Lentil Salad

 

TopCloseWith the long Labor Day weekend upon us and all the guests coming and going, picnics, barbeques and invitations, I found myself in need of some side dishes to serve and to bring to friends houses.  Aside from the usual potato, macaroni, pasta and bean salads I wanted something a bit different for our Labor Day picnic.  In recent years many of our friends have become vegetarians or nearly vegetarians.  I was a vegetarian for many years and I know what it feels like to approach a buffet table and end up eating tossed green salad while everyone else is feasting.  Over those years I became quite found of lentils as a source of protein and I still have a certain weakness for them.  I have had this recipe for years and I have absolutely no recollection of where I got or I certainly would give credit where credit is due.   It from but it has become a favorite around my house.  To whoever invented this recipe I offer my sincere apologies for reposting it here and my many thanks for years of delightful eating pleasure.

The recipe is great because it is really nothing more than cooked lentils, onion and a spicy dressing.  It is left up to you to add whatever ingredients you deem suitable to your taste.  The possibilities are endless.  Some of my favorite things to add are nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds), dried cherries, dried cranberries, cilantro, dates, prunes, flax seeds.  You get the idea.

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Lentil Salad

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups (1 lb.)  lentils, DuPuy or French green lentils.  Do not use brown lentils as they tend to get too mushy during cooking.

1 medium red onion, diced

1 cup raisins or currants

1/3 cup capers, rinsed

Dressing:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

 

Directions: 1.

Rinse and drain lentils. Place in a saucepan and cover with about 4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer then lentils until done. Check lentils for doneness often and be very careful to not overcook the lentils.  They should still have a bite to them.

2. To make the dressing,  by place all ingredients in a screw top jar and shake to combine.

3. Finely dice red onion.

4. When the lentils are cooked, drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking. While the lentils are still warm, toss with the dressing. Add the onion, capers, and raisins or currants and any other additional ingredients your choose and refrigerate until ready to serve. If you plan on adding fresh herbs wait until ready to serve before adding them so they retain their bright color and flavor.

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Fresh Peach Ice Cream and Peach Pie

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Peaches have got to be my all time favorite fruit.  While I like pears in the fall and cherries and apricots I always long for those lazy summer days and fresh peaches.  A few weeks ago Norman started talking about peach ice cream and how his mother used to churn it from the peaches they got from the trees on their farm.  Of course this stirred memories of my own childhood when I would go with my parents or grandfather to pick bushels of fresh peaches from the local orchards.  It seemed like we would pick tons of them and then my mom would can them for winter and we of course would eat them until we would almost burst.  The rest went into cobblers, crisps, pies, brandied peaches and of course ice cream.  I remember when my dad would get 0ut the old ice cream churn, fill it with ice and my mom would make the custard and pour it in and we would sit on the porch while my dad churned and I would sit by watching and adding salt to the ice.  I never quite understood as a child why it was a necessary step but it became my job to add the salt.  That ice cream was so good we could hardly wait for it to freeze so we could dig in.

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Normans talk set me on a quest to find some peach ice cream.  When we were in France I remember going into any local market and finding it along with apricot, currant, hazelnut and grapefruit.  Well, off I went in search of this ice cream and no matter how many stores I went to I could not find any.  There was a glut of mint chocolate chip, rocky road, moose tracks, swirls of all kinds, confetti and cookies and cupcake and bubblegum but not a spoonful of peach anywhere.  Even Baskin-Robbins,  Coldstone Creamery and the local mom and pop ice cream stores just looked at me and shrugged when I asked.  When those beautiful, golden, ripe and juicy peaches started arriving at the farmers market I knew exactly what I needed to do and into the kitchen I went to finally end my quest.  Fresh peach ice cream and peach pie were on the menu.

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For the ice cream I just poached the fruit, peeled it and then dices it.  Then I mixed it with sugar and a bit of lemon juice and set it in the refrigerator to release the juices for about 2 hours.  The custard base is simply eggs, sugar, milk and cream.  I whipped the eggs until they were fluffy, added a but of sugar and whipped to blend, then added the cream, milk and reserved peach juice and whipped it again to blend.  Then it went into the ice cream freezer and I processed it until it was almost completely finished, then I added the fruit, processed for a few minutes to distribute the fruit and then put the lot into the freezer to firm.

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For the pie, I used my mom’s age old pie crust recipe which is simply flour, shortening, milk and white vinegar.  The trick as with all pastry is to handle it gently and let it rest.  I dived the dough into 2 disks, wrapped them in plastic wrap and chilled them for about an hour.  I rolled out the first disk, fit it into the pie plate, trimmed the excess dough and chilled it for another hour.  I rolled the second disk into a rectangle, cut it into strips, put the strips on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer to firm.  While the dough was chilling, I peeled and sliced the fruit, added sugar and a bit of lemon juice and let them sit to release the juices.  When I was ready to assemble the pie, I drained the fruit reserving the juice.  I combined the drained fruit with a bit more sugar, cornstarch, and some of the reserved peach juice.  The fruit went into the chilled pie shell and the lattice top was put on, trimmed and crimped.  The pie was brushed with beaten egg white, sprinkled with sugar and baked until done.

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I love how the sugar gives it that slightly over browned edge and just looking at it you know that it is home-made.  The pie and the ice cream were totally delicious and a very welcome end to weekend dinner in the hot summer weather.

Gutsy Cooks Club – Baked Chicken with Honey-Whole Grain Mustard Glaze

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I took a bit of artistic license here as in my house, no one will even go near a piece of chicken if it isn’t a boneless, skinless chicken breast. I opted to get boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I knew that this would compromise the recipe a bit but it was either that or make the dish and throw away the uneaten heathen chicken thighs. As the thigh meat was boneless and skinless, I brined it for about 30 minutes just to make sure that it would stay moist during the cooking process. To my surprise, the thigh meat was tender, moist and very delicious.

I found this recipe to be very simple to prepare so it is perfect for a hectic weeknight supper. The glaze and marinade can be made ahead and the chicken can sit in the marinade all night and throughout the following day, waiting to be dinner. I served the chicken with grilled polenta slices, baby green peas and a nice crisp green salad. It was a perfect hectic Saturday night supper. I used some of the pan juices to toss my peas in after they were cooked and they added a nice tart taste to the tender peas.

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Gutsy Cooks Club – Arancine (Saffron Rice Balls)

I grew up with these little rice balls, both my grandmothers and my mother made them often, but they were never made from scatch but were made with leftover risotto in the Italian tradition of never letting anything go to waste.  They were most often just plain rice balls flavored with whatever vegetable or meat happened to be in the leftover risotto.  My mother often put in a cube of mozzarella or whatever soft cheese she had on hand and we ate them as after school snacks.  Arancine means little oranges in Italian and that is exactly what these little nubbly golden balls look like.  I have so many fond memories of sitting on the back door stoop eating these little treasures.  These pork and beef filled arancine are delicious and did indeed bring back those memories as I have not had them in quite some time.  I loved them but have to admit that I did miss that little hidden nugget of cheese.  It will be there the next time I make them.  One of the tricks my mom showed me when making these is to rinse your hands between making each ball.  It helps to rinse off the starch and keep the balls from sticking to your hands and makes getting them formed more evenly a lot easier.  I also enjoy these with some marinara sauce for dipping them in.

Fresh Ricotta Cheese

A few weeks ago, I took a cheesemaking class at one of the local cooking shops. We had so much fun and the cheese was so wonderful I have been itching to get into the kitchen and make some more.  This week, I needed some fresh cheese and decided the time had come to make some of the delicious fresh ricotta cheese that we made in the class.

The whole process is simple and takes only about 30 minutes with hardly any hands on work so here we go.

Place 8 cups of whole milk in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and place over medium high heat.  Cook the milk, stirring almost constantly until the milk comes to a foaming boil. 

Heating the whole milk

 Turn off the heat and as the bubbles subside add 2 cups of buttermilk and salt (1/2 – 1 teaspoon if desired) and any other flavorings or herbs you wish to use.  Since the recipe I was going to use the cheese for called for lemon zest I added the zest of one lemon at this point.  Stir the mixture gently in one direction until the curds and whey begin to separate.  At this point the mixture will begin to look like thick buttermilk, the curds will be small and the whey will still be milky. 

Stirring to separate the curds and whey

Set the saucepan aside and let rest, undisturbed for about 5 minutes. 

The resting curds and whey

Once the mixture has rested for about 5 minutes, carefully pour the curds and whey into a cheesecloth lined strainer over a large bowl.  The whey will drain into the bowl and can be discarded or used for another purpose.  Allow the curds to drain for about 15 – 30 miutes depending on the consistency desired.  I let mine drain for about 15 minutes. 

Draining the curd

Use the cheese immediately or it can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

8 cups of whole milk and two cups of buttermilk will yield about 10 – 12 ounces of fresh cheese.

The finished cheese

Gutsy Cooks Club: Coronation Rolls, Waldorf Salad and Chicken Pot Pie

I was away last week with family but I did manage to make the Coronation Rolls which we had for lunch during the week.  I have to say, I had my eye on these rolls since my first skim through of the book and I couldn’t wait to try them.  They certainly didn’t disappoint.  I love the curry and apricot combination which tames the mayonnaise.  I have to admit that I hate mayonnaise and this combination made me forget I was eating it.  It was so smooth and velvety and the perfect foil for the delicate chicken meat.   I will definitely be making these again often.

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It is strange, but in the past few months I have seen Waldorf Salad on the luncheon menus of several restaurants here in San Diego.  I guess it is the whole retro food thing that is going on.  Just like the Iceberg Wedge Salad and Green Goddess Dressing, Waldorf Salad seems to be making a comeback.  I have a penchant for Iceberg lettuce and Green Goddess dressing so I am glad to see all the old time favorites coming back.  I remember my mom making Waldorf Salad for fancy dinner parties and her bridge club.  She would serve it on fancy plates piled on a bed of lettuce.  Of course her’s had the usual apples, celery and nuts but in keeping with the trend of the time it also had mandarin oranges and marshmallows.  While I am glad to see the marshmallows go by the wayside, I think the mandarin oranges added a nice spark to this refreshing salad and I will include them when I make this again.  We all loved it.

There is nothing quite as comforting as chicken pot pie.  I have always loved it but usually reserved it for luncheons in restaurants.  I don’t know why, it just seemed like it was too much bother to make during the week.  Amazing how I will spend hours making rather ordinary things and think nothing of it and then when it comes to something really good like this, I balk and think it is too much work.  Whatever my reasons for that, they are gone.  This was simple to put together, can be prepped and actually composed days ahead and then baked at the last minute.  It was no work at all other than a bit of vegetable prep and boy does it pay off in taste.  The smooth and rich gravy, big pieces of chicken and the tender vegetables, all baked under the tender puff pastry crust.  Definitely a do often recipe.

Gutsy Cooks Club: Irish Stew

I had my doubts about this recipe when I read that everything was just layered into a casserole and put in the oven to bake.  I have made oven stews before but I have always tossed the meat in some seasoned flour and browned it before it went into the casserole and into the oven.  I was leary about this but decided to follow the recipe as it was written.  Well, I should have listened to my instincts.  I layered all the ingredients into the casserole, added the seasonings and beef stock.  Covered the pan and put it into the 325 degree oven as stated in the recipe.  Well, after an hour when I went to check on it, the top layer of potatoes were hard as a rock and hardly even warm.  I knew this was going to be a problem. I took the cover off as stated in the recipe, and I increased the oven temperature to 350 degrees. After another hour I checked it again.  The potatoes were still rock hard and the meat, while starting to cook was a pasty gray color, hardly appetizing.  I also noticed that the stock was barely simmering and was still very thin.  I had hoped it would thicken a bit due to the potatoes.  After 2 hours and 30 minutes in the oven I finally took it out and put it on the stove to simmer for another hour to get the potatoes to cook and I had to thicken the gravy with some flour paste.  The meat was cooked but still an unappetizing greyish color. The meat definitely needed to be browned.  I was disappointed with this stew.  While it tasted fine, it was not very appealing to look at and really not all that great.  I won’t be making this one again.

Gutsy Cooks Club Menu #23: English Muffins and Eggs Benedict

It is funny because just this past week I was watching reruns of the French Chef and Julia was making English Muffins.  I found it interesting because I never think about making things like English Muffins.  They are always reserved for the buy at the store category.  Julia kept saying how once you made your own you would never want to eat store bought again.  I filed it away in the “I must try this file” and almost forgot about it until I read this weeks menu.  Here was my chance to try my hand at English muffins.  Well, as usual, Julia was right.  They are very easy to make and very very good to eat.  The dough goes together in a snap and can sit and wait for you until you are ready to cook the muffins.  I did it early in the morning Saturday and then was running all day doing shopping and errands and then I came home that evening, they were all ready for me to cook.  Just a few minutes in a frying pan on the stove and they were done and ready for breakfast the next morning.  You could easily make the dough before bed and leave it in the refrigerator to rise overnight and make them in the morning while the coffee brews.  No matter how you do them, they are easy and well worth the few minutes of effort.

As I have stated many times before, I absolutely hate eggs.  Luckily, Norman likes them so I was able to make Eggs Benedict as a special treat for him for breakfast and he really liked them.  His only negative comment was that the muffins were a bit chewy but that was the thing I liked most about them.  They had that nice chewiness that store bought muffins lacked.  At any rate, he was very pleased with his special breakfast and since I love hollandaise sauce, in spite of the eggs, I made myself a big plate of Eggless Benedict.  It was delicious and a real treat for me as well.

White Velvet Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache

I made this cake a few weeks ago while I was doing the other holiday baking, frankly because I couldn’t wait to taste it.  It turns out it was a good thing that I did because I have been in bed with the flu for the majority of this past week and I can barely even think of food let alone face baking this weekend.  This cake is terrific, it has a light moist crumb that is sturdy enough to stand up to syrups and fillings.  It’s mild vanilla flavor is the perfect foil for a myriad of frostings and fillings.  I can’t think of anything that I don’t think would go great with this cake.  And, it is so easy that you can have it in the oven in under 30 minutes.  This is definitely a cake to have in your go to repertoire. You will always have these simple staple ingredients in the house and you hardly need to even look at the recipe.  This cake is proof positive that a top quality scratch cake is even easier than a mix (not that any of us would ever use a mix), but for those of you out there that still do, try this once and you won’t ever use a mix again.  I actually made this several times over the holidays to have on hand when friends and neighbors dropped in for coffee.  I usually just dusted it with powdered sugar or cocoa and it never failed to win raves and requests for the recipe, so definitely try this one.  Okay, lets bake…. 

Combine 3 tablespoons milk, the eggs and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour, sugar and baking powder.  Add the butter and remaining milk and beat on low until the dry ingredients are moistened, then raise the speed to medium and beat for one and a half minutes.  Add the egg mixture in two additions, beating for 30 seconds between additions.  That’s it.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees until done.  Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then unmold the cake on to a rake.  Invert the cake so that the top is up and let cool completely. 

Adding butter and milk

Adding the eggs

Ready to bake 

The baked cake

To make the ganache, melt the milk and dark chocolates until smooth, add the cream and stir until fully combined.  Stir in the vanilla and let stand until no longer warm to the touch.  Add the butter by the tablespoon and whisk gently being careful not to incorporate any air. Use immediately. 

To compose the cake.  Split the cake into two layers.  Place the bottom layer on a serving plate and fill with some of the ganache.  Center the top layer on the ganache filling and frost the top and sides.  Decorate as desired.  I personally felt that the chocolate ganache was a bit too sweet for my taste and I prefer this cake left in one layer and just dusted with confectioners sugar.  However you choose to do it, it is terrific.  

The split layers

Adding the filling

The frosted cake

 

 Enjoy! 

Next Up:  Free Choice

Chocolate Bulls-Eye Cake(s)

I approached this weeks recipe with great trepidation. Not only because it feels like I haven’t stepped out of my kitchen for the last two weeks but also because it was another of the dreaded mini cakes which everyone knows I loathe intensely.  Well, after reading Marie’s post that these go together quickly and since I had a couple other kitchen tasks to attend to I figured “What the heck, another half hour in the kitchen won’t kill me” and I plunged ahead.  After I got all the mis en place in order I went to prepare the pans.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have the right size pan.  With all my cake rings, quiche pans, tart molds, muffin tins, cupcake pans, pop over pans, ramekins and  english muffin rings I didn’t a single thing that was the right size.  Then I spotted these two 6 inch spring form pans in the back of the cupboard.  These were another one of those purchases that were just too cute not to buy.  Doesn’t matter that they have been sitting in the cupboard for 5 years untouched.  Well, why not, I thought to myself and decided to use them.  As it turns out, the batter was just enough for one of the 6 inch pans and I didn’t have to deal with the tedium of making individual mini cakes.  Marie was absolutely right, these went together in a snap.  I was also very pleasantly surprised by this cake.  Give the genoise reputation for being dry, this one is total bliss.  It is incredibly moist and I would even venture to say that it can stand on its own without its usual syrup.  This one is definitely a keeper.  Shall we bake…

Prepare clarified butter and set aside.  Whisk together eggs, egg yolk and sugar and whisk over simmering water until luke warm, then, using a stand mixer, whip the mixture on high for about 5 minutes until tripled in volume. 

Egg mixture tripled in volume

 Remove half a cup and stir it into the clarified butter.  Sift half the flour over the egg mixture and fold in gently, then fold in the remaining flour.  Fold in the butter mixture and vanilla.  Pour into prepared cake pan(s) and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. 

Ready to bake

The baked genoise

Immediately unmold the cake and allow to cool completely.

The unmolded genoise

Make an ordinary sugar syrup and flavor with your choice of liqueur or vanilla.  I used Apricot brandy.  Make the apricot glaze by combining apricot preserves and your choice of liqueur, again I used Apricot brandy, and heat until melted, then strain and set aside.

To make the chocolate filling, combine cream and chocolate and heat until the chocolate is melted.  Stir to fully combine.  Combine egg yolk, sugar and salt and whisk to combine.  Add a small amount of the melted chocolate and stir to temper the eggs, then gradually add the rest of the chocolate.  Cook, stirring constantly until just before the boiling point, strain the mixture and stir in the vanilla.

Since I used the springform pan, I cut a one quarter deep circle in the center of the genoise, then brush the cake with the syrup and then with the apricot glaze.  Pour the chocolate cream filling into the center cavity, cover and allow the chocolate to set.

Center cavity ready to be filled

To make the chocolate drizzle, combine chocolate and cream and heat until melted, stir to fully combine.  Place the completed cake on a serving plate and drizzle with the chocolate syrup.  This is total bliss.  And, I have to say, make this in the six inch pan and you have the perfect Valentines dessert for two.   A word of caution on the chocolate drizzle.  By all means follow Rose’s instructions and use the pastry bag.  I was trying to save time and I used one of those plastic squeeze bottles for applying sauces.  As you can see the results were less than spectacular.  The opening on the bottle is too thin to apply a nice drizzle and there really isn’t enough of the drizzle in this instance for it to flow evenly out of the bottle without getting air pockets.  Take the time and use the pastry bag.  Inspite of it’s minor cosmetic defect, this was delicious.

Enjoy!

Next Up: White Velvet Cake with Milk Chocolate Ganache