Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chicken Soup from a Chain Deli is SO BAD

I have a cold. A bad cold. It's the cold that everybody's getting, and of course, there's no time to take a sick day at work this week. Add to that that I've been too busy and too tired from being sick to cook much, and too scared to spend money on non-essentials given what's going on with the economy. But I broke down this afternoon and went out for a cup of soup at Pax deli in lower Manhattan. Seven dollars?! But that's not the worst part of it....the soup was TERRIBLE. I mean, really super terrible. It was so incredibly bland, the broth was almost like water.

Fortunately, I brined and roasted a small organic chicken on Sunday night, so tonite, so I decided to invest a small amount of time making my own damn chicken soup for tomorrow.

One good thing about being a refrigerator packrat is that you can always find something to make soup. I found two wilted carrots, some wilty celery, wilty parsley, and some brittle rosemary. I threw the brittle rosemary into a pot with enough water to cover the chicken carcass (we had already made two roasted chicken dinners and some salad with shredded chicken on top) and started a rolling boil. Then I sauted the chopped carrots, celery, a medium onion, and about six cloves of garlic that I chopped together with the wilty parsley and some thyme. Chopped those together so that the garlic absorbs the flavor of the herbs, and the herbs pick up a garlicky flavor. It's kind of like a mash when it's done, or like an herb paste. I sauteed those until they were nice and carmelized.

Once the broth was cooked down and clear, and the rest of the chicken was falling off the bone, I took a bowl and poured the entire chicken stock mixture through a strainer into the bowl. I put the broth from the bowl back into the soup pot and added the sauteed vegetables. I like to sort through the stuff that ends up in the strainer and pick the good pieces of meat out to throw back in the soup.

I'm tellin' you. This soup will definitely warm your heart, and help your immune system get itself back up and running.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gentle Lentil Soup

Courtesy of Moosewood, lentil soup has been a winter staple since I started seriously cooking for myself. I think its safe to say that the Moosewood Cookbook taught me how to cook. The Gypsy Soup is seriously the base for many of the stirfrys and stews that I've made on the fly for hungry activist friends. All of the basics are covered: lasagne, chili, hummous, all kinds of other dips, from ratatouille to raita; and I've probably made all of the sweets from Ukrainian poppy seed cake to the cobblers.

The lentil soup itself is reminiscent of Amy's Place lentil soup, but doesn't have the gooey noodles. It's definitely more like a stew than a soup . . . and it is absolutely delicious with a dollop of sour cream (or seasoned yogurt), hot sauce, and chopped scallion or cilantro.

Gentle Lentil Soup

3 cups lentils, any type
7 cups water or stock (more as needed)
1 to 2 Tbl. canola oil or butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup minced celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ to 2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
a few pinches of dried herbs (thyme, oregano, or basil)
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp molasses
Red wine vinegar, minced scallions or cilantro, hot sauce, and sour cream for the top

Place the lentils and water in a crock pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and let cook until the lentils are mushy (about 45 minutes). Add more water as needed, until the soup is your favorite consistency. Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the onion, celery, and carrots, and sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, 1 tsp. salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice, and sauté about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to the lentils. Stir in the molasses. Taste to correct seasonings, then simmer for at least 15 minutes longer. Serve hot, with a little vinegar drizzled onto each serving, and a dollop of sour cream, speckles of hot sauce, and a sprinkling of minced scallions or cilantro on top, if desired.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inauguration Tuesday

I really wanted to be in D.C. for the Inauguration, but the numbers stopped me: 1 portapotty for every 6,000 people; over 4,000 NYPD; below 32 degrees F; 4 friends who bailed on me....so I invited girlfriends and their kids over to celebrate. Spending the day with kids is the best way to watch Obama take the oath; these kids will never know a world where electing a black man to the highest office in the country is not possible. Doesn't mean racism is gone, but Obama's election means that the landscape has changed forever.

I'm making Obama family recipes for the celebration. These come from the web (Southern Cooking and The Huffington Post), I'll update with pictures and modifications when the time comes.

Obama Family Chili Recipe

1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Several cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey or beef
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground basil
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Several tomatoes, depending on size, chopped
1 can red kidney beans

Saute onions, green pepper and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add ground meat and brown. Combine spices together into a mixture, then add to ground meat. Add red wine vinegar. Add tomatoes and let simmer, until tomatoes cook down. Add kidney beans and cook for a few more minutes. Serve over white or brown rice. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream.

Michelle Obama's Apple Cobbler

"I've been making this cobbler for a long time, so I usually just eyeball how much needs to go in. People might want more or less sugar, but this is how our family and friends like it. This recipe makes one cobbler, which is like a double pie." --M.O.

8 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced [or a bag of frozen peeled apples]
1-1/2 to 2 cups of brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white flour

Mix these ingredients together in a bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight so the spice goes all the way through the apples.

3 sheets refrigerated pie crust
1 stick of butter

Preheat oven at 325 degrees. Butter and flour the bottom of a large baking dish. Roll out three pie crusts real thin -- as thin as possible. Layer the bottom of the pan with 1-1/2 of the pie crusts and prick a few holes in it. Pour the apples with the liquid into the pie pan. Dot 3/4 of a stick of butter around the apples. Use the final 1-1/2 pie crusts to cover the apple mixture entirely (let the pie crust overlap the pan). Pinch the edges of the dough around the sides of the pan so the mixture is completely covered. Melt final 1/4 stick of butter and brush all over top of crust. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Bake at 300 for up to 3 hours -- that's what makes the crust flaky, like Barack likes it. Put the cobbler in the oven and go for a walk, go to the store, or do whatever you have to do around the house. Start looking at the cobbler after two and a half hours so it doesn't burn.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Healing Kale

Whatever your ailment, I honestly believe that kale could help. That might sound unappealing to you right now, but you should try it out. Add some kale to your diet next week, and you'll see what I mean. It is the very definition of roughage, really. According to the "world's healthiest foods" website: "Sulforaphane, which is formed when cruciferous vegetables such as kale are chopped or chewed, triggers the liver to produce enzymes that detoxify cancer-causing chemicals, inhibits chemically-induced breast cancers in animal studies, induces colon cancer cells to commit suicide." Anything that causes cancer cells to commit suicide is top of my list of foods I'd like to promote. Apparently, kale is not only an antioxidant, but it's like an antioxidant catalyst-collaborator, spurring partner antioxidants into action. And you can totally get double your Vitamin A--more than a whole day's worth--with only one cup of chopped kale. And almost a whole dose of your Vitamin C for the day. It contains nutrients that inhibit rheumatoid arthritis and memory loss, too.

I made a kale stir fry this week that looked as good and healthy as it actually was. I didn't intend to write a post about it, but so many people in my office commented on how it looked (and asked for the recipe) that I changed my mind. It was super simple, for those readers who are put off by my complicated recipes, and it only took about 1/2 hour to make.

Kale and Tempeh Stir Fry

1 package of tempeh (see prior post)
1 red bell pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 cup kale (3 whole leaves)
1 medium onion
2 yellow carrots
coriander, sumac, salt and pepper
olive oil

Chop the kale into small bits (larger and they will be harder to eat and take longer to cook). Dice the red bell pepper, and cut thin circles of carrots. Dice the garlic. Coarsely chop the onion and saute in oil until transluscent. Add the tempeh and garlic, and saute a bit more until the onion is nearly carmelized and the tempeh is browning. Add the red pepper, carrots, and kale and season with coriander, sumac, salt and pepper to taste. Add some water and cover to steam the vegetables. Saute to desired veggie limpness and enjoy all by itself--no rice, no nothin'. Bring your leftovers to work.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


After overdosing on sugar and alcohol the night before, and considering how chilly it is, a wholesome stew was an appropriate antidote. Using the buffalo sirloin cubes that we got at the farm in Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, I adapted a March 2001 Bon Appétit recipe for Irish Beef Stew. It definitely had a soothing effect, and was super simple to make.

Irish Buffalo Stew

3 tbsp olive oil
1 pound sirloin cubes
1 large onion, coarsely diced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
4 cups mushroom-flavored stock
3 diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
4 yellow carrots, cut in thin circles
1 diced red bell pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Chop garlic, thyme and rosemary together so that they mix into one another. Set aside. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until golden, add sirloin cubes and garlic-herb mixture and sauté until the meat is brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add mushroom stock, diced tomatoes, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf, carrots and red pepper. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Add half of the parsley to the stew just before serving and cook until wilted. Sprinkle with parsley after stew is dished onto plates.

We had our stew with couscous. I'd like to try whole wheat dumplings the next time I make this.

Cupcake Tree

There's a woman in my office who is the cupcake maven. She brings in delicious cupcakes for a bunch of occasions, and she makes me jealous. In a good way, if that's possible. Anyway, she--and my friend Lara who also makes fabulously beautiful cupcakes--inspired me to start making cupcakes. When my mother read about my forays into cupcake-making on this blog, she decided to get me a cupcake-related gift for Christmas. In order to live up to the expectations of the gift, which was a cupcake tree, I had to make some uber-fabulous cupcakes. These tasted great, but I have some work to do learning how to work with decorative frosting. I made these for our annual Winter ReGifting Party, and appropriate to the occasion, used a recipe from Amy Sedaris, the comedienne. http://www.amysedarisrocks.com/recipes.htm

I made some alterations, though, most notably, using two vanilla beans that I brought back from Mexico months ago. They were a lot of fun to make, and I think people enjoyed eating them. My work colleague and I agreed to collaborate for our next office occasion that calls for cupcakes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mystery Squash

This squash caught my eye at the Grand Army Plaza green market last Saturday, and I imagined it exactly the way it turned out. Turkey sausage from DiPaolo turkey farm was a great accompaniment. I roasted the squash the night before with olive oil, salt, pepper, and the Yucatan spice rub that I describe in an earlier post. I put it out on the porch all day because it was cold and I had no room in the fridge. Then tonite, I sauteed the turkey sausage with onions, garlic, hot and bell peppers, tomato, and parsley; filled the squash, and popped it back in the oven at 350 for about a half an hour. Too bad I can't remember the name of the squash. It was really good, though. It had a nutty sweetness to it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Honey Thyme Turkey

Remember all of those loaves of rye bread? I couldn't very well go out and buy lunchmeat to go on slices of rye bread for the week, so I picked up a free range turkey breast from DiPaolo's turkey stand at the Grand Army Plaza green market on Saturday morning. The breast was about a pound and a half, and roasted, it made enough for about 10 sandwiches.

Honey Herb Roasted Turkey Breast

One large turkey breast
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh chopped garlic, savory, parsley, thyme, and rosemary
2 tbsp honey

I chopped all of the herbs together on a wooden cutting board so that they all got good and mushed up together. I rolled the turkey breast in olive oil and honey, and then seasoned with the salt and pepper. Then I pressed the herb mixture on top of the sticky breast and popped it in the oven at 350 for about an hour. I sliced the breast thinly, froze some of it, and made sandwiches with the slices for the rest of the week. A great alternative to lunchmeat with all of those preservatives.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Visiting the Buffalo Farm

Two years ago, I was a lawbreaker. I had my car registered in Pennsylvania, and so I had to travel to PA in order to get the car inspected. One year, I decided to take the car to Hamlin, PA, about a half an hour away from our friends' home in Lackawaxen because it was on the way from my parents' to their place. On the way back, we noticed a buffalo farm with free range buffaloes and a small adjacent store that sold the meat. We picked up a bunch of frozen meat; it was delicious, and we made quite a few cool dishes: buffalo kebabs, buffalo meatloaf, and buffalo stew with parsnips. You can find information about the place, and directions to the farm, here: http://agmap.psu.edu/Businesses/1612. Over the holidays, we went back and stocked up for a few months. Skirt steak if my favorite cut of meat, so the first thing we tried was a buffalo skirt steak.

I marinated the buffalo meat in olive oil, diced garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, paprika, and tons of parsley. I rubbed it into the meat in the morning, and left it in the fridge all day while we were at work. It was easier from there: D seared the marinated steak in a sizzling cast iron pan and we served it with some pureed cauliflower that I had frozen and then defrosted that same morning, and steamed kale. Delicious.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Gift of Spice

This year, D and I made spice rub for a few close friends and family. It was the simplest gift, and it was a lot of fun to make. All you need are some empty spice jars, a spice or coffee grinder, the herbs and spices, and a pen, paper, and tape to make labels. We tried some on roasted chicken, empanada fillings, and a roasted squash, and it was terrific. I picked up everything I needed at Sahadi's and the kitchen store right next door.

Yucatan Dry Spice Rub

Two 2 1/2 to 3 inch cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup of dried oregano
2 teaspoons of whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons of whole allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons of whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds

Place all of the ingredients in a spice grinder and grind until fine.

All you have to do is rub it into meat, or even just sprinkle it on meat before roasting. It's good on poultry, pork, and seafood. I haven't tried it with beef yet.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Loaves & Fishes

Cleaning up after the holiday, I was putting away all of the different kinds of flour I'd been using and I just didn't have enough space in my already-cluttered-with-ingredients-and-cooking implements Brooklyn kitchen. The biggest problem with a large bag of rye flour, which I only ever used for one recipe. So I looked up a recipe for rye bread online and decided to give it a go. I was thrilled with the amount of flour it used, because it was going to make it very easy to put smaller bags away. Unfortunately, I didn't read the entire recipe until the end....especially the part where it said that the recipe made 5 LOAVES! It took quite a while, but they turned out pretty nice.

We made an enormous pasta salad with smoked salmon tips over the holidays, and we had a lot of extra salmon. A piece of salmon on some of this bread was very tasty.

Grandma's Rye Bread

2 Tbsp. dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar

Let set for 10 min.

3 cups rye flour
2 Tbsp. salt
5 cups warm water
3 tbsp caraway seeds

Mix flour, salt, and water well. Stir in yeast mixture. Let stand overnight.

In the morning, mix:

5 cups warm water
12 cups white flour
Add to the first mixture. Knead until dough comes freely from hand. Let rise and then make into round loaves on floured pans.

Let rise until 50% higher. Brush with water, egg whites, or a bit of olive oil and sprinkle some caraway seeks on top. Bake 1 hour at 375 F Makes 5 good sized loaves.