Saturday, April 11, 2015

Lebanese Red Lentil Project

A few weeks ago a buddy of mine and loyal reader sent me a recipe he made complete with pictures. I promised him I'd add it to this blog with the caveat that it might take me a while as I've been focusing on a number of cooking-related things, but seem to have less motivation than I should to write them down. I'm not sure what it is- work tires me out, I spend a lot of time walking my dog, I've been relatively active lately (bike rides, running, and now I'm learning to play golf through my employer's PE program--- it's awesome and I have actually hit the ball, which is a major step in the right direction), but it's not like I don't have any time at all, you know? 

Among my bigger culinary endeavors lately have been the brewing of a couple beers that I will submit to a local homebrew competition with the (very minuscule) hope of winning the grand prize which would be that my beer would be brewed by a local brewery and served at a local festival in November. I made an IPA and a Stout, both of which I think are quite good, but taking home any prize, much less the grand prize, is not easy. I'm also working on making Ice Cream with the thought that one day it might be fun to open an Ice Cream shop. It's probably fantasy more than anything, but the daily grind of working for others- even when they're very good employers- gets to me and I think I'd like to start something on my own one day. Either way, I've made a very good Chocolate Ice Cream, a decent Green Tea Ice Cream, and a Beer Ice Cream which I had to throw away due to excessive hoppiness but that I plan to try again this week along with a Blueberry Pie Ice Cream. 

All this is to say that I haven't stopped cooking even if I have stopped blogging about it. It'll come and go, but the following recipe (project?) is here for posterity. My friend writes:

It is the second week of Lent, and Lent sounds like Lentil, so Lentil Soup is the Soup that I hath made. This Soup gives me a bunch of Vegetable matter to consume over the next week. ​The recipe is from Serious Eats. I had a print-out of the recipe, but it is found at this ( link [recipe copied below, the pictures are all his]. This recipe is straightforward. ​The main difficulty that I faced was the transfer of 4L of liquid three times. Careful pouring is required. Tip: Be generous with the cilantro and sparing with the lemon. The soup came out well -- 8 out of 10 

Lebanese Red Lentil Project

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 chopped large White or Yellow Onion
2 Carrots peeled and chopped
2 Celery Stalks chopped
4 Cloves Garlic chopped
2 tsp Ground Cumin
0.5 tsp Cayenne
1.5 tsp Smoked Paprika

4 c. Dry Red Lentils
2 Bay Leaves
12-16 c. Low-Sodium Vegetable Stock or Water
Kosher Salt

1 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

1 Large Red Onion minced
0.333 c. Cilantro Leaves chopped
1 Lemon sliced into wedges

Heat Olive Oil in a large pan and add Onion, Carrots, and Celery for about 5 minutes. Add Garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in Cumin, Cayenne, and Paprika and cook for another couple minutes.

Rinse Lentils.

Transfer mixture to a slow cooker and add the Lentils, Bay Leaves, and Stock. Add Salt to taste and let cook on low for about 4 hours adding liquid as necessary to maintain your desired consistency. 

Once cooked, discard Bay Leaves and puree in a blender or food processor with Vinegar. Serve with Red Onion and Cilantro on top and a Lemon wedge on the side.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cremini Mushroom Lasagna and Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna

My girlfriend and I flew up to NYC for a long weekend a couple weeks ago and had a great time- aside from the freezing rain that soaked my shoes and didn't completely dry until after we'd returned to Austin. But I digress. The weekend was a blast- I saw some old friends, we saw It's Only a Play starring Mathew Broderick and Martin Short, we checked out SingleCut Beersmiths (they make some very quality IPAs), and we saw the 9/11 Memorial, which was everything you'd expect it to be- especially on a solemn cold and rainy day. 

And of course, we ate very well. Halal Guys. Seriously, how can they give that much food at that quality and taste for $7?! We had bagels and lox at Russ & Daughters which was delicious, as you'd expect. We got arepas at Caracas (something I'll have to make), and I ate a falafel sandwich at Mamoun's. They still set the standard in my mind of what a falafel should be. On our last night we ate at Eataly. Eataly was a little overwhelming, a little pricy, and Birreria's brews didn't live up to my standard (full disclosure: I only tried one beer, but it was $10 and not even good enough for me to remember it's name. It was some kind of porter/stout thing...), but I did see one of the Master Chef judges at Birreria, so that was cool. Also, the Cremini Mushroom Lasagna that I had was incredible. Of course I had to make it myself. I succeeded.

I know it's been a while since I last posted, but in that time I bought a pasta maker (basically a fancy rolling pin) and I haven't bought boxed pasta since. Seriously, once you see how easy and delicious fresh homemade pasta is, you'll never want to buy it again. I had a training for work at Maggiano's Little Italy today and as I ate my lunch all I could think was that I should've brought my leftover Lasagna, because it would've been so much better!

(I apologize for a rather uninspired picture. I assure you that it tastes better than it looks!)

Pasta Noodles

2 c. Flour (I do half All Purpose Flour and half Tipo 00 which is ground even finer than normal Flour, but I'm pretty sure I'm just wasting my money on Tipo 00)
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Salt
4-5 tbsp. Cold Water

Mix the Flour with the Salt. Fold in the beaten Eggs. Add Water one tablespoon at a time until the dough completely sticks together without being wet and sticky on your hands. If it's too wet, add more Flour; too dry, add some Water. I've used these ratios for every kind of Pasta I've made so far and it's always great. For the Lasagna, I just flattened it into sheets (an 8 on my machine- so pretty thin). Since it's already soft and slightly wet unlike store-bought dry Pasta, I only cook it in boiling water for about 3 minutes.

Cremini Mushroom Lasagna

0.75 lb. Cremini Mushrooms
0.75 lb. Taleggio Cheese
~0.5 c. Olive Oil
3 Shallots
Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper

Chop the Shallots in a food processor and sauté in some Olive Oil with Salt and Pepper. Chop the Cremini Mushrooms in the food processor and add to the Shallots once the Shallots are soft. Add Olive Oil as needed to keep it from getting too dry. I don't think I used more than a 0.5 cups, but I didn't measure it. That's pretty much it. Cook the Lasagna Noodles and do thin layers of Pasta followed by thin layers of the Cremini Mushrooms. Top the final Noodle layer with shredded Parmesan Cheese and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. I wanted an 8 layer Lasagna (remember: thin layers), but my baking sheet lent itself to 4 layers, so I doubled them up after I cut the Lasagna. 

I had enough Noodles to make a second Lasagna, so I made a really simple one with Spinach and Ricotta Cheese.

Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna

1 lb. Frozen Chopped Spinach
20 oz. Ricotta Cheese
2 Shallots
Olive Oil
1 jar Pasta Sauce

I was feeling lazy, so I just used jarred Newman's Own Pasta Sauce. That being said, I sautéed the Shallots, added the Spinach, and cooked the Spinach until it was soft and wilted. I mixed this with the Ricotta Cheese and Salted and Peppered to taste. I did four layers of Noodles, filling, Noodles, and topped the final Noodle layer with the Pasta Sauce. It was also delicious, but I think I preferred the Cremini Mushroom Lasagna. Either way, they were both better than what you get at most Italian restaurants!