Good Luck Lentils

It’s the New Year. I was thinking all about how well it was going. There were lots of happy, uplifting stories like this and this and this. I was smiling.

Then this happened, which infuriated me in the it is easier to buy a gun and ammunition than it is to buy beer kind of way. Later on, I watched this and I thought the world is really, seriously going to hell in a hand basket and what happened to Happy New Year and all that.

It is a few days, alright nine or so, past New Year’s Day but I turned the clock back at our house and we are going to eat lentils, lots of them.

Italians eat lentils on New Year’s day and in the new year. They eat them in hopes of money and good fortune. And let’s face it, the money sure would be nice but the good fortune part? It’s essential.

Good Luck Lentils with Fennel and Chard

1 large onion, finely chopped

5 large cloves garlic minced

Fennel - I had five sweet little bulbs - you should have about 1 cup chopped stalks and 1 cup julienned bulbs

1 cup diced carrots

1 bunch chard chopped

1 cup lentils- I used De Puy but you can use brown or green. I wouldn't use red though. I was going to use black beluga lentils which are awfully pretty but not always to hand.

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)

1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes (or diced tomato)

Few sprigs fresh thyme

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Parmeggiano-reggiano shaved

In a large pot, sauté the onions, garlic, carrots and chopped fennel stocks with the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Stir in the lentils and the thyme.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are almost tender.

Add the chard and the julienned fennel bulb. Cover and simmer for five minutes. Add the tomato and simmer for another three minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve in bowls with a little drizzle of nice olive oil, some fennel fronds and some shaved parmeggiano. A nice chunk of crusty bread goes well here too.

Happy New Year - again!


Man Bread

A while back we were passing through our local market one Sunday morning, trying desperately not to eat everything in sight. There was a woman promoting her new book and handing out recipe cards, which Poppy needed to have.

The card got filed in with the shopping. When we got home it got removed from the market bag, a little damp from something or other. I put the card in a catch everything basket on the counter. It stayed there for a couple weeks. Then, in a flurry of tidying up, it got put in a drawer.

I remembered the card and started a little search for it which turned into a frustrating and exhaustive tidy up and sort out of the drawer. There it was, finally, nestled between some cookie cutters and cupcake wrappers right up against the last six weeks worth of supermarket receipts and an empty package of throat lozenges.

It was a recipe aimed at men to promote a book aimed at men, insinuating that men need to eat different things than women, or at least cook different things. I am not sure. Regardless, it looked like this recipe could turn out well so Tilly and I made it.

The whole time, I thought about the man recipe thing and my thoughts turned to this. I realized that, at our house, the man drawer is mine. It is in the kitchen, it isn’t full of lightbulbs and batteries. It is full of piping tips that haven’t made it back into the case, clips and closures, thread and pens, chokey bits of toy hastily hidden from a curious baby and lots of random notes, recipes and clippings and it is full to spilling out. The kind of spilling out that takes a hip to shut it while you smooth the top layer down while carefully trying to extract your hands before you scrape your knuckles.

The man area at our house is very well ordered. Sure, there are some useless bits of junk and some empty wrappers but it is all tucked away in a quite carefully organised corner of the basement, so far from the bottom of the stairs that I only venture down there in the direst of cases. Safe from the clutter and mess of the rest of the house. A dark and peaceful little haven.

So, I did what I do and we made this man recipe an little trickier, if sautéing onions is tricky. And, I lightened it up using a lighter beer than it called for - the original called for a stout and I used Stone Levitation Ale, a hoppy little local number. I foofooed it up with the tiniest bit of oregano, dried because I can’t stomach fresh in any quantity. If my children weren’t eating it, I would have chucked it full of something spicy too.

The result was a loaf worth accompanying even the ladiest of winter pots. It is quick enough to make after a day out to go with whatever has been in your slow cooker all day. It is tasty enough to want to make more than once. It is really gorgeous toasted and would be pretty damn fine with some eggs and mushrooms.

Technically, it isn’t Man Bread, it is Anybody Bread. Unfortunately, this means you’ll have more competition getting a slice.

Cheddar Onion Beer Bread adapted from a recipe by Susan C. Russo

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup grated cheddar cheese, I used a 2 year old number

1 cup sautéed onions, cooled

A few grinds of fresh ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

12 ounce (350 mL) flavourful ale of your choice

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Butter an 8-inch x 4-inch loaf pan.

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir in cheese. Stir in onions.

Pour beer in and mix all ingredients until combined.

Pour into prepared tin.

Bake for around 40 minutes. When a tester comes out clean, it is done.

Cool for a few minutes before slicing.



Eat Your Greens

There are lots of greens in our CSA lately. Luckily, Poppy shares my love of them so with two avid eaters, one reluctant partaker and one hysterically unimpressed refuser, we manage to get through our allotment each week. Along with a big bunch of kale, dandelion or spinach and the huge bunches of greens on top of the beets and turnips, we have been getting a big bag of ‘braising mix’ for the last few weeks. I usually whizz it up into undetectable pieces and throw it into just about everything. You see, as soon as the green bits get too big everything in the mouth is spat out in a big head shaking, literally tongue wiping, dining room spraying mess. Until now, because of this, we haven’t been able to enjoy our greens as they should be. Or, at least as I have decided they will be.

The braising mix would not make its way into the food processor today. The greens would be supper.

I had a little look around for the right way to cook the greens, which were a mix of collard, mustard, spinach, kale and turnip greens, by looking up recipes for collard greens mainly. I was surprised by how long they all told me to cook them for. I was also dismayed that most recipes called for bacon fat or ham hock baths and various other cured pork remnants. I am not opposed to said pork remnants but after the consumption of the last two weeks I was looking for something a little less hearty. So, I strayed from the right way, favouring my way.

Years ago, that makes me sound so old, we served creamed spinach with raisins and pine nuts at Lolita’s Lust. It was pretty damn tasty. Our braising mix had spinach in it, the rest was green, this was where I would start.

The resulting bowl of greens probably took a little more chewing than your average Southern greens eater would approve of but delicious nonetheless. I would happily sit down to eat a bowl of these with nothing else but the rest of my family, save for Tilly who, after one bite, spat, wiped her tongue and pushed her plate away, had them with the Man Bread I made today, post to follow.

The raisins add a little chewy sweetness to the slightly bitter green while the almonds give a toasty crunch. Onions and garlic sweeten and deepen a tiny bit of cream that ties all the flavours together without them seeming too rich.

This couldn’t be much simpler and can be made with whatever type of greens you have to hand, just adjust the cooking time accordingly. Spinach will take less time, a greater proportion of collard greens will take more. How long you cook them also depends on how soft you like them to be. I cooked the mix, covered, for twenty minutes and a further 7-10 minutes to reduce the liquid before I added the cream.

If you do use spinach alone, you may want to use two pounds instead of one as it will cook down quite a bit more than the others do.

Braised Greens with Raisins and Almonds

1 medium onion diced

3 large cloves garlic minced

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup stock - vegetable or chicken

1 pound mixed greens, cleaned and chopped into strips

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds

Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Melt butter in a pot large enough to hold the greens. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the stock and bring to a boil. 

Add the greens. Reduce the heat and cover. Simmer until the greens are tender. Remove the cover and reduce the coking liquid until it is almost dry. 

Add the raisins and cream. Bring to the boil and reduce just until it coats the greens. 

Add the almonds.

Season with salt and pepper and eat.


Pre-Resolution Pennies

A few days ago, I found myself channeling my inner 1950’s housewife, the one with the perfectly starched, immaculately clean apron and not a hair out of place. Not the one I more closely resemble, with no apron and floury wet handprints on my butt - the result of a misplaced towel, and hair that resembles that Hallowe’en wig in the bottom of your dress up trunk but with the added dimension of whatever your child ate for breakfast smeared on one side and toothpaste in the ends of the other. It’s a glamorous job I do.

I was tidying up the cheese drawer, trying to make some space for all the cheese we need to have for Christmas. There was a chunk of prematurely purchased Christmas stilton that needed using up and, maybe it is because I have been trying to be so good and not eat such things lately, the thought of the best way to make cheese more fattening came to mind. I needed to make cheese pennies. You know, the ones you have eaten at least a dozen of before you can say, ‘A moment on the lips...‘. 

Ours would be stilton cheese pennies and we would throw some nuts in and then they would be very delicious with some port, the port you need to have because it is Christmas. You know, to go with all the cheese.

It’s not a new idea. It has been done way more than once, usually called Stilton Shortbread or Stilton and Walnut Cheese Dubloons or something else to make them sound all fancy. And, even though they are but humble cheese pennies, I can see why people try to give them this exalted status with flowery names. They certainly didn’t make it to Christmas Day here.

I managed to save enough to include in our Christmas goodie bags we were making for some friends but the daughters ran off into a corner with a handful nicked off the cooling rack. Stephen then discovered the container I had carefully hidden them in after a bike ride home but before supper. It took all three of us to tear them out of his hands which ended in hysterics because the girls thought they were rescuing the pennies for their own consumption. 

I didn’t use any dry mustard or cayenne which the cheddar variety like. I did use a healthy dose of fresh ground black pepper which when baked just added a toasty little kick. The pecans add a really great crunch to the pennies.

These are really good to make in advance. You can leave the dough in the fridge and just slice and bake before you need them. They also keep very well in an airtight container at room temperature after baking.

You really need these. Maybe as a foil to your New Year’s Eve tipple. I encourage you to enjoy them soon, before all your resolutions kick in and you can’t.

Stilton and Pecan Pennies

1 generous cup crumbled stilton

1/2 cup butter (if you use salted, don’t add salt, if you use unsalted, add the salt)

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and add cold water by the tablespoonful until the dough just holds together (I used 2 tablespoons).

Divide the dough in two. Roll each half into a log about 1-inch in diameter and wrap in clingfilm. Chill for at least a couple of hours.  

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Slice in 1/4-inch rounds and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes or until they are golden on the bottoms and edges.

Cool and try not to eat all at once.


Brisket à la Caplansky

I will happily admit that while I completely approve of nose to tail eating, I myself, am not nearly brave enough to adopt it as practice at our house. My meat eating, when it happens, is generally limited to the better known and leaner cuts. I know that in the big picture of nose to tail that what this post is all about is not even close to brave, not even close to really even being considered nose to tail and for huge numbers of people, it is everyday meat. Not so for us. Even Stephen was concerned.

A while before American Thanksgiving, my near-vegetarian daughter, piped up and asked for brisket. I asked if if she knew what it was, she didn’t. I explained and asked if she still wanted to have it, she said she did. I realized I had never cooked it and, I am pretty sure, had never eaten it, at least not knowingly. I wasn’t sure where to start. 

I did set a date though. I couldn’t face the thought of turkey three months in a row, so we would have brisket for Thanksgiving Round #2.

When I was sure that at least one person was going to eat it, I started looking around and thinking about recipes. After realizing that the brisket recipe world was not for one as inexperienced as I am, I turned to the Master of All Things Brisket. If Zane couldn’t help me out, I was sure there would be no chance of pulling it off. Zane obligingly supplied the recipe and moral support for the endeavour.  I tried as hard as I could to stick to the recipe too, no minor feat.

I set about looking for a brisket which, low and behold, you can pretty much get at any butcher shop. I went searching a little further and found a place that sells as local as it gets, grass fed beef and they said they had a brisket. We walked into the butcher shop, the styliest I have ever been in, I asked for the brisket. He set about getting it from the fridge and Poppy noticed through the glass window that there was an entire deer, skinned but with head, antlers and face still intact hanging in the fridge. She asked whether it was alive. I told her it wasn’t. She asked why it still had its face on. I told her that all animals have a face. She asked why they hadn’t cut it off yet. I didn’t really have an answer. I did say that I thought it was nicer to look at the animal with its face still on and she agreed. The topic of conversation for the rest of the afternoon was set. And, she is still as interested in meat as she was before which isn’t a whole lot but she seems unaffected by the butcher shop experience.

I am not going to tell you how much I paid for this piece of meat, it was more than I imagined it could be. I don’t think you need to spend this much money on a brisket and I won’t again. I was happy with where it came from and what it ate and how it lived though. I think that any grass fed flavour was lost in the six hour braising though and, in hindsight, I should have thought of that.

I chose to do this in several steps. I cooked it. I removed it from the braising liquid. I refrigerated the brisket and the liquid separately overnight. I skimmed the fat off the top of the liquid before reducing it. I also sliced the brisket cold. I had read somewhere that it is much easier that way. Then, after reducing the braising liquid, I heated them up in the oven to serve. This certainly didn’t speed the process up any but everything was very easy. 

Was it worth the time? If anyone asks for more than it is worth the time. It hasn’t turned Poppy into a drooling carnivore but I didn’t really want it to. Stephen loved it.  He had firsts and seconds and leftovers and seconds and a brisket sandwich and seconds. It was after the first round of seconds that he admitted that he had not been looking forward to it but was pretty excited by it. Poppy was pretty happy with the meat but the sauce was too spicy, it wasn’t but she is four and was saving room for the Magnolia cupcakes we had for pudding. Tilly ate lots. She shares her father’s food preferences.

I am going to throw this out there, but I realize it is pretty obvious. This is not fast food. Plan ahead. You will be happy you did.

Barbecue Brisket adapted, just a little, from Zane Caplansky

5 pound brisket 

4 chopped white onions

A head of garlic chopped

Two large tins diced tomatoes

4 cups beef stock

A few sprigs of fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

Fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

3/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 300º.

In a large pan sear the brisket on both sides. Put it in a large roasting pan, or baking dish or a huge dutch oven, if it fits.

Sauté the onions and garlic until soft. Pop them on top of the brisket. Add the tomatoes, stock and spices. Cover with a lid or foil and braise for about five hours, or up to six hours of your brisket is bigger. Zane says it should cook for about an hour per pound up to about six hours.

When it is nice and tender, remove the meat from the liquid and cool, if you want to, and slice. Here is where I put it in the fridge overnight, before slicing.

Put the liquid in a saucepan and add the vinegar and sugar. Reduce until it is barbecue sauce thick.

Pour the sauce over the sliced brisket and reheat in the oven, if necessary.


Pistachio and Cranberry Pesto (and eleven of its uses)

I was at the market on Thursday collecting our CSA and strolling around, as you do at the market. We stopped to buy some cookies, sublime chocolate chip and walnut, from an Australian stall holder who was selling a wide variety of things -bread and pasta, pesto and hummus, olives and nuts, cookies and cheesecake. After serving a very anxious Tilly, he proceeded to give a very indecisive woman the hard sell on his pasta and pesto combos. 

Now, I think fresh pasta is a delicious luxury and homemade fresh pesto equally so but, if I am going to buy pesto of any sort, it had better be damn good. My curiousity, and maybe his selling technique, got the better of me and I caved in for a taste. The choice was Poppy’s and she decided that we should try the pistachio and cranberry pesto. I dutifully tried to scoop up what looked like a fancy herbed dipping oil onto the bit of bread for a taste without much solid stuff sticking. It tasted fine, if you drizzled it over something maybe even a little yummy but not fantastic, not really fruity or nutty or anything. We didn’t buy it.

I decided to make it and would like to say that this is a little holiday kitchen workhorse for you. It is warm and wintery and fresh at the same time. It is so versatile that without even trying, I can think of a ton of uses. We have tried it three ways and we only made it after lunch today. 

So, you can, of course, use it stirred into some pasta. The girls devoured this perfect apres-swim supper this evening. You could also put it in a little jar and tie a pretty ribbon around it and give it to a friend. Add a beautiful goat cheese, if you really like this friend. You could use it to top roasted squash. And, in that vein, it could turn the sweet potato casserole on its head - mini marshmallows beware. You could roll it in some filo, with or without a little bit of cheese (think soft) and make very tasty little hors d-oeuvres. Try stuffing it into apples, baking them and serving with a pork roast. I like to muck around with the humble grilled cheese but I really, honestly think this would be divine spread inside with some really old cheddar. I think that this would be really nice alongside turkey, not traditional cranberry sauce but maybe a tasty new tradition. And, despite my disregard for it, I can’t help but quietly whisper roast lamb to you as well.

Stephen, for supper, had it stuffed into a chicken breast and roasted - it would have only been better had I taken a real chicken breast out of the freezer instead of a skinless one. Had it been a real chicken breast, ie. one with skin, I would have been inclined to just stuff the pesto under the skin. I, for a late lunch, had it dobbled over some fresh figs, a SoCal benefit, with a bit of shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. It disappeared rather quickly. 

I should mention a few things about making this. I would recommend buying shelled pistachios for two reasons. The first is that you can save yourself a lot of time, especially if you find yourself dropping whatever it is you are doing to rescue various parts of your house, furniture, sanity from your small child. The second is, that by the time you finish shelling them, especially with a little helper, you will have eaten half of what you bought. If you can buy them shelled, roasted and unsalted, even better. If not, buy unroasted and lightly toast and cool them before you start. Try as hard as you can, and buy unsalted ones.

If you go the shelling route, you will need to get some of the loose skins off. Do that by wrapping the pistachios in a clean towel and rubbing them. Then they should be less skinny and ready to go.

This makes about four cups of pesto which is quite a lot but you can keep it in the fridge in a jar covered with olive oil for a couple of weeks at least, if it was to last that long.

Pistachio and Cranberry Pesto

1 1/2 cups shelled unsalted roasted pistachios

1 cup dried cranberries

2 large shallots minced

4 cloves garlic minced

1/4 cup + 3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup parsley finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sauté the shallots and garlic with 1/4 cup olive oil until translucent. Cool.

Pulse the pistachios in the food processor.

Pulse the cranberries in the food processor, or finely chop.

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix it up. Store it in a jar in the refrigerator until you find the next use. It won’t take long.


Cheddar and Chive Buttermilk Biscuits

Until recently, I had never been to a Target. I had heard all about it. I had read about it, David Lebovitz misses it throughout The Sweet Life in Paris. I had dreamt about it. Well, I had daydreamed about it - casually strolling through the aisles, neatly placing things in a basket, maybe trying on a few bargain items of clothing before heading to the check out where the cashier looks at me with a look that says,‘there is a woman who has her shit together.’ Then, reality seeps back in and the daydream becomes a daymare - shopping trolley careening through the aisles with one child hanging off the side wailing because I won’t buy her some Polly Pockets while the other child squeals in discomfort at the seat belt she is trying to escape from, random items are being thrown in, there is at least one open box of crackers or cereal administered as a failing bribe for peace, there is no patience for a leisurely fitting and the cashier’s look says,‘Bloody hell, why do I have to get all the nut job mothers who think shopping with their children is acceptable?’

When we got here, to San Diego, I even looked the address of all the Targets up, knowing that one day, my time would come. But, I resisted the urge to cart the girls off there. I insisted that I would not go until there was something we needed. We would not go and aimlessly ogle all the things we didn’t need to buy. 

The place where we were staying, before moving to our more permanent semi-permanent home had next to no cooking equipment. By equipment, I don’t mean blenders, food processors and mixers. By equipment, I mean pots and pans and frustrated at not being able to throw away the immense collection of scratched, bent and burnt teflon in the kitchen, I had a crazy thought. We could bake something, we just had to go somewhere and buy some pans. If that somewhere happened to be Target, well then our first trip there ever had just found its purpose.

Poppy and I decided we would make some biscuits so we googled around for a recipe and found a Fine Cooking recipe that worked out just fine.

I followed the recipe pretty closely, even down to kneading the dough a dozen times. I did exactly twelve and took a photo every three kneads. I don’t think my camera will ever forgive me.

I doubled the recipe, thinking that a single batch’s 9 biscuits might not be enough. Then, I had a little math mishap and we wound up with 36 smallish biscuits instead of 18 big ones. Regardless, they were fluffy and flaky and disappeared very quickly, all 36 of them. And, even though they are full of butter and cheese, we couldn't help but spread a little more butter on the hot ones.

Cheddar and Chive Buttermilk Biscuits from Fine Cooking Magazine

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup chives finely chopped

3/4 cup grated old Cheddar

2/3 cup  buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

Rub the butter in until the mixture has small pea sized pieces. 

Mix in the chives and cheddar.

Stir in the milk until the dough just starts to come together.

Turn out onto the clean work surface and knead twelve times, exactly.

Pat the dough into a 1-inch thick square and trim a thin slice off the edges. This will help the biscuits rise. You can use this for a couple of less pretty biscuits.

Cut the dough into nine biscuits and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for about twenty minutes, or golden brown.



Brussels Sprouts with Garlic, Lemon and Poppy Seeds - Just in Time for Thanksgiving # 2

As far as children’s eating preferences go, I know I am pretty blessed. Poppy had a wee tantrum at Whole Foods the other day because I wouldn’t let her get a salad to eat in the car on the way home. It’s not that I am depriving my child, I was thinking of the brand new, until we got our greasy and sticky little mitts on it, rental car.

It was her who decided that we should have brussels sprouts, one of her favourites, for supper the other day. When asked what she would like to have with her father’s most dreaded vegetable, she replied, ‘Just a glass of milk.’

I chose to provide some protein and starch with the sprouts, purely as a marriage preservation technique, but that is beside the point. It is about the sprouts.

Way back when, we used to do rapini with garlic, lemon and toasted sesame at Lolita’s Lust, which was not a brothel but a restaurant where I used to work. As the girls and I strolled, read: stop-started in three foot intervals while one child or another tried to leap out of the shopping trolley at one shiny package or another while I pleaded still-sitting and inside voices, through the supermarket aisle, I thought that such treatment would suit the much maligned sprout.

Poppy informed me that Hazel, our imaginary sister, didn’t like sesame seeds, she only likes poppy seeds narcissistically enough. So we shifted from thoughts of toasty, nutty sesame to the prettier and stick-in-your-teethier poppy seed. Don’t think I don’t like poppy seeds, I do. I just think they are at their best mixed with lots of sugar and dairy and baked into something gooey and sweet, think rugelach, lemon poppy seed cake with cream cheese frosting and poppy seed danish. You get the gist.

Well, it is lucky that Hazel happened to join us for that trip to the supermarket, she has been using that time to surf lately, because she hit it right on and the poppy seeds are perfect here. 

No longer is there any excuse for stinky, overcooked lumps of mushy grey green brussels sprout. These are delicious. Stephen even said they were good. This, from a man who for the last forty years has sulkily eaten one brussels sprout each Christmas because he was made to.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Garlic, Lemon and Poppy Seeds

28 large brussels sprouts shredded, about 5 cups shredded, or in the absence of a food processor, thinly sliced

3 cloves (about 1 tablespoon) garlic minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup stock (chicken or vegetable) or water

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pan, over medium high heat, heat the oil.

Add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds. 

Add the sprouts and toss with the oil, then add the stock or water. Continue cooking, tossing every twenty seconds or so, until the sprouts become bright green and start to become tender.

Add the lemon juice and poppy seeds, toss and remove from heat. 

Season with salt and pepper.


Page 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 11 Next 8 Entries »