if you so desire.  Mix this up and make little meatballs that you'll set aside.  (The recipe said it would make 24 mini-meatballs, I got 16.)

Next up, chop the onion and the garlic.  Saute this in a large covered skillet with about 2 T. of olive oil for 3-5 minutes, until tender.  Add the additional cumin, cilantro and paprika, as well as the tomato, water and tomato paste, stirring well to incorporate.  Bring to a boil.  Add the meatballs and cover the skillet, keeping at a simmer and stirring occassionally for 30-35 minutes, until the meatballs are done and the sauce thickens.  (To get the sauce to thicken, I uncovered the dish for the last 10 minutes of cooking.)

During the last minutes of cooking, make yourself some couscous to pour the stew over.

One cup of couscous and one cup of the stew is 8 Weight Watchers points.  Woo hoo!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Summer Sangria

Two words:  Drink this.

Summer Sangria
adapted from Ezra Pound Cake who got it from Bon Appetit

(Headnote from Ezra Pound Cake:  "Feel free to use whatever fresh fruit you have on hand – strawberries, pineapple, mangoes, blackberries, chopped green apple, etc. – as long as you include at least one citrus fruit.")

    * 1 750-ml bottle of chilled White Zinfandel (**you may use the cheap stuff.  Although, come to think of it - is there such thing as expensive white zin?)
    * 1/2 cup peach schnapps
    * 2 tablespoons triple sec
    * 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
    * 1 lemon, sliced
    * 1 orange, sliced
    * 1 peach, sliced into wedges
    * 1 can of Sprite or whatever lemon lime soda you have handy.
    * Ice cubes

1. Mix the liquor, the fruit and cinnamon sticks in a large pitcher. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

2. Pour in soda.  Fill 6 wineglasses with ice cubes. Pour sangria over ice and serve.