Lentil Sausage Soup

Here’s another recipe from my mom. It’s good the first day you make it, but it improves after a couple of days.

1 c brown or green lentils
1 T olive oil or butter
2 medium green peppers, seeded and chopped
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 c water
2 t chicken bouillon granules
1/2 t sage
1/4 cayenne pepper
1/2 lb smoked sausage, sliced

Rinse and drain lentils. In a deep soup pot, heat oil or butter to medium high and sauté peppers, carrot, onion and garlic for 2 minutes. Add lentils, water, bouillon, sage and cayenne pepper to vegetables, bring to a boil and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Over medium heat, brown sausage in a skillet and add it to soup. Once sausage is heated through, serve.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

We’ve been trying to get this right for a while now. We’ve tried it with cream and without, with pancetta, with prosciutto, with garlic, with onion and with all different kinds of long pastas. We finally hit it out of the park. I’m going to detail what we did in this recipe, but I found the inspiration here.

200 g (about 1/2 lb) bacon, cut into 1 in squares (seriously, just normal bacon)
1 large or 2 medium shallots, sliced
1/3 c white wine
500 g (1 lb) spaghetti (we used linguine, it was awesome)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 c Grana Padano, shredded or grated
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1 t black pepper, coarsely ground
pinch salt (optional)

In a deep skillet, fry the bacon over medium high heat until some fat is rendered and the edges begin to crisp. Add the shallots and turn the heat down to medium low. Cook the shallot until translucent and add the wine. Heat to a boil and allow to reduce until about 1/2 the wine is left. Remove the skillet from heat, cover and set aside.

Cook the pasta in salted water. While pasta is cooking, stir eggs into cheese until just mixed and add nutmeg, pepper and salt. Drain the pasta, return the skillet with bacon to very low heat and remove lid. Pour pasta into skillet and toss until well coated with wine and bacon and shallot are well distributed. Remove skillet from heat and pour egg and cheese mixture over pasta. Toss quickly with tongs and serve immediately.

Baked Artichoke Dip

Every time I’ve had artichoke dip in a restaurant, I’ve gone home and tried to reproduce it. Unfortunately, most of the recipes out there are LOADED with mayonnaise. A little mayo is fine, but too much and it just takes over. Plus, when it’s cooked, it leaves a layer of oil over everything. Blech.

So I finally found a recipe online that didn’t predominantly feature mayo and I altered it (greatly) to my liking. Here’s what I ended up with. We think it’s a winner!

8 oz cream cheese (lowfat works here)
3/4 c sour cream
1/4 c mayonnaise
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 c shredded mozzarella (I used gouda – mozz is hard to find)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
12 oz jar of artichoke hearts, drained
2 T dried minced onion

Preheat oven to 350° F (176° C). In a food processor, combine first 5 ingredients and pulse on low until blended. Add in mozzarella, cayenne and black pepper until just distributed. Add artichokes and onion and pulse 5-6 times, until artichokes are coarsely chopped and distributed. Pour mixture into 9×9 (we used a ceramic loaf pan) and bake for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly and brown. Serve warm and spread on crackers or rye toast.

Basil Cornbread

Cliff is nutty for cornbread. I could take or leave it, until I made this one. Now, I’m a bit more amenable to it – especially with a pot of chili. I found this one here and deviated very little from the original, however, I’m thinking of leaving out the basil and adding jalapeños and a handful of shredded cheddar. I’ll update if I do it and it works.

2 c cornmeal
1 c flour
1/2 c sugar (I used less – I think you could get away with 1/4 c)
4 tsp baking powder (yes, 4)
1 tsp salt
1/2 c chilled unsalted butter, diced (I don’t think chilled is necessary, but I’m trying to follow directions)
1 1/2 c buttermilk
3 large eggs
1/3 c chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 c fresh or frozen corn kernels

Preheat oven to 400° F (204° C) and grease a 9×9 pan. Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter with a pastry cutter until coarse meal forms. Set aside. Lightly whisk together buttermilk, eggs and basil until just combined. Stir cornmeal mixture into buttermilk mixture with a wooden spoon until all dry ingredients are moistened. Coarsely chop corn kernels in a food processor and stir into batter. Pour batter into greased pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to sit for 10 minutes and serve.

Lemon Curd

Totally got this wholesale from the wikibooks cookbook, but I managed to deviate accidentally from the recipe and am still quite pleased with the results.

1/2 cup (120ml) lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/3 cup (80g) sugar
3 eggs
3/4 stick of unsalted butter (90g)
Pinch of salt (optional, to bring out sweetness and flavor of finished product)

I goofed in that I only used 1 tablespoon of freshly grated lemon zest. It still turned out great — doubling the lemon zest would make it quite intense, I’m sure.

Grate the lemon rinds to produce two tablespoons of zest. Grate only the yellow zest, avoid the inner white pith which is bitter. Extract the juice from the lemons to produce 1/2 cup (120ml) of juice. Cut the butter into small chunks.

Put eggs, zest, sugar, and salt into cooled sauce pan. Whisk ingredients in pan till frothy and light in color (a minute or two). Add lemon juice and whisk 30 seconds. Add butter chunks. Set pan on stove burner, turn on heat to medium-to-low, and start whisking contents so they don’t coagulate or stick to bottom of pan. Whisk constantly till butter melts and mixture thickens, then whisk another two minutes, but do not let mixture boil – it should be quite steamy (185°F, 85°C).

There’s a spot in the original recipe about here concerning the option to strain the lemon zest out of the gloop before jarring it up and letting it chill in the fridge, but I don’t believe in that. Pour mixture from bowl into jar to within 1/4 inch (0.75cm) from top, taking care not to get mixture on rim, then seal jar with lid. Refrigerate to thicken the product further.

Chicken Lo Mein

Welcome to Lo Mein 2.0! The first incarnation of this was a Rachael Ray recipe (as evidenced by the former, cutesy title, ‘No pain lo mein’). I was kind of desperate for something approximating my Chinese take-out order and the recipe I found was okay, but not RIGHT and certainly nothing special. So I kept tweaking to make it less salty (not so much soy!) and more spicy (mmm, chilies.) and I think I finally got it to where I’ve wanted it all along. Move over, Rachael!

3 T sesame oil
2/3 lb boneless chicken breasts, sliced thin (about 1/3 inch)
1 t salt
1 t ground white pepper
1 1/2 t ground ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 t dark soy sauce
1 T Hoisin sauce
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 head of broccoli, florets only
1 can baby corn, drained
1-2 red Thai chilies, chopped (discard seeds for less heat)
1/2 mushrooms, sliced
4-6 oz bean sprouts
1 lb lo mein noodles, cooked and tossed with a little sesame oil

Heat 1 T oil in a large non-stick skillet over high heat. Toss chicken with 1/2 t each of salt, white pepper and ginger until just coated, then add to skillet with onion and garlic. Stir fry until chicken is well browned. Remove to chicken mixture to a bowl and stir in 1 t soy and 1/2 T Hoisin. Set aside.

Heat another T of oil to medium high in skillet then add pepper, broccoli, baby corn and chilies. Stir well to coat with oil, then add remaining salt, white pepper and ginger to vegetables. Stirring frequently, cook until broccoli is just tender-crisp. Add remaining oil to heat then add mushrooms and sprouts. Cook all vegetables, stirring often, until sprouts become translucent. Add remaining soy and Hoisin, then stir in chicken mixture and heat for 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat and add noodles. Toss until well coated and serve immedately.