Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Good Cat

Due to some comments and a brick thrown at me on the street, I wish to apologize for referring to Eskimo as "the Other Cat."  From now on she will be "The Good Cat."  Macintosh will be tagged as "The Brown Cat."  Thank you for your feedback and refraining from physical violence.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rice and Bean Burrito Bowl with Yellow Onion and Simple Salsa

I've been craving Mexican food for awhile now.  Unfortunately, I don't know how to make a good mole poblano sauce, so I decided on working around a nice tangy salsa.  This dish can be vigorously seasoned and spiced to taste from fiery to mild.  If you don't go the vegetarian route, toss some grilled chicken or pulled pork into this.  I wanted to make tortillas and have burritos, but I was tired so we went with burrito bowls.

The Salsa
You can increase the amount of ingredients proportionally to meet your needs.  This recipe will make about enough for 4 servings.

1 Roma Tomato
2 medium Tomatillos (husked)
1 tsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Chili powder
2 Tbsp minced or grated Lemon Zest
Salt and Pepper to taste

Roughly chop the fruit and put in a food processor.  Add spices and pulse blend until finely chopped.

One of the things I love about this salsa is that it has a wonderful tangy flavor that compliments a spicier dish.  The lemon zest makes for a great undertone when the salsa is fresh, but becomes prominent after it sits for a day.  You can make variations on this salsa quite easily by adding seeded jalapeños for heat, increasing the tomato/tomatillo ration for sweetness, adding cilantro for bite, or pulling out the tomato for a pure salsa verde.       Add lime juice and substitute lime zest for a stronger citrus flavor.  Add chopped onions for body.  The version above is refreshing, simple, and delicious.

The Filling

This is really just a basic rice and bean dish that is topped with sweated onions and garlic.  You can play a lot with with seasonings, as with the salsa, but I tend to prefer a stronger flavor in the base that compliments the salsa.

1 large Yellow Onion
1-2 cloves Garlic
1 tsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup Water
1 cup Brown Rice (and water for cooking)
1 can Garbanzo or Black Beans (rinsed and drained)
Cumin, Chili Powder, Salt, and Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce

Cook the rice (I use one of humanities' greatest inventions the Zojirushi Neurofuzzy, but cook as you normally would brown rice, leaving it a little on the dry side since we will be stir frying it later.)

Chop the onions and garlic roughly.  Put oil and water in a wok and heat.  Add onions and garlic.  Cook over medium/high heat until the water has cooked off.  While the vegetables are sweating, add chili powder, salt, pepper and cumin to taste.  Set aside.

Put the cooked rice and garbanzos in the wok.  Add the balsamic and soy sauce.  I really enjoy the combination of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar and use it as often as I can.  I love it because it makes a great savory base that you can build on easily.  Don't overdo the vinegar though, else it will overpower the other flavors.  Add cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.  Stir fry until the rice and beans are lightly browned.  You can easily add to the complexity of the dish by incorporating cilantro, citrus, bell pepper, tofu, meats, etc.  If adding tofu or meat, cook and season it separately then add it to the mix.

Serve the rice and beans in a bowl, top with onions and salsa.  Add grated cheese if you feel so inclined.

Sorry about the photo quality.  We had some lighting and camera issues
I have no doubt that I will revisit this dish with some fresh cilantro and when I've had some practice making mole sauce.  Until then...Bonk appétit!

The Other Cat

Macintosh's reluctant companion, the apple of Patient Girlfriend's eye, and completely indifferent to cooking: Eskimo.  She is our gray tabby and is more than willing to let us know when the cat bowl is running low on kibble.


Guest Recipe - Wheat Sesame Crackers

Patient Girlfriend recently made a batch of delicious baked crackers topped with sesame seeds.  They are wonderfully crispy and flavorful, and are excellent topped with a nice medium-sharp cheddar.  She found that the dough was a little salty before baking, and recommends that you either reduce the salt content of the dough or skip the salt topping if you prefer a less salty cracker.  

2/3 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
2 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup Water

Coarse Sea Salt to taste (a dash is more than enough)
Fresh Ground Pepper to taste 

Sesame Seeds to taste (a couple Tbsp should be fine)

Makes 3 dozen crackers.

Lightly grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and baking powder.  Add the oil and blend thoroughly.  Slowly add the water and mix until the mixture forms a dough (it will be slightly crumbly when done.)  Roll the dough out on a floured surface until 1/8 inch thick.  If you have trouble getting the dough rolled out to 1/8 inch, it is fine to leave it thicker, but poke each cracker with a fork to prevent air bubbles from forming during baking.  Brush the dough sheet with a thin layer of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, sesame seeds, and pepper.  Cut the sheet into squares (the batch should make about 36 crackers) and place on the baking sheet.  Preheat the oven to 375 and bake the crackers for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden.

Bonk appétit!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer Soup with Carrots, Red Pepper, and Orange.

Because Mac did his best to keep me up last night, I didn't really feel like making something complicated today.  I had the idea of making carrot soup and just went with it.  This soup is quick and has a nice, refreshing flavor that suits the end of summer weather we've been having in the City.  It is easily modified and can be made heartier with the addition of potatoes, rice, or tofu.  I've usually found that carrot-based soups are a little too sweet, but this one is tempered by the red pepper and curry powder.  The orange juice adds a nice undertone without overpowering the vegetables.

1lb Carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium/large Yellow Onion, chopped (approx. 2 cups)
1 large Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
4 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup Orange Juice
salt, pepper, and curry powder to taste (2 full tbsp curry powder gives a nice bite without adding too much heat)

Large pot

Heat the oil in a large pot, add onion and let cook until tender.  Add carrots and peppers and let cook briefly.  Add stock and let simmer for 30 mins or until the vegetables are tender.  Transfer the solids to the blender and add enough liquid so that it easily purées.  It may be easier to do this batches.  Transfer the purée back to the large pot, blending with any leftover liquids.  Add the orange juice.  Add spices to taste.  Heat through (approx. 15-20 minutes.)  Garnish with scallions.  Serve with dipping bread.  

Bonk appétit

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Potato and Banana Curry with Snowshoe Naan

This recipe is a variation on one my father gave me for chicken and shrimp curry.  Since Patient Girlfriend is a vegetarian and I am allergic to shellfish, I substituted white potato for the poultry and cut out the shrimp.  Thanks to Dad, for the original!

For the curry:
1 large potato (I used white, but will probably use a waxier variety next time), cubed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, roughly chopped
1 large banana, cubed
1 apple, cubed
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste (I substituted 1 plum tomato finely diced and seasoned with a pinch of salt and sugar)
2 Tbsp curry powder (more to taste)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large skillet or wok.  Add the garlic and onion.  Cook briefly over medium/high heat then add the bell pepper.  Cook and stir vigorously for several minutes, until the onion begins to soften.  Add curry powder, banana, apple, and tomato paste (or diced tomato.)  Add broth slowly and blend.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Let simmer 10 minutes.

Curry set to simmer
In a separate pan, brown the potatoes in the olive oil.  In the future, I plan on adding baked tofu as a substitute for the shrimp.  I would probably prepare the tofu with a curry and herb rub before baking and then pan sear it.

Once the potatoes are browned, add them to the curry sauce and vegetables.  the curry can then be covered and left to cook through, or it may be transfered to a casserole dish and baked at 350 for 20-25 minutes.  I chose to bake to reduce the chance that the potatoes would be over cooked and fall apart.  When using a waxier potato and tofu, I would probably just let the curry cook through on the stove.

For the naan, I followed a recipe in Flatbreads and Flavors.  It is basically a yeast-based recipe that starts with a whole wheat sponge which is left to rise and then to which white flour is added.  After rising, the dough is divided, shaped and baked.

Naan before shaping and baking.
You can top the naan with any savory condiment.  I used thyme and garlic on these.  This was my first time baking naan, and I found the bake time to be almost twice what was stated in the cookbook.  I would also probably try brushing the breads with salt water or oil immediately prior to baking.

A finished naan.
I was pretty pleased with the naan.  It was filling, chewy without being under-done, and flavorful enough to complement the curry.

Mac was exceedingly well behaved over the course of preparation and decided only to get in the way when I was swapping baked and unbaked naan.
Mac helping
All in all, not a bad attempt.  I'm anxious to try this again with the different potato variety, tofu, and brushed naan.  Bonk appétit!
Curry and naan

The Cat

Mac with Teddy

This is Macintosh.  Our friend.  Our fearless feline who makes cooking that much more entertaining.  Though in repose here, Mac is usually under-foot in the kitchen.