February, 2005

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Wine
Feb 28th, 2005

My conclusion, after paying attention to the wine I drink in hopes of having something to post here, is that I drink a lot of mediocre wine. Not bad wine, not post-college El Gato Negro wine, but just inoffensive cheapish wine. I'm not opposed to spending money on good wine, but I guess I'm afraid of spending the money and having the wine turn out to still just be mediocre. I think I need to do some reading for specific suggestions, that or cajole Warner into posting here.

That said, here are two wines that I've purchased lately that are mildly interesting. The first is Evolution #9 by the Oregon winery Sokol Blosser. This is the 8th edition of this fairly cheaply priced melange of 9 different varieties of wine. From the label, "as luck would have it, a random number of varietals took a liking to each other and decided to become a lush, off-dry, somewhat tropical wine with a crisp finish." I have a sentimental attachment to this winery, as the Sokol-Blosser's are old friends of my mom's, but they're also pretty well-known in Oregon circles. This is a drinking wine, not a knock your socks off wine, but it's good and different every year. I've tasted it most years since it's inception. Priced around $12 - $14.

The other will have to wait, kids are wining.


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Roasted Root Vegetable Hash
Feb 26th, 2005

I'm about ready for spring at this point. Fresh asparagus, tiny green peas, spring onions, they all sound really good about now. But winter is still hanging on in Seattle, or was two weeks ago when I busted out this root vegetable hash. Today the trees are popping out in white and pink and I have a yellow pot full of miniature daffodils in bloom on my front steps. This is the time of year when we get cruelly tossed back in forth between winter and spring - it snowed in Paris yesterday, today it will be in the 60's in Seattle. So all this blathering is really just to say that while I'm craving the fresh vegetables of spring, there are still days that make me break out the comforting squashes, soups, and root vegetables of winter.

This Roasted Root Vegetable Hash is an easy preparation when you're looking for something a little new. You can make it as rooty as you'd like - I used celeriac, turnips, and carrots, but you could replace the turnips with potatoes for a more familiar taste. It's a good side dish with meats, but could also be served as a main dish with a good cheese and a big red wine.


Roasted Root Vegetable Hash

3 to 3 1/2 pounds root vegetables, such as parsnips, carrots, celery root (celeriac), parsley root, turnips, and/or potatoes, in any combination
2 medium onions, peeled
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, rendered bacon or pancetta fat, or brown butter
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400F.

Peel the root vegetables. Cut celery root into 1-inch-thick slices, then cut each slice into 1/4- to 1/3-inch dice. If any of the other vegetables are thicker than 1 1/2 inches in diameter, cut them lengthwise in half, then cut crosswise into 1/4- to 1/3-inch slices. Cut the onions into eighths through the root ends, leaving the wedges intact. (You should have about 8 cups of vegetables.)

Using a lightly dampened brush, brush a heavy baking sheet with some of the oil [or just spray it with a cooking spray]. Lay the onion wedges cut side down in one corner of the pan. Scatter the root vegetables over the rest of the pan. Using the brush dipped in the remaining oil [or your fingers], toss and brush the root vegetables until they are completely coated with oil, then brush the tops of the onions. Sprinkle all the vegetables with the salt and pepper.

Roast, turning the vegetables every 15 minutes or so with a spatula, until they are tender and golden, about 45 minutes. [I put a few sprigs of rosemary in with the veggies.]

-A New Way to Cook, Sally Schneider
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Lime Curd
Feb 26th, 2005

Lemon and lime curds are usually full of butter. This one leaves out the butter entirely, boosting the creaminess with a little bit of gelatin. It works, and because it's so tangy and zippy I didn't miss the butter at all. Plus it comes together really fast. My only quibble would be that it doesn't make enough. It's just the right amount to fill the Lemon Cake, but I wanted more!

Lime Curd

1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup fresh lime juice [I used key limes]
7 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1 egg white
2 tsp rum [I used mango-flavored rum]
One 3-by-1-inch strip lime zest


In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tbsp of the lime juice. Set aside to soften.

In a medium stainless steel bowl, or the top of a double boiler, combine the remaining lime juice and the sugar, egg, egg white, and zest. Set the bowl over, but not in, simmering water. (Although the curd could be cooked directly over low heat in a heavy saucepan, using a water bath ensures that it doesn't overcook.) Whisk constantly until the curd is thick and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Stir in the gelatin mixture and cook for 1 minute longer. Strain into a medium bowl and allow to cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally. Transfer the curd to a jar, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. The curd will keep for about 1 week.

To translate this recipe back to the traditional lemon curd just replace the lime juice and zest with lemon and omit the rum.

To fill the lemon cake, split the cooled cake layer horizontally in half with a bread knife. (I got scared at this point because the cake is so thin, I thought I'd end up with nothing but crumbs, but Jim took over and it sliced really easily.) Spread the bottom layer with Lime Curd. Replace the top layer and sift the confectioner's sugar over the top. When serving, pour some of the lemon syrup around each slice.

-A New Way to Cook, Sally Schneider
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Lemon Cake with Lime Curd
Feb 26th, 2005

This lemon cake was really fun to make. I don't think Jim liked it too much - he's not really into desserts that aren't chocolate. But those of us with a more discerning palate (that would be me and my friend Larissa) liked it a lot. Cause we've got good taste you see. Unlike Jim. Did you get that?

Anyway, this recipe has been lightened up from the traditional pound cake and lemon curd preparations, but it certainly does not descend into that spongy-tasting low-fat category. It resides somewhere happily in the middle. You can serve the cake as is, or split it as I did and fill it with really anything you want. I chose lime curd, but a raspberry cream would be good, or I've been dreaming of layering a lime curd and a mango cream. Yummmy...


Fresh Lemon Cake

Lemon Syrup
3 medium lemons
6 tbsp granulated sugar
4 whole cloves

Cake
2 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour (or 1 1/2 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour)
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of kosher salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup water
7 tbsp granulated sugar
1 large egg

Decoration
2 tsp confectioners' sugar


For the lemon syrup, grate the zest of the lemons; you should have 2 tbsp. Juice the lemons; you should have 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. In a small saucepan, combine the zest, juice, sugar, and cloves. Bring to a boil over moderate heat and cook for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set aside to cool, then discard the cloves. [The cloves really add something special to this syrup. I was doubtful but now I'm a believer.]

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan or a 9-inch square pan with 1/2 tsp of the butter. Dust the pan with 2 tsp of the flour and set aside.

Sift together the remaining flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a measuring cup, combine 6 tbsp of the lemon syrup and the buttermilk. Add the water to the remaining lemon syrup and reserve.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the remaining 2 tbsp butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well to combine. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the lemon-buttermilk mixture in three additions, mixing until just incorporated; do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. To distribute the batter evenly in the pan, beginning at the edge of the pan, move your index finger in a spiral through the top 1/4 inch of the batter until you reach the center, or zigzag back and forth if using a square pan. Rap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles.

Bake for 30 minutes if using an 8-inch pan, 25 minutes if using a 9-inch pan, or until a thin sharp knife or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Run a knife around the edges of the pan and invert the cake onto the rack. Let cool completely.

If not filling the cake, pour the reserved syrup onto a large plate with a lip. Place the cake upside down on the syrup. Sift the confectioners' sugar over the top.

The cake is best the day it is baked, but it will keep, well wrapped, for up to 3 days.

-A New Way to Cook, Sally Schneider
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Pomegranate Margaritas
Feb 22nd, 2005

Normally when I have people over for dinner I tend to focus on the food and let dinner and drinks pretty much take care of themselves. This time we wanted to keep it low stress, so planned on getting takeout. With all the time left over, I was able to concentrate on making a semi-elaborate dessert and cocktails. I had a lot of fun and would definitely consider repeating the experiment - it didn't hurt that the takeout was yummy.

Our menu ended up being mole chicken enchiladas, tacos pescado, and chicken tamales. To go with this I fixed Pomegranate Margaritas and Lemon Cake with Lime Curd (recipe coming). Pomegranate seems to be a trendy ingredient right now, with pomegranate molasses being featured in sauces and glazes, and bars whipping up Pomegranate Martinis, Margaritas, and Sangrias. I decided on the margarita to go with the Mexican food.

Pomegranate Margarita
1 oz tequila
1 oz pomegranate juice (the Pom brand seems ubiquitous)
1 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 oz simple syrup

I multiplied this by four and that made enough for three people to have 1 and a half drinks a piece. To make enough simple syrup for four drinks just dissolve 1 oz of sugar in 1 oz of cold water. I suppose you could blend these with ice, but I just used my martini shaker and some ice.

Serve in a salt lined glass with a lime for garnish. The pomegranate juice is not very sweet, so the end result isn't too sickly sweet like frou frou drinks can be sometimes. My friend said it was just the right balance between alcohol and sweet.


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Broccoli Dal Curry
Feb 20th, 2005

This recipe tastes like healthfood. I don't mean that in a bad way, and actually I'm not sure how healthy it is given the butter and coconut in it, but it has that warm, hearty, almost bland feel to it when paired with brown rice. Bland seems an odd word to use to describe an Indian curry, but this recipe is not really very highly spiced and the addition of the vegetables and rice mellow it out even more.

I really like it, but it's definitely for a night when you want something comforting and filling, not something gourmet. The recipe calls for two heads of broccoli, I used half broccoli and half cauliflower. Both are good - the cauliflower melds into the sauce more and the broccoli has more taste and interest on its own. I used red lentils with this but you could use regular brown lentils - it just wouldn't be as creamy.


Broccoli Dal Curry

1 cup lentils
4 tbsp ghee or light oil [I used two tbsp unsalted butter]
2 medium onions, chopped fine
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
2 tsp turmeric
juice of half a lemon
2 medium heads broccoli
2 cups water
1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup cashews or roasted peanuts [didn't have these so left them out]


Wash lentils well and drain. Heat ghee or oil in a large saucepan and saute onions until they begin to soften. Add chili powder, black peper, cumin, coriander, and turmeric. Stir and cook briefly. Add lentils, stir well, and add lemon juice, water, and coconut. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 25 to 30 minutes or until lentils are soft.

Meanwhile, cut broccoli into individual florets. (Save stems for another use). Steam 5 to 10 minutes, until almost tender. Plunge broccoli in cold water, drain, and set aside.

Remove 1/3 cup of liquid from the lentil mixture, add to flour to form a smooth paste, and return it to the pan. Add steamed broccoli, salt, and nuts. Simmer another 5 to 10 minutes, until the lentils make a thick sauce. Serve with steamed basmati rice.

-Winter Harvest Cookbook, Lane Morgan
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Masoor Dal
Feb 20th, 2005

For Christmas my brother and his girlfriend gave me a collection of Indian and Middle Eastern spices, including a spice so stinky it has to be stored double-bagged inside a glass jar. Asafetida is an essential ingredient in vegetarian Indian cooking, treasured for its onionlike flavor and aroma - after it's cooked that is. Before it's cooked it smells like rotten eggs, or as Nancie McDermott gently puts it "It remains an acquired taste in the West, primarily due to its strong, sulfury smell."

Needless to say, I was excited to use this pungent spice, and since I had some leftover red lentils, this recipe for Masoor Dal (red lentils) seemed like a good choice. The asafetida is optional, so if you don't have any just leave it out.

I don't know if it's the asafetida that does it, but this is really good. The notes in the recipe say that you can whisk and mash the cooked lentils either before or after you add the cooked onion if you would like a smoother texture.

Good with basmati rice or the Olga's flatbread recipe in the archive.


Masoor Dal

1/2 cup raw red lentils (masoor dal)
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil or butter
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp asafetida
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato


Rinse and drain the lentils and combine with the water in a medium saucepan. Stir in the salt, turmeric and cayenne and bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Skim off and discard the cloudy white foam that appears on the surface as the lentils begin to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, heat the oil or butter in a medium frying pan over high heat for about 30 seconds. Add the cumin seeds and the asafetida and cook for 1 minute, until the seeds begin to sizzle and pop. Add the garlic, ginger, onion and tomato and toss gently for 1 minute, until they shine and begin to wilt. Reduce the heat to medium and cook 5 minutes, tossing occasionally. Set aside.

Add the onion mixture to the lentils and continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked. Stir well and remove from the heat. Serve hot or warm.

-Nancie McDermott, The Curry Book
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