Friday, January 25, 2008

Not Food.

This is Daphne.  Yes, she's a hotdog, but not the kind that goes on a bun.  She helps keep my kitchen floor clean.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nada's Mujadara

I love mujadara. It is one of my standby quick weeknight go-to meals. But whenever I see a mujadara recipe in a cookbook, I'm always a little bit shocked. So many steps! So many SPICES!!!  It makes me wonder if the authors are purposefully complicating things.  

I imagine there are many "authentic" versions of mujadara out there, but I learned mine from my mother-in-law, so I know it's authentic, and it has the added benefit of being as simple as can be.  Just 5 ingredients, and only one spice - Salt.  Everything is thrown into the pot, and cooked into a warm, comforting mush.  

I think the key difference is that my mujadara is more akin to a polenta, than a curry.

To balance out the salty, creamy, mushiness of the mujadara, I like to top it with a salad of chopped tomato, cucumber, and sometimes pepper, that is drowned vinegar and tossed with mashed garlic.  The vinegar gives the salad a bit of a "bite" that contrasts nicely with the smoothness of the mujadara.

So here's the dish - the ultimate comfort food:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chickpea Noodle Soup

A recipe from the Veganomicon.  Leave it to Isa and Terry to take such a quintessentially American comfort food as Chicken Noodle Soup, and make it not only vegetarian, but also Asian.  But this soup is even more soothing and delicious than the original.

This is a great soup for a weeknight dinner.  It's just a few simple steps, and it comes together surprisingly quick.  Just saute a base of vegetables and herbs, add the water, and then toss in soba noodles and miso paste.  

The only quirk when it comes to making this soup is that it is near impossible to play with the seasonings until the very end.  Because a lot of the flavor, and all of the salt, in this soup comes from the miso paste, which is added at the VERY end, I had to follow the recipe precisely, and then make a leap of faith that it would be properly seasoned.  

(The recipe actually calls for brown rice miso, but soy miso was all I could find, and it works great.)

Here's the final result in all its noodley goodness.  Warm, hearty, and chock full of protein (my mom constantly worries that I don't get enough).

Too bad there are never any left-overs.

9.5/10 stars from the Big Kahuna... high praise, although now he's opining that parsley, or maybe hot sauce, would bring it up to a perfect 10.

New Cutting Board!!!

Who gets excited about a cutting board, right?

Well.... we'd been using the same sad plastic cutting board for about 5 years, so it was time to move on, and this is a definite improvement.  

The new cutting board is beautiful bamboo.  So, not only is it sturdy, it's environmentally sustainable as well.  And it meets the #1 requirement of being long enough to balance over my sink.  It's actually slightly larger than the old one, so hopefully it will cut down on the number of times I attempt to cut something, everything slides into the sink, and I narrowly miss chopping off a finger.  (Good times.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Drowning in Pasta Fazool

Over the holidays, my family was talking about some of our favorite foods, and we all agreed that we love Pasta e Fagiole (which is also pronounced "fajool" or "fazool" depending on the dialect.)  My mom, and my uncle both said they'd made Lydia's pasta fazool, and that it was the best one.  I was excited to try it, since as much as I love this soup, I'd never actually made it at home.  Now, Lydia has never met a pig part she hasn't wanted to toss into a recipe, so I knew there would be some modification involved.  And what an experience it was!!

Lydia's recipe is kind of complex, in the sense that there is a lot of moving ingredients into the soup pot, then into the skillet, then back into the soup pot, then into the blender, then back again... all the while adding things and adjusting seasonings.
The recipe also calls for 12 (!!!) slices of bacon. Since I was leaving that out, I doubled the garlic, added a bunch of salt, increased the other spices, and used vegetable broth for about 1/2 the water.  

Even so, the first taste was so disappointing.  The soup was completely bland, and I'd made enough of it to feed an army!  
A frantic phone call to my uncle, who consulted his wall of cookbooks, saved the day.  I added more tomatoes, plus some red and white wine, and left the pot alone for awhile for the flavors to meld.  
By the time the Big Kahuna got home from work, there was a big steaming pot of pasta fazool simmering away on the stove.  

Fortunately, the soup was a hit, because even after helping ourselves to seconds, there were still 9 tupperware, and an enormous bowl left over.  

We stashed half in the freezer, and the rest in the fridge for quick meals throughout the week.  

I feel a bit like Stregga Nonna with her endless pot of pasta... We'll be eating this one pot of pasta for a long, long time.

-- the little kahuna