meatless cassoulet

cassoulet

Yes, you heard me correctly, vegetarian cassoulet…I know it is silly. Cassoulet is all about meat, pork, and duck fat for heaven’s sake… but it tasted good with just beans and seitan. I promise. Moosewood got it right this time.

Cook 6 cloves of minced garlic, 1.5 cups of chopped onions, 1/2 tsp thyme and marjoram, 3 bay leaves, 1 tsp of minced rosemary in some olive oil for about 2 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup red wine, cover simmer about 5 minutes (soft onions). Add 1 cup each of diced carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and 3/4 cup of diced celery, cover and simmer 10 more minutes. Add a package of italian sausage flavored seitan, 1 tablespoon each of molasses and mustard, 15 cans one each of kidney and cannellini beans (drained). Cook until everything is warm and then put in a casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degress F.

It really was delicious. Rob was still eating vegetarian so chorizo-flavored, or italian sausage whatever it was…, seitan made him very happy. I must say it was super delicious in a pita with greens and goat cheese.

salmon for me

salmon

Rob was being a vegetarian but I was on my own for dinner this particular Saturday night and therefore the single girl salmon sounded like the correct choice.

Recently I was told that I eat a lot of fish and I don’t think that is true. It is possible that I often blog about fish, which gives the impression that I eat more of it than I actually do. Besides, fish is delicious, healthy and easy to purchase and make in single-sized portions.

 

simply-est is always best

How often do we over-complicate our lives just to impress others…or lie, I guess some people just lie.

Well, I am making myself a new promise, every time I think I might not be measuring up to someone’s unrealistic expectations, that I am somehow just way too boring; Then I will remember this simple grilled chicken salad and how very perfect and satisfying it was even without…..2 kids, 3 pets, 4 hobbies, 6 outdoor sports obsessions, a passport full of stamps, 12 hot friends who like to go clubbing every weekend, 3 charities you volunteer for on a regular basis, and owning and running a small business!! ugh!

okay. stop. breath.

(quiet)……grilled chicken. beans. arugula. lemon and basil. a glass of cheap red wine. the soothing sounds of cicadas and traffic on a summer night. (sigh) better.

RECIPE

1)  Whisk together:

  • 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

2) Pour 1/3 of this on the chicken:

  • 4 chicken breasts

3) Grill the chicken

4) Combine the beans and the arugula, add dressing, top with slices of the grilled chicken

  • 1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • some baby arugula (also called rocket)

5) Make sure you have a glass of cheap red wine to go with it.

alone in the kitchen with a can of black beans and 3 cherry tomatoes

I have this book, Alone in the kitchen with an Eggplant. It is a book of essays about how it can be fun to eat alone. It is a good book and although not really a cookbook it does have some, sort of, recipes. One was black beans for one. I made some rice also and mixed them together and I although I still called it black beans (and rice) for one, there is far more than one person could eat by themselves. I mean who eats a whole can of black beans anyway?

Do you know what else I love to read that is food related…the journal Gastronomica I don’t have the Summer issue yet but it has articles with titles like “Charles Darwin, the Gourmet Traveler” and “Of Raspberries and Religion.” I can’t wait!

zydeco soup

I, of course, did not share this soup with anyone, but I suspect it would be a crowd favorite. A little ham, some green pepper and just enough spice to be interesting but not ‘spicy.’  It also has hominy and I really like hominy. If you have not had soup with hominy in it then I suggest you try this. Look in the ‘Mexican’ section of the “World” aisle at your grocery store. The rest of the ingredients should also be easy to come by regardless of where you live….okay I have never attempted to buy a can of black-eyed peas in WI… so don’t quote me on that one.

The recipe is called Zydeco Soup which I assume suggests a Louisiana connection… I don’t see it…but whatever. It is easy and tasty. The recipe seems very American to me actually. I mean hominy is used in Mexican cuisine but also in southern cooking, and green pepper…for some reason green pepper just seems so American to me. Do they use green pepper in other countries? It seems like they prefer their peppers to be ripe… Anyway, the linked recipe is basically identical to the one I used. I have never found golden hominy in a 14 oz can; I got 28 oz of white hominy and put it all in, so mine was perhaps a little more hominy-y. Also the green pepper I bought was the size of a squash. Kind of freaky really.

I do not like the smell of boiling pork

bowl of salted pork and lentils…and it comes out gray.  And then you add lentils which are greenish-gray. Mushy gray food. You’re hungry now, aren’t you?  The thing is that it is really quite delicious which is why you should call it petit sale aux lentilles rather than boiled pork with green-gray mush. Actually maybe that is the British version :) The parsley really helps to make it look more attractive luckily.

So, don’t judge a meal before you taste it. Which is actually odd because appearance and definitely aroma are decent indicators of flavor. Okay…not always, lots of pretty food in restaurants barely tastes like anything. Baked goods can smell delicious and taste nasty and fish sauce, ahhh… that most noxious of condiments that makes everything taste better…okay maybe not baked goods or petit sale aux lentilles, but you know what I mean.

Okay this recipe requires brining the pork shoulder for a couple days and them simmering it for an hour and a half. So one of those where the work itself is minimal but a multi-day commitment is required. There is no instant gratification here. You have to plan and once you start you have to finish. You really can’t put 2lbs of raw pork shoulder in a brine in your fridge and then change you mind about cooking it.

Other Notes:

  • I was not able to find curing salt which I read helps with the gray meat thing; makes it pink, I think.
  • I find that I love “studding” whole onions with whole cloves, making bouquet garni in little muslin bags and any recipe that calls for juniper berries.
  • I bought some actual green lentils from France. I think this does make a difference. They are smaller and firmer than your standard grocery store lentils. And although I really love lentils, I have a bad habit of overcooking them that I am working to overcome.

John Ash’s Grandmother’s White Bean Soup

white bean soupThis was a bit of a disappointment. I made my own chicken stock. I got a big beautiful smoked ham-hock from Gene’s Sausage Shop. I soaked the beans! and it still ended up as an “ehhh” recipe.

I made chicken stock on Sunday evening with some chicken backs that I had in the freezer and a couple of wings. (simmered for 1.5 hours with celery, sweet onions, carrots, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, peppercorns)

The next morning I put 2 cups of navy beans in water and soaked them all day while I was at work.

After yoga class I sauted 2 cups of sliced onions, 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic, 1 cup each of diced carrots and celery.  I added 8 cups of the stock, 2 cups of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, a 1.4 lb ham-hock, 2 teaspoons of dried thyme, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 2 large bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

After that simmered for 1 hour, I gave up on having really good beans and added the 2 15oz cans of diced tomatoes and 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley. I think the navy beans were old because they just didn’t ever get tender and the skins stayed chewy.

At this point it was almost 11pm and I was tired but it was really too hot to put in the refrigerator. It takes a long time for 10 cups of soup and a giant ham-hock to cool down, so I actually set my alarm to get up in a couple hours to put it in the fridge.

It was a little cooler when I staggered into the kitchen and groggily put it in the fridge at 1 am.

The next evening I put most of it in the freezer and heated some up for my dinner with shredded cabbage and some parm.

My suggestions for improvement: your chicken stock should include garlic and perhaps some salt, the Virginia Willis version, make sure your dried beans aren’t antique. I.e. buy the bagged Goya ones at your little local grocery which have a good turn around time. Not the bulk bin ones at Whole Foods, because apparently all anyone really gets from the bulk bins at Whole Foods is pre-made trail mix/granola.