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KotW: Not-Quite-Classic Basil Pesto. July 28, 2009

Posted by panterazero in cheesy goodness, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, pasta, vegetarian.
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[Part one of a two-part invention; the other part is above.]  This may be one of the simplest things I make, but hot pasta with pesto is a dish that our regular dinner guests ask for most often, and who am I to argue?

One bunch fresh basil sprigs (12-18 stems)
eight cloves garlic, peeled
one half cup sharp white cheddar cheese, chopped
one half cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
one half cup asiago cheese, shredded
one half teaspoon red flake pepper
one half cup broken walnut meats
one half cup pine nuts
one half cup good olive oil

Rinse the basil and pluck the leaves off the stems.  Put the basil leaves with the garlic in your food processor and grind both to a fine paste.  Continue grinding, adding the three cheeses to the food processor one at a time.  Stop grinding, add the pepper and nuts, and grind again until the nuts are finely chopped in the mixture, but not until they disappear.  Finally, add the oil and spin until blended.  The mixture should have the texture of soft clay and a dull finish, without containing so much oil that it’s semiliquid or its surface looks slick.

This can, of course, be simply and lavishly tossed with hot pasta and served.  But if you go one step further — okay, a few steps further — you will have re-created one of the greatest culinary pairings of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Stay tuned.

© /KC July 2009


KotW: Summer Eggplant and Mushrooms July 24, 2009

Posted by panterazero in all-in-one, cheesy goodness, pasta, tomato, vegetarian.
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This casserole is one of the most substantial vegetarian dishes I’ve made, and although the three subassemblies are a little bit of work, everything goes together quick, clean — and pretty — at the end.

one cup dried small white beans
two cups boiling water

Put the beans in a large measuring cup and pour the boiling water over them.  Cover the cup with a saucer and let stand one to two hours.

six large, flavorful (heirloom) fresh tomatoes
two large globe (Italian) or four to six long (Asian) eggplants
one-quarter cup good olive oil
one teaspoon salt
one-half teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 475°, or 450° convection.

Core tomatoes, top and tail eggplants.  Cut both into chunks — larger than bite-size, since they will shrink.  Toss the vegetables like a salad with the oil and seasonings.  Put the vegetables in a heap in a 9×13 glass baking dish, and bake them in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  Meanwhile:  Put the soaked beans, with their liquid, in a saucepan, add more water until the beans are covered by about 2 inches.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a high simmer.

one large yellow onion, diced fine
one pound fresh white mushrooms, sliced thick
two tablespoons oil

Sauté these ingredients altogether until the onions are translucent, and the mushrooms are tender and shedding liquid.

When the beans are fully cooked but still firm, after 30 to 50 minutes of simmering, add

one cup orzo

Bring back to a boil and boil for nine or 10 minutes, until orzo is al dente. Drain beans and orzo and put in large serving bowl; add eggplant and tomatoes, then mushrooms and onions, and mix thoroughly.  Top with

grated Parmesan, asiago, or smoked cheddar

to taste.  This is meant primarily as a hot dish, but the leftovers are quite good dressed with a vinaigrette as pasta salad.

© /KC July 2009

KotW: Beet-and-carrot curry. June 23, 2009

Posted by panterazero in exotic!, Kip of the Week, vegetarian.
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This is an adaptation of the curried beet recipe to be found at http://curryinkadai.blogspot.com/2007/11/cant-beet-this.html, to which I’m deeply indebted.  I had a few more vegetables to add and, sadly, not quite as wide a spectrum of Indian ingredients; before I make this again, I mean to go to Berkeley and scout up some curry leaves.  Regardless, this was delectable, and I regard it as an excellent candidate for additional development.

one bunch fresh beets (2 to 4, with greens)
four to eight small or medium carrots; if tender and thin-skinned, don’t peel
one cup frozen green peas, slightly thawed
1 cup medium or hot salsa verde or, if you’re lucky, New Mexico green chile sauce
two tablespoons skinless red lentils (masoor dal)
two tablespoons finely chopped ginger
one teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
one teaspoon black mustard seeds
one teaspoon whole cumin
one-quarter teaspoon ground turmeric
two tablespoons corn or canola oil

Cut greens off beets, stem the greens and soak them thoroughly in cold water.  Put beets in a saucepan with cold water to cover, bring water to a boil, and cook beets for five minutes.  Remove beets from water, allow to cool, and rub skins off beets under running water.  Drain and chop beet greens; combine greens with frozen peas.
Cut beets and carrots into chunks.  In food processor, julienne beets and carrots.

Heat oil in wok or sauté pan.  Add lentils, cumin seeds, black and yellow mustard seeds, sauté until mustard seeds start to jump; then add beets, carrots,  and ginger, and stir-fry until vegetables are almost tender.  Add the greens, peas,  and turmeric, and continue to stir-fry until greens are barely limp and peas are fully flawed.

© /KC June 2009

KotW: Portobello mushrooms and an application. June 18, 2009

Posted by panterazero in Kip of the Week, pasta, saucy, vegetarian.
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Again we are in the realm of the upscale vegetable.  As I write, decent portobello mushrooms are about the same price per pound as top-grade hamburger, and in my view offer a better reason for paying it.  But once you have them, you have to be careful; you want to bring out robust earthy flavor without bitterness, and alluringly meaty texture without toughness.  It took some experiments to hit the note, but here’s how.

4 medium-to-large portobellos
3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
one large clove garlic skinned and crushed
one teaspoon salt

Rinse the mushrooms well and trim their stems. Skin them by tearing off triangles of skin from the edge to the center.  Put the skin, the gill cover [if any], water, oil, and salt in the saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes.

Put the mushrooms, caps down, in a wide casserole, strain the liquid over them, and add the garlic.  Cover and braise in a 275°F oven for an hour and 15 minutes.  The mushrooms will be both tender and tasty, but save every drop of the broth, which is some of the most potent mushroom stock imaginable.

now make


mushrooms from above recipe, cut in chunks
mushroom broth from above
3-4 fresh ripe tomatoes, skinned, cored and chopped
2-4 red bell peppers or sweet red chiles, roasted, water pack
1/2 lb. penne, fusilli, farfalle or any chunky pasta
four to six cloves garlic skinned and chopped
two tablespoons good olive oil
one tablespoon fresh sage, minced, or one teaspoon dried sage, crumbled

Cook the garlic in the oil till golden.  Add the sage and stir till you smell it.  Quench the pan with the mushroom broth.

Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and peppers and keep the mixture over very low heat — you want it quite warm but not cooking.

Cook the pasta in oiled salted water till it’s about two minutes short of your preferred doneness. Drain it, add it to the vegetables, and bring it to serving temperature.  I swear this is one of the most flavorful dishes I ever made, or ate.

© /KC June 2009

Chickpeas and Eggplant December 17, 2008

Posted by panterazero in African food, Kip of the Week, tomato, vegetarian.
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I’ve been doing “chickpeas, onions and tomatoes” for years — there’s an Indian name for the combination that I forget — but I finally came up with the truly delectable variant, so here it is.  It’s easy, but you do need to watch the eggplant carefully.  A warm oven, such as you would have if you were for example baking dessert, is also helpful.

one medium eggplant, chopped small
1/4 cup olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green part only, washed and chopped (do save the rest for stocktrash)
one 15-oz can chickpeas with 1/4 cup of the packing liquid
2 cups (half a jar) good grade tomato basil pasta sauce, OR
2 cups good marinara sauce and 1/4 tsp dried basil, crumbled
1/3 cup shredded parmesan or asiago cheese

crusty Italian bread, like a ciabatta

Put the eggplant and oil in a saute pan with 1/4 cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat to medium, cover, and cook about 15 minutes.  You want all the water to steam away and the eggplant to get truly soft while it browns on the bottom.  When it’s done, stir-scrape the browning back into the mixture.

Add the leeks and stir till they too are tender, slowly adding the packing liquid from the chickpeas if you need it to forestall burning.  Stir in the chickpeas, red sauce, dried basil if you’re using it, and the packing liquid if you didn’t already.  When the mixture is bubbling nicely, top it evenly with the cheese, and slide the pan into that warm oven till you need it.

Serve over big torn chunks of warm bread.  This is so delicious that, the night I first made it as a vegetable side dish, it turned into the main course.

© /KC December 2008

Guest of the Week: Walnut Balls December 3, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in appetizers, cheesy goodness, Kip of the Week, tomato, vegetarian.
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These are from my longtime friend Anne, who paints landscapes, designs databases, plays the flute, and lives in the coastal redwood forest north of San Francisco. Her home is smack in the middle of one of the most beautiful parts of California, and here’s what she does with it.

This appetizer, like most of what Anne does, is excellent in a way that you’ll really notice. I make them once a year at the outside, because I want everybody to wait for them — they’re that good.

Mix together:

one cup walnuts, ground
one cup Parmesan cheese, grated
one cup breadcrumbs

Sauté until soft:

one large carrot, grated
one medium potato, grated
one medium yellow onion, grated

Combine the two mixtures and add:

Three eggs

The result should have about the same consistency as meatloaf. Roll this mixture into balls about an inch and a half in diameter. Sauté in butter or oil until firm and well browned.

At this point you can do one of two things. Bake these in a glass dish at 300° for 15 minutes, then serve them on toothpicks as appetizers — in which application they’re sort of like falafel, but a lot better. Or you can keep going:

Three or four Yukon gold potatoes, sliced fairly thin
Walnut balls as above
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (or whole ones cut up)

In a buttered baking dish, arrange overlapping potato slices. Add walnut balls in one layer. Pour tomatoes over. Cook covered in a 350° oven for one hour.

© Anne Kessler December 2008

KotW: Hot Carrots November 26, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in appetizers, Kip of the Week, vegetarian.
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[Junk Food Girl is right; there have been two major episodes of culinary slacking in the last month, one provoked by volunteering for the election, and the other made necessary by the priority of untangling the chaos that my finances, etc., had become during the recent political frenzy. Therefore, I’m going to give you two for the price of one, as it were — a holiday appetizer you can make now, and stock-making instructions in time to get the most from the carcass of your turkey.]

Hot Carrots

In the 21st century, you can find “Mexican” cooking in various degrees of fidelity in almost every part of the United States… but it was not always so. In Boston in the early 1970s, all we knew about was Mexico City Mexican food, which mostly meant elaborate plate dinners with tortillas on the side… if any! So my first collision with Mexican food in the manner of a taqueria was as a tourist in San Diego in 1976 — where I also encountered these for the first time. Over the years, they’ve become sparse as a free side dish, which is too bad, since they’re great. Luckily, they’re also ridiculously easy to make.

one pound carrots, preferably four or five big ones
one-half cup pickled jalapeno pepper slices (“nacho slices”) with a little of their juice
one-half medium yellow onion, optional
one-half teaspoon dried oregano
one-half teaspoon dried thyme
two bay leaves
2 cups (about) rice wine vinegar or, lacking that, white vinegar

Set up either a large saucepan of water, or a double-boiler-type covered steamer, and bring it to a boil. Top, tip, and pare the carrots, and roll-cut them into bite-size pieces. If you’re using the onion, skin it and slice it thin. Steam or boil the cut carrots for three to five minutes, depending on how tender you like them — I tend toward the shorter time. Meanwhile, in a nonreactive quart container (a yogurt container is perfect), combine the pickled peppers, the optional onion, oregano, thyme, and bay leaves.

Add the carrots while they’re still hot from cooking, and quickly pour over enough vinegar to cover. Put the lid on the container and refrigerate it at least overnight. As simple vegetarian appetizers go, this is one of the best ever. Happy Thanksgiving!

ETA: I got asked “What’s the best thing to do if you want your hot carrots hotter?” Good point since my batch for Thanksgiving came out not all that hot.

It seems to me this would be a perfect application for Tabasco sauce — either red or green — which is vinegar-based. Don’t go wild, you don’t want to obliterate the flavor of either of the primary ingredients.

© /KC November 2008

KotW: Pan-Roasted Potatoes. November 15, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in Kip of the Week, vegetarian.
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For years I wondered about the best way to cook potatoes to accompany a roast chicken or other roast. Baked potatoes are easy, but bland, and the temptation is to add a lot of calories to fancy them up. Boiled potatoes require an extra burner, and a lot of their flavor ends up in the cooking water. Mashed potatoes are so much work, and so rich, that in my house they’re for holidays only.

But years ago, Junk Food Girl and I were roommates for a while (bet you would never have known!) and she taught me a trick with potatoes, and then I fiddled with that…

Six to 12 flavorful potatoes; I like Yukon golds but you can use Finnish golds, russets, red creamers…
one tablespoon oil
one-half cup cold water
one-half teaspoon Creole seasoning
one-half teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

Cut potatoes into bite-size pieces; with Yukon golds this usually means cut in half, then each half in quarters. Have a big heavy skillet ready and warming on the stove. Then do one of two things: either toss the potato chunks with the oil and the water and put them in the skillet; or, if you have an oil sprayer, put the potatoes and the water in the skillet, then spray the potatoes generously with oil. Let the skillet heat on the stove just until the water starts boiling — which won’t take long!

Dust the potatoes with the Creole seasoning and pepper, and put the skillet on a rack in the oven, above whatever you’re roasting. If you’re roasting a chicken at 325°, put the potatoes in about half an hour before you turn off the oven, and leave them in for the 20-minute stabilizing period before you remove the chicken. If you’re roasting something that comes straight out of a hot oven, put the potatoes in for the last 25 to 40 minutes depending on temperature.

These potatoes will be assertive and full of flavor, because they barely encounter water, they’re sharply seasoned, and the browning is nice and even. Because they come to the table in a hot skillet, they’re still hot when they’re served, unlike hash browns. And they’re so easy!

(And thank you sarawr, if I didn’t say that already.) /KC

KotW: Triple Pepper Bowties September 24, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in all-in-one, Kip of the Week, pasta, vegetarian.
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So the NEW MEXICO REDHEAD posts a recipe seasoned ONLY with BLACK pepper and calls it “balanced!” I’ll show her some balance

two tablespoons corn oil
12 cloves garlic, diced
one medium yellow onion, diced
10-oz bag crimini mushrooms or white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup wet-pack dried tomatoes, chopped
15-oz can whole kernel corn, drained
9-oz package shelled edamame
two big roasted red bell peppers, diced
4-oz can green chiles

1/2 lb. mini-bowties or mini-penne

red flake pepper, or taco mix
shredded Romano cheese

Warm the corn oil in a deep saute pan, add the garlic and onions, turn heat to medium and stir frequently until garlic is well browned and onion is transparent to golden. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until raw look is gone and mushrooms are shedding liquid. Add tomatoes, corn, edamame, and red and green peppers. Keep this mixture warm while you cook the pasta.

Cook the pasta till nearly done, drain it and add it while very hot to the vegetable mixture. Stir thoroughly.

Serve with flake pepper and grated cheese.

© /KC September 2008

KotW: Homemade Tahini. August 27, 2008

Posted by schizodigestive in Kip of the Week, quick & dirty, vegetarian.
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Eggplants, like so many vegetables, have become stunningly expensive in my neighborhood. So when they’re on sale I tend to buy quite a few… and that’s why I ended up needing to make baba ghanouj the other day. But I was out of tahini — the oily paste of finely ground sesame seeds that’s indispensable for Middle Eastern appetizers.

My usual supermarket had stopped carrying it. I went to Trader Joe’s and they didn’t have it, which was silly, because they had eight or nine kinds of peanut butter. I went to the supermarket I don’t go to, and they didn’t have it either, which was unnerving, because I think of this stuff as a staple. Then I said to myself, c’mon, scruffy, you know tahini doesn’t grow in tin cans on trees.

I bought half a pound of Mexican sesame seed, brought it home and started poking around for technique. This is what I came up with:

1 1/2 cups hulled white sesame seed
about 1 1/2 cups boiling water

Put the seed in a large measuring cup and pour the boiling water over it — it should just cover. Put a saucer over the top of the cup and leave it undisturbed for 45 minutes. All, or almost all, of the water should be absorbed. Drain off surplus water if any and put the soaked seed in a food processor with

1/4 teaspoon salt

Start the mixture spinning while you drizzle in

Five tablespoons light sesame oil, or a mixture of three tablespoons corn or canola oil with two tablespoons dark (Japanese) sesame oil

Process this for a good five to ten minutes. Pack it tightly in an airtight container and refrigerate. Your result won’t be as smooth as commercial tahini, because it won’t be as finely ground; but mine came out with hints of the seeds in it, a beautiful arctic white, and with absolutely profound flavor. Not only is this excellent recourse if you can’t find ready-made tahini at the market, but if you have a good source of bulk sesame seeds, it’s a whole lot cheaper!

© /KC August 2008