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KotW: Red Lentil and Mushroom Soup October 22, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in Kip of the Week, soups and stews.
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This has “rainy November night” written all over it, as well as “sourdough baguette” or maybe “cornbread.” The silky, glossy broth is a product of the red lentils, which are the most self-effacing of legumes; with even half an hour’s cooking, they completely dissolve and vanish, adding sophisticated substance to the stock.

1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced or slivered
3 T olive oil
6 cups scratch chicken stock, or 1 quart good box stock and 2 cups water
1 cup red (skinless) lentils
1/2 lb. white mushrooms, sliced thick
3 medium carrots, pared and sliced thick
one roasted red bell pepper (from a jar), diced
1/2 to 1 lb. mild sausage (Aidells garlic artichoke is particularly good here)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Start the garlic, onion and oil in a soup kettle over low heat and saute till the onion is limp and the garlic is golden. Add the mushrooms and stir till they start to shed liquid. Add the stock and bring it to a boil, add the lentils and simmer 20 minutes. Add the carrots, diced pepper and sausage and simmer another 10 minutes. Bring back to a boil, stir in the parsley, salt, and pepper, and serve.

© /KC October 2008

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KotW: Rolled Flank Steak Dijon October 15, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in guests, Kip of the Week, red meat.
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Some people dismiss flank steak because it’s not as tender as the glamour cuts like ribeye. Shortsighted in the extreme! Yes, flank is a muscle that gets used, and when properly cooked it can be chewy, but it’s unparalleled for the flavor and texture of “real meat.” It also stands up to a highly flavored stuffing, and the resulting presentation is impressive for company.

one flank steak (about 2 lb.)
salt
fresh-ground black or green pepper

1 — 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs from interesting bread (two heelpieces work perfectly)
4-6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon allspice
one tablespoon cider vinegar
one tablespoon sriracha, optional

1/4 cup Dijon mustard (about)

one tablespoon corn, canola or peanut oil

Preheat oven to 400° (I suggest by starting baked potatoes which are good with this). Put the steak rough side up on the cutting board, salt and pepper it, cover it with plastic, pound it to uniform thickness and let it rest.

Make the breadcrumbs in your food processor. Dump them into a saute pan and toast them over a medium flame, shaking the pan, till the crumbs are golden brown and smell really good. Grind the garlic, parsley, allspice, and vinegar, and the hot sauce if you’re using it, in the food processor; add the breadcrumbs and mix. Wipe out the pan carefully.

Remove the plastic from the steak and spread mustard over the whole rough side, then cover the mustard evenly with the breadcrumb mixture and press it in firmly. Roll the steak up smooth side out and secure the edge with toothpicks.

Heat the saute pan, add the oil, and brown the rolled steak medium brown on all sides; then transfer the steak to a baking pan and put it in the oven for about 20 minutes.

A very natural liaison between the steak and the potatoes would be sour cream with horseradish and chopped scallions; add a green salad with chopped olives, and you’ll have a dinner that deserves a really broadshouldered syrah or zinfandel. Enjoy!

© /KC October 2008

On why “comfort eating” is good for you. October 13, 2008

Posted by sarawr in food philosophies.
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I’ve found myself, in the past week, doing what everyone says you shouldn’t: I’ve been turning to food for comfort. While I understand the reasoning behind all the warnings not to comfort-eat, I find that those reasons don’t really apply in a time of upheaval. Sure, you shouldn’t stuff your face all the time just because you feel a little down, but there’s nothing wrong with turning to an act of nourishment and nurturing when things go really awry, either.

My great-grandmother died a little over a week ago, and one of the things I miss most about her is her insistence on real food. She almost never bought or made pre-packaged stuff (in fact, the only thing that comes to mind is her occasional liking for frozen pizza), and I can count the number of times I knew her to eat out on one hand. She cooked, at every meal, with real ingredients — many of which she grew and preserved herself. She wasn’t a gourmet chef or anything; she was just a woman who knew how to make a good meal. Cooking this past week, even when I broke the rules (by using pre-mixed whatnots or store-bought veggies) has made me feel a little closer to her.

So here’s what you do with food, when your heart is a little broken. Your mileage may vary, but some combination of these things is likely to help; some or all of these things have a good chance of healing.

Make something for you; take the time to savor it.

I’ve been getting up an hour earlier each morning, taking a little time to brew some coffee or steep some tea, curling up on the couch with a blanket and a book and enjoying the warmth of my cup. In the evenings, I make or buy a good snack — some parmesan & garlic pita chips, warm buttermilk biscuits with real butter, fresh vegetables with good dip — and I unwind from my day. I think about my grandmother at these times, of course, but I also just relax and tune in to what’s going into my mouth. Feeding and treating myself is one of the best ways I know to focus on how I feel and what I can do about it; it’s a little reminder that I can take care of myself… and that it’s okay to keep enjoying things.

Make time for others, too.

After my solitary coffee-or-tea in the mornings, I make some (Pillsbury) cinnamon rolls or (homemade) soda bread for everyone to have for breakfast. I love going through the ritual of heating the oven, mixing things together, and waking my boys up to the delicious smell and warmth of a good breakfast. Sometimes I fry up some eggs and ham and we all sit down together; sometimes we just hang around the living room doing our own things and nomming on baked goods as the spirit moves us… but we always have a happier morning. Cooking and baking, putting forth a little effort to make the house warmer and blood sugar more level, gets me thinking about the safe little cocoon of my family. It reminds me that I’m not alone, and it lifts my spirits to be able to offer something so basic and necessary to the people I love.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

When Connor was little, I was in constant freak-out mode. “He can’t have sugar!” I’d cry, “And we certainly can’t feed him food that wasn’t made from scratch!” I was so focused on the details of what he ate and how it was made and when he got it that I forgot to relax and enjoy mealtimes with him. These days I’m letting some of that go; my morning baking is sometimes more Pillsbury-exploding-canister than whole-wheat-flour-and-organic-buttermilk, but we still laugh and he still grows. As helpful and healing and wonderful as cooking is during the hard times, sometimes it’s also… well, hard. These are the times I reach for the pre-mix, call up our local sandwich shop, or, yes, head for fast food. When you’re going through a rough time, sometimes it’s best to let go and let Ron — Ronald McDonald, that is. It feels just as good to cut yourself a break as it does to serve up organic, vegan, balanced meals produced from the sweat of your brow.

Don’t make it if you don’t like it.

Seriously. When you’re in a tough spot, why make it tougher by forcing yourself to eat beans or insisting on tofu if they’ll just make you more miserable? Take the time to think about what you want, listen to what your body needs, and feed yourself accordingly. I’ve found myself baking more (as mentioned above) in the past week, because my grandmother and I used to bake cookies and petit fours and cakes together. Baking now reminds me that those times aren’t gone, and it comforts me more than the salad I “should” have eaten would. Sometimes, letting go of the rules is better for you than losing that last five pounds would be. Just roll with it.

There are many more ways that food can be comforting. We tend to center around our daily meals, socialize over decadent snacks. We’re told, of course, that food shouldn’t have these uses; food should be for nutrition and energy, nothing more. Remembering that it has other uses can get you through the hard times better than almost anything else, though, and those five pounds will still be there for the losing when you’re through the storm. I hereby give you permission to comfort eat.

KotW: Green Split Pea Soup October 9, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in Kip of the Week, soups and stews.
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According to my mother, this recipe originated in the 19th century. But she made it a little bit different than her mother did, and I make it a little bit different than she did… so, after maybe 150 years, it’s pretty special. I try to hold this back during spring and summer, so I’ll really appreciate it when the rain and cold weather come.

3 quarts chicken stock
1 cup dried split peas
one large onion
1 (big Russet) to 4-5 (little Yukon gold) potatoes
one bay leaf
4-6 cloves garlic
4 medium carrots
1 lb. sausage (chicken apple, andouille, bratwurst, hot dogs)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried dill OR dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt to taste
sriracha to taste (start with about two tablespoons)

Reserve 2 cups of the chicken stock. Bring the remaining 2 1/2 quarts to a boil in a 6-quart pot. Peel the onion and stick a metal or bamboo skewer all the way through, or a toothpick from one side to the center. Wash the potatoes and skin the garlic.

Add the split peas to the stock, bring back to a boil, and stir constantly till the peas start to swell, 3 to 5 minutes. Cover the pot, turn OFF the flame and let the soup stand for 15 to 20 minutes. (This prevents the peas from sticking to the bottom of the pot.) Then bring just to a boil once more, stirring.

Add the onion, potatoes and bay leaf. Cover and put over a very low flame, or in a 275° oven, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Pare and slice the carrots and slice the sausage. Remove the bay leaf and the skewer/toothpick. Halve the onion.

In a food processor, chop the garlic, then puree the onion and potatoes thoroughly, adding 1 cup of the reserved chicken stock. Pour the onion/potato/garlic puree into the soup pot, through a coarse strainer, probably pushing it a bit with a spoon, and discard the bits of skin. Rinse the tank with the second cup of stock and add that too. Bring soup back to the boil, turn down the heat, stir with a wire whisk — it tends to stick at this point — and cook for about 10 more minutes. You’ll know when it’s been long enough, because the puree will incorporate fully and the soup will become slightly thinner.

Add the carrots, sausage, spices, herbs, and sriracha, and cook over a low flame just till carrots are tender. Salt to taste (mine needed about 1/2 teaspoon) and serve.

Cornbread is good with this.

© /KC October 2008

KotW: Roosevelt County Chicken October 2, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in chicken, Kip of the Week, New Mexico.
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If you want something that’s quicker than green chile stew, and a lot less work than pollo adovado, but still has that ineffable chile flavor..

6 chicken thighs, boned and skinned (no need to thaw if they’re frozen)
2 or 3 ripe tomatoes in bite-size chunks, or two dozen cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes cut in half
6 to 8 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon oil
2 four-ounce cans diced green chiles (Hatch if you can get ’em, Ortega if you must)
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning

Broil the chicken thighs till browned on both sides. For the last three minutes of broiling, add the tomatoes to the pan.

Meanwhile, sauté the garlic slowly in the oil until golden brown. Add the chicken, tomatoes and pan juices to the garlic and oil. Dust the chicken pieces with the Creole seasoning. Add the green chiles and chicken stock, using some of the stock to rinse the can. Simmer until chicken is tender. Serve over brown rice or noodles.

© /KC October 2008