Monday, December 31, 2007

Curried Pea Dip

So simple. Four ingredients (plus salt) is all it takes to make a delicious little dip that will ensure that you are the second most talked about party-goer after the host. It won't upstage, but it will make you new pals. And the host will likely get the recipe by force before you leave the party.

I would not lie to you about this.

It originally came from Real Simple magazine several years ago. I think it was Real Simple. That sounds right. One of those urban, young, hipster mags that has things like room organizing for condo owners, home projects for the suburban twenty-something with 1,800 sq. ft. and a crib, and dips for Saturday evening ladies night parties. Take the scallions and rought chop them. Throw them into the food processor with some kosher salt and curry powder. Pour your thawed peas on top.

Now, a moment of your time. I have made this several dozen times over the past four years, so trust me. Thaw the peas. The consistency will be MUCH better. Put them in a collander in the sink for an hour. Get rid of the excess moisture.Pour a bit of olive oil over it all and lid up. Make sure you have the pour spout top on. Pulse a few times to get everything going and then turn the motor on while you drizzle in about 1/4 cup of olive oil (if you're making a family size order of peas with a full bunch of scallions, that is).

What you end up with is here. It's a creamy dip, the low-fat dieter's guacamole with curry. I even sprinkled a little bit of extra curry powder on top this time. Just a little bit of contrast, not too much extra flavor.

Veggies and chips are the flavor delivery vehicles for this job. Pita and bagel chips work best, followed by red and yellow peppers. The crispy chips with their salt really matches very well with the sweet, creamy peas and the bite of the curry powder.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Places to Eat: Bluegrass Kitchen

"Located near the West Virginia State Capitol, Bluegrass features a beautiful dining-room restored to it's circa 1920's look with pressed tin ceilings, exposed brick and an oak floor. The decor expresses a connection to the arts. Several artists work in studios throughout the building, and bluegrass serves as a gallery for their works."

Local restaurants are treats to me. I'm a social creature, so I always have people over when I cook at home, and I always love to go out to eat. I'm not a foodie that shuns the 'cooked elsewhere.' So I love that there are some places nearby that satisfy my requirements for good food AND good people.

The exhibit you see before (er, above) you is the food part of the Bluegrass Kitchen. It's on the East End here in Charleston, which makes it even better, as it's a neighborhood joint. That plate of gloppy goodness is their corned beef hash with pepper gravy over a homemade potato cake with green and red peppers. For some reason, I need to tell you about the peppers first. Whatever they do to them (I suspect a quick saute), the peppers are still crunchy and sweet and flavor the whole potato cake. That's a flavor I always remember about the BK.

The corned beef? They make it. I told H (server and pal extraordinairre) that whoever was corning the beef should keep on corning. Turns out his name is Vinny. Vinny, you do damn fine work.

BK's food is fresh, portioned so as not to blimp-out all of Charleston, and Americana in the 'foodies like good food in cafe-setting restaurants these days' kind of way. There's the Perfect Chicken sandwich, the grilled black bean burrito, the mac n cheese (farfalle, creamy Monterrey Jack and cottage cheese, and peas), the homemade meatball sub (real meatballs, good bread, NOT a chain sammy rip-off).

And then there is the brunch. God bless them and their regular menu. It's really tasty. But the brunch is where I can't miss.

Today's special was a quesadilla with scrambled eggs, pico folded in, diced ham, and cheeses...mmmmmm, cheeses. The quiche was feta, mediterranean somethin' (I must confess to zoning out and dreaming of the dang quesadilla). There was a smoked salmon something too.

Me, I was choosing between the 'dilla, the corned beef hash, and the green eggs and ham (with my eggs poached instead of scrambled with the basil pesto folded in). H and I chatted about my options for a minute. But he knows me. If there's homemade corned beef in a kitchen fewer than fifteen feet from my person, I'm getting it.

You can clearly see here that I made, if not THE right, at least A right choice. I would have left the toast too, but it was so good at being a gravy distribution vehicle. Distribution occuring in and near my gullet. The napkin got used. Had there been gravy remaining, it would have been a close call between using the spoon or the orange slice to make sure I rectified the situation.

BK is also very popular. I timed my entry to coincide with the early church service folks leaving and the late church service folks not having yet arrived. I timed it well. Sat at the bar then moved over to a table when I found out H was serving on the floor. (This timing also ensures that my grocery shopping ends at or after 1pm, so I can buy the half-case of wine in my cart after the blue-book alcohol sale laws have expired for another week.)

There were full tables and a wait started. One of H's regulars was sitting at a four top and just got up, moved her stuff to the bar, and gave up the table. "No sense in making people wait," she said as she put her newspaper and coffee down at the second stool of the six-seat bar. H didn't mind at all. He's good peeps. Good thing she was a nice lady too as the three ladies that sat down turned into five, then seven, with two just sort of hovering (not unpleasantly at all) near the table. Likely waiting for my two-top to open up next to their friends' table. Worked out well that my plate was 'damn-near-licked' clean.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wild Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna

Even Rednecks Know It's A Good Thing

It's fitting, really, that the only pictures worth using to show you Martha's Wild Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna are of the prep stages. Fitting, because I never did get to taste the final product.

That's okay, because Red coming up to me and saying "Congratulations, the lasagna was gone by 10pm" is exactly the thing I want to hear. Doesn't do me any good to cook it if they're not going to eat it.

The mushrooms are sauted in butter until soft and then deglazed with Madiera. I got the bottle of Madiera they had in Kroger. I am sure it was not quality Madiera. I think the end results were probably okay. The spinach was sauted in butter and garlic, then set aside to drain. For those keeping track of my screw-ups in the kitchen, please note that getting enough mushrooms and spinach for the mushroom and spinach lasagna? It's a good thing to do. I was spreading a little thin for a four layer lasagna.

DT got his take home portion and said even T liked a little taste, and that she's skeptical of any lasagna without tomato as an ingredient. Gotta tell ya, if you put that much cheese into a sauce, the Heinz family wouldn't miss tomatoes in their lasagna. And if you think I'm kidding, just stop reading and focus on the other prep picture I was able to squeeze off. I actually think this may be the first of many good pictures with the new camera. The real advantage being that I can use a macro setting now, and snap off a dozen versions.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Treating Pierogies and Galumki Like Tapas

This is the place. Well, the place if you're me, my sister, and SM the Sunday for Christmas. We were going to go to Peter's Inn, but they were closed. Bec was initially disappointed (don't worry, she got better). She was totally intrigued by SM's description of "biker bar with gourmet food." Alas, it was not to be. S'okay, we made do.

Ze Mean Bean Cafe was right around the corner. While not quite as intrigued as biker gourmet, the name of this place and SM's tale of slavic cuisine won us over. Thank goodness for that.

We sat down and had a slow go getting into the food now groove. No rush to order, which was good 'cause we had no idea what we wanted. The decor was warm, they'd just finished a renovation in September. There was a classical guitarist. Nice stuff.

We started with wine. I went red, SM went white, Bec went water with no ice. Still no ordering of food. That happened after a few sips of wine.

Finally, we ordered food. SM started with an appetizer sampler. One each of a potato, farmer's cheese, and sauerkraut pierogies, one holupki (mini cabbage wrap), a potato pancake with applesauce, and polish kielbasa. SM ordered a Krupnik Crabcake and a stuffed crepe; Bec ordered a crepe, a bowl of borscht, and the Cold Honey Mint Goat Cheese salad (asking for that to come last); I went with the "I'll sample their samplers and get a main course" strategy and ordered a full plate of the Holupki (Gulumki). About 20 minutes in, after the sampler plate had arrived, Bec was moved to order another plate of pierogies.

When the borscht came, Bec dug in. Then proceeded to tell us she hated borscht. I may have lost some wine through my nose. SM was much more composed. We discussed. Then our lovely server came over and the order of pierogie plate two occured. This occured also.

Bec: Your borscht is great.

Server: Thanks.

Bec: And I hate borscht.

Server: Then why did you order it?

Bec: Because it's what your restaurant does best. I had to try, and it was great, so fresh.

We merrily ate our way through the rest of the meal. I loved it all. Bec loved the inside of the crepe more than the crepe itself, but I beg to differ. I think the Hungarian Chimichanga was divine. Divine I say.

The crabcake was the hit of the meal. So good that I took a sip of wine, looked up, and said "Can I have another bite of crab cake." Twenty minutes after it was gone. I had 'ghost-food.'

It's described on the menu as "a 4 oz. Maryland crab cake served with a spicy Polish honey vodka sauce over greens and asparagus." What I notice now is that the menu also says "entree portion available." Damn.

Bec made me take a picture of the salad when it arrived. MADE me take a picture. And you can see why. It was gorgeous. Bec couldn't finish it, or start it. But I hear tell she had a pretty fine breakfast the next morning.

I'll be back for sure (after several other places SM and I have on a Baltimore list) and you should go there yourself.

Ze Mean Bean Cafe on Urbanspoon

Baingan Bartha for Tanzy

So a when a trumpet-playing fool of a friend who talks to you about Indian food non-stop leaves for North Dakota to get more schoolin', you make him some baingan bartha. Of course, it was not easy to find a recipe. I looked here, here, and here. Please note the 'not exactly mainstream' nature of the URLs.

But each of them gets the drift of what I was looking for. Eggplant, roasted or grilled, peas/tomatoes, and some combination of spices and herbs. I went with seranos for heat, ginger for fragrance, and a spice mixture of cumin, coriander, and chilli powder.

I gave it to T late last night, so I'll hear from him whenever he wakes up from a long night a playing music with the RK Quartet. But the bowl I ate was a fairly tasty bit o' goodness. Since I didn't make ghee, and just used butter, it didn't have the uber-Indian creaminess. But I have to say, the heat and ginger was the real deal. I will need to roast the eggplant more next time to get it all softened.

It's not much to look at if you're in a 'pretty food tastes good' world, but really, if that's the only world you live in, it's time to move on.

If you wanted to get this real deal Indian, you'd probably follow one of the Indian recipes, and you'd probably make ghee to start it all off. It's clarified butter and adds a creamy texture and a buttery flavor that can't be replicated by adding extra butter at the end. Next time, it's ghee for me.

  • 2 medium onions diced fine
  • 3 small tomatoes, diced fine
  • 2 medium eggplants, roasted and skin removed then mashed
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t coriander
  • 1 t chilli powder
  • 2 t turmeric
  • 3 T finely minced ginger
  • 6 T butter, divided

  1. Melt 3T butter (this is the skipping of ghee step).
  2. Add onion, salt, pepper, saute for 5 minutes.
  3. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and saute for 5 minutes.
  4. Add ginger, saute until fragrant.
  5. Add serano, peas, and tomatoes, stirring through each time.
  6. Add the eggplant, stir through, pour in 1 cup of water, cover and cook for ten minutes.
  7. Uncover and cook for 5 more minutes, adding three T of butter to the mix.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Strength of Arms

Here's what happens when you try to put the frozen block of peas into the pot and break it up with a wooden spoon.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I'm Shrinking

Or rather, I will be. I checked out several reviews, good and bad, went to Sears and Dick's Sporting Goods and tested out several models, and then pulled the trigger on a living room reminder that eating what I want has consequences, and adding 20 minutes of movement to my schedule everyday is not that difficult.

Not a food blog topic? Fah, I say. I want to be able to make this, these, and even this. Because of my desire to feed my taste buds and my tongue, I will also spend a few dollars a month this year to pay off my new toy.

And as you can clearly see here, I was able to remember that pictures were important only after steak fries and half a grilled cheese with bacon were a memory. A salty, fried memory.

And that's not ketchup. Ketchup is good. Wing sauce it better. Really. Trust me. I know things.

So it's very important to me that I eat really good things that make taste buds happy (ummm, can you see that gooey cheese?) and get my lazy, soon to be shrinking butt, out of bed early to stretch and elipt.

All I Got For Christmas

Was a lot, really. In this season of giving, much was given. Of course, coming from my friends and family, there was an ulterior motive. (Too bad that title's already taken.)

As you can see, there was a theme to this Christmas at casa-de-family/friends-of-geeking. And that theme was best expressed by Chez, who calmly noted as I was tearing in to package number one at the McC Christmas morning-fest.

D: Is it my turn now?

Chez: Yes. And this present will be very beneficial to me and J too.

We had to go in order youngest to oldest one present at a time. There were no people there under the age of 22. It was still required to maintain some modicum of Christmas order.

I already have some things in mind to cook with these bits. Chez has required that my new spring-form pans be used to make timbale. The tapas book has a great looking recipe for cheese stuffed eggplant round mini sammys. Can't beat that with a stick.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Date Nut Bread

When you get to cook with Grandma

It has been long enough since I showed you all the aftermath of the baking to give you a look at what came out of the messy, floury, doughy process. This is the second year I have tried to make my grandmother's date nut bread. It's been a success both times, and is one of the reasons I am interested in baking more.

I don't think I have ever tried this recipe when it was made by my grandmother. She was older when I was growing up and cooked less and less. I remember the summer dinners at the farm when the whole family would gather. Grandma and Aunt Juanita would be in the kitchen. Aunt Grace would help some. Aunt Ida had already made three large Tupperware trays of cookies, so her work was done.

When the four sisters were all finished we had cube steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, half-runner green beans, sliced tomatoes from Rene's garden, Parker house rolls, lemonade, iced tea. It is the quintessential family meal for me. Sitting around the huge hardwood dining room table with Uncle Paul saying the blessing and the sisters making sure everyone had something before they ate. Once in a while dad got to sneak some grilled corn on the cob onto the table (and I was a fan of that addition to my mom's family table).

But at Christmastime, when I was growing up, it was Mom that made the date nut bread. I wasn't very cognizant of the process, being more attentive to video games, TV, and running around causing general mayhem as a child. If I think hard, I can remember the batter in a bowl, a neat pile of chopped walnuts on a cutting board, and the smell of vanilla in the air. I have a vague recollection of always wanting to taste the batter and being disappointed that I wasn't able to simply put spoon to bowl. Some raw egg paranoia of my father's most likely.

What I clearly remember are loaf pans, large and small, lining the counter. And even more clear in my mind are the aluminum foil packages, each loaf wrapped in the only shiny that made the season "Christmas." I knew it was the home-stretch time to be good for Santa when Mom handed me a pre-selected count of small loaves to take to school and give to my teachers. No one ever thought I was sucking up. They knew without a shadow of doubt that my mother was doing the small thing she could at the holiday season to apologize for the hell I had, and would, wreak on their classrooms.

We always had some at the house too. Probably two or three of the large loaves for us. One or two for Christmas, and one or two to take to the mountain for the New Year's ski trip. They were always accompanied by a tub of cream cheese. My sister took a slice of bread, smeared on the cream cheese, and nuked the bread to 15 seconds just to soften everything up a little bit. My father would put his in the toaster oven to crisp the outside a bit and then spread on the cream cheese.

Twenty years later, I was going through some index cards my father said were my mothers. He wanted me to give them back to her. He was going through old boxes getting rid of things in the pre-renovation house cleaning. Well I'm guessing they were a set of cards Mom gave to him at some point, because she didn't need them. So I took them, read them, and got ambitious. I was walking through the produce aisle last year and saw dates. It was literally a light bulb moment. I bought them, a bag of walnuts, and trusted that my pantry was 'cake ready' with the dry ingredients I would need. Thankfully, though I don't bake much at all, I believe in a well-stocked pantry.

It was one of the best kitchen moments of my life. My apartment smelled like Christmas, my counter looked like a kitchen counter should, with neat little rounded-top, shiny silver packages. My friends and co-workers got date nut bread like my teachers had before them.

I remember calling my Mom. I've done some fairly amazing things in the kitchen in the past few years, and Mom has been amused and amazed at the fixation, the effort I've put in, the single-minded purpose to read more, learn more, cook more. But calling her and telling her what my kitchen smelled like, what the bread looked like; that was the best moment I could share with her. It wasn't a son and mother talking about some recipe from Food & Wine, or a new Thai place that opened up near the apartment, or even remembering the family gathering when Bec decided sweet potatoes with marshmallows were anathema to Thanksgiving and made a sweet potato souffle to prove it.

This was the little kid who used to help Mom in the kitchen by mixing 'potions' getting to spend time in the kitchen with his grandmother, long after he really had the chance. It was all Mom's time and patience and love at the holidays finally coming out through me.

Mom didn't get around to it last year. The kitchen in the new apartment was small, she and S were leaving to go to the beach in NC for the holidays, there had been travel for work. It had been a busy year. Me? I was just finished with a campaign, had closed up the office, and wasn't starting my new job until after the new year.

Down from Annapolis on Christmas day. Through the rain and the wind in Virginia, past Richmond, into North Carolina, east to Wilmington, past Camp Lejeune, down toward the coast. I turned off the main road on a cool and clear North Carolina night, down to Topsail Island to the bend in the road and then just to the left, last house before the gated community on the island's south tip. I lugged the bags in to the bedroom that was mine for a couple of days, walked back down to the main floor, gave and received some hugs...

...and put a shiny aluminum package on the kitchen counter.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Dinner the First

Ummm, so Christmas is one of those days when you splurge, right? I mean, you can't just listen to 'doctors' all the time and eat plates full of fiber and vitamins, can you?

I think not. Which is why I think it's perfectly okay that I had this.

That's roast beast y'all. Cindy-Loo-Hoo-style. Medium rare tenderloin roast. Yum. I mean, we didn't even need steak knives. Forks weren't really a necessity either. This meat was spoon-tender.

1: Why a spoon, cousin? Why not a knife or an axe?

2: Because it's dull you twit. It'll hurt more.

And we're back.

The shrooms on top were of the shallot, red wine reduction with cream at the end to fill it out variety. And they were tender, chewy little buttery bits of goodness on that meat.

Taters? Yeah, that was Gruyere and creme fresh with an assist by the mandoline and a 350 degree oven for an hour.

Haricot Verte? Solo. As is. Delicious.

Orange stuff? Oh, that was the crack. I mean, not really. It was the butternut squash with shallots, rosemary, and olive oil.

There weren't any left at the end of the night.

And after all that (and by all that I mean if you think that was the only plate of food I had you're crazy), there was this.

Oh. Where did we get that? What DC-area bakery can produce such tasty merengue-y luscious-ness the weekend before the holiday?

That's right. It's homemade y'all.

I have seen so many holiday special chef's shows where it's the feature. And I had one at dad's holiday special this year. Real busche. Cocoa powdered over the shrooms. Snow-sugar dusting the cake. Bourbon-caramel sauce to pour all over my slice.

Really, all over it. You're not surprised; so close your mouth.

Friday, December 21, 2007

When Good Stew Isn't

It just didn't have oooomph. I think it got better once it came off the stove, and it certainly improved when I finally realized I forgot to add wine (luckily, we hadn't polished off the bottle yet). But it was just a bowl of stew, and I was really expecting a mind-blowing bowl of the the most amazing simple dish ever. Eh, I guess I get off nights too. We still devoured it.

After it was all said and done, I should have know there was no acid in it and that's not tasty enough. I spent a lot of time thinking that it was so similar to my pot roast it will, by it's very nature, be delectable. Pot roast gets tomatoes in it. Acid. Shoulda known.

And really, I should have deglazed the pan with the wine. And I probably should have used beef broth. But I had just made a fresh batch of chicken stock (w00t) that was strained and golden and aromatic. I mean really, you could stand across the room and get that grandma's chicken soup tendril of flavor in your nose.

And too, the decision that there wasn't enough room in the pan for potatoes was faulty estimating on my part. But the stew didn't REALLY need them, did it? I mean tossing them in oil, paprika, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper and roasting at 400 degrees for 45 minutes wasn't bad, was it? Nah. That was okay.

In the end, I had produced a very tasty stew. You can try to make it too, but really, there's no need with this one. I need to get a better beef stew recipe down. In fact, why don't y'all tell me how to make a better beef stew...

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat
  • 1 package shrooms (button, cremini, whatever), halved
  • 4 large carrots, chopped
  • 6 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large Spanish onion
  • 3 shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • chicken broth to cover (remember, beef would have been better)
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cornstarch slurry
  • red wine

  1. Dredge the beef in flour, salt, pepper, and thyme. Brown in for 6-7 minutes in olive oil in the dutch-oven stew pot of your choosing. Set it aside.
  2. Saute the onions, shallots, and garlic for 3-4 minutes until translucent and uber-garlicky fragrant.
  3. Add the carrots and celery and saute for another 3 minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms and let it go for a minute.
  5. Deglaze fools. Put the liquid in and scrape the flavor bits off the bottom of the pan. (Note to the observant, this should have been done with wine)
  6. Beef back in the pool. Stock/broth over that bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Let it go for an hour.
  7. Add in the cornstarch slurry and get it back up to a quick boil, then reduce again and serve.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Winner, Winner. Chicken Dinner

So the weekend's over and you want to do something quick and easy on Monday night, right? Well, sorta...I mean a roast chicken with fingerling potatoes and sauteed brocolli and peppers is easy.


No, no. It's okay. I know I'm a food-freak for sure now. I've resigned myself to fighting off the paparazzi, ignoring the pleas of the young fans whose fathers spent three months salary on tickets to my show. Damnit. I am NOT allowed to fall asleep with the TV on Disney anymore. Friggin' Hannah Montana.

Anyway. I discovered this year (one Bar Cooking Tuesday) that a roast chicken is easy. Take the chicken, pull the nasty organs out. Yes, organs are nasty. By definition.

Dry the skin. Take a half stick of butter, salt, pepper, and thyme. Compound butter. Yum. Massage the bird, over and under the skin. Make it look like this.

After all that massage goodness, put it in the oven at 425 for 30 minutes. Then crank it down to 375 for an hour. Crispy goodness. See here.

The skin was perfect. You'll notice there was some missing in the sliced photo. Sorry. The chicken was closer than the camera-phone.

You know I love to slice it right. Legs off first with thighs attached. Wings. Slice the breast off the bone and then slice it for service. Easy.

If, while all this has been happening, you've sliced some fingerling potatoes and tossed them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme and roasted them with the chicken for the last hour or so. And if you've sauteed some brocolli with sliced white onions, and red and yellow peppers in olive oil and garlic for about 12 minutes (onion first to soften, then brocolli, then peppers at the end). If you did all'd have this.

And finally, the first appearance of a taste-tester here at Kitchen Geeking. Chez was here. J came over too, but we were stuffing our face then, and there was no time to stop and take pictures.

I love the crispy baked potato. So much, in fact, that there are baby yukons in the oven at 400 right now with crushed red pepper, paprika, and thyme in the olive oil that's crisping their skin as we speak.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why I Don't Bake Often

I don't really need to say anymore, do I?

I'll have the story tomorrow of holidays past and the making of the bread.

Tonight, I'm heading to the pub to give PG dinner, DT a new CD, and to celebrate my bacon-y goodness for a bit.

Merry Christmas from

This is the most delicious e-mail EVER!

On Dec 17, 2007 4:54 PM, R wrote:

Hello and congratulations!

You've won a copy of The Bacon Cookbook by James Villas from Please reply to this email with your name and mailing address and we'll get your book in the mail to you.

Thanks for participating, RL


Family Ties

I'm not a baker. You all have heard that before.

You know there's one exception, the bacon-cheddar-jalapeno-goodness that is my cornbread.

But that a non-yeast, VERY forgiving recipe. If you're off, you can add a pinch of this, a drip of that, and it's fine. No worries.

The other thing I bake, and which I will bake tonight and for several more nights this week, is a family tradition.

And really, that's why I bake it.

My grandmother baked it.

My mom baked it when I was growing up

Last year, I decided to bake it myself.

I, it seems, can bake a little bit after all.

Here's the recipe card mom made for me years ago.

I'll have the whole recipe and step by step later tonight after dinner.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Because We Party All the Time, Party All the Time

So in addition to cooking for Sam's, C &J, and pretty much anyone else in my social circles, I volunteer to cook for the office holiday party too.

I like this stuff. I spent all night yesterday on two big pots 'o goodness and a couple cornbreads.

You all know I'm a sucker for cornbread, right?

Anyway, no hotplates, a small microwave, and the need to feed about 15 people with a vegetarian option led to the clear choice of...soup. Warmed in crocks at the office today.

In fact, I'll be picking one of the crocks off R's porch in about 15 minutes.

We'll keep this simple, I made a pot of lentil soup for the meat eaters and a veg soup/minestrone something for the veg-heads.

The best part of all of this was that my shopping list last night was:

  • parsley
  • 1 jalapeno
  • fresh thyme

So here's the stuff.

And that eggplant? Never made it into the soup. S'okay, there was enough stuff.

More than enough. The pot was stuffed.

And here's my art-cell picture of the night. Today's star?


There was quite a bit of color in the minestrone, and I was quite happy about that. Made me feel like I wasn't pawning the crap-vegetable soup off on the non-meat-eaters.

Sweat, and work it, and sweat.

Throw everything else in the pot (I cheated with a bouillion cube) and bring to a boil. Then simmer until the veg is just about cooked (remember, crock pot time today).

I went with beans instead of pasta. Healthier, more traditional in my mind.

Also, first thought I had, so easier to go with it than have internal monologue time get in the way of soup time.

There's the barest pinch of ground cloves in there.

Don't freak out.

I mean, I did when I first tasted after adding.

But really, it mellows, and give a nice little sweet pinch to contrast the crushed pepper.

Not sure I'll do it again, but it definitely comes no where near the level of "Oh, Sh$%, I ruined the soup."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Santa Won't Have Room For You

Because my presents will be taking up all the space in his sleigh. Trust me. He'll have to cram this between the seats to make room.

West African Groundnut Stew

Really, you expected a clever title to the post when that's the name of the recipe?

Shah, as if.

Here's what you start with. Note the distinct lack of meat. As I said to J when he came over to grub: "Unless you count crushing olives, nothing was killed to make this dish."

I can't wait until I have the real camera so I can take good pictures of finely diced ginger. I LOVE ginger. It's friggin' tasty. Such a great bite to it. It was nice here too with all the other flavors. I diced it small enough that no one would ever get a huge knob of ginger, but large enough that when you got a dice on your spoon, you knew it.

Welcome to three yellow onions being sauteed with cayenne and garlic.

So you sweat, and you sweat. And then you add your perfectly (heh, right) cubed sweet potatoes and cabbage to the pot. Throw in tomato and apple juice, diced tomatoes, cilantro, and ginger.

After about 20, throw in the okra and peanut butter.

It's normally just a bowl of good stuff, but C wanted some starch too.

Funny Side Note Here

I had one of those Near East whole grain sides. Pecan & Garlic I think. Didn't have a lid to the 4-quart pot because it was still at Mark's from Iron Chef. (Yes, that was a couple of months ago. No I haven't gone to get it.) So I improvised with foil and walked away for a few minutes.

Unfortunately for C, and the grains, instead of turning the front burner from high to three so it could simmer, I turned the back burner to three and left the front burner on high.

"Turd" was C's generous description of the remains of the grain.

So sad.

Yeah, so I made egg noodles.

It was a nice combo.

Orzo, rice, or couscous would be ideal. Couscous, yeah, that's the ticket.

Anyway, here it is plated.

Here's the review from my mouth.

The peanut butter flavor definitely comes through, but it's not uber-cloying. I already mentioned the ginger. The cabbage is soft without having totally disintegrated and the juices add a bit o' silk that keeps the PB and okra from totally gumming it all up. The sweet potatoes are, well, sweet and the texture adds a great mouth-feel to it all.

SM, e-mail me when you've stopped lauging.

The recipe is here.

I added a lot more juice to it all, but likely had an extra 2 cups total of vegetation in the pot. Measuring and I are working out a custody arrangement for the food I use. We'll see how that goes.

Bubba Gump Pot 'O Goodness

And away we goooo...

Chop, chop, chop. Dice, dice, dice. Mince, mince, mince.


While that was happening, the cast iron got a small workout providing medium heat to the meat, andouille that is, cajun goodness. Just until the skin started to brown a bit, they'd be in soup form for long enough to cook through.

And all that stuff you see down there? It's the result of the pictures I took, plus the ones I didn't take of making the roux (flour and butter, equal parts, stir until it's the color you want), cooking the veg in the roux for 5-10, adding in chicken broth and sausage, then letting it go for 40 minutes, adding the shrimp and okra, and heating through until the shrimp were cooked.

I threw about 1 T Old Bay and 1 t cayenne in to a large pot. The sausage give a bit of heat too.

Oh, and there were bay leaves.

Yes, it's better when I make my own stock. But Big Game wasn't looking for chicken in his gumbo, and I wanted to make it quickly so as to leave more room for laundry (I know, I know, where are my priorities. Trust me, they were in the right place. Stacks of laundry that big need building permits to be moved for cleaning.).

I served it over plain rice because I was lazy. There was no bay leaf in the rice, no boullion cube, no paprika. Eh, it wasn't plain for long. It got good and sauced in the bowl with the gumbo.

J seemed to like it. Swammy and Bubby were pleased. I had a small second bowl down at the pub.