Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lemon Leek Barley Risotto

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Ever since I learned that you can replace rice with low calorie, high fiber pearl barley, I've been looking forward to make another pearl barley risotto. This time, I will not use 2 heads of garlic, especially not 2 heads of elephant garlic (like I did last time), which made our bedroom smell like a Chinese restaurant for a week.

For this not (okay, only a little) garlic-y lemon leek barley risotto, you'll need:
  • 1 cup pearl barley, picked over and rinsed
  • 3 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, thoroughly cleaned, quartered length-wise and sliced thin
  • 3 medium zucchinis, grated
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 springs thyme, leaves only and minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I use two-buck Chuck)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, plus up to another 1/2 cup
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
In a large pot or skillet, heat up olive oil over medium heat until fat shimmers. Add shallots and saute until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme and leeks and cook for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Add pearl barley and white wine. Bring liquid to boil and then reduce to simmer for 5 minutes. Add enough vegetable stock to cover the pearl barley. Season with salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. If the mixture looks dry, add more vegetable stock. Otherwise, do not add more liquid. Stir in grated zucchini and lemon juice and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Just prior to serving, stir in butter until melted. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Spicy Black-Eyed Peas with Herbs

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    Once awhile, I make something that I can't stop eating. This is one of those instances when one taste turns into bites and then bowls. This is really delicious -- spicy, thick stewed beans with dried and fresh herbs. Give it a try. I bet you can't stop at one bite.

    Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, you'll need:
    • 1 1/2 cups of dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
    • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
    • 2 whole dried red chilies
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 Bay leaves
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 1 tablespoon harissa
    • 4 1/2 cups water
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • minced cilantro and/or scallion for garnish (optional)
    Soak dried black-eyed peas overnight. Drain and set aside.

    In a large pot, add soaked black-eyed peas along with water. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until black-eyed peas become tender. Reserve 2 cups of liquid. Drain and set aside.

    In the same pot, heat canola oil over medium high heat until fat shimmers. Add dried chilies. It should turn black and puff up immediately. Stir in minced garlic. Then add black-eyed peas and reserved liquid back into the pot. Add Bay leaves, oregano, thyme, paprika, harissa and salt. Turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and/or scallion. Serve as is or with rice or over toasted crusty bread.

    Greek Spiced Tomato Stewed Beans

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    This is my take on gigantes plakes, Greek tomato-y baked beans of sorts. We've had the real deal at Evvia and Kokkari several times and it's always delicious. So much so that sometimes I dream about it. My take is delicious and curbs my cravings a bit, although not quite restaurant quality (obviously). I used dried cannellini beans instead of gigantes beans because gigantes beans are a bit hard to find. I'm sure if I went to a Greek specialty store, they would have it. But I couldn't find it at my local Whole Foods. I like gigantes beans better for the recipe because, well, it's giant (as the name implies). And who doesn't like giant beans? But cannellini is fine in a pinch. Cannellini beans have thicker skin, which takes away from the creaminess of the dish. Like I said, it's okay in a pinch. I may try lima beans next time.

    You'll need:
    • 1 pound gigantes beans, lima beans or cannellini beans
    • 1 medium sweet yellow onion, diced
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 Bay leaf
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 big pinch of red pepper flakes
    • 3 sprigs dill, stem removed and rough chopped
    • 1 26-ounce can skinless whole tomatoes, pureed into sauce
    • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons of sugar
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • salt to taste
    • crumbled feta (optional)
    Soak beans in water overnight. Drain and add beans and Bay leaf to a large pot, add enough water to cover beans completely. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring water to boil. Cover, reduce to simmer. Cook until beans are tender but not falling part, about 45 minutes. Drain, set aside.

    Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

    Saute diced onion and red pepper flakes in olive oil in an oven-proof pot over medium low heat until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, dried oregano, cinnamon stick and dill and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, red wine vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to boil. Gently stir beans back into the pot. You want to keep the beans as whole as possible. Cover pot and bake for 30 minutes. Serve over some crusty toasted bread with crumbled feta on top, if desired.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Falafel and Tabbouleh

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    If there is anything that you won't catch me doing (besides eating cauliflower without coercion or threat), it is deep fat frying. I'm not exactly sure where I got this hang-up, but I think that small scar on my wrist from oil splatter when I was a sous chef for my mom's fried pork chops may have something to do with it. In any event, deep fat frying isn't something that I'm likely to do at home. What if oil spills! Think of the clean up! I have to use a tub of oil just to fry 3 things! What if I start a grease fire?! Is that possible?! There are so many reasons not to. So I leave it to the experts at KFC.

    That is a a somewhat long winded explanation as to why these falafels look more like pucks than balls.  These falafels were shallow pan fried in a non-stick skillet with a little bit of oil instead of deep fried like you'd see from a restaurant. But these fava beans falafels are very delicious and moist (probably because I didn't deep fry all the moisture out of them). These are stuffed into pitas with some store bought roasted red bell pepper hummus. Just for kicks, we also stuffed some tabbouleh in there with it. Totally delicious.

    You can find the recipe for spiced fava bean falafel here and tabbouleh here at Eau de Spice.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    What's going on here!?

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    Walked in one day and found the cats sharing one blanket on the couch. They generally act like they don't care for each other. But while the humans are not looking, they are secretly friends. And maybe plotting for our demise...?

    Raisin doesn't appear particularly thrilled with our discovery. Tangerine is too embarrassed to admit that she loves her totally uncool little sister.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Fordbidden Mystery Weekend

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    For new years, VB and I went on a forbidden mystery weekend. It was not really forbidden and it was only a mystery to me. In retrospect, I think I should've guessed that we would go on another trip to wine country -- Sonoma County, to be exact.

    We stayed at the Inn at Occidental, a beautiful B&B/hotel hybrid that's elegant and romantic. The town of Occidental is also really quaint but rustic and charming. It rained all weekend long, but nothing can detract from how magical it was.

    Charming Downtown Occidental, CA.
    Everyone goes.... Awwwwwwwwwww.

    Jenner, CA.

    Along Highway 1.

    Big Waves Along Highway 1.
    Coffee at Cafe Antiqua, Jenner, CA.

    Mmm, clam chowder.
    Flooded Path to Iron Horse.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Collard Greens and Potato Stew

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    So. It's winter. I mean, it's really winter. I probably shouldn't complain, since it can be a lot worse -- like buried-neck-deep-in-snow worse. But we get frost (!) in California. Frost.... terrible frost that I just wipe off with my windshield wiper. Okay, so it's not really very cold. But due to some... shall we say, creative?... heating arrangement in our apartment, some areas stay ice cold no matter what we do. One way to combat the cold is with a warm belly full of soup. This soup helped me hibernate and stay warm. It will help you too. I promise.

    You'll need:
    • 1 bunch collard greens, de-veined and sliced into 2 inch wide strips
    • 1 15-ounce cannillini beans, drained and rinsed
    • 3 medium white potatoes, medium diced (you can use Russet potatoes instead, but make sure to peel them first)
    • 1 medium sweet yellow onion, medium diced
    • 2 medium red bell peppers, medium diced
    • 2 small Bay leaves
    • 3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
    • salt
    • chopped green onions for garnish (optional)
    Begin by bringing a large pot of water to boil. Add sliced collard greens. Cover, turn down to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove greens and set aside. Reserve liquid.

    In a medium pot, saute onion and red bell peppers in olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in Bay leaves, thyme and garlic, cook for 2 more minutes. Add potatoes and cannellini beans. Add enough of the collard greens boiling liquid to just cover all the vegetables, about 3 cups or so. Season with salt. Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until the soup thickens and potato pieces are soft. Stir in cooked collard greens. Garnish with chopped green onions and serve.